Is Philip Hammond speeding past democracy?

The New Economics Foundation published an insightful blog post on the HS2 consultation yesterday: http://www.neweconomics.org/blog/2011/06/17/is-the-high-speed-rail-consultation-the-real-deal-or-is-it-just-a-formality-for-phil

David Theiss says that in the foreword to the HS2 consultation documents, Philip Hammond wrote “no final decisions will be taken until everyone has had their opportunity to have their say” but now Hammond is publicly aligning himself with the high profile (and well-funded) Campaign for High Speed Rail, and encouraging those in favour of HS2 to speak up.

David Theiss makes the point that Philip Hammond is trying to marginalise those who oppose him, but says “the key issue at this stage is not about getting out the vote; it is about collecting the facts.”

He says that it’s important to have a debate on the issues around HS2 which includes a “breadth and depth of perspectives”. (That’s why we allow comments on articles on this website: to make sure there is a public debate.)

Theiss says

“Even so, the consultation exercise could be a rich source of salient evidence and legitimacy for the decision-making process on HS2. There are important issues worthy of serious consideration. In reality, Mr. Hammond appears more focused on shaping public opinion rather than learning from it. “

Philip Hammond’s remarks are just another example of the Government’s nonsultation approach, so it is critical our voices are heard.  It is very important for everyone to take part in the consultation.  Philip Hammond may be able to dismiss what he calls a “vocal minority”, but it will be harder for him to dismiss the thousands of consultation replies he says he expects to receive.

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24 comments to “Is Philip Hammond speeding past democracy?”
  1. Philip Hammond may be able to dismiss what he calls a “vocal minority”, but it will be harder for him to dismiss the thousands of consultation replies he says he expects to receive.

    No it won’t. He’ll take into account the fact that the amount of subterfuge surrounding this whole process from the “antis”, has rendered any meaningful attempts at analyzing genuine negative feedback impossible. It’ll all be slung into the nearest skip. The moment StopHS2 started “advising” people how to fill the form in was the moment it became useless.

    The consultation is just a PR exercise and nothing more. Governments are elected to take decisions. Democracy does not mean the government has to go to the people who elected them to sanction every policy they make.

    • And of course, Phillip Hammond cannot ignore anything else that may come to light which has a bearing on whether or not HS2 is built !!!

  2. It is now clear that our money is being spent on a selling exercise
    When you phone for a consultation form you are even asked if you are affected by the route—why??!!

    • John…..this actually begs the question…” why would you be phoning for a consultation form? “……surely you have made your views known by now via the website? There have been loads of reminders about it…..

        • ok……so whats wrong with being asked if you are affected by the route or not? Are you saying if that you are not affected by the route, you wont actually get a form ? If that is the case , let me know, and I ll strongly complain about that…..

          • no idea Gary
            I’d not considered that and dont know–my concern is that replies from people along the route would be discounted or even worse ignored so we’ll have to wait and see

            • Why would they be ignored? Penny has already pointed out to us the other week that ” stopHS2 evidence submission ” has been accepted by the Transport Select Committee ”

              Also, if you post your reply back, isnt there a chance it could actually get lost in the post ( which is not unheard of ) , therefore denying your voice to be heard? Surely when you use the web version , you get a receipt of some sort telling you that you have been successful in submitting your form? It seems rather odd that someone would take the chance of using the post and incurring the postal charge and time to drive to a post box, when in the comfort of your own home, you could actually do this a lot quicker and safer? Particularly in something which is of great importance to you?

            • @John: “my concern is that replies from people along the route would be discounted or even worse ignored so we’ll have to wait and see”

              @John – there’s a word that springs to mind here; “Paranoia”

              Dictionary definition; “a tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others”

              Have you considered an entirely logical alternative explanation for the question?

              That just possibly those gathering responses are genuinely interested in discerning accurate trends within the data. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that those living in close proximity to the proposed route won’t (in general) be wildly enthusiastic about the prospect of rail line passing by the end of their garden?

