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High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Volume 569: debated on Thursday 31 October 2013

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

Clause 1

Preparatory expenditure

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment 12, page 1, line 10, leave out ‘and’.

Amendment 13, page 1, line 11, after ‘Manchester’, add

‘and one or more towns or cities in Scotland’.

Amendment 28 , page 1, line 11, at end insert ‘Scottish destinations’.

Amendment 14, page 1, line 12, at end insert

‘, and any newly constructed railway lines, roads, airports and light railways’.

Government amendment 17.

Amendment 19, page 1, line 12, at end insert—

‘(c) extends substantially no further than Phases One and Two of the High Speed 2 network connecting the places set out in section 1(2)(a).’.

Amendment 23, in clause 3, page 2, line 27, leave out

‘comes into force on the day on which it is passed’

and insert

‘shall not come into force until the Secretary of State has published detailed proposals for the Government’s preferred route directly connecting the network with Heathrow airport, has consulted with those residents, local authorities and businesses which may be affected by this connecting route and has published measures to mitigate and compensate for the social, economic and environmental impact, of the line.’.

I welcome to the Front Bench the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill). This is his first outing and it is good to see him in his place. I welcome the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh) to her place on the Opposition Front Bench. It is good to have some authentic northern voices speaking on this subject, albeit from the Front Bench, so we probably know exactly what they are going to say. May I also welcome my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) and, with your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, thank him for the courtesy he showed towards me during his time in office? This is a difficult subject for me and, I think, it has proved a difficult subject, from time to time, for him.

Amendments 18, 12 and 13 relate to the Government’s commitment to Scotland. I tabled them in Committee, because I felt it was important to have something in the Bill that registered the verbal intentions, expressed by Ministers and others, eventually to take High Speed 2, if it is ever built, through to Scotland. It is ironic, and slightly odd, that clause 3(1) extends the scope of the Bill to England, Wales and Scotland, given that there is no mention of HS2 going to Scotland.

If we have time, we will get on to the Barnett formula. Undoubtedly, there is precedent for the Government ensuring that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland get their fair share of the infrastructure spend that is being spent exclusively in England, and I believe there is already such a precedent regarding the money for HS2, but will the Minister confirm that?

In drafting her amendments, did my right hon. Friend consider how to deliver extra passenger capacity to the east and west coast lines, but without the vast costs?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I am afraid that I do not have the resources to table an extensive list of amendments, and although I considered that, I dismissed it fairly rapidly. I just do not have the back-up and resource, on a project this large and complex, to keep up with the machinations of the Government, as they bring out 400 or 500 pages of information a couple of days before any crucial stage of the Bill—I am expecting the £50,000 environmental statement to arrive on our desks shortly.

Obviously, I am as concerned as the right hon. Lady apparently is about high-speed links to Scotland, but is she seriously telling the House that if the Government were to announce that HS2 was going to Scotland, she would drop her opposition to it completely?

No, not at all. I am not arguing that, but I have always been of the principle that if it is to be done, it is to be done properly. I am quite clear about my position—I do not want HS2 at all, but I also do not want a Bill to go through the House that does not reflect what I think the project should encompass, and indeed what the Bill itself states it encompasses.

Would the right hon. Lady not accept that, on the current plans for phase 1 and 2, there will be a 45-minute reduction in journey times to Edinburgh?

The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point, but the Government recently produced the new business case, and I believe that there is doubt over the timing used for Edinburgh to London. I have been informed by a commentator that they failed to take into account the new rolling stock and the existing time savings from improvements being made to the line. I stand to be corrected—perhaps the Minister can tell us—but I believe that there has been an error in the calculation.

I would like the Bill to refer to Scotland, because it is important that a definite intent be put in the Bill. It would send a good message to Scotland, at a time when we are trying to keep this United Kingdom together, in the teeth of opposition from the nationalist parties, and I think it should be in the Bill simply for that reason.

I sympathise with the spirit of my right hon. Friend’s amendments, and obviously many of us who support HS2 hope it will go through to Glasgow and Edinburgh and cannot understand why we do not start building from there now. But be that as it may, I am a bit worried because her amendment 18 would remove the “at least”. I read “at least” to mean that HS2 could stop at more stations. Were we to accept her amendment 18 and then her amendment 13, which would add the words

“and one or more towns or cities in Scotland”,

it would leave out everything between Manchester and Glasgow as a potential stop on a high-speed line to Glasgow. That is my understanding of her amendments.

My amendments are intended to probe the Government’s intention. I believe that they should have made provision to include more stops on the line. For example, I would have thought that between Manchester and elsewhere, there could have been other stops giving greater benefit to some of the areas that will be destroyed by the line.

I tabled an amendment in Committee, and it must have struck a chord, because the official Opposition have tabled something very similar, and I am delighted to say that the Government, in an attempt to hug the Opposition closer, have now signed up to it and it has become a Government amendment. I congratulate the shadow Secretary of State on her victory. One of the major problems is with the connectivity of HS2. If it is not fully connected and integrated into our transport system, it will be the white elephant that so many of us believe it will be.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on tabling the amendment. It is not only the Opposition and the Government who need congratulating; she needs congratulating herself.

That is most gratifying. I am glad that my hon. Friend has observed the first rule of politicians: one can never over-flatter another politician.

Connectivity is at the heart of some of the failures of this project. For example, it does not go to Heathrow; it does not connect properly with the channel tunnel rail link; indeed, it does not even go into the centres of the cities it is supposed to serve, whether Sheffield, Derby or Nottingham. All the time savings claimed by the Government come to nought if travellers have to make their way from outside the city centre, as I know will be the case for Sheffield. We need to ensure that if this is ever built, the connectivity is as good as it can be.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that HS1 has excellent connectivity with domestic services and that towns such as Folkestone and cities such as Canterbury have high-speed services even though they are not on the high-speed line?

My hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Sir Roger Gale) is not in the Chamber, but I understand he feels that it is a work still in progress when it comes to bringing benefits to his constituency. I also gather, from studying the local economies around HS1, that there have been no additional benefits; indeed, there has possibly been some detraction from local economies.

If my right hon. Friend looks at the unemployment statistics for east Kent, she will see that the rate is falling faster not only than the national average, but the average for the south-east of England, the most prosperous part of the country. The county council says it is impossible to talk of economic regeneration in east Kent without considering the benefits of HS1.

I am very glad to hear that. I do not know how many years after the project this has become apparent. [Hon. Members: “Ten.”] Ten years; thank you.

I want to reinforce something the right hon. Lady said about connectivity. A lot of people think that those of us who oppose HS2 are against connectivity and high-speed transportation. We are not. We want the right connectivity that will help all the towns and cities in this country to grow, but we do not want more of our country’s lifeblood being sucked down into London and the south.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. Of course, it echoed the words of Lord Mandelson, who really does know an awful lot about the genesis of this project. It certainly has that vampiric touch about it, as I think Members on both sides of the House can appreciate.

If HS2 is going to suck the lifeblood of the northern cities, as the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) suggests, why are the leaders of those northern cities, such as Sir Richard Leese and Albert Bore, the loudest demanders of this service?

Oh simple, simple question, Secretary of State! What leader of any council of any political colour or persuasion would turn down the millions and millions of pounds being thrown at their areas? It would be completely stupid of them to do anything other than support it.

The Secretary of State has commented following my intervention. I have talked to people in the big cities, and many of them have not read the six critical evaluations of the impact of HS2, and they certainly have not looked at the impact of high-speed rail on the provincial cities in France. It is sucking the lifeblood out of them and into the metropolitan area around Paris. We have also not been told on what grounds the local people here, who have not been given a referendum—

Order. The hon. Gentleman should know better. This is his second or third intervention. Let us try to keep the debate calm and orderly, with short interventions.

If it were true that better infrastructure for the north would suck the lifeblood out of the region, would it not be right to close the M6? Perhaps that strategy would make the north really prosperous.

I would like to draw the House’s attention to the Transport Committee’s detailed report on high-speed rail. It stated that

“only time will tell whether or not HS2 will, for example, help to rebalance the economy and reduce the north-south divide.”

It is a £50 billion project, yet we are told that “only time will tell” whether it will achieve its main aim.

I am not going to take any more interventions. I want to make sure that other colleagues are able to speak on this group of amendments, and as there are no knives, the longer we take on this group, the less time we will have for other important groups that deal with the economics of the railway line and with compensation.

I thank the right hon. Lady for giving way. Will she point out to the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Dan Byles) that the Select Committee was very clear that High Speed 2 was the only way in which the necessary increased capacity could be obtained, and that in discussing the economic benefits, we also stated that economic development strategies were required to go with the provision of that extra capacity?

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that intervention.

A lot of people are saying that there is no alternative to HS2 if we are to solve the capacity problems, when in fact a large number of alternatives are emerging from numerous sources. Suggestions have been made by economic think-tanks and transport economists, including a recent proposal to revive the old grand central line. I fought against an ill-conceived plan to run freight on that line in the early 1990s when I was first elected to the House. That plan did not stack up economically, and we saw it off.

Amendment 19 would narrow the scope of the Bill, which, as currently drafted, could extend to all railway operations. I do not know whether it was the intention to cover not only HS2 but all other railway operations, but the drafting seems to be a bit sloppy. If the provisions are not confined to HS2, it will make a mockery of any limits placed on the costs that the taxpayer will have to face. The amendment attempts to limit this money Bill, and to limit the expenditure to HS2, in line with what I believe the Government intended. If the provision were to include Scotland, that would round up the whole package.

You will correct me if I am wrong, Mr Deputy Speaker, but I believe that I will have a right of reply at the end of the debate on this group of amendments, given that I moved amendment 18. I want to let colleagues speak to the other amendments. I hope that the Minister will also comment on the effects of HS2 on the areas outside the towns that will be directly connected to the line. I am sure that colleagues in this House and the other place will be concerned by the KPMG report that came out as a result of a freedom of information request. It had not been published alongside the KPMG report that came from the Government. It showed that HS2 would have a negative economic effect on many areas of the country, and I am particularly worried about some of those areas. Will the Minister tell us which areas are involved? The House needs to have that information before we start making decisions on the largest infrastructure project since the second world war. We need to know the pros and cons. I am firmly on the con side, and I have tabled my amendments accordingly. I hope that the Minister will rise to the occasion. I am pleased he has accepted my earlier amendment through the route of the Opposition, and I look forward to hearing what he has to say.

I rise to support amendment 17. I am a firm supporter of High Speed 2. The case for it is essentially one of capacity. It is entirely wrong to state, as some commentators have done recently, that the argument for capacity is something new that has been brought in only at this stage. That is simply not so. The report that the Transport Select Committee produced two years ago made it clear that the need for increased capacity formed the basis of the case for HS2.

