Skip to main content

High Speed 2 Compensation

Volume 743: debated on Thursday 18 January 2024

I beg to move,

That this House calls on the Government to provide compensation to people who have been affected by the construction of HS2.

I have called this debate on High Speed 2 compensation as I am concerned about how my constituents in Stafford are still being treated by HS2 Ltd, and I wish to raise their serious complaints directly with the Rail Minister and to hear what he is going to do to address them.

Since the Prime Minister made the decision to cancel phase 2 of the HS2 rail project from Birmingham to Manchester, many people, including constituents of mine, have been left in limbo, with no information about what is happening with their properties or land. This issue affects numerous constituencies and I thank the many colleagues from across the House who are here to support this important debate today, including many neighbours in Staffordshire such as my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir William Cash).

Today I am calling for all outstanding HS2 compensation claims to be resolved. I will set out a number of examples in my constituency that demonstrate that the issue of HS2 compensation is still a long way from being concluded and must be dealt with by the Government. Let me start by thanking the constituents who have contacted me, sharing their stories and highlighting how HS2 is deeply affecting them. Several other constituents who previously asked me to raise their case have now asked me not to mention them by name today. I am outraged to discover they have been intimidated by HS2 to do this. In one surgery appointment I was told that a constituent was told, “It would not be good for you to get your MP involved, as that would be bad for your case.” This is completely unacceptable behaviour by HS2 Ltd and I want to call it out today.

I declare an interest, not in this case but as a farmer because I understand that HS2 has been contacted by some in the National Farmers Union on this matter. Does the hon. Member agree that to demand land from farmers and not to compensate them quickly and effectively can never be acceptable, and that if a farmer can show loss of earnings, they should receive compensation for that? I understand they currently do not.

The hon. Member is absolutely right, and if he bears with me, I will specifically come on to compensation to farmers and the points the NFU has raised.

Let me make some progress and I will give way in a few minutes.

I want all those seeking compensation to know that they have not been forgotten. I am speaking up for them all today, to ensure their views are heard at the highest levels of Government. Since being elected as the Member for Stafford, I have raised the issue of HS2 compensation six times in this House—six times—and I have still not had all of my outstanding local claims resolved. That is not acceptable when HS2’s behaviour towards my residents has been shocking. In addition, I have contacted numerous relevant Ministers and spent hundreds of hours working on the issue, visiting affected constituents and advocating for them.

My first piece of casework as a new MP involved a constituent who experienced the most awful mental health crisis because of the stress of the compensation process. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Andrew Stephenson), who as a Rail Minister worked constructively with me on that case. I appreciate, too, that the new Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman), has also met me recently to discuss these issues.

When the Prime Minister announced back in October last year that the phase 2 of HS2 north of Birmingham would be cancelled, I welcomed it as I have long believed that HS2 is a folly. In November the Prime Minister stated that

“we are committed to fair treatment for people affected by the changes”.—[Official Report, 15 November 2023; Vol. 740, c. 642.]

While I applaud the Prime Minister’s sentiments, there should absolutely be fair treatment for all those affected by the changes, so today I ask the Minister to ensure that HS2 Ltd pays compensation fairly. That is the crucial question made even more pressing in light of the Secretary of State’s comments back in November when he said he thinks that those affected by HS2

“have been properly compensated according to the law”.

I am sorry to say that that is not the case. I will go into more detail about why there has not been proper compensation in several instances.

When the HS2 route was announced over a decade ago, the value of property and land along the route immediately dropped. The land and properties had become blighted, and we had to set up a very complex compensation system. Those going through the process were advised to hire private agents to assist them through the negotiating process, but I have heard from numerous people that the complexity of the process has meant that they were offered far smaller sums in compensation than the property was worth because of HS2. This process is not only complex but also extremely slow and I am now being told those living along the cancelled phase 2 route who wish to repurchase their property are doing so at a far higher price. This is clearly unacceptable. Why on earth should we be penalising residents who have already been forced to sell their property and land due to the Government building a railway line through their homes?

I have a constituent called Siân Froggatt, and she had a compulsory purchase order made against part of her farm, involving land that is the only way she can access her farm. Three times she has petitioned HS2 to buy it back, but it says no, and the land will now go on to the open market. How can that be right—I hope the Minister will address this—when the railway line will not even be going alongside? She is willing to pay back the money for her land that was compulsorily taken off her.

My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point, and I agree with everything he said. I will give an example from a constituent of mine in a similar situation. Andrew Collier is a farmer in Stafford farming 650 acres. HS2 purchased just over half his land, and some of that land was earmarked for utilities. The land was taken before harvest time, and he asked HS2 Ltd for permission to harvest his crop. HS2 said it would allow him to do that, so the crop was harvested, but then HS2 Ltd gave the crop to someone else and did not pay him for it. Mr Collier applied for compensation, hoping that it would swiftly arrive. Of course, that did not happen.

Instead, Mr Collier waited for two and a half years for HS2 to compensate him. I emphasise that to the Minister. Even now, he is still owed hundreds of thousands of pounds to cover two years of lost harvests and other outstanding claims. He tells me that two members of his family who worked on the farm have now had to leave, because the remaining farmland is too little for them to work on. Due to the compulsory purchase of his land and the long delays in receiving compensation, he told me in his surgery appointment that his farm is now no longer financially viable. Compounding those issues, his sacrifice is now seemingly in vain, because HS2 phase 2 has been cancelled and the land is lying fallow.

That example is why this debate today is so important for raising this issue. There is a fundamental lack of transparency and fairness in this entire process, and I believe it is causing real harm to my constituents. How HS2 Ltd deals with compensation appears to be completely divorced from practical realities on the ground.

Another example is a local golf club, the course of which is in the middle of the countryside in my constituency. Club members were devastated when they heard that the HS2 route would cut straight through the middle of it. What is to happen now? Similarly, my constituents Jean and Trevor Tabernor own a farm. HS2’s route meant that their farm would be spared, but their farmhouse was demolished. Their new farmhouse is nearly completed, and they have been seeking the last instalment of money to finish the work. As we all would expect, that needs to be finalised as soon as possible so that they can complete the construction of their home. However, they are facing delays, and now that the line has been cancelled, HS2 is trying to place restrictive clauses on them “in perpetuity”, just for my constituents to receive what they are owed. Those clauses are clearly so that HS2 can maximise the value of its assets. HS2 Ltd is literally the only thing standing between them and their new home. Again, I ask the Minister: what will happen to resolve that? It is affecting people’s lives and we simply cannot wait any longer for an answer.

