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Lilian Greenwood: My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of the Committee’s going to visit those places most affected by the route and listening to the concerns expressed.

I know that the constituencies of several Members on both sides of the House are affected by these changes, and they will want to press the Minister on matters of detail, so I shall keep my remarks brief.

The Opposition support HS2 because we believe that it is the right project to address chronic capacity shortfalls on the rail network as well as historically inadequate connections between the cities of the north and the midlands. Those arguments were covered in detail in the House, not least on Second Reading, when the House endorsed the principle of building an initial route between London and Birmingham, so I do not propose to repeat them here. However, I will say that, although HS2 has provoked passionate debate, both sides have always accepted that the project’s design could be improved as the route is refined.

Many of these revisions are undoubtedly positive, and the campaigners who secured changes, such as the reconfiguration of the route at the point it crosses the A38, deserve great credit. That is why the Opposition will not seek to obstruct this motion. Those changes will reduce planning blight for petitioners and provide some measure of certainty to many of those who live along the route. However, I know that a number of right hon. and hon. Members have concerns about these changes, including the relocation of the Heathrow Express depot, and I will make way for them shortly. Before doing so, I would like to put a few questions to the Minister.

I welcome the Minister’s clarification of when the petitioning period will end, but can he say why the information was not included in the Department’s press release, where arguably it would have been seen by more people? Does he accept that the maps published in his explanatory information document do not provide clear information on a number of issues that might be of interest to residents, such as the elevation of new structures or the net land-take of those changes? Will he give an undertaking that any petitioners or Members of the House who request that information will receive it?

As the Minister will be aware, the Bill’s Select Committee has said:

“We have heard that HS2 Limited’s record on engagement has been poor.”

The Department has said that HS2 Ltd is being more timely in its dealings with petitioners who are due to appear before the Committee in June and July. Can he assure the House that that is not simply a case of officials catching up during Dissolution and that engagement between HS2 Ltd and petitioners will be improved permanently? That is of particular concern to those areas at the southern end of the route. In that regard, can he confirm that he expects to bring forward additional provision to cover Euston station later this year? Can he indicate when exactly those changes will be brought forward?

Michael Fabricant: The hon. Lady will recall that the former Member for Holborn and St Pancras, who was a doughty campaigner against HS2, had particular concerns about Euston. Has she given any consideration to the

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Mayor of London’s comment that, even if the changes can be made at Euston, it will be extremely difficult to get people on to London transport—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. I think that I might be able to help. This motion does not relate to Euston, so we do not need to go into that now.

Lilian Greenwood: I will take your direction, Mr Deputy Speaker, but there are undoubtedly issues to be tackled at Euston. Three times now the residents of Camden have been presented with different plans for Euston station, with all the uncertainty that brings. Their treatment has clearly been inadequate, and I urge the Minister to shed a little light on when we can expect those additional provisions—I hope that I am still in order, Mr Deputy Speaker.

Does the Minister agree that it is unacceptable that a number of my hon. Friends have not been informed of the fact that the additional provisions would affect their constituencies? I know from discussions with a number of Members that they have had no communication from HS2 Ltd, or indeed from the Department, and consequently have had only one day’s notice that the changes are being debated. I know that the changes are a cause of concern to a number of hon. Friends. That situation is unacceptable, so I hope that the Minister will take it up with officials. The situation must not be repeated when further additional provisions are brought before the House.

Mr Goodwill: We are not debating the provisions; we are debating the fact that the Select Committee can receive petitions and consider the changes. We are not debating the provisions at this point.

Lilian Greenwood: I thank the Minister for his intervention, but this is clearly an opportunity for right hon. and hon. Members who wish to make comments on behalf of their constituents to do so. It is only right that people are aware of the provisions that are being introduced and debated in this House. They will question what the value of these exchanges is if we do not raise concerns on behalf of our constituents.

I seek an assurance from the Minister that, when the Committee has issued an instruction regarding a particular section of the route, it will be acted on accordingly. This is a matter of particular concern in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne). I would welcome a commitment that today’s additional provision does not represent an end to the question of land-take at the Washwood Heath site, and that a mutually agreed solution will still be sought with the site’s owners.

Residents face a plethora of compensation schemes, some of which have been withdrawn, while awareness of others appears to be low. As the HS2 residents commissioner has said:

“It is vital that those who are eligible for the Government’s property compensation and assistance schemes get clear information and know what they are entitled to.”

Will the Minister take steps to clarify what support is available to residents, including those who live outside the rural support zone? This applies particularly to the concerns raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq).

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Dr Huq: Does my hon. Friend agree that the residents of Wells House Road and Midland Terrace should be entitled to parity with people further up the line in rural areas? It should not be a case of special treatment for people in the Tory shires.

Lilian Greenwood: It is vital that the Minister and HS2 Ltd set out precisely the implications for the roads affected in my hon. Friend’s constituency and the compensation that residents are entitled to. It is vital that those who live in the streets next to Old Oak Common, and other urban areas, are treated fairly. Perhaps the Minister will agree to meet her to ensure that she understands those implications.

Mr Jim Cunningham: As I said, and I hope my hon. Friend agrees, Ministers should look again at the compensation package. I have constituents who will not get a penny out of this. In particular, it lowers the value of their housing. They are just outside the catchment area and have been treated very unfairly; they cannot qualify for compensation from anybody.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. We are straying outside the area of discussion, which is very tight. There are MPs who want to discuss areas of theirs that are affected. I want to be as generous as I can, but it would be wrong of me to allow us to move into areas that are not for discussion today.

Lilian Greenwood: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I thank my hon. Friend for his comments.

The Committee rightly acknowledged that decisions made on compensation for phase 1 may have consequences for the compensation arrangements for phase 2. The Government’s delay in finalising the route for phase 2 is causing planning blight. In the Committee’s words, “the incoming Administration”—it was speaking in March—

“should make an early decision on whether to proceed with Phase Two and, if it decides to proceed, quickly finalise the Phase Two route.”

That was two months ago. Will the Minister explain why a decision on phase 2 has been delayed, and will he commit to making a final decision by the end of the year?

We welcome the opportunity that the additional provision mechanism offers to refine the route, but as we look to the Government’s record it is difficult to resist a verdict of “Must do better.” Labour Members continue to support this important project and will continue to subject the Bill to line-by-line scrutiny when it enters Committee.

4.14 pm

Mrs Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): It is not often that I follow a Front-Bench Opposition spokesman and can say that I agree with almost every word she spoke.

Once again, I find myself on my feet to decry the process that is being used to put through high-speed rail. The motion before us is just part of a very complex process that is often unfathomable for people outside this House but also sometimes unfathomable for people inside this House. Some of my hon. Friends have not even been able to access the documentation that was made available at the eleventh hour.

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Sadly, although the motion has high-level pointers to amendments that relate to my constituency, it does not contain the instructions that I would like to see for a fully bored tunnel to save the area of outstanding natural beauty in my constituency from the HS2 route and the damage and destruction it will cause. I live in hope that one day a fully bored tunnel under the Chilterns will feature in a similar instruction and that the valiant efforts of thousands of people who support that change will come to fruition.

Yesterday, the Select Committee came to Chesham and Amersham and visited Little Missenden, Great Missenden and the Lee, which are subject to the motion. I pay tribute to the members of the Select Committee, who are doing a very thorough job in examining the pain being caused by the project. It is obvious that they are getting a response from the Department and HS2 Ltd: I was so pleased to hear the cheers from my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) about the beneficial changes in his constituency. We look forward to similar changes in Chesham and Amersham. I also pay tribute to the hundreds of people who came out on a working Monday to impress on the Committee their antipathy to the horrors of the present construction plans, which will wreak havoc on the area, as well as to tell at first hand the poignant and desperate stories of their own personal circumstances.

Today, we are looking at the process, which, I say to the Minister, has once again been tested and found wanting. It was very short-sighted not only to let us know in such short order that the motion was to be on the Order Paper, but to not make available alongside it the full details. Members of this House expect to be fully informed of what is going on and to not be told that the matter will be addressed on 13 July. I raised a point of order on that very issue and then, miraculously, had delivered to me additional provision explanatory information, which is dated July 2015. Given that it is still June, it was probably not the intention to release it this month. It relates directly to the provisions and it should have been provided to all Members of Parliament so that they could fully examine the proposals.

The big problem, no matter how small or big the land-take or how big the disruption, is that there is uncertainty for our constituents. For the full details not to have been made available to the Committee to see in situ during yesterday’s visit is not the fair and transparent process I would like the Department and HS2 Ltd to pursue.

Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): I am glad that the right hon. Lady is sharing her experience with the House. Has she seen any evidence of High Speed 2 Ltd actually following a word that the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill Select Committee has issued?

Mrs Gillan: As the right hon. Gentleman will know, I am concentrating on Chesham and Amersham. Fortunately, our petitioning process is at its initial phase. The Committee will hear about the tunnelling options worked up by my community and local authorities, and it will then hear from some 800 petitioners. As far as my constituency is concerned, I hope the best is yet to come, but the right hon. Gentleman’s comments reflect some anxiety that HS2 Ltd and the Department may not be listening

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entirely to what petitioners have to say. However, the Prime Minister assured me in a recent letter that the Department and HS2 are listening to petitioners, so once again I am optimistic and I hope my optimism will be rewarded.

The high-level changes that are indicated in the instruction lead me to question the way in which the explanatory information on the additional provisions has been presented. It is not clear who HS2 is responding to in instructing the Committee to examine a change in the plans. The instruction does not make it clear whether it is petitioners or landowners, or whether it is a petitioner who is a landowner. It could be a new landowner—perhaps HS2 Ltd itself. We need further and better particulars on that in short order.

In my constituency, farmers will be affected by the taking of more land at Mantle’s wood, which is a piece of ancient woodland. Yesterday, a lot of farmers made the point that the land-take will have an impact on their business and will not leave it in a “strong and viable condition”. We need assurances that HS2 has considered that before instructions are given to the Committee that it should examine the parcels of land in question. One complaint from farmers yesterday around Great Missenden, Little Missenden and the Lee was that in some cases, their land will be taken for compulsory replanting of trees that are not suitable. I would have liked some more information from the Minister about that. As I said, the consultation period that has been announced is terribly short, and I urge him to look again at that.

Mr Nick Hurd (Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) (Con): I share my right hon. Friend’s concern about the scope and ambition of the additional provisions, which bear no relation at all to the concerns that my constituents are currently expressing to the Committee. There is a complete disconnect there. I also share her concerns about process. Will she join me in pressing the Minister at least to give us some reassurance at the end of the debate that the process will be improved, not least the timing of the provision of information to colleagues?

Mrs Gillan: My hon. Friend joins me and others in saying that we do not feel well done by by HS2 Ltd and the Department. It gives me great sadness to say that, but I would have thought that after this much time—after all, it is six years since the project was announced—the communications process could have been improved. I am afraid that, as the way in which the instruction was introduced shows, the process is still lacking greatly. If we are not informed, how can we inform our constituents and represent them properly?

I have taken up enough time, because I would like to leave time for others who are more severely affected by the additional provisions. I opened the papers this morning to see that HS2 Birmingham to London passengers want onboard GPs, shops and gyms. I repeat to the Minister that I hope we get a fully bored tunnel in the Chilterns area of outstanding natural beauty, because I do not want our precious landscape to be sacrificed for the novel experience of high-speed shopping and muscle toning.

4.23 pm

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP): As we have heard from the Minister, high-speed rail will have a great economic impact along

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the route between London and the west midlands. An infrastructure project of such a size and scale will also have the knock-on effect of changing communities. There are many people and many views on route choices to consider, and we have heard today about some of the impacts.

