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

26 April 2014

11:29 AM

26 April 2014

11:29 AM

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.

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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