I turn to businesses affected and, in particular, how unsuitable the compensation process is for farmers. In our recent meeting, my hon. Friend the Minister recognised that there are specific issues relating to farmers. I note that in his response to my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Greg Smith), he publicly stated that

“of the land that HS2 has, about 81% has been let back out to be able to be utilised…I want to make sure that we can better understand from the farming community what can be done with the land that is no longer needed”.

I thank the Minister for those words. I know he has met the National Farmers Union, as indeed have I in Staffordshire, and others to better understand these issues.

The point that I wish to make is that if unused land is not preserved in its state on the day before farming ended, it will start slowly to deteriorate. For cropland in particular, that means that the land being returned to farmers will have to be rehabilitated, currently at the farmer’s expense. When we consider farmland, it is clear that the compensation process is causing major financial issues by depriving farmers of the land that they farm and their ability to forward plan.

I also have examples of constituents who had not yet reached an agreement with HS2 Ltd when the Prime Minister made his announcement. May I ask the Government not to forget about those residents, who also need to have their compensation resolved?

On how HS2 Ltd proposes to dispose of phase 2 land, following the cancellation of phase 2 it has consistently told residents and business owners that it must act to ensure value for money for taxpayers. As a Conservative, I support that in principle, but value for money in this context appears to mean short-changing those from whom it has purchased land and property. The issue with the proposal is simple: HS2 Ltd is focusing purely on ensuring that it receives the highest price for the land and the properties it has compulsorily purchased, but there appears to have been little thought given to those whose lands have been taken off them and wish to have them back. The NFU has highlighted the issue and is calling for a simpler and cheaper process for returning land; I very much support that.

As part of the process, most property and landowners who had their land compulsorily purchased will be offered the right of first refusal under the Crichel Down rules. However, the value of the lands now will naturally be higher than when it was blighted, and they will also be higher because land and property prices have increased in general. Farmers in particular, and all those affected, tell me that they are having to buy back their own land at a far higher cost. That is unfair. I would like the Minister to look at that again. If the right to first refusal is not taken, what will happen to that land and property? Someone will purchase it and, particularly with farmland, there is an additional danger that developers and land bankers might be keen to buy it, which would completely transform the make-up of former rural communities.

There has been a serious lack of transparency from HS2 throughout all this. I was shocked to read recently that the chief executive of HS2 Ltd revealed that the cost of phase 1 has already increased by £10 billion to £66.6 billion—what a horrific waste of taxpayer money.

Finally, I raise the importance of the Handsacre link, which would bring HS2-compatible trains to Stafford. It was advertised as the reward for the people of Stafford for enduring so many years of issues associated with the project. It would ensure that phase 1 is completed, and a lot of the works required to construct it are under way. I raised the rail link previously, in April last year, when I was assured by the Secretary of State for Transport that the works would continue to progress, but I hear rumours that it is to be cancelled. That would be not only a betrayal of my constituents and a waste of the time and resources put into the construction that has already been completed, but—this is a key point—a breach of the legislation that specifies that it must be built. Will the Minister reassure my constituents that the Handsacre rail link will be completed?

This debate is important because my constituents are still living in uncertainty. The processes surrounding HS2 compensation are flawed, and HS2 Ltd continues to behave disgracefully. Finally, may I invite my hon. Friend the Minister to visit me in Stafford to talk directly to my constituents and see at first hand how the delays and the lack of fair payments is affecting them, and ask him to commit today to doing something about that? HS2 compensation must finally be resolved.

I thank the hon. Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) for securing this debate.

As Members may know, parts of my constituency lie directly above the HS2 tunnels in the Chiltern hills, where the tunnel boring machines are due to surface. Particularly affected have been those living near the five vent shafts near Chalfont St Peter, Chalfont St Giles, Amersham, Chesham Road and Little Missenden. For some, the impact has been so severe that they have felt unable to continue living in their homes. Decisions to move are never taken lightly, and they have invariably brought them into contact with HS2’s various compensation schemes.

I wish to focus on the experiences of constituents with one particular scheme: the special circumstances or atypical properties scheme. The scheme was set up in recognition that some residents and businesses near the HS2 route may need assistance, despite not meeting the eligibility requirements of other schemes. The first case I shall share is that of a constituent who lived in close proximity to one of the vent shafts. They experienced the construction of a haul road immediately outside their property. Where once there had been a country lane used largely by local residents, now there was a large road with HGV traffic travelling up it night and day. In addition, a 3-metre high embankment was constructed immediately in front of their house, ruining their view, their privacy and the value of their property.

Faced with at least another year of construction work and the permanent blighting of their property, my constituents reluctantly decided to seek compensation from HS2, which would allow them to move. They had this to say about their experience:

“Dealing with HS2 and its contract partners has been a nightmare. They will not properly engage regarding compensation and on other matters they continually delay answering questions, provide incorrect and contradictory information, change their plans without proper notice or consultation and have no regard for the wellbeing of the community.

They block all attempts at proper dialogue, ignore questions and hand matters to different teams to delay things further. If we complain we might get a half-hearted apology for the time taken to respond at all, but nothing changes.”

Thankfully, after much stress and inconvenience, the Government eventually bought my constituent’s property at unblighted value, under the special circumstances or atypical properties scheme. But it should never have been that hard. The delays, contradictory information, changing of plans at short notice and half-hearted apologies led to unnecessary delay, distress and upset. It did not have to be that way.

The second case I shall briefly share involves constituents who moved to their home in 2007—two years before HS2 was announced. Where previously the enjoyed starlit nights, they now faced floodlights on at all hours. The disturbance and upheaval took a toll on my constituent’s mental health, resulting in their making the difficult decision to sell their home. HS2 initially sought to steer the couple towards the need to sell scheme, which would have forced them to sell their property at market value rather than the considerably higher unblighted value.

After much wrangling, including intervention from my office, HS2 agreed to consider the couple as an atypical case. Part of the problem was that there is no formal application process. The process is opaque. Unfortunately, HS2 agreeing to consider my constituents as an atypical case was in many ways just the beginning. The couple emphasised how degrading the process to finally being accepted was. Despite providing GP and support worker details to HS2 more than once, they continued to receive repeated requests for ever more information, with each request bringing up renewed worry and stress.

