House of Lords
Tuesday 24 January 2017
Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Durham.
Child Poverty Unit
My Lords, tackling child poverty and disadvantage is a priority for this Government, and we are convinced that there is a better approach than the one driven by the Child Poverty Act 2010 income-related targets. This is why we replaced them with statutory measures of parental worklessness and children’s educational attainment—the two areas that can make the biggest difference to children’s outcomes. We will build on these measures through our forthcoming Green Paper on social justice.
My Lords, that does not actually answer the Question. The abolition of the cross-departmental unit is widely seen as downgrading and weakening the government machinery dedicated to the eradication of child poverty. Could the Minister explain how the abolition of a cross-departmental unit co-sponsored by the Department for Education is consistent with the Government’s own analysis of the root causes of poverty as partly lying in children’s educational achievement? Surely their own approach, which rejects what they call a narrow income-based approach, strengthens rather than weakens the case for a cross-departmental unit.
My Lords, I am terribly sorry to say this, but I think I did answer the Question directly. What was the purpose of the child poverty unit? Its purpose was to measure the income-related targets set up by the previous Government. Those targets were a waste of time and we got rid of them. We have now set up something better—the Social Mobility Commission secretariat, based in the Department for Education. As I said in my original Answer, the appropriate measure for these things should be parental worklessness—a responsibility of the Department for Work and Pensions—and children’s educational attainment, and those are the two that we will look at.
My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord the precise figures he asks for, but what I can say is that we have a secretariat based in the Department for Education looking at these matters, and that goes across the department. If there are any appropriate figures, I would be more than happy to send them to the noble Lord and set out just why, as I made clear in my original Answer, I think that this approach is better than the original measures of child poverty.
My Lords, it is encouraging that the Government have committed to make and measure progress against the root causes of poverty—not only worklessness and educational failure, but also family breakdown, addiction and problem debt. Can the Minister inform this House what progress they have made in developing the additional measures and policies promised?
My Lords, focusing these matters on the Social Mobility Commission secretariat is, I believe, the right way forward. As I also made clear in my original Answer, we will publish a social justice Green Paper shortly. I hope that that will set out what we hope to do, and we look forward to my noble friend’s comments, and those of others, on it. I say again, as I said in my original Answer, that I believe the focus on worklessness and a child’s educational attainment is the proper measure of these matters.
My Lords, the evidence shows that the last Labour Government lifted 1 million children out of poverty. That record is unarguable. The Resolution Foundation has estimated that in 2016 alone, 1 million more children, mostly from working households, have been forced into poverty. How on earth can any Government be proud of such a record, particularly one who say that they are in favour of those who are just about managing?
My Lords, on the measures that the previous Labour Government set forward, we found that in a recession the number of children allegedly in poverty went down, and when incomes were rising, it went up. They were not measuring the right thing. On current measures, using households below average income surveys, we have seen 100,000 fewer children in relative low-income households and 300,000 fewer people in relative poverty. Those figures are before housing costs. We are making progress, and I made it clear in my original Answer that the original measures were not the right way forward and that the child poverty unit was not the right approach.
My Lords, the Minister surely agrees that no child should live in poverty. He might not have any figures but the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that we will see a 50% increase in child poverty in the UK. That is a shocking figure. Perhaps I could be helpful and turn to my area of responsibility: education. The pupil premium has been immensely successful in helping disadvantaged children. Would the Minister let us know, perhaps in writing, whether the electronic eligibility checking system has increased or decreased the number of children who have now been given the pupil premium? I realise that this is not his area.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that, according to the most recent survey, rent arrears are a serious problem for 85% of new universal credit claimants, which is, of course, a disaster for children in those families? What plans does he have to cut the six-week average waiting time for families to get their rent when they claim benefits, change the system of payment in arrears, particularly for rent, and enable tenants to have the rent element of universal credit paid direct to landlords to prevent these debts arising?
My Lords, these matters were discussed at some length during the passage of the then Welfare Reform and Work Bill last year, and I do not want to rehearse all those arguments. However, I can assure the noble Baroness that some 90% of work benefits were paid on time. We accept that there can be problems with delays for some, and we will deal with that where appropriate. I do not believe it is right that we should start paying benefit direct to landlords. Just as people in work have to pay their rent to landlords, it is right that people on benefit should have the same opportunity.
My Lords, I know the Minister will agree that no child chooses to live in poverty, so when a child is hungry or lives in poor housing, will the Minister and the Government recognise that these are our children, as a society, and that that means we must have good joined-up structures which tackle these issues? Does he also recognise that the abolition of the CPU does not hint at good joined-up structures?
My Lords, I am very grateful to see the right reverend Prelate; in fact I am very grateful to see quite so many most reverend Primates and right reverend Prelates on this occasion. May I assure the right reverend Prelate that we are committed to tackling poverty? We accept that no child has a choice in this matter, but we also say that we have joined-up government on this matter. We have the Social Mobility Commission secretariat based in the Department for Education, which looks at these issues cross-party. We have a social reform Cabinet Committee, chaired by the Prime Minister, that includes all the other crucial members of the Cabinet. As the right reverend Prelate and the whole House will know, the Prime Minister herself has made clear her commitment to dealing with such matters.
My Lords, I have one very quick question. The Minister said that when the Government abolished our child poverty targets, they were going to replace them, the Prime Minister then said, with a life chances strategy. We finally discovered in December that it had died before it was even born, the debate of the noble Lord, Lord Farmer, notwithstanding. Now the Minister mentions a social justice Green Paper in the new year. Can he tell me two things: when will we get it and what is he going to do in the meantime about the scandal of child poverty in Britain?
My Lords, as I made clear in all the answers I have given, we are making progress on child poverty. We are doing so by using the proper measures, unlike the measures put forward by the previous Government. The noble Baroness asked when we will have the Green Paper: shortly.
My Lords, our priority is to put government resources where they can have the greatest impact on UK businesses. The Department for International Trade runs 200 high-value campaigns across a range of markets and sectors. We have a proven framework for analysing where government interventions can add the most value for the benefit of the whole of the UK.
My Lords, surely it is right that, while we should seek to get a bigger share of new and expanding markets in the world, we also need to have an active export promotion strategy with regard to Europe. Will the Minister confirm that being in the single market is no barrier to trading elsewhere, as demonstrated by the fact that Germany exports four to five times as much to China, for example, as we do? Will she also confirm that, while we at present send just under half of our exports to Europe, in some parts of the country that percentage is much higher? In the north-east it is 58%. For our automotive and aerospace industries in particular, which are very heavily integrated in Europe, the European market is going to be vital.
The noble Baroness is absolutely right. I can reassure her that the Prime Minister has been clear: we seek a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union, covering tariff and barrier-free trade in goods and services, offering the fullest possible access to the single market for British companies. In relation to particular areas and sectors, since 2015 the Department for International Trade has carried out extra northern export missions and since 2016, Midlands missions. We have introduced teams to lead investments in the north and the Midlands. We are looking at a whole array of different measures to improve our exporting.
Both the noble Lord, Lord Bridges, and the noble Lord, Lord Price, have told committees of this House that the Government have been conducting an exercise to consider what the costs and burdens on British business would be in leaving the customs union. Now that the Government have their policy to leave the customs union, presumably that assessment has been concluded. Will they publish it so that Parliament is able to consider this before it is asked to vote to trigger Article 50?
Is the Minister aware that her first Answer was deeply encouraging? However, are there not areas where further work needs to be done, particularly, for instance, in revamping the Queen’s Award for Exports, which has not been looked at for decades, or in bringing together the chambers of commerce? Those chambers need to have some form of encouragement to go overseas, particularly in the two or three years ahead.
I assure my noble friend that the Department for International Trade has been engaging widely with individual businesses and trade associations since the referendum and will continue to do so. We are committed to fully understanding the views of stakeholders, limiting uncertainty and ensuring that we build a trading environment that works for everyone.
My Lords, are the Government sufficiently satisfied with the uptake by United Kingdom companies on the export finance facilities, and does the Minister believe that the offerings by government are sufficiently robust to act as a tool for post-Brexit export prowess?
The noble Lord asks a valid question. In the last year, UK Export Finance supported the highest number of UK exporters in a quarter of a century, 23% more than in the previous year. However, UKEF is not complacent. The doubling of its capacity announced by the Chancellor will enable even more UK businesses to export. UKEF’s offering is a key component of the UK’s success as a global trading nation.
My Lords, there is time enough for two more questions. We can go first to my noble friend and then to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones.
My Lords, services are particularly important to the United Kingdom’s economy, but they by no means always play a prominent part in trade agreements. Can my noble friend assure me that the Government will make it a priority that our services will receive prominence in all trade negotiations?
I agree with my noble friend that services are an important part of our economy. However, we work in a whole range of different sectors and we have market sector priorities; for example, every year we consider which country sector combinations the Government can add most value to. Services are of course a huge part of that. We have to keep it in mind that the UK is the fifth-largest economy in the world. We have leading universities, low tax, low regulation, an economy fuelled by some of the most skilled workers, and the World Bank continues to rank the UK as the highest major economy for ease of doing business, which is one of the reasons so many firms, such as Snapchat, Rolls-Royce, and Nissan, are choosing to invest in the UK.
Taqiyya and Al Hijra
My Lords, as I stated before Christmas, freedom of speech and religion are core values that make our country great. Britain is home to diverse communities, which are free to practise their religion in accordance with the law. The Government’s strategy for tackling Islamist terrorism is firmly based on strengthening our partnership with communities, civil society groups and faith organisations across the country.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness.
I am advised that Taqiyya allows Muslims living outside the Muslim world to be deceptive in their promotion of Islam and that Al Hijra encourages Muslims to emulate Muhammad’s emigration from Mecca to Medina, which he then took over.
Do the Government agree with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who I am glad to see is in his place, who said recently that religious leaders must stand up and take responsibility for extremists who do things in the name of their religion; that in order to defeat terrorism, we need to understand the mind-set of those who perpetrate it; and that it is not helpful to go on claiming that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam?
Is it not time we had an open, national debate about these matters, preferably led by our peaceful Muslim friends?
I most certainly agree with the most reverend Primate, who speaks so much sense on so many things. I also agree that Daesh has nothing to do with Islam. As for the noble Lord’s original Question, both Taqiyya and Al Hijra are very old terms in Islam. We can think of all sorts of terms in all sorts of religions that can seek to misrepresent those religions, and we must take that in context and not allow poisonous twisting of religion to disrupt our society.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that, according to the authorities that I have consulted, Taqiyya refers to the Prophet’s flight from Mecca to Medina and is about concealing your own religious beliefs when confronted with the threat of persecution and death? Surely it would be as wrong to criticise Taqiyya as it would be to criticise Jews who concealed their identity in Nazi Germany, or Christians in Raqqa. Is there not a great danger that the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will be interpreted as meaning that Islam promotes deceit and lies, and is it not important that he should make clear that is not what he meant?
I totally agree with my noble friend, and as he was asking that question I was thinking about Catholics during the Reformation and Jews during the Second World War. Sometimes religions have to preserve themselves not by denial but by concealment on pain of death.
My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross-Benchers.
My Lords, since the noble Lord is so familiar with the Koran, he will know that it is addressed directly to the believers, and that there are no intermediaries between the Koranic texts and the believers. It is also the case that many of the so-called Muslim terrorists have probably never read the Koran. What is important is not to define terrorism in terms of a faith, but rather to think about why some of the brightest and best young Muslims turn to terrorism, and look at the roots of despair that cause that.
The noble Baroness is addressing her question to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, but I hope I can answer it. We all know that terrorism and terrorist ideals have absolutely nothing to do with faith; they are used to stir up hatred against different faiths. In fact, some of the biggest victims of Daesh have been Muslims.
My Lords, first, would the Minister agree that the term Taqiyya came into being at a time of terrible persecution? It did not get invented because people did not want to be difficult or awkward. Of my friends who escaped Amin’s torture, some left dressed as women. You would not say these Christians wanted simply to be deceptive; things have to be read in context. Secondly, the lecture by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury was a one-hour lecture in France; he is more than happy to repeat it if your Lordships’ House wants.
I am sure that this House would be very happy and more educated for hearing from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York for putting the whole thing into context. Fleeing persecution is not the same thing as denying your religion.
My Lords, we should leave to one side what appear to me to be blatant attempts to stir up hatred against the Muslim community. Instead, I want to ask the Minister a question on what she said in her Answer about strengthening partnerships with communities. Do the Government agree with the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Home Affairs Select Committee that there should be an independent review into the Government’s Prevent strategy, and if not why not?
The noble Lord will know that we regularly review Prevent. In fact, Prevent has been reviewed quite recently, and has been seen to help those who might be targeted by people who wish to put poisonous ideologies into their heads—in other words, the victims of these people—to turn their lives around.
My Lords, given that the meaning of the two concepts has been well laid out before us by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, and their relationship to one another, I wonder whether the intention of the Question is to put British Muslims on notice. Therefore, does the Minister accept that terrorism has no home in any religion and that, in his Question, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is either being naive or it is a wilful act of incitement to Islamophobic prejudice with the presumed intent to insult Islam?
I do not know what is behind the noble Lord’s Question. This is his second Question of the year and perhaps in a future debate he will explain. However, yes, terrorism and religion do not sit together. No religious text promotes terrorism, and terrorism just seeks to twist what our faith teaches us.
Northern Ireland: Legacy Agreement
My Lords, the current situation is unsatisfactory, focusing disproportionately on the 10% of deaths caused by the police and Armed Forces rather than on the 90% caused by terrorists. This Government are committed to implementing the legacy bodies proposed in the Stormont House agreement to ensure a balanced, proportionate and fair approach to addressing Northern Ireland’s past. The Secretary of State has regularly met political parties, victims and their representatives on these issues, and will continue to do so ahead of taking the proposals to a public phase.
My Lords, I am delighted with the response from my noble friend the Minister. Successive Governments, over several decades, sent soldiers, including myself, to Northern Ireland to protect the population from terrorism and violence, be they Catholic or Protestant. Now, some 40 years and more later, old soldiers are being dragged before courts, although there is no new evidence against them. Given the lack of devolved government at the moment, could not Her Majesty’s Government impose the legacy package of the Stormont House agreement—after all, it has been agreed—leading to more proportionate legacy investigations? Secondly, in the particular case of Dennis Hutchins, which my noble friend may not wish to mention, he has been investigated on several occasions—the last time in 2013. He has been told that there is no case to answer, including by a previous Director of Public Prosecutions. Can the Minister perhaps explain how it can be that he is now being dragged before courts at the age of 75, when all his defence witnesses—former soldiers—have died?
First, I recognise my noble friend’s great experience of these matters, having himself served, as he said, in the Armed Forces in Northern Ireland and as a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office. We remain unstinting in our admiration and support for the police and the Armed Forces. We clearly want to build consensus on the way forward on how to deal with the past. I do not think that it would be right to impose. We want to build that consensus, and that is what we will focus on in the weeks ahead.
My Lords, in dealing with the past, the Labour Party totally agrees with the Minister that there has to be a consensus. I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that, on balance, party contacts with Ministers during an election could prove too difficult. But the Secretary of State and his team should use the time, along with the Irish Government as guarantors, to prepare for a full reinstatement of Stormont. There is nothing more important than the restoration of Stormont so that the legacy issue can be carried forward with agreement. Does the Minister also agree that the Secretary of State should instigate proposals to facilitate this and be a driver in this process?
Re-establishing a fully functioning Executive after the election is an absolute priority for the Government. As I have said in this House many times before, we will leave no stone unturned to achieve that. Dealing with legacy is absolutely one of those issues where we require fully functioning devolved institutions. We need to build on the discussions that the Secretary of State has already had with the political parties so that we can move forward as soon as we can after the election.
My Lords, amid the political turmoil and lack of decorum in the Northern Ireland Assembly and among its politicians, will the Government ensure their full support for Secretary of State Brokenshire in his responsibility to prevent Barra McGrory being allowed to intimidate and threaten the press, hence hindering people like me by the supposedly confidential instructions he has issued from his office? I point out for the benefit of those who do not know that Barra McGrory is the Northern Ireland Director of Public Prosecutions, was a one-time adviser to Adams and McGuinness and was the person who advocated that IRA terrorists should not be prosecuted for historical crimes.
The Process for Triggering Article 50
My Lords, with the leave of the House I will now repeat a Statement made in the other place earlier today by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. The Statement is as follows.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will now make a Statement on the Government’s response to today’s judgment by the Supreme Court.
This Government are determined to deliver on the decision taken by the people of the United Kingdom in the referendum granted to them by this House to leave the European Union. So we will move swiftly to do just that. I can announce today that we will shortly introduce legislation allowing the Government to move ahead with invoking Article 50, which starts the formal process of withdrawing from the EU. We received the lengthy 96-page judgment just a few hours ago. Government lawyers are assessing it carefully.
