High Speed Rail (London–West Midlands) Bill - Third Reading

– in the House of Lords am 3:07 pm ar 31 Ionawr 2017.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Pleidleisiau yn y ddadl hon

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms (HM Household) (Chief Whip, House of Lords), Deputy Chairman of Committees 3:07, 31 Ionawr 2017

My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill, has consented to place her interests, in so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.


Moved by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon

That the Bill do now pass.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) 3:08, 31 Ionawr 2017

My Lords, at the final stage of this important Bill in this House, I take this opportunity to thank all noble Lords who have contributed to its passage, and without whose efforts we would not have been able to make such excellent progress. I thank my noble friends Lord Younger and Lady Buscombe for their diligent work in assisting me during the Bill’s passage. I greatly appreciate their support.

On behalf of the House—indeed, I believe I share the sentiments expressed by all Members across the House—I thank the Select Committee, which was so ably chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe. His resolute, compassionate and pragmatic approach in handling the business before him was impeccable and held in high admiration by petitioners, by the Government as the promoter of the Bill, and by his fellow committee members.

I also thank other members of the Select Committee for all their efforts and hard work. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, for her contributions, particularly in Committee and on Report; the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green; my noble friends Lord Brabazon of Tara and Lord Freeman; and the noble Lords, Lord Elder, and Lord Jones of Cheltenham. The committee served diligently for eight months, hearing over 300 petitioners, and made extremely valuable interventions both in Committee and on Report. I also thank noble Lords from the Opposition Benches. I have sat with the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, in sessions both in and outside your Lordships’ House, trying to address issues on which we did not quite agree. I thank him, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson—who unfortunately is not in her place—for their helpful interventions and the co-operative and positive approach they adopted in resolving any final differences that remained on the Bill.

I also thank all other noble Lords who have contributed to debates on the Bill and helped the Government make valuable improvements. It would be remiss of me not to make special mention of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. Some things are originated by one Government and then handed over to another. I am sure the noble Lord will reflect with satisfaction on the fact that this baton has been passed on successfully. What now remains is the important work of getting HS2 built, and I thank him for his efforts. Outside this Chamber, I thank the officials at the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd, some of whom have been working for over five years on the preparation and passage of this hugely complex Bill, for their dedicated and conscientious efforts. I also thank our parliamentary agents, our counsel team and my private office for their help and advice in preparing the Bill and during the Select Committee phase.

Amendment to the Motion

Moved by Lord Framlingham

As an amendment to the motion that this bill do now pass, leave out “now” and insert “not”.

Photo of Lord Framlingham Lord Framlingham Ceidwadwyr

My Lords, I am well aware of the gravity of the amendment I have tabled. I hope the House will understand that I have only decided to do this after long and careful consideration. I have been a Member of your Lordships’ House for six years, but I was a Member of the House of Commons for 27 years and a Deputy Speaker for 13 of those, so I am well aware of the proceedings and conventions surrounding the passage of a Bill. What we are doing today is a rare occurrence, but not without precedence and quite in order. Sometimes desperate situations require desperate remedies. In this case, your Lordships are all that stand between the wishes and welfare of the people and a folly on the greatest scale imaginable.

I have followed this issue carefully since it arrived in this House. I spoke against it at Second Reading, during the Queen’s Speech debate and in Committee. During all those stages I heard nothing but criticism of the project from every corner of the House, but noble Lords were still, for some reason, reluctant to speak against it in principle. So we arrive at the situation we face today—all the scheme’s credibility has long since gone, yet it is still bowling along with a momentum all of its own. It has been compared to Alice in Wonderland or the emperor’s new clothes. One journalist described it as the “zombie railway” that refuses to die. How has it got so far? The originators of the scheme, all those years ago, were bewitched by the idea of speed. They had looked at high-speed railways in France and Japan and thought we should do the same here, with speeds up to 250 miles per hour. This was the original motivation for the whole scheme and when the claims for speed were eventually discredited, the promoters started talking about capacity. Now that the figures on where capacity is needed most have been queried, confirming a report by Sir Rod Eddington, the former head of British Airways, there is little or nothing to be said for the scheme at all. In his report, Sir Rod also challenged the cult of speed for its own sake, pointing out that above 150 miles an hour energy use soars and rates of return plummet.