Amendment 17 deals with linking HS2 to the rest of the transport network. It specifically mentions the need for it to link to roads and airports. It is important that it should not be seen as a development that is separate from the rest of the rail network or indeed from the rest of the transport network. I therefore welcome the amendment. It is unfortunate that, because no decision has been taken on the need for increased airport capacity in the south-east, no firm proposals on Heathrow have been finalised. That matter needs urgent attention. There is also an issue about freight. In Liverpool, for example, the expansion of the port is creating a need for more freight paths and better access for freight. That, too, needs attention. I welcome the amendment in that it draws attention to networks and connectivity.

In speaking to amendment 17, the hon. Lady is, in essence, setting out an early case for design changes. Can she confirm that the existing contingency in the spending envelope does not include provision for any such changes?

The hon. Gentleman needs to direct such questions to HS2 itself. It is extremely important that all the financial aspects are fully considered. This specific amendment is to do with networks. The question of access to the high-speed network is critical, and that involves roads as well as other rail tracks.

The case for HS2 is also based on increased economic benefit to the areas in which the railway stations are located, as well as the surrounding areas and the regions that they serve. The issue of freed capacity on the west coast main line as a result of phase 1, and on the east coast and midland main lines following phase 2, is critical. The strategic review states that there will be a £3 billion benefit from the use of freed capacity, and Network Rail has stated that more than 100 cities and towns could benefit.

Those benefits will be crucial to areas such as Birmingham and the west midlands. One of the advantages of HS2 to the west midlands will be that it will free up capacity on the west coast main line and improve connectivity to regions such as the black country, part of which I represent.

Indeed; the hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct. We must not look simply at the HS2 line itself; we must also consider how its connectivity to other lines and other parts of the transport network can be developed.

If the principal benefit is now capacity rather than speed—this seems very much how the argument has moved—why not slow it down? If it is slowed down, we will no longer have the engineers I sit down with every week telling me, “We can’t go around Water Orton primary school because speed means it must be a straight line; we can’t go around ancient bluebell woods because speed means it must be a straight line.” If we slow it down, we will be able to avoid going over many of the sensitive areas on the route and perhaps even put in more stations.

The strategic review and other studies indicate that alternatives have been looked at and rejected. Network Rail states that more than 100 cities and towns could benefit from this development. Named in the various reports are places including Watford, Milton Keynes, Rugby and Northampton, but many more are possible. There is also a need to increase capacity for freight, which is as important as passengers. About 20 new freight paths can be developed, but I would view that as the absolute minimum.

I hear what the hon. Lady says about freight. How does she react to what Lord Berkeley said? He heads up the Rail Freight group and said that HS2 will in fact constrain freight because it does not link up properly with the existing network on the west coast main line and its northern end in phases 1 and 2? He should know, should he not?

Lord Berkeley was pointing out issues of practical difficulty, but they can be worked on. Indeed, the purpose of this debate and subsequent debates is to identify where the problems are and to do something about them. No plans are finalised. We are talking about principles and strategies. It is essential to look at critical detail and to make changes where they are necessary. Debates such as this one are an integral part of that important process.

I have great admiration for my hon. Friend as Chair of the Select Committee, but she knows the Department for Transport better than most people, and we have had from it a catalogue of confusion and chaos over the west coast franchise and now over the planning for HS2, as it has changed the priorities, rules and bases of all the assumptions. Is she confident that this HS2 project has been thoroughly prepared and that the grounds for it are absolutely perfect?

It is essential to apply the necessary commercial expertise to this scheme—whether it be directly in the Department for Transport or in HS2 itself. I am encouraged by the new appointment of Sir David Higgins to lead this process. I think that will give people increased confidence, which is indeed necessary.

If the hon. Lady is so convinced of the business case, will she explain why the Government are now on the fifth revision of the business case for HS2? Does she think this will be the last revision, or will there be another 25 over the next 25 years to justify the case? I simply cannot believe it: it is amazing that the project has gone up by £10 billion and the Government have now managed to find £10 billion-worth of supposed benefits. I put it to the hon. Lady that this is the biggest work of fiction since Enid Blyton.

It is for Ministers to say why the business case has been reviewed so many times, but when the Transport Select Committee looked at the issue two years ago, it approved a high-speed line, but pointed to a number of critical areas where it was felt more work should be done, which included looking again at the business case. One reason for that was the valuation put on the time people spent travelling, when it was alleged they could not work. We thought that that was not a correct valuation and that it should be looked at again. We raised issues of environmental concern and said they should be looked at again, as we did with issues relating to economic impact, particularly the need to have economic development strategies as well as the essential rail travel links.

The Select Committee called for a review of the case, looking at those specific factors and stressing the importance of relevant and up-to-date information. We thought it would be absolutely wrong to use information that was not up to date and that ignored the concerns we had raised. The report supported the project in principle, but raised real concerns, which we said must be addressed before any final decision could be taken. Not all of those concerns have yet been addressed, but some of them have been, as we have discussed today.

On that very point, my hon. Friend’s very good report was two years ago and since then many people have used it to do the very thing she asked to be done. The subsequent reports built on her report, however, show a very different picture. Is that not the problem?

I do not know to which reports my hon. Friend refers, but there have been no comprehensive reports looking at the whole scheme. Some have looked at some aspects of it, but not at the up-to-date information, which was published only this week. I am not aware of any reports that have looked at that. I am sure that the Transport Committee will look again at the information, as we have it.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the business case is not just about the financial case? Public transport is a public service, so we need to look at the need to run trains throughout the country. We should not be looking only at pound signs, but at the overall need for this service.

I agree with my hon. Friend’s general point. It is important to assess individual aspects of the project, but we also need to look at the concept and what it is trying to achieve. It is about expanding essential infrastructure in this country. If we do not have vision and if we are not prepared to look ahead at the nation’s needs, we will lack the essential infrastructure needed for economic prosperity. It is essential, too, to look at the detail, which is why we called for a review of the cost-benefit ratio, for a review of the environmental and economic factors and for up-to-date information on the projections of capacity, for freight as well as passengers. The concept must not be lost in the vital necessity to look at the individual components and make an assessment of them.

My hon. Friend is surely aware of the National Audit Office report on this subject, which referred to

“fragile numbers, out-of-date data and assumptions that do not reflect real life.”

What does she say to that?

The strategic review produced this week provides the up-to-date information. When the previous reports, including the NAO report, were produced, that information was not available. It is necessary to examine the new information that has come forward and look at it very carefully indeed—and that is the up-to-date information. As I say, previous reports did not look at it.

The hon. Lady talks about looking at the detail, so let us look at the facts. This project started out at £20 billion; it has hit £50 billion; the Treasury is working on £73 billion—and it was all priced in 2011 money, with indexation of 3% on top of it. Is it going to go the same way as HS1, which started at £1.5 billion and finished up at £11 billion?

Again, I think it is for the Minister to answer those questions. This specific amendment deals with networks. The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue about the costs and the contingencies and how they will be put together, but that is a matter for the Minister and for broader debate than for discussion on this specific amendment.

When the Transport Select Committee went to France to look at the economic impact of high-speed rail, we found that there was a huge economic benefit in Lille and most other cities. The fact is that the Department for Transport assessments do not capture that economic benefit. Talking about people working on trains really misses the point about the economic impact and the economic benefit that will come from high-speed rail. Does my hon. Friend agree?

I do agree. When the members of the Select Committee went to France and elsewhere in Europe to look at high-speed rail there, we were struck by the success of the system and by the enthusiasm with which it was greeted by people living in the areas that it served. Indeed, what struck us was they wanted more: more stops, more stations, more access to high-speed rail. That made a considerable impact on us.

Does the hon. Lady think that the Spanish economy has benefited from Spain’s investment in high-speed rail?

Does the hon. Lady agree with the comments of the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer), which appeared in the Evening Standard yesterday? He said:

“The leadership have completely misjudged the mood both of the Parliamentary Labour Party and the party in the whole of the country.”

I am a firm supporter of High Speed 2. I believe that it will increase capacity and create the infrastructure that is essential for the future of the nation.

Rail infrastructure in Spain has been mentioned. Studies show that the economies of both Seville and Madrid have benefited from a high-speed line, although only Seville was expected to benefit.

I am sure that the Select Committee is aware of a contrasting example, namely the line between Le Mans and Tours. Le Mans invested in a local connection to the TGV route, and saw a tenfold increase in economic benefit compared with Tours, which had failed to do so. That underlines the importance of local connectivity.

The right hon. Lady has drawn attention to the importance of connectivity and the importance of using the opportunities offered by high-speed rail to bring benefit to areas that are not on the line. That is an essential component. In the regions, a great deal of work has been done to assess what the benefit might be. Centro estimates that there will be an additional 22,000 jobs in the west midlands, while the Core Cities Group expects an additional 400,000.

My hon. Friend speaks of the economic benefits for the midlands. Cities such as Coventry will certainly not benefit from this investment; indeed, the opposite will be the case.

I think it essential for HS2 to think about how it can assist areas that do not look as though they will benefit, such as Coventry. The current process—not just today’s debate, but the consultations that are taking place and the progress of the hybrid Bill—enables important points to be raised, such as the one raised just now by my hon. Friend. I am fully sympathetic to that.

I am sure that my hon. Friend is aware of the tram-train pilot scheme which will begin in Sheffield in 2015, and which may lead to an excellent opportunity for trams to use under-utilised heavy rail track to connect wider city regions through high-speed rail stations. Will my hon. Friend encourage the Government to carry out a review? Indeed, the Select Committee itself might wish to look into the matter.

That is an example of the kind of development that should be supported.

What concerns me is not that the principle of high-speed rail is not recognised—indeed, it is clear from what has been said by Members today that the importance of connectivity, in general and in relation to specific areas, is very well understood—but the possibility that it is not being pursued strongly enough at the national level to guarantee its consistent application throughout the country.

I referred earlier to initiatives taken in the west midlands and to statements made by the Core Cities Group, and I know that a great deal of work is being done in Manchester, but I am not sure that that is happening everywhere in the country, and I think it important for someone to take the lead. Of course work must be done in the regions. Elected Members and local businesses know their areas and are aware of the opportunities and the potential, but someone should be ensuring that the same is happening nationally, so that we do not miss out on the vital and perhaps unique opportunity to develop our network for the benefit of localities, regions, and indeed the country as a whole.

When my hon. Friend’s Committee was considering HS2, she will have been made aware of the likely cost, which is estimated to be at least £80 billion. Should not the people who will be affected be allowed a vote? I agree with her about the northern hub, of which I am in favour, but if my local people had a vote, would they vote for all that money to be invested in this high-speed train? I do not think so.

I do not accept the figure that my hon. Friend has given, but the people do, in fact, have a vote. They have a vote with which they can elect a Government by voting in Members of Parliament, and they have a vote with which they can elect members of local authorities—and I note that the leaders of the major local authorities in the north are speaking very loudly indeed in favour of this project.

