I could have done without the announcement, part 2

(… continued from I could have done without the announcement, part 1, posted on 3 Jan 2013).

With the clock rapidly ticking down on the Report stage of the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill, the Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP rose again, this time to move amendment 20. The amendments that were on the selection list to be taken with this lead amendment were 30, 15, 21, 22, 27, 25, 16, 26 and 31; six of these ten amendments applied to Clause 1 of the Bill, and the remainder to Clause 2. Together these amendments covered capping expenditure (both on the preparation and the implementation of the project), limiting the scope of the expenditure permitted by the Bill, banning employment through personal service company arrangements and the payment of bonuses, designating the network an “England-only project” for Barnett formula spending purposes, requiring financial reports to encompass all Government spending on the project, and requiring advance estimates of expenditure to be presented annually.

Within this group, two amendments had the backing of both frontbenches. These were amendment 25, which required financial reports to include a report on overspend or underspend against budget, and amendment 26, requiring financial reports to detail vocational qualifications gained by persons employed on the work covered by the Bill.

When she rose to move amendment 20, Cheryl Gillan prefaced her speech by saying that she was, “very glad that we managed to get through the preceding group of amendments without a [division]”. This may appear to be a strange thing for the Rt Hon Lady to rejoice in, since her amendments were defeated, but her interest was clearly that a division would have taken time from the debate:

“I think it is clear that the Government have not allowed enough time for proper scrutiny of the Bill, and it worries me considerably that a wider audience beyond the House will not understand that we reached that point.”

This issue was raised again by Bill Cash MP just before the “knife” came down at 4pm in a “point of order”:

“We have not reached the last group of amendments, which are vital to all the people in my constituency and throughout the country who are affected by the Bill. This point of order is about the travesty of proceedings in relation to the programme motion and all that goes with it.”

By now the rotation of occupants in the Speaker’s Chair had reached deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing MP. She ruled that it was not a point of order as “the timetabling of discussions on this Bill is a matter for the House”, i.e. not a matter for the Chair. She then, showing some hesitancy due no doubt to her inexperience in the Chair, called for two voice votes “necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time”. The first vote negatived the group of amendments. The deputy Speaker then called upon Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Stephen Hammond MP, to move amendments 25 and 26, and these were agreed to.

There was an interruption from Jonathan Edwards, Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, seeking to move amendment 27 (the one about the Barnett formula), which the deputy Speaker did not accept as it “had not been spoken to”, and that was the end of the Report stage of the Bill. This left a total of thirteen amendments and one new clause that that had not been considered, this being the reason for Mr Cash’s complaint.

The Third Reading debate followed immediately at 16:03, to be concluded at 5pm in accordance with the programme order. This debate opened with speeches by the Transport Secretary and his Shadow counterpart and gave nine backbench MPs the opportunity to speak, excluding interventions. These backbench contributions came from Caroline Spelman (Conservative, Meriden), Frank Dobson (Labour, Holborn and St Pancras), Sir John Randall (Conservative, Uxbridge and South Ruislip), Phil Wilson (Labour, Sedgefield), Cheryl Gillan (Conservative, Chesham and Amersham), Roger Godsiff (Labour, Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath), Alec Shelbrooke (Conservative, Elmet and Rothwell), Louise Ellman (Labour, Liverpool Riverside) and Mark Pawsey (Conservative, Rugby).

At the conclusion of the debate, a division was held and the Bill was “read the Third time and passed” by 350 votes to 34. This concluded the passage of the Bill through the Commons and it moved to the House of Lords.

(To be continued …)

PS: The amendments are listed in full in the Consideration of Bill document that was published on the day of the Report stage. The Hansard report of the Report stage and Third Reading proceedings may be read in columns W1112 to W1190 of the House of Commons Official Report. There is also a video of the day’s business in the House of Commons.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by chriseaglen on January 7, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    So much detail about a poor railway proposal for groups of opposites to focus on Parliamentary procedures whilst the proposal is not worthy as a priority. Fiddling whilst the nation and UK burns under more significant issues.


    • Nevertheless Chris we have now reached the stage where we are solely in the hands of the parliamentarians and their procedures – only they can make the desperately needed changes to the design of HS2 that are required to make it a viable proposition – so it is well that we understand what goes on at Westminster.


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