Coffee House

Is it fair that anti-HS2 ministers could disappear for key votes?

26 April 2014

26 April 2014

Where will the ministers whose constituencies will be affected by HS2 be when the legislation reaches its key votes in the Commons? As I said on Friday, the chances are that some of them might suddenly find they need to travel overseas quite urgently when MPs vote at second reading on Monday, and again at report stage and third reading later on. The ministers in question are as follows:

David Lidington – Con – Aylesbury and Buckinghamshire. Minister of State for Europe.
Dominic Grieve – Con – Beaconsfield. Attorney General.
Jeremy Wright – Con – Kenilworth and Southam. Minister for Prisons and Rehabilitation.
Nick Hurd – Con – Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner. Minister for Civil Society.
Andrea Leadsom – Con – South Northamptonshire. Economic Secretary to the Treasury (City Minister).
David Gauke – Con – South West Hertfordshire. Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.

Andrea Leadsom is under fire this morning for her previous backbench opposition to HS2, while the Telegraph reports that David Lidington will be in Estonia for the vote. Indeed, I am told by a very well-placed source that Lidington will be away for all the votes concerned, although when I spoke to his office yesterday, I was told that ‘he hasn’t made any public comment’ about whether he will or will not be able to attend the votes.

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These ministers’ votes are not needed, so long as Labour continues to support the Bill. Interestingly, Ed Balls wasn’t around for the votes on the preparation bill, which some Tory opponents of HS2 think means he’s distancing himself from the project in case he wants to U-turn on it. But a spokesman for the Shadow Chancellor tells me that he is ‘very much around and intending to vote’ on the hybrid bill on Monday and was the first to say that the Labour party would be supporting the legislation at second reading.

Is it fair, though, that ministers can avoid these votes in order to keep their jobs while not voting in favour of the legislation? If you’re a constituent anxious about HS2 who hears one thing at a meeting from your MP and then sees them doing another thing in the Chamber, it must be quite frustrating.


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  • peter feltham

    ‘Those whom the god’s wish to destroy they first make mad’.For a bankrupt nation to even contemplate spending £50 billion so they can get to Birmingham 20 minutes faster confirms the above.

  • XH558

    We have a constituency based, first-past-the-post system, whose disadvantages are well known. Nevertheless it has my support, and one of its clear virtues is that constituents can, and emphatically should, rid themselves of MPs who cannot convince them that some national interest overrides the local concerns which they were elected to represent. No hiding. No weaselry. No convenient appointments elsewhere. No excuses.

  • swatnan

    jammy dodgers and marshmallows.

  • SackedinLondon

    Isabel, you may be doing what so many so-called lobby ‘writers’ do.
    Trying to keep your ‘sources’ happy.
    But the future of the Country’s environment is so much more important.
    You should applaud MPs who want to expose the bankruptcy of the HS2.
    It is a put that so far not many more MPs and ‘Ministers’ have come out to
    defy HS2.
    The analogy in terms of Exercise secrecy over HS2 can be easily made with Tony Blair’s Iraq war claims.

    The Spectator should draw lessons from that and support MPs who are saying NO.
    Remove that uncivilised Whip!

  • In2minds

    We have a representative democracy system in which the MPs not only
    ignore us but misrepresent their constituents. In Ukraine they would
    start a riot if treated this way.

  • Mark McIntyre

    NO2 HS2 – fares fair !

  • Watchingthepuppies

    On the callousness called HS2:

    What you should admit is this: there is no evidence that ‘speed’ in train journeys equals any economic, environmental or financial gain.
    Secondly, the EXISTINg railway infrastructure needs many times the money to be
    repaired.
    And you could only repair it.
    Building the EXISTING infrastructure anew would cost trillions.
    And so the reasoning goes on.
    HS2 is a ploy for short term gains by Big time contractors.
    They keep making up the hype – Europe’s biggest such and such.
    Rubbish.
    You do not make life better by lobbing empty phrases like that.
    There is no competition about who has the biggest whatever.
    Focus on the sustainable use of existing infrastructure and use the available
    money to make that better.
    That way lies economic sense and environmental stability.

  • mariandavid

    Perhaps the most pathetic argument against HS1 is “If it is so good why does the private sector not build it” as if the private sector today would ever build anything that does not generate maximum profit within a decade. The period when private organisations built gigantic public works, the Great Western Railway springs to mind, vanished a century ago and its recent reincarnation in the form of Public-Private Partnerships has wilted into expensive failure. It is the job today of government to build infrastructure and to build it where is benefits all, not the precious and self-satisfied inhabitants of rural England.

