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High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill

Volume 585: debated on Tuesday 9 September 2014

[Relevant documents: Ninth Report from the Transport Committee, Session 2013-14, High speed rail: on track?, HC 851, and the Government response, HC 1085 Tenth Report from the Transport Committee, Session 2010-12, High Speed Rail, HC 1185, and the Government response, HC 1754.]

I beg to move,

That the Order of 29 April 2014 (High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill (Carryover)) be varied as follows:

After paragraph 10 of the Order insert–

“10A. The Order of the House of 26 June 2013 relating to electronic deposit of documents shall apply in respect of a Bill presented as mentioned in paragraph 2 or 4 as in respect of the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill read for the first time in the current Session.”

With this, we will take the following:

That it be a further Instruction to the Select Committee to which the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill is committed–

(1) that the Select Committee have power to consider–

(a) amendments to accommodate the requirements of landowners and occupiers in:

(i) the parishes of the Little Missenden, Great Missenden, Wendover, Stoke Mandeville, Stone with Bishopstone and Hartwell, Quainton, Preston Bissett and Turweston in the County of Buckinghamshire,

(ii) the parish of Finmere in the County of Oxfordshire,

(iii) the parish of Chipping Warden and Edgcote in the County of Northamptonshire,

(iv) the parish of Little Packington in the County of Warwickshire,

(v) the parish of Berkswell in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull, and

(vi) the City of Birmingham;

(b) amendments to accommodate changes to the design of the works authorised by

the Bill in:

(i) the parishes of Stone with Bishopstone and Hartwell, Fleet Marston, Steeple Claydon and Twyford in the County of Buckinghamshire,

(ii) the parish of Mixbury in the County of Oxfordshire,

(iii) the parishes of Culworth and Whitfield in the County of Northamptonshire,

(iv) the parishes of Radbourne, Southam, Stoneleigh and Curdworth in the County of Warwickshire, and

(v) the City of Birmingham;

(c) amendments to accommodate the requirements of utility undertakers in:

(i) the parishes of Denham, Wendover, Ellesborough, Stone with Bishopstone and Hartwell, Quainton and Grendon Underwood and the town of Aylesbury in the County of Buckinghamshire,

(ii) the parishes of Offchurch, Burton Green, Little Packington, Coleshill, Curdworth, Wishaw and Moxhull and Middleton in the County of Warwickshire,

(iii) the parishes of Drayton Bassett, Hints with Canwell, Weeford, Swinfen and Packington, Fradley and Streethay, Longdon, Kings Bromley and Lichfield in the County of Staffordshire, and

(iv) the parish of Bickenhill in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull, and amendments for connected purposes;

(2) that any petition against amendments to the Bill which the Select Committee is empowered to make shall be referred to the Select Committee if–

(a) the petition is presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office not later than the end of the period of four weeks beginning with the day on which the first newspaper notice of the amendments was published, and

(b) the petition is one in which the petitioners pray to be heard by themselves or through counsel or agents.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.

We are here to debate the merits of two motions: one instructing the HS2 Select Committee to consider 55 minor amendments to the Bill and to hear petitions against them, should there be any; the other to allow the documents relating to this additional provision and any other in the future to be deposited in electronic format.

Before I deal with the merits of the motions, let me put them in context. The House will recall that in April it agreed, by a large majority, to give the hybrid Bill for phase 1 of High Speed 2 a Second Reading. The Bill provides the necessary powers to allow the construction and operation of phase 1 between London and the west midlands.

On Second Reading, the House agreed the principle of the Bill, which is that there should be a high-speed railway that will run between Euston and the west coast main line in Handsacre in Staffordshire, with a spur to Curzon Street in Birmingham. There will be intermediate stations at Old Oak Common and Birmingham Interchange, located near the NEC and Birmingham international airport.

Following Second Reading, the Bill, as it is a hybrid, was remitted to a specially appointed Select Committee. This Committee, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr Syms), is tasked with considering the petitions lodged against the Bill by those directly and specially affected by it, a task which it has already started with commendable diligence and good judgment, for which I thank it. Indeed, it is continuing its work in Committee Room 5 today.

In parallel with this, and as a key part of the process, HS2 Ltd has been engaging further with those petitioners in order better to understand their concerns and determine whether these can be addressed without the need for them to appear before the Committee. This has proved successful with a number of petitioners, including Birmingham city council and Centro. As a result of some of those discussions and further developments in the design for the railway, we have identified the need to make 55 minor amendments to the Bill as originally deposited.

The motion before the House sets out their broad location but, despite their minor nature, I think it would be useful to explain them in a little more detail. They are mainly changes to access tracks required to construct or maintain the railway and refinements to National Grid’s requirements for electricity wire diversions. For example, where a farmer has suggested that it would be better to route an access track over this field rather than that field, that change is included in this additional provision. Additional land is also included around some electricity pylons where National Grid’s requirements have been refined.

These changes, in total, will not increase the overall project budget or target price for phase 1. Indeed, they are expected to cost slightly less than our original proposals. The estimate of expense for this additional provision, which will be published if this motion passes, sets out the total cost of these works at around £965,000. However, due to the prescriptive nature of this process, it does not set out the net position, which is, as I have already said, a slight saving.

