This guide was written for petitioning the House of Commons. For petitioning the Lords (deadline 18th April 2016), visit this link.
The Stop HS2 comprehensive guide to petitioning the Hybrid Bill (Updated for AP4, October 2015)
Currently, a process known as ‘petitioning’ is ongoing with relation to the HS2 Hybrid Bill. This is a two stage process.
The initial stage of petitioning against Additional Provision 4 and the Supplementary Environmental Statement is submitting your written petition. This period consists of four weeks 16 October 2015 to 13 November 2015, where individuals, groups of individuals, businesses and other organisations which are ‘directly and specially affected’ by HS2 can put in written objections to the Bill, with proposed solutions. This guide is concerned with that first stage. Please Note: As this process has not been updated for the 21st Century, all documents need to be hand-delivered to Parliament by 13th November, so you cannot leave it to the last minute.
The second stage allows for those who have submitted written petitions or their agents to appear (and as many witnesses as you like) in front of a Committee of MPs, who have the power to amend the HS2 Bill, based on the petitions they receive. An agent representing HS2 Ltd will be there at the same time. You do not have to appear in front of the Committee after submitting a written petition if you do not want to, as you can appoint an agent to do this for you. However, if no-one appears in front of the Committee in relation to your petition, it will not be considered. Appearing in front of the committee is not as scary as you might think, and one persons’ experience of appearing in front of a similar committee is below.
While the Committee will not have the power to stop HS2, if you are opposed to the scheme in principle, you can still say so. However, if your petition contains only objections in principle and does not demonstrate a “direct and special” effect on you it might be challenged. If HS2 Ltd decide to challenge the right of petitioners to petition, you still get to appear in front of the Committee, to put your case as to why you should be allowed to petition.
This process started over a year ago, and once this process is complete and if the Bill gets passed by the House of Commons, the whole process will be repeated in the House of Lords.
The House of Commons has produced a guide to this second stage of appearing before the committee which can be found here.
What does ‘directly and specially affected’ mean?
Good question! This is not as clear cut as you might expect. Being ‘directly and specially affected’ is what gives people and organisations locus standi (a legal term which in this case means the right to petition), but there is no hard and fast rule as to what this means. While it is clearly obvious that any person or body owning land which would be impacted by the construction and operation of HS2, along with local authorities would qualify, it is not clear where the cut off would be. For example, we have asked three different legal firms who handle petitioning whether or not people who walk their dog along a footpath which would be lost, or people who drive along roads hit by construction would qualify. Two of the firms said yes, one said no. Other issues which may be subjective are the impacts of noise, visual intrusion and property blight. HS2 Ltd have attempted to downplay how widely these effects will be felt, but we are of the opinion that anyone who feels they are or would be affected by these or any other issues should submit a petition.
I’m still not sure if I am ‘directly and specially affected’. Can I still submit a petition?
Yes, you can submit a petition. HS2 Ltd may decide to challenge the locus standi of some petitioners, but if they do, petitioners or their agent will be able to put their case to the Committee as to why they should be allowed to petition.
The only people and groups challenged and rejected in the original process were located well away from Phase 1 of HS2 or more than 500 metres from Phase 2 (HS2 Ltd agreed that the Phase 1 bill has some implications for Phase 2, but insisted they ended 500m from the proposed line). Many people a couple of miles from Phase 1 were not challenged and have since appeared. Both national groups opposing HS2, Stop HS2 and HS2 Action Alliance were challenged, but were granted the right to appear.
Which areas are covered in AP4?
A lot! AP3 was exclusive to Camden, but AP4 is all over the place, and includes places which got changes in both AP1 and AP2. Check here the maps and plans here:
I have already petitioned, can I do it again?
Yes. To make things easier, it would help if on your petition cover sheet you put your original petition number in brackets after your name in the heading.