But this will be a straightforward Bill. It is not about whether or not the UK should leave the EU. That decision has already been made by the people of the United Kingdom. We will work with colleagues in both Houses to ensure that this Bill is passed in good time for us to invoke Article 50 by the end of March this year, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has set out. This timetable has already been supported by this House.
Let me now go through the issues step by step. The Government’s priority following the European Union referendum has been to respect the outcome, as promised by both sides in the campaign, and to ensure that it is delivered in the interest of the whole country. This House voted by six to one to put the decision in the hands of the voters, and that Bill passed the other place unopposed. So there can be no going back. The point of no return was passed on 23 June.
The Government have also always been clear that we must leave by following the process set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. People want and expect us to get on with implementing the decision that was made.
Let me now turn more specifically to the process for invoking Article 50 and the issues that arise from today’s Supreme Court judgment. The Government’s view, which we argued in both the High Court and subsequently in the Supreme Court, was that it was constitutionally proper and lawful for the Government to begin to give effect to the decision of the people by the use of prerogative powers to invoke Article 50. Today the Supreme Court has agreed with the High Court’s view that prerogative power alone is insufficient to give notice under Article 50, and that legislation is required in order to provide the necessary authorisation for this step.
In addition, the Supreme Court considered the roles of the devolved legislatures in the process of triggering Article 50. On this, the Supreme Court ruled:
‘Relations with the EU and other foreign affairs matters are reserved to UK Government and parliament, not to the devolved institutions’.
The Supreme Court’s summary goes on to say:
‘The devolved legislatures do not have a veto on the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU’.
I will come back to our collaboration with the devolved Administrations later in this Statement.
The Government have been giving careful thought to the steps that we would need to take in the event of the Supreme Court upholding the High Court’s view. First of all, let me be clear that we believe in and value the independence of our judiciary, the foundation on which our rule of law is built. So of course we will respect this judgment.
Secondly, as I have already made clear, this judgment does not change the fact that the UK will be leaving the EU, and it is our job to deliver on the instruction that the people of the UK have given us. Thirdly, we will within days introduce legislation to give the Government the legal power to trigger Article 50 and begin the formal process of withdrawal. It will be separate from the great repeal Bill that will be introduced later this year to repeal the European Communities Act 1972. This will be the most straightforward Bill possible to give effect to the decision of the people and respect the Supreme Court’s judgment. The purpose of the Bill is simply to give the Government the power to invoke Article 50 and begin the process of leaving the EU. That is what the British people voted for, and that is what they would expect. Parliament will rightly scrutinise and debate this legislation. But I trust that no one will seek to make it a vehicle for attempts to thwart the will of the people, or to frustrate or delay the process of our exit from the EU.
Fourthly, our timetable for invoking Article 50 by the end of March still stands. That timetable has given valuable certainty to citizens and businesses in the UK and across Europe. It is understood by our European partners and provides a framework for planning the negotiation ahead. This House itself backed this timetable by a majority of 373 in December. So we look forward to working closely with colleagues in Parliament to ensure that legislation on Article 50 is passed in good time to allow us to invoke it by the end of March, as planned.
The Government’s fifth and final principle for responding to this judgment is to continue to ensure that we deliver an exit that is in the best interests of the whole of the United Kingdom. The Supreme Court has ruled clearly in the Government’s favour on the roles of the devolved legislatures in invoking Article 50. But while this provides welcome clarity, it in no way diminishes our commitment to work closely with the people and Administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as we move forward with our withdrawal from the European Union.
Let me conclude with a word on what today’s judgment means for the United Kingdom, and the nature of our democracy. I know that this case, on an issue of such importance which arouses strong views on all sides, has not been without controversy. But the court was asked a question, a proper, thorough and independent process was gone through, and it has given its answer in law. We are a law-abiding nation: indeed, the United Kingdom is known the world over for the strength and independence of its legal system. We will build on this and our many other strengths as we leave the European Union. We will once again be a fully independent, sovereign country, free to make our own decisions.
The Prime Minister has already set out a comprehensive plan, including our core negotiating objectives. She has been clear that we want a new, positive and constructive partnership for the United Kingdom and the European Union—a partnership that would be good for the United Kingdom and good for the rest of Europe.
Today we are taking the necessary step to respect the Supreme Court’s decision, by announcing a Bill. It will now be up to this Parliament to respect the decision it entrusted to the people of the United Kingdom—a decision they took on 23 June. I commend this Statement to the House”.
I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I thank also the Supreme Court judges for doing their constitutional job: as they made clear, not commenting on the wisdom or timing of Brexit, but on how UK law—our law—requires the Government to act.
So here we have it. The Government failed to make the referendum binding, leaving it advisory, which helped to fuel the uncertainty that has ended only today. Once we knew the outcome of the referendum, the Government failed to take the sensible route: to get Parliament, effectively, to ratify the outcome by agreeing to trigger Article 50. Then the Government failed to heed the High Court view that it was for Parliament, not Ministers, to take this step. So the Supreme Court has ruled—as we expected—that Parliament must authorise the Prime Minister to start the exit negotiations by invoking Article 50.
So we are today where we should have been on 24 June: with Parliament to take the decision, albeit with the Government determining the timetable. The court has ended the uncertainty over the process for triggering Article 50. However, there is still one large, outstanding matter—the remaining uncertainty. What is the plan? What is the framework which the Government intend should guide their negotiations on our relationship with the EU 27 post exit? What is the plan for how we leave and for our future trading and other relationships with the EU 27?
It is no good saying that the plan is a speech that the Prime Minister gave, not even in Parliament but to ambassadors at Lancaster House. That is not sufficient for Parliament—for this House, the Commons or indeed the Select Committee—to be able to scrutinise whether the Government’s objectives are the right ones for the UK and whether their negotiations are achieving those objectives.
We need to know how the emerging post-Brexit relationship will promote jobs and the economy; how it will protect environmental, social and consumer rights; how it will ensure that all parts of our nation—rural areas as well as cities—will benefit; and how the Government will ensure that our trade with the EU—and beyond—can be free of tariff and non-tariff barriers.
This House needs to examine the Government’s exit plan. Our EU Committees are doing splendid work on the detail of available options. We need to measure the Government against the evidence that they are producing on costs and benefits.
Today simply says how the exit process should be started. Will the Minister say when the Article 50 Bill will be published and whether it will include a plan for how we exit the EU? We will be watching the Government from now on, to ensure that they negotiate in the interests of all our people, and with the consent of this House and the other place.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement.
We should at least be grateful for the clarity of today’s ruling. This was, however, a completely unnecessary legal procedure. If the Government had brought forward shortly after the referendum the Bill which the court has now forced upon them, it would now be safely enacted and much time, effort and cost saved. It is a sign of the robustness of our constitutional arrangements that a private citizen can require the Government, against their will, to play by the rules, but it is greatly to the Government’s discredit that this was ever necessary.
Now we have the Bill, I should make clear what the stance of these Benches will be. On 23 June, the British people did not vote for a particular version of Brexit, and the majority of people certainly did not support leaving the single market—a course on which the Government are now firmly set. We will therefore seek to amend the Bill to provide for a referendum to be held when we know the terms the Government have been able to negotiate. The Government may have a mandate to start Brexit negotiations; they certainly do not have a mandate to impose harsh Brexit terms on the country.
Can the Minister give us any further information about the planned timetable of the Bill through your Lordships’ House? It will clearly not be possible to maintain the normal minimum intervals between stages of the Bill if we are to deal with it by the end of March. We understand that but can the Minister give an assurance that the Government will not attempt to ram the Bill through in a few days, as appears to be the case in the Commons?
The Government say that the timetable for invoking Article 50 by 31 March,
“has given valuable certainty to citizens and businesses in the UK and across Europe”.
Can the Minister explain precisely what certainty has been given to the millions of EU citizens living in the UK, and those UK citizens living in the EU? The Government’s Statement says that they will,
“work closely with the people and Administrations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as we move forward”.
Can he tell the House exactly what form that commitment will take over the period between now and 31 March?
Finally, in view of the Government’s reluctance to involve Parliament in triggering Article 50, can the Minister confirm that as the negotiations unfold the UK Parliament will, as has been promised, receive information on their content and progress to at least the same extent as the European Parliament will be informed about progress by the EU Commission?
I thank the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for their statements—that revealing statement, indeed, which I will come back to. Let me first pick up the noble Baroness’s point about the process the Government have followed to date. It is clear, as I have repeated at this Dispatch Box and as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has repeated at the Dispatch Box in the other place, that the Government believed in the use of the royal prerogative on this matter from 23 June. We made our case to the High Court and we believe that this is of considerable constitutional significance. It obviously has an impact on the triggering of Article 50, but goes beyond that. There was a point at which we believed that we needed to clarify this and have the certainty of the proper way forward. That is why we took the action that we did.
As regards the plan, last week my right honourable friend the Prime Minister set out our approach and answered in considerable depth and detail questions that a number of your Lordships and Members of the other place, including those on the Labour Benches, have legitimately been asking. We have set out our approach. Let me just set out what we have said because the issue here is one of outcomes, is it not? It is what we are intending to achieve in the negotiations.
For the avoidance of doubt, let me list for your Lordships what the Prime Minister said. She said that we will leave the single market. She set out our aims as regards customs arrangements. She said that we would no longer be a part of the CET and the CCP. She set out the type of free-trade agreement that we are after, and a broader partnership on issues such as justice and home affairs. She set out our wish for closer co-operation on international issues. She said that we wished no longer to be part of a European Court of Justice but recognise that most international agreements require some form of dispute recognition. She said that we aim to negotiate such an agreement within two years but that we want a smooth transition—an implementation phase, as many treaties have. She said—the noble Lord, Lord Newby, asked about this—that we wish to have a speedy resolution to the issue of EU UK nationals and that we would raise it as soon as we could. She said that we wish to take control of immigration, to protect workers’ rights and to bring EU law into UK law, which we will do under the great repeal Bill. She said that we will maintain the common travel area with Ireland and that we will continue to co-operate with EU partners on science, research and development.
The Prime Minister set out in some depth and detail what is in our national interest; our overall approach to the key issues; what we intend to achieve, and what happens if we do not achieve it. The only answers we have not given fulfil the principle that I have set out from this Dispatch Box from day one: it must be in the Government’s interests not to give away anything that could be in the national interest when it comes to the negotiations.
Regarding the reaction to the speech last week, let me remind your Lordships what our European partners have said. Have they said that they wish for more clarity? The German Chancellor said, “The Prime Minister has given us a clear impression of how the UK wants to move forward”. The Belgian Prime Minister said, “The Prime Minister has clarified the future for her country”. The Hungarian Foreign Minister welcomed the speech as “straightforward, open and clear”. The Slovakian Prime Minister congratulated the Prime Minister for clarifying the position of the British Government: “It brings a clear signal about the direction the British Government want to take”. That is the Government’s position. That is how we set out the approach and this is the way we are going.
On what the noble Lord, Lord Newby, said, I know it has been his party’s position for some time to have a second referendum. For those who wish to have certainty, there is nothing worse than having a second referendum at the end of this process. Secondly, I would gently point out to the noble Lord and to noble Lords around him that we in this House, as an unelected Chamber, need to tread with considerable care on this issue as we proceed.
The process of the Bill will be a matter for the usual channels, and I expect there will be a Business Statement in due course. There will indeed be room for scrutiny of the Bill and, on that note, I will sit down.
My Lords, the time for Back-Bench questions has been extended to 40 minutes. I invite your Lordships to observe the usual rotational sequence—or Buggins’s turn, for want of a better phrase. Of course, the shorter the interventions, the more contributions there can be.
My Lords, your Lordships’ Constitution Committee expressed the view that it would be constitutionally appropriate that Parliament should be consulted before the triggering of Article 50. We therefore welcome the outcome of the Supreme Court judgment, even though we might not have chosen the route whereby the Government approached it. I congratulate my right honourable friend the Lord Advocate for Scotland on winning the Supreme Court’s unanimous rejection—including by two Scottish judges—of the Scottish Government’s attempt to extend their powers into reserved matters, even though the risk of that was engendered by somewhat unwise wording in the Scotland Act 2016. Are there other implications for the Sewel convention in the future handling of Brexit?
Although I believe the Government were right and it was their duty to pursue the appeal to obtain clarity on the position of the royal prerogative overall, can my noble friend confirm that the royal prerogative is unaffected by the judgment, except in so far as it affects the triggering of Article 50?
I thank my noble friend for the work of his committee and take this opportunity to thank all the European Select Committees in this House and the other committees that are making such a valuable contribution in scrutinising Brexit. Long may this continue.
It is very useful that the ruling gave such clarity on the position of the devolved Administrations. It is a 96-page ruling. Our lawyers are studying it in depth and detail. I will not go further at this juncture about the royal prerogative; nor, likewise, about the Sewel convention.
My Lords, I dispute that the Prime Minister has chosen what others label a hard Brexit. I know noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches may disagree. The view of those on the Labour Benches in the other place, and certainly of the Government, is that we are negotiating a new partnership and a free trade agreement with our European partners. This approach is one that honours and respects the views of the British people, as set out in the referendum. They voted to leave the European Union. The noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, is shaking his head. I am very sorry but that is what we are going to do.
“It is our duty as those who serve the public to make sure the country does the best it can with the decision they have taken. In. Out. When the British people have spoken you do what they command”.
I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, agrees with that because those were his own words on the night of the referendum.
My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for repeating the Statement. When the Prime Minister spoke at Lancaster House, in a very welcome statement right at the end of her speech she said that both Houses would have an opportunity to pronounce on the outcome. Will the legislation that the Government bring forward encapsulate that undertaking in some form? Will the time available for both Houses to comment on the outcome be sufficient?
My Lords, is it not clear that one speech by the Prime Minister at Lancaster House—not even in Parliament—full of aims and intentions, does not constitute a coherent Brexit plan? It does not safeguard national well-being, nor does it begin to satisfy the requirements of parliamentary scrutiny. Will the Government now heed and implement the unanimous recommendation of the House of Commons Select Committee on Brexit in seeking a White Paper to put before both Houses of Parliament that will give proper detail to negotiating priorities and, crucially, specify how the Government’s commitment to conclude a comprehensive free trade agreement can feasibly be fulfilled by the end of the two-year negotiation triggered by Article 50—in the Minister’s own words—given that Article 218 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union will require the assent of 27 member states, 37 regional and national parliaments and the European Parliament?
The noble Lord speaks with considerable experience of the EU, and I absolutely heed that. I have little to add to what I said a moment ago about the plan. The noble Lord raised a number of points in his question. With regard to the timeframe, we are approaching this from a unique position. We have been a member of the EU for over 40 years and, as such, many of its laws and regulations are deeply embedded in our way of life. Therefore, unlike other member states that have negotiated agreements with the EU, we are starting from a position not just of convergence but of being completely identical to the EU. This puts us in a great position for getting to a position where we can reach such an agreement, which I believe is in the interests of our country and the EU.
On safeguarding the prosperity of this country, the position that the Prime Minister set out in her lengthy speech last week will do just that. It will be a matter for negotiation but we are seeking to achieve the freest and most frictionless access to European markets, which I believe is something that the Labour Party also agrees with, which is extremely welcome.
Will my noble friend accept that I welcome this Statement and this procedure—although, frankly, it would have been rather better if it had been earlier, and indeed it would have been a lot less expensive? But that is by the way.
I ask him to answer two questions arising. First, can he confirm that HMG can now get on with discussing free trade arrangements and similar trade-smoothing arrangements with all the large markets of the world, regardless of any rulings that may come from Brussels about limitations on doing so? Can we get on with that informally? Secondly, when it comes to objectives, is not the point that we cannot possibly set our final objectives in stone when there are so many doubts about what the rest of the EU really wants? As the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, has just reminded us, there are many voices. If we do not know what they really want from the system, how could it be right to set our own objectives firmly in stone in advance?
I start by thanking my noble friend for his advice and wisdom in many fora. He says lawyers are expensive. Yes, some lawyers are expensive, as a number of your Lordships will know. As regards free trade agreements, the key word he used was “informally”. We are bound by the duty of sincere co-operation, which means that at this juncture we should not be entering into formal negotiations with non-EU states. It is absolutely right that we continue to honour the spirit and the letter of that because we have said all along—and we shall continue to abide by this—that we wish to negotiate in good faith with our European partners.
As regards the objectives, clearly we have set out our overall aims. The Prime Minister did so last week. There will be a matter of negotiation and it will be a matter of negotiation among our European partners. As with any negotiation, we shall see what emerges from that.
My Lords, is the Minister, in referring to the commitment of the Government to work closely with the devolved Administrations, aware of the opportunity arising from the White Paper published yesterday morning here in London by the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, with support from Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats, based on the possibility of a single market linkage scheme? This might well meet the difficulties being faced in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. Will he give a firm assurance that the details of these proposals will be considered carefully?
