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High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Volume 565: debated on Wednesday 26 June 2013

Second Reading

Before I call the Minister to move the motion on Second Reading, I have a brief announcement to make. This Bill relates to a proposal which would affect my own constituency, as is well known. I have taken the view that it would best protect and demonstrate the impartiality of the Chair if I did not take the decision on whether the reasoned amendment should be selected. I therefore referred the matter to the Chairman of Ways and Means. His decision is that the amendment should be selected, and I have accepted that.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Today, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has set out far-reaching plans to provide the infrastructure that we need to compete in the global race. We need better roads, better airports, better ports, and better rail links too—an ambitious programme for all parts of our country, with HS2 an important part of that. A growing economy, a growing population and growing demand for transport, which have seen rail travel double in a decade, mean that we must act. HS2 will be the first new main rail line north of London for 120 years, linking at least eight of our 10 largest cities, and improving services for Scotland too. I am pleased that HS2 enjoys the broad backing of all the main parties in the House. I want to make three points.

The Secretary of State has just said that the proposed High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill paves the way for links to Scotland, so will he explain why clause 1(2)(a) does not make any mention of Scotland or proposals to connect HS2 to Scotland?

I shall come on to explain, if I may make a bit of progress, the way in which we shall link up to Scotland, and why the Bill covers the area. The Bill provides that important opportunity, and I shall come to that in a short while.

As I was saying, I want to make three points: first, the reason why a new high-speed line is right; secondly, the purpose of the Bill; and thirdly, the work that we are doing to manage the costs of the scheme. Why is HS2 necessary? The answer is not only speed, although HS2 will take an hour off journeys between London and Manchester, and between Birmingham and Leeds, and it will bring two thirds of people in the north of England within two hours of London.

Is the Secretary of State aware that if there is to be a tangible economic benefit to my constituency and the wider Cheshire region, there must be a hub station stop at Crewe, otherwise it will take longer to travel by High Speed 2 up to Manchester and then travel down on a local line to that area?

I know that my hon. Friend is concerned, as I am, to make sure that there are sufficient connections right across the country. We have not yet reached the consultation stage on phase 2. Part of the reason why we published phase 2, although it would have been easier not to do that, was to show our commitment to serving the north, right up to Manchester, Leeds and the east midlands. So I am pretty sure that I will be hearing a lot more from my hon. Friend and others on the question of where the station should be located—Crewe or Staffordshire.

I met a group of Members from—well, I was going to say Staffordshire—I met two Members from Stoke-on-Trent and one from Staffordshire, and I give way to him.

I thank the Secretary of State for giving way and for his generous offer of coming to visit and see the lie of the land in north Staffordshire and east Cheshire. He will appreciate after our meeting that it is difficult for Members from north Staffordshire to support HS2 as it stands because it may very well, on the current modelling, reduce the number of direct trains from Stoke-on-Trent from 31 a day to just three a day. This knock-on issue is relevant to people from Stockport all the way down to Coventry, as he will see from the amendment. What assurances can he give that the west coast main line in the future, after HS2, will not become the ghost train line running a skeleton service, as the projections currently suggest?

I met the hon. Gentleman yesterday along with two of his colleagues, and I can assure him that this is about providing extra capacity, not reducing services. I want to consider the points that he and two of his hon. Friends made to me yesterday along the same lines. I do not recognise where he gets his figure of three services per day compared to the present level of service. Of course, that will be part of the consultation and one of the aspects that we will examine fully as we move forward.

The last time I looked, York, Manchester, Birmingham and London were in England. HS2 was clearly an England-only project, yet there will be Barnett consequentials. Unless the Secretary of State can state that there will be equivalent consequentials for Wales amounting to about £2 billion, we will vote against the Bill at every stage.

I am sorry the hon. Gentleman feels that way, because I believe there will be advantages to Wales as well. As HS2 serves an area up to the north Wales coast, there will be ways in which that can be an advantage. I think he is saying that he will vote against because he is not getting the opportunity to get high-speed services. If we do not get the route as currently proposed, he has no chance of getting any high-speed opportunity whatsoever. He will see, if he looks at the way the plans are laid out, that this can be developed further—even further up to Scotland, as the Bill makes clear.

The Minister talks of expansion further up to Scotland. When? Given the remarks about no Barnett consequentials, the “when” is not in a decade, but should be here and now.

I announced last October the work that was already being commissioned by HS2 to take the link up to Scotland, and I am more than happy to have discussions with Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Government about that.

I suspect that even the Scottish National party does not expect the line to reach the constituency of the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) any time soon, but I hope it will reach my constituency.

I would like to believe that it will not be next century and that my constituents will be able to benefit from the line as well. Clearly, they will benefit from faster services in so far as they can use the line further south, but we need to see work being done now and commitments made now to ensure that the further additions from HS2 do not start happening only in 2033.

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. As I announced last October, I have asked HS2 to start doing the work on that, and I hope to be in a position to say more about it in due course. I cannot give him a specific date at this stage because there are some very big issues to address.

I was saying that HS2 will bring about two thirds of the people in the north of England within two hours of London. Its purpose is not merely to keep pace with our competitors, although it is worth pointing out that Italy will soon have 926 miles of high-speed rail, whereas we have just 67 miles.

Indeed, and I will say a little more about Lille shortly. I think my hon. Friend may have a copy of my speech, although as I was working on it until not long ago, I would be surprised if he had.

Mr Speaker, I know that a great number of Members want to speak in the debate and I will give way a number of times, but I am mindful of the fact that you asked me to allow plenty of time for others to take part.

I apologise to the Secretary of State for coming in late and I appreciate the fact that he has given way to me. Can he tell me what Coventry will get out of high-speed rail and, more importantly, what about a decent compensation package?

I will come on to say something about compensation later in my speech. I think Coventry will get many benefits. The whole west midlands area will get a huge number of benefits from HS2. I want to see councils such as Coventry start working to make sure that they can get the best out of High Speed 2, both from the connections and the way we serve those areas. I know the hon. Gentleman is incredibly concerned about the way we serve Coventry. As somebody who knows Coventry relatively well, I am also concerned to see that take place.

The Secretary of State is very kind to give way. My point is that not only is the route of HS2 environmentally damaging, but the whole scheme is socially regressive. It is unaffordable to the bottom 50% of income bands and, in effect, it redirects money from the poorest to the richest. How can he justify this reverse Robin Hood strategy when that £33 billion could be better invested in giving us a better rail system for everybody, not just for the privileged few?

I find the hon. Lady’s position on the issue strange. I should have thought that the Green party would welcome such investment in public railway systems. [Interruption.] I think I had better answer the hon. Lady. HS2 brings a great increase in capacity and I want to say more about that a little later. That is one of the important issues that lies behind the need for HS2. Also, as I point out to colleagues, going from St Pancras station to Canterbury, the first part of the route from St Pancras to Ashford on a high-speed train is a fantastic fast journey, then one hits the Victorian railway network to Canterbury and the journey slows down completely. I want the rest of the country to get the benefit of high-speed rail, not just the area in the south which already has a high-speed service.

And I have no idea how the Minister would extend it to Northern Ireland, but Northern Ireland does not benefit from the Barnett consequentials of this spend, either. Because there is a construction interest, can he give an assurance that when it comes to procurement, there will be no repetition of the mistakes that were made in the past whereby UK-based companies did not benefit from some of the high-spend capital projects, and there will be opportunities for construction firms from Northern Ireland?

I am more than happy to do that and I shall say more about that later. Crossrail has set a good example. About 97% of Crossrail goods are serviced by British companies, and the Mayor of London is in the process of purchasing a huge infrastructure project, the new London buses, from Northern Ireland. That is very much in my mind with regard to the way I will be dealing with HS2 and talking to the management of HS2.

My right hon. Friend mentioned his rail journey to Canterbury. I encourage him to take a different branch on High Speed 1 and travel to Folkestone, as he will see that the investment in High Speed 1 is the biggest single advantage we have in promoting the east Kent regional growth area.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes that point from vast experience. It is worth remembering how controversial High Speed 1 was when it was built. I will talk about that a little later. The simple fact is that every infrastructure project—not nearly every project, but every project—is very controversial when it first starts, and in that regard High Speed 2 is no different.

I will not be in the position that you are in, Mr Speaker, of having actually counted the number of interventions I have taken, but I will give way to my hon. Friend.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that all major infrastructure projects are controversial. Would he like to reflect on where he thinks the great city of Leeds would be today had we not built the M1?

Indeed, but it would be very difficult to get to, and it would not have benefited from the improvements we have seen there.

I think that the answer starts with a simple point: without HS2, the key rail and road routes connecting London to the midlands and the north will soon be overwhelmed. Even on moderate forecasts, the west coast main line, the nation’s key rail corridor, will be full by the mid-2020s, a point made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), who wants more services from Shrewsbury to Blackpool. Having served as a Transport Minister in 1989, I know that the fundamental change that has taken place since then is that the pressure on a Transport Secretary now is often to find more services for the rail industry and more rail connections across the country—I was just talking about the west coast main line—and that is despite £9 billion of improvements north of Rugby in recent years. That means investing in the current infrastructure and trying to improve it. There are still problems south of Rugby, which is why Virgin has suffered problems in meeting some of the criteria it regards as important in providing the right kind of service.

Has the Secretary of State had an opportunity to look at the financial results released by Virgin Trains this morning? They indicate that profits are down by 40.5% but revenue is up by 2.8%, which is roughly the same rate as the fare increases, so the passenger increase must be very small. It says that it has now increased capacity by 40%, and this month it started a major advertising campaign to attract passengers. Does that sound like a railway line that is full to capacity?

No, it sounds like a railway that is providing the services that all colleagues want to see. As I pointed out a few moments ago, in certain areas hon. Friends are pressing for further services that cannot be provided because Network Rail says there is no availability on the existing highways.

My right hon. Friend can rest assured that, for a change, I will not be using this opportunity as a pitch to get more fast services to Nuneaton on the west coast main line. Can he assure me that, despite the investment being made in HS2, investment will still be made to continue to improve the services and capacity on the west coast main line?

Yes, indeed. That is one of the points that will become very apparent with the investment programmes we have over the coming years and that Network Rail will be carrying out. I can assure my hon. Friend that it is not a case of either/or; it is essential to invest in both areas.

I would like to add a thought on the capacity question. Will the Secretary of State confirm that over the past 15 years passenger numbers have increased by an average of 5% a year and that the business case for HS2 assumes an increase of 1.6% a year, which is quite a conservative estimate?

Indeed, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Basically, 15 years ago there were about 750 million passenger journeys, and the latest estimate is for 1.5 billion passenger journeys, which is a massive shift that I would have thought my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) would welcome.

Now, there is a choice. As a bit of a conservative, I will go with seniority, if my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker) will forgive me.

Will my right hon. Friend accept that, in relation to my constituency, this project goes from top to bottom and is deeply opposed by all and sundry? I have had meetings with thousands of constituents already. Will he accept that, according to the Public Accounts Committee, the pricing is unrealistic, the values for journey time savings are untenable and there has been insufficient analysis of non-rail alternatives? What answer does he give to the Public Accounts Committee and my constituents, who are deeply angered by this?

To my hon. Friend’s constituents I say this: I understand that a big piece of infrastructure of the size of HS2 will obviously have an impact. I respect and understand that and do not criticise those people who raise objections. I will move on to talk about compensation later. He talks about an area where we are yet to confirm the route. We will be having a full and proper consultation later this year, when he and his constituents will be able to make those points. I will want to see what can be done to help with some of the environmental points. I also point out that part of the west coast main line runs through his constituency, and it, too, was very unpopular when it was built, but it is very beneficial to the area, because I know that he often takes the train from Stafford to get to London. I will give way once more, to my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe, but then I will have to make some progress.

In relation to passenger numbers, my right hon. Friend will know the old aphorism that if one subsidises anything, one gets more of it. Will he remind us how much subsidy the rail industry has received over the past few years?

One of the things we are trying to do is drive out some of the subsidy in the railways to make it cheaper and more affordable for companies, but it is certainly true that there is subsidy in the rail industry. However, we have to think about people being able to get to work and what that subsidy supports. Sometimes the commuter in London, and the commuter in my hon. Friend’s constituency, deserves that support to enable him to get to the jobs that are available elsewhere. One has to be realistic and understanding about that.

I will now try to make some progress, because I have been speaking for longer than I had intended to take for my whole speech. This is not about a choice between upgrading the existing railway and building a new one. Upgrades will not provide the extra capacity we need. The choice is between a new high-speed line and a new conventional railway. The significant additional benefits make high-speed rail the right answer. Of course, big infrastructure projects are always controversial. As I often say, the easiest thing in the world for the Government to do would be not to build HS2 or to commit to it, but the costs of that would be huge.

