Sir Tony abstains in HS2 vote

Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry (right)
Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry (right)

Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry did not vote in the amendment debate on the controversial High Speed Rail Link last night (Monday).

Sir Tony chose to abstain from voting in the House of Commons, in which MPs voted 451 to 50 in favour of the scheme. South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom, whose constituency includes Brackley, was called to a meeting in Brussels which meant she could not take part in the debate.

Speaking on his website before the vote, Sir Tony said: “With regards to the vote on the Hybrid Bill, I think one has to look at the Parliamentary arithmetic, and make sure that those opposed to HS2 don’t turn a defeat into a defeat.

“There was a wobble by the Labour Party a little while ago, but chastised by leaders of cities in the north and Midlands, Labour are now seemingly back supporting HS2.

“There is therefore no way in which the Hybrid Bill can be defeated in the House of Commons and I don’t personally think it is necessarily good tactics for HS2 opponents to try and make this particular vote a test of strength, when it is clear that the bill will get overwhelming support in the Division Lobbies.

“The Hybrid Bill process is likely to take a number of years, well into the next parliament, by which time the position of the political parties in respect of HS2 may well have changed. I think it is unlikely that any Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to find £50 billion to pay for HS2. And for those reasons I intend to abstain in the vote on the Second Reading.”

Mrs Leadsom, who was recently promoted as a Treasury Minister, wrote on her blog on March 27 following a HS2 meeting with new chairman of HS2 Ltd Sir David Higgins. He said there would be no plans to discuss substantial changes to the route of phase one, which passes through her constituency.

She said: “I am disappointed that as the reasons for HS2 have changed so many times and are now about capacity and connectivity rather than speed, Sir David did not open to re-evaluating whether the route is correct. It also makes clear that he has insufficient consideration for the environmental impact of HS2.

“My fight against HS2 goes on. Until there is a dramatic rethink about HS2, I will continue to fight for generous compensation and effective mitigation to help those substantially affected by HS2 move on with their lives.”