Does the hon. Lady agree that we should commend Labour-controlled and Conservative-controlled Worcestershire—my own authority —for their foresight in predicting the benefits of HS2?

I do agree. I think that that is an excellent example of what could be done. However, I want to be sure that such examples are being followed up nationally.

Let us assume that the Government’s £50 billion estimate is correct. That investment is expected to bring the greatest benefits to Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester: five cities. Does my hon. Friend think that if the £50 billion were broken up into nuggets of £10 billion, and if each city were offered that amount to promote its local economy, the five of them would decide to club together to pay for a high-speed rail link? [Laughter.]

The whole point of major infrastructure is that it makes a major difference in connectivity across the country, which benefits all parts of the country. If that benefit is fragmented, it will not accrue.

I certainly support economic development in the regions, and I deplore the abolition of the regional development agencies, but I hope that the local enterprise partnerships—alone, working together, or working in transport cores—will ensure that economic benefit comes to their areas, and that the Government provide the support that will enable that effort to be private sector-led and succeed.

Obviously we are talking about a lot of money, but if it is true that the rail capacity of the three main north-south lines will be exhausted within about 15 years, what impact does my hon. Friend expect that to have on the economies of the cities north of London?

My hon. Friend has made a crucial point, which goes to the nub of the matter. If those lines run out of capacity—which, indeed, they are rapidly doing—a grave blow will be dealt to the economies in the northern regions, in terms of passengers and freight. One of the reasons more freight cannot travel by rail now is the fact that no freight lines are available. High Speed 2 will solve that problem.

A railway line is for many decades, not just for the immediate future. When considering the whole issue of connectivity and networks, did the Committee think about the implications of a longer time scale rather than some of the much shorter ones that people are currently discussing?

The Committee was very clear about the fact that this is about the future, and about long-term thinking. I strongly believe that while it is always essential to scrutinise spending, it is also essential to have vision. If we do not have vision, we do not have a future. I note that the aim of Lord Deighton’s taskforce is to maximise the economic benefit that can result from High Speed 2, but I am not sure whether that includes expanding connectivity and making the maximum use of freed lines, as well as more economic development issues. I ask the Minister to give us a response at the relevant time as to who, if anybody, is in charge of expanding connectivity and the opportunities offered by HS2 so the maximum economic benefit can be realised. HS2 is needed for capacity reasons, and it produces major economic development opportunities for most parts of the country, but they must be grasped, and unless somebody is in charge of making sure that happens, they will be squandered.

Of the amendments in this group, I was delighted to be able to add my name to amendment 17 tabled by the Labour Front-Bench team. That demonstrates the cross-party support and co-operation we will need to deliver this project, which is so vital to the future of our country. Indeed, when I offered to add my name, I was asked, “Would you like to go on first, Minister?” I said, “No, no; I wouldn’t want people to get the wrong idea.” Our intention has always been for this landmark project to be part of a truly connected and integrated transport system, and the amendment would ensure that any preparatory work needed to integrate HS2 with the rest of our transport infrastructure can be funded using the Bill’s expenditure powers.

Phases 1 and 2 of HS2 will directly link eight of Britain’s 10 largest cities, serving one in five of the UK population. HS2 will also connect to the existing rail network, so as soon as phase 1 is built, high-speed rail trains can start directly serving 28 cities in the UK.

I welcome the reference to “footpaths” and “cycleways” in amendment 17 tabled by the hon. Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), and I should point out that as part of the Government’s wider commitments to boosting cycling in the UK, in August 2013 the Prime Minister announced the commissioning of a feasibility study to explore how we might create a new cycleway that broadly follows the proposed HS2 corridor. Such routes would also be open to pedestrians—presumably this is a case of great minds thinking alike. The cycleway could provide cycling and walking routes for the public to enjoy, linking local communities and stations to the countryside and tourist destinations along the way, and benefiting those living along the HS2 route.

HS2 will be at the centre of an unprecedented level of investment in the nation’s transport infrastructure. From 2015-16 to 2020-21 the Government have committed £56 billion-worth of investment in road and rail, on top of the £16.5 billion investment in HS2. We are investing more than £6 billion in this Parliament and £12 billion in the next on road maintenance, enough to resurface 80% of the national road network and fill 19 million potholes each year.

I am grateful to the Minister for confirming the billions of pounds the Department for Transport is going to spend over the next five or six years, but how does he respond to the National Audit Office, which has highlighted serious doubts over the ability and capacity of both the Department for Transport and its subsidiary company, HS2 Ltd, to deliver the project successfully? He is now claiming to have one of the largest infrastructure budgets of any Government Department, but the NAO does not think the Department is fit to run it.

The Department has gained a lot of experience in managing big projects from projects such as Crossrail. Following the appointment of Sir David Higgins to head HS2 from January onwards I feel very confident indeed that we can deliver this project on budget and on time. Indeed, the budget is about £50 billion. Therefore, if rolling stock were excluded and nothing else was done with the Department’s budget, this project would be the equivalent of about 10 months of the Department’s total budget. That puts it into context.

We are adding 400 miles of capacity to our busiest motorways thanks to work scheduled in this Parliament and the next, and between 2014 and 2019 Network Rail has put forward plans to spend £37.5 billion on improvements to the railways. We are clearly not putting all our eggs in the HS2 basket, therefore—far from it, in fact.

HS2 will be integrated with the nation’s airports, with direct services to Manchester and Birmingham airports and a short connection to East Midlands airport from the east midlands hub station.

What the Minister has just said is rather confusing, because the Howard Davies inquiry has not yet reported. We can get very lovey-dovey about HS2 in some regards, but there has been no love lost on the London airports question. When are we going to make up our minds about London airports, let alone the rail service to feed them?

The timetable for the Davies commission report is well known, and there will be an interim report in December. Whether or not we put the spur in from HS2 down to Heathrow, in the plans we have published there is already a connection through Old Oak common; there will be an 11-minute connection to Heathrow via the Crossrail service with up to eight services an hour. So Heathrow will have a connection whether or not we embark on the spur.

Does my hon. Friend agree, however, that a 38-minute journey time makes it easy to get from London to Birmingham international airport, which means that people in north London would not need to go to Heathrow?

Indeed, that will increase choice for people who have the unfortunate experience in life of having to live in the south-east of England. It will give them more opportunities to visit the north and use airports up and down the country.

We need to ensure that we maximise the cumulative benefit of individual investments by ensuring they are all properly connected. I have to say that amendments 18 and 19 in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) slightly confuse me. Amendment 19 seeks to limit expenditure to projects under phases 1 and 2 of the Bill, which finishes in Leeds and Manchester, but amendment 18 says that there should be more connectivity in Scotland. There is a degree of contradiction in those two amendments.

My hon. Friend has just said that phase 2 finishes in Manchester, which indeed it does as far as the business case and the benefits statement KPMG produced are concerned, yet under phase 2 we are building a 40 km spur north of Manchester. I wonder about the logic of that, since there is a £1 billion cost with no benefit. Is that an under-run that the Minister could book at this point?

The trains do not stop at Manchester and Leeds; they keep going. In terms of the connectivity of this new system, it is important that we take traffic away from the existing rail network and allow more freight and passenger services so as to address the problem of the 5,000 people every weekday morning who are standing as they arrive at New Street in Birmingham. To address that problem we need to ensure we have the connectivity.

Limiting this legislation to a particular phase, or to particular phases, would simply mean that a further Bill would be required to be placed before Parliament to prepare for any potential future phase.

On Scotland, I would simply say that officials from the Scottish Government made clear during this Bill’s Committee stage that they are content with the Bill as it is, and see no need for the naming of any locations in Scotland. The critical point is that the network is defined as “at least” including the named locations in the Bill. Therefore, not including locations in Scotland will not be a barrier to high-speed rail extending there at some point in the future. The locations named are limited to those which have been named in public consultation documents issued by the Department.

Again I must stress that while some rolling stock will run exclusively on the high-speed network, so-called classic compatible gauge trains will run through to Glasgow and Edinburgh. These new trains are part of the £7.5 billion rolling stock investment in the project and their arrival in Scottish cities will demonstrate how HS2 will benefit Scotland at an early stage.

Can the Minister confirm that once this rolling stock reaches Edinburgh it can go further north up to Aberdeen and cities in between?

That will be for the railway companies to decide; it will be up to them to decide how best to utilise this stock. Obviously, the rolling stock will be rolled out as it is produced, but having trains arriving in Glasgow and Edinburgh at that early stage of the project will make a major contribution to helping to keep our kingdom united.

I wish to begin by welcoming the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill) to his place. I know that he has a strong personal interest in transport issues. Although I am sure we will disagree on many issues, I am glad that we have been able to reach agreement on a number of today’s amendments, and I look forward to our future debates.

Amendment 17 has its origins in the Bill’s Committee stage. Members on both sides of the House contributed to its development, after my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) moved an amendment requiring integration with other modes of transport. The Minister at the time, the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns), who is in his place, said that he was minded to accept it. We want people to have a real choice about how to travel, be it by rail, by car, on a bicycle or by walking. We especially want to make sure that active travel is an attractive option, because it has many huge benefits, including for health and tackling congestion. We want that to be encouraged, so we welcomed the move to have better integration. We warned, however, that any amendment should pay regard to walking, cycling and light railways, so I am pleased that those concerns have been addressed by this sensibly worded addition to the Bill—of course I would say that, because it stands partly in my name.

Light rail will play an important role in linking stations in Birmingham, the east midlands and Sheffield to the high-speed network. The importance of making conventional rail accessible to pedestrians and cyclists is now recognised across the country; we have seen increasingly that railways stations have been adapted in that respect. It is right to enshrine that objective in the legislation for HS2. It is a real achievement that both cycling and walking will now be acknowledged in the Bill on the same basis as other modes of travel. We need to acknowledge that when people make a journey they regard it as starting when they close their front door. Making that whole journey as seamless as possible—not just the train bit, but how they get to the railway station and how they progress at the end—is vital. We therefore welcome the approach that has been taken.

Amendment 17 is a good example of a Bill being improved through parliamentary scrutiny. Integration between high-speed rail and the conventional rail network will benefit communities far beyond the areas directly served, and we want to make sure that HS2 is fully accessible to everyone, irrespective of their mode of travel. I am happy to commend the amendment to the House.

Given some predictions of the level of fare that might be charged on HS2, many people think it will be exclusively for very well-off business people and that ordinary people will not be able to use it.

I thank my hon. Friend for that. He is right to say that we cannot afford the new high-speed rail line to become a “rich man’s toy”, as a former Secretary of State put it. Clearly the new network must be available to everyone, and I am sure the Minister will confirm the view that the fares will be no greater than they are on the current network.

Has my hon. Friend taken into consideration the frequency of the trains on the west coast main line and what effects this new project will have on that?