Changes will also happen through the creation of jobs both during and after construction, leaving a long-lasting legacy for future years and for the generations to follow. Indeed, as the Minister said, they will transform the economy. If it is true that the Secretary of State’s report on additional provisions has taken people’s views on board, we shall be able to see where the views of the public and petitioners have been considered and where amendments have been made. I feel sure that hon. Members have also made their views clear on behalf of their constituents, and I have heard some of them this afternoon. We have heard praise for the Minister for putting constituents at ease.

Views on the alignment of the route have been taken on board in Chesham and Amersham, as they have in constituencies such as Birmingham, Ladywood. The changes to the routing of HS2 appear to have been made to accommodate the local voices of the public and those who represent them. Taking into account the view of the public, and their representations, is always to be commended, particularly when there is likely to be a positive economic impact that creates and supports employment, speeds journey times and increases connectivity to those who need it on the periphery and to those who have suffered a paucity of investment over the decades.

Neil Gray (Airdrie and Shotts) (SNP): My hon. Friend rightly mentions the economic benefits in terms of jobs and communities. Does he agree that on the route there could be benefits in terms of greater opportunities for business growth of all types, including expanded tourism and faster links with partners in Europe? That being the case, should Scotland not also benefit from a guaranteed connection with HS2 and be formally included in the forthcoming development of the route?

Drew Hendry rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. You do not need to answer that, because unfortunately we are having a very tight debate. As important as it may be to your constituents, the fact is that we are discussing the constituents affected by the route that is being talked about today. Unfortunately, I cannot allow the debate to wander further than where we are at the moment.

Drew Hendry: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. Notwithstanding that, I think there are points—especially in local and national economies—that have to be developed through participation. We heard earlier that projects that have been designed can be improved, and the Minister said we need to avoid minor errors; he covered that earlier in terms of the report. We also need to avoid major errors, so I ask him to put more constituents at ease, to go a little further with additional provisions and to listen to the demands of the people of Scotland. He should ensure there is another alignment much further north of the west midlands and make sure that Scotland is connected.

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Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. I am trying to be helpful. Quite rightly, you are the SNP spokesperson, but even the spokesperson must stick to what we are discussing. It is not a free for all, unfortunately.

Drew Hendry: Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I accept that mild rebuke.

4.26 pm

Mrs Caroline Spelman (Meriden) (Con): I know a lot of other Members want to get in, so I shall focus on some of the changes that the motion before us will facilitate.

My main concern is with the additional provisions as they affect the approach to Birmingham International railway station, the new interchange station. Hon. Members will appreciate that its location is very important in terms of the orientation of the route, and one proposed change, on page 108 of the report, would appear to change the road infrastructure on the approach to the station. The road in question is Diddington Lane, and the document refers to the changes that the “Landowner/Petitioner request”. But my difficulty, a common problem that all Members will have, is that there is more than one petitioner on some of these things. As I said in an earlier intervention, at that location there are differences of opinion. The lane has along its length an Island Project school for children with severe learning difficulties, for whom relocation remains unresolved.

I just cannot tell from the map, frankly, what the new route is, and that makes it very difficult for me to know how the change to the road network is going to affect various people in my constituency. At that point the line severs a number of landowners’ holdings, to the point where some farms might no longer be viable, so I impress upon the Minister how important it is that Members of Parliament have a better quality map than the one provided, because I cannot understand the one I am looking at.

There are some other provisions that affect my constituency. The Minister said that between pages 68 and 70 a correction is required to the map, but as far as I can tell from the original document, five existing landowners will be affected at that site. If he could let me have the corrected version as soon as possible, I would be very grateful.

At page 104, the additional provisions describing the additional land for the Kenilworth Greenway, in order to improve the HS2 design, have come at the request of the petitioners. A design change was sought, but at that very location there are considerable difficulties with the visual intrusion of High Speed 2 on a flyover, 40 feet in the air, through the village of Balsall Common. HS2’s own promotional literature describes properties in one lane in particular, Truggist Lane, as blighted, yet I have constituents on that lane who have so far been unable to secure compensation for those properties. I am anxious to know how the change on page 104 might affect residents close by.

Page 105 describes additional land required for road infrastructure at the Park Lane/A452 interchange affecting one existing landowner, but I have a constituent with an unsettled compensation claim and am anxious to know how the proposed change will affect that claim, as I cannot divine that from the document.

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Although I am glad that there is a period of consultation for my constituents, as well as additional time for consultation and for petitioning the Select Committee, some of the additional proposals blight further properties, perhaps inevitably.

May I finish by recording my thanks to the Select Committee, whose members have done a Herculean job? They will certainly be familiar with all the locations to which I have referred, and the way in which they have been willing to serve across the old Parliament and into the new shows one of the best attributes that Parliament has to offer our constituents, who need people to stand up and represent them, listen to them and, where possible, to mitigate the impact of the line.

4.31 pm

Mrs Louise Ellman (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op): I very much welcome today’s debate and the motion, which are about both process and detail: the process of ensuring as far as possible that the HS2 project, required in the national interest to improve national infrastructure, can be developed as part of the national network in a way that maximises employment; and the detail of taking properly into account the concerns of individual people and individual localities. I am very pleased to hear the praise that has been given by hon. Members to the work of the special Select Committee in considering this detail, although it is of some concern that a number of hon. Members say that they have not had sufficient information in time and, in some instances, that there is a lack of clarity about certain maps and charts that have been made available.

Whenever there is a scheme in the national interest such as HS2, it is inevitable that there will be local problems. It is vital that those issues are considered properly and objectively and that changes are made to the route where possible—today, we are considering the details for the part of the route that is under consideration —and where that cannot be done that adequate compensation is given. It is critical that those issues are considered properly, not just in the special Select Committee but elsewhere.

I welcome the debate. The work of the special Select Committee is essential in progressing a scheme of national importance in a way that considers proper and legitimate concerns.

4.33 pm

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): When the debate began, a colleague whispered in my ear, “Oh, so you’ve been bought off then.” I can tell the House that I have not. I believe that the route is profoundly wrong for the reasons given in my amendment on Second Reading of the original Bill. For example, it does not even connect directly with the channel tunnel. However, I welcome the orders as the changes being made in this document mean that in Lichfield we will not have the blight or damage to the environment that we would otherwise have had. The original proposal was for a flyover, some 120 feet high, soaring over the plains of the Lichfield Trent Valley. It would have been visible from Lichfield Cathedral; it would probably have been visible from my house in the close of Lichfield Cathedral, although I am not declaring an interest. However, at last we have seen sense.

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I have to give credit not only to the Committee, as I and others did earlier, but to Staffordshire County Council, Lichfield District Council and individuals who petitioned about this issue. I pay particular tribute to a local farmer whose son demonstrated to the Committee the height of the flyover by getting a drone with flags attached to it running to and fro. I was slightly worried that an Exocet missile or something would shoot it out of the sky, but it demonstrated clearly to the Committee and to some people working for HS2, who accompanied the Committee when it came to Lichfield, the damage that the high viaduct would have done.

There are further changes, too. Those who know me well know that I am a keen narrow boater, and we have some beautiful canals in the Lichfield area. Originally, the HS2 route would have crossed the canals at two particularly beautiful points. Changes have been made there, too. Although, as the Minister said, the cost has been reduced by the making of those changes, I will nevertheless say that he did it because he knew it was the right thing to do, and it means that these canals are now going to be protected.

In short, I welcome the motion and I welcome, for once, the Minister, who is a good friend of mine, presenting it to the House. If it comes to a vote, I, for one, will be voting for it.

4.36 pm

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Unlike the hon. Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), I do not welcome the order.

I have to say thank you to the Minister, who has been very courteous in informing me of what is coming up. That is in quite a degree of contrast to the HS2 project team, which has not kept Slough Borough Council fully aware of what is being proposed, and it has come as a bit of a shock to the council. As a place, Slough is very supportive of big transport infrastructure projects. Heathrow airport’s third runway will come into the borough of Slough, if it happens, yet we are backing it because we realise that these kinds of projects are essential to national economic growth. However, Slough has not been kept fully informed of what has happened, and therefore, I echo the concerns of the right hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) about the consultation period on these areas happening in July and August. Although the Minister is right to say that not everybody goes on holiday in July and August, that is when most of my constituents with children do. Because Slough thought that HS2 was to do with other parts of the world and had nothing to do with Slough—none of the original proposals involved anything to do with Slough—it will not be geared up for petitioning, whereas communities on the route of HS2 were geared up by newspaper stories and so on. That is a real issue.

The other issue is that paragraph 1(b) of the proposal has nothing to do with HS2; it is about the Heathrow Express. It turns out that the Heathrow Express terminal is to be moved. I wonder why. I hate to speculate, but is it possibly because, owing to the land values at Old Oak Common, the land can be flogged off for expensive housing? Those land values are rather bigger than land values in Langley, where that will not be possible. It strikes me that a possible reason for our suddenly finding that we need to move the Heathrow Express

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terminal is that we can make more money out of what happens in Old Oak Common. I do not know that, and if the Minister would like to intervene and assure me that that is not true, that would be nice.

Mr Goodwill: I point out to the right hon. Lady that I talked about operational problems, and one of the problems with the North Pole East depot is that it would require train movements across the Great Western main line. Maintenance works on the Great Western towards Paddington would also mean that the Heathrow Express depot at North Pole East would not be able to operate.

Fiona Mactaggart: That is what the Minister is told, but at least that depot is somewhere on the Heathrow Express route. The proposed depot is not on that route; it is actually to the west of the Heathrow Express route. I point out that the Heathrow Express franchise expires in 2023, so this is not necessarily a long-term need. I am deeply concerned about the western link into Heathrow, which is critical, and I am grateful to the Department for the way it has proceeded on that. It is obvious to me that at some point the western rail link into Heathrow and the Heathrow Express will become a merged franchise. There is land at Reading where the depot could be situated at that point.

I am worried that this is a short-term solution that has been invented because someone faced a problem with the Heathrow Express. In the motion, we are being asked to solve a short-term problem, which I accept exists, in a way that is not long-term and strategic. The Department could say, “This franchise expires in 2023 and, until then, Heathrow has a monopoly on it, but if Heathrow wants its third runway”—we do not know what the Davies commission will say—“perhaps there should be a price. Perhaps the price should be giving up the franchise and looking at how we can integrate it more intelligently into the rest of the rail network.” That would be a strategic way of dealing with this matter and it would help us to accelerate western rail access into Heathrow.

In the Minister’s courteous letters to me today, he wrote:

“The relocation of the Heathrow Express depot is both an opportunity for Slough and important part of the Phase One project”.

I do not think that it is an opportunity for Slough, because the jobs that come with it are just ones that are being moved down the line from Old Oak Common, where they are at the moment, to Langley. I tell him that that does not mean more jobs for my constituents; it means that people will commute from where they currently live to Langley.

Mr Goodwill: Some of the land that is required for construction will be returned once the depot is complete, so that land will not be lost altogether in respect of job creation in the right hon. Lady’s area.

Fiona Mactaggart: Actually, most of the land that the depot will be on is housing land. I represent the most overcrowded borough in the country, outside London, in terms of housing. In fact, it is more overcrowded than most London boroughs. There is a real need for housing in Slough. I am told by the council that this

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land has been identified as being able to provide 200 to 300 homes for local people. It will not be available for those homes when it has been used.