I thank the noble Lord for that. It gives me a good opportunity to say yes, absolutely. If he would like to meet me to discuss it I should be happy to do so. The proposals issued by the Scottish Government are also being given careful consideration. We shall continue to co-operate and consult with representatives of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales. As I said last week, despite events in Northern Ireland, we shall ensure that the views of the Northern Irish politicians and their representatives are properly heeded.
A strong theme running through the Statement is that the British people have given an instruction that must be acted on. Indeed, the Minister himself has just talked about a command that must be obeyed. How does this square with the Burkean understanding of our representative democracy whereby Members of Parliament are elected not to carry out the commands of people but to use their best judgment for the well-being of the United Kingdom as a whole?
I thank the noble and right reverend Lord for that contribution. I would be happy to have a long debate about the role of referenda in our constitution. We had such a debate when the referendum Bill was passing through this House and the other place. As I said in the Statement, it was a choice that the representatives of the people made to give this choice to the British people. We could start pinging quotations from Burke between us. I could quote back to him from what I seem to remember was a 1911 lecture by Dicey in which he said that the role of referenda trumped the role of party and extolled its virtues, but maybe we could leave that for another day.
The leave campaign spent a lot of time emphasising the importance of parliamentary sovereignty. We fought a civil war 360 years ago about parliamentary sovereignty versus the royal prerogative and, as the Government know, the parliamentary side won. We fought two wars in the 20th century during which Parliament went on sitting and scrutinising the Government and debating government policy in the way they conducted the war. We defended parliamentary democracy. I do not see how this Government can say that they cannot fully engage Parliament and inform Parliament on something that is not as dreadful as a war but has major implications for the economy, the political system, the foreign policy and the security of this country to carry Parliament with them, because we are a parliamentary democracy.
I heed some of the points that the noble Lord is making, but I simply point out the process that was gone through. There was a general election in which the Conservative Party promised to hold a referendum. Then this House and the other place passed the legislation to give that choice to the British people. The British people then made the decision. Now we will have a series of votes: one on the triggering of Article 50; another on the great repeal Bill to repeal the ECA; others will follow on both secondary and primary legislation—I suspect that we will be here for a number of hours debating those, to say the least. After that, at the end of the process, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said, there will be a vote on the treaty.
That is how we will continue to engage Parliament. It is a substantial process. Let me repeat a point that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has made many times. It would be completely unacceptable for the European Parliament to get more information than this House and the other place. Therefore, we will endeavour to ensure that this House gets as much information as the European Parliament.
My Lords, I am sure that we are reassured by those last comments, but does my noble friend accept that those of us who were disappointed by the result of the advisory referendum nevertheless accept that the constitutional position of this House is inferior to that of the elected House, and that it is therefore important that we do not take action in this House that seeks to frustrate the will of the elected House?
My Lords, following that question from the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, my heart and emotions are with Edmund Burke, but my political head tells me that we are in 2017, with an extraordinarily delicate situation in terms of the way in which the British people regard politicians of all ilks and the establishment. Would it not be foolish in the extreme if this House, as an unelected body, placed itself in confrontation with the bulk of the British people, many of whom will have voted to stay in the European Union but would find it inexplicable if this House blocked in any way the forthcoming single clause Bill to allow the Government to implement Article 50? It would be unthinkable to do so. I appeal to your Lordships’ House not to place itself in confrontation with the British people.
I welcome the clarity of the court’s decision, which is good and desirable, but should not have been necessary because, just as the Minister says that the rule of law is very important, so too is the supremacy of Parliament. That made the first application to court unnecessary, in my view. I go to what I think is a crucial issue. Recently, the Prime Minister and one or two other Ministers have been making the point that the end product must be a very close partnership between the UK and EU. What has troubled me throughout this process has been people talking as if that is of minor importance. We do not know how these negotiations will pan out, but I know that if the EU and the UK do not have a close partnership economically and politically, the only people who will benefit are those who do not want the European Union to succeed and are not friends of the United Kingdom.
The noble Lord makes a good point which I endorse and echo. Let me repeat what I said at the Dispatch Box last week and the Prime Minister said in her speech. It is absolutely in our interests, as the noble Lord has implied, that we continue to see a strong, stable and prosperous European Union, and that we continue to collaborate closely and co-operate wherever possible. The intent behind the approach the Prime Minister set out in is to form a new partnership along those lines. It is therefore not in our interests to see instability across Europe nor to see Europe, in the words of the noble Lord, falling apart in some way.
I do not want to upset anybody but the reality is that this House is nothing more than a very large sub-committee of the other place. We do not have the last word—that lies with the elected House. The only real function we have when revising legislation—and this is misunderstood outside—is to ask the other place to think again. The means we have for doing that is sending amendments. It would be very useful if, when we debate this Bill and there are opposing views and we ask the other place to think again, we do not have Ministers, or anybody else, talking about constitutional crises. This place cannot have the last word. A Government defeat in your Lordships’ House is simply a request to the Commons to look at the issue again—that is all it is.
I agree with the noble Lord but although I am a relative newcomer to your Lordships’ House I certainly would not call it a sub-committee. I believe that this House performs a valuable role in scrutinising legislation and, as I have said all along, in kicking the tyres of government policy to see that it is both roadworthy and does the right thing. That is something the Government wish to see right the way through the process of Brexit and I am delighted with, and thankful for, the contribution your Lordships have made so far.
Does my noble friend accept that if Parliament were to accept the advice of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, to treat the referendum as advisory and then decided that this country should not leave the EU, there would be no option for those of us who were in the majority in voting to leave other than to take to the streets and probably start breaking things?
That is a very interesting point. We need to be clear about the processes for ratification. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, who I do not think is here, is the author of Article 50 and is bound to correct me but as I understand it Article 50 sets out one process and there may be another process for the final treaty. That process could be mixed if it is an extensive deal, or not. So, there are a number of routes forward on this point.
My Lords, the refrain we have heard time after time is, “The people have decided”. Does the Minister not agree that as the weeks and months go by, simply saying, “The people decided this, the people decided that”, will hardly be satisfactory, especially when the debate comes to tariffs and specifics? Does the Minister agree that answering every question in that way over the next year will simply not wash?
I am sorry but I have to gently disagree with noble Lord on this point. As I said, we did not simply arrive at this situation through the people’s decision. Representatives in this place and, most notably, the other place, made decisions and voted on legislation—especially the decision to give the British people the choice in the referendum. That is how this was decided.
As to the specifics, we are getting to the nub of the matter here. If we start having debates in this House about the process of negotiation on certain levels of tariffs, or other such things, that would be a considerable gift to those on the other side of the negotiating table. I say again: we must ensure that we do not get to that situation. We will, of course, give further information where we can, but we have to guard the national interest.
Does the Minister agree that the Bill which will come to this House is essentially about process, not outcomes? The way we handle our processes is different from how we may argue about outcomes at the end of this whole two-year period. The use of language which may occasionally sound threatening is very unhelpful if, at the end of the two-year period, we are to end up with a country which can go forward in a reconciled, prosperous and flourishing way. I hope the Minister agrees that those who, like the judges, have quite rightly come to an unbiased and impartial opinion, should be defended against criticism, as should the person who brought the case. We need to take our processes calmly and quietly, without issuing threats and with an eye to the unity of this country.
I entirely endorse every word said by the most reverend Primate. I completely agree about the substance of the Bill: this is about the process. That is made quite clear in the summary of the judgment itself. Regarding language, we need to try and build a national consensus, as far as possible, around the approach we are taking and intemperate language will certainly not help that. We will disagree, in this House and in the other place, but we need to respect where others are coming from while respecting the views of the British people as expressed in the referendum. The most reverend Primate is absolutely right about the process we have just gone through. Due process was followed; individuals, completely at liberty to exercise their rights, took the decision to bring a case and it was heard. That is their right; the court has spoken and we will now respect its judgment.
Does my noble friend agree that the analysis made by the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, about this House and how we relate to the other place is absolutely right? Building on the theme raised by the most reverend Primate, we need to bear in mind over the next few months that a lot of people who voted for Brexit—and people who did not necessarily vote to leave but who are behind the change that underpins the referendum—will be looking to the motives of this House when we table amendments and debate them. Does my noble friend agree?
I thank my noble friend for her thoughtful contribution, with which I entirely agree and which builds on what I was saying. We need to proceed with respect for differing opinions and for the outcome of the referendum itself. We need to continue to build a national consensus around our approach in which people are not questioning the motives of those who wish to debate the issue.
My Lords, is it not the case that, in a democracy, there are those who agree and those who disagree with a decision. Some 48% of the population disagreed with the way the Government are now going. Is there not democratic legitimacy in standing up for those 48% who voted against?
Will my noble friend confirm that the Conservative manifesto at the 2015 election contained a clear commitment to implement the outcome of the referendum, whatever that outcome was? Surely the conduct of negotiations on international matters is a matter for the Executive, with Parliament then to scrutinise their outcome? That is the way we have done things throughout our history.
My noble friend knows a lot about our nation’s history and he is absolutely right. As I said, we will furnish Parliament with the necessary information to do that. Surprisingly enough, I have the Conservative manifesto in my folder. On page 72 it says, very clearly:
“We will hold that in-out referendum before the end of 2017 and respect the outcome”.
Yes, I am happy to do so. That was in relation to the negotiations that we wished to conduct. We have conducted them. Now that the people have said in the referendum what they wish to do, we are going to leave the EU—and in that process we will leave the single market.
My Lords, in the Statement the Secretary of State indicated that there would be consultation with the devolved institutions. The Minister will be aware that the Northern Ireland Executive are out of business, and while some Ministers are hanging on, they have no power to speak on behalf of the Northern Ireland Assembly. How then do Her Majesty’s Government intend during this critical period to ensure that there is proper consultation with the parties, given the fact that even on the best estimates there will be no Executive in place before Article 50 is triggered?
The noble Lord raises an extremely good point. As I intimated earlier, we are taking due steps to ensure that the views of the Northern Irish people are heard in this lull. I am happy to meet the noble Lord and discuss that—with my ministerial colleague, Robin Walker, who is also intimately involved—and to explain exactly what we are doing.
My Lords, can the Minister explain to me why his Government are so afraid to put the final deal agreed back to the British people for their vote? If the Government were confident that it would be a deal that the British people felt fulfilled the promises and commitments made, and was good for the future of the country, they would be confident of an overwhelming victory in that referendum. Is it because they believe the British people would be so disappointed and feel such a sense of betrayal that they dare not put the final deal back to them? Is that the rationale?
My Lords, does my noble friend welcome the fact that the Supreme Court, while asking Parliament to take the decision to trigger Article 50, also made it very clear that it was not its own job to decide how that Bill should be phrased or how that question should be put to Parliament? Was that not a helpful constitutional clarification?
It was indeed. There are a number of important constitutional clarifications on that point, and on the Sewel convention. As I have said, our lawyers are studying the judgment in full, and I am sure there will be other issues that noble Lords may wish to raise in due course, once your Lordships too have had the opportunity to read all 96 pages.
My Lords, has the Minister sought any clarity on the position of the Liberal Democrats, who have been so passionately in favour of decisions being made on a proportionate basis of votes, and who now seem to consider that 48% is a majority? Could he also clear up with them, while he is at it—as they were so strongly opposed, in the initial stages, to having one referendum, yet now seem to want two—whether two would be sufficient for them? Or maybe we would need more after that.
The noble Lord makes a very good point. I must say that it does not seem very liberal, or very democratic, to say that the views of the majority should be ignored—and I very much hope that the Liberal Democrats will help us ensure the speedy passage of the legislation that the Government will put forward in due course.
My Lords, can I press the noble Lord on his answer to the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney? What happens if we get to the end of this process and the European Parliament does not agree the result? At that point would the Government be prepared to consider the sanctity, or otherwise, of Article 50? In that respect, are the Government aware of the article in MoneyWeek on 21 November from Dr Ingrid de Frankopan, who advises merely following the first clause of Article 50, which says that a country can leave the European Union,
“in accordance with its own constitutional requirements”?
Our constitutional requirements could be an Act of Parliament and the will of the British people, so at that point will we still feel bound by Article 50? It is, after all, only a clause in an international treaty, and we are covered for our withdrawal from that treaty by the Vienna convention on treaties. Will the Government get ready to flex their muscles if the European Parliament behaves as unreasonably as it usually does?
I am not going to get into hypotheticals, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, a moment ago. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, threw a phrase into his question when he said that Article 50 is only a clause, as if it is something that we could ignore. That has not been the Government’s position all along. We believe that we need to abide by and observe our obligations and responsibilities as set out in the treaties that we have signed up to as a member of the EU. That is what we will continue to do. As regards the end of the process, the process has not even begun so I am not even going to start to hypothesise as to where we might be towards the end of it.
My Lords, as the noble Lord has rightly pointed out, we must respect the fact that the majority—52%—voted to leave the European Union. However, it is in everyone’s interest—even the 48% who voted against—to know how we are going to do that, and what that means for them. Many of the people who are speaking want to know more about the implications. People out there in the country are very concerned. They feel insecure about their future, their jobs and their children. The young people in particular to whom I have spoken express great concern about what the future holds for them. Surely we are talking about process. The implications were not on the ballot paper. No one said anything about leaving the single market and what the implications of that would be. No one ever mentioned that. In fact, when it was mentioned, it was dismissed as scaremongering by the leavers, so very many questions were never answered properly during the campaign that now need to be answered and addressed. My next point is very important. Will the noble Lord put on record that the abuse Gina Miller has had to endure—I heard her on the radio today speaking of death threats and the like—has no place in our society?
I completely agree with the noble Baroness that such abuse has absolutely no place in our society. As I said to the most reverend Primate, there is absolutely no reason for that. The court was simply doing what it is there to do, which is to hear a case. People are entitled to bring those kind of cases and they should continue to be entitled to do that. That is what the basis of our rule of law is all about and we must do all we can to protect it. As regards the first part of the noble Baroness’s question, I dispute what she is saying in the sense that I believe that the implications of leaving the European Union were set out pretty clearly in the referendum campaign by both sides. Indeed, I have somewhere here long lists of those on both sides of the campaign saying what a vote to leave would mean, especially that a vote to leave would mean leaving the single market. Therefore, I do not believe that that was unclear. As regards the uncertainty, I concur: obviously there will be uncertainty in a period of change such as this. The Government are doing what they can to set out wherever possible how we will bring certainty to the situation that we are in. As I said a moment or two ago, the whole thinking behind the great repeal Bill is to port EU law into UK law, so that on day one we are certain about where we stand. I think that is a good approach to follow and I hope that over the weeks and months ahead people will understand that better than they may do at the moment.
My Lords, I very much welcome the fact that, in the Statement, the Government have made it absolutely clear that they respect the judiciary’s independence and accept this judgment, and have done so promptly. It is, of course, a sign of a functioning democracy that the Government, however irksome that they might find it, will lose cases from time to time. Turning to the democratic legitimacy of the referendum, this was an Act of Parliament giving a vote to the people. Does the Minister agree with me that it is a somewhat imaginative interpretation of that vote that what the people of the country were really saying was that they wanted a second referendum?
I entirely agree with my noble friend. As I said before, a second referendum would lace a situation that the noble Baroness spoke of a moment ago—in which people feel uncertain—with even more uncertainty. This is absolutely not what we wish to have.
My Lords, may I return to the role of Parliament? The Government failed today in the Supreme Court in their first attempt to circumnavigate Parliament at the first stage of this lengthy process. I entirely agree that Article 50 must be triggered; I also agree that the Government must be allowed the freedom to negotiate, but does the Minister accept that that cannot mean that Parliament—as the country is faced with the most challenging set of issues since the Second World War—has no role? There must be a role for Parliament over these next two years in meaningfully discussing the many different choices that this country faces.
I thank the noble Lord for that question. I disagree somewhat with his characterisation of our approach. We were not trying to circumnavigate Parliament: we believed that there was a case for using the royal prerogative to trigger Article 50. At any rate, we are where we are: Parliament is now going to have a vote. In regard to the role of Parliament going forward, there will obviously be that vote; there will be the vote, as I said a moment ago, on the great repeal Bill, and there will be votes on the subsequent pieces of legislation, of which, I expect, there will be a considerable number, both primary and secondary. Then, as my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in her speech last week, there will be a vote in both Houses on the treaty. Meanwhile, there is nothing to stop your Lordships from having other debates. I very much look forward to being at this Dispatch Box on Thursday, to have a debate with the noble Baroness on similar subjects to those that we have been discussing this afternoon.
My Lords, I very much welcome the decision of the Government to import the acquis communautaire into UK law. However, in the event that we withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice and there is a dispute on the interpretation of the acquis communautaire as it will apply in English or Scottish law at that time, which body will interpret and give a ruling on that dispute?
My Lords, the UK Supreme Court would interpret at the end of the day if it were to come to that, but the noble Baroness makes a very good point. I can assure her and the rest of your Lordships that when it comes to the great repeal Bill, we will set out our approach, hopefully in considerable detail, in regard to all these issues.