If you originally submitted a petition last year but have still not been heard, you do not have to submit a new petition, your original deposition still stands as your ‘ticket to see the committee’, even if the substantive of your points has now changed. However, you may well want to update the committee to any substantive changes in your arguments. If you have previously submitted a written petition, you will not have to pay the £20 again.
What is the point of petitioning?
The Committee can alter the proposals for HS2, and there were examples with Crossrail and HS1 as large scale as adding tunnelling and a station. The Committee can also order HS2 Ltd to provide undertakings and assurances, which may relate to issues in the construction code of practice, such as hours of construction, maintenance of mitigation, transport routes and a host of other factors [Please note – ‘assurances’ are worthless, what you want are ‘undertakings’]. The Committee can also make other amendments to the Bill which would have route and country-wide effects. Whilst it is unusual for a Hybrid Bill Committee to amend the national compensation code, this happened in the case of the Croydon Tram Link, with specific reference to the project causing negative equity. It is also the case with HS1 that CTRL were ordered to buy houses, even though owners had failed the hardship test, a test similar to that which is operating under the current Exceptional Hardship Scheme for HS2.
How do I submit a written petition?
Written petitions have to follow a specific format. However, we have produced a sample petition, which you can download from https://stophs2.org/toolbox/10608-petitioning, where you just have to change the bits in red. Please note, the documents are not to be taken as legal advice nor a requirement of how a petition must be drafted, but is merely a starting point for those considering submitting a petition to get their own drafting started.
It costs £20 to submit a petition (payment details below) and they have to delivered by hand, either by any of the signatories to the petition, the petitioners agent (you can appoint our campaign manager to be agent for the purpose of delivery if needed, see below), or your MP. You can contact any MP via the House of Commons switchboard on 0207 219 300.
Petitions should be delivered to Portcullis House, above Westminster Tube Station. The deadline for submitting petitions is 13th November 2015. To submit your petition, turn up at Portcullis House and ask at the desk where to go opening hours are Mon-Thu 10-4 and 10-2 Fridays. You can call 020 7219 3250 to make sure if you wish.
Petitioners must submit four stapled copies of their petition which includes the back sheet. Two of the four copies should have the cover sheet attached. If anyone is acting on behalf of petitioner(s) other than the petitioner(s) themselves, a letter of authority must also be deposited at this time. Everyone who is named as a petitioner must sign the petition. All copies must be one-sided pieces of paper.
All the forms needed are available via https://stophs2.org/toolbox/10608-petitioning. In the case of organisations and councils, a copy of the resolution to petition and minutes of the meeting at which it was passed should be enclosed too. Roll B agents should submit their registration form and certificate of respectability at the same time as depositing a petition.
How do I pay my £20?
At the same time as you submit your petition, but if you have already submitted a petition in one of the earlier stages, you do not have to pay again.
Payment will be accepted by cash, cheque, or regular credit and debit cards (not American Express). Cheques should be made payable to ‘GBS: re HoC: Administration’ and marked ‘HS2’ on the back. The cost is £20 per petition, no matter how many people have signed that petition. If you have previously petitioned, you do not have to pay again.
Will you be my agent?
To save you the hassle of going down to London, you can appoint Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin as your agent so he has the authority to deliver your petition. Petitions will have to be received no later than mid-day on Wednesday 11th October. In addition to your petition, cover sheet and £20 (fee not needed if you have already petitioned), you will have to sign the letter of authority appointing him as your agent. This is at this stage simply to make sure he has the authority to deposit your petition, and does not mean he has to appear on your behalf in front of the committee. Please send documents to: Joe Rukin, 2 Caesar Road, Kenilworth, CV8 1DL. Documents received after noon on 11th October will not be deposited. It is a day earlier this time as Joes son has a Baker Day on the Friday!
Have you made a standard petition I can use?