It would be a cost in jobs. Our modest estimates indicate that HS2 will create and support 100,000 jobs, while the group of core cities predict that it will underpin 400,000 jobs, 70% of them outside London. It would be a cost in prosperity. Some estimates suggest that HS2 will add over £4 billion to the economy even before it is open. The line is estimated to provide around £50 billion in economic benefits once it is up and running. If we do not go ahead with HS2, there will also be a cost in lost opportunities for the towns and cities in the midlands and the north. I am not prepared to put up with a situation in which someone can get to Brussels on a high-speed train line, but not to Birmingham; to Strasbourg, but not to Sheffield; or to Lille, but not to Leeds. We cannot afford to leave the economic future of our great cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby to an overcrowded 200-year-old railway.

My right hon. Friend knows, as does the rest of the House, that much of that high-speed European railway was built with European money. How much investigation has he done with the European authorities into how much he might be able to reduce the enormous £32 billion cost of the railway?

We will be looking at that. I will say a bit more about costs a little later, if my hon. Friend will wait. As always, we will look at how we finance, and not necessarily just in respect of the area to which he has referred. We could see private sector investment in some of the stations that we are going to develop. I will say something more about the stations in a few moments.

We will deliver the investment to develop new stations and growth at places such as Old Oak Common in west London, where we will invest more than £920 million in a new hub linking the west country, Crossrail and HS2. At Curzon Street in Birmingham, we will invest £335 million on station developments. Similar investments are due in Manchester, Leeds and other great railway centres such as Sheffield and the east midlands.

HS2 will also allow for significant improvements to the rail service on the existing main north-south lines, providing benefits for towns such as Milton Keynes, Tamworth and Lichfield. It will provide real scope to get more freight on to the railways, which I would have thought the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) would welcome. It will also free up capacity on the M1, the M6 and the M40.

My second point this afternoon is about the Bill before the House. It will authorise essential expenditure on the preparation work for high-speed rail. Planning and building the line will take time.

On the point about this legislation being the paving Bill and agreeing the expenditure before the line gets built, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will publish the receipts relating to everything spent as we advance to building the line, so that we can assure ourselves annually that the money spent represents value for money to the taxpayer?

I am about to make exactly that point; obviously, somebody else has an advance copy of my speech.

The line will be overseen and delivered by successive Parliaments, which is why it is right to provide Parliament with the opportunity to debate the project. The hybrid Bill will provide additional opportunities for closer scrutiny of HS2. This is the moment for Parliament to demonstrate that it is backing British business, jobs and growth by backing HS2.

Let me say how the Bill will help achieve those aims. Without this legislation, Treasury rules would limit the amount of work that could be done or undertaken until after Royal Assent on the hybrid Bill. That includes design work on the construction of the line, planning the movement of utilities and carrying out ecological surveys. The legislation will also ensure that future spending on the discretionary property compensation is compliant with the PAC requirements.

My right hon. Friend is being generous with his time. From the moment the train line was announced, the property market up and down the route has frozen solid. Unless my constituents can demonstrate an exceptional hardship, they cannot sell their homes and move. I implore the Secretary of State once again to reconsider a property bond as the single most helpful move he could make to help alleviate a lot of the suffering being caused right now, today, by the project.

I assure my hon. Friend that, if he has a little patience, I will say something about that exact point a little later.

The PAC requirement states that when there is significant new expenditure that is likely to persist, authority should normally be sought from Parliament. I appreciate that many hon. Members have concerns about the authorisation of expenditure on early works in advance of the subsequent hybrid Bill. That is why this Bill ensures complete transparency in what we are doing, when we are doing it and—crucially—how much we are spending.

The Bill creates a duty on the Secretary of State to produce an annual financial report on the amount of expenditure incurred, allowing Parliament to keep a check on the costs and progress. I hope that that answers the point made by the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel).

I will look at the detail of that. I am certainly determined that Parliament should be kept well informed and, of course, the company will be open to the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office reporting to the PAC. There is a way in which the House can keep an eye on the matter.

My third point is about funding. We can today welcome the allocation made by the Chancellor in infrastructure investment. Tomorrow, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will say more about our plans. I know that in the context of the Bill, the House will want to be updated on the cost of HS2. I can therefore tell the House that tomorrow I will be writing to the chairman of HS2 Ltd to set a target price for delivering phase 1 of the project. That amount is £17 billion at 2011 prices. That takes account of the design and environmental changes to improve the scheme. Those changes include a tunnel from Old Oak Common to Northolt, design changes at Euston station, and a tunnel under the M6 near Birmingham.

As a responsible Government, we must be prudent, which means allowing the right level of contingency. In addition, therefore, we have set an overall indicative amount for the budget for phase 1 of £21.4 billion. For phase 2, it is £21.2 billion, so the total is £42.6 billion at 2011 prices. That includes £12.7 billion of contingency.

At Prime Minister’s questions this afternoon, I asked the Prime Minister why the Government were opposing the continuation of the trans-European network north of London. The Prime Minister clearly did not have an answer, and I will understand if the Secretary of State does not. However, will the Secretary of State find out why we are opposing the extension of that network? While we are in the European Union, that could be cutting off a source of funding.

I heard the hon. Gentleman’s question to the Prime Minister. Those debates on that whole process are ongoing and still at an early stage. I have some worries and I would want to get clarification before we changed the Government’s position.

Will my right hon. Friend explain what the £12.7 billion of contingency will do to the benefit-cost ratio? During the consultation period, it was always made clear that the £32 billion was the absolute maximum and contained a vast sum for contingency.

At the moment, the value-cost ratio is reckoned to be 2.5. I also point out that the BCR tells us some things, but not everything. For instance, the BCR on the Jubilee line was a lot lower than that for High Speed 2. If the Jubilee line had not been developed, a lot of the development in Canary Wharf would never have taken place. The line brought a huge amount of investment into the area and the country. It is important that we are seen to be able to compete with other countries in the global race to attract businesses to this country. The point also relates to the Olympic games, where a contingency was allowed and in fact the price of the games came in below the budget that had been set by the Government. I expect the final costs to be lower than those I have outlined. However, I take on board my hon. Friend’s point about BCR.

My right hon. Friend has announced that the total budget for the infrastructure plan will be about £43 billion. Does that include the £8 billion for the rolling stock?

If my hon. Friend will allow me to make a bit more progress, he will find that I am going to be very open with the House and put all this out into the public domain. I want to be as open as I possibly can.

I give way to my hon. Friend, who I met yesterday—I think, but the days are getting a bit blurred at the moment.

They are getting blurred for us all. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way and for yesterday meeting my constituents from Hints, Weeford and Drayton Bassett to discuss their concerns about compensation and mitigation. He has rightly referred to the great concern that people have about the compensation and mitigation that is available. In setting a budget for phase 1, will he prevail on HS2 to be as efficient as possible so that money can be saved and spent on mitigations in Staffordshire?

The meeting that I had yesterday with my hon. Friend and his constituents was very useful, and I gave them an undertaking to look at some of the points they made. I have had varying reports on how some of the public consultations have gone. I am determined that we improve the way in which they are conducted so that people get more reliable answers on the points they are making, and as quickly as possible, although sometimes these things take a lot of time if particular requests are made as to routes and the like. I thank my hon. Friend for behaving very constructively in the points that he is making.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, and pleased to be able to follow the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher). Next week I will be bringing people from Lichfield, Whittington and Armitage to see him to discuss, primarily, mitigation. May I ask him about compensation? He will know that with the current route I will have real difficulties with the hybrid Bill; in fact, I will not be able to support it. The Country Land and Business Association says that this stage of the game is the only opportunity to get compensation into legislation so that we can give it to people in my constituency, and indeed in Tamworth, who have been blighted for the past three years.

As someone who was born and brought up in Staffordshire, I know the area that my hon. Friends are talking about incredibly well. Without the authority of this Bill, we would be in a very difficult position as regards exceptional hardship. I mentioned earlier some of the requirements of the PAC in relation to accountability in spending money on a project without the approval of Parliament, and that also relates to compensation.

The Secretary of State has been dealing with blight, and he mentions Staffordshire, but he also knows Derbyshire well, and he knows a village called Pinxton. I spoke about blight when he made his original statement, and I was staggered to be told within hours by a farmer in Pinxton who was selling his farm that as soon as the statement had been made he was told that he would never sell his farm. How is that farmer going to be compensated?

I will say a little more about compensation in a moment. I accept and appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s point about the impact of naming the route. At the time of HS1 several routes were announced and there was potentially more widespread blight. In HS2 we have tried to be more specific about the routes so that we avoid widespread blight. However, I also say to the hon. Gentleman, who is well versed in how these things work, that we will be going out to consultation on phase 2—I will be announcing that in the very near future—and that will enable his constituents and those of the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire to make their points, find out more information, and possibly propose alternative suggestions and ideas.

The Secretary of State said that there is a contingency provision of nearly 40% in this project. Is that typical of a project of this size, or does it indicate a higher degree of risk than would usually be associated with such a project?

It is a normal level of contingency that would be put into a scheme of this sort, and it is built in on an internationally based calculation.

This is the right way to plan for the project. In addition, with or without HS2, new rolling stock will be needed on the key inter-city routes linking London and the north over the next 20 years. I hope that deals with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen). We are therefore budgeting £7.5 billion for HS2 rolling stock. To put that in perspective, the current inter-city express programme to replace trains on the east coast and Great Western lines, which is creating jobs in the north east, will cost £4.9 billion. The money that I have just announced for the rolling stock for HS2 also includes a contingency of some £1.5 billion.

Good infrastructure is an investment in economic growth. We are investing £14.5 billion to build Crossrail, while £11 billion has been invested in new infrastructure at Heathrow since 2003. Over the period of construction, the cost of HS2 will be less than 0.15% of GDP—I repeat, less than 0.15% of GDP. This is an investment that the country can sustain and needs. That is why tomorrow the Chief Secretary will set out the detailed HS2 funding allocations for the six-year period until 2020-21.

Before I finish, I want to explain what we are doing for those affected by the line. As I said earlier and have tried to make clear throughout this Second Reading speech, I do not dismiss those with objections as irrelevant. We do indeed need to design HS2 carefully, consult properly and compensate fairly. I hope that I can reassure people about why it is right to go ahead. Some have concerns about the impact of HS2 on the landscape. While I cannot deny that a project of this scale will have an effect, I believe that the positive experience of our first high-speed line in Kent shows that the consequences can be managed without wrecking the countryside. For instance, while not a single mile of the M1 is in-tunnel, about 40 miles of HS2 will be in-tunnel. Of the 12.4 miles that crosses the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty, 5.8 miles will be in-tunnel and 3.5 miles will be in deep cuttings. No part of phase 2 of the route crosses any national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty.

It is also important to ensure that proper compensation is made to those affected by HS2. That is why we have introduced the exceptional hardship scheme although there was no statutory requirement to do so. We believe that home owners already affected with a pressing need to move should have recourse to compensation, but without the authority of Parliament to incur expenditure to continue with this compensation, I would need to consider carefully what other mechanisms, if any, we could use. Very soon, we will start a new consultation on compensation.

I have met some of my constituents in Greasbro road in Tinsley in Sheffield, whose homes will be demolished by the scheme. They accept that to a degree, but they ask me whether it is reasonable that people who, for the greater good of the country, are moving out of a home that they do not want to leave will simply get 100% of the market value, plus home loss. Is there no room for the Secretary of State to be more generous and say to people, “You are doing something for the good of the country. Therefore, you should receive more than 100% of the market value”?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. We have said that we will go out to consultation. I fully accept that the position of his constituents is slightly different because the consultation, in the first instance, will relate to phase 1. It is not possible to consult on phase 2 until we have confirmed the route, but there will have to be a consultation on that. Given that he is the Chairman of the Communities and Local Government Committee, which has an important role in this area, no doubt his Committee will want to consider the matter.

We will consider a range of compensation options, including a property bond, about which a number of Members have made representations.

In building HS2, we need to ensure that we make the best use of British skills and workers. For Crossrail, 97% of the contracts have been won by British-based companies. From 2017, HS2 will create 19,000 engineering and construction jobs.

Supporting British jobs is essential. The Secretary of State will know that the finest rail in the world is produced in my constituency at the Scunthorpe steelworks. Will he assure me that he and his Department will do everything they can to ensure that Scunthorpe gets a cut of HS2 and that we see those benefits and jobs in our region?

I can assure my hon. Friend that I want HS2 to be not dissimilar in this respect to Crossrail, which saw 97% of the business going to British companies. However, I am cautious about awarding contracts and making promises from the Dispatch Box. I am certainly a little more cautious than my hon. Friend was in asking me to do so.

Will the Secretary of State meet a delegation from Coventry, as he suggested he would just before Christmas when we met him to discuss this issue?

I hope the hon. Gentleman does not mind my pointing out that I met a delegation before Christmas. I have met one delegation and I am happy to have another meeting with the hon. Gentleman on the same issue. I recognise that the council has changed its position and I look forward to his changing his position as well.

Today marks an important milestone in the progress of HS2. We must keep it to time and budget, and minimise the impact on residents, the environment and the landscape. We can do that and we need to do that because HS2 is an engine for growth: growth in jobs, growth in opportunities for business and growth in the global race. HS2 is a project for our generation. Now is the time to make it happen. I commend the Bill to the House.

