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Mr Michael Meacher (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab): As the Chancellor’s private sector infrastructure proposals will take years to gain traction, if they ever do, why does he not use public investment to kick-start the economy now, as the only effective means to do so quickly, without any increase in public borrowing? He could do that through a further tranche of quantitative easing, specifically targeted on industrial investment; by instructing the state-owned banks to lend to industry at the scale required; or, most obviously, given that he talks about fairness, by taxing the super-rich, who have made massive gains since the crash, in the last five years.

Mr Osborne: First, we are committing to public investment as well as seeking to secure private investment. The first of the right hon. Gentleman’s ideas is about printing money to spend it on things. That has been tried by a number of countries but it does not always have a happy ending. Secondly, he has this plan to take over full control of the banks and run the banking system as a nationalised banking system. I do not think that would be a sensible approach; it would make the problems in our banking system worse rather than better.

Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman talks about taxes. I recall, as I was an MP on the Opposition Benches at the time, that he was a Minister when his Government had a 40% tax rate, whereas we have a 45% rate. I do not remember him getting up at this Dispatch Box and complaining all the time that his Government were not increasing taxes on the rich. I seem to remember his good friend Peter Mandelson saying that they were all

“intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich”.

Under this Government—I hope the right hon. Gentleman would support this—the richest are paying a greater percentage of our tax than under his Government.

Mr David Burrowes (Enfield, Southgate) (Con): My constituents will welcome a fair review of welfare, schools and health. Will the Chancellor take the opportunity to renew his and our party’s vow to recognise marriage in the tax system and ensure that it is implemented as soon as possible within this Parliament?

Mr Osborne: I can give my hon. Friend the absolutely clear commitment that we will bring forward the proposals to recognise marriage in the tax system—the proposals we set out in our manifesto that are provided for in the coalition agreement—in due course.

Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab): The Chancellor has told us today that he is going to bring forward infrastructure spending, but of course we have heard it all before. We reflect on a record of complete failure on infrastructure spending, whereby the money he announces does not actually get delivered. Why should we have any more confidence that what we have heard today will be any more successful than what he has brought to us previously from that Dispatch Box?

Mr Osborne: Because the road schemes that we committed to at this Dispatch Box got their planning permission, or are getting it, and the construction is starting. Some of those road schemes have been completed. The same is true with the schools and all the other pieces of infrastructure. One of our big problems was

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the complete absence when we came into office of a bunch of plans that were ready to go and had planning permission. We have had to do all that. I am all for speeding up Whitehall and the planning process, but I seem to remember that the Labour party voted against the planning reforms. So when we try to make those changes, which the former Chancellor was good enough to acknowledge are needed because of all the problems that previous Governments have had, actually he has opposed them.

Dr Julian Huppert (Cambridge) (LD): I was delighted to hear confirmation that the unfair schools funding formula will finally change. Schools in Cambridgeshire have been underfunded for decades and pupils there now get the least of pupils anywhere in the country—they get £600 less than the average. I am very grateful for this money, as all the pupils in Cambridgeshire and other counties will be. When will that extra money start to arrive in our schools, which so desperately need it?

Mr Osborne: The Education Secretary and the Minister for Schools, the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr Laws), will set out details of how the formula will work. It is certainly our intention to introduce it in this Parliament, but we shall consult on it. Obviously it is a complex reform, but we have set out the ambition and the principles today, and the Department for Education will now take it forward.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): The Budget previously told us that discretionary consolidation for 2015-16 would be £130 billion rising to £155 billion. The Chancellor announced another £11.5 billion today and the pace of the cuts will go on until 2018. That still represents stripping consumption out of the economy equivalent to 8% of GDP, so why does he think that will deliver growth? He has told us previously that the ratio of cuts to tax rises would be 4:1, and nothing today changes that. He is still planning to balance the books on the back of the poor.

On the funding for Departments and, in this case, for Scotland, we face another £40 million revenue cut, on top of the £103 million revenue cut announced in the Budget and the 6.5% cut in the last comprehensive spending review, combined with a 25% cut to capital in the last CSR. This plan A has failed. What makes the Chancellor think that making the same mistakes all over again will deliver a different result this time around?

Mr Osborne: First, all parts of the United Kingdom have to make savings, but because of the application of the Barnett formula the savings in Scotland are 2%. I am not saying that will be easy, but it is not as difficult as the tasks that some English Departments face. We are also providing more borrowing powers for the Scottish Parliament to make its own decisions. We believe that is the right approach—devolution, with Scotland not only having the benefit of being in the United Kingdom and able to make its own decisions about the investments it makes, but benefiting from the very low interest rates that our credible fiscal policy delivers for all parts of the Union. It is pretty clear that if Scotland were independent, borrowing would be more expensive for the Scottish people.

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Mr Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): Most of my constituents care about two things: whether they have a job, and what level of interest they pay on the mortgage or their business. More than 1.3 million new jobs have been created in the private sector, over a quarter of a million new businesses have been created and we have record low interest on mortgages and on businesses. Does my right hon. Friend feel, like me, that that would be jeopardised if we followed the shadow Chancellor’s borrowing plans?

Mr Osborne: I fear that it would be jeopardised and this country would be back in intensive care. It is remarkable that the shadow Chancellor did not have the courage at that Dispatch Box to say that Labour would borrow more. Labour did say that for three years and now it has completely gone silent.

Ed Balls: What are you talking about?

Mr Osborne: What I am talking about is that the Labour leader said on Saturday that Labour would not borrow more and the shadow Chancellor said on Sunday that it would. Because there are two alternative Labour economic policies out there, I would quite like to know which one is which.

Geraint Davies (Swansea West) (Lab/Co-op): Bankers’ bonuses are going up 64% this year because bankers have moved their income from a 50p tax year to a 45p tax year. Will the Chancellor act to reverse that tax evasion, which he caused?

Mr Osborne: Bank bonuses are down 85% since the previous Government left office. We have curbed irresponsibility in our City, which was rife when the shadow Chancellor was City Minister. In all the years for which the hon. Gentleman was a Member of Parliament for Croydon and sat on the Government Benches, I do not remember him getting up and saying, “I want a higher top rate of tax, Gordon Brown”—sorry, I mean the right hon. Member for Fife. We did not hear that. The truth is that the tax rate for rich people is higher under this Government than it was when the hon. Gentleman represented the good people of Croydon.

Mr Speaker: It is good of the Chancellor to refer to the former Prime Minister by the title of his constituency, but it is an even better idea to get it right as Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con): The Bank of England’s Andy Haldane recently told the Treasury Committee:

“Let’s be clear, we have intentionally blown the biggest government bond bubble in history.”

What contingency plans have the Government made to cope with that bond market bubble bursting?

Mr Osborne: First, let me say that I stand corrected, Mr Speaker, although I think that Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath is in the Kingdom of Fife. Yesterday we issued a 55-year bond so we are clearly able to borrow money for the long term. Our economic policy, the further stage of which we set out today, commands the confidence of the world.

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Helen Goodman (Bishop Auckland) (Lab): The Chancellor is presiding over a situation in which an extra 200,000 children will be living in poverty while at the same time cutting taxes for millionaires. Does he think the parents of those children will think that is fair?

Mr Osborne: Child poverty went up by 300,000 during the recession of the previous Government, and the hon. Lady was a Government MP at the time. We have taken a number of actions today, such as that on the pupil premium, to help the poorest kids, and there is also the troubled families initiative. That means 400 families helped by our plans. The distributional analysis, as I showed, shows that the richest quintile in our society are paying the most as a result of the collection of these measures. We are demonstrating that it is possible to have progressive policies while living with sane public finances.

James Morris (Halesowen and Rowley Regis) (Con): In my constituency, 2,500 more people are in work than at the time of the general election. That employment growth is largely a result of Government investment in apprenticeships and skills. Does the Chancellor agree that we need to invest more in apprenticeships and skills and to give local areas more control over how they invest in skills?

Mr Osborne: I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. It is good to hear that the businesses of the west midlands and Halesowen and Rowley Regis are taking the opportunity to grow, expand and take people on. We are committed to the apprenticeship programme and are also committing to more local involvement in how money is spent through the Heseltine local growth pot, which will be £10 billion over the rest of the decade. Through some of our apprenticeship reforms set out in the Richard review, we will give the businesses my hon. Friend represents much greater influence over the kinds of skills that are taught locally.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I welcome the protection of the counter-terrorism budget, although I do not think the Chancellor’s claim that the Home Secretary is the best in a generation would necessarily win the vote among the police service. The Home Office budget as a whole will be cut by 7% and earlier this year the UK Border Agency was abolished by the Prime Minister. How will we get the backlog of more than 250,000 cases down if the budget is to be cut and mandarins at the Home Office still receive bonuses of several millions of pounds?

Mr Osborne: The Home Office saving is 6.1%, but my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has demonstrated that she can live with a tough budget—which is true of all Government Departments at the moment—while delivering real reforms and improving the service we get at the end of it. Crime has come down to a 30-year low and immigration has already come down by a third. If the House has to choose between public services that are completely unaffordable and bust the country and public services that do not deliver a good service, that is no choice at all. We are delivering good public services that the country can afford.

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Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. I am keen if at all possible to accommodate all remaining colleagues, but also to start the next business, the Second Reading of the Bill, by 2.30 pm. There is therefore a premium on brevity.

Sir Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Previous defence cuts mean that our Army is heading towards being smaller than it was at the battle of Waterloo, so that is hardly a triumph. Will the Chancellor confirm that there is now no need, based on his statement, for any cuts to any Army bands and will he also make a statement on why the family housing lived in by our brave soldiers is not being modernised?

Mr Osborne: We did win the battle of Waterloo with that Army, so we were not doing that badly. We are trying to make the choice to have a modern, deployable Army, fully equipped with the latest technology. To address the hon. Gentleman’s specific points, no reduction is required to the uniformed services. I would assume that that would include military bands, but that is for the Defence Secretary to set out. On housing, the Defence Secretary has set out a multi-billion pound plan to improve the housing stock for our brave soldiers and their families.

Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab/Co-op): Half a million people in our country accessed emergency food aid in the past year. The main reason people give for having to go to a food bank is delays in receiving the support to which they are entitled, whether they are in or out of work. How does the Chancellor believe that that situation will improve as a result of the announcements he has made today?

Mr Osborne: Food bank use went up tenfold under the previous Labour Government. We have advertised the services of food banks, which are great local community projects, through the jobcentres. I know that I am not allowed to ask questions, so let me pose a rhetorical question. Labour Members complain about the use of food banks, but can they explain why their use went up tenfold under the previous Government?

