Thursday 12 January 2017
High Speed Rail (London–West Midlands) Bill
Committee (2nd Day)
Relevant document: 7th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee
17: After Clause 35, insert the following new Clause—
“Restrictions on lorries and road use
Within three months of the start of the scheduled works, the nominated undertaker must publish a plan setting out, for each construction site being used or to be used for the scheduled works, how the number of lorries delivering to or from the site will be limited in order to meet the following restrictions by weight of materials transported by road—(a) no more than 25% of excavated spoil and demolition material;(b) no more than 25% of concreting materials; and(c) no more than 50% of all other materials;and the remainder in each case must be carried by rail.”
My Lords, Amendment 17 is to do with the restriction of lorries and road use. I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group. The committee obviously spent a long time considering this, as it covers about 12 paragraphs in its report. Probably as a result of its questioning, HS2 has considerably improved its offer of the proportion of freight that will be taken by rail rather than by road, particularly in the Camden area.
My reason for putting this amendment down was to try to cover the whole of the route of phase 1 rather than just Camden. I point out that the reason we are in this situation is that HS2 did not start off the project by thinking, “It is clearly unacceptable to have 1,500 or 2,000 trucks a day going through Camden for several years, so how can we design a station and its approaches in such a way that you could use rail freight?”. In fact, Network Rail said that it did not want any rail freight into Euston, because it might delay the passenger trains. Since there are not any passenger trains at night, it is difficult to accept that that was a sensible argument. However, we are where we are.
HS2 has come some way at Euston. Given the pressure it has taken to get it this far, it would be a good idea if one could put some percentages in the Bill of what it would be required to do to move materials by means other than road. We are not just talking about spoil and demolition material; other materials can easily come in on rail and be trained off. Then there is the whole question of concrete, bringing in the aggregates and maybe the cement, and having a batching plant on-site. I remember saying to HS2, “Why don’t you put a batching plant there?”. I was told, “We’re going to put a generating station there”. I said, “But you could have thought of putting a batching plant there first”. “Well, we didn’t”. That was the kind of discussion that went on.
We can talk about this for a long period. HS2 is in discussions with the train operators now, and I hope that it has enough rolling stock to do it now. Again, we asked, “If you want to suddenly move all this material by rail, is there enough rolling stock in the country, or should somebody pre-order it?”. It did not want to pre-order it and influence what the contractors might say or do, and it will probably be all right. Outside London, it is unclear what could happen, so there is a strong argument for making sure that HS2 sticks to these percentages. We can debate whether they are the right ones, but we need to hold it to account. On Tuesday we heard about trucks in Wendover, and we heard about other places. We even heard, in the last amendment, that HS2 wanted to run trucks down the bus lanes in London because the trucks were more important than buses. It would be useful if some sort of legislative grip was taken on the provider as regards this serious and very important issue because otherwise we could still have 1,500 trucks a day going through Camden and a similar number going through other places that are equally congested and in need of protection. I beg to move.
My Lords, I start by referring to the excellent committee report which refers to this issue in detail, and I am delighted to support the amendment. The committee notes that some areas of Camden, along with other urban areas, suffer levels of air pollution that are in serious breach of EU limits. It calls the haulage by road of materials to and from the construction sites,
“one of the gravest problems of the project”.
As the project has developed, the Government have made a commitment over time to more and more tunnelling in order to alleviate the problems of noise for residents in other areas, but that in itself creates another environmental problem because the excavated soil will have to be moved over long distances. Add to that the cement, aggregates and steel for tunnels and bridges and so on, plus building materials for several new stations, and we are talking about very significant amounts.
The committee’s comments on Euston concentrate on the level of disruption over a period of more than a decade which involves the demolition of a large office block as well as other homes. It is critical—I urge noble Lords to read paragraph 178—of the impact on local people and is particularly critical about the idea of rebuilding Euston station in two stages. I am using this opportunity to urge the Minister to press his colleagues in government and HS2 to ensure that a co-ordinated approach is taken, and I also urge the Government to bring forward the funding so that planning and rebuilding can be done together to limit the problems for local residents. Both Camden Council and the Regent’s Park Estate tenants gave evidence to the committee, as did the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. It is noted that the shortest journey by road from Euston to the nearest landfill is 26 miles one way. In contrast, one train can move as much material as 124 HGVs, so to my mind there is absolutely no argument about the need to transport more materials by train—or indeed by river. Given the strong words of the committee, I was very disappointed that no clear recommendation was made about transporting the soil and that the committee simply resorted to exhorting HS2 to do better than the 28% of excavated soil and 17% of construction materials it guarantees to move by rail. Euston may, as has been stated, be a congested site, so I would argue that there is all the more reason to apply the highest standards.
It is also important to learn the lessons of the past. For both the Olympics and Crossrail, which in many respects were similarly congested sites, a political decision was taken to minimise transport by road and to set targets. As a result, some riverside wharves that would otherwise have been sold off for housing were retained to enable transport by river.
We need the Government to aim high. I believe that exhorting HS2 to do better will not maximise the use of rail for transport in this regard or, indeed, encourage it to consider river transport either. We need to set targets and there needs to be a political decision on this. This is all the more important because of the protracted nature of the plans for Euston. I take this opportunity to ask whether the Minister can confirm the rumours circulating in the Euston area that HS2 is considering moving the portals of the tunnel from which the proposed new HS2 line will emerge to the west of Euston station about one kilometre nearer to the station. Local residents would be very supportive of that because they believe that it would reduce the disruption caused by the removal of materials. Therefore, if that rumour is accurate, we will be pleased.
As regards whether it is appropriate to set targets for this issue, obviously some sites will be more difficult than others in terms of removing spoil by road. It is not practical to address this on a completely comprehensive basis but it is entirely reasonable to tell HS2 that it should have overall targets so that it achieves an overall picture.
As I said, from time to time the Government have acceded to requests for tunnelling and increased compensation, particularly in rural areas. That is laudable and we appreciate that responsiveness. However, the committee itself suggests that some aspects of the compensation schemes are unbalanced, favour rural areas and do not pay sufficient attention to the disruption caused by the construction process. Therefore, as well as addressing the issue of fairness in the compensation arrangements, I urge the Government to take a much more fundamental approach by reducing the disruption altogether. Transporting as much material as possible by rail would reduce that disruption.
In conclusion, although I have emphasised Camden and Euston, this issue applies throughout the length of the project, particularly in other urban areas as well.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for their contributions. I say at the outset that I fully appreciate the intent behind their amendment in terms of maximising the use of rail for the transportation of material in relation to HS2. Both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness rightly focused on the concerns that have been raised, particularly in the London Borough of Camden and in Euston. However, the majority of construction sites for HS2 phase 1 are in rural areas and, practically speaking, do not have ready access to an existing rail network. Put simply, imposing the limits proposed in the amendment would mean that it would not be possible to construct HS2. However, it is important to take on board some of the points that have been made and answer them directly.
I of course share the concerns about the impacts of HS2 construction on the road network, as do the Government. As noble Lords may be aware, the Government have already made commitments with similar intentions. We have committed to maximise the volume of excavated and construction material to be brought in and removed by rail. This will need to be done while balancing the wider environmental impacts on the local community and on passenger services.
Specifically on the point of spoil by rail, the noble Lord and the noble Baroness talked about targets, and the Lords Select Committee was mentioned in the noble Baroness’s remarks. I am sure that noble Lords have also reflected on the committee’s note. Again, I thank the committee once again for its exhaustive work in this respect. Paragraph 411 of its report says:
“We are satisfied that HS2 is taking this responsibility seriously”,
and the report goes on to say that it saw,
“no useful purpose to be served by attempting to set fixed targets. It would be little more than plucking aspirational figures out of the air”.
I hope that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness agree on that basis that, while I agree with the overall sentiment behind this proposal, fixing targets—and this is the important point—ahead of the detailed design stage of the project and in advance of the discussion with the contractors who will deliver their main works is, to my mind, premature. Noble Lords may also be aware that the commitment followed on from a detailed materials-by-rail study that HS2 undertook last year. I am sure that noble Lords will appreciate that, with regard to the amount of material that we move by rail, consideration needs to be given to the availability of rail sidings that we will need to transfer material on to rail. In addition, we need to consider the impact that moving material by rail would have on existing passenger and freight train parts and services, in the immediate vicinity but also on the wider network in terms of consequential impacts. Of course, that is importantly balanced against the impact on local residents arising from moving material on the road, which both noble Lords alluded to.
I also hope that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, in particular, is reassured by the commitment given to the Rail Freight Group and the Freight Transport Association and their members on the transportation of excavated materials, with a view to maximising as far as is reasonably practical the use of rail freight to support the construction of the proposed scheme.
Finally, we feel that the amendment is further unnecessary on the basis, as noble Lords may be aware, that we are already very much committed to preparing local traffic management plans in liaison with the relevant highway and traffic authorities, which will be the means by which we agree, manage and monitor local traffic flows. Of course, it will be the local authority that must approve the lorry routes used in connection to HS2.
I noticed that the noble Baroness referred to the issue of Crossrail, and the building of that. As the Minister responsible for Crossrail, I have looked into the background of that major infrastructure project, and there are places where materials, before they were shipped on to other modes of transport, be it by rail or river, were in the first instance put on the roads. But even that project was managed by agreeing targets that worked locally and reflected that we were further down the road on the design.
I hope that with the assurances that I have given thus far and the practical element—that much of HS2 will be in rural areas, where, practically speaking, rail may not be currently accessible—and with the assurances previously given to the respective freight associations, along with the analysis of the Select Committee, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for supporting the amendment and for the Minister’s response, which goes a little further than we have heard before. Of course, I accept that in some places you have to take everything away by road. Similarly, in other places you can probably take it all by rail. It is clearly something that people want to keep an eye on, which is reasonable—that is what the whole process is about. The last amendment that we discussed on Tuesday was to do with traffic management plans and who had priority on them. I hope it will not be used as a stick to beat the local authorities into taking more trucks because the rail system has not been made to work.
The Minister will be aware that the Government are responsible for Network Rail and for many of the passenger train operators, as well as for HS2. Therefore, it is in their gift to get it right. The last big one was, as the noble Baroness said, the Stratford Olympics, and even on that we caught the contractors chucking something like 10,000 tonnes of contaminated waste, all the way to Teesport, even though there was a rail freight siding at both ends. This will need very careful watching, but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 17 withdrawn.
Clauses 36 to 38 agreed.
18: After Clause 38, insert the following new Clause—
“Establishment of Regional Integrated Command Centre
(1) Within three months of the passing of this Act, the nominated undertaker must establish a Regional Integrated Command Centre to include representatives of Highways England, local highways authorities, emergency services, Transport for the West Midlands, Transport for London, transport operators and the nominated undertaker’s contractors.(2) The role of the Regional Integrated Command Centre shall be to ensure that the works authorised by this Act are co-ordinated so as to minimise the adverse effects of the works on other rail or road operations.”
My Lords, could I have an explanation on a point from Tuesday’s meeting of this Committee? I want clarification on a point that arose when I asked a question about the workings of this Committee. The Minister responded by saying that:
“In general terms, a Select Committee in consideration of such a hybrid Bill normally looks specifically and primarily at private interests raised by petitioners, which gives it a very exhaustive opportunity to look at the different options. The role of the Grand Committee is what it traditionally is: to consider the public law clauses of a Bill, not the specific details of a private petition”.—[Official Report, 10/1/17; col. GC 95.]
Will the Minister define for us what a “public law clause” is? Presumably the amendments before us have been accepted and put down in the right order and can be discussed and decided upon later, but I would particularly like to know what a public law clause is and how it applies to the workings of this Committee.
As I said on the previous Committee day, looking at public law clauses is what a Committee and a Grand Committee do; that is, it looks at the implications overall of any Bill that is presented. The difference with a Select Committee is that it provides an opportunity specifically for petitioners who have an issue to raise that requires more detailed scrutiny to present their case in detail to Members of your Lordships’ House. The specifics of their particular petition are given an exhaustive review, and that is the difference. It allows for a much more detailed analysis of the private interests behind a petition. This is a normal and standard procedure used for Bills that are of an infrastructure nature. It is not new or novel but something that has been used previously. I trust that that provides further clarification but, in the interest of moving forward on the Bill, I am quite happy to provide a more detailed response in writing.
My Lords, Amendment 18, standing in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is to do with traffic and transport issues during the construction of phase 1. It came from a conversation I had with people at the West Midlands transport authority—I think that is the right name; it has just been changed—who expressed concern that the Bill could allow HS2 to restrict the flows on motorways or national rail services as it felt necessary without any consideration for the needs of other rail travellers or drivers on the motorway and local roads. They felt that the consultation had been not that comprehensive to start off with and they were really quite worried about this issue, which they say could cause major trouble and problems for traffic on rail and road during the construction. It seems that Camden Council has similar worries and I think that TfL probably does, too. Their solution was to propose this idea of a regional integrated command centre. I do not know whether that is the right term. It is not a sort of Army command centre but a co-ordination body to bring all the bodies which I have listed, including,
“Highways England, local highways authorities, emergency services”—
the transport authorities local and regional—
“transport operators and the nominated undertaker’s contractors”,
and probably a few more, together on a regular basis to plan what is going on and minimise the adverse effect of traffic and transport on the users.