    And I have yet to hear any thought out or sustained alternative method of improving inter-regional transport, bearing in mind that the existing main lines to the Midlands have already had something in the excess of 20 billion pumped into their improvement.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      “And I have yet to hear any thought out or sustained alternative method of improving inter-regional transport…”

      .

      Neither has anybody else heard that, and that is what proper engineering analysis requires, along with the requisite cost analysis. It is government’s job to make sure those deliverables are provided, but government’s only aim is to scam the People with HS2, and thus good engineering practice is the last thing they intend to produce.

      • Alexsandr

        there is an old adage that says an engineer can do something for ten bob that any old fool can do for a pound. I tend to think that HS2 is the £1 option, while the perfectly good 10/- option is being steamrollered out of the debate.

        • mariandavid

          As I say above the 10 shilling option has been virtually finished, indeed completed. As far as I know the only non-HST improvement of note left is to quadruple the East Coast Main Line. But that alas means earthworks and tunnels comparable in all respects to that needed for HST2 but with the profound disadvantage of happening in London’s suburbs – oh dear.

      • mariandavid

        Please – the ‘alternative’ one was executed at immense cost and ludicrous delay to travellers on the West Coast Main Line over a decade. The only way to improve it further would be to expand it by two or more tracks through the cities it passes through – watch the NIMBY reaction to that.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          Provide cite for your assertion, that a proper capacity analysis and engineering cost estimate has been provided for rehabilitation of the existing system, and these have been analyzed alongside the proposed HS2 fiasco .

          • mariandavid

            Network Rail Control Period 5 for the current non- HST 2 expenditures and the previous Control Period’s for the others. Or if you are not a professional in that respect get copies of the industries public magazine – “Modern Railways’ out of your public library or whatever and check it there.

            What baffles me is this bizarre belief that the relative engineering costs of HS2 compared with current line upgrading have not been made. Of course they have been made – it is just that somehow people who are perfectly happy with hideously expensive planned full size rail tunnels under London (three so far in the last decade) somehow feel that an utterly straightforward high-speed surface line has not been costed correctly.

            There are logical reasons for abandoning it in favour of an enlarged Heathrow or Gatwick (which would cost more) but virtually none for suggesting that present day rail lines can possibly absorb future demand. Sorry – yes they can but then only if all containers go by motorway.

            • the viceroy’s gin

              Too long, didn’t read, as it is unresponsive to the needs of seasoned professional engineer who knows blowfunk when he sees it.

              Again, provide cite for your assertion, that a proper capacity analysis and engineering cost estimate has been provided for rehabilitation of the existing system, and these have been analyzed alongside the proposed HS2 fiasco .

              • mariandavid

                Pah – sheer utterly unprofessional nonsense. That is WHERE the costing is made and has been made ever since the railways were de-nationalised (sort of). Obviously no facts will deter you from your blinkered opposition so further discussion is pointless.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Nobody is interested in your uninformed and pedestrian wittering.

                  Again, provide cite for your assertion, that a proper capacity analysis and engineering cost estimate has been provided for rehabilitation of the existing system, and these have been analyzed alongside the proposed HS2 fiasco.

                • mariandavid

                  Let me explain to you in the simplest possible terms. There are an almost infinite number of improvements that could be made to the current lines – from a new signal to double underground tracks and obviously they vary in cost. To illustrate using a series of comparisons and giving some figures for your satisfaction (note all can be obtained easily from the previously cited sources)

                  – the recent upgrade of the West Coast Main Line cost about 11 billion pounds, excluding the cost of new trains but this only allowed for speeds of about 100 mph (120 for tilting). More to the point it took over 10 years (actually still not complete as in the ways of government improvements were endlessly cut back) during which passengers experienced seemingly endless delays, cancellations and diversions.

