HS2AA defend their ‘locus’ challenge in Parliament

HS2AA appeared before the HS2 Phase 1 Select Committee to defend the right for their petition to be heard, on behalf of the many thousands of people affected by HS2.  The Government had challenged our right under the archane rules that surround petitioning Hybrid Bills.

You can watch proceedings by clicking here

Proceedings began with HS2AA objecting to the Government not having met the required timetable for serving papers – with HS2AA receiving a hard copy of the documents the Government intended to rely on in the hearing just a few minutes before the case began at 9.30.   The Select Committee decided the Government must meet the rules – as HS2AA had.

Richard Harwood QC, representing HS2AA, addressed the key arguments of the locus challenge:

  • That the standing orders set by Parliament that determine who may petition does provide for organisations like HS2AA to petition
  •  That no part of HS2AA’s petition covered the principle of the Hybrid Bill – and that HS2 Ltd had provided no evidence for their claim that they did
  • That HS2AA represent many thousands of people who are ‘specially and directly’ affected – both from its company members; directors; over 15,000 individual registered supporters and its over 100 affiliated organisations – a fact already admitted by the Government’s own QC, Tim Mould, in a prior High Court challenge.
  • Organisations and individuals had relied on HS2AA’s petition on route-wide issues and so did not cover these points themselves.
  • HS2AA had a right to be heard under the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations and the Aarhus Convention.

Hilary Wharf, director of HS2AA, provided a witness statement which detailed the role and purposes of HS2AA and how it represented people. Hilary was cross examined by Tim Mould, QC acting for HS2 Ltd.  The questioning covered

  • HS2AA’s co-ordinating role, and how it could produce experts and reports for other petitioners to use, rather than to present their own. Hilary explained experts were hired to support HS2AA’s petition that took route-wide issues, and not the issues that concerned a specific locality that were in the local petitions
  • That HS2AA as an umbrella organisation did not have locus.  Hilary explained the members, the individuals and the affiliated groups all regarded HS2AA as representing them on route wide matters and had often consciously excluded such matters from their petitions.

Tim Mould, QC argued that HS2AA did not meet the requirements set out in Parliamentary rules governing who could petition. He argued that excluding HS2AA would not prevent key arguments from being heard by the Committee, as HS2AA could still contribute witnesses to support the petitions of individuals who had petitioned and would be allowed to be heard. This curious argument was strongly rebutted by Richard Harwood QC as impractical and taking no account of what the different petitions were about.

The Committee asked questions about

·         Whether the government was challenging HS2AA’s locus in order to supress debate

·         HS2AA’s role in representing elderly people who felt unable to petition personally, as had been raised by MPs

·         Tim Mould QC skirting round the full range of organisations that met the requirements of Standing Order 96

·         The split of Groups and Registered Supporters on Phase 1 and phase 2 (26 of the 105 are on phase 2)

·         Petitions that had deliberately not raised route-wide issues (eg Camden Cutting) on the explicit basis that HS2AA would raise them

·         Avoiding duplication, and that HS2AA and individual petitioners would not both be heard on the same matter.

The Select Committee will announce its decision on whether HS2AA can have its petition heard on 17 July 2014.

You can view Hilary Wharf’s witness statement by clicking here and Richard Harwood QC’s skeleton by clicking here.

 

Comments are closed.