HS2 Petitioning

David Lidington recently met Clerks of the House of Commons to discuss the petitioning process for the HS2 Hybrid Bill which is scheduled to take place later this year. Following this meeting David wrote to all of his constituents who may be affected by the HS2 scheme to provide them with information on petitioning.

This information has been reproduced below.

If having read the information you have any questions (and are one of David’s constituents) please contact David on 0207 219 2514 ordavid.lidington.mp@parliament.uk.

Petitioning Information

I am writing to all constituents in my constituency that may be affected by the Government’s proposed HS2 rail line to provide them with information regarding the HS2 Hybrid Bill, which was deposited with Parliament in November 2013 and the petitioning process.

 I would like to stress that you may not be directly affected by HS2 and I do not want to cause any undue concern. However, I know that many of my constituents are quite rightly unhappy with the level of communication and information being provided by HS2 Ltd and therefore I hope that this information will be helpful. The information provided in this letter has been based on a meeting I recently held with the House of Commons Clerks working on the HS2 Hybrid Bill. The Clerks are Parliament’s Civil Service. They provide all Members of Parliament with impartial advice.

What is the Hybrid Bill?

The HS2 Hybrid Bill sets out plans for Phase One (London to Birmingham) of HS2. If the Bill is passed by Parliament, work will be able to begin on constructing HS2. Construction of HS2 cannot start until both Houses of Parliament have passed the Bill and it receives Royal Assent.

The Bill was presented to Parliament on Monday 25 November 2013 and the Bill and all documents relating to it have been made public. The documents include:

·         The Bill itself

·         Details of the work taking place

·         Plans of the proposed route

·         An estimate of the cost

·         The Environmental Statement

HS2 Ltd have made the Bill and all the documents relating to it (around 55,000 pages), available online on their website (www.hs2.org.uk) and copies have also been made available to affected local authorities, Parish Councils and libraries along the route. The Environmental Statement includes details on the impact HS2 will have on the local area and the mitigation measures HS2 Ltd are proposing to put in place.

Second Reading of the HS2 Hybrid Bill will take place in Parliament at some point in 2014. While I cannot be sure of the exact timing of Second Reading, based on the timetable for the Environmental Statement consultation, it is unlikely to be before 28 April 2014 at the earliest.

Should the Bill be passed at Second Reading, a period of petitioning will follow during which people specially and directly affected by the scheme can submit a petition to Parliament setting out what changes they would like made to the Scheme. A special Select Committee of MPs who have no constituency or personal interests in HS2 will be appointed to hear petitions and will have the power to make alternations to the Hybrid Bill.  After this the Hybrid Bill will then follow the normal procedure of a Bill through Parliament. It will proceed to a Public Bill Committee, Report Stage and finally Third Reading. It will then follow the same procedure in the House of Lords.

Although the Department for Transport’s public aim is for the HS2 Hybrid Bill to have received Royal Assent before the next General Election in 2015 this will be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.  However, there is a Parliamentary procedure known as a “carry over motion” which enables a Bill to be carried over into the next Parliament and continued by whoever is in Government should they wish to do so after the next General Election. Without a carry-over motion, a Bill automatically dies when Parliament is dissolved for a General Election.

Petitioning

I am aware that many local action groups, Parish Councils and individuals are starting to consider petitioning against the HS2 Hybrid Bill. I have tried to answer below what I believe are the most common questions I have been asked by constituents on the petitioning process.

What is a petition?

Your petition sets out your objections to the HS2 Hybrid Bill and is a request to argue your case before a committee of MPs.  It must describe at least in outline all the issues you want to raise. It will not be possible to raise new issues before the committee if they have not been covered in the petition.

As the petitioning process will take place after Second Reading of the HS2 Hybrid Bill, it will not be possible to petition to cancel HS2 as the House of Commons will have already approved the principle of building the railway. However, at this stage it is unclear whether the Committee hearing petitions will have the scope to look at issues such as the location of a terminus station in London or Birmingham.

Examples of issues on which an individual or group may wish to petition include the inclusion of additional mitigation measures (including altering the horizontal or vertical alignment) and compensation.

Who may petition?

An individual, group of individuals or organisations directly and specially affected by HS2 can petition against it.

If the Department for Transport believes that someone who petitions against HS2 is not directly or specially affected they can object to the petitioner’s right to be heard by the Committee of MPs. The MPs on the Committee will then decide if the petition will be heard.

