Questioning the Prime Minister?

From Hansard for yesterday, 22nd June:

Q11. [61078] Stuart Andrew (Pudsey) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend welcome those campaigning outside Parliament today for high-speed rail in order to bring thousands of much-needed jobs to the midlands and help to address the north-south divide, and will he confirm that it will come to Yorkshire?

The Prime Minister: I happily confirm all those things. I believe that if we are really serious about rebalancing our economy and ensuring that we get growth across the country, and not just in the south-east, the time for high-speed rail has come. That is why it has my strong support.

Much as the Prime Minister wants to address the north-south divide, HS2 is not the way to do it.  As we pointed out on Tuesday, HS2’s own predictions show that HS2 will result in fewer jobs for the Midlands than for Londoners.

However, if the Prime Minister is at all aware of the situation with High Speed Rail, he should know that the public consultation on HS2 is still open: or has David Cameron already decided the outcome?

If the Prime Minister is at all aware of the situation with High Speed Rail, he should also know that the Transport Select Committee has only just started hearing evidence in their inquiry on high speed rail: or will David Cameron ignore their report when it comes out?

It is comments like this from the Prime Minister which show just how important it is to have an impartial public inquiry into HS2: one where a judge looks at the facts, weighs up the issues, and comes to a balanced conclusion.

PS A number of Stop HS2 supporters were also outside Parliament as well.  It was a great chance for us to talk to the media, and explain some of the many problems with HS2 to the public.

44 comments to “Questioning the Prime Minister?”
  1. @Finmere

    errrrr……he was doing what all politicians do. Playing to the (most important) gallery, ie. his constituents in Runnymede because that was his role at the time. Plain old opposition backbench MP

  2. I have now started to receive replies to letters I sent to some of the biggest Union Secretaries.
    Interestingly UCU has no policy on the HS2 expenditure, but I am sure you will be please to know that Len McCluskey Gen. Sec. Unite (1.5 million members) is to consider soliciting the opinions of Unite members and is copying my correspondence to its Political Department for that purpose.
    Needless to say I shall l inform you when I get replies from the other major Unions I have approached.
    Perhaps all is not yet lost, and hopefully, now it is clear that there is no way we will achieve the 100,000 signature petition, if more people making enough approaches, it might be possible for the issue to be raised at TUC Conference in Sept.
    I regret I have no knowledge of the workings of the Union Conferences even though I was once a member of one, but I am sure there will be those on here only too eager once again air their knowledge.

      • Nah, leave him alone. I’m sure the trade unions are right behind cancelling thousands of construction jobs and don’t want to help the north prosper in any way.

    • Great John, well done you. I’m sure there are people who may be able to help but like I’ve said for most this is all pastures new.

  3. http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200001/cmhansrd/vo010306/halltext/10306h04.htm

    Suggest you make this your bedside reading PD. Even Mr Hammond was very anti a hybrid bill on behalf of his blighted constituents – and sooooo concerned for an area of outstanding natural beauty. In 2001. He has rather changed his tune don’t you think?

    Oh and would somebody somewhere, hopefully a moderator, please put a restraining order on you if you can’t/wont modify your language and vindictive attitude towards contributors. Perhaps you could make an apology to Mr Fry?

    • And your point is @lelli0?

      That politicians are slippery characters and will do what is best for their own interests – tell me something new!

      Phillip Hammond was wearing a different political hat back in 2001 – that of a backbench opposition MP acting in the interests of his Runnymede constituents (you know those who elected him in the first place)

      Now he’s also the Secretary of State for Transport and part of an Executive (policy making) arm of government that has arrived at a decision (that you disagree with for rather obvious reasons) about the allocation of finite resources (that’s what politics is about?). You seem to have conveniently forgotten that this policy was in the Conservative Party manifesto before the last election – it was of course also in the LibDem and Labour versions so no choice there for those viscerally opposed to HS2.

      To summarise this entire process is open to challenge and democratic accountability – there is no “done deal” as has been implied, despite the conspiracy theories bandied around on this site.

      Finally, please stop trying to act as some kind of minder for @peter fry – he’s a big boy now (he may even be older than me!) and I’m sure he can look after himself. I have simply critiqued his remarks and the lack of objective reasoning they seem to imply. Are you afraid of robust debate?

