UK Politics

HS2: Cameron faces backbench rebellion

Artist"s impression of an HS2 train on the Birmingham and Fazeley viaduct Image copyright PA

David Cameron is facing a backbench rebellion over the HS2 high-speed rail link when MPs vote on Monday.

At least 30 Tory MPs will vote against or abstain at the bill's second reading, according to research by BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend.

But it will not be enough to block the legislation, as Labour say they will back the government.

The HS2 link between London, the Midlands and the North of England is expected to cost £42.6bn.

This includes contingencies, with £7.5bn for the trains.

One Tory rebel, Michael Fabricant, said the revolt would have been much greater if Labour had opposed the bill.

Labour backing

Last June, 21 Conservative backbenchers opposed the government in a Commons vote laying the groundwork for HS2.

Since then ministers have been trying to win over doubters, but their efforts appear to have faltered, with the number of opponents apparently increasing.

Radio 4's The World This Weekend canvassed the views of more than 100 backbench Conservative MPs - 25 said they plan to vote against the bill and another five said they would abstain.

But shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh confirmed Labour would be backing the government.

"With the costs going up we had to look again at it, we had that look and we're backing the project," she told Sky News.

"There are a lot of my Shadow Cabinet colleagues where it goes through their constituencies and they are absolutely right to raise those local issues.

"The Phase Two route consultation closed in January, we've got to see what changes, if any, there are to that route and the government needs to get on and spell out what they are."

'Sympathetic route'

She added: "We've got to invest in our transport infrastructure but we've got to keep costs under control as well."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Michael Fabricant was sacked as Conservative vice-chairman over his views on HS2

Former Conservative Whip Michael Fabricant said he knew between 80 to 100 of his fellow MPs have "really serious doubts" about HS2 but were reluctant to take on the government as it was expected to clear its second reading.

He told Sky News said: "If Labour was against it then the rebellion would be a lot bigger than 40."

Mr Fabricant is among the senior Tories who have tabled amendments in an attempt to block the government's plans.

He wants the coalition to bring forward a cheaper and more environmentally "sympathetic" route.

Former Wales secretary Cheryl Gillan has tabled a cross-party amendment to block the Bill and vowed to vote against the second reading.


She said: "There is no doubt that with all three parties whipped to support HS2, there is no chance to stop it.

"But I have to register opposition on behalf of the many people who do not want this project."

Ms Gillan said she was disappointed the government had not listened to demands to allow an open-ended Commons debate on Monday.

MPs will be given an extra 60 minutes, compared to the usual arrangements on a Monday, to raise objections.

But Ms Gillan said rebels "may have as little as 10 minutes to put across our arguments".

"For a government that wants to be transparent and bring people along with them, the right thing would be to allow a full debate. This is rubbish," she added.

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