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Jeremy Wright (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con):
Will the Minister of State reassure us that the consultation process on the line of route will not be just for show, but will be a genuine and open consultation process, allowing for the prospect that the route can be changed? In particular, will he take account of the sensitivities involved, for example, in what happens to narrow belts of green-belt land between urban areas such as between Coventry
and Kenilworth in my constituency and to sites of strategic interest such as the royal agricultural centre at Stoneleigh park?
Mr. Khan: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. It would be no good and it would serve nobody if the consultation were a sham, which is one reason why I deliberately couched my statement and subsequent comments in the context of the proposals being subject to consultation. Whether the scheme goes ahead at all, let alone the preferred route, depends on consultation. We are spending some time before the formal consultation begins in the autumn to make sure that we get the process right. I say genuinely to the hon. Gentleman that both the Secretary of State and I would be happy to meet him to discuss any specific-and I mean specific-concerns he might have about the line. A CD-ROM is available from today, showing where the plans suggest the route might go, which should help him to come up with some questions to put to us.
Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for his excellent statement, which is very welcome. The Leeds line will have connections into my constituency. However, is this not a bad time for Network Rail to announce hundreds of redundancies of trackside maintenance workers-at the very time when the rail network is about to expand?
Mr. Khan: My hon. Friend raises a very good point. We are keen to invest in the future. One chapter in the report deals with investment in the future and the new jobs that will be created. It is unwise to shed jobs when there is good news around the corner. My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs. Ellman) also asked earlier about investment in the regions. If potential employers know that a high speed line is coming, it may well change their attitude.
Adam Price (Carmarthen, East and Dinefwr) (PC): The Minister has stressed the economic benefits from HS2, but surely the corollary is that under his proposals, Wales will be the only nation in this island that will remain unconnected to the European high speed network, so it will be economically disadvantaged as a result. Will he explain to the people of Wales-they have, after all, loyally supported his party in successive elections-what they have done to deserve from this Government a policy of brazen and malign neglect?
Mr. Khan: I am disappointed by the churlishness of the hon. Gentleman's question. Wales currently has less than one mile of electrified lines. As a consequence of our announcement last year, electrification of the Great Western main line will shortly take place-and at a huge cost. I have already said in response to questions after my statement that HS2 Ltd is quite clear that the intention is for all parts of the country to benefit from high speed in future-and that includes Wales.
Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central) (Lab): I unequivocally welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, but can he guarantee to people in the north of England that the interconnectivity of northern cities-Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and so forth-will not be put in jeopardy by a crowding out of the capital and other resources needed for the high speed link? It would be bizarre if it were quicker to travel to London from Manchester than to go to Sheffield.
Mr. Khan: One real benefit of the high speed line is the interconnectivity between northern cities and the regions. It is one of its huge strengths. One problem stemming from the Victorian lines and the through lines going from London to northern cities is that there may be decentish south-north connections, but not very decentish east-west connections. My hon. Friend knows about the trans-Pennine improvements being made. One of the huge benefits of high speed rail is the improved connections between different northern cities. Once he has seen the details-he has not yet had a chance to do so-I am sure that he will be even more welcoming of the plans announced today.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Of course I am delighted for the regions that will benefit from this announcement, but I remind the Minister that an awful lot of the country lies west of Reading. Can he give me a date for the electrification of the route to Bristol and tell me when any action is going be taken to improve the Great Western line via Frome and Castle Cary down to Devon and Cornwall, which seems to be the big loser so far as these announcements are concerned? It used to be God's wonderful railway; it is not that any more.
Mr. Khan: I shall be happy to write to the hon. Gentleman specifying the date on which the Bristol electrification will begin. As he said, his constituents will not benefit immediately from high speed rail, but I remind him and the House that they will do so shortly if the right party wins the next two or three elections.
Ms Katy Clark (North Ayrshire and Arran) (Lab): I strongly welcome the Government's announcement, and the Minister's earlier reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mrs. Cryer) about job losses. As he will know, Network Rail is proposing 1,500 job losses, and 12,000 Network Rail maintenance staff announced today that they would strike in an attempt to prevent them. Will the Minister intervene, and explain to Network Rail that the loss of 1,500 skilled staff will not help this project or the long-term future of our railways? Will he take this opportunity to try to prevent those job losses?
Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Given the length of High Speed 1 and the proposed High Speed 2, it must be extremely frustrating that their respective central London termini are only a few hundred yards apart. Would it not be worth considering establishing a single central London terminus to facilitate high speed traffic both north and to the Continent?