The use of Euston station has produced enormous, as yet unanswered questions. How will all the new platforms needed be fitted in without reducing present capacity and affecting existing Euston operators? How are passengers going to link up with the rest of the transport system, given that links, especially with the underground, are very poor? Passengers from the north wanting to use Eurostar may have to carry their bags for a mile down the busy Euston road. Even at this stage these vital matters are still not resolved.

I do not intend at this stage to go further into all the other countless failings of the scheme. The huge and insurmountable problems raised in Committee with major aspects of construction still have not been resolved; nor has the issue been addressed of how the money could be much better spent on linking Liverpool to Hull, or on modernising and improving the whole railway system.

Our right reverend Prelates have pointed out that untold damage has been done to homes and heartbreak caused to families along the proposed route; the same is true of offices, businesses and long-established, settled communities in both London and the countryside. People have had to move out of their homes and fight for compensation, sometimes in the most harrowing circumstances.

It is not commonly understood that most people will not be able to use their local station anymore because it will not be linked to the new line. They will either have to drive all the way to one of the very small number of new stations or suffer an inferior service.

It might be possible to justify all this upheaval if the project was essential—vital to the national interest. However, this is without question not the case. It has been dubbed a vanity project and the truth is that it has always been entirely optional. Originally a bright idea, it simply took off, took hold, and has never been seriously channelled. If it proves to be the failure predicted by so many well-informed people, what a terrible disaster that will be.

The total cost of the scheme is currently £56 billion but according to current estimates it is more likely to be in the region of £80 billion. I remind your Lordships that the National Health Service is having difficulties balancing its books to the tune of £1.8 billion, yet we are talking about £80 billion for this project. How can a Bill be given the go-ahead when there are so many outstanding problems—not minor ones but major ones?

If people try to argue that this project cannot be stopped because so much has happened already and so much time and money has been committed, our answer must surely be, “How has this happened? Why have people done this before it has passed its obligatory parliamentary stages?”. What is the point of our looking at and discussing these matters if our thoughts, views and decisions are to be totally disregarded? Nothing could better illustrate the gap between Parliament and people, Government and the governed, than a scheme such as this.

I have it on good authority that the Prime Minister, when she assumed office, wanted to abandon the scheme but was told that she could not because it was too late. It is never too late. There is an old adage about throwing good money after bad and although it may well be necessary to write off considerable moneys already spent, these sums have to be compared with the billions of pounds that would be spent in the future, not to mention the 10 years it is going to take to build, the massive disruption to Euston station and the surrounding area in London and, of course, the devastating effect it will have on our countryside.

The Institute of Directors, after a comprehensive survey of its members, has decided that HS2 is “not worth the money” and a “grand folly” and it calls on the Government to abandon it. The Institute of Economic Affairs has predicted a cost of £80 billion and said the line “defies economic logic”. The Engineering Employers’ Federation wants the money switched to roads. The former chairman of Eurostar, Adam Mills, said in a letter to the Times that HS2’s economics were “away with the fairies”. He said the money should be spent on,

“traditional rail enhancements, given the … short distances between UK cities”.

I have here four pages, filled with quotations from business leaders, academics, railway specialists, economists, ex-Cabinet Ministers and journalists—I cannot possibly read them all out. Every single person condemns HS2 and will, I imagine, be watching today’s proceedings with great interest. Most significantly for us, our own House of Lords Economic Affairs Select Committee, in its report on HS2, was hugely critical. On capacity it said:

“There are less expensive options to remedy these problems than HS2 but these have not been … reviewed”.

In summary, the committee’s chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Hollick, said that at £50 billion, which was the then estimate,

“HS2 will be one of the most expensive infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK but the Government have not yet made a convincing case for why it is necessary”.

In conclusion, the committee said:

“We have set out a number of important questions on HS2 that the Government must now provide detailed answers to. Parliament should not approve the enabling legislation that will allow HS2 work to begin until we have satisfactory answers to these key questions”.

There have been no satisfactory answers, because there cannot be—they do not exist for this scheme, and anyone who has studied it knows this to be true.

This House has a simple choice before it this afternoon. If it believes that the HS2 project provides good value for money and will benefit the British public, it will vote against the amendment. But if it agrees that this was an ill-conceived project from the start, which has been entirely discredited, even during the three years it has been passing through Parliament, and that if allowed to proceed, it will result in massive expenditure and huge disruption in both London and the countryside for no discernible benefit at all, the House will support the amendment and stop this scheme before any more harm is done. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Mallalieu Baroness Mallalieu Llafur 3:15, 31 Ionawr 2017

My Lords, I understand that this House will be reluctant to vote on a Bill at this stage, particularly one which has seen detailed scrutiny in both Houses—which, I have to say, was mainly directed at the line of route. However, despite all that, and despite the fact that those who served on those Select Committees devoted a considerable amount of time and that the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, has sought to be helpful and open, and indeed has been patience itself at every stage in steering the public Bill through this House, I cannot but support the amendment.

I do not live in fairyland, and I suppose that there is little realistic chance of the amendment being passed if it is pressed to a vote, because the Whips on all sides of the House are apparently intent on nodding the Bill through. However, I would see it as a failure of my position as a Member of this House if I did not speak now and vote if necessary later in opposition to the passage of the Bill.

As I have done before, I declare my interests as president of the Countryside Alliance and someone who knows personally much of the stretch of countryside between London and Birmingham which is about to be devastated, and many members of the rural communities which will be destroyed along that route. However, I am speaking today not to repeat my views on the devastating environmental damage but because there is a question which surely must be answered before the Bill—this folly—goes any further. That is, simply: does HS2 phase 1 now represent value for money? Is this the best way to spend £55.7 billion—the National Audit Office figure—of taxpayers’ money?

The project we were originally sold was to cost £30 billion in 2010—these are the Department for Transport’s own figures. By 2015, the estimate had risen to £57 billion. Independent estimates are now in the order of £80 billion, or £87 billion if it is adjusted for inflation. The estimate for both phases 1 and 2, taking this railway line on beyond Birmingham, is somewhere in the region of between £138 billion and £147 billion.

The original project was sold to us as one which would have direct trains through to Heathrow and also to the Eurostar, both of which have been ditched. The original argument was based on reducing the journey time to Birmingham by, as I recall, about 20 minutes. When, not surprisingly, that found little favour, the argument became about the need for future capacity—that is despite the urgent immediate need for capacity on trans-Pennine routes, with all the people standing like cattle on trains coming into London day after day.

The train, we were told, was going to run into central London. What is not widely understood, however, is that the present plan goes only as far as Old Oak Common station. It is planned to end there for a good seven years after phase 1 is completed—that is, seven years after the projected completion of phase 1 in 2033. The MP for the area, Sir Kier Starmer, believes it will cause “decades of blight”. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called for the redevelopment to be put on hold unless less disruptive plans can be made.

The cost of making the necessary acquisitions for taking the trains on into Euston with rising London property prices are frankly unquantifiable. The reality is that it is likely to be cheaper to fly than pay the fares which will have to be charged on this line. So where does the demand for this now come from? It comes from politicians who have put reputations on the line —some of them the most articulate of advocates. It comes from people who have already put money into trying to sell this project. And it comes from people who are hoping to make money, either from the construction work or from the developments around the out-of-town stations—that is, the few of them that are on the route.

Yet ex-Treasury Ministers of all colours have said that more, smaller, infrastructure projects are of greater value to the public and to the country as a whole. This project has already gone badly wrong, as a range of those who have examined it have pointed out. The Treasury Select Committee, the Public Accounts Committee and the Economic Affairs Committee of this House—as has already been mentioned—as well as the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which only last year gave it an amber/red warning, have all cautioned that it is not likely to be on time or within budget.

The warnings are all there and senior personnel have gone very recently, including the chief executive. A financial crisis during construction, which will require major curtailing of the present plans, or a bailout, and the likelihood of there being insufficient money for phase 2 from Birmingham Northwood, are increasingly odds-on prospects.

The Prime Minister, on taking office, called in and re-examined the Hinkley Point project. She then let it proceed. This project surely must be called in to answer the question: does it still represent value for money? We keep saying, to critics of this place, that the value of this House is to hold the Government to account. If we let this through without raising our voices, we will have failed in our purpose.