Britain’s railways face a major capacity challenge in the years to come. That was why, when we were in government, Labour proposed Britain’s first new north-south rail line for more than 100 years. We remain convinced that the project is essential, as is completing the wider rebuilding of our rail network that began under the last Government to reverse the damage caused by decades of under-investment before 1997. Doing nothing is not an option because the existing network is fast reaching the limits of its capacity.

Attempting to upgrade the existing main lines could deliver some, but nowhere near all, of the additional capacity that will be needed in the decades to come, and yet the cost would still be great, as would the disruption to passengers and freight. It would mean that we had learned nothing from the experience of carrying out a major upgrade of the west coast main line while attempting to keep it in use. After a decade of inconvenience and disruption, and almost £10 billion spent, the job was finally completed, but it delivered nowhere near the benefits that will come from a new north-south rail line. By building a new line that extends from London to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, we can relieve the pressure not just on the west coast, but on all three existing north-south main lines.

It is vital that we are clear about why the scheme is necessary. Those of us from all parts of the House who support the new line need to be better at communicating why the investment is essential. The new north-south rail line is necessary to deliver a major increase in capacity on our rail network. That is why we cannot afford to delay the delivery of this project any longer.

The hon. Lady has just said that the project is supported by Members from all parts of the House. She knows that I do not support it. What would she say to Labour councillors in my constituency who consistently call this a Conservative project and imply that it is not a Labour one?

I would not agree with that, except in the narrow sense that the project is being taken forward by a Conservative-led Government at present. The Secretary of State and I understand that, on both sides of the House, not everybody is in favour of the project. The genuine concerns that people have need to be heard and we will listen to them in detail.

There will be significant benefits in addition to the new capacity that the line will offer. It will enable the introduction of much faster high-speed trains than can be deployed on the existing network. Journey times between our towns and cities will be cut, significantly in many cases. By building the line, we can help to rebalance the economy between London and the south-east and the rest of the country.

It is worth understanding the extent of the reduction in journey times that will be achieved. The journey from London to Manchester that currently takes two hours and eight minutes will be cut by an hour to just one hour and eight minutes. Sheffield will be just one hour and nine minutes from London, compared with the current two hours and five minutes. Leeds to London will take just one hour and 22 minutes, which is a reduction from the current journey time of two hours and 12 minutes.

Crucially, the journey times to destinations beyond the new line will be reduced. I am not sure that that is always understood. It will take just three hours and 38 minutes to get from London to Edinburgh, instead of the current four hours and 23 minutes. I look forward to being able to get home to Liverpool in a little over an hour and a half. It is not yet widely understood that high-speed trains will run off the new line on to existing track, serving communities across the country. It will be possible to get on a train in at least 28 of our towns and cities, including nine of the UK’s 10 biggest conurbations, and begin a journey that will use the new line. We need to communicate better the extent to which the whole country will benefit from this investment.

The development of stations along the new line will provide major opportunities for regeneration and jobs, in addition to those created through the construction of the line itself. With fast inter-city services moved to the new rail line, capacity will be freed up on the existing main lines for new commuter services, further improving connectivity between our towns and cities further north, and generating opportunities to shift freight from road to rail. The line will deliver a credible alternative to short-haul flights and, therefore, the opportunity to reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change and free up capacity at airports in the south-east that could better be used to open new routes to emerging markets.

We remain convinced that a new north-south rail line is needed. It is the right priority for investment and it is right that we make the decision to proceed.

The hon. Lady talks about the communities that will be served by the proposed high-speed rail line, but what about ticket prices? Will it not just serve the type of people who work in professional services, such as lawyers and accountants, who will be able to travel at high speed on company expenses rather than out of their own pockets?

The hon. Gentleman raises a legitimate concern, which was probably not helped by the Secretary of State’s predecessor, the right hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), referring to HS2 as “a rich man’s toy”. Consideration of pricing arrangements will help to alleviate some of those concerns.

I will give way once I have answered the hon. Member for Dudley South (Chris Kelly).

The Opposition believe strongly that the north-south rail line will be a properly integrated part of our entire rail network. It should not be seen as separate from it. That also goes for pricing and ensuring that people can afford to use it.

Does my hon. Friend agree that this project will have a huge economic benefit to places such as Birmingham and the west midlands? In my constituency, we have a company from the United Arab Emirates that was originally going to settle in London. It provides 20 jobs in Birmingham, a figure that will go up to 80 by the end of the year. The company is asking for better transport links, so that employees can commute as fast as possible. That will provide better jobs and training for our people in the midlands.

Is not the truth of the matter that High Speed 2 will release capacity on the west coast main line? Has the debate not recognised the importance of freight, which is growing at more than 10% per year on rail? Does that not come into the discussions we are having today?

My goodness, I find myself in total agreement with the hon. Gentleman.

Despite the importance of this project, there has been a real lack of drive from Ministers—I am not necessarily talking about the Secretary of State—in taking the decisions and delivering the action needed to make it a reality. The former Labour Transport Secretary Lord Adonis set up HS2 Ltd as long ago as 2009. By August of the same year, he had already confirmed plans for a new north-south rail line because he was a high-speed Secretary of State. Nothing has moved anywhere near as fast at the Department for Transport since he left, except the revolving door that has meant I am facing my third Transport Secretary since the election. I hope very much that the Government reshuffle that is rumoured to be on the cards does not deliver yet another change. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me on that.

I hear what the hon. Lady says, but she should look at the average length of service of Labour Secretaries of State for Transport—they were also fairly rapid through those doors.

It is starting to worry me, when I contemplate my political future, that the average length across the parties of Secretaries of State for Transport appears to be somewhat on the short side. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, while his Government are still in office, and I can increase the average length of time served.

I will make a little progress and then give way to the hon. Gentleman.

The fact is that it is only now, four years on from Lord Adonis’s initial action, that the Government are introducing the legislation required to enable money to be spent in advance of construction. The legislation needed to actually begin construction is still nowhere in sight. The Secretary of State’s own departmental plan continues optimistically to claim that Royal Assent on the hybrid Bill will be secured in May 2015, yet in The Times at the weekend he could not be any more confident than to say, “I hope it will.” I know he does not want to admit it, but is it not the truth that there is absolutely no prospect of securing Parliament’s approval for phase 1 before the next election?

Despite its inclusion in the Queen’s Speech, Ministers cannot even guarantee a Second Reading for the hybrid Bill in this Session, leaving just one year to secure its passage through both Houses. It took two years and one month to take the hybrid Bill for High Speed 1 through Parliament, and Crossrail took three years and five months. Neither of those schemes was on the scale, or came with as much controversy, as this new rail line. The Government’s inaction in the past three years requires them to rush the Bill at the end of this Parliament. The National Audit Office has warned that this compressed time scale poses even greater risks to the project:

“Faster preparation for the bill may increase the extent of petitions to Parliament which may make it less likely that royal assent is granted by the planned date of May 2015. It may also divert the Department and HS2 Limited from focusing on the deliverability of the design.”

With construction due to begin in January 2017, less than two years into the next Parliament, Ministers know full well that they are now cutting it very fine indeed.

The fact that Royal Assent will no longer be achieved for phase 1 in this Parliament raises the question of why the new line was split into two Bills in the first place. We all know that that decision was taken to ensure that at all costs Conservative MPs did not have to go into the next election with pressure from their constituents to vote against it. The Government have failed to achieve that goal, and have completely unnecessarily opted for two hybrid Bills, when taking the proposals forward as one scheme would have provided greater certainty and ensured that there was no doubt about the Government’s commitment to the whole north-south line, as Ministers claim.

Harvard Business Review says that there are about 40 mega-regions in the world that straddle national borders. They contain about 18% of the world’s population, 66% of its economic activity and 86% of the world’s patents. In these islands, we have two such mega-regions: south central England and the central belt of Scotland. Professor Richard Florida of the university of Toronto says that linking these regions helps global aggregate prosperity. When would the hon. Lady like to see high-speed links between these two UK mega-regions?

We cannot get any further north than Leeds and Manchester until we have got to Leeds and Manchester. That is a constraint, but I hear what the hon. Gentleman says.

The hon. Lady talks with great enthusiasm about HS2. Will she reassure the House that Her Majesty’s Opposition’s support for HS2 will continue up to and beyond the next general election? The support of the Government in this case is, I believe, rather like the support given by the rope to the hanged man.

The hon. Gentleman is speaking in hope rather than expectation. I know his own personal concern about the scheme and I understand his point, but I can be clear with the House that Labour supports getting on with building this north-south line.

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I am also grateful to her and the Secretary of State for being so understanding about the problems the scheme will cause to my constituents and my constituency. Does she agree that, in spending in excess of £50 billion minimum on such a scheme, one would expect it to connect effectively to HS1 and Heathrow? Is it not right to say that going ahead with this project and looking at the phase 1 route at this stage before Sir Howard Davies’s review into airport capacity is putting the cart before the horse?

It is fair to say that there are concerns about connectivity and what is happening at the southern end, but it is also fair to say that the Government of the day must decide. It is reasonable for the Opposition to raise issues, but, with projects over multiple Parliaments, we must accept, as an Opposition, that we are not quite as well resourced as the Government of the day to come up with well-thought-through alternatives. The Government of the day have to make the decisions, but it is fair enough for opponents and supporters of the scheme to raise issues, recognising that, if the project is ever to be delivered, the Government of the day must decide on the way forward.

I did not quite catch my hon. Friend’s answer to the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil), who asked about taking the line north of Leeds and Manchester. Will she confirm that we would wish to see the high-speed services and line taken north of Leeds and Manchester in due course? It is not just a question of speed, however; it is also a question of capacity, because, as she pointed out, the construction of high-speed lines further south will free up capacity on existing lines, but that will lead to capacity problems if all the high-speed trains end up going on the existing lines further north.

I understand my hon. Friend’s point, and the one I made in response to the earlier intervention was simply that we had to get to Leeds and Manchester before we could go further. Work is going on—led by the Department, I think—looking at the prospects for further phases, if one wishes to put it that way, after we have got to Leeds and Manchester.

The delays over the past three years are no surprise, given that the Department has been promising to publish a transport strategy ever since the election, but has yet again delayed it until later this year. The failure to deliver progress on this new railway line could not be a better example of what happens when one decides on a transport strategy towards the end of a Parliament, rather than at the beginning. It means major transport decisions—for example, how we connect the new rail line into Britain’s hub airport at Heathrow—are not being taken forward in an integrated way. That is entirely a consequence of ducking the big questions on aviation for the whole Parliament and of the Government’s decision, which we believe to be wrong, to tell the Airports Commission not to report until after the next election.

It is not just the rapidly slipping timetable that raises alarm bells and worries those of us who support this project. The National Audit Office wrote:

“We identified three areas of risk to the Department’s effective governance of the High Speed 2 programme:… Underdeveloped governance and programme management… Insufficient resources in the Department’s High Speed 2 team”

and

“Inadequate stakeholder management”.

The criticism that Ministers failed sufficiently to resource the team in the Department will be familiar to anyone who has followed the fiasco over the collapse of the Government’s rail franchising programme. The NAO has warned that there is

“a high risk that it may have insufficient skilled staff in the areas of procurement, corporate finance, rail technical and programme management.”

Yet again, the reckless way in which the Department was reorganised after the election and the scale of cuts to key staff have put a major project at risk.

The Government have finally, belatedly, appointed a new director general for HS2 as well as a new senior management team, which is welcome news, but is it not extraordinary that, just as with the west coast main line fiasco, it took so long for a senior responsible owner to be identified for the project? No wonder the Major Projects Authority has rated the delivery of the new rail line as amber/red. That should have been a clear warning to Ministers to take its concerns seriously, not simply dismiss them as irrelevant.

To be fair to the Secretary of State, there was one bit of good news in the otherwise highly critical report from the MPA. It found that

“the Department has strengthened its working relationship with HM Treasury.”

That is very sensible indeed, particularly in the light of the NAO’s concerns about the budget for the project. It has called the Department’s use of a precise estimate of £16.3 billion for the cost of phase 1 of the scheme as “unwise”, as I think we have discovered today. It said that an honest figure would be between £15.4 billion and £17.3 billion, so I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has today given updated figures. I am sure that he will continue to do so, as he has undertaken to do.

The NAO was also unable to verify the Department’s claim that the £1.5 billion savings recommended by Infrastructure UK could be delivered. Work apparently only began on identifying those savings in September. The House needs to be told whether the savings have now been locked in. The NAO also raises doubts about the Department’s claim that phase 1 will result in reduced operating costs on the existing network of £3 billion over 60 years. This is on the assumption that fewer long-distance services are likely to run on the west coast main line, but because the Department has not set out any revised service patterns it is difficult to see how such a precise and neat rounded figure has been generated.

The Government should also be clear that the £42.6 billion cost of completing the north-south line as far as Leeds and Manchester does not include the £7.5 billion cost of the trains to run on the line. The Secretary of State has made that clear today. These factors are an essential part of the project, and they ought to be included in the estimates in future.

Worryingly, the National Audit Office also claims:

“The Department has not included VAT in its cost estimates or affordability assessments”,

and warns that

“HS2 Limited will be liable for VAT at 20 per cent on almost all of its spending.”

