Monday 9 November 2020
The Grand Committee met in a hybrid proceeding.
Arrangement of Business
My Lords, the Hybrid Grand Committee will now begin. Some Members are here in person, respecting social distancing, others are participating remotely, but all Members will be treated equally. I must ask Members in the Room to wear a face covering except when seated at their desk, to speak sitting down and to wipe down their desk, chair and any other touch points before and after use.
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High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill
Committee (1st Day)
Clause 1: Power to construct and maintain works for Phase 2a of High Speed 2
1: Clause 1, page 1, line 18, at end insert—
“( ) The commencement of the scheduled works may not take place until the Secretary of State has presented a bill to Parliament providing for the construction of a high-speed railway from the West Midlands to Leeds.”
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to start the Committee stage of the Bill. On behalf of all noble Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and his colleagues, some of whom are here today, for the extraordinary work they did on the Bill in the Select Committee that considered the private interests at stake, which are considerable, given that we are building an entirely new railway. I had the privilege of sitting in on part of the Select Committee’s consideration and was extremely impressed by the way it handled this business. The House is enormously indebted to the noble and learned Lord and his colleagues.
We now come to the public interests at stake. The most important is clearly how the line from Birmingham to Crewe interacts with the wider plan for HS2, and that is what my amendment refers to. The key issue now is the scope of HS2 as a full project. This is clearly the extension of the first phase of HS2, London to Birmingham, which is currently being built. I am glad to say that it is now beyond the point of no return, with 250 construction sites between London and Birmingham, more than £10 billion having been spent and thousands of workers on-site. This is a critical national project for building better after Covid and enhancing the nation’s infrastructure.
However, the question is what the scope of HS2 will be north of Birmingham. Here, I wish to probe the Minister. The plan for HS2—which has been accepted by the Government and is the one laid down by the Labour Government, in which I was privileged to be Transport Secretary—is a 330-mile HS2 scheme extending to Manchester in the north-west and to Sheffield and Leeds in the north-east, in both cases connecting to the main lines going further north: the west coast main line, going on to Liverpool and Glasgow in the west, and the east coast main line, going on to Newcastle and Edinburgh in the east. However, the big issue now arising is what will happen to the eastern leg. By pursuing this measure, the Government are making clear their determination to go on to Manchester, since obviously, a high-speed line is not going to stop at Crewe. Indeed, the Government reaffirmed the detail of the route going into Manchester, including the quite tricky issues regarding the layout of the station and track at Manchester Piccadilly station a few weeks ago.
At the same time, the Government also raised a very big question mark about the line going to Sheffield and Leeds. They did not reaffirm the route. They could have done so because the route was agreed in detail when I was Secretary of State and has been reaffirmed several times since, with amendments to take account of further consultation, in which the biggest issue was the treatment of Sheffield, particularly the genuinely difficult question of whether the eastern leg should go through Sheffield or through Meadowhall, to the east of Sheffield. That has now been resolved, with the plan being to go through Sheffield itself. No one has so far produced a better plan than that, but the Government said a few weeks ago that they intended to consult further on that issue. A whole load of acronyms come into play at this point, with reviews of different lines in the north and how Northern Powerhouse Rail might interact with them. Given that, with any of those different schemes, the ultimate question is whether or not HS2 is built, in a sense they are irrelevant. Obviously, HS2 has to be integrated properly with other lines when it is built, but that does not affect the fundamental question of whether it is built or not.
The general view among stakeholders is that the Government are separating what was going to be a single phase 2b, which would have been Crewe to Manchester and Birmingham to Sheffield and Leeds, into either a phase 2b and phase 2c—that is, building Crewe to Manchester first and then Birmingham to Sheffield and Leeds—or, which I think is much more likely if the two are separated, cancelling the eastern leg. That might not be for ever; I suspect that once the line is built through to Manchester, the wave of concern on the eastern side of the Pennines will be so great that ultimately, we will end up building a line to Leeds. But it will not be part of the original HS2 scheme, and it could be opened 20, 30 or even 40 years after the Manchester line is opened.
So, I am keen to press the Minister on what the Government’s position is. I am expecting her to give me a lot of waffle: words that do not mean anything in terms of a firm commitment. She will tell us that there is a further review—she is nodding—and that it will report by the end of the year. I know all the stuff that is likely to be coming from the civil servants but, because I am still fairly well connected with her department and what is going on, I can say that at the moment a battle royale is taking place within Whitehall as to whether the eastern leg will proceed.
There is a confluence of forces that, unfortunately in this case, are extremely malign. Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, has never liked HS2 and tried to get the whole thing cancelled. He was unable to persuade the Prime Minister of that in respect of the first phase, which is why the Government announced in February that London to Birmingham would definitely go ahead. It would have been truly perverse to have cancelled it at that stage because it was already being constructed, so it is proceeding. Because the part of the Bill dealing with Birmingham to Crewe was already in play and the implied commitment to Manchester was therefore simply too great—there are also some very powerful Conservative forces in Greater Manchester that want the line to proceed—he did not feel strong enough to oppose that.
What he is doing now is seeking to axe the eastern leg by means of endless review, and in this, of course, he has an ally in the Treasury, which has always been sceptical of HS2 because it does not like making big, long-term infrastructure commitments of any kind. With Covid-19 and all the pressures arising thereafter, having a long-standing and further review will, of course, suit its purposes in any event. That is the situation that we face now.
I am not expecting—I am a realist in these matters—that the power of my rhetoric this afternoon will change the Minister’s mind and enable her unilaterally to make declarations that she would not otherwise make. I am well aware of what is going to come in a few minutes’ time. I am making these remarks—and will repeat them on Report—and hoping to build a coalition of supporters, particularly those who are affected by what might happen on the eastern leg, in order to build up public pressure on the Government. As with the first phase of HS2, it is only public pressure, particularly in relation to the impact on the levelling-up agenda—which the Government themselves say they believe in, and which will, of course, be wrecked if HS2 goes only one side of the Pennines—that will force the Government ultimately to commit to building both the eastern and the western legs.
In that cause, let me make clear, as the original architect of the scheme, why the eastern leg is so important. The three big arguments for HS2—capacity, connectivity and speed—are interconnected and apply equally to the eastern leg of HS2 through to Leeds as they do to the western leg through to Manchester. The capacity constraints of the Victorian railway—or, I should say, in large part the pre-Victorian railway, because the London-to- Birmingham railway opened before the coronation of Queen Victoria and is nearly 200 years old now—were just as great over time, although not immediately as great, on the Midland main line, which goes to Sheffield from St Pancras, and the east coast main line, which goes to York and Newcastle from King’s Cross. This was an absolutely critical factor in persuading Sir David Rowlands, the first chairman of HS2, and me, as Secretary of State, to proceed with the integrated plan for both the eastern and western legs. If we do not proceed with HS2 going through to both Manchester and Leeds, ultimately we will have to upgrade the Midland main line and the east coast main line, which would be ferociously expensive.
The noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is speaking after me; he is a very eminent railway engineer and manager. My noble friend Lord Berkeley is in the Grand Committee as well. They might not be aware of it, but they were hugely influential in my making the decision to go east as well as west, because when I was Secretary of State, they came to present to me a plan for the upgrade of the east coast main line. The east coast main line, as noble Lords who know about the layout of the railways may know, has massive capacity constraints. In particular, the Welwyn Viaduct, which is very close to the beginning of the line at King’s Cross, is a huge and really problematic bottleneck on the line. It is one of the biggest viaducts in the country and can take only two tracks of what is otherwise a four-track railway, going all the way through to the Midlands. It would be ferociously expensive to widen, quite apart from the big planning battles that would ensue and the fact that there are big commuter flows across that line; Welwyn North station is actually on the edge of the viaduct.
When the noble Lords presented their plan to me in 2009, it entailed a £12 billion incremental upgrade of the east coast main line. I hope that I am not telling any stories out of school when I say that the moment that the two noble Lords left my office, the chief engineer of HS2, who was present with me at the meeting, said, “You can double all of those figures immediately” and that was then, in 2009. The chief engineer said that the cost of replacing Welwyn Viaduct alone—which is what would have to be done—would be several billion pounds. The cash cost is only the beginning of the problems that would be faced in upgrading the east coast main line, because, of course, the cost of disruption of one of the busiest main lines in the country would also have to be faced.
The cost of disruption was a big factor in the decision to go ahead with HS2, rather than carrying through yet another upgrade of the west coast main line. As noble Lords will be aware, in 2009 we had only just completed the previous upgrade of the west coast main line, which cost—in 2000 prices—£9 billion. It would be significantly more than that now to conduct a further upgrade. Of that £9 billion, £1 billion was needed to pay train operating companies not to run trains, because there were very complicated and expensive compensation payments. That did not begin to compensate private individuals and companies for the inconvenience and disruption costs of not having a railway for this period, which had been going on for the best part of 10 years. All those arguments will apply to the Midland main line and the east coast main line if there have to be upgrades because it is not possible to extend HS2 through to Leeds.
A final significant factor is connectivity and the economic benefits. In the original White Paper on HS2 in March 2010 there is, to my mind, an absolutely critical table giving the gross value added by town and city relative to London, since London is the economic, as well as the political, capital of this country and has by far the highest gross value added—that is straightforward wealth—of any settlement in the land. This shows that the areas with the highest gross value added in England are almost without exception those that are, by travelling distance, an hour or less from London. Travelling distance is the key determinate here: it is not geographical distance; it is travelling distance by rail from London. That is why most of the major commuting centres that are so wealthy in and around London are within an hour of commuting. This is an absolutely critical premise on which HS2 is founded and is why speed and connectivity come into the argument about capacity and economics as well. The key factor of HS2 is that it brings our three greatest Midlands and northern cities—Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds—all within an hour of London. Because of some route changes that have been made in the cases of Manchester and Leeds, some are slightly more than an hour, but they are still basically within an hour. Once we get faster running of the trains on this line, they will all be within an hour.
If we do not proceed with the eastern leg of HS2—and that is dependent on the existing conventional lines being upgraded in due course—the travel times from London to these great cities will be as follows: half an hour from London to Birmingham; an hour from London to Manchester; two hours from London to Leeds; and three hours from London to Newcastle. There is therefore a factor of two and three in respect of Leeds and Newcastle. This will decimate the economies of the eastern Pennine cities and the north-east if they suffer that degree of disadvantage in connectivity and time-distance from London. It is not just London either: the integrated nature of HS2 means that the north is integrally connected not just with London but with Birmingham.
Birmingham is the second city in the country, but because it was linked by Victorian railways, all of which were competing and separate, Birmingham is effectively a branch line on the west coast main line. That is why it takes almost as long to get from Birmingham to Manchester and from Birmingham to Leeds as it does to get from London to Manchester and London to Leeds. An integral part of HS2 is that Birmingham will be the first stop on it; it dramatically reduces the journey times from Birmingham to Manchester and from Birmingham to Leeds to half an hour in both cases. However, if the HS2 eastern leg is not built, we will have a half-hour journey time from Manchester to Birmingham, but a one-and-a-half to two-hour—depending on where you are going from—journey time from Leeds and the east Midlands through to Birmingham.
All of these factors combined would be catastrophic for the economies of Yorkshire and the east Midlands if the western leg of HS2 proceeds without the eastern leg. These are hugely important issues—and I apologise for detaining the Committee for longer than normal—that go to the whole future economic and social geography of this country. It is vital that we proceed with the eastern as well as the western leg of HS2. Although I do not think that my remarks this afternoon will have persuaded the Minister to make any dramatic statements in her reply, I hope that they will strongly encourage the political and business leaders of the east Midlands and Yorkshire to campaign ferociously for the eastern leg of HS2 to proceed alongside the western leg; otherwise, we will proceed with, in effect, just half of the project for levelling up the Midlands and the north. I beg to move.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I was in the House when he introduced the original high-speed rail proposals. I think I appended a plaudit to his name then: I said that he was a sort of second Brunel, because at least he had the vision as to what could happen rather than thinking how difficult it was to do everything. It is extraordinarily difficult. I do not applaud the way in which HS2 has gone about it. It has been slow, it has been extravagant and it could have done the job better, but there remain important things to be done.
I wish to start by talking about the east Midlands, which has the lowest attainment and the lowest social mobility of the whole country. It is low down in the Government’s plans for investing any money anywhere, and it is extremely important that it be brought back into the fold, because much of the area is shamefully neglected. Train journeys from places such as Lincoln, Leicester and Derby into Birmingham average only about 30 miles per hour. That sort of speed would be quite unacceptable to people in other parts of the country.
This morning we saw published an RAC motoring report which somewhat joyfully hailed the death of public transport and the fact that at some point in the future we would have cars that emitted no pollution. It said that people would flock to their cars. In fact, congestion is caused by the vehicles being there, and previous attempts to build our way out of congestion on the roads have generally been an abject failure and have cost the country huge sums of money.
In Birmingham is an organisation called Midlands Engine, which reports up the various channels to a mayor in Birmingham who I believe is an avid Conservative. But go and talk to him about what he thinks about cutting a large part of the east Midlands out of the benefits which come from having a high-speed railway.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, mentioned the Welwyn viaduct. It is an impossible obstacle. I have tried many times in my railway career to see how it might be overcome, including by going to New Zealand at my own expense to see how the Japanese had attached wings to Auckland Harbour Bridge to make the road wider. That sort of thing cannot be done on a railway. Nothing but destruction would be wrought over the whole valley for a long time if anybody were to attempt to rebuild that viaduct.
As the noble Lord said, there is an extremely complicated compensation system, designed at privatisation, that perversely means that when you set out to improve a railway, the people you are improving it for get compensation for your efforts. It is a most ridiculous system which I hope might be one of the things addressed in the review of the railway which Keith Williams started—but I do not quite know where that is now.
One good thing to come out of recent developments in HS2 is the concept of a through station at Manchester. When we talk about the north-east, we see the need for a through station at Leeds, because the concept of terminus stations in the middle of high-speed lines is a very stupid one. I strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, has said. It is incumbent on the Government to come clean, particularly with the large number of people in the east Midlands, many of whom voted for them at the last election, and to say, “Yes, we are going to build better, a lot better, because, by rebuilding, we can not only restore fast services but free up local services, which are so awful, and bring them up to modern standards”. I hope that the Minister might have some encouragement for us at the end of this debate.
My Lords, it would probably be quite difficult to find two people who think more differently about the first leg of HS2 than me and the noble Lord, Lord Adonis. I disagree with a large part of what he said: the first leg is a dinosaur of a project. It is economically and environmentally disastrous. That it has gone ahead in spite of the Treasury and Dominic Cummings being against it staggers me—something has clearly gone wrong there.
However, I support the amendment, because it is important that there is a shape to the future. At the moment, I know that people in the north are extremely worried that HS2 will be seen by the Government as something that serves London, with the north forgotten. The Government have said that a Bill for the northern part of HS2 will not be brought forward until they have developed their overall strategy for rail transport in the north. That means that they could abandon that part of HS2 as well as the east-west railway, which Boris Johnson specifically promised as part of the Conservative manifesto and probably helped him win the election and the seats in the north. Without extending to the north, HS2 has zero hope of delivering on the already questionable value-for-money assessment conducted by the Government. Quite honestly, the north will judge the Government on whether its railways go ahead.
My Lords, I want to say how much I agree with the sentiment expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, in his comprehensive speech. I was on the committee and, of course, I want this Bill to go ahead, but it is pretty pointless unless we see it as part of a much bigger project, which is to close the gaps between the north of England, the Midlands and London. I strongly support the argument that the eastern arm must go ahead, but I also support the idea that massive rail improvements must be attached to HS2. There must be an HS3-style cross-Pennine route; there must be a lot of investment in the provincial services that would link the towns of the north to the cities with HS2 links. This is a very grand project for Britain, but we have to face the fact that in terms of regional inequality we are one of the worst cases, if not the worst case, in western Europe. We have to do something to address that.
The Government have made a lot of their commitment to the levelling-up agenda. My view is that that agenda is not scattering around odd tens of millions in trying to brighten up town centres in the north of England; it should be a comprehensive plan for improving connectivity across the whole country, of which HS2 is a fundamental part.
I am speaking to your Lordships from Cumbria, and I am a Cumbria county councillor. A lot of my colleagues say to me, “Why are you so keen on HS2? That’s not going to do anything much for us.” I think it is. Those who say we should be spending our money instead on improving the Cumbria coastal line—well, yes, of course we should, for instance, be improving that; it is a provincial railway that needs much improvement—but the whole point of these local improvements is that we have to have much greater connectivity with the cities, London and the south-east.
I would like to make one point about poor connectivity in the north of England. There was a little flurry of debate over the summer about whether the House of Lords should be relocated to York. It would take me longer to get from Carlisle to York on the train than it does from Carlisle to London, so poor is the connectivity in the north of England. I would like to see very fast connections to London but also, as part of this, fast connections across the Pennines. This would make the journey to York, and places in the east Midlands, an awful lot quicker as well. We have this comprehensive plan for improving transport connectivity, and we are either serious about this levelling-up agenda or we are not. We need to know from the Government what their position is.
After the next speaker, I will call the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, who is present in the Grand Committee.
My Lords, first, I must pray for your indulgence, as a Member of your Lordships’ House who has not been here long enough to understand in depth all our procedures in handling legislation. My experience of procedure was gained in the other place. It was perhaps that background which made me think, as I looked at the amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, that it had all the smack of the Second Reading debate about it. Indeed, in the content of the speeches made already, we have ranged pretty far away from the literal purposes that could be ascribed to the amendment. However, I doff my metaphorical hat in the direction of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, recognising that he probably has greater paternity rights for HS2 than any other colleague.
It is a project that does excite me, for all sorts of different reasons. I am a Yorkshireman, and I certainly would be stung by any possibility that the full concept of HS2 was not to be completed, and that east of the Pennines was going to be neglected. I represented a Greater Manchester seat for a number of years in the House of Commons, and I also have great feeling for the mood that, somehow, the north—be it one side of the Pennines or the other—has been left behind. Therefore, I am heartened by the commitment that the Government have shown so far, even if it does not go as far as some noble Lords would wish.