We can debate whether there should be one centre covering the whole route or several. The amendment I have tabled says that there should be one but that is for discussion. This is one of those things which, if it does not happen, probably would happen several years on when there had been a crisis or disaster. My suggestion is that it should be set up from the beginning, whether that takes three months or six months or whatever. I hope that it would be funded by HS2; after all, they are the people causing the problem. I think this would be welcomed by all the different users and could be a major benefit to the communities along the route and the longer-distance travellers, who would see all the obvious problems which come with construction mitigated to some extent. I look forward to some interesting comments and debate on this proposal, which would be extremely cheap to run and very beneficial. I beg to move.
I shall speak very briefly. The Minister has already said in reply to a previous amendment that local authorities would have substantial powers in organising traffic. I am anxious to have some assurance that HS2 Ltd will not, as it were, have overriding powers which prevent the proper processes taking place.
My Lords, perhaps we could probe this amendment. A lot of the work that we did on the Select Committee referred to HS1, Crossrail and the tunnel. With all his expertise and knowledge, can the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, tell me whether this actually occurred in the case of HS1—the Channel Tunnel route—and Crossrail? Perhaps we should benefit from that, because we frequently went back to the experience of those two projects. There was no point to going through them if you were not going to get some learning from them. Are we trying to reinvent the wheel here or was there a separate way of doing it, which the noble Lord thinks was not good enough and is why he has tabled this amendment?
I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that question because she is absolutely right to seek a precedent for this. Of the projects that I have been involved in, the Channel Tunnel was of course just in Kent so the discussions were with its highway authority, which was Kent County Council. HS1 was to a large extent in Kent and then in London. It was cut into two halves; again, Kent County Council was the highways authority and we talked a lot about transport, the mitigation, routes and everything else there. I think it did very well on that. Crossrail is of course not entirely within the TfL area but quite a lot is. Most of the discussions on transport took place, as I recall, with Transport for London. When Crossrail gets outside London, it mainly runs on existing railways so the problem is less acute.
What we have here, as we discussed previously, is a much longer route—200 kilometres long—which goes between two pretty massive conurbations: London and the West Midlands. As I think I mentioned the other day, there are several motorways and national railways to cross. It would be a shame if the motorways were all closed at the same time. I am sure they would not be, but they should not be. This is why I said, in my opening remarks, that maybe there should be three of these different, smaller co-ordination centres: one for the West Midlands, one for the London area and one for the middle bit. Again, it may seem bureaucratic, but it will mean less work to do. It is just a suggestion, and the Minister may say, “We are doing it anyway”. In that case, it is absolutely fine. I hope that is helpful.
My Lords, we have had extensive discussions on HGV routes and the role of the highways authorities. HS2 cannot override them, as I am sure my noble friend Lord Berkeley knows. There was a throw-away remark that the organisation he proposes would be modest. I must admit that, when I look at the coverage and the number of people involved, it does not look very modest to me in terms of the number of people that could attend. We know where the problems are going to be: HS2 has already had extensive discussions with Camden and other highways authorities on HGV routes and so on. We know that there is a construction complaint commissioner so that, if there are any problems, there is a 24-hour helpline. We have been through this over and over again. With due respect to my noble friend, if you were going to suggest a structure to deal with this, I could not think of anything more bureaucratic and, I suspect, expensive, when you look at the range of people who could potentially attend. I agree that there is going to be a significant responsibility on HS2 and its contractors to ensure that they minimise disruption, be it to motorways or local highways, which is why they have to get agreement from the local and county authorities, but in my view this is not the way forward.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate. I recognise and endorse the underlying objective behind this particular amendment: to minimise, as we all desire, the impact of construction traffic through appropriate co-ordination with bodies. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has suggested the creation of a command centre. In that respect, I disagree with him.
I wish to go into a few of the specific points that have been raised. First, on the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, to which we have already heard a response, I concur with the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green. The Bill includes specific powers for the control of construction traffic by qualifying planning authorities. This means that the routes to be used by heavy goods vehicles must be approved by the qualifying planning authority where the volume of large goods vehicles—specifically, those over 7.5 tonnes—exceeds 24 one-way trips per day. The consent of the relevant highway authority is also required for the provision of any new or altered work site access to and from a highway.
My noble friend Lady O’Cathain raised the important issue that, as we move forward on these projects, we must learn from experience of what has happened before. The Crossrail project was cited. In that regard, we have already developed a code of construction practice, which requires the appointed nominated undertaker to prepare a route-wide traffic management plan in liaison with highway and traffic authorities, not forgetting the emergency services as well. This is an approach that was followed during the construction of Crossrail and worked well. We believe it will also work well in this respect.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, also raised the issue of Crossrail traffic management. Although he is absolutely correct that TfL managed the strategic roads, there was still the need to manage traffic flows on the local roads, and those were very much managed by the local boroughs and the construction of Crossrail had a direct impact on them. We are proposing to use the same tried-and-tested method which, as I said, worked well for that project in this respect as well.
The route-wide traffic management plans will include, for example, managing and monitoring lorry flows, requirements for preparing workforce travel plans and the strategy for design and consultation regarding traffic management. In addition to this route-wide plan, the code of construction practice, which I have referred to, also requires the appointed nominated undertaker to prepare local traffic management plans in liaison, as I said, with the relevant highway and traffic authorities and the emergency services.
Once appointed, contractors will also be required to hold regular local traffic liaison meetings with highway authorities, public transport operators and, of course, the police. These will provide an opportunity for contractors to present proposals for future works affecting the highway, including methods of construction and the proposed programme. I hope that this demonstrates that the Government are very much committed to the sentiments behind the noble Lord’s amendment. However, we have learned, and continue to learn, from experience. The Crossrail project has been a positive one and the learning from it will certainly be applied to this project. I hope that that demonstrates to the noble Lord that his amendment is unnecessary.
I really am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken because I think their words, experience and responses will give a lot of comfort to those who have been pressing me to table these amendments. I do not want to see an enormous bureaucratic nightmare created. On the other hand, I do not want to see the promoter being stupid and closing two parallel motorways at the same time, which they obviously fear. So I am grateful to all noble Lords who contributed and to the Minister for his response. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 18 withdrawn.
Clauses 39 to 43 agreed.
19: After Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—
“Application of relevant provisions of Railways Act 1993 to Phase One of High Speed 2
All relevant provisions of the Railways Act 1993 including regulations made under that Act shall apply to the railway operated as Phase One of High Speed 2, including determination of access charges, safety and reporting.”
My Lords, for the convenience of the Committee, I can speak to Amendments 19 and 20 together, which should save us a little time. This is a very short and probing amendment which comes out of experience with HS1. When the HS1 legislation was going through, Ministers seemed to have a lot of intentions to set it up so that it could be sold to the highest bidder in the shortest possible time and at the highest price. They seemed to think that if they did not have independent regulators keeping an eye on what was going on, that would dramatically increase the sale price. Anyway, the Bill received Royal Assent and it all happened, but a few years later we realised that, having no regulator with any teeth at all, the infrastructure manager, which could have been in the private sector, could charge exactly what it liked for the trains to run on it, could close it when it liked, and did not have to justify its costs of operation or anything else. All I have put down in these amendments is simply to probe the Minister to ensure that he is not trying to do that this time. I have no evidence that he is at all but I just wanted to probe to make sure. We spent an awful lot of time in the years after the HS1 Act—the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and I did a lot of it together—bringing in regulations, which the Government accepted, to right the mistakes of the first Act.
Perhaps I may just draw the Minister’s attention to the large number of occasions on which Ministers of both parties have committed themselves to the fares on HS2 not being excessive and taking into account ordinary people and various other things— I have about 20 of them. This is not a railway that is apart from the rest of the railway, I hope.
My Lords, I thank both noble Lords and I shall turn first to that final point. There are other Ministers taking part in the Committee today. I back exactly the sentiments of the noble Lord and would add my name to the list, in the sense that the HS2 project underlines the importance of the railway infrastructure as a whole. We have discussed in previous debates the importance of the building of HS2 not just for itself but also in terms of the impact it will have on the railway infrastructure.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for explaining that the amendment is probing in nature, but perhaps I may refer to the specifics. With respect to the Railways Act 1993, only one minor change is being made, which is a partial disapplication of the licensing provision so that the pre-operation testing phase does not require a licence. It is simply not considered to be necessary during that period. As I have said, we learn from experience; such a change was made for the Crossrail Act 2008 and a rather wider disapplication was also included in the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act 1996, in which I am sure both noble Lords are well versed. The Bill would also disapply closure provisions in the Railways Act 2005 in the case of closures that are necessary because of the construction of the works. In this regard there is only one closure, that of the Wycombe Single to allow Old Oak Common to be constructed. This has already been discussed in the Select Committee of your Lordships’ House on the Bill, and it was decided that the closure procedures in the 2005 Act should not apply as Parliament will have already approved the closure. As I say, such a provision was also included in the Crossrail Act.
I appreciate that in the interests of time the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has spoken to Amendments 19 and 20. Specifically on Amendment 20, I can confirm that the existing safety and economic regulatory regime for the railway is unchanged by the Bill and so it would continue to apply to HS2 in the same way that the regulator, who as he pointed out has an important role, sees fit. For these reasons, we believe that this amendment is unnecessary.
On the question of the Government’s intentions in the longer term for HS2, recently we had an announcement from the Secretary of State about a new link between Oxford and Cambridge. As I understand it, the company running the line would also be responsible for the track. Are the Government intending that the arrangements for HS2 will be on a similar basis to that project?
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State referred to a specific line. I am sure that the noble Lord will acknowledge that other announcements also made by the Secretary of State in this regard refer to the importance, whatever governance structure is set up, of those who are responsible for running the railway line and the rail service working together in an integrated fashion. The underlying purpose is that common objectives can be set. At this juncture, I cannot give the noble Lord a complete answer on the running of HS2 in terms of who will run the service and who will run the lines; there are, of course, other ways in which services across the country are run. The Secretary of State has underlined the importance—and it is his intention—that, whatever the governance structure, there should be an integrated way of running lines and train services, with common objectives being set if different companies are running different services.
My noble friend has to some extent pre-empted my Amendment 23, but we will come to that shortly. I am most grateful to the Minister for his response to Amendments 19 and 20 because it has given me a certain amount of comfort. I shall read what he said with great interest, but I look forward to not having to press him to bring in regulations later to right some mistakes in what will then be the Act. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 19 withdrawn.
Amendment 20 not moved.
21: After Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—
“Control and management of infrastructure
(1) Once constructed, the operation of the infrastructure of Phase One of High Speed 2 shall be controlled by the network system operator.(2) Once Phase One of High Speed 2 is operational, the infrastructure managers of Phase One of High Speed 2 shall have a duty to seek to work together with infrastructure managers on the rest of the UK rail network, as relevant, in relation to timetabling, temporary closures, enhancements and technical issues in order to seek to provide a reliable, cost effective and convenient structure to support passenger and freight services on the Phase One of High Speed 2 route.”
My Lords, again, I shall try to be quick. This amendment possibly links to what my noble friend Lord Rosser just mentioned. Noble Lords will be aware that Network Rail is in the process of restructuring itself into regions or zones, or whatever you might call them, with more autonomy over what it can do, and how it can make changes to timetables, maintenance and things like that. The plan is to create a control centre in Milton Keynes so that all the timetables for the whole country are integrated and you do not find problems at frontiers, which one is always worried about. The plan is that you will not find, as happened about 10 years ago, that the only two lines between England and Scotland are closed on the same weekend and there happens to be a rugby match on in Scotland. That was not very clever, and that was without separate regions or zones. Something needs to be done. Network Rail is going ahead with this, and I am sure that it will work fine.
It is the infrastructure that is being built under this legislation—we are not talking about trains much. We do not know yet who the infrastructure manager for HS2 will be; perhaps the noble Lord can give us some thoughts on that, but it does not really matter for the moment. The purpose of this amendment is to make sure that HS2 and the rail network talk to each other and work together. I have seen examples of this not happening in the past. In previous discussions with HS2 about timetables, it said, “When we get to the end of our line, it is up to Network Rail to timetable it”. I said, “Yeah, but you have to talk to each other, otherwise your trains will stop at a red signal and Network Rail won’t come along until the next week or whatever”. It is a simple thing, but they have to talk to each other. I am sure they will want to, but perhaps commercial pressures will mean that certain lines are closed on one day, and the other operator will want to close their lines at the same time. In this amendment, therefore, I am trying to argue that, whoever is the infrastructure manager for HS2, the timetabling, maintenance, closures and everything else must be integrated with the Network Rail operation and organisation system in Milton Keynes so that we end up with one network being run. I beg to move.
My Lords, again, I note very carefully what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has suggested. I cannot disagree with his sentiments about the need for and emphasis on an integrated approach; indeed, we perhaps touched on it in the previous debate in response to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. HS2 services will run on Network Rail’s infrastructure as well as on the new railway. I assure the noble Lord that the management of the HS2 infrastructure and HS2 train operators will need to work closely with Network Rail and other train operating companies to manage all operational interfaces. As he suggested, work on the timetabling is an important part of that, and is already very much part of considerations.