Mr. Khan: HS2 Ltd considered 27 sites in London, including St Pancras. One of the questions that it will consider now is how easy it will be to move passengers from Euston to St Pancras and vice versa. There could be a rail link, or some other form of people-mover. It would be fairly expensive as things stand, but HS2 will examine the details to establish the best option.
Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab):
I particularly welcome the Minister's announcement that the Birmingham city centre station would be the new Curzon Street station. That means, of course, that
Snow Hill, New Street and Curzon Street stations need to be connected effectively. Is the Minister aware that Centro is ready to start work on the city centre metro extension, which would link those stations if only it were given the go-ahead? Will he take a careful look at that project?
I am really excited about Curzon Street station. Members may not be aware that the original Birmingham station was in grade 1-listed Curzon street, which is the oldest railway monument. We are going to bring it back to life. Would it not be great if we could also have another arch at Euston station, so that it could look as it did originally in 1838?
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Will High Speed 2 carriages be large enough to be duplex carriages, like the double-decker carriages on continental trains? May I also ask the Minister to ensure that the trains have enough capacity to take bicycles? Such capacity is sadly lacking in the United Kingdom. If we want a modal shift, that is one development that we should try to build into the design of the rolling stock at an early stage.
Mr. Khan: As ever, my hon. Friend has made a couple of good points. The double-decker issue has been taken into account by HS2 Ltd, which plans to build two 200-metre connections. As for the point about bicycles-which, as far as my hon. Friend and I are concerned, is even more important-I can reassure him that in aiming to design and build a railway service fit for the 21st century, we will make certain that we do not make a mistake and build a railway service that is not fit for purpose.
Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester, South) (Lab): It is clear from what other Members have said that high speed rail is the future, but it is not, of course, the immediate future. Is it not important for investment in the conventional rail network to continue in the meantime? Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the east midlands is to gain the full benefit of high speed trains, the midland main line needs to be electrified so that it can carry those trains and provide the necessary interoperability?
Mr. Khan: We will be investing £15 billion in the conventional rail system over the coming period, and we are still considering the possibility of electrifying the midland main line. If that is to take place sooner rather than later, my hon. Friend should continue to lobby.
Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): I, too, welcome the statement, but yet again, when a good, positive statement has implications for Scotland, Scottish National party Members are posted missing. Will my right hon. Friend speak to the Scottish Government, and share his vision of a properly funded transport system with an Executive who consistently deny the opportunity for a direct link to be provided between Glasgow airport and the good city of Glasgow?
Mr. Khan: It is worth my pointing out to the House that on a day when we have announced high speed rail for a 335-mile link, the Scottish Government cannot even agree to the upgrading of 9 kilometres of existing track and the laying of 1.9 kilometres of new track for the Glasgow airport rail link. However, I am sure that they will have heard today's announcement and will want to follow the example that we have set at Westminster.
Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): The case for the high speed rail route has been made passionately by Ealing council and persuasively by my right hon. Friend. I do not wish to be accused of being parochial, but we are elected by parishes. I am happy to see regeneration ripple out from Old Oak Common lane, but not at the cost of paying for Perivale. Will my right hon. Friend tell me what average speeds, average track widening and acoustic impact he expects, and will he also provide me with a detailed map showing precisely where in beautiful Perivale we are proposing to run these trains?
Mr. Khan: I shall be happy to provide my hon. Friend with all that information. The trains will speed up and slow down when they leave the interchange next to his constituency. For the benefit of the constituents who are lobbying him, I shall send him information about the track widening and acoustic impact. We have asked the consultants to try to mitigate some of the noise nuisance. I shall also be happy to accompany my hon. Friend to that fantastic, salubrious part of his constituency to assess the potential implications of the high speed link, including its potential benefits.
Mr. Andy Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush) (Lab): I welcome the statement, including the news that the London interchange will be at Old Oak in my constituency and will provide the Crossrail station for which I have long campaigned. This is an excellent opportunity for practical regeneration of a brownfield site, but the work should be done only in a way that protects the quality of life of local residents and the delicate ecology of Wormwood Scrubs. When my right hon. Friend has finished talking to people in Perivale, will he talk to my local residents about protecting the local environment? Will he also use his best endeavours to persuade those on the Tory Front Bench to act with everyone else, including Tory councils, to-
Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman is a bit of a cheeky chappie. He asked one question, and I was very happy to hear it, but he should not take advantage. We have heard the thrust of what he wanted to say.
