Merits of the HS2 projects have again been questioned

HS2 Hybrid Bill clears second reading despite rebellion

The government bill paving the way for HS2 construction has cleared the second reading in the Parliament 451 to 50 despite a Tory-led rebellion, which saw dozens of MPs voting against or abstaining from the vote.

Following the vote, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said work on the £50bn scheme will commence in 2017 as planned, with the first stage of the project, designed to link London with Birmingham aiming for a 2025 completion date.

Leading the rebellion was former Tory Cabinet minister Cherryl Gillian, representing Chesham and Amersham that are expected to be affected by the proposed construction. Gillian put forward an amendment criticising the HS2 scheme and particularly the ministers’ refusal to publish the Major Projects Authority report into the risks of the scheme.

The amendment was supported by 32 MPs. After her defeat, Gillian vowed to keep fighting by scrutinising the HS2 progress "inch by inch" as it progressed through Parliament.

The rebels included chairman of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers Graham Brady and former Cabinet minister Caroline Spelman.

47 Conservative MPs, including Prime Minister Cameron missed the vote, several of them known for their critical stance towards the project. Europe Minister David Lidington didn't participate in the Commons vote because he was on an official trip to Estonia. However, he vowed to sacrifice his job in future if he failed to secure adequate mitigation and compensation for the Aylesbury area.

The HS2 principle was passed smoothly as Labour voiced its support of the legislation.

"By voting in favour of the hybrid Bill, Parliament has made a clear commitment to a key part of the Government's long term economic plan,” Mr McLoughlin said following the vote.

"HS2 is a once in a generation opportunity to create jobs and develop skills, provide the extra space we need on our rail network for commuters and freight and better connect our biggest cities.

"I am aware of the concerns some who live very close to the HS2 route have. I am confident however that by working together we can ensure this vital new north-south railway is designed in the right way, and we will have spades in the ground in 2017 as planned."

Speaking after the vote, rebel ringleader Mrs Gillan said: "This is a large number of MPs unconvinced that HS2 is the solution to our country's infrastructure problems. Government should realise that this project will be closely scrutinised every step of the way.

"Many colleagues also abstained this evening which shows that the scepticism of this project runs much more deeply than the voting figures suggest."

Tory rebel Michael Fabricant, sacked as a Conservative Party vice-chairman over his opposition to the project, claimed David Cameron had performed a U-turn over the scheme, which was first pushed by Labour transport secretary Lord Adonis.

He said: "Five years ago, the Prime Minister, leader of the Conservative Party, said the Adonis route is profoundly wrong, that its whole implementation would be damaging to the environment, be damaging to local areas which could otherwise enjoy peace and quiet and would be damaging to the nation as a whole.

"And yet here we are five years on with the Government supporting the original Adonis plan. I find that quite extraordinary."

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