Cabinet Minister blasts HS2 Ltd for ‘mistreating and pressurising residents’

Following on from the Parliamentary inquiry by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, the Daily Mail published details from a letter written by Jeremy Wright, the Attorney General, to the Inquiry.

According to the Mail, the letter says

‘HS2 is having a huge psychological effect on many of those I represent who live in the path of this project.’

Wright said that HS2 Ltd are blocking requests for information and even sending letters to deceased relatives of local people and added

‘This poor administration causes great anger and does little to allay the feeling that HS2 Ltd do not care about the people whose lives have been turned upside down.’

In addition, Wright pointed out delays in supplying key information to residents, with HS2 Ltd taking over 18 months to explain why one proposal had been rejected.

In some cases , this led to “corridor deals” with petitioners being offered changes in the corridor before their petition hearings. Mr Wright referred to these deals, saying:

‘The “corridor deals” were certainly unsatisfactory in terms of the way in which they put pressure on individual constituents to reach a settlement.’

Wright added

‘I have also received complaints from constituents who have received communications from HS2 Ltd addressed to a deceased relative or to “the owner-occupier” when there has already been extensive communication with the named individual.’

Whilst most of the written evidence has not been published yet, the transcript of the oral evidence session is available on the Committee’s webpage.

During oral evidence, some of the other MPs comments to the committee were revealed:

  • The Speaker, John Bercow: “The promoter” in his opinion, “has shown little or no regard for those adversely affected by the project, whether it be through the application of the Government’s discretionary compensation schemes or its communication with residents.”
  • The Attorney General, Jeremy Wright: “I must be frank and say that the forums in the areas I represent were not a success. Information provided by HS2 Ltd was fairly sparse. The next phase in engagement is bilateral meetings, which happened partly at my request.” He goes on to say, “There is a lot of work to be done to restore any trust in HS2.”
  • Andrea Leadsom: “The communication between HS2 Ltd and affected communities is very much sub-par and there has been little to no improvement, despite numerous representations from constituent colleagues. My office has frequently been frustrated by HS2 Ltd’s head office refusing to transfer calls to relevant departments or individuals and instead requiring further paper trails by e-mail or letter. I am aware that staff members and other officers have experienced the same door-keeping by HS2 Ltd’s telephone operators. Indeed I myself, with your helpline, had difficulty in getting your contact e-mail.”
  • Nick Hurd: “However, HS2 have handled the consultation poorly and that has made matters worse. Plans have constantly changed. There have been major gaps in information and inadequate transparency. There have been inconsistent messages and assertions made without supporting evidence. As a result, there was a breakdown in trust.”
  • Craig Tracey MP: “Too frequently HS2 are not proactive with working with local communities and only provide information when prompted to do so.”

Add this to the appointment of an ‘independent’ Resident’s Commissioner, who was appointed by HS2 Ltd, is paid by HS2 Ltd, reports to HS2 Ltd and works in HS2 Ltd offices, it’s clear that the PACAC report will be interesting reading when it comes out.

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