Ministers need to confirm that the Chancellor and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have agreed that the VAT will be reclaimable. If that will not be the case, that should also be accurately reflected in the budget.

The NAO also warns that, even with the additional £3 billion capital spending from 2015-16 that has been confirmed today, there is a risk that the project

“may restrict the ability to fund other capital projects across government”.

It goes on to warn:

“We estimate that there could be a gap in affordability of £3.3 billion spread over the four years from 2017-18 to 2020-21, which are the peak spending years for phase one.”

The Secretary of State will, I think, have negotiated something in that respect, but he must make it clear, when he can, that the settlement he has reached with the Chancellor—the details of which we might get tomorrow—has closed that funding gap in full. It would be unacceptable if the Department’s failure to plan the spending needed for this scheme were to result in any cuts or delays to the vital upgrading on the rest of the network. That includes the rolling programme of electrification and new inter-city trains, both of which have already been delayed or scaled back under this Government.

Finally, on the budget for the scheme, there is already a creeping increase in spending from the allocation set for this Parliament in the 2010 spending review. The Minister of State, Department for Transport has admitted to me in a parliamentary answer that the budget for the current spending period has been revised upwards from £773 million to around £900 million. That is worrying in the context of the legislation we are debating today, which will effectively give Ministers a blank cheque from Parliament to spend on the scheme. I am sure that the Secretary of State will keep Parliament fully apprised of where the money is going.

In addition to the delays and the criticisms of the budget, serious concerns have also been expressed about HS2 Ltd. It was initially set up to advise Ministers on the route for the new north-south line, but the Government have expanded its role to include building support for the scheme and then delivering it, despite the fact that HS2 Ltd has faced criticism for the way in which it has engaged with communities along the route, with local authorities and with MPs. The fact is that it has not proved to be an effective advocate for the scheme.

The NAO has issued a warning on this, too, saying:

“The programme has a complicated governance structure. This is because the Department aims to preserve some independence for its development body, HS2 Limited, while also maintaining effective governance.”

By divorcing the scheme from delivery of the investment in the existing rail network, there is a risk that we will not focus on the need to create a fully integrated single rail network. It makes no sense that Network Rail is, in effect, having to mirror some of the work of HS2 Ltd, including appointing staff of its own to work on the scheme and having to lobby HS2 Ltd to ensure that decisions are taken in a way that does not have a negative impact on the wider network.

It is increasingly clear that a better option would be to transfer responsibility for the planning and delivery of the new north-south rail line to Network Rail. That would reduce duplication and cost while better enabling the integration of investment in the existing network and the new line. The hopelessly inadequate plans for connecting the new north-south line with HS1 are a good example. The focus of the debate on this issue has been on whether there would be any demand for services from the continent to go further north than London. We should surely not turn our backs on the opportunity to end unnecessary and environmentally damaging short-haul flights, but the real case for getting the connection right involves the opportunity to run the excellent Javelin trains that served us so well during the Olympics further up the country, instead of simply between the coast and the capital.

According to the latest Government figures, Scotland has 8.4% of the UK population but provides 9.9% of the taxes. In effect, Scots will be paying for 9.9% of the new high-speed rail development, so it is disappointing that neither the Secretary of State nor the hon. Lady can give the House a date, an ambition, a target or a hope of when it might reach Scotland.

I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s premise that there will be no benefit to Scotland before the high-speed rail line gets there at some time in the future. It is clear that it will benefit from the project.

Does the hon. Lady agree that, if we are going to spend this large amount of money on HS2, we should get the maximum benefit from it? At the moment, it is planned to connect HS2 with HS1 only by a rather tortuous single-rail route, but there is a better, double-rail solution available. Would it not make more sense to fully integrate HS1 with HS2?

I have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. Gentleman’s point. It makes no sense to me at all that passengers from the south-east should have to change trains in north London to reach towns and cities in the midlands, the north and up to Scotland. We do not see this connection as an optional extra that can be delivered in a patch-and-mend way; it needs to be re-thought.

Is my hon. Friend aware that HS2 is saying that it wants to use the north London line for the link because

“it is assessed to have less construction risk than a tunnel”?

Is she aware that the man from Bechtel who masterminded the successful channel tunnel link and the refurbishment of St Pancras decided to do a double-bore tunnel from Barking to St Pancras because is was “less risky” to have such a tunnel than to use the north London line. Who would my hon. Friend trust on that?

I would undoubtedly trust my right hon. Friend—there is absolutely no doubt about that. The points made by both the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) and my right hon. Friend illustrate the concern and controversy that remain about this issue. I believe that a solution should be devised that can minimise the impact on communities in Camden while ensuring that we do not miss a perfect opportunity to redevelop Euston in the right way for the long term. I believe that the Government should keep looking at that.

I am really grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, because our speeches are being restricted to only six minutes in the main debate, so it will be hard to say everything that has built up over four years in those six minutes. From what she is saying, am I right to understand that her party might look at a different route for HS2, as the very point she is making about connectivity to HS1 and to Heathrow leans towards another route that was originally in the set of proposals—one that was not chosen by this Government?

I do not think it fair to assume that if I had the Secretary of State’s role after the next general election, I would tear everything up. I have made it clear that when there are projects that run across Parliaments, it is important to co-operate and to understand that decisions have to be made. We will, however, have to see where we are by the time we get to the next election. I would certainly want to take every opportunity to make sure that the nation gets the best possible outcome from the money spent. As I say, we shall have to see where we are at that time. I am not interested in delaying going forward with what I believe to be a tremendously important scheme.

The Government must also be clear, following the successful judicial review, about how they intend to change the compensation scheme for households affected by the building of the line. The judge found that the consultation process was unfair, that not enough information had been provided and that the criteria for compensation options were not adequately explained. This failure has caused unnecessary added stress to those affected by the scheme, during what is obviously a very difficult time for them and their families.

It is simply not possible to take forward a project of national importance on this scale without causing a significant impact on some communities and on some people’s lives, but the obligation on all of us is to do what we can to mitigate that impact and to act fairly in terms of compensating people for the loss of property and value that they suffer. Ministers must now act quickly to bring forward a new, fair scheme and ensure that it is communicated clearly and transparently.

Do the Opposition therefore support the concept of a property bond that would try to improve on the blight that is experienced by so many people?

I am willing to support anything that can properly, fairly and reasonably compensate people in a way that still meets the obligation to be reasonable with taxpayers’ money. I would thus be happy to look at the details of the scheme, as I think the Secretary of State has said he is, too. I think we have a particular obligation to treat those affected as fairly as we possibly can and within as speedy a time scale as possible.

I would like to mention a point raised with the Secretary of State a while ago. Asking people to make a sacrifice for the good of the country—that is effectively what we are asking the people whose homes are to be demolished to do— and saying to them, “This is the value of your property now and you can have 10% extra for the loss of your home” is really not adequate compensation. We should be able to do a bit better than that for people who are being forced to move home through no fault of their own and no choice of their own.

That is an important point. Such action could, indeed, lead to other benefits, if it meant that matters were settled earlier than they would otherwise have been. I believe that some European countries do as my hon. Friend suggests, and end up building their lines rather more quickly than we seem to manage to.

Ministers must now engage in a debate about the eventual cost of using the new north-south line, because that goes to the heart of the question of what kind of railway we believe in. There have been fears about the issue ever since the former Transport Secretary, the right hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), started talking about rich men’s toys.

I think it important to put on record the fact that the phrase “a rich man’s toy” was presented to my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), who is now Secretary of State for Defence. He did not demur, but it is not a phrase that he generated. I happen to have been a member of the Transport Committee at the time. I think it important for us to clear this matter up before the hon. Lady starts accusing my right hon. Friend of making that comment.

I think every Member of Parliament realises, given the present state of journalism in this country, that if a phrase is presented to one and one does not demur, it is quite legitimate to say that that is what one agrees with. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point.

I hope that Ministers will agree with Labour’s vision of a new railway line that is fully integrated with the existing network, and whose fares are fully regulated. That is the line for which we will all be paying, and its use must therefore be affordable for many people, not just for a few at the richer end of society.

It is disappointing that Ministers have so far shown little interest in ensuring that this significant investment delivers real opportunities, especially for our young people. Labour has made it clear that every £1 billion of investment in the scheme should deliver 1,000 apprenticeships, and I hope that the Government will make the same commitment to apprenticeships and to our young people. Ministers must learn the lessons of the Thameslink procurement. Those trains are now to be built in Germany. It is perfectly possible, within EU rules, to ensure that public investment delivers jobs and apprenticeships where they are desperately needed, here in Britain. Every other EU country manages to do the equivalent through its own train procurement. The new line must deliver British jobs and growth, not only after its completion but during its construction, and that must include the manufacturing of the trains.

It was a Labour Government who first set out the ambition for a new high-speed north-south railway line to address the capacity issue on our rail network while also cutting journey times between our towns and cities, and the case for making this scheme a reality remains strong. Indeed, it is all the more necessary at a time when the Government’s economic failure has meant a failure to deliver the growth that the country so desperately needs. The progress made over the last three years, since Ministers inherited the project, has been disappointing, but it retains cross-party support. We will support the Bill today, but we urge the Government to get on with the hybrid Bill as soon as possible. We want to see the enthusiasm and commitment from Ministers that are necessary to make a major project on this scale become a reality.

I must now announce the result of a Division deferred from a previous day. On the motion relating to the town and country planning regulations, the Ayes were 281 and the Noes were 185, so the Question was agreed to.

[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]

Order. In view of the fact that more than 30 Back Benchers wish to speak in the debate, I have imposed a six-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches, with immediate effect.

I beg to move an amendment:

That this House declines to give a second reading to a Bill which authorises preparatory expenditure on a railway without specifying further detail of the route and a limit on expenditure.

Let me begin by paying tribute to all the constituents and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to protect our interests in the Chilterns. HS2 Action Alliance, 51m, Stop HS2, our Conservative councillors and all the conservation groups have worked very hard and deserve all our thanks and congratulations.

There is no doubt that if HS2 goes ahead, Chesham and Amersham and the Chilterns will be badly affected. Indeed, I think that my constituents will be paying twice: once through their taxes, and once through the disruption and blight that they are suffering.

We have heard that this project was dreamt up under the last Labour Government, and I am glad that the shadow Secretary of State took responsibility for it. The mistake we made was adopting it without asking the proper questions, and now, after three Secretaries of State in as many years, we have a £50 billion project—so we heard today—not connected to any airport or other transport system such as HS1, and divided into two phases with no guarantee that the northern route will be built even in my lifetime.

The right hon. Lady is an excellent constituency MP and the route north of Birmingham includes Manchester airport, so, as she was once a candidate who aspired to represent Manchester, does she think she would have a different position on this matter now if she had won that election?

Ah, but fortunately I was elected to represent Chesham and Amersham, so I do not have to answer that hypothetical question.

This project is also almost 30 years out of date. Thirty years ago I might have been supporting it, but people are now looking to save costs in business by using teleconferencing and superfast broadband, and they are trying to reduce the amount of travelling their employees do. If we are in a global race, I would be much happier if we were in fact connecting effectively to Heathrow and HS1, because at the moment we do not even seem to be able to repair our existing roads and railways, and we cannot use the M25 without being stuck in a traffic jam. Surely we should be looking at our infrastructure and maximising its potential before building a bright, new, shiny railway?

Last week the New Economics Foundation did an excellent piece of work: it published a report examining a variety of projects across the country that could be procured for the same sum of £33 billion. They included some very valuable improvements for northern cities, active transport systems and much more superfast fibre-optic broadband, which we need to deliver competitiveness for this country.

I may have been a nimby—when I started off, I was a nimby—but I have studied this project and I am convinced that it is the wrong project. I am not alone in questioning HS2. We have heard what the National Audit Office has said. Its report was damning. It highlighted that the Department had failed to outline clear strategic objectives, had made errors in calculating the cost-benefit ratio and is not sufficiently engaged with stakeholders, and it casts serious doubt over the capability of HS2 Ltd even to deliver this programme alongside the other demands on the Department.

The judicial review has resulted in a judgment that was shaming for the Department, finding that its consultation on compensation was so unfair as to be unlawful. The Major Projects Authority’s report—which the Government continue to refuse to publish in detail, even though the Information Commissioner says it is in the public interest for them to do so—indicates that this project is in the red/amber category, denoting a very high risk of its failing to be delivered on time or on budget.

Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that while the NAO report did, indeed, make those criticisms, it also said that at the end of the day there would be a return of 2.5:1 on this project, and does she not recognise the importance of that to the well-being of future generations?

That is a nice try, but the cost of this project is going up minute-by-minute, so I doubt that that ratio is accurate even as I stand here today.

I also have to say that the Department and HS2 Ltd have already failed on other bases: engineering calculations have been wrong, and the costs of alterations to Euston were inaccurate. That, along with public failures such as the west coast main line franchise debacle, must prompt this question: do the Department or HS2 have the leadership capability or competence to deliver the largest infrastructure project in the UK in living memory?