In addition to day-to-day rail operations, and as the noble Lord alluded to, co-operation will be needed in respect of the wider network roles undertaken on the railway by Network Rail. He raised the issue of a rugby match in Scotland. I am not a rugby fan but I am a football fan, and therefore can imagine having to face a similar challenge. This is a frustration that arises for many people, not just sports fans—when you are visiting family and friends up and down the country, you want to know that there is an integrated approach to the railways. Therefore, I agree with the noble Lord that part of co-operation with Network Rail includes long-term planning, timetabling and co-ordinating network-wide responses, particularly at times of major work or disruption. The need for infrastructure managers to work together and co-ordinate was also emphasised by the noble Lord. He will be aware, as will others here this afternoon, that that is already addressed under the Railways (Access, Management and Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2016. I hope that, given the assurances I have provided, and following reflection on the regulations I have pointed to, the noble Lord will be minded to withdraw his amendment.
Can I be clear about what the Government’s intentions are, or whether they have still to be determined? Is the Minister saying that once HS2, or at least the first part of it, has been built—we are talking about that part of the track which is unique to HS2—there will be no involvement of Network Rail in the maintenance and upkeep of that track?
I am not sure that the noble Lord heard me correctly. I am saying that an integrated approach to future management will be required as regards the new track, the existing tracks run by Network Rail and those who operate the new services on HS2. The noble Lord is fully aware that Network Rail currently has responsibility for the rail network of the country. As I said, operators need to work in an integrated fashion across the network and to have common objectives, whether it is Network Rail or another company running a franchise on a particular line. I cannot go further than that except to say that these common objectives are aligned under the specific regulation to which I have alluded.
I am grateful to the Minister for most of that response although we may come back to some of it on a later amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 21 withdrawn.
22: After Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—
“Disapplication of regulation 25 of Railways (Access, Management and Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2016
Regulation 25 (Declaration of specialised infrastructure) of the Railways (Access, Management and Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2016 does not apply to new infrastructure for the use of trains on the Phase One of High Speed 2 route.”
My Lords, the Minister kindly referred to the Railways (Access, Management and Licensing of Railway Undertakings) Regulations 2016. This is another probing amendment to ask whether the Government intend that the High Speed 2 line should be declared a specialist infrastructure, which is allowed under these regulations. Regulation 25 states that the purpose of such a declaration is so that priority can be given,
“to that specified type of rail service in the allocation of infrastructure capacity”.
That all sounds fine, but it could become anti-competitive. That is certainly the case in many parts of the continent. I assume that more than one train operator may win the franchise, or whatever it is, to operate trains on HS2. I believe the Government’s intention at the moment is to have the west coast franchise on the west coast main line but also to operate the trains on HS2 as one franchise, which I think is a very good idea. Even so, there should be no need to give that operator priority over anyone else who might want to run trains on these lines—for example, an open-access operator.
Again, you have the problem that the Government, who probably not only own the infrastructure but also may have a financial link with the franchising process or perhaps a commercial link with the train operator, may want to give priority to their own operator. The latter may be in competition with an independent operator that wants to run trains on the relevant line. We have this situation on the existing network on the east coast main line and the west coast main line, and the regulator tries to ensure that there is fair play. I hope that would also happen in this case, but I would be very pleased to hear the Minister’s views on whether the Government have thought this through yet. I do not think that this has anything to do with who operates the infrastructure that we discussed a few minutes ago, because it is a question of the allocation of capacity and who gets priority. It is a very interesting question which will probably need further debate at some time. In the meantime I beg to move.
My Lords, with respect to this amendment, I should note that it is slightly at odds with the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, seeking that the existing regulatory regime should apply to HS2. He referred to a particular provision; the provision in question enables the HS2 infrastructure manager to designate the railway as specialist infrastructure and thereby prioritise the type of rail services that have access to it. I know that the noble Lord and I, and others, have discussed before his keen support for the freight industry—indeed, his commitment to and passion for it. I fully recognise that. The business case for HS2, as the noble Lord is aware, is in supporting a significant level of public investment in HS2 to be used for high-speed passenger services. Each freight path on HS2 would use up to five passenger paths and cause significant delay and disruption to the planned operation of services, and in turn the business case for HS2. Running freight overnight would also not be possible, given the need to carry out the intense regular maintenance that this high-speed line will require overnight. Let us not forget the strict noise commitments that HS2 will work within, which do not include freight use of the line at night.
As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, knows, the real prize for the freight industry, if I may term it thus, will be the additional opportunities for freight services on the existing network once HS2 frees up capacity. The use of this released capacity will be determined via existing industry processes. Initial illustrative work suggests that once HS2 commences operation, it is not unreasonable to assume that between 20 and 26 additional rail freight paths per day could be made available on parts of the west coast main line.
Decisions regarding the appropriate operational commercial structure for HS2 will not be, and do not need to be, taken until we are much closer to the operation of the railway. We will consider whether HS2 or Network Rail should discharge that function.
Revisiting this issue, which I know the noble Lord has raised previously, illustrates that while the primary purpose behind building HS2 is focused on passenger services, there is a benefit to be had for the freight industry as well. I hope that he is therefore minded to withdraw his amendment.
I am very grateful to the Minister for giving me that update on the freight situation. My amendment did not actually mention freight; I mentioned the open access passenger operator, but I take his point. This is something to discuss and keep warm. I thank him very much and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 22 withdrawn.
23: After Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—
“No financial or managerial link between rail infrastructure owner and train operating company
No owner of the rail infrastructure connected with Phase One of High Speed 2 may have any financial or managerial link with any company with a licence to operate trains on that route.”
To some extent, one or two of my noble friends have already alluded to the matter in Amendment 23. Are we to have a vertically-integrated high-speed line or not? It links with some of the previous amendments we have had. At the moment, the legislation says that you shall have separate organisations running the infrastructure from those which operate trains on it, be they passenger or freight. Having got the legislation right, the need and desire for them to talk to each other is absolutely fundamental. It has been tried with alliances: South West Trains was probably the first one. It is interesting that that alliance ended after four years because they said that it did not bring any benefit, but they were talking to each other anyway.
It is obviously essential that everybody talks to each other—we talked about this before—but having a train operator with a financial involvement in the infrastructure goes against all the competition issues, which have made the railways the success they are in this country today. There is competition on freight and real competition on the passenger side: the franchises are bid for and the franchise operators come up with creative ideas, and it is then up to the Department for Transport to make sure that they deliver. Therefore there is competition, which is beneficial. I would not like to see whoever is running the most trains on HS2 being allowed to take over the infrastructure for its own ends. Having said that, I beg to move.
My Lords, the noble Lord did mention freight on this occasion, but I will not go beyond the mere mention of his mention. In both tabling his amendment and in his subsequent contribution, he has answered the amendment that he has proposed. I can merely confirm what he has already shared with noble Lords: such connections between infrastructure owners and train-operating companies are already prohibited under the existing regulatory regime. However, as I have already said, and as the noble Lord and other noble Lords have acknowledged, an important element is that we see greater integration in the setting of common objectives of those who run the infrastructure and those who run the train services. I hope that with that reassurance, the noble Lord will be minded to withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 23 withdrawn.
24: After Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—
“High Speed 2 trains to have flexible space
All trains procured to operate passenger services on the Phase One of High Speed 2 route must be provided with flexible space covering at least 10% of the internal floor area of the train for the use of cycles, pushchairs and small items of freight.”
My Lords, I am sorry to go on so long but we are nearly getting to the end.
Noble Lords may wonder why we have tabled this amendment. For the last 20 years we have had freight trains and passenger trains. They are separate, regulated separately if they are regulated, and they mostly operate on the same tracks. More recently, there has been greater pressure on passenger trains to carry bicycles—obviously, wheelchairs are allowed for anyway—but they have also started to take small packets of freight. I think many Ministers have agreed that that is a good way of getting small consignments off the road and on to rail at very little marginal cost. It happens on the midland main line now, with parcels, medical samples and things like that, and as noble Lords may know, it happens with crabs and lobsters from the West Country—Penzance—some of which are alive. That is extremely successful.
There is a lot of pressure from some people in the industry, both on the freight and the passenger side, to develop this quite dramatically. Eventually, you could use an old multiple unit train, put roll cages in there, take it up to a main line station and deliver things in a very much more environmentally friendly way than you could by running big lorries in all the way. However, there is a half-way stage of not having enough volume to justify a complete train but having more volume than goes in a suitcase.
It would be interesting to explore whether Ministers think that all new trains—of course, the trains in this amendment will have to be the High Speed 2 ones, although I hope it could be extended—would have some flexible space. At night, when there is not much traffic, there could perhaps be freight in the end coach; in the daytime there could be bicycles—there is a big demand for carrying bicycles; and for anything else that comes along, they could still have flap-down seats when not too many people need to stand.
This is therefore an opportunity to look at the design of coaches again with regard to a changing demand for both passenger and freight. I beg to move.
Is not the noble Lord talking about the old guards’ van?
The noble Lord is tempting me to get on to the issue of guards, which I shall not do. The answer is yes—but it is not for the guard but for other things. But there are not many left.
My Lords, I recall the old luggage vans, although the Minister is far too young to remember things like that. I was travelling on a train in Australia a couple of years ago which still had a luggage van, and it was used for two things. First, it was used for people to put long-distance small packages on. They were not travelling on the train themselves; they were simply sending their package. That might be a company or a private individual. It was also used in the same way as we check our luggage on to an aeroplane—you checked your luggage on to the train. It transformed the experience of sitting on a crammed carriage with people jockeying for position with their luggage. I fully accept that that model is probably not acceptable or appropriate in the UK, but we need to move on from our fatal tendency to cram as many seats into the space as possible while ignoring the requirements for luggage space. I am sure that your Lordships will all have sat on a so-called express train to an airport—by definition in a scenario where you are likely to have quite a lot of luggage—and seen people sitting with large suitcases on their laps because there is absolutely no space left in the tiny amount of room allocated for luggage on those trains.
I support the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, because I think that we need to be more far-sighted on this. His suggestion on flip-down seats is extremely interesting and a useful compromise, because it provides seats where they are needed, when flexible space is not needed, allowing for change in future. Buggies are not going to go away. People are going to go on having children and using buggies and needing to put them on trains.
I want to use this opportunity to explore the issue of wheelchair space. By legislation, there will be such a space, but the Minister will remember that we had the discussion on the Bus Services Bill about what happens when two people in wheelchairs wish to travel together. Wheelchair spaces are very often a solitary allowance, so flexible space would allow additional space for wheelchair users. HS2 will be an absolute boon for wheelchair users; the current railway system is often difficult for people in wheelchairs to navigate, if not impossible. Air travel is very difficult for them. Many people in wheelchairs simply cannot drive a car. So this will be a huge opportunity for wheelchair users to undertake long-distance travel in comfort, and we need to ensure that the trains are designed in such a way that they are flexible enough to accommodate more than one wheelchair user at a time in a carriage.
Given that there has been so much publicity lately about the availability of toilet facilities for people with disabilities—noble Lords will recall the very distressing story of one of our Paralympic athletes who was put in a very undignified position by the fact that the sole disabled toilet on the train was not functioning—can the Minister clarify that these trains will have a modern and respectable level of toilet facilities for disabled people? I would like to feel that all the toilets were accessible for disabled people. By the time it is built, it will be the middle of the 21st century, and we really cannot have only a single available toilet on a train.
My Lords, the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley are well taken, particularly in respect of facilities for the disabled, flexible space for carrying light freight and proper facilities for families and those looking after young children. There has been a tendency on the part of the railways to move in the Japanese direction of regarding freight and luggage as a bad thing and making it almost impossible for passengers to carry such items in comfort. I do not think that that is a direction in which we want to go.
However, the area where I am more doubtful is about facilities on high-speed trains or the next generation of trains in general for the carrying of bicycles. It is not that there should not perhaps be some facility at the margin for doing so—though I am not sure, even with the great wisdom and expertise of your Lordships’ House, that trying to design a train by committee is a good idea, so the figure of 10% that my noble friend Lord Berkeley has specified might be a bit too precise. If there is spare luggage space on a train that is suitable for carrying bikes, then that is fine. But the real issue in terms of encouraging much more bicycle use in relation to trains—which is out of all proportion more important than the capacity to carry bikes on trains themselves, which will only ever be marginal, particularly with very busy trains loading and unloading hundreds of people at a time—is decent cycle storage and rental facilities at stations, so that passengers do not need to convey bikes on the train in the first place. With the best will in the world, you are only ever going to be able to carry a handful of bikes on trains, but you can have thousands of bicycles, either privately owned or for rental, provided for at stations. By and large, our mainline stations, which were not designed for bicycles or indeed anything else modern, including in most cases decent retail facilities, have lamentable facilities for storing bikes. It is a telling indication of the big problems that we have in managing bicycles, even with all the improvements in London, that the cycle rental scheme does not embrace most London termini, because how to deal with the big issues of location and of shipping bikes backwards and forwards has not yet been worked out.
The contrast with best European practice in this area could not be more stark. I shall never forget visiting Amsterdam station and other major stations in Holland. Where you come out of the station, you have huge areas reserved for bikes, including rental schemes, along with bike workshops, so that you can get repairs done, and proper supervised bike facilities. It is a completely different situation from the one we have here. We are not yet at the stage of detailed station design plans for HS2 but I hope that, when it comes to the design of these hugely forward-looking stations that we want to see at Euston, Old Oak Common, Birmingham Curzon Street and other locations going north, there will be exemplary facilities for cyclists with significant space made available for cycle storage, repairs and rental schemes. In terms of a path-breaking approach to integrating cycling with railway use, seeing that there are state-of-the-art and capacious cycle facilities at stations is far more important than any provision that it might be possible to make in respect of the trains.