High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill
Relevant documents: 7th and 14th Reports from the Delegated Powers Committee
Clause 1: Power to construct and maintain works for Phase One of High Speed 2
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) Construction work otherwise authorised by this Act may not begin until—(a) the Secretary of State has commissioned a review of the merits of establishing Old Oak Common station as an interim eastern terminus for Phase One of High Speed 2, with the provision of convenient access arrangements with London Overground routes to the east and west of the station, and(b) the report of that review has been published.”
My Lords, I would like to make it absolutely plain at the outset that we wholeheartedly support the intentions of the Bill. We are concerned, for example, that all the routes out of London to the north are now overloaded. They are unreliable and extremely difficult to expand. There would be absolutely years and years of delay if such expansion were attempted. Our concern is that the HS2 scheme as it now stands, and as we now understand the costings to be, does not comply with the funding envelope contained in the Minister’s answer to this House in December of last year. We do not believe that the costings of HS2 are soundly based. We will explore in more detail why that is, but they are not up to date and have not been prepared by people who are absolutely competent to do so. A question of financial propriety is involved as regards whether the Government should get involved in the scheme as it now stands with such flimsy cost estimates. We further believe that if economies are not made now in the part of high-speed rail that goes from London to Birmingham, there will not be enough money in the funding envelope to extend HS2 north of Birmingham. As that is the principal purpose of the line, it seems rather odd that we would not manage to complete the line as planned.
The principal economy that it is possible to make concerns Old Oak Common, where the first London terminal is, and Euston station, which it is proposed will be reached at a further stage. Old Oak Common is a large area. It is connected to Crossrail 1, Heathrow and, obviously, to Canary Wharf. I further suggest that that station should be designed so that it is easy to turn trains around there, provided that there are sufficient staff; and that the connections between Old Oak Common station, the West London line and the line from Richmond —the two lines of London Overground—would in fact give a lot more facility for people to be dispersed from the railway. This would require Old Oak Common to be the interim terminus in London. While most people do not even know where Old Oak Common is, it is not far from London; it is well connected by road; and because of the good connections which I have described and the potential good connections which could be provided, I do not believe that when trains come from Birmingham or the north, if they could go to Euston, people would choose to stay on them as far as Euston. They will get off at Old Oak Common and disperse from there.
A huge amount of money is involved in the extension of High Speed 2 from Old Oak Common to Euston, and that represents a large economy, which would help the project to stay within the funding envelopes which the Government are providing. It is therefore time to re-examine and reappraise the Euston connection to see what benefit it will bring. However, there is no reason in the interim why Network Rail should not get on and modernise Euston station, which sadly needs it, and of course it would provide an interval during which people could decide whether extending the railway from Old Oak Common to Euston was a good proposition. I have set out simply what we are trying to do: we are trying to protect HS2 in its projection to the north of England, and to bring financial discipline to the whole project, which has not been done. I beg to move.
My Lords, Amendments 1 and 6 are also in my name. The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, has set out the reasons behind them very clearly, but there is a continuing worry about what is proposed at Euston. I think this is the eighth attempt by HS2 to come up with a scheme. If you produce something eight times, you begin to wonder what the problem is. The latest scheme is going to cause 19 years of construction or rebuilding of the station itself. That is a very long time for any project—very much longer than London Bridge, and that is not a great success—and there are ways of doing it much more cheaply. It would work to do it more quickly and within the Euston width —many people have heard us speak about that before—but my worst worry is about the cost, and I shall speak on that more generally in a minute.
In one of his helpful responses in Committee, the Minister said that lots of cost estimates had been done for both Euston and the whole scheme. The fact remains that the last one that was published—Additional Provision 3, issued about 18 months ago in September 2015 by Simon Kirby, the then chief executive of HS2—said that the total cost of the additional provisions was £66 million and that the cost of compensation was £97.8 million. Only a few months later Professor McNaughton, who was the man leading on HS2, told me and several colleagues that the compensation cost was actually going to be £1 billion at Euston. I cannot see how anyone can be happy with something that is out by a factor of 10. I think that there are still civil engineering problems there and, as one noble Lord asked about in Committee, that there are still plans to redesign the portal; we hope that it will be an improvement. It would be nice if noble Lords were told about this. There are quite a few residents I know in Camden who know about this, but none of us has been told, in spite of quite a lot of asking.
Euston may well be the right location, and we can debate the best way into Euston. In France and Germany, when a high-speed service has been built over the years, the last few miles into the city centre have generally been on the classic tracks because of the cost and disruption of knocking down enormous numbers of properties. Why we should be different, I do not know—we can ask ourselves the question. The reason for this amendment is to try to squeeze out of the Government their plans for Euston. If they do not have any, let us see if we can have an interim station that would really work at Old Oak Common, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said.
Amendment 6 is grouped with this amendment. I will not repeat what I said in Committee, because it is clearly on the record. We organised costings with Michael Bing, a quantity surveyor who has written the textbook of costings for Network Rail; that is two years old now, so I hope that it will implement it soon, because there are problems with costs on the classic network. He concluded that the cost of HS2 at Euston, with the tunnel as far as Old Oak Common, was £8.25 billion. That did not fit well, in my mind, with the total committed expenditure limits from the Government for the whole of phase 1 of £24 billion, because it is about one-third of it for eight kilometres out of 200. So I asked the same gentlemen, using the same methodology and rates, to cost the whole of phase 1, and it came out at about £54 billion, which is actually double the Government’s estimate they published in a Written Answer to me on 21 December.
I am very grateful to the Minister: we had a meeting on this last week and agreed to look at it further. However, my worry is that the original costings that we produced have never been challenged by government. You would think that the Government would have come to me or my colleagues to say, “You’ve got it wrong. You are using the wrong assumptions and the wrong design”, or whatever. Well, we could not use the wrong design—it was their design that we were using—but nobody has come back to me to say that we got it wrong. That rather leads me to believe that we probably got it quite right—or nearly right. The consequence of that is that the £54 billion we have calculated for phase 1 is actually the total expenditure limit that the Government have announced for the whole project, including phases 2 and 3. As the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said, we do not want to stop at Birmingham. It is the sections north of Birmingham that are, in my view, more in need of improvement—at Manchester, Crewe, Leeds and beyond—than the southern sections are in the first phase.
It is very important that we get a handle on the costs. It is right that we should be talking about this at Report because it is surely up to us as parliamentarians to challenge the Government so that they know what the costs are before they start work. It is very easy on a project to start work and, then, after a few years, to scratch your stubble and say, “Oh dear! I got it wrong”, and go back for more money. It is quite possible to get the costings right. Noble Lords may have heard somebody from Crossrail on the “Today” programme this morning talking about its success. It really is a success: it is on time, I believe, and it is certainly on budget. So it is possible to do it. My argument, and my plea to the Minister, is: can we not get the same discipline attached to HS2, before it is too late?
My Lords, I have one question. Perhaps it is for my noble friend the Minister or perhaps it is for the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw. My understanding was that if Old Oak Common were to be used as the terminus for this railway, even in the interim, a completely different design would be required for Old Oak Common than is currently in the Bill. It would therefore require the Bill to be re-hybridised, and would put an almost endless delay on the whole thing.
My Lords, I find it somewhat bizarre that we should be discussing these particular amendments at this particular time. I find it even more bizarre that these amendments should be moved by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, and my noble friend Lord Berkeley—both of whom are normally extremely supportive of railway matters. The effect of accepting either or both these amendments, as I am sure the Minister will tell us, would be to delay considerably the project as a whole. I am sure that that is not the noble Lord’s intention, but I hope he will agree with me that that would be the result. He shakes his head—he can come back to me on that in a moment.
I do not think that you could have a re-costing of a project this size and then say, “We will have Third Reading of the Bill in a week’s time, and that’s the end of it”. If the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is saying that, he is an even bigger financial genius than I thought he was previously. The fact is that there would be further delay. It is seven years since my noble friend Lord Adonis, as a Minister in the last Government but one, came forward with the project—and here we are at the end of a seven-year period discussing two amendments that would, I would guess, have the effect if not of putting the project back another seven years then certainly putting it back for some considerable time.
As far as Old Oak Common is concerned, I say again to the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, that he has to answer the point put by the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, a former Transport Minister. The fact is that Old Oak, as it presently is, is in no way suitable to be a main terminal. I do not mean to be facetious when I say that if you asked people coming to London where they were going to when they got there, comparatively few would say Old Oak. In Great Western days there was a steam engine shed there, I understand, so trainspotters might well have gone there 50 years ago—but I cannot see there being a great demand to terminate trains at Old Oak, no matter how good the connections will be.
The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, talked about developments at Euston. He has an amendment which I am sure we will be discussing later about access around Euston station, which is the natural terminus. He makes the very relevant point that, for example, on the TGV in France, high-speed trains stop short of the main terminus, which is the reason for the delays that quite often occur. It seems to me to be a much more sensible engineering prospect to run high-speed trains into the centre of a city rather than making them share crowded tracks with other trains, as they do in other countries. So perhaps on this occasion we got it right.
Finally, whatever estimates are made of these projects often turn out, in the long term, to be unrealistic. My noble friend talked about Crossrail. I was on the Crossrail Bill, and it was said at that time that the estimates for Crossrail were unrealistic—but they proved not to be so. With all due respect to my noble friend’s opinion, he is no better a financier than the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, as far as this project is concerned. So if the noble Lord presses this to a Division, I hope that those of us who want to see this project, after seven years, get the go-ahead will vote in the Not-Content Lobby.
My Lords, I am disturbed that this amendment has come up because, first of all, we have no figures for people who would be very pleased to be dispersed—as the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said—at Old Oak Common. Having been to Old Oak Common on one of our visits, I would not like to be lumbered with getting from Old Oak Common to anywhere in London; it just seems crazy. Secondly, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said that the forecasts were not up to date. He also cast aspersions on the people who did the forecasts. He said that the forecasts were prepared by people who were not capable and that they were flimsy. This is really too late in the project to make those sorts of comments.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said that he was interested in financial discipline; we are all interested in financial discipline. But not making any forecasts of the people who would be,
“dispersed from Old Oak Common”,
just does not make sense. It seems to me to be a delaying tactic, without actually getting the basis of proper forecasts of people who are going to use Old Oak Common. Coming from Birmingham to Old Oak Common? I ask: who would really want to?
My Lords, I support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Bradshaw and the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. This seems an eminently sensible suggestion. At the moment, people are trying to make out that this is an attempt to delay HS2; that is the last thing that I would like to do. The amendment would in fact allow it to go ahead. They are talking about a temporary terminal there, for possibly five years or maybe even less.
There are three very good reasons why this is a sensible idea. The first is that we have not yet decided how the route of HS2 will go from Old Oak Common into Euston. There are two or three different routes and I do not think we should be delayed any further on that. That can carry on after the Bill has already gone through. The second thing is what the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said. This is a way of cutting costs, if necessary. The five miles between Old Oak Common and Euston are almost certainly the most expensive five miles of the entire route. Therefore, if we can delay the building of that but still continue with the Bill and get the rest of HS2 on the move, so much the better.
The third reason that this is a good idea is that we will have to make a decision about something that is not part of the Bill at the moment. Some time in the future we will have to join HS2 to HS3. One way would be through Old Oak Common, where it can join the present HS1. It is going to be very difficult to make that join somewhere in Euston or St Pancras station. So the amendment is eminently sensible. It has nothing to do with delaying anything: it is very much the opposite. It makes it possible to start the building of HS2 almost immediately.
Has the noble Earl read the amendments that he has just spoken to? Amendment 1 states:
“Construction work otherwise authorised by this Act may not begin until”.
That is, the works at Old Oak Common. Amendment 6, in the name of my noble friend Lord Berkeley, states:
“Cost estimate … The nominated undertaker must not commence any Phase One construction work until the Secretary of State has published”,
and so on. It goes on to talk about a review of the finances. That is not a couple of weeks’ delay; it is years. For the noble Earl to suggest anything different indicates to me that he has not actually read the amendments he supports.
Will the noble Earl take the trouble to read the very wise words of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, who spoke a few moments ago about the consequences of accepting these amendments? If one of them were passed, the Bill would have to be re-hybridised. It would have to go back to the hybrid Bill Committee and months and months would be taken up by looking at the Bill again with these provisions in it.
I cannot believe that the House would want to do that, bearing in mind the exceptionally good job that the hybrid committee did. I see a number of its members are in the Chamber at the moment and they deserve the thanks of all of us for looking at this Bill in such detail and displaying such patience in listening to huge numbers of petitions and far too many lawyers who were presenting them on behalf of people with, in some cases, entirely spurious objections. The committee went through that very well and came up with a series of recommendations for change, and the Government, to their great credit, have accepted them all either in spirit or literally. The fact that the committee has done that job and we have a Bill to which we can give Third Reading and get work under way is very important.
Old Oak Common is a wonderful place. It is where my great-grandfather lived in a Great Western Railway house when he was a top link driver on the railway in the early years of the 20th century. But it is not a place where people want to go when they are travelling on high-speed trains from Birmingham or the north of England. Indeed, the practicality of finishing a journey there has been addressed by Transport for London. It answers the point made by my noble friend Lord Berkeley about Crossrail. Yes, Crossrail is going really well and will be a great success. But when HS2 arrives at Old Oak Common, it is estimated that about a third of the passengers will get off, get on to Crossrail and go into the City. However, if they were all required to go on to the City, the difference between these two—HS2 terminating at Euston or at Old Oak Common—would, in the words of Transport for London, be the difference between Crossrail coping and Crossrail falling down. That would be the implication of accepting this amendment.
My Lords, it is nice to be thanked for one’s work. I see several Lords from the eclectic group who served on that committee, including the noble and learned Lord, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, whom I must congratulate on the way he handled both the hearings and the committee.
I have recently been reading a book—I hope this slight digression will be acceptable, as it relates to this amendment—called Mr Barry’s War, by Caroline Shenton, one of the archivists. The bit that I like is when she talks about an attempt by Barry and a group of architects—someone called William “Strata” Smith, a great geologist, was also involved—to find stone to build this place. They travelled all over the UK. They get to Lincoln, with its magnificent gothic minster, the Ancaster stone quarries—said to be Roman—then Grantham, Stamford and nearby Burghley House. Once they get through Kettering and Northampton by coach, they,
“made their way back to London by the novel means of Robert Stephenson’s thrilling new London and Birmingham Railway, which had opened along its whole length just five days previously on 17 September. This was the first London intercity rail line, and Euston station the first mainline terminus in a capital city anywhere in the world. Its magnificent Doric Propylaeum”—
I do not know if I pronounced that correctly—
“or entrance archway, made of millstone grit, stood for 125 years until pulled down by modernist planners in 1962”.
I could not help feeling that that was rather a propitious bit of reading prior to this debate.
We did not debate the overall cost—that was not in the committee’s remit—but we certainly debated some costings by my noble friend Lord Berkeley and his expert witnesses. I regret to say, however, that they did not stack up. Neither did Old Oak Common. I had to smile when someone said, “It’s just an interim stop”. We all know that if it finishes at Old Oak Common it will be a real stretch of the imagination to believe that that will be interim.
The noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, said that the route had not been decided. It has been decided, and we had a debate, I assure noble Lords, on whether it would be more desirable to terminate at Old Oak Common. That was not the view of the committee after listening to a range of expert witnesses and for some of the reasons cited by my noble friend Lord Faulkner.
We can all have a view, if you like, about people’s motives and intentions—I will assume that they are motivated by the best of all reasons—but one thing you cannot assume is that the process would be speedy, for either the first or the sixth amendment. This will be a lengthy process, and, as has been said, we are now seven years—I was going to say “down the track” but that is an unfortunate pun; if only we were. We have some way to go. As someone who, like the noble Lord, served on Crossrail, I remember just as many criticisms of that. Now it is all enthusiasm, but it was not at the time, I assure noble Lords; there were just as many doubters and naysayers.
My view—and you have heard from other colleagues on the committee—is that we gave this a thorough examination, and I am certain that we also debated it in Committee. I cannot remember how many times I have heard this debate. As a former Attorney-General once said, repetition does not necessarily enhance the value of your contribution. I am beginning to feel that way in this case. I hope noble Lords will not support these amendments; I do not believe they add anything to the existing analysis. As I recall, in the recent Grand Committee debate the Minister reported to us that the National Audit Office has run its calculators over this. Every time there has been a challenge on the costings done by HS2—the classic one was on the tunnel costings in Wendover, which we may unfortunately return to again—they were independently checked. The proposed tunnelling at Colne Valley was independently validated and HS2 was found to be correct in those circumstances. I listened carefully to the argument but I incline to the views expressed by so many of my fellow committee members, and by my noble friend Lord Faulkner.
My Lords, I echo my noble friend Lord Faulkner’s thanks to the Select Committee. There are no greater tasks which Members of your Lordships’ House take on than being members of these hybrid Bill Committees, which are like the Committee of Public Safety. I think they were sitting for four days a week over many months. Those noble Lords made a huge commitment to the work of the committee and at this very late stage—this last stage of the Bill’s passage through the House—we should certainly not seek to substitute our judgment, on the basis of a short debate, for the exhaustive examination which your Lordships’ Select Committee gave to this issue, among many others which are on the Marshalled List for later in our debates.