If the project gets the green light, however—as I fear it will, judging by the number of Members present—I want to make two particular points to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. On the current consultation—I use that term loosely—by HS2 Ltd on the draft environmental statement, whatever the failings of the process, at the moment one thing is clear: the area of outstanding natural beauty, which belongs to everybody in this country, is going to be irreversibly damaged. My first request to the Secretary of State is that if this project does go ahead, can we have the best possible mitigation in the Chilterns in order to protect our precious, and highly endangered, environment to the utmost level? A fully bored tunnel under the whole of the AONB would offer that protection, and I urge the Secretary of State to adopt that option.

My second request has I think been answered partly, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State accepted in his opening speech that he will look more seriously at, and perhaps even deliver, the property bond. The compensation scheme has been totally inadequate to date, and the engagement of officials and Ministers often the dialogue of the deaf, frankly. The Bill does not include specific undertakings on compensation that would fulfil the Prime Minister’s assurance to me that it would be timely and generous to those people adversely affected. So I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will look at the property bond put forward by my constituent Hilary Wharf who is to be commended for her work in this area, and that the compensation system introduced is rapid, fair and does not make my constituents feel that the Government are wriggling to avoid paying them a proper price for their properties.

As you know, Mr Speaker, there are several Members of Parliament whose constituencies are affected by HS2 who are unable to speak today, so I want to say a few words on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), who has worked tirelessly to put forward the interests of his constituents. He asked me to point out today that places such as Wendover Dean and the Hawkslade and Walton Court areas of Aylesbury are among the worst affected of any along the phase 1 route. He also asked me to highlight the need for better mitigation—a request that fits in with my own request for a fully bored tunnel. I know that you, Mr Speaker, have regularly communicated your constituents’ overwhelming opposition to this project and, like me, have received thousands of letters and have similar experiences of the failure of the exceptional hardship fund to offer adequate compensation to constituents. Likewise, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) is very worried about the Denham viaduct and the Colne Valley site of special scientific interest.

Why do we need a paving Bill? There was no paving Bill for the channel tunnel rail link, Crossrail or the Olympics. We could continue to spend money as we have already, without this Bill. Once it is passed, as it undoubtedly will be, the Government can claim that HS2 is backed by the will of Parliament. Frankly, all colleagues should be concerned about proceeding with this project. The Bill is a blank cheque, handed over before Parliament is in full possession of the facts, and to a Department that is having a hard job convincing people that the project is fit for purpose. On that basis, and because this is the first time we have even had a vote on HS2, it is with a very heavy heart that I say I cannot support the Government. I hope that colleagues in the House today will support my reasoned amendment and vote against the Bill. At this stage, I have no intention of calling votes on any other part of the proceedings, but I will on the amendment and on Second Reading.

I am pleased to support this legislation today, which is a significant step in securing High Speed 2. It is important to recognise that HS2 is about having a vision for the future. It is about making a much-needed step change in capacity on our railways. It is about meeting growing demand for rail, addressing congestion on our roads and motorways, and connecting major cities not just across this country and the UK, but potentially across Europe as well. It has the potential to rebalance our economy.

However, it is very important that progress on High Speed 2 does not go ahead in isolation from considering the importance of continuing to invest in the existing classic line. Existing improvements such as the northern hub and the electrification programmes must continue and be stepped up. Assurance must be given that there will be proper access to high-speed rail, and that means that more attention needs to be given to the siting of the stations and connections to them. It is important that no local services be reduced as a consequence of building the high-speed rail line, and it is extremely important that the potential of developing the freed existing lines for both freight and passengers be addressed. That means that more work needs to take place, perhaps through local authorities and local enterprise partnerships working together, to make sure that proper plans are worked out so that the existing lines freed when high-speed rail comes to fruition will be able to be used to the maximum for freight and for passengers.

It is also crucial that the potential for economic development and rebalancing the economy is achieved. That means that we must not make any assumptions that simply building a high-speed line will automatically bring those economic benefits. Work has to be done, again by the LEPs, with the local authorities and with Government support, to develop economic strategies, regionally as well as nationally, to support business in taking advantage of those opportunities. I was very interested to read the results of studies instigated by local authorities. The Core Cities study put forward by major cities in our country identified about 400,000 new jobs that would come as a result of high-speed rail, and Centro’s report, looking specifically at the west midlands area, identified about 22,000 jobs that would come. I emphasise that none of those jobs will come automatically; we need to give attention to economic strategies and support for business to make sure that those opportunities come to fruition.

A number of important issues must be addressed. Concern remains that under the Bill as proposed, high-speed rail may not go beyond Birmingham. We have heard assurances from Ministers but we need rather more than that; we need a commitment in the Bill to make sure that HS2 is not simply between London and Birmingham, and that the rail scheme progresses to Leeds, Manchester and beyond. The time scale is a very long one, even on the current proposals of 2026 to Birmingham and 2033 to Leeds, to Manchester and to other areas.

I completely agree with the hon. Lady’s point. I wonder, Mr Speaker whether I might use this intervention to clarify something I said earlier, as I am afraid I gave the wrong figure. I said that the contingency was £12.7 billion but it is actually £14.4 billion, so it is larger than I said. I just wanted to take this opportunity, with your permission and that of the hon. Lady, to put the figure right.

I thank the Secretary of State for clarifying that situation.

The consultation, which has not yet taken place across the whole of the proposed line, must be a very real one. A number of hon. Members have already told us of their local concerns. There are problems in relation to London and, in particular, the development around Euston station, which is an important and difficult issue. Hon. Members have also raised issues in the House relating to access to Stoke-on-Trent. The proposals for Liverpool are not good enough and need improvement. Important environmental issues need addressing, and the question of compensation has been raised in the House this afternoon. All those issues are vital and must be addressed in a reasonable way. It is important for them to be resolved successfully because that will help to deliver a successful HS2—high-speed rail that is about much needed capacity, connectivity and economic progress for the future, throughout this country and beyond.

It is always a great pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), the Chairman of the Transport Committee. I have had the privilege of serving on the Committee for more than three years now. I have studied this subject not only through my Committee work, but through other personal research and I do not think I have studied any subject in more depth. I will try to put concisely my observations on the project in the next few minutes.

I support the principle of high-speed rail. I confess that I do not believe this route is the optimal one, and I have specific concerns and suggestions to make about it, but I support the Bill. I fear the opportunity cost of not proceeding with this project far outweighs the risk and costs of going ahead. I shall say a little about why I have reached that conclusion.

The point has been well made that many parts of our rail network are close to capacity. Rail passenger use and rail freight use have increased sharply in recent years and any reasonable projection shows that they will continue to rise in future decades. Simply taking into account the increased population of the country, particularly in areas such as mine, it is clear that there will be continued increased demand on transport services and rail in particular. Rail usage increased even in the recession from 2008 onwards.

It is often said that we should invest in the classic network rather than HS2. I would not support HS2 if it was at the expense of investment in the classic network, but there is substantial investment in that network. There is the electrification of the Great Western and midland main lines, as well as new rolling stock and junction improvements on the west coast main line. The Government have sensibly committed to reopening the east-west rail line from Milton Keynes to Oxford and Aylesbury. Those are just a few of the projects.

Essential and welcome as the upgrades are, they will not be enough for the long term. I have come to the conclusion from all my research, and from looking at all the projects and models that have been proposed, that we need to build a new north-south strategic rail line.

Does my hon. Friend think, like my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton South (Mr Binley), that this is a matter of needing more capacity? If so, why are we going for a very expensive system like high-speed rail, with its exponentially enormous engineering costs?

My research has shown that if we are committing to build a new railway line, the cost of building a fast one is not significantly more than building a conventional one. The majority of the costs come in building the cuttings, the bridges and all the other necessary infrastructure. Making a faster one costs a little more, but not a huge amount more.

If we merely expanded capacity on the west coast or east coast lines, we would have to do that at the same time as running existing services. Anyone who used the west coast main line during the previous upgrade will say what an absolute nightmare that is. Such an approach would not solve the problem of competing demands for use on the existing line between commuter services, freight services, non-stop inter-city services and stopping services. We cannot continually squeeze more and more capacity out of one line, as we will reach capacity and will be overly reliant on that line. That is why I accept the case for a new high-speed line.

I accept that the project is controversial and completely understand the fears of residents along the proposed line of route. There are justifiable concerns about disturbing the peace and quiet of the countryside, but I urge right hon. and hon. Members to look at what happened during the construction and planning of High Speed 1. The same concerns were raised, but since the line has opened there have been very few, if any, complaints.

I can certainly back up my hon. Friend’s point. I was on the Committee that considered the Bill and the line was going through the garden of England, and there was talk of devastation and horrendous things. Some of the complaints were justified, but many proved to be empty. It has worked.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention. I took the opportunity to visit the route of High Speed 1 and saw the noise mitigation measures that had been put in place. The noise of the trains is not much more audible than that of an A road or other minor piece of infrastructure.

I was on that trip with my hon. Friend and a notable fact given to us by Kent county council was that Maidstone is now lobbying to have the line go through the station, whereas it was vehemently opposed to that originally.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right.

To those who voice concern about visual intrusion on areas of outstanding natural beauty, I simply make the point that railway infrastructure need not be ugly—it need not be concrete blocks. Look at some of the fantastic pieces of railway engineering and architecture we have: the Forth bridge, the Glenfinnan viaduct, Brunel’s bridges and tunnels—they have enhanced the landscape. I urge my right hon. Friend the Minister of State to make HS2 into an opportunity to showcase the best of British design and engineering, with bridges, viaducts and other infrastructure that show off and augment our landscape.

In the couple of minutes remaining, I will highlight five specific concerns and make some suggestions. The first is about the rolling stock for the line and making sure it is compatible with the classic network, particularly on the Anglo-Scottish services. At present, we have tilting trains that allow conventional lines to be used at high speed, but if high-speed trains cannot tilt, journey times on the classic network will be lengthened to an extent that might offset the time gains on the high-speed line. I urge the Minister to consider that.

The second concern, justifiably felt by people in Buckinghamshire, is that the line goes straight through the county with no stop. The high-speed line will intersect with the new east-west line in Buckinghamshire. I ask that, when the scheme is considered in full—the Y-network and connection to the channel tunnel—the case will be reassessed for an intermediate stop at Claydon junction. I would suggest calling it “Milton Keynes Parkway”, but others may have different ideas. That would enable people in the area to access the lines, which I believe would augment the business case.

Only seconds remain, so I will very quickly highlight the point, which has already been well made, about properly connecting airports, High Speed 1 and the channel tunnel. I do not think the plans are optimal. Finally, I urge my right hon. Friend to look at capacity at Euston, where the tube network is already pretty crowded. I believe we need to consider Crossrail 2, so I was delighted when the Chancellor floated that possibility in his statement earlier today. Notwithstanding those concerns, I support the Bill.

HS2 will unleash havoc on Euston, Primrose Hill and Camden Town in my constituency. It will demolish the homes of about 500 people and blight the homes of at least another 1,000. One local park will disappear for ever; another will be a building site for 10 years or more. The project will prevent the much-needed reconstruction of Euston station, which was intended to provide around 1,000 new flats for local people. It has already delayed plans to rebuild a local convent school. The link to HS1 will subject Primrose Hill and Camden Town to large-scale engineering works, mainly above ground level. Local shops and restaurants will be put out of business; quiet back streets are to become official routes for construction traffic. Yet the compensation and mitigation regime intended for our area is inferior to what has been promised outside London. That cannot be right.

When HS2 was given the go-ahead, we were told, first, that phase 1 would cost £17 billion; secondly, that it would be completed by 2026; and thirdly, that no one would suffer a significant loss. HS2 is backtracking on all three. For a start, as has been pointed out, £17 billion will not provide a working railway, because it does not include the cost of the trains, estimated to be £2 billion—it will be a train-free zone. Nor does it include the cost of the works at Euston needed to allow the already overcrowded tube and local roads to cope with additional passengers and traffic—that is probably another £2 billion. VAT at 20% will come to about £3 billion. The original estimate for HS2 also included £1.4 billion for a spur to Heathrow. The spur has been dropped, but it is not at all clear where the £1.4 billion has gone.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that because we do not have the full environmental statement—we have only a draft—we do not know the full cost of any environmental mitigation that may be needed along the route?

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right. Recently, HS2 Ltd has been forced to confess that it underestimated the cost of the works at Euston by no less than 40%. We have been asked to write a blank cheque for people who underestimate costs by 40%. On top of that, HS2 Ltd admits that it has to rebuild or strengthen cuttings, embankments and bridges on the north London line and the main line. Originally, it denied that that would be necessary, so it did not provide for it in the initial costings. I remind Members that those costs have soared while HS2 is still at a desk-study stage. God knows what will happen when people get round to practical work on the site.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that last week, the New Economics Foundation produced the third independent evaluation of the project, saying that there was real doubt about its viability and what it would do for northern cities?

I cannot possibly disagree with my hon. Friend. In theory, a million years ago, I got a degree in economics, and I have reached the stage where I can usually work out when someone is talking drivel. When I heard the Government’s cost estimates, I think I understood they were talking drivel.

Does anyone in the House really believe that the line will be completed by 2026? I was going to offer a bet against completion by then, but I suspect that the final completion date is so far in the future that I am unlikely to be around to collect my winnings, which brings me to compensation and mitigation.