The first motion being debated today instructs the Committee to consider these amendments, and to hear petitions against them. It is important to note that the motion does not agree that these changes should be made; it just agrees that the Committee be allowed to consider them.

Subject to the approval of this motion, the additional provision and a supplementary environmental statement describing the likely significant environmental effects of the amendments will be deposited in Parliament, and in local authority offices and libraries in those locations affected by the changes. Following deposit of these documents, a public consultation on the supplementary environmental statement will commence, which will close on 14 November. This consultation is 56 days long, in line with the approach taken for the main environmental statement and in excess of the minimum requirements in Standing Orders. As with the main environmental statement consultation, the responses to the consultation will be analysed by Parliament’s independent assessor and the assessor’s report will be tabled in the House ahead of Third Reading.

There will also be a petitioning period for those directly and specially affected by these changes to submit petitions against them. This petitioning period will begin on Friday 19 September and end on 17 October for all petitioners.

The people now petitioning have already petitioned and paid their £20. Will they be able to petition without paying a further £20?

Yes, they certainly will. Indeed, this is a “buy one, get one free” offer from this Government and I can reassure those who are affected and wish to petition that there will be that provision for a free opportunity.

Newspaper notices will be published in national and local newspapers over the next two weeks, alerting the public to these changes and the opportunity to feed into the process by petitioning or responding to the consultation, as appropriate.

The second motion before us confirms that the permission given by the House in July last year to deposit environmental and other information in relation to this Bill in electronic format applies to additional provisions as well. Electronic deposit of the Bill and related environmental information was an innovation welcomed by the public, as well as avoiding the need and cost of printing documents, a single set of which weighed 1.5 tonnes. I believe that it is only sensible that the same approach be taken for this additional provision and any subsequent ones that might come forward, although I hasten to add this will not be such a weighty document.

As with the Bill deposit, the motion is permissive. It allows those locations where documents are to be deposited to choose whether they would like documents in electronic form only or also in hard copy. Many local authorities affected by these amendments have already indicated their preference for electronic format. A similar motion to this has already been endorsed in the other place.

I hope that the House will agree that these are two very sensible motions to demonstrate the progress that this Government are making in transforming the country’s infrastructure and economic geography. It also demonstrates that we are doing this in the right way, listening to the concerns of those affected and, where possible, making changes to reduce impacts. I commend these motions to the House.

Before I move on to the detail of the motions before us, may I welcome the Minister back to his place? I know it has been a particularly busy couple of weeks in the Department for Transport, especially as Ministers from both parties race to catch up with Labour’s rail policies. First, we learned in The Times that the Liberal Democrats now apparently support a public sector operator, even though they have rushed through the privatisation of East Coast Trains in this Parliament. Then we heard the Chancellor say that rail fares would be capped at the retail prices index in January, just three weeks after the Transport Secretary said that the policy would result in

“more debt than our children and grandchildren could ever hope to repay.”

Last year, the Chancellor waited until Christmas to say there would be a freeze. This year, the very next day he took it away. Evening rail fares rose yesterday in the north by up to 162%—

Order. I have to say to the hon. Lady that one quip or joke is fine, but we are discussing motion No. 3 on the Order Paper and this is not a general debate. I therefore fear she might have to save her humour for another debate, and return to the motion please.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am sorry not to be able to continue to amuse the House.

I am sure that while the Chancellor was busy with all his whatnots, Ministers were busy preparing these changes to the High-Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill this weekend so that it could be considered by the Bill Committee following the vote today. In April, the House endorsed the principle of building a new high-speed rail line from London to Birmingham. The case for introducing more capacity is clear. Passenger numbers have doubled over the past 20 years; the railways are carrying the same number of passengers as they did in the 1920s on a network that is now half the size. Anyone who believes in encouraging the use of rail freight, in supporting modal shift and in tackling road congestion should want to see that growth continue. However, most of our alignments were built to serve Victorian service patterns, and many of our civil structures date back to the 19th century.

The west coast main line, the vital rail artery connecting the north-west, the west midlands and London, is approaching the limits of its capacity. As many hon. Members will know, there are also growing capacity constraints on the east coast and midland main lines. This is no theoretical challenge. Our lack of capacity means that it is increasingly difficult to run more inter-city, freight and commuter services.

Network Rail is being asked to deliver substantial investment over the next five years, but Railtrack’s legacy on the west coast main line is a powerful warning against relying on incremental upgrades. De-scoped, over-budget and over-time, the west coast modernisation project cost the taxpayer £9 billion pounds and delivered only a fraction of the capacity we need, and, just a few years after completion, that extra capacity has been exhausted. I know from speaking to the local authorities and hon. Members whose constituencies are on the route that they never wish to relive that experience. Of course we support electrification programmes and other route improvements, but after the Norton Bridge area works are completed, the options for upgrading the west coast main line further will be limited.