Sarah Newton (Truro and Falmouth) (Con): I greatly welcome the step change in joining health and care services around people who need care. That is most welcome, as is the extra £3 billion spending to allow that vital integration. Will my right hon. Friend let the House know when the details of this vital reform will be published, so that we can all plan ahead?

Mr Osborne: I know that my hon. Friend has been a campaigner on social care issues. This is probably one of the most transformative announcements in the statement. The Health Secretary and the Local Government Secretary will set out shortly how it will work, but it will involve the local commissioning of social care services jointly by the NHS and local government to try to end the divide between the two services that people fall into. I am sure that my hon. Friend’s expertise will be drawn on, because she knows a lot about the subject.

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): The Chancellor outlined a new annually managed expenditure regime. Will he colour that in a little, particularly as regards Northern Ireland? Does he intend Northern Ireland to have its

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own separate welfare cap? How is it to be fixed? Will it take account of the higher rates of disability and long-term conditions in Northern Ireland or will the cap be used to try to taper Northern Ireland’s higher spending on those benefits?

Mr Osborne: The welfare cap will be for the United Kingdom, as we have a UK welfare system. It certainly will not be used to target Northern Ireland in particular. We want to ensure that more people in Northern Ireland have the opportunity to work and to get off benefits and although the subject has not featured in these questions, some of the changes we have announced to the jobcentre regime will help in this regard. We will ensure that they are suitably applied in Northern Ireland.

Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): With the increased investment in nursery education, the pupil premium, apprenticeships, NHS social care and pensions, is this not a Government who help people from cradle to grave rather than saddling future generations with debt?

Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We are doing everything we can to help people get a job, get on in life and aspire to better things, whether that means helping the poorest pupils in schools through the pupil premium, helping troubled families rather than abandoning them, or ensuring that our elderly get help from our social care system. Across someone’s life, we are stepping in to help rather than, as my hon. Friend points out, burdening the next generation with debt that this generation does not have the courage to tackle.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. There are still a lot of colleagues standing. May I please ask colleagues now to put a single-sentence question, without preamble—in other words, a genuine short question, which I know will be accommodated by the Chancellor with a short reply?

Julie Hilling (Bolton West) (Lab): With 300,000 more children in absolute poverty, how many more will be in poverty by 2015?

Mr Osborne: Child poverty projections are made independently, but I say to the hon. Lady that we are doing everything we can to give children from poorer backgrounds the very best start in life, with measures such as the pupil premium.

Mr Speaker: Following the example of the Hilling handbook, I call Mr Andrew Selous.

Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con): Will the Chancellor confirm that there will be a cap on benefits and not on the state pension in future?

Mr Osborne: Yes, absolutely. We received representations to include the state pension. We are not going to do so, but of course that will ultimately be decided at a general election.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): Given the 5% cut in the grant to museums and the increase in operational freedoms the Chancellor has announced, when does he expect charges to be introduced and how much does he think the average cost will be?

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Mr Osborne: There will be no museum charges; free entry will remain. What we are doing in the museums sector is introducing radical new freedoms, which have been welcomed across the sector. I think that is the right reform, which is to give more freedom to the front line.

Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): As so little has been done about problems of tax avoidance over the past decade, can the Chancellor confirm that HMRC will have the resources and the cultural enthusiasm it needs to tackle tax avoidance? Does he agree—

Mr Speaker: Order. One question is enough.

Mr Osborne: The short answer is yes, and the Exchequer Secretary is doing an excellent job in changing that culture, with the Department.

Chris Williamson (Derby North) (Lab): The Chancellor talked about rail investment in his statement. How many jobs is he creating in Dusseldorf, now that his Government have finalised their plans to spend £1.6 billion building the Thameslink trains in Germany, rather than in Derby? Is that a sensible use of taxpayers’ money?

Mr Osborne: Well, we were operating under the procurement rules of the previous Government.

Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con): May I welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement of an increase in transport capital and his indication that it will be invested in our rail network? The boost in capacity and services will be welcomed by rail travellers.

Mr Osborne: I am grateful for that welcome.

Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): The Chancellor knows that the north-east is already suffering disproportionately from his Government’s cuts, so can he tell the House what percentage of infrastructure spending will come to the north-east, and by when?

Mr Osborne: My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary will set out the regional breakdown tomorrow.

Dan Rogerson (North Cornwall) (LD): In his continuing discussions with the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department of Health and the Home Office, will the Chancellor urge them to follow the example of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Schools in ensuring that money is spent fairly across the whole country?

Mr Osborne: Yes.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): Because 67% of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s budget is ring-fenced for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, the Chancellor’s 8% cut actually equates to a 35% cut when the Department has to deliver an infrastructure plan which, at £200 billion, is the largest this country has ever seen. How is it going to be able to do that?

Mr Osborne: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point about infrastructure capacity in Whitehall, and we will set out changes to infrastructure delivery tomorrow. The Department of Energy and Climate Change is part

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of that. Not only is the Energy Secretary on the case, but the new permanent secretary, Stephen Lovegrove, is too, and they are confident that they can deliver this within the budget.

Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con): There is a record number of apprenticeships in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the new announcement on apprenticeships means cross-sector and cross-industry support, as well as an increase in the number of girls going into science and engineering?

Mr Osborne: It is certainly our intention to increase the number of girls going into science and engineering and, indeed, to increase the number of people doing science and engineering subjects, both as schoolchildren and young adults. Our support for skills will help to deliver that.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): Some 10% of the capital funding for Northern Ireland will be in the form of financial transactions money, which requires the identification of private sector loan or equity investment-type arrangements. Can the Chancellor assure us that, with local Administrations, he will look for the greatest possible flexibility in the choice of those and in the timing of that spend?

Mr Osborne: I am happy to look at both the flexibility and the timing, and to make sure that my Department works closely with the devolved Administration in Belfast.

Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): Will the Chancellor do his utmost to ensure that all local authorities take advantage of the council tax freeze, which he has generously extended today?

Mr Osborne: I hope that all local authorities take it up, but ultimately that is a matter for them—that is local democracy.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): From 2006, the Conservative and Liberal Democrats who used to run Newcastle borough council spent all of our £50 million reserves. In dictating a further indiscriminate 10% cut across the board to local government, how carefully has the Chancellor considered its impact, council by council, on their ability to provide decent basic public services and to give discretionary support to valued community groups and organisations?

Mr Osborne: We are giving local councils more freedom, including some more flexibility in the use of assets, particularly where they want to spend to save. The broader point is that if all the changes in local government and social care I announced are taken into account, the change for local government is more like minus 2%—still difficult, but I think that good local councils can continue to deliver excellent local services.

George Eustice (Camborne and Redruth) (Con): I welcome the commitment the Chancellor made today to renew the water bill rebate for South West Water customers, which has been a vital respite for some 700,000 households in the west country. Does he agree

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with me that it would be wrong of any future Government to reverse that commitment for this spending review period?

Mr Osborne: I commend my hon. Friend for the campaign he has run. He has represented not only the people of his constituency but people across the south-west of England. Water bills are abnormally high because of the money that needs to be spent on cleaning up beaches and the like, and we have stepped in to help. It is this Government who have done that, after years of campaigns, and we have made the commitment to extend it. As for whether a Labour Government would remove it—well, they never introduced it when they were in office, so I suspect they would.

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): Does the Chancellor accept that, since the beginning of this Parliament, the cut in central Government grant to local authorities has been twice as great as the cut in funding for central Government Departments? With that in mind, will he take seriously the comments of the chair of the Conservative party that local councils can manage the cuts announced today without any reduction in front-line services?

Mr Osborne: I think good local councils can manage the ask we are making of them. Is the hon. Gentleman complaining? The Labour party has not made it clear whether or not it supports this total mandatory expenditure, so the Opposition cannot really complain about individual cuts unless they tell us whether they would make other cuts, and so far I have not heard of any.

David Rutley (Macclesfield) (Con): Is not the main message from today’s statement that more can be done for less? Do we not need to move forward on that because of the mess left by Labour?

Mr Osborne: My hon. Friend is right: one of the central principles is that we can deliver more for less. Ultimately, we should not have to choose between public services we can afford and public services that deliver for people. We need both.

Seema Malhotra (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op): Is it true that, according to figures on page 11 of the spending review document, the Chancellor is cutting capital infrastructure spending by 1.7% in 2015-16 compared with 2014-15?

Mr Osborne: We are maintaining capital investment at £50 billion.

Justin Tomlinson (North Swindon) (Con): The decision to introduce a fairer national education funding formula is vital for my local schools. How much did Labour’s formula short-change schools in Swindon?

Mr Osborne: The people of Swindon were short-changed in many ways by the Labour Government. Under the excellent leadership provided by my hon. Friend and his colleague, our hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland), not only is Swindon’s voice heard in Parliament, but the changes this Government are making will help families in Swindon, including those with children at school.

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Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): Given the news this week that the Government’s flagship green deal is failing in terms of both the planned jobs and its environmental targets, why will the Chancellor not introduce a big, bold investment in green infrastructure and home insulation in particular, to get people into jobs, get tax revenues up, reduce benefits and give hope to the millions of young people around the country today?

Mr Osborne: We have introduced investment. We have increased investment in renewable energy, so that a record amount is now going in. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will set out the strike prices this week, which will give long-term investors the certainty needed to increase renewable energy investment.

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): Why is the Chancellor not big enough to admit that he was wrong to claim that borrowing fell last year?

Mr Osborne: When I became Chancellor we were borrowing £157 billion a year. We are forecast to borrow £108 billion a year, which is a reduction in borrowing.

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): Why is the Chancellor going to decide what capital investment projects should be delivered in Wales if the Silk commission is implemented, considering that transport is devolved?

Mr Osborne: There is a specific issue around borrowing powers and the M4 corridor through Newport. That has to be done in partnership with the Government in London, but we are very aware of the benefits of that scheme. The Welsh Assembly and the people of Wales will welcome what we are proposing to do on the devolution of further tax and borrowing powers. We will set that out shortly.

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): With the Government’s own figures showing that, despite all the promises, house building is down, construction is down, homelessness is up, rents are up, and housing waiting lists are at a record level, does the Chancellor accept that it is the legacy of his actions, including the catastrophic decision to cut £4 billion in affordable housing investment in 2010, that brings him to the Chamber today, and that he is responsible for three wasted years?

Mr Osborne: No, I do not accept that at all. The last Labour Government had a shocking record on house building, especially affordable house building. If the hon. Gentleman turns up in the Chamber tomorrow, he will hear some positive announcements about affordable house building.

Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab): Lord Heseltine’s plan for localising regeneration funding in a single pot would have cost £49 billion. The announcement today is for just £2 billion. Lord Heseltine said that such a figure would be a slap in the face for local areas. Does the Chancellor agree, and why did he not stand up to the Lib Dem Business Secretary, who opposed that idea?

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Mr Osborne: It is £2 billion a year, making £10 billion. For the first time, local enterprise partnerships will be able to put in multi-year bids on the basis of a competitive tender that will enable investment in skills, transport and housing locally. It is a revolution in how the money is spent, rather than the situation that we inherited, in which all the spending decisions were made by the people doing my kind of job.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I thank the Chancellor for his commitment and his comments. He referred to extra money for the police in Northern Ireland to combat dissident republicans. Will he confirm that within that money sufficient funding will be available for the recruitment and training of new officers to combat the dissident republican threat?

Mr Osborne: We have provided just over £30 million to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. I am confident that within that resource the PSNI can undertake the recruitment and training that it requires to police Northern Ireland effectively for all communities.

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): Given that 16 to 18-year-olds attend schools as well as colleges, does the Chancellor’s unequivocal commitment to protect school funding in real terms extend to the funding of 16 to 18-year-olds?

Mr Osborne: We set out the school commitment in the direct school grant and the pupil premium. We have invested in the education of young people as well as the education of young adults.

Alison McGovern (Wirral South) (Lab): Does the Chancellor believe that since he came to office the average British family is better off after inflation—yes or no?

Mr Osborne: I think that they have better economic prospects than they did under the previous Government.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): The best way to reduce the housing benefit bill is to tackle the structural reasons for the rise in spending. What steps has the Chancellor taken in the statement to ensure that that happens? Not by building houses at 80% of market rent, I suggest.

Mr Osborne: I agree with the hon. Lady, as one of the things that we need to do is build more homes, and that is what we have set out to do. The housing benefit budget ballooned under the Labour Government, and we have taken action to curb it. If she is against any of our housing benefit reforms she can always let us know. As far as I can see, the Labour party has not made a commitment to reverse any of them at the moment, but who knows, that might change.

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Nia Griffith (Llanelli) (Lab): Confidence to invest long term in industry has been severely damaged by the Government’s creation of uncertainty over the EU, their failure to set 2030 decarbonisation targets, and their failure to control excessively high energy prices. The steel industry faces a crisis in demand. How many of the Chancellor’s mythical lists of infrastructure projects will actually begin this year?

Mr Osborne: As I said, we are spending more as a percentage of national income on infrastructure in this decade than in the previous decade. What I would say to the hon. Lady about energy-intensive industries such as steel is that there is support, which the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is going to extend as a result of the statement to help them to cope with their high energy costs.

Gemma Doyle (West Dunbartonshire) (Lab/Co-op): Living standards have fallen in every year of the Chancellor’s Government. When is he going to get the message that his strategy is not working?

Mr Osborne: As I said, the economic plan is taking Britain from rescue to recovery. I do not know if the hon. Lady knows any more about what the Labour party’s economic policy is. We did not hear from the shadow Chancellor the simple fact that he wants to borrow more. He has abandoned his argument but tragically he has stuck with the policy.

Mr William Bain (Glasgow North East) (Lab): The £50 billion figure cited by the Chancellor for capital investment for 2015-16 is gross. Will he say whether net capital investment in 2015-16 will be higher or lower than the year before?

Mr Osborne: As I said, we are maintaining capital investment in the way that I set out in the statement.

Mr Speaker: Fifty-five Back Benchers contributed in 47 minutes of exclusively Back-Bench time, so I am grateful to colleagues, including, of course, the Chancellor.

Bill Presented

Railways Bill

Presentation and First Reading (Standing Order No. 57)

Caroline Lucas, supported by John McDonnell, Ian Lavery, Katy Clark, Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Elfyn Llwyd, Jonathan Edwards, Hywel Williams, Kelvin Hopkins, John Cryer, Grahame M. Morris and Martin Caton, presented a Bill to require the Secretary of State to assume control of passenger rail franchises when they come up for renewal; and for connected purposes.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 18 October, and to be printed (Bill 81).

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High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Second Reading

Mr Speaker: Before I call the Minister to move the motion on Second Reading, I have a brief announcement to make. This Bill relates to a proposal which would affect my own constituency, as is well known. I have taken the view that it would best protect and demonstrate the impartiality of the Chair if I did not take the decision on whether the reasoned amendment should be selected. I therefore referred the matter to the Chairman of Ways and Means. His decision is that the amendment should be selected, and I have accepted that.

2.26 pm

The Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Patrick McLoughlin): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Today, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has set out far-reaching plans to provide the infrastructure that we need to compete in the global race. We need better roads, better airports, better ports, and better rail links too—an ambitious programme for all parts of our country, with HS2 an important part of that. A growing economy, a growing population and growing demand for transport, which have seen rail travel double in a decade, mean that we must act. HS2 will be the first new main rail line north of London for 120 years, linking at least eight of our 10 largest cities, and improving services for Scotland too. I am pleased that HS2 enjoys the broad backing of all the main parties in the House. I want to make three points.

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): The Secretary of State has just said that the proposed High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill paves the way for links to Scotland, so will he explain why clause 1(2)(a) does not make any mention of Scotland or proposals to connect HS2 to Scotland?

Mr McLoughlin: I shall come on to explain, if I may make a bit of progress, the way in which we shall link up to Scotland, and why the Bill covers the area. The Bill provides that important opportunity, and I shall come to that in a short while.

As I was saying, I want to make three points: first, the reason why a new high-speed line is right; secondly, the purpose of the Bill; and thirdly, the work that we are doing to manage the costs of the scheme. Why is HS2 necessary? The answer is not only speed, although HS2 will take an hour off journeys between London and Manchester, and between Birmingham and Leeds, and it will bring two thirds of people in the north of England within two hours of London.

Fiona Bruce (Congleton) (Con): Is the Secretary of State aware that if there is to be a tangible economic benefit to my constituency and the wider Cheshire region, there must be a hub station stop at Crewe, otherwise it will take longer to travel by High Speed 2 up to Manchester and then travel down on a local line to that area?

Mr McLoughlin: I know that my hon. Friend is concerned, as I am, to make sure that there are sufficient connections right across the country. We have not yet reached the consultation stage on phase 2. Part of the

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reason why we published phase 2, although it would have been easier not to do that, was to show our commitment to serving the north, right up to Manchester, Leeds and the east midlands. So I am pretty sure that I will be hearing a lot more from my hon. Friend and others on the question of where the station should be located—Crewe or Staffordshire.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab) rose

Mr McLoughlin: I met a group of Members from—well, I was going to say Staffordshire—I met two Members from Stoke-on-Trent and one from Staffordshire, and I give way to him.

Paul Farrelly: I thank the Secretary of State for giving way and for his generous offer of coming to visit and see the lie of the land in north Staffordshire and east Cheshire. He will appreciate after our meeting that it is difficult for Members from north Staffordshire to support HS2 as it stands because it may very well, on the current modelling, reduce the number of direct trains from Stoke-on-Trent from 31 a day to just three a day. This knock-on issue is relevant to people from Stockport all the way down to Coventry, as he will see from the amendment. What assurances can he give that the west coast main line in the future, after HS2, will not become the ghost train line running a skeleton service, as the projections currently suggest?

Mr McLoughlin: I met the hon. Gentleman yesterday along with two of his colleagues, and I can assure him that this is about providing extra capacity, not reducing services. I want to consider the points that he and two of his hon. Friends made to me yesterday along the same lines. I do not recognise where he gets his figure of three services per day compared to the present level of service. Of course, that will be part of the consultation and one of the aspects that we will examine fully as we move forward.

Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr) (PC): The last time I looked, York, Manchester, Birmingham and London were in England. HS2 was clearly an England-only project, yet there will be Barnett consequentials. Unless the Secretary of State can state that there will be equivalent consequentials for Wales amounting to about £2 billion, we will vote against the Bill at every stage.

Mr McLoughlin: I am sorry the hon. Gentleman feels that way, because I believe there will be advantages to Wales as well. As HS2 serves an area up to the north Wales coast, there will be ways in which that can be an advantage. I think he is saying that he will vote against because he is not getting the opportunity to get high-speed services. If we do not get the route as currently proposed, he has no chance of getting any high-speed opportunity whatsoever. He will see, if he looks at the way the plans are laid out, that this can be developed further—even further up to Scotland, as the Bill makes clear.

Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil (Na h-Eileanan an Iar) (SNP): The Minister talks of expansion further up to Scotland. When? Given the remarks about no Barnett consequentials, the “when” is not in a decade, but should be here and now.

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Mr McLoughlin: I announced last October the work that was already being commissioned by HS2 to take the link up to Scotland, and I am more than happy to have discussions with Scottish Ministers and the Scottish Government about that.

Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op): I suspect that even the Scottish National party does not expect the line to reach the constituency of the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil) any time soon, but I hope it will reach my constituency.

Frank Dobson (Holborn and St Pancras) (Lab): This century?

Mark Lazarowicz: I would like to believe that it will not be next century and that my constituents will be able to benefit from the line as well. Clearly, they will benefit from faster services in so far as they can use the line further south, but we need to see work being done now and commitments made now to ensure that the further additions from HS2 do not start happening only in 2033.

Mr McLoughlin: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. As I announced last October, I have asked HS2 to start doing the work on that, and I hope to be in a position to say more about it in due course. I cannot give him a specific date at this stage because there are some very big issues to address.

I was saying that HS2 will bring about two thirds of the people in the north of England within two hours of London. Its purpose is not merely to keep pace with our competitors, although it is worth pointing out that Italy will soon have 926 miles of high-speed rail, whereas we have just 67 miles.

Julian Smith (Skipton and Ripon) (Con): Is not Lille in the north of France an excellent example of the benefits that high speed can bring to a city?

Mr McLoughlin: Indeed, and I will say a little more about Lille shortly. I think my hon. Friend may have a copy of my speech, although as I was working on it until not long ago, I would be surprised if he had.

Several hon. Members rose

Mr McLoughlin: Mr Speaker, I know that a great number of Members want to speak in the debate and I will give way a number of times, but I am mindful of the fact that you asked me to allow plenty of time for others to take part.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): I apologise to the Secretary of State for coming in late and I appreciate the fact that he has given way to me. Can he tell me what Coventry will get out of high-speed rail and, more importantly, what about a decent compensation package?

Mr McLoughlin: I will come on to say something about compensation later in my speech. I think Coventry will get many benefits. The whole west midlands area will get a huge number of benefits from HS2. I want to see councils such as Coventry start working to make sure that they can get the best out of High Speed 2,

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both from the connections and the way we serve those areas. I know the hon. Gentleman is incredibly concerned about the way we serve Coventry. As somebody who knows Coventry relatively well, I am also concerned to see that take place.

