IN rejecting all the appeals against HS2, the UK’s Supreme Court – the highest court in the land – has clearly determined that the right place for the rights (or wrongs) of HS2 to be decided is in Parliament, the heart of our democracy.
Dismissing the appeals by the HS2 Action Alliance, the London Borough of Hillingdon and Heathrow Hub Ltd, Lord Sumption said: “None of the factors which bear on the ultimate decision whether to pass the hybrid bill into law have been pre-empted, even partially.”
And rejecting the claim by Hillingdon and nine other local authorities (51M) would breach the European Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive, Lord Reed said: “…there is…no reason to suppose that Members of Parliament will be unable to properly examine and debate the proposed project.”
He also said: “The contention that the procedure currently envisaged by the Government will not permit an adequate examination of the environmental information to take place appears to me to be …unpersuasive.”
The way is now clear for committees of the Houses of Commons and Lords to consider in detail the hybrid Bill for the first stage of HS2 – from London to Lichield, with a spur into Birmingham.
Unfortunately, Parliamentary consideration will not start as soon as it could have done . . . because of the incompetence of HS2 Ltd in missing many pages of detail from the memory sticks containing the environmental statement. This has now led to the House of Lords’ Standing Orders Committee extending the deadline for commenting on the ES to 27 February.
The priority now for HS2 Ltd, under the new leadership of David Higgins, must be to get quality control systems sorted out so that no more embarrassing errors are made to prevent the legislative process (rather than actions in the courts of law) being delayed any further.