The date of the second reading of the HS2 Phase 1 Hybrid Bill has now been confirmed as 28th April 2014.
This is the first day back for MPs after the two and a half week Easter recess. In addition, Parliament does not start debating until after 2.30pm on Mondays, severely limiting the time available for business on the day. Business for the 29th April onwards has not yet been announced.
It’s clear that one afternoon is not long enough to debate and vote on a project which will last through at least the next three Parliaments and cost many billions of pounds of taxpayer money. And a number of MPs spoke in Parliament yesterday to make that point .
As Michal Fabricant put it:
You, Mr Speaker, will know that the Government Whips Office normally operates like a well-oiled machine, yet on this occasion it appears that the Whips believe that there is no interest in HS2 and Second Reading can be held on just one day, even though 40 Members of Parliament will be affected by HS2, it will cost £50 billion and many Members of the House are both for and against it. Can you pass on to the Government Chief Whip that that is not the case, that many Members of Parliament want to speak both for and against HS2 and that it will require at least two days for Second Reading?
With the petitioning period starting shortly after the second reading, it is vital that anyone considering whether to petition should ensure they make preparations starting now. See our guide to petitioning for information on how to do this.
‘Binge-flying’ ministers shun trains
01/05/2008 11:10 PM
By Jason Beattie, Evening Standard
London: Labour has been accused of “binge flying” after an Evening Standard investigation revealed ministers have clocked up dozens of internal flights in the past 12 months.
Details released under the Freedom of Information Act show ministers routinely choose to fly to official functions rather than travelling by train or car.
The revelation prompted a furious reaction from environmental groups who accused the government of failing to lead by example on tackling climate change.
The worst offender was the Scotland Office whose ministers took 31 flights and spent more than £5,000.
The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform ran up a bill of more than £4,000 for 24 flights.
Department for Health ministers took 13 flights, spending £376 on one return to Glasgow.
None of the departments provided figures for flights to Northern Ireland. Critics say that as well as being more environmentally damaging, flying costs the taxpayer more money.
A flight by a minister in the Department for Health from Manchester to London cost £127 – more than double the cost of a regular train ticket.
Similarly, a £206 flight from Birmingham to Newcastle by a Ministry of Justice minister could have cost as little as £62 by train.
In total, seven departments responded to the Standard’s Freedom of Information request.
Many others – including the Foreign Office and Treasury – either refused to release the figures or failed, like the Department for Transport, to meet the statutory 21-day deadline for responding to Freedom of Information requests.
Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker said: “This is outrageous behaviour by ministers who should be setting an example on tackling climate change.
“There can be no excuse for taking a plane from London to Manchester when there is a perfectly good rail service that emits far less carbon.
“This just goes to show that while the government talks green it acts dirty.”
John Stewart, of the anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said: “This level of binge flying shows that government departments are failing to give an example to everybody else.
“While they continue to take so many flights it is difficult for people to take seriously anything they say on climate change.”
Greenpeace executive director John Sauven said: “You wonder if some people in Whitehall have even heard of climate change.
“Flying is at least 10 times more damaging to the climate than taking the train but too many ministers and civil servants are jumping on planes to take short journeys.
“Business department officials are already getting a reputation in Whitehall as energy dinosaurs and the Standard’s revelations won’t help.”
The Cabinet Office said all flights were undertaken in accordance with the ministerial code.
Former Tory environment secretary John Gummer and millionaire environmentalist Zac Goldsmith, who co-chaired the Conservative quality of life group, have led calls for people to ditch the plane for the train for short journeys.
2 The Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill
7. Select Committees on hybrid bills do not operate under the same parliamentary rules as departmental select committees. They are quasi-judicial and operate more like a court. Committees, such as ours, do not have an extensive remit and serve only to consider the issues raised by Petitioners, where the Petitioner has locus standi. In addition we were given five Instructions by the House of Commons that served further to define what issues we would be able to consider. One of the main causes of frustration for the Committee was that some Petitioners wished to raise issues which we were not empowered to consider.
