People campaigning against HS2, the proposed new High Speed Rail line have been shocked to learn that a report from the Major Projects Authority which give the project the second worst possible rating, just one above saying the project is unachievable, will not be made available to the public or MPs until the Hybrid Bill which would legislate for HS2 has been presented to Parliament. The Amber-Red rating means “Successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible.”
In a letter to Francis Maude, MP David Liddington states his concern that the MPA report will not be made available or even subject to freedom of information request until two years after it was produced. It is not at this point clear when it was produced, but it was due to have started in October 2011. The only reason that anyone outside the MPA, DfT and HS2 Ltd knows about the Amber-Red rating is because Margaret Hodge MP, in her role as Chair of the Public Accounts Committee pressed DfT officials at an evidence session on April 18th. If she had not been so persistent, no-one outside the loop would know at all, possibly for another two years.
When setting out his ‘Transparency Agenda, David Cameron said;
“Greater transparency across Government is at the heart of our shared commitment to enable the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account. The Government must set new standards for transparency, and our Coalition Programme for Government sets out a number of specific commitments. Limited exemptions on national security and personal privacy grounds will be permitted.”
Despite this, the MPA is set to be kept secret for two years. Following an article in the Sunday Telegraph, various high profile figures have called on twitter for the report to be made public, including Steve Baker MP, Nikki Sinclaire MEP, John O’Connell Research Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, Matthew Barrett the Deputy Editor of Conservative Home and Richard Wellings Deputy Editorial Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
Stop HS2 Campaign Coordinator Joe Rukin said;
The Major Projects Authority are saying that HS2 is that broke, they ain’t sure if it can be fixed, but no-one is going to see why until after the Hybrid Bill has gone to Parliament. This is absolutely ridiculous. David Cameron said that he wanted to ‘set new standards for transparency’, but wants to bury the MPA report, maybe for up to two years. How can it be that a report designed to look into the viability of spending billions of pounds can be a state secret? If it hadn’t been for Margaret Hodge asking the question at the Public Accounts Committee, would anyone know about this report? When would we know? Would they have kept it buried for the full two years until after HS2 has gone to Parliament? There is only one credible thing to do right now and that is release the report and see the warts and all appraisal from the MPA.”