HS2 Ltd have challenged the right of 414 petitioners against the HS2 Hybrid Bill to be heard by the House of Lords Committee scrutinising it, including all 8 MPs who submitted petitions. The 414 challenges to the ‘locus standi’ (the right to be heard) have been made to every MP and action group that has petitioned against the Bill, as well as hundreds of individuals.
Also challenged are the two national groups which have petitioned, HS2 Action Alliance and Stop HS2, both of which were challenged at the same stage in the House of Commons, and both won locus standi.
The MPs being challenged are; Commons Speaker John Bercow, Attorney General Jeremy Wright, Europe Minister David Liddington, Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom, International Development Minister Nick Hurd, former ministers Cheryl Gillan and Caroline Spelman, and newly elected MP Craig Tracey.
Whilst HS2 Ltd have challenged all the action groups that have petitioned, with their normal level of competence, they did not notice the Southam Area Action Group had submitted more than one petition, so they will have the right to be heard on the petition HS2 Ltd missed.
Whilst 414 out of 821 petitions (50.4%) are being challenged by HS2 Ltd in the House of Lords, at the same point in the Commons they only challenged 24 out of 1925 (1.2%). Almost all (if not all) of the 414 being challenged this time were allowed to petition the Commons without challenge.
Communities have been further angered by the documents issued with the challenges, as HS2 Ltd have provided documents detailing challenges to locus standi made on previous bills, almost all of which were lost by the petitioners.
Campaign groups have decided to produce their own advice on locus standi, fearing many of those challenged are deliberately being discouraged from appealing, in what is already a complex and arcane process. Many see the Lords as a second chance to bring up issues which were not addressed in the Commons, and indeed Commons Committee Chair Robert Syms MP told many of the people which appeared in front of his committee, that they would have another chance in the Lords.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin responded:
“The principle of representation for the common man has been established for 750 years, but in HS2 Ltd we have an organisation so arrogant, so dictatorial, and so distant to the people whose lives they are devastating that they think they can overturn one of the oldest fundamental human rights.”
“These challenges are being made because HS2 Ltd want to speed up the process, and shut up hundreds of people who have genuine concerns about the feasibility of this badly thought out plan, and the competence of those running it.”
“HS2 Ltd are callously intimidating people, sending them information intended to give the impression they will lose their appeal, so they might as well give up now. This is yet another example of the ‘culture of misinformation’ which permeates HS2 Ltd and the fact they have ‘a complete disregard for the public’. This is completely unreasonable, and it smacks of double-standards that hundreds of people who they allowed to be heard in the Commons are now being challenged on this right in the Lords.”
Stop HS2 Chair Penny Gaines added:
“It’s absolutely astounding that HS2 Ltd should issue so many challenges. But HS2 Ltd are being true to form. They were criticised recently by the Parliamentary Ombudsman for their attitude to the communities affected by HS2, and these challenges are just a continuation of that.”
“With such a range of people being challenged, including all the MPs, HS2 Ltd are clearly trying it on.”
“In the debate in the House of Lords, several peers said it was very important for democracy that people affected by HS2 must be heard by the Select Committee and the Select Committee must consider the evidence carefully. But HS2 Ltd, having refused to listen to individuals and communities over the last few years, want to stop the democratic process working properly.”