I could also extend my geographical connections to the Welwyn Viaduct. I worked in Welwyn Garden City for about 10 years and it was a sight I saw every day. I recognise the tremendous constraints that presently exist on that railway. But I do not see how this amendment—although it has been the spark for the wide-ranging debate we have been having—actually helps matters, so far as the construction of phase 2a is concerned. It would be a danger, in fact: if we were to have prolonged debate about the necessity of HS2 phase 2b, that could actually delay progress on the West Midlands to Crewe section of the railway.
My last point is that the Government cannot afford to waste the political capital that they may be said to have gained in the last couple of years by their commitment, now confirmed, to this railway. It is fundamental to their credibility that progress must be made. I do not think that any lingering doubts that have been legitimately expressed by my noble colleagues should stop us cracking on with HS2 phase 2a. That in itself will create a momentum to see that, in due time, the whole job gets done.
My Lords, I thank the Select Committee and the chair for the report. At least two colleagues who are speaking to this amendment—the noble Lords, Lord Snape and Lord Liddle—were on the Select Committee and I think it did a good job. My only concern is that the House has not had the opportunity to receive the report formally and debate it, but that is something for a different day.
I do not support this amendment, but not for the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, might think. Whatever the timings of phase 2a—we can debate those at length—I think the Government are right to think again on 2b, particularly the east side. I hope they will also think again on the last part into Manchester. Several noble Lords have talked about the importance of regional services and I suppose my vision would be to see the north—and the Midlands—get a rail service that is as good as the commuting service around London. I think most noble Lords would agree that there is a big difference between them at the moment. That really affects the customers. You have to remember that most rail customers in those areas are doing short or medium journeys every day—or they were before coronavirus—and a lot of them are doing them by car. If the services were better, more reliable and more frequent, maybe, I think a lot of them would transfer to rail, which is good for the environment.
We have to debate whether it is more important for people in those centres to get to London more quickly or to go elsewhere. I was struck, going around with a short consultation for the Oakervee report, how many of the people we talked to in the regions were actually just as interested in going north—from, say, Leeds to Newcastle—as they were in going to London. As my noble friend Lord Liddle has said, he can get to London very quickly but he could not get to York quickly if the House ever moved there. He is actually arguing, with me, that the importance of regional services needs to be incorporated into the rethink of HS2—if this is what is happening.
The other thing about the present HS2 design is that it is wrong to terminate at buffer stops at Manchester and Leeds. The trend across Europe for many years has been not to have buffers if you can run trains straight through, because that saves a lot of space and perhaps a lot of cost, and gives much more flexibility. Of course, it is better for the passengers, too. Brussels, Lille and Lyon Satolas are examples. I could explain them all, but I do not think I need to. I hope that the Government will therefore take the time to listen to the various interests in the north and the Midlands and come up with a plan that integrates local and regional services with any faster link to London that they plan.
My other reason for wanting to speak today is to do with money. I am not going to start arguing about how much HS2 might or might not cost, but there is a question about how it might be financed. My understanding has always been that government would like to see HS2 financed in the private sector, certainly when the construction has moved forward. Of course, this is what happened with HS1, which, I think, was sold off to the private sector for about £2 billion.
HS1 is now in quite serious financial trouble because its revenue from Eurostar is evaporating, as are the Eurostar services. I am told that there will be only one return journey a day to Brussels and one to Paris from the beginning of December. Okay, the Javelins are still running, thanks to government support for domestic services, but I have to ask what the Government are doing to preserve the Eurostar service and HS1 while the coronavirus is stopping people travelling.
As the Minister will know, I have been asking for a long time how much money the Government are giving to the different modes of transport internationally from the UK to other parts of Europe and the Republic of Ireland. I am always told that that is confidential, but I can help her with that if she does not want to tell me. I can tell her from publicly available information that the Government are spending about £1.4 billion on helping the ferry services and the ports support Brexit, which I have no complaint about. There was the £12 million for the non-existent ferry service, which noble Lords will remember. Ministers seem very keen to spend a lot of money on the airlines. The Secretary of State made a speech on 19 October on sorting out airport slots. I am not sure why we need to sort out the slots, because nobody is flying much these days. The Government are spending £55 million on furlough for aviation employees, deferring loans and taxes, and providing £1.8 billion through Covid corporate financing, which, apparently, is 11% of total national funding under that programme, covering the whole sector.
We have to ask: why are the Government not doing anything to help the cross-channel passenger rail service? Noble Lords may know that, across Europe, the Commission has recommended that every member state reduce infrastructure charges or eliminate them entirely. France has done it for freight, and I hope it will do it for passengers. Eurostar, however, is losing £1 billion in revenue this year. This really cannot go on. What will it do? If it goes bust, presumably, it can sell the trains to the Germans because they work in Germany quite well. If ever anybody wanted to start going by train across the channel, it would probably take five years or so to get new trains. Surely there is a solution. HS1, when it was owned by the state, made about £2 billion for the Treasury. Surely the Treasury could give a little bit of it back.
I raise that issue in the context of this amendment to question gently: what is the point of building a new high-speed line north of London—be it 1, 2a, 2b west or 2b east, in any order we like—if the Government show so little support for high-speed rail as to allow HS1 possibly to go bust? If that happens, who in the private sector will invest in HS2 when they see the shabby way the Government are apparently treating the investors and owners of HS1 and Eurostar? I look forward to the Minister’s response.
My Lords, I support the principle behind this amendment. We need a clear statement from the Government endorsing the full HS2 project. Anything less would fundamentally undermine the economic and social case for HS2.
Building only phase 1, from London to Birmingham, would simply make Birmingham a suburb of London, bringing it within the commuter belt. Building only phase 2a would destroy much of the economic case for high-speed rail, because only the more southerly parts of the western route would benefit from the regenerative impact of HS2, and the possibilities for improving local rail connectivity in the Midlands and the north would be much diminished. Put all this together and HS2 becomes much more questionable as an investment.
Sums that seemed eye-watering only nine months ago seem rather less daunting now that we have experienced in recent months the short-term government expenditure necessary to save us from catastrophe. But the pandemic has proved that we now need to invest for a greener future and a more sustainable way of living, and HS2 is a vital part of that.
Reference has been made in this debate to a recent lack of passengers on the railways and other impacts of the coronavirus. We are going to move on from this; there will be a time when people get back on to the railways, and the buses. It is important that the Government encourage people to do that. Therefore, HS2 and its progress need to be part of that picture.
Nevertheless, we still have to ensure value for money, which you do not get if you abandon the full concept of HS2 in the name of cost-cutting. Instead, you destroy the economic case and undermine the environmental benefits, because you are not producing a high-speed railway that is able to compete with internal flights and long-distance car journeys. HS2 will provide additional capacity, taking long-distance passengers off existing lines and leaving spare capacity for more freight and for shorter journeys and commuter trips.
The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, raises the key issue of continuity. Building a railway is rather like having a mobile factory. The equipment and the skills move along the line with you as you build. Pause the process and the skilled workers disappear to other jobs and the equipment is repurposed, sold off and so on. Getting it all together again costs a lot more than just moving seamlessly on.
Behind this are the lessons of the electrification of the Great Western line, which reveal that message clearly. Expensive mistakes were made in the early stages because it was so long since any electrification of the railways had been done in UK that the expertise had to be built up from scratch. Further projects will inevitably be more cost-efficient, because the expertise, materials and equipment are all available now.
HS2 is, of course, already running well behind the original schedule, so there is a need to build it as quickly as possible. The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, addresses that issue in its intention. There is already talk that phase 2b might not be complete until 2040. That is totally unacceptable. The north-east, and the north beyond Crewe in the west, need regeneration now. HS2 is a large piece of the jigsaw of initiatives that are needed.
On 7 October, the Government announced a consultation on several aspects of phase 2b. That closes on 11 December. Can the Minister tell us when the results of that consultation are likely to be made public and what she thinks will be the timescale for the Government’s decisions on it?
We can already see the regenerative impact of HS2 in Birmingham, and shovels are hardly in the ground. The north-east leg via Nottingham to Leeds, and the further part of the western leg to Manchester, need the certainty of the Government’s unequivocal commitment to the whole of HS2 now. I will listen to the tone of the Minister’s response with great interest.
My Lords, in general, we view the amendment favourably. It seems to have two points to it. The first is to try to secure some continuity, as spelled out by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. The concept of continuity in railway construction is a sound one. Unfortunately, it is a sound principle that we tend not to keep to. The key part of the amendment seems to be the question of whether Her Majesty’s Government will commit to building HS2 phase 2b to Leeds in full. For the avoidance of doubt, Labour’s answer is that we fully support the HS2 concept and the concept that phase 2b should be built to Leeds in full.
I think we already know what the Minister will say. Andrew Stephenson was asked this question in the other place on 22 October. He said that
“when the Prime Minister gave the go-ahead to HS2 in February this year, he said that we were committed to delivering phase 2b but how phase 2b was delivered would be subject to the integrated rail plan. We have been making significant progress with the integrated rail plan. Sir John Armitt and the National Infrastructure Commission have already published their interim report. We look forward to their further recommendations and to responding to them before Christmas.”—[Official Report, Commons, 22/10/20; col. 1213.]
That caused me to look up the interim report, since it seems central to how the question posed in the amendment will be answered. When I found it and skimmed through it, I came up with two questions. The first is very simple: when will the final report on this issue be published? The interim report promises that it will be published in November. It should be noted that Andrew Stephenson said that it would be published by Christmas. If it were published in November, it might be available before we get to Report, which would be extremely useful. When does the Minister expect the report to be published and when does she expect the Government’s response?
The other perhaps disturbing feature of the interim report is the commitment to a very different methodology from that used in the past. Essentially, what is said about a plan depends on the methodology and assumptions in the analysis that answers the question, to what extent and to what standard should the railway be built? Can the Minister assure the Committee that the methodology and assumptions will produce an answer no less favourable to the Leeds branch than those used in HS2? Put another way, if the criteria used in the original HS2 decision would say yes to Leeds but the new criteria say no, surely, this cannot be levelling up. I have seen precious few examples of levelling up, and a failure to build HS2 phase 2b to Leeds—indeed, a failure to build HS2 in full—surely is a statement that the commitment to levelling up is meaningless.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, for tabling the amendment and all noble Lords who have taken part in this first debate in Committee on the HS2 phase 2a Bill. Before I go any further, on behalf of the Government, I extend my sincere thanks to the Select Committee. I am particularly grateful that its members agreed to undertake hearings for petitioners virtually. That was the first time this had been done and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and the other committee members did an incredible job in the most challenging of circumstances. Where petitioners chose to appear in person, the committee undertook hearings in a hybrid fashion and handled all the different ways of working with ease. I therefore put on record my thanks, and those of the Secretary of State and the Government as a whole, for its work and ensuring that we maintained momentum on this incredibly important Bill.
Turning, then, to the debate on this first amendment, I note that many noble Lords know what I will say. I hope I will not disappoint and that I will get my words right. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, is a great and very knowledgeable advocate for HS2 and I thank him for his continuing support for and dedication to getting the railway built, and for setting out so passionately his reasoning. Despite my appreciation for the noble Lord’s tenacity, I do not see that the amendment is needed. I also feel that potentially, it is very unhelpful.
There is simply no benefit or technical justification for making the progress of work on this section of railway—a very short one of just 36 miles, going from the West Midlands to Crewe, also known as phase 2a —contingent on the deposit of a Bill for the eastern leg of phase 2b. While the Bill is part of a much bigger project, as noted by the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, the amendment would delay works on phase 2a by a significant period, given the scale and complexity of hybrid Bills and the time needed for their preparation.
All being well, if we can get this Bill through your Lordships’ House, we expect work to commence in the early part of next year. It will not surprise noble Lords to hear that there is a window in the early part of next year in which the work needs to start; much of it is environmental work that is sometimes limited by the time of year in which it can take place. We do not want anything to delay the passage of the Bill and, therefore, the start of the works for phase 2a. Secondly, those works are intrinsically linked to work going on in phase 1. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, noted, continuity is really important. The two works will eventually proceed alongside one another. Therefore, it would be better to get the Bill through.
We have come a long way in the last 12 months or so since Second Reading. We had the Oakervee review, in which Douglas Oakervee said that the whole of HS2 should go ahead, but that the Bills for phase 2b —there will be Bills, not a single Bill—should not be introduced to Parliament before the publication of the integrated rail plan, which, as noble Lords will have heard me say before, is due to be published by the end of the year. Delaying the beginning of works on phase 2a until an eastern leg Bill has been deposited in Parliament would serve only to delay the phase 2a works and the benefits of HS2 reaching the north and the Midlands.
When this section of phase 2a was brought forward ahead of the rest of phase 2 of HS2 back in 2015, the idea was to accelerate the benefits that this 36-mile section secures. Events since that acceleration announcement in November 2015 have conspired to delay this Bill, which is why it is so important that we maintain momentum now. Nevertheless, I reassure all noble Lords that plans to provide the benefits of high-speed rail to the east Midlands, Yorkshire and beyond will be confirmed following the publication of the integrated rail plan. Both the Prime Minister and the Transport Secretary have been clear that it is not a case of “2b or not 2b”, and that a properly connected line from the Midlands up to the north will be a key part of the HS2 project.
As the Prime Minister recently confirmed, there will be a doubling down on the strategy to level up across the country. Delivering HS2 is a major part of it and the integrated rail plan, which looks specifically at connectivity, is a major part of getting it right. While I empathise with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and other noble Lords in wanting to have a debate about the broader aspects of the HS2 project, that is not for now. It is not for Committee on the phase 2a Bill, but I will write if there is further information on some of the points raised by noble Lords.
I want to see works on this section of the railway under way as soon as possible. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, wants to see that too and, on the basis of this reassurance, I trust he feels able to withdraw his amendment.
I have received no requests to speak after the Minister.
I am grateful to all colleagues who have spoken, and to the Minister for replying to the debate. To be absolutely clear, I have no intention whatever of seeking to delay phase 2a. This amendment is a device to get a debate on what is to happen to the scheme as a whole. I am completely with all of my colleagues who have said that the importance of this is that we cannot see phase 2a in isolation. We obviously would not build a 36-mile high-speed railway in isolation; the interaction between phases 2a and 2b is the essence of the project, and I therefore make no apology for tabling this amendment.
A lot of good points were raised in the discussion. I fully respect the fact that the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, did not support the project to start with but she made the critical point that to build a railway stopping in Birmingham, and therefore to deny the north the benefits of the scheme and extend them only to the Midlands, would be perverse and counterproductive.
The point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, about the importance of continuity and mobile factories was very well made. One reason why our infrastructure costs are so high in this country is because of the stop-go attitude we have adopted historically to the building of major infrastructure. She mentioned the electrification of the Great Western Railway, which I also authorised when I was Secretary of State. The estimate that I was given then, in 2009, for the entire cost of the electrification of the Great Western from London right through to Bristol, Cardiff and Swansea was £1 billion. The noble Baroness can probably tell me what the latest estimate is, but when I last checked I think it was heading towards £4 billion, and it has been substantially descoped. For example, it is not going to Bristol Temple Meads but will now stop at Cardiff, which I would be very concerned about if I was in south Wales, and it has been massively delayed. That goes to the heart of the point the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, made about continuity in projects. If we separate Birmingham to Leeds from Birmingham to Crewe and Manchester, and turn it into a separate project with discontinuity between the two, that alone would probably ultimately double or triple the cost of the project, as well as delaying it and therefore delaying its economic benefits.
My noble friend Lord Liddle said that there is a debate in the further north-west, going up towards Scotland in Carlisle and Cumbria, about the benefits. He is absolutely right that there will be direct benefits because it will take an hour off the journey time to Carlisle from London. However, he said that the saving in journey time would be to London and the south-east in that respect. It is absolutely crucial to understand that there is also a massive journey time saving to the Midlands, because the first stop on the line out of London is in the West Midlands and that is a huge benefit to the north-west, as it would be to the east Midlands and to Leeds if the eastern leg is built.
I am not going to respond to all the other points raised, except to congratulate my noble friend Lord Berkeley on his massive ingenuity in bringing in the services to Paris and Brussels. The Minister did not rise to that challenge but I assume that she will address it in due course.
Coming to the Minister’s response, I am now much more concerned. She speaks with such elegance that she is of course beguiling, but what she actually said in the content of her speech left me much more concerned after than before. She said something which I was not aware of before, but which I will take up and probe significantly on Report. She said that there will be Bills—plural—for phase 2b. I have never seen that stated by the Government in the past. It was always the intention, and I thought it still was the formal intention of Her Majesty’s Government, that phase 2b —that is, Crewe through to Manchester and Birmingham through to Leeds—would be encompassed in one hybrid parliamentary Bill, not more. Because I have sat on both sides of the fence, not just as Secretary of State but when in more recent times I was privileged to be on the board of HS2, I know that three years ago we were then preparing for a single Bill to take HS2 from Crewe through to Manchester, and Birmingham through to Sheffield and Leeds. I think that under the constrained proceedings of the Grand Committee, the Minister cannot respond to me again but maybe she might respond me to in writing.
The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, will know that because the hybrid Bills sometimes prove so challenging to get through, if they are too large, it was one of the recommendations of Oakervee to produce smaller Bills. It is, therefore, yes, one of the things that the Government are looking at.
I was not aware that the Government had stated that it was now their policy. The Minister has said that it is a matter of government policy this afternoon and that there would definitely not be a single Bill, so is it now the Government’s policy to separate the two?
My Lords, I say to my colleagues and friends who lead local authorities and are MPs for constituencies in the east Midlands and Yorkshire that they should take careful note of that extremely significant statement, because what it means is—and just at that point, the Division Bell rings.
Is it not? It is the Commons? It is so confusing. What that means is that the east Midlands—which has all the challenges of deprivation and economic growth referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, in his opening remarks—and Yorkshire will now definitely be downgraded relative to the north-west in the construction of HS2.
The important point about the separation of the hybrid Bills is that it will not just mean that the phasing is now separated, which risks the continuity referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe—he has huge experience of constructing railways, as a former managing director of London Underground, so he absolutely understands this point. If the Bills are to be handled and passed separately, it is also very likely that there will be a substantial period between what is now to become phase 2b and phase 2c—Birmingham to the east Midlands, Sheffield and Leeds—even if the Government proceed with phase 2c. The separation of the Bills makes it all the more likely that phase 2c will be delayed for a substantial period beyond phase 2b.