      • PD – again just pointing out his double standards – nimbyism accusations for one, and selective opinion on hybrid bill usage. My moderating comment was not just intended for PF, he is as you say quite capable of fighting his own corner, but for all contributors (including myself) who have had to contend with your manners and attitude, both of which are not of the best. Let’s spar by all means, but keep it good natured.

      • PD, oops sorry forgot to mention that high speed rail is in the manifestos, not specifically HS2. I am not against high speed rail, just this particular wizard wheeze of a solution looking for a problem to fit it.

        • High Speed Rail is in the manifestos but specific reference to HS2 wasn’t – so that somehow makes HS2 politically untenable? You’re clutching at straws me thinks @lelli0?

          HS2 was on the drawing board before the election – in fact the Conservatives said HS2 was a replacement for the 3rd runway at Heathrow – I accept that they hedged their bets over the precise routing but that was merely an electorally expedient move to preclude voter hostility in the affected areas – a strategy that seemed to work by the way – after all there are now a dozen or so sitting Conservative MPs in the route affected areas?

          All voters had an opportunity to vote for a n other candidates during the general election but of course those a n other candidates stand no chance under AV and probably wouldn’t fare much better under AV (or any system retaining single member boundaries)

          So in the end you’re stuck with the present scenario whereby only a relativley tiny audience is really exercised by HS2 (those in very close proximity – @Gary has demonstrated some evidence to suggest the threshold is approx 1000m) whereas the rest of us, ie 99.9% of the population couldn’t give a monkeys. Given that this project will be decided by a Commons vote (or series of them during the legislative process) I’d say that the overall outcome is pretty well known in advance but not because it’s a “done deal” within the Executive (Ministers) but simply because the vast bulk of those we elected can perceive its worth to UK PLC.

          Just finished wathching the video of the Transport Select Committee proceedings and it was quite interesting. Two particular aspects came out;
          Firstly, expert opinion in this field is almost unanimously favourable toward High Speed Rail and overwhelmingly in favour of the specific HS2 project (Christian Wolmar was the only strident dissenting voice I heard), although concerns were raised (quite rightly) about total costs.
          The second came right at the end of the session in the last few minutes of more than 2.5 hours of recorded material when an executive from SNCF was being quizzed about local impact concerns. It was the fact that once mitigating factors had been built into High Speed Lines to meet such demands, the perceived problems vanished – there was simply nothing to report – the line faded into the landscape and everyone got on with their lives, end of story.

        • You don’t think that comment might indicate the root of the ‘NIMBY’ accusations..? High speed rail fine as long as it’s not near me…

          The problem for Stop HS2 is that the primary currency in campaiging is credibility and consistency of message. Actions so far fall short on both counts, so outside the immediately affected area, no-one will listen (except the Taxpayers Alliance, but they are hardly welcome allies for anyone).

          • ‘primary currency in campaiging is credibility and consistency of message’

            and thats why HS2 wont happen

            Justification has shifted from the need for speed/bridging the north south divide/jobs/capacity/green and so on,none of which has been proven to be value for money and an independent report has concluded that ‘a degree of uncertainty” surrounds the financial benefits’
            The claim that it is in the national interest has not been proven and therefore the accusation of NIMBYSM is totally unfounded.

            • @John – For consultants to say (at great expense) ‘a degree of uncertainty surrounds the financial benefits’ is surely a statement of the blindingly obvious and is applicable to almost any business case or economic forecast. The trick is what the word ‘degree’ decodes as!

    • As someone with only a limited understanding of Parliamentary procedure, I’d like to know what are the key differences between the hybrid bill process and the process for an application made under the Transport and Works Act. Can anyone help me with this please?

      • Finmere, I googled hybrid bill …. copied this wiki piece for you for starters!

        Historically, hybrid bills have often been used by the Government on behalf of railway companies and transport agencies to obtain authorisation for major projects deemed to be in the national interest, but which would affect a large number of private interests.

        I guess what it does is allow laws etc to be overidden because of “national interest”. I’m sure someone will give you the complete low down, and put me in my place if I’m incorrect!

        • @lelli0: I guess what it does is allow laws etc to be overidden because of “national interest”. I’m sure someone will give you the complete low down, and put me in my place if I’m incorrect!

