Select Committee process
On the 12 June the Select Committee set out the procedure for petition appearances. The key points include:
- the Select Committee will meet initially in July, and then again in September. The July timetable can be found here, and the programme for September will be released next month.
- petitioners will be heard geographically, running north to south from Birmingham to London.
- within each area, county councils will be heard first, followed by district, parish and town councils, followed by community groups, other public bodies, businesses and individuals.
- topics that will make numerous other petitioning points redundant (e.g. tunnel petitions) will be heard early on in proceedings.
- the programme will be handled by HS2 Ltd’s parliamentary agent, given that they have a clearer idea of what stage negotiations are at. If deemed necessary, the Private Bill Office will intervene.
- if HS2 Ltd is to challenge locus standi, petitioners will receive a letter by the end of next week. Petitioners will have the opportunity to challenge this, and the Select Committee will make the final decision.
- petitioners will receive notification of when they will appear before the Select Committee four weeks in advance, and the proposed date should accommodate petitioners to some extent. All evidence must be submitted by 5pm 2 working days before the petitioner’s appearance.
- the Select Committee will sit in London. However, visits to the route will be made and petitioners will be able to attend these subject to space considerations.
Appearing at the Select Committee
A document providing information on appearing before the Select Committee, including challenges to locus standi has been released. The key points are:
- if a series of petitions address related issues, the Committee will hear the first petitioner, and then invite subsequent petitioners to make any further points.
- unnecessarily lengthy arguments from either the petitioner or promoter will not be appreciated.
- a summary of the petitioner’s argument can be included as evidence. This should be no more than two pages long. If the petitioners choose to include this, the Committee will read it in advance and there will be no need to expand on during the hearing.
- public can attend hearings, although space may be limited. If large numbers intend to attend, the Private Bill Office should be contacted in advance.
- during locus standi hearings (for petitioners who are challenged), the following format will be followed:
- statement from petitioner explaining how they are directly and specially affected
- examination of petitioner by HS2 Ltd’s Parliamentary Agent
- questions from the Committee
- short closing remark by the Petitioner
- Committee decision (may be at end of sitting)
HS2 Ltd response to petitions
We have heard from members of the community that HS2 Ltd will not be meeting petitioners until they have sent a formal response to all petitioners. Given that 1,925 petitions were submitted, this could be a lengthy process, and therefore you may not hear from HS2 Ltd or their Parliamentary Agent for some time.
In the meantime, all petitioners should have received an email from HS2 Ltd stating that they will be sending Petition Response Documents (PRDs) electronically using an encryption programme called Egress. This has caused some concern, and the Select Committee have strongly urged HS2 Ltd to provide petitioners with alternative methods of communication, including email and post.
We have heard that a number of action groups and Parish Councils have refused to sign up to the Egress system, and Buckinghamshire County Council is also refusing to sign up to the system. Instead, we have requested that our PRDs are sent via email (multiple emails if size restraints required) and two hard copies through the post. However, we emphasise that it is up to each individual petitioner whether or not they choose to sign up to Egress.
In terms of what to expect in the PRD, an example from the Crossrail project can be found here. This demonstrates that Crossrail provided an extensive and in many cases constructive and meaningful response, allowing the petitioner to be well informed leading up to negotiations and potentially the Select Committee stage. It is hoped the HS2 Ltd will provide the same level of detail when responding to petitions, allowing petitioners to be well informed of HS2 Ltd’s argument. Please note the reliance on Information Papers.