The Third Reading of the High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill is due to take place on the 23rd March, immediately after the Report Stage has allowed the House of Commons to consider further amendments to the Bill.
When the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Act 2013 - the so-called "Paving Bill" - came forward, giving HS2 permission to spend large sums of taxpayers' money on the project, I was one of 27 Members of Parliament that voted against the legislation in support of the strong views of my constituents. A total of 330 MPs voted for the bill. Given the overwhelming number of MPs in favour of HS2, I have since then focused my attention and priorities on securing the best deal possible on compensation and mitigation for my constituents.
I did not vote on the Second Reading of the HS2 Bill and I will not be voting at the Third Reading on the 23rd March. The high level of cross party support in the Commons for HS2 remains in place and it is clear to me that it will go ahead. Therefore it is in the interests of those who've been blighted for years by this project that we get on with it and get construction over with as soon as possible.
One of the first actions I took was to set up the HS2 Compensation and Mitigation Forum in Parliament to provide a setting for MPs along the proposed line of route to discuss common issues. It quickly became apparent that the concerns of residents in South Northamptonshire were similar to those of communities up and down the line, and the Forum allowed MPs to take a united approach in pushing HS2 Ltd on proper redress of these concerns. We also set up a parallel group within South Northamptonshire - the HS2 Liaison Group - to create a space for affected communities to focus on issues affecting our area. This has been hugely productive and has resulted in real change to the approach taken by HS2 Ltd.
I have held many public meetings where constituents have discussed their concerns with me and written thousands of letters to take these issues forward. There are a number of matters that I continue to press the Promoter on, not least that a Code of Construction Practice is absolutely paramount, and I firmly believe that there is more work to do on the Need To Sell compensation scheme.
After Third Reading the Bill will immediately be sent to the Lords for First Reading in the upper House on the same day. The petitioning period in the Lords will start the next day and run through for three weeks. I am encouraging all directly and specially affected residents who have unaddressed concerns to petition the Lords and you can read more about that process here.
I will do everything I can to support constituents through the Lords' Select Committee and please do get in touch with me if I can help in any way.