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High Speed Rail

Volume 559: debated on Thursday 28 February 2013

In January this year, I announced my initial route and station options for phase 2, from Birmingham to Leeds and Birmingham to Manchester. I intend to launch the consultation this year, earlier than previously planned. I have also set out my intention to secure the authority for departmental expenditure on HS2 phase 2 by way of a paving Bill, when parliamentary time is available.

I am delighted that the Government have pledged to deliver HS2. Can my right hon. Friend give a further commitment to ensure that the financial benefits flowing from the pre-construction phase will be felt along the length of the line, particularly among firms in west Yorkshire, which are ready, willing and very able to assist?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Last week I made a trip to the north-east talking to a number of companies. I am aware that many companies up there and in other places along the route are interested in, and prepared to be involved, in all phases of HS2. It is a beneficial project for the whole United Kingdom and I can assure my hon. Friend that we will be looking at ways to involve British business in all aspects of the HS2 programme.

16. The updated case for HS2 involves significant downgrading of provision and a collapse of existing services to Stoke-on-Trent so that Milton Keynes can have its high-speed service. How does this help rebalance the economy and why is my constituency being disadvantaged by HS2? (145065)

Two weeks ago, I met representatives from Stoke, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stafford. I welcome all views, and we will take a final decision on the route after the full consultation. The hon. Gentleman should be a bit more enthusiastic about such things.

If HS2 goes ahead, it will do significant damage to our Buckinghamshire constituencies and the Chilterns designated area of outstanding natural beauty. We need the best environmental protection. Will the Secretary of State undertake to consider carefully this document I have with me? It is the Buckinghamshire mitigation plan, which has been painstakingly produced and endorsed by all our councils in Buckinghamshire, our business leaders and organisations, and it is intended to form the basis of a constructive and positive outlook for HS2.

I had better be careful how I answer my right hon. Friend. I will study the document she has given to me and ask for it to be studied by officials in my Department. We will do all we can to minimise damage in her area.

The Opposition firmly support HS2, but we want it delivered. It is therefore worrying that the Government’s mid-term review referred not to enacting, but to “carrying forward legislation”, even though the Secretary of State’s departmental plan continues to claim Royal Assent will be secured by May 2015. Will he confirm that, with all the dither and delay, botched consultations and judicial reviews, the hybrid Bill is still on track to secure Royal Assent in this Parliament?

This Government will have achieved far more in five years to build high-speed rail in this country than the previous Government did in 13. All I would say is that we are still on target to meet our aims by the end of this year. As to its progress once it is before Parliament, I really cannot say any more at this stage.

The Secretary of State has introduced some confusion, because we are meant to have two Bills. One is paving legislation, which we have not seen and we do not know what it does, and the second is the hybrid Bill that he said would be completed in this Parliament. He should be clear what Bills he will introduce and when. Which Bill will he introduce: a measure simply to give the impression of action or the hybrid Bill that we need if this vital scheme is ever to be built?

I am pleased to have the Opposition’s support in bringing HS2 to fruition. The simple point is that a paving Bill will deal with certain financial responsibilities. I am happy to discuss the details further with her. The hybrid Bill—the measure that seeks planning approval—is still on course to be introduced by the end of the year.