I hesitate to arbitrate between my noble friends Lord Faulkner and Lord Snape on the beauty of Old Oak Common, which depends very much on whether you have a great admiration for railway architecture of the Victorian age. It will become a thing of great beauty when the High Speed 2 station and all the wider development is completed there, but that will take some time. I do not think anybody could pretend now, when passing through it at not particularly high speeds on trains coming out of Paddington, that it is a great beauty spot—it is next to Wormwood Scrubs. However, a critical issue for us to consider this afternoon is its utility as a transport interchange. That was the issue considered by the Select Committee.
It is important for the House to understand that once HS2 is completed, we would be talking about all the traffic from Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and the East Midlands coming in to one terminus if you allow only for Old Oak Common to be built. That is the equivalent of the entirety of the intercity traffic which currently goes into Euston and a good part of the intercity traffic which goes into King’s Cross. All of that would be going into one terminus station and all served by one line, Crossrail. As my noble friend Lord Faulkner emphasised, the resilience of that arrangement could not remotely be regarded as adequate for all the traffic going from the Midlands and the north into one station.
The estimate has been made that a third of passengers will transfer to Crossrail. I think some will get off at Old Oak Common and transfer on to Heathrow, which will be 10 minutes away in the other direction, but most of them will transfer on to Crossrail going east. That proportion may be higher. It is hard to know what transport patterns will emerge but when that interchange is available, it will be an extremely rapid and efficient connection not just to the City but to the West End as well. The next stops up from Paddington will be Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon and then Bank. It then goes on to Canary Wharf, so it will offer a range of fast and high-quality connections.
However, even if you stretch that third to a half—since no one can be sure what patterns will develop—still a very substantial proportion of the passengers would, on the projections made, wish either to regard Euston as their destination or to interchange there. By having the interchange at Euston we would then serve another large swathe of London directly, including that huge and important centre which Euston, King’s Cross and St Pancras will form themselves. Massive development work will be taking place there, which will be attracted there in no small part because of the development of the HS2 station. We also have there the Victoria and Northern lines, and in due course Crossrail 2, which will serve the new Euston terminus as well. When one considers that these termini will have to deal with all the traffic coming not just from Birmingham but from Sheffield, Crewe, Manchester and Leeds, as well as services going further north up to Scotland, it looks as though there will be a requirement for more than one dispersal point.
All these issues were gone into at great length by committees of both Houses. Their conclusion was that the Government’s proposals were correct in requiring an extension from Old Oak Common through to Euston. At this very late stage in the passage of the Bill, to pass an amendment calling for a further review—the only impact of which could be substantial delay and uncertainty—would not be wise.
My Lords, after what has been said, I suppose I ought to add my thanks to the members of the Select Committee. In saying that, I did express my thanks to them in Committee. I also expressed my relief that I was disqualified from sitting on the committee at all.
The amendments in this group call for,
“a review of the merits of establishing Old Oak Common station as an interim eastern terminus for Phase One of High Speed 2”,
with construction work not beginning until the report of the review has been published. This debate has not done much to put Old Oak Common on the tourism map, despite the later comments of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, about its future.
We had some discussion about Old Oak Common in Committee. An amendment was moved calling for a spur from it to the West London line north of Shepherd’s Bush to improve access to HS2 for people to the south of London. I seem to recall that I asked the Government if they were looking at improving connections between HS2 and other suburban lines in the vicinity of Old Oak Common to improve access to HS2. In his response, the Minister said that the West London Line Group, which had put forward proposals for the link from Old Oak Common to the West London line, had met DfT officials to discuss their proposals and that those discussions would continue. Perhaps the Minister could give us an update on the progress being made in these ongoing discussions.
I understand that the issue of Old Oak Common was considered during the Lords Select Committee hearings—noble Lords on the Select Committee confirmed that in their contributions today. The committee has not made any recommendations on this matter nor suggested that the Government should consider going down the road called for in the first amendment. In the light of this, we do not intend to either.
The second amendment in this group calls for an estimate of the costs for carrying out all the phase 1 works, with the breakdown set out in the amendment to be published, and the construction work not starting until that has been undertaken. What has prompted both the first and second amendments in this group is a view that the work cannot be carried out within the overall figure given by the Government. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, said that there was a good case for having an independent assessment of the costs and particularly for considering such things as how long HS2 could terminate at Old Oak Common. This could, perhaps, be a considerable period of time which could save a considerable sum of money. Costs are vital. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, said in Committee:
“I cannot emphasise enough that the single biggest threat to this project is cost overruns in building the core of it, between cities where there is massive traffic—namely, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds and London”.—[Official Report, 10/1/17; col. GC 62.]
The Government have committed themselves to a figure for the construction of HS2 stage one. Different bodies, including the National Audit Office, have looked at the figures and some have produced reports. The costings will, I understand, continue to be the subject of consideration by these bodies as the work progresses and more detailed figures are available. If the overall figure for the cost of construction is breached, it is the Government who will be held accountable—not least by us—since it is the Government who have said that the figures are accurate and can be trusted. They will have to explain why they got their figures wrong if the overall cost is breached, and why it would not have been possible to have got those figures right before construction started.
We do not want to go down the road of further amendments that could delay the starting of this project, which has already been the subject of so much consideration by so many people and bodies, including a Select Committee of this House. If the Government want to go down the road of the second amendment in this group without delaying the start of the project, that is a matter for them. However, one suspects that the production of further figures that have not been produced already, which presumably is what is being sought, would not bring the issue of costs to a conclusion, since there would inevitably then be challenges to the further breakdown of costs provided and the basis on which they were calculated. Our position, as I have said, is that we do not wish to see further delay to the start of this project, and behind the first amendment is clearly a major potential change.
On costs, at this late stage after so much consideration and examination of the project, it is now the Government and the Government alone who will be held accountable for any figures that prove significantly wrong and for any consequential cost overruns, since they have a responsibility to satisfy themselves that the cost estimates they have given are credible and accurate.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in the debate on these amendments. I join other noble Lords, including the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner, Lord Adonis and Lord Rosser, in adding my thanks—I did so in Committee and I do so again—to the Select Committee and all its members, some of whom are present, for their diligence, perseverance and indeed thorough examination of the raft of different petitions that were presented to them. Indeed, we have reflected on them already in Committee.
I start with an appreciation. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley—and, in moving the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw—made it clear in their overall intent that they are both supportive of the Bill and indeed of the construction of HS2. Indeed, the majority in your Lordships’ House recognise the importance of this railway in terms of our future railway infrastructure.
I turn to the amendments. Whether there is an advantage in using the proposed new station at Old Oak Common as a temporary London terminus for phase 1 of HS2 was, as we have heard, examined in detail by Select Committees not just in your Lordships’ House but in the other place. As was set out, the proponents of this option believe that using Old Oak Common as a temporary terminus would provide several advantages, including less impactful construction works at Euston, less disruption to services on the west coast main line and the opportunity to allow a more comprehensive redevelopment of Euston to be undertaken. I do not dispute the intentions behind the amendment but it is for that reason, as noble Lords will appreciate, that the Government have already investigated these proposals in detail. I am minded to agree with my noble friend Lord Brabazon, who speaks with great expertise in this area, that the implication of accepting such an amendment would impede the progress of the Bill.
I will go briefly into the detail of this. We looked at many options put forward by petitioners to the Committee in the other place about options for terminating HS2 services at Old Oak Common temporarily or permanently, as well as splitting the termination of services between Old Oak Common and Euston station. I do not wish to go into the detail on the permanent use of Old Oak Common as a terminus or a splitting of services, as those issues are not the subject of the noble Lord’s amendment and would go against the principle of the Bill as has been agreed by both Houses. However, I note that the overall outcome of the work that was undertaken on those options demonstrated that a complementary solution of two stations at the start of services in London would be the best for HS2 passengers. Putting all our new passengers in one station would overload that station, and it is also important for the strategic objectives of HS2 to bring the benefits of the new railway to as wide an area as we can.
Permanently terminating a portion of HS2 trains at Old Oak Common, in order to be able to descope the proposed Euston station and reduce its footprint as a result of having to cater for fewer passengers, was also considered. The conclusion was that this would, as we have heard from my noble friend Lady O’Cathain, still result in most of the passengers who terminated at Old Oak Common having to change trains in order to reach Euston and incurring several minutes of additional journey time and inconvenience in doing so.
The detailed work that the Government undertook to investigate using Old Oak Common as a temporary terminus, primarily in response to the petitioners from the Camden area, looked at a number of scenarios and demonstrated that using Old Oak Common as a temporary terminus would not eliminate the construction effects and impacts in Euston. This was because there would still be a requirement to construct the tunnels into Euston in order to facilitate the fit-out of the railway further south—that is, the long rails, the overhead line and the other control systems that go with it—which as I understand it will go through sequentially from Old Oak Common, indeed from the depots north of Old Oak Common. It would not be practical to do that fit-out once we had started running trains in any economic fashion.
We also considered using a temporary terminus at Old Oak Common to allow staging of works if one part of the railway construction was slightly delayed by a few months or to facilitate a kind of test-run phase. We concluded that while it would be possible to turn round a few trains at Old Oak Common since the station will have the resilience to do so, this is not the same as turning round trains to a timetable or turning them round without delay. Old Oak Common has been designed as a through station. It will have the ability in emergency situations, such as security or safety events, to be used to get people off trains and turn trains round. However, that is an emergency situation, not a timetabled commercial service situation. I also note that while Crossrail would be able to provide onward journey opportunities for passengers alighting at Old Oak Common, if HS2 passengers consumed the capacity to get into the city centre it would be to the detriment of the capacity and growth opportunities which would otherwise be possible on that new Crossrail service.
The new station at Old Oak Common will facilitate an interchange between HS2 services and the national rail and Crossrail networks on the west coast main line. We consider that between a quarter and a third of all HS2 passengers will choose to use Old Oak Common rather than come to Euston, mainly for those destinations best served by the new Crossrail line. The remaining two-thirds of passengers who are still on the train beyond Old Oak Common will, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, have good access across both central London, London suburbs and to other mainline stations.
I hope that by listing the consideration that was given, I have demonstrated that the temporary termination of HS2 services at Old Oak Common has already been fully explored. That work showed no further merit in investigating this option further and indeed as neither of the Select Committees of either House that also examined this issue saw fit to make any recommendations regarding it, I suggest that the details of this amendment have been looked at. I therefore hope that the noble Lord will withdraw it.
With respect to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on cost estimates, as the noble Lord himself acknowledges, last week I met him to discuss the work that he had commissioned on the costs of phase 1. Indeed, Mr Bing, to whom he referred, was also present with officials from my department and from HS2. I disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, when he says that the figures presented are flimsy. They are not. I am confident of the robustness of our costs. Indeed, Mr Bing himself acknowledged the expertise of those present from HS2 in terms of providing and determining these costs. What was clear from the costs that Mr Bing had presented vis-à-vis the costs that the HS2 technical experts were presenting was that there was a difference in the basis on which they were detailed. That said, we are confident of our own cost analysis. In response, and in the spirit of openness that I hope I have demonstrated during the passage of this Bill, I have suggested to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, further work on how the differences in cost estimates occurred so that these issues may be addressed. I believe that he has taken up this offer with Mr Bing.
The Government in no sense underestimate this issue of costs. Infrastructure projects are a serious matter and—as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has acknowledged on the Crossrail project—their costs are a major determinant of their success. Therefore, as many will be aware, an updated cost estimate for the project is being published at each iteration of the business case, the next such iteration being due in the summer of this year.
The project as a whole, including its cost estimate and business case, is, as we have heard from several noble Lords, subject to regular independent reviews from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority and the Public Accounts Committee. Having illustrated the checks and balances and our continued belief in the robustness of the costs that have been presented—a point validated in the assessments made by various other bodies, including the Public Accounts Committee—I do not feel that a further independent review is necessary and hope that on the basis that I have detailed, the noble Lord will be minded to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response. First, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, I have checked that the termination of trains for a period at Old Oak Common would not rehybridise the Bill, because it would not deviate from what has already been agreed. Secondly, I fully go along with the urgency of the project. It is a very sensible project and I have always thought it necessary; I do not argue with it. I am concerned that it will be subject to a lot of cost overruns because I do not believe that the preparatory work has been done as thoroughly as it should.
Reference was made to Old Oak Common by the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain. I have managed the railway at Old Oak Common. It has never been a station. It has been a locomotive depot with lots of sidings, but it gives an opportunity. It is a vast area. There are no buildings of architectural merit there, so it is possible to clear an area. There is no reason why a station should not be constructed at Old Oak Common so that trains can be turned around. In phase 1, the trains from Birmingham will be no more than commuter trains. If they take 30 or 40 minutes to get to Old Oak Common, that will not be a long journey and it will not be difficult to turn them around and send them back to Birmingham quite quickly.
I want real attention focused on how we get economically from Old Oak Common to Euston, because I very much fear that the costs of that last bit as they now stand will explode the issue and, as I said, unless the Government make more money available, stop the extension beyond Birmingham.
These are serious issues. I have listened carefully to what the Minister said. However, I started with the issue of financial propriety. I think it is our duty to say to the Government that this has not been properly costed from one end to the other. We should get on with the bit that we know—or think—is sound, and push the other one, not to a long delay, but until such time as the figures can be agreed. I beg to test the opinion of the House.
2: Clause 1, page 1, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) The scheduled works may not commence until the nominated undertaker has consulted appropriate bodies representing the interests of landowners about its disposal of surplus land policy, and has published a report on that consultation.”
My Lords, I draw your Lordships’ attention to my interests as declared at the Committee stage of the Bill and earlier. The subject of the amendment was discussed in Committee and the Minister made a helpful response at that time. The issue was also raised in the Select Committee of your Lordships’ House, as it engages the private interests of many petitioners, and that committee made a strong recommendation, to which I wish to refer. We also now have the Government’s response to the Select Committee, which raises the point that I want to raise with the Minister.
The Crichel Down rules have governed the selling of surplus land following compulsory purchase for over half a century. Although there are said to be problems with them—that is perhaps a matter for another day—they are respected as the rules of the game. This issue has great importance, as there is no real accessible right of review once land has been taken, as judicial review is effectively out of the financial reach of most landowners.
The problem is that HS2 Ltd has decided that, rather than simply follow the Crichel Down rules, as has been the established practice, it will introduce alongside those additional exceptions under which it will not offer, in the first instance, land that it has compulsorily purchased back to the original landowner. These exceptions include, it says,
“where it makes sense to pool the land with adjoining ownerships in a joint disposal”.
What this might mean, of course, is that where HS2 Ltd thinks that it will be better for it financially to keep the land it no longer needs and sell it in a different parcel, it will. It will not be offered back to the owner whose land it was originally. The Lords HS2 Select Committee recognised this and recommended in its report:
“We strongly urge the Secretary of State not to add further exceptions to what is already … a long list of cases … in which the original owner will not be given first refusal to reacquire the land at its then market value. Apart from other more principled reasons, which we need not repeat, it would be odd if one Department of State had its own version of the rules”.
The Government say at paragraph 122 of their response:
“The Promoter is prepared to reconsider the additional exceptions set out in the Information Paper in the particular circumstances of each case”.
It is that phrase to which I would like a response from the Minister. Obviously, if that means that no decisions will be given in general but only in particular cases, there is no certainty for the landowner, who would have to wait each time for HS2 Ltd to decide, presumably towards the end of the time for which it needed the land, whether to keep it. HS2 Ltd would still have the power to keep any land it wanted—for example, for a development—which it would have acquired at much below the market rate. Is that fair?
HS2 Ltd has provided no details of what criteria it would use to undertake case-by-case reviews. If a case-by-case approach is used, these criteria should surely be in the public interest. That makes the case. I look forward to hearing from the Minister. If he cannot agree to review, perhaps he would be prepared to write giving examples of what criteria would be used. I beg to move.
My Lords, as I am sure the noble Lord is aware, the policy regarding the disposal of surplus land received an extensive examination by the Select Committees of both Houses with regard to individual cases, to which he referred, and more broadly when they heard from representative bodies such as the National Farmers’ Union and the Country Land and Business Association. I am sure the noble Lord has noted this, but I say for the benefit of your Lordships’ House that paragraphs 417 and 421 of the Lords Select Committee’s report set out its conclusions in detail.
The Secretary of State is under a general duty to minimise land take for the railway, whether permanently or temporarily. In general terms, any land that is surplus following construction will be disposed of in accordance with the Crichel Down rules. These rules provide for the circumstances in which land acquired by compulsory acquisition, but no longer required, will be offered back to the former owners. The rules have been developed over the course of half a century and have been endorsed by previous Governments. The basic principle is that former owners will, as a general rule, be given the first opportunity to repurchase any surplus land at current market value provided it has not materially changed in character since acquisition, such as new buildings having been built on it.
