One of the provisions of the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act (2013) was that the Secretary of State was to report to Parliament about spending on High Speed Rail for each financial year.
The first financial year was defined in the act as “the period beginning with the day on which this Act is passed and ending with 31 March 2015”. The Act received Royal Assent on 21st November 2013, and at the time the bill was put before Parliament, it was already known that Parliament would have dissolved before the end of the financial year.
It was reported at the time that the reason for the Act was because HS2 spending was spiralling upwards: when the Bill was introduced to the House of Commons, Patrick McLoughlin casually upped the cost of HS2 by nearly £10 billion in his speech. HS2 costs are still being given in 2011 prices.
While we think it is entirely appropriate that the costs of high speed rail are made available to Members of Parliament, we are concerned that the spending will be buried amongst other documents that newly elected MPs will be given.
The case for HS2 has still not been made, as the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee report said last week. With a “total budget of £50.1 billion in 2011 prices”, HS2 is a massive expenditure and this should have proper scrutiny.