The whole point of the project is to provide extra capacity, including on the west coast main line. Obviously, the detail of what timetables will be in place needs to be worked out, but we would hope that they will be able to provide additional services to many cities, including my hon. Friend’s city, and we will call for that.

There will certainly be very good news for people in Shrewsbury and Blackpool, where operators are keen to provide services but cannot currently do so because of congestion on the existing network.

The Minister rightly talks about the capacity constraints we already face on the west coast main line, and it is vital that everyone in the country is consulted on how the additional capacity is used when it is created by the high-speed line.

The hon. Lady has moved on to the question of capacity on the west coast main line. Does she accept that the heavy growth that took place on that line occurred immediately after the upgrade in 2008, and that since that upgrade the rates of increase have slowed tremendously and that, therefore, there could be additional capacity on the existing line? Does she also accept that we can create more capacity by having longer carriages, and by changing the mix between first and second class?

It is well known that on the west coast main line the additional capacity created by the upgrade is already starting to run out and that the line will be full. Of course we can create additional capacity on a train by converting some carriages from first class to standard class, but that does not create extra space on the line for additional trains. As the Minister acknowledged, places such as Shrewsbury and Blackpool want to have an additional direct service but cannot because the capacity is just not available. I am sure that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mark Pawsey) would like to have directed his question to the Minister.

Under freedom of information requests, we have discovered that the average spare capacity on the west coast main line is currently 40% and that demand at peak time actually increased by only 0.9% last year?

I am not sure why the hon. Gentleman did not address that to the Minister who is responsible for the railway. I feel like I have been given entire responsibility for it, although I would be happy if we swapped places. The point is that the capacity is not available at the times when people want to travel—at peak times—and that there is insufficient capacity for additional services and for freight, which is also vital.

Some people who study this subject and take issue with the Government’s claims about capacity on the west coast main line say that much of that capacity could be improved by allowing Virgin Trains passengers in peak hours to get off at Milton Keynes—that currently does not happen. What is the hon. Lady’s opinion of that? What studies has she made of how that could relieve capacity problems in the future?

I am sure that many people who want to go to the north would not, for a minute, wish to get off at Milton Keynes. The fact is that there simply is not enough capacity. I am sure that people who live in Milton Keynes are looking forward to the extra capacity created by HS2 and the possibility of additional services, particularly for commuters, that that will free up on the west coast main line.

Let me now deal with the amendments relating to the links to Scotland. Labour has always supported the principle of bringing high-speed rail to Scotland, which is why the previous Labour Government set up HS2 Ltd to examine possible routes to Scotland. HS2 will bring real benefits, enabling faster journey times and adding to capacity on the main line routes to Scotland. We wanted to put those benefits in the Bill in Committee, but we were told by Transport Scotland that the Scottish Government opposed altering the Bill. It was therefore somewhat curious to see the Scottish National party tabling such amendments.

One purpose of the Bill is to provide a legal basis for future extensions of the high-speed network, providing that the economic case can be made for them. With the Government failing to keep the costs under control, we need to focus today on the HS2 network as planned. I would be interested to hear what work the Government are doing on the costs and benefits of extending the line. We have seen reports in the media that the Government are going to launch a feasibility study into extending the line to Scotland. I do not know whether the Minister would like to take this opportunity to intervene to confirm that and explain the timetable for the study.

I always think it is a good idea not to try to run before we can walk; let us get to Birmingham and Manchester first. I am sure that we will be looking at extensions, but they are not at the top of my to-do list at the moment.

I thank the Minister for his response; clearly the media reports are wrong. It is ironic that the SNP should be proposing to take this line to Scotland, given that the one thing we can guarantee is that the SNP plans for separation would make the possibility of a high-speed line across the UK even less likely.

One can excuse the Minister for not having this at the top of his to-do list only because he is new in his job. I have asked similar questions of previous Ministers over the past few months, so may I suggest to my hon. Friend that if it is not at the top of a Minister’s to-do list now, it should be pretty soon and that the Minister should be giving details of this study in the near future?

The hon. Lady has made the same catastrophic mistake as the Minister in thinking that a transport project is the same as a political governance project. If that were true, High Speed 1 could have been construed by the Eurosceptics on the Government Benches as part of some major European integration project, and the high-speed line that is going through the Baltic countries up to Helsinki would be seen as some nation-unification project. It is not; it is a transport project. I encourage the hon. Lady not to make the same daft mistake as the Minister made earlier.

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we will not be making any of the same mistakes as the Minister.

Finally, I take the opportunity to comment on amendment 23 in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell). He has rightly introduced this amendment to advance his constituency and the interests of the people living there, but I am concerned that we would be straying into territory that is covered by the Davies commission. The Labour Front-Bench team share the frustration of those who want to see from the commission an earlier resolution of the issue of airport capacity. It was we who called for those cross-party talks, to which the Government somewhat belatedly agreed. Nevertheless, we are bound into the process and there can be no justification for delaying preparation work on this important project until after the election, when that commission is due to report.

We want to see the new high-speed line built without further delay. The whole country can benefit from the improved capacity and connectivity that it will bring. I am happy to see it fully integrated into the wider network and to support amendment 17.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood). I confirm that I will support amendment 17. As she rightly said, it resulted from an idea put forward by the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs Spelman). If we are to have an integrated transport system, it is crucial that we do not link just high speed rail to the conventional lines, but take into account all the other forms of transportation to help people get from A to B.

It is particular pleasure to see the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), in his place and leading on the issue. It is an important issue and I know that he will do well on it, ably supported by officials at both the Department for Transport and High Speed 2.

I support amendment 17 and oppose amendment 18 and the amendments that flow from it. In many ways I have a feeling of déjà vu, because we had copious debates in Committee on the matter, and I never quite understood why so many people got certain parts of their apparel in such knots over the issue. It is clear from clause 1(2) that the Bill applies to

“railway lines connecting at least—



the East Midlands”

and so on. The whole point of the Bill and the purpose of getting it on to the statute book is to provide financing not of an actual project, but of the preparations for the project ad infinitum, because High Speed 2 need not necessarily stop at Leeds or Manchester. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport made that plain in October last year, when he announced that he was going to set up an inquiry into the feasibility of a third phase to Scotland.

The Bill will allow the expenditure of money for the preparation of not only phases 1 and 2, but potentially phase 3, if there is one, a spur to south Wales, if a business case were made that it was needed, to the south-west or—a possibility closer, I suspect, to the heart of the distinguished Chair of the Transport Committee, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman)—all the way into Liverpool. The Bill grants the Government permission to spend the money on those preparations.

The thought that there will not be full and proper consideration of the continuation of the project to Scotland at some point is bizarre. It is an obvious part of a viable rail network along the spine of the country for it to continue in time to Glasgow, Edinburgh and potentially—depending on the wishes of Government and the business case at the time—beyond that. That is what the Bill does.

I am sorry that my right hon. Friend observed members of the Committee getting parts of their apparel in a twist. As I was not a member of the Committee, it obviously was not mine. He has outlined what so many critics beyond this place say of the Bill—that it is a blank cheque. Can he confirm that it is an open-ended financial commitment to spend any sum of money on any part of any preparation for any railway network anywhere in the country—the blank cheque that everybody dreads?

My right hon. Friend is right—she was not on the Committee. It seemed as though she was, because she was in the Public Gallery the whole time, assiduously following our deliberations. I think I am right in saying, from memory, that we discussed a number of amendments that she tabled for that Committee which were moved by members of the Committee.

My right hon. Friend advances an argument, but repeating it does not mean it becomes more accurate. That argument is that the project has a blank cheque. It does not have a blank cheque. It is not a machine for printing money. There are very tight financial procedures in place to ensure that it does not exceed budget.

Before anyone asks how that can be considered a viable proposition, one should look at Crossrail, the largest engineering project in Europe at present, a multi-billion pound project. Owing to tight financial controls, it is on time and on budget, and I have every confidence that, with the mechanisms that have been put in place, that will be the case with HS2. I see figures quoted about what the project will cost which are from Alice in Wonderland. The cost is £42.6 billion, but that sum includes £14.4 billion of contingency funding, of which the vast majority, I am confident, will not be spent.

I will give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins), then I will make progress, because a number of my hon. Friends want to speak in this time-limited debate.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. Does he agree that there is a myth in this country that we cannot do big projects? Look at the success of Crossrail and the High Speed 1 line and compare that with the west coast main line upgrade, the kind of incremental project that some Members are keen on, which was four years late and 240% over budget.

My hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point. I was particularly interested to hear his views in the debate because he is a Kent MP. When I first came into the House 26 and a half years ago, in one of the first Adjournment debates I ever sat in and listened to—I confess that I have not listened to many since, except those that I have taken part in—two of my hon. Friends made a vigorous case that, if High Speed 1 went ahead, it would turn the garden of England into the garbage can of England, destroy house prices, ruin the economy of Kent and end the world as we knew it. High Speed 1 went ahead and Kent’s economy has been regenerated and improved. House prices have not gone through the floor; in fact, house prices along the line of route have kept pace with those in other areas. In some cases, they have increased beyond them because of the houses’ proximity to good commuter links. Capacity has increased, particularly for those commuters who are prepared to use High Speed 1 from Canterbury, for example, to London.

The supreme irony is that one town in Kent, Maidstone, successfully lobbied not to have a station—it was put at Ebbsfleet instead—and people are now begging for a station at Maidstone because they are missing out on the regeneration and improvements to the economy that are taking place in Ashford and Ebbsfleet. The other irony—my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) should listen carefully to this, because I know she is a lady with an open mind and strong views—is that Kent county council, along with hon. Members of this House, led the opposition to High Speed 1 in the late ’80s but is now a strong supporter of the high-speed railway because of the benefits it has brought to the community and the county. The leaders and officials of Kent county council have offered to go and talk to the leaders of Buckinghamshire county council, Warwickshire county council and Staffordshire county council to explain that in their experience the railway did not destroy their communities or environment but actually greatly enhanced them. Unfortunately, there is certainly one county council that does not seem to have the wish or the will to hear the facts or the benefits that high-speed rail could bring.

I will not give way, for the simple reason that many of my hon. Friends and many Opposition Members want to take part in the debate—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr Sheerman) speaks from a sedentary position. I think it is fair to say that we have had many interventions from him today, so perhaps there might be a chance for someone else to have a turn.

The country needs this project because of all the important arguments: the greater connectivity; the fact that it is an engine for growth; the regeneration along the line of route; and, most importantly, the fact that it will deal with the capacity issue. I think that when High Speed 2 was announced in late 2008 and into 2009, little thought was given to its name. Those who took the decisions immediately called it High Speed 2, as they already had High Speed 1. Unfortunately, it is a misnomer that has, in some ways, led us up a cul-de-sac.