8. We take this opportunity to summarise briefly the rules and procedure followed in Committee so that the House and members of the public can readily understand the limited framework in which the Committee was able to operate.
Agreed by the House of Commons
9. A hybrid bill has a second reading in the House of Commons before it is referred to a Select Committee. Once the House agrees that the Bill should be read a second time, it is deemed to have approved it in principle. A Select Committee on a hybrid bill may not therefore reject the bill. Petitioners are subsequently limited in the arguments they promote in committee; they may seek to amend the Bill and may not argue that the Committee should reject it.
A petition against a hybrid bill
10. A petition is a summary of objections to particular aspects of the Bill. It is a request to the House of Commons for the Petitioner to be allowed to argue their case before the Select Committee on the Crossrail Bill.
11. The Crossrail Bill and the Environmental Statement were published on 22 February 2005. The timetable for receiving petitions in the House of Commons was laid down in an Order of the House on 19 July 2005. Any individual, group of individuals, or organisation ‘directly and specially affected’ by the provisions of the Crossrail Bill was able to petition against it. Needless to say, there were a few cases where Petitioners tested the definition of ‘directly and specially’ to the limit. Some 358 petitions against the Bill were deposited (an additional 99 petitions were deposited against the four sets of Additional Provisions).
12. Many Petitioners believed that the Crossrail Bill would have a direct or deleterious effect on their well-being, their property or their business. The Committee heard from many, but not all, of the Petitioners during its hearings. Some Petitioners chose not to appear and some withdrew their petitions after negotiating a satisfactory undertaking with the Promoter of the Bill. All hearings took place in public and were transcribed and web-cast.
Rights of Parties
13. Both Promoter and Petitioners have the right to appear before the Committee to make their cases. The practice of the House allows Petitioners to be heard either in person, or by their agent or counsel. The Promoter of the Bill, the Secretary of State for Transport, was represented by his parliamentary agents, the firm of solicitors Winckworth Sherwood, and by legal Counsel. All petitions not withdrawn or successfully challenged on locus standi grounds, were referred to the Committee.
Order of Proceedings
14. In a select committee on a hybrid bill, the onus is on the Petitioner, or their Agent, to prove that they are unreasonably affected by the Bill. It is usual in these circumstances to allow the Petitioner both the first and last words on each case. However, we recognised that this practice often disadvantaged Petitioners, many of whom had not appeared before a parliamentary committee before, by requiring them to explain complicated technical matters. Therefore the Committee insisted that Counsel for the Promoter made a brief factual statement at the beginning of each case explaining what the issues of contention were between the two parties.
15. Thus, Counsel for the Promoter briefly opened each case and then the Petitioner had their opportunity to set out their concerns and objections. The Petitioner was able to call witnesses in support of their case. The witnesses could be cross-examined by the Counsel for the Promoter, and re-examined by the Petitioner.
16. Once the Petitioner’s case had been made, the Counsel for the Promoter would open his case. Again, witnesses could be called, examined, cross-examined and re-examined. The Petitioner had a right of reply.
Rules observed in Committee
17. In presenting their evidence to the Committee, Petitioners were restricted in a number of ways:
a) Petitioners could only be heard on matters included in their petitions, and were not able to make additional arguments before the Committee.
b) Petitioners could only seek to represent themselves and those who had signed the petition. Any attempt to raise the concerns of neighbours or others who had not petitioned the Committee was not allowed. This was because the Committee could not reasonably determine why others had chosen not to petition. To allow Petitioners to argue on behalf of others would fall foul of the rules relating to locus standi.
c) Witnesses, Counsel and Petitioners were all obliged to conduct themselves before the Committee in a way which did not constitute a contempt of the House of Commons. Generally, that meant that all parties were obliged to be respectful.
d) Repetitious and irrelevant evidence, deliberate delay, and refusal to answer questions were all treated as possible contempts of the House and were deprecated in Committee.