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion) (Green): The Secretary of State is very kind to give way. My point is that not only is the route of HS2 environmentally damaging, but the whole scheme is socially regressive. It is unaffordable to the bottom 50% of income bands and, in effect, it redirects money from the poorest to the richest. How can he justify this reverse Robin Hood strategy when that £33 billion could be better invested in giving us a better rail system for everybody, not just for the privileged few?

Mr McLoughlin: I find the hon. Lady’s position on the issue strange. I should have thought that the Green party would welcome such investment in public railway systems. [Interruption.] I think I had better answer the hon. Lady. HS2 brings a great increase in capacity and I want to say more about that a little later. That is one of the important issues that lies behind the need for HS2. Also, as I point out to colleagues, going from St Pancras station to Canterbury, the first part of the route from St Pancras to Ashford on a high-speed train is a fantastic fast journey, then one hits the Victorian railway network to Canterbury and the journey slows down completely. I want the rest of the country to get the benefit of high-speed rail, not just the area in the south which already has a high-speed service.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP) rose

Mr McLoughlin: I am not sure I can extend the service to Northern Ireland.

Sammy Wilson: And I have no idea how the Minister would extend it to Northern Ireland, but Northern Ireland does not benefit from the Barnett consequentials of this spend, either. Because there is a construction interest, can he give an assurance that when it comes to procurement, there will be no repetition of the mistakes that were made in the past whereby UK-based companies did not benefit from some of the high-spend capital projects, and there will be opportunities for construction firms from Northern Ireland?

Mr McLoughlin: I am more than happy to do that and I shall say more about that later. Crossrail has set a good example. About 97% of Crossrail goods are serviced by British companies, and the Mayor of London is in the process of purchasing a huge infrastructure project, the new London buses, from Northern Ireland. That is very much in my mind with regard to the way I will be dealing with HS2 and talking to the management of HS2.

Damian Collins (Folkestone and Hythe) (Con): My right hon. Friend mentioned his rail journey to Canterbury. I encourage him to take a different branch on High Speed 1 and travel to Folkestone, as he will see that the investment in High Speed 1 is the biggest single advantage we have in promoting the east Kent regional growth area.

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Mr McLoughlin: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes that point from vast experience. It is worth remembering how controversial High Speed 1 was when it was built. I will talk about that a little later. The simple fact is that every infrastructure project—not nearly every project, but every project—is very controversial when it first starts, and in that regard High Speed 2 is no different.

Alec Shelbrooke (Elmet and Rothwell) (Con): Will the Secretary of State give way?

Mr McLoughlin: I will not be in the position that you are in, Mr Speaker, of having actually counted the number of interventions I have taken, but I will give way to my hon. Friend.

Alec Shelbrooke: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that all major infrastructure projects are controversial. Would he like to reflect on where he thinks the great city of Leeds would be today had we not built the M1?

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): Probably in the same place. [Laughter.]

Mr McLoughlin: Indeed, but it would be very difficult to get to, and it would not have benefited from the improvements we have seen there.

I think that the answer starts with a simple point: without HS2, the key rail and road routes connecting London to the midlands and the north will soon be overwhelmed. Even on moderate forecasts, the west coast main line, the nation’s key rail corridor, will be full by the mid-2020s, a point made earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski), who wants more services from Shrewsbury to Blackpool. Having served as a Transport Minister in 1989, I know that the fundamental change that has taken place since then is that the pressure on a Transport Secretary now is often to find more services for the rail industry and more rail connections across the country—I was just talking about the west coast main line—and that is despite £9 billion of improvements north of Rugby in recent years. That means investing in the current infrastructure and trying to improve it. There are still problems south of Rugby, which is why Virgin has suffered problems in meeting some of the criteria it regards as important in providing the right kind of service.

Mrs Gillan: Has the Secretary of State had an opportunity to look at the financial results released by Virgin Trains this morning? They indicate that profits are down by 40.5% but revenue is up by 2.8%, which is roughly the same rate as the fare increases, so the passenger increase must be very small. It says that it has now increased capacity by 40%, and this month it started a major advertising campaign to attract passengers. Does that sound like a railway line that is full to capacity?

Mr McLoughlin: No, it sounds like a railway that is providing the services that all colleagues want to see. As I pointed out a few moments ago, in certain areas hon. Friends are pressing for further services that cannot be provided because Network Rail says there is no availability on the existing highways.

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Mr Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Con): My right hon. Friend can rest assured that, for a change, I will not be using this opportunity as a pitch to get more fast services to Nuneaton on the west coast main line. Can he assure me that, despite the investment being made in HS2, investment will still be made to continue to improve the services and capacity on the west coast main line?

Mr McLoughlin: Yes, indeed. That is one of the points that will become very apparent with the investment programmes we have over the coming years and that Network Rail will be carrying out. I can assure my hon. Friend that it is not a case of either/or; it is essential to invest in both areas.

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): I would like to add a thought on the capacity question. Will the Secretary of State confirm that over the past 15 years passenger numbers have increased by an average of 5% a year and that the business case for HS2 assumes an increase of 1.6% a year, which is quite a conservative estimate?

Mr McLoughlin: Indeed, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Basically, 15 years ago there were about 750 million passenger journeys, and the latest estimate is for 1.5 billion passenger journeys, which is a massive shift that I would have thought my right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) would welcome.

Mr William Cash (Stone) (Con) rose

Steve Baker (Wycombe) (Con) rose

Mr McLoughlin: Now, there is a choice. As a bit of a conservative, I will go with seniority, if my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Steve Baker) will forgive me.

Mr Cash: Will my right hon. Friend accept that, in relation to my constituency, this project goes from top to bottom and is deeply opposed by all and sundry? I have had meetings with thousands of constituents already. Will he accept that, according to the Public Accounts Committee, the pricing is unrealistic, the values for journey time savings are untenable and there has been insufficient analysis of non-rail alternatives? What answer does he give to the Public Accounts Committee and my constituents, who are deeply angered by this?

Mr McLoughlin: To my hon. Friend’s constituents I say this: I understand that a big piece of infrastructure of the size of HS2 will obviously have an impact. I respect and understand that and do not criticise those people who raise objections. I will move on to talk about compensation later. He talks about an area where we are yet to confirm the route. We will be having a full and proper consultation later this year, when he and his constituents will be able to make those points. I will want to see what can be done to help with some of the environmental points. I also point out that part of the west coast main line runs through his constituency, and it, too, was very unpopular when it was built, but it is very beneficial to the area, because I know that he often takes the train from Stafford to get to London. I will give way once more, to my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe, but then I will have to make some progress.

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Steve Baker: In relation to passenger numbers, my right hon. Friend will know the old aphorism that if one subsidises anything, one gets more of it. Will he remind us how much subsidy the rail industry has received over the past few years?

Mr McLoughlin: One of the things we are trying to do is drive out some of the subsidy in the railways to make it cheaper and more affordable for companies, but it is certainly true that there is subsidy in the rail industry. However, we have to think about people being able to get to work and what that subsidy supports. Sometimes the commuter in London, and the commuter in my hon. Friend’s constituency, deserves that support to enable him to get to the jobs that are available elsewhere. One has to be realistic and understanding about that.

I will now try to make some progress, because I have been speaking for longer than I had intended to take for my whole speech. This is not about a choice between upgrading the existing railway and building a new one. Upgrades will not provide the extra capacity we need. The choice is between a new high-speed line and a new conventional railway. The significant additional benefits make high-speed rail the right answer. Of course, big infrastructure projects are always controversial. As I often say, the easiest thing in the world for the Government to do would be not to build HS2 or to commit to it, but the costs of that would be huge.

It would be a cost in jobs. Our modest estimates indicate that HS2 will create and support 100,000 jobs, while the group of core cities predict that it will underpin 400,000 jobs, 70% of them outside London. It would be a cost in prosperity. Some estimates suggest that HS2 will add over £4 billion to the economy even before it is open. The line is estimated to provide around £50 billion in economic benefits once it is up and running. If we do not go ahead with HS2, there will also be a cost in lost opportunities for the towns and cities in the midlands and the north. I am not prepared to put up with a situation in which someone can get to Brussels on a high-speed train line, but not to Birmingham; to Strasbourg, but not to Sheffield; or to Lille, but not to Leeds. We cannot afford to leave the economic future of our great cities such as Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby to an overcrowded 200-year-old railway.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con) rose—

Mr McLoughlin: I did say that I would not give way any more, but I shall give way to my hon. Friend.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown: My right hon. Friend knows, as does the rest of the House, that much of that high-speed European railway was built with European money. How much investigation has he done with the European authorities into how much he might be able to reduce the enormous £32 billion cost of the railway?

Mr McLoughlin: We will be looking at that. I will say a bit more about costs a little later, if my hon. Friend will wait. As always, we will look at how we finance, and not necessarily just in respect of the area to which he has referred. We could see private sector investment in some of the stations that we are going to develop. I will say something more about the stations in a few moments.

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We will deliver the investment to develop new stations and growth at places such as Old Oak Common in west London, where we will invest more than £920 million in a new hub linking the west country, Crossrail and HS2. At Curzon Street in Birmingham, we will invest £335 million on station developments. Similar investments are due in Manchester, Leeds and other great railway centres such as Sheffield and the east midlands.

HS2 will also allow for significant improvements to the rail service on the existing main north-south lines, providing benefits for towns such as Milton Keynes, Tamworth and Lichfield. It will provide real scope to get more freight on to the railways, which I would have thought the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) would welcome. It will also free up capacity on the M1, the M6 and the M40.

My second point this afternoon is about the Bill before the House. It will authorise essential expenditure on the preparation work for high-speed rail. Planning and building the line will take time.

Natascha Engel (North East Derbyshire) (Lab): On the point about this legislation being the paving Bill and agreeing the expenditure before the line gets built, will the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that he will publish the receipts relating to everything spent as we advance to building the line, so that we can assure ourselves annually that the money spent represents value for money to the taxpayer?

Mr McLoughlin: I am about to make exactly that point; obviously, somebody else has an advance copy of my speech.

The line will be overseen and delivered by successive Parliaments, which is why it is right to provide Parliament with the opportunity to debate the project. The hybrid Bill will provide additional opportunities for closer scrutiny of HS2. This is the moment for Parliament to demonstrate that it is backing British business, jobs and growth by backing HS2.

