Tomorrow (Monday) The High Speed Rail (Crewe – Manchester) Hybrid Bill is scheduled for its 2nd reading. This is the most important step in the bill’s progress through Parliament as its at this stage the principle of the bill is established. This means that it’s unstoppable, any further votes are on details and amendments to the bill, not on stop/go. No-one’s killing this bill.
There will be a few interesting things to watch out for. One is how many MPs will vote against it. There’s not a cat in hell’s chance of the bill being voted down as it has cross-party support, but I’m sure there’ll be a few MPs making symbolic gestures – either out of right-wing political dogma (the Venn diagram of MPs who’re rabid Brexiters and also oppose HS2 is a perfect circle) – or to play to the anti HS2 gallery in their constituencies. It’s all posturing of course, but that’s politics for you.
Another thing to watch out for is which MPs will be chosen to sit on the Hybrid Bill petitioning Committee. They can’t be MPs who have constituencies on the route itself, but exactly who they are can give an indication of how smoothly the bill may progress. The phase 1 Ctte was fortunate to have some talented MPs appointed to it. Hopefully the same will happen this time.
The numbers of people who petition the Ctte is another guide to its progress. The phase 1 bill was inundated with petitions (over 1500) as opponents of HS2 though they could kill the bill by dragging out its progress. They failed. Many of the petitions were carbon-copies of each other so they were simply lumped together. The phase 2a bill received less than 200 – a sign of how the opposition to HS2 had collapsed. Now that the anti HS2 campaign’s folded completely it’ll be interesting to see who does petition. You cannot petition unless you have ‘locus standii’, which means only individuals, groups of individuals, companies or organisations who are directly and specially affected by the bill have the ‘right to be heard’ by means of petition. The process is outlined in this document. This rules out any groups like HS2 ‘rebellion’ but as they’re in no fit state (organisationally or intellectually) to do so I’d be amazed if they even bother. It also rules out any of the Nimbys or groups from Phase 1 and 2a.
Sadly, the Golborne spur is to be dropped from the phase 2b Hybrid bill as a political sop. However it’s not dead by any means. Sir Peter Hendy’s Union Connectivity Review recommended that the government examine the case for moving the spur further North, joining the West Coast Main Line (WCML) South of Preston. Work is underway to establish such a route – which would still use some of the original proposal. Time will tell…
Whatever, the phase 2b bill will ensure that HS2 reaches Manchester. It also shows how the anti HS2 campaign has collapsed. There’s no protests being organised by anyone – not that there’s anyone left to do so! Those days are long gone!
With StopHs2 having thrown in the towel and the protest movement having lost most of its activists as many have simply disappeared or run away to join other hopeless causes meaning there’s no credible opposition left on the ground. What there is left is just two people underground! They’re in tunnels at the former ‘bluebell’ camp in Staffordshire. They’ve now been there for 41 days. 41 days of utter futility as their self imposed isolation isn’t stopping a thing! Nor is it attracting any media attention. Attention that was the only raison d’etre of HS2 ‘rebellion’ nowadays as it helped to keep mugs parting with their money via crowdfunding. Put simply, they can stay there as long as they like because they’re not in anyone’s way. they’ll run out of food long before the land is needed for HS2 construction!
Meanwhile, the High Court will be ruling on the route-wide injunction application any time now. If that’s granted (and there’s every likelihood it will be) it’s ‘goodnight Vienna’ for the protesters and their hopeless attempts to physically stop HS2. The High Court papers (which are updated regularly) can be found by following this link. The latest addition shows that 16 named protesters have signed undertakings to desist from trying to stop HS2. These include Daniel Hooper (aka ‘Swampy’) who was regarded as an asset because – although he never stopped a thing – he was a media attraction. These 16 were some of the backbone of the protest camps, which has seen the number of activists decimated.
No doubt I’ll be blogging about the phase 2B Hybrid bill on an occasional basis as it progresses on Parliament. I’ll do an update once it passes 2nd reading on Monday. I’ll also blog about the High Court injunction hearing when the Judge announces their decision. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a scene from outside Parliament on the 21st April 2014 when the HS2 Phase 1 bill passed 2nd reading with a stonking majority of 452 to 41! You won’t be seeing scenes like this tomorrow!
I’ve a small favour to ask…
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