My Lords, as somebody who puts his Brompton bike on a train every day when I come here, I partly disagree with my noble friend, not on the substance of the point that he makes—that we cannot accommodate hundreds of bicycles on the train; there is a balance to be struck—but in that there are a significant number of people like myself who ride to the station and put their folding bike on the train and then get off at the other end and cycle a bit further. The other usage that I have is on my annual cycle tour, when I do want to take a bike on a long-distance journey on a train. At the moment, the facilities are very limited; you have to reserve in advance, which is probably what will obtain. While I agree with my noble friend that trying to design a train by committee is not a wise thing to do, it is wise to have this debate and raise these issues, which are important.
I certainly concur with the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on disability. It is not just about the number of wheelchairs—it is about ensuring that you have level surfaces so that you can go from platform to train in an easy and effective manner, rather than what you see at the moment. I think that we briefly raised that in one of the Select Committee sittings, but I am not absolutely sure about that. I look forward to the Minister’s response.
Just to have a bit of up-to-date experience, I always travel on the bus in the morning. Yesterday, there was one wheelchair, three buggies and two ladies with wheeled trolleys. The driver should not have taken them, but he did. As time goes on, we are going to have to get round this issue of flexible space—perhaps it is a little more sophisticated than using tip-up seats. We have to adjust what we have got to take account of the traffic on offer.
Can the Minister provide an assurance— I am sure that he will be able to—that these facilities will be available on the high-speed trains, including for wheelchair users, and that there is no possibility whatever of anyone seeking to argue that, since other services will be running between Birmingham and London, Manchester and London and Leeds and London, on what is described as the classic network, people with bicycles, wheelchair users and people with pushchairs will have to go on those services rather than on HS2?
My Lords, this has been a very useful debate, which gives us the opportunity to explain exactly what is going on and what is planned.
With respect to the amendment, I can assure noble Lords up front that, in procuring the rolling stock for HS2, we will be fully mindful of the need to ensure access for all and to improve overall passenger comfort. That, of course, includes giving consideration to the needs of people with disabilities, cyclists and parents with pushchairs, as well as the need to provide adequate space for luggage. I should say straightaway that it brings to mind—certainly to me—the contrast in thinking over time from when the Gatwick Express came into use, which my noble friend Lady O’Cathain has referred to in your Lordships’ House. There is a dreadful lack of facilities for people to manage their luggage, which the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, has also referred to. Times and thought processes have changed, and the Government have taken that very much on board. Indeed, when the Heathrow Express came into service, I think we all clapped our hands when we discovered that on that train we have amazing space for luggage. It makes the whole difference, making what can be a nightmare journey into a very comfortable journey. The Government are very mindful of that. In fact, my noble friend the Minister has said to me that he has had the experience of getting on to one of the Crossrail trains that is being adapted on this basis—with, for example, flip-down seats—to make the whole process of being more flexible a possibility.
I drove the train.
Oh! I beg your pardon. My noble friend has confirmed that he actually drove the train.
The good news is that we are already consulting with user groups as we consider the design requirements for the rolling stock to include freight and, yes, parcel logistic operators—a very helpful point made by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. That is proof that, over time, requirements change and we have to be flexible. Of course, this is why we do not want to be tied down by putting it in the legislation. I say from a lawyer’s standpoint that the sooner one pinpoints too carefully how things should be, the more one is constrained. Flexibility is important. We are also holding detailed discussions with the market to see what is practically possible. It is only through this extensive testing of the market and understanding of passenger need that we will be able to understand the correct specification. In any case, although I recognise the importance of the issue, noble Lords have amplified this afternoon the reasons why we need to keep this flexible.
One or two other important points were raised by noble Lords; for example, relating to the provision of decent toilet facilities. The Government are taking that very seriously. In fact, there will be a briefing session with the industry in the next two weeks to discuss this very issue and to ensure that there are more than adequate toilet facilities, bearing very much in mind the need for those with disabilities to be able to cope properly and comfortably on these trains. I hope noble Lords will accept that the whole issue of disability has developed so much more than in the old days, when it was impossible for anyone with a disability or in a wheelchair to contemplate travelling by train. This is very much at the forefront of HS2 and the Government’s mind in terms of the proposals going forward.
On that basis, I hope noble Lords will accept that we are doing everything we can think of to prepare for the future specification of the rolling stock for HS2. Following on from what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said about cycle provision, I would add that the detailed design of stations has not yet started, but I reassure noble Lords that best-in-case cycle provision examples have been looked at and the need to provide for cyclists will be fully integrated into station designs. I very much hope that the noble Lord will feel more assured by what we have said this afternoon and withdraw his amendment.
I am grateful to all noble Lords who contributed and to the Minister for her response. My noble friend Lord Adonis was absolutely right about what happens in Amsterdam. There are several different stories of enormous great buildings of bicycles, but bicycles are also allowed to be carried on trains—I think there might be a charge for them. That allows cyclists to be flexible: they can leave their bicycle at the station and get another one at the end of the journey or, as my noble friend Lord Young pointed out, they can take their own bicycle on holiday if they want to. We need to be flexible and I think that our discussions this afternoon have gone some way towards that.
We must also recognise that, yes, HS2 will be a lovely service, but it will be a commuter service to start with—Birmingham to London. It will probably be not that different from any other commuter service, except the trains will hopefully be a bit nicer and might go a bit faster, and sometimes you will be able to look out because you will not be in a tunnel. However, the facilities will be the same and passengers will do the journey every day. They might want to take a buggy or pram or wheelchair or anything else, but I do not think that the design is that much different from any other modern commuter service train in other parts of the country.
I have to challenge the Minister on this. I think she confirmed that we are not going down the route of having an appraisal methodology, which requires good value for money. This means that you have to have as many bums on seats as possible, crammed sideways and frontways, to get some Treasury-induced figure to justify it. It would be much better to have some flexible seats. I do not know whether flip-down seats are included in the Treasury’s methodology but I hope that we can move on from that. I have got the impression that there are to be some rather nice trains with lots of flexible space, so on that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 24 withdrawn.
24A: After Clause 43, insert the following new Clause—
“Timetable for new railway and affected existing routes
Within 12 months of the passing of this Act, HS2 Ltd must publish a comprehensive and detailed working timetable for the railway approved by this Act and for all the routes of the existing railway network that will carry through trains or whose services will be affected by the new railway, in order to—(a) illustrate the offer of service that travellers between any relevant pair of stations can expect at its opening,(b) identify the paths that will be available for freight trains,(c) demonstrate the operational practicality and robustness of its plans, (d) provide data for a reworking of the business case, should the findings require that, and(e) enable an informed debate about the proposals and their implications.”
My Lords, this is my last amendment in this section and it is to do with timetabling. Again, we had this experience with Crossrail and the great western route. We were pressing for a long time, saying, “You’re adding extra trains on to the great western. Where will all the freight trains and the intercities go, as you’re not building any more tracks?”. I said they had to produce a timetable. The first timetable produced for the great western between Reading and London was wonderful but it had only Crossrail trains on it. They said, “That’s the timetable” and I said, “What about the other trains?”. They said, “Oh, we haven’t put them on”. I said, “If you’re running a railway, you’ve got to put every train on the timetable. Don’t be silly, go away and do it again”. After about a couple of years, they came back and said. “Here it is”.
I gave their timetable to my experts and said, “Is the freight capacity that the Government have committed to on the timetable?”. They said, “Well, you’ve got 22 freight trains a day on it and you asked for 26”. I said, “Where are the others?”. They said, “Crossrail says they are on the timetable”. They were, but for a different line that went across the great western route on a bridge, so it was completely irrelevant. I got pretty angry then and said, “Can they go the other way?”. They said, “We haven’t checked that but it’s on the timetable”. They were adamant that they had to get priority for the Crossrail trains to Reading on the slow lines. They really wanted all the other trains to go on the fast lines. I got as far as telling some Members of Parliament in Cardiff and Bristol that they were going to have one train an hour and not two, because Crossrail was going to take all the paths. Eventually, the infrastructure manager was told by the Government to do a comprehensive timetable, which is Network Rail’s job. That is what should happen.
Here, we have HS2 and the west coast main line. As I said on Tuesday, you have six tracks at Handsacre junction going into three for a bit, so there may be a traffic jam of trains. It is reasonable to have a draft timetable produced either by HS2 or Network Rail, or hopefully by both, to demonstrate how many of the trains that everybody wants to run can actually run up there. I argued against Handsacre on Tuesday but if it happens, we have to have a timetable because otherwise something will go wrong. It should be up to the regulator to decide which trains have priority and who can run them.
This is very much a probing amendment. The Minister may say that it is happening already, although I would slightly challenge that. If it is not, perhaps he could say a few words to the relevant people to make sure that it does happen quite quickly and that there is good consultation with all the operators. I beg to move.
My Lords, unless I mistook what was going on, I have a feeling that the Minister has already replied to this amendment. I feel that the reply he gave to Amendment 22 was in fact a reply to Amendment 24A, hence the reference to freight paths and to keeping arrangements flexible in advance and not making commitments this far out. It may be that he has more to add on these issues.
I would make just two points. It is not clear to me why my noble friend thinks that publishing a draft timetable nine years before the line opens is a good idea. This would build up a whole set of debates, expectations and controversies long before the likely pattern of demand and usage is clear. Was there some particular reason why he was so keen that this work should be done so far in advance of the opening of HS2?
The second point that the Minister replied to earlier was about freight use, but of course it is not envisaged that there will be any freight paths on HS2. Perhaps my noble friend will say why he thinks there should be, because the released capacity on the west coast main line will provide very significant additional freight opportunities, and of course freight trains do not run at the speeds achieved by passenger trains, so they would significantly disrupt the operation of the high-speed service if they operated during the day. Moreover, as the Minister also said earlier, I understand that the custom and practice on most high-speed lines is that maintenance work will be done overnight and it is therefore essential that the lines can be closed for that purpose. So I was not quite sure about some of the points made by my noble friend—why he wants either to set these in stone now, or in the case of freight, to build up expectations that there would be freight services on this line, which is quite unlikely to be the case.
My Lords, I rise briefly to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and to support what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is trying to say. This is a long and complicated process and however far in advance one talks about timetables, surely there is little point in building something if it will not deliver what one wants at the end of the day. One must look at the end as well as the beginning to make sure that one gets the system right.
My Lords, just to be clear, the illustrative timetables have been published already and, indeed, have been a part of the business case. What my noble friend’s amendment refers to is a comprehensive and detailed working timetable, which, as I say, will greatly build up the expectations of those who will benefit and lead to big and controversial campaigns by those who will not. In some areas, particularly with regard to freight trains, I am assuming that they would not feature in any event.
I hate to labour the point. I can understand why detailed timetables would not be wanted, but surely identifying possible bottlenecks and flaws well in advance is absolutely essential.
My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have spoken in this brief debate. Perhaps I may say that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is correct in saying that much of this has already been responded to in speaking to Amendment 22. However, I can understand and empathise with the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, as to where he is coming from in the need to ensure that thought is being given to the timetables. Indeed, dare I say it, I recall the experience of when Reading station was opened by Network Rail and there were no timetables for half of the stations. The service was extremely unreliable and uncertain, so experience encourages one to consider these issues with care to ensure that the Government are thinking all this through.
I am pleased to say that, as set out in a Treasury minute published on 19 December last year, the Government have already committed to developing an integrated train plan for the entire west coast corridor from 2019 and will consult on that plan. This work will be led by the recently announced West Coast Partnership franchise. It would not be possible to do the work earlier as the West Coast Partnership will not be in place until 2018.
The key point is that a number of well-established statutory and regulatory procedures are in use on the railway to ensure that timetables are developed in a considered and structured way. This amendment appears to cut across that process, and given that the Government have already committed to a timeframe for a timetable, I hope that the noble Lord will see fit to withdraw his amendment as, again, we feel that it is not necessary; in fact, it would be otiose to legislate.
I am grateful to the Minister for that response. Indeed, I was not aware of the Treasury paper, which is good news and rather justifies me tabling the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, may be wondering why the Treasury is moving so early. He said that a timetable is needed for the business case and yes, of course it is needed to build a new line. I am not talking in particular about freight on the high-speed line. If that does develop, it could run at night, but it is not that significant. However, for the west coast main line, a lot of people will be looking for business cases to work out how they will respond not only to the west coast franchise but to other franchises and freight. Ministers have said for many years that there will be so much space on the west coast main line that you will be able to run a lot of freight trains, and we hope that that is true. However, I recall that, a few years ago, other Ministers promised services on the west coast main line with a 10-minute frequency, non-stop from Milton Keynes. The number of non-stop services from the constituencies of particular Members of Parliament can cause a bit of congestion near London.
As the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, said, if any investment is required—even for just a small set of points or something like that—it takes a long time. We can debate why, but it does. In particular, if a freight service that goes up the west coast main line wants to run a new service between a port and an inland terminal and signs a contract with a customer for 10 years, it will want some comfort that it will be able to run that train for 10 years. Unlike passenger services, which can run when they are empty if they are told to, a freight train will not run unless it is full. It is therefore good news that the process has started, and I shall follow it with great interest. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 24A withdrawn.
Clauses 44 to 52 agreed.
Amendments 25 to 27 not moved.
Clause 53: Rights of entry for further high speed rail works
Debate on whether Clause 53 should stand part of the Bill.
