Michael Fabricant says: “On Thursday 3rd April, the Leader of the House, Andrew Lansley, announced the date in the House of Commons on which the Second Reading of the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill will be debated. It will be on 28th April and this will be the first time MPs will have the opportunity to vote on the main HS2 Bill that affects Lichfield, Whittington, and Colton, and the Ridwares so badly.
“Earlier that same day, I spoke to Mary Creagh, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Transport and she told me that Labour will whip its MPs to support the Government in the second reading vote.
“So I have taken the unusual step of tabling an amendment to the Second Reading which, if passed, would defeat the Bill. I hope it might attract Labour as well as Conservative votes if it is chosen to be voted on by the Speaker. In any event, it points out clearly in House of Commons papers the arguments against the Bill.
“I know that the majority of MPs of all parties support the principle of HS2 and that the Bill’s Second Reading is likely to be passed with a huge majority with Labour support, though many MPs are uneasy about the way HS2 is being implemented. I also know that Labour MPs as well as Conservatives and Liberal-Democrats are concerned about the cost, the environmental damage, and its initial focus on southern England and the midlands rather than the north. I have, therefore, phrased the amendment to support the principle of HS2 and tempt Labour votes, but it would still defeat the Bill for the reasons given if it is passed.”
Michael Fabricant’s amendment to the Second Reading Motion reads as follows:-
HIGH SPEED RAIL (LONDON – WEST MIDLANDS) BILL: SECOND READING
THAT this House while recognising the ever increasing need for additional north-south rail line capacity to relieve congestion on the west coast mainline and to improve connectivity between major cities and with London, declines to give the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill a second reading because the line as set forth in the Bill (a) is insensitively routed through previously unspoiled countryside unnecessarily damaging the environment including wildlife habitats, ancient woodlands and waterways, (b) is significantly more costly than it need be because of the extra mitigation required to reduce environmental damage arising from the current planned route, (c) unlike much of the planned route north of the West Midlands and unlike similar lines in continental Europe, does not propose the use of existing transport corridors which would mitigate environmental damage and construction costs, (d) fails to connect directly to existing major mainline stations, (e) fails to connect directly with potential airport hubs for London and the south-east of England, (f) fails to connect with HS1 and the Channel Tunnel, (g) fails to provides for sufficient public transport to disperse passengers disembarking from HS2 trains at Euston, (h) provides inadequate compensation to those blighted by the route and those whose property is subject to compulsory purchase orders, and (i) does not provide for construction to start from Manchester and Leeds; and therefore calls upon the Government to produce revised HS2 legislation with a more environmentally sympathetic and cost-effective route.
“I will, of course, vote for my own amendment if it is chosen by the Speaker and I will vote against the main Government motion if it is not already defeated by my amendment,” Michael says.
“Up until now, I have not openly stated that I will oppose HS2 legislation in Parliament because it has enabled me to negotiate more effectively with the Department for Transport. We should not forget that the original plan would have had HS2 soaring over Boley Park and Tippers in Lichfield and I managed to get that changed. I supported the earlier ‘paving’ HS2 Bill because homes will still be blighted even if the main legislation is halted. I wanted legislation in place so that compensation would be available up until the Government announces a new route or states that HS2 would be abandoned for good.
“But with the Department for Transport not accepting plans to tunnel under the A38 which would have mitigated the effects of HS2, I now have no option but to do what is right and to vote against the Government and my Party.
“It is a major step which I do not take lightly. But that is why I resigned from the Government in the first place: to give me the freedom to speak out on important matters such as these.”
Meanwhile, a row broke out in the Commons Chamber on 3rd April when the Leader of the House revealed that just one day would be available for the Second Reading Debate instead of two by not mentioning what the business would be on the following day. Here is what happened:-
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): 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, even though it will cost £50 billion and even though 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?
Leader of the House (Andrew Lansley): I have to tell my hon. Friend that the efficiency and effectiveness of the Whips Office is undiminished. The Whips will have heard what my hon. Friend had to say. For my part, I have announced the business up to and including Monday 28 April, and I will announce the business beyond that day in due course.
“It is very clear from that answer that there will only be one day for debate. That is wholly inadequate. MPs will only have 5-10 minutes each to speak on matters which will affect their constituents for decades” Michael adds.