The Government are committed to ensuring that the construction of the high-speed rail line is undertaken as sympathetically as possible. That is why we have asked HS2 Ltd to undertake a draft environmental statement to better understand the impacts of the scheme on affected parties, including farmers. The draft statement will set out the likely significant impacts, as currently understood, and will identify proposals to avoid, reduce or remedy those with a significant adverse impact.
Whatever we might think about the principle of high-speed rail—I am actually for it—it can hardly be sympathetic, as the Minister said, given that the route that we have chosen, the Labour route, crashes through rural England and affects many farms. What discussions has the Minister had with the National Farmers Union about compensation for farms that will be decimated, with fields being separated from other fields, and land shortages being created by 100 metre swaths?
The environmental statement is published today and will be available in the Library. We have had meetings, and in February the National Farmers Union and the Country Land and Business Association signed up to a voluntary agreement with HS2 Ltd that sets out the process for contacting landowners to discuss gaining entry to their land. It also contains a fee structure and a duty of care commitment. This will help HS2 Ltd better to understand the impacts of the scheme on farmers in my hon. Friend’s constituency and elsewhere along the route.
Will the Minister also discuss with the Secretary of State the problems that farmers in my constituency are facing as a result of proposed business developments on their land to improve the rural economy being put on hold or stopped altogether because of the blight?
We certainly remain willing to work across Government to ensure that those kinds of concerns about the undoubted impacts are raised. There is huge experience in relation to other infrastructure developments that have taken place over recent years and decades, and I can assure my hon. Friend that we will work closely with him to get this right.