We feel it is important (and this reflects the legal advice we have received), that people write their own personal petitions, though there are some issues which apply to everyone. HS2 Action Alliance have produced a starting point for Phase 1 petitions, which includes some national issues and and second form for Phase 2 groups. The Woodland Trust have also produced standard text for people concerned with Ancient Woodland, and Roll A Agents Bircham Dyson Bell & Sharpe Pritchard have produced a list of generic route wide issues. These can all be found on the webpage with all the forms.
What should I petition against?
You cannot petition against the principle of HS2, as that has been agreed (however it will still be possible to lobby the House of Lords against HS2 as a whole). The principle which has been agreed is that HS2 would go from Euston to Old Oak Common, Birmingham Airport, Birmingham (via Water Orton), and connect with the West Coast Mainline at Handsacre. Any other issues concerning HS2 are still up for amendment. Petitions must consist of complaints against HS2, and must contain proposed solutions (at least in outline). There is no need to go into great detail (you will have the opportunity to submit supporting evidence at a later date, see below), but you should relate to grievances about the Bill, the Environmental Statement and related documents, and the lack or the inadequacy of consultations. Examples are:
Routes for construction traffic
Permanent or temporary realignment or closure of roads and rights of way
Crossings for farmers
Hours of construction
Hours of operation and maintenance of HS2
Noise & dust generated by construction
Noise generated by operation of HS2
Lack of consultation
Effects on ecology during construction and operation
Landscape and visual effects
Permanency and amount of land take
Inadequacy of compensation
What should I petition for?
For each grievance, you must provide a suggested remedy (at least in outline, although the more detail, the better). This sets out how you want the Committee to change or add to the Bill to solve the problem you have highlighted. Examples are:
Asking HS2 Ltd to buy your house, even if you have already been turned down
Building new infrastructure or upgrading existing infrastructure during the construction of HS2.
Moving the location of facilities, such as depots and electricity feeder stations
Lowering the level of the track
Asking that other infrastructure works take place at the same time, to minimise the length of disruption
Barring HS2 Ltd from using or closing certain roads
Diversion of the planned route
Additional noise mitigation
Additional visual mitigation
Minimising land take
To make efforts to rehouse evicted residents
To ensure that funding is made available to maintain mitigation and plantings
To reduce the number of working hours during construction, or prohibit lorry movements at certain times
To reduce the proposed speed of HS2, allowing for greater routing options and a lower carbon footprint
Can my petition include diagrams or expert reports?
Not yet, that is for stage two of the process. Your original petition should just consist of text, as set out in our template. You will have the opportunity to submit further documents, such as maps, photographs, drawings, tables, letters of support and expert reports in advance of appearing before the Committee. It is strongly suggested that you do consider submitting such supplementary evidence to support your case, and allow the Committee a better understanding of the area concerned. It is also recommended where possible that anything you propose is costed, as the defence HS2 Ltd will most likely use to dismiss mitigation proposals will be that they cost too much for too little benefit. This evidence is not needed until three days before you appear at the committee.
Is there anything else I should put in my written petition?
Yes. Remember, you are the expert about your area and your life, so tell your personal story about how the current plans for HS2 would affect your daily life during a decade of construction, painting a picture of who you are and why you are concerned. Say exactly how you affected, whether that be: how traffic disruption, noise and pollution affect you; how a place which is precious to you, be that your home, a woodland, a walking path, a tranquil area, a pub or anything else would be hit; how HS2 might affect your child’s school; how the value of a home you own, or the existence or setting of one you own/rent is hit; the potential impact on wildlife, habitats and bio-diversity; how HS2 will affect your business, your livelihood, or your staff; if you are concerned about the loss of amenity in your areas or accessibility and impacts on your health; if you are concerned about the lack of adequate compensation being offered and how it will affect the value of your home/business; or how you believe HS2 would generally affect the local environment and commerce.
Remember, you can be emotional, but you must also be polite!
Would I have to appear in front of the Committee on my own?
