Motion made and question proposed
That the following provisions shall apply in respect of the High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Bill:
(1) Further proceedings on the Bill shall be suspended from the day on which this Session of Parliament ends until the next Session of Parliament.
(2) If a Bill is presented in the next Session in the same terms as the Bill when it was presented in this Session–
(a) the Bill so presented shall be ordered to be printed and shall be deemed to have been read the first time; and
(b) the Standing Orders and practice of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in this Session, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in the next Session.
That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.—(Andrew Stephenson.)
The Labour party understands the need to carry over this Bill to the next Session of Parliament, and the narrow technical reasons for doing so. I therefore will not detain the House for long on a Bill that has yet even to have its Second Reading. Labour welcomes the much-needed extension of High Speed 2, and has long supported HS2 being built in full, as that will help to address the severe capacity constraints on our rail network, and improve connections between cities in the midlands and the north. Labour looks forward to making its arguments during the passage of the Bill through Parliament about value for money for UK taxpayers, and we will fight to ensure that working people across our country see the benefits from this project in jobs and opportunities. We cannot accept a situation where just one UK-based firm was shortlisted for £2.5 billion-worth of contracts for track and tunnel systems for HS2. We also know that the decision to scrap the eastern leg was a betrayal of promises made to communities, and will leave the north in the slow lane for decades to come. Promises made must be kept, and Labour will stand up for our communities and demand that the Government deliver the northern rail investment that they promised.
The Minister knows well my continued opposition to HS2 so this is not unusual, but I have some specific points to make about the phase 2 Bill. It contains proposals for a totally unnecessary railhead and separate infrastructure maintenance base at Ashley, which will cause immense damage to the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Esther McVey), who is in her place today. She has discussed the merits of the objections to phase 2b of HS2 with my constituents who are injuriously affected. Those facilities, together with another proposed arrangement at the Crewe rolling stock depot, will, I believe, waste an estimated £475 million of taxpayers’ money. With a further £171 million of savings to be made by the use of a Transport and Works Act order on phase 2, the Minister will know that I and parliamentary colleagues are calling for less than half the total of the £650 million saved to be directed towards the reopening of eight miles of the former North Staffordshire railway. Other colleagues come from the vicinity of Stoke-on-Trent and neighbouring constituencies.
Such a move has the potential to transform west-to-east rail connectivity across the north, which so many people are calling for, and provide a massive economic boost to north Staffordshire to achieve our levelling-up objectives. I therefore call on the Minister to amend the phase 2 Bill and remove the proposals for Ashley when it returns to the House. I greatly look forward to further discussions taking place between my constituents, the Minister’s officials and appointed rail experts on how we can make required improvements to the phase 2a proposals as soon as possible.
I rise not to detain the House for any undue period but to place on the record an issue hidden away in the Bill’s detail that will severely affect my constituents’ transport opportunities. I do not know whether the Minister is aware of it—I have raised it at Transport questions and believe that we have a meeting scheduled after the local elections to discuss it—but, as we are talking about carrying over the Bill, I want to place it on the record so that the Minister can understand the issue at stake affecting my constituency and, hopefully, it can be resolved before Second Reading. The proposals that I will put to him are not insurmountable, especially when we consider the scale of the High Speed 2 project from Crewe to Manchester and the public expenditure that that will involve.
The Minister will know that there will be a great deal of work outside Manchester Piccadilly station and in its surroundings. The construction work to bring the high-speed rail line into the new station at Piccadilly will massively disrupt the streets and the environment around the current station, and that has an implication for the Manchester Metrolink service from Manchester Piccadilly through my constituency to Ashton-under-Lyme. The line to Ashton—the only Metrolink line that goes through Manchester Piccadilly—will have to be severed for the period of the construction work around Piccadilly station, which will result in the line being mothballed—[Interruption.] I realise, Mr Deputy Speaker, that I am straying on to Second Reading territory, but I want to get the solution on the record before the Bill is read a Second time. That will involve the line being mothballed and a bus replacement service put in place, which is not acceptable to my constituents.
What we need is a depot building on Ashton Moss where the trams can be parked overnight and so that the tram service between Ashton and New Islington can be retained. That is a simple, constructive solution with the support of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) which will keep the tram line running. I hope that the Minister will look favourably on that.
I rise to oppose the carry-over motion. This is a highly contentious Bill, particularly for my constituents in Tatton. While I know that you would not allow me to get into why I oppose the Bill, Mr Deputy Speaker, there are reasons why it should not be carried over, and I need to put them on the record.
Much has changed since the Bill’s genesis, and two things in particular. First, rail travel between cities has not returned to pre-covid levels or even close. That indicates even to those who agreed with the project in the first place that this expensive white elephant is no longer needed. Secondly, the cost of HS2 had continued to rise at an eye-watering rate, and that was before we saw the current huge rates of inflation, which will put it up further. Those are vital areas of contention where there has been a material change since the Bill started its passage, so it is vital that the House of Commons starts the process of the Bill afresh to see whether the project still commands its support.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. May I first say that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash) continues to be true champion for his constituents? I look forward to visiting his constituency soon. My officials will continue to work with many local campaigners in his area to ensure we find the best possible way forward and the best possible solution for both taxpayers and local residents.
The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) raises Metrolink. As he will, I am sure, recall, it is an issue I am well aware of because I worked in Droylsden for many years and the Metrolink ran outside my office. I look forward to again meeting him, and continuing to work with him and local campaigners to ensure we get the right solution as the Bill progresses.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Esther McVey) raises many issues relating to the business case and cost of HS2. I am sure they will be debated heavily on Second Reading.
I welcome the continuing support for the Bill by the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Slough (Mr Dhesi). I will just say that, as he will know, 2,400 UK registered businesses have now won work on the HS2 programme, with over 22,000 people employed. This is a project delivering significant UK jobs.
The Bill is, of course, yet to have its Second Reading. As it is a hybrid Bill, there are procedures that need to be completed before that can happen. I look forward to the debate on the scheme continuing properly at that juncture, but for now it should be carried over. The consultation on the Bill’s environmental statement has just closed. The responses are being assessed by Parliament’s independent assessor, who will provide a report ahead of the Second Reading debate. There is always a longer delay between the First Reading and Second Reading of hybrid Bills to allow that necessary procedure to be completed, but Second Reading is now anticipated for late June or early July.
Question put and agreed to.