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Llafur

My Lords, as someone who spent six months of my life serving on the Select Committee, I feel I have to answer some of the points that the noble Lord made, in particular that the Bill has not been scrutinised. It had two years’ scrutiny in the Commons and a further six months on every aspect imaginable. Whether concerns were about the environment, noise, or construction, every aspect of the route and its impact was carefully examined. There will always be those who argue against infrastructure expenditure, especially on the levels that we are talking about. When it started, Crossrail was by no means universally accepted, yet now it is praised to the skies as a scheme that was necessary and was delivered on budget and on time.

This is the first railway out of London in something like 120 years. Whether or not the proposal started from the point of view of increasing speed, there is a capacity argument and this project will relieve capacity. It was certainly news to me when my noble friend suggested that the trains would stop at Old Oak Common. If they do, that will be a new development. We debated that not long ago and rejected amendments to that effect from the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and I believe that my noble friend Lord Berkeley was associated with that as well. Therefore, we examined the impact of the line very carefully. Can it be accommodated at Euston? Yes, it can. Allowances have been made for the integration of Crossrail 2 and a new classic railway station.

Thousands of jobs are dependent on this scheme. Somehow we seem to have lost the vision that we started off with in terms of what we need in infrastructure capacity. I suppose that that is not surprising when one looks at the length of time that the scheme has been under consideration. I sincerely believe that the House will recognise that this Bill has been scrutinised in great depth and that it would be a decision of great folly to follow the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham.

Photo of Lord Adonis Lord Adonis Llafur 3:30, 31 Ionawr 2017

My Lords, this is a huge investment and the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, need not apologise for putting down his amendment or opening this debate. Given the views that he holds, I think he is absolutely right to require the House to come to a decision after a debate and without simply proceeding straight to a vote before such an investment is made involving an important strategic departure from our transport policy.

The noble Lord and my noble friend Lady Mallalieu made two claims: first, that this project is somehow undemocratic because it has not properly been considered by Parliament and the people; and, secondly, that I and those who followed me were somehow bewitched by trains doing what they seem to do in most of the rest of the world—that is, running at 200 miles per hour and linking up the principal cities of countries with economic geographies similar to our own. Perhaps I may deal with those two points in turn.

I was responsible for publishing the Command Paper that began the process for HS2 in March 2010. I can tell the House frankly that there was a debate inside the Government at the time as to whether we should publish the Command Paper before or after the election. I can also tell the House frankly that a key factor in that discussion was whether the route should be published before the election or after it. The route had been prepared in detail by High Speed 2 (HS2) Ltd and indeed, following all the scrutiny since 2010, it has survived with hardly any variation, except for the addition of a considerable number of tunnels.

I was very firmly of the view—and the Prime Minister at the time, Gordon Brown, came to the same view—that it would be profoundly undemocratic to announce an intention to build such a major infrastructure project as HS2 knowing what the route would be but hiding it until after the election from the people and, in particular, from those who lived in the constituencies affected. So we published the route before the election.

All three major parties had a commitment to HS2 in their manifestos for the 2010 election. Because of the public meetings that I conducted in the 2010 election, I know that it was—how can I put it?—a very live issue in that election. I remember addressing one meeting where I said that I thought that HS2 would be on my tombstone and somebody from the back shouted out, “Not soon enough”. So there is no way that this scheme was disguised from the people in the 2010 election, and an overwhelming majority was returned supporting HS2.

That then led to exhaustive consideration by the House of Commons and a Select Committee of the House of Commons. There were thousands of petitions against the scheme and the Select Committee considered the Bill in detail for the best part of two years. When the House of Commons had considered the report of that committee, it voted by 399 votes to 42 in favour of the passage of the high-speed 2 Bill. After another general election, HS2 was in the manifestos of the major parties, and all the detail relating to it, including the detailed parliamentary consideration, could be considered by voters

It is hard to see how the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, can sustain a charge of a lack of democracy in this process. It has been almost a model of democratic engagement: there have been two general elections; two parliamentary committees; thousands of petitions, which were considered patiently by Members of a Select Committee in both Houses; and two votes in the House of Commons—on Second Reading and Third Reading—in which the Bill passed 10 to one, with very large numbers voting.

