MP David Lidington asks urgent question on HS2 in the House of Commons

Aylesbury's MP David Lidington raised several questions on HS2 in the House of Commons yesterday.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 1:14 pm
Aylesbury's MP David Lidington raised several questions on HS2 in the House of Commons yesterday.

David Lidington MP posed a three fold question to the new Transport Minister.

He asked about the transparency of the upcoming review into HS2, whether HS2 enabling works would be curtailed while the project was under review, and the growing issue of late payments from HS2 to people who had their land taken under compulsory purchase orders.

The Transport Minister Grant Shapps said 'the costs of the project are just not known'.

He added that preparatory works for HS2 had to continue, because if they didn't - the Government would not be able to gauge a proper decision on whether to proceed with the project.

When responding to the questions about late payments with compulsory purchase orders, Mr Shapps responded he would move swiftly to get any cases resolved locally.

MP David Lidington asked:

"First, in view of this week’s revelation that HS2 is overrunning both its budget and its schedule—something that many of us have been predicting for a long time but that has been systematically denied for years by HS2 Ltd and by his Department—what assurance can my right hon. Friend give about the transparency of both the review that has been commissioned and the Government’s formal response to it?

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps responded:

"First, on the budget and the schedule, it is exactly as I said in my opening statement: I completely agree with my right hon. Friend that there is no future in trying to obscure costs or in being unclear.

"It is the case that in a massive, developing infrastructure project—Europe’s biggest—costs just are not known.

"They are speculated about and then start to firm up, in this case, literally as we start to dig into the ground. I can see how over a period of time things move.

"None the less, I take the view that as soon as I have the information, I will inform the House—as soon as I got that Cook report and the House returned, I stuck it straight into the Library.

"I assure my right hon. Friend that I will continue to do exactly that going forward.

MP David Lidington went on to ask about enabling works, and whether they would be curtailed in wake of the upcoming review.

He asked:

"Secondly, my right hon. Friend will know that enabling works for HS2 are still being carried out along phase 1 of the route.

"Ancient woodlands are being felled. Productive farmland is being occupied and used by HS2 Ltd. Public money is being spent on these works even though, as my right hon. Friend says, the review may lead to a recommendation to cancel or significantly change the project altogether.

"Will the Secretary of State now accept that those works are prejudicial to the outcome of the review that he has established and order that they cease?"

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps responded:

"Secondly, it might be helpful to colleagues to know that I have asked for Douglas Oakervee to meet Members of Parliament.

"He will be in Committee Room 2A on Monday 9 September, between 3.30 pm and 5 pm. That is an opportunity for any colleagues to go and see him.

"Colleagues can make their own arrangements with him separately, and I will inform the House of that."

MP David Lidington's final question reads:

"Thirdly, I have a queue of constituents whose land has been taken by HS2 Ltd for preparatory works, but who have still to receive the payments that were formally agreed with HS2 Ltd.

"The Government have rightly committed to crack down on late payment.

"Does my right hon. Friend agree that HS2 Ltd should be setting an example in this regard, not acting as a laggard?

"As he, as Secretary of State, is the sole shareholder in HS2 Ltd, will he now take responsibility for insisting that HS2 Ltd puts this injustice right immediately?"

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps responded:

"Thirdly, on the enabling works, we are in a position where I have to make a go/no-go decision in December.

"I know that this will not a delight my right hon. Friend, but it seemed to me that if we did not continue to make preparatory works, I would not even be in the position to make a go/no-go decision.

"I am sorry to disappoint my right hon. Friend, but that is the current position. We can then take a decision.​

"I share my right hon. Friend’s concern and anxiety about compulsory purchase order payments. When people’s lives, livelihoods and homes are potentially going to be ripped apart by a project that is supposedly for the wider good, it is right that the state compensates them promptly and efficiently.

"I would be most grateful to see more details of the cases he mentioned. I have already had one across my desk, which I have sorted out, and I would like to see others. There is no excuse for a CPO for which people are not paid."