Let me say how the Bill will help achieve those aims. Without this legislation, Treasury rules would limit the amount of work that could be done or undertaken until after Royal Assent on the hybrid Bill. That includes design work on the construction of the line, planning the movement of utilities and carrying out ecological surveys. The legislation will also ensure that future spending on the discretionary property compensation is compliant with the PAC requirements.

Dan Byles (North Warwickshire) (Con): My right hon. Friend is being generous with his time. From the moment the train line was announced, the property market up and down the route has frozen solid. Unless my constituents can demonstrate an exceptional hardship, they cannot sell their homes and move. I implore the Secretary of State once again to reconsider a property bond as the single most helpful move he could make to help alleviate a lot of the suffering being caused right now, today, by the project.

Mr McLoughlin: I assure my hon. Friend that, if he has a little patience, I will say something about that exact point a little later.

The PAC requirement states that when there is significant new expenditure that is likely to persist, authority should normally be sought from Parliament. I appreciate that

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many hon. Members have concerns about the authorisation of expenditure on early works in advance of the subsequent hybrid Bill. That is why this Bill ensures complete transparency in what we are doing, when we are doing it and—crucially—how much we are spending.

The Bill creates a duty on the Secretary of State to produce an annual financial report on the amount of expenditure incurred, allowing Parliament to keep a check on the costs and progress. I hope that that answers the point made by the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel).

Natascha Engel: Will the Secretary of State publish the receipts?

Mr McLoughlin: I will look at the detail of that. I am certainly determined that Parliament should be kept well informed and, of course, the company will be open to the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office reporting to the PAC. There is a way in which the House can keep an eye on the matter.

My third point is about funding. We can today welcome the allocation made by the Chancellor in infrastructure investment. Tomorrow, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury will say more about our plans. I know that in the context of the Bill, the House will want to be updated on the cost of HS2. I can therefore tell the House that tomorrow I will be writing to the chairman of HS2 Ltd to set a target price for delivering phase 1 of the project. That amount is £17 billion at 2011 prices. That takes account of the design and environmental changes to improve the scheme. Those changes include a tunnel from Old Oak Common to Northolt, design changes at Euston station, and a tunnel under the M6 near Birmingham.

As a responsible Government, we must be prudent, which means allowing the right level of contingency. In addition, therefore, we have set an overall indicative amount for the budget for phase 1 of £21.4 billion. For phase 2, it is £21.2 billion, so the total is £42.6 billion at 2011 prices. That includes £12.7 billion of contingency.

Graham Stringer (Blackley and Broughton) (Lab): At Prime Minister’s questions this afternoon, I asked the Prime Minister why the Government were opposing the continuation of the trans-European network north of London. The Prime Minister clearly did not have an answer, and I will understand if the Secretary of State does not. However, will the Secretary of State find out why we are opposing the extension of that network? While we are in the European Union, that could be cutting off a source of funding.

Mr McLoughlin: I heard the hon. Gentleman’s question to the Prime Minister. Those debates on that whole process are ongoing and still at an early stage. I have some worries and I would want to get clarification before we changed the Government’s position.

Andrea Leadsom (South Northamptonshire) (Con) rose—

Mr McLoughlin: I have not yet given way to my hon. Friend, so I will now.

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Andrea Leadsom: Will my right hon. Friend explain what the £12.7 billion of contingency will do to the benefit-cost ratio? During the consultation period, it was always made clear that the £32 billion was the absolute maximum and contained a vast sum for contingency.

Mr McLoughlin: At the moment, the value-cost ratio is reckoned to be 2.5. I also point out that the BCR tells us some things, but not everything. For instance, the BCR on the Jubilee line was a lot lower than that for High Speed 2. If the Jubilee line had not been developed, a lot of the development in Canary Wharf would never have taken place. The line brought a huge amount of investment into the area and the country. It is important that we are seen to be able to compete with other countries in the global race to attract businesses to this country. The point also relates to the Olympic games, where a contingency was allowed and in fact the price of the games came in below the budget that had been set by the Government. I expect the final costs to be lower than those I have outlined. However, I take on board my hon. Friend’s point about BCR.

Andrew Bridgen: My right hon. Friend has announced that the total budget for the infrastructure plan will be about £43 billion. Does that include the £8 billion for the rolling stock?

Mr McLoughlin: If my hon. Friend will allow me to make a bit more progress, he will find that I am going to be very open with the House and put all this out into the public domain. I want to be as open as I possibly can.

Christopher Pincher (Tamworth) (Con) rose

Mr McLoughlin: I give way to my hon. Friend, who I met yesterday—I think, but the days are getting a bit blurred at the moment.

Christopher Pincher: They are getting blurred for us all. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way and for yesterday meeting my constituents from Hints, Weeford and Drayton Bassett to discuss their concerns about compensation and mitigation. He has rightly referred to the great concern that people have about the compensation and mitigation that is available. In setting a budget for phase 1, will he prevail on HS2 to be as efficient as possible so that money can be saved and spent on mitigations in Staffordshire?

Mr McLoughlin: The meeting that I had yesterday with my hon. Friend and his constituents was very useful, and I gave them an undertaking to look at some of the points they made. I have had varying reports on how some of the public consultations have gone. I am determined that we improve the way in which they are conducted so that people get more reliable answers on the points they are making, and as quickly as possible, although sometimes these things take a lot of time if particular requests are made as to routes and the like. I thank my hon. Friend for behaving very constructively in the points that he is making.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way, and pleased to be able to follow the intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Christopher Pincher). Next

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week I will be bringing people from Lichfield, Whittington and Armitage to see him to discuss, primarily, mitigation. May I ask him about compensation? He will know that with the current route I will have real difficulties with the hybrid Bill; in fact, I will not be able to support it. The Country Land and Business Association says that this stage of the game is the only opportunity to get compensation into legislation so that we can give it to people in my constituency, and indeed in Tamworth, who have been blighted for the past three years.

Mr McLoughlin: As someone who was born and brought up in Staffordshire, I know the area that my hon. Friends are talking about incredibly well. Without the authority of this Bill, we would be in a very difficult position as regards exceptional hardship. I mentioned earlier some of the requirements of the PAC in relation to accountability in spending money on a project without the approval of Parliament, and that also relates to compensation.

Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab) rose

Mr McLoughlin: I cannot not give way to my constituency neighbour.

Mr Skinner: The Secretary of State has been dealing with blight, and he mentions Staffordshire, but he also knows Derbyshire well, and he knows a village called Pinxton. I spoke about blight when he made his original statement, and I was staggered to be told within hours by a farmer in Pinxton who was selling his farm that as soon as the statement had been made he was told that he would never sell his farm. How is that farmer going to be compensated?

Mr McLoughlin: I will say a little more about compensation in a moment. I accept and appreciate the hon. Gentleman’s point about the impact of naming the route. At the time of HS1 several routes were announced and there was potentially more widespread blight. In HS2 we have tried to be more specific about the routes so that we avoid widespread blight. However, I also say to the hon. Gentleman, who is well versed in how these things work, that we will be going out to consultation on phase 2—I will be announcing that in the very near future—and that will enable his constituents and those of the hon. Member for North East Derbyshire to make their points, find out more information, and possibly propose alternative suggestions and ideas.

Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) (DUP): The Secretary of State said that there is a contingency provision of nearly 40% in this project. Is that typical of a project of this size, or does it indicate a higher degree of risk than would usually be associated with such a project?

Mr McLoughlin: It is a normal level of contingency that would be put into a scheme of this sort, and it is built in on an internationally based calculation.

This is the right way to plan for the project. In addition, with or without HS2, new rolling stock will be needed on the key inter-city routes linking London and the north over the next 20 years. I hope that deals with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for

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North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen). We are therefore budgeting £7.5 billion for HS2 rolling stock. To put that in perspective, the current inter-city express programme to replace trains on the east coast and Great Western lines, which is creating jobs in the north east, will cost £4.9 billion. The money that I have just announced for the rolling stock for HS2 also includes a contingency of some £1.5 billion.

Good infrastructure is an investment in economic growth. We are investing £14.5 billion to build Crossrail, while £11 billion has been invested in new infrastructure at Heathrow since 2003. Over the period of construction, the cost of HS2 will be less than 0.15% of GDP—I repeat, less than 0.15% of GDP. This is an investment that the country can sustain and needs. That is why tomorrow the Chief Secretary will set out the detailed HS2 funding allocations for the six-year period until 2020-21.

Before I finish, I want to explain what we are doing for those affected by the line. As I said earlier and have tried to make clear throughout this Second Reading speech, I do not dismiss those with objections as irrelevant. We do indeed need to design HS2 carefully, consult properly and compensate fairly. I hope that I can reassure people about why it is right to go ahead. Some have concerns about the impact of HS2 on the landscape. While I cannot deny that a project of this scale will have an effect, I believe that the positive experience of our first high-speed line in Kent shows that the consequences can be managed without wrecking the countryside. For instance, while not a single mile of the M1 is in-tunnel, about 40 miles of HS2 will be in-tunnel. Of the 12.4 miles that crosses the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty, 5.8 miles will be in-tunnel and 3.5 miles will be in deep cuttings. No part of phase 2 of the route crosses any national parks or areas of outstanding natural beauty.

It is also important to ensure that proper compensation is made to those affected by HS2. That is why we have introduced the exceptional hardship scheme although there was no statutory requirement to do so. We believe that home owners already affected with a pressing need to move should have recourse to compensation, but without the authority of Parliament to incur expenditure to continue with this compensation, I would need to consider carefully what other mechanisms, if any, we could use. Very soon, we will start a new consultation on compensation.

Mr Clive Betts (Sheffield South East) (Lab): I have met some of my constituents in Greasbro road in Tinsley in Sheffield, whose homes will be demolished by the scheme. They accept that to a degree, but they ask me whether it is reasonable that people who, for the greater good of the country, are moving out of a home that they do not want to leave will simply get 100% of the market value, plus home loss. Is there no room for the Secretary of State to be more generous and say to people, “You are doing something for the good of the country. Therefore, you should receive more than 100% of the market value”?

Mr McLoughlin: The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. We have said that we will go out to consultation. I fully accept that the position of his constituents is slightly different because the consultation, in the first

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instance, will relate to phase 1. It is not possible to consult on phase 2 until we have confirmed the route, but there will have to be a consultation on that. Given that he is the Chairman of the Communities and Local Government Committee, which has an important role in this area, no doubt his Committee will want to consider the matter.

We will consider a range of compensation options, including a property bond, about which a number of Members have made representations.

In building HS2, we need to ensure that we make the best use of British skills and workers. For Crossrail, 97% of the contracts have been won by British-based companies. From 2017, HS2 will create 19,000 engineering and construction jobs.

