HS2 divides opinion. However, I am well aware how angry and concerned a number of constituents are, especially in Ickenham and Harefield.
There was a debate yesterday in Parliament on the principle of the HS2 Hybrid bill – the so called 2nd reading. It was passed by a majority of 411 with only 41 MPs voting against.
Some constituents wrote to me about my voting intentions. I abstained.
My personal position is unchanged. I have never been against the principle of HS2 but my priority must be to make sure that my constituents are treated fairly – if it goes ahead.
We have made some progress. I am pleased for example to have helped secure a compensation offer for the homeowners who live closest to the proposed line. However, as I have said publicly, I do not believe that the current mitigation and compensation proposals go far enough.
So we have to keep fighting for change.
One option would have been to vote against HS2 at second reading. However it is clear that there is overwhelming cross party support for it right now. Voting against HS2 at this stage would have achieved nothing practical for my constituents. Better I think to throw my energy into using whatever influence I have I have to pursue the key campaigns for:-
- Better compensation
- Extension of the proposed tunnel, ideally to the other side of the Colne Valley
- Dropping of the option to build a spur down to Heathrow
- Preservation of HOAC
We will now move to the next stage where a special committee will hear petitions from individuals and groups directly affected. The lesson from the Crossrail precedent is that this Committee can be influential – so this is a real opportunity to win the arguments for the change we need.
My final judgement on HS2, and vote at the key third reading, will be shaped first and foremost by our success in securing better mitigation and compensation for constituents.
In the meantime, I will support local petitioners and continue my own direct lobbying of the senior decision makers in this process. For example in the forthcoming month, the Rail Minister will be visiting the HOAC site at my request and I will be meeting again with the Chairman of HS2 to go through our local issues.