We now come to my bewitchment. To clear up one factual error, it has been stated that at the beginning HS2 was about trains running very fast and that it became about capacity when that argument fell apart. That is completely untrue. The opening words of the 2010 Command Paper which launched HS2 are:

“the Government’s assessment is: … That over the next 20 to 30 years the UK will require a step-change in transport capacity between its largest and most productive conurbations”, that is, London, West Midlands, the north-west, and Yorkshire. It continues that alongside such additional capacity—let me repeat those words—

“alongside such additional capacity there are real benefits for the economy and for passengers from improving journey times and hence the connectivity of the UK”.

The argument could not have been clearer. Capacity was the first and overriding consideration. But because a new railway was being built it was clearly sensible and right that Parliament authorised it to be built with 21st-century technology not 19th-century technology, the cost difference between the two not being great in any event.

The noble Lord and my noble friend spoke as if there might be a free lunch—if we do not build HS2 we will save large sums of money. I freely confess that constructions costs are high. If someone could wave a magic wand and reduce them I would be glad to hear from them and I think the House and Parliament would be well served. The two key points in relation to the costs are these. First, if HS2 is not built then other, very expensive interventions, which will probably end up costing about the same amount of money, will be needed to systematically upgrade the west coast main line to meet the requirements of the next generation. Those upgrades will not produce anything like the capacity that could be produced by building a new railway to 21st-century specifications.

The first function I performed as Minister of State for Transport was opening the refurbished west coast main line. That line is often described as Victorian. It is in fact pre-Victorian; it was opened for the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838. Only four miles of the line—between London and the extension north from Birmingham, built after the coronation—are straight, because it had to be built around the estates of Members of your Lordships’ House. I can assure the House that in earlier hybrid Bill Committees, noble Lords were extremely good at getting compensation for the building of the line—much greater in real terms than is available to those affected now, which is of course part of the reason that the project is controversial. They were also good at making the line take detours.

Upgrading a pre-Victorian railway is a very difficult task. It has been described to me as like performing open-heart surgery on a moving patient. It is also very expensive and complex. The completion of the last upgrade of the west coast main line, which produced only a fraction of the additional capacity that HS2 will produce, cost, in pre-2010 prices, £10 billion—in post-2010 prices that figure would be significantly higher. Of that £10 billion, £1 billion alone was for paying the railway company not to operate services at all in compensation for the disruption. For HS2, with the scale of the work that would be required, the proportionate figure would be larger still.

If an alternative scenario to HS2 were to be carried out—upgrading the existing railway—the estimate that was made for me by officials in 2010, and which has been done again since, is that you would have to spend half as much as on HS2 for a quarter of the capacity, and of course the sum is a moving target because of construction costs and inflation. The idea that this is good value for money is for the birds. It is good value for money only if the limit of our horizons for the modernisation of this country and of the transport links between our major conurbations stops in 10 or 15 years’ time. If we are doing what I regard as our job as parliamentarians—looking to the longer term—then it is very poor value for money.

I should add that the alternative scheme involved the complete rebuilding of Euston station, which will need to be done anyway. The great monstrosity that is Euston station was built for half its current capacity in the 1960s. I am glad to say, for those with a sense of history, that the Euston arch will come back when the station is rebuilt. The scheme also required hugely difficult and expensive work that would involve weeks on end of closures to realign tracks and signalling, extend platforms at all the main stations going north from Euston and so on. Those of your Lordships who used the west coast main line when the last work was being conducted will know that the disruption was chronic for the best part of a decade. We would be looking at something significantly worse than that if we were to seek to modernise the west coast main line on the scale required for the additional capacity.

It is not just the west coast main line that would be affected. In order to provide that 25% extra capacity, the Chiltern line would need to be substantially four-tracked throughout. I am not the most popular person when I appear in the Chilterns to explain the benefits of HS2. However, I can tell your Lordships that if you were to go the Chilterns to suggest that the existing railway be four-tracked, all of which goes above ground and which would have a significantly worse impact on the environment than HS2, I wish you luck in conducting those public meetings.