No. If you are an individual making a petition, you can appoint an agent, and you will be allowed to call any number of witnesses. There are two types of agent, Roll A (professional, expensive) and Roll B (anyone can apply for this). Petitioners can also call witnesses to support their petition. If you do want to submit a petition, but don’t want to appear yourself and don’t fancy paying thousands for a Roll A agent, we will make details of Roll B agents available on this page at a later date. You can change your agent at any time once you have chosen one, with reasonable notice. You can also name an agent after you have deposited your written petition. ‘Expert Witnesses’ do not have to be engineers or scientists, but may be anyone. For example, your neighbours can be considered to be experts about their locality.
Going in front of a Parliamentary Committee sounds a bit scary to me!
It needn’t be. Select Committee members are likely to be sympathetic to individuals who are not used to public speaking. When it comes to petitioning and commenting on the effects of HS2 to your local area, you will be the expert in the room, and the job of the MPs is to listen to you.
Below, Marjorie Fox of the Harefield Action Group speaks of her experience, giving evidence to the House of Lords Standing Orders Committee meeting on HS2, where the committee, after hearing from her and Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin, decided to extend the consultation period for the Environmental Statement:
“I had responded to Joe’s email and to my amazement received a letter from the House of Lords asking me to attend the Committee and give evidence. I spoke at the House of Lords Standing Order Committee, which was similar to what I expect will happen with petitioning. It was new for me, but the House of Lords staff were polite and helpful, and used to dealing with people who are nervous and who are doing something like this for the first time.”
“The Lords also were thoughtful, had read the statements and gave us time, asked and wanted to know about our area and our deep concerns about the unfairness of the documentation. I was impressed with how they did listen, and did think about what we said. I felt they respected us for coming to the Committee and making the effort.”
“I was able to speak from my heart, comment on how HS2 would affect the environment and how we had inadequate time to deal with the paperwork. In fact the Lords picked up how we had facts at our fingertips, in contrast to the many HS2 staff with their lawyers who were fumbling for information.”
“The Committee heard us, and what we did did make a difference. So anyone who is directly affected by HS2 can and should put in a petition.”
Petitioning by Organisations
Any organisation, whether that be a parish council, action group, residents association, company or charity etc. which intends to give evidence to the Committee must appoint an agent unless it is represented by a member or officer of that organisation. A list of professional (expensive) Parliamentary Agents, known as ‘Roll A’ can be found here. Any ordinary person can register as a ‘Roll B’ agent.
We were originally told that under Section 239 of the Local Government Act 1972, all councils must advertise the meeting at which they decide whether or not they will petition against the HS2 Hybrid Bill, at least 10 days before such a meeting takes place, in the local press. However, we have now had different advice, it seems that Parish and Town council are exempted from the provisions of Section 239 of the act, which would mean that Parish Councils which have not advertised a meeting can still have one. Please note, as we have been given conflicting advice on this issue, we advise Parish Councils to make their own decision about what Section 239 means.
The meeting itself does not have to decide the details of the petition, merely the intention to do so, with the details of the petition being deferred to a later meeting, a sub-committee or a named individual. A copy of the resolution along with the minutes of the meeting at which it is passed must be deposited with the petition.
There has recently been a change in the rules meaning that councils do not need to appoint an agent, but can be represented by a member or officer of that organisation. This person must be authorised to act on behalf of the council. This should be in line with the standing orders of the council. If a petitioner, or a list of people who might petition have to be appointed, their appointment should be included in the resolution to petition, otherwise any member or officer who signs the petition can act as petitioner. Any person who has signed the petition may deliver it to Parliament, without the need of a letter of authority. If in doubt, refer to checklist produced by Parliament: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/hs2/petitioning-check-list.pdf
Stop HS2 Action Groups
The Parliamentary Guidance states that “A campaign group which is not composed of individuals directly and specially affected, but which simply opposes the principle of the Bill, cannot petition.” However it is our opinion that there are no such groups. Whilst an action group may be called the “Wherever Stop HS2 Action Group”, the reality is that all groups have taken pragmatic stances, knowing that whilst stopping HS2 is the ultimate goal, attempting to make the scheme better for the local environs if it does go ahead has always been a goal of these groups.