Both the cases I have referenced today eventually resulted in the individuals being accepted to the special circumstances or atypical properties scheme, but the process to get there was protracted, stressful and awful. That is what I want to highlight. The schemes need to be administered swiftly, fairly and with compassion. I sincerely hope that the Minister will reflect on those experiences, and that lessons can be learned to ensure that those affected can get a speedy resolution and are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) on securing the debate. We have already heard from the first two speakers how people’s lives have been impacted by this scheme. Many of us, right across Staffordshire, were delighted when we heard the news back in October that the Prime Minister had taken the right decision in cancelling phase 2 of HS2. Many of us had been campaigning for that and we were so delighted to hear the news.

HS2 had already spent £208 million on the purchase of land for phase 2a alone, and that was even before the major construction work was to start. There was a hope and a belief that the land that had been purchased would be returned to the owners and it would all be resolved incredibly quickly. I am afraid to say, however, that even though the announcement was made in October, there remains an enormous amount of uncertainty, an enormous amount of concern and a total lack of clarity for many people who are impacted by the scheme.

As the new year begins, we need clarity on when land will be returned. We need to have an understanding of when the selling of land by HS2 is to start. We need to have an understanding about those people who have had their homes taken from them. When will they be in a position to buy back their homes? When will they be in a position to know what the rules are and what their future may hold?

I appreciate that the Minister has, just today, lifted the safeguarding on phase 2a. I think all of us very much welcome that, but it still leaves many questions that need urgent clarity. I understand that the Department for Transport has said that the return of land will

“take time because the Department for Transport needs to make sure the programme provides value for money for taxpayers and does not disrupt local property markets”.

It also says:

“there remains a significant amount of work to do”.

I am sure there is a significant amount of work to do, but there has been a considerable period of time to do that work, and people’s lives are on hold and their nerves have been frayed. Many people just do not know what their future holds. They cannot move on until the Minister and HS2 give them the certainty and the clarity that is required.

I want to touch on a couple of examples that have been sent to me. There is, sadly, a lot of fear among many Staffordshire residents about how HS2 acts. It acts sometimes in quite an imperious manner, without necessarily the care, consideration or consistency that one would hope for from a Government-owned organisation.

One example relates to a farming business. Temporary possession started in 2022, with HS2 taking around 3 acres for environmental mitigation. The family objected to the land being taken on a temporary basis, as they did not want to be responsible for the future maintenance of all the things that were being put on it. Further grazing land of approximately 100 acres was taken under temporary possession in January 2023. A proportion of that land was purchased in July 2023. Meanwhile, preparation for the diversion of a high-pressure gas main began in March 2023. Fencing was erected, hundreds of metres of hedges were ripped out and a compound was built, before work was halted in May 2023. Following the announcement of phase 2a’s cancellation, the family expected the compulsory purchase order to be cancelled and the land to be returned. However, further land was purchased in November 2023. Last time I checked, November definitely came after October, so that was after the Prime Minister announced that the scheme was not continuing.

What are the impacts on these farmers? They are considerable, because HS2 has a very different understanding of the concept of the purchase of land. If any of us in this place, or any of our constituents, wants to purchase land, usually we enter into an agreement, then we pay money, and after we have paid the money, we may get the land. It works very differently for HS2. It can purchase land and never pay for the land. Those affected then have the problem of having to work around HS2, which will never actually build anything on the land.

Here we have a business, a farm, with a 400-cow dairy unit. Because of all the infrastructure changes that HS2 has made, such as removing access to parts of the grazing area, it is difficult for the farmers to move livestock around. It is difficult for them to gain access to land for which they have never been paid, or of which HS2 has taken temporary possession. All this is creating an additional workload, and they have not been compensated and are not clear about when that will happen.

Another example is a small nursery business whose owners depend on people knowing where it is. HS2, which has placed a charge on the land through the Land Registry, will not allow them to cut the hedges that it now owns but has never paid for, but it is willing to charge them, at an incredibly high rate, for the freedom to cut the hedges so that people know where their business is.

This is not the way in which we expect a Government-owned company—a company owned not by some multi- national, but by the Secretary of State for Transport—to be able to proceed. I wonder whether, if I pass on the contact details of those two businesses and other detailed information, the Minister will ensure that their cases are examined closely and that a resolution is found.

So many messages have been sent to me about the manner in which HS2 has conducted itself—about the delays that people have had to suffer, about the uncertainty, and about people having to put their hands in their own pockets and spend tens of thousands of pounds on land agents and consultants to try to get some money back from HS2, but still not receiving anything. So many people have had land taken from them—land that they no longer own, but for which they have never received a single penny.

We need to have clarity. We cannot wait months and months more. I hope that the Minister, who I know is a diligent and caring Minister, will give that clarity today, or, at the very minimum, give a clear timeline for when everyone who has been impacted by HS2 will know the rules by which it is playing, and ensure that there is fairness for the people in Staffordshire who have been affected.

I commend the hon. Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) for securing this debate.

The motion states:

“That this House calls on the Government to provide compensation to people who have been affected by the construction of HS2.”

I take a bit of exception to the word “construction”. There has been a great deal of cost and a great deal of injury, especially for the taxpayer. In my constituency, 22 miles of which have been affected by blight for more than a decade, there is certainly plenty of injury and need for compensation, but there has never been any actual construction.

As the House knows, HS2—the second project of the high-speed rail system—was initiated by the Labour Government before the 2010 election. I think it was Lord Adonis’s little pet project, which he formulated on the back of a fag packet as a gimmick for the Labour manifesto, but unfortunately George Osborne picked it up and ran with it.

Did the hon. Gentleman know that before Lord Adonis got his grubby hands on it, a design for HS2 was made by Arup? HS2 would have connected with HS1, and would have gone into major transport hubs such as Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly. It would have been possible to travel directly from Manchester Piccadilly to France without any changes at all, and do you know what? It would have been cheaper as well, because there would have been no tunnelling through the Chilterns.

If we were to debate the many failings of HS2, we would need more than the time available today. That will be for another debate, and I have no doubt that the Government have learned lessons, as they always do, but they will have been very expensive lessons for the taxpayer. HS2 is the white elephant that got ever bigger on taxpayers’ money. I opposed the project before it even started. I voted and spoke against it at every opportunity for a decade, but the elephant got ever larger.