I am grateful to the Minister for replying to the debate but I am more concerned after her remarks than I was before, and I hope that local authority and political leaders in the east Midlands and Yorkshire will have taken very careful note of what the Government have said today—a categorical statement that they intend to downgrade and possibly deny entirely the benefits of HS2 to the east Midlands and Yorkshire.
As I said, there is a problem of language here. The Minister said it was the Government’s policy to provide the benefits of high-speed rail to the east Midlands and Yorkshire. There is no way you can provide the benefits of high-speed rail to the east Midlands and Yorkshire unless you provide high-speed rail to the east Midlands and Yorkshire. The Government are using weasel words such as “benefits of” without making the commitment which must flow from that if these words are to have real meaning—actually to build the high-speed line. The Minister is smiling at me but the one thing she will not do, and has not done today, is make a commitment actually to build this railway. I say to her, as I say to the local authority leaders and MPs in these regions, that they must not accept a shedload of waffle from the Government about benefits, reviews, staging or integrated plans if there is not a commitment actually to build the railway.
At the end of the day there will either be a railway or not be a railway and the whole tendency of government policy at the moment is not to build the railway from Birmingham to Leeds, and that will have a really devastating impact on the society and economies of the east Midlands, Yorkshire and the north-east if that is the case. I make no apology for raising this issue. I will return to it on Report. But at this stage—does the Minister wish to come back? I am very keen that she does.
She would like to very briefly come back. I will not take a shedload of waffle from the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, either. He has taken a simple statement—that a very large and complex Bill may be broken up into smaller Bills to make it more manageable—in a direction which certainly was not the intention of those words and I cannot believe he has been able to read that into them. Be that as it may, all I have done is confirm that one big Bill may be split into smaller Bills. That is it.
We cannot have a debate. To clarify the procedure: if the proposer of an amendment, in their winding-up remarks, asks a further question of the Minister, the Minister may respond to those remarks. There is not then the opportunity—
Just to clarify again: if the proposer of an amendment, in their winding-up remarks, raises a question for the Minister, the Minister may respond to it. We cannot have a further debate in Grand Committee under the current system.
Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Clause 1 agreed.
Clauses 2 to 22 agreed.
We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 2. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate.
2: After Clause 22, insert the following new Clause—
“Report on the excavation of burial sites and removal of monuments
(1) Within six months of the day on which this Act is passed the Secretary of State must lay before Parliament a review of the excavation of burial sites and the removal of monuments undertaken in the process of construction relating to works authorised by this Act.(2) The review must make an assessment of how successful the operations listed in subsection (1) were, in particular with reference to—(a) consultation with local residents; and(b) the response from the wider public.(3) The report may make a recommendation as to how the operation of future excavations and removals of monuments relating to works authorised by this Act can be improved.”
My Lords, this is very much a probing amendment, designed to give the Minister the opportunity to place on the record a description of the approach that HS2 intends to take to a very sensitive issue and to explain the lessons it feels it has learned from the experience of phase 1.
Briefly, Schedule 20 deals with the removal of remains and monuments from burial grounds. This featured as a major issue in phase 1, in both Euston and Birmingham. It attracted a great deal of publicity and aroused some public concern that on occasions the approach was rather heavy-handed. In Birmingham 6,500 skeletons were exhumed from a 19th-century graveyard; in Euston it was 50,000 skeletons. It took three years to do this and it counts as one of the UK’s largest ever archaeological programmes. We have learned a great deal about the past, not just from the gravestones but from various other artefacts.
There are no known burial grounds on the route up to Crewe for HS2 but there is always a possibility that one might be found and, assuming that 2b is built—as I hope—there are likely to be similar issues there.
The provisions in the Bill set out the procedures required of HS2 and there is an assumption that if remains are more than 100 years old, there is unlikely to be an objection from relatives of the deceased. There are provisions in the Bill to allow archaeological examination where appropriate and to allow all this to be done within an appropriate timescale, so that relatives may apply to remove and rebury remains, if they wish. Can the Minister assure us that this worked smoothly and sensitively in relation to phase 1?
Then there are provisions on how the monuments should be dealt with, including their removal and re-erection, the right to move them to another place—I assume that this means a museum, in general—and the right to deface them or break them up. That is an issue on which I wish to press the Minister. How exhaustive will the searches and historical studies be before what are historical records, in essence, are defaced? Do we have guarantees that it is not left just to HS2 to decide whether or not these gravestones are important? Are academics, genealogists, local records offices and other relevant people fully involved and are full records kept and placed in the public domain?
We should bear in mind that when you visit a graveyard, that is always a public domain. You are free to look round, consider and view the history that is there. It is important that if, for example, photographs are taken, they are public and easily accessible to those wishing to research history. The historian in me always worries when the destruction of historical records occurs. I accept that keeping thousands of gravestones may be impractical, but we need the record of what they were so that the lives of the people concerned are not completely erased from our history. I look forward to the Minister’s response. I beg to move.
My Lords, I will be brief. I have enormous sympathy for what the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, is saying, as a sort of historian myself, who appreciates wanting to understand our past and to conserve it as best we can. However, I sat on the committee that heard the petitions and, to my recollection, we did not have any requests or complaints of this kind. I would have thought that this would have come up in our deliberations if there were serious issues of this kind on this section of the line.
My Lords, I would like to see huge, wholescale changes made to the high-speed rail programme but in the meantime, reporting and reviewing its impact is important so that Parliament and the public can properly scrutinise HS2. The burial and disposition of the dead has a deeply symbolic and important status in every culture. I might be alone in those contributing to this debate in, as a new archaeologist, having dug up a skeleton—a Roman skeleton that was nearly 2,000 years old. However, the skeleton was still treated with respect and dignity. I imagine that most of us would accept that that is normal when dealing with the remains of the buried. I would say also, as an archaeologist, that the information you can get from bones is fantastically useful.
There is an inherent aversion to disturbing the dead. Amendment 2 seeks to improve the excavation of burial sites by HS2 through a process of reporting and evaluation, which is utterly sensible. I hope that the Government will pick up this amendment and use it as an indication of respect for the remains that are being disturbed.
My Lords, I should like, first, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Vere of Norbiton, for their kind words about the work of the committee which I had the honour of chairing. This allows me the opportunity to thank the members of the committee who served with me through the various stages of our protracted proceedings. They were all a pleasure to work with, and I owe a great deal to their experience and the thoughtful contributions they made to our debates as we listened to the various petitioners whose concerns we had to deal with. It is also right to thank the broadcasting team, who had a very difficult job not only in dealing with us when we were sitting virtually, but when we came back to the Committee Room and sat in a hybrid fashion. They were with us in the room and I had first-hand experience of their difficulties in trying to set up those communications. I offer them my sincere thanks, as well as to the members of the committee.
Turning to the amendment, I am very much in sympathy with what lies behind the request of the noble Baroness for great care to be taken in dealing with artefacts of this kind, in particular historical monuments and remains. Like the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, I have to say that our attention was not drawn to any burial sites or monuments at any stage during the proceedings. I would have expected the relevant parish council to have done that if there were any burial sites of substantial size, and certainly monuments. One thinks of war memorial monuments, for example. I am pretty sure that we would have been told if any were on the line of the route or within the trace—the areas to either side of the route that will be used for construction purposes. There was no suggestion that problems of that kind were likely to occur.
I think the noble Baroness would wish me to say that there is always the unexpected. As soon as you start digging up ground, you find out what is beneath it. One has to be alive to the fact that in the course of the works, things may be discovered that no one knew were there before, but which turn out to be of historical interest. So, like the noble Baroness, I expect an assurance from the Minister that great care will be taken if, by any chance, something of this kind is discovered. The works should be stopped so that an assessment can be made by qualified persons of how the remains, monuments or historical artefacts, if there be any, can be best preserved before they proceed any further. I do not imagine that that would cause a great deal of delay; it is important that we do not lose these historical records before they are gone for ever.
I agree with everything that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, has just said. I would just add one point. Crossrail has considerable experience of burial sites and monuments and is generally acknowledged to have dealt with them sensitively and to have made a significant contribution to the archaeological history of Britain. In respect of dealing properly with human remains, it has been extremely sensitive at every stage and has arranged for reburial as appropriate. I would have thought that the Crossrail experience offers a good example to HS2.
My Lords, I generally support this amendment, which is really about tone.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, and my noble friend Lord Adonis have touched on the question of the treatment of any burial sites and monuments that we come across. I felt sure that there was something, somewhere that requires HS2 to show some respect in this regard. My research shows that an information paper on burial grounds was published on 15 February 2019 for the Bill before us. Paragraph 3.1 states:
“Any human remains affected by the Proposed Scheme will be treated with all due dignity, respect and care. Any impact caused by works to construct the Proposed Scheme on human remains and associated monuments is an emotive and complex matter and HS2 Ltd and the Promoter recognise their duty to address the concerns of individuals and communities.”
The essence of that assurance is that any remains should be treated with
“all due dignity, respect and care.”
Had that been carried into the Bill, perhaps through some wording in the Explanatory Notes, one would feel that this would be handled sensitively. During the works for the Jubilee Line extension we did end up building through burial sites, and we were sensitive to how that was managed. I think that we caused no offence as a result.
Unfortunately, no reference is made to “dignity, respect and care” in the rest of that document. Nowhere in Schedule 20 is there any sense of that, nor is it set out in the Explanatory Notes. I hope that the Minister will find some way of assuring the Committee that those key cultural attitudes to burial sites will be carried through in the execution of the project.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, for tabling this important amendment. As she will be aware, I wrote to her on this matter at the end of last week and I have shared that letter with other noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. When I am not taking HS2 Bills through the Lords, I am the roads Minister and am well aware that one can make finds at any point in the construction process. Highways England has very good systems to deal with this, and I am very pleased to be able to tell noble Lords that HS2 does, too.
However, it is worth pointing out that no gravestones, monuments, burial grounds or human remains have so far been identified along the phase 2a route. The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, mentioned that they had not come across this issue in the Select Committee, and that is why we do not expect to make such finds. However, as noted by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, that does not mean that such artefacts will not be there. Human remains and monuments are often discovered during construction and if this happens, requirements are already in place for HS2. They are set out in great detail in the Heritage Memorandum, which is one of the Environmental Minimum Requirements. There is also the phase 2a burial grounds, human remains and monuments procedure. These documents ensure that the right approach is taken—one very much in line with that set out by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope.
Unsurprisingly, given their importance, these documents are lengthy and extensive, but I am happy to share links to them or the documents themselves with Members of the Committee if they have an interest. The procedure goes into great detail about what happens to human remains and associated monuments if they are discovered during HS2 work. Obviously, a large number of archaeologists work for HS2, as is always the case in transport infrastructure projects.
The procedure that has been set out for phase 2a very much builds on that prepared for phase 1. It has been developed in consultation with stakeholders, most notably the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, Historic England and the Ministry of Justice, and it includes ongoing monitoring by those stakeholders. In the first instance, where a monument is required to be moved as a result of the works, the nominated undertaker must comply with any reasonable request of a family member or personal relative of the deceased. Where a relative or representative does not come forward, the conversation then goes to the Archbishops’ Council and the relevant diocesan advisory committee in the case of the Church of England, or the relevant religious organisation in the case of other Christian denominations or other religions. Working together, a suitable alternative site for the monument will be sought.
Like the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, I was concerned about why you would ever break up a monument. In most circumstances, one would hope that an appropriate site would be found, whether a museum or a churchyard—all sorts of different sites are appropriate. However, one cannot risk these items being used inappropriately, because that would be extremely disrespectful, and one would not want to see that. What HS2 does is in line with existing ecclesiastical law and church practice.
There are many papers and documents which accompany the Bill, including a series of memoranda which explain much more about this in detail. They set out the programme of archaeological work that goes on, including the recording of human remains and associated monuments and gravestones of historic interest. The records are available to the public, and at all stages of any finds, HS2 engages with local authority specialists, notably archaeological advisers and conservation of historic buildings staff, and of course Historic England. Certainly, what is set out at the moment is a continuation and a refinement of what has happened in phase 1, and it takes account of best practice across the transport infrastructure investment community.
I trust that I have reassured the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and that she feels able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I have received no request to speak after the Minister, so I call the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson.
I very much thank noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I was particularly pleased that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, spoke with such assurance about this issue because of the importance of their committee. I have looked at their excellent report to see whether there was reference to this, and of course the reason it did not deal with something that was consuming me was because it had not concerned anyone else in this specific case. As far as I am concerned, that is very good news.
However, I accept entirely what other noble Lords have said, which is that there could well be an unexpected find of this nature. As a teenager, I spent a very interesting and productive summer chipping away at the ground and sweeping with a small brush at the Fishbourne Roman villa, which many noble Lords will recall was in itself a very unexpected find at the time. Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, I did not find any skeletons, but I found a very small piece of pottery, which made the whole summer worth while.
I emphasise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who pointed out the impact and importance of Crossrail, and the archaeological finds and burials, for example, that have been found as part of the Crossrail construction. It has been a treasure trove of additional historical knowledge about that route through London, so it is very important historically indeed.
The Minister has been very helpful, and I thank her for her assistance in her letter and for her reassurance today. My intention was exactly as has transpired this afternoon. I have now on the record in Hansard clear points about the process, where you can find information on it, and an assurance that it will not just be left to HS2 or any other undertaker to decide what is or is not of historical value. I am therefore happy to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Clauses 23 to 48 agreed.
We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 3. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate.
Clause 49: Power to apply Act to further high speed rail works
3: Clause 49, page 20, line 44, at end insert—
“( ) A TWA order which relates to an extension or works referred to in subsection (2) may also provide for any provision of this Act to cease to have effect to the extent that the content of the TWA order replaces it.”Member’s explanatory statement
This is intended to clarify the extent to which a Transport and Works Act Order may be used to alter the proposals under the Bill, and the means by which one may be obtained.
This is very much a probing amendment so that we can have a debate about the role that Transport and Works Act orders play in and around a hybrid Bill. I will talk about one or two examples but I want to stick to the principle. This has been raised many times during the passage of many previous hybrid Bills, and the problem does not go away. This particular Bill and the transcript of the Select Committee hearings give us some interesting issues to debate.
As I think all noble Lords know, a hybrid Bill is a public Bill which includes private interests. A Select Committee is therefore appointed in each House and follows very similar procedures, except that if anyone—including the Government or a petitioner—wants to propose small changes to the Bill, in the House of Commons, which is usually the first House on these occasions, that is quite often done by an additional provision. However, it cannot be done in the Lords, for very good timetabling reasons. The only other option is for it to be done by way of a Transport and Works Act order process. That is provided for in Clause 49, and my small amendment seeks to clarify the extent to which it could be used. However, to some extent that is not really the question I want to debate and put to the Minister.
Going back to the phase 2 Bill, which is what we are talking about, we have talked before about the Stone railhead. It has been discussed in the House of Commons and in debates here, and when the Minister kindly had a meeting with a number of noble Lords last week it came up then. However, I do not want to discuss that—except to say that some people, the promoters, believe that it will save £98 million and could be completed three years earlier, but that is a question for debate. Something similar has happened on phase 1 regarding Wendover, which has also been rejected by the Government because they will not do a Transport and Works Act order there. It is said that that would save £300 million and save between one and three years, with enormous environmental benefits; I know that because I used to live around there.
I do not want to discuss the pros and cons but I want to explore why the Government have decided that there should be no alterations to hybrid Bills in the second House, even arguing that alternatives that require a Transport and Works Act order, the only option open to petitioners to the second House, should not even be discussed in the Select Committee. I understand why they might not want that, but the extent to which Mr Strachan, the government counsel in the Select Committee, went to long and repeated lengths to tell the committee that it really should not go for a Transport and Works Act order was extraordinary. I could read out several paragraphs but I will save the Committee, except to draw attention to paragraphs 146 and 165 on 16 March. I can find no instance in the transcript of the Government instructing the committee that it should not use the Transport and Works Act, but I would say that it was almost threatened by the government counsel that it really should not do so. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, who chaired the committee so well, said in paragraph 9 of Appendix 2 in the committee’s report that
“certain petitioners have suggested that changes similar to those that might be made by additional provision might instead be effected through an order under the Transport and Works Act 1992; that would involve a process which is separate from the parliamentary process on this Bill, and it is highly unlikely that we could be persuaded that there was any recommendation that we could … make.”
I find that extraordinary, given that the Transport and Works Act option is included in Clause 49, something that Mr Strachan did not draw to the committee’s attention. Since he spent the whole day introducing the project to the committee, which I am sure was necessary, it is surprising that he did not raise it.
Even more surprising is the precedent in phase 1 where the Government are proposing a tunnel in place of a viaduct, I think, at a place called Bromford by a Transport and Works Act order, claiming that the tunnel will increase its length by almost double, remove the need for complex engineering and so on. I believe that the Government are proposing another one at Calvert. My contribution is going to go on for some time, incidentally, so if the Chair wants me to stop then I will. These procedures that the Government are doing are exactly the same as the Wendover one. It seems to me that the decisions are taken out of the hands of the committee in order to be made by the Government and their own promoter, who have very good reasons for resisting change. That limits the ability of petitioners, who on the whole do not have highly paid lawyers, to put their case against what I would call guerrilla warfare by government counsel to close down debate, making the Government both judge and jury. I have been involved in Transport and Works Act processes and hybrid Bill processes and I find that conflict very odd.
I have been debating with the Minister, Andrew Stephenson MP, over probably six months about the Wendover case because, quite surprisingly, the petitioners are proposing a tunnel under the hillside behind Wendover through chalk, which is exactly the same material—chalk, clay, lower chalk and upper chalk—that we had in the Channel Tunnel, which I was involved in, as my noble friend Lord Snape will probably remember. Having been told for the last six months that the geological information was confidential, the petitioners have finally got hold of it. Even more surprisingly, their technical advisers are the same contractors who built the tunnel through Castle Hill and the Channel Tunnel using the same methodology with no problem at all. However, Andrew Stephenson’s letter to me, dated 21 September this year, says that the short-line tunnel, as it is called, is not a viable or safe method of construction. I just give that as an example; I may be wrong and the petitioners may be wrong, but it is not a fair assessment for the Government to make statements such as that, supported only by the people they are paying, without some kind of independent assessment of how it could be done, with both parties being treated equally.
