Lidington: Heavy handed HS2 is challenging the democratic process
As you may know, the HS2 Bill is about to be looked at by the House of Lords Select Committee, chaired by a former Law Lord.
I appeared three times before the Commons Committee alongside a large number of my constituents and we managed to secure a package of improvements worth more than £10m. However there is still more that can be done. Alongside other Bucks MPs and more than 800 other individuals and organisations, I have petitioned the Lords to appear again to argue for further improvements to be made, and to ask for an independent cost review for additional tunnelling in the Chilterns AONB. Unfortunately, the legal representatives of HS2 Ltd have decided to challenge the ‘locus standi’, or right to appear, of more than 400 petitioners, including myself and other MPs.
If you have received one of these letters, it is important to understand that this does not automatically mean that you will be unable to petition.
It means that you will have to make the case to the Committee that you are ‘directly and specially affected’ by the Bill in an initial hearing before they decide if you are able to have the substance of your petition heard. I have very serious reservations about the heavy handed behaviour of HS2 representatives in deciding to challenge around half of the petitions that have been submitted.
I have been contacted by both individuals and local organisations who see this as a challenge to a fair democratic process and an attempt by HS2 to shut down debate about some of the key areas where improvements can still be made. I will be appearing before the Committee to argue for the right to represent the interests of my constituents as well as the constituency as a whole and I will be very happy to advise anyone who has been challenged in this way.
HS2 is one of the biggest and most expensive infrastructure projects in Europe and I firmly believe that affected individuals should be given a fair and full opportunity to be heard.