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Whilst the HS2 Chiltern Tunnel Boring Machines continue their relentless progress North 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the contractors building the new railway continue to recruit more staff and expand work-sites up and down the route, the rump of the protest campaign against HS2 retreats more and more into the world of fantasy. It’s a bit like the historical occupant of a certain Berlin bunker moving around imaginary army divisions on a map. Reality isn’t allowed to intrude into their echo-chamber.

The latest example of this is the fact that Chris Packhams Parliamentary petition (which got stuck on a paltry 155,000 signatures) has been scheduled to be debated by the Petitions Committee on September 13th. Extinction Rebellion/HS2Rebellion have a grandiosely titled ‘Parliamentary Liaison Team’ (aka ‘one man and his dog’). Led by one Sebastian Sandys, a London based XR member. Now, you’d think that a good start for such a person would be to actually understand how Parliament works. But oh, no – this is the anti HS2 campaign! Here’s Sandy’s latest post on one of the campaign Facebook pages.

“Support repeal”? Really? This is an option? There’s going to be a debate in the chamber of the Commons at the end of which there will be a vote on whether to repeal the HS2 Hybrid Bill(s)?

No, it’s complete cobblers. It’s a fantasy, nothing more and it’s only going to end in tears as those opposed to HS2 are being led down the garden path by these ridiculous claims.

How so? Well, let’s have a look at the Petitioning Ctte itself and it’s rules and regulations. Here the ‘how petitions work’ page on their website, which says the following:

“7. At 100,000 signatures your petition on the UK Government and Parliament site will be considered for a debate in Parliament.”

All well and good, Packhams petition passed that hurdle. The vote’s on, isn’t it? MPs will soon be flooding in to the Commons to debate and repeal. Well, no – there’s more…

“Petitions can disagree with the Government and can ask for it to change its policies. Petitions can be critical of the UK Government or Parliament.”

Yeah, yeah – get on with it – and?

As usual, the devil’s in the detail – and the details can be found on this page entitled ‘actions on petitions’ which says…

“”The Committee can schedule debates on petitions in Westminster Hall on  Mondays from 4.30pm (for up to 3 hours). Petition debates are general debates about the issues raised by the petition. This means that the debates cannot directly change the law or result in a vote to implement the request of the petition. If your petition is debated, it means that MPs can discuss your petition, ask questions about the Government’s position on the issue, or press the Government to take action. A Government Minister takes part in the debate and answers the points raised.”

Wait? What? The debate’s in Westminster Hall? That’s not the floor of the house of Commons! and what’s this about the debate can’t ‘change the law’ (the HS2 Hybrid bills are law) or result in a vote? There’s no vote?

No. HS2 antis have been completely conned. Here’s how Packham’s petition was worded.

Put simply, it was an impossible ask because (as usual) Packham hadn’t done his homework and understood what these petitions can and can’t do. So, on the 13th September there will be a nice little talking shop in Westminster Hall that will be attended by a handful of MPs enjoying tea and biscuits, debating HS2 for a few hours, and at the end of – absolutely nothing will have changed!

Sandys *should* know this. So, either he doesn’t know so is accidentally leading people up the garden path, or he does know this and is deliberately leading people up the garden path! Either way, there’s going to be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth from HS2 protesters who’ve been misled into thinking there’s going to be a vote to repeal the HS2 Hybrid Bills on the 13th. All those people who’ve been persuaded to write to their MPs have wasted their time, but no change there then.

Did anyone seriously think any Government (of any political persuasion) would set up a system where laws passed by Parliament as part of Government policy could be repealed by a bunch of back-bench MPs in a Committee room on the back of the results of an e-petition? Talk about away with the fairies!

Order some popcorn, because I suspect there’s going to be some interesting comments posted on the various anti HS2 groups Facebook pages when folks realise the false hopes they’ve been fed by the likes of Sandys, XR and Hs2rebellion have been dashed – yet again…

I’ve a favour to ask…
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