Of course, faster journey times are important, but they are not the most important thing. The most important thing is capacity. As I have said before, to echo what Tony Blair said in a different context, it is about capacity, capacity, capacity. The west coast main line will be full by 2024. We need capacity on the conventional railway for those who want to travel between London, Birmingham and Manchester but do not want to go along the whole route, and we need capacity to get even more freight off our congested roads and on to the railways.

I will give way to my hon. Friend, but this will be the last time that I will do so before I conclude.

My right hon. Friend and I had many discussions on this issue during his time as a Transport Minister. Yet again, we have come back to the idea that it is about not speed but capacity. Would he therefore support redesigning the line to run at a slower speed so that it could go around places such as Water Orton primary school, ancient monuments and people’s houses?

I heard my hon. Friend say that in an intervention on another of my colleagues. Let me tell him gently and in a spirit of friendship that, if one takes the line that he is suggesting, it will no longer be a high-speed train. In effect, it will be a parallel conventional rail line like the west coast main line. All the reports on having a conventional new rail line in parallel rather than a high-speed one show that it would cost about 90% of the cost of HS2 but without the benefits that high-speed railways bring.

I know from my meetings with my hon. Friend, and particularly with my hon. Friend the Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) and others, that High Speed 2 Ltd, the Department for Transport and Ministers have worked overtime to consider ways of minimising the problems, where feasible and cost-effective, through the use of more tunnelling, green tunnelling or slightly adjusting the line of route to try to minimise them.

No, I will not.

Unfortunately, a project of this scale and size cannot meet the problems and objections of every part of the route while still keeping to the reason for and need behind the railway. It is rotten when one cannot deal with every problem, but we need to balance what is in the national interest against what can be done to minimise the impact. I believe that the Secretary of State for Transport, his Ministers, the Department for Transport and High Speed 2 Ltd have gone a considerable way—as far as they can—towards meeting and overcoming those problems without ruining the concept of high-speed rail and without it being disastrous for the taxpayer.

For those reasons, I am as confident as one can be that High Speed 2 will become High Speed 3 and go to Scotland, and that in years to come it will go to other parts of the United Kingdom as well. That can happen in an orderly way only if this Bill is passed to enable money to be spent on the preparations—not on building the railway, because the Bill does not deal with that. For those reasons, I will support the hon. Member for Nottingham South and my right hon. and hon. Friends on amendment 17; we gave a commitment to the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras that we would do so. I will certainly oppose amendment 18 and those that flow from it, however, because they are superfluous and, as my hon. Friend the Minister said, contradictory.

Order. A large number of Members wish to participate in the debate. May I ask people to keep their comments a little more clipped so that we can facilitate as many people as possible? I cannot impose a time limit as we are on Report, but Members can watch the clock and appreciate that five to 10 minutes would be a good proxy as regards the length of their speeches.

I shall try to be brief. I have tabled amendment 23 on the link between the network and Heathrow. Some hon. Members will understand that I have raised the issue on behalf of my constituents, as is my right, in each debate we have had on High Speed 2.

Let me briefly give the context. My background is in supporting rail expansion and investment. I represent a constituency with a railway estate and a large number of railway workers and, in addition, I chair the RMT trade union group in Parliament. We have been strongly behind the development of increased capacity and investment, so when the idea of high-speed rail was first proposed it was welcomed in my constituency for a number of reasons. One was that if we could get railway journeys below four hours, that would take pressure off Heathrow airport and reduce the need for short-haul flights into Heathrow. That assisted in our campaign against the expansion of Heathrow.

When the route was published, every Member south of Birmingham could assess its impact on their constituency, except me, because the link to Heathrow was not included. The route of the link to Old Oak Common was published, but then we were told that there would be a direct link at some stage, the options would be published, there would be a consultation, a preferred option would be considered, compensation arrangements for those affected would be discussed and then this House would make a considered decision.

There are real concerns about the environmental impact where the network hits the north of my borough. The right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall) and the hon. Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd) have valiantly argued the case for their constituents and achieved some tunnelling, but a lot more needs to be done. Other facilities that serve the whole borough will be affected, such as the Hillingdon outdoor activities centre, which will need to be relocated.

I am also concerned that my constituents now have no idea what impact the route will have on them because, following the introduction of the Davies commission, the whole timetable and consultation process for the link to Heathrow has been deferred until after the next general election, which means more years of blight for my constituents. That affects all of them, because nine different options for linking to Heathrow are being discussed, which means everyone’s home or business is under threat. That is no way to run a railway or consult on such a massive project. We were promised a logical process with a tight time scale. We were told that as the main network was decided, the routes would be published, there would be consultation on a preferred route, and a decision would be made relatively speedily, which would at least have given us some certainty. That has all gone now.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) said that we do not want to put off any decision on high-speed rail until after the Davies commission reports. The solution, then, is simply to ensure that the commission reports earlier. The fact that it is due to report after the next general election is a political fudge to get everybody off the hook. In the coming six weeks the commission will report on a range of options, but there will be no final report until after the general election. Why is that length of time needed? All the experts, and indeed a number of Government Members, have been clear that the deadline could be brought forward so that we can have certainty about the Government’s preferred option before the next general election.

I have great sympathy for the hon. Gentleman and his constituents facing the blight of uncertainty over possible routes for HS2 and the link to Heathrow. It is the same for my constituents in relation to the route for phase 2, which is out for consultation, and it could be changed, so huge swathes of my constituency and those of fellow Conservative Members are similarly blighted. To paraphrase, we are all in this together.

I understand that, which is why I said that Members south of Birmingham know roughly what the route will be.

I was given promises and undertakings in this House about the process that would be followed to determine the route of the link to Heathrow. At least we thought we had some certainty on the time scale for the consultations. In fact, I was holding public meetings to go into some detail about the compensation arrangements for whatever option was to be proceeded with. Now it is all up in the air again and the route that the link will take is uncertain. The Government have opened discussions about a potential third runway at Heathrow. Sometimes Members can become paranoid in this House and think that they are coming for them.

I will not take it too personally.

Frankly, my constituents have had enough of political fudge after political fudge. What they want to know, and they want to know it soon, is where the line will go, how they will be affected, how we can cope with the social, environmental and economic consequences, and how they will be fully compensated.

I have great sympathy with my hon. Friend’s predicament, but is not part of the problem that the Government are missing a trick? This uncertainty is allowing opposition to the whole project to develop. Were we to focus on reducing domestic air travel as part of the project’s value by tackling some of the uncertainty, that would help everybody.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), who chairs the Transport Committee, has made the point time and again, with regard to the overall matter of strategic planning—with regard to aviation, I think that she and her Committee are absolutely clueless—[Interruption.] She knows that she has my respect and affection. If we are planning for transport infrastructure in the long term, we must ensure that it is integrated. The way to have integration for this project is by ensuring that the timetable set out for HS2 is integrated with the Davies commission’s report, which means having the report sooner. That could be within six months of the initial report being published this month. The decision could then be taken before the next general election. It is also about being more honest with the electorate on rail and aviation, and not only in my constituency, but nationally.

In relation to the hon. Gentleman’s comments on the Transport Committee, in an earlier debate on aviation he said that it keeps coming back with the proposed expansion of Heathrow, which he disagrees with. If it keeps coming back with that in different guises and compositions, clearly that shows that it must be right.

It shows a consistent aberration of judgment, because time and again Governments eventually say no.

I appeal to the Secretary of State. There is a solution to my constituency problems and those of the right hon. Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. First, we must address the environmental damage that is still being threatened in the north of my borough. The right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner have a series of requests that could readily be met to overcome some of the environmental and social damage.

Secondly, please give us certainty. That means having the Davies commission’s final report sooner, which could be done early next year, and integrating it with the final decision on the link to Heathrow, giving a properly planned process in which people can have confidence. Otherwise, I will take every opportunity I can to vote against high-speed rail until my constituents are satisfied that their views have been taken into account.

I rise to support amendment 17 and will speak extremely briefly. My views on HS2 are fairly widely known, but I want to place on the record that the project is needed now. The west coast main line is nearly full, and as a regular traveller on that service I know that it is essential for many commuters. HS2 is about capacity as well as speed, a fact that is sometimes lost in the argument. I totally understand where those of my colleagues who oppose it are coming from, as there are also strong views in my constituency, but I firmly believe that it is of huge national importance and must go ahead. In my region, the west midlands, we cannot ignore the facts: a £1.5 billion increase in economic output, thousands of additional jobs and increased wages.

As a Kent MP who has benefited from High Speed 1 and over £10 billion of private sector investment coming into the south-east, including Kent and Medway, I think that the economic benefits my hon. Friend is talking about for her area are absolutely vital. People in Kent have seen those benefits, and people in the north should not be deprived of them. I fully support her in that respect.

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention.

As Members have heard already today, I am a big champion of Birmingham international airport. To be able to access it from Euston in just 38 minutes will make a huge difference to the people of north London. It will mean a choice between either Birmingham or Gatwick and Heathrow—I know which airport I would choose. Those Members who have travelled from Birmingham international airport know how excellent it is, and those who have not should try it, because they will not regret it.

HS2 is also about rebalancing our economy. We talk about that a lot, but this is proof that we are serious about getting on with it. I know that we will hear many arguments for and against HS2 today, but I am sure that they were heard when the House debated HS1. This is something that the country needs, so we should all be brave and stand up for the national interest. We owe it to our constituents and to our country. I hope that colleagues will join me in the Lobby tonight to vote for something north of Watford.

I wish to speak to amendment 28 tabled in my name on behalf of my party.

The Scottish National party and the Scottish Government have been supportive of HS2 in principle. Of course, that is conditional on it being properly managed and, most importantly, it coming to Scotland, so that Scotland, which pays more tax per capita than the UK average, can benefit from it. We also look to help the rest of the UK. As I mentioned earlier, the line that links Seville to Madrid, which it was envisaged would help Seville alone, benefited both ends, as, on reflection, it should have done. We want this link because it would link us into the wider European high-speed rail project that will be found in many places in Europe. Scotland, as an economic powerhouse, deserves to be part of that, not just for Scotland but for the rest of Europe, which deserves to have Scotland linked with it. This will be happening in 25 or 30 years, by which time quite a few of us will not be in this Chamber, if on this earth; we are leaving a legacy for the future.

I am glad to hear that Baroness Kramer will be coming to Scotland tomorrow as part of seeing what benefits can be brought not just to Scotland but to the wider UK and wider Europe through increased links to the central belt of Scotland, which is an important market.

The hon. Gentleman talks about the wider benefits to the UK. At the moment, my constituents have a service that gets them into Euston in one hour and 23 minutes. If HS2 goes ahead, the 30 trains a day we have now will be reduced to three and there will be an extra hour’s journey time to pick up the HS2 link, so my constituents will go from taking one hour and 23 minutes to get to London to taking two and a half hours. How is that an improvement for the rest of the country?