We believe, that given HS2 Ltd have engaged with these groups both in the guise of Community Forums and having bilateral meetings to discuss specific mitigation proposals, it would be impossible for HS2 Ltd to challenge the locus standi of these Action Groups, as they have already legitimised them as being representative of communities. The locus standi of Action Groups was not challenged either in the case of Crossrail or HS1.
We recommend that Action Groups use mitigation proposals previously submitted to HS2 Ltd as the basis for their petitions. Like Parish Councils, AGs must hold a meeting for their members at which a motion to petition (but not necessarily the details of the petition) is passed and minuted, however there is no legal requirement for them to place advertisements in the local press in advance of this meeting. A copy of the resolution along with the minutes of the meeting at which it is passed must be deposited with the petition.
There has recently been a change in the rules meaning that action groups do not need to appoint an agent, but can be represented by a member or officer of that organisation. This should be in line with the constitution of the action group, if the constitution makes such provision. If a petitioner (or a list of possible petitioners) does not have to be appointed under the constitution of the group, any person who signs the petition can act as petitioner. Any person who has signed the petition may deliver it to Parliament.
Becoming a ‘Roll B Agent’
Any individual can become a Roll B agent, providing they can find and MP, JP, barrister or solicitor to sign a form stating that they are ‘a respectable person’ (unless they are a solicitor themselves). Roll B agents should register at the same time as delivering petitions.
When and where will the Select Committee hear evidence?
Unless you are a new petitioner in an area already scheduled for hearings, the earliest the Committee would start hearing evidence on AP2 would be November 2015, as a schedule up until then has been published. However, next year is more likely. If there are dates when you expect to be on holiday, inform Neil Caulfield, the responsible clerk at the House of Commons. His contact details are 020 7219 3250 and email@example.com.
The Committee has the power to meet during the recess (Parliamentary holidays), but only did this previously in the week of the Scottish Independence Referendum.
What happens after I submit my petition?
You wait! The Clerk of the Bill committee will be in touch and send you some relevant documentation. HS2 Ltd may contact you to try and negotiate solutions, to cut down the number of people who appear in front of the committee. Please note, if they offer you an ‘assurance’, turn it down as no matter how good that sounds, they do not have to do anything they have given ‘assurances’ for. If they offer you an ‘undertaking’, they will be required to implement it.
The amount of notice you will get before being called before the Committee is not standard, but after complaints about too little notice, it is normally now at least a month.
Can I petition the House of Commons and the House of Lords?
Yes. If you submit an unsuccessful appeal to the Commons Committee, you could consider the Lords Committee as a right of appeal (or wait for AP3, AP4 and maybe even AP5!!), with some limitations (the second House will not reverse express decisions of the first). It may also be the case that the Commons Committee implement changes, which could have knock-on effects and require new petitions. Even if you want to say the same thing to both committees, you would have to submit a new petition when the Bill gets to the Lords, but that is a long way away at the moment. You can petition the Lords Committee even if you have not petitioned the Commons Committee. To make sure you know when this process is due to start, sign up to the Stop HS2 mailing list.
Is there a minimum age requirement for petitioners?
No, people of any age can petition, or be part of a joint petition.
Where are all the forms I need?
Here stophs2.org/toolbox/10608-petitioning. To make sure you have got everything you need, look at the checklist produced by Parliament: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/hs2/petitioning-check-list.pdf
Is that it?
Pretty much, but we recommend that you join our mailing list to receive further updates. Remember that your Member of Parliament can deposit your petition on your behalf. All of the forms.
Here are some links from the Parliament website you may find useful.
HS2 guidance leaflet http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/HS2%20leaflet.pdf