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Volume 666: debated on Thursday 24 October 2019

3. What recent discussions he has had with Douglas Oakervee on potential alternative routes for High Speed 2 phases 1 and 2a; and if he will make a statement. (900110)

I understand the intense interest that there will be across the House in this issue. The Oakervee review is ongoing and will consider all three phases of the project. I met Douglas Oakervee last week for an administrative discussion about the review, and once the review is finalised the Department has committed to making it public.

It is not just the cost of HS2, but the route: it does not even connect with Birmingham New Street or Heathrow, or meet its original intention of connecting with the channel tunnel. It does none of those. Doug Oakervee has told me that the amount of time they have to consider all this is very limited—it is very challenging indeed—and there is not enough time to consider alternative routes, so will the Minister consider giving them more time to do just that?

As I say, we have not put any time limit on Mr Oakervee’s findings, and he will report when he is ready to do so. As my hon. Friend will know, the current plans for phase 1 would see passengers connecting to Heathrow via Old Oak Common, and services would also call at Euston where passengers can make onward travel plans, including to Eurostar at King’s Cross St Pancras.

Any change to the route of HS2 is likely to lead to further delays and extra cost. Is not the solution to HS2 to put competent people in charge of delivering it, and not to mess about with it and give an advantage to those who are opposed to it?

I have no doubt that Mr Oakervee is watching proceedings here carefully this morning to hear what colleagues have to say. That will be one of the issues that comes within his terms of reference and he will be reporting on.

It is reported in New Civil Engineer this morning that the advisory panel to the so-called independent Oakervee review has been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements in an attempt to stop leaks. How can it be right that a publicly funded project is again trying to conceal information about its viability by gagging the very people who have in-depth and up-to-date knowledge of this dreadful project?

Mr Oakervee is trying to ensure that he works consensually with the panel to ensure that they reach a single report. The management of the panel and the individuals on it, who cover a wide range of views, is a matter for Mr Oakervee.

HS2 is an investment for the north of England, but it would be a lot more popular in the north of England if the trains actually stopped somewhere in the far north of England. At present, there are no plans whatsoever for HS2 trains to stop in Cumbria, even though the Lake District is the biggest visitor destination in the country after London. Will the Minister fix this immediately?

The hon. Gentleman is perhaps tempting me to go a little too far in presuming that everything is going ahead. I do not want to pre-empt Mr Oakervee’s report, but he will be aware that under the previous plans, classic-compatible trains will run north of Wigan and will therefore be able to stop at a range of stations, including Kendal, Oxenholme in the Lake District and Carlisle. That is part of what the West Coast Partnership will be able to consider.

I congratulate the right hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir David Lidington) on his moderately demonstrative tie.

From you, Mr Speaker, I take that as a compliment.

Will my hon. Friend instruct HS2 Ltd that it and its contractors should follow its own construction code and give local residents along phase 1 due and proper advance notice of the enabling works that it intends to carry out, instead of the high-handed, peremptory and arrogant approach that HS2 Ltd is currently taking?

I am disappointed to hear what my right hon. Friend has to say and I am more than happy to meet him to obtain further details. It is very important that HS2 Ltd continues to work with local communities rather than acting upon them when it carries out these works. I look forward to hearing further details.

Not only has the Williams review yet to see the light of day, but the Oakervee report is ready. His team has pulled out all the stops to get this to the Minister next week, so why is the Secretary of State saying that he will not publish it until after the general election? Is it because he intends to cut off the economic opportunities of the north, or is he worried that it will upset voters in the south?

I will take no lectures from the hon. Lady on how to support the north economically, or indeed, in transport terms. I am delighted that she lives in a world of alternate reality—neither the Secretary of State nor I have received Mr Oakervee’s report. She clearly knows more than I do, or maybe she is making it up. [Interruption.]