Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown cites his experiences on the High Speed Rail (London-West Midlands) Bill Committee of the NFU helping farmers resolve issues with HS2 and calls on the Government to ensure HS2 has sufficient staff to deal with these issues.
May I take my hon. Friend back to his remarks about his constituent’s farming problem? When I was on the High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Bill Committee, we had some problems like this and representatives of the National Farmers Union gave evidence to the Committee. The NFU is constantly in touch with HS2 Ltd. There are well-known valuation techniques for dealing with all the problems relating to land that may be taken; it is just a question of getting HS2 round to actually doing it. May I suggest that if my hon. Friend’s constituent were to contact the NFU, he might get some action?
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend. My office has been in touch with the gentleman in question for many years and we are also in touch with the NFU. I agree that there are many cases in which the course of action that my hon. Friend describes has been successful. The NFU has done a great job, as have local land agents and my constituency office. I particularly want to mention my chief of staff, James Cantrell, who has done a fantastic job on this for many constituents over six years. However, there are unfortunately still too many exceptions to the rule. I do not want to do down HS2’s staff, a lot of whom work very hard and try their best to work for my constituents, but they are often frustrated by decisions higher up that do not give them the latitude to make sensible decisions locally on behalf of my constituents.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way again. On the Committee, we also found that cases tended to get resolved much quicker when a Member of Parliament got involved on behalf of a constituent. I say to the Minister, who I hope is listening, that HS2 should have sufficient staff that it should not be necessary for a Member of Parliament to get involved in every single individual case, whether it involves the taking of a house, a bit of a farm or whatever. Unfortunately, it is all too often necessary for a Member of Parliament to get involved, as my hon. Friend has demonstrated with his examples.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but sadly we have had to get involved in almost every case, and some cases have taken far too long to resolve partly because of the lack of delegation.