Publishing HS2 rail report ‘not in the public interest’

Bicester Advertiser: Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin

MINISTERS have blocked the release of a report into the controversial HS2 rail project, over-ruling a decision by the freedom of information watchdog which said it should be disclosed.

Campaigners against construction of the high-speed line running through Oxfordshire are demanding the publication of a review of the £42bn scheme drawn up in 2011 for the Major Projects Authority (MPA).

But Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said he was taking the “exceptional” step of vetoing the Information Commissioner’s ruling that the project assessment review should be released, arguing that there was a “strong public interest against disclosure”.

Mr McLoughlin said in a statement to MPs: “The Major Projects Review was conducted to inform on the development of the HS2 project. The public interest in ensuring that projects of this scale, importance and cost are properly controlled and overseen is very high indeed.

“The assurance of confidentiality is important in the conduct of the review. In my view, there is nothing in the nature or content of this particular report which outweighs that strong public interest against disclosure.”

The MPA has carried out reviews of dozens of high-value Government schemes to assess the effectiveness with which they can be delivered, and none of them are ever intended for publication.

In 2013, the authority released a traffic-light rating for each of the schemes, which gave HS2 an “amber/red” assessment, meaning the project had significant issues which would need to be addressed before work could go ahead.

A Government spokesman said: “This Government is proud to lead the world on transparency and last year we published the first ever Major Projects Authority report which included information on all major projects.

“Hard-working people rightly expect the Government to keep tight control over how their taxes are spent on major projects and that’s just what the Government’s Major Projects Authority is working with departments to do.

“It’s important to strike a balance between the benefits of transparency and protecting the ability of officials to ‘speak truth to power’. The Major Projects Authority will not be truly effective if officials fear that their frank advice to ministers could be disclosed. We have already published project-level data in our annual report of major projects and have no plans to go further.

“The Government has decided that it is not in the public interest to release this report.”

Bicester MP Sir Tony Baldry said: “I am not entirely clear what has been the exact status of this report, but I have no doubt the members of the Bill committee will want to see as much as is relevant.”

Richard Houghton, of the HS2 Action Alliance, which opposes the new rail link, said: “So far as we can see, the last time secrecy laws of this nature were invoked was during the Iraq War. The implications are immense.

“We obviously have not had access to the MPA report into HS2 although, as with everything of this nature, there are leaks and rumours which lead us to believe that the report is damning and could see heads rolling in both the Department for Transport and other sections of government.”

Comments (4)

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10:31pm Fri 31 Jan 14

bettysenior says...

Is it no wonder that people are continually not voting at both national and local elections as the people continue to realise that politicians just do not listen to their concerns or anything that really means anything to the majority. Indeed if they wished to know why increasingly less people are not coming out to vote for them, they only have to look in the mirror. For the latest decision by government not to release the ‘open’ criticised HS2 report on the grounds that it was not in the national interest to release the HS2 report that the commissioner of our Freedom of Information said it was, is a clear example of why politicians are just not trusted anymore. In this respect if HS2 is so good why will they not allow the criticism by Whitehall civil servants who were openly allowed to in a fairly unique event to share their personal views on this national matter without redress, to be published? This smacks at matters of cover-up as usual to a great extent and where democracy, openness and transparency are just not a part of modern politics in the UK anymore. Indeed another nail in the coffin of democracy I fear and where even less people as a percentage of the total voting population will just not bother to vote. Therefore again, look yourselves in the mirror all those in Westminster and realise that the people are not as stupid as you really appear to think. Indeed it appears that they apparently must think that voters are incapable of judging for themselves presumably even value for money? But could it possibly be also the reason why parliamentarians want to drop the voting age to sixteen now, as our young are far more gullible than older informed voters who have realise a long time ago that politicians are just not what they appear to be. In this respect as it is a time-served exercise in determining the mindset of our political classes, 16 years of age is simply a no brainer for me, but could it be that our highly enlightened politicians know something that I just cannot get my head around? But can anyone else for that matter understand this logic is the big question? Basically it appears to me that they have their own agendas, objectives and vested-interests to look after in the long-term than that of the voters in reality and therefore there is no point in voting in my opinion for such personal objectives? You only have to look at the jobs that some former ministers et al end up with in business after they leave office to see this clearly.

