POLITICS
03/12/2013 11:07 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 23:58 GMT

John Bercow Slams 'Seemingly Arbitrary' HS2 Compensation

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John Simon Bercow (born 19th January 1963) is a British politician who has been the Speaker of the House of Commons since June 2009. Prior to his election to Speaker he was a member of the Conservative Party.

John Bercow has railed against the "seemingly arbitrary" compensation for people "blighted" by High Speed Rail 2, as concerns mount about the cost and benefits of the £50 billion infrastructure project.

The Speaker expressed concern about his "understandably anxious" Buckingham constituents being left out of potential compensation for being "blighted" by HS2 due to the boundary of the safeguarding zone, marking out those eligible for compensation, ending at the front of their properties.

Bercow's fears came in a letter written directly to HS2 chief executive Alison Monro, revealed by the Huffington Post UK after a Freedom of Information request.

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HS2 could "become too much to live with" for constituents, says Bercow

The Speaker has publicly criticised the project, branding it "simply wrong" and saying estimates of its benefits were "overoptimistic" and "fanciful". Writing in his local paper in October, Bercow said: "We do not want HS2 and we will continue to lobby in the strongest terms against it."

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Although Bercow's role as Speaker means he is unable to speak up for his