My constituents let out a collective sigh of relief when phase 2b was finally dispatched. Today’s debate is about compensation, which is defined as an award, normally money, paid in recognition of loss, suffering and injury. Although my constituency did not see any HS2 construction, we certainly had plenty of loss, suffering and injury. We had 10 years of blight, with an area the width of two football fields, running the whole length of the constituency—22 miles—being sterilised.

Countless houses were never built and at least one factory, at the Lounge coal washing site, had to be cancelled—that factory would have created 1,200 jobs. We have had this blight for 10 years. My constituency is fortunate to have the highest economic growth in the country, but that economic growth and prosperity would have been far greater without the blighted land running through the middle of the constituency for more than 10 years.

What compensation can the Minister offer my constituents? Some of them went to their grave, and the biggest worry in their life was that HS2 was supposed to be going through their back garden. I reassured them that it was never going to happen. Despite all the bull and bluster from the Government, it was always going to run out of money. When the route was announced in 2013, I said it was going to end up costing over £100 billion —it is in Hansard—and the House laughed. It was right to laugh, because it was not £100 billion, was it? It was £160 billion at its peak.

The hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) is right that the project was supposed to move people seamlessly around the country. As the Government could never afford to get HS2 into city centres because of its burgeoning costs, they quickly ended up aiming to move people from nearly London to nearly Birmingham. If phase 2 had proceeded, it would have gone to nearly Manchester. I do not know anyone who wants to go from nearly London to nearly Birmingham, but the project had to continue.

HS2 has blighted my North West Leicestershire constituency, but I want to talk about one community in particular. The village of Measham was the most affected settlement on the planned route. Nowhere south of Measham had the number of houses and businesses that would have been disrupted, without any mitigation. Knowing it is one of the most deprived communities in my constituency, we had a regeneration plan to work with a fantastic company called Measham Land, through which 450 desirable new houses were going to be built on wasteland in the middle of the village. Working with the Ashby Canal Trust, it was going to fund regeneration projects, including two aqueducts, to bring the canal back to Measham, with a café culture around a large basin at the end of the canal system where people could bring their longboats. There was going to be huge investment in the village until HS2 was announced.

The route went straight through the middle of the Measham Land site. The regeneration of Measham has been delayed for 10 years. The people of Measham have suffered loss and injury, but where is the compensation? Okay, the regeneration will now go ahead, but it is 10 years late. The project would have been completed by now. We have seen that all along the route, not just in my constituency.

Who else has been injured? I will declare an interest: I am probably the only Member of Parliament who had to sell their house to HS2—a house that I bought in 2011. It was a substantial Georgian rectory with outbuildings and 14 acres of grounds, and I was forced by a judge to sell it under the extreme hardship scheme. I sold it in 2015 to HS2. Being a Member of Parliament, I thought, “I can’t deal with HS2 myself, so I’ll employ some consultants to deal with it, so that it’s an arm’s length transaction.” They charged me £25,000. It took 18 months, and I went through the system. I explained to the Government afterwards how HS2 has swindled everybody along the line with its property prices, and I will explain to the House how it is done.

It appears to be a transparently fair system, but I can assure hon. and right hon. Members that it most certainly is not, given the psychology behind it. Everybody along the whole route is presented with the same options. If HS2 wants to buy a property or someone has to sell their property—whether it is land, a factory or a dwelling—for various reasons, they will be offered a list of 10 valuers by HS2. The valuers will be mainly London estate agents, of whom the seller will have no knowledge. They may know the names—some of the very big estate agencies are on the list of 10 valuers—but it will be dealt with by the London offices, with which people in the midlands or the north are unlikely to have ever had any contact. They will be asked to choose one of the valuers to value their property, and HS2 will choose another, which sounds pretty transparently fair. They will both come to the property, land or factory to do an valuation. If the valuations are within 10% of each other, HS2 will say, “Let’s split the difference and call that the valuation.”

On paper, that sounds very fair, but think about the psychology of it. Those 10 valuers are the valuers for the whole route. They will only ever work for an individual who chooses them at random, because no seller has any knowledge of them whatsoever—it is a purely random choice. By choosing a valuer, someone has done all they can for them; the valuer will get paid their fee from HS2 for doing the valuation. But what the valuers on the list all want to be is the valuer that gets chosen every time by HS2. Given the pressure from the burgeoning costs of the project and the evidence given by whistleblowers who have left the land procurement side of HS2, which of the valuers do hon. and right hon. Members think HS2 will choose on the next occasion: the valuer who puts in the highest price to buy my house and land from me, or the valuer who puts in the lowest price for my property and land? The fact is that the system used by HS2 was always going to drive down the land and property prices paid to those affected by the route, and it is provable that that is exactly what it did.

There have been two notable whistleblowers who have left HS2, and I have spoken to both of them over the years. A former director of HS2, Doug Thornton, was put in charge of planning and performance. He was later put in charge of a £2.8 billion project to acquire all the land and properties that were needed along parts of the route. He went back to HS2 and said, “£2.8 billion is not enough. You can’t make a budget and just say we’re going to buy all the land and buildings for £2.8 billion.” He said it was nearer £4.8 billion, but he was told that he had to buy them for that price. Does that sound like HS2 was ever paying a fair price for the properties it needed to acquire along the route?

I have also recently spoken to Andrew Bruce, who was in charge of buying land and properties for HS2 until 2016. He had told his superiors that they had never paid a fair market price for any of the land and buildings that he bought while he was there, and he was asked to shred a report that he had done on that.

The two whistleblowers suffered loss and injury as well, because I am told that they were unable to get another job in the industry after they whistleblew on the practices that they experienced in HS2. They might need some compensation as well. We should protect whistleblowers, because without them we would still have a continuation of the Horizon/Post Office scandal. I maintain that individuals and communities have been damaged by HS2, and I would be interested to know what compensation the village of Measham will get, and what we are going to do for every householder and landowner along that route, who I can prove did not get the right price.

The Minister has promised me a meeting twice in the last two months, and I still do not have a date for it. I really hope that he will come through for me. I hope that lessons have been learned by HS2 and the Government. It has been a week of scandals— Horizon/Post Office, the loan charge, HS2—and the Government have not covered themselves in glory.