          Nice quote, out of context – a Hybrid Bill is not primarily concerned with overiding existing law. It is a device enabling a government to empower those charged with the task of constructing a large and complex infrastucture project (HS2 Ltd?) to act within the law, whilst providing those individuals, communities and groups impacted by the aforesaid project to have their say, make representations etc. It is also demonstrably transparent – you can watch the proceedings if you want to and see who says what and who votes in a particular way, plus there are special measures available to petitioners against the measures within the Bill. Ultimately, as with any piece of legislation, the electorate can hold the decision makers to account at a later stage, ie. when the next election comes round.

          Sounds fair, ie. relatively democratic, to me but of course if you find yourself amongst that relatively tiny group of unforunate individuals adversely affected, your perspective might be different – a Hybrid Bill definitely isn’t a “done deal (as has been claimed in these columns), decided beforehand by the Executive (Ministers) and railroaded through the legislative process, courtesy of the usual Parliamentarty tactics, ie. Patronage (vote the way we tell you and your political career will go far) or Whipping (vote against the party line and your career will go nowhere fast!). A unique feature of a Hybrid Bill is the manner in which petitions against the contents of the Bill can be heard at the Committe Stage.

          Petitions
          Any individuals or organisations that oppose the bill can submit petitions against it.

          Select Committee
          If petitions are received, the select committee will meet and consider the bill in very much the same way as a private bill committee would. However, there are certain differences; in particular, that the promoters do not need to establish the need for the bill since the House has already put on record its approval of the principle of the bill at second reading.

          First the petitioners make their case, calling witnesses if necessary. Witnesses are normally examined on oath. When the opponents of the bill have completed their case, and the promoters have been heard in reply, the committee considers the clauses of the bill, reporting it to the House with or without amendment.

          So in fact petitioners (in this case, the very well organised groups opposed to HS2) have a number of oppourtunities to put their case, they can even use barristers to cross examine witnesses hostile to their case, ie. expert witnesses who support HS2

          If the case against HS2 is so compelling (as those in the anti-HS2 brigade constantly remind us, see the straplines above) this should be a doddle. The Committee appointed for the HS2 Hybrid Bill (made up of a cross section of backbenchers, not appointed by Ministers) will instantly perceive the weakness of the case for HS2 and recommend wholesale changes, in the form of significant amendments – no doubt those against HS2 will have suggestions for wrecking amendments prepared in advance?

          In summary, an open, transparent and democratically accountable process, not the stitch up alleged by others here (of a somewhat paranoiac disposition)?

          Finally @lelli0, thanks for posting the very same URL link I researched and inserted in my original critique of @peter fry’s original comments – see the thread in point no. 6 (great minds think alike?)

          • Thank you Peter for a very clear and concise explanation.

            What was Mr Hammond alluding to, in his speech against the proposed Central Railway, when he said that a hybrid bill would bypass the proper processes of scrutiny that a Transport and Works Act application would entail?

        • Thanks Lell.

          What I’d picked up on was the Hansard publication you posted about the Central Railway proposal. In his speech back then, Mr Hammond said that a hybrid bill would bypass the proper processes of scrutiny that a Transport and Works Act application would entail.

          What I would really like to know, in layman’s terms, is what are the differences between the hybrid bill process and a Transport and Works Act application, particularly in respect of ‘proper scrutiny’.

  4. “campaigning outside Parliament today for high-speed rail”.
    Supporter of HSR, a government project, where camping outside Parliament??!!
    Sad little people.
    Where they being paid I wonder?
    I’m sure employees of the businesses 4 HS2 and perhaps HS2 Ltd where there,

    I’m sure the PM isn’t aware of Maglev, or that he is being mislead by his good friend Mr. Hammond into thinking that HSR is the latest technology, or that somehow it will heal the north-south divide.
    Politicians are not engineers or scientists, they have advisers to tell them which is the best transport solution, and HS2 Ltd is against Maglev – due to vested interested in HSR no doubt – so the PM supports HSR because his advisers tell him it’s good, he doesn’t really know anything.

    15 or 20 years is too long to wait, and a line to Birmingham is just the start, it won’t make a huge effect on the north until it reaches the north, and then the effect would only be to the benefit of London.