The rules set out a number of other exceptions to this general principle, which HS2 follows, but have also added two further exceptions to cater for the special circumstances of the HS2 scheme. These exceptions would allow the Secretary of State to retain land acquired for the project where a site is needed for regeneration or where it is needed for the relocation of a business directly affected by HS2. The Select Committee report recommended that the project remove these two additional exceptions. In their response, the Government have noted, and agreed to reconsider, the additional exceptions in the particular circumstances of each case.
I hope the fact that we are proposing to use a very well-established approach for this policy and have further agreed to revise that approach to make it further in line with the original policy demonstrates that this amendment is unnecessary. I hope that the noble Lord is minded to withdraw his amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
3: Clause 1, page 1, line 11, at end insert—
“( ) Before the date on which the nominated undertaker commences any works authorised by this Act, the Secretary of State must publish a cost-benefit analysis of the environmental impacts of the proposed works within Phase One of High Speed 2 and connected construction works in the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.( ) The report must include an explanation of the methodology used to value the savings in environmental impact that would have arisen from more extensive tunnelling.”
My Lords, I will speak also to the other amendments in this group. We are at the end of a very long and extensive planning process, which, while not as lengthy as the planning inquiry for T5, I think could be agreed all round to have been quite a marathon. Despite the scrutiny of the public aspects of the Bill in this House and in the other place—and in particular, the excellent and thorough work done by the Select Committees, which was heroic in all respects, and to which I have already paid tribute in Committee, and about which others have spoken again today—I have a view that the public interest has not yet been fully satisfied. So I would like to make a couple of points arising from these amendments.
There are, of course, a number of problems to do with the hybrid Bill process. This has been described in earlier discussions as a hangover from the Victorian era, and it is probably going to be reviewed in the light of the fact that a Joint Committee has been set up of both Houses. We are aware that comments in the Select Committees of both the Commons and the Lords have been also been made, and it is a matter of some regret that your Lordships’ House has not had the opportunity to discuss the report of the Select Committee of the Lords that looked at this Bill in detail. If we had had that chance, some of the points that I am going to make could have come up at that time. I am not going to continue on process issues, however, because I think that they will be the subject of a report from the Joint Committee, and I hope that this House will have a chance to discuss this later on. I myself have submitted evidence, and I know that a number of other noble Lords have done so as well.
My argument in very skeletal form—and I hope that I am not engaging with any of the points that might be raised by members of the Select Committee who are present today, because this is a matter about public interest, not private interest—is that the procedures of the two Houses, more by accident than design, dealing with the public aspects of the planning Bill as in the case of HS2 through the Public Bill procedure, and the private aspects through Select Committees, somehow manage to exclude a full consideration of public interest issues. I want to argue that point in relation to these three amendments.
My three areas of concern are not matters that I expect your Lordships’ House to consider for amendment to the Bill. They were not put down as wrecking amendments; they are not intended to delay the progress of the Bill through to Royal Assent. But I hope that, at some point in the future, they will be open to interrogation by those responsible for delivering the Bill. They might well ask themselves important questions about whether what has been decided in the Bill through the processes that I have described is in the best possible form that it could be.
In Amendment 3, my question is not whether we should open the case for a through-the-Chilterns tunnel but to ask for transparency over how that decision was reached. Everyone will say that the Select Committee process, both in this House and in the other place, has done this issue to death. My point is that it probably has done it to death from the point of view of the private interest—but not from the point of view of the public interest. This is partly because the process engages with private interest from the start, and that tends to drive the way the debate is going. It is also a reflection of where we are today in relation to public bodies funded from public funds, which find it very difficult to put up arguments that are opposed to those that are made by a government department, such as the Department for Transport in relation to HS2. In that sense, there is a danger that the public interest would not be fully considered.
So I have two particular questions for the Minister. We are told in two or three places in the Bill documents that the statutory tests that are required by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act were undertaken by the Secretary of State. This was referred to by the Lords Select Committee. But what precisely were the tests and why is the information that was used to determine these points not made available? Surely it would be in the public interest to be transparent on this point, and I look forward to hearing from the Minister on this.
We read in both Select Committee reports—from this House and the other place—that a full-bore tunnel through the Chilterns AONB was considered, but rejected on cost grounds. If that is so—and I have no reason to doubt that it was done properly—why is that information not published and made available? The amendment states:
“The report must include an explanation of the methodology used to value the savings in environmental impact that would have arisen from more extensive tunnelling”.
Again, this is a matter of public interest, and I would be grateful if the Minister could respond. These requests are not disproportionate; they are in the public interest and should be answered, and I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about them. If he chooses to write in more detail, I will be happy to receive a letter from him at a later date.
On Amendment 4, the arguments are much the same —although, because it is a modest project, the costs here are much less. Again, we find that the tiny village of Chetwode, which is in north Bucks, argued persuasively for a bored tunnel, which was refused by the Commons Select Committee “on grounds of cost”. The Lords Select Committee also received this and said that it,
“reluctantly reached the same conclusion”.
We have not seen the figures. Again, that is an issue of public interest, and I would be grateful if the Minister could provide them now—or, if he wishes, in a letter.
I will leave the main burden of speaking to Amendment 5 to my noble friend Lord Berkeley, but Members of your Lordships’ House might wish to be made aware that this amendment was first raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, in Committee, who may wish to contribute on this point. Rather than going through any of these issues, as they are not specific to the point I am making, I will make a slightly different point. In projects of this type, issues will arise during the process of planning and design of the final stages when other good ideas, which are not in the main Bill, come up. There may be flexibility in the framing of the Bill—an ability to make changes. However, on the sort of proposal that has been made by the Wendover community, which has been rather badly treated by the railway as regards how it has been routed, if it was possible for that community to come up with a good idea, even at this late stage, what is the process by which it might be considered? If, for example, it showed that demonstrable savings or huge environmental benefits would result, are there flexibilities in the process going forward? I am not talking about mistakes made or in any sense going back—I want to interrogate the question of what happens now. Can the Minister reassure us that there would be an opportunity for such schemes to be given proper evaluation and discussion at the appropriate stage? I beg to move.
My Lords, since we appear to be merging the two groups together, I will speak briefly to Amendment 5, which is about Wendover. I do not want to rehearse what we have already spoken about this afternoon or elsewhere. However, I have a question for the Minister. Now that we are moving towards Royal Assent—this may come up in discussions about any changes that may happen at Euston to keep the trains running, which is in a later amendment—to what extent is the successful contractor able to come up with his own ideas for either doing some of the work more cheaply or with less environmental impact? Wendover tunnel comes to mind, because I am advised that building a tunnel in place of the open cut and viaduct is cheaper—and of course it has a much reduced environmental impact. Provided that he does it within the limits of deviation and all the other limits on the drawings, presumably it is up to the contractor to propose it to HS2—which presumably will accept it if all those conditions are met.
Alternatively, is there another way to do this? I will be interested to hear the Minister’s response, because tunnels are cheaper—somewhat surprisingly, but we discussed it in Committee—and would obviously have a reduced environmental impact. If it is within the limits of deviation and the other limits on the legislation, it would be good if the contractor just chose to do that—in which case there would be benefits all round.
My Lords, I support Amendment 3, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara. Before speaking, I draw noble Lords’ attention to the declaration of interests that I made in Committee.
I am aware that this issue was raised in Committee, but I fear that we did not get the fulsome response that we hoped for from the Minister. I would hope that all Governments, particularly a Conservative Government, would be interested in value for money. As the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, said, we are told what the total cost of the railway is—although it seems to change every time I see a figure, and few believe that it will stop there. But surely this is only half the issue. The environmental impact of this line, particularly over the Chilterns AONB, has not been costed, and the Government have been strangely reluctant to provide figures or the methodology used. Can the Minster let us have this information? At this stage a full explanation is imperative.
If the people of this country are going to get behind this project, surely we ought to be transparent about the figures that have been used to decide that 8.7 kilometres of additional tunnelling, which would preserve the AONB, is “too expensive” because the benefits to the environment are insufficient to outweigh the additional cost of tunnelling. If the figures stack up—I have no idea whether they do—we will at least have been transparent in the process. Surely the public, who will have to pay for this project in so many ways—and of whom relatively few will see any actual benefit—are entitled to a proper cost-benefit analysis before our countryside is destroyed.
If we destroy the AONB—and it will be destroyed—without making a proper cost-benefit analysis of what we are doing, we will not be forgiven. Indeed, not having such a cost-benefit analysis would be regarded as pure vandalism. I urge the Minister and the Government just to do what is requested in this sensible amendment.
My Lords, I am surprised that yet again we are exploring the wonders of Wendover—which was one of the many exotic foreign trips we went on. It was important that we went out to see these places. I think it was a slight exaggeration when the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, said that the area of outstanding natural beauty would be destroyed. There will be changes, but I do not believe that the area will be destroyed—and neither do members of the committee.
I return to the point made by my noble friend Lord Stevenson, who says, yet again, that we have not fully and transparently explored this issue. In fact we did—and of course it was done not only by us but by the Commons, who after two years of hearing petitions extended the tunnel by a significant amount. The next challenge that was put to us when we examined this in Committee was a challenge to the promoters’ assessment of tunnelling costs: “They would say that, wouldn’t they? They would make them come out cheaper”. The integrity of that costing procedure was disputed. In a way, that was a useful challenge, because we needed to be assured that that costing gave us a fair and accurate cost comparison of whether extending tunnelling even further—whether it was mined or bored—would achieve savings, which my noble friend Lord Berkeley also insisted would be the case.
That was a legitimate question until we got to the point of the proposed Colne Valley viaduct, where petitioners were asking for a fully bored tunnel instead of a viaduct. Those HS2 tunnelling costs were assessed in an independent cost analysis and were validated. So the idea that at this stage we have not had a full debate on this is preposterous, given everything that has happened—and, again, the idea that the public interest has not been protected is fallacious.
It is true to say—perhaps it is the one point on which I agree with my noble friend—that the hybrid Bill process is not ideal. We and the Commons agreed on that. As a committee we put in our view of how this Victorian process, as my noble friend rightly called it, could be improved. But that is one thing; it does not take away the main point of this amendment, which somehow seems to suggest to the House that, first, the public interest has not been fully served, and, secondly, that this has been a flawed process. I and the rest of my committee colleagues do not believe that to be the case. Again, I trust that noble Lords will reject this amendment.
Maybe my memory is deceiving me, but the mined tunnel was through chalk, was it not? There was a problem about the slurry and it would not have been a practical proposition to go through—rather than a bored tunnel. I would like clarification on that, specifically the mined tunnel. Can the noble Lord, Lord Young, help me?
My Lords, I am not quite sure whether I can help the noble Baroness. I asked the same question about a mined tunnel in Committee and the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, explained it all to me. The problem is that I have forgotten the explanation. It sounded very plausible at the time. I am sure if the noble Baroness consults her noble friend she will get all the details of what should be done.
I listened to the noble Baroness who spoke earlier from the Conservative Benches. She made a fleeting appearance in Committee and said pretty much the same thing; I hope she will forgive me for saying so. I do not think emotive language about a two-track railway destroying the countryside takes this House or this debate any further forward. What did she say: “Just another 8.7 kilometres of tunnel”? That is in addition to the 47 kilometres of tunnel out of the 210 kilometres of the high-speed railway line. This is expensive lunacy in my view. I make a plea again on behalf of those who travel by train. People do not travel by train to gaze at a tunnel wall. Some of the semi-hysterical comments—I exempt my noble friend Lord Stevenson, he will be relieved to know—about the damage that the railway line will do to the Chilterns are just that, sheer hysteria. They were all made 30 years ago at the time of High Speed 1 across Kent, and none of it proved true then. Indeed, the economy of Kent has benefited enormously from High Speed 1.
The secondary point—the great unmentionable in this debate on the demand for tunnels—is of course that some people making these points about additional tunnelling do so on the grounds that there is no benefit from high-speed rail passing through the Chilterns to those who live there because there are not any stations. Well, there may be at some time in the future, as we have heard. Again, I exempt my noble friend from that; he is my Whip and I had better tread carefully. Once you get out of London, the M40 passes through the Chilterns without a mile of tunnel. Has that motorway destroyed that part of the world? I do not think it has. My noble friend nods his head but I do not think most people agree. Mind you, of course many of them use the M40 and that they are not going to be able to use the train is behind a great deal of the opposition, in my view. I hope that the Minister resists temptation. Whether it is cheaper to build a mined tunnel or go ahead with the existing proposals, as the Select Committee recommended, I know not. Nobody could have worked harder than the committee to look at those objections. I think there is quite sufficient tunnelling already so far as this high-speed railway is concerned, much of it expensive and unnecessary.
Will my noble friend answer a question that I feel I should know the answer to? How much has all the additional tunnelling that has come on as a result of the various stages of this Bill added to the cost of HS2? I have a slight suspicion that there may be the odd person—I am sure no one in this House—who has demanded a tunnel, for whatever reason, and then complains about the overall cost of the railway once the tunnelling has been accommodated.
I am sure that the Minister, who is listening, will be able to give my noble friend a detailed answer to that question. We see with this project, as we have seen with others, that many of those against the project as a whole for reasons including its cost are the first to demand special provision in their part of the world, regardless of the additional cost. I hope the Minister will resist temptation, as 47 kilometres out of 210 is—I repeat—quite enough for me. Whether or not I will be around in 2026, who knows, but I will do my best and I wish the same to other noble Lords on both sides of the House. I think we deserve better than an extended view of a tunnel wall. Let us see this glorious countryside, that we hear so much defence of in the context of this Bill—mistakenly in my view.
My Lords, I pick up the theme of my noble friend Lord Snape and express my disappointment at the lack of ambition that some Members of this House seem to demonstrate towards our capacity as a nation to build wonderful railways. Some of the finest structures created in the 19th century were built by railway engineers, whether it was viaducts through the Peak District or magnificent railway stations. To have such a lack of ambition and to say, “Gosh, this new line must all go in tunnels because it’s going to be so obtrusive”, is very disappointing. Also, as my noble friend says, it is very expensive. I remember at one of the early briefing meetings given by Sir David Higgins I asked him, “Wouldn’t it be possible to reduce the cost of the project if we didn’t have so much tunnel in it?”. He said, “Yes, but I’m not allowed by the Government to answer that question”. I am not sure whether it was this Government or the previous one who made it impossible for him to answer, but it has undoubtedly added to the cost.
I also make a plea for the people who like travelling by train and love the Chilterns and want to be able to see them. There is no reason why we should not be able to see them rather than the inside of a tunnel from the railway. Look at the other engineering projects in the Chilterns. The M40 is a six-lane motorway which carved a swathe through the Chiltern escarpment, and probably the largest intrusion into an area of outstanding natural beauty in the south of England. There was a lot of objection. It is used by very large numbers of people, but it still causes an intrusion and environmental damage far greater than the two-track railway that we are discussing this evening. Wendover benefits from a new bypass, which is being constructed to one side of the existing Chiltern railway line and is producing a huge amount of noise and traffic. It is very nice for the town because traffic is taken out of the town, but the new railway is going to go alongside that as well. Why is that somehow unreasonable compared with the road that is already there?
The Chilterns are beautiful. The environment of the Chilterns will be enhanced by the building of the railway, and many more people will be able to enjoy them. There is no need for these amendments.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their participation and contributions to the debate. I am minded to start with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Snape. Certainly when he suggested that I should not be tempted by these amendments, I was reminded that we start proceedings in the House every day with the Lord’s Prayer, which says:
“Lead us not into temptation”.
I will fulfil that prayer’s requirements in my response this afternoon.
We have already touched, even this afternoon, on the cost of HS2. I say again to all noble Lords that the costs of HS2 have been the subject of intense analysis and review over several years, as we have already heard. As I indicated earlier this afternoon, we will continue to review costs for years to come. Let me once again praise the incredible work done collectively by the two Select Committees of both Houses. Let us put this into perspective: it is a combined period of two years of hearing evidence, considering all aspects of the proposed Bill, and on many occasions reviewing the costs for elements of the phase 1 scheme when asked to consider potential alternative options. It is sometimes suggested, and has been suggested again, that somehow there has not been an exhaustive examination; I challenge that. The best way to do so is to read the detailed analysis, recommendations and reports of both Select Committees. I recommend that to all noble Lords who have not yet had the pleasure.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Young of Norwood Green. As he noted in Committee, and as he has reminded us, the Select Committee considered all options that were presented for additional lengths of tunnelling in the Chilterns and in Wendover. It was not convinced of the need to recommend any further work on any of these options. As I have already said, these were exhaustive discussions, and I believe that that decision should be respected.
The Select Committees of both Houses also considered in detail the provision of additional environmental mitigation measures. It pains me to say it, but I disagree with my noble friend Lady Pidding that the Government have not published details of how certain things have been considered during the process of the Bill. It is worth noting, as I hope my noble friend will acknowledge, that many assurances have been given to the areas covered by the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty, including the provision of a £3 million fund for additional environmental mitigation measures.
