Many of my constituents will know my views on HS2. I campaigned against the project before I was elected in 2015, and voted against it when I had the opportunity to in the House. I have long felt that it is too costly of a project with an environmental impact too large.
The goalposts have continued to change since the project began, and costs have more than doubled. The Prime Minister has made the right decision to cancel the rest of the project. Every penny of the £36 billion saved by this decision will instead be invested into hundreds of transport projects in the North, Midlands and across the country. These rail and road upgrades will see more investment in our region than HS2 would ever have brought. We must make the most of the opportunity to secure funding for our local infrastructure improvements.
I was pleased to be able to attend the Westminster Hall debate earlier in the month. Many powerful arguments were made on all sides. I do remain concerned by the environmental impact of HS2. Whenever I have met representatives of HS2 Ltd, I have always made it clear that we must limit the impact of the project on our natural heritage. Our ancient pasture and woodlands are home to so much of our wildlife and they must be protected as much as possible.
I am continuing to monitor closely the progress of HS2 in the constituency. Construction activity is only increasing in our area. Many constituents have contacted me recently with concerns about the closure of roads and Public Rights of Way. I have raised these issues directly with HS2 Ltd and the Minister for HS2, Andrew Stephenson. I will continue to make representations on behalf of my constituents for any issues which may arise.
Ultimately, the infrastructure, investment and connectivity the Government has promised to the North is important. We should avoid delaying this promise as much as possible. I can assure you that I will continue to hold HS2 to account while the work is underway.
Today is a sad day for me and my constituents, and for friends from all over the nation who have been involved in the fight to stop HS2 over the last 11 years.
Obviously I remain concerned by the environmental impact of HS2, and by the financial and governance issues of this project which have become increasingly worrying.
This is a sad day but it also a day to accept that we must come together, as with the other great national project on which there is division, in a spirit of optimism for the future. This project is to go ahead, and it must be a success.
To that end, it is important that we re-work the plan as necessary. We need to make sure above all that the Northern powerhouse rail links, which are so desperately needed, are built in the very near future. We need to ensure that tight financial controls, along with minimising disruption and environmental impact are uppermost in the thinking of those who run the project.
I am sad, but I am also prepared to row in behind a new and improved HS2. I really do hope we are able to make it work for the nation as a whole.
I recently raised my concerns on the project in a debate in Westminster Hall:
With that in mind, Mr Hosie, I endorse wholeheartedly everything said by the first three speakers, and particularly my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), who truly eviscerated the business case for HS2. I politely disagree with the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne). I do not feel that £100 billion is worth some jobs in Birmingham; there may be ways to assist with employment in Birmingham other than by spending £100 billion of taxpayers’ money. [Interruption.] I do not have time to go through all his arguments in detail, but I look forward to talking to him firmly about it later.
I will make two brief points. The first is romantic, which I make no apology for. We love our area. It is fair to say that some objections to HS2 are a form of—
Nimbyism, as the former Secretary of State says.
I reject the nimbyism argument. We are building far more houses in my constituency than in the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill’s, finishing three a day at the moment. We embraced the Oxford-Birmingham canal in the 1790s, we embraced the M40 30 years ago and we broadly welcome east-west rail in our area. We are not against large national infrastructure projects, but we object to large national infrastructure projects with no real benefit, for us or for the nation as a whole. We feel that strongly.
As a former civil servant, the rational argument, as opposed to the romantic one, is that the process to set up HS2causes me real pain and worry. Frankly, the Committee corridor deals done at the time of the Select Committee stink. They set neighbour against neighbour on purpose, and it was not a pleasant experience to watch. There has been a continual lack of engagement and transparency from HS2. I have a list of questions to which I have repeatedly demanded answers, and it shows no sign of taking me seriously or engaging with me. My right hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Dame Cheryl Gillan) had a very interesting wake-up call when she made a freedom of information request to find out what it felt about her personally. I have not yet grown a thick enough skin to make a freedom of information request about my name and HS2, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire has not, either.
It is disgusting that taxpayers’ money is being spent on an organisation that behaves this badly. In short, HS2 is a white elephant that is trampling over the dreams and aspirations of my constituents and I cannot support it.