My question is: how can Parliament force Ministers to think again and accept that some petitioners’ views can be accommodated without a loss of face, time or money? I want to propose one or two options, if I still have time. The nuclear one in terms of House of Lords procedures is for me to move a Motion on Report to commit a part of the Bill to a new Select Committee to examine certain bits that could be taken forward by a Transport and Works Act order if the committee thought that was a good idea. That is allowed within paragraph 8.118 of the Companion, which I am not going to read out as noble Lords can read it for themselves. That process would allow petitioners to make their case in a more balanced environment, request and receive the necessary evidence with no problem of confidentiality and bring in experts to support their case. As we all know, Transport and Works Act orders can be processed very quickly if Ministers want them to be; equally, they can take several years if Ministers do not. We all know that and I do not want to comment on it. I say to the Minister, in the pursuit of some intention of fairness towards petitioners, that this needs resolving, not just now but for future Bills.
I have three questions. First, does the Minister accept that the Transport and Works Act option is available for use with a hybrid Bill? Secondly, does she agree that the committee and the petitioners appear to have been misled by government counsel into thinking that they should not really consider a Transport and Works Act option unless the Government thought of it first? I expect that she will say no to that one, but it is worth trying.
Thirdly, and more constructively, will she arrange a meeting with HS2 and her department on those two issues and on the principles of how we could take this forward in a more inclusive manner? That would bring benefits to petitioners who have so far failed to have their petitions accepted, and I believe there are others as well. Does she agree that if the arguments for the alternatives are positive or balanced then the Government could agree to take forward these two examples along with others through the Transport and Works Act order process in place of the relevant parts of the Bill?
I hope that she will agree some or all of those because I could seek to persuade the House to set up a new Select Committee, as I have outlined, but I do not really want to and I hope that we can have some meetings first. I beg to move.
My Lords, I was having some difficulty following the arguments of my noble friend. He could of course move the motion he referred to on Report, but I can confidently predict that it would not be accepted by the House. Indeed, I am not sure that many other noble Lords would give it the time of day, precisely because we have had this exhaustive procedure up until now. Essentially, cutting through what my noble friend said—he has of course wanted to stop the scheme all the way through and has been a deep contrarian in that regard—he wants to create new avenues for opponents to stop the scheme. I recognise that, and it is a perfectly honourable thing to want to do.
What Parliament has to judge is whether the processes we have are robust and fair. My view is that they are very robust and very fair. They give complainants and people presenting petitions ample opportunity to make their case. The arrangements that pertain between the two Houses are there to keep a proper sense of proportion in the consideration of the petitions, so that all of the issues raised—the petitioning process is exhaustive and expensive—are not repeated ad nauseam in the second House. That is why the Private Bill arrangements are in place: so that you cannot re-open in the second House, as fully as my noble friend would wish, issues that have been considered by the first House. That seems to me to be perfectly reasonable. It does not withdraw the rights of petitioners to have their concerns properly assessed by Parliament. What it does is put in place a procedure that is fair and proportionate for the consideration of those petitions, which is very different.
The reason why my noble friend Lord Berkeley wants the TWA process to apply is that he is not content with parliamentary consideration of these petitions, and he therefore wants petitioners to be able to create a wholly new and additional process: the TWA process. That is grossly disproportionate. The point he made about changes to the first phase of the project, from London to Birmingham, confuses apples and pears. If you are going to make changes to legislation that has already been agreed by Parliament, you have no alternative but to go for a TWA-type process, unless you are going to produce an entirely new Bill. That is a completely separate issue from seeking to layer on top of parliamentary consideration of the Bill a wholly new process—the TWA process—while this legislation is going through and petitions are being considered. I do not think, having had close acquaintance with the processes, that petitioners are treated in any way unfairly. The arrangements between the two Houses give them ample opportunity, and the power is there for Parliament to make fundamental changes in respect of petitions that are raised between the two Houses. The allocation of responsibilities between the two Houses is laid down by convention.
What my noble friend Lord Berkeley wants to do, essentially, is to stop the scheme; I accept that. He wants to create as many possible avenues of further appeal and expense—this would add to expense—to delay it. Any reasonable observer, particularly those looking at the work of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and his committee and the committee in the House of Commons, would think that Parliament has struck a fair and proper balance between the power of the Executive to propose a major project of this kind and the duty of Parliament to see that all private interests are properly considered before agreement is reached.
My Lords, I very much agree with what my noble friend Lord Adonis has just said and disagree with my noble friend Lord Berkeley. As a member of the Select Committee, I did not feel bullied by the government counsel on this question. We considered the issue in depth, and the reasons why we said we would not consider such orders seemed valid in the light of that discussion. I am sure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, can give a much more elegant legal explanation of these issues than I can.
When the Bill goes through the Commons, the Select Committee can recommend fundamental changes to the route of the line by making additional provisions, but the convention has been established that the Lords does not revisit these questions on petitions that are made to it. Therefore, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, announced at the start of our proceedings that we would not be recommending additional provisions and would be sticking with the convention. Then, of course, people say, “You could use transport and works orders”, but, in effect, they another form of additional provision. As I understand it, if this point were conceded, the decision-making process would be taken out of Parliament and put into the hands of the Secretary of State. It would then be subject to all the arguments about judicial review and whether things have been done properly that have bedevilled plans for airport expansion in this country, for example.
As a non-lawyer, I was totally persuaded by the argument that we should not contemplate these orders. We listened to the argument that was made in the infamous case of the Stone depot, and I was totally unpersuaded that, even if we had had the power to make such an order, it was actually sensible.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his kind words when he spoke in support of his amendment, although I did detect a hint of criticism. I am not going to respond to that, but instead offer, if I may, the Minister some guidance in responding to this issue, based on my experience as a lawyer.
Everything that the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, has said, I agree with. He set the scene very well indeed, but I would like to make it clear that there is a good deal more substance to the point he made, which I would like to touch upon. Before I go further, lest there be any misunderstanding, I should make it clear that in my view, the petitioner who raised the issue about the Stone IMB-R—the railhead at Stone—was not in any way attempting to delay the scheme or have it cancelled. It was a genuine attempt to put forward an alternative method of dealing with the very complex issue of how the railhead should be constructed. It raised all sorts of other questions, such as ground conditions. They put forward a genuine issue in good faith. The question is: should we have gone further, to the point of making a direction? It should not be forgotten that a committee like ours, after hearing a petition, either makes an order or does not. In this case, it would have been a direction to HS2 to proceed by a TWA.
Proceeding by way of a TWA is not a simple matter. It is not a foregone conclusion that, just by asking for an order to be granted, it will be granted. The statute lays down a procedure that involves the making of objections, for obvious reasons, because people whose land would be taken have to be given a chance to be heard, and it would result in the holding of a public inquiry. One has to bear in mind, given the stage at which the issue was raised with us, that there is the very considerable question whether the time and effort involved, were we to make such a direction, would be justified.
The procedure the Select Committee operated was devised particularly for those whose property interests are directly and specially affected, who should be able to make representations one way or another for their position to be carefully considered. The Stone railhead issue was not one of those cases where individuals were directly and specially affected in bringing forward issues for us to consider. What was brought before us was an interest on behalf of a community.
This raises issues as to how a committee of that kind should deal with issues brought forward by a community that will give rise to a substantial amount of expert evidence and debate as to the side of the argument on which the issue should be decided. If we had proceeded with the invitation that we should deal with this in detail, I would have foreseen that we would have to consider the issue in much greater detail than was available to us on the day we heard it. I say that as someone who has dealt with many public inquiries, and private legislation procedure too, when issues of this kind have been raised. It would involve hearing expert evidence, hearing expert evidence in reply, assessing that evidence and making a detailed judgment as to how the issue should be finally resolved. For a committee in the second House to engage in that kind of procedure would be a major hurdle in the way the whole process would be handled, which we would simply not be prepared to contemplate, given that the opportunity to raise issues of this kind was available in the House of Commons as the first House.
I hope I have made it clear that these issues are very difficult and that it is not enough for somebody to argue a case as forcefully as was indeed argued before us to think they should be given what they wanted. It would require careful assessment. If it went to the point of an TWA order there would be considerable expense of time and money in getting the issue debated. I do not wish to underestimate the importance of the issue, but it was not one we could properly contemplate given the nature of the proceedings we were dealing with.
I recognise that we will need to consider at some point—not now, of course—how the procedures we are dealing with should be reformed or improved. I come back to the point that they were devised primarily to deal with individuals whose property interests were directly affected. This case is not one of them. There may be other ways of dealing with details of this kind that we can perhaps discuss at a later stage.
I have one final point. I researched, with the assistance of the committee’s clerk, whether there is any example of a Select Committee making a direction that a TWA should be resorted to. I am told that there is no example that a committee in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords has made such a direction. There was a TWA order for Bromley, which HS2 will know about because it asked for it. There is of course power in the Bill for it to do so in the case of the Stone railhead should it decide, having made further investigations, that it is necessary. That is not a matter for the committee I sat on and I respectfully suggest it is not a matter for the House.
As for the suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, that the matter should be remitted to a fresh Select Committee, I am entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis: I cannot see that that would get anywhere. It would get back to the same problem I have been suggesting: that committee would have to consider whether it would make a direction that a TWA should be ordered. I regard that as a very difficult decision and any further committee would hesitate long and hard before it made such a direction. I would be hugely surprised if it reached a different conclusion from that which we reached.
I leave it there, stressing that I recognise that a genuine point was raised and it was not an attempt to delay or bring the project to an end. That was not the point, but it was not one we could properly deal with as we were being asked to do.
I say simply that I accept entirely the arguments advanced by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope. I agree that the procedure is cumbersome and expensive and I would be very pleased to see some reforms brought forward in due course, but I am sorry, I cannot agree with the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley.
My Lords, I have to admit that I barely understand this debate. I did my best to research it and it seemed to be about giving the promoter considerable flexibility to exercise powers under the TWA procedure to create opportunities for activity on land that might be outside the Bill, as well as other rights to do things. I am sure the Minister, briefed by her excellent team, fully understands what this is all about and I will be very grateful if she explains it to me, ideally in words of one syllable.
My Lords, I thought that the noble Lords, Lord Adonis and Lord Liddle, did a very good job of making many of my points for me. Then, of course, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, came in and did a proper job on the matter in hand. I will play this with a straight bat and read out what I have here, which I thought I understood when I read it through over the weekend. I hope this will be helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. It was certainly helpful to me. When I got to the end of it I thought, “Right, I get this,” so here we go.
It is normal practice on major infrastructure projects such as HS2 or Crossrail that, during construction, further planning consent needs to be sought for details of the scheme that were not anticipated when it passed through Parliament. One of the means for doing this in relation to railway works is an order made under the Transport and Works Act 1992, known as a Transport and Works Act order.
During its construction, Crossrail has had three such orders, addressing changes in station design at Whitechapel, stabling arrangements at Plumstead and connections between platforms at Paddington, all of which arose from continuing discussions on the design and operation of the railway after the Crossrail Bill was enacted. Phase 1 of HS2 has had one Transport and Works Act order so far, in that case for new sidings near Calvert Green for use by a waste-to-energy facility. This was to honour an assurance given to the operator of the facility during the passage of the phase 1 Bill. The facility could not be included in the scheme because of the time needed to develop the proposals, which would have unduly delayed progress. As we build phase 1, it may be found that there is a need for more orders.
I will mention briefly the process that such a Transport and Works Act order goes through. The application for the order is submitted to the relevant Secretary of State—in England that would be the Transport Secretary and in Wales it would be the Welsh Government. The applicant must then make the application public by publishing notices in local newspapers, by writing to people directly affected, by posting notices near the works and by notifying specified organisations. If the scheme is large, the applicant may be required to hold public information events. It is clear that such orders go through a large amount of consultation.
People who wish to object then have six weeks to notify the relevant decision-maker of their objections. If there are many objections or if there are statutory objectors—those who are considered directly affected because their land is being bought compulsorily, for example—there may be a public inquiry. A recommendation on the application for the order will then be made to the Secretary of State, who will ultimately make the decision as to whether it should be approved. There may also be a need for the applicant to apply separately for planning permission, but that is another process.
If an application for a Transport and Works Act order were to be made in relation to phase 2a of the railway, Clause 49 would allow such an order to adopt, as necessary, any provision of the Bill so that the works were constructed within the same legal and planning framework as the rest of the scheme. Further, Schedule 1 to the Bill allows any engineering work shown on the plans and sections that were submitted alongside the Bill to be substituted by a work not so shown. Any such work would still be bound by the environmental minimum requirements of the scheme. What this amendment seeks is already addressed in the Bill.
However, we know that the amendment is not entirely about that. I know that the hybrid Bill process in this House can be a little frustrating. As I said to the noble Lord when discussing his amendment with him last week and as I will repeat now, it is accepted practice on the basis of fairness that, as the second House to consider the Bill, it cannot make amendments that would extend the powers in it; for example, to acquire new rights over land to change the route. This practice was confirmed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, as chair of the Select Committee that considered this Bill and by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Walker, who chaired the Select Committee that considered the phase 1 Bill in 2016. The Select Committee chaired by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, also considered the suggestion that instructing the promoter to make an amendment to the scheme through a Transport and Works Act order would provide a valid alternative to taking powers in the Bill. The committee did not take this view.
I agree that this is the right approach. Such a committee directing the outcome of an application for a Transport and Works Act order without the formal application being made and therefore without any such change going through the process I described would be unfair. It would take away the opportunity for those who wished to object to have their concerns heard.
I agree with the conclusions of both committee chairs. It is right that if a Transport and Works Act order was necessary, any such order should be entirely outside the scope of the Bill, but I would add that any such order, being associated with phase 2a of HS2, should attract the environmental protections that this scheme offers. The amendment would do nothing to change the ability of the nominated undertaker to use a Transport and Works Act order to amend the scheme; nor would its use in a future HS2 Bill allow the Select Committee in the second House to adopt a different approach. The Bill makes sure this is the case. I trust that this fully explains the stance that the Government take on this matter.
However, I am given to understand that the House authorities are considering a further consultation on the hybrid Bill process in the near future. If the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has an issue with that process, he may wish to participate in those discussions—I am sure that his input would be welcome. As such, I wonder whether he might withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I have had no requests to speak after the Minister, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley.
My Lords, I am very sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but I am sure that he can hear that a Division is under way. The Committee will adjourn for five minutes to allow noble Lords to register their vote.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I had not intended this to be something on which to divide the House; it is a probing amendment. I said that I would never convince my noble friend Lord Adonis that I am not trying to stop this; I am just trying to suggest some ideas of how to ensure that petitioners feel that they have been treated fairly, because there will be many more of these hybrid Bills in the future.
I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for his comments and to the Minister for her explanation of Transport and Works Act orders. We all agree on the process and whether it is fast or slow does not make any difference. For me, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, put his finger on it. The question is whether, if a committee wished to see a change that could not be done by an additional provision and would therefore have to be done by a Transport and Works Act order, the committee would be able to give a direction either to the Government or to the House. I have taken advice on this from some of the experts and we do not have an answer, as the noble and learned Lord said.
As the Minister said, there will be a consultation on the hybrid Bill process generally. These are the kinds of issues that we should be looking at. We all want to see railway improvements, subject to a few criteria here and there; if a railway needs a new bit of line and it needs a hybrid Bill, so be it—that is the process that we use. It will help everyone, however, if it is done in the least confrontational and least expensive way, so that the petitioners can feel that they have had a good hearing and have been treated fairly and can be reasonably happy with the result. I look forward to discussing this further, not as part of this Bill, and I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.
Amendment 3 withdrawn.
Clause 49 agreed.
Clauses 50 to 58 agreed.
My Lords, we come now to the group beginning with Amendment 4. I inform the Committee that it is intended to propose a short break in proceedings for 15 minutes after the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate.
4: After Clause 58, insert the following new Clause—
“Quarterly reports on environmental impact, costs and progress
(1) The Secretary of State must publish quarterly reports on the scheduled works throughout the period in which those works take place.(2) Each such report must contain an assessment of—(a) environmental impact;(b) costs, including costs of land acquisition;(c) progress; and(d) revenue forecasts and Cost Benefit Analyses,compared to the relevant information contained in the Bill documentation.(3) The first such report must be laid before Parliament within the period ending three months after the day the scheduled works commence.(4) Each subsequent report must be laid before Parliament within three months of the publication of the last report under this section.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment seeks to require the Government to provide consistent, regular and complete reports to Parliament.
My Lords, after I put this amendment down, it was slightly taken over by events in the form of an interesting letter from the Public Accounts Committee to the Permanent Secretary at the Department for Transport dated 4 November. I was interested in the comments made during the various stages in the Commons on this Bill, when many Members of Parliament were critical of the way HS2 handled issues in their constituencies. This came from all parts of the House. From what I have read and heard, this criticism was much more justified because the situation seemed to be much worse than in the case of the promoters of HS1.
One issue was the lack of information, so I thought that it would be reasonable to ask that HS2 and the Government provide quarterly reports that include overviews of the project, the programming schedule, the community and environmental impact of the whole project and more details of each phase. Since then, or probably at about the same time, Ministers have started to produce six-monthly reports, which are a great step forward. I thank Ministers for that. Whether they should be quarterly or six-monthly can be debated, but certain things are missing from all of them—they are identified strongly in the Public Account Committee’s letter. I will summarise one or two, because I think that they could go into the reports. I hope that Ministers will agree to do this, because we do not want to have to divide the House on something like this.
The PAC talks about the programme uncertainties within HS2. There seems to be evidence of that and it is frustrating that there are so few signs that HS2 and the department are taking PAC concerns about transparency seriously. It asked for information and did not get it. There were questions about phase 2b—my noble friend Lord Adonis mentioned this—and the implications for rail connections in the north as well as decisions on Euston Station.
