Information Commissioner demands release of secret HS2 report.

The Information Commissioner has ruled that a Project Assessment Review, which gave HS2 it’s first amber-red rating must be released in both the public interests, and to comply with Environmental Information Regulations. The review took place in November 2011, and is not due to be released until 2 years after compilation. There have since been another two assessments carried out by the Majority Projects Authority (June ’12 & Nov ’12) which have also rated HS2 as an amber-red risk, with another review due this month (June ’13). The Government could be forced to publish in full all the amber-red assessments of HS2 as a result of the ruling.

Dr Paul Thornton from Burton Green, near Kenilworth in Warwickshire, initially requested publication of the report which provides the details of why HS2 was given an amber-red rating under the Freedom of Information Act in May 2012, and after a series of challenges, the information commissioner has ruled in his favour and demanded the Cabinet Office release the information in the public interests. The Cabinet Office has previously defended non-release of the data under environmental rules because it did not contain any information relevant to the environment, but the commissioner made it clear that HS2 has environmental implications.

The description of an amber-red rating is; “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”. There have now been three consecutive amber-red ratings. The Information Commissioner made his ruling on 6th June, meaning the Government have until 4th July to respond or appeal.

Today (10th June 2013), a legal appeal against HS2 on environmental grounds will commence, whilst HS2 Ltd continues a road show on its environmental statement consultation, with an event in Kenilworth.

Campaigners are now calling for the three Major Project Authority (MPA) reports which have all rated HS2 as ‘amber-red’, along with the one due this month, to be published before MPs debate a planned paving bill in Parliament. Campaigners are concerned that a vote on what they dub a ‘blank cheque’ for HS2 will be rushed through before the publication of these reports and before the Public Accounts Committee debate the highly critical National Audit Office report on HS2, which is due to take place on July 1st.

Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said:

“The Government have tried as hard as they can to keep the fact that HS2 has had three consecutive amber-red assessments buried, with not even the first hint that they would actually disclose the details of the reports. All we know is the overall ratings, not any of the detail. The Information Commissioner has been very clear, the details of why the Major Projects Authority think HS2 is a disaster waiting to happen must be released in the public interests. It is a disgrace to think that even MPs wouldn’t be told just how badly the project has been thought through before being asked to sign a blank cheque for it. It is not in the public interests and therefore completely undemocratic to withhold this information, the reports must be released, and the Public Accounts Committee must have their say before there is any vote on HS2.”

Dr Paul Thornton said:

“The details of why HS2 got its amber red warnings should be fully shared with the whole country, especially MPs who are being asked to vote on the project. It is not acceptable to say one thing in public while withholding their private reality.”

The text of the ruling from the Information Commissioner can her found here; http://stophs2.org/?attachment_id=8673 The Government has 28 days to appeal the ruling.

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7 comments to “Information Commissioner demands release of secret HS2 report.”
  1. I wonder what mr hamond thinks of network rail debt ,when mr Osborne is asking him to cut defence budget? As the transport dept got a unlimited budget ? Perhaps so when they vote on giving then a blank cheque next week .when you think of all the cuts being made to our services. And they just keep on with hs2 a project we can all do without .they need there heads banging together if they say yes for a blank cheque. For hs2

  2. I am pleased that the Information Commissioner has found thus.

    Worth re-reading the following assessment from 2011 by nef.

    http://www.neweconomics.org/publications/entry/response-to-the-hs2-consultation

    In brief the article states
    The limitations of the HS2 appraisal are as follows:

    Important material impacts of HS2 are excluded from the analysis
    By separating rhetoric on objectives from the appraisal, it is not possible to test the claims that are being made for HS2 which has implications for accountability
    Appraisal is not rooted in stakeholder engagement
    Evaluation of potential alternatives is incomplete
    Time savings are over-valued and over-emphasised
    There are significant inconsistencies with existing rail capacity and future demand figures
    The economic case is dependent on potentially optimistic economic growth
    The opportunity cost of HS2 investment is poorly evaluated
    Sensitivity testing is incomplete
    The carbon case for HS2 has not been made.
    We call on the Government to postpone a decision on HS2, and to commission a full-scale independent
    and impartial analysis of the proposal before proceeding further.

    Nef do not tackle the environmental economic costs or damage to existing economies, housing and employment the extent of which is escalating
    as the sequestered plans and information are revealed/disclosed by HS2 ltd,or determined and investigated by independent bodies.