Order. Three Members, plus the Front Benchers, still wish to speak. The debate has to end at 5 o’clock. I urge brevity upon colleagues.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) on securing this important debate and advocating for her constituents. As my remarks will show, I am considering the topic from a slightly different but equally important angle. I am here to press the Government to compensate Crewe in the light of the cancellation of HS2 from Birmingham to Crewe, and then on from Crewe to Manchester. I hope that the House will indulge me: for medical reasons I was not on the estate when we returned from recess following the announcement by the Prime Minister regarding HS2. I made my opposition to the decision clear at the time, but the decision has now been made, so I will not spend time rehearsing the arguments. I recognise that I would be heavily outnumbered today on that front.

I will, however, place on the record the disappointment of my constituents and local businesses. The arrival of HS2 to Crewe represented a fantastic opportunity for the town to secure economic growth and improve connectivity on both inter-city and other rail travel. Crewe has a positive future regardless, but there is no denying the super-charging effect that HS2 coming to Crewe would have had. I must reluctantly accept the Government’s decision, and recognise that other proposals can now move forward as a result. As part of Network North, we will see increased funding for most existing major road network and large local major road schemes. Those schemes can benefit from an uplift in Government contributions from 85% to 100% of their cost, and increased funding will help to ensure the delivery of the schemes. It will also lead to over £700 million to fund a new wave of bus service improvement plans in the north, and an extra £3.3 billion to tackle potholes as part of a road resurfacing scheme.

There is no doubt, however, that as things stand Crewe has not been fairly compensated in the light of the changed plans. Those in local government in Cheshire, and in Cheshire East in particular, were encouraged to engage with and prepare for HS2’s arrival. Had they not, I am sure they would have been subject to extraordinary pressure from central Government to do just that. Regeneration funding given to the town and, in particular, our town deal were calculated with a clear understanding that this other form of central Government investment was happening. Cheshire East reports that it spent over £11 million in preparing for HS2 and the Crewe hub. That includes £8.6 million in the capital programme and £2.6 million of direct revenue expenditure.

While it is not for me to decide the wisdom of all that expenditure line by line, it was a significant amount of money, predicated on repeated long-term commitments from central Government. That investment was due to realise regeneration in Crewe that it will not now achieve. That money could have been spent directly in Crewe in other ways that did secure regeneration. Of course we can expect our share of the reallocated bus and road funding, but that is just the share that we would have expected to get if HS2 was never coming to Crewe. A decision has been taken, which the Government argue a wider region will benefit from, but the Government need to recognise the financial impact on Crewe and step up to the plate.

I do not accept that Cheshire East can blame the decision for all its financial woes—that is obvious political manoeuvring—and it is important that the lion’s share of any funding goes to Crewe and is not used just to fill the financial problems facing the wider council, but I do accept that the Government must compensate us locally for the implications of their decision.

We have a lot of positive things to talk about in Crewe. As I mentioned, our town deal is funding a £22.9 million package of projects, including a community centre in the regenerated and reopened Flag Lane Baths, a brand new home for the south Cheshire amateur boxing club, a new youth club, improved pocket parks, investment in empty shops and more. We also have £14 million from the future high streets fund. However, the economic value, both direct and associated, with being an HS2 hub station was of significant scale and the return on bus and road funding will see a shortfall that I press the Government to look at.

We know a number of sites got significantly bigger town deals and levelling-up funding has been made available to other places on a bigger scale. That was not unreasonable in the context of HS2 coming to Crewe, but now it is not. I know the rail Minister is only one part of the puzzle, but I hope there is recognition across Government that movement is needed. Will the Minister confirm the Government’s commitment to coming forward with proposals to compensate Crewe, over and above the money all areas are receiving based on the decision taken on HS2 and that we expect to receive? When will that funding be made available and how?

When the dust has settled, the Government should be able to demonstrate clearly that the impact on Crewe has been recognised not just with words but with a clear investment of funding. That is the fair thing to do. I know the Minister recognises the obligation that any reasonable person would see exists and I expect he has been pressing the case, but time is moving on. What we need now are results.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) on securing this important debate. It gives me the opportunity —I have done this many times before in this Chamber and at the Transport Committee—to continue to detail the plight faced by landowners and small business owners alike who, through no fault of their own, have been swept up in the seemingly endless and needless disruption caused by HS2 Ltd and its contractors in my constituency.

People face losses and hefty legal bills that have left many unprofitable, some facing near bankruptcy and all without the means to recoup their losses in any equitable way. Time and again, I have heard about the inescapable, infinite loop of bureaucracy that surrounds what meagre compensation HS2 Ltd is willing to cough up, which in itself increases and prolongs my constituents’ legal costs. One landowner told me that her land agent is increasingly reluctant to take on more work as more and more of his bills, which under the Act are meant to be compensated by HS2’s own agents Carter Jonas, go unpaid.

A couple in my constituency have been caught up in this legal quagmire, with HS2’s insistence that their septic tank be replaced before the project purchases the property at a predetermined rate. What was supposed to be a relatively straightforward job turned into a multi-month process, preventing my constituents from selling their property at that agreed price, effectively leaving them short-changed, despite them simply following due process. They have yet to be compensated for the difference between the agreed value and the actual value of their property.

In the village Quainton, which in one way or another has been continuously impacted by HS2’s road closures, yet another road closure is about to come into effect, this time for two years. That will devastate my constituents at Doddershall House, whose business will suffer from reduced access to and from the estate, and require a lengthy diversion both for them and their clients. HS2 has not even attempted to offer them compensation.

For our farmers, cattle loss has blighted numerous farms as a result of poor soil treatment and management by HS2’s contractors, often operating right next door. One farm has quoted a total loss of £37,000 as a direct result of HS2’s shoddy practices. How can this possibly be morally justifiable for the project? How can a hardworking family be left with such heavy losses?

Then there is blackleg, a disease in cattle that is caused by bacteria released from disturbed soil. I am aware of at least one case that the farmer has attributed to HS2’s malpractice. It is noteworthy that farmers in this area have never seen a blackleg case before in Buckinghamshire. No prizes, Mr Deputy Speaker, for guessing how much compensation has been offered—for the avoidance of all doubt, it is zero.

It is not just farmers and landowners who suffer from being left out in the cold by HS2. Hundreds of road users across my constituency are forced to sit in endless congestion wherever HS2 decides to cut down a tree, closing whole roads in the process, and there are endless utility diversions. Commuters, buses taking children to school and ambulances responding to life-or-death situations have all had their journeys repeatedly disrupted by HS2, with no recourse to any form of compensation.

