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HS2: Compensation

Volume 723: debated on Thursday 24 November 2022

Compensation is available to property owners affected by HS2, in accordance with the compensation code. We aim to be fair, while protecting the public purse.

I welcome my hon. Friend to his new responsibilities and offer him my sympathy that one of them is HS2. He will know that for those who find themselves in the path of this project, obtaining compensation is a painful and long drawn-out experience. That is particularly true for those subject to compulsory purchase, where payments are delayed. Where they are delayed, there are very low rates of interest, and valuations are heavily contested. That is not meeting the promise that he referred to, that the Government would be fair and that people would not be worse off as a result of this project. May I ask him to look urgently at this problem? In particular, will he look at those low rates of interest that are paid on delayed payments? The Government legislated to increase those rates but never brought the measure into effect.

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for his warm welcome of my entire portfolio; I am very proud to be covering HS2 and rail. Some £3.2 billion has already been paid out in land acquisitions, and more is to be paid out. The Government did recognise that there were problems with acquisitions, and a report was commissioned by a predecessor of mine. We will ensure that we can learn lessons. With regard to the payment of interest, HS2 Ltd pays interest at 0.5% below the Bank of England base rate, and there was a period of two years between 2020 and 2022 when no interest was paid because the base rate was below 0.5%, but I am willing to meet my right hon. and learned Friend to discuss these matters further.

I welcome my hon. Friend the Minister to his position. I remind him that Mark Thurston told the Transport Committee that the anticipated spend for the current year was within the envelope of £5.7 billion. My question relates to how that £5.7 billion is being used in terms of procurement. What can the Minister and the Department do to encourage or specify the use of British steel for rails and structures within the terms of the contract?

I thank the hon. Member, or should I say my hon. Friend, as he is indeed that. I recognise all the work that he has done and continues to do on the Transport Committee. I thought he might ask that question. Some £122 million of British steel has been purchased by HS2. I am keen that we talk to HS2 more about how it can further invest in British steel. I will supply him with figures on how much steel has been produced from outside the UK, because that is how we will end up holding to account. Some 60% of the HS2 procurement contracts will go to small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as large entities such as British Steel.