Then there is the question of value for money. We have talked about that before, but it relates to the post-Covid potential demand for travel. The letter points out that, in giving evidence to the committee, the Permanent Secretary, Bernadette Kelly,
“appeared to assume that travel patterns and growth will return to, or be the same as, those before the pandemic. This assumption should be thoroughly tested and explicitly justified, if it remains the Government’s best estimate.”
There was then something that one does not often see in letters from the PAC: a recommendation, although some people would call it a demand. It suggested that,
“you perform an up to date assessment of the different scenarios that could affect the long-term business case of HS2 as a result of the pandemic … Please write to us within six months”.
I have raised in the House on various occasions the question of future demand for all railways. My impression is that Ministers are not taking it seriously at the moment, or perhaps they do not have an answer. Well, nobody has an answer, but I suggest that at least it should be part of some scenario planning: we are not going to get one answer, but we can probably get a range. It is reasonable to ask for the revenue forecasts and the cost-benefit analyses, whether it is every three months or every six months. I hope that the Minister can say that, as part of the six-monthly reports that they are now providing, they will in future add in some of the things that I suggest are missing. They would fit in nicely with the response that, presumably, Ministers are going to give to the PAC. I beg to move.
My Lords, I perfectly understand the need for the Committee to have a break and a stiff drink after any of my speeches; it is just a pity that we cannot get the stiff drinks any more. It is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, on this group. I wish the Government had implemented his report rather than the Oakervee one, but that train has long since left the platform.
I will speak first on Amendment 9, on which I declare my interest as in the register. I am embarrassed to be so high up in the speakers’ list when there are so many experts, such as the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, and my noble friend Lord Randall, who are better qualified than I am to talk about ancient woodlands. This is a modest little amendment, calling simply for an annual report on the impact of the work on ancient woodland. I also support Amendment 4 in this group, which is much more demanding than the modest request in Amendment 9.
I have some substantial points to make today but I assure the Committee that I shall not trouble it again either today or on Thursday. First, I congratulate HS2 on its promise to plant new woodland. I want to see even more, not just trees but a similar habitat on the embankments of the areas of line that the line cuts through, and not just random bushes but appropriate replacement flora.
Why do ancient woodlands matter? They are not just all trees that you can replace with new ones. Ancient woodlands have been mapped for over 400 years, and some have origins going back to the last Ice Age. These woods support a whole range of other species, from mosses to lichens, from plants and fungi to insects. Since they have been completely undisturbed by human action, they contain the most biodiverse species that we have lost in most of the rest of our cultivated land. As the Woodland Trust says, you can restore ancient woodlands by stopping the spread of rhododendrons, Himalayan balsam and other invasive species but you cannot plant new ancient woodland once it is gone. We cannot wait another 1,000 years in the hope that the multitude of species in our current ancient woodlands will replicate themselves in new woods by 3021.
As I said earlier, I welcome the fact that HS2 will plant more trees, but its policy of “no net loss” does not go far enough; it must be changed to “net gain”, as will apply to every other major development in this country except national infrastructure projects. Indeed, I pay tribute to the Government for adopting the policy of 10% net gain for all developments—except for national infrastructure ones. Frankly, I find that exception bizarre. Every private developer building no matter what in this country will have to create 10% biodiversity net gain in order to get planning permission, but not the Government on big projects. Of course I accept that if all one is doing is electrifying the line from London to Swansea or boring Crossrail or the Thames Tideway tunnel, these things in themselves bring net environmental gain and we need not demand that they do more to achieve net gain. Indeed, Crossrail has used 3 million tonnes of spoil to create the massive nature reserve at Wallasea, while I am always impressed by the number of trees that Highways England plants on the embankments alongside every road that it constructs; road verges are excellent wildlife corridors and I would be surprised if Highways England did not already achieve 10% biodiversity net gain.
There is thus no good reason why these large above-ground national construction projects should be exempt from the net-gain requirement. In this area the Government should be setting an example, as they have been doing on so much else—the 25-year plan, the marvellous 30x30 pledge and the announcement last week of the first massive Nature Recovery Network. So I suggest that it is inconsistent, and a bit of shooting in the foot, for a Government who have driven forward a dynamic environmental agenda to settle for “no net gain” for national infrastructure projects.
Railway lines are potentially the best wildlife corridors, with no interference from humans. That requires careful tree selection so that Network Rail does not hack everything down; on my train journey down today, I saw it cutting down trees that were nowhere near the track. Of course, we cannot have trees that bring down lines or deposit the wrong leaves, but even I could select the right native and indigenous trees and bushes that would keep Network Rail happy and create excellent habitats for native wildlife.
Admittedly, HS2 has gone further than the Government require by promising no net loss. You can cut down 20 acres of 50 year-old trees and replace them with 20 acres of new trees with no real net loss. If you cut down 10 ancient woodlands in phase 2a, including 14 acres of ancient trees at Whitmore Wood in Stafford, you get big net loss, no matter how many acres of new trees you plant. It is not a matter of one ancient acre out and one new acre in; HS2 needs to go much further than that. We need the information that the excellent amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, calls for. Even the experts in the Woodland Trust are unsure of the actual acreage that will be lost, so we must have accurate reports from HS2.
I urge the Government to insist that HS2 achieve biodiversity net gain for this section and, indeed, the whole line. I understand that if HS2 upgrades its policy from no net loss to net gain, the overall cost would be 0.1% of the total cost of the railway, which is £106 million out of £106 billion to create a fantastic wildlife corridor and potentially create one of our finest new nature reserves. I ask the Government to insist that, if one acre of ancient woodland has to be lost, HS2 should fund the Woodland Trust or Natural England to restore at least two acres of ancient woodland that is under threat.
On Report, I intend to table an amendment stating that all the works in Clause 2 must achieve 10% biodiversity net gain. We cannot create new ancient woodland, but we can act decisively to restore and protect what is left. I therefore support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe.
I turn to Amendment 4. My remarks here have nothing to do with my interests as registered. In 2017, the then Secretary of State for Transport presented a paper to Parliament on the costs of phase 2a. It stated that the cost of HS2 phase 2a would be £3,479 million and it was signed off by the chief executive of HS2 Ltd but with a note that said that all the figures were at first quarter 2015 prices and that the estimate included an “optimism bias” of 40 %. Surely that is a bit of a misnomer. Should it not be called a “total fantasy bias” of 500%?
Let us recall that the cost of HS2 in 2015 was £32 billion but is now £106 billion—a 300% increase. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, has produced evidence that the costs will be £170 billion—an almost 600% increase. I am afraid that the noble Lord is wrong; I reckon it will be well over £200 billion. However, let us leave that aside and run with the current figure of £106 billion. If HS2 has had a mere 300% cost increase since 2015, only a fool or HS2 would argue that the costs of HS2 phase 2a will not have a similar increase, making the costs over £10 billion, or almost £20 billion on the figures of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley.
The intriguing thing about the phase 2a cost is how HS2 Ltd can apparently build this part of the line 700 times cheaper than the London to Birmingham part. As I understand it—I am happy to be rubbished if I am wrong—London to Birmingham is 140 miles and costs £106 billion, which is £750 million per mile. Birmingham to Crewe is 36 miles and costs £3.5 billion, which is less than £100 million per mile. Surely my noble friend the Minister should sack those building phase 1 and replace them with those who are going to build phase 2 at a price 700 times cheaper.
We know now that, like all railway costings, these figures are based on pure fantasy from rail enthusiasts who know that no Government in their right mind would ever agree to a project if they told the truth about the real costs up front. They know that once they can con the Government into laying the first mile of track, there is no going back. Designers, contractors and all involved can start ramping up the costs, claiming that they were unforeseen and ripping off the taxpayer with impunity.
I was in government in 1996 when we were assured by the railway buffs at the Department for Transport that the cost of upgrading the west coast main line would be a maximum of £2 billion. It turned out to be £12 billion and the National Audit Office says that it cannot find where £1 billion of that went to. This was not a new route where marshes, solid granite or any other unforeseen hazards were suddenly encountered. It was known backwards, as the engineers have worked it since 1880, but the truth about the cost of the upgrade simply was not told. You cannot be 600% out and claim that that is because of cost overruns or unforeseen difficulties.
Take the Great Western main line. In 2012, the Government announced that it would be electrified from London to Swansea at a cost of £900 million. By 2014, that cost was £1.6 billion and, a year later, it was £2.8 billion. After the lopping-off of the last 60 miles from Cardiff to Swansea, it finished four years late at £2.8 billion. What were the excuses this time for the cost increases? They discovered—after the project was approved, of course—that 137 tunnels were a bit leaky and that water dripping down on to the electric wires was not desirable. We are asked to believe that railway engineers, technical experts and the contractors who bid for the work did not know beforehand that these tunnels have had leaks since Isambard Kingdom Brunel completed the line in 1841. He built the whole thing in five years, whereas Network Rail could not even electrify it in seven.
I quote these examples as justification for supporting Amendment 4 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley. We know what HS2 is like. The Government will give approval and HS2 will crack on. A couple of years later, it will tell the Government that there is a little problem with phase 2 and the costs have gone up a bit. The Government will then call for a report and we will find that the costs have doubled or trebled.
We cannot leave it to HS2 to come clean or for the Government to call for reports. HS2 must be under an obligation to publish figures as per Amendment 4. It is bound to have the figures; it would be a scandal if it did not. It must have monthly and quarterly expenditure tables. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is not asking it to create large new databases that it does not have already. All he is asking is that it publishes its managerial cost and other control figures. It cannot say that this is commercially sensitive, as it has a monopoly on running this contract and no competitor can step in.
I conclude by saying that, over the past 30 years, the history of railway construction and upgrading in this country has been one of massive cost overruns and taxpayer rip-offs. The amendment would not stop the construction or hinder it by one day, but at least the taxpayer would get a regular update on the extent of the rip-off.
It is high time now that your Lordships had a break. I regret that you can no longer get a stiff drink after my contribution.
My Lords, our break has given me time to absorb the wise words of my noble friend Lord Blencathra. It is always a pleasure to listen to him. He is far too modest but made some very good points.
I wanted to be someone who could support HS2, but my experience as a constituency MP led me to the decision that as a company, HS2 is probably one of the worst to deal with. Its people are their own worst enemies. While accepting that phase 1 has happened—it breaks my heart to see how it has ripped through so much of our countryside—I want to make sure that the people who live along the line of the proposed phase 2a have a better deal all round. I shall speak to Amendments 4 and 9.
My noble friend Lord Blencathra spoke eloquently and correctly about ancient woodland, and I know that I am to be followed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, who will be able to tell us much more about the merits of this debate. Anyone who has an interest in biodiversity will know that ancient woodland is one of the treasures of this country, as it is all over, and we are losing too much of it. It is therefore important to look at exactly what is happening. He mentioned the replacements proposed by HS2, but of course you cannot replace an ancient woodland. I have to say also that some of the trees that have been planted in the Colne Valley and elsewhere are just sticks with a bit of plastic around them. HS2 did not water them, saying that it was not economic to do so when the weather is bad. We have to watch HS2 like a hawk on all these things.
I should draw attention to my interests not only as the president of the Colne Valley Regional Park, which is technically not a part of this project because it was in phase 1, but as a trustee of the Bat Conservation Trust and a council member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Noble Lords will know of my great interest in preserving biodiverse areas.
In phase 1, which was 240 kilometres long, 34 ancient woodlands were directly affected and 27 indirectly affected. “Indirectly affected” can mean anything from light pollution—there are ongoing problems in the Chilterns with the effect that has on bats, including on endangered and listed species—but I refer to the 34 woodlands that were directly affected. The phase we are now talking about involves some 64 kilometres in which 10 ancient woodlands will be directly affected and seven indirectly affected. As a proportion, more woodlands will be affected by phase 2a than in the first phase.
What can we do about this? I have to try to put myself in the position of those people, many of whom are with us in the Grand Committee today, who are such firm advocates of this project. What I want them to understand is that HS2 Ltd must deal with these subjects in a measured way by being honest and coming forward. I am not even going near the issues of inflation that my noble friend Lord Blencathra raised so eloquently. HS2 does not listen to the concerns of NGOs, Members of Parliament or ordinary members of the public. As an example, when I ceased to be the Member of Parliament for Uxbridge, I was succeeded by no less than the current Prime Minister, but he has just as much trouble getting answers out of HS2 as I did. It was not just because the company did not want to answer me, although it may have felt like that, so this is very important.
That is why Amendment 4, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is absolutely crucial. We have already heard that the Government are saying there should be a review every six months, while the amendment asks for one every quarter. I think that a quarterly review is better because a lot can go on in those other months. I shall say this to the fans of HS2: if they want to get people on side, they have to be able to convince them that HS2 is a listening organisation and will do what it must to try to remedy the damage that it is doing, and indeed to avoid doing damage.
It is no good HS2 just riding roughshod. It is pretty obvious to me, and I hope to many noble Lords, that this project is deeply unpopular not just among those along the line, living in the countryside, whose lives are affected —it also affects urban areas, of course—but among a large part of the whole nation. They are concerned about the spiralling costs. It is time for us all to have a really close look at how this project is going, and I therefore support both amendments.
My Lords, I declare an interest as the chairman of the Woodland Trust, as previous noble Lords have indicated. Like other noble Lords, I thank the Select Committee, chaired so admirably by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, for its work. It made some valuable recommendations on behalf of ancient woodland protection.
I speak in modified support of Amendment 4, in the name of my noble friend Lord Berkeley, and Amendment 9, in the name of my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe. I will focus on the impact of HS2 on irreplaceable ancient woodland. I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra; I support everything that he said on Amendment 9. His defence of the importance of biodiversity and ancient woodland were quite lyrical and based on his huge in-depth knowledge of the policy framework for these areas and the practice on the ground. It would behove us all to listen to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, especially when he is offering us large drinks afterwards.
Phase 2a of HS2 is, in terms of ancient woodland, a bit like
“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water”,
that inimitable phrase from “Jaws 2”, because phase 1 is working out badly enough in its impact on ancient woodland—those natural cathedrals of biodiversity and trees. Phase 1 of HS2 directly affects 34 ancient woodlands and indirectly impacts 27. Phase 2a, which is covered by this Bill, is one-quarter of the length of phase 1; it directly impacts 10 ancient woodlands and has a number of indirect impacts. The rate of damage has increased per kilometre of track in phase 2a, compared pro rata to phase 1. There will be further loss and damage to ancient woodland caused by the subsequent phase 2b. This is strange, in my view, when seen against the current policy background.
Only last year, the Government increased the protection for ancient woodland in planning guidance. As the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, said, there is now a policy steer from government about net biodiversity gain from all developments, apart from major infrastructure schemes. HS2 Ltd assured Parliament at the beginning that the project would deliver no net loss of biodiversity. But it has acknowledged that ancient woodland is irreplaceable and therefore cannot be damaged without there being a net loss of biodiversity. I would support the call of the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, for the Government to commit to net gain in all their sponsored projects, including major infrastructure schemes.
If it were not so serious, it would be almost laughable to see HS2 Ltd digging up ancient woodlands in phase 1, carting them across the country and dropping them off elsewhere, in the pious hope that something might survive and re-establish. For the record, I assure the Committee that there is no evidence at all that this translocation of ancient woodland works. Let us not kid ourselves that these activities, which are quite expensive, do anything more than act as a fig leaf. The Minister has heard me bang on about this so many times that I am sure she is bored. She will no doubt tell me yet again that there are 52,000 fragments of ancient woodland still left in Britain, so losing a few is just regrettable. That is like saying, “If Salisbury Cathedral or York Minster bit the dust, let’s not worry—after all, there are lots more cathedrals”.
The amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Berkeley would require the Secretary of State to publish quarterly reports on the environmental impact of the scheduled works. I very much support the concept of regular reports and I will explain why in my comments on the environmental performance of the scheme, although quarterly is perhaps a bit too frequent. The amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe would require the Secretary of State to publish an annual report detailing the impact specifically on ancient woodlands.
Such reports are important because it has not been at all easy to get reliable and up-to-date data on the HS2 project’s impact on ancient woodlands from either the Government or HS2 Ltd. However, although these reports would be valuable, they would do the job only if there is a process for the Government to review them, learn lessons and lay out the alterations they will require to reduce the impacts of forthcoming works, and how HS2 Ltd will be held to account for existing impacts which were sometimes in excess of those permitted, and reduce or avoid those yet to come. I hope that a toughening up of these amendments might be considered at Report.
Allan Cook, chairman of HS2 Ltd, is very proud of the engineering innovation and ingenuity this project is delivering. Regular reporting on ancient woodland impacts by HS2 would enable him to demonstrate that engineering and ecological innovation and ingenuity would be increasingly deployed to reduce and, I hope, eliminate adverse impact on ancient woodlands. I do not believe that this is impossible—where there’s a will, there’s a way—but it is about not just HS2 Ltd but the Department for Transport taking ancient woodland seriously and showing some leadership in bringing forward actions that put flesh on government policy commitments to better protection for ancient woodland.
This is a deeply unpopular scheme. I was amazed to hear that the vast majority of complaints received about it have been based on its biodiversity, ancient woodland and natural site-based impacts. There must be more we can do to address the distress of many people at what the scheme is doing to our natural habitats. If the Government do not favour these requirements to report, what changes to the process would the Minister propose to ensure that the lessons from previous destruction are taken on board openly and transparently and reduce the destruction of and damage to ancient woodland, rather than simply barrelling on, doing the same thing we have unsuccessfully and damagingly done in the past?
My Lords, I am in awe of all the previous speakers. I acknowledge their huge experience in and knowledge of this issue. I particularly liked the noble Lords, Lord Blencathra and Lord Randall, shaking out their Green petticoats. It was absolutely amazing; respect for that.
I support both amendments very strongly. Amendment 4 from the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is almost the root of the Green Party’s opposition to HS2—the first part, in any case. Amendment 9 is also important, highlighting HS2’s detrimental impact on ancient woodland. We have heard an awful lot of guff about how ancient woodland can be replaced—that they will take the soil so that we will have the same biodiversity. It is all complete nonsense. Ancient woodland is irreplaceable. I particularly liked the comment from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, about Salisbury Cathedral. It is exactly that. These places are special. They are not all the same; they are all unique. They need to be cared for and protected in a way HS2 seems absolutely incapable of doing.