    • @Luke: “I’m sure the PM isn’t aware of Maglev, or that he is being mislead by his good friend Mr. Hammond into thinking that HSR is the latest technology, or that somehow it will heal the north-south divide.”

      @Luke – This seems rather fanciful on your part – can I suggest that the Prime Minister is very much aware of MAGLEV technology – I may not agree with Mr. Cameron’s politics but he certainly isn’t stupid and I think you’ll find he has been out and about a bit?

      @Luke: 15 or 20 years is too long to wait, and a line to Birmingham is just the start, it won’t make a huge effect on the north until it reaches the north, and then the effect would only be to the benefit of London.

      Now it seems you want to have the argument both ways – if the UK was to adopt MAGLEV technology, you can stretch the existing timescale by another ten years (whilst we wait for the costs of producing the magnets required to fall dramatically) so which is it – is 15/20 years too long or is 25/30 for MAGLEV too long?

      In fact why don’t we wait for vacuum technology to supesede MAGLEV and really leap into the future – problem is it will be two or three generations before we see anything other than a computer simulation actually materialise – not sure about you @Luke but I’d like to take a trip on a HSR train from my Region before I’m pushing up daisies!

      • Actually, Cameron floated Maglev as an option when in opposition as a ‘new thinking’ type of proposal. Then the Conservatives did some research on it, rejected it as impractical, and went with high speed rail.

        So yes, the Prime Minister knows lots about Maglev and has rejected it.

      • Well I knew someone who said the same about Maglev, sadly he passed away and never got the chance.

        There are two different types of Maglev train, the Japanese JR and the German Transrapid.
        It is the JR that is expensive, it is designed to deal with earthquakes.

        The Transrapid costs are the same as that of HSR, and since HS2 is much more costly than the average HSR, Transrapid Maglev is cheaper then HS2.

        Transrapid can also be built quickly, the concrete struts and guideway segments can be prefabricated and laid a lot quicker then HSR can.

        As for what the Conservative found out, I do not know, but the studies and previous implementations of Transrapid show, that it can work, and it is indeed cheaper the HSR.

    • Interesting.
      Warwickshire County Council has just released a statement saying: “HS2 Ltd, the company behind the scheme, has won support from some businesses, but in fact 70 per cent of the anticipated passengers will be leisure users.”

      • 70%…..which is pretty much the same as what West Coast is now, and of course those 70% are not actually using their cars to make that journey

  5. The advert States “Why not come along to the Wendover White Elephant Walk on Sunday 10 July?……up Coombe Hill, which overlooks the proposed HS2 route through the beautiful Vale of Aylesbury……This family event is designed to raise awareness of the HS2 consultation”.
    Doesn’t this typify the parochial approach to the prevention of the colossal expenditure on HS2?
    Wouldn’t it have a much bigger impact if there had been liaison between all the 65 Anti HS2 Campaign groups and the following 51M members
    The Taxpayers Alliance
    The Green Party
    Campaign for the Protection of Rural England,
    Friends of the Earth
    The Countryside Alliance
    Buckinghamshire County Council
    Aylesbury Vale District Council
    Chiltern District Council
    South Bucks District Council
    Wycombe District Council
    London Borough of Hillingdon
    Cherwell District Council
    Lichfield District Council
    South Northants District Council
    Warwick District Council
    North Warwickshire Borough Council
    Warwickshire County Council
    Staffordshire County Council
    Stratford-on-Avon District Council

    Just imagine 3,000 people holding hands in a ring around Chequers (that’s all it takes) each with a horn or loudspeaker. At the appointed time, every 3 minutes everyone makes a noise like a HS2 train passing by. That works out at just a 30 seat bus outing for each group.
    Look, each little group has its own banners and slogans as to what the money could be spent upon, and not one mentioning the local issue of our countryside.
    There’s one group concerned about the Social Services,
    Another about the poor standards in our schools,
    Yet another about the conditions of our school buildings and facilities
    Over there some are worried about the millstone around the neck of our children seeking university education,
    Others about the ball and chain of heavier taxes to pay for the HS2
    Yet others want the money spent on cleaning up our hospitals,
    That group want security for our armed forces, and next to them a group who want to feel secure going out at night and seek better policing,
    Gosh, there are a lot of placards concerned about their ageing relatives and lack of care facilities.
    And over there are banners mentioning the state of our roads and further back they call for sufficient rolling stock to carry commuters to London.
    The placards go on and on, and look, not one mentions NIMBY
    It’s not too late. All we need is the leadership, the organisation of something like Bucks CC to work out which group carries what banners, and the enthusiasm and commitment of the volunteers to carry out something much bigger than a picnic on Coombe Hill.
    The news media worldwide would love it and what an embarrassment to those in government who think we can afford the £33 billion.
    Yes, it is recognised that HS2 will come in time, and who knows where? But, at the moment, the state of our economy dictates how and where what money we have should be spent and we should not try to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need.

