Checking the score

This is the time of year when the television schedules feature “review of the year” programmes, which are largely a thinly-veiled excuse for repackaging footage that has already been broadcast. Whilst these can be quite entertaining and informative, I think that they largely serve, on the commercial channels at least, to fill out the time between adverts for holidays.

Not to be outdone, I am going to use this posting to present my own review of 2015, taking as my subject the progress made in hearing petitions by the HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee in its first calendar year of public sessions.

My starting point is to refer to the Committee calendar for 2014 that I first presented in my blog Lessons from history, part 13 (posted 23 Aug 2014), except that I have updated it to reflect the state of play when the Members of the House of Commons decamped to their constituencies, or elsewhere, for the Christmas recess.

HS2_SC_meeting_dates_2014_year_end_amendedDates that are within a red square or rectangle are days that were scheduled for hearing petitions, and these amount to 44. So days that are both within the confines of red and dotted blue lines, such as 15th and 17th September, are days scheduled to hear petitions during recess periods – and you will only find the aforementioned two of those.

Dates within purple lines are days that were scheduled to hear appeals against locus standi decisions, and green lines indicate days scheduled for public sessions of the Select Committee for other purposes, such as hearing Promoter’s presentations.

You see, it is all starting to make sense.

On days that are circled in black, not all the scheduled sessions actually took place. If the black circle also has a cross within it, no sessions at all were held on that day. By my reckoning, 78 sessions have been scheduled and 50 of these have actually heard one or more petitions. That means that 28 scheduled sessions, or about 36%, were non-productive regarding hearing petitions.

The count of petitions that were actually heard has reached 86. What is more difficult to assess is the number of petitions that have been withdrawn or are currently the subject of negotiations that are likely to lead to them being withdrawn.

What I have been able to do is count up the number of petitions that were scheduled to be heard but, in the event, did not come before the Committee. This, by my reckoning, accounts for 73 further petitions, but some of these petitions may be brought to the Committee eventually.

Some further information has been forthcoming in an answer to a House of Commons written question tabled by the Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP. This answer lists 26 petitioners who “have either reached agreement or been satisfied by the statutory compensation arrangements available, and therefore have withdrawn their petitions”. This list yielded a further 5 petitions that I had not counted in the 73 that I reckoned had not come before the Committee.

The written answer also confidently states that:

“From time to time, the Private Bill Office publishes the list of petitioners who have withdrawn, and this is available on Parliament’s website.”

This appears to be prescient, because I have been unable to locate any such list. Perhaps the Commons Private Bill Office will get around to making this prediction a reality in the near future – it would be very useful to have such a running list.

Intriguingly, and confusingly for me, the following tweet appeared on the Select Committee’s webpage on 18th December 2014:

“29 petitions now formally withdrawn, and 24 indicating no intention to appear.”

If we take the figures in the tweet, the number of petitions that have either been heard or that we know will not come before the Committee is 86+29+24, which totals 139. If we take the more optimistic position of assuming that all petitions that have been scheduled are dispensed with, the total is 86+73+5, or 164. This latter figure does not include the unknown number of petitions that were withdrawn before being scheduled, but I think that number is likely to be small as most negotiations that lead to withdraw seem to be concluded late in the day.

So, it is probably reasonable to conclude that the number of petitions “dispensed with” this past year lies somewhere between 139 and 164.

This is the product of 44 scheduled days of petition hearings. In my blog Lessons from history, part 13, I argued that the number of sitting days available to the Committee in a full year might be up to 130. This means that the number of petitions that we might expect the HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee to dispense with in a full year lies between 410 (139×130/44) and 485 (164×130/44). So it looks like, at the current rate of progress, it will take four years just to clear the petitions deposited so far and we may expect the total deposited to grow as more Additional Provisions are tabled.

Quel dommage!

Acknowledgement: The background calendar for the image that I have used to illustrate this blog was generated on


2 responses to this post.

  1. Peter,
    a big thank you for all of your interesting and useful blogs this year!
    Very much appreciated by the Camden Cutting Group in Euston.
    Wishing you a Peaceful New Year!


  2. Posted by Good News with 4 more years of petitioning and longer with the responses to more APs on December 30, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Better HMG lay off the people in HS2, as 4 years of more preparation work serves no purpose and mitigations appear to be less likely from Alexander’s projected £42Billion budget. Sounds like another Canute sitting and pontificating on what will not happen.

    One person who controlled budgets for roads from the 80s said to Ministers when they complained about rising budgets that the price of a road was the final account price and there was no way of building to the first budgets. So Mr Higgins may find out that there are significant differences between the Olympics and HS2. Perhaps better send the HS2 managers from Network Rail back to Network Rail. Oh what a poor state of affairs when a diversionary process becomes the focus of projections.

    Four years is sufficient time for some sense to prevail and the route to be relocated along with the objectives.

    Take a look at the power sector deficiencies and you will see where the real concern for this nations future is. The Northern Powerhouse may have insufficient GWs unless refocussing of the national prioirities gets an effective Select Committee.

    HS2 need much more fundamental changes than are emerging from the individual petitions.

    Should have been a full Public Inquiry for such a waste of time and money on Route 3.

    Seasonal Greetings and Happy New Year for 2015 and more reflection on the Environment conservation and less damage to communities.


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