A new approach is needed. The last Government developed the initial proposals for HS2, but after the election, some of the project’s momentum was sadly lost. Labour rightly drew attention to the project’s rising costs, and we went so far as to change the law to ensure better value for taxpayers’ money, through an amendment that stood in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh). Indeed, Baroness Kramer has described the changes, in another place, as putting in place

“a very vigorous reporting process under which the Government must report back annually and record any deviation from budget, and the consequences of that…which has put in place a very intense scrutiny process around the budget.”—[Official Report, House of Lords, 19 November 2013; Vol. 749, c. 949.]

Since his appointment, David Higgins has taken great strides to restore confidence in the project, and we welcome the renewed focus on connectivity and integration with the existing transport network, especially for phase 2 of the project. Of course there can be no room for complacency on costs. The phase 1 route of HS2 is currently being subjected to very close scrutiny, and it is inevitable that some changes will be made, both through the petitioning process and through agreements made directly with HS2 Ltd. The Minister estimated that those additional provisions would lead to a net saving, although he did not specify its exact level. Will he give us an estimate of the cost implications of the alterations announced today, and the net saving involved? I would be happy to take an intervention from him on this point.

I can tell the hon. Lady that it is a small net saving; I am sure that the shadow Chancellor will not be able to spend it on all his uncosted pet projects.

It’s a laugh a minute today. The net saving is of course welcome. Will the Minister also tell us, when he responds to the debate, when we can expect the first report on HS2’s initial expenditure, under the terms of the preparation Act?

There are two motions before us today: the carry-over motion and the instruction motion to the Select Committee. The hybrid Bill is reckoned to be the longest piece of legislation ever produced, once the environmental statement is included. When the new documents published today are included, it will have broken its own record. It is therefore right that the provisions for the electronic depositing of Bill documents should continue, although there should also continue to be a number of specified sites where residents can consult physical copies.

The instruction motion requires the Committee to consider a number of alterations to the route, which take the form of additional provisions. The additional provisions published by the Department cover a range of recommendations, from the location of balancing ponds and the preservation of public rights of way to the maintenance of golf course car parks. They mainly affect the constituencies of Government Members and I shall do my best to finish my speech in a timely fashion, because I know that a number of hon. Members wish to speak.

It must be noted, however, that these provisions cover the end of phase 1 in Lichfield and Birmingham Curzon Street to Hillingdon, but no further. I am mindful of the many contributions made in the House by London colleagues, especially those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), who I note is in his place today. It is vital that, when future additional provisions are brought forward, those areas should be given at least equal consideration to the local authorities affected by the proposals.

As a London MP who is majorly affected by HS2, I echo what my hon. Friend has just said. I wish that the Minister had mentioned London in his speech. I know that it is not the subject of the motions, but will he look again at the subject of the compensation for London being adequate and commensurate with that being given to the rest of the country? I have just had details of a brand-new part of the rail link dumped on me today, as an afterthought, in the form of a letter. If there are to be significant changes, proper notice must be given to Members of Parliament and residents, and a full consultation must be carried out. That is not happening at the moment.

My hon. Friend speaks on behalf of his constituents, who will be particularly affected by the proposals for Old Oak Common.

In the area around Euston station in particular, considerable uncertainty has been caused by revisions to the designs for HS2’s London terminus. Three times now, alternative plans for Euston have been presented. Local residents deserve better.

I should like to reassure the hon. Lady. I had lunch with the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) the other day and saw some of the issues at first hand. Indeed, I think we got a freebie from the restaurateur; we should find out whether we need to declare it. Similar changes are being progressed in the London area, and they will be brought forward when other changes in London, such as the HS1 link removal, are ready to be brought forward, so that impacts such as those on transport can be considered in the round. I remind the House that the changes being debated today were communicated to landowners and to others who might be affected, including Members of Parliament, back in May.

I thank the Minister for that response, particularly in relation to Euston.

It is to be hoped that we will see confirmation before the election that the additional provisions mechanism can be used to resolve some of the long-standing mitigation issues in Euston. We do not object to the principle of making changes to the Bill in this manner. After all, Parliament has already voted to remove the unsatisfactory link to HS1 that was included in the original wording of the Bill. It is likely that further refinements will be made as the Bill progresses through Parliament. However, it is important that these changes are seen not as a final draft but rather as proposals that must be subjected to full scrutiny and a proper consultation period. When there are objections—as there might be, given the changes to land requirements set out in the additional provisions—those petitioners must be heard on the same basis as those who have already started to appear before the Bill Committee. I look forward to further improvements to the scheme.

HS2 is the right project, and it can be improved further. On 1 October, we will mark the 50th anniversary of the first Shinkansen service. The date is perhaps unlikely to be celebrated in this country, except in specialist publications, but it will be a rather sobering reminder that high-speed trains were running abroad when many parts of the UK were still reliant on steam locomotives. High-speed rail is a proven technology, and it has been proven in this country. I recently saw for myself the benefits that HS1 has helped to bring to Kent, including the greatly improved journey times and the connections that allow fast services to radiate out from the core high-speed line. HS2 must similarly be fully integrated with the existing network, and that issue that will no doubt be revisited in David Higgins’s upcoming report.