The construction of the depot will have an impact on air quality in an area that is already affected by a big incinerator, Heathrow and the biggest motorway junction in Europe, which will affect my constituents. As the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) pointed out, these plans will frustrate other issues, such as HGV links and western rail access to Heathrow.

I know that there will be petitions from Slough, but I also know that there will not be as many petitions from Slough as there have been from other communities on the route, because it came as a big surprise to the people of Slough about a week ago that this was happening to them. They can only intervene over the next few weeks—a very short space of time—when some of them will be dealing with their children’s end-of-term plays and planning to go on holiday. I predict that my constituents will be panicked about this and that, although they welcome major transport infrastructure projects because they know that we need them to create prosperity for Britain, they will think that they have been badly treated in this process. I have to say, I believe that they are right.

4.44 pm

Mr Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): I will make a brief contribution on the plans, so far as they concern Iver. The right hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) raised the consequences of the new depot for Slough. As my hon. Friend the Minister will be aware, if one looks at the plans, they show that the land take extends beyond the boundary of Slough and as far as Iver station.

My constituents in Iver obviously live some distance from the main HS2 route and have not previously been concerned with it, except in so far as the Heathrow link plan affected them before it was withdrawn. The scheme raises two distinct problems. First, it is difficult to understand what effect it will have on the western rail link into Heathrow. I would be interested as soon as possible to hear from the Secretary of State and from my hon. Friend the Minister as to how that impact will work in practice.

Secondly, I have in the past written to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to point out to him that Iver is experiencing a catastrophic problem with heavy goods vehicle movements. The number of transport depots in the immediate vicinity of the village, many of which have grown up out of existing planning uses that predate the arrival of planning control, mean that the village is slowly being strangled by the HGV movements. If one stands in Iver village high street, one will see a heavy goods vehicle coming through every 58 seconds on average. It is a narrow village shopping street and the planning development has taken place in complete disregard of those facts.

There is a possibility of relieving that by the construction of a relief road running into the back of one of those sites, but the road has to cross the path and the line of the proposed new depot. My constituents’ anxiety is that that long-sought road project will be rendered even more difficult to achieve because it is not factored in to the construction of the depot. The construction of the depot might provide the ideal moment for the construction

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of the road, but if that does not take place when the depot is constructed, it might be impossible thereafter for it to occur at all.

As I have said, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has been aware of my concerns for some time. I was aware that the scheme was around in the background, but there has been no prior notice to me of any kind that it would finally be brought to fruition. I am concerned that the Committee may not be in the best position to evaluate those issues when it comes to consider them under the petitioning process. I want to take the opportunity today to flag up my serious concerns about the knock-on consequences of the project. I can reassure my hon. Friend the Minister that, if we could use the process to provide reassurance that we will have such a back route into the Ridgeway trading estate, I am sure many of my constituents might even see some positives from the proposal, although I am mindful from what the right hon. Member for Slough said about Slough’s housing requirements that there are serious knock-on consequences.

I hope my hon. Friend the Minister can take those concerns on board. I want to flag up at this stage and repeatedly that the proposal will be unacceptable if it leaves Iver even more isolated and prey to the HGV traffic it suffers from currently.

4.47 pm

Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): I am grateful for the opportunity to speak briefly on the motion, and grateful to the Minister for setting out the process, but I am afraid the measure raises some serious questions about the integrity of the process. It raises the question of whether High Speed 2 is listening to the petitioners, to the Minister or to the Bill Select Committee, which has begun considering petitioners’ concerns with interest.

The integrity of the process is fundamental. As my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), the shadow Minister, said, we do not expect some kind of celestial design from High Speed 2. There are bound to be problems and they will need correcting. That is why the Bill Committee, to which I again pay tribute, is so important, and why hon. Members are so grateful that it is doing such a magnificent job.

The motion contains a couple of provisions for the Saltley business park that are intimately connected with the proposed rolling stock maintenance depot, which takes out a considerable chunk of the north of my constituency. I do not want to detain the House with the details of the proposal because I have mentioned it on the Floor of the House a number of times. Suffice to say that that area of land is the size of 100 football pitches. It represents one third of the available industrial land in the whole city of Birmingham, and it is located at the junction of two of the constituencies that are among the four most unemployed constituencies in the whole United Kingdom. If we develop the site in its entirety, we could generate 7,000 jobs, which is my estimate, or 3,000 to 3,500 jobs, which is the Minister’s estimate. That is still a very considerable number that could knock off something like a third of the unemployment in the city of Birmingham.

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This is a site of such economic significance that the High Speed Rail Bill Committee has considered it in considerable detail. I was incredibly grateful that although the Committee did not side completely with my argument, it recognised that the issue of unemployment in and around the rolling stock maintenance depot had to be considered. The provisions set out today on the Saltley business park do nothing to address the Committee’s concerns; in fact, they take out even more industrial land in the city of Birmingham. It could be that the site is proposed today for the relocation of business, but we simply do not know.

The Committee said:

“We impress on HS2 the need to adjust the scheme”

to reach agreement with the site owner, AXA, to maximise the number of jobs and to minimise the time for which land would be required. HS2 was directed by the Committee to work with the site owners to deliver that solution. That judgment was passed down in December. Although there have been detailed technical committee meetings and the site owners have now presented a detailed redesign of the site that would minimise land take, we have seen nothing of those discussions reflected in the provisions this afternoon.

Mr Goodwill: It is precisely on that point that I wish to intervene. As the Select Committee’s interim report recommended, we are working with the owners and Birmingham City Council on land take to see how far land can be returned for development as early as possible to secure that development that could result in jobs being created.

Liam Byrne: I am very grateful for the Minister’s clarification, but I urge him to go further in his winding-up remarks. It is of course important to me that land is minimised and jobs are maximised, but it will be of interest to all right hon. and hon. Members of this House that HS2 not only responds to the petitioners and the Committee but is seen to do so. Frankly, we have scant evidence of that in the provisions we have seen this afternoon.

I hope the Minister will take the opportunity to endorse once again the Committee’s recommendations on the rolling stock maintenance yard. I hope he will urge HS2 to do the deal and come to an agreement with the site owner, AXA. I personally do not want to occupy the site in order to ensure that HS2 honours a recommendation from a Select Committee of this House. I hope the Minister will spare us all that spectacle and use his very good offices to ensure that HS2 will buckle down and listen to a Select Committee of this House and its recommendations.

4.53 pm

Iain Stewart (Milton Keynes South) (Con): I want to comment briefly on paragraph 1(c), which asks the Select Committee to consider providing Crossrail with sidings at Old Oak Common as a way of future-proofing a possible link between the Great Western main line and the west coast main line. Such a link would be a very important safeguarding measure for two principal reasons.

First, in the long term, when HS2 is constructed and capacity is freed on the west coast main line for classic services, I very much hope that we will explore the

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possibility of extending Crossrail up the west coast main line, even as far as Milton Keynes to serve my constituents. That would be a very good enhancement of commuter services in and out of London.

Secondly, and perhaps even more significantly, having the option of Crossrail going up the west coast main line during the HS2 construction phase, in particular while construction takes place at Euston when there will inevitably be some disruption to both inter-city and commuter services, could see the transfer of some commuter services from the west coast main line into London via the Great Western main line. That could provide relief during the construction phase and minimise disruption to my constituents and many others along the line. It is for that reason that I commend the motion, in particular paragraph 1(c). I hope the Select Committee will consider it in due course.

4.55 pm

Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): I support HS2 and the potential for jobs, homes and regeneration in the Old Oak Common area in my constituency. I even appreciate some of the difficulties that everyone, from the Minister down, has with this scheme—not least because Old Oak itself must be one of the most complex as well as the largest development sites in London, and possibly in the country. It involves not only HS2, but Crossrail, Overground, the Great Western main line and, of course, the commercial and residential developments. The Minister will anticipate a “but” coming here.

The first I knew of some of these proposals was when I picked up the additional provision document yesterday, certainly in respect of the relocation of the Heathrow Express depot to Langley. That does not feature. Perhaps it is thought that it is more significant for my right hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), where it is going, rather than for me, from where it is being removed. Nevertheless, these are—as acknowledged by HS2 itself—significant changes. Indeed, I received an email today from HS2, saying:

“I understand there is a motion tabled for debate tomorrow on changes along the proposed HS2 route, including some substantial changes to the Old Oak Common area.”

It went on to mention

“three turnback sidings for the Crossrail service and passive provision for a West Coast Main Line Crossrail link”,

which I shall return to in a moment. It referred to the need to acquire additional land

“for the diversion of a sewer…for the construction of a temporary logistics tunnel…for…a construction compound…for…a conveyer route”,

and, as an afterthought, to the relocation of the depot. There is a public meeting on Saturday, which I cannot attend, advertised to my constituents, but no mention is made of some of these changes taking place.

It is right to say that some prior notice of the west coast main line-Crossrail link was given. HS2 was very clear to me that this was not an HS2 project, but a Crossrail project. Crossrail was very clear to me that it was not really part of the Crossrail scheme either. As the hon. Member for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) said, it is a temporary measure to deal with the construction phase. It must be the most expensive “diversion” ever in the history of the country. I am not quite sure exactly how many millions of pounds it is costing. It may be a

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nice adornment to the railway network, but nothing more than that. During the construction and when it is built, it is certainly going to cause very severe disruption.

As I say, I do not object to the proposals, and I am sympathetic to the difficulties of the logistics of the task, but I do find that HS2 acts in a vacuum and often in a way that does not appear to take account of anything else going on around it—and that includes other railways. I am pleased to have one of the country’s major interchanges in my constituency, but the way things are going at the moment, it is going to be a dog’s breakfast of an interchange. I missed the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Slough, but I suspect she asked why she was getting the depot rather than it being in Shepherd’s Bush. I suspect that the real answer—the Minister cites purely logistical reasons—is that it is better to put it somewhere where prices are probably a little cheaper than in Shepherd’s Bush.

Mr Goodwill rose

Andy Slaughter: I will give way to the Minister in a moment. There will be room for more of “Boris’s mini-Manhattans”, which is what we will be graced with: these sky-high blocks of flats—all of which are empty, all of which are sold overseas and all of which are safe deposit boxes for dirty money from abroad—that will loom over Wormwood Scrubs for the foreseeable future.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I think the Minister needs to come in on this.

Mr Goodwill: I wish that that were the cheapest option. We considered a number of options including North Pole East, the Crossrail depot, Reading, Southall, Ealing and Langley. Langley was the best option, as all the others involved operational issues, but it was certainly not the cheapest .

Andy Slaughter: I realise that the Minister is reading from his brief, and that he cannot be expected to know every single detail of all the immaculate plans that are in the document. However, those who are in the middle of this—and a very large part of my constituency is being developed: it is the largest development site in London—are genuinely worried. I plead with the Minister to talk to his colleagues in the Government, and to appoint a tsar, a sultan or whatever the title of such a person might be, to oversee what is happening at Old Oak Common, because otherwise we shall end up with a terrible, terrible mess.

Mrs Gillan: Obviously the hon. Gentleman and I do not see entirely eye to eye on this project. However, he may agree with me that it is time for the Department for Transport to sit down, have a look at the administration of HS2 Ltd, and come up with a proper communication strategy that keeps all of us informed, whether we are pro or anti. We need accurate and detailed information to be provided on a timely basis.