The hon. Gentleman represents his constituents very well. He will of course forgive me if I am not au fait with the train timetable to Stoke-on-Trent. It has sadly been an oversight on my part not to visit Stoke-on-Trent.

I am glad to hear from a Labour MP that I will be welcome. I will happily make a speech on the benefits of Scottish independence not just to Scotland but to other European countries and to the denizens of Stoke-on-Trent.

It is great to hear that. The point for Stoke-on-Trent is probably to liaise better with the rail authorities and the authorities here to make sure that it is represented and gets a better deal. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, as an assiduous MP—probably the finest Stoke-on-Trent has had—will indeed be doing that. I am sure that will now be very welcome in Stoke-on-Trent.

It is in Scotland’s interests to have the high-speed rail link. It is also in Scotland’s interests to make sure that the north of England is well connected, because we want to make sure that when we are independent we have on our borders a prosperous region of Europe. The north of England becoming a prosperous region of Europe is therefore exactly what Scotland wants. When Scotland is independent it will do everything it can to facilitate and help that.

I give way to the hon. Gentleman, who is, let us say, a bit blinkered when it comes to Scottish independence.

Of course I agree that it is important that the high-speed rail link is extended north to Glasgow and Edinburgh. The hon. Gentleman said that he was speaking to the amendment on behalf of his party. Let me draw his attention to the Scottish Government’s evidence to the Public Bill Committee. Question 174 was answered by a representative from Transport Scotland as follows:

“The view of the Scottish Government is that we are content with the Bill as it stands.”––[Official Report, High Speed Rail (Preparation) Public Bill Committee, 11 July 2013; c. 100, Q174.]

The hon. Gentleman’s party runs the Scottish Government, so if it is content with the Bill, why is he speaking to an amendment on its behalf?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, thinking is always evolving. When a person is content, they can become happier as a result of improvements. The Liberal Democrats started from a position of being opposed to student tuition fees and seemed to be content with that, but the position evolved so that they wanted £9,000 tuition fees for students, and they seemed happier still. He will probably understand that I think that our evolution towards happiness is perhaps a bit more understanding of the needs of citizens, whereas the evolution of the Liberal Democrats’ thinking leaves many people in debt, unfortunately.

We want Scotland to be linked to a high-speed European network. The mistake made earlier, originally by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan), was to think that this is some sort of political project. It is not. There are high-speed rail links all over the place. They go to Helsinki through the Baltic states, and there is no movement for political unity between those states. They fiercely retain their independence while supporting and helping each other to get rail links, including high-speed links, through their countries to move into the main European markets. That is a natural and understandable thing to do. Many states in Europe are independent and co-operating together. In fact, Europe has not been as together as it is now, with its 50 independent states, since the empires declined.

I am grateful to the Member for the former Western Isles constituency for giving way. I declare an interest because my father was a Scot. Does he think that if Scotland becomes independent the UK Government will be in a hurry to create the link through to the Scottish cities or will they take rather longer?

I think that money talks far more than narrow political ideals as they are expressed at the moment. Absolutely yes: the Government will understand full well that it makes sense for the central belt of Scotland, one of 40 global mega-regions, to be linked to other mega-regions, and the political machinations or whatever political understanding the right hon. Lady has in her mind will vanish. The former BBC correspondent Stephanie Flanders put it very well when she said that people will play up the difficulties pre-independence but will play them down afterwards and work well and co-operate, as in the Baltic states and in Finland.

I am afraid that that is the truth, and I am sure that the right hon. Lady knows it in her heart of hearts.

To achieve this link going into Scotland, we have to accept that it will go through England first. I hope to see the benefits in the north of England that Kent has seen. It is only right that our fellow Europeans, wherever they are, see their economies grow and prosper.

We are concerned about the KPMG report that arose from a freedom of information request. The report showed that part of Scotland could lose economically, but on further examination that proved to be only one part of the picture. It was the worst-case scenario, and the best-case scenario showed benefits. Rather than Scotland losing out, it was shown that HS2 would bring gains of £40 million-odd a year to Aberdeenshire and Morayshire.

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that if Scotland is mentioned in the Bill, that will satisfy Scotland and it will not seek Barnettisation of this project, which would put the cost up even further?

I am glad to hear Conservative Members speak against privatisation. That is very encouraging. Perhaps they should have thought about that with regard to Royal Mail, when they transferred loads of people’s money from the taxpayer to private pockets. [Interruption.] I think I misheard the hon. Gentleman and he said “Barnettisation”. It is the accent—I am sorry. If he is indeed talking about Barnettisation, I will come to that point. If he is patient, as I am sure he will be, he will get an understanding of exactly what our viewpoint is.

It is important that HS2 happens and that we work within Scotland to make sure that we have connectivity and can benefit by linking into the network. The Scottish Government do not agree with the assumptions that have been made by KPMG and the Department for Transport. We feel that there is an error in some of the modelling and that some of the assumptions are out of date. We are more pleased with what came out of the Department yesterday, which said:

“Scotland will benefit from high speed services from Edinburgh and Glasgow as soon as Phase One of HS2 opens. Phase Two is expected to reduce journey times by up to an hour without the need to change trains, benefiting the Scottish economy. The Government’s goal is for a network that brings the country closer together, so we are taking forward a study with the Scottish Government to consider how these benefits could be extended further. This is looking at how to boost capacity and cut journey times between Glasgow/Edinburgh and London to less than three hours”.

That journey time offers further access to an inter-European market, which is vital for Scotland.

I hope there will be Barnett consequentials, which are important, so that Scotland can prepare for the benefits of the extension of European high-speed rail. We could consider a link north of Edinburgh up towards Aberdeen. I often remark that the rail journey between Glasgow and Fort William takes about three hours, but the distance is only 100 miles. The average speed is 33 mph, so perhaps medium-speed rail would improve journey times.

The benefits of HS2 will be strong, but they will be stronger still when Scotland is included, as the example of Seville and Madrid shows. We shall work for assurances from the UK Government that they will consider a sensible extension that will benefit not just Scotland, but the south-east of England and the European markets. This is in everybody’s economic interest, as shown by the Baltic line running from Helsinki to the European markets.

High-speed rail will benefit everybody. As the hon. Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) flippantly said earlier, the counter-arguments suggest that, if connectivity is such a bad idea, closing the M6 would result in a boom in the north. Of course, that is nonsense. As Adam Smith said in “The Wealth of Nations”, the more markets and economies are linked, the better for all. There will be mutual benefits and we will all win.

I will maintain my habit of being brief.

The Liberal Democrats have long supported a fully integrated transport system, and thus we welcome amendment 17. We also believe that the only way to achieve that is by building a modern, 21st-century railway system, not by merely tweaking a bit of this and a bit of that, extending a platform here and adding a coach there.

The west coast main line will run out of space in the next 10 to 12 years. One option would be to improve the line by extending it, but that would subject passengers to 14 years of weekend bus journeys and chaos, and even when completed it would be completely insufficient.

My hon. Friend will probably be aware that we have already gone through the tortuous process of upgrading the west coast main line. It made a significant difference, but, despite billions of pounds having been spent, it is already full.

I agree with my hon. Friend and I think that extending the line would lead to exactly the same result.

I hope that the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) is sure, like me, that northern local government leaders have the best interests of all their residents at heart. I am puzzled that opponents of the scheme seem to think that a high-speed, modern railway system that is fit for the 21st century and that would increase economic activity throughout the whole of the United Kingdom would not benefit the country as a whole, but only those cities directly served by it. Surely it is clear that a line that would improve north-south links—I include Scotland in that—would at the same time improve and grow the economy of the whole of the United Kingdom, including my constituency of Eastleigh.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the evidence the Public Accounts Committee reviewed when we looked at High Speed 1, particularly on the received wisdom of its effect on regional economic regeneration? It showed that, notwithstanding that some places in Kent did improve, particularly Ashford, there were substantial pockets of poverty in places such as Dover, Folkestone and Thanet, which were not specifically affected by the regeneration effects of High Speed 1.

I am sure that building a railway line will not solve every economic problem in every part of the county. I happen to know that the improved economy of Kent also improved the economy of Sussex and its effect also reached all the way to Hampshire.

It pains me to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson), whom I deeply respect, but the economic benefits to Dover and to Deal in my constituency have been immense. It has been transformational and made a massive difference to the whole of east Kent. I urge Members of all parties to back HS2.

Following on from my parliamentary neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke), I have to say that my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) is totally wrong. I would be happy to take him to Folkestone and show him the areas of the town that are benefiting from the better connection. Yes, there were areas of deprivation in east Kent, but the way to do something about that was better infrastructure and that is what we now have.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the generous spirit in which he is taking interventions. To support my parliamentary neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson), I point out to colleagues who take issue with his intervention that paragraph 15 of the National Audit Office report on HS1 concluded that

“the project is not value for money.”

Key finding 6 states that although passenger numbers grew, they were below expectations and estimates were inflated.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his generosity. Is he able to answer the question I asked the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) from the SNP? How will the people of Stoke-on-Trent benefit from a worsened service? They will have to spend an hour travelling to hook up to a line that will only be as good as the current one, and they will have to go from using 30 trains to three. How is that an improvement?

I am afraid it is beyond my capacity to decide what trains the relevant train company will run, but I doubt we can predict exactly what the train times will be in 10, 15, 20 or 30 years’ time.

Members will be glad to hear that I have nearly finished. The Liberal Democrats know that a modern, high-speed, national rail network is vital to the future of this country. Consequently, I fully support the Bill and amendment 17.

I rise to support amendment 17 and I will support the Bill later, too.

I want to pick up on one particular point that the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) made at the beginning of the debate and with which I agree, namely the connectivity problem with HS2, particularly the lack of a proper link to High Speed 1. That is a serious problem and it needs to be addressed. I recognise that there has been some improvement in the view of how the two high-speed lines should be connected, but the current proposal—this is extraordinary—is for a single track, shared connection and a capacity of only three trains per hour going rather slowly.

The argument is that that is sufficient capacity for the international services likely to be coming to High Speed 2 from the channel tunnel. That may be correct, at least in the early years: three an hour may be enough. However, with that constraint in place, it would be impossible to run regular domestic services from High Speed 2 to High Speed 1, even though we need those regular connections. Research commissioned by my local authority, the London borough of Newham, suggests that there could be demand for seven trains per hour on the interconnection between HS2 and HS1 to meet the needs of domestic services.

I have found this discussion interesting. I agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) about the regeneration benefits of HS1, and they are largely due to domestic services. I think, therefore, that the new high-speed line has to be built with sufficient capacity for the domestic services we will need. We certainly want HS2 to connect to Kent, East Anglia and other destinations, and we need proper interconnection between the two high-speed lines in order to facilitate that.