The choice that we faced was between building a new line between the major conurbations of the country to provide three times the existing capacity and the essential economic backbone for interchange between those great conurbations for the next generation, or conducting yet another patch and mend of a pre-Victorian railway at huge expense and offering a fraction of the capacity. I believe the decision that we took, which the coalition Government and now the existing Government have stood by, was exactly the right one, looking to the long term. The big mistake that has been made was the failure over the previous 40 years to adequately modernise the railways and, instead, to make do with patch-and-mend solutions that were hugely expensive and did not meet the exigencies of the case.

Let me make one final comment. My noble friend said that there were other pressing investment requirements for the railways, and she is correct. The London to Brighton mainline, which was mentioned earlier, is one among many lines that have huge capacity constraints, and I am entirely supportive—as is the National Infrastructure Commission, which I chair—of what has been called the east-west Crossrail of the north; that is, the upgrading of the lines between Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Hull. But these are not choices. We can actually manage, as a country, to conduct more than one big infrastructure project at a time—most other developed countries have been managing it for the past 50 years. The idea that it should be an ambition beyond the reach of this great country that is now looking to forge a path in the world on its own as a great economy is, of course, nonsense. It is perfectly possible for us to carry through and pay for HS2 over the next 15 years, the completion of Crossrail, the next Crossrail scheme, the Crossrail of the north and other essential modernisations. What we need is proper planning, the right level of ambition and to stand by our duty to the country to see that we do not have to put up with, in the next generation, second-rate infrastructure that holds back the economy in the way that we did for too much of the post-war period. That is the issue that faces us, as a House and as Parliament. I hope that your Lordships will rise to the challenge.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 3:45, 31 Ionawr 2017

Although the amendment is listed as changing one word, it would in fact change just one letter; it would substitute “t” for “w” in the word “now”. In so doing, it seeks to consign HS2 to the dustbin.

HS2 was initiated by a Labour Government and was taken forward first by the coalition Government and then, following the general election, by the present Government. There is clearly a mandate to proceed. The Bill has been debated and considered both in this House and in the Commons and has been the subject of detailed consideration by Select Committees of both Houses. I hope that the Government will look favourably on the outstanding compensation issues that have still to be determined.

The Companion to the Standing Orders indicates that, on an amendment of this nature at this stage:

“Any remarks should be brief and should not seek to reopen debates at previous stages of the bill”.

Consequently, my remarks will be brief. First, I thank the Minister, his ministerial colleagues and the Bill team for the way in which they have dealt with the debates as the Bill has progressed through this House and for the full responses that they have sought to give to issues that have been raised both in the House and at meetings. I also thank my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe for his most welcome and much-appreciated advice and guidance and Hannah Lazell in our office for the considerable work that she has put into the Bill, which has been of such help to me. Finally, I thank the members of your Lordships’ Select Committee, who considered the Bill in detail over some months, for their invaluable and painstaking work.

The amendment is fatal and hardly appropriate for the unelected House to pass, even more so when the Bill has already been passed in the Commons by, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said, an overwhelming majority of over 350. HS2 will bring a major and much- needed addition to this country’s transport infrastructure, including relieving the increasing pressure on the west coast main line—an issue that has to be addressed and cannot just be ignored and waved away. The pros and cons of HS2 have been considered and debated for a number of years. Inevitably, there will be some who will never feel able to agree to it, but the time has now come to make a decision. That decision must be to proceed. We can do that now by ensuring that the amendment, if put to a vote, is defeated and that the substantive Motion that this Bill do now pass is agreed.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. I recognise the strength of feeling expressed by my noble friend in raising this issue. Indeed, I met him again only yesterday to see whether we could allay some of his concerns. I do not share the experience that he cited of the passage of the Bill in your Lordships’ House; I am sure that most noble Lords across the House share my sentiment. Several noble Lords have rightly, at various stages of the Bill’s passage, challenged aspects of cost and detail, but—I look across the House to the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Bradshaw—they made it clear that, while challenging key aspects of the construction of HS2, they did so with the understanding and absolute assurance that they were committed to the project.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, clearly articulated the benefits of HS2 and I thank him for putting the whole project into context and correcting some of the history of railways in our great country. He talked about the time pre-1838, before Queen Victoria’s coronation. I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord West, is no longer in his place, but I am sure that he made a particular note of that.