Mr. Khan: One of the reasons for High Speed 2's choice of Old Oak Common was the interchange with Crossrail, the Heathrow Express and the great western main line. It will lead to a huge amount of regeneration in that part of the city, which is why the two councils have been working with my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd's Bush (Mr. Slaughter) to ensure that the interchange is provided. I think it would be insulting to my hon. Friend's constituents, and to the efforts he has made, to call the station "Wormwood Scrubs International", and I will ensure that any negative impact on his constituents is mitigated.
Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I too welcome the statement-especially the news of the Crossrail link with the new high speed rail link, which will enhance the hub that will be created by the Crossrail station at Woolwich-but was High Speed 2 able to assess the impact of the running of freight trains on the same lines as passenger trains north of Birmingham? Perhaps separating freight from passenger trains would be a more effective way of speeding trains up in the long term.
Mr. Khan: High Speed 2 considered using freight on the high speed line, and one of its conclusions was that it would slow down high speed passenger trains. It preferred the idea of allowing longer high speed trains to run on high speed lines, thus enabling more freight to be carried on the conventional route.
John Battle (Leeds, West) (Lab): Although I welcome his far-sighted statement, the Minister would expect me to continue to press for the Leeds link, as that city makes the third largest contribution to the United Kingdom's economy. May I ask him to insist that the lines from Birmingham, west and east, are developed simultaneously, to ensure that further economic development west and east of the Pennines is not jeopardised or disadvantaged in any way in the future?
Mr. Khan: The alternative to a high speed connection to Leeds would be to go via Manchester, which we think would be daft. My hon. Friend raises an important point about simultaneous development. I will look into the issue, which clearly is one of resources and availability of the construction expertise required. I have been lobbied by other colleagues and I will go away and look at it.
Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold) (Con): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I tried to raise the issue of the day nursery during questions to the spokesman for the House of Commons Commission. One of the important areas surrounding this whole affair is that the staff-
Mr. Speaker: Order. [ Interruption. ] The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat. The hon. Gentleman did indeed ask a question on the matter, to which he received a reply. Unfortunately his question was a bit on the long side, which is why I had to cut him off. [ Interruption. ] Order. If the hon. Gentleman has a point of order, I am happy to hear it. What I am not prepared to have is Members extending question time and debate through abuse of the point of order procedure. That must not happen.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: I think that you will find that this is an important point of order, Mr. Speaker. The facts surrounding the proposal are that the important staff of the House have not been consulted about the proposal. There are no alternative facilities proposed, and as well as the loss of the restaurant and the Astor suite-
Mr. Speaker: Order. I am sorry; this is not a point of order. Unless my memory fails me, the hon. Gentleman entered the House in 1992 so he has now been in this place for 18 years. I am sure that he should know by now what is a point of order and what is not. Starting up or continuing a debate and expressing a view about a particular proposal is not the way in which to proceed so far as points of order are concerned. My own suspicion that what he is saying is not a point of order has been confirmed by advice.
"shall be a select committee, to be called the Finance and Service Committee, to consider expenditure on and the administration of services for the House."
We heard earlier from the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) that in view of the time constraints, it was not feasible for a particular item of expenditure-namely the replacement of facilities at Bellamy's bar
and elsewhere in 1 Parliament street with a day nursery-to go to the Finance and Services Committee. In your understanding, is it compliant with Standing Order No. 144 that on such an important issue, involving major expenditure, the Finance and Services Committee can be bypassed?
Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. The answer is that a decision was made, in an entirely orderly way and after extensive consideration of sites, by the House of Commons Commission. That was a proper responsibility discharged by the Commission and the Commission certainly complies with the Standing Orders of the House. If the hon. Gentleman is worried that in some way the Standing Orders of the House have been breached, I can reassure him that that is not the case. Whether my answer will satisfy him is open to doubt and conjecture, but that is the factual answer to the hon. Gentleman, who need not trouble himself with a further point of order on it today.
Mr. Speaker: Order. [ Interruption. ] The hon. Gentleman should resume his seat. I say very clearly and explicitly to the hon. Member for Cotswold (Mr. Clifton-Brown) that he would be very unwise to try to continue the argument on this matter when I have ruled upon it and when I have already had to advise him that his attempted point of order simply did not meet the test. I will give him one brief go; he had better not make a mess of it.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Could you advise me, under Standing Orders, what is the point of the Finance and Services Committee if it is not to consider important matters of finance concerning this House?
Mr. Speaker: The matters are set out in the Standing Orders and, as I have just explained to the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope), there are important responsibilities that fall to the House of Commons Commission, which has been discharging those responsibilities. It is of course open to the hon. Gentleman to form his own view as to the way in which those responsibilities have been discharged. It would be difficult to be clearer or more explicit in response to the further point of order raised by the hon. Gentleman.
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