Andy Slaughter: I agree with the right hon. Lady, who is assiduous in her pursuit of this issue. I think that, in time, HS2 Ltd may even thank her for that. There is nothing better than a well-informed critic to keep people on their toes. I am even sympathetic towards HS2 Ltd. I know that the Government are saying, “Make sure that

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you keep within budget and keep to time, because any further increase in the costs will not be sustainable.” However, HS2 must be clear about the fact that it is not just building a 21st-century railway, but engaging some of the major regeneration projects in the country. It needs to think about the potential for collateral damage, and I am not referring just to the obvious problems.

Members have rightly objected, on behalf of their constituents, to the fact that the development is despoiling countryside, or causing noise or other pollution. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) intervened on behalf of her constituents in Wells House Road and Midland Terrace, who are right up against it. I visited the area, which is in my old constituency, with other members of the Select Committee. My hon. Friend’s constituents will be surrounded on three sides by the development for 15 to 20 years, which is horrific, while on the fourth side the main road, Old Oak Common Lane, will be closed for a year or two. That does not bear thinking about, and I am afraid that it either has not been thought about, or has been thought about and then dismissed and put in the “too difficult” box.

The issue that I raised in a short 80-minute speech in Westminster Hall at the end of last year, when I spoke about the effect on my constituency—particularly the environmental effect, and notably the effect on Wormwood Scrubs, a unique and very large piece of open land—has still not been addressed. I do not believe that the meetings that we were told would take place with amenity groups, environmental groups, residents’ groups and, indeed, transport groups have indeed taken place. I do not believe that the voice of local residents is being listened to. Those residents may be speaking in an entirely parochial way—quite properly—about their property or land and their need for adequate compensation, which we in the urban areas are certainly not receiving. They may be speaking for the wider public good and the environment, or coming up with innovative and better transport schemes. In any event, I plead with the Minister to go back to HS2 and say that it must take a more responsible attitude. It must balance its duty to build the railway, which I support, with its duty to the constituencies through which is passes.

5.3 pm

Mr Goodwill: With the leave of the House, Mr Deputy Speaker.

The first point that I should make is that the motion is about the process. It is about kicking the ball into play, and it is for those who are directly affected, and the Select Committee, to carry out the game. Having said that, I should add that many Members on both sides of the House have made very effective points on behalf of their constituents and the interests of their particular areas.

I want to make it clear that I will always be pleased to engage with colleagues around the House on these and future additional provisions. We are expecting to bring forward AP3, which will relate to Euston, before the end of the year. If Opposition Members have concerns, it might be easier to arrange visits to their constituencies through the pairing Whip, and I would be happy to do that if it is at all possible.

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The consultation period was mentioned. A period of 42 days is set out in Standing Orders, and I believe that that is appropriate. Looking back over the whole scheme, we have had about two years’ worth of consultations on one aspect of HS2 or another, so it would be hard to say that we have consulted too little. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs Gillan) raised some important points. I should point out that, of the 20.8 kilometres in her constituency in the Chilterns, only 3.3 kilometres will not be in a tunnel. I am sure that is largely due to her doughty campaigning.

Mrs Gillan: The Minister knows that it is impossible to over-flatter a fellow politician. Let me make it clear, however, that 45% of this railway will be in a fully bored tunnel in my constituency, and that 55% will be in a green tunnel or in cuttings, which will be a scar on the landscape and will damage the area of outstanding natural beauty. This is a PR exercise too far. We want a whole tunnel.

Mr Goodwill: My right hon. Friend raises a point that I am well used to hearing, and I know that the Select Committee is in no doubt about the strength of her feelings and those of her constituents on this matter. I would remind her that one of the major political parties stood in the election on a Stop HS2 platform and that, despite that, her majority was increased. I am sure she would argue that that was due to the strength of her campaigning, rather than to the scheme itself. Two of the four changes in the additional provision that relate to her constituency have been made at the request of landowners. That shows that we are reacting to people’s very real concerns.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs Spelman) asked about certain concerns in her constituency, and I will certainly write to her with full details, but many of them will be in the environmental statement. For example, the Berkswell greenway change extends the greenway to Berkswell station, which will benefit existing users.

The hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) asked why information on the petitioning period was not included in the press notice. The petitioning process depends on the motion being passed today, and we would therefore have pre-empted the will of the House if we had announced that information in a press notice. She also mentioned the maps and the information on land take. That information will all be provided in the environmental statement that will accommodate the deposit if the motion passes.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) mentioned western rail access, which is important to the future connectivity of our country. I can reassure him that the depot at Langley is compatible with the western rail access to the Heathrow scheme.

The hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Dr Huq) raised the very real concerns of her constituents about the compensation arrangements. I should like to point out to her that the residents of Wells House Road are eligible for the need-to-sell scheme. Indeed, properties in that road that are in safeguarding can issue blight notices to have their properties purchased.

As I have said, many of the points raised in the debate should be raised in petitions and through the process that is commencing today. I congratulate the Chairman

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of the Select Committee on Transport, the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Mrs Ellman), on retaining that position unopposed. She and the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) talked about the quality of the process. The process is about the people involved in it, and that means not only the members of the Select Committee that is considering the Bill but those involved with HS2—I know that they have had a bit of stick today, but by and large they are doing their best to address these problems—and the many people up and down the line of route who are being affected and who have engaged with the process in such a commendable way.

Liam Byrne: Do I take it, therefore, that the Minister will use his good offices to ensure that HS2 will indeed honour the recommendations that the Committee hands down to it? If those commitments are not honoured, the integrity of the process will be called into serious question.

Mr Goodwill: Absolutely, and I think I have already given that assurance about land being released as soon as possible. If necessary, I will have a meeting with the right hon. Gentleman, with officials, so that we can get some assurances that, I hope, will satisfy him.

I commend the motion to the House. The hybrid Bill process is working for people.

Fiona Mactaggart: In response to the right hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), the Minister said that this scheme is fitting in with western rail access. As I understand it, however, the Hollow Hill Lane bridge was to have been raised in order to improve the problems with HGVs, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman discussed. As an alternative is being proposed, those issues will not be dealt with by this scheme unless it is changed. Can the Minister answer on that point?

Mr Goodwill: I would certainly be happy to meet those concerned to get my head around precisely how we could improve the scheme to address those concerns. It is not an issue I am absolutely on top of, and I apologise for that—

Mr Grieve rose

Mr Goodwill: But I am going to be put right by my right hon. and learned Friend.

Mr Grieve: I assure the Minister that if he has a discussion with his officials, he will see that I have had correspondence with them about this issue. It does provide a real opportunity but, as I have suggested on previous occasions, it is going to need a bit of a push from his Department if it is going to be brought to fruition. What I certainly cannot accept is that this scheme goes ahead and leads to it becoming impossible to implement a relief road, as that would be a catastrophic state of affairs for my constituents.

Mr Goodwill: I absolutely understand that this scheme should neither confound some of our other rail plans on western access, nor confound plans for highways

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improvement. I am therefore more than happy to meet my right hon. and learned Friend to get my head around these issues in particular.

The motion introduces changes to address issues that have been raised. It will put these proposals under the scrutiny of the Committee, and I am sure the House will be delighted to approve it.

Lilian Greenwood: Before the Minister finishes, will he clarify when he expects to introduce the additional provisions relating to Euston and when the Government expect to confirm the line of route for phase 2?

Mr Goodwill: We expect to bring forward provisions for Euston later this year. I am working actively with officials from HS2 to ensure that we are in a position to introduce a proposal that will address some of the problems, particularly the issues about continuing to use that station for the west coast main line at the same time as construction is taking place. I will certainly give the hon. Lady some more information on the other point she raises when appropriate.

I commend the motion to the House and I hope the House will approve it.

Question put and agreed to.


That it be a further Instruction to the Select Committee to which the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill is committed–

(1) that the Select Committee have power to consider–

(a) amendments relating to the vertical and horizontal alignment of the proposed railway in the vicinity of the A38 and Trent and Mersey Canal in the parishes of Fradley and Streethay, King’s Bromley and Whittington in the County of Staffordshire;

(b) amendments conferring additional power to carry out works in the Borough of Slough and in the parish of Iver in the County of Buckinghamshire for the purpose of providing a new Heathrow Express depot in the Borough of Slough (to the north east of Langley railway station), in consequence of the displacement of the existing depot because of the exercise of powers conferred by the Bill;

(c) amendments conferring additional power to provide sidings for Crossrail services at Old Oak Common in the London Boroughs of Ealing and Hammersmith and Fulham that could be extended in the future to create a connection between the West Coast Main Line Railway and the Great Western Main Line;

(d) amendments to accommodate the requirements of landowners and occupiers in

i. the London Boroughs of Brent and Ealing;

ii. the parishes of Barton Hartshorn, Calvert Green, Chetwode, Great Missenden, Grendon Underwood, Little Missenden, Preston Bissett, The Lee and Twyford in the County of Buckinghamshire;

iii. the parishes of Godington and Mixbury in the County of Oxfordshire;

iv. the parishes of Aston-le-Walls, Boddington, Chipping Warden and Edgcote, Greatworth, Radstone, Thorpe Mandeville and Whitfield in the County of Northamptonshire;

v. the parishes of Burton Green, Coleshill, Curdworth, Kenilworth, Ladbroke, Lea Marston, Middleton, Offchurch, Southam, Stoneleigh, Stoneton, Wishaw and Moxhull and Wormleighton in the County of Warwickshire;

vi. the parishes of Armitage with Handsacre, Drayton Bassett, Hints with Canwell, King’s Bromley, Swinfen and Packington and Whittington in the County of Staffordshire;

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vii. the parishes of Balsall, Berkswell, Chelmsley Wood and Hampton-in Arden in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull; and

viii. the City of Birmingham;

(e) amendments to accommodate changes to the design of the works authorised by the Bill in:

i. the London Boroughs of Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham and Hillingdon and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea;

ii. the District of Three Rivers in the County of Hertfordshire;

iii. the parishes of Chetwode, Denham, Ellesborough, Great Missenden, Grendon Underwood, Little Missenden, Preston Bissett, Quainton, Steeple Claydon, Stoke Mandeville, Turweston, Twyford and Wendover in the County of Buckinghamshire;

iv. the parishes of Godington and Mixbury in the County of Oxfordshire;

v. the parishes of Aston-le-Walls, Boddington, Greatworth, Marston St Lawrence, Radstone and Thorpe Mandeville in the County of Northamptonshire;

vi. the parishes of Coleshill, Curdworth, Kingsbury, Lea Marston, Middleton, Offchurch, Radbourne and Stoneleigh in the County of Warwickshire;

vii. the parishes of Colwich, Drayton Bassett, Fradley and Streethay, Hints with Canwell, King’s Bromley, Swinfen and Packington and Weeford in the County of Staffordshire;

viii. the parishes of Berkswell and Bickenhill in the Metropolitan Borough of Solihull;

ix. the City of Birmingham;

(f) amendments to the definition of “deposited statement” in clause 63(1) of the Bill to refer to supplementary environmental information provided in relation to matters which do not require an extension of the powers of the Bill to construct works or acquire land;

(g) amendments for purposes connected with any of the matters mentioned in subparagraphs (a) to (f);

(2) that any petition against amendments to the Bill which the Select Committee is empowered to make shall be referred to the Select Committee if–

(a) the petition is presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office not later than the end of the period of four weeks beginning with the day on which the first newspaper notice of the amendments was published, and

(b) the petition is one in which the petitioners pray to be heard by themselves or through counsel or agents.

That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House.

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Use of the Chamber (Youth Parliament)

5.13 pm

The Deputy Leader of the House of Commons (Dr Thérèse Coffey): I beg to move,

That this House welcomes the work of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament in providing young people with an opportunity to engage with the political process and accordingly resolves that the UK Youth Parliament should be allowed to meet once a year in the Chamber of this House for the duration of this Parliament.