Whether it is the A41 through Waddesdon and Fleet Marston, or the villages near Wendover, such as Ellesborough and Butlers Cross, these endless, endless diversions are costing real people real money and real time and, in some cases, lives on a daily basis, and there is no compensation. That is before we even get to the state of Buckinghamshire’s roads, destroyed by thousands of HGV movements linked to HS2 construction, causing endless damage to cars, from tyres to suspension systems. Again, HS2, with its fingers in its ears, does not take any responsibility for what it has broken in Buckinghamshire.

Briefly, I come to businesses, with the example of the Prince of Wales pub in Steeple Claydon, which sits at the heart of HS2 disruption and destruction and is also very near the building of East West Rail. Roads in and out of the village are constantly closed—Addison Road, for example, was closed for many, many months recently. It is costing the pub nigh on £1,000 a month in lost revenue. At one point, the landlord told me that he was £65,000 down. There is no scheme—nothing at all—to compensate businesses affected in this way. Real livelihoods and the real viability of businesses are being challenged. I put that to a former chief executive of HS2 Ltd, Mark Thurston, when he actually bothered to visit my constituency in May, and the language he used about the pub is unrepeatable in this Chamber. There was no sympathy; he just said that it was just a—expletive— “little pub that nobody would want to drink in anyway.” That is not the attitude that we expect from anyone paid by the state.

Just next door in Steeple Claydon is Langston & Tasker, which stands out among the businesses affected by HS2 construction because, as a bus and coach operator, it is hit hard by any road closure. It operates school runs, taking Buckinghamshire children to school daily, yet the constant road closures, the state of the roads and the damage to their vehicles are costing the company considerable amounts of money every single day, which ultimately gets passed on to Buckinghamshire Council and local council tax payers. Does HS2 pay a penny towards it? No, of course not, but it absolutely should.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I could go on with examples like this all afternoon, but I am very aware of the time and the fact that others wish to speak. My message to the Minister, who I know does listen, has visited my constituency and does want to get this right, is that we must do better. HS2 Ltd must do better. The attitude needs to change. The practices need to change. HS2 needs to understand the real lives that it is devastating on a daily basis, be that people who own property or people who are just trying to go about their daily lives—going to work, getting the kids to school, and perhaps having some fun. The people from HS2 need to understand the impact that, as unwelcome aliens in Buckinghamshire, they are having daily as they build this railway. My challenge to the Minister is this: let us get the compensation that real people—my constituents and so many more—deserve.

I thank my near neighbour and hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) for introducing this debate. We have heard a catalogue of problems from various colleagues here on both sides of the House. The sad thing is that they are not unique. They are repeated up and down the country.

When I was a Whip, I instituted a system—I am looking at my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Ruth Edwards), who is the Whip, to see whether this system still operates—where we would look at our Members of Parliament to see how many staff they got through in a short period, because clearly there was a problem if someone could not hold on to their staff for long. We would think that the Minister or Back Bencher in question was seriously flawed in some way. How many chairmen and chief executives has HS2 gone through? It has gone through a lot, because they are flawed in a serious way; they are dysfunctional.

That is made even more amazing by the fact that they have gone through all these senior staff at HS2, and yet it is the highest paid role in the civil service.

It is extraordinary, and it just demonstrates what an organisation this is—not only dysfunctional, but unfair. In an intervention, I talked about my constituent Siân Froggatt, who is not being allowed to reclaim land that was compulsorily taken from her, even though the land is now not needed because the railway is not going ahead on phase 2a. I might add that she is still waiting to be paid—waiting to be paid, and still unable able to reclaim that land.

I took the opportunity of looking at my cellphone during the debate, not because I was looking at tractors or anything like that, but because I was doing some research about the Crichel Down rules. It says on the Government’s own website that

“The Crichel Down Rules require government departments… to offer back surplus land to the former owner or the former owner’s successors at the current market value.”

It has to be offered back to the same people. Not only is it not being offered back at a reasonable price, but it is often not being offered back to the same people.

I came in at the very last moment to speak in this debate, so I will not take up a great deal of time. I will listen with interest to the Minister’s response, which I suspect might be the same as the answer he gave yesterday in a different debate regarding the Handsacre junction, which happens to be in my constituency. I ask that in these dying days of HS2—dying days in one way or another—the Government get a grip and ensure that, just we asked in the previous debate, justice is done for our constituents. The sense of justice we have in this nation extends not only to His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, as in the previous debate, but to HS2 Limited in this one.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) on securing this important debate and thank the Backbench Business Committee for granting the time. I also thank the right hon. Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson) and the hon. Members for Chesham and Amersham (Sarah Green), for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen), for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan), for Buckingham (Greg Smith) and for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) for contributing to the debate.

The stories we have heard, and those that have been reported over the years, show the very real consequences of this Tory HS2 fiasco—[Interruption.] There is some muttering from Conservative MPs. If the civil service and the Department for Transport were not involved in the decision to cancel that was announced by the Prime Minister in Manchester—it was done on the back of a fag packet, which has been used today, all day—it is no wonder that we got this type of fiasco.

We have heard of people having to leave the family home that they worked hard for, businesses having to pack up and leave their premises, towns and villages seeing homes targeted after they were bought and later left to rot, and farmers being forced to move or unable to use their land for years because of more and more delays to HS2., We have heard of cash-strapped councils such as Cheshire East Council, which the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich told us paid out £11 million. I commend the Labour spokesman Connor Naismith on his campaign to have the council reimbursed for the money lost.

Communities have had their future put on pause for years and families have found getting compensation to be a painful and drawn-out experience. Lives and businesses have been disrupted for a decade, and for what? A staggering £65 billion high-speed train line that will now not even reach the communities that have been impacted—a train line that, according to the chair of HS2, will result in fewer seats and longer journeys for those travelling north of Birmingham. What a result for the people living in those communities and across the north.

All that is even before we consider how much taxpayers’ money has been spent on the compensation. According to reports, almost £423 million has been spent buying up 424 properties on the western leg from Birmingham to Manchester, and £164 million spent buying 530 “blighted” properties on the eastern leg to Leeds. Today comes the news that the Government are lifting safeguarding on the land; not content with cancelling high-speed rail to the north, the Prime Minister has now decided to salt the earth. If we were not aware already, that must be the final nail in the coffin for levelling-up.