My noble friend raised the issue of publishing tunnelling costs. The information used to assess the decision on whether it is appropriate to undertake a bore tunnel past Wendover and an extended bore tunnel through the Chilterns was published as part of the exhibits placed before both Select Committees that were used to establish the Government’s position regarding the decision not to provide any additional tunnelling. It was that information that the Select Committee—I refer to the Commons Select Committee here—used to recommend an extended tunnel in the Chilterns and an extension to the tunnel in Wendover. The exhibits included figures for several Chiltern tunnel options, which I mentioned in Committee. They range from £82 million to £485 million. The additional extension of 2.6 kilometres to the Chilterns tunnel, which I hope my noble friend acknowledges, was agreed following a specific recommendation from the Select Committee in the other place. That was at a cost of £47 million.
Turning to the costs more generally, an updated cost estimate for the project is published, as I said earlier this afternoon, at every iteration of the business case. I repeat that the next iteration is due for publication in the summer of 2017. The project as a whole, including its cost estimate and business case, is subject to regular independent review from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority—
I referred to the specific addition, but I note what the noble Lord has said. I will write to him in that respect and ensure that a copy of the letter is laid in the Library of the House for the benefit of all noble Lords. I reassure noble Lords that this is an area that the Government have considered very carefully. Indeed, it has been scrutinised specifically by the Select Committees of both Houses.
I want to pick up on a couple of points that have been raised. The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked specific questions. I will write to him in detail on some of the issues that he raised, but my understanding is that the response on Section 85 was set out in the Government’s response to the 2011 consultation, which was subsequently published in January 2012. The other issue, of environmental mitigation, is also included in the business case, as was assessed according to the department’s guidance. As I said, the noble Lord raised some specific points and I will write to him in that respect.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, raised the issue of the ideas that contractors may put forward. As I am sure the noble Lord is aware, contractors come under the powers in the Bill, including the limits on deviation. Contractors are also limited by the environmental statement. Within those limits, contractors will be encouraged to be innovative. Indeed, a key commitment to Parliament in the environmental minimum requirements is that we will seek to reduce the environmental effects beyond those in the environmental statement itself. That will be done by innovation, much akin to what the noble Lord suggests.
I reiterate the point that the Public Accounts Committee in the other place and the National Audit Office will continue to examine the costs of HS2 as we move into the detailed design and construction stage and more detailed cost information becomes available. I hope my detailed response demonstrates what has been done, the analysis that has been undertaken and the revisions that have been made in response to issues that have been raised, particularly in the area of the Chilterns. I hope it demonstrates to noble Lords that the tabled amendments before us this afternoon are unnecessary. I underline that these issues have been fully examined, not by one Select Committee but by two. I have already underlined the amount of time they took and detail they went into in their careful consideration. As a Government, we feel that any further cost review at this stage would serve only to delay the railway, which I am sure is not the intention of the majority of Members in your Lordships’ House. I hope that, with the detailed explanation I have given, the noble Lord is minded to withdraw his amendment.
I thank all noble Lords who contributed to this brief debate. I expected to be vilified and attacked, and that all happened in due order. I have no comments to make on that—it goes with the burden of trying to stand up for things that you believe in. At least my noble friend withdrew the idea that I might be hysterical, which was only marginally worse than getting a low 2.2 for drafting when we introduced the discussions on the higher education Bill a few weeks ago.
I had a good response from the Minister on the particular questions I raised, and I thank him for that. On whether the statutory duties required under the CROW Act had been dealt with, he said he thought that they had been published. I would be grateful if we could perhaps have a further discussion on that when I have seen the letter that he will write. My impression was that they were not spelled out in the detail that I am looking for. I am sure that we will get to that point, so I am not worried. I look forward to corresponding with him on that.
The second point is on the cost of tunnelling, a question that came up several times from noble Lords. I understand the point that has been made but, as was said, I think, by the noble Baroness, Lady Pidding, to know the cost of building the whole railway is important, but it is not the only factor that we need to know. What savings have been built into the overall cost by not doing other things that would have cost more money or, indeed, less? It is that argument that we are lacking information about. If it is true that the tunnelling is providing environmental benefits, those benefits need to be taken into account in the total value for money—a point that was made. It is that issue that we do not get.
For instance, my noble friend Lord Young raised the issue of the Colne Valley, which was not part of the amendments I put down, although it could have been. He said, as has been said elsewhere, that this was independently assessed and so is okay. But when you learn that the independent assessor was a non-executive director of the Department for Transport, which authorised the review, you wonder whether that is truly independent. Again, the point is: what does that show us? If the figures provided by the promoter are correct, that is one aspect, and it is very useful. But it does not tell you what would have been the cost had it been done a different way, such as by tunnelling. If you do not cost in the environmental benefits, that is an issue.
The Minister mentioned a range of costs for different tunnels. The figure that we most often hear, and therefore the one we are using, is about £485 million—I do not want to go into this in any detail—for the extension of the tunnel from where it comes out in the AONB in the Chilterns to Wendover. It is that figure that I want to measure against the savings that would occur from the environmental benefits preserved—the lack of building of viaducts and the requirement not to build bunds and sound-proofing. That is the figure we never hear.
Lots of people who have been engaged in the process say that they have read the reports and seen the figures. They always say that it is okay, but they never tell us what the figures are. Do noble Lords not find that just a little odd? That is why I say that the public interest needs to be satisfied and why I put down these amendments. However, I am satisfied that we have had the debate that I wanted to have at this stage. I look forward to the letters from the Minister and, with that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 3 withdrawn.
Amendments 4 to 6 not moved.
7: After Clause 34, insert the following new Clause—
Schedule (Traffic regulation) contains provision relating to traffic regulation.”
My Lords, I will speak also to the amendments tabled in my name. Amendment 7 seeks to ensure that traffic regulation orders—or TROs—which are a mechanism for local highway authorities to make temporary or permanent restrictions on the use of highways, do not frustrate the construction of the railway. These orders can be used to stop up roads, by restricting them to one-way operation or restricting them so that they cannot be used by lorries. A local authority could, therefore, put a lorry ban on a road that is needed to reach an HS2 phase 1 construction site or point.
Before I go any further, it is important to say that this amendment replaces the one put forward by the Government in Grand Committee, where several noble Lords on all sides of the House, including Members of your Lordships’ Select Committee, expressed a number of concerns. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, expressed concern at the lack of consultation with the local authorities. I withdrew the amendment at that time, and I agree that the lack of consultation was regrettable and is not the way that amendments should be developed or presented; for that, I apologise. However, I am happy to confirm that, even while the Grand Committee was taking place, my officials were having constructive discussions with local authorities, and these amendments are the result of those discussions.
We believe that the amendments address the substantive concerns that local authorities were expressing. This new clause and schedule will ensure that the local highway authorities consult the Secretary of State for Transport before making any orders that affect either specific roads identified for use by HS2 or other roads related to HS2 construction works, avoiding the risk that TROs could inadvertently cause problems for the construction of HS2. It also allows the Secretary of State, if required, to make TROs himself, and to prohibit or revoke TROs that unnecessarily hinder the delivery of the railway.
We have accepted that, as previously formulated, the relevant roads to which the provisions would have applied were too broad. The revisions we have made to the amendment include enabling the Secretary of State to specify particular roads that the provisions will not apply to and removing the specific issue of the,
“1 kilometre from the act limits”,
boundary for relevant roads. We have also revised the amendment to allow the Secretary of State to specify types of traffic regulation orders that we will not be concerned about, which will provide further clarity to local authorities. Furthermore, we have introduced into the provisions a sunset clause relating to the consultation requirement. This means that the Secretary of State will need to make a Statement when consultation is no longer required in a local highway authority area due to the phase 1 construction having been completed in that area. The circumstances in which the Secretary of State may use these powers has been tightened, so the Secretary of State must consider that the use of the powers is necessary for the timely, efficient and cost-effective construction of HS2 and is reasonable in the circumstances.
Additional changes include a duty that will mean that any temporary traffic regulation order that the Secretary of State asks a local highway authority to make is for only a reasonable period of time, with reference to the length of the relevant construction works. The amendment also requires the Secretary of State to produce guidance on how these powers will operate. In addition to these revisions, we have agreed to provide specific undertakings that these powers will not be used to affect any existing busways, cycleways or the London Safer Lorry Scheme. Clearly, we hope that there will be little or no need to rely on these powers, as the regular meetings established with local highway authorities will be used to consult, agree and monitor local traffic management plans. However, these powers are needed to ensure that if these arrangements fail, HS2 can be delivered in an efficient manner.
Given the impact that traffic regulation orders could have on the construction of HS2, it is prudent for us to take these powers, and the changes that we have made will now provide the local authorities with the clarification and additional protections they sought in relation to these provisions. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has tabled several amendments regarding this amendment that are listed further down the Marshalled List. I will be happy to address the issues raised in those once the noble Lord has had an opportunity to speak to them. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will speak to the remaining amendments in this group, starting with Amendment 14. First, I should express my gratitude to the Minister for the way he took on some of the comments and criticisms in Committee. I am aware of a number of meetings that have taken place between his officials and representatives of some of the local authorities up the route—from Transport for London to the West Midlands and some in between—and I think there has been a lot of progress.
The problem for these authorities is that this kind of detailed legislation should have been in the Bill before it even started its passage through either House, so that the local authorities could have prepared petitions if they did not like it and had a detailed discussion in either or both of the Select Committees. It is quite difficult and time-consuming to try to resolve these issues on Report. I received a number of comments from local authorities, some from TfL in particular, which are quite important. They would be much happier if all these issues could be resolved before Third Reading and would be happy with the undertakings that I believe the Minister said he would offer—although I have not seen them, so I cannot comment on them. As a matter of principle, I hope that the Government will not do this again—rush something as complicated as this at the very last stage. I am sure they had a very good reason for it, but perhaps we will learn from the next stages of phase 2—phases 2A and 2B—and anything else that happens, such as Crossrail 2. As the Minister said, there is a need to ensure that what is required on the traffic side to build HS2 is not compromised. However, it also needs to be balanced by the needs of local people getting to work, driving up the motorway or using local train services, and that is what these regulations are designed to do. There are a few other things that probably need doing.
The Minister invited me to speak to these amendments. I will do so in four small groups, as quickly as I can. Then I hope he will be able to say what he can do and whether he agrees with them or not. Amendments 14, 15 and 16 involve a duty to consult, the power to direct and vary TROs, and so on. We are getting down to the definition of what is called a “relevant road”—at which some noble Lords might start glazing over and wonder what we are talking about, but it is quite important. HS2 has already sought approval, in Schedule 17, for many roads. In respect of Transport for London, it sought approval in respect of the entire GLA road network, which covers all the red routes in London. That seems a little excessive because there are an awful lot of red routes in London, and not many of them are near Euston or the roads in. I am sure it will not need to use these roads, but the burden of consultation on the local authorities is quite severe. This amendment is intended to reduce the need for consultation once HS2 has decided where it wants to run its tracks and other transport. It will not restrict the use of these roads to other traffic by having these requirements on all the red routes through London. I understand that the department has offered an undertaking to TfL, but I hope that this could apply in a similar way across the country, from the West Midlands downwards and to all the local authorities in between.
Harking back to the last debate about tunnels, we forget that nearly all the tunnels are in the southern half of the route—we can debate the reasons for that. But the line goes through a lot of urban areas in the northern half of the route and to some extent the transport problems may be even worse there than in the south. I hope the Minister will consider this amendment as a way of restricting the amount of consultation required. Consultation is obviously a good thing, but there is a limit to how much a local authority can cope with consultation on these TROs. They have to do many other bits of consultation at the same time. The amendment is therefore intended to give local authorities much greater certainty and avoid an excessive, disproportionate and unjustifiable burden on them.
When he introduced this group of amendments, I think the Minister hinted about Amendment 17. There is already a need for the Secretary of State, when he makes, varies or revokes a TRO, to consult with a traffic authority. The purpose is currently limited to ensuring public safety, reducing public convenience and taking into account the requirement to which the traffic authority is subject. But there is nothing that says account should be taken of the environmental effects. That should be added, because some of the plans—which may or may not be necessary—could have a significant, adverse environmental effect if there is too much construction traffic. I know there has been a very full environmental study of the whole route, but when we are getting into the detail, people will worry locally about where the traffic is going. If the environmental effects are not allowed to be considered, that would cause problems locally.
Amendment 18 relates to deadlines for the release of guidance. The proposed new schedule includes an obligation on the Secretary of State to prepare a guidance statement under paragraph 13, having consulted traffic authorities in respect of a traffic authority’s duty to consult under paragraph 1(2) and how the Secretary of State proposes to exercise his powers in respect of making, varying or revoking TROs under the schedule. This requirement is a welcome step. It ensures that the traffic authorities have the opportunity to be consulted, give their opinion and so forth. But what is missing is a deadline within which this guidance should be offered.
I have received strong pressure from some traffic authorities, saying that they need the guidance statement to be produced within three months of Royal Assent. As I said, they often have to process hundreds of these TROs a year. It is a big workload. They do not complain because it is the right way of doing things, but it would be good to have the guidance at an early stage so that they can take it forward in a structured way. I understand that the department has offered, in the form of an undertaking to a number of traffic authorities, an obligation to produce the guidance within three months. If the department is happy to offer that deadline, it raises the question of why that cannot be included in the Bill. Maybe I am too late with that, but it is a pity it was not included in the Bill.
I have nearly finished. Amendment 20 is confined to London roads. It comes from the fact that the road structure in London is different from the rest of the country. The duty to maintain a public highway falls on a number of different public bodies. The Secretary of State is of course the highway authority for motorways and trunk roads. Outside London, the county council, metropolitan council or unitary council has responsibility for the roads in the relevant area, except for motorways and trunk roads. But in London it is slightly different. TfL is the highway authority for Greater London Authority roads and then each London borough is the highway authority for all other roads in its area. Generally, the highway authority is also the traffic authority for the road. Traffic authorities have the power to manage traffic and can make TROs.
The problem with the new schedule as drafted is that it does not take into account some of the peculiarities of the situation in London. The current drafting of the definition of traffic authority in the schedule cross-refers to the definition in the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. In that definition, it states in Section 121A:
“Transport for London is the traffic authority for every GLA road”,
and a GLA road is defined in the Highways Act 1980.
However, there is another category of road in London—the GLA side road. I was not aware of such a thing until I received this briefing, but I am convinced that there is such a thing. They are peculiar in that the relevant London borough is the highway authority for them but TfL is the traffic authority. The logic for GLA side roads is that they are roads that adjoin GLA roads and to properly regulate traffic entering or leaving GLA roads, TfL also needs traffic regulation powers over GLA side roads. Noble Lords may have studied which traffic lights in London are on TfL roads and which are on borough roads. This explanation confirms what I have thought for a long time: it is a bit of a mess. When we debated some of this 10 years ago, we did not have the experience, but we are where we are.
As presently drafted, the new schedule, by referring only to the definition in Section 121A of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, would not properly capture the fact that TfL is the appropriate traffic authority for GLA side roads. Amendments 19 and 20 would remedy that. They would also clarify that, unlike other traffic authorities, TfL does not have an exclusive area as such, but rather a network of roads within the areas of other traffic authorities. As such, the frequent references in the schedule to a traffic authority’s area should read in the case of TfL as a reference to its highway network.
That is the end. I tried to make it a short description but, as noble Lords will have understood, it is quite complicated. The Minister may say in reply, “Trust me, guv”, which is a reasonable response. But in talking to the local authorities there is a feeling that sometimes, as this Bill has passed through both Houses and the local authorities have been involved, there is a lack of confidence that HS2 will do what the Minister says if it does not feel like it. I do not think we will see any more of the aggression from HS2 that we have seen in the past, but I hope the Minister will consider this. I am sure there will be more meetings before Third Reading, but these issues need sorting out. Whether that is in the form of assurances or whether the Minister comes back at Third Reading with some of these amendments drafted in his own hand so that they will be correct, I look forward to his response.
My Lords, as I have not spoken before at this stage of proceedings, it is appropriate to me to preface my remarks by joining others in thanking members of the Select Committee for all their hard work and truly amazing perseverance with the Bill. The report is excellent in many respects. There is no doubt about the thoroughness of it. But of course the amendments in the name of the Minister relate to something that the committee did not examine.
That previous set of amendments was brought forward in Committee without prior consideration. I am, therefore, pleased to see that considerable progress has been made since the Minister agreed to withdraw them. Camden Council is undoubtedly very much happier with the new set than it was with the previous set.
There are, however, outstanding issues, some of which the Minister referred to, including the impact on bus lanes, cycleways and the Safer Lorry scheme. He did not, however, unless I missed it—and I was listening carefully—refer to the congestion charge zone, and I would welcome clarity on whether these powers will affect that.