The motion stands in my name, along with those of the Leader of the House, the shadow Leader of the House and the Scottish National party’s shadow Leader of the House.

The United Kingdom Youth Parliament has now met in this Chamber annually since 2009, giving younger people an opportunity to debate motions, which have recently been decided upon by a national poll under the name, Make Your Mark. The number of votes cast in the Make Your Mark ballot increased from 478,632 in 2013 to 876,488 in 2014. Last year, that led to debates on exam resits, the living wage, careers advice and the voting age, as well as a commemoration of world war one.

It is important that our young people learn a sense of respect and ownership of our democracy and its institutions, just as our democratic institutions need to respect them. Giving young people the chance to debate here in this Chamber is a great privilege, which I know they value. The motion would allow the UK Youth Parliament to meet annually for the length of this Parliament, and I commend it to the House.

5.14 pm

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): It is an absolute delight, Madam Deputy Speaker, to see you in the Chair. It is something that I support very warmly. I suppose that it is fitting that you are in the Chair for this debate, as this is a subject that you have always felt very strongly about, for which you have earned the thanks of many young people. I also appreciate how keen you were to get on to my speech, which is probably a first—it will probably be the last time as well.

It is customary for me to speak in these debates on the sittings of the Youth Parliament. It is an unexpected pleasure for us to have the opportunity to debate this motion; earlier today, it appeared unlikely.

It is important to set out the background to how we have ended up in this situation. As many hon. Members will know, I do not support this state of affairs. The use of our Parliament came about as a result of a promise made by the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown to some young people at an event. He made an off-the-cuff promise that he would allow them to use the House of Commons Chamber for their annual sitting. It was a promise that he was in no position to make, as it was not his Chamber to give up. It was typical of him. He would say anything and do anything in order to curry favour with a few people so that he could get a few extra grubby votes.

Gordon Brown made a promise that he could not deliver on, could not keep and was not his to make. Basically, he asked Parliament to dig him out of a hole that he had created for himself. As his party had a

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majority, it decided to pass what was called the “Spare Gordon Brown any embarrassment” motion, in order to allow the Youth Parliament to sit for one year only in this Chamber. It was appreciated that it was quite extraordinary and not really in order.

Therefore, for one year only, we had the “Let’s dig Gordon Brown out of a hole” motion to allow the Youth Parliament to sit here. The House divided on the issue and the motion went through, because of the Labour majority at the time. But it was done on the clear understanding that it would be a one-off occasion. The reason why some of us are against this annual routine is that it brings inconsistency to our proceedings.

I must say at the outset that I am a huge supporter of the Youth Parliament and the people who contribute to the debates. In fact, I have attended Youth Council debates in Bradford Council chamber. To be perfectly frank, the quality of the debate has often been higher than that which normally takes place there. I have attended the Youth Parliament debates in this Chamber as well, and know that no one could argue about the quality of the debate and the passion with which people spoke; no one has a problem with that. This is about not whether Members are in favour of, or against, the Youth Parliament, but whether it is appropriate for this Chamber to be used by other groups.

As the former Prime Minister made a promise that he should not have done, he was dug out of a hole. What I do not understand is why it is only the Youth Parliament that can sit on these Benches like Members of Parliament. My fear is: if it is fine for the Youth Parliament to sit and use these Benches, why not other groups that want to meet and congregate and have a debate here? The Muslim Council of Britain may want to have a debate in the House of Commons Chamber. We have always had a rule that these Benches are only able to be used by MPs and that it is a great privilege to be here. When my constituents come and visit the House of Commons, there is a big sign up that specifically tells them that they are not allowed to sit on these Benches. They are told quite politely by the staff here that these Benches are for MPs only and that they are not allowed to sit on them. If Members of the Youth Parliament can sit on them, why can my constituents not sit on them?

What is the difference? If the Muslim Council of Britain wants to use this Parliament, why can we say no to the Muslim Council of Britain but not to the Youth Parliament? On what basis is it right for one organisation to use it but not another? If one of the parish councils in my constituency decides that this Chamber would be a rather nice setting for its annual general meeting, why should it not be allowed to meet here, given that the Youth Parliament is? There is absolutely no logic or consistency to the current arrangement. Either we let other people use these Benches or we do not. My preference is that we do not, but I do not see why we should have one rule for everybody else and a separate rule for the Youth Parliament.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): I am sorry that the debate started so quickly that I missed the beginning of my hon. Friend’s speech, but I probably heard it last year, the previous year and 10 years ago, because it is the same speech every time. The only thing that is different about all the groups that he has mentioned is that all of them are 18 and plus, and have

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the opportunity to vote. Those Members of the UK Youth Parliament who come here do not have the opportunity to vote or stand in elections. That is what makes them different, amongst many other things.

Philip Davies: If my hon. Friend is chastising me for being consistent, that is a chastisement I will take. I know it is a novel concept in politics to actually stick to your guns about something and believe in something and not change your opinion in response to the prevailing political wind. My hon. Friend may think it is a great thing to change one’s mind every five minutes, depending on the prevailing political mood. I rather think that being consistent is a virtue in politics, even if he disagrees.

Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab): Should we not do everything we can to encourage more younger people to be interested in this place, and to prevent them from thinking of it as something distant that they should not be involved in?

Philip Davies: I am grateful for the interventions of the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend. We were told originally that the Youth Parliament was different because we needed to get more young people interested in politics. By definition, the Members of the Youth Parliament are already interested in politics and political issues and are taking the lead on these things. If we want to find a group of young people that are not already involved in the political process and inspire them to get involved, we should invite everybody other than the Youth Parliament to come and sit on these Benches, because presumably they are the ones we need to reach. Those in the Youth Parliament seem to be the last people we should invite to sit on these Benches if our reason for doing so is to get more people involved and interested in politics. So I am afraid the hon. Gentleman’s arguments disintegrate straightaway.

What we have here is the usual rather sad charade of middle-aged Members of Parliament trying to curry favour with the youth and with the young vote. They ask themselves, “How can we give youthful voters the impression that we are trendy?” Basically, one way is to advocate motherhood and apple-pie tripe like this. They think that by doing these sorts of things they will prove that they are in touch with the youth and are really trendy, and that young voters will all go out and vote for them. I do not think young people are as stupid as hon. Members seem to think they are—that just because they are allowed to sit here once a year, they will all go flooding in and vote for those Members when the election comes. Hope is triumphing over reality, and it does not make them look trendy at all.

Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) (SNP): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one way to call out those people who are trying to court favour is to give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds? Then they can make their own decision.

Philip Davies: Madam Deputy Speaker, I do not want to test your patience by going off on a tangent about the merits of votes for 16 and 17-year-olds. I do not agree with giving them the vote; I make that clear. I do not want to dodge the hon. Gentleman’s intervention. I may be right in saying that Madam Deputy Speaker probably would not tolerate a lengthy debate on that. I think we

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are really debating whether the Youth Parliament should sit in the Chamber, so I do not want to incur Madam Deputy Speaker’s wrath so early in her career as Madam Deputy Speaker. There will be plenty of other occasions when that happens.

Mr Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) (Con): I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way to allow me to curry favour with youth, which I am always aiming to do. I just wonder whether he might be a convert to votes for 16 and 17-year-olds, because on the argument we heard earlier, that would mean that they did not need to come here to have the Youth Parliament.

Philip Davies: As ever, my hon. Friend makes a telling point. However, the problem with his point is that that will indicate some kind of logic on the part of those people who so strongly advocate that the Youth Parliament should sit in this Chamber. He has probably missed out on its implication—that once 16 and 17-year-olds had the vote, and therefore that group of people did not need to sit in this Chamber for the Youth Parliament, a group of 14 and 15-year-olds would be exclusively invited to sit here because they did not have the vote, and they could sit here until enough weight built up behind their campaign to grant 14 and 15-year-olds the vote, and so on.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) for his earlier intervention. His argument is that members of the Youth Parliament should be able to sit here because they cannot vote. My children are 12 and 10, so they cannot vote either. I will happily go along to my children’s school and suggest, following my hon. Friend’s logic, that they should be able to have their annual debating competition here. They are not allowed to vote and we want to encourage them to get involved in politics, so presumably my hon. Friend would be all in favour of that.

Tim Loughton: Of course, my hon. Friend is talking rubbish. The main thrust of my argument was that those young people are not entitled to stand for election, in contrast to the members of all the other bodies he trotted out in support of his argument.

Philip Davies: I am surprised that my hon. Friend thinks that regurgitating his argument is absolute rubbish. I was trying to make that point myself, in a spirit of compromise and consensus. He said in his latest intervention that Members of the Youth Parliament should be able to sit here because they cannot stand for election. My 12 and 10-year-old sons cannot stand for election, so presumably, following his logic, and given that we are trying to encourage more young people to get involved in politics, their school should be able to hold its annual debating competition here. Presumably that meets his criteria.

Drew Hendry: The hon. Gentleman is incredibly generous to let me intervene twice. Does he agree that if the public pay for a facility, they should get maximum access to it, and that we should be allowing people to use the public buildings they have paid for?

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Philip Davies: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I may not agree with him, but I admire his consistency. If I follow his argument correctly, he is suggesting that any group should be able to use the Chamber if they think that would be worthwhile—for example, a parish council holding its annual meeting. He argues that they paid for it, so they should be able to use it. I do not agree with him, but I admire his consistency. What I cannot understand is the argument that nobody should be able to use the Chamber because it is absolutely sacrosanct and only Members of Parliament who have been elected should have the right to sit on these Benches—apart from members of the Youth Parliament. There is absolutely no logic to it. At least the hon. Gentleman’s position is logical.

Mr Rees-Mogg: I was intrigued by the idea that people should be able to come here and debate if they are not allowed to stand for Parliament. Were that argument to be taken further, I wonder whether we would allow criminals to come here, or Members of the House of Lords.

Philip Davies: I do not want to go into the history of the expenses scandal, but many people would argue that criminals did sit on these Benches for a while, so I am not sure that my hon. Friend should push that particular line too hard, because that has already happened. My hon. Friend’s point is that we could have an annual prisoners’ outing to Parliament so that they could sample democracy and be inspired to engage in the political process once they leave prison. It is the same argument. I suspect that the problem with that argument, however, is that whereas those Members who are such strong supporters of the Youth Parliament sitting here think that they can get a few grubby votes by supporting it, they would probably think, even though the logic is the same, that allowing prisoners to sit here would probably not go down so well with their constituents. This is not about high principle at all; it is about people who are prepared to say anything and do anything to get a few cheap votes back in their constituencies at the next election. They think that the best way of doing that is to say, “I am all for the youth. I think that young people should be able to sit in the House of Commons Chamber.”

But why just the Youth Parliament? That is what I want to know. What about all the other young people who would love to use these Benches to sample the atmosphere and further their political ambitions? Why are they excluded? Why are we being so exclusive? What is wrong with all the other young people out there whom we want to inspire?

George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP): Will the hon. Gentleman join me in an approach to the Speaker to discuss broader access to this Chamber for other groups to iron out the anomaly he is talking about?

Philip Davies: I want to iron out the anomaly but in a rather different way from the hon. Gentleman, I fear. His way of dealing with the anomaly is to allow all and sundry to use the Chamber; my way is to stop the one group of people who are currently allowed to use it.