I will make a point on Clause 53, which, if I have understood correctly, is one of the clauses that is covered in the report from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. It may be that the Government have already given their response, in which case I would be grateful if the Minister could remind me what it was, particularly bearing in mind that the report was published on 16 November. However, my question is purely to ask where we are with the Government’s response to that committee’s report. With regard to two particular paragraphs, have the Government responded and, if not, will they, or it is up to us to put something down on Report if we want to go down the road suggested?
I am just checking as I do not have a response. However, the Government will respond and we intend to publish that before Report.
Clause 53 agreed.
Clauses 54 to 62 agreed.
Amendment 28 not moved.
Clauses 63 and 64 agreed.
Clause 65: Vocational qualifications
29: Clause 65, page 32, line 17, at end insert “with 31 March 2018”
Amendment 29 agreed.
Clause 65, as amended, agreed.
30: After Clause 65, insert the following new Clause—
(1) Within three months of the passing of this Act, the Secretary of State must appoint a Complaints Commissioner. (2) The role of the Complaints Commissioner shall be to receive and deal with complaints about any part of the works authorised by this Act.(3) Each year, the Complaints Commissioner must prepare and publish a report on the activities of the Commissioner during that year.(4) Each report must be submitted to the Secretary of State, who must lay the report before each House of Parliament.”
This is a probing amendment to find out from Ministers whether we intend to have the same kind of complaints commissioner as we did for Crossrail, HS1 and the Channel Tunnel, whose role was to receive any complaints from the public, local authorities or anyone else located near construction activities. That system worked well, and the commissioners produced an annual report. On one or two of those projects, the Minister of Transport of the day used to chair a meeting where everybody could come along and the complaints commissioner could give his report. That is one way of doing it, if it was thought necessary. I believe the Minister said that there is going to be a complaints commissioner, in which case I am very happy. If there is not, perhaps he would consider it as a really good way of stopping complaints escalating unnecessarily into nasty local press stories and resolving them instead. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have amendments in this group to which the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, has also added his name. Before speaking to those amendments, I remind noble Lords of my declaration of interest recorded when I spoke on Tuesday.
A point I made at Second Reading is that an ongoing theme throughout the process of this Bill has been the scarcity of meaningful scrutiny of HS2 Ltd and the apparent lack of trust that residents have in the current system. My amendments would provide for a completely independent regulatory body to review and monitor progress during construction and to hold HS2 Ltd to account to deliver what has been promised in terms of environmental and other mitigations. This body would also be able to act, with teeth, when there are problems during the construction period—for instance, if the code of construction practice is not being adhered to correctly.
Unfortunately, there are concerns that the construction commissioner will not have the remit or capacity to monitor such a large project effectively. Indeed, a permanent construction commissioner has not yet been appointed and, as far as I am aware, no supporting staff are yet in place. Independent scrutiny by an independent body will be critical, perhaps with a panel with relevant expertise and, most importantly, enforcement powers.
The importance of the history of this project cannot be underestimated. HS2 Ltd has consistently been criticised for its poor engagement, as evidenced in the reports of the House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. Residents are rightly fearful that they may end up doing the policing themselves and may be at the mercy of poor communication and conduct for many years as construction is carried out.
Currently, many residents have such little faith in HS2 Ltd that they go straight to their Members of Parliament, local authorities or action groups for assistance. Up to this point, there has been scarce belief that complaints will be dealt with swiftly or fairly by HS2 Ltd. This is why an independent body is so important to restoring this trust and ensuring that residents are not left high and dry. This is already proving a problem in my local area, where HS2 contractors are failing to clean up after themselves following their initial groundwork investigations, causing significant mess and hazardous conditions on local roads in Chalfont St Giles. Predictably, once again the burden has fallen on local authorities, which have to deal with this at their own expense. Residents were forced to go to their local councillors and MP to complain, as they were simply unaware of any other route by which to escalate the issue. A wall was badly damaged by a contractor’s lorry in the same area. Although that situation is now being sorted out, there is little to no reassurance locally that such issues will be resolved fairly without influence from HS2 Ltd.
I am also very concerned that environmental measures may not be put in place appropriately if there is no one to enforce them. HS2 and its contractors, while required to adopt measures to reduce the adverse environmental effects reported in the environmental statement, only have to do so,
“provided that such measures are reasonably practicable and do not add unreasonable cost or delay to the construction or operation of the project”.
In effect, this could give the nominated undertaker a “get out of jail free card”. Presumably, it could be frequently argued that almost any environmental mitigation could cause delays to the project and add cost, which would therefore not be “reasonably practicable” to implement.
Similar amendments to these were put to a vote in the other place by the right honourable Cheryl Gillan. Although they did not pass, I believe that it is more important than ever to ensure that we get it right in this House to ensure that residents are fully protected.
My amendments provide for a truly independent body—a body with teeth—to take this project in hand and make sure that it is built properly and to the highest standards. Perhaps the body could also report regularly to Parliament on the progress of construction and make any appropriate recommendations. If HS2 or its contractors do not comply with requirements, there should be recourse and a means of meaningful enforcement. I do not accept that this role is covered in the remit of the construction commissioner—that is simply not the case. The project has desperately needed close scrutiny and independent oversight for many years, and it is time to ensure that the residents affected by it are not let down anymore.
My Lords, we need something to deal with this issue, whatever form that “something” takes, and we need it to be independent and to have a responsibility to provide reports and analysis of the issues and problems as they occur.
The committee’s report is very critical of the record of HS2 so far. The committee said:
“The promoter has attracted a good deal of criticism from some petitioners for lack of engagement”.
HS2 Ltd has now made a commitment to put in place a strategy for community engagement, including for vulnerable residents, and has employed someone to deal with community engagement and complaints. However, it has a lot of ground to make up in terms of public trust. Indeed, the final amendment that the Minister put forward in our previous debate, which was a last-minute change of approach in terms of traffic regulation, does not inspire one with confidence that the Government are looking ahead at what they need, or if they are looking ahead, that they have raised the issue in time for full consultation on it. I am not sure which of those two scenarios is the more disturbing. As I say, HS2 has ground to make up. Throughout the project residents have a right to expect a good, simple, straightforward and independent process when concerns arise and they have complaints. I believe that a similar process was followed in relation to Crossrail. However it is done, we need intelligent mediation on this.
My Lords, I apologise for not being present at Tuesday’s Committee debate due to private reasons. I have subsequently read the report of the proceedings and very much appreciate the contributions made by my noble friends Lady Mallalieu, Lady Young and Lord Rosser. I particularly appreciate the Minister’s contribution as he covered some of the points I would have made had I been present, and did so very well. Of course, now that he has declared that he is a would-be train driver, I am sure that he will be disqualified from any future activities with regard to transport, but while we have him, we should cherish him.
I declare my interest as a resident of Little Missenden in the Chilterns AONB. I have also been involved in some of the campaigns associated with Little Missenden. My private interests were dealt with during a sitting of the Select Committee in your Lordships’ House. However, I think that, to the extent to which they were able to help, those matters are extinguished. Therefore, I am not dealing here with private interests but with the fallout from the issues that occur to me as a Member of your Lordships’ House in relation to some of the processes that I have been able to observe from a variety of positions.
I am speaking to Amendment 30, dealing with a complaints commissioner; to Amendment 31, in my name and that of the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding; and to the associated amendments relating to those. Amendments 30 and 31 relate to issues that stem from some of the processes that have been established to try to progress the Bill through a hybrid arrangement. The noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, made a very good speech in which she tried to identify where the gaps occur from a local perspective. I should have mentioned in my opening remarks that I thank her for speaking on Tuesday on another amendment. Noble Lords may not be aware that she rushed here, almost straight from the airport, and had not even unpacked before she arrived, and yet she was still able to give a very substantial speech, and I thank her for that.
The process we have been through reveals the need for either a complaints commissioner or an adjudicator. I absolutely agree with the points made by my noble friend Lord Berkeley and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on these issues. During the Select Committee phase, the focus is on the personal interests of those who are directly affected by the Bill. The problem is that, even if you are trying to argue a more general public interest case, what you can do is narrowed down by the fact that the opening position and arrangements against which those presentations are made relate to your residence and propinquity to the line.
I am conscious that there are members of the Select Committee here today, and I do not in any sense want to do anything to suggest that I do not hold them in the highest regard or do not think that the report was an excellent summary of the work that they did. However, I found it a very difficult experience, and I am not an inexperienced public speaker. If I found it difficult, it is fair to say that other petitioners will have found it the same. It is a very adversarial process, focusing on private interests, and therefore mitigation, rather than on the broader issues that exist. There is no equality of arms because the process is done in a court-like setting with very highly trained, and presumably quite expensive, advocates against you.
The particularity of the situation in the Lords was that the committee, for reasons that I understand, had decided that it would not hear cases that involved alternative provisions. That meant that most of those who wished to speak, certainly those from the Chilterns, felt that they could not raise all the issues they wanted to. I could go on—I could mention that the lack of action groups and the reliance on parish councils was reflected, but I do not wish to get into that area. I just want that to be noted as the background. Looking back at the process, it seems to me that important issues have fallen by the side. It is not clear to me how those can be picked up, except through this process. This process is dealing with the public aspects of the Bill, but it engages with issues that could be regarded as private, even though they are germane.
I appreciate that this is quite a difficult point to get across and I have no doubt that I will be attacked for it. However, there is a gap around the need to regard what local expertise and understanding can bring to the broader picture. That is not the same as private interests. The issues faced by those trying to petition the Select Committee were no different from the issues faced by those arguing more generally against the Bill.
The Bill will go through—there is no question but that the Government will get their Bill. Therefore, it is now a question of how best to improve it for the future for all people. However, in the absence of the ability to get direct cost information about what is involved, we were constantly frustrated. How could it be that decisions were being reached that balanced the direct costs of building part of the railway and the adverse costs that would occur if the environment were destroyed? This obviously applies to the Chilterns, but there are other areas in which this is also a responsibility. We could not get that cost information: we lacked the ability to do so through the private sector and we have not been able to do it in any public way. That is a problem. I am not saying that were the information to be made available it would change anything, but we cannot get it and the decision is not transparent. There is no information available in the public sector about the trade-off that needs to be made—as I understand it, through the legislative process—between the responsibilities the Government have to maintain AONBs and the need to have the infrastructure of a railway. I have come to terms with the fact that there will be a railway and it will go through the Chilterns. However, I do not have the information to understand better the mechanics of how a decision was reached that it was too expensive to continue the tunnel past Wendover, for example.
There are some difficulties here. It may be that the review which is to be carried out on how we deal with these issues and how lines are to be built will pick up on the point, although I certainly understand that it is probably too late to look at this particular railway. But I want to put on the record that, from my experience, there are difficulties here.
My real point is one I mentioned earlier. It is about the way in which local experience about the problems and the pinch points cannot be built into the process. Some very good examples were given to the Committee in the sitting on Tuesday. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, in what was a series of powerful and appropriate contributions, talked about the tunnelling at Wendover and the issues that have arisen from knowledge about a cheaper version which simply is not being discussed, along with the issues at Doddershall and Quainton. As the noble Viscount explained, these are all extremely pertinent in the local context, but there are wider issues about whether they are the better solution to the problems being faced by the proprietor in putting forward the railway. Like the noble Viscount, I do not understand how it is that these decisions are taken in the absence of information and in the absence of a process under which better interrogation could take place.
I shall mention two or three other matters although I do not wish to go into any detail and I am not looking to the Minister to make a response to them. However, I have been copied into correspondence from people living near Savay Lake and Savay Farm, which I know the committee heard about at length. As I say, I do not wish to go into the detail, but it seems that there may be a miscarriage here which is of an extent that might require, for instance, an independent adjudicator to take some interest in further down the line. That is why I support the proposal. The question about the haul road in Great Missenden for which there seemed a solution brokered outside the Select Committee in order to ensure that there would be a programme to mitigate the damage to Great Missenden collapsed and there seems to be no way to retrieve it because the system simply does not provide an opportunity to do so.
All these issues—there are others; I could mention the question of more issues closer to Great Missenden at Hyde Heath and further up the line as referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor—show that the detail is not needed to make the general point that there is no body, no person, likely to be able to take account of redress where there is environmental impact as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, or impacts on communities which occur after the Act is passed but during the process and before the line is opened. That is because the system does not seem to permit it. It will be, as it were, cast in concrete as soon as the Bill gets through. That seems wrong and therefore I agree absolutely with the idea that there should be some form of complaints commission. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, made the right point when she said that we need something with teeth, and therefore her proposal for an independent adjudicator may be the right way forward.
Before I close on this perhaps I may mention a point that was raised by my noble friend Lord Rosser on Tuesday. Many of the complaints that arose in the original hearings and in both Select Committees were about compensation. I think we have all had experience of how difficult that can be to apply. There is a proposal which I would commend to the Minister to take on board. I do not think that it could necessarily be available on this project, but it might be appropriate for phase 2. It could be of more general interest and I would ask him to take it away because I am not looking for a response today. It stems from a Private Member’s Bill tabled around 18 months ago in the other place. The idea is a property bond approach through a substantial fund that would be controlled by a mutual on the basis that where a person has a property which is affected by some form of infrastructure arrangement, it would not be necessary for the promoters of the scheme to provide a direct contribution towards the replacement costs should that property be required. There is too much detail for me to go through at this point in the proceedings, but I would like to leave the proposal with the Minister and I am happy to write to him and attend meetings if he feels that it is worth following up.