Of course, it is not only ancient woodland being damaged; it is also sites of special scientific interest and precious habitats being sliced up, which, without the necessary size, may no longer be viable. Given that the environmental impact of HS2 seems to be so huge, why do we find it acceptable? How in the past has it got away with doing so much damage and how can we stop it doing it in the future? If we add to this the spiralling costs, it becomes an obscene project and we need to think hard about it again.
However, if the project is to go ahead, reporting has to be statutory and mandatory—I do not understand how it gets away with it. If it is every six months, that is fine, but let us make sure that it is done properly. The reporting should include rigorous assessment of the mitigation and replacement measures which aim to reduce the ecological impact. I do not trust HS2 to do its own reports. It has to be a trustworthy report to make sure that it is not doing worse than it has done already.
I am highly sceptical of many of the measures that HS2 has already used. The noble Lord, Lord Randall, mentioned the trees in the Colne valley. Thousands of newly planted trees have been left to die. I do not understand how we can be sure that HS2 will do not the same again—not exactly that perhaps, but something very similar. It cannot be trusted with our precious habitats and species and the amazing, biodiverse habitats that it is just carving up. Please will the Government make sure that they are a bit tougher on HS2 than they have been so far.
My Lords, I want to make a couple of brief points. First, it is important that there is some scheme of environmental monitoring, which I support. Three-monthly monitoring seems excessive, but it is good to have this amendment. Secondly, however, I am rather shocked by the tone of many noble Lords who are against HS2 in their treatment of these environmental questions. As one who served on your Lordships’ Select Committee on the Bill, HS2 seemed to me to display considerable concern and detailed knowledge of what it was doing on these points. Our exchanges with the Woodland Trust as witnesses were not in the tone of many noble Lords’ comments today. I thought that a good dialogue was opening up between the Woodland Trust and HS2. We made some recommendations in our report for more sensitive treatment of ancient woodland, particularly trying to avoid damage in the construction period, as well as recommendations on the planting of new woodland, but I am somewhat shocked by what I have heard this afternoon.
My Lords, I agree with everything my noble friend Lord Liddle just said. As a former member of the HS2 board and as the Minister who set up HS2 Ltd, environmental concerns were absolutely at the heart of what we sought to meet. By and large, HS2 has done a good job.
The fundamental concern many noble Lords have is that this railway is being built at all. We need to be quite clear about this. The impact on ancient woodland is miniscule as regards the proportion of woodland affected. Some noble Lords would prefer that the line was not built and there was no impact; I respect that entirely. However, Parliament has given these powers and it is a project of importance. The noble Lord, Lord Randall, says it is unpopular, but that is not what the polling shows at all. It shows that HS2 as a scheme is popular with the public at large. Railways are popular, and indeed, if I may point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, they are particularly popular with Greens.
Unfortunately, a kind of parallel debate is taking place here. There is one between opponents of HS2 who are simply latching on to anything they can use to try to undermine the project, and the reality, which is that HS2 is doing, by and large, a good job. It could improve—of course all organisations can improve—but it is doing a good job of meeting its environmental obligations, and the requirements placed upon it by the Government are reasonable as regards no net loss.
I point out to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, that he delivered one part of his speech condemning cost overruns at HS2, which was prefaced by calling for additional costs, which would be significant. He tried to pooh-pooh them away in a kind of rhetorical way, but it would be very significant if they were imposed on HS2. He needs to work out how he reconciles the first half of his speech with the second half.
On reporting, I am in strong support of full transparency and proper accounting processes, as I have been all the way through this project. I hope that the Minister will tell us what the process for reporting is. HS2 Ltd publishes a full annual report, which gives an update of the progress on the project across a number of dimensions, and it is regularly held to account by parliamentary committees, including the Public Accounts Committee, and internally by the Government.
However, I see merit, as my noble friend Lord Liddle said, in a requirement for an ongoing process for reporting on delivery against environmental and financial objectives. Subject to what the Minister says when she tells us what the reporting processes are, might it be possible to bring together my noble friend Lord Berkeley’s Amendment 4 and my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe’s Amendment 9? The latter would require annual reporting in respect of the impact on ancient woodlands. My noble friend Lord Berkeley’s amendment would require quarterly reporting across a much wider range of impacts —not just environmental impacts, but costs of land acquisition, the progress of the project, and revenue forecasts and cost-benefit analyses. I support the broad range of issues that my noble friend Lord Berkeley wants to see reported on, but quarterly reporting is too regular. Subject to what the Minister says, if we are still not happy about the formal requirements for reporting after the Grand Committee, I wonder whether it might be possible to have annual reporting, as suggested in my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe’s Amendment 9, across a broader range of indices. My noble friend is right that annual reporting is the way most organisations report on objectives and costs.
I call the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham. No? Perhaps we can come back to the noble Lord. I call the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead.
My Lords, I endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said, based on his experience as a member of our committee.
The noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge, mentioned that, proportionately, more woodlands are affected by this project than in the case of HS2 phase 1. One should not be surprised about that, because it takes a long time to get out of the built-up area around London, and quite a long time before its begins to reach the much more urban countryside through which this phase passes. Therefore it is a feature of this particular phase that we encountered a lot of countryside, a lot of farmland, and indeed woodlands.
The noble Lord was perfectly correct and the statistics are these: 10 areas of woodland are affected, of which about 9.8 hectares will be lost due to the project. Most of them are quite small but there is a particular one, at Whitmore Wood, where a substantial amount will be lost but there is a good deal of replanting and enhancement going on to make up for that.
As far as the issue of net gain is concerned, we discussed that at some length with the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts. To endorse the point that the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, made about the sensitive way in which HS2 was approaching these issues in our inquiry, we did have quite a lot of discussion about how net loss and net gain could be addressed. It was counsel for HS2 who suggested perhaps a nuanced approach to this issue would be appropriate and, based on what he said, in our report we encouraged HS2 to continue that approach. Shortly afterwards, a written assurance was given to that trust, which the trust has accepted.
One of the problems with going too far with promoting net gain is that before you get very far you find yourself having to acquire more land. That would be acquiring more land from hard-pressed farmers who are already losing a substantial amount of land as a result of the line itself and its associated works. We were very cautious not to be led too far down that path. One has to bear in mind, too, that a community development fund has been set up that would enable other landowners who feel that they can give up part of their land to obtain funding to make up the loss of woodland that is due to the scheme. The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, with great respect, is absolutely right about the sensitive way in which this matter has been dealt with by HS2, so far as we can see in the material that was before us at the inquiry.
There is, however, one matter I would like to express concern about: the woodland indirectly affected. We were not asked to examine any of these, but the kind of effects that are likely happen would include vibration and dust from the movement of a very large number of vehicles over a substantial period. This is something to be careful about, considering the impact on woodlands that have not been taken down but are in the vicinity and where wildlife exists that may be very disturbed by what is going on. There is certainly something to be said for the thinking behind this particular amendment—I am talking about Amendment 9—with regard to the indirect effect on other woodlands in the very attractive area through which this particular line is going to pass.
The noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, will have to unmute himself in order to join us. If he cannot unmute at his end, I am afraid the technicians cannot do it this end. Sadly, I think we are going to have to wait for another amendment for a contribution from the noble Lord. I call the next speaker: the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson.
My Lords, this group of amendments deals with accountability, including a special report on ancient woodlands, which have of course been the subject of a great deal of debate. No observer of the tortuous process so far for agreeing and starting construction of HS2 can really disagree that more answer- ability needs to be built into the process if taxpayers are to feel comfortable with the project. I was pleased that the Government have appointed a Minister for HS2—that is a good start. There is, I believe, a ministerial taskforce to improve community relations.
The loss of woodland, however, is always a concern. I read the committee’s report very carefully and it deals with this issue in detail. It is important to be clear that the term “ancient woodland” does not mean specifically very old trees but simply that there have been trees in that spot since 1600—which of course means that there is a very well-established ecosystem—whereas very old trees are called veteran trees. According to the committee’s report, there are 10 areas of woodland that will be lost, equalling about 9.8 hectares, plus seven areas, mostly very small, that will be affected.
To give a sense of the impact, there are over 50,000 separate pieces of ancient woodland listed throughout the UK, so the impact is marginal in numerical terms. However, any impact must be used as a reason to plant new trees. There is a debate about exactly how many can reasonably be required to be planted, although the committee believes that the Woodland Trust’s suggestion of 30 new trees for every old tree lost would be unreasonable. It cites in addition four new funds established for planting new trees and improving existing ancient woodland. I note that the National Trust, of which I declare an interest as a member, has received funding to undertake some of that.
Other important issues noted in the committee’s report include the importance of ensuring a stock of saplings free of disease. Another that I am personally particularly concerned about is the loss of wetlands, the importance of which is often overlooked by the general public. People see trees very much more easily than a patch of wetland.
The suggestion of an extra-long tunnel from Whitmore Heath to Madeley to avoid the loss of one patch of ancient woodland illustrates the ecological complexity of the situation. Tunnelling creates damage to the environment—materials have to be dug up in enormous quantities, transported and dumped somewhere else, which of course suffers from that impact, and the process creates emissions and noise, which makes life very uncomfortable for those nearby—so it is not an easy solution.
It would be wise for there to be continuous and careful monitoring as phase 2a is built, and in a format accessible to members of the public. However, we live in a densely populated island and we cannot build anything on this scale without affecting some established habitats. What we need is a structure to ensure that as few habitats as possible are affected and that promised remedial measures are robust and fully implemented.
I look on the environment as a balance sheet. In the fundamental fight against climate change, I am certain that HS2 will make an overwhelmingly positive contribution, with far more environmental goods than harms.
My Lords, I call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe.
No, we will take the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe.
We will come to you after the Minister. If you were ready then to make a short speech, I think that would be in order. I call the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe.
My Lords, the position that we take on HS2 is unambiguously to support it, therefore I am not seeking to find devices to slow it down or otherwise damage its future. However, I recognise two things. Speaking first to Amendment 4, I note that the Government have gone some way towards the aim of that amendment by promising six-monthly reports. Indeed, the first one was published on 13 October in the form of a Written Ministerial Statement, as far as I understand it. If the department and the Minister were to look upon this debate positively, there could possibly be a meeting of minds, ideally before Report, on the contents of those reports so that the many sensible concerns expressed in this debate could be met.
On the environment, towards the end of the report it says:
“In the coming months, HS2 Ltd will establish a new Environmental Sustainability Committee (as a sub-committee of the HS2 Ltd board), let by its Chair Allan Cook. This committee will be charged with strengthening Environmental Sustainability Reporting including the development and publication of an Environmental Sustainability Report. HS2 intends to publish the first report next year.”
Perhaps the Minister might know of this report and be able to tell us when it will be published.
The discussion on ancient woodlands—I have to be honest—was merely the Labour Front Bench doing its duty and making sure that all issues were fully debated. I will not repeat the briefings that I have had from the Woodland Trust and others, because they have already been employed in the arguments so far. I urge the Government to listen to this debate and, once again, to enter discussions with Members of this Committee who have spoken so passionately on it to see whether the need for regular reporting can be merged with the particular and important needs of ancient woodland.
On the issue of the periodicity of reporting, the divide between one amendment calling for three months and the other amendment calling for one year could probably be crossed by a merger of the two. We settled on six-monthly reports, but with a wider range of issues, particularly involving ancient woodlands. I hope that the Minister will be able to achieve through discussion some consensus on these two issues, because while I recognise that speakers in this debate are, to some extent, coming from different directions, the generality of their contributions tends to be to the common ground of a report covering a wider range of facts.
I call the next speaker, Baroness Vere of Norbiton.
No, Lord Framlingham, you will speak after the Minister, so you will be the next speaker after this one.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Tunnicliffe, for their amendments in this group. They have been grouped together as they cover the very important areas of transparency and accountability. The Government agree that these areas are absolutely vital; we must ensure that the project is successful, and transparency and accountability will be at the heart of that. Like the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, I believe that HS2 must always strive to do better. That is good practice for all organisations.
That is why the Government have committed to providing an update to Parliament every six months on the progress of HS2. The first update was provided on 13 October, as has been noted, and that report covers data reported by HS2 Ltd to the end of August 2020. A copy of the report has been placed in the Libraries of both Houses. Furthermore, HS2 Ltd provides detailed annual reports to Parliament, as required by the DfT/HS2 Ltd framework document. Noble Lords will be aware that as principal accounting officer, the Permanent Secretary of the Department for Transport is accountable to Parliament for capital contributions and resources provided by HS2. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, referred to a recent letter from the Public Accounts Committee to the Permanent Secretary setting out a number of requests and observations, and this is a prime example of holding the Government and HS2 to account.
Specifically on environmental matters, if it is felt that a contractor is not meeting the requirements of the environmental minimum requirements, there is a three-step process that can be followed. In the first instance, the issue can be reported to the nominated undertaker, which in this case would be HS2. Secondly, if the issue is not resolved satisfactorily, it can be escalated and reported to my department, which can direct HS2 to implement corrective action. Finally, the issue can be reported to Parliament: to the Speaker in the House of Commons or to the Chairman of Committees in the House of Lords. Furthermore, individuals and bodies can raise issues with Sir Mark Worthington OBE, who is the independent construction commissioner for both phase 1 and phase 2a. This ensures access to clear, impartial advice and enables strong scrutiny of the project.
I turn to the issue of ancient woodlands. I understand and I commend the interest taken in our invaluable ancient woodlands and veteran trees. In the development of the project, every effort has been made to avoid or reduce the impact on ancient woodlands. For example, following extensive engagement with the Woodland Trust, we were able to offer a number of assurances in relation to ancient woodlands and veteran trees. Those include the retention of Noddy’s Oak near Stockwell Heath in Staffordshire, along with five other veteran trees.
I welcome the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, because we believe that we have a productive relationship with the Woodland Trust and we want very much for that relationship to continue. There are some places where we have not been able to protect a veteran tree or a piece of ancient woodland, and of course this is regrettable. However, HS2 is putting in place all possible mitigations to safeguard our environment as a whole. The environmental statements already report the likely significant effects of the phase 2a scheme on trees and woodland habitats, including veteran trees and ancient woodland. They also set out the proposed mitigations and compensations for the likely effects of the railway. HS2 has published an ancient woodland strategy for the scheme that sets out the expected loss of ancient woodland habitat and the range of compensation measures being proposed in response to those losses.
I know that there are concerns about how contractors can be held to account in undertaking works in or near ancient woodlands. As I have outlined previously, if it is felt that a contractor undertaking works authorised by the Bill is not meeting the environmental minimum requirements, there are steps that can be taken to ensure that there is an investigation. If any corrective action is needed, it is taken, and ultimately these steps can include a report to Parliament.
The Department for Transport and HS2 have done extensive work to assess, document and publicise the impact of the proposed scheme on the ecology of our beautiful urban and rural landscapes. A number of noble Lords have gone into detail about veteran trees and ancient woodlands, along with the broader environmental impacts of HS2. I will write to them in more detail on this because there is a fair amount to cover on the no net loss commitment of HS2, along with other things that can be done in order to achieve some net gain. I will also add some information on costs. Unfortunately, I do not fully recognise the costs that were put forward by my noble friend Lord Blencathra. I am not entirely sure where they came from, so I will set those out in more detail. I will also add some information about the nature and timing of the various reports. I realise that quite a number of reports have been produced and that it would be helpful for all noble Lords to understand where we are. There will certainly be more on the environmental matters when the Government’s response to the report of the Select Committee is published, which will happen shortly before Report. Also, in relation to this, I will arrange a meeting for noble Lords, probably with the Minister for HS2, so that we can go into these matters in more detail.
I believe that the current level of reporting across the project, which has only very recently been revised, is proportionate and sufficient. It comes alongside increased oversight of the project by not only my colleague Andrew Stephenson, the HS2 Minister, but the ministerial task force chaired by the Transport Secretary, which includes ministerial colleagues from across government. Both these measures are relatively new. They need time to bed in and for the impact to be felt. I therefore invite the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, to withdraw his amendment.
I have received requests to speak after the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone. I call the noble Lord to make a short contribution.
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships can now hear me. I speak in support of Amendments 4 and 9, proposed by the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley and Lord Tunnicliffe. I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, for his tenacity and detailed, professional questioning of what I call a farcical project—HS2.
I am afraid I must remind the Committee that had my amendment to the HS2 Bill, which I proposed on 31 January 2017, been passed, HS2 would now be history. Unbelievable amounts of money would have been saved and much anguish and environmental damage would have been prevented. I had just 26 supporters on that day in your Lordships’ House, but two of them were uniquely placed to understand the project. The noble Lords, Lord Burns and Lord Macpherson, had been Permanent Secretaries to the Treasury; one under Gordon Brown and the other in the time of David Cameron and George Osborne. They were both so convinced that HS2 was a mistake that they voted to stop it, even at that stage.
It has often been said that HS2 is a vanity project, and that is true. It was conceived in what can be described only as a fit of misplaced enthusiasm, costed on the back of an envelope and somehow pushed through government, where, just like the emperor’s new clothes, no one seemed able or prepared to ask the most fundamental questions about its feasibility. From the beginning, Ministers have stubbornly refused to listen to any suggestions of shortcomings, whether about speed, capacity, environment, construction or cost. Money is no object. HS2’s chief executive Mark Thurston has said:
“I’m not worried about overspending”.
When asked on the radio what the Government were prepared to spend on it, the then Transport Minister, Chris Grayling, replied “Whatever it takes.” If it takes £100 billion, we could rebuild every hospital in the country for that kind of money. This ministerial refusal to listen is what is frustrating so many railway professionals and interested organisations. It is, quite frankly, ridiculous that Government Ministers are not treating with more respect the views of those eminently qualified to contribute to the issue.
