MPs to debate HS2 referendum

Computer-generated visuals of HS2
Computer-generated visuals of HS2

MPS will tomorrow (Friday) debate whether a national referendum should be held on the funding of HS2.

The Private Members Bill has been proposed by MP Christopher Chope, who represents Christchurch in Dorset – which is no-where near where the proposed line will run.

It asks that the general public would be asked: “Do you support the use of UK taxpayers’ money to pay for the construction of the HS2 railway?”

The bill is currently due to be debated as the first order of business at 9.30am, but could be pushed down the order paper if other bills emerge from the committee stage, because their report and third reading stages will take precedence.

As the debate is scheduled for a Friday, when many MPs will be in their constituencies, it is currently not certain that at least 40 MPs will be present to make sure the Bill is put to a vote.

As things stand it will be the last time HS2 is debated by MPs before the General Election takes place.

The vote takes place just a week after the Public Accounts Committee stated they were ‘sceptical’ that HS2 would be value for money for the taxpayer.

Mr Chope said: “The point is there has never been an opportunity for Parliament to discuss the funding of HS2 and the costs and benefits of the project.

“The opportunity costs of investing so much taxpayer’s money in one specific infrastructure project can only be at the expense of other alternative less expensive projects.”

Penny Gaines, who has remained as Chair of Stop HS2 despite moving to Dorset from Quainton last year, when she became a constituent of Mr Chope said: “I’ve met Christopher Chope and discussed HS2 with him on several occasions.

“He has been vocally opposed to HS2 for some time and I’m delighted that he has taken my concerns seriously. It is only right that the people expected to pay for HS2 have the chance to say that they don’t want to.

“If this bill passes, it will give people a chance to say whether they think the taxpayer should pay for such an expensive project that will benefit only a few people. It’s not about opposing HS2, it’s about whether the taxpayer should be forced to pick up the costs.”

Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin added: “The Government keep claiming there is a great business case for HS2, and unlike all the other railways in the country will make a profit. If that is the case, why is the taxpayer due to foot the bill? Why are there not investors lining up to pay for what the people behind HS2 claim will be a goldmine?

“Every time the public have been polled on HS2, we have seen the opposition to this white elephant get stronger. We have had cuts and austerity and are promised more of the same, so why would anyone think spending £50bn-plus on one railway, when there are cheaper alternatives which benefit more people, is a priority for Government spending? If the voting public were asked if they want to pay for HS2, it is clear they would resoundingly say ‘No’.”