We had the Youth Parliament taking part in debates in Parliament before they were allowed to use this Chamber. I think they used Westminster Hall on one

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occasion. They may even have used the House of Lords, and perhaps Committee Room 14. I am very supportive of that; I have no problem with it whatsoever. One of the arguments made for them moving out of the House of Lords and Westminster Hall was, “Well, they’ve already been there. They’re bored now—they want to go somewhere else.” In that case, why do they need to come and sit in here year in, year out? If they were so bored after just one sitting in the House of Lords, and they want to be on this sort of merry-go-round, they can find somewhere else to go. They must surely be bored with sitting in here by now. I am certainly bored with them sitting in here, and I am sure that they must be too, so let us relieve them of their boredom and let them find somewhere else.

Given that we are having to decide whether we stay here in future years, we will probably end up in the ridiculous position of having the UK Youth Parliament still sitting in here while we have been kicked out. That is probably how politically correct we have got these days. No one will be prepared to tell them that they cannot sit in here any more. We will all be told that we have to move, but they will still be here once a year, every single year, using these facilities. Perhaps they could do us all a favour and go away to try to find somewhere else that we might be able to use ourselves when we might have to be removed. They could do a public service by going out over the next four or five years and looking at different locations to see how they work for these grand debates. That would be much more use than having them sit here.

I do not intend to call a Division; I would not want to test the patience of my hon. Friends in that way. However, we should not just be nodding this through and saying it is absolutely fine for one group of people to be allowed to use these Benches every year without any thought. Let us have a proper rationale. My constituents are not allowed to sit on these Benches when they come to visit Parliament. I have not yet heard anybody argue that they should be; everyone is quite happy for that to continue. Why is this narrow group of people be treated—

Danny Kinahan (South Antrim) (UUP): It has been fascinating listening to these speeches, but a convoluted argument is being made. Why can we not do one nice thing for the youth? They are very serious about coming here. It is a terrific honour to sit on these Benches, and it really shows that they are interested and encourages them from then on. We should make it a one-off. Let us not bother with any of the arguments and just let it happen.

Philip Davies: The hon. Gentleman perfectly sums up the argument—let us just curry favour with a few young people. But why just this group of people? There is no logic to it whatsoever. Either one is allowed to sit on these Benches or one is not. He must accept that there is no logic to his position; it is just a load of motherhood and apple pie guff.

I shall draw my remarks to a close because I do not wish to test the patience of my colleagues any further, but it is important to put on the record the fact that not everybody is happy with this. I am sure it will be agreed, and I genuinely hope that the people who come to speak on that day enjoy themselves and feel inspired to come to Parliament, but I do not accept that the only way a young person—

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Mr Rees-Mogg: Will my hon. Friend give way before he finishes?

Philip Davies: Because it is my hon. Friend, I will.

Mr Rees-Mogg: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend. I thought I should assure him that he is not testing the patience of the House; the House is thoroughly enjoying his speech. He may not know that while he has been speaking the only people he has been inconveniencing are the Executive, because Back Benchers and Parliamentary Private Secretaries are now on a one-line Whip.

Philip Davies: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for telling me about the whipping advice. I shall seek him out more often. It may well pay dividends for everybody to know that I know the whipping arrangements.

I do not think it is right to say that the only way we can inspire people to get involved in politics is to allow them to sit in here and have a debate. When I was first elected to Parliament in 2005, it was an absolute honour and privilege—[Interruption.] It absolutely still is a privilege, but to be able to sit on these Benches for the first time was an absolute privilege and an honour, and I thought it was very special.

Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Philip Davies: I would like to finish, but I will give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Graham Jones: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could finish with this thought: did he canvass the young people of Shipley and ask them for their views before he came here to represent them in this debate?

Philip Davies: I know that the hon. Gentleman’s part of the world does not bother with elections, but Shipley, in common with most other places, had an election a few weeks ago. It obviously bypassed the hon. Gentleman, who clearly does not have to worry about trifling matters like elections. What was put to the test in our election was whether I or somebody else should represent the people of Shipley in this House. I can report—I do not think I would be here otherwise—that 50% of the people of the Shipley constituency voted for me, and I am therefore exercising my democratic right to represent them.

Graham Jones rose

Philip Davies: Now that the hon. Gentleman has learned what elections are all about, I will give way to him again.

Graham Jones: My question was whether the hon. Gentleman had asked the young people in his constituency. The voting age is 18 and I would like it to be 16, but the hon. Gentleman voted against that.

Philip Davies: The young people of Shipley have different views on different issues. Has the hon. Gentleman canvassed the opinion of every 16-year-old in his constituency? I suspect not, because how would he identify every 16-year-old in his constituency in order

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to be able to canvass them? In fact, I suspect I probably canvass more people in Shipley than he has in his constituency over the years.

Graham Jones: For the record, I believe that my constituency is one of the most canvassed in the country.

Philip Davies: In which case, it is a shame the hon. Gentleman did not realise there was an election on which to canvass a few weeks ago. I am here to represent my constituents in Parliament. If they want someone else to represent them, they know exactly what they need to do at an election and I will always respect their decision.

I thought it was a great privilege to sit here for the first time after I was elected and I do not want young people to feel blasé about the fact that they have already been here and say, “I don’t need to stand for Parliament, because I’ve already sat there—been there, seen it, done it.” It should be something that people who want to get involved in politics aspire to do: they should aspire to come to sit on these Benches and feel as proud as I did when I was first elected in 2005. I fear that this is gesture politics of the worst kind. It is motherhood and apple pie guff. I am opposed to it and I will always remain opposed to having an exemption for one single group.

5.38 pm

Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): The hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) is completely right to say that the quality of Youth Parliament debates in this Chamber continues to be exemplary. The hon. Member for South Antrim (Danny Kinahan) was also right to mention the inspiration given to the young people of the Youth Parliament by allowing them to come into this Chamber and debate.

Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP): I want to commend the member of the Youth Parliament for my constituency, Aaron Addidle, who attends Regent House school and has all the qualities of a potential MP or Member of the Legislative Assembly. He shows that today’s youth are interested. Sometimes people deride them, but today’s youth in my constituency have great qualities.

Nic Dakin: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to commend that young person, and there are many similar young people up and down the land. School councils meet daily, weekly and monthly for debates and conversations. Indeed, I recently met the school councils of Lincoln Gardens and St Augustine Webster primary schools in my constituency. They are typical examples of what is going on.

The Deputy Leader of the House made a good point when she drew attention to the way in which issues have been raised for debate in the Youth Parliament. There have been regional meetings of young people across the country to discuss a variety of issues, and those issues have eventually been brought here. It is right and proper that the debates happen here as the pinnacle of all those activities, and that is why I am happy to support the motion.

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5.40 pm

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con): I did not think that we would be debating the motion this evening, so my apologies again for being late, Madam Deputy Speaker.

There is a sense of déjà vu all over again, because we have debated motions such as this several times in my 18 years in the House, and my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) has been entirely consistent in speaking against the motion and trotting out the same arguments every single time. I respect his consistency, but I absolutely take issue with the basis on which he has trotted out his view yet again. Indeed, I think it is patronising to young people. To hear comments such as he made may amuse us—it is good knockabout stuff—but there is a serious point. The young people who have made the commitment to put themselves in front of their peers and stand for election, just as he and I did a few weeks ago, have made a sacrifice, often at a very young age, and expect to be taken seriously. When they hear comments like his in this place, it can only serve to undermine their confidence. That is a great shame.

I speak as an absolutely unswerving supporter of the UK Youth Parliament. I was the Children’s Minister responsible for the UKYP, and the Government rescued it when there was a financial problem with it some years ago. It was taken on by the British Youth Council, under whose tutelage it has flourished ever since. I have sat on these Benches along with 400 members of the UKYP in their November sittings, and you have addressed those sittings yourself, Madam Deputy Speaker. It has always been a huge privilege, and we take great pride in what those young people do. We are cutting off our nose to spite our face, though, because when we come back on the Monday, Mr Speaker will remind us without fail how well behaved, well turned out, succinct and concise those young people were on the Friday, and how well they made their arguments. He inevitably says what a shame it is that the Members of Parliament assembled on the Monday cannot act and behave as well as them. They set quite an example.

The UKYP is not some random cluster of young, enthusiastic people who have some interest in politics. It was set up by one of our colleagues, Andrew Rowe, the former Member for Mid Kent, back in about 2000 or 2001. Some years ago, as my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley said, we granted it the use of this Chamber, which was recognition of just how important a body it had become.

One of the key things that I wanted to push in my time as Minister responsible for children and young people, and which I continue to push, was the expansion of youth engagement in this country’s political process. Whether or not we believe in votes at 16 or 17, we have a looming crisis, because the number of 18 to 24-year-olds who vote in elections is derisory. In 2010, something like 43% or 44% voted, and early indications suggest that the figure fell in the general election that we have just been through. We have a crisis of engagement among young people who are already entitled to vote, so we should support anything that we can do to encourage bodies such as the UKYP, which can act as a good example of how young people can be engaged in politics and be taken seriously by people in positions of power.

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I would like the UKYP to have more powers in this place. You and I have talked, Madam Deputy Speaker, about the Youth Select Committee—I am proud to be one of those who set it up some years ago, and I was the first Minister to appear in front of it. It was the biggest grilling I have ever had in front of a Select Committee. I have appeared as a Minister in front of many Select Committees. None was better prepared, and not prepared to take rubbish for an answer and to be palmed off, than the Youth Select Committee, whose members really did their homework and produced an excellent report—in that case on transport for young people and, subsequently, on education for life and other subjects.

The big issue with those young people—to take issue with my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley—is that they are not random groups of young people; they have been elected. The turnout to elect UKYP members is rather impressive; in many parts of the country it is better than for Members of Parliament. Hundreds of thousands of young people have voted for members of the UK Youth Parliament and, locally, for youth councils, youth cabinets and, in some cases, the youth mayors that we have in different parts of the country.

Jim Shannon: Was the hon. Gentleman encouraged in his constituency, as I was in mine, by the young people who put their names forward for election and who were elected? The interest was phenomenal, and some of it spilled over into the elections to Westminster this year, when people voting for the first time introduced themselves to candidates. I am encouraged by that in my constituency. Is he encouraged by it in his?

Tim Loughton: I am hugely encouraged. It is a big ask, at the age of 13, 14 or 15, for someone to put their name forward, to stand up on a public stage in front of other young people and to strut their stuff—to put forward their manifesto and take questions. We take it for granted—we do it for a living; many of us have done it since we were anoraks in our teens—but doing it for the first time is a big ask. Coming to this place is hugely daunting. I have spoken to many young people, before they have come here and after they have spoken. What a huge privilege it is. They are not going to keep coming back and doing it every year; they get the opportunity only once to sit in this place. They will not have an opportunity again until they are over 18 and may then put themselves forward for public office, which they cannot do when they are under 18.

Oliver Colvile (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that one thing we could do is ensure that we, here in this Chamber, have a debate about the issues that those young people have discussed? That would give a certain resilience to what they have been doing.

Tim Loughton: That is exactly the point I was coming to. Something that you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I have discussed—alas, you are not now in a position to advocate it so much, certainly from the Benches—is the report that the Youth Select Committee produces with the aid of resources in the House and the advice of hon. Members and House staff. The report receives a formal response from the Department responsible for that policy issue, and it should be automatically debated in this House. We should show that we take it seriously. Those

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people would take something like that much more seriously, and much better, than the patronising comments that a few dinosaurs—a very few—in this place still trot out every few years in this debate.

