When she saw that the Secretary of State for Transport was not scheduled to make a statement to the House of Commons about the £6.6bn contract announcement on HS2 and the phase 2 route announcements the Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP raised a point of order. She asked for an extension to the proceedings of the House to allow the matter to be examined and was rewarded by the almost unprecedented appearance of Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP who came to the Chamber at 10.p.m. last night.
Questioning the Secretary of State, Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP again reminded MPs of the need for a “reality check” on the HS2 project.
There have been concerns expressed in press reports about the urgent need to make sure that the companies and consortia that have been appointed can fulfil the contracts on time and within budget. One of the projects is the portal and tunnelling near Great Missenden in Mrs Gillan’s constituency.
The statement was made very late in the House of Commons and the Secretary of State for Transport was forced to admit this was a “cock-up”.
Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP said:
“I thank you, Mr Speaker, and I thank the Secretary of State for coming to the House to make a statement on this important project at this late time of night—I am willing to discuss HS2 with him any time of the night or day. He has put a great deal of confidence in the contractors he announced today, to which he is awarding £6.6 billion of taxpayers’ money. However, just by glancing at recent news reports, we see that Strabag, an Austrian firm, is pulling out of a hydroelectric plant contract in Bosnia, having sought to increase the contract price. Skanska UK has revealed major project cost overruns and write-downs of £33 million. Costain has yet to reach a settlement for a private finance initiative project contract with the Greater Manchester Waste Disposal Authority, where it has already incurred £15 million of losses. Last December the Health and Safety Commission confirmed that Kier Infrastructure and Overseas Ltd was being prosecuted for three incidents that took place during the construction of the Crossrail tunnel. That is in addition to Carillion’s well documented financial problems, which mean that it is having to restructure. Can he confirm that he knew about all those matters, that he has carried out due diligence on those companies, and that the taxpayer is not in reality carrying unacceptable risks on the construction of HS2?”
Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP replied:
“We of course monitor the fitness for contracts of all the companies we award contracts to. The consortia to which we have awarded contracts today are groups of firms that have a track record of delivering major projects for this country, and they also include major British businesses that I want to see succeed. It is really important to ensure that we use the expertise that is already delivering for us and that we also champion British business. The awarding of the contracts does that job.”
Rt Hon Cheryl GIllan MP commented: “ One of the many documents accompanying these announcements is ‘HS2 - Concept to Reality’ and there really do need to be constant reality checks taking place to protect the taxpayer. If this project is going to proceed it must be carried out with propriety and it is important that contractors deliver on time, on budget and with care and consideration for the communities through which thie railway is being driven.”