Nusrat Ghani MP spoke on Monday in the House of Commons “I am indeed the Minister responsible for this project[HS2]. Not only is the project this Government’s policy, but it was in the Conservative party’s manifesto as well as in the Labour party’s manifesto.” Now Nus who is a junior minister and MP for Wealden where I work received a number of concerns during the debate, one of which being that Chris Grayling could not be bothered to attend, hence her first few words above. She is also a clear and strong advocate for Brexit which does not help in her relationship with businesses like ours that will be badly impacted by it. However the strange thing is that some MPs who challenged her over HS2 happen to also be strong advocates for Brexit and yet having referred to the manifesto commitments over Brexit in the past seem to disagree with Nus about the relevance of the manifesto commitments to HS2 which raises a separate but important question, however back to HS2.
I was unaware about the fact that this debate had taken place when yesterday I had a call from a supply company keen to provide us with some products and offering us a meeting up in London to demonstrate them. I pointed out that although I work in Sussex, that a visit to London is not something I would choose to do without very good reason. The person concerned is based in Leeds and she pointed out that a trip to London will take her about 2 hours (200 miles). I then explained that I work in the constituency that is represented by Nus who is a Transport Ministers and yet her passion for HS2 seems to overlook that a train from Uckfield can take 1.5hrs (45miles) and that is assuming the change of trains goes ok. We discussed HS2 and the person referred to friends whose homes were under threat and that she did not know anyone in her area who believed HS2 was really worthwhile! So back to the debate:
NG: HS2 is a large infrastructure project—there is no denying that—but it is absolutely vital if we are to focus on smashing the north-south divide and provide opportunities for people who live beyond London and the south-east…. Completing HS2 is Government policy and is crucial to unlocking economic growth and improved productivity in the midlands and north. It is supported by Members on both sides of this House. I therefore have no intention of halting work on HS2 in Buckinghamshire or elsewhere. There are already 7,000 people and 2,000 businesses working to deliver the HS2 project, and early works are well under way. Once HS2 Ltd has reached agreement with its suppliers and the Government are satisfied about both affordability and value for money, we will make a full business case for phase 1. This will inform notice to proceed, which is the formal contractual process that enables each phase 1 supplier to move from design and development to construction. Notice to proceed is scheduled to take place later this year. The works that are now taking place are necessary to enable the construction of HS2 to move forward in accordance with the programme, following notice to proceed….I remind the House that Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said that HS2 is “the opportunity to transform the prospects for the north—perhaps a once in 200-year opportunity.”
Amongst the people who challenged Nus, there were several pro Brexiteers such as Andrew Bridgen, Victoria Prentis and Cheryl Gillan who convened this debate on HS2 and then Bill Cash. Bill regularly refers to the manifesto as a reason for Brexit and has done so 5 times this year so far on separate occasions so it seems strange that he does not accept this as the reason for HS2. His comment was
BC: “Does she agree that this monstrous waste of money…..the unutterable waste of money that the project represents. Will she please take note of these representations and do what I understand some members of the Cabinet are doing? They are saying that they have had enough of the project.”
The response from Nus included the following
NG: “I recognise all his work to represent his constituency, but unfortunately I do not agree with him. This project is incredibly important for the future of our country. It is not [just?] about decreasing journeys, even though that is absolutely key, but about bringing communities together, spreading wealth and job opportunities, and increasing capacity for both freight and people. We do not want everyone to assume that once they have finished their apprenticeship or job they have to get to London and the south-east to secure work. We need to ensure that companies move out of London and the south-east to Birmingham and other points on the line. That will create opportunities for everyone along this route.”
So perhaps that explains why she is not interested in improving train routes in Sussex?