The difficulty that has bedevilled all the compensation schemes in the Chilterns has been around propensity to the line. Setting an arbitrary figure of so many metres before someone can qualify for one or other of the various arrangements was always going to cause problems, and that is a general observation rather than applying just to this line. If it could be possible to arrange matters, perhaps through some form of mutual obligation on all property owners, so that anyone affected by waterworks activity, electricity, railways and roads is covered for the diminution in the value of their property because of the works, that would lift a huge weight from those who are affected by infrastructure arrangements and, I think, it would help the Government to gain support for their projects. The proposal comes under the general idea of a property bond, but it is really related to the blighting effect of infrastructure projects. I commend it to those who might be interested and I will be happy to follow it up later.
My Lords, I do not know where to start on the amendment after that omnibus. However, first, in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, I do not think that having another independent adjudicator as well as the complaints commissioner is a good idea. It will confuse the situation. I agree with her on the substance of the point: a complaints commissioner should be appointed, as one will be, and that individual should have teeth. However, we really need to correct the notion that there is a “get out of jail free” card simply because we occasionally see a reference to doing everything practically possible in relation to the environment and that there are no requirements on HS2’s contractors to take care of the environment. Hundreds and hundreds of assurances have been given and they really have to be adhered to. I have said that many times to petitioners. We had petitioners from Camden who said, “Oh, there are a few assurances”. There were 100 assurances given to Camden Council and I pleaded with them to look at what is already available. We went over the environmental concerns meticulously. There is not an animal or insect that we have not considered, from hedgehogs to crested newts and barn owls or whatever, and rightly so. We paid them a lot of attention.
It is unfortunate that my noble friend Lord Stevenson of Balmacara was not here on Tuesday because we had the same allegation from the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, that we did not debate this. We did: it did not matter whether they were additional provisions, we debated them at length many times. As for the costing, we did not take the word of the contractors or the promoters. We looked carefully, by an independent assessment, to see whether that could justify their view of extending the tunnel. Do not forget that this tunnel has been significantly extended, as a result of the debate in the Commons, and at significant expense. My noble friend shakes his head; I do not know why. It is not enough because we know what the objective is. He wants to tunnel right the way through it but did not achieve that objective. As for the idea that my noble friend somehow could not make his case, I find that hard to understand. He had plenty of opportunity.
On the idea that we in the Select Committee would somehow pay more attention to the barristers, believe me: we were bored out of our skulls by barristers on many occasions and often paid more attention to people who represented their case effectively, whether they were from the parish council or just individuals. The main thing they had to do was to focus on what they wanted the Select Committee to do, and when they did we supported them. In many cases, that was on compensation as well. It really is wrong to tell this Committee that somehow we did not have an opportunity to look at these issues. We did, again and again. In fact, it is probably lucky that I was not chairing it because I would have been more ruthless. We allowed lots and lots of people to present their case, including in locus standi hearings. We made sure that whether it was on environment or noise, or whatever it was, we gave people the opportunity to make their case—not just once but on many occasions.
It should not be suggested to this Committee that individual petitioners somehow had not had an opportunity to present their case or were browbeaten by the barristers. Of course it was a robust environment; I do not deny that but we took account of it and listened carefully. My noble friend shrugs his shoulders; I do not know whether that means that he disputes the integrity of the committee or our attempts to give a fair hearing to petitioners. I do not know why he does that.
I made it perfectly clear that I was in no sense criticising the committee. Obviously, I have let the noble Lord speak, but I was trying to say that there was a gap in the ability of those who wished to make points broader than their private interests, the cause of which obviously did not lie with the committee. I am not blaming the committee, which did exceptional work, and was fantastic. I felt—the noble Lord, Lord Young, can read the transcript; he was there—that I could not say the things I wanted to say. Indeed, the chairman stopped me and said, kindly, that he was taking account of my experience and presence in the House, and would listen to me, but that he wanted me to stop. I cut out two pages of what I was going to say. I am not saying that it was good or bad—it just happened. I am trying to get behind that to say that the committee’s process did not engage sufficiently with the issues that could have been considered. I am trying to play back to the amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, as I think that that will continue, and in the future an independent adjudicator would be a good thing.
I am afraid that we will have to agree to disagree, because they did have the opportunity to make wider points on many issues. On the fact that my noble friend was stopped from speaking, I cannot remember precisely why, but it may well be that we had heard those points on many occasions and reiteration did not necessarily produce a better impact for the committee. However, again, I refute the idea that my noble friend is promoting: that this was an unfair environment in which petitioners were not able to address the wider case. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Walker, was meticulous in allowing people to develop the whole case even though we had heard the same issue on many occasions, whether it was the requirement for extra tunnelling or a whole range of issues. Inevitably, if you look at the geography of the petitioners, we heard the same case again and again.
I am not saying that the Select Committee procedure was perfect but I refute that petitioners did not have the opportunity to make their case and address the wider issues. They did. We heard them and wherever we could, if anything, we leaned towards the petitioners. We knew that if people had taken the time and trouble to come to Westminster to make their case, they were entitled to a fair hearing. In fact, the pressure was more on the promoters to prove that the petitioners were wrong than the other way round.
My Lords, I must correct two points that my noble friend made. The first was that the HS2 people did not communicate with the residents of various places. They held meetings and sent leaflets and the response was totally pathetic, particularly in the Camden area. It is not unreasonable to think that the response would be pathetic, because we were talking about something that would not go through their patch for seven years, so people thought, “I can’t really be bothered”. That was the information we got from HS2, and the petitioners did not correct us on it.
Secondly, on a point I made on Tuesday, in numerical terms we had over 100 meetings and produced a 60,000-word report, and the verbatim of all those meetings is available. It would be jolly nice if noble Lords tried to look at the various areas about which petitioners now say, “Well, of course they didn’t listen” or “They didn’t do this”. We bent over backwards, to the extent that sometimes I felt that HS2 would get fed up with the committee members trying to understand the various differences between the petitioners. There was just one QC who flung the file at Mr Mould, the HS2 barrister, because he simply could not understand his way of thinking, and that was wrong.
The noble Lord, Lord Young, has explained it completely. I feel utterly traduced, having spent all that time on it. We worked from May through to December, relentlessly, four days a week. We did our best. The noble Lord and I were both worn out. I think I remember him saying, “If I die, Wendover will be written on my heart.” On another occasion, he said, “If I ever hear of Wendover again, I will go mad.” We spent hours on Wendover, and on the Chilterns—and then the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, said that there should not be a tunnel anyway because the people who travel on the train want to see the scenery. To hear this kind of thing after all the work we have done frankly made me want to give up. I lost the will to live at one stage. It had an effect on us. We were getting colds. We were tired. Our weekends were spent in a daze wondering how to recover. I am not trying to plead a special case, but to hear this sort of stuff coming out is not at all rewarding to people who went there, unpaid, and gave up a huge amount of their private life for it.
Noble Lords will be aware that there was a consultation on the hybrid Bill procedure, which closed just before Christmas and on which the clerks can provide us all with details. I think that is the forum for discussing how the procedure works, whether improvements could be made, whether everybody was treated fairly, and so on. I suspect it will be the first of a number of inquiries. We all learn from these processes, but I am not sure that today’s Committee is the right forum in which to discuss them in detail.
My Lords, in a sense this goes to the point I was trying to make when we first started about the function of this Committee. We are dealing with a huge, modern project within a Victorian legislative system, which will be improved in time—but not in time to take care of the problems that face us. We all ought to bear that in mind. I, like every other member of this Committee, I am sure, have no wish to denigrate the work of the Select Committee. We acknowledge all the hours its members put in and what they went through. But if this Committee today is to have any function or usefulness at all, then it has to deal with and reflect on what they thought, what we think and how things should go forward.
We are talking about the biggest infrastructure project this country will ever undertake. It is an enormous project. The work involved will have a huge impact on both the urban and rural environment. Surely we must leave no stone unturned to ensure that it is correct. The Select Committee may think it has done that, but if anybody has more concerns, as we have today, they should be able to express them. This project is going to last for years. It will affect thousands of people’s lives for years in all sorts of ways. It is all right having a complaints system but complaints happen after the result, when the damage is done.
I am talking today about awareness: making HS2 aware of its obligations from the beginning and having someone—an adjudicator, or whatever you want to call it—to keep an eye on it from the beginning. People also need to be reassured that the adjudicator, or whatever official we decide upon, will support and defend their interests. I declare my own interest: I have always been interested in trees. I am an ex-president of the Arboricultural Association and I like ancient woodlands. Believe you me, an hour’s work with a JCB in the wrong place will do untold and irreparable damage that no amount of money, apologies, complaints or acceptance of responsibility by HS2 will put right. From the very beginning, if it is to work at all—I still do not want it to go ahead—there must be an awareness on both sides. That means, on the part of HS2, an awareness of its obligations on every little detail so that the general public are reassured that their interests will be properly defended. What structure or person that would need, be it an adjudicator or whatever we like to call it, I am not sure, but that mechanism must somehow be put in place.
Perhaps I may raise one or two points on the issue that is set out in the amendment, which as I understand it is about the procedure for dealing with issues that people have during the construction process and what kind of redress is available to them. I raise this in the context of asking the Minister to clarify what those processes will be. I shall start with the context set out in the summary of the Select Committee’s report, which states:
“As the railway is constructed over the coming years, it will be imperative that the promoter engages effectively with all interested parties to ensure that, as far as possible, disruption and inconvenience are kept to a minimum. In this regard, the promoter faces an enormous task and we cannot stress enough the importance of effective and timely public engagement, something which, we were told time and again, could be improved upon”.
As an example of what I am asking, I refer to paragraphs 155 to 157 of the committee’s report. These relate to an issue which, as far as I am personally concerned, is fairly close to home; about a third of a mile, to be precise. The committee states at paragraph 155 that it had,
“heard some powerful and entirely credible evidence about traffic congestion in Ickenham”,
while paragraph 156 states:
“That is the background against which, as we are satisfied, the promoter has made determined and realistic efforts to reduce the numbers of HGV movements on the roads of Ickenham. The promoter’s original estimate was of 1,860 two-way HGV movements a day. That has been progressively improved, first to 1,460, then to 1,060, and finally to 550 two-way HGV movements a day. That last figure appears in the assurance (in terms of “reasonable endeavours”) embodied in clause 7 of the draft contract giving effect to the agreement mentioned in paragraph 150 above. It is expressed as a limit of 550 HGV movements a day at Swakeleys Roundabout and, as a separate undertaking, a reduction (“so far as reasonably practicable”) in the number of HGVs using the roundabout at peak morning and evening hours on weekdays”.
The committee goes on to say:
“This remarkable improvement in the target, although obviously welcome, has been criticised by some petitioners as having emerged only at a late stage, after much uncertainty, and as still having an element of contingency”.
I have no doubt that it was not only as a result of the representations made but from the questioning and the interest taken in it by the committee, which were probably quite significant factors in getting the numbers down.
I use this simply as an example for the question that I want to raise. If, for example, residents in the area—it could apply to any area—where commitments have been given have suspicions that rather more than 550 HGV movements are taking place, I would be grateful if the Minister could set out what redress those residents would have in that context. They have made representations and obviously have had help from the committee, but what happens if, when the work starts, they subsequently feel that the commitments are not being adhered to? What redress can those residents take, or what could they seek to obtain?
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken to these amendments in the names of the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, and my noble friend Lady Pidding. The Government share the concerns that noble Lords have highlighted through the tabling of this amendment, and I fully acknowledge the importance of residents and businesses along the route knowing they can seek fair and independent resolution of complaints, if necessary—the word “independent” has come up several times, as it is important.
I will immediately address points made by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson. I hope that he will recognise, as indeed he said in his speech this afternoon, that the Minister addressed a number of the issues that the noble Lord raised this afternoon during our first day in Committee on Tuesday. However, I shall quickly reference a couple of things he talked about. One is with regard to engagement on wider issues. While he is correct that the Select Committee focuses on private interests, there has been frequent consultation on the scheme at a detailed level, even as it evolved and changed through additional provisions. Consultation responses, which numbered nearly 23,000, were analysed and reported on by an independent assessor appointed by Parliament. Six reports are available in the House Library for the noble Lord to consider. In addition, the noble Lord referenced property bonds, which I shall refer to. I hope he will be reassured by the fact that we will review the full suite of HS2 discretionary compensation schemes later this year, and as part of that, I can confirm that we will consider arguments with regard to a property bond option.
I acknowledge several helpful interventions made by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, and my noble friend Lady O’Cathain, in amplifying, illustrating and helping us through this process by referencing so much that took place during that whole process when they sat on that Select Committee. We must be mindful of the enormous amount of work that they achieved and of course the considerable care they took to ensure that people were genuinely listened to.
The Government want to reassure noble Lords that these amendments are unnecessary, as we are already putting in place comprehensive measures to address these concerns in the guise of a construction commissioner. The construction commissioner will fulfil the requirements that noble Lords are seeking in their proposed amendments, and more besides. The commissioner will mediate in unresolved disputes between the project and individuals or bodies relating to the construction of HS2 and will be able to receive and deal with complaints about the construction of the railway on an independent and impartial basis. Furthermore, the commissioner will have a role on advising on actions the nominated undertaker and contractors can take to reduce the number of complaints they receive. The commissioner will also have a particular role in determining complaints which are made under the small claims scheme—this point makes immediate reference to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser—which provides a simple and informal basis to recover losses up to £10,000 for each individual claim.