I should like to see the role of the UKYP in this House extended. It is always a huge sadness and very frustrating—despite all the time and effort that goes into the meeting every year, as well as the summer sitting which I have been to for many years, where some very grown-up, intelligent debate takes place—to see how little coverage it gets in the media. Today’s proceedings will probably be reported in the press tomorrow. I am pretty sure that some of my hon. Friend’s bons mots will make it into some of the Commons sketches tomorrow, but very rarely do we read anything about the deliberations of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament, even when they come to this Chamber, in the mother of Parliaments, to discuss their issues for the year and when they produce their Select Committee reports. That is a huge sadness, and we should do anything we can do to promote greater awareness among the public at large of the UKYP’s existence, making other young people more confident that it is something they should get involved in if they want to influence things in their community and nationally, and that Members of this Parliament are just as much there for everybody under 18 as they are for everybody over 18 who happens to be able to vote in their constituencies.

I have an electorate of 74,500 in East Worthing and Shoreham, but I always talk about having a constituency of 91,000 because I am there for everybody under the age of 18, whether they are interested in politics or not.

I am absolutely in favour of the motion. I always have been and I have always spoken on this subject.

Karl McCartney (Lincoln) (Con): My hon. Friend has denigrated some of the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), but one of the points that he has not covered is whether there are any other groups he feels would be as well behaved as the Youth Parliament that should also sit in this honourable Chamber?

Tim Loughton: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. There was a lot of denigration going on from my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley, as well, although in good odour. The UKYP is unique. One reason is that it is a body of young people who are not yet able to stand for public office, which would entitle them to sit in this place as we do. I can also think of no other national body based on election with an electorate similar to that which elects us, but based on age. They represent constituencies, albeit rather wider constituencies —in west Sussex, we have four constituencies electing four Members of the Youth Parliament, and this Friday I will meet my local MYP, Stephen Gearing. We need to do something to inspire young people to get engaged in the political process and to feel that this place is not something out of their reach that they can never influence. They should not feel that MPs are not there for them and are in some other world; they are just as entitled to have access to us, to have us engage with them and to be taken seriously by us.

I feel that we should extend the remit to allow the Youth Parliament to sit in this House once more. Over the past few years its Members have proved wrong all

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the scare stories that they would be hanging from the chandeliers or leaving chewing gum under the seats, and they treat this place with rather greater respect than some hon. Members who sit here day after day. They have earned the right to continue to sit in this House once a year and, more than that, I feel that they have earned the right to be taken rather more seriously, so their proceedings should become a matter for automatic debate by this House in future years.

5.52 pm

Mr David Winnick (Walsall North) (Lab): I think that some age solidarity is needed when we talk about young people, and I shall come to that in a moment.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), not because I agree with a single word he said but because of his determination to put his point of view however much he is in the minority. One lesson he teaches us, which we should not forget, is that if someone has a consistent point of view—even though it might be totally wrong—they should put it in the House of Commons. In some respects, I consider the hon. Gentleman’s politics as nearing those of the 19th century and I can well imagine him opposing every reform that came before the House. If he had been a Member 100 years ago, no one would have been more steadfast in opposing votes for women, and I am sure that in the post-1945 era he would have voted against all the social reforms that we now accept. He spoke about middle-aged people and I must confess, though it might not appear so to hon. Members, that I am beyond middle age. My age group could certainly not be considered middle aged, although I was very pleased to be in this place when I was.

The hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) and my hon. Friends have mentioned how well behaved the Members of the Youth Parliament are. I am not so concerned about good behaviour. They were hardly going to throw apples at each other and all the rest, but I happened to watch the parliamentary programme about their proceedings, which I knew was going to be on—I am not such an obsessive about being a parliamentarian that I want to watch parliamentary programmes over the weekend—and I was so impressed by the level of debate and the exchanges that took place that I am sure I watched it for one and a half hours or more. The hon. Gentleman and others, including my hon. Friend the Member for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), have made the point that it should be a matter of the utmost concern to us, as people involved in politics who want to see our democracy defended at all costs, that the number of people who vote in the 18-to-24 age category is small compared with other age groups. We must encourage such people to vote.

I accept, of course, that having a Youth Parliament as such, and debating, will not necessarily increase voting. I have my own views on how voting should be increased, and I introduced a ten-minute rule Bill in the closing stages of the last Parliament for a voting system more or less modelled on Australia, with an obligation to vote.

On Members of the Youth Parliament coming here, I say to the hon. Member for Shipley that this is not a sacred place. When we are sitting here, we have our privileges, such as the right to debate and to ensure that

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no one interferes with our debates. That is when we are in session, but when we are not sitting, there is no reason on earth why this place should not be used by the Youth Parliament and perhaps other groups as well. I do not understand his view that in our absence, nothing should occur here and there should be no debates by other groups and the rest of it. I do not accept that view for one moment.

When the matter first came before the House a few years ago, a number of Conservative Members opposed it—certainly no Labour or Liberal Democrat Members did. It is interesting that today, only the hon. Gentleman is opposing it. I have already praised him for putting forward his point of view, however much he appears to be in a minority of one. The fact that what was controversial a few years ago no longer is—it is more or less accepted—is an indication that people now recognise that the Youth Parliament has a role to play in this House.

Incidentally, when I watched that parliamentary programme, one other thing impressed me: the Speaker of the House of Commons was in the Chair. It was not a Deputy Speaker—that is no reflection on any of the Deputy Speakers in the last Parliament, let alone in this Parliament—and it was impressive that the Speaker of the House of Commons chaired the whole sitting. Those who participated in the Youth Parliament also respected the fact that the Speaker took the matter seriously enough to be in the Chair all the time that the proceedings were taking place.

I hope that the motion will be carried. I hope that not only this year, but in future years, the Youth Parliament will sit where we sit. It may well be that after 2020 we will be in a different place for a few years. Wherever that place may be, it will be the House of Commons, and the Youth Parliament is most welcome.

My age is such that I, perhaps more than other Members, look around the Chamber and see Members of ages that are nowhere near my own. As someone who has reached their 80s, I want to make it absolutely clear that, as my colleagues have said, younger people should have the vote. That the people involved in the Youth Parliament are so interested to come here and to participate in political debate—hopefully some of them will become Members of Parliament and, even more hopefully, Labour Members of Parliament—is an encouragement to me.

5.58 pm

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Gentleman. He is but a boy in this House, and it would be unthinkable for this Parliament to be without his presence in his traditional place.

It is obviously a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton). I commend him for his work as children’s Minister and for his work with the Youth Parliament. He has been a massive supporter of the UKYP and, like him, I hope to continue to see many more such meetings in the House of Commons.

It is also the first time I have been able to address the House with you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, so this is my opportunity to pay congratulations to you on your rightful assent. I served under you when you were the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, so it is a pleasure to serve under you as Madam Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.

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This debate would not happen in Scotland, because we are going to give the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds. I pay tribute to my colleagues in the Scottish Parliament, who last week passed legislation to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in Scottish parliamentary elections. It is such a shame that probably in the same year as those young people go and vote in a Scottish parliamentary election, this House will deny them the opportunity to vote in the EU referendum.

Karl McCartney: Is the hon. Gentleman saying that if 16 and 17-year-olds were given the vote, the Youth Parliament should not meet in this place?

Pete Wishart: If 16 and 17-year-olds were given the vote, it would not make sense for 16 and 17-year-olds to meet here as a sub-Parliament.

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would take a cursory glance at the galvanising effect of involving young people in the democratic process. All of us on the SNP Benches are recipients of the engagement that we have seen in Scotland. Like all my hon. Friends, I visited most of my local schools during the referendum campaign. People would not believe the outlook that those young people had. Being questioned by 16-year-olds about “sterlingisation” and Barnett consequentials is something that I will never forget. That was a feature of the involvement of young people in the referendum campaign.

We felt that it was important to continue that involvement for every election to come. Where we have jurisdictional responsibility, 16 and 17-year-olds will continue to have the vote. It is just such a shame that they will be deprived of the opportunity to participate in the EU referendum and in elections to this House, when they should have that opportunity.

I am a signatory to the motion. I think that I speak on behalf of all my colleagues in saying that we really enjoy the fact that the young people of the UK can come to this Parliament and participate in debate. Like the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, I observed their proceedings in this House and saw their mature response, the effective and real debate that they had on a variety of issues, the way that they conducted themselves, and their sheer joy and pleasure at being in this House with Mr Speaker in the Chair, directing the debate. It is something that I am sure none of those young people will forget. Now that they have had that taste of democratic, electoral politics, I am sure that they will play a full part in the democratic process.

Mr Winnick: I am sure that Hansard will correct the hon. Gentleman, but my constituency is Walsall North.

Pete Wishart: I am so grateful to the hon. Gentleman for putting me right. How could I possibly get his constituency wrong? Of course he is the hon. Member for Walsall North, and a distinguished Member at that.

I am very fond of the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies), as he knows. I hope that he comes to Perth racecourse this year, where he and I can have a little flutter on the gee-gees at Scone Palace. However, I have heard him make the same speech again and again. When he started making it, he was dinosaur junior. Now, he is dinosaur senior, such is his elevated position among right-wing Conservative Members of Parliament. He is almost the sole and exclusive representative of one of the most dwindling clubs of Conservative Members

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of Parliament. It is heartening to see him in a minority of one in addressing the House on this issue because he is totally wrong.

This place should be opened up to young people. This is a fantastic opportunity for them to come to the House of Commons and participate in its debates and proceedings. I hope that, in years to come, we will continue to open our doors to the young people of the United Kingdom.

6.3 pm

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve with you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker. This is the first contribution that I have made with you in the Chair and it is good to see you there.

I am not somebody who talks in this place for the sake of talking, but I feel motivated to participate in this debate because it is on an important issue that goes to the heart of our democracy and its future. I hope that I do not cause offence to anyone but, having looked around the Chamber, I think that I might be the youngest Member here. It is a sad state of affairs when the youngest Member in the Chamber is someone with quite as much grey hair as I have and someone who has very recently celebrated their 40th birthday.

I commend my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall North (Mr Winnick), and the hon. Members for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), for their excellent contributions. I agree with all they said.

I put on record my full support for the UK Youth Parliament using the Chamber. I find it utterly remarkable that we are having this debate at all. The fact that we repeat this debate almost yearly will seem anathema to many of my constituents. It is a no-brainer that the UK Youth Parliament can use the Chamber. It has my full support in doing so.

It is important that hon. Members remember just how remote we are to many people. I hope I will not cause offence, but when people look around the Chamber today, they could be forgiven for thinking that it is quite male and pale, and some people would say it is quite stale. The same could not be said when people watch debates of the UK Youth Parliament and the people who sit on these Benches. We have had some excellent Members of the Youth Parliament from Lewisham. The current Member, Saffron Worrell, was out campaigning during the general election. They bring great energy to this place. Long may it continue.

It is a crying shame that, when I have work experience students visit the House of Commons and sit in the Public Gallery, often, one of the first things they say to me is, “Do you have to be posh to be an MP?” Lots of people watch the debates in this Chamber and think that it is an episode of “Downton Abbey”. We have to change that. Making the Chamber accessible to young people is one way we can do so.

I do not want to detain the House. I just wanted to put on record my strong support for the UK Youth Parliament using the Chamber.

6.6 pm

Dr Thérèse Coffey: It is a pleasure to reply to the debate. I thank my hon. Friends the Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) and for East Worthing and

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Shoreham (Tim Loughton) for their speeches. I also thank for their contributions the hon. Members for Scunthorpe (Nic Dakin), for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) and for Lewisham East (Heidi Alexander), the youngest person in the Chamber, although, as we know, not the youngest Member of Parliament elected in 2015.