When HS2 was first conceived, a large body of professional railway engineers wrote to the Minister offering to come and see him to share their concerns. He refused even to see them. The advice of people such as Michael Byng, a recognised expert in the field, is ignored and the Woodland Trust, the custodian of our ancient woodlands, finds it impossible to obtain the information it needs. I recently received a communication from an organisation that had given evidence to our House of Lords Select Committee. It said:
“Unfortunately, we do not consider that we have received a fair hearing and feel that the hybrid Bill process is not an appropriate method for making independent and valued engineering, environmental and economic judgments about something so important as the HS2 project. It is also deeply frustrating that HS2 Ltd’s case and the evidence of its witnesses, however technically weak, is automatically accepted as unchallengeable, as if it was the gospel.”
Even as we speak, I understand that HS2 is carrying out work at Euston station which may never be needed. It is a shambles. I am delighted to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, which would bring a degree of accountability and sanity to this chaotic project, but I will not hold my breath.
I am also very happy to support Amendment 9 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. I am very grateful to the Woodland Trust for its very helpful briefing. It is quite intolerable that an organisation such as the Woodland Trust, custodian of our ancient woodlands, should find it so difficult to obtain information about what is happening to them. Our ancient woodlands are truly irreplaceable. Their soil structure, undisturbed for centuries, cannot possibly be recreated. The idea that they can be moved to other sites is laughable. No amount of tree planting can possibly compensate for the loss of our ancient trees. I have tabled Questions to try to discover the extent of the damage to date. I have been presented with the blandest Answers.
The amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, would ensure that HS2 has to account for the damage it does, with facts and figures, which at the moment are so hard to come by. When, in this environmentally sensitive world, it is doing so much harm to the countryside, the very least it should be expected to do is regularly report on its actions and their consequences.
My Lords, I will make two brief points. I really do object to the way the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, accuses everybody who raises legitimate objections to anything as being against the project being built. Nothing could be further from the truth. My comments in particular are about environmental performance, not the project as a whole. I have never commented on the validity of the project as a whole. I wish he would stop putting everybody into that box.
I was also rather distressed by my noble friend Lord Liddle’s shock at the tone in which several noble Lords made their remarks. We need to be alert to the fact that although the Woodland Trust and other wildlife and environmental organisations are working alongside HS2 Ltd because that is the only way forward—jaw-jaw is always better than war-war—there is considerable dissatisfaction about HS2’s environmental performance in phase 1. It failed to identify a whole range of ancient woodland sites until prodded. It chose, for some inexplicable reason, to introduce a whole load of non-native species in its planting arrangements. It has continued to have impacts on temporary sites that probably could have been avoided, as the Select Committee pointed out. It has been very close to the line, and may even have gone over it, on damaging sites before getting necessary licences for things such as disturbance or destruction of bat roosts. It is not an easy relationship, but everyone in the environment movement—I am sure they would not mind me speaking on their behalf—wants to work with developers. We want a recognition from the Minister that the Department for Transport needs to indicate higher expectations of HS2 than, “It’s only a few ancient woodlands, it doesn’t really matter,” which is what I got from the Minister’s comments so far.
The Minister talked about the variety of complaints channels people can take up. Complaints channels are a bit like shutting the stable door after the horse has gone. We need more encouragement of an atmosphere of continuous open learning, acceptance of the need for improvement and to move on from that learning to implement things differently in successive phases, successive quarters or however long the reporting period might be. It was incredibly distressing, in the gap between phase 1 and phase 2a planning, to discover that the entire teams we had been working with on phase 1 had not passed that learning on to the teams planning phase 2a. We have to find a way to make sure that the operational learning that comes out of doing the job on the ground does not disappear, gets picked up and results in improved environmental performance.
I think my comments still stand. What the noble Baroness has outlined highlights the importance of a constructive and productive relationship between all environmental NGOs, including the Woodland Trust, and HS2. Building large-scale transport infrastructure is never easy. It is always a very challenging time. People with different interests will want different things and compromises have to be reached. I hope that the noble Baroness will join me, Minister Stephenson and other noble Lords when we go into environmental matters in a bit more depth after Committee stage and before Report. Perhaps I will be able to reassure noble Lords that HS2 is learning lessons and will take them forward into phase 2a.
I am grateful for the opportunity to wind up the debate on these amendments. I thank all noble Lords who have spoken. The debate has ranged widely from those who, frankly, do not trust HS2 further than they can throw it and others who say that it is doing fine on reporting.
It is certainly true that the Government are trying to produce more reports, which many noble Lords think is a good start while others are less trusting—I suppose that in the end it comes back to trust. The environmental effect of a railway could be massively mitigated if the speeds of the trains were reduced so that it could go around ancient woodlands and avoid so many deep cuttings and embankments. That is something which the French learned 30 years ago, and I suspect that it is being learned for phase 2b—certainly for the east side, maybe the west side as well—but my noble friend Lord Adonis will then complain that the trains are not going fast enough. That can be debated.
Some regular reporting is needed to provide the transparency that many noble Lords believe is necessary, me included. It needs to cover each phase, as well as the whole thing, and must cover all the things which are in my amendment and probably a few others as well. Yes, there is an independent construction commissioner, but to some extent that is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted, although the commissioner does a really good job.
If we were to sit around the table and the Minister was prepared to do it, I am sure that some amendment or addition to the existing reporting could be achieved. However, the real question is this: is there sufficient trust among noble Lords for it to be done without some independent scrutiny, which I shall discuss when we come to Amendment 6? That is something to reflect on and it all comes back to trust. We have had a really good debate on it. The Minister said that she would be happy to talk between now and Report and we should take her up on it. I am sure that we can reach some compromise on reporting not just what has happened but what will happen in the future, or what is planned to happen, and any issues that may come alongside it.
I again thank all noble Lords who have spoken. We have heard a wide variety of opinions, which is great. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 4 withdrawn.
We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 5. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate.
5: After Clause 58, insert the following new Clause—
“Compensation scheme for tenants
(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations make provision for a scheme to compensate tenants adversely affected by the scheduled works.(2) Regulations under this section may contain such supplementary, incidental, consequential or transitional provision as the Secretary of State considers necessary or expedient.(3) Regulations under this section must be made by statutory instrument.(4) A statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of resolutions of both Houses of Parliament.”Member’s explanatory statement
This is intended to require the Government to introduce regulations to ensure that tenants affected by the works are fairly compensated.
My Lords, we now move from natural landscapes and habitats to the man-made ones. Before I go any further, I declare my interest as an almost completely retired chartered surveyor, although I confess that it is a very long time since I dealt with anything in relation to compulsory acquisition. Provided that the Committee chair does not object, I propose to speak to Amendment 5, during which I will incorporate any comments I have in relation to Amendment 10, which covers the same ground to some extent. I will also speak to Amendment 13 before formally moving Amendment 5.
I start by saying that I am not in any way anti-HS2, but I am pro-efficiency in operation. This amendment is about compensating tenants. That is any tenant, whether they are residential, businesses or neither, but it is of particular relevance to residential and possibly agricultural tenants, because it may also be about their home.
For some time, leases have been getting ever shorter. Business leases in particular have been going that way, also with options to extend or break. In many areas, the rate of turnover may be considerable. This is a response to and a product of the uncertainty of our times. No lease of less than seven years’ duration is required to be registered with HM Land Registry. Apart from perhaps the register of electors, council tax or non-domestic rate records, there may be little to identify an occupier or the nature of their tenant, and none at all if it happens to be agricultural. This gets worse when the tenant may themselves have legitimately entered into a subletting.
My understanding is that HM Land Registry has a fairly substantial backlog of registration cases. I have not had a moment to check with HMLR direct; if I am wrong in that case, I will be very happy to stand corrected. However, if I am right, even a registrable change of ownership and the contact details attached to that may be many months in contemplation before it gets finalised on the register or picked up on a register search. HS2 Ltd is of course charged with giving notice of its intent to compulsorily acquire land
“to all the persons interested in, or having power to sell and convey or release, the land, so far as known to the … authority”—
that is, HS2. The first point is to ask how good it is at picking up these unrecorded tenancies and what sort of contingencies it has in place for what might be a considerable area of doubt.
In addition, there are some very long lead-in periods in the HS2 scheme. The Bill removes the normal three-year time limit on exercising the compulsory rights by the acquiring authority, so the timescales are no longer contained in the way they would be with a conventional compulsory purchase scheme. Moreover, when it comes to taking possession of the land, the Bill cuts the normal three months’ notice to one month for acquisition of subsoil rights, but as subsoil works are likely to be the most potent circumstances of physical damage being caused to buildings, some people might reasonably regard this as a bit alarming.
In another place, the Minister referred to the C15 guide—one of a series of guides produced by the Department for Transport—which relates to short-term residential tenants. The guide suggests that normally a tenancy by way of an assured shorthold tenancy will not give rise to a compensable legal interest due to the brevity of that tenancy arrangement. I should have thought that a tenancy on a one-year term but with a clear expectation of being able to stay much longer might feel somewhat cheated by such an arrangement.
I therefore turned my attention to the report from the Select Committee on the Bill, which had some comments to make. Here I pay tribute to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and his committee, for a truly excellent piece of work. Paragraph 115 of that report refers to residential tenants
“who are leaseholders with at least three years of their terms unexpired”
and goes on to say what schemes for compensation they may be entitled to. It says:
“Other residential tenants will be entitled to a home loss payment. This does not however apply to tenants with shorthold assured periodic tenancies, to some agricultural tenancies, or to tenancies of narrow boats. The House of Commons Select Committee took up these omissions with the Secretary of State but does not seem to have made much progress.”
Noble Lords will start to see the issues, and my second query is to invite the Minister to give us a bit of a progress report on what is happening there.
Disturbance payments should be payable to tenants, but C15 contains comments about mitigating losses. That is fair enough in theory, but getting several quotes for removals and possibly for estate agents’ services in circumstances in which the guidance is silent on the question of getting professional advice about the totality of the claim itself, in what is a very demanding technical area of law and practice, seems to cram a lot into a short notice period, part of the costs of which might not be compensable. Bear in mind this is net additional cost, inconvenience, distraction and worry over and above those of the normal lives of tenants of every sort.
A home loss payment is not payable in circumstances where the tenant has been in residence for less than 12 months. Furthermore, disturbance payments may be denied where the tenant leaves voluntarily, is subject to a notice such as a notice to quit, or exercises a break clause, even if the root cause of the move is the threat of compulsion by HS2 Ltd. People in their own homes and businessfolk, even as tenants, do not wait until the last minute before being given the heave ho. Given the level of uncertainty about aspects of HS2 and its programme in particular, one would have to say, who can blame them? Again, I sense that this arrangement is intrinsically unfair.
The Select Committee also looked at business premises. At paragraph 116, it referred to the question of basic loss payments that are
“equal to 7.5 per cent of the open market value of the premises or £75,000, whichever is the smaller.”
That is applicable to owners—the freeholder of the property. It goes on:
“Business tenants who are displaced will be entitled to an ‘occupier’s loss payment’ of 2.5 per cent of the open market value of the premises or £25,000, whichever is the less.”
Crucially, the Select Committee says:
“Some commentators have suggested that these percentages of 7.5 per cent”
to the freeholder, and 2.5% to the occupier or tenant
“should be reversed, but that has not so far”
been recognised. The point is that the tenant is the person in occupation, suffering the greatest disturbance, and the landlord is usually the investor. The Compulsory Purchase Association, with which I have had a dialogue in the distant past but not specifically on this Bill, has long advocated a suggested change so that those percentages are reversed, with the largest percentage going to the tenant or occupier and the smaller percentage going to the freeholder. My next question for the Minister is: why has nothing happened to rectify this?
Complaints have reached my ears that HS2 Ltd’s approach tends to be governed by what it has budgeted for. I suppose there is really no surprise about that, but the budgeting process has to date given the appearance of being somewhat haphazard. I choose my words carefully in the light of what was discussed a short while earlier. However, I have it on what I believe to be good professional authority that its budgets for acquiring interests in land have been particularly wanting and particularly subject to subsequent upward adjustments. Naturally, there will be pressures to limit unplanned or avoidable exposure to claims, but I am told not only that legitimate claims are being questioned with a degree of quite unreasonable rigour, but, more particularly, that payment of compensation at just and proper levels, even under the advanced payment principles, is being curtailed or delayed in what looks to claimants and their advisers rather like a form of coercion.
I will comment on how this arises a little later, but HS2 Ltd has also seemed to have adopted its own interpretations of things, such as assuming that tenants will automatically leave anyway at the first available break clause or the earliest termination date. However, this does not necessarily reflect the reality in all cases, especially where, as I have said before, continuation is the expectation. Will the Minister tell us whether this practice has now ceased?
The frictions that I have outlined are unhelpful. They impede momentum and add to costs; they also create considerable distrust. I am aware that HS2 is a huge organisation, but it has to be less impersonal and do fewer things by rote. That is the background to Amendment 5, but it has to be seen in the context of my later Amendment 12, which is about treating claimants fairly. Will the Minister be prepared to meet noble Lords to discuss these issues?
I turn now to Amendment 13, which relates to compensation for losses suffered by owners. I will not go through the text, but this is a probing amendment. There has been concern in phase 1—when I refer to phase 1, I do so because that is the example we have before us of the way matters have been unfolding and how HS2 Ltd is dealing with them—about the way HS2 Ltd has been handling compensation payments. Normally, claims for compensation are paid at the end of the acquisition process, but there is a provision for the acquirer to pay its assessment of compensation in advance, and acquirers will often accept interim claims where necessary. However, there was a lack of suitable structure to requests for advance payments until the Housing and Planning Act 2016 provided a framework for the payment of compensation in advance. In reality, “advance” is a misnomer: in fact, very seldom is compensation paid in advance of entry, but the objective was that the payment would be made within three months of receiving a claim for compensation following a general vesting deed or a notice of entry.
The payment of compensation in advance was going to be backed by the application of a punitive rate of interest if it was not made on time by the acquiring authority. However, HM Treasury has not implemented this measure, so the current statutory rate of interest applied to outstanding compensation payable to claimants remains at 0%. This is hardly an incentive to good practice.
HS2 Ltd has, I understand, sought to pay compensation for land it occupies on a temporary basis when the occupier would usually suffer a loss—for example, arable farmers at harvest time, although it might be some other business activity. This could mean that HS2 Ltd, if it accessed the land at the previous harvest, paid nothing for nearly a year for the occupation of that land. In some cases, occupation might be short-lived; for instance, the relocation of power lines might take only a few months. In other cases, however, it could be several years. Either way, this could be highly disruptive to the owner. It is important that, where possible, compensation for temporary occupation is also paid in advance, the best it can be estimated at the time. The difficulty, I understand, is that HS2 tends to try to reduce its exposure by delimiting the amount it will pay in advance.
In phase 1, furthermore, I understand that HS2 has also made much use of the temporary occupation provisions to start early works, and only then serve a general vesting declaration for permanent acquisition at a later stage. This means that the landowner loses the use of the land on day one of the temporary occupation but cannot put in a claim for compensation for any permanent impacts until HS2 Ltd serves the GVD. This means that the permanent impacts of the construction—loss of value of retaining land and value of buildings, increased costs of operations and so on—may not be compensated for several years and, paradoxically, may be easier for HS2 to argue against in retrospect.
So even though HS2 Ltd’s real intention might have been to take land permanently from the outset, it is actually able to do so under a temporary provision. That does not seem right because the business cannot restructure until the main compensation is paid and is therefore in limbo for years. The purpose of the amendment is to address that issue but, as I say, there are aspects of it that I will address again in a different context on Amendment 12. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have listened carefully to the explanation by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, of the problems with compulsory purchase and payments to those affected—mostly by HS1, because so far that is where the experience is available, unless we go back to Crossrail, which I think we will come to later. With his professional knowledge, the noble Earl has told the Committee many things that are of serious concern. If HS2 really wants to succeed then we have to accept, and I am sure we all do, that it has to be seen to be a good neighbour and to demonstrate that, but at the moment there is a serious lack of trust in many areas.
I heard about some of the problems on HS1 probably three or four years ago when it was quite clear that the company was trying to get access to land and purchase it, whether for permanent or temporary works, but basically did not have enough money allocated from the Treasury to do so. All the results that the noble Earl explained then took place. There was one particular and rather unfortunate set of examples where HS2 wanted to drill boreholes to find out what the soil was so that it could design the foundations for bridges, embankments or whatever. Sometimes the landowners were so fed up with not being paid what was due that they refused access. That was then one of the reasons HS2 used to explain why some of the costs had rocketed, because it could not design the foundations until it had done the boreholes. We can believe that or not, but it was an issue, and it stems from HS2 not asking for enough money from the Government, the Treasury or whoever to do the job properly from the start.
I do not know how many cases of failure to pay compensation are still outstanding; maybe the Minister could tell us when she winds up or write to us afterwards. For me, the whole issue demonstrates that the current arrangements are not fair and will cause a lot of problems for people if and when there is another phase. When the land purchase for phase 2a starts taking place, people are going to say, “It wasn’t done right in phase 1 so we’re going to dig our heels in for phase 2.”
One other issue was raised in the House of Commons that I do not believe was answered. Within all the categories of people who think that they are eligible for compensation, what happens to those with boat moorings on a canal that is affected? They may be hard to locate if they go walkabout, but they may not do that. It seems to me that along with tenants, short-term and long-term, and other people, anyone affected should be capable of receiving some kind of compensation on a fair basis.
The last thing I would want to argue against is a fairness regime for dealing with compensation. I can only base my impressions of this on the time I spent as a member of the Select Committee. From the moment we were appointed to when, because of the obvious delays caused by the disruption of the pandemic, we actually got down to work, the number of petitions that had been raised by dissatisfied persons or groups had diminished because there had been a settlement. During the course of our proceedings, by the time some of those who had an outstanding petition were due to appear they did not do so because their claim had been settled. So at that stage we heard only what proved to be the difficult cases, and one has to assume that many other people, whether they did so with regret or willingly, had withdrawn their petitions because they had reached a satisfactory conclusion. Of course, while one thinks in a most concerned way about the individual or small community, or the person with a small business who would seem to be in a very difficult situation, generally speaking, most of the claimants were people who had themselves been able to take professional advice. They were not exactly innocents battling against hard-headed professionals in the shape of HS2.