The construction commissioner will be independent of the Secretary of State and any nominated undertaker appointed to construct the proposed scheme. We have already appointed an interim construction commissioner, Mr Gareth Epps. A permanent appointment—to reassure my noble friend Lady Pidding—will be made following Royal Assent, when the Secretary of State will establish an independent body to appoint the construction commissioner and determine its precise terms of reference, including its regular reporting requirements. The independent body will be made up of a range of stakeholders, including representatives of local authorities affected by HS2 phase one. The commitment to appoint a construction commissioner is a binding one, made to Parliament and recorded in the register of undertakings and assurances. Given that we are already addressing this issue, I hope that noble Lords will accept that legislation is unnecessary and not press this proposed new clause.
With respect to the issue of an independent adjudicator, I note that this amendment was previously tabled during the Public Bill Committee in another place. I am not convinced on the need for an HS2 adjudicator. There are already extensive checks and balances built into the Bill, based on the regime adopted by Crossrail and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. The regime has proved effective for those projects and we see no reason why it would not be effective for this project. This issue was raised before your Lordships’ Select Committee, which also saw no need to impose such a role. I do not believe that this Committee should either.
This amendment, as well as being unnecessary, is unwelcome, as it would effectively create a quango with all the unnecessary cost and bureaucracy that this would entail. I cannot resist citing the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who, at the beginning of this afternoon’s Committee, said on his second amendment that he is not in favour of creating an enormous bureaucratic nightmare. These amendments would create just that.
I am sorry to interrupt the Minister’s peroration but, while I understand the point about the construction commissioner, who may well solve a lot of the difficulties raised today, who is going to take responsibility once construction is completed for ongoing concerns and issues? She mentioned current practices in Crossrail, which may have a resonance for us. Without having to spend too much time today, perhaps it would be possible for her to write with details of what that might contain for us.
My Lords, in response to the noble Lord’s question, it will continue to be the construction commissioner. In fact, if I could continue my response to noble Lords it would perhaps be helpful.
There are a considerable amount of checks and balances already established by the Bill and the environmental statement, which protect the natural environment and communities from the impact of construction works. The Bill sets out the detailed controls and planning approvals needed for construction works, such as the limits on land that can be taken for the railway and where and how works can be constructed. There is also a strict envelope of environmental impacts within which HS2 has to be built or it does not have planning permission. Furthermore, there are requirements for the Government to gain approval from local authorities under the planning regime on specific issues, including the approval of construction traffic routes.
Additional commitments have been made during the parliamentary process: literally thousands of individual undertakings and assurances that are a matter of public record. These commitments are either legally enforceable through the courts or matters for which the Secretary of State will be answerable to Parliament if there is any breach of them. These commitments also include those relating to the environmental minimum requirements, which have been developed in consultation with local authorities and others. The code of construction practice, which forms part of these commitments, sets out detailed standards of work that will be adopted by contractors throughout the construction period to control potential impacts on people, businesses and the natural and historic environment. This code also sets out the mechanisms that will be used to engage with the local community and their representatives throughout the construction period.
Let us not forget all the existing legislation that will continue to apply during the construction of HS2. This includes the Control of Pollution Act 1974 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which give necessary roles to statutory bodies that will all play a role in regulating HS2. The Freedom of Information Act and all its requirements will, of course, continue to apply to the Department for Transport and to HS2 Ltd. These existing protections will be reinforced by the dual roles of the residents commissioner and the construction commissioner. The residents commissioner ensures that the Government are communicating with affected residents in the clearest and plainest language possible. The role of the construction commissioner is to mediate unresolved disputes between HS2 Ltd and individuals or bodies and to provide independent, impartial decisions.
My noble friend Lady Pidding raised the question of how the nominated undertaker will be required to deliver the environmental mitigations promised, referring to a “get out of jail free card”. The planning permission given by the Bill is dependent on the project staying within the envelope of environmental impacts set out in the Environmental Statement and the Environmental Minimum Requirements. They are also bound by the code of construction practice. All of those will be monitored by local authorities and many operations are subject to further licensing and permitting requirements from relevant bodies.
The approach I have just outlined is one that has worked well during the construction of HS1 and Crossrail, and I believe that it will work well for this project too. We understand that in issues and enormous projects like this, there will always be a question of trust. This is very important and the Government take it on board, as has been referenced by several noble Lords. But we should be legislating only where it is considered absolutely necessary. In finishing, I note the deep concerns raised by several noble Lords.
The Minister has comprehensively covered most of the territory, but I want to address the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, and my noble friend Lord Rosser raised. There is a code of practice, and they have had the communication—hopefully, because they were not always as good as they should be on that, which is why we made that comment—but there is also the 24-hour helpline. This is the first recourse that people have. If something is going wrong—for instance, as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, if a resident wishes to complain that they were told there would be only 500 lorries but 1,000 have already passed through—there is an immediate requirement for the contractor to respond and to take remedial action. If it fails to do so, then the matter can be taken to the construction commissioner. What people are concerned about, and what we have heard about time and time again and rightly so, is whether what is on paper will happen in practice, and the noble Baroness gave some examples. We must ensure that HS2 abides by the terms and meets the commitments, part of which is that immediate response.
I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green. He is absolutely right that there will be a 24-hour helpline and dedicated community liaison officers there to assist and respond to people’s concerns. I hope that, following this debate and the helpful interventions, noble Lords will accept that we believe that we should avoid creating unnecessarily what would amount to a quango. I hope, therefore, that these amendments will be withdrawn.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for her response and to colleagues for their comments. My intention in putting down this amendment was to probe what has already been done and I am fully satisfied. I did not want to build up a big, bureaucratic exercise. It worked very well on previous projects and I am sure it will work well today, given the right will. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 30 withdrawn.
Amendments 31 to 38 not moved.
Clause 66 agreed.
Clause 67: Interpretation
Amendments 39 and 40
39: Clause 67, page 33, line 13, at end insert—
““deposited statement” has the meaning given by subsection (5);”
40: Clause 67, page 34, line 36, leave out “subsection (4)” and insert “this Act”
Amendments 39 and 40 agreed.
Clause 67, as amended, agreed.
Clauses 68 and 69 agreed.
Schedule 1: Scheduled works
Amendments 41 to 45 not moved.
Schedule 1 agreed.
Schedule 2: Works
46: Schedule 2, page 109, line 3, leave out “2010 (S.I. 2010/675)” and insert “2016 (S.I. 2016/1154)”
Amendment 46 agreed.
Schedule 2, as amended, agreed.
Schedules 3 to 13 agreed.
Schedule 14: Amendments consequential on the Housing and Planning Act 2016
47: Schedule 14, page 316, line 7, leave out paragraph 2 and insert—
“2_ In section 7(2)(acquisition of airspace), for paragraphs (a) and (b) substitute—“(a) Schedule 2A to the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 (counter-notice requiring purchase of land not in notice to treat);(b) Schedule A1 to the Compulsory Purchase (Vesting Declarations) Act 1981 (corresponding provision in case of general vesting declaration);(c) section 153(4A) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (blighted land: proposed acquisition of part interest; material detriment test).”2A_ In section 8(2)(acquisition of subsoil or under-surface), for paragraphs (a) and (b) substitute—“(a) Schedule 2A to the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 (counter-notice requiring purchase of land not in notice to treat);(b) Schedule A1 to the Compulsory Purchase (Vesting Declarations) Act 1981 (corresponding provision in case of general vesting declaration);(c) section 153(4A) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (blighted land: proposed acquisition of part interest; material detriment test).””
My Lords, as noble Lords know, the Bill applies the statutory compulsory acquisition regime to enable the land required for the railway to be acquired. However, the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which was recently considered by your Lordships’ House, made some amendments to that regime and how it operates. The amendments tabled in my name to Schedule 14 update the Bill to take account of the amendments included within the Housing and Planning Act 2016. As such they are technical in nature and merely bring this Bill into line with the Housing and Planning Act 2016. I beg to move.
Amendment 47 agreed.
Amendments 48 to 64
48: Schedule 14, page 316, line 18, leave out from “notice)” to end of line 21 and insert “—
(a) in a case where the notice to treat relates only to one or more of the following—(i) the acquisition of subsoil or undersurface of land, where the subsoil or undersurface lies more than 9 metres below the surface;(ii) the acquisition of airspace over land;(iii) an easement, restrictive covenant or other right over land;for “3 months” substitute “1 month”, and(b) after “11A(4)” insert “or (6) and (7)”.”
49: Schedule 14, page 316, line 23, leave out from “entry:” to end of line 29 and insert “further notices of entry)—
(a) in subsection (1)(a), after “land” insert “under that provision”,(b) in subsection (2), after “land” insert “under that provision, to the extent that the newly identified person is the owner, lessee or occupier of the land,”,(c) in subsection (4)(a), for “14 days” substitute “7 days”, and(d) at the end insert—“(5) Subsections (6) and (7) apply for the purposes of determining the period to be specified in the notice of entry under section 11(1) served on the newly identified person in a case where subsection (4) does not apply.(6) The period specified in the notice must be—(a) in a case where the notice to treat relates only to one or more of the following—(i) the acquisition of subsoil or under- surface of land, where the subsoil or undersurface lies more than 9 metres below the surface;(ii) the acquisition of airspace over land;(iii) an easement, restrictive covenant or other right over land;a period that ends no earlier than the end of the period of 7 days beginning with the day on which the notice of entry is served, and(b) in any other case, a period that ends no earlier than the end of the period of 28 days beginning with the day on which the notice of entry is served.(7) The period specified in the notice must end no earlier than the end of the period specified in any previous notice of entry given by the acquiring authority in respect of the land.””
50: Schedule 14, page 316, line 32, leave out “, omit paragraphs 1(2) and 13(2)” and insert “—
(a) omit paragraphs 1(2) and 14(2), and(b) at the end insert—“PART 4INTERPRETATION30_ In this Schedule, references to entering on and taking possession of land do not include doing so under Schedule 16 to the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Act 2017 (temporary possession and use of land).””
51: Schedule 14, page 317, line 14, leave out “1” and insert “A1”
52: Schedule 14, page 318, line 17, at end insert “the whole or part of”
53: Schedule 14, page 318, leave out lines 20 to 23
54: Schedule 14, page 318, leave out lines 25 to 30
55: Schedule 14, page 318, line 32, leave out “whole of the land” and insert “house, building or factory”
56: Schedule 14, page 318, line 34, leave out “whole of the land” and insert “house, building or factory”
57: Schedule 14, page 319, line 13, leave out “whole of the land” and insert “house, building or factory”
58: Schedule 14, page 319, line 37, leave out “land to which the counter-notice relates” and insert “house, building or factory”
59: Schedule 14, page 319, line 40, leave out “land” and insert “house, building or factory”
60: Schedule 14, page 319, line 42, leave out second “the” and insert “that”
61: Schedule 14, page 319, line 44, leave out “land” and insert “house, building or factory”
62: Schedule 14, page 319, line 47, leave out “the whole of the” and insert “that”
63: Schedule 14, page 320, line 12, leave out “1” and insert “A1”
64: Schedule 14, page 320, line 22, leave out “1” and insert “A1”
Amendments 48 to 64 agreed.
Schedule 14, as amended, agreed.
Schedules 15 and 16 agreed.
65: After Schedule 16, insert the following new Schedule—
“DUTY OF CARE AND LIABILITY OF SECRETARY OF STATE 1 The Secretary of State and the nominated undertaker, and their contractors and sub-contractors, are, when dealing with persons whose land is subject to the exercise of powers under sections 4 to 19 or whose land is otherwise affected by the construction of the scheduled works, subject to a general duty of care to those persons.2 The general duty of care includes requirements to—(a) act fairly and in good faith at all times;(b) minimise so far as reasonably practicable the acquisition and temporary occupation of land of third parties;(c) minimise so far as reasonably practicable the impact on third parties of the carrying out of the scheduled works;(d) act transparently;(e) for not less than five years after the completion of the scheduled works, provide an information and assistance service for those affected by the scheduled works;(f) pay fair compensation promptly;(g) consult affected persons before and during any process of compulsory acquisition;(h) provide accommodation works during the construction of the scheduled works where reasonably required.3 Notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary between the Secretary of State and the nominated undertaker or any contractor or sub-contractor, the Secretary of State is liable to third parties for the actions of the nominated undertaker and his or its contractors and sub-contractors in exercising the powers conferred by this Act and carrying out the scheduled works. 4 It is the duty of the Complaints Commissioner appointed by the Secretary of State under section (Complaints Commissioner) to determine how the Secretary of State and the nominated undertaker must observe the general duty of care created by this Schedule.”
I beg to move this amendment standing in my name. I realise that my following remarks risk throwing petrol on an already blazing flame and that my great friend and former colleague my noble friend Lord Young will probably never speak to me again. However, I say again that I fully acknowledge that the committee did exactly what was required of it and went to extraordinary lengths and made a huge personal commitment in doing so. In no sense was anything I said on the earlier amendments meant to imply anything other than huge admiration for what it has done. I hope that point is well taken. However, I was trying—obviously ineffectively—to argue that the work of the committee, however good, could never address the sorts of issues that I was trying to articulate as they concerned private interests.
I follow the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, in saying that a 19th century Victorian approach to dealing with the vested interests of private landowners is being used in a situation where it is completely inappropriate. It is not in any sense the committee’s fault that we are today talking about the issues that it may feel it knocked on the head and put to bed. There are still issues out there and they were raised by my new friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, because she has experience, as I have, of how they will operate in practice. This issue is about structure.
