This week - as part of our HS2: Enough Is Enough campaign we put your hard-hitting questions to Aylesbury Mp David Lidington. Here’s what he came back with...
Q: Do you feel that you have let constituents down on HS2?
A: No. Ever since the project was first announced, I’ve represented constituents’ views and concerns clearly and firmly to Prime Ministers, Transport Ministers and others. I responded to the various public consultations on HS2, gave evidence twice to the Commons HS2 Committee and once to the Lords Committee. I got the chairman of HS2 Ltd to visit Aylesbury to see for himself what some of the problems the project would cause. I have taken constituents to see Ministers. As well as working successfully with other route MPs, for improvements in the compensation scheme, I have also lobbied hard for individual residents and businesses to get compensation or specific mitigation.
Q: What comes first – your political career or your constituents?
A: The country’s interests come first, then the interests of constituents. What I have to do, like any MP, is judge how to use what influence I have in the most effective way.
Q: What work have you done to ensure mitigation is right for affected constituents?
A: I have backed and lobbied for local initiatives such as the green tunnel at Wendover, the Stoke Mandeville bypass and other measures to reduce both noise and visual intrusion. Constituents who have read my evidence to the parliamentary committees will know that much of that evidence focussed on the environmental impact of HS2 on the local area.
Q: What work have you done to ensure that disruption – including traffic – is kept to a minimum by the scheme?
A: I have taken up every concern that constituents raised with me about HS2. Sometimes, fears turned out to be unfounded – like the rumour that construction traffic was going to go through Walton Court roads.
In other cases, like a small change to the design of the Stoke Mandeville bypass, they listened. There are other issues, especially the impact of construction traffic on busy local roads, where HS2 Ltd has left it to its recently appointed contractors to sort out the details: this is work that is ongoing.
Q: What work have you done to lobby against this behind the scenes?
A: Most of it has been in public, most obviously responses to consultations and evidence to parliamentary committees. Where my correspondence has dealt with general HS2 issues, I have published it on my website. What has to remain private are the many individual constituency cases, for example people wanting my help to get compensation. And while I’ve reported back to constituents when I’ve lobbied Ministers on their behalf, subject only to rules under the Ministerial Code about the confidentiality of Cabinet and similar discussions.
Q: Do you support The Bucks Herald’s campaign?
A: My views on HS2 are a matter of record. The only restriction is that, like every Minister in every government, I have to follow the Ministerial Code in not publicly attacking an agreed government policy. However, the Code is also clear that a Minister can represent his or her constituents in correspondence and putting arguments in person to Ministers responsible for those areas of policy. That I do.
Q: What work have you done to campaign for a tunnel through The Chilterns?
A: I pressed for this in my select committee evidence. More recently, I have had numerous meetings with Wendover Parish Council and others pressing for a mined tunnel past the village, argued their case to the DfT and took a delegation to see the HS2 Minister. So far, the Department for Transport have not been convinced. I continue to press the case.
Q: Would you consider resigning over HS2?
A: The judgement that I have to make, on this or any other issue, is whether my leaving the government would actually achieve anything. HS2 was approved by the Commons in 2014 by a majority of 411. Resigning would have done nothing to stop or delay HS2. It would simply have given me less access to those making the decisions. I have to deal with the reality that the project is supported by the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish National parties and has strong backing in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds from business, trade unions and local government.
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