Despite efforts by Michael Fabricant and other Members of Parliament, the cross-Party alliance of the Coalition and Labour won the day at a vote near midnight on Monday 28th April and the £50 billion HS2 Bill passed its first vote in the House of Commons with a massive majority.
“The result was very disappointing, but inevitable” says Michael Fabricant. “In the first vote, the Government won 452 to 50 and in the second vote, 452 to 41 with many Conservative abstentions. As I said in the Parliamentary debate: it is always unhealthy when the two main parties have to unite on a policy. Certainly, the Government knew that without Labour and Liberal-Democrat support in an un-holy alliance, the HS2 legislation would fail in the House of Commons.”
Michael Fabricant spoke to his amendment published on the House of Commons Order Paper:-
“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.”
Michael Fabricant’s Parliamentary speech, which followed that of Frank Dobson MP, follows:-
“Five years ago, I would have thought it incredible that I would probably be in the same Lobby as the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Frank Dobson), not united in some unholy alliance for HS2, but instead united in opposing my own Government’s Bill. This, for me, is a first.
Five years ago, the leader of the Conservative party, now the Prime Minister, supported HS2 in principle, and so did I. Five years ago, my right hon. Friend the leader of the Conservative party said that Labour’s Adonis route was profoundly wrong—that its implementation would be damaging to the environment, damaging areas that could otherwise enjoy peace and quiet, and damaging to the nation as a whole. Yet here we are, five years on, with the Government supporting the original Adonis plan. I find that quite extraordinary.
I totally agree with the arguments for HS2. There is a major rail capacity problem. Every day some 5,000 to 10,000 people arrive at Euston standing, because there are just not enough seats on the trains to let them sit. However, I agree with the right hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras and, indeed, the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, when he argues that there is just not enough capacity at present for those disembarking at Euston to travel across London. How on earth can that be sustained when, in addition to the existing number of trains, something like 30 additional trains an hour will be arriving from the midlands and the north when High Speed 2 is completed?
I believe that the implementation of HS2 is deeply flawed. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) has already pointed out, the promises of breakfast in Brum and lunch in Paris with a direct route have all gone. There will be no connection between the midlands and the north and HS1 and the channel tunnel. Meanwhile, the Department for Transport, which is supposed to be an integrated, joined-up Department, has, quite rightly, commissioned the review by Sir Howard Davies into which airport is to be the main airport for London. We will not know its conclusions until after the next general election, yet HS2’s route is already fixed and we do not know which airport it will link to. Indeed, it probably will not link with any airport, like it does not with HS1. This is a deeply flawed system.
And what about compensation, a topic that has been raised by colleagues? What about constituents in Lichfield who are facing spoil heaps for five or six years, as all the soil from the tunnels in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham is transported up to Lichfield to support giant viaducts that we are going to have to endure? Where will that be stored? In Lichfield. There will be no compensation because the spoil dumps are being regarded as temporary only. Believe me, for someone who is 70 or 80 years old and living next to a temporary mountain, with dumper trucks running by every day, five or seven years can be a lifetime. There should be compensation, and I hope that the hybrid Bill Committee will consider that
I have already talked about the problems of disembarking at Euston and homes being blighted, but what about the arbitrary distances defined for compensation? Beyond a certain distance, there will be no compensation. Absolutely no account has been taken of the local topography; whether someone will be affected by HS2 will depend on whether there are hills or the land is flat.
So it is with the greatest regret that I am going to support the amendment tabled by my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham and vote against my own party on such an important piece of legislation. I hope that this will be the last time I have to do so.”
Michael Fabricant now says: “And so the emphasis now shifts to how we can mitigate the effects of HS2. I will continue to work with the HS2 Action Alliance and other local organisations and along with my constituents to try and ensure route changes with petitioners and better terms of compensation for those affected by HS2. This will be a long-running struggle.
“After the first vote, 451 to 50, Frank Dobson said to me: ‘That’s one rebel for each £1 billion being wasted.’ No comment!”