At present, HS2 Ltd intends that people and businesses in our area should receive lower compensation, lower standards of protection and inferior mitigation measures. There is no excuse for that treatment of a settled residential and business community. Local council tenants, right-to-buy leaseholders, private tenants, leaseholders and owner-occupiers should be no worse off as a result of the project, which is being carried out, apparently, in the national interest. They must be found new homes that meet their needs, and without any detriment to the terms and conditions of their tenure.

The same approach should apply to businesses. Restaurants and small shops in Drummond street depend on passing trade to Euston station for up to 70% of their business, but HS2 Ltd proposes that for 10 years, they should be cut off from the station by a barrier that will be higher than the Berlin wall. What is worse, it is proposed that they would not receive any compensation at all. May I tell Government Members, who always say that they are speaking up on behalf of small businesses, that if they do not do something to prevent that wickedness, they will let down some small businesses? The same non-compensation rules will apply in Camden Town.

The Government must reconsider the project. Is it really the best use of a scarce £17 billion if we want to improve our creaking transport system? Even if it is, would not the London terminus be better sited at Old Oak Common which, unlike Euston, is on the Heathrow Express route and will be on Crossrail? It would be welcome there, and studies show that if people got off Crossrail at Old Oak Common, only 4% of London underground stations would take longer to reach than if they went to Euston. The stations that would take longer to reach are Euston Square, Regent’s Park, Mornington Crescent and King’s Cross St Pancras, so there is no disadvantage. If this goes ahead, most sensible travellers will get off at Old Oak Common anyway, whatever anybody says.

Finally, if it is decided to go ahead, I hope there will be agreement across the Chamber that there should be a special made-to-measure compensation and mitigation scheme for the whole length of HS2 and all the residents and businesses affected by it. It should be as generous as the Secretary of State promised, and I do not doubt the integrity of the Secretary of State.

I also have to say this: in all the years that I have dealt with public and private bodies, I have never come across an outfit as stupid, incompetent and incapable of even delivering letters as the people at present running HS2, and if I were in favour of the project, I would get someone else to do it.

I very much welcome the Bill. It is an important stage in implementing a promise from the Liberal Democrat manifesto. The Bill gives the Secretary of State the power, subject to the approval of the Treasury, to incur expenditure in preparation for the high-speed rail network. The language used in the Bill is open-ended because it states that this expenditure must include at least rail lines connecting London, Birmingham, the east midlands, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester, and which connect with the existing rail network. The “at least” phrase means that the HS2 expenditure being approved under the Bill is not limited to the cities and regions mentioned, but prepares the way for further extension of HS2 in the future.

This is in line with the Government’s wish to work with the Scottish Government on this issue, with the aim of having a third phase to connect the high-speed link on from Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh. By enhancing connectivity between Britain’s large cities, HS2 will make investment in the regions outside London and the south-east far more attractive. This is vital if we are to help rebalance the UK economy and increase jobs and growth. HS2 will underpin the delivery of at least 100,000 jobs, and hopefully far more.

It is estimated that HS2 will transfer approximately 9 million journeys from road to rail and 4.5 million from air to rail. This will ease road congestion and reduce some of the pressure on our airports, allowing our economy to grow in an environmentally friendly manner. Passenger demand is expected to grow and if we do nothing, it is anticipated that the west coast main line will reach full capacity during the next 15 years. High-speed rail provides the best possible option to cope with ever-rising passenger demand and to ensure that we have sufficient future capacity to satisfy the needs of the UK economy.

HS2 will also help to free up capacity on the existing rail network, in particular the west coast main line. As well as improving services for passengers, it will free up capacity for more freight on the railways. HS2 will radically shorten journey times between London, the midlands and the north of England and Scotland. For example, it will shorten the journey time between London and Edinburgh by 45 minutes. That is after phase 2 is completed and without waiting for phase 3.

Has the hon. Gentleman seen some of the research that shows that rather than strengthening the provincial cities, HS2 will reinforce the power and influence of London and do the absolute opposite of what most people thought it would do?

I have seen some of that analysis, but I disagree with it. All the past experience is that by connecting cities, we bring jobs and growth to both ends of the network. Our Victorian predecessors had great vision. No doubt there were people in those days who said, “This will all be a waste of money. Rail will never take off”, but experience shows that when we connect up people and cities, we create more jobs at both ends of the network.

It is important to point out to the Scottish National party, whose Members have departed and have not bothered to stay for the full debate, that it does not matter where the railway line starts—whether at the London end or the Scotland end. The journey time cut by each mile of track is the same, no matter which end one starts from. Were the SNP’s plans for the referendum to come to fruition and Scotland and England became separate countries, I cannot see a UK Government building the line any further than Manchester, whereas if Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom, I am confident that we will, in time, see high-speed rail all the way from London to Glasgow and Edinburgh.

It is important to point out that other countries, such as Germany, Japan and China, have already invested heavily in high-speed rail and have several rail connections that are much faster than ours. The United States also has plans to develop a high-speed rail network. If we do not go ahead with HS2, there is a great danger that the UK will fall behind our international competitors. We must make plans to meet future passenger demand, provide more capacity and cut train journey times for millions of passengers. The railway lines between our major cities are overcrowded and far slower than they should be.

I believe that the case for HS2 is clear and overwhelming. It will bring much economic development, delivered in an environmentally sustainable manner. The Bill is an important step towards delivering a vital high-speed rail network and I urge the House to support it tonight.

Two acts of monumental folly have been imposed on the railway industry over the past 50 years. The first, back in 1963, was the Beeching report, which led to the butchering of lines linking communities across the UK. Indeed, one consequence of Beeching is highly relevant to today’s debate, because one of the lines he closed was the Great Central line, which ran from London to Sheffield and Manchester. Were it still in operation, I suggest that we would be debating whether to spend money upgrading it, rather than committing £17 billion, rising to £32 billion, on High Speed 2, for which the infrastructure work will not even begin until 2017.

The second act of monumental folly, of course, was the decision in the 1990s to privatise the railways, something that even Mrs Thatcher steered clear of. She had the good sense to realise that it is not possible to privatise a railway system and divorce the operating companies from the infrastructure. As we all know, privatisation has brought no benefit whatsoever for the consumer. The subsidies now paid to train operating companies are double what they were pro rata when British Rail ceased to exist. The Secretary of State was a little reluctant to answer when asked what the subsidy is. Well, I will help him out: £2.6 billion a year is spent subsidising a railway system that is not fit for purpose.

I would have hoped that the Secretary of State and his colleagues would not bring to the Chamber today something that I believe will be yet another act of folly imposed on the railway industry, particularly in view of all the information that has come out over the past two years as the economic case for HS2 has unravelled. Regrettably, that appears not to be the case.

Reference has already been made to the National Audit Office report, but the comments made in it should be repeated again and again, not least the fact that it estimates that there is already a £3.3 billion funding shortfall, a figure that has just been glossed over as far as London is concerned, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) said. Indeed, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee has said that the Government’s business case is “farcical” and

“clearly not up to scratch”.

Furthermore, she said that some of the Department’s assumptions were “ludicrous”. I am talking about the National Audit Office and the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, yet we have been told again and again today that the figures do stack up.

Has my hon. Friend looked at the really interesting French research showing the deleterious effects on the provincial cities of France as the French rapid trains were introduced? It drove those cities into penury.

I have. As my hon. Friend said earlier, there is a report that makes just that point—that such projects do not spread wealth, but quite the contrary.

The hon. Gentleman makes the point, as I understand it, that infrastructure spending does not spread wealth out. In that case, would he like to make the north really prosperous by closing the M1 and the M6?

We are where we are. I do not wish to have an argument about whether the building of the M1 and M6 was folly. What is folly is the privatised section of the M6, which is uneconomic and will soon go bust. It was supported by the Conservatives—“Let’s bring private capital into our motorways”. It is part of the motorway that is never used and will soon either go bust or have to come to the Secretary of State and ask for a handout.

The hon. Gentleman is generous in giving way a third time. I make the point again: the logic of his argument is that the north would be richer if the M1, the M6 and perhaps the existing west coast main line were all closed. That is ridiculous.

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but I do not understand the point that he is trying to make.

As I said, we need to look at the economic case. The National Audit Office report and other reports have said that the project is already spiralling out of control. Already, figures that we were told about a year or so ago just do not stack up and people who have a vested interest in pushing the project ahead seem to be plucking figures out of the sky to suit whatever argument they are making. At the end of the day, the British taxpayer will have to pick up the tab if it goes wrong.

At this time of austerity and cutbacks across a range of services, the idea of reducing the time that business men take to travel from Birmingham or Manchester to London by 30 minutes and one hour respectively is absolutely farcical. It seems completely to disregard the fact that business men tend to work on trains nowadays. They use computers and mobile phones. Not one single, solitary business man in Birmingham has said to me, “Unless the project goes ahead and I can travel from Birmingham to London 30 minutes quicker, my business is going to suffer and be in danger.”

I will come straight back to the hon. Gentleman on that point. I have met a lot of business people in Birmingham who are arguing strongly for HS2. A lot of the hon. Gentleman’s constituents are definitely asking for it.

I say again that not one business man has come to me to make the argument.

The project is absolutely desperate. Secretaries of State always like to leave a legacy, and I understand that. However, I believe that High Speed 2 will not be a legacy. It is a vanity project, and if it goes ahead it could turn into a white elephant.

Order. Interventions have taken up a lot of time, so I am having to reduce the time limit to five minutes, and might have to reduce it again to get everyone in—[Interruption.] If you want to moan, please do so, Mr Gummer. The point is that everyone wants to speak. If you are suggesting that I knock somebody off the list, please tell me.

The eastern side of my constituency, in the heart of the east midlands, borders the proposed site for the east midlands hub. I share that border with my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), and I assure the House that as time goes on we will be working together on issues arising from the proposed site.

At this preliminary stage in the proposals for HS2, I speak in support of the project. That broadly reflects the representations made to me by businesses and constituents, although, it has to be said, not universally. On the current plans, the route clips the eastern edge of Long Eaton, and a few roads in the town will not survive. I will deal with the concerns of its residents later. I also have very many constituents who welcome and support these plans. They are right to do so. Put simply, the proposals offer a chance for investment and regeneration on a vast scale in our midlands and northern towns and cities. In Erewash we have a proud history of jobs, businesses and apprenticeships in the railways sector. My late maternal grandfather worked his entire life on the railways. This project brings new opportunities to continue that historical link. The possibility of being a neighbouring town to the east midlands hub has to bring much more with it.

I was recently privileged to bring the Minister of State on a visit to Long Eaton to show him the proposed route. I was very grateful for his generous use of his time to visit Erewash. I am sure he agrees that the opportunities for my constituency in terms of jobs and investment would be second to none. In addition, my right hon. Friend will have noted the road infrastructure in Long Eaton. I hope he agrees that this scheme could bring with it an opportunity to improve the road infrastructure for the town, because as it stands the roads would struggle to manage the new traffic levels.

As I said, some businesses and homes in Erewash would be affected by the proposed route. Of course, it is impossible for any of us to imagine someone’s shock and worry on hearing the news that their home may not survive the construction of the project. However, like many other constituency MPs, I take my responsibilities to assist such residents extremely seriously. I have called a meeting and have been helping on a personal, individual basis every constituent affected by dealing with their correspondence and any application they wish to make under the hardship fund.

I bring to my right hon. Friend’s attention the historical Trent cottages that I was able to show him, which are located on the route. The cottages were built in the early 1860s to serve the railwaymen working close to Trent railway station, which was built at a similar time. They are a historical record of Long Eaton’s railway past, and I ask him to have due consideration of this when reviewing the route.

I return to my starting point in welcoming the possibilities of this project. I take into account the proposed costs of the scheme and the environmental impact, based on the information that we have so far, but I also note the simple fact that we need to address capacity on our railway network. This project, with broad cross-party support, will be the biggest investment on our railways since the Victorian era. In the past 15 years demand for long-distance rail travel has doubled to 125 million journeys a year.

Is my hon. Friend aware that 1.5 million train journeys are carried out each day and that 56 million people never, or very seldom, travel on trains?

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention. I hear his statistics, but I also look to the future. The broad fact is that we are reaching full capacity on our railway network. We can either ignore that or address it; I think we need to address it.

We also need to compete on a global basis. I will give just one example.

If my hon. Friend would like to see, as I have seen, the benefits of such a scheme, she should go to China and have a look at the effects of the high-speed network there, because those are the people we are competing with. I hope that she will do that before very long.

I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s imaginative ideas. If an opportunity arises to visit China and observe its high-speed rail, I will be delighted to take it.

Finally, I will always support projects that put Erewash on the map. The location of the east midlands hub will do that and more. Although my constituents can travel by train from Long Eaton to London in one and a half hours, there is a strong case for improving the travel times and infrastructure for the towns and cities of the midlands and further north. I will certainly advocate that case in Erewash.

The Minister knows of my obsession with supporting local rail services. Time and again in Parliament, I have raised the campaign to fund the reopening of the train station at Ilkeston. I am delighted to say that that has been successful. I thank him for his support on that project.