Individuals, groups of individuals or organisations can petition in respect of the HS2 Hybrid Bill in the House of Commons and then afterwards in House of Lords. The Clerks have also told me that your petitions do not have to be identical in the House of Commons and House of Lords and that the precedent from other Hybrid Bills is that the House of Lords does not overturn positive decisions regarding petitions made in the Commons.

How to petition?

You must submit your petition in person at the Houses of Parliament or arrange for an authorised agent or your Member of Parliament to do so. In addition, there will be a fee of £20 payable for each petition which is submitted. Details about payment methods will be available soon.

There will be a deadline for when petitions have to be submitted by and this will be a minimum of ten days after the Second Reading debate, although this is a matter for the House of Commons. The Clerks have told me that the precedent for other Hybrid Bills is for the deadline for petitions to be submitted to be 2-3 weeks after Second Reading.

Your petition must include certain details including:

·         The short title of the HS2 Hybrid Bill (High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill)

·         Your name (or organisation)

·         An explanation of why you are qualified to petition (how are you affected by HS2)

·         Broad details of which clauses within the Bill are relevant to your petition

·         Preferably what remedy you want to see put in place (this cannot be to cancel the HS2 scheme)

If at any point the Bill’ scope is extended, for instance because a petitioner is successful in arguing for works to be shifted elsewhere, there will be time for individuals or organisations to petition against such alterations. An appropriate timeframe in which this can take place will be set.

Once your petition has been submitted and accepted it is possible that HS2 Ltd will seek to meet you to discuss your petition to see if they can resolve your concerns without the need for your petition to be heard by the Committee. HS2 Ltd openly admit it is in their interest to reduce the number of petitions by trying to resolve as many issues as possible before the petition is due to be heard by the Committee and I would encourage you to engage with HS2 Ltd should they contact you.

If you are unable to resolve the concerns raised in your petition with HS2 Ltd you and HS2 Ltd will appear in front of the Select Committee who will decide whether to alter the Hybrid Bill to include the changes you have requested. The Committee operates like a planning enquiry with each side able to call witnesses to give evidence and cross examination of witnesses taking place.

Do I need an agent?

Petitioners can represent themselves. However if you want someone else to represent you (e.g. a solicitor) you can instruct an agent to act on your behalf in all matters relating to your petition.

There are two types of agent: professional Parliamentary agents as Roll A agents and other agents as Roll B agents. There are seven Roll A agents, two of which are acting on behalf of HS2 Ltd and the Department for Transport. I have included details of the other five Roll A agents on a useful contacts sheet with this letter.  Roll A agents will charge for their services.

Roll B agents can be anyone who is not a registered Roll A agent but whom an individual or organisation would like to act for them regarding their petition. Since petitioners may also represent themselves anyone who signs a petition (they can have more than one signatory) is able to act on behalf of the petitioners without becoming a Roll B agent.

Any group or individual wishing to be represented by a Roll B agent should sign a letter authorising a named individual to act on their behalf; this should be presented when the petition is deposited. An organisation should also ensure they have a written record of a meeting where a resolution was passed authorising the Roll B agent or one of the petitioners to act on the organisation’s behalf.

Anyone wanting to act as Roll B agent will need to produce a certificate of respectability signed by an MP, magistrate, barrister or solicitor. I have already signed some certificates for constituents. A certificate is not required for Roll A agents nor individuals who want to become Roll B agents who are solicitors.

Further Information

A more extensive guide to petitioning, including how to set out your submission and the terminology to use, information on agents, depositing the petition and examples of letters – produced by the House of Commons – is available at the following link:

www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/commonspetitioningkit.pdf

In addition, Mr Neil Caulfield, a Clerk at the House of Commons, can provide further impartial advice on Hybrid Bill procedure, including petitioning, and his contact details can be found on the useful contacts sheet included with this letter.

As you may be aware, since Spring 2010 I have been sending constituents regular updates regarding HS2. These outline the most recent actions that I have taken in relation to HS2. If you would like to receive these updates please let me know.

May I also encourage you to look at my website, www.davidlidington.com, where I regularly post copies of the letters that I write to Ministers and officials regarding HS2, as well as the responses that I receive. My website also includes a dedicated HS2 page where you can read all of my consultation responses on the issue of HS2 and find out further information about the scheme.

I hope this information is of use to you but if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me.