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High Speed Rail route set to cause constituency headaches for ministers

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 11 We have seen over the past couple of weeks with the forest sell-off plans how consituency interests can influence an MP's view of government proposals.

Another issue which is likely to cause conflicts for Conservative MPs during this Parliament - in particular for some members of the Government - is the route of the proposed High Speed Rail line.

Tomorrow lunchtime's London segment of The Politics Show on BBC1 identifies several of the members of the Government from the capital and the Home Counties who may face a quandary between backing the Coalition's High Speed Rail plans and standing up for consituents who object to the route, whenever it is finally chosen.

The programme will report that the following four MPs are refusing to commit at this stage to voting for the plans:

  • Dominic Grieve - MP for Beaconsfield and Attorney-General
  • Nick Hurd - MP for Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner and Cabinet Office Minister
  • John Randall - MP for Uxbrdge & South Ruislip and Deputy Chief Whip
  • Angie Bray - MP for Ealing Central & Acton and parliamentary private secretary to Francis Maude

Here's what the quartet told the Politics Show explaining their positions as present:

Statement from Dominic Grieve

“Dominic is watching developments and has no comment to make except that he has concerns and is speaking to Ministerial colleagues. At the moment there is not even a final route so no decision on voting can be made.”

Joint statement from Nick Hurd and John Randall

“The route as currently proposed has a potentially serious impact on a number of my constituents, as well as many others along the proposed line. This obviously causes me concern and I welcome the forthcoming consultation. It will give my constituents the opportunity to express their concerns, whether it be about the principle of high speed rail or the specific route being proposed and the scope for alternatives and modifications. I personally am a supporter of the principle of high speed rail and recognise that the Coalition’s welcome decision not to go ahead with a third runway at Heathrow relied in part on the provision of a high speed rail network.

"However, I will faithfully represent the concerns of my constituents and want to be sure that the Government has adequately considered all options in choosing the most effective route. I will also expect the Government to demonstrate a strong business case for the project and a credible strategy for minimising the impact on the environment. Furthermore I will fight very hard to make sure that that it will fully compensate those who are adversely affected.”

Interview with Angie Bray

Angie Bray: “I hope I am going to be able to do it [vote for the proposals]  absolutely. Because, as I said, I do really like the principle of it”
Interviewer: You hope so, but that’s not a definite “yes” is it?
Angie Bray: “You know, my job is to make sure that my constituency is as happy as it possibly can be, so I’ll need to make sure that my constituents at the end of the consultation feel like they have had their concerns addressed. And that is something that I hope they will do. And I certainly expect that they will”.

This will be an ongoing issue for all those concerned, as well as other MPs deeper into Buckinghamshire and into the Midlands and North as the route approaches Birmingham and then goes on to Manchester and Leeds. Watch this space!

> Earlier in the week on ConHome, Matthew Sinclair proposed that High Speed Rail should be cancelled


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