    • That is the bottom line

      “at the moment, the state of our economy dictates how and where what money we have should be spent and we should not try to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need”.

      Well said

      • the key phrase you use is at the moment so hs2 is ok because it isnt being built yet. and you then say that we shouldnt spend on what we dont need which i agtree with but we do need hs2

    • Think you need both the local and the combined approach BUT love the circle Chequers idea! You could have a Mexican wave of train noises…
      Count me in!

    • stop hs2 always complains when anyone dares to suggest that by and large those individuals, groups and councils against hs2 are either along or near the line of route, or somewhere far away. in other words, those who wont benefit or may suffer disruption through its construction and operation.

      if you look at the list of stop hs2 supporters you have provided, you can see straight away that most of them fall into the categories i have stated above. even you must see that.

      with all major projects of national importance there will unfortunately those who will not gain any advantage or may be worse off when that project goes ahead.

      as far as hs2 is concerned even stop hs2 recognise that there is a problem with capacity and suggest packages such as rp2. the thing you dont mention is that if the exisitng network were upgraded, all users would be affected for years and years and it is possible that areas of beauty may be affected and people will still lose their homes and suffer disruption.

      so i done know what you think that the ordinary person not affected by hs2, or benefitting from it, will think when they see that most hs2 critics live near the route. especially when those same people then suggest that the works should be done somewhere else. you surely can see that this is the case. i am not criticising you as you must do what you believe is right.

  6. Will the PM be aware of HS2 ?? Of course he will…..he chairs the Cabinet of which Mr Hammond is a part of. He will also be aware that the route passes not too far away from chequers.

    As far as a “done deal ” goes , its down to a vote of MPs, who you vote for to make decisions on your behalf. No doubt the TSC report will go to all MPs as well. This is a very good example of democracy in action – MPs either vote for or against it…..simple really.

    • Ah, that little word democracy . We can vote them all out in 4 years , no doubt 5 minutes after they have signed non-cancellable contracts with the foreign companies that our beloved leaders will then go on to be advisers to .

      If you believe in democracy then I’m sure you would be happy to remove the whip and give all MPs a free vote on this . Then if they all gang up on the ones from Greater Manchester and Leeds I presume you would be happy to go back to one of your two houses and say that’s a fair result .

      • Indeed Martin….give all MPs free vote and remove the whip. Of course it wont make a scrap of difference as the project has cross party support ….indeed it featured in every partys manifesto at the last election, and no doubt it will at the next one.

        • Didn’t see HS2 in the Conservative Party manifesto ( nor were Tuition Fee increases in the Lib Dems’ either but then again we’ve had that discussion ) .

          They did state a commitment to High Speed Rail which as I’m sure you know is defined by the EU as > 155 mph . So a big difference to what HS2 proposes . Boy will that extra 15 minutes make a big difference to the West Midlands economy !!

          • Indeed Martin – EU definition of High Speed Rail is greater that 155mph, and of course HS2 state that it will be greater than that speed. Of course designing a track for 250 mph running is one thing, doesnt actually mean trains have to go that fast. But it does make sense to design a twin track line for that , if the Victorians had done that when they first built the rail network, we wouldnt be having this conversation today.

            Lets give MPs a free vote as you say, no need for the whip. Its generally recognised nowadays that there is little difference between the main political parties, so its no suprise we have a hung parliament. So if we accept that MPs whose represent those voters who live within 1km of the line would actually vote no to HS2, how many does that leave to convert? 630?? 620??
            Not sure myself, but gives you some idea of the task stopHS2 has……

  7. A judge can run a public inquiry and draw conclusions; they cannot decide policy. That’s why we have elections in this country, so a public inquiry will make no difference whatsoever if the public has voted for a government that wishes to build HS2.