All I can say to the Scottish National party Members is that, to some extent, they have been treated to a bit of a taster, if not a short masterclass, of Friday sittings. Five years ago, my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley spoke for 77 minutes, but today he spoke for only 24 minutes. In that regard, this has been a shorter debate. Nevertheless, he has shown consistency and, I would say, intellectual rigour. It pains me to think that I might be supporting a dig-Gordon-Brown-out-of-a-hole motion, but that is not the case today. Just as the House did five years ago, we are giving permission to another group of special young people to participate in a debate in the Chamber.

The point about other groups has been made. I am not aware of any other groups that have asked to use the Chamber. It would be for them to approach the House and for the House to decide, but I recognise that the House has, on the previous two occasions it has debated this matter, endorsed having the Youth Parliament sit in the Chamber.

I was intrigued by the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham. He spoke passionately about the UK Youth Parliament and behaviour. I am sure Mr Speaker will be looking to him to be a role model to colleagues during Prime Minister’s questions for the next five years.

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I want to say something that might jar. It is not strictly accurate to say that Members of the UK Youth Parliament could not be elected to the House, which addresses the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Karl McCartney) made. The UK Youth Parliament is open to anybody from age 11 to 18 and their term lasts for two years, so we could technically just about have a 20-year-old being a Member of the Youth Parliament, which, as the hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South (Ms Black) proved, is young enough to be elected. Nevertheless, I recognise that the majority of Members of the Youth Parliament are under 18.

I was taken by the comments of the hon. Member for East Lothian (George Kerevan), who is no longer in his place—he is probably off answering his trendy ringtone. He extended across the Chamber the branch of friendship to look at this particular situation, but I come back to the fact that it is a special occasion for the Members of the Youth Parliament. The hon. Member for Lewisham East was perhaps the first hon. Member in the debate to refer to a Member of the Youth Parliament. Five years ago, lots of Liberal Democrats did the sycophantic thing of naming every one they could. I had a Deputy Member of the Youth Parliament campaigning for me in the general election. It was good to see people getting involved in the campaign.

I hope that the House, having had a wide-ranging debate, endorses the motion.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House welcomes the work of the United Kingdom Youth Parliament in providing young people with an opportunity to engage with the political process and accordingly resolves that the UK Youth Parliament should be allowed to meet once a year in the Chamber of this House for the duration of this Parliament.

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BUTEC Facility (North-West Scotland)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(George Hollingbery.)

6.10 pm

Ian Blackford (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (SNP): I congratulate you on your appointment, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is a pleasure to speak in this debate with you in the Chair. I welcome the opportunity to raise this issue. I have heard many hon. Members in the past couple of days asking, what is BUTEC? It is the British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre, which is operated by QinetiQ on behalf of the Ministry of Defence.

BUTEC operates facilities at Kyle of Lochalsh, the Island of Rona and Applecross, with testing taking place off Rona and in the Inner Sound between the Island of Raasay and the mainland at Applecross. The area off Rona will, from time to time, be closed to local fishing interests, with an area off Raasay being permanently closed—the so-called no take zone. When there is no activity off Rona, creels can be placed there. The fishermen are compensated when the area is closed and the creels have to be moved.

On 23 February, the then Under-Secretary of State for Defence, now the Minister for Defence Procurement, informed this House that there was to be a £22 million investment at QinetiQ. We do not know the details of that investment, but among other things the Rona facility will be closed and there will be a net loss of jobs. Perhaps the Minister could detail what the planned investment will actually result in as far as jobs are concerned. There has been considerable local coverage of the plans, including the publication of a map. I have the map with me and it shows at least a doubling of the exclusion zone for fishing, right up to the shore line at Applecross.

To a large extent, the interests of BUTEC and the local fishing community co-exist, or can be more accurately said to have co-existed up until that proposal was announced. There are legitimate concerns that the proposed expansion of BUTEC offers a real threat to the local fishing industry. My first question is: why could we not have the same circumstances that exist off Rona, where fishing is allowed when there is no activity? The same should apply to any extended area. I also want to ask why this is being proposed now. Is it, for example, to do with the existing Trident fleet, or is it, as some expect, to do with a future replacement of the Trident fleet, something that we on the Scottish National party Benches would resolutely oppose?

Since February, very little has been stated publicly. We were promised a public consultation, which was initially suggested for April and then conveniently moved until after the general election and put off until June. I now understand that it has been put back to late summer. That is simply not good enough, particularly in the light of what is happening at Applecross. People in my constituency deserve to know what is going on and the nature of the threat to employment in Ross, Skye and Lochaber.

On 29 May, one of our local papers, the West Highland Free Press, stated that a Ministry of Defence spokesman had said that no work had started on the expansion. However, the “Applecrosslife” blog of 6 June tells a different story:

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“The ‘investment’ on the shore side of the Range expansion has already begun which leads me to think that the upcoming consultation may be little more than a paper exercise. No one is going to tell me that everything is not in place and that this is not going to stop if a few fishermen complain their livelihoods are going to be adversely affected.”

There is also photographic evidence on the blog of ongoing work. My questions are as follows: when will the consultation exercise start? Why has the consultation process not started? Who is responsible for commencing the construction activity? When the consultation starts, why should we believe that it will be meaningful if the construction work is already under way? Why is there a proposal to take the exclusion zone right up to the shoreline? Why are the expansion plans necessary? Let me also ask: who will be responsible for the consultation exercise? Who will conduct it and who will be consulted?

Why is this important? I welcome the jobs associated with the range. However, we understand from what has appeared in the press that, with the ending of the Rona capabilities, there will be a net reduction in jobs. I want to speak up for the work force at QinetiQ, and in doing so, I ask that the company restore union recognition for the work force and allow them to be properly represented on this and on other matters.

I turn to the implications for the fishing industry. Particularly active in this area is the Mallaig & North West Fishermen’s Association. The association was formed to promote the idea of responsible fishing within the Inner Sound between Raasay and the Scottish mainland, with the intention of maintaining the viability not only of the available stocks of fish and shellfish, but of the diverse fishing communities situated on the fringes of the area. The association fully understands the role played by the fishing industry in keeping these communities alive.

The area has a reputation for producing high-quality prawns, which are eagerly sought by shellfish buyers for the export markets in mainland Europe. The membership of the association currently numbers some 70 vessels and 120 owners and crewmen. The reports of an expansion of the BUTEC range caused considerable disquiet among the membership, and a number of meetings have been held to discuss the issue. The current situation whereby fishing activity has been banned in a swathe of the Inner Sound was accepted by the association—but with some reservations.

The area currently used by QinetiQ consists mainly of deep water—100 fathoms, or 600 feet, where the BUTEC activities are carried out. Over the years, the fishermen have learned to operate outwith this area, to rotate their activities to suit the available stocks in each location and to maintain and preserve their integrity while allowing themselves to make a living and retain the viability of the communities they live in.

The fishing industry supports not only the livelihood of the 120 people directly employed within it, but a large—and some would say equal—number of jobs associated with it. That is some 240 families in the area whose main wage earner is dependent on this industry. As I have stated, 70 boats will be affected by the proposals with a larger knock-on effect across many communities. What sustainability studies have been carried out on the issue?

The current system of rotating fishing activities to suit the available stocks would be severely hampered should any further areas be declared “no fishing zones”.

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It is simple mathematics: 70 vessels concentrated into a much smaller area would catch the available stocks faster. That would lead to overfishing of the area and removal of too many shellfish to allow natural regeneration of the stock. The result would be a collapse of those stocks and the end of the local industry.

There is the issue of the threat to employment in the fishing industry and at BUTEC. The current proposals will see 13 jobs at the Rona listening station at the north end of Raasay being surplus to requirements. Those jobs do not appear to be being replaced by civilian staff at the new facility being mooted under the extension scheme. If the extension is allowed, it is a certainty that those 13 jobs will be lost.

The loss of fishing grounds will no doubt force a number of fishermen to leave the industry at the very least. That will have a knock-on effect in the local communities and the whole downward spiral of depopulation will be exacerbated, leading to further local decline. These communities operate within a finely-tuned mechanism of co-dependence. Loss of a part of one commercial area impacts upon all the others; the local economies are intertwined, with the long-term viability of the area depending on that relationship. If one aspect of the local economy declines, the revenue declines elsewhere. The communities are indeed living on the edge. The loss of fishing industry jobs will mean families without any secure full-time employment being forced to leave. The ripples of that departure will resonate throughout the entire community, affecting other local businesses, schools and myriad other institutions.

It is not known how many civilians are directly dependent on the BUTEC facility. That information is apparently “classified”, but it can be safely assumed that the number does not come close to the numbers directly or indirectly connected with the local fishing industry. As a result of the range extension, the local area could lose a considerable number of full-time, year-round jobs, which would devastate the area and lead to irreversible decline.

This proposal comes at the same time as further revelations concerning the safety aspects of the UK nuclear fleet and the Trident programme. When new safety allegations are added to the well-documented grounding of a nuclear-powered submarine in the area in recent years, the general disquiet that is felt about the possibility of another accident must be considered. It would take only one mistake to devastate the entire area.

Questions are rightly being asked about why the new area is being considered for the BUTEC programme. The waters there are relatively shallow in comparison with those in the current restricted zone. It is one thing for nuclear-powered submarines to operate in depths of 100 fathoms, but it is an entirely different matter for those same vessels to operate in much shallower waters.

Those who are familiar with the history of the area will know that there used to be crofting communities all the way along the Applecross peninsula. They were hampered by very poor communications with the outside world, and for decades they fought to have their only means of access, a simple track, upgraded to a road. One by one, those crofting townships were emptied of

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their people as they sought a better life elsewhere, frustrated by the lack of support from the Government. By the 1960s, they were gone. What happened then? The Ministry of Defence went into the peninsula and a road was built, but it was built too late to save the communities that had existed in Applecross for hundreds of years.

In one way or another, people were cleared from Applecross—cleared from the land. I do not wish to see our people today cleared from the fishing grounds: history must not be repeated. I urge the Minister to engage in early consultation and, crucially, to recognise that we must respect the interests of the local fishing community, as well as the interests of the MOD and BUTEC.

6.22 pm

Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) (SNP): Let me begin by joining all the other Members who have congratulated you on your appointment, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) for allowing me to take some of his allotted time. In doing so, he recognised that this issue is important not just for his constituency but for Scotland more widely. It goes to the heart of the question of the relationship between the Ministry of Defence and local communities, particularly Scotland’s rural communities.

As my hon. Friend said, there is no doubt that work on the extension of the BUTEC range has already started, although, as recently as last month, the West Highland Free Press said that the official MOD position was that no such work had begun. The evidence is plain: anyone passing Sands Beach and looking down will see that major and extensive trench digging is already taking place—and why, if no major construction is taking place, are the Applecross guest houses full of construction workers? Some are booked up four months in advance. That is the crux of the matter: it is about engagement and respect between the Ministry of Defence and local communities.

Will the Minister please tell us what level of consultation has been entered into by the MOD with the local population about the range extension, and about the serious effects that it will have on fishermen and associated businesses? Like my hon. Friend, I understand that a public consultation was due to start in April, but it did not. Then it was due to start in June, but that has not happened either. Now there is a vague promise that it will take place some time before the end of the summer. What is the truth? When will that public consultation take place? Indeed, will it ever take place? It now appears that the first part of the extension will be completed before there has been any consultation with the local community. Will the Minister confirm this evening that there will be a consultation process, and will he tell the House when it will take place?