Making amendments to the Bill (Additional Provisions)
18. After hearing all the evidence on a case the Committee would decide whether or not it should amend the Bill. There were usually two types of amendment the Committee could consider making to the Bill. These were amendments that would:
a) naturally tend to limit the powers, or
b) extend the obligations of the Government and extend the powers contained in the Bill.
19. The latter type of amendment is known as an Additional Provision. Since such an amendment could potentially have an impact on people not previously affected by the Bill, Additional Provisions need to be advertised and authorised by the House in the same way as the original provisions of the Bill.
20. On occasions where we agreed such amendments were necessary, these decisions were announced in Committee. This was to allow the Government to bring forward the necessary Additional Provisions to the Bill and also to give the public the opportunity to object to these provisions if they were affected by them.
21. Although Additional Provisions to the Crossrail Bill were put forward by the Secretary of State, they were not formally accepted as amendments to the Bill until the Committee had fully considered all the cases presented against them. All amendments we judged to be appropriate were made formally to the Bill when we reported the Bill to the House.
12 The Promoter of the Bill may decide that, in their view, a Petitioner does not have a right, or locus standi, to petition against a Bill. Usually such a decision is taken because the Petitioner does not seem to be locally or specifically affected by the Bill, although other reasons may exist. If the locus standi of a Petitioner is objected to, it is decided upon by the Committee on whom the decisions of the Court of Referees are binding. (See Erskine May, Parliamentary Practice,Twenty-third edition, Chapter 39, Lexis Nexis Butterworths.) Back
13 Crossrail Bill [Bill1and1-EN(2005-06)] Back
14 The Private Bill Office remained open throughout the Summer recess to allow Petitioners three months to prepare and deposit their petitions. Back
15 The House of Commons produced 5000 leaflets explaining to those affected how they could petition Parliament. The Promoter of the Bill kindly agreed to send a leaflet to every person who received notice from the Promoter that they were affected. Back
16 Private usiness Notice Paper Session 2005-06, pages:37-50, 127-131, 135 and Session 2006-07 pages: 11, 15-19, 125-129. Contents of the petitions can be viewed at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/pabills/200607/crossrail.htm Back
17 Petitioners may chose to be represented by an Agent acting on their behalf or by legal Counsel. Back
18 Locus standi: see footnote 8. Back
Moving rail freight across London is a constraint for the nation the trains use prime paths on WCML. HS2 does not move this reality. Three people dictating the outcome do not understand transportation details sufficiently. HS2 with DFT has failed to deal with the bottlenecks directly in the false hope that vast costs mean most capacity where it is needed. This is false. The three people are not up to the task or managing the UK best. The UK Government has performed very badly for 50 years and now embarks on overspending to demonstrate some characteristic the public do not support. Why are three men obsessed with the wrong solution and wrong priority. Is it the reaction from denial or despair. It is wrong and group think of the few is now dictating that the better railway does not occur where there are also chronic needs. Waterloo to Dawlish circa 3 hours and more.
There is a serious outcome for the British to have failed to find a better route for commuters wanting to live in homes in Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire and work in London to be of secondary interest to MPs travelling from Manchester or Leeds to London. Daily commuters along the WCML and MML will be required to pay taxes for the benefit of many fewer longer distance travellers. What else is in store from Pompous MPs who want power to command an unnecessary highest speed bullet train whilst your journey is considered less of a contribution to the national interest. The three leaders of the parties jointly will whip their obedient MPs to vote as commanded for the self interest of the many fewers. Britain loses the democratic challenge for the cult dictation of what they wish for not what you need to survive. Three whips three parties and three blind mice of men fail to select the better value for money Javelin commuter route between the M1 WCML and MML A1.
Should we not be surprised to read that our (anonymous as ever) writer cites a ‘Javelin’ type of service as desirable, given the degree of negative comment that has been directed towards HS1, the Javelin services in Kent and everything connected with it ?