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Coffee House

Michael Fabricant sacked: what about other HS2 opponents?

9 April 2014

9:42 PM

9 April 2014

9:42 PM

It’s difficult to know what astonished people more about Michael Fabricant’s sacking: that he has lost his job or that he was still in a role that required some semblance of collective responsibility. Shortly after assuming the role of Vice Chair of the Conservative Party, he called for a pact with Ukip. Some of his tweets have raised eyebrows. He said it was ‘about time’ that Maria Miller resigned. But the final straw that led party chairman Grant Shapps to ask him to think about resigning from his job was that Fabricant had tabled this wrecking amendment to the HS2 Bill:

That this House, while recognising the ever-increasing need for additional north-south rail line capacity to relieve congestion on the West Coast Mainline and to improve connectivity between major cities and with London, declines to give the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill a second reading because the line as set forth in the Bill (a) is insensitively routed through previously unspoiled countryside unnecessarily damaging the environment including wildlife habitats, ancient woodlands and waterways, (b) is significantly more costly than it need be because of the extra mitigation required to reduce environmental damage arising from the current planned route, (c) unlike much of the planned route north of the West Midlands and unlike similar lines in continental Europe, does not propose the use of existing transport corridors which would mitigate environmental damage and construction costs, (d) fails to connect directly to existing major mainline stations, (e) fails to connect directly with potential airport hubs for London and the south-east of England, (f) fails to connect with High Speed 1 and the Channel Tunnel, (g) fails to provide for sufficient public transport to disperse passengers disembarking from High Speed 2 (HS2) trains at Euston, (h) provides inadequate compensation to those blighted by the route and those whose property is subject to compulsory purchase orders and (i) does not provide for construction to start from Manchester and Leeds; and therefore calls on the Government to produce revised HS2 legislation with a more environmentally sympathetic and cost-effective route.

Yes, that’s an amendment declining to give the high-speed rail bill a second reading. Which is awkward when it’s a flagship piece of Conservative legislation. It is also a bit awkward because it has David Davis as one of the signatories, along with Sir Edward Leigh and Jeremy Lefroy. Davis has a habit of pitching up whenever there’s trouble in the same way as iron filings have a habit of rushing towards a magnet. And the proposed route of the initial HS2 link doesn’t go near his constituency.

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Fabricant refused to resign, and was then sacked. But there are apparently no hard feelings towards him from CCHQ.

It will be interesting to see how many Conservative MPs back this wrecking amendment. But what will also be interesting is what some of the Bill’s opponents in government do about it. Cheryl Gillan left the government in 2012 partly to enable her to fight the legislation, which she has done with dogged determination ever since. But David Lidington, whose Aylesbury constituency is also affected by the line, remains Europe Minister (he explained why he hadn’t resigned over the preparation bill in November here). Of course, his job may mean he’s unaccountably delayed in a European capital when the votes come up.

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