    If we have a public inquiry or every controversial decision the government makes, we’ll just stand still.

  8. As I’ve said all along,a Done Deal.The P.M. is entitled to confirm his support for HSR,but NOT that it will reach Yorkshire.That is for Parliament to decide.

    • @peter fry: “As I’ve said all along,a Done Deal.The P.M. is entitled to confirm his support for HSR,but NOT that it will reach Yorkshire.That is for Parliament to decide.

      Yet more rampant paranoia on display?

      Parliament WILL ultimately decide this matter but the Prime Minister simply expressed his opinion on the matter because he was asked to do so. Reference to detail already in the public domain hardly constitutes evidence of “a done deal” The Prime Minister naturally exerts influence but we can only hope individual MPs will act in a manner best suited to the interests of their respective constituents. Somehow I think the vote on the Hybrid Bill, circa 2015, will be about 5 to 1 in favour of going ahead?

      So in fact, this is a political matter because the decision was made by electorally accountable policy makers. Ironically, there was a relatively recent instance (I’m trying to find the YOUTUBE video clip) in the USA where various transport pressure groups had tried to overturn a political decision (on the part of the State Governor) to refuse Federal funds to support a high speed rail project (a decision that meant cancellation of the project). The judges quite rightly refused pointblank to overule the politicians stating that it was a decision wholly for the political domain – after all if you don’t like the policy output, vote accordingly. Of course the problem here in the UK for the anti-HS2 brigade is the fact that High Speed Rail has almost universal political backing – you could all vote for Green candidates at the next general election but see how far you get with that tactic (particularly so after AV was voted down) gets you?.

      That’s why this portion of the article

      “It is comments like this from the Prime Minister which show just how important it is to have an impartial public inquiry into HS2: one where a judge looks at the facts, weighs up the issues, and comes to a balanced conclusion.”

      is dangerously inaccurate nonsense!

      • Thankyou for your medical diagnosis,P.D…I presume you’re qualified,and able to judge it remotely?I’m not the first of your opponents to be accused of this. When the P.M. CONFIRMS that the line will reach Yorkshire,that is not an opinion.

        • @peter fry

          Let’s just say I know a damn sight more than you do about the nature of UK political discourse and the UK constitutional model in particular.

          @Gary has correctly pointed out the procedure that will be followed during this process. The Prime Minister is simply repeating the prevailing viewpoint amongst the Executive (policy making) arm of the government but it is the Legislature (Parliament) that makes the final decision via a vote in the House, in fact several votes (or divisions as they’re called).

          Precise details of the processes involved during the passage of a Hybrid Bill can be found here:
          http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-information-office/l05.pdf

          You’ll note that petitioners (presumably in this instance a variety of anti-HS2 campaign groups) have ample opportunity to make their views known directly to the decision making body, ie. MPs. Now, If that’s your idea of a “done deal” then all I say is paranoia seems an apt description of the mindset pervading the whole anti-HS2 movment.

          • Oh,really?And what makes you think that?Are you a mind-reader as well?What talent!You have no idea whatsoever of my grasp of political procedure.I’m probably a good deal older than you,and quite familiar with the hybrid bill process,and could tell you how ,when and why they were introduced in the first place. .However,unlike some commenting on this site ,I don’t presume ignorance on the part of others,or superior knowledge on mine.Now go and tell your grandmother how to suck eggs.

            • @peter fry

              If you know all of this why have your previous posts displayed such ignorance of the processes involved – a Hybrid Bill gives ample opportunity for campaign group input (from affected groups/communities/individuals). In fact if you read the blurb about Bills of this nature you’ll see that it is one of the unique features they display, which is why they tend to be used to facilitate the implementation of large infrastructure projects, eg. the Channel Tunnel.

              If the govt. had wanted to railroad this through they could have used an entirely different (more traditional Parliamentary) strategy, which would be to make it a whipped Bill and just force it through the legislative process. It didn’t do that and that’s why your remarks about “done deal” seem to imply an ill-informed perspective – maybe your judgement is simply coloured/clouded by your proximity to the proposed route, plain and simple?

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