HS2 should also be seen as an opportunity for utilising the skills gained through the Crossrail project, for training a new generation of highly skilled construction engineers and railway operators and for supporting the 120,000 jobs in the UK’s supply chain. To that end, we want to see a copy of the Government’s long-promised jobs and skills strategy for HS2.

The hon. Lady is making an extremely interesting speech. She called for HS2 to be part of an integrated system with the existing conventional railway line. Will she elaborate a little on how she sees that being possible?

Order. Not on this motion. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would like to have a conversation with the hon. Lady outside the Chamber, but she will talk only about motion No. 3 from the Dispatch Box, please.

I will take your direction, Madam Deputy Speaker.

Overall, we want the railways to support regional development, connect isolated communities and help deliver the balanced economic growth that this country needs. We want to build 21st-century infrastructure in the midlands and the north, not just in London and the south-east, and we will continue to support HS2 as the necessary legislation, including these motions, progresses through Parliament.

I welcome the Minister’s opening statement on these motions, but may I issue a word of warning? When I hear a politician say, “Buy one, get one free”, the other phrase that comes to mind is, “Always beware of politicians bearing gifts.” Innocuous though this matter seems, I am not sure that the Minister can get away without answering a few questions. I have no intention of dividing the House as this is a technical matter referring changes to the Select Committee, so for those who are in any doubt may I say that I do not intend to cause too much of a fuss but I do intend to comment?

We find ourselves back in this Chamber once again with the Government asking colleagues to vote on matters relating to HS2. I recall that the previous time the Government asked MPs to vote on this project, we did so in the absence of the Major Projects Authority report, which identifies the risks of the project. That is still unavailable to MPs and to the very Select Committee to which the new changes are being referred. I reiterate that it is not fair to ask the Select Committee to evaluate the changes, or any of the other proposals being made by HS2 Ltd, in the absence of the full MPA set of reports identifying the risks we are taking with this project.

I was surprised that more detail was not available on the changes before we arrived in this place. The Minister was good enough to send me details of the one change that affects my constituency. However, 20 out of the 55 changes affect Buckinghamshire, and issuing the list I had sent to me at 1.30 pm today does not give colleagues, particularly those who are not able to make representations in the same way as I am, an opportunity to study the detailed changes.

My right hon. Friend will recall that the Secretary of State wrote to her on 2 May with details of the change in her constituency, and other right hon. and hon. Members, both Government and Opposition, were contacted in the same way.

I am glad to have the Minister’s reassurance; that is not exactly how I understood it from my colleagues, but I will take his word for it. Having looked at the list, I find that I have one minor change in my constituency, which accommodates a footpath change at the request of my local landowner Mr Lund. I hope it accommodates his request in full, and I repeat that I was grateful to the Minister for providing details to me. However, I am not sure that details of the changes in other parts of Buckinghamshire have been communicated to my colleagues, because when I spoke to people in their offices I was told that the details that were made available in the list that arrived in my office at 1.30 pm had not been made available to Members or their staff, so no comments on the changes could be fed into the debate. As the Minister knows, several of the changes require a permanent acquisition of land to provide services or access for HS2.

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for giving way, and she is always generous with her time. This is a poor show, because this debate was in the business statement announced to the House on Thursday afternoon. Will she name her Conservative colleagues who cannot be bothered to turn up to represent their constituents?

The hon. Gentleman mistakes what I mean. Several Members of this House who serve as Ministers or in other positions of responsibility are unable to express, directly on the Floor of the House, the views of their constituents. I am sometimes permitted to make points on their behalf and at their request, which is usually the way we accommodate such matters, as he knows.

At the moment, my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher), for example, is in Committee discussing the Modern Slavery Bill, where there might be votes. I know that he would otherwise very much wish to be here for the debate.

My hon. Friend makes a very valid point. The hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) knows that he was a little naughty with his intervention. He was trying to make people look bad, and this is not a time to do that. I can honestly say that all my colleagues, on both sides of the House, are fighting the corner for our constituents and trying to put their point across. The sort of point the hon. Gentleman makes is not particularly welcome.

Will my right hon. Friend emphasise that not just constituents who live on the proposed line of route but almost all constituents, including mine, are concerned about the enormous bill to the British taxpayer, to which they will have to contribute if this Bill goes through?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. The costs of the project are a matter of concern right across the board and to all Members. Hon. Members ought to bear in mind that today the Minister has brought savings to the Dispatch Box[Interruption.] He indicates to me that they are minute savings, but we know that size is not everything—savings are important. I hope that will go some way to showing that Ministers’ eyes are open at least to looking at cost savings ideas. I hope that they will be open to looking at other savings, not just monetary ones.

May I point out that there is not only a small saving but considerable improvement for my right hon. Friend’s constituent Mr Lund? Although I would not go so far as to say he is pleased to see the change, it is certainly an improvement on what was there before. May I remind the House that although we wrote in May to Members with details of the changes in their constituencies, we sent them an additional copy of the letter this morning, in case they had missed the earlier one? We have also tabled documents before the House so that any other right hon. or hon. Member who wishes to look at the detailed changes, on moving electricity pylons, rights of way and so on, can see what is before the House today. Nobody can be in any doubt about what we are discussing today.