I represent a constituency at the heart of the east midlands, which has a strong and proud history of employment on the railways. If this project goes ahead, I have no doubt that that proud historical link will continue well into the future.

I will not detain the House long. I speak as the joint chair of the all-party parliamentary group for high-speed rail. I am therefore highly supportive of High Speed 2. I will make four simple points.

First, this country has a shocking and disgraceful record on infrastructure, under Governments of all political persuasions. The costs of not keeping our infrastructure up to date are much greater than the costs of High Speed 2. We have built one new runway since the second world war, we have the lowest motorway density in what used to be called western Europe, the Dibden port proposal was turned down, we have only a few kilometres of high-speed rail between the south coast and London, and we have a much smaller rail system than we had 40 or 50 years ago. Our competitors are investing in all those areas of infrastructure, to our economic disbenefit.

Secondly, the justification for High Speed 2 is not the speed, as has been said, but the capacity. Having high-speed rail will cost only 10% more than the alternative of building a brand new route and will bring the speed benefits as well as the extra capacity. The alternatives that are put forward by the opponents of High Speed 2 would provide only half the benefit, while costing a great amount of time, money and disruption, as we learned from the west coast main line build. If people are worried about the projections that are used to justify the investment in High Speed 2, they should consider the fact that train passenger numbers are already at the level projected for 2021.

On the economic benefits, I am enormously sceptical of almost all economic models. There may be disbenefit to some towns and cities. The Transport Committee found that some towns in Europe that were joined to the TGV or other high-speed routes had benefited enormously, whereas others had disbenefited.

The hon. Gentleman is making a convincing argument in favour of HS2. He raises the important point that one of the perceived benefits is that economic activity will be drawn up the track. However, there is a risk that economic activity will actually be drawn down the track, away from the regions to London. Does he agree that, to mitigate that risk, it is important that we look to build a hub airport up the track as part of the infrastructure development of this country? A hub airport in Birmingham would be a good alternative to what is being suggested at the moment.

I will not be drawn into a discussion about hub airports.

On the benefits and disbenefits, it is up to the people who run our towns and cities to ensure that people go in their direction and invest in their area. There is no doubt that such people want the high-speed line. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman) said earlier that she wants the high-speed route to go to Liverpool. I do not blame her, given the potential benefit.

I am sure that some of the arguments made against HS2 were made when railways began. The vested interests of stagecoach owners and bargees almost certainly led to their using similar arguments about how railways would not catch on. I know of no economic analysis that captures the likely benefits, but what we do know, from looking around the world, is that countries that invest in their transport infrastructure almost always do better economically. We should therefore invest.

As the proud MP who has King’s Cross, St Pancras and Euston stations in his constituency, I am rather in favour of the railways. For that matter, I am a member of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers. However, I think my hon. Friend is falling into the sort of syllogism that something must be done, this is something, and therefore this must be done. There are better ways of spending this money on improving the railway system.

I hope I am not falling into that trap. I think that a high-speed system that will eventually join Edinburgh and Glasgow, through Manchester and Leeds, to Birmingham and London will be of enormous benefit to the country. I do not believe it is a perfect system and I do not believe it is being constructed in the best way, but it has all-party support and it can be improved. I personally believe that we should be building north to south, as well as south to north. I believe, as my right hon. Friend the shadow Secretary of State said, that we should be building a link directly through to High Speed 1. However, I do not believe that any of those problems are sufficient to stop us investing in infrastructure that will help the whole of the country.

I will not, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I have already given way twice.

My last point comes from the experience of being responsible for building the second runway at Manchester airport. Paying compensation on the basis of free market value at the time is an extremely costly way of building infrastructure. Giving free market value plus 10%, 20% or 30%—whatever is appropriate—will speed up the process and save money. I hope the Government will give consideration to that, and to serious mitigation. If people take legal action because they think they are being treated unfairly, and if there is blight for a long time, that will hinder the project. It is estimated that delays in tunnelling on some high-speed routes have cost as much as the actual tunnelling. I therefore hope that on compensation the Government will not be short-sighted. I hope they will deal with the problems outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), and be generous in looking at the problems and pain caused. That will benefit the high-speed system in the end.

I rise to support the Bill. I am in favour of expanding our high-speed rail network. I respect hon. Members who represent constituencies that will be directly affected, and it is right that they fight for the best interests of their constituents. I have the advantage of representing a constituency that is in no way affected. Even the increased capacity, which is the prime motive for the development of a new network, will be of minimal benefit.

My hon. Friend says that his constituency will be in no way affected. Unfortunately, it will be, because his constituents—this is true of every constituency—will initially receive a bill for £75 million, rising to a possible £100 million.

My hon. Friend makes a fair point, but similar points could be made about every item of Government expenditure. Ultimately, the increased capacity will benefit the more provincial towns and peripheral areas of our country. The network is operating to capacity. We heard from the Secretary of State that the west coast main line would be at capacity in the early 2020s, and similarly the east coast main line, which has an impact on my constituency, will soon be full.

People have talked about blight, but speed is essential. Yes, there can be blight on individual properties and so on, but if that is to be the case, the sooner we get a decision on routes, compensation and so on, the better. Speed is also essential for the economy. We have heard, quite understandably, that connectivity is important to the development of our towns and cities, and that has been proved by countless reports over time. If Hudson and the other Victorian rail moguls had had to operate to timetables as stretched as that for HS2, I doubt whether the network would have developed to anything like the extent it did and from which this country benefited in the late-19th and 20th centuries.

The Minister has just scuttled out of the Chamber. Perhaps he suspected that I was about to mention that increased capacity would allow additional services to Cleethorpes and elsewhere—but that is for the future. If we are to rebalance the economy to the benefit of the north of England, it is important that we have this increased capacity and connectivity. I can understand the arguments against it. The cost is phenomenal, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) pointed out, my constituents will have to bear some of that cost. [Interruption.] Does my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton South (Mr Binley) wish to intervene?

No. Sorry, he looked, er—[Hon. Members: “Keep going!”] I’ll keep going, right. I think what he, er—I’ve lost my track now, I should say.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will try to get back on line.

I am very supportive of where the Government are going with this. I was talking about rebalancing the economy. The economy of my own area in northern Lincolnshire is highly dependent on rail. We talked about the importance of freight earlier. Some 25% of freight tonnage moved throughout the country starts or ends in my constituency at Immingham, so I hope that the increased capacity will provide greater opportunities not only for passengers, but for freight. I therefore support the Government and, sadly, will oppose the amendment.

I, too, will support the Bill. I supported the Y route before it was the policy of the last Government, let alone of the parties in this Government, and argued strongly for it. I also agree with the comments made in the excellent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer), in which he recognised the importance of this scheme for our economy and the fact that over the years we have fallen behind our competitors in our investment in infrastructure.

This is an important long-term investment for the country. Of course, different cost-benefit analyses will say different things. The problem is that the scheme will take 20 years to build and then will—we hope—deliver benefits for the country for many years after that, and if we put minor changes of assumptions into any cost-benefit analysis we will come up with very different results. To some extent, this is an act of faith. Do we believe that investment in the infrastructure of this country over the long term is likely to be good for the economy? I do, and I believe that high-speed rail is part of that long-term investment.

For the same reasons, it will be important to the rebalancing of our economy by concentrating on the major growth points, which will be our city regions in the midlands and the north. As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton said, the impacts will be different in different parts of the country, but the greatest benefits will tend to be in the city regions. We need to ensure that we get those benefits.

I am therefore very pleased that Sheffield is on the route, and that there will be a station there. That has been welcomed by all parties in the city and by the public and private sectors. There is a difference of opinion on where the Sheffield station should be located. I understand the argument for having a loop into the city centre, but I equally accept that a station at Meadowhall in my constituency could have incredible benefits for the wider city region, provided the need for connectivity to the region is properly recognised. We do not want to hear the argument in the future that, because we have high-speed rail, we will get no further investment in our transport infrastructure, and that everything will be for local councils to decide.

Looking ahead to the tram-train project, we need to determine how to develop that means of transport. I am sure it will be a success, even though it has taken nearly 10 years to get this far. When it has been proved to be a success, we must immediately start planning how to use it as a way of linking the Sheffield city region into the station hub at Meadowhall. That would benefit the whole city region.

I also want to mention compensation. There are industries in my constituency that will be affected by the project, including Outokumpu, a major steel works. It is important, when we compensate such industries, that we recognise the time that they will need to prepare for the changes that high-speed rail will force them to make. It is also important to ensure that we give the compensation in a way that does not allow a firm to take the money and run, taking the jobs elsewhere.

The Government’s exceptional hardship scheme is a welcome step forward, in regard to compensating people for their homes. We need to recognise that there might be people who have to move house, for whatever reason, before the full compensation scheme comes into effect, as well as those who might want to move for family or other reasons.

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that compensation has already been paid to some people, and that it can continue to be paid without this Bill? The problem is that the exceptional hardship scheme is proving difficult for people who meet the criteria but find that the compensation does not meet their circumstances because the value of their house has gone down so dramatically.

I can understand that. I think that the right hon. Lady is making a wider point about the need to look at the whole compensation scheme, and I shall come to that in a second.

Property owners in my constituency have not yet had any experience of the exceptional hardship scheme, but I wonder whether it could be widened to include those who want to move and make the same choices for their families as anyone else could make, but who are unable to do so while the potential blight from the high-speed line is hanging over them.

In my constituency, someone who used to be an owner-occupier got a job elsewhere and let their place. They have been told that they do not qualify for compensation because it is intended only for owner-occupiers.

I understand that point. I have a constituent who bought a small property as an investment with a view to putting down a deposit on another family home into which they were planning to move in a year’s time. They, too, have been caught by that provision.

I made the point earlier to the Secretary of State and to my hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) that if we are asking people to make sacrifices for the benefit of the country, they deserve compensation of more than 100% of the value of their homes. They would get 100% if they chose to sell, but they are not choosing to sell; they are having to move, and we need to be more generous. My hon. Friend the Member for Garston and Halewood made the very reasonable point that if we were more generous, it would almost certainly speed up the process, so let us have a look at that.

In particular, let us have a look at the circumstances of my constituents who live on Greasbro road, which is a very low-value area. It is next to an ex-steelworks and to the motorway, and many people would not choose to live there, but it is a friendly road where people know their neighbours and family members who live nearby. They are worried about moving, and they know that they will probably not be able to buy another house in the local area with the compensation they will get. They ask why they should be penalised and forced to move away from the community that they know. Something more than the market value of their homes would help those people. It would not have to be a percentage increase on the market value; a lump sum in excess of the market value would particularly help people in low-value properties who do not want to reach retirement age in 10 years’ time and find that they have to take out an extra mortgage that they cannot afford.

I support the high-speed rail scheme wholeheartedly, and I support it coming to Sheffield, but let us see whether we can help those people who will be affected and make the benefits to the community more generally accessible.

I draw the House’s attention to my previous declaration—that the proposed route of HS2 not only bisects my beautiful constituency, but runs within 100 yards of my home.

I came to this place to try to do the right things for my constituents and, indeed, my country. I seem to find that a large amount of my time and effort is spent trying to stop bad things happening, which my constituents often reassure me amounts to much the same end, but I can assure you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that it is nowhere near as satisfying. There are few projects that I have ever believed are such a bad thing not only for my constituents, but for the whole country, as HS2. If this goes ahead, my constituency will take all the pain for none of the gain.

What we are being asked to vote for today is the signing of a blank cheque for HS2 Ltd for a railway that is, in my opinion, a solution looking for a problem. This is a scheme with vast financial costs for the taxpayer and a high human cost for those unfortunate enough to live or to have their business on or near the proposed route. The financial costs were initially estimated by the Government this morning as £33 billion, but stand at over £42 billion this afternoon, with a further £7.5 billion for rolling stock. That is an enormous commitment at a time of austerity for a project that will not be ready until 2033 and is of questionable economic benefit.

How can we be certain that today’s £10 billion of additional budget will prove to be the last? When it comes to keeping to budget, Government rail projects certainly have a terrible record. The west coast main line upgrade, which was initially estimated to cost £1.5 billion, ended up costing £9.9 billion. The Thameslink upgrade was estimated to cost £650 million in 1996, but the end costs will be nearer £6 billion on completion. We could be looking at a project with a final bill of many tens of billions more than the Government’s initial estimate or even today’s estimate. All that for a railway where the cost-benefit ratio analysis, even before today’s £10 billion, did not stack up. For phase 1, the Department for Transport claims that HS2 will produce £1.40 of benefit for every £1 spent. The Government categorise schemes below £1.50 as being low value for money—and that is before today’s extra £10 billion.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the cost benefit has been pushed to one side by Ministers today? Now claims are being made about extra capacity, but has it not been true of this project that one moment it is about capacity, the next moment it is about speed and the next it is about restoring a better north-south balance? The objectives are always used to fit whatever the argument demands, and they seem to move around.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. She is absolutely right, and I shall deal with the issue of capacity later in my speech.