                  – the East Coast Main Line – massive improvements (exact cost not yet known as incomplete and others not funded though approved) already made. There is one improvement that could be made – to quadruple the Dingwall Viaduct and matching tunnels from two to four tracks. Passed over as enormously expensive – I have heard 2 billion for about 5 miles of track (unlike most of HS-2 is in a built-up area)

                  – the Great Western Main Line – this is the best comparison that can be made from the point of view of costing improvement versus HS-2. It will be electrified from Paddington to Swansea/Bristol with an improved Reading station. It costs 6 billion plus another 2 billion (estimated here as split not clear plus different authorities such as RailTrack, Welsh Assembly, CrossRail) to cover the expanded usage by CrossRail of its tracks. Note however that all this does is increase posted speeds by about 25 mph – it does not always increase capacity as increased speed means greater distances between trains which reduces capacity. And in any case this is in places also a major container/freight line with all its implications in terms of speed and capacity. It also does not include the cost of the new electric or bi-mode trains

                  If you study the sources I suggested you will clearly see that steady improvements to existing lines are a norm but a point of excess expenditure versus improvement has been reached with many. A clear exception, and one that justifies your argument in part, is the Midland Main Line – long neglected – which for a mere half-billion will be much improved and accelerated. But I doubt if its capacity will increase as much. Even so while this is an example of an alternative approach to HS-2 it does not serve, as HS-2 will do the major conurbations of Yorkshire, Lancashire (other than Sheffield) which have been utterly neglected by governments compared with transport investment in London.

                  As a final point – one of the sad facts is that when Beeching correctly closed many lightly used branch lines he was also allowed in the interest of economy to close main lines also. One of them – the Grand Central – would have served perfectly as a cheap alternative to HS-2 but as usual the exceedingly conservative and short-term approach of British government meant that even its track was not retained in public ownership.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Too long, didn’t read, unresponsive to the requested information, which are industry standard engineering requirements, worldwide (not that you’d understand that).

                  Sorry, but nobody is interested in your uninformed and pedestrian wittering, least of all an experienced professional engineer.

                  Again, provide cite for your assertion, that a proper capacity analysis and engineering cost estimate has been provided for rehabilitation of the existing system, and these have been analyzed alongside the proposed HS2 fiasco.

                • mariandavid

                  While you are I am sure a professional engineer you seem unaware of, unqualified in, and not attuned to railway engineering. Surely someone with your qualifications would realise that your question is so open-ended and rhetorical as to be meaningless. In the simplest form the answer, found, should you have the time and inclination, in the references I made some time ago, is that the estimated cost of HS-2 could be applied to improving the existing system country-wide as there are obviously cases for doubling, converting to 25 KV, tunnelling, signalling and a horde of others. BUT the existing railway system which matches or duplicates the proposed HS- 2 has already been rehabilitated, with two or three exceptions which in total would cost far less than the new line but which even if complete could not conceivably match its added capacity.

                  Since this is the Spectator not an engineering journal I refuse to expand into professional jargon so instead simply say: You could spend the money of HS-2 and rehabilitate the lines to Brighton or Ipswich, which would no doubt cheer up their users after a decade or so of discomfort; what you cannot do is take that money and use it to rehabilitate the lines to Manchester or Liverpool or Leeds – because it has already, for all practical purposes, been done. Hence the irrelevance of your question when it relates strictly to alternative funding for the target of HS-2.

                  However your question does have merit were it extended to the issue of spending that money on HS-2 or another London tunnel or more runways at London airports.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  Too long, didn’t read, unresponsive to the requested information, which are industry standard engineering requirements, worldwide (not that you’d understand that).

                  Sorry, but nobody is interested in your uninformed and pedestrian wittering, least of all an experienced professional engineer.

                  Again, provide cite for your assertion, that a proper capacity analysis and engineering cost estimate has been provided for rehabilitation of the existing system, and these have been analyzed alongside the proposed HS2 fiasco.

                  .

                  I get it that you are a determined political operative, and you are definitely earning your keep. Well done. But you clearly have no understanding of industry standard engineering practice, particularly as regards mass public works.

                  Please provide cite for your assertions, as repeatedly requested. Your political narratives are useless in that regard.

                • mariandavid

                  I am Canadian (worldwide enough?) and politically inept so unlike you have no personal or professional interest in the merits of HS-2. Nor do I, unlike you, insult the standards of discourse for the Spectator by endless repetition or by a public refusal to read comments in full. At first I thought you were an intellect – now I realise you are only capable of endless, irrelevant twittering. Goodby.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  So you’re disinterested and geographically and culturally distant, yet choose to speak as oracle on the technical and economic merits of HS2? And you have the temerity to accuse others of insulting discourse?

                  Yes, move on, you scoundrel. Move on.

