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High Speed Rail (West Midlands– Crewe) Bill

Volume 802: debated on Tuesday 25 February 2020

Motion to Agree

Moved by

That if a Bill in the same terms as those in which the High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill stood when it was brought to this House in the 2019 session is brought to this House from the House of Commons in this session—

(a) the Bill shall be deemed to have been read a first and second time,

(b) the Bill shall stand committed to a Select Committee,

(c) any petition deposited against the Bill in the 2019 session (if not withdrawn) shall be taken to have been deposited against the Bill in this session and shall stand referred to the Select Committee on the Bill, and

(d) the Standing Orders of the House applicable to the Bill, so far as complied with or dispensed with in the 2019 session, shall be deemed to have been complied with or (as the case may be) dispensed with in this session.

My Lords, the High Speed Rail (West Midlands–Crewe) Bill, also known as the phase 2a Bill, concerns the section of HS2 which extends the railway from the end of phase 1 just north of Birmingham to Crewe—the gateway to the north. On 11 February, the Prime Minister announced the go-ahead for HS2. He also confirmed that the Government would seek to revive the phase 2a Bill as soon as possible.

Bills are not revived often but doing so is far from unprecedented. It is more common for a Bill to have a carry-over Motion, but revival has the same effect, as if a carry-over Motion had been agreed. Noble Lords may be familiar with revival from private Bills, where it is common. Hybrid Bills are relatively rare but revival has been used previously for them also.

The Bill was originally introduced in July 2017. It then took over two years to complete its Commons stages, which involved a specially convened Commons Select Committee, which reviewed more than 300 petitions. Petitions were from those who found themselves specially and directly affected by the Bill. Two additional provisions were tabled which made changes to the Bill to meet the needs of those individual petitioners. Many were based on the recommendations of that specially convened committee. Last September, the Second Reading debate took place in your Lordships’ House and the Bill was committed to a Lords Select Committee. In the 2019 Session, that committee was nominated but did not meet, owing to the Dissolution. If this Motion is agreed today, and a similar Motion is subsequently agreed in the House of Commons, it will allow the Bill to resume in the same place that it stopped in the last Parliament.

A Select Committee will then be nominated, and I thank in advance the Members of this House who have agreed to sit on it, including those who volunteered but did not get to participate due to the Dissolution. That Select Committee will hear the remaining 28 petitions which are yet to be heard. It is crucial that those petitioners are given the chance to be heard and the opportunity to air their concerns.

Passing this Motion allows the Bill to retain the progress previously made and make further progress. It allows those who are directly and specially affected to continue with the legal process, and to achieve a resolution to their concerns in a timely fashion. I beg to move.

My Lords, I strongly support the Motion and join the Minister in paying tribute to noble Lords who have agreed to serve on the Select Committee. However, as she is aware, the extension of HS2 from Birmingham to Crewe—the phase 2a Bill we are talking about—is integrally linked to the 2b provisions that will extend HS2 from Crewe to Manchester and from Birmingham to Leeds.

In the Statement of policy made two weeks ago, the Prime Minister said that there would be a further review of the northern elements of HS2 covered by phase 2b. He indicated that the review would last about six months, but no detail has been given so far. Because it is so vital to understanding the implications of 2a, can the Minister tell the House more about the review? Who will conduct it? What will the timescale be? When will the Government publish the terms of reference? When will the review start? Is she aware that there is serious concern in Crewe, Manchester, Derby, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Scotland—where HS2 will ultimately terminate—that, if the review is unduly delayed, we will end up with a high-speed line that goes to Birmingham and Crewe but does not extend these vital benefits to the north?

My Lords, I endorse what my noble friend has said. It is important that consideration is given to the further extension, particularly to Scotland. In addition, there have been reports that China has expressed interest in taking over the construction of the high-speed link, and that it could do it more quickly and cheaply. Is that a serious proposal? Is it being looked at by the Government? If so, when will it be considered by Parliament?

My Lords, I would like to pursue the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, about the effect of the phase 2a Bill on phase 2b. Can the Minister confirm, first, that under this legislation a station separate from the current mainline station will be built at Crewe? This will mean that people coming down from Scotland will have to change trains. Secondly, will she confirm that, under phase 2b, trains north of Crewe are not going to run at the same speed as the HS2 trains, and that trains to Manchester from Crewe will be doing only the same speed as the 125 trains?

