On Wednesday 10 July 2019, the Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire contributed to a Westminster Hall debate on HS2.
Despite limited time in the debate, Victoria Prentis outlined her opposition to HS2, citing cost and benefits to her constituents in North Oxfordshire. She raised concerns about the actions of HS2 and transparency throughout the process. She was keen to show that Oxfordshire aren’t against every national infrastructure project, but object to projects with no real benefit.
After the debate, Victoria commented: “I have been consistent in my opposition to the project. While I broadly welcome large-scale infrastructure projects like East-West rail, HS2 won't benefit my constituents. I welcomed the opportunity to speak against it in the debate.”
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—
Sir Patrick McLoughlin
Nimbyism, as the former Secretary of State says.
Will my hon. Friend give way?
No, I will carry on, if I may; I have no time.
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 HS2 causes 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.