UK: HS2 Paving Bill’s Passage Through The Committee Stage

Last Updated: 24 July 2013
Article by Oksana Price

Regular readers of this blog will recall that in our blog entry on 5 June 2013 (please see here) we examined why the Government has brought this Bill forward and what is, and is not but might have been, in it.

On 13 May 2013, only 5 days after the Queen's Speech had confirmed the Government's intention to bring forward an HS2 Paving Bill, the High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill was presented to Parliament. Since then, the Bill has had its Second Reading on 26 June and is now in its Committee stage. The first 6 sittings took place on the 9th, 11th and 16th of July (two 'sittings' per day) with the final two scheduled for today (18th of July). The Public Bill Committee is expected to report to the House by the same day - Thursday 18 July 2013.

What happens at the Committee stage?

Committee stage is basically where detailed line by line examination of the Bill takes place, not too much of an arduous task in this case as there are only three clauses. 

As the Bill started in the Commons, the committee is able to take evidence from experts and interest groups from outside Parliament, more on this later. Amendments for discussion are selected by the Chairman of the committee and only members of the committee can vote on amendments during committee stage.

Amendments proposed by MPs to the Bill will be published daily and reprinted as a marshalled list of amendments for each day the committee discusses the Bill, for further details please see here. Every clause in the Bill is then agreed to, changed or removed from the Bill, which may happen with or without debate.

The Committee stage so far 

Here is a round up of the Committee stage so far, with one more day left to go:


The Public Bill Committee is being chaired by Labour's Jim Sheridan MP and the Lib Dems' Annette Brooke MP. There are 16 committee members (8 conservative MPs including a Minister of State, 6 Labour MPs; 1 Lib Dem and 1 Democratic Unionist). For the full list please see here.


Witnesses only appeared at the first 4 sittings, with the 5th and 6th sitting being devoted to the debate on the proposed amendments to the Bill. There were 29 witnesses in total ranging from representatives of local authorities affected by the proposed HS2, academics, chief executives of both HS1 Ltd and HS2 Ltd, industry representatives and of course some of the big objectors such as 51m, HS2 Action Alliance and Stop HS2.

Main issues covered

Many issues have been raised before the Committee both in oral evidence by the witnesses and in written evidence submitted to the Committee (for the full list of the written evidence please see here). The following issues have been of particular importance and debated most intensely over the preceding sittings:

  • Capacity of the network (in particular the issue of freight, which was considered by most witnesses to have been overlooked despite being a growing and particularly important part of the railway)
  • Connectivity (in particular regional network developments)
  • Extension of the high speed railway to Scotland
  • Alternatives
  • Unfair economic distribution post-completion
  • The engagement of HS2 Ltd
  • Environmental Impact
  • Compensation
  • Demolition (Camden area and generally)

Amendments to the Bill

Despite its brevity, the Bill has been subject to quite a number of proposed amendments, unsurprisingly no non-government amendments have been agreed so far. Whilst I do not propose to list these here (for further details please see notices of amendments), I would note a few amendments of particular interest (both proposed by Frank Dobson MP) :

  • Amendment 12 : capping Government's expenditure to £50 million (which was withdrawn) ; and
  • New Clause - which would extend the scope of Government's expenditure to "providing and maintaining a property bond system as detailed in Schedule 1 to this Bill.' (to be debated today)

The Government has only proposed 1 amendment so far in relation to Clause 2, page 2, line 8, to insert  at the end '(with capital and resource expenditure specified separately in respect of each head of expenditure referred to in section 1(4)(a) to (c))'.  The Committee will be deciding the fate of this amendment at some point today.

What's next? 

If the Bill has been amended it will be reprinted before its next stage. Once the Committee stage is finished, the Bill will return to the floor of the House of Commons for its report stage, where the amended Bill will be debated and further amendments proposed. There is no set time period between the end of committee stage and the start of the report stage. All MPs, not just committee members, will be able to speak, vote and suggest amendments to the Bill or new clauses they think should be added.  Whether any of the proposed amendments will actually be agreed, remains to be seen.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Oksana Price
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