My Lords, I support the comments just made by the noble Lord from Cumbria—whose name I have forgotten and to whom I apologise—whom I often meet on the trains coming down from Cumbria and Lancashire. Is not one of the problems of the whole organisation of HS2 the lack of adequate integration of stations in cities and towns where it joins the traditional network, and that the stations proposed in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds are not ideal because in effect they are not the same stations as far as passengers are concerned?

While I am talking about Crewe, for some of us Crewe, like Balham, is the gateway to the south, not to the north. Even if the Minister wants to take a southern-centric view of Crewe, it may be the gateway to the north-west but it is certainly not the gateway to Yorkshire or the north-east.

My Lords, first, I reinforce the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. It is a genuine pleasure to be able to support something he has said in the House, as quite often recently he and I have appeared to be on different trajectories. Secondly, to reinforce the point he made about the part of the b leg that goes through the east Midlands to Sheffield and Leeds, perhaps the Minister could help me out. Two weeks ago, when there was no mention whatever of Sheffield and South Yorkshire in the Prime Minister’s Statement, it became clear that the review might have more to do with doing away with that leg rather than actually reviewing the route. If she could clarify that, it would be a miracle.

My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Blunkett, I feel slightly disorientated in agreeing wholeheartedly with my noble friend Lord Adonis. I particularly agree with his point about needing some clarity about 2b. I slightly wondered whether the Prime Minister had introduced reference to 2b just so that he could make his gag about “2b or not 2b”. The crucial thing is how long that reconsideration or re-examination will take. Of all the questions the Minister has had thrown at her, perhaps she can at least give a specific answer to the question: how long will that take and when will it start?

My Lord, can the Minister tell the House a bit more about the review that the Government published last week, I think, about HS2 and the northern powerhouse—the Williams Rail Review? I believe it answers some of the questions posed by my noble friend Lord Adonis about the review that is to be led by the Government—perhaps she can tell us who in the Government—but with input from the National Infrastructure Commission, to cover not only the whole of phase 2b but the northern powerhouse and possibly Midlands Connect. Can she also explain why the National Infrastructure Commission has been asked to look at this bit of HS2 but the Infrastructure and Projects Authority has been asked to look at phase 1? It seems a bit odd that two separate government organisations are looking at different bits of the same project.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and his new friend, the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, for their interventions in this very short HS2 debate—which I feared was going to turn into a much larger debate; but I am sure there will be many of those to come.

First, I will address the comments about the integrated rail plan—which I point out is a rail plan, not a rail review. Obviously, it is being led by the Secretary of State for Transport, and he will have assistance from the National Infrastructure Commission, as well as from the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, which, as noble Lords will know, is taking a much closer look at the way that large projects are being run in government; indeed, this afternoon I have a meeting with it on roads.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, will be relieved to know that the terms of reference for the plan have already been published—they were published last Friday—so he can look at them and I will be happy to answer any further questions he may have. We aim to publish the integrated rail plan—IRP—by the end of the year to ensure clarity on how best to proceed with HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, the Midlands rail hub and all the other major projects in the Midlands and the north, because it is essential that these projects work well together in order that we can maximise the opportunities they provide.

The noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, asked whether China will be building the railway. China’s involvement has not come to my attention, apart from some stuff in the media, but if I can find anything out, I will write to him.

As for Crewe, services on HS2 will run into Crewe station. I have visited Crewe station and it is undergoing significant redevelopment, which I think will be hugely beneficial to Crewe and the services that will be coming into it.

The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, mentioned the location of stations. I fear that at this point we get into the whole HS2 debate and I might just leave that one for another day: I am sure there will be many more opportunities to discuss that.

As I said, passing this Motion will give a lot of closure to those who are affected by the Bill.

Before the Minister sits down, I would be grateful for her further response. I note that “six months” has already become “the end of the year”, which is already a significant extension. She said that this review will be led by the Secretary of State for Transport, but we were led to understand there would be a new HS2 Minister, who I understand the Government also announced last week. Is this an HS2 Minister who is not, in fact, really responsible for HS2?

No, not at all. As the noble Lord knows, all Ministers within the department are ultimately responsible to the Secretary of State, and that includes the HS2 Minister. The noble Lord will be very pleased to know that Andrew Stephenson has been appointed Minister of State in the Department for Transport with specific responsibilities to oversee HS2, Northern Powerhouse Rail, which of course is closely integrated, and the trans-Pennine upgrade. I beg to move.

Motion agreed, and a message was sent to the Commons.