He also made it clear that there were issues where there was some distance between the Government and Camden Council and others. Can I have the Minister’s assurance that discussions are ongoing, and that the Government are looking for further progress? Although his assurances are very reassuring, they do not go the whole way towards addressing the concerns of the areas that would be considerably affected by these traffic regulations.
I will make a few brief comments. First, I thank the Minister for the consultation that has taken place since Committee with local highway authorities, and for the retabling of the new schedule. Certainly, as a result of what has happened since Committee, a lot of the sting seems to have been taken out of the issue.
However, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said, there are still some outstanding issues. The noble Baroness mentioned Camden Council. It has indicated to us—and to the noble Baroness—that it is still pursuing certain points with the promoter. It has indicated—no doubt to all of us—that it wants the Secretary of State to provide a justification when using the powers around traffic management in the new schedule.
The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, referred to the issues of bus lanes, cycleways, the Safer Lorry scheme and the congestion charge zone, and the Minister has already touched on that. However, Camden Council, as I understand it, is asking the Government to agree to specific provisions to ensure that these powers will not affect bus lanes, cycleways, the Safer Lorry scheme and the congestion charge zone, and I would be grateful if the Minister could say whether he feels that he has already met, in his earlier comments, the wish of Camden Council for those specific provisions.
The third request by Camden Council is for an assurance that the promoter of HS2 will meet the costs incurred by local authorities in putting in place, and removing, traffic regulation orders required by the Secretary of State. Perhaps the Minister could comment on that. If he feels that he covered it in his introductory comments, I apologise for raising them again. I am, however, raising them just to make sure that they have been covered.
Will the Minister also say how many organisations or local highway authorities are still making representations to him on this issue? Is the number considerable, or is it fairly limited? Is the number of outstanding points fairly limited? As I understand it—as others have said—discussions are still taking place, and it would be welcome if the Minister could let us know, either now or at Third Reading, whether those outstanding issues have been addressed. It is not unreasonable to ask the Minister to say something at Third Reading, bearing in mind the late arrival of the amendment in Committee and the fact that the Minister agreed to withdraw it and we are having our first discussion on the schedule only today. In that context it is not unreasonable to ask the Minister to update us today, and indeed at Third Reading, on whether there are outstanding issues with local highway authorities.
My Lords, again I thank the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Rosser, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for their contributions, and for making time to meet me and my officials to discuss this issue. As I said in introducing the amendments in my name, I have made full acknowledgement, both in Committee and earlier this afternoon, about the way the amendments were originally presented. We learn from some of the issues that arise both from the legislative process and from the scale of a project such as this. As the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said, there are occasions when challenges arise and we try to deal with them. Equally, with infrastructure projects—not just HS2 but other projects coming forward—it is important to learn from experience, as we have from Crossrail. We have been putting in place much of what we have learned from the Crossrail experience, which has been positive, in our discussions.
I will speak to the specific amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and I will address some of the issues raised by the noble Baroness and the noble Lord on issues around existing provisions and assurances. First, I put on record my thanks to the noble Lord for his specific help with the further development of the Government’s amendment on TROs. As I noted earlier, I totally understand the sentiment and I acknowledge the contributions made in this regard.
The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about ongoing discussions. My understanding is that there are ongoing discussions but that they are mainly with TfL. Indeed, the latest meeting took place only a few hours ago—and, as I told the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, outside the Chamber this afternoon, these discussions are going forward in a positive way, in terms of understanding and taking account of the concerns of, in this case, TfL. I will check, but my understanding—as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser—is that the discussions are only with TfL and that the concerns of other local authorities have been addressed. If that is not the case I will confirm it to the noble Lord, as he suggested.
I will address those points specifically as I come to each amendment.
Amendment 14 affects only TfL and no other traffic authority. My officials have now shared a draft undertaking with TfL which addresses this issue and indeed goes further than what was raised. The amendment agrees a number of London boroughs in which the Secretary of State will issue the notice that this consultation requirement will not apply. Given that this issue, in terms of the undertaking, is already addressed in a legal contract, there is no need to include this proposal in legislation.
Similarly, Amendments 18, 19 and 20 are included in the same undertaking, which deals specifically with the concerns in a manner that will also avoid any issues with the potential rehybridisation of the Bill at this late stage—which I fully acknowledge is not the intention of the noble Lord.
Amendments 15 and 16 relate to roads on which the secretary of State can exercise his powers to make TROs, and seek to limit these to roads in relation to which a local authority must consult the Secretary of State. In this case I can assure the noble Lord that, as I said in my opening remarks, the powers of the Secretary of State to direct can be exercised only in the limited circumstances where it is necessary for HS2 and deemed reasonable. If it is necessary for the timely, efficient and cost-effective construction of HS2, and reasonable, the Secretary of State will be able to make the TRO.
Amendment 17 is also unnecessary, as Clause 20 already limits the planning permission provided by the Bill to the environmental effects assessed in the environmental statement. The environmental minimum requirements further require the nominated undertaker to reduce the environmental impacts.
I will turn to a couple of specific questions. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, asked about the congestion charge. This provision will not affect the existing congestion charge or any existing environmental weight limits. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked about Camden Council. It is my understanding that we have concluded discussions on much of the concerns. Again, there were further meetings with TfL and I believe that some of the issues are being routed through that channel. That meeting was also positive—but if the noble Lord wishes to raise with me any specific issues which have come to his attention, I will of course be happy to look into them in more detail.
He also asked about the justification for the use of powers. This is included in the undertaking and guidance will include a justification for why they should be used. As noble Lords know, the undertaking is a legal contract, so the commitments are legally binding. I understand that we are also exploring the appropriate way to address the issue of costs with local highway authorities, which are very much part of those discussions.
As I said to the House earlier, we are having ongoing discussions and they have moved on in a number of areas that the noble Lord touched on in his amendments. We have now also included them in the undertakings. Discussions will continue between now and Third Reading to address any outstanding issues. I will of course keep noble Lords abreast of any issues, either at or before Third Reading, and will update them as I have sought to do during the different stages of the Bill.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, said that I might well say, “Trust me, guv”. I would not dream of calling him “guv”, but I do say, “Trust me, my Lords”, in the sense that we seek to work constructively and positively with local authorities, traffic authorities and TfL. I am confident that we will continue to address the concerns that they have raised. I hope that, in light of the assurances I have given and the fact that discussions continue with TfL on the further details of the legal undertaking, which will be agreed jointly as we address remaining concerns, the noble Lord will be minded not to press his amendments.
Amendment 7 agreed.
8: After Clause 35, insert the following new Clause—
“Plan for 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 in the Euston area being used or to be used for the scheduled works, how the number of lorries delivering to or from the site could be limited in order to meet the following restrictions by weight of materials transported by road— (a) no more than 50% of excavated spoil and demolition material;(b) no more than 25% of concreting aggregates;with the remainder in each case being carried by rail.”
My Lords, Amendment 8 is in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. It seeks to reduce the impact of many years of construction work on the residents of Euston and on our environment generally. In the light of earlier amendments, there is no way in which this amendment could be argued to be delaying anything going ahead with HS2. It is a detail relating to the operation of construction works. It is clear from the committee’s report, which goes into this issue in great detail, that it has concluded that the impact of construction works on the Euston area will be massive. We discussed the issue of compensation in Grand Committee, when the Minister said that he hoped to be in a position to produce further information about the compensation scheme that the Government are considering for the Euston area. Is he able to give us further information now?
In Committee, we put down an amendment that dealt with the transport of materials along the whole line but today we are concentrating on Euston, which is where the impact will be greatest. However, I argue that the same principles should apply throughout the whole project. Put simply, this amendment seeks to reduce the impact of construction on the beleaguered residents of Euston and the surrounding area by reducing the quantity of spoil and construction materials carried by road. The committee itself noted that areas of Camden suffer levels of air pollution well in excess of EU limits, which is a compelling reason to choose to transport by rail whenever possible.
The Euston area will suffer from more than a decade of disruption. Homes will be demolished, as well as a large office block, so there will be a lot of spoil as well as the building materials required for the new part of the station and the line itself. Your Lordships should bear in mind that after the HS2 part of the station is built, residents face disruption from the promised rebuilding of the existing station. The committee’s report notes that the shortest journey by road from Euston to the nearest landfill site is 26 miles, one way. As I said in Committee, one train can move as much material as 124 HGV lorries so the argument is very strong: as much material as possible must go by rail. If not by rail, it needs to go by river, which would of course necessitate putting the spoil or material into a lorry first to take it to the Thames. It would therefore not be as good as putting it straight on the railway.
HS2 is currently committed to moving 28% of excavated soil and 17% of construction materials by rail. It simply must do much better than that. Disappointingly, the committee did not recommend targets but major recent construction projects demonstrate that it is reasonable to expect a much higher percentage to go by rail. I give the House the examples of the Olympics, the tideway tunnel and Crossrail as construction projects which have been very successful in transporting by rail. Crossrail managed 80%, so the 50% target in our amendment is not that ambitious if looked at in that way. These figures are certainly not plucked from the air, as the Minister suggested in his response in Committee, but based on previous large construction projects and what could be reasonably expected.
In his response in Committee, the Minister also warned of the potential disruption to other rail services of using freight trains for this work. At the rate I quoted, with one train potentially carrying the load of 124 HGVs, we are talking about a small number of trains per day—say four or five. That is as nothing compared to the disruption to London traffic from many hundreds of HGVs every day. The Minister told us that it was premature to set targets but I was certainly not clear from his answer whether the Government intend to set targets at any stage. I believe that targets are a useful tool for encouraging HS2 to think more ambitiously. I am not clear whether HS2 is going to set the maximisation of spoil removal by rail as a requirement of its contracts with contractors. I am interested in whether the Government consider that this is something that they should be doing. There is also the issue of the control of subcontractors. Corners are often cut in large construction projects at this level.
I am certainly not arguing that transport by rail is the only measure needed. There are many others, as the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, indicated in Committee. As yet, there are few signs that HS2 is taking the holistic approach to environmentally friendly construction that is desperately needed at this complex and congested site. Best practice at other large construction sites in central London demonstrates that this is perfectly feasible. TfL is leading the way in working with other contractors. For example, at one large building site near the Shard, it is estimated that 876 HGV trips were saved by a variety of other complementary measures. On its own, each one is simple and common sense, but easily ignored in the pressures of a large project where the requirement is to cut costs and keep to time. I am talking about limiting the empty running of vehicles by ensuring that reverse loads are available. There is the use of consolidation centres, so that lorries always arrive on site absolutely full. Of great importance to Camden residents will be strict enforcement of rules to prevent the running of engines in stationary vehicles. Fundamental to all this is the better use of arisings, such as the recycling of concrete and the better use of inert earth, for example for flood defences and landscaping.
All this requires imagination and co-operation, not just between HS2 and its contractors, but with other development sites and other local authorities. So far, the stated aims of HS2, the responses of the Minister and the evidence of the committee’s report, have not convinced me that HS2 is prepared to push the boundaries of best practice. This is what they need to do, because this is an extraordinarily disruptive development in Euston and the surrounding area. It should be the role of government to defend its citizens; I would say that the citizens of Camden do not feel that they are being defended at the moment.
I will listen carefully to see whether the Minister is able to give us greater assurances than he was able to give in Committee. I am grateful to the noble Lord for the time he has given in meeting me to discuss various issues associated with this Bill. But I regret that f he is not able to give greater assurances, I am minded to divide the House on this amendment.
My Lords, every time we talked about how to get the spoil from the site through to the rail holding, the fundamental issue we discussed was moving more by rail. The problem is that people think a great job was done with the Olympics and with Crossrail. As was pointed out by the proposer, the geography of the area from where the spoil would have to be removed means that it was nothing like as easy. In some cases it would take a double journey to get the spoil to the railway. Every sinew was strained to overcome this. I hope that some other noble Lords who were on the committee will say how it was; the first thought was getting the spoil to a railhead or to a railway and reducing the number of HGVs on the road. I am sure that there must be something in our report on this—I will find out.
My Lords, to concur with what the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, said, we did discuss this at great length in the committee. A target of 28% target has been set; it is certainly not a maximum, as I am sure the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, knows. Most of the points that she made are valid, except for the comparison. We are not comparing like with like. In Crossrail, for example, although a significant amount of spoil was shifted using the river, it had to get to the river first. That was part of the problem. This is an unrealistic target, which does not mean to say that we should not be ensuring that the contractors make every effort to take the maximum amount by rail. They have an incentive to do so but there are limitations—for instance, as to how much you can take out of Euston by rail and the times at which it can be done. All that was discussed.
Although it appears reasonable to set this kind of target, I concur with the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, that it is not the right way to go about it. There should be—the Secretary of State will ensure that there will be—very significant pressure on the contractors to take the maximum amount off the road, for all the reasons that the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, said. I look forward to hearing what further assurances the Minister can give.
Camden may not have got everything, but it received 100 assurances, which were legal requirements, given by the promotor during the course of its own negotiations, and further additions that we made as the result of our hearings.
My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the Rail Freight Group. I think I have some good news. I pay tribute the Select Committee’s work on this. I know that it tried very hard and quizzed lots of people as to how it could be done. As is so often the case, when it gets to the stage of involving contractors, sometimes contractors have good ideas. I was talking to some of them and their specialists last week. One of the key ideas is if you bore tunnels from Old Oak Common to Euston and you complete at least one at any early stage, you can take the spoil out through the tunnel. This is a very good idea because you can then deal with it at Old Oak Common. I am told it is possible; they are trying to work it into the programme. If it is possible, the figure for getting spoil and demolition out would probably go up to above 50%—I was told 70% or 80%—which is really good news. In other words, they have come up with some creative ideas. Maybe we were wrong to criticise HS2 in the past for not coming up with such ideas. It has given us a lot of debating time and the committee several days of discussion, but at least people have come up with a good idea. I think four contractors are tendering and I do not know whether they will all adopt this, but it demonstrates that it is possible. I hope Ministers will do all they can to encourage the contractors to be similarly creative.
There is another issue. In Committee we discussed concreting materials and other materials. The present amendment covers just concreting materials. The creative people are now saying, quite rightly, that they cannot bring cement in by train because it takes too long to unload, but that they can bring in most of the concreting aggregate by train and they can put a batching plant for mixing it somewhere on site. I am sure the committee looked at different locations for that; I have, and it is possible. As the noble Baroness said in her opening remarks, there is not a capacity problem for these trains going into Euston at night. It could easily be done.
I hope the Minister will accept these amendments as pointing the way forward to encouraging HS2 to continue to be creative like this. We do not want 1,500 trucks a day in Camden because the construction will last for 19 years—not that all those trucks will be there for 19 years, but they will still there be there for a considerable period. The basic movement out of spoil and demolition material by rail and bringing in concreting aggregate by rail would make a lot of people happy. I am convinced that the project can be done on that basis without any adverse effect on its programme or cost. If it is set up to do that, the contractors will do it well and it will work well.
As has been said, the amendment calls for a plan to be published for each construction site in the Euston area to show how the number of lorries delivering to or from the site could be limited to meet laid-down restrictions by the weight of materials transported by road, with the remainder being carried by rail. As has been said, this is an issue to which the Lords Select Committee, on which the three main parties and the Cross Benches were represented, gave consideration. The committee said in paragraph 411 of its report:
“We are very strongly of the opinion that as much material as possible should be moved by rail, so as to reduce road traffic congestion and air pollution. However, we are convinced by the evidence that this aim will be significantly more difficult to achieve at Euston, as compared with most of the other projects referred to by Mr Dyer and Lord Berkeley. We are satisfied that HS2 is taking this responsibility seriously, and we are hopeful that significant progress will be made as the time comes for contractors to be appointed and become involved in the detailed planning. In the meantime we see 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”.
We do not diverge from the position of the Select Committee. Since it is also our view as much material as possible should be moved by rail, we will not vote against the amendment if it is put to the vote. Indeed, we want to see the “significant progress” made with contractors to which the Select Committee referred in its report.
The amendment does not indicate what should happen once the plan has been published. The plan would be required to set out how the number of lorries could be limited to deliver the restrictions on movement referred to. Presumably, this would be without any detailed reference to costs or any other potential implications. Frankly, rather than the terms of the amendment, with what the Select Committee might or might not regard as its aspirational figures, surely what is required to deliver for the citizens of Camden is a firm commitment from the Government to hold HS2 to the undertaking it has given to maximise the movement of materials by rail, including in the Euston area, despite the difficulties referred to by the Select Committee, with a view to its going well beyond the guaranteed baseline for moving materials by rail of 28% of excavated soil and 17% of imported construction materials. Paragraph 117 of the promoter’s response to the Select Committee’s special report says:
“The Promoter reiterates its overarching commitment to continue to seek to maximise, as far as reasonably practicable, the amount of material that can be moved by rail, and the underlying commitments it has given the London Borough of Camden”.
I hope the Minister will address this point about how the Government intend to ensure that maximising the movement of materials by rail is delivered.