I have submitted evidence on all this to the committee that was set up to look at hybrid Bills. I hope that it will consider that evidence as we go forward. Why have we not had an opportunity to discuss the committee’s report? That could still be done. It is the biggest gap of all. As I understand it, there is no procedure as regards discussing the excellent report, which I have read. I have looked at every piece of evidence the committee received and I have read every transcript of the events, so I am not unaware of its work. I almost died but I did it. However, the report will never be discussed. That seems an extraordinary lacuna in the process of looking at the Bill. It needs to be picked up because there are things in the report which ought to be brought out and discussed. There are things which perhaps we could agree to disagree about but at least they could be aired and ventilated in a discussion. That is a terrible mistake. I move on.
My last point concerns an issue that came up and reflects points made on it both today and on Tuesday.
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but he was not here on Tuesday, when I think that the Minister gave us assurances that the response to the report will be available before the Report stage.
I have taken note of and am aware of that, but a response is not a debate. While of course I am looking forward to the response and will read it with considerable interest, it will not give us the opportunity to debate and discuss all the other issues, and that is disappointing.
The amendment before us asks whether a duty of care should be placed on the promoter and the nominated undertaker in relation to the acquisition of land by compulsory purchase and associated issues. The reason for tabling it stems from our discussions on questions of how HS2 has been dealing with the people with whom it has to engage around the acquisition of land in preparation for the construction phase. It is clear that the ability to purchase land compulsorily should always be used with a sense of great responsibility and as a last resort. The ability to purchase the property of another against their will is a really substantial power and one hopes that it will be used and exercised with care.
When the Bill before us today receives Royal Assent, HS2 Ltd will have compulsory purchase powers. However, many people feel that the organisation has not really earned the right to move ahead in the way it has done because of how it has operated before in terms of dealing with them. Those most affected by the scheme seem to be the most upset about it, and that is obviously a concern which perhaps will be picked up by better and more informed engagement, but the more that people push top-down on engagement, possibly the less effective it will be. This duty of care is not about disrupting or delaying the Bill—we are not in any sense trying to do that—but introducing a set of standards against which HS2 Ltd can be judged; that is, how is it treating those who are losing land or property to the scheme?
Examples which have led to this amendment have been reported to me and I am happy to share them with the Minister if he wishes me to do so. I am keeping them neutral at this stage, but there is evidence to back up what I am saying. Examples include landowners finding out about significant changes to the design of a scheme only once the information has been released to the public. In some cases, landowners have had meetings with HS2 representatives only shortly before changes were announced, but at which it was denied that any changes were forthcoming. There has been a refusal to engage in extensive discussions with landowners, and that is obviously very frustrating. If adaptations to the design are going to be made, previous plans will not necessarily follow. This has often meant that almost fake meetings have been set up where discussions have been held, but it was clear that another agenda was in place which had not been revealed to the landowner.
There are examples of the failure to pay properly for access to land. Some landowners have agreed to allow HS2 Ltd access on the basis of a fee, but those fees have still not been paid. That seems to be a very poor practice. Some sense of a duty of care being overseen by an independent complaints commission of the type talked about by the noble Baroness when she addressed the last amendment may be a way forward on this, and I am sure would help, but it may mean that the whole process needs to be stiffened by having a formal duty of care. I do not think that this should be seen as being in any way bureaucratic, because obviously that is not allowed. It also should not be seen as in any sense a way of slowing down the scheme. In fact, in some ways a duty of care might actually set standards that would improve the quality of the process between landowners and HS2 Ltd. It is important to look at whether that might be the right way forward.
There is a lot of uncertainty up and down the line about how much land will finally be taken, for how long, on what basis it will be paid for, and how the timing of those payments will work out. This is not helping in terms of making the scheme a success. It would be sensible to have the basic structure of a duty of care as provided for in this amendment, which I commend. I beg to move.
In part, the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, relates to an issue I have asked about previously, which is also contained in the Select Committee’s report on page 97, on permanent or temporary land take. Certainly, the Country Land and Business Association, for example, believes that HS2 is seeking powers to take land permanently which it needs only temporarily, and that this is leading to a highly unsatisfactory situation. I would be grateful if the Minister can reconfirm what I believe he has already said, that when the Government come to respond to the Select Committee’s report, they will address what the Select Committee had to say on the issue of permanent or temporary land take, on pages 97 to 99 of that report. It may well be that, in the light of what the Government have to say, an amendment on this issue will need to be pursued on Report. Therefore, I want that assurance that those paragraphs which the Select Committee included on permanent or temporary land take will be commented on in the Government’s reply.
I appreciate that I am stretching things a bit in raising this, but the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, asked a question earlier about the moving of the portals of the tunnel at Euston. I too have had an email which said that there is a suggestion that staff at HS2 Ltd have indicated that consideration is being given to moving the portals of the tunnel from which the proposed high speed line will emerge to the west of Euston station, about one kilometre nearer to the station. Can the Minister say whether that is correct and whether consideration is being given to this?
To add to that, I have also heard that same rumour from some of the local residents. It is particularly unfortunate if we hear stories like that from residents and we cannot get the answer from Ministers, so I am sure that the Minister will do his best to respond.
On the compulsory purchase and compensation side, I have heard allegations that some of the land subject to compulsory purchase in the Old Oak Common area will be allocated or transferred to a separate company—many of the directors of HS2 seem also to be on its board—and then used for, shall we say, non-railway purposes. Surely compulsory purchase for railway schemes is designed for railway purposes, but if this is to be used for other purposes, it begs a lot of questions as to whether that is an appropriate methodology. If the Minister cannot answer that this afternoon, I am sure he could write to me, if that will be possible.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, for his contributions, and the noble Lords, Lord Rosser and Lord Berkeley, for their questions. To take the final issue first, because that is quite a specific matter, I will write to the noble Lord. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised the issue of what had been heard from residents. I appreciate that that has been received in a positive light and that is taking place, and I hope that that addresses one of the points that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, raised on that.
On the proposal for the duty of care, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said that he had read all elements of the Select Committee’s reports, and we shall of course be testing him on his verbatim knowledge of them at the end of this afternoon’s proceedings—I shall not hold him to that. I am sure that he recognises— I have said this several times, but I shall not tire of saying so—that the Select Committees in both Houses looked at this issue closely among other areas, and the proposal for a duty of care was considered.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, again rightly raised the specific issue promoted by the Country Land and Business Association in its petitions. Let me assure both noble Lords that this matter received lengthy hearings and the Government have now given more than a dozen assurances to the association in response to its concerns. The noble Lord referred specifically to the Select Committee report in this regard, as set out on pages 97 to 99. As I have said previously and will now repeat, we shall respond to those points when we publish our response to the report next week. However, notwithstanding what I have just said, there were no specific recommendations from either committee on the need for such a duty.
As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, may well know, the compensation code which I alluded to in our debates on Tuesday, is both understood and has been developed over time. It has been further refined through the Housing and Planning Act 2016. Furthermore, the Government are already working to an existing commitment, reinforced by several assurances on the formal register, to minimise likely areas of permanent and temporary land take where it is practicable to do so. We have also developed a series of environmental minimum requirements, while the code of construction practice already provides a series of protections for those who may be affected by the construction of the scheme. It is already the case that, if contractors engaged in the construction of the railway fall foul of the expected standard of reasonable care and skill, they will find themselves exposed to claims of negligence which will be actionable through the courts in the ordinary way.
To prevent the need for people to seek redress through the courts, as my noble friend Lady Buscombe mentioned in her response to the previous debate, the Government have provided an alternative remedy in the form of the role of the construction commissioner who is able to receive and deal with on an independent and impartial basis any complaints about the construction of the railway. As my noble friend has already said, the commissioner has a particular role in determining complaints that are made under the small claims scheme, which provides a simple and informal basis to recover losses of up to £10,000 for each individual claim. To emphasise that point, the construction commissioner will also be independent of the Secretary of State and any nominated undertaker appointed to construct the proposed scheme.
Wider protections are already included in the Bill, such as the enforcement of planning controls, which will rest in the ordinary way with the responsible planning authorities. We have talked during our various debates today about the important role that local planning authorities and related agencies will have as we build and construct HS2. I am sure that noble Lords will also be aware that previous hybrid Acts referred to in our debate, such as the Crossrail Act and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act, did not include the provision of a duty of care to ensure that those affected by the construction of these projects were sufficiently protected. I hope that the noble Lord is reassured by what I have said and is therefore minded to withdraw his amendment.
I thank the Minister for that full response. I think that one would be more inclined to accept it if there was a good record of engagement on the part of HS2 Ltd across the range of the piece that we have been talking about today and which I am sure was touched on last Tuesday, but of course the reality is that that is not the case. There have been too many mistakes, too many issues, too much neglect and too much arrogance in terms of assuming that people will just go along with what is being said. These are all words that have been used to me, and I am sure that they are not strange to the Minister’s ears. The point is that this is something that really does have to be handled carefully. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 65 withdrawn.
Schedule 17: Conditions of deemed planning permission
66: Schedule 17, page 348, line 24, leave out paragraph (a)
My Lords, I think this is the last amendment of the day. My reason for putting this down was to probe the rather obscure wording in Schedule 17 that allows in the included ancillary matters the,
“handling of re-useable spoil or topsoil”.
I am not sure what that means—perhaps the Minister can help me to define it. For me, the word “spoil” could include all the material coming out of a 10-mile-long tunnel bore—probably several million tonnes. If HS2 is to be allowed to deposit this stuff wherever it likes because it can give itself planning permission, that does not seem a good idea to me. Maybe it does not cover such large volumes, and it will just be small bits of excavation here or there which do not matter very much. Paragraphs (2)(b) to (g) include what are normal construction activities, such as storage sites for construction materials, construction camps, works screening, lighting and dust suppression. I feel comfortable with their being in the schedule. However, the word “spoil” hit me, and I wondered what it included. If the Minister cannot answer that question today, he can always write to me. It is not the end of the world, but it would just be nice to know. I can always bring it back on Report if I have to. On that basis, I beg to move.
My Lords, it is important that I get this right. This amendment seeks to restrict the ability of a local planning authority to consider the handling of topsoil or other reusable spoil when being asked to approve construction arrangements. Matters over which local authorities—who have requested to be nominated as qualifying authorities—have a right of approval or have enforcement over have been the subject of a tried and tested practice that has worked well on both the Crossrail and the Channel Tunnel rail link projects.
I say to noble Lords, and in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that my impression was that the amendment is linked to Amendment 17, which dealt with restrictions on lorries and road use for the removal of soil and topsoil. We discussed those similar issues when dealing with that amendment earlier this afternoon. The issue relates to storage; for example, of spoil, which is then reusable, as well as topsoil. For example, we spoke on Tuesday about the whole issue of woodland. It is important, where possible, that HS2 has an ability to allow those who will plant the trees to use reusable topsoil—some of which is precious, not least for the regeneration of wildlife and so on—around ancient woodland and new woodland, where it can be transferred. Therefore, on the meaning of “reusable spoil and topsoil” there is nothing one should worry too much about.
I think I can be of some help, because we had significant discussions on this issue. Some of the spoil is indeed reusable—for building embankments, for example. Other types, such as slurry, are not particularly reusable. We had a lot of debates on this because some petitioners were convinced that the promoter had got it wrong and that they did not have to transport some of this spoil over a distance. However, they did; they needed to get it to a site because it had the right components to enable it to be used for building embankments. This is a complex issue. Certainly, however, contractors do not have the right to dump loads of spoil wherever they like—that will be highly controlled and regulated. I hope that has been of some help.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green, for his very helpful intervention. In addition, local authorities will of course be best placed to decide where best to store the reusable soil, whether it be spoil or topsoil. The important point also to make, and which I hope will reassure the noble Lord, is that the nominated undertaker would be required to get disposal plans approved by qualifying local authorities. As the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, it would not be possible for contractors just to dump it or leave it anywhere they felt like. I hope that, on that basis, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
I am very grateful to the Minister. I had hoped that that would be the answer and it gives me great comfort. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 66 withdrawn.
Schedule 17 agreed.
Schedules 18 to 20 agreed.
Schedule 21: Water
Amendments 67 and 68
67: Schedule 21, page 385, line 2, leave out “2010 (S.I. 2010/675)” and insert “2016 (S.I. 2016/1154)”
68: Schedule 21, page 385, line 4, leave out “23ZA” and insert “25”
Amendments 67 and 68 agreed.
Schedule 21, as amended, agreed.
Schedules 22 to 24 agreed.
Amendment 69 not moved.
Schedule 25: Lorries
70: Schedule 25, page 394, line 7, leave out “or 6” and insert “6, 9 or 14”
Amendment 70 agreed.
Schedule 25, as amended, agreed.
Schedules 26 to 31 agreed.
Schedule 32: Protective provisions
Amendments 71 and 72
71: Schedule 32, page 419, line 34, leave out “Energy and Climate Change” and insert “Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy”
72: Schedule 32, page 422, line 20, leave out “Energy and Climate Change” and insert “Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy”
Amendments 71 and 72 agreed.
Schedule 32, as amended, agreed.
Amendment 73 not moved.
In the Title
Amendment 74 not moved.
Bill reported with amendments.
Committee adjourned at 5.03 pm.