Andrew Percy (Brigg and Goole) (Con): Supporting British jobs is essential. The Secretary of State will know that the finest rail in the world is produced in my constituency at the Scunthorpe steelworks. Will he assure me that he and his Department will do everything they can to ensure that Scunthorpe gets a cut of HS2 and that we see those benefits and jobs in our region?

Mr McLoughlin: I can assure my hon. Friend that I want HS2 to be not dissimilar in this respect to Crossrail, which saw 97% of the business going to British companies. However, I am cautious about awarding contracts and making promises from the Dispatch Box. I am certainly a little more cautious than my hon. Friend was in asking me to do so.

Mr Jim Cunningham: Will the Secretary of State meet a delegation from Coventry, as he suggested he would just before Christmas when we met him to discuss this issue?

Mr McLoughlin: I hope the hon. Gentleman does not mind my pointing out that I met a delegation before Christmas. I have met one delegation and I am happy to have another meeting with the hon. Gentleman on the same issue. I recognise that the council has changed its position and I look forward to his changing his position as well.

Today marks an important milestone in the progress of HS2. We must keep it to time and budget, and minimise the impact on residents, the environment and the landscape. We can do that and we need to do that because HS2 is an engine for growth: growth in jobs, growth in opportunities for business and growth in the global race. HS2 is a project for our generation. Now is the time to make it happen. I commend the Bill to the House.

3.13 pm

Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab): Britain’s railways face a major capacity challenge in the years to come. That was why, when we were in government, Labour proposed Britain’s first new north-south rail line for more than 100 years. We remain convinced that the project is essential, as is completing the wider rebuilding of our rail network that began under the last Government to reverse the damage caused by decades of under-investment before 1997. Doing nothing is not an option because the existing network is fast reaching the limits of its capacity.

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Attempting to upgrade the existing main lines could deliver some, but nowhere near all, of the additional capacity that will be needed in the decades to come, and yet the cost would still be great, as would the disruption to passengers and freight. It would mean that we had learned nothing from the experience of carrying out a major upgrade of the west coast main line while attempting to keep it in use. After a decade of inconvenience and disruption, and almost £10 billion spent, the job was finally completed, but it delivered nowhere near the benefits that will come from a new north-south rail line. By building a new line that extends from London to Manchester, Sheffield and Leeds, we can relieve the pressure not just on the west coast, but on all three existing north-south main lines.

It is vital that we are clear about why the scheme is necessary. Those of us from all parts of the House who support the new line need to be better at communicating why the investment is essential. The new north-south rail line is necessary to deliver a major increase in capacity on our rail network. That is why we cannot afford to delay the delivery of this project any longer.

Dan Byles: The hon. Lady has just said that the project is supported by Members from all parts of the House. She knows that I do not support it. What would she say to Labour councillors in my constituency who consistently call this a Conservative project and imply that it is not a Labour one?

Maria Eagle: I would not agree with that, except in the narrow sense that the project is being taken forward by a Conservative-led Government at present. The Secretary of State and I understand that, on both sides of the House, not everybody is in favour of the project. The genuine concerns that people have need to be heard and we will listen to them in detail.

There will be significant benefits in addition to the new capacity that the line will offer. It will enable the introduction of much faster high-speed trains than can be deployed on the existing network. Journey times between our towns and cities will be cut, significantly in many cases. By building the line, we can help to rebalance the economy between London and the south-east and the rest of the country.

It is worth understanding the extent of the reduction in journey times that will be achieved. The journey from London to Manchester that currently takes two hours and eight minutes will be cut by an hour to just one hour and eight minutes. Sheffield will be just one hour and nine minutes from London, compared with the current two hours and five minutes. Leeds to London will take just one hour and 22 minutes, which is a reduction from the current journey time of two hours and 12 minutes.

Crucially, the journey times to destinations beyond the new line will be reduced. I am not sure that that is always understood. It will take just three hours and 38 minutes to get from London to Edinburgh, instead of the current four hours and 23 minutes. I look forward to being able to get home to Liverpool in a little over an hour and a half. It is not yet widely understood that high-speed trains will run off the new line on to existing track, serving communities across the country. It will be possible to get on a train in at least 28 of our towns and cities, including nine of the UK’s 10 biggest conurbations,

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and begin a journey that will use the new line. We need to communicate better the extent to which the whole country will benefit from this investment.

The development of stations along the new line will provide major opportunities for regeneration and jobs, in addition to those created through the construction of the line itself. With fast inter-city services moved to the new rail line, capacity will be freed up on the existing main lines for new commuter services, further improving connectivity between our towns and cities further north, and generating opportunities to shift freight from road to rail. The line will deliver a credible alternative to short-haul flights and, therefore, the opportunity to reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change and free up capacity at airports in the south-east that could better be used to open new routes to emerging markets.

We remain convinced that a new north-south rail line is needed. It is the right priority for investment and it is right that we make the decision to proceed.

Chris Kelly (Dudley South) (Con): The hon. Lady talks about the communities that will be served by the proposed high-speed rail line, but what about ticket prices? Will it not just serve the type of people who work in professional services, such as lawyers and accountants, who will be able to travel at high speed on company expenses rather than out of their own pockets?

Maria Eagle: The hon. Gentleman raises a legitimate concern, which was probably not helped by the Secretary of State’s predecessor, the right hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), referring to HS2 as “a rich man’s toy”. Consideration of pricing arrangements will help to alleviate some of those concerns.

Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Maria Eagle: I will give way once I have answered the hon. Member for Dudley South (Chris Kelly).

The Opposition believe strongly that the north-south rail line will be a properly integrated part of our entire rail network. It should not be seen as separate from it. That also goes for pricing and ensuring that people can afford to use it.

Mr Mahmood: Does my hon. Friend agree that this project will have a huge economic benefit to places such as Birmingham and the west midlands? In my constituency, we have a company from the United Arab Emirates that was originally going to settle in London. It provides 20 jobs in Birmingham, a figure that will go up to 80 by the end of the year. The company is asking for better transport links, so that employees can commute as fast as possible. That will provide better jobs and training for our people in the midlands.

Maria Eagle: My hon. Friend makes a good point and I agree with him.

Mr Brian Binley (Northampton South) (Con): Is not the truth of the matter that High Speed 2 will release capacity on the west coast main line? Has the debate not recognised the importance of freight, which is growing at more than 10% per year on rail? Does that not come into the discussions we are having today?

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Maria Eagle: My goodness, I find myself in total agreement with the hon. Gentleman.

Despite the importance of this project, there has been a real lack of drive from Ministers—I am not necessarily talking about the Secretary of State—in taking the decisions and delivering the action needed to make it a reality. The former Labour Transport Secretary Lord Adonis set up HS2 Ltd as long ago as 2009. By August of the same year, he had already confirmed plans for a new north-south rail line because he was a high-speed Secretary of State. Nothing has moved anywhere near as fast at the Department for Transport since he left, except the revolving door that has meant I am facing my third Transport Secretary since the election. I hope very much that the Government reshuffle that is rumoured to be on the cards does not deliver yet another change. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me on that.

Mr McLoughlin: I hear what the hon. Lady says, but she should look at the average length of service of Labour Secretaries of State for Transport—they were also fairly rapid through those doors.

Maria Eagle: It is starting to worry me, when I contemplate my political future, that the average length across the parties of Secretaries of State for Transport appears to be somewhat on the short side. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, while his Government are still in office, and I can increase the average length of time served.

Mr MacNeil: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Maria Eagle: I will make a little progress and then give way to the hon. Gentleman.

The fact is that it is only now, four years on from Lord Adonis’s initial action, that the Government are introducing the legislation required to enable money to be spent in advance of construction. The legislation needed to actually begin construction is still nowhere in sight. The Secretary of State’s own departmental plan continues optimistically to claim that Royal Assent on the hybrid Bill will be secured in May 2015, yet in The Times at the weekend he could not be any more confident than to say, “I hope it will.” I know he does not want to admit it, but is it not the truth that there is absolutely no prospect of securing Parliament’s approval for phase 1 before the next election?

Despite its inclusion in the Queen’s Speech, Ministers cannot even guarantee a Second Reading for the hybrid Bill in this Session, leaving just one year to secure its passage through both Houses. It took two years and one month to take the hybrid Bill for High Speed 1 through Parliament, and Crossrail took three years and five months. Neither of those schemes was on the scale, or came with as much controversy, as this new rail line. The Government’s inaction in the past three years requires them to rush the Bill at the end of this Parliament. The National Audit Office has warned that this compressed time scale poses even greater risks to the project:

“Faster preparation for the bill may increase the extent of petitions to Parliament which may make it less likely that royal assent is granted by the planned date of May 2015. It may also divert the Department and HS2 Limited from focusing on the deliverability of the design.”

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With construction due to begin in January 2017, less than two years into the next Parliament, Ministers know full well that they are now cutting it very fine indeed.

The fact that Royal Assent will no longer be achieved for phase 1 in this Parliament raises the question of why the new line was split into two Bills in the first place. We all know that that decision was taken to ensure that at all costs Conservative MPs did not have to go into the next election with pressure from their constituents to vote against it. The Government have failed to achieve that goal, and have completely unnecessarily opted for two hybrid Bills, when taking the proposals forward as one scheme would have provided greater certainty and ensured that there was no doubt about the Government’s commitment to the whole north-south line, as Ministers claim.

Mr MacNeil: Harvard Business Review says that there are about 40 mega-regions in the world that straddle national borders. They contain about 18% of the world’s population, 66% of its economic activity and 86% of the world’s patents. In these islands, we have two such mega-regions: south central England and the central belt of Scotland. Professor Richard Florida of the university of Toronto says that linking these regions helps global aggregate prosperity. When would the hon. Lady like to see high-speed links between these two UK mega-regions?

Maria Eagle: We cannot get any further north than Leeds and Manchester until we have got to Leeds and Manchester. That is a constraint, but I hear what the hon. Gentleman says.

Andrew Bridgen: The hon. Lady talks with great enthusiasm about HS2. Will she reassure the House that Her Majesty’s Opposition’s support for HS2 will continue up to and beyond the next general election? The support of the Government in this case is, I believe, rather like the support given by the rope to the hanged man.

Maria Eagle: The hon. Gentleman is speaking in hope rather than expectation. I know his own personal concern about the scheme and I understand his point, but I can be clear with the House that Labour supports getting on with building this north-south line.

Mrs Gillan: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way. I am also grateful to her and the Secretary of State for being so understanding about the problems the scheme will cause to my constituents and my constituency. Does she agree that, in spending in excess of £50 billion minimum on such a scheme, one would expect it to connect effectively to HS1 and Heathrow? Is it not right to say that going ahead with this project and looking at the phase 1 route at this stage before Sir Howard Davies’s review into airport capacity is putting the cart before the horse?