              However, genuine answers to the consultation document (in stark contrast to those coached by hostile campaign groups) could give teams involved in the planning and construction of HS2 a valuable insight into common concerns, leading them to respond with innovative mitigating design features?

              Obviously responses couched in hostile terms such as “I don’t want the route anywhere near me” are hardly constructive and likely to be ignored – the line has to go somewhere so the consultation process is bound to throw up answers of this type?

            • Peter, “– the line has to go somewhere so the consultation process is bound to throw up answers of this type?”

              And there was I thinking the consultation was to inform HMG whether HS2 was warranted or not. Didn’t know it was, according to you, a done deal.

            • Lel…..in actual fact, you had the chance to vote on this last year. It was part of the Tory Party Manifesto at the last election as below

              Transport

              Key transport policies include:

              * Building a high-speed rail link connecting London, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds with the Continent
              * Blocking moves for a third runway at Heathrow Airport
              * Blocking plans for second runways at Stansted and Gatwick airports
              * Report Air Passenger Duty
              * Improving Britain’s railways
              * Cutting congestion and making Britain’s roads safer
              * Making local transport greener

              So all those that voted Tory cannot complain when the government publishes details of those plans.

            • That’s not answering my observation about the consultation though is it Gary? Theresa Villiers, and Hammond have both said on many occasions that the consultation was to find out whether we, the people, agreed with their proposed version of high speed rail. Also high speed rail as you have just quoted could mean rail solutions other than HS2. The manifesto did not specifically say HS2.

              According to you we should not even be responding to the consultation, the dft should not have bothered with a consultation and HMG should just have said “its coming, like it or lump it”, because some reference was made to some form of high speed rail in their manifesto.

            • Indeed Lel…the manifesto says that its a high speed link between London , Birmingham Manchester and Leeds……..

              You voted for it…..but now you have seen that its coming through the Chilterns Back yard, you have suddenly decided there is no money to pay for it !!!! And thats despite the dft having a budget of £30 billion a year !!!!!

            • You’ve still not answered the post though … and neither as Peter D. How do you which way I voted, or if at all? Its academic anyway since building a high speed link between those cities could be interpreted in ways other than HS2 – links in a chain don’t necessarily mean building a new line. You’re trying to throw red herrings!

            • @lelli0: And there was I thinking the consultation was to inform HMG whether HS2 was warranted or not. Didn’t know it was, according to you, a done deal.

              Well, there you go (again) confirming a pervasive feeling of persecution on your part

              The consultation is a process designed to engage with all shades of opinion before a final decision is arrived at. I said “the line has to go somewhere” and your immediate response is “done deal”

              Did I say that? NO but you automatically concluded (because of the conspiratorial manner in which you approach anything related to HS2) that I know something about said process and its outcome sometime around Christmas 2011 – I don’t of course but yes I am assuming that if the decision reached is positive, the line has to go somewhere and guess what, after an exhaustive process, the DfT & HS2 Ltd has already arrived at the proposed route currently under consulation.

              I believe the decision, post consultation process, will be to go ahead. Not because I know something you don’t (which is what you are implying) but simply because I’ve looked at the facts and can readily perceive the massive overall benefits this project will provide for UK PLC. Yes, I do concede that there are some negative aspects, not least the huge disruption caused to a very small group of individuals who reside in close proximity to the planned route, but overall the benefits far outweigh the disadvanatages so on merit I think HS2 should go ahead.

              That’s why I said “the line has to go somewhere” but hey, who am I to question to conspiracy theories – after all, anyone in favour of HS2 must be either slightly crazy or has something to gain financially from its progress.

            • And you say I’m paranoid!! I was merely pointing out that you were responding as if the decision had already been made, rather calmly I thought … As Mr Cameron would say “calm down dear”. Whew!