  • Radford_NG

    “On 28th of April get set for another round of Tory betrayal over HS2”:declares UKIP candidate for David Lidington’s Aylesbury seat,where he claims to have more party members then the Conservatives.
    http://www.ukip.org/get_set_for_another_round_of_tory_betrayal_over_hs2

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Yes, HS2 is a festering sore for the Cameroons. They can lance it now, or let UKIP lance it for them in May 2015.

      Festering sores are always best treated early.

  • Bellevue

    “….quite frustrating”????? I should imagine you would be incandescent with rage!
    But what can you do? They are liars and cheats to a man and woman. The state of our democracy STINKS, and we should be rising up and slaughtering the lot of them.

  • Mynydd

    What do you expect when there is no party leadership. First Mr Cameron lost control of his backbenchers, now he has lost control of his ministers, and along the way he lost half of his party members.

  • you_kid

    more ‘conviction’ politics?

  • anyfool

    Nobody who lives more than a hundred yards from this railway line, should shut up. Any who are within that limit should be compensated, only if it can be proved their houses have lost value.
    All the rest about quality of life and other such inconveniences should get nothing, after all the roads and railways these people use inconvenience others.
    We all have to put up with life’s tribulations so let them get on with it, it is the price of society.

    • Alexsandr

      i live in the same county as where it will pass but i am agin for for 2 reasons
      1. it is a bad project, badly thought out, and unnecessary. see my comments on other threads here.

      2. it is a waste of public money we dont have. we would be better off not borrowing the money to pay for it. If its such a good scheme why is the private sector not proposing and paying for it.

    • Mynydd

      My taxes is going to pay for this line and I will not shut up.

  • Alexsandr

    It is this sort of stuff that gives politics sucha bad name. If these people really served their constituents they would make the effort and turn up and vote. That keeping their government job is more important than their constituents says it all really. Scum.

  • starfish

    Perhaps toenails could investigate? Or is there no anti-UKIP angle?

  • itdoesntaddup

    Is it fair that Parliament is being kept officially in the dark about the value destroying economics of this project? Is it fair that taxpayers face a stitch-up with whipped votes across Parliament to pass this legislation that is against their interests?

    • Frank

      I dunno, it is what parliaments do!
      At least Andrea has come out fighting. A number of the others on the list above are fairly wet, so may feel intimidated…
      To be serious, most MPs probably don’t care, as they are likely to have been booted before any of the HS2 s**t hits the fan. What we need is the ability to hold them to account even when they have left Parliament…

  • Faceless Bureaucrat

    “If you’re a constituent anxious about HS2 who hears one thing at a meeting from your MP and then sees them doing another thing in the Chamber, it must be quite frustrating.”
    It must also convince you to punish their abject betrayal of you by voting them out at the General Election next year…

    • HookesLaw

      And voting Labour in who voted for it

      • Mynydd

        Only if the sums work out, remember Mr Balls said no blank cheque, and that is still Labour’s position.

  • Agrippina

    Which is why the voters will get rid of some of the troughers in the House next year. Then we can have MPs who represent our views and not just their own vested interests.

    • Kitty MLB

      Assuming those who endeavor to have our interest at heart
      actually want a place in parliament, cavorting with the political class and becoming part of the benighted establishment which will enevatelly follow, unfortunately,
      and unavoidable.

    • Mynydd

      Cheryl Gillan has learned all about U-turns from the master, Mr Cameron.

    • realfish

      Where is the evidence that Osborne has had HS2 re-routed?

      • Agrippina

        Daily Telegraph 28.01.2014 – by Millward & Rayner, ‘The Government faced claims of hypocrisy after it emerged that the northern section of the HS2 network, the route of which was unveiled on Monday, would include a £600 million “detour” around parts of the Chancellor’s seat of Tatton in Cheshire.

        While the Government insisted on slicing straight through the Chilterns when the London to Birmingham section of HS2 was made public in 2010, it has shown greater flexibility in the north, leading to accusations that the route had been tailored to avoid angering Mr Osborne’s constituents.

        Critics said the dog-leg, in which the line doubles back on itself at one point, would add at least six miles to the route between Birmingham and Manchester, with each mile adding £93 million to the cost’.

  • kyalami

    If you don’t like what your MP is doing (or not doing), fire them in a year’s time.

    • Mynydd

      It as already started, a number of Conservative MPs have been deselected.

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