My noble friend Lord Framlingham rightly raised the issue of costs and the control of costs. It is right that your Lordships’ House challenges the basic element of costs. However, given the recent experiences of infrastructure projects and the intense debates, discussions and scrutiny in Select Committees of both Houses on the Bill, it was very clear that that issue would be addressed. Noble Lords from across the House quoted the positive nature of projects such as Crossrail that are running to time and budget. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, talked about the brave new world in which our country finds itself. It is projects such as Crossrail that we are taking to the world to showcase the best of British engineering, supply chains and apprenticeships. I believe earnestly that HS2 provides opportunities of this magnitude. For example, the training facilities associated with the skills element of the HS2 project are an important legacy of any infrastructure project.

I assure my noble friend again that the scrutiny of costs will not only be internal. As I am sure he is aware, the Commons Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office have already produced several reports on the costs of HS2, which are publicly available. These bodies will continue to examine the cost of HS2 as we move forward and as more detailed costs on the project become available.

I am mindful not to detain your Lordships’ House longer than necessary. It is important that this project is supported across your Lordships’ House, as it is in the other place. My noble friend Lord Framlingham raised the issue of the CBI and the BCC. They are fully supportive of HS2 and have gone on record to say that the additional capacity it will create is vital.

We have debated, discussed and scrutinised this Bill and this project in the true traditions of parliamentary democracy. In closing I again pay tribute to the incredible work that the Select Committees of both Houses have done. My noble friend has been a Member of both Houses and is testament to the incredible work that Select Committees do in scrutinising petitions to ensure that, whoever the petitioner is, their voice is heard, considered and validated. If valid concerns are raised, Bills and projects can be amended—and the same is true of HS2. If you look at the course of the Bill and its progress through your Lordships’ House—I commend the Select Committee analysis of the various petitions—you will see the detailed scrutiny, analysis and recommendations of your Lordships’ Select Committee, all of which the Government have accepted. As I said, there were differences of opinion and we have sought to resolve them. I thank all noble Lords who worked on a constructive basis in that sense.

As I said to my noble friend, both in your Lordships’ House and in other meetings we have held, I appreciate that he has been consistent in his position in opposing this project. However, we have addressed and scrutinised this issue and the project and we have put in place the checks and balances necessary to ensure that the costs implications of the project have been fully considered and will continue to be so. I implore my noble friend, even at this late stage, to consider carefully the responses I have given and the valid processes, checks and balances that we have put in place. As we have heard, this project is not only necessary for investment in our railways but is important to ensure connectivity, capacity and that our country is truly a 21st century country on the world stage.

My noble friend has made his consistent position absolutely clear. He knows that I have respected his position throughout the process, as I assured him again yesterday. However, when he reflects on the debate this afternoon, the other debates and scrutiny that have taken place and the assurances that the Government have given, I hope he will be minded to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Framlingham Lord Framlingham Ceidwadwyr

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his words. He has been diligent and gracious throughout. He asks me to reflect on my words and my actions today. I have done little else for quite a few days now and I would not have done what I have done unless I really believed it was the right thing to do—for me, for this House and for the country.

I hope that noble Lords in the House will be sure, when they leave the House, go outside and talk to other people, that they have done the right thing today. This is going to last for at least 10 years. I do not want to rehearse all of the arguments again, because I can pretty well tell when the House has had enough, and I am not going to refute all the arguments—although I could. I understand why other people want to put their points of view, and I am grateful to the Minister and particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, for supporting me so well and being very much a kindred spirit in this. There are more of us around than I think anybody really appreciates. I say to the House, with all sincerity, that I have heard nothing this afternoon that makes me change my view that the HS2 project is fatally flawed and should not be given the blessing of your Lordships’ House. I want to test the opinion of the House. I beg to move.

Ayes 25, Noes 385.

Rhif adran 1 High Speed Rail (London–West Midlands) Bill - Third Reading

Ie: 23 Members of the House of Lords

Na: 383 Members of the House of Lords

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw


Amendment disagreed.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.