Maria Eagle: It is fair to say that there are concerns about connectivity and what is happening at the southern end, but it is also fair to say that the Government of the day must decide. It is reasonable for the Opposition to raise issues, but, with projects over multiple Parliaments, we must accept, as an Opposition, that we are not quite

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as well resourced as the Government of the day to come up with well-thought-through alternatives. The Government of the day have to make the decisions, but it is fair enough for opponents and supporters of the scheme to raise issues, recognising that, if the project is ever to be delivered, the Government of the day must decide on the way forward.

Mark Lazarowicz: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Maria Eagle: I will do, and then I would like to make a little progress.

Mark Lazarowicz: I did not quite catch my hon. Friend’s answer to the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr MacNeil), who asked about taking the line north of Leeds and Manchester. Will she confirm that we would wish to see the high-speed services and line taken north of Leeds and Manchester in due course? It is not just a question of speed, however; it is also a question of capacity, because, as she pointed out, the construction of high-speed lines further south will free up capacity on existing lines, but that will lead to capacity problems if all the high-speed trains end up going on the existing lines further north.

Maria Eagle: I understand my hon. Friend’s point, and the one I made in response to the earlier intervention was simply that we had to get to Leeds and Manchester before we could go further. Work is going on—led by the Department, I think—looking at the prospects for further phases, if one wishes to put it that way, after we have got to Leeds and Manchester.

The delays over the past three years are no surprise, given that the Department has been promising to publish a transport strategy ever since the election, but has yet again delayed it until later this year. The failure to deliver progress on this new railway line could not be a better example of what happens when one decides on a transport strategy towards the end of a Parliament, rather than at the beginning. It means major transport decisions—for example, how we connect the new rail line into Britain’s hub airport at Heathrow—are not being taken forward in an integrated way. That is entirely a consequence of ducking the big questions on aviation for the whole Parliament and of the Government’s decision, which we believe to be wrong, to tell the Airports Commission not to report until after the next election.

It is not just the rapidly slipping timetable that raises alarm bells and worries those of us who support this project. The National Audit Office wrote:

“We identified three areas of risk to the Department’s effective governance of the High Speed 2 programme:… Underdeveloped governance and programme management… Insufficient resources in the Department’s High Speed 2 team”


“Inadequate stakeholder management”.

The criticism that Ministers failed sufficiently to resource the team in the Department will be familiar to anyone who has followed the fiasco over the collapse of the Government’s rail franchising programme. The NAO has warned that there is

“a high risk that it may have insufficient skilled staff in the areas of procurement, corporate finance, rail technical and programme management.”

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Yet again, the reckless way in which the Department was reorganised after the election and the scale of cuts to key staff have put a major project at risk.

The Government have finally, belatedly, appointed a new director general for HS2 as well as a new senior management team, which is welcome news, but is it not extraordinary that, just as with the west coast main line fiasco, it took so long for a senior responsible owner to be identified for the project? No wonder the Major Projects Authority has rated the delivery of the new rail line as amber/red. That should have been a clear warning to Ministers to take its concerns seriously, not simply dismiss them as irrelevant.

To be fair to the Secretary of State, there was one bit of good news in the otherwise highly critical report from the MPA. It found that

“the Department has strengthened its working relationship with HM Treasury.”

That is very sensible indeed, particularly in the light of the NAO’s concerns about the budget for the project. It has called the Department’s use of a precise estimate of £16.3 billion for the cost of phase 1 of the scheme as “unwise”, as I think we have discovered today. It said that an honest figure would be between £15.4 billion and £17.3 billion, so I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has today given updated figures. I am sure that he will continue to do so, as he has undertaken to do.

The NAO was also unable to verify the Department’s claim that the £1.5 billion savings recommended by Infrastructure UK could be delivered. Work apparently only began on identifying those savings in September. The House needs to be told whether the savings have now been locked in. The NAO also raises doubts about the Department’s claim that phase 1 will result in reduced operating costs on the existing network of £3 billion over 60 years. This is on the assumption that fewer long-distance services are likely to run on the west coast main line, but because the Department has not set out any revised service patterns it is difficult to see how such a precise and neat rounded figure has been generated.

The Government should also be clear that the £42.6 billion cost of completing the north-south line as far as Leeds and Manchester does not include the £7.5 billion cost of the trains to run on the line. The Secretary of State has made that clear today. These factors are an essential part of the project, and they ought to be included in the estimates in future.

Worryingly, the National Audit Office also claims:

“The Department has not included VAT in its cost estimates or affordability assessments”,

and warns that

“HS2 Limited will be liable for VAT at 20 per cent on almost all of its spending.”

Ministers need to confirm that the Chancellor and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs have agreed that the VAT will be reclaimable. If that will not be the case, that should also be accurately reflected in the budget.

The NAO also warns that, even with the additional £3 billion capital spending from 2015-16 that has been confirmed today, there is a risk that the project

“may restrict the ability to fund other capital projects across government”.

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It goes on to warn:

“We estimate that there could be a gap in affordability of £3.3 billion spread over the four years from 2017-18 to 2020-21, which are the peak spending years for phase one.”

The Secretary of State will, I think, have negotiated something in that respect, but he must make it clear, when he can, that the settlement he has reached with the Chancellor—the details of which we might get tomorrow—has closed that funding gap in full. It would be unacceptable if the Department’s failure to plan the spending needed for this scheme were to result in any cuts or delays to the vital upgrading on the rest of the network. That includes the rolling programme of electrification and new inter-city trains, both of which have already been delayed or scaled back under this Government.

Finally, on the budget for the scheme, there is already a creeping increase in spending from the allocation set for this Parliament in the 2010 spending review. The Minister of State, Department for Transport has admitted to me in a parliamentary answer that the budget for the current spending period has been revised upwards from £773 million to around £900 million. That is worrying in the context of the legislation we are debating today, which will effectively give Ministers a blank cheque from Parliament to spend on the scheme. I am sure that the Secretary of State will keep Parliament fully apprised of where the money is going.

In addition to the delays and the criticisms of the budget, serious concerns have also been expressed about HS2 Ltd. It was initially set up to advise Ministers on the route for the new north-south line, but the Government have expanded its role to include building support for the scheme and then delivering it, despite the fact that HS2 Ltd has faced criticism for the way in which it has engaged with communities along the route, with local authorities and with MPs. The fact is that it has not proved to be an effective advocate for the scheme.

The NAO has issued a warning on this, too, saying:

“The programme has a complicated governance structure. This is because the Department aims to preserve some independence for its development body, HS2 Limited, while also maintaining effective governance.”

By divorcing the scheme from delivery of the investment in the existing rail network, there is a risk that we will not focus on the need to create a fully integrated single rail network. It makes no sense that Network Rail is, in effect, having to mirror some of the work of HS2 Ltd, including appointing staff of its own to work on the scheme and having to lobby HS2 Ltd to ensure that decisions are taken in a way that does not have a negative impact on the wider network.

It is increasingly clear that a better option would be to transfer responsibility for the planning and delivery of the new north-south rail line to Network Rail. That would reduce duplication and cost while better enabling the integration of investment in the existing network and the new line. The hopelessly inadequate plans for connecting the new north-south line with HS1 are a good example. The focus of the debate on this issue has been on whether there would be any demand for services from the continent to go further north than London. We should surely not turn our backs on the opportunity to end unnecessary and environmentally damaging short-haul flights, but the real case for getting the connection right involves the opportunity to run the excellent Javelin

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trains that served us so well during the Olympics further up the country, instead of simply between the coast and the capital.

Mr MacNeil: According to the latest Government figures, Scotland has 8.4% of the UK population but provides 9.9% of the taxes. In effect, Scots will be paying for 9.9% of the new high-speed rail development, so it is disappointing that neither the Secretary of State nor the hon. Lady can give the House a date, an ambition, a target or a hope of when it might reach Scotland.

Maria Eagle: I do not accept the hon. Gentleman’s premise that there will be no benefit to Scotland before the high-speed rail line gets there at some time in the future. It is clear that it will benefit from the project.

Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (The Cotswolds) (Con): Does the hon. Lady agree that, if we are going to spend this large amount of money on HS2, we should get the maximum benefit from it? At the moment, it is planned to connect HS2 with HS1 only by a rather tortuous single-rail route, but there is a better, double-rail solution available. Would it not make more sense to fully integrate HS1 with HS2?

Maria Eagle: I have a great deal of sympathy for the hon. Gentleman’s point. It makes no sense to me at all that passengers from the south-east should have to change trains in north London to reach towns and cities in the midlands, the north and up to Scotland. We do not see this connection as an optional extra that can be delivered in a patch-and-mend way; it needs to be re-thought.

Frank Dobson: Is my hon. Friend aware that HS2 is saying that it wants to use the north London line for the link because

“it is assessed to have less construction risk than a tunnel”?

Is she aware that the man from Bechtel who masterminded the successful channel tunnel link and the refurbishment of St Pancras decided to do a double-bore tunnel from Barking to St Pancras because is was “less risky” to have such a tunnel than to use the north London line. Who would my hon. Friend trust on that?

Maria Eagle: I would undoubtedly trust my right hon. Friend—there is absolutely no doubt about that. The points made by both the hon. Member for The Cotswolds (Geoffrey Clifton-Brown) and my right hon. Friend illustrate the concern and controversy that remain about this issue. I believe that a solution should be devised that can minimise the impact on communities in Camden while ensuring that we do not miss a perfect opportunity to redevelop Euston in the right way for the long term. I believe that the Government should keep looking at that.

Mrs Gillan: I am really grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, because our speeches are being restricted to only six minutes in the main debate, so it will be hard to say everything that has built up over four years in those six minutes. From what she is saying, am I right to understand that her party might look at a different route for HS2, as the very point she is making about

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connectivity to HS1 and to Heathrow leans towards another route that was originally in the set of proposals—one that was not chosen by this Government?

Maria Eagle: I do not think it fair to assume that if I had the Secretary of State’s role after the next general election, I would tear everything up. I have made it clear that when there are projects that run across Parliaments, it is important to co-operate and to understand that decisions have to be made. We will, however, have to see where we are by the time we get to the next election. I would certainly want to take every opportunity to make sure that the nation gets the best possible outcome from the money spent. As I say, we shall have to see where we are at that time. I am not interested in delaying going forward with what I believe to be a tremendously important scheme.