I am aware of the right hon. Gentleman’s interest in regeneration. Does he agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) that the Bill does not put a cap on the amount that will be spent? The figures that are quoted go from £14 billion upwards. I am sure he agrees that there are other infrastructure priorities in our constituencies, such as housing, and that there are areas in desperate need of regeneration. Does he not think that supporting this project will deprive those other valuable projects of finance?

I think that investment in this project will contribute to national wealth. My concern, however, is that it should be adequately designed and planned. To have a single track connecting High Speed 2 and High Speed 1, with a capacity of three trains an hour, is a mistake.

I will make one more point before I give way to my right hon. Friend because it relates to the concerns that he has raised.

If there were a proper link between High Speed 1 and High Speed 2, some of the trains coming towards London on High Speed 2 would not have to terminate at Euston. Some could run on to High Speed 1, some could terminate at Stratford International station, in which I have a particular interest, and some could run further along High Speed 1. As a result, significantly fewer platforms would be required at Euston than are proposed and there would be a reduction in the big problems in my right hon. Friend’s constituency, to which he has rightly drawn attention.

I am sure my right hon. Friend is right that the proposal to have a tunnel from Old Oak Common to Primrose Hill and to run the rest of the connection above ground across Camden Town will not provide an adequate service. It will certainly wreak destruction in Camden Town, which the people behind the project denied until recently. As an indication of their general incompetence, when the cost of that proposal went up from £170 million to £300 million, they said that it was because of unforeseen circumstances, including the need to widen the line.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend. I am aware that the proposal for that interconnection is now rather more costly that it was initially. However, as far as I can see, the problem has not been solved. There is still a limit of three trains per hour, which is clearly insufficient. I warmly welcome amendment 17.

Just to help the right hon. Gentleman on the question of whether the expenditure on High Speed 2 will come at the cost of investment in existing infrastructure, which might provide the kind of connection that he is seeking, “The Strategic Case for HS2”, which was published yesterday, states:

“Between 2014 and 2019, Network Rail will spend over £35bn allowing it to continue a substantial programme of expansion and renewal.”

That might allow him to seek the kind of amelioration that he wants.

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady. However, I believe that an adequate connection should be part of the initial proposal.

No, I will not give way again.

I welcome amendment 17 and the Government’s support for it. I have raised this matter with Ministers before, but I ask the new Minister for the first time to pay particular attention to the connectivity problem between High Speed 1 and High Speed 2, which was highlighted by the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham.

I welcome the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr Goodwill), to the Front Bench. It is a pleasure to see him there.

Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking, at least from this side of the Chamber—I must say what a great view one gets from the back of the stands—I am happy to speak in support of amendment 17.

I know that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (John McDonnell) has had to go to Westminster Hall to check up on GCHQ, but, to use words that he would understand, I give him my fraternal solidarity and will support amendment 23. I know that it is rather impractical, but that does not always stop us supporting an amendment. The issues with Heathrow, which affect his constituents badly, also affect mine.

As the Heathrow loop is in the second phase of the project, we cannot have a decision on it. The Minister said that connectivity with Heathrow will be amply secured through Old Oak Common, so regardless of any decision on the expansion of Heathrow, which I hope will not happen, perhaps we can save a bit of money and scrap the Heathrow loop straight away. That would bring great benefits to the London borough of Hillingdon where we stand as one, although not to my constituency specifically because there will be tunnelling there. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner (Mr Hurd) and I face some severe problems. It would help immeasurably if there was no Heathrow loop, because the tunnelling could be extended past the houses in Ickenham. There is understandably a considerable amount of opposition to HS2 emerging just next to those properties.

I will not take long, because I want to get on to the proposals on compensation and mitigation. Perhaps I am being rather optimistic. It is a very important subject. I would like to have had the chance to mention the awful position of the Hillingdon outdoor activities centre. I want that to be looked at. My hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner has written to the Minister about various matters and I back him up entirely.

Unlike the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington, who will oppose the Bill tonight, I will support it in the hope and expectation that our gentle requests will be looked on more favourably if I am not too much of a pain during this early outing on this matter. However, I say to my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench that after this rare outbreak of good-natured bonhomie, I will be going back to the default position of grumpy old man of Uxbridge.

It behoves all of us who are sceptical about HS2 to suggest practical and realistic alternatives.

Some people say that the project is about capacity, not speed, and others say that it is about speed, not capacity, but most of the emphasis has been on capacity. The capacity problem is between London and Birmingham, not elsewhere in the country, where we could have more trains without any difficulty. It is that section of our railway network that I will address.

There is an alternative route from Birmingham Snow Hill to Paddington. The trains currently run to Marylebone, but they could easily run to Paddington, which would be quicker and would link up with Crossrail. InterCity 125s could run on that line from the centre of Birmingham to Paddington—a very convenient station—at very little expense. That would solve the capacity problem between London and Birmingham.

I will go further and say that that route should be electrified, which could be done at a modest cost. If it was electrified, electric trains could run directly from Birmingham Snow Hill—and, indeed, from Birmingham airport and elsewhere—into the City of London, Canary Wharf and beyond via a link to Crossrail at Old Oak Common.

My constituency neighbour is a renowned expert on the railways. Would his proposal cost less than HS2? Does he have a figure for it?

My railway expert friends tell me that the electrification of that line would cost about £500 million and that the track work that would be required at Old Oak Common to link it to Crossrail would cost about £10 million. We are talking about tiny amounts of money in comparison with HS2.

There could also be a direct link to Heathrow for the electric trains, which would go off at Greenford and on to the Great Western main line. That would link to Heathrow at one end and to Crossrail at the other. Trains would be able to go from Heathrow to Birmingham airport or the centre of Birmingham, as well as from Canary Wharf to the centre of Birmingham. That would double the capacity between London and Birmingham very easily. The line could even go on to Stratford and there could be a transfer—although perhaps not an easy one—to the channel tunnel rail link and to Eurostar. That would solve the only real capacity problem, because the others involve train frequencies. My railway engineer and signalling friends say it is easy to run more trains, but the problem is that franchisees of privatised railways like crowded trains. It is more profitable to run crowded trains than half-empty trains, so if as many people as possible are crammed on to fewer trains, more profit is made.

The hon. Gentleman talks about capacity between London and Birmingham, but HS2 addresses capacity around Birmingham. Commuter traffic has increased by about 20% in and around Birmingham—a capacity issue that HS2 will address. It is not just about capacity between London and Birmingham.

I would like to explore the hon. Gentleman’s argument further. I would have thought that was a local transport matter and that we need more investment in local transport, not HS2.

The development of HS2 will free up capacity on the west coast main line and on the radial routes serving Birmingham. That is an important benefit of increasing capacity with HS2.

I am convinced that elsewhere on the network train frequencies and train paths are the problem. We have far too few trains on the existing network, and we could run many more trains much more quickly. The only real tight capacity is between London and Birmingham. Beyond that it is not difficult.

I do not want to speak for too long, but I want to mention other routes. In 1990, British Rail ran a test train from London to Edinburgh on the east coast main line. They cleared the line of everything else, ran the train straight through with a two-minute stop at Newcastle, and did the journey in three and a half hours—two minutes faster than the original time proposed for HS2.

Is not the answer to my hon. Friend’s objection the fact that, as he said, they cleared the line of everything else? The point is that we cannot just clear the line of everything else.

Perhaps my hon. Friend will allow me to continue. Clearing the lines is obviously not possible all the time, but upgrading the line so that we can have through trains is not difficult. [Hon. Members: “It is!”] I have specifics. We need to double the viaduct north of Welwyn, and four-track the line between Huntingdon and Peterborough. We need flyovers at Peterborough and Newark, and we could then have non-stop trains straight through to Edinburgh if we wished. The train would have to slow down at Newcastle and York, but by and large the journey could be done in three and a half hours maximum. That is the east coast main line.

As we know, the midlands main line is going to be electrified, and we also want it to improve. With some track remodelling at Leicester and Derby we could make the trains run faster there. We need to straighten out the line at Market Harborough and restore the straighter line that used to exist, and we must take freight traffic off those three lines. That is the key to more train paths, because if we can take all the freight off those lines, we will not have a problem. To do that, however, we need an alternative. We have such an alternative: a GB freight route, which I have been promoting for some years with colleagues from the railway industry. We have a detailed scheme, carefully worked out and costed, to build a dedicated freight line from the channel tunnel to Glasgow, linking all the main conurbations of Britain, and capable of taking lorries on trains. We need to take freight off the road—and off the main lines, of course, but 80% of freight travels by lorry, not by container or other means. To get lorries on trains is crucial to modal shift, and to do that we need a gauge capacity that is capable of taking lorries on trains.

The hon. Gentleman is incredibly generous in giving way a second time. Will he say why he feels that his proposal—which, knowing his interest in this subject over many years, I have no doubt is well thought out and accurate—has not been considered? Why is HS2 on the drawing board if the hon. Gentleman’s proposal is less invasive and more cost effective?

I thank the hon. Lady—my close neighbour—for her question. We took a team of 15 people, including rail constructers, and representatives from Eurotunnel and the supermarkets, to meet Geoff Hoon when he was Secretary of State for Transport. It was clear they were worried that our scheme might conflict with HS2, not because it would take up the same track, but because it might remove freight from the railway lines and make the case for HS2 weaker. We argued that HS2 could go ahead if it was thought essential, but that a GB freight route is much more vital to Britain’s economy than HS2 has ever been. What is the total cost of the scheme? A generous figure, based on outturn costs for HS1, would, we think, be less than £6 billion—a tiny fraction of HS2.

The hon. Gentleman has mentioned various lines, links between the west coast and east coast main lines and so on, but he has not mentioned the Trent Valley spur on the west coast main line, on which Nuneaton station in my constituency sits. That is an extremely important junction, and the hon. Gentleman’s proposals will not do anything to help capacity there or improve fast services from Nuneaton, which HS2 would do.

I think I mentioned that on other lines there is no problem with capacity, provided we are prepared to increase train frequencies. We do not do that, however, because it is not profitable to do so while private franchisees can make more profit by running fewer trains with more people on them—very simple. The rest of the railway network clearly needs heavy investment, and Network Rail is undertaking a lot of that. This specific scheme would solve many problems and be a fraction of the cost of HS2. Indeed, upgrading the other lines I have suggested would solve almost all the capacity problems that we are now facing.

I am a passionate believer in railways, but if we are serious about them we must invest in dedicated rail-freight capacity, as I have suggested. At the moment the continent of Europe is building large rail-freight capacity right across the continent; indeed, trains can go from China to Europe even now. We will miss out on that if we cannot transport lorries on trains. We must be able to put lorry trailers on trains, or we will not see a shift from road to rail and the rest of Europe will leave us behind. For the sake of our economy, we must invest heavily in dedicated rail freight that is capable of taking lorries on trains.

