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High Speed 2

Volume 621: debated on Thursday 23 February 2017

HS2 Ltd let the early works contract for activities such as demolitions, site clearances and species translocations in November 2016, with work commencing after Royal Assent—you will be aware, Mr Speaker, that earlier this week the Bill passed its last stages prior to Royal Assent. The main works civil contracts to construct the main physical works for the railway, including tunnels, viaducts and embankments, are due to be let later this year. The initial works on the project will begin shortly after Royal Assent. I have been very clear that through the construction phase I expect HS2 Ltd and my Department to do everything we can to ensure that the impact of construction on those affected is mitigated wherever possible.

It is ironic that I should have drawn the first Transport question on the day the Bill for phase 1 of HS2 gets Royal Assent. Although some people are crowing and backslapping each other about it, let us remember that it is tragic for many people. The impact is disproportionately felt by my local authorities, such as Buckinghamshire County Council, and our parish councils, such as Great Missenden. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me, my constituents and my excellent councils that the Department for Transport will reimburse parish, county and district councils for any reasonable expenses incurred as a result of the construction of this dreadful project, HS2?

I am well aware that when a project of such national importance is constructed, it inevitably has an effect on some of those who live on the route. I reiterate that we will do everything we can to ensure that the process is as reasonable and fair as possible for those affected. With regard to local authorities, I give my right hon. Friend that assurance and repeat the assurances made in the debate on Monday by the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Andrew Jones). HS2 is putting service-level agreements in place with every single local authority along the line of route to set out the additional funding that we will make available for the new railway line’s construction process.

I welcome Royal Assent being given to this much needed investment, but how will the Secretary of State ensure that the promises made about jobs and training opportunities during the construction of High Speed 2 actually materialise?

I take this very seriously. We have been very clear when letting contracts—most recently in the information that we put into the market about rolling stock—that we expect this project to leave a lasting skills footprint not just in the areas of construction but around the United Kingdom. A number of events have been held for potential suppliers to the project around the UK, and we have been very clear with all firms, both UK and international, that want to bid to be part of it that we expect them to leave that footprint. It is an essential part of the project.

Is the Secretary of State aware that because of the decision to have a station at Sheffield, we will have two HS2 lines running through Derbyshire: a fast track and a slow track? Many villages throughout Bolsover will be affected as a result. There is one in particular, Newton, where more than 30 houses are due to be demolished. Will he meet a group of residents from that village to try to sort this matter out?

I am aware of the issue the hon. Gentleman refers to. I give him the same assurance that I just gave to my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan): we will do our best to minimise impacts. The Minister alongside me, my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough, will answer these questions in more detail in the Adjournment debate tonight. Either he or I will also meet residents to discuss the issue.

Some of the homes on the route that are worst affected are in East Acton, which faces 10 years of construction disruption, 24/7. Their gardens have been compulsorily purchased and the main access route is to be blocked. HS2’s QC called my residents “tedious” for pointing out that they do not qualify for compensation under the rural support scheme and that unlike Camden they have not been granted exceptional status. I am encouraged to hear that the Secretary of State is putting emphasis on mitigation, because all my constituents have been offered is express purchase. Will he urgently meet them and the London Borough of Ealing? These people just want to preserve their suburban way of life and not be ridden roughshod over.

It is important that I remind the hon. Lady and reiterate what I said. The matters relating to her constituency—the routes through London and the route on phase 1—have been exhaustively examined, not simply by my Department but by Committees of this House and the other place. Although we will always be open to representations about ways in which we can minimise impact, these issues have been exhaustively dealt with by this Parliament.