Lidington defends no-show at HS2 vote

Voters make their feelings known to David Lidington on HS2. Picture: Twitter/@_Chris_Adams
Voters make their feelings known to David Lidington on HS2. Picture: Twitter/@_Chris_Adams
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Voting against HS2 in Parliament last week would have brought ‘no benefit’ to Aylesbury constituents, the town’s MP has said.

David Lidington was in Oslo during the Paving Bill vote last Thursday, in which MPs overwhelmingly backed funding for the £43 billion line, which would cut through Aylesbury Vale, by 350 to 34.

David Lidington MP - pictured at his Aylesbury Constituency Office

David Lidington MP - pictured at his Aylesbury Constituency Office

Mr Lidington, the Europe minister, did not take part in the second reading vote in the House of Commons earlier this year and faced criticism for doing so.

After not voting in the third reading last week, the MP again argued that voting against the Government would force him to resign from his ministerial role and lose access to the Prime Minister and other key figures.

Writing on his website, Mr Lidington said: “If I had acted as some constituents had asked me to do and voted against the third reading of the bill, it would not have stopped the project.

“The extent of cross-party support meant that the majority in favour was overwhelming.

HS2

HS2

“Voting against the bill on Thursday would have brought no benefit to my constituents.

“Rather it would have diminished my ability to represent their interests to the highest levels of Government.

“Since voting against the third reading would have required me to resign from the Government, my access and whatever influence I have over the people taking decisions about HS2 would immediately have been reduced at a time when all the decisions about compensation, with the exception of the boundaries of the safeguarding zone are yet to be taken.”

Mr Lidington said the same would be true of noise mitigation and other environmental measures affecting parts of his constituency.

He said: “Organisations like the HS2 Action Alliance, 51M and local action groups do not get direct access to senior ministers.

“I do and I use those opportunities to put across the expert arguments and evidence that the campaign groups have assembled.

“And of course I continue to put forward all the arguments that my constituents make against the principle of the scheme.

“I cannot be certain of winning every argument but the reality is that walking out of the Government on Thursday would have left me with less access or leverage than I have now.”

Mr Lidington said a number of people who live near the proposed route have urged him to stay in his Government role and argue their case from the inside.

Despite this, the MP has been criticised for his decision.

Steven Lambert, the Liberal Democrat leader at Aylesbury Vale District Council, said he was ‘livid’ about Mr Lidington’s no-show and dismissed his arguments about maintaining influence in his Government role.

Mr Lambert said: “In my view his first priority is to the residents of Aylesbury, not his cabinet post. Once is an accident twice is a trend.

“Cabinet collective responsibility means you accept the policy put forward. If you don’t agree you resign. He hasn’t done so. So how can he say one thing to his cabinet colleagues and another to his residents?

“By being outside the cabinet you are more free to petition, argue, raise private members’ bills and publicly call into question the details of the proposals. He isn’t doing that, so all of us who are fighting it don’t have the support of our MP.”

UKIP’s Chris Adams, who won the Wendover county council seat in elections earlier this year, said Mr Lidington had ‘let down’ his constituents, adding on Twitter: “I’m really looking forward to taking @DLidington’s Aylesbury Conservatives constituency seat in 2015.”

Another Twitter user, Steve Cross, said of Mr Lidington’s trip to Oslo: “If he represented his constituents (who are majorly affected by HS2) he’d have flown back to vote.”

Wycombe MP Steve Baker and Chesham and Amersham MP Cheryl Gillan both voted against the bill last week, which will now undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords.