HS2 ‘intimidated landowners over compensation claims after contact with MP’

HS2 has been accused of intimidating landowners who raised compensation cases against the high speed rail company with their Tory MP.

Theo Clarke, the Conservative MP for Stafford, said the company behind the flagship high speed rail project had told her constituents it would “not be good” for compensation claims they had lodged with the company if they got their MP involved.

Conservative former minister Sir Gavin Williamson was meanwhile among MPs who claimed HS2 Limited was still carrying out works in areas where the major transport scheme would no longer run.

Rishi Sunak cancelled the second leg of HS2 between Birmingham and Manchester in October last year, in a bid to save money.

On Thursday, the Government lifted restrictions preventing the development of land earmarked for a now-scrapped section of HS2 running north of Birmingham.

In the Commons, Stafford MP Ms Clarke called on the Government to pay “all outstanding HS2 compensation claims” as she opened a Commons debate on the topic.

The Tory MP claimed several constituents had asked her not to name them in the debate, after HS2 suggested this might affect their compensation claims.

She said: “I am outraged to discover they have been intimidated by HS2 to do this. In one surgery appointment I was told ‘it would not be good for you to get your MP involved as that would be bad for your case’.

“This is completely unacceptable behaviour by HS2 Limited, and I wish to call this out today.”

Sir Gavin meanwhile said farmers in his South Staffordshire constituency had seen work continue on land which would no longer be used by the railway.

“Following the announcement of phase 2a’s cancellation, they expected their compulsory purchase order (CPO) would be cancelled and that the land returned,” he said.

Sir Gavin added: “However, further land was purchased in November 2023, and last time I checked, November definitely came after October and so this was after the Prime Minister had announced that this scheme was not continuing.”

Sir Michael Fabricant, the Tory MP for Lichfield, said one of his constituents had a CPO made against an area which provides a link to the rest of his farmland.

The Tory MP told the Commons: “Three times he has petitioned HS2 to buy the thing back, but they are saying no. It is now going to go on to the open market.”

He added: “How can this be right when now the railway line isn’t even going to go alongside and he is willing to pay back the money anyway for his land which was compulsorily taken off him?”

Rail minister Huw Merriman committed to eradicating any evidence of intimidation surrounding compensation.

Mr Merriman said: “With regard to the point around intimidation, and I say this as someone that chairs the Transport Select Committee, I believe that everyone should be able to give clear, frank, open and transparent evidence without fear or favour.

“So if there is any evidence of intimidation, which of course I will look at, then I will make sure that that is eradicated.”

He also assured MPs that “property is offered back at a fair price to original owners with first refusal”.

Mr Merriman said late payments were “unacceptable” but added: “They are in the exception, our data shows, rather than the rule”.

Elsewhere, Labour shadow transport minister Mike Kane faced questioning from Sir Gavin about whether Labour would reimpose the restriction to prevent building on land earmarked for HS2’s northern leg it it came to power.

Mr Kane responded: “Like Napoleon out of Moscow, he’s routed through the poisoned earth strategy with the lifting of the safeguarding today.

“But we have to be responsible, we will have to see what the books tell us if we are to enter government.”