I am grateful to the Minister for that. It was good of him to send the letter that he said was sent to me on 2 May. In his original letter to me he said it was sent on 1 May and we were looking in the wrong place, although I still have no record in my office of having received the letter on 2 May. That is just a small point of no real importance; this was just poor staff work.

I would like to know when the map books are going to be available—I believe 17 are affected—showing the changes, with the list of affected owners. I understand that they are not yet available, so will the Minister confirm when they will be published? When exactly will the notices and the newspaper advertisements be placed? I am willing to give way to allow him to answer that.

If they are available on Wednesday, that raises the question of why they could not have been available in time for this debate. The Minister is obviously not going to allow us to have the detail until after this debate, and we have to put up with that.

The purpose of today’s motion is to facilitate the depositing of the maps. That is why we are doing so on the first possible opportunity, should we get the consent of the House today, which is tomorrow.

I am grateful for the Minister’s clarification, but it would have been helpful if the map books had been available to Members before the debate.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington) was also concerned that he had not yet been given details of the proposals. Let me make a small point. It is hard for Members of Parliament to allay people’s fears or make the relevant representations if we do not have the details at the earliest opportunity. I am sure that some of the proposed changes will be welcomed—I certainly hope so. Sadly, the only change that my constituents want is the adoption of a longer tunnel under the area of outstanding natural beauty. That would save the violation of our so-called protected environment and the Committee Members to whom these changes are being committed some 550 petition hearings, which have been lined up because of the lack of support for the long tunnel so far.

Like the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), I am willing to offer the Minister a freebie lunch in Chesham and Amersham if he visits to look at the environment, the countryside and the grief that would be saved if the longer tunnel, which I understand is being considered by the Department, is accepted. I know that it is currently being studied by the engineering teams at HS2, and I hope that the Minister will confirm that any future changes from HS2 Ltd, which he mentioned in his letter of 28 August, will include the tunnel extension.

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. Will she confirm that it is a matter of regret that there is no agreement on the costs between HS2 and the promoters of the extended tunnel? Surely it should be possible for rational engineers, albeit from different sides of the argument, to reach a conclusion over the additional costs of a tunnel.

I think that engineers are talking to engineers. With the help of the Department, I have certainly facilitated meetings at which the tunnel has been discussed. The problem is that we do not have access to the costings prepared by HS2 Ltd, so we cannot make any comparisons. The truth of the matter is that we can make savings in time and money by reducing the need for those 550 petitions and we can save an area of outstanding natural beauty. If we can protect other areas of the country by kicking up a fuss, we should protect the one that is nearest to our capital city and the one that is so fragile that it would be irreparably damaged if this scheme were to go ahead as currently envisaged.

The office of the right hon. Member for Buckingham (John Bercow) is also concerned that uncertainty still exists for its constituents. During the last petitioning period, it came to light that some people who were affected by the proposal had heard nothing from HS2 Ltd. They heard about their properties being affected only by word of mouth from neighbours. All of us in this House wish to hear that such behaviour will not be repeated in this or any future case.

Following this debate, there will be a consultation on the environmental statement for the additional provisions running from 19 September to 14 November. However, the petitioning period for those who are affected runs only until 17 October. If 56 days have been allocated to look at the environmental impacts, people whose land is affected should not be disadvantaged and expected to respond with a petition in a shorter time frame. Will the Minister consider extending that petitioning period to the same closing date as the consultation on the environmental provisions?

Let me put this matter in context. This project has been going for nearly five years, and because of errors and omissions by HS2 and the Department there have been so many consultations and so many changes to periods of consultations that the closing dates and timetables continue to confuse people. It would be a good idea if we had just one date for the additional provisions. I hope that the Minister will give that thought some consideration.

What assessment has the Minister made of today’s motions and their compliance with key aspects of European environmental legislation, specifically the habitats directive and the environmental impact assessment directive, and the UK’s obligations under the Aarhus convention? As I understand it, the EIA directive requires the entire environmental effects of a project to be measured and consulted on rather than it being done in individual stages through salami slicing. Perhaps the Minister will address that in his response.

I said that I have no intention of dividing the House on this issue as it deals merely with changes to the process for scrutinising the project, but I must again make the point that this project as proposed is deeply unpopular not just with my constituents but with many others who, like me, do not think that the business case, the route and the lack of connectivity to other transport hubs justify the vast expenditure.

May I say how much I agree with the point that my right hon. Friend has made? Is she aware that if HS2 were to follow the route that we supported as the party in opposition, there would be less environmental damage and we would save £4 billion to £8 billion in costs?

My hon. Friend has long supported the other route. Before the election, it was the other route that was on the drawing board. Something happened when the coalition came into power that changed the original understanding that we all had. The Government still have time to look at this in a different way, and I urge them to start this project in the north and connect our great northern cities and then revisit these plans to make better connections to Heathrow and the channel tunnel and of course to provide the extra tunnelling, should it still apply, that would protect the environment in the Chilterns to the highest standards.