Can the hon. Gentleman clarify whether, in the unfortunate and unlikely event of a Labour Government, they would reimpose safeguarding on phase 2a?

Like Napoleon out of Moscow, it is routed through the poisoned-earth strategy with the lifting of the safeguarding today. We have to be responsible. We will have to see what the books tell us if we are to enter Government in the weeks or months to come.

We have seen 14 years of promises to the north and the midlands broken. In the Prime Minister’s desperate, failing attempt to rebrand himself as the change candidate at the next election, he decided to rush through an alternative plan at the party conference—a plan that mentions places such as Crewe, which, as the hon. Member for Crewe and Nantwich rightly said, would have greatly benefited, but a plan that the Prime Minister admitted was only “illustrative”. Illustrative? The Network North plan announced fantastic news for my Wythenshawe and Sale East constituency—a new Metrolink line to Manchester airport. It opened in 2016. That illustrates the chaos and the confusion of that announcement.

The now Foreign Secretary was not alone on the Conservative side in criticising the decision. Two former Chancellors warned the Prime Minister that his actions were “huge economic self-harm”, while the Tory Mayor of the West Midlands described it as “cancelling the future”—a great line, if I may say so to the hon. Member for Lichfield. In what is a consistent theme for this Government, this whole mess has been created by not consulting the communities affected, not speaking to our Metro Mayors and not listening to the businesses across the country that were depending on the project.

After 14 years, communities have had enough of the broken promises from this broken Government. Labour will not repeat those mistakes—mismanaging major projects, turning people’s lives upside down, taking their trust for granted, impacting their businesses and livelihoods and failing to deliver.

I am listening carefully to the shadow Minister, who is telling us that a mythical future Labour Government would not disrupt people’s lives. Does he understand that building HS2 does devastate people’s lives? Big infrastructure devastates people’s lives and there is no way to do it without doing that.

That is exactly why Labour would do it with the Mayors, with the communities and in consultation with those it would affect and impact. HS2 was going to go under my back garden—that was my interest.

The hon. Gentleman just said that Labour would do it. Just to be clear, can I confirm that Labour is now saying it will bring back HS2 if it wins the next election?

I refer to the answer I gave to the right hon. Member for South Staffordshire; that remains our position. Labour has launched an independent expert review of transport infrastructure headed by industry leader Jürgen Maier, originally of Siemens, to learn the lessons from this shambles and to ensure that we deliver transport infrastructure faster and more effectively, so that communities are not taken for a ride with nothing to show for it, as has been the case here.

In this debate we have heard just a few of the many examples of people’s lives being impacted by this Conservative HS2 scandal. It is clear that communities are still paying the price for the delays of the past decade and the chaos of the past few months.

The hon. Gentleman is being very generous in giving way. Would he generously accept that, if it had not been for Lord Adonis changing the original plan, HS2 would have gone nowhere near areas such as the Chilterns? It would have gone up a completely different route and been a connected railway, and would probably have been quite worthwhile.

I thank the hon. Member for his intervention, but seriously, after 14 years, those types of excuses are wearing extraordinarily thin, if he does not mind my saying so.

I hope the Minister will outline what is being done to address this chaos—costs are still going up after the decision in October—to ensure that those impacted receive the compensation that they deserve, as Members have well underlined, and that the same mistakes are not made again and again in future. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s remarks. Once again, I thank the hon. Member for Stafford for securing the debate and all Members who have participated.

I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford (Theo Clarke) for securing this important debate and I acknowledge all contributions from right hon. and hon. Members. I will come to them in the course of my response.

As the House will be aware, the Government laid a written ministerial statement this morning announcing the lifting of safeguarding directions along the former HS2 route between the west midlands and Crewe. By lifting safeguarding, the Government are providing certainty to people along the former route of phase 2a and making development easier, as HS2 Ltd will no longer object to proposed development in the area to which the safeguarding direction had applied.

To be clear, however, the lifting of safeguarding does not in any way trigger the start of a sell-off of property already acquired by the Secretary of State. No land owned by the Secretary of State will be sold off until we are ready. Safeguarding applies to land owned privately. The imposition of safeguarding on phase 2a had hitherto protected HS2 from conflicting development from any private landowner.

Safeguarding has now been lifted from phase 2a, with one notable exception: the continued safeguarding of land close to the village of Handsacre, north of Lichfield in Staffordshire. That junction, which I know is dear to my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford, and indeed to the constituency MP, my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), is now an even more critical part of the HS2 infrastructure. It will allow HS2 trains to join the west coast main line through a connection to the existing rail network. I can confirm that the Government remain committed to delivering the Handsacre connection, as we are committed to delivering HS2 phase 1.

From London to the midlands, 140 miles of new railway is being built by thousands of engineers and construction workers at 350 active construction sites. At Euston, we are working with our development partner, Lendlease, to model an ambitious redeveloped Euston quarter and deliver thousands of homes and offices that will provide the financing for HS2 trains into central London. Today’s important announcement is further evidence that we are listening to businesses and residents along the former phase 2a route, and we will continue to do so.

Let me give the further information that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield requested. We will amend the safeguarding on the remainder of the phase 2 route of HS2—from Crewe to Manchester and from the west midlands to Leeds—by the summer, to allow for any safeguarding needed for Northern Powerhouse Rail. To respond to the point made by my right hon. Friend, we will shortly design a programme for the disposing of any property that is no longer needed by HS2, and will set out more details soon.

I can confirm that any land and property that was acquired for HS2 compulsorily or via statutory blight but is no longer required will be sold, subject to the Crichel Down rules. Those rules, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield set out, require Government Departments, under certain circumstances, to offer back surplus land and property for sale to the former owner, or their successors, at the current market value. I therefore assure my hon. Friend that we are ensuring that property is offered back at a fair price to original owners with first refusal.

The Minister says that the properties acquired by HS2 that are no longer required will be sold at the current market price, but does he accept that, as I have explained to the House, HS2 did not pay a fair market price at the time of the acquisition of those assets?

I am due to meet the hon. Member. He said that I had declined to meet him after two requests; actually, I had a meeting in his diary yesterday, but according to his office he was unable to make that meeting. We have set another date for 31 January. I will talk to the hon. Member about the matters he raises; the Department and the HS2 team have looked at them before and do not agree with the conclusions he has mentioned, but we will discuss those matters when we meet on the 31st.