            • @lelli0: I was merely pointing out that you were responding as if the decision had already been made

              Really – so you reported my words accurately I suppose (rather than put your own slant on them)?

              Have you actually read what you wrote – can I suggest that you go back and read them again, calmly this time?

              To plagiarise some words from a song “you never see the lies you believe”

          • Lots of considerations there Gary.

            You are fortunate enough to have a computer. It is only in the last 10 years or so home computers have become more common place. Many people still do not own one.

            You are obviously computer literate. Many people do not feel competent using a computer.

            This leaves a huge chunk of the population unable to use the online facilty.

            The web site only allows 2000 characters to each answer.

            It isn’t a user friendly site. If more then one person in a household wish to answer on-line on the same computer I gather it is really difficult. The site generally only allows one person per computer to respond. There is a way round it, but I don’t know how, and after much struggling the person who told me said it was really complicated (and they are computer literate)

            Several people complained they had wanted to answer the questions piecemeal and reported they could not ‘save’ their answers with a view to revisiting them. This may have been remedied.
            The address to send answer to is a freepost address.

            Just a little thought, if we do not use the postal service it will disappear and there would be loads of postmen out of a job. They are a great group of people and a service I like to support .

            Fears of answers from perceived nimbys being disregarded probably comes from the dismissive treatment of a large number of EHS consultation responses.

            • There were 19.2 million households with an Internet connection in 2010, representing 73 per cent of households. The region with the highest level of access was London, with 83 per cent, the lowest was the North East, with 59 per cent.

              In 2010, 30.1 million adults in the UK (60 per cent) accessed the Internet every day or almost every day. This is nearly double the estimate in 2006 of 16.5 million.

              Postal service ( and by default post offices ) have been in decline for years, the advent of e mail has reduced the number of letters sent. Last year Network Rail themselves intoduced E Pay for its staff. This meant that no payslips were sent in the post except to those staff who didnt have access to a PC at home. E Pay was mandatory for those staff who had access to a PC at work. The proliferation of supermarkets selling milk at below cost price has decimated the milk home delivery service ( ie the Milkman ). You may well like to support the service , but if its not economically viable , then it will be curtailed. Some postmen now find themselves delivering parcels on behalf of internet companies such as E Bay.

              There should be no fear from ” Nimbys” ….. I live 150 miles from the Chilterns and I can hear you. In fact Mr Hammond has mentioned the campaign many times this year alone. And as Penny pointed out, the evidence document of 13 pages has been submitted and accepted by TSC.

              The website may well only allow 2000 charecters per question , however you can have no complaints about that as the stopHS2 petition only allows 500 in a comments section.

            • Also the online form doesn’t work, always revived “Task Unsuccessful”, must of tried it a hundred times, on 2 different computers, 2 different browsers, and registered with two different email addresses.
              I never got a reply went I emailed then to say.

              In the end, I printed off and fill in a form, which I greatly resented doing, as I have a physical disability, which I wrote on the back of the form.

  3. I asked this question and got the following response—

    Regarding your query on the feedback and reporting of the consultation responses, you may wish to know that an independent response analysis agency has been appointed to handle the receipt, recording, analysis and reporting of consultation responses. As the consultation is still underway and the report has yet to be written, it is not possible to detail exactly how comments received will be reported. You may however find it informative to read response reports from other consultations, to see how these reports can look. Two examples include:

    http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/aviation/heathrowconsultations/heathrowdecision/responses/responses.pdf – Adding Capacity at Heathrow Airport

    http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file43206.pdf – The future of nuclear power – the role of nuclear power in a low carbon economy

    The report into consultation responses will be considered by the Secretary of State for Transport, and will inform his decisions later this year.

    Once decisions are announced, all consultation responses will be available for inspection and people will be able to see how their response was considered.

    • Finmere , dont know tbh, but Penny posted a link on here to the fact that the Transport Select Commitee are in session from next week.

      Penny……are you posting details of the daily minutes from the meeting as it goes along??

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