    The same issues raised remain unanswered and perhaps unanswerable without said independent inquiry; instead an imperfect and badly planned project that is both expensive, of long temporal duration of construction and utility of is being pushed through Parliament recklessly and in indecent haste given the nature of the scheme.

    • Paul,
      always interested in your contributions.
      You appear to have an FOI open with Cheshire East Council (CEC – log number 806208).
      https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/council_contact_re_hs2

      In their response 8 March, CEC state:
      “However, I can confirm that prior to the HS2 route being published on 28th January, all communications with central government were made by the Local Enterprise Partnership and not Cheshire East Council. Please see the links to the HS2 website and LEP Website for further information on this – http://www.hs2.org.uk and . http://www.candwlep.co.uk/current-activi….”

      In doc released 28 Jan:
      https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/from-rail-town-to-high-speed-rail-city-a-vision-for-crewe

      a CEC letter from Clr and leader Michael Jones is co-signed by Christine Gaskell Chair Cheshire & Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership Board but is clearly from CEC. The “Vision” attached puts Euston to shame.

      Interestingly, Mr Jones is also on the board of Cheshire & Warrington LEP (along with Pete Waterman).
      In a public meeting on 20 May in Knutsford, Clr and leader Michael Jones declared that he and CEC did not want HS2 in Cheshire but were bounced into accepting it and trying to get the best deal as govt minister(s) made it clear that HS2 would definitely go through Cheshire to Manchester. The implication was that objectors would get a worse deal.

      As we are seeing, it was all carried out in secret. To their credit, CEC did at least release the Vision document. The DfT introduction clearly implies that other contributions to the Phase 2 proposal remain “confidential”.

    • As an update nef have just been in the news again:

      “HS2 rail plans: Think tank raises doubts over value”
      Demand for the HS2 high-speed rail project has “likely been overestimated”, a think tank has said.
      The think tank said the project would be “carbon intensive and environmentally damaging”

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22941908

      The burning question is why Government and MPs are so blindly committed to such a costly proposal when they are not seemingly possession of the facts and what is their committment based on?
      Worth reading is the House of Commons briefing paper on HS2 by louise Butcher which lists case for and against and is likely related to the upcoming Paving Bill reading. This would seem to record facts that other institutions have already challenged for example its benefits on Carbon etc.
      Worth reading as it is likely this document that will inform our MPs and perhaps a group from SHS@ or HS@AA can issue some challenges in whole or part to this document and email all MPs.

      http://www.google.co.uk/searchhl=enGB&source=hp&q=HS2+appeal+House+of+Commons+briefing+paper&gbv=2&oq=HS2+appeal+House+of+Commons+briefing+paper&gs_l=heirloom-hp.3…1621.13688.0.14410.46.12.0.34.0.0.76.586.12.12.0…0.0…1ac.1.15.heirloom-hp.1wdDJiXch5M

  3. Below is a statement by David Cameron, back in July 2011, talking about a popular government website providing new street-level crime maps, and extolling the power of transparency.

    “This incredible demand (for the website) shows the power of transparency, and why we need more of it. Information is power. It lets people hold the powerful to account, giving them the tools they need to take on politicians and bureaucrats. It gives people new choices and chances, allowing them to make informed judgements about their future. And it lets our professionals judge themselves against one another, and our entrepreneurs develop new products and services.

    “In so many ways, information is a national asset, and it’s time it was shared. That’s why, since last year, we have published stacks of new data. Right now you can go online and look at the salaries of senior officials, the contracts signed by central and local government, and the breakdown of public spending.

    “But if the past 12 months have been about opening up Whitehall, the next 12 months must be about opening up public services. So today, we are making new commitments to transparency. For the first time, the raw data that will allow you to analyse the performance of public services will be made freely available.” David Cameron.

    Strangely this clarion call for transparency appears rather opaque in matters of HS2, which raises the question – why? Perhaps one of our defenders of democracy, in the form of an MP, could ask him directly at Prime Minister’s Question time. Wonder what betting odds that would come in at?

  4. I do not understand a govenment like we have keep trying to hide from the public information on hs2 as it is there flag ship project .we all no there is no money to pay for it .it makes no sense to build for the very limited amount of people able to afford and use it .if it was so great why o why is there so many against this ventre all of. Our mps should be sent a copy of these red amber reports so they can have a clear understanding of what they are asking for at the dept of transport a blank cheque book . If they all decide to back this project after reading the documents we should be all thinking they are not fit for purpose and let’s all either be sending in the clowns of ukip or voting for the Green Party .and a do hope the latested court case proves that the hs2 people have not done there job right

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