I am afraid that, after five years, feelings still run really high in my constituency. This week, the Buckinghamshire Examiner says that HS2 will cost the Chilterns £170 million. Chiltern district council has done a study of what the costs of this project will be to my local economy in my constituency. I hope the Minister will understand the damage that will be done to the Chilterns and that he will consider my words yet again.

The debate this afternoon strikes me as rather strange, as we are being asked to give the existing Select Committee power to consider amendments that we have not seen, which is fairly unusual in the House of Commons. If we are asked to agree to some amendment, we have usually had the opportunity to read and digest them and possibly to consult other people about them. The environmental statements are apparently ready but will not be issued until tomorrow, leaving us to proceed in ignorance. They will contain all the details. When people are considering the impact on their homes, businesses, schools or leisure provision, it is the detail that counts.

I must make it clear that the House is being asked not to approve the changes, but to allow the Committee to consider the changes and for petitions to be submitted to help them in that work.

I understand that, but if we had the detail, the House might decide that some amendments are so blindingly stupid that they should not be referred to the Select Committee in the first place. It remains the case that we are being asked to endorse these propositions without having seen them. Six groups of changes are, it is claimed, in response to the requirements of local people; four of them are in response to requirements of the public utilities; and five are for “minor changes of design” and—these are the magic words—“connected purposes”. What we are being asked to push through is not quite as specific as has been suggested.

Pretty much, yes, although I am opposed to the daft £20 billion cheque in the first place, and have been all along.

What bothers me, besides the famous “connected purposes” let out, is that we are also told:

“That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.”

According to HS2, the changes we are considering—or not really considering—this afternoon are minor, and we are placing this procedure within the Standing Orders of the House so that we have a sort of modern precedent for the Clerks to rely on if challenged. What concerns me is that the proposals that will eventually be made for the Euston part of my constituency cannot be considered as minor by anyone on earth.

On the right hon. Gentleman’s point about minor design changes, the same term is used in a letter written to me by the Department on 2 May. It cites three “minor changes”, which are in fact significant land acquisitions—at a National Grid sub-station; in the diversion of the Kenilworth greenway; and through provision of additional car parking at the national motorcycle museum. There is no indication in that letter of how compensation schemes would affect those lands, which are significantly outside the present qualifying area. Like him, I think that some of these minor changes seem quite significant to the landowners.

The right hon. Lady’s point simply emphasises how the detail is important. With Euston, however, it is not a matter of detail. The current proposal that the House voted through has been abandoned. In fact, it was abandoned before the House voted it through. The situation is utterly crazy. The proposition included in the Bill was basically to build a rather elegant lean-to engine shed at the west side of the existing Euston station, so most of the concern and the emphasis and the source of petitions have been from people, homes and businesses to the west of the station. The proposition now is to abandon that and demolish the whole of the existing Euston station, which will clearly take longer and extend the impact. More time will be required because of the increase in scale and the impact on businesses and people living to the east of the station will massively increase.

I share my right hon. Friend’s pain about the shifting sands. The letter to which I referred earlier, which I received today, invites me to a meeting this Sunday at which I will have

“an opportunity to learn more about a possible new rail link that has been proposed and how it might affect you. The new line would connect the planned HS2 and Crossrail interchange station at Old Oak Common with the West Coast Main Line.”

That might be very desirable—in fact, I thought it was happening already—but it suddenly introduces a new railway line that skirts around a few streets on the edge of my constituency. The picture changes every day, the consultation becomes redundant and we move to another phase.

Order. The hon. Gentleman might consider making his observations in an Adjournment debate. They are not directly relevant to the two motions we are discussing today, as far as I am aware, but he has put them on the record.

Although I understand the concerns of people who are directly affected by the propositions that are not quite before us this afternoon, my principal concern is the application of the Standing Orders to what is proposed and likely to be proposed at Euston, which will be the biggest building and engineering project in Britain for many a long year. Its impact will be phenomenal and I believe that it is wholly inappropriate for the Government to try to use such a procedure to push through changes on that scale and with such an impact.

I am increasingly worried about the process. My right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs Spelman) just said that in her letter she had been informed that four sites were subject to these additional provisions and changes, but the document issued to me at 1.30 today shows only two changes for Meriden. That reinforces the fact that there is a lack of clarity about the detail and there seems to be some confusion about what changes are being referred to the Committee. With a project of this size, we cannot afford such discrepancy.

Again, I sympathise with the right hon. Lady, because nowhere has been subjected to the absolutely stupendous incompetence of HS2 more than my constituency. HS2 proposed a link with HS1. Everyone said that that was crackers, HS2 said it was wonderful and then it had to drop it. HS2 proposed the lean-to engine shed proposal. Lots of people said that that was crackers, HS2 said it was the only thing it would be possible to do and that it would be extraordinarily expensive to have a full development of the whole station—and lo and behold, that is what is now being proposed. No apology has been issued to anyone, as far as I know, for this stupendous incompetence and ridiculousness. I understand that when an environmental statement is eventually issued, the consultation period will run concurrently with the petitioning period. That seems to me to be extremely unfair.