As has been set out by my hon. Friends and other Members who have spoken, property owners who have found themselves obliged to deal with HS2 Ltd and its contractors have had varied and, at times, inconsistent experiences. Those property owners are understandably less interested in what HS2 can or cannot deliver for transport and the wider economy: their focus has instead been on seeking the compensation they are entitled to, and navigating what must at times have seemed like an unequal relationship with HS2 Ltd.

I readily acknowledge how important it is that those owed compensation, such as money for the purchase of their property or expenses or costs associated with such transactions, are paid in as timely a manner as is possible. I have always sought to impress on the company and its agents that it is unacceptable that cases should drag on. That is of no benefit to anyone—certainly not the property owner, and certainly not the taxpayer.

When it comes to paying owners for title to properties that they have, in many cases, sold unwillingly, it is only right that those owners should receive recompense in full and as fast as is practicable. That said, each property transaction is unique, so presents its own set of circumstances. As many in this House will be aware, when negotiating and settling compensation claims, HS2 Ltd follows the principles set out in the compensation code. There are also a number of discretionary schemes that offer further help to those not eligible under the statutory framework—in effect, they go above and beyond that framework.

HS2 Ltd must achieve a careful balance between meeting the needs of the claimant and delivering value for money to the taxpayer. The compensation code requires claimants to provide robust evidence for their claims. It is often when claimants are struggling to provide sufficient suitable evidence for their claims that negotiations become frustrated, leading to delays. I will be frank: the extent to which claimants’ agents provide suitable evidence, or are willing to negotiate from a realistic standpoint, varies considerably—I have found myself in the middle of some discussions of that type in constituents’ homes. It is important to understand that background, as it helps to explain why, in some instances, property owners consider that they are having payments withheld. When late payments do occur, they are never acceptable, but our data shows that they are the exception rather than the rule.

Property cases should be concluded as soon as is practicable, within the constraints imposed by the balance of the property owner’s interests and those of the taxpayer. The evidence shows—I will happily write to every right hon. and hon. Member who has taken part in this debate—that HS2 Ltd is succeeding in closing down claims, despite the considerable complexities that those claims involve. However, I acknowledge that there are a number of impacted parties with whom HS2 Ltd has not yet been able to reach agreement and negotiations have become challenging, and we have heard about many of them this afternoon. As I mentioned, I have got myself involved in many of those cases to move them further along and challenge HS2 as to the position taken.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stafford is a tireless advocate for the cases that have arisen in her constituency, some of which she and I have previously discussed, as she mentioned. She has cited some particular cases during the debate; I will write back to her with my latest understanding of where matters sit regarding her constituents Mr and Mrs Tabernor and Mr Collier. The same applies to other constituent cases named in this debate by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire and others.

With regard to the point about intimidation—I say this as someone who chaired the Transport Select Committee—I believe that everyone should be able to give clear, frank, open and transparent evidence without fear or favour. If there is any evidence of intimidation, I will of course look at it and make sure that it is eradicated. I give everyone in the House that assurance. As my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Greg Smith) has demanded, I am determined that HS2 Ltd should continue to up its game in dealing with difficult and disputed cases, such as the ones that have been mentioned today and others that I am aware of.

Let me touch on a few matters raised by other hon. Members we have heard from but I have not mentioned. The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sarah Green) referenced a number of cases. I am very happy to meet her, as I have previously. She is a tireless advocate on her constituents’ behalf and I will meet her again to discuss some of those cases. I have touched on the points made by the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) and look forward to meeting him and going through the points he made in the debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan) has been a tireless advocate of the benefits that HS2 could deliver to his constituency, and it is the one part of the country that I believe needs particular mention. I spent a morning with him and local Cheshire East councillors looking at the potential and at what the team had brought. It will not have escaped his attention that the local government Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, my hon. Friend the Member for North Dorset (Simon Hoare)—has entered the Chamber. The two of us spoke earlier this week about the needs of Crewe, and we also spoke to other colleagues. He has been a tireless champion of the council, with the predicament that it finds itself in, and when I and the local government Minister meet the team from Cheshire East, my hon. Friend is certainly welcome to join us. We have made such points to other colleagues, and we are determined to help and to work together. I know that the local government Minister cares about these matters and will work with us to do so.

I say gently to the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane)—he is a fellow football player with me, as well as a good friend—that the Labour position appears to keep changing. Just last week, the Leader of the Opposition went to Manchester to say that HS2 would no longer continue, which was slightly inconsistent with what we heard this afternoon. It may well be the case that many dispute the plan we have in place, but the plan is not to go ahead with HS2 north of Handsacre, and instead to spend that money—the £36 billion—on projects across the country, particularly to benefit all cities across the north and the midlands. That is the plan, but I think we would all like to know what Labour’s plan is. Is it going to deliver HS2? If it is not going to deliver HS2 beyond the midlands, is it going to commit to the £36 billion that this Government are committing to levelling up? I think we would all like that clarity, not least the constituents represented by all those sitting behind me.

I cannot because of the time—by the look on your face, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Let me end with three final points. First, I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stafford and all the other Members present for tirelessly working on behalf of those affected by HS2 and for the manner in which they have engaged with me. I am at their service. Secondly, I welcome and accept my hon. Friend’s kind invitation to visit Stafford. I will do so, and before the spring is out. Thirdly, and in conclusion, I commit to do the best that I can for property owners impacted by HS2, which includes ensuring the timely payment of compensation, the urgency of which has been laid bare in this debate.

First, I thank the Minister for listening to the extraordinary examples we have heard this afternoon of how HS2 has behaved to our constituents.

I thank in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Sarah Green), my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Sir Gavin Williamson), the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen), and my hon. Friends the Members for Crewe and Nantwich (Dr Mullan) and for Buckingham (Greg Smith) for speaking in this debate.

I welcome what the Minister has said, that he will visit my constituency to meet affected residents, and in particular that he will write to all of us who have spoken in the debate to provide clear answers on the individual cases we have raised. It is very clear from this debate that there is still considerable uncertainty over HS2, and I welcome the fact that the Government are going to look again at resolving all outstanding compensation claims.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House calls on the Government to provide compensation to people who have been affected by the construction of HS2.