The cost-benefit ratios are questionable. As has already been pointed out, the assumption is that all time spent on trains is wasted time, so the figures are based on the extraordinary idea that when someone goes on a train they do not do any work. Anyone who travels on our railways will know that that is certainly not the case. It should also be noted that, compared to our European neighbours, journey times between first and second cities are considerably shorter in the UK. The journey time between Birmingham and London is already half that of high-speed rail travel in France and Spain.

My hon. Friend makes the point that others have made—that the business case does not properly reflect productive time, iPads and all the rest of it. Page 51 of the business case addresses that point explicitly, stating that if trains are overcrowded, people who are standing will not be able to work on PCs. The business case would be better if it took that into account.

My hon. Friend makes a valid point, and I shall deal with the issue of capacity later in my speech and hope to address it then.

When it comes to saving time—this point has been made several times today—I have never met a business person in my career who has said that the reason why their business is not thriving is that they cannot get to London quickly enough.

Another argument cited is that HS2 will rebalance our economy. I agree with that argument, as I believe that it will rebalance our economy, but further in favour of the London and south-east. Indeed, no serious academics support the view that HS2 will reduce the north-south divide. For weekend and leisure travel, for instance, which is the more likely scenario—that more families will travel from London to spend an evening in Birmingham or Manchester, or that families from Birmingham and Manchester will use the route to spend time and money in London? I suggest to hon. and right hon. Members that the latter is the more likely scenario, and that HS2 will simply suck more money from the regions into London and the south-east.

I therefore appeal to all Members to think very carefully about whether they are acting in the best interests of their constituents in supporting the signing of a blank cheque for this white elephant of a project, which is already forecast to cost every constituency in the country £75 million, and which, given the expected further overruns, could easily end up costing each constituency more than £100 million. Are Members prepared to support a scheme that will inevitably suck money away from transport schemes that could benefit their own constituencies? As for the issue of capacity, figures show that the west coast main line has the capacity for the 100% increase in passenger numbers that was proposed by FirstGroup when it submitted its franchise bid.

Does my hon. Friend not recognise that it has been stated categorically that capacity will be reached by 2026, although other people think that it will be reached earlier? Has he travelled on a London Midland train to London on which he could not get a seat and could hardly get through the door?

I put it to my hon. Friend that anyone predicting what capacity, or the demand for any commodity or product, will be in 20 years is living in dreamland. The capacity on the railway was driven by punitive taxes on company cars in the 1990s, and that will level out.

HS2 is a huge project that will take a lot of stopping, but I suggest to Members that they would not eat an elephant in one sitting, even if it were a white one, and that today’s debate is merely the first serving of many. I do not believe that this project represents the best use of taxpayers’ money, and I therefore urge Members to support the amendment and vote against the Bill.

I shall vote for the amendment and against the Bill’s Second Reading, because I believe that this is the wrong scheme at the wrong time.

In the few minutes available to me, I want to present a passionate defence of nimbyism. I think that this is a case less of “not in my back yard” than of “not through my front door and the rest of my house”. When we consider the people whose lives this project is affecting, we realise that the position is far too serious for them merely to be asked “How much compensation do you want?” People living in the villages and towns that the trains will pass through if the scheme goes ahead are being expected to wait for 20 years with it hanging over their heads, seeing no shovel in the ground anywhere in North East Derbyshire, unable to sell their homes, and money is being lost hand over fist in very small rural businesses.

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady. There is rarely an occasion on which I do not agree with her. Constituents of mine have been literally suicidal because of the complete lack of sympathy for them, and because they are unable to obtain compensation although their businesses are failing. Does she agree with me that we must get the compensation right?

Absolutely. It has already been suggested that the compensation schemes should mirror those in other countries such as France, where big infrastructure projects go ahead with no problems because the schemes are so generous. However, it is not compensation that people are after. They are saying “I have lived in this town, or this village, for four or five generations and I do not want to move. I am being asked to accept all the disbenefits of HS2 without gaining any of the benefits.” If I represented a major town, I might be able to see the benefits of this project, but it does not bring us in North East Derbyshire any economic benefits. In fact, it does exactly the reverse. I cannot see the sense of what is happening, and I shall explain why. I would welcome the Minister’s response to this.

Derbyshire county council has spent many years cleaning up, developing and redeveloping sites that were ruined by the results of the end of the mining industry and the steel industry in Sheffield. For decades those places have slowly been brought back into the economy. Up to £77 million has already been spent in Markham Vale, an area that I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr Skinner). That £77 million will, in effect, be wiped out because HS2 will be going straight through it. Chesterfield canal is one of the best and biggest pieces of redevelopment and regeneration in North East Derbyshire, bringing investment to the Chesterfield waterside project. It will now not have a waterside project, and will now not get the £310 million of investment in the local economy.

What about the small businesses in towns and villages such as Renishaw, too? Such businesses become the focal points of villages. Already, only months after the route has been published, a local wedding business has lost £70,000, some 20 years before anything is due to happen.

Does the hon. Lady share my concern that about 30% of the businesses on the route that could be affected have suggested they would close down, rather than relocate, so all those jobs would be lost all the way along the route?

That is absolutely right. This affects rural areas differently from how it affects cities. We are talking here about HS2 and a national economic policy, but we are not distinguishing between the cities and the rural areas.

I was going to go into the detail of the issue of connecting cities. This absolutely will connect cities, but that is not the issue for people who live in North East Derbyshire. In Apperknowle, what people want is to get a bus to the hospital, not to go to London. In each of the recent public meetings I have held, attended by hundreds of people, we asked when was the last time anybody had been to London. In one group of 300 people, five people had been to London in the past five years. This is not being done for the benefit of the people of North East Derbyshire.

I have serious doubts about the business and economic case, too, but those concerns have been raised by other Members, so I will not rehearse them. I do want to say, however, that I have found the consultation to be the most disappointing part of this whole project. HS2 Ltd has been very good at consulting stakeholders, but the stakeholders do not include those people whose houses and businesses the route is going through. The project has failed at the level of going and talking to people—not just persuading them of why the train has to come through their front room, but explaining why a high-speed rail link is needed. People are just not convinced.

At the same time as there is the hardship scheme, we are being told the route has not yet been fixed and the consultation has not even been opened, and therefore no decisions can be made on where the route is going to go. At the same time, however, not very far from my constituency, a kink has been put in to get the train to go around Firth Rixson steelworks in Sheffield. Why are we allowing and announcing changes to the route when the consultation has not even been opened? If the Department for Transport and HS2 Ltd are open to persuasion, will they please put in a kink and go all the way around North East Derbyshire?

My views on HS2 since being elected to Parliament in 2010 are well known. I started by supporting the principle of high-speed rail but opposing the route, but the more I have found out about the project, the more I have become convinced it will not be to the benefit of British taxpayers.

We have rightly heard a lot of talk about the value to the economy as a whole of any new railway line, and that is, of course, true: any new railway line will generate jobs and growth. There is no doubt about that, but the essential point that differentiates one project from another is value for money, and that is what we are not hearing about with the necessary level of clarity. What it costs to generate the growth is what matters. Today, we have heard that there is now a £14.4 billion contingency plan, which potentially makes this project 25% more expensive than before.

We have also heard comparisons with the motorway network, the Jubilee line and HS1. They were all very much resisted at the time, but every single one of them was unique in its own way. For motorways, there is a junction every few miles, so everybody benefits from them; they undoubtedly promote growth in our economy. Likewise, the Jubilee line has many stops, and therefore benefits a huge swathe of the population. HS1 is unique in the sense that it was the link to mainland Europe. HS2 is none of those things; it is a decision that we have taken in isolation.

HS1 has brought some multinational companies to the end of the route at King’s Cross. Surely that is a benefit that HS2 can bring to other cities, such as mine, Leeds.

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and I am not denying that any railway line or other infrastructure will bring growth. I am saying that the critical differentiator is whether the line brings more growth and jobs than something else, and that is where the case for HS2 is not proven.

I welcome the point about making more use of the high-speed track. Why, then, is my hon. Friend not campaigning vigorously for a station in Brackley, which would be of enormous benefit to her constituents?

I am delighted that my hon. Friend intervened, and that would be a possibility. The bottom line is that we are all here to represent our constituents. There is a case for making that argument, and if I made it, it would undermine the view of many of my constituents that this project is just wrong. Winning that argument would almost certainly cast the line in stone. My hon. Friend will understand that I could not do that, against the very clear wishes of my constituents.

If this is about the value for money of this project versus that of any other project—not the absolute but the relative level of growth and jobs generated by this project, compared with a different one—we need to ask ourselves, first, is this the best value for money for taxpayers? HS2 does mean little curvature of the line. My hon. Friend the Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) said that a high-speed track is not much more expensive than a regular train track. That is not what HS2 engineers have told me. They said that it is very engineering-intensive. Because it has to go in a straight line, because there are lots of flood plains, hills and other inconveniences, and because of the speed of the trains, the line has to go through, under and over those obstacles. Therefore, it is much more expensive.

Secondly, high-speed rail has an exponentially higher carbon footprint, so in that sense it is not environmentally friendly compared with a classic line. HS2 has a massive impact on valuable open countryside and sites of special scientific interest, battlefield sites, grade I listed homes and so on.

Thirdly, if, as my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton South (Mr Binley) said, this is about capacity, why not go slightly slower but along an existing travel corridor, so that costs and the impact can be reduced? Fourthly, is the project going to deliver soon enough? We will have no use of it until 2026, yet people say all the time that rail capacity is needed now. Fifthly, does it create the maximum number of jobs? Would another, less engineering-intensive project along an easier route, which we could easily find if speed were not the only goal, generate more jobs? Finally, what about both ends? Does it really make sense to decide where the traveller ends up before we have decided on our strategy for airports?

Having said all that, I note the commitment of the Government and the Opposition, who are determined to see this project built. Although I remain optimistic that during the Bill’s progress substantial changes may be achieved, it is important for me to be realistic. If HS2 is to go ahead, I want to achieve fair compensation and mitigation for the hundreds of my constituents who will be so devastatingly affected.

On mitigation, I urge the Government to ensure that HS2 is much more transparent and that they engage with communities much better than they currently are. Communities’ ideas on mitigation must be given full and proper consideration. The Department for Transport must prioritise the consultation on a full compensation scheme as a matter of urgency. It is shocking that a judicial review had to determine that the original consultation was unfair and in fact unlawful. The exceptional hardship scheme, to my constituents’ bitter experience, has been nothing short of a disaster. Residents up and down the proposed line of route and in the surrounding communities find themselves trapped in their own homes, unable to move either home or business. I strongly urge the Minister urgently to help with this situation.

I hope that, as well as a full compensation scheme that is more generous than the statutory requirement, the Government will agree to a property bond, and that the Secretary of State will meet with the Council of Mortgage Lenders and the National Association of Estate Agents, among others, in order properly to explore the options for a property bond. If banks will not give mortgages on properties because they are blighted by HS2, people cannot get on with their lives, at least until 2026. That is absolutely unacceptable.

Finally, I really regret the position that many Members have been placed in by the Bill. We have been told that this is a vote on the principle of HS2, yet we are also told it is an opportunity for a meaningful compensation scheme to be put in place for those affected. That makes me very schizophrenic, and it places all Members who have strong feelings about this project in a difficult position. I do not want to vote in favour of HS2 but I also do not want to do anything that delays my constituents’ receiving the compensation they deserve. As this is the first opportunity in the Chamber to vote on the principle of HS2, I shall, with a heavy heart, have to vote for the reasoned amendment and against the Second Reading of the Bill, and I urge colleagues to do likewise.

I am delighted to be at this debate and supporting this Bill, providing, as it will, the ability for the Government to spend money preparing the way for a second high-speed rail service serving London and the regions. My constituency has running through it the route of High Speed 1 and, in talking about spending and finance, I would like to draw the House’s attention to the need to ensure that spending on the new route is planned in a way that capitalises on investment already made, so that we get more bang for the taxpayers’ bucks.

How we will do that is by providing for a substantial link between HS1 and HS2. This new spending should provide this link, with the most obvious and effective way being to utilise the connection to Stratford in my constituency of West Ham. I am arguing that the link between HS1 and HS2 should be substantial and robust enough to enable Stratford to play a major role in the wider high-speed network. That would include it being the London stop for those international services that originate in the regions, thus adding to the viability and the financial business case of those services and, indeed, of HS2 itself. I am not aware of any costings yet undertaken on the funding needed for a robust link, so I ask the Minister to enlighten me in his summing up as to whether any are so far available.

If Stratford becomes a major support station in east London catering for HS2, inter-city and inter-regional services, that would significantly reduce the numbers needing to use the Euston terminus, and Euston could be smaller as a result. The planned Old Oak interchange on its own will not enable enough HS2 travellers to avoid the Euston terminus; we need an enhanced role for Stratford in the east to cater for a similar proportion and then we can have a much slimmed-down Euston terminus.

I hate to disagree with my hon. Friend, particularly as she is my Whip, but I think she will see that the overwhelming consensus of opinion is in favour of the Old Oak interchange. Although I understand that she is standing up for her constituents, I think she is whistling in the wind rather here.