It is a pleasure to be called in this debate and to follow the hon. Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins) who has obviously thought the issue through. Some of his proposals are quite interesting, but the fact of the matter is that the success of privatisation and competition means that we will need the capacity—we might need the hon. Gentleman’s suggestions on top of HS2.

I will support amendment 17, and I thank Ministers for finally including the Y route in the Bill. Two years ago when this scheme was first suggested, there was a great debate between Ministers and civil servants about whether we should build a line just to Birmingham, and a separate one to Manchester and Leeds. I am really grateful to Ministers that the Bill includes London to Birmingham, East Midlands, Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester. I would of course suggest that the left side of the Y could be built faster and quicker, and would be far better, and I agree with the right hon. Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) that we need to look seriously at the connection. International business men and foreign tourists will want to get on trains in Europe, bypass London and go straight beyond Manchester on to the spur to get to central, rural Lancashire and see the delights available. The sooner we can get that done, the better.

If HS2 is going to be built, will my hon. Friend support my suggestion that it is started in the north? That would enable the Howard Davies commission to report, we could look at airport capacity in the south, and my hon. Friend would get his wish much quicker because connectivity among northern cities could be established.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that intervention. I always thought that was my suggestion, but never mind. I do not know how the engineering will be done—I assume it will start in many different points and I agree with my right hon. Friend. One of my earliest interventions in a debate on this issue—two years ago, I think—was to suggest that we start construction now in Glasgow and Edinburgh, while the southern counties make up their minds which back garden HS2 is going to go through.

Is not the fact of the matter that the real bottleneck is Birmingham? If we follow the suggestion that we start the project from the north, Birmingham will become an absolute nonsense in terms of railway transport.

I thank my right hon. Friend for bringing us back to reality—[Interruption.] Sorry, he is my hon. Friend, soon to be right hon. Friend.

We must be serious on capacity. I and fellow Lancashire Members have been fighting for some time for a direct train service from London Euston to Blackpool. We had the agreement of Virgin, and a cross-party group was involved, including me, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys (Paul Maynard) and the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden). We thought we were there, but only a month ago, Network Rail said, “We cannot put on two direct trains per day from Euston to Blackpool because the line cannot cope.”

I confirm what the hon. Gentleman says, although I would much prefer all trains to turn right at Preston to go to Blackburn. The truth is we all have an interest in the prosperity of Lancashire as a whole. I would like the line to start from the north, but all the economic arguments say that it should start from the south. Does he accept that the benefit of the reduction in journey time to Preston is one of the best in the plans for the area? The journey time is improved by 44 minutes—it is cut to an hour and a half—which will have a dramatic impact not only on Preston and central Lancashire, but on the whole county.

Lancaster is not on the line yet—it might be eventually, and I might stand here in future asking for a stop there—but we will reap the benefit, as the right hon. Gentleman says. The spur line that will be built means that high-speed trains will enter the normal west coast main line just above Wigan. We will enjoy the benefits of that service, which will be fantastic for the economy of our area.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns), the previous Minister. I congratulate him on his incredible speech and I am grateful for the support he has provided all the way through the process to get the Bill right.

Another issue is the north-south balance. People in some areas of the north ask why we are spending that money. I am grateful for what appears to be an outbreak of political consensus. Some Government Members and some northern Members were worried that the consensus would break down, but from what right hon. and hon. Opposition Members have said today, it looks like the consensus is restored, for which I am grateful.

I, too, am pleased to hear of consensus. Does my hon. Friend share my concern at the comments of the shadow Chancellor, who says that the money would be better spent on roads, cross-country rail, affordable houses, hospitals and schools rather on important and essential infrastructure for our children and grandchildren?

I am tempted to go down that line, but, given the outbreak of consensus, I will stick with that. To be fair, northern MPs of every party have sat on the all-party parliamentary group on rail in the north, and fought together to get the northern hub from the Government—an £800 million completed deal. They have fought together for electrification of the connection between Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. Southern and London MPs should realise that, on the current system, I can get to London quicker than I can get to Birmingham, Sheffield or Leeds. That must be ridiculous in the 21st century. The Bill is part and parcel of such connectivity.

I reassure the hon. Gentleman that, in parts of the north such as Sheffield, the consensus has never broken. We have always been firmly in favour in principle. The city’s MPs, the city council—unanimously —and the chamber of commerce, and the local enterprise partnership support high-speed rail as a matter of principle.

I would assume nothing less, having worked with the hon. Gentleman and fellow northern MPs to get that extra investment. To be fair, the Government have delivered in the non-high speed section across the piece. In my small patch, they have agreed to electrification from Blackpool to Preston. Only a few months ago, nearly £1 million was spent on Lancaster station to enable trains to turn round. All those improvements are happening as I speak. They are all part of the connectivity in the Bill, which provides preparatory expenditure for the

“network referred to in subsection (1)”

and expenditure on the network that

“connects with the existing railway transport network.”

For me, and for parts of the north where the high-speed rail will not reach, that is the key to our support for the Bill.

I am grateful for the cross-party support, but some hon. Members rightly have concerns in their constituencies. I ask them to look at the proposals in the context of the north-south situation. Currently, it seems to my constituents that, when London demands something, things suddenly happen. Perhaps that is an exaggeration, but Crossrail cost £16 billion, and nearly £6 billion has been spent on Thameslink—we will take its second-class trains, which will apparently be marvellous for us.

If only it were so easy for London! It has taken 14 years to get investment on the Liverpool street east coast line. I am very grateful to Ministers for it, but it was not provided instantly.

That could be a benefit of having a Conservative London Mayor. From my perspective in Lancashire, I see that the Olympics cost £9 billion; there are continual tube upgrades; I do not know how much is spent on subsidising bus fares in London; HS1 into London cost £6 billion; we are immediately talking about Crossrail 2. I am not complaining—they are all marvellous things.

I am enjoying the hon. Gentleman’s broadcast on behalf of the Lancashire national party. Perhaps there will be a letter to Scotland asking to come and join us. Do not the spend on high-speed rail and the debate it generates pale into insignificance compared with the money we spend in the blink of an eye on nuclear weapons? At the very least, the spend on high-speed rail will leave something tangible in the country. That cannot be said of some of our spending.

I assumed we were already joined to Scotland. That could be an exaggeration—[Laughter.] For some of my constituents, it is not an exaggeration.

For coalition Members, one key thing was to rebalance the economy of this country. For me, high-speed rail is a key part of that. I am grateful for Ministers’ work in getting us this far on the Y shape. I wish we were already into a third high-speed rail or whatever, but High Speed 2 is fundamental to our commitment to deliver a rebalanced economy between the regions and London. I will support the Bill tonight.

A number of amendments in the group deal with the extension of HS2 to Scotland. Unsurprisingly, I shall concentrate my remarks on the case for the building of HS2 and the benefits it will bring to Scotland and my city of Edinburgh.

It is patently clear that the improvement to the railway system that HS2 will deliver will benefit Scotland. At the moment, we suffer from capacity problems further south on the rail network. Unless something is done to deal with them, as rail demand increases, journey times and railway services to Scotland will be affected. We will obviously benefit from the reduction of 45 minutes that will be brought about by HS2, and I hope that further reductions will be achieved in the fullness of time.

We will also benefit from the way in which HS2 will help to rebalance the economy towards the north of Britain. The development of HS2 will lead to a reduction in the pressure for growth in domestic air travel, which will have other advantages. Extending high-speed rail to the points proposed by HS2 and beyond will also improve the business case for high-speed. All the evidence suggests that the business case for the improvements further south will be strengthened by extending HS2 to the points currently provided for and beyond to Scotland as well.

The hon. Gentleman is obviously very keen on HS2, but can he explain why Lord Prescott has called the project “the great northern con”?

I did not hear those comments. Front Benchers will put forward the Labour position on the matter, and I am pleased that this high-speed rail project was started under the Labour Government of which Lord Prescott was a member.

The case for HS2 is overwhelming, and that is why we have seen a wide degree of political consensus across the parties in Scotland and certainly in my city. It is a project that has the support of the business community, the local authority and practically all political parties in Edinburgh.

In Committee, I became aware of the overwhelming evidence from both business leaders and local government leaders across the north of England in favour of the Bill. The points that have been made by my hon. Friend and others underscore that.

Interestingly, in Scotland, it is not only those communities and councils that would directly benefit from the high-speed line that are in favour. Communities further north recognise that, although they might not get a direct benefit, it would still be beneficial overall to the Scottish economy. That is the kind of constructive approach that other communities not directly served by the line should note and use as the basis for their approach to the development of HS2.

One of my concerns was the possible temptation to extend the line as far as Birmingham and never any further north. I therefore welcome the commitment in the Bill to go further north in England and the possibility that the line will go even further than outlined in the HS2 documents. I will look for any commitment for high-speed rail to go beyond the current terminus points for HS2. I would also ask why we have to accept a 20-year programme for high-speed rail to go from London to York and somewhere near Wigan when other countries seem to manage to do it much faster than we do. I hope that that issue can be addressed in the preparations for the scheme over the next few months and years.

I can confirm that our new Minister, Baroness Kramer, will be in Scotland tomorrow and we will no doubt hear more on that subject then.

I am grateful for that update, which has been circulating over the last hour or so as the information has reached the public domain. I presume that Baroness Kramer will not announce that high-speed is coming to Scotland, but I am looking forward to some positive announcements tomorrow. There is an opportunity here for the Scottish Government—of whatever colour, as we are obviously talking about a long-term process—to work with the UK Government. It is recognised that it will be possible to do some work on high-speed rail in Scotland, perhaps to link Edinburgh and Glasgow but also to provide the basis for a route further south. Although we cannot immediately have a high-speed route all the way from Edinburgh and Glasgow to London, other sections of high-speed rail would certainly benefit the Scottish economy. Just as the business case for high-speed rail further south is strengthened by bringing into it business from Scotland, any high-speed rail in Scotland that would bring passengers into the GB-wide high-speed system would be beneficial for the rest of the country.

I understand why those communities that will not be served directly by the line, especially those that currently have a good rail service, will be concerned that they could lose out as a result of HS2 being constructed. The answer for those communities is to engage as actively as they can with central Government and neighbouring local authorities to try to ensure that they put the case to get the best benefits. It is also important that connectivity is examined, the point of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench.

It is important for the Government, and for Front Benchers of all colours, to use the opportunity of developing HS2 to rebuild the vision for rail in the country as a whole. HS2 is not just a question of trains running on the high-speed line and then going no further; they can serve other destinations in the way they will serve Edinburgh and Glasgow. On the continent, high-speed trains do not just run on high-speed lines; they serve other communities too. That is something we should aim for in Britain.

The case for high-speed developments beyond HS2 is powerful. I understand why a Government would not want to start putting down lines on a map to other parts of Britain, because that would set off scare stories about costs, but the points made by the right hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) on possible development should not be lost or