Let me explain the difference in scale between what is being formulated now and what is in the Bill. The works at Euston in the Bill were going to cost £2 billion, but HS2 let slip at meetings that it is now thinking in terms of £7 billion. Even a fellow Yorkshireman like the Minister would admit that that is a few bob more. It is people with that grasp of reality who are behind this scheme. In addition, and in a further source of perturbation for my constituents, HS2 now says that the new Euston, when finally completed and in operation, would not be able to cope with the increased number of passengers without the building of Crossrail 2 to help take passengers to and from Euston, at an additional cost of £20 billion. Will that be included in the new environmental statement and will it be subject to petitioning?

May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that none of the provisions we are considering relates to Euston or the part of the line around there, as they refer merely to the parishes?

The point that I am trying to make to the Minister—and to anyone else who cares to listen—is that we are being asked to endorse the approach set out by the Government by incorporating it in Standing Orders of the House. That could be taken as a precedent that such a procedure may apply to the massive changes at Euston, not just to the important but none the less much smaller changes in the parishes and towns to which the instruction motion refers. It is therefore perfectly legitimate for me to express my concerns about the threat to my constituents. That is what I was elected to do, and it is what I propose to continue doing.

With the leave of the House, I shall touch on several points raised during the debate.

I can tell my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) that the people along the line of route who are affected by the changes are aware of them. The changes are minor. The process has been described as a tidying-up exercise, although I recall the previous Government describing the treaty of Lisbon as a tidying-up exercise, so I should not go too far down that road. Of the 55 changes overall, there are 21 changes to access tracks, most of which, including the change in her constituency, are a result of discussions with farmers about developing preferable approaches. Some 20 areas of land will be required, mostly temporarily, so that National Grid can undertake works to rewire pylons. Three areas of land will be required temporarily for works to pipelines, while a further three areas are needed due to minor amendments for the laying of roads. There will be eight other changes, including with regard to car parking provision at the national motorcycle museum in the parish of Hampton-in-Arden.

Why did that change not appear to be included in the list about the additional provision that was given to me at 1.30pm?

It might be that just the parishes were listed, not the actual works, but I understand that the documentation laid before House did include that—[Interruption.] Indeed, I have been passed a bit of paper that might well reassure hon. Members. I am told that the changes relating to the motorcycle museum site are no longer being brought forward as a result of negotiations, so I must apologise to the House if the information was incorrect.

Such issues will be the subject of petitions that may be laid before the Select Committee. I believe that the petitioning period is adequate, especially given the limited scope of the changes. I underline that, at all times, we will seek to comply with all our obligations under EU and domestic legislation.

Many of the changes will be welcomed by landowners and people in the relevant areas. They have arisen partly as a result of our continuing negotiations with those affected by the building of HS2, and it is important that we ensure that people’s views are taken into account.

We need to look at the overall picture, and the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson) referred to changes that may take place in his constituency. We are aware not only of the permanent changes that will arise due to the line’s construction, especially to the station itself, but of how businesses in the area might be affected due to the construction. I spent an enjoyable lunchtime eating a meal with the right hon. Gentleman in one of the area’s Bangladeshi restaurants, and I understood precisely the worries of the owners about the erection of building hoardings in the area, which might make it difficult for the restaurant’s usual clientele to access the site.

But the point—I have clearly failed to make it—is that that area is to the west of the station, but there will now be similar problems to the east of the station.

Sir David Higgins is considering how we can best capitalise on the tremendous opportunity that Euston station presents as part of the project. Those of us who remember what the area around King’s Cross station was like a number of years ago will understand how it has been transformed. Indeed, the station itself has become a destination in its own right, and people often spend time in that area. We can capitalise on the opportunity at Euston, but I understand that people will be severely affected during the transformation process, so we need to do what we can to minimise the impact on them.

David Higgins is apparently incapable of distinguishing between the land around the stations. The redevelopment at King’s Cross took place on useless, empty, brownfield railway land; the land on both sides of Euston station is not brownfield land to be rescued by some Australian missionary, but a place where people live, go about their business and send their children to school, and somewhere people go to old folks’ luncheon clubs. They want to continue to do that; they do not want the area levelled as part of some grandiose redevelopment scheme that everyone can think is wonderful. I speak as someone who has strongly supported redevelopment at Euston and was the first person to advocate using St Pancras station as the terminus for the channel tunnel link, so I do not need to take any lessons from anyone, but the same situation does not apply at Euston—

Order. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that he was making an intervention, not a second speech—although it did sound a bit like one.

I would be the last person in the world to try to argue that I know better than the right hon. Gentleman about the concerns and aspirations of the people in the area around Euston station. Indeed, when he and I met, we were joined by Sarah Hayward, the leader of Camden council—I have to admit that I am a little frightened of her—who set out similar concerns in no uncertain terms. Indeed, I am pleased that we have managed to secure social housing provision to replace some of the housing that will need to be demolished.

On the subject of the motion, I thank the Minister for the clarification about pieces of land in my constituency that now will not be needed for the project, but can he assure me, in the presence of the Chair of the Select Committee hearing the petitions, that the Select Committee members will be absolutely clear about the changes, the pieces of land coming in and out of the project, before they make the visits to the sites, as the Select Committee is to do in my constituency next Tuesday?