Other members of the Select Committee will speak now or on a future occasion before the legislation has passed through your Lordships’ House, but I do not think that we had the impression that there were so many difficult cases where the levels of compensation were not adequate. Clearly there are the statutory schemes, along with many others that statute has added over the years, to which different categories of claimant could turn. Again, we felt that, through further negotiation, an accommodation could be achieved between the understandably very different points of view—the promoter on the one side and the person facing a diminution of their enjoyment of the place where they live or work on the other.
It is obviously difficult to create a scheme that covers every nook and cranny. We saw a wide range of cases in the petitions that reached us. Some were down to individuals with, in some respects, a heartbreaking tale to tell, but it was hard to see how legislation could have been crafted in a way that would have eliminated that sense of grievance without setting compensation rates at a very high level. It is the case that HS2 has been accused of splashing the cash irresponsibly in many other ways, but still, given the levels of reserves accorded to it, it has to be careful about the level of compensation that it pays. It has that responsibility.
The safeguard in many cases has been the fact that one can petition Parliament. If you are not satisfied with what you get appearing before the House of Commons, you have another chance, for the most part, with the House of Lords. I like to think that all those with grievances who brought petitions were helped by the deliberations of the committee and the lubrication that we may have added to the process of further discussion between the two sides in order to come out with a satisfactory solution.
Simply on the evidence that we have, those who had complaints felt that quite considerable progress was achieved between the two sides. I cannot be satisfied that a whole new range of conditions has to be created, as covered by some of these amendments. Yes, we have to ensure that the basic principles on which compensation operates are fair, but I certainly do not have the impression that they are grossly unfair in a large number of cases. I dare say that further discussions will take place on whether there can be a responsible tightening-up to ensure that we are not leaving out protection for people who really are hit badly by the construction of the railway and are not getting a fair outcome. I am sympathetic to the purposes of the amendments, but I wonder whether they are a sledgehammer to crack what might not be a very large nut.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, on his 14-and-a-half-minute masterclass on how to pull apart inadequate government legislation. It was absolutely brilliant, and I cannot see that it leaves much for the rest of us to say—however, I am going to try.
I am delighted that noble Lord, Lord Framlingham, got in on the last debate, because his was a valuable contribution with which I largely agree. I read the Select Committee report, but what has come over strongly during these debates is just how much the members of that committee swallowed the HS2 line. It is almost as if they did not use any judgment and, as was said by others, perhaps did not listen to anything that reduced HS2 in any way. They perhaps put too much trust in the HS2 organisation and should have listened to the personal testimonies of those who have come up against it; for example, the noble Lord, Lord Randall. Perhaps they should swallow a more sceptical pill next time, if there is a next time.
I take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who grouped everyone together in the same box, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, suggested, and impugned their integrity—that is quite offensive. In my case, it is absolutely right that I wanted to stop the original plan, because I read the briefs which said what a terrible waste of money it was going to be and how it would devastate a lot of the countryside. All those things have come to pass; they were all true. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has laid out that the HS2 organisation did not have a very good business case; it did not think ahead; it did not assess the situation as well as it might have done. It is now in a mess, having to pay compensation to people whom it has not treated very well.
Even though I wanted to stop HS2, I still believe that we have to prevent the next stages from making the same mistakes. I would thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, for not telling me what Greens think; I know very well what Greens think. We have had a policy for eight years of being against HS2. Personally, I am a train fan—my husband works on the railway, we do not have a car, and in normal times we travelled to places every week by train—so I understand extremely well the value of railways. But the whole point about HS2 is that it was designed to cut a few minutes of travelling time for businessmen, and in these days of remote voting it is just not appropriate any more. However, although it is never too late to stop something, perhaps we have lost that argument.
I turn back to the amendments. I support all of them because, although obviously the impact of HS2 on the natural world is massive, it also affects people—individuals, families, communities. There are businesses that are going to be disrupted, possibly for a decade or more. That has to be taken into account, especially after the dreadful impact of the pandemic. In fact, the Covid response shows how the Government could put their hands in their pockets; they can track down that magic money tree and actually use money to try to make people’s lives better. I suggest that this is one of those situations where the Government have to do that and ensure that people are not harmed.
My Lords, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, that I am not at all impugning her integrity; I am just disagreeing with her. It is perfectly in order for us to disagree, as we do on HS2. There is no issue of integrity at stake at all. I think that in transport terms HS2 is the greenest new infrastructure project taking place in the UK today because the alternative, unless we are going to stop people travelling and hold back economic growth, is to build more motorways or have more domestic aviation, and neither of those is more desirable than HS2. That is why green parties across most of the rest of the world have supported high-speed rail. In Germany, France and Spain, green parties have been leading protagonists of high-speed rail. The problem for the noble Baroness is that she represents the past, not the future, in terms of green policy. That is not impugning her integrity; I am afraid that it is simply stating a disagreement.
The issues raised by the noble Earl are serious but largely technical. They are not technical for the people involved, of course, who have an absolute right to fair and timely compensation, but they are technical in terms of the operational rules and they are very detailed. All I want to say is that all Members of the Grand Committee, whether they are for or against HS2, want to see fairness applied. We look to the Minister for her reply to the specific points that the noble Earl has raised. A lot of them are very technical so it may be that she does that in writing—she is nodding; the letter that follows may be a long one.
One of the great virtues of the House of Lords is that we have Members such as the noble Earl who have a high degree of expertise in these areas. That is a very great and positive thing about this House. With a very open mind, we want to take account of both what the noble Earl has said and what the Minister says in reply before deciding what to do on Report. However, I stress that being in favour of HS2 does not mean that one is in any way stinting with regard to the obligations of fairness and natural justice that the Government owe to the citizens of this country. I undertake personally to take a keen interest in what the Minister says in response to the noble Earl’s points, and I would be happy to be party to any meeting.
I call the next speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Framlingham.
I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, for her kind remarks. Sadly, I am reluctant to concede that this mad project can go ahead because I know it will not work; it will not do what it was supposed to be designed to do, and it has within it the seeds of its own destruction. At the end of the day, we will have achieved precious little and caused much harm.
I am happy to support Amendment 5, in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. When damaging someone’s life and livelihood, the state, in considering compensation, should certainly not be unfair. In my view, it should not even be just fair. I believe that, within sensible limits, it should be generous. I am not a specialist in this field, so I am speaking about a non-specialist subject, but it goes to the heart of the matter. As HS2 has unfolded, the way that some people—whose homes, land and businesses have been taken away from them—have been haggled with has been as worrying as it has been heart-breaking. We are doing enough harm to the countryside, the environment and the economy already. We should not do any more harm to people who, through no fault of their own, are being caught up in this farce.
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, with his great expertise, has made a detailed case for these amendments, so I will speak briefly. I want particularly to talk about Amendment 10 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, to which I have added my name.
Some elements of the compensation schemes devised for HS2 are relatively generous and go well beyond the statutory minimum, but the noble Earl has set out a series of concerns about how those schemes are applied. Even if everything happens perfectly, it is right to say that it is an emotional and difficult time for many people affected by a project such as this. I want to address in particular my concerns about tenants. Some categories of tenancy are adequately covered, but the committee’s report has drawn our attention to the apparent lack of progress in dealing with an issue that was originally raised in the Select Committee of the House of Commons. Tenants with shorthold assured periodic tenancies, some agricultural tenancies and tenancies for narrowboats all appear to have no rights to compensation—not even to a home loss payment. Once again, those in society who are the least well off and the least likely to have adequate resources are given the least consideration. I call on the Minister to provide a better answer than the one that the Secretary of State was able to give in the other place, and to provide us with information and reassurance that all tenants will be properly compensated and dealt with.
The report also draws our attention to two special cases where it is envisaged that homeowners could lose out badly. I would be grateful if the Minister addressed those and said whether, in future, such people will be covered.
My Lords, this has been an interesting debate. My amendment was tabled to make sure that these important issues are fully debated. I have been rewarded, in the sense that we have had a debate to which people with a great deal of knowledge and experience have contributed.
When I headed up a large publicly owned enterprise, I faced the obligation of how you pay compensation. You are a guardian of the public purse, but nevertheless you want to be fair in an exemplary way, and that implies being on the generous end of the margins that the regulations and/or the law permit. Generally speaking we got that right, and generally speaking we were able to justify the generosity of some of our settlements by the fact that they went through smoothly with little litigation and no loss of public image.
What seems to be true here is the need for consideration of the whole framework. While the position with freeholders may be satisfactory, tenants in general in this area do not get a fair deal. I hope that the Minister will be willing to go beyond saying, “Well, this is what the regulations say,” to a recognition of the widespread feeling that, one way or another, tenants are particularly hurt by the present situation.
I have had a briefing from the National Farmers’ Union, which has already been repeated, and there seems to be a particular problem with agricultural tenancies. You can see the tremendous importance of security of tenure when it comes to farming. Indeed, as far as I can see from the briefings I have received, tenures were much more secure in the past but have become less so, and the compulsory purchase regulations do not in any way reflect the real impact that compulsory purchase can have on the ability of farmers to carry on trading and, if necessary, move farms in order to continue doing so. The whole value of the investment that they make in the land does not seem to be in any way represented in the compensation.
So I am very pleased for the support for my amendment. I agree in some ways with my noble friend Lord Adonis about the need to get this right. I hope the Minister will acknowledge that there is genuine concern in this area, promise to take this issue away and perhaps, once again, have some meetings before Report to see if we can have a meeting of minds.
My Lords, this has been a very good and occasionally somewhat detailed debate; I will certainly be doing a follow-up letter when we have finished.
I want to say at the outset that while I agree that HS2 must always strive to improve, I do not recognise the claims by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, of coercion in dealing with members of the public. If someone has evidence of coercion then we would very much like to hear about it so that we can deal with it properly, but we cannot do anything with unsubstantiated accusations and anecdotes.
I turn first to compensation for tenants, a subject covered previously at Second Reading. As I said then, most types of tenants are already provided for under the existing compensation law where they are impacted by the scheme. Where they are not provided for, the Government are able to use flexible, non-statutory arrangements to provide support. The Government have also committed to taking forward appropriate measures where the law is silent in discussions with stakeholders and residents if it is necessary to do so.
Matters of tenant compensation are complex because they depend on a person’s individual tenancy arrangements, and any compensation must balance the rights of the tenant with fairness to the taxpayer. It should, of course, be executed in a sensitive manner; I think all noble Lords would agree with that.
I will endeavour to summarise the current support available. In so doing, I will outline the legal position, the comprehensive non-statutory schemes that have been developed by the Government, and the work being taken forward by the Government following parliamentary scrutiny of high-speed rail hybrid Bills. The elements of compensation payable are set by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in the compensation code and they apply to all government-led infrastructure projects: not just road or rail, but all of them. This scheme, therefore, applies to HS2, these arrangements have been debated, agreed and set by Parliament, and together with those arrangements there is a vast body of case law on this subject.
Compensation is based on the principle of financial equivalence: that is, that the person affected should be compensated financially by no less, but no more, than what they have lost. Compensation due to tenants is therefore commensurate with their interest in the land they occupy. For example, if a private, tenanted property is subject to compulsory purchase, then the tenant could be eligible for various heads of claim, which could include a home-loss payment for the loss of their home. The minimum home-loss payment is set out in regulations, but is reviewed on an annual basis and uprated if necessary to reflect inflation. Tenants could also be entitled to the market value of their leasehold interest in the land. However, a tenant who is on a short tenancy, such as an assured shorthold tenancy or a periodic tenancy, is unlikely to own an asset that has any substantial value in the open market, and might therefore not receive this element of compensation. Finally, the tenant could also be entitled to reasonable moving costs. This covers any reasonable cost associated with moving, such as the cost of hiring a removals firm, or the redirection of post. HS2 has published an information note, C15, as noted by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and my office will happily share that with any noble Lords who request it.
In recognition of the unique aspects of the HS2 project, the Government have supplemented statutory compensation with a comprehensive package of non-statutory measures. This gives the flexibility of approach in the project which is needed when supporting vulnerable people. A key part of the non-statutory arrangements is the consideration of atypical properties and special circumstances. These are established, funded arrangements which apply to tenants as well as property owners. In addition, following the recommendations made by a Select Committee of your Lordships’ House during the passage of the phase 1 Act that compensation should be available for households that are subject to severe and prolonged construction disturbance, a prolonged disturbance compensation scheme is available. As disruption will affect residents in similar ways, regardless of their housing tenure, the scheme includes arrangements for tenants as well as owner-occupiers of residential dwellings. I trust that noble Lords will agree that all the non-statutory arrangements, which are as broad and as inclusive as they can possibly be, are an appropriate and flexible tool to support all types of resident affected by the HS2 scheme.
On the amendment of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, in this group, it should first be acknowledged that claims for compensation for temporary possession and claims for compensation for permanent compulsory acquisition are two distinct and separate claims under different parts of the Bill. This amendment concerns compensation due for losses arising from periods of temporary possession. The Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 provides that, when there is compulsory temporary possession of land, owners of interests in, or with a right to occupy, the land are entitled to request an advance payment of 90% of the compensation due to them. This provision renders the proposed amendment redundant as its purpose is already achieved by the 2017 Act.
If the Bill were to restrict taking the temporary possession of land needed to build a railway only to where compensation has already been agreed prior to occupation, the construction of the railway would be put at significant risk of delay. The people of this country have been owning property and land in funny-shaped patterns for centuries: a beautiful patchwork, one might say. However, building a railway, which requires land in a straight line, inevitably involves acquiring, or obtaining access to, a multitude of holdings within that historic patchwork.
The works to build the railway are done in a logical order according to the needs of the environment and engineering. Some works are seasonal, some need to be done when the weather is clement, and some need to be done before other works; for example, building the footings and foundations before putting a railway system on top of them. Putting all the works on hold until agreements have been made with all, through to the slowest occupier to agree, would make the process unworkable, especially where the slowest occupier’s agreement was the land needed first.
The amendment would also put the railway at significant risk of extra expense. Putting the works on hold to meet the terms of the amendment could tempt some occupiers to request ransom sums as the price for their agreement. Where one occupier has demanded and received such a ransom sum, others would inevitably follow. I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, had no intention of putting phase 2a or the public purse in such peril.
Nevertheless, there are already safeguards in place in the compensation code, which applies to all government-backed infrastructure. The code applies for owners of land that is needed temporarily. Owners can claim compensation for their losses arising from temporary occupation where they provide evidence of those losses. The HS2 project will pay the reasonable costs of professional fees incurred so owners will not lose out.
I will write with more details on this important matter and supply figures for the number of outstanding cases on phase 2a. I would be very happy to receive any examples from noble Lords where people are not being treated appropriately; for example, the special cases referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. I trust that this information has been helpful and I hope the noble Earl feels able to withdraw his amendment.
I have received no requests to speak after the Minister so I call the noble Earl, Lord Lytton.
My Lords, I thank the Minister and all noble Lords who spoke on these amendments. I am particularly grateful to those who expressed some support for the principles behind them.
I will deal with some of the points in the Minister’s response. One of her first points was that she did not recognise coercion in this. I hope I did not accuse HS2 of that in precisely those terms, because clearly these are matters that have been presented to me by others; I do not have direct experience of dealing with compulsory purchase cases with HS2. However, my later Amendment 12 revolves around a copy of a letter I have received. I do not know whether we will get to that amendment this evening or whether time will be curtailed, but in so far as the Minister has not seen the letter—although it was sent to the Department for Transport back in June—I will make sure she gets a copy of it.
The Minister went on to say that tenants’ rights are complex and ones of balance. I absolutely agree. I assure her that I do not believe there is anything fundamentally wrong with the compensation code as such, it is just that certain things can slip through at the edges. I am concerned that the way this is being approached is being driven by other considerations. It is not about the compensation code as such but may be about the way it is administered. The Minister is therefore right about the legal position and the way this is set by the MHCLG in the compensation code.
The Minister touched on this question of losses. The difficulty one has when dealing with laypeople is that it is not always easy to demonstrate the losses that you have suffered; the burden of proof is on the claimant to make and substantiate a claim. The risk is that, however genuine one might feel the claim is, the view tends to run from Treasury circles and through all those which it funds that if you cannot prove the loss, you do not get compensation for it. There are potential issues there, because this is not about putting an extra burden on the public purse but, to a degree, about fairness and compassion in dealing with these things. The Minister touched on temporary possession; I will say only that it starts as temporary but in some cases it seems to have ended up being rather less than temporary. Perhaps that ought to be more straightforward.
Turning to what other noble Lords have said, I will try to be as brief as I can. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, referred to the question of adequacy of Treasury funding; that may be a driver behind this. He also referred to the fact that people get the impression that they are not being treated fairly. That is grit in the system—it causes friction and resistance for future schemes or indeed later stages of the HS2 project perhaps.
The noble Lord, Lord Haselhurst, has of course the great advantage of his involvement with the Select Committee. To pick up on his point about the amendment possibly being a big hammer to crack a nut, yes, it is, but it has done what I set out to do, which was to raise the issue and give it an airing. This is a probing amendment after all, so it is not in the form in which I would think of doing it. The Minister is quite right that, taken to its logical conclusion, this could be financially destabilising. That is not my intention; my intention is to get a discussion about it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, said that HS2 might not have had as good a business case and that there might be financial constraints. Yes—possibly. I was pleased to have at least the tacit support of the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, because he is a passionate supporter of HS2. I am not passionate one way or the other; I see this as a technical matter where we need to get processes that are streamlined and which do not cause friction, and we need fairness. I also noted the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Framlingham and Lord Tunnicliffe, and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson. The noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, made the point that a tenant’s tenure is not necessarily a guide to the compensation that might properly and objectively be due to somebody who had made a commitment with the prospect—perhaps not reflected in the length of the tenure they have—that they might be able to build a business and continue. That is something where the code possibly does not fully recognise what is going on.
I hope I have covered all the points raised by noble Lords. However, as I say, this was a series of probing amendments, therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 5 withdrawn.
That concludes the work of the Committee this afternoon. The Committee stands adjourned. I remind Members to sanitise their chairs and desks before leaving.
Committee adjourned at 7.29 pm.