Dr David Hill
World Innovation Foundation
Is it no wonder that people are continually not voting at both national and local elections as the people continue to realise that politicians just do not listen to their concerns or anything that really means anything to the majority. Indeed if they wished to know why increasingly less people are not coming out to vote for them, they only have to look in the mirror. For the latest decision by government not to release the ‘open’ criticised HS2 report on the grounds that it was not in the national interest to release the HS2 report that the commissioner of our Freedom of Information said it was, is a clear example of why politicians are just not trusted anymore. In this respect if HS2 is so good why will they not allow the criticism by Whitehall civil servants who were openly allowed to in a fairly unique event to share their personal views on this national matter without redress, to be published? This smacks at matters of cover-up as usual to a great extent and where democracy, openness and transparency are just not a part of modern politics in the UK anymore. Indeed another nail in the coffin of democracy I fear and where even less people as a percentage of the total voting population will just not bother to vote. Therefore again, look yourselves in the mirror all those in Westminster and realise that the people are not as stupid as you really appear to think. Indeed it appears that they apparently must think that voters are incapable of judging for themselves presumably even value for money? But could it possibly be also the reason why parliamentarians want to drop the voting age to sixteen now, as our young are far more gullible than older informed voters who have realise a long time ago that politicians are just not what they appear to be. In this respect as it is a time-served exercise in determining the mindset of our political classes, 16 years of age is simply a no brainer for me, but could it be that our highly enlightened politicians know something that I just cannot get my head around? But can anyone else for that matter understand this logic is the big question? Basically it appears to me that they have their own agendas, objectives and vested-interests to look after in the long-term than that of the voters in reality and therefore there is no point in voting in my opinion for such personal objectives? You only have to look at the jobs that some former ministers et al end up with in business after they leave office to see this clearly. Dr David Hill World Innovation Foundation bettysenior

10:35pm Fri 31 Jan 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

In Scotland, the 16 year olds will be voting in the referendum later in the year.

As to this report, it'll be published in 25 years time anyway.
In Scotland, the 16 year olds will be voting in the referendum later in the year. As to this report, it'll be published in 25 years time anyway. Andrew:Oxford

7:20am Sat 1 Feb 14

Sandy Wimpole-Smythe says...

Andrew:Oxford wrote:
In Scotland, the 16 year olds will be voting in the referendum later in the year.

As to this report, it'll be published in 25 years time anyway.
25 years later is too long to wait the thing will have been half built by then (there is no way it will be completed on time and within budget), what are they trying to hide ?
[quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: In Scotland, the 16 year olds will be voting in the referendum later in the year. As to this report, it'll be published in 25 years time anyway.[/p][/quote]25 years later is too long to wait the thing will have been half built by then (there is no way it will be completed on time and within budget), what are they trying to hide ? Sandy Wimpole-Smythe

4:22pm Sat 1 Feb 14

Severian says...

Sandy Wimpole-Smythe wrote:
Andrew:Oxford wrote:
In Scotland, the 16 year olds will be voting in the referendum later in the year.

As to this report, it'll be published in 25 years time anyway.
25 years later is too long to wait the thing will have been half built by then (there is no way it will be completed on time and within budget), what are they trying to hide ?
We all know what they want to hide - the report clearly just challenge the need for HS2 and the economic case as to whether it is worth a vast amount of taxpayers' money.

Our politicians increasingly disgust me - happy to rip off their expenses and then waste billions of pounds on a pet project, riding roughshod over any opposition.
[quote][p][bold]Sandy Wimpole-Smythe[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: In Scotland, the 16 year olds will be voting in the referendum later in the year. As to this report, it'll be published in 25 years time anyway.[/p][/quote]25 years later is too long to wait the thing will have been half built by then (there is no way it will be completed on time and within budget), what are they trying to hide ?[/p][/quote]We all know what they want to hide - the report clearly just challenge the need for HS2 and the economic case as to whether it is worth a vast amount of taxpayers' money. Our politicians increasingly disgust me - happy to rip off their expenses and then waste billions of pounds on a pet project, riding roughshod over any opposition. Severian

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