I know my right hon. Friend is aware that negotiations are ongoing with landowners and others to try to mitigate the impact of the project on individuals. Indeed, we are determined to ameliorate—I was tempted to use the term “head off”—petitions that are being laid, to ensure that they will not necessarily need to appear before the Committee. I think it is a good part of this dynamic process that a petition can be raised to alert us to particular concerns, so that we can try to address those concerns. Many of the provisions before us today are made in response to petitions. I am interested to know what consideration has been made in relation to the national motorcycle museum. Until very recently indeed, we intended to provide alternative car parking, so I shall make a point of finding out what the solution to that problem is.

I know that the two remaining changes in my right hon. Friend’s constituency are, first, in the parish of Berkswell, where there will be a temporary diversion of the Kenilworth greenway, which will be realigned following discussions with stakeholders; and secondly, in the parish of Bickenhill, where there will be a requirement to oversail property to construct overhead lines, which is a minimal impact on the area.

Returning to Euston, I am determined to ensure that we do all we can to make sure that customers can still reach businesses that may be affected by the construction work.

Although my constituency is not affected by the provisions before the House, there is a great deal of solidarity between those who have this wretched line going through or under our constituencies. I hope my hon. Friend the Minister realises that although just one right hon. Member might be affected, we do actually share his concerns.

As a regular user of the Tea Room, I am in no doubt as to the strength of feeling up and down the line of route.

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Sir John Randall) might inadvertently have misled the House by saying that only one person might be concerned. In fact, many people are concerned. He may wish to put the record straight.

No, I am sure he does not wish to put the record straight. I do not think that was a point of order, or that it could possibly be the interpretation of what the right hon. Gentleman said—[Interruption.] Indeed, I think it is a case of beard solidarity, as he is pointing out.

I think we have digressed from the subject of the debate. Yes, there are concerned people, not least those who seek to replace my right hon. Friend as the Member of Parliament for Uxbridge and South Ruislip. No doubt a number will express their views during the selection process. I am pleased that we have a tunnel under that constituency.

I commend the motions to the House. I believe that the provisions will give the Committee the opportunity to listen to any additional petitions, and I am sure the House will be content to approve the motions.

Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,

That the Order of 29 April 2014 (High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill (Carry-over)) be varied as follows:

After paragraph 10 of the Order insert–

“10A. The Order of the House of 26 June 2013 relating to electronic deposit of documents shall apply in respect of a Bill presented as mentioned in paragraph 2 or 4 as in respect of the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill read for the first time in the current Session.”

HIGH SPEED RAIL (LONDON - WEST MIDLANDS) BILL: INSTRUCTION (NO. 2)

Ordered,

That it be a further Instruction to the Select Committee to which the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill is committed–

(1) that the Select Committee have power to consider–

(a) amendments to accommodate the requirements of landowners and occupiers in:

(i) the parishes of the Little Missenden, Great Missenden, Wendover, Stoke Mandeville, Stone with Bishopstone and Hartwell, Quainton, Preston Bissett and Turweston in the County of Buckinghamshire,

(ii) the parish of Finmere in the County of Oxfordshire,

(iii) the parish of Chipping Warden and Edgcote in the County of Northamptonshire,

(iv) the parish of Little Packington in the County of Warwickshire,

(v) the parish of Berkswell in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull, and

(vi) the City of Birmingham;

(b) amendments to accommodate changes to the design of the works authorised by the Bill in:

(i) the parishes of Stone with Bishopstone and Hartwell, Fleet Marston, Steeple Claydon and Twyford in the County of Buckinghamshire,

(ii) the parish of Mixbury in the County of Oxfordshire,

(iii) the parishes of Culworth and Whitfield in the County of Northamptonshire,

(iv) the parishes of Radbourne, Southam, Stoneleigh and Curdworth in the County of Warwickshire, and

(v) the City of Birmingham;

(c) amendments to accommodate the requirements of utility undertakers in:

(i) the parishes of Denham, Wendover, Ellesborough, Stone with Bishopstone and Hartwell, Quainton and Grendon Underwood and the town of Aylesbury in the County of Buckinghamshire,

(ii) the parishes of Offchurch, Burton Green, Little Packington, Coleshill, Curdworth, Wishaw and Moxhull and Middleton in the County of Warwickshire,

(iii) the parishes of Drayton Bassett, Hints with Canwell, Weeford, Swinfen and Packington, Fradley and Streethay, Longdon, Kings Bromley and Lichfield in the County of Staffordshire, and

(iv) the parish of Bickenhill in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull, and amendments for connected purposes;

(2) that any petition against amendments to the Bill which the Select Committee is empowered to make shall be referred to the Select Committee if–

(a) the petition is presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office not later than the end of the period of four weeks beginning with the day on which the first newspaper notice of the amendments was published, and

(b) the petition is one in which the petitioners pray to be heard by themselves or through counsel or agents.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.— (Mr Goodwill.)