The Government must also be clear, following the successful judicial review, about how they intend to change the compensation scheme for households affected by the building of the line. The judge found that the consultation process was unfair, that not enough information had been provided and that the criteria for compensation options were not adequately explained. This failure has caused unnecessary added stress to those affected by the scheme, during what is obviously a very difficult time for them and their families.

It is simply not possible to take forward a project of national importance on this scale without causing a significant impact on some communities and on some people’s lives, but the obligation on all of us is to do what we can to mitigate that impact and to act fairly in terms of compensating people for the loss of property and value that they suffer. Ministers must now act quickly to bring forward a new, fair scheme and ensure that it is communicated clearly and transparently.

Andrea Leadsom: Do the Opposition therefore support the concept of a property bond that would try to improve on the blight that is experienced by so many people?

Maria Eagle: I am willing to support anything that can properly, fairly and reasonably compensate people in a way that still meets the obligation to be reasonable with taxpayers’ money. I would thus be happy to look at the details of the scheme, as I think the Secretary of State has said he is, too. I think we have a particular obligation to treat those affected as fairly as we possibly can and within as speedy a time scale as possible.

Mr Betts: I would like to mention a point raised with the Secretary of State a while ago. Asking people to make a sacrifice for the good of the country—that is effectively what we are asking the people whose homes are to be demolished to do— and saying to them, “This is the value of your property now and you can have 10% extra for the loss of your home” is really not adequate compensation. We should be able to do a bit better than that for people who are being forced to move home through no fault of their own and no choice of their own.

Maria Eagle: That is an important point. Such action could, indeed, lead to other benefits, if it meant that matters were settled earlier than they would otherwise have been. I believe that some European

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countries do as my hon. Friend suggests, and end up building their lines rather more quickly than we seem to manage to.

Ministers must now engage in a debate about the eventual cost of using the new north-south line, because that goes to the heart of the question of what kind of railway we believe in. There have been fears about the issue ever since the former Transport Secretary, the right hon. Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), started talking about rich men’s toys.

Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) (Con): I think it important to put on record the fact that the phrase “a rich man’s toy” was presented to my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), who is now Secretary of State for Defence. He did not demur, but it is not a phrase that he generated. I happen to have been a member of the Transport Committee at the time. I think it important for us to clear this matter up before the hon. Lady starts accusing my right hon. Friend of making that comment.

Maria Eagle: I think every Member of Parliament realises, given the present state of journalism in this country, that if a phrase is presented to one and one does not demur, it is quite legitimate to say that that is what one agrees with. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s point.

I hope that Ministers will agree with Labour’s vision of a new railway line that is fully integrated with the existing network, and whose fares are fully regulated. That is the line for which we will all be paying, and its use must therefore be affordable for many people, not just for a few at the richer end of society.

It is disappointing that Ministers have so far shown little interest in ensuring that this significant investment delivers real opportunities, especially for our young people. Labour has made it clear that every £1 billion of investment in the scheme should deliver 1,000 apprenticeships, and I hope that the Government will make the same commitment to apprenticeships and to our young people. Ministers must learn the lessons of the Thameslink procurement. Those trains are now to be built in Germany. It is perfectly possible, within EU rules, to ensure that public investment delivers jobs and apprenticeships where they are desperately needed, here in Britain. Every other EU country manages to do the equivalent through its own train procurement. The new line must deliver British jobs and growth, not only after its completion but during its construction, and that must include the manufacturing of the trains.

It was a Labour Government who first set out the ambition for a new high-speed north-south railway line to address the capacity issue on our rail network while also cutting journey times between our towns and cities, and the case for making this scheme a reality remains strong. Indeed, it is all the more necessary at a time when the Government’s economic failure has meant a failure to deliver the growth that the country so desperately needs. The progress made over the last three years, since Ministers inherited the project, has been disappointing, but it retains cross-party support. We will support the Bill today, but we urge the Government to get on with the hybrid Bill as soon as possible. We want to see the

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enthusiasm and commitment from Ministers that are necessary to make a major project on this scale become a reality.

Mr Speaker: I must now announce the result of a Division deferred from a previous day. On the motion relating to the town and country planning regulations, the Ayes were 281 and the Noes were 185, so the Question was agreed to.

[The Division list is published at the end of today’s debates.]

Several hon. Members rose

Mr Speaker: Order. In view of the fact that more than 30 Back Benchers wish to speak in the debate, I have imposed a six-minute limit on Back-Bench speeches, with immediate effect.

3.48 pm

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): I beg to move an amendment:

That this House declines to give a second reading to a Bill which authorises preparatory expenditure on a railway without specifying further detail of the route and a limit on expenditure.

Let me begin by paying tribute to all the constituents and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to protect our interests in the Chilterns. HS2 Action Alliance, 51m, Stop HS2, our Conservative councillors and all the conservation groups have worked very hard and deserve all our thanks and congratulations.

There is no doubt that if HS2 goes ahead, Chesham and Amersham and the Chilterns will be badly affected. Indeed, I think that my constituents will be paying twice: once through their taxes, and once through the disruption and blight that they are suffering.

We have heard that this project was dreamt up under the last Labour Government, and I am glad that the shadow Secretary of State took responsibility for it. The mistake we made was adopting it without asking the proper questions, and now, after three Secretaries of State in as many years, we have a £50 billion project—so we heard today—not connected to any airport or other transport system such as HS1, and divided into two phases with no guarantee that the northern route will be built even in my lifetime.

Graham Stringer: The right hon. Lady is an excellent constituency MP and the route north of Birmingham includes Manchester airport, so, as she was once a candidate who aspired to represent Manchester, does she think she would have a different position on this matter now if she had won that election?

Mrs Gillan: Ah, but fortunately I was elected to represent Chesham and Amersham, so I do not have to answer that hypothetical question.

This project is also almost 30 years out of date. Thirty years ago I might have been supporting it, but people are now looking to save costs in business by using teleconferencing and superfast broadband, and they are trying to reduce the amount of travelling their employees do. If we are in a global race, I would be much happier if we were in fact connecting effectively to Heathrow and HS1, because at the moment we do not even seem to be able to repair our existing roads and railways, and we cannot use the M25 without being

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stuck in a traffic jam. Surely we should be looking at our infrastructure and maximising its potential before building a bright, new, shiny railway?

Last week the New Economics Foundation did an excellent piece of work: it published a report examining a variety of projects across the country that could be procured for the same sum of £33 billion. They included some very valuable improvements for northern cities, active transport systems and much more superfast fibre-optic broadband, which we need to deliver competitiveness for this country.

I may have been a nimby—when I started off, I was a nimby—but I have studied this project and I am convinced that it is the wrong project. I am not alone in questioning HS2. We have heard what the National Audit Office has said. Its report was damning. It highlighted that the Department had failed to outline clear strategic objectives, had made errors in calculating the cost-benefit ratio and is not sufficiently engaged with stakeholders, and it casts serious doubt over the capability of HS2 Ltd even to deliver this programme alongside the other demands on the Department.

The judicial review has resulted in a judgment that was shaming for the Department, finding that its consultation on compensation was so unfair as to be unlawful. The Major Projects Authority’s report—which the Government continue to refuse to publish in detail, even though the Information Commissioner says it is in the public interest for them to do so—indicates that this project is in the red/amber category, denoting a very high risk of its failing to be delivered on time or on budget.

Mr Binley: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mrs Gillan: Yes, as I think I get extra time if I do.

Mr Binley: Does my right hon. Friend acknowledge that while the NAO report did, indeed, make those criticisms, it also said that at the end of the day there would be a return of 2.5:1 on this project, and does she not recognise the importance of that to the well-being of future generations?

Mrs Gillan: That is a nice try, but the cost of this project is going up minute-by-minute, so I doubt that that ratio is accurate even as I stand here today.

I also have to say that the Department and HS2 Ltd have already failed on other bases: engineering calculations have been wrong, and the costs of alterations to Euston were inaccurate. That, along with public failures such as the west coast main line franchise debacle, must prompt this question: do the Department or HS2 have the leadership capability or competence to deliver the largest infrastructure project in the UK in living memory?

If the project gets the green light, however—as I fear it will, judging by the number of Members present—I want to make two particular points to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. On the current consultation—I use that term loosely—by HS2 Ltd on the draft environmental statement, whatever the failings of the process, at the moment one thing is clear: the area of outstanding natural beauty, which belongs to everybody in this country, is going to be irreversibly damaged. My first request to the Secretary of State is that if this project does go ahead, can we have the best possible mitigation in the Chilterns in order to protect our precious, and highly endangered, environment to

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the utmost level? A fully bored tunnel under the whole of the AONB would offer that protection, and I urge the Secretary of State to adopt that option.

My second request has I think been answered partly, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State accepted in his opening speech that he will look more seriously at, and perhaps even deliver, the property bond. The compensation scheme has been totally inadequate to date, and the engagement of officials and Ministers often the dialogue of the deaf, frankly. The Bill does not include specific undertakings on compensation that would fulfil the Prime Minister’s assurance to me that it would be timely and generous to those people adversely affected. So I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will look at the property bond put forward by my constituent Hilary Wharf who is to be commended for her work in this area, and that the compensation system introduced is rapid, fair and does not make my constituents feel that the Government are wriggling to avoid paying them a proper price for their properties.

As you know, Mr Speaker, there are several Members of Parliament whose constituencies are affected by HS2 who are unable to speak today, so I want to say a few words on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), who has worked tirelessly to put forward the interests of his constituents. He asked me to point out today that places such as Wendover Dean and the Hawkslade and Walton Court areas of Aylesbury are among the worst affected of any along the phase 1 route. He also asked me to highlight the need for better mitigation—a request that fits in with my own request for a fully bored tunnel. I know that you, Mr Speaker, have regularly communicated your constituents’ overwhelming opposition to this project and, like me, have received thousands of letters and have similar experiences of the failure of the exceptional hardship fund to offer adequate compensation to constituents. Likewise, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) is very worried about the Denham viaduct and the Colne Valley site of special scientific interest.

Why do we need a paving Bill? There was no paving Bill for the channel tunnel rail link, Crossrail or the Olympics. We could continue to spend money as we have already, without this Bill. Once it is passed, as it undoubtedly will be, the Government can claim that HS2 is backed by the will of Parliament. Frankly, all colleagues should be concerned about proceeding with this project. The Bill is a blank cheque, handed over before Parliament is in full possession of the facts, and to a Department that is having a hard job convincing people that the project is fit for purpose. On that basis, and because this is the first time we have even had a vote on HS2, it is with a very heavy heart that I say I cannot support the Government. I hope that colleagues in the House today will support my reasoned amendment and vote against the Bill. At this stage, I have no intention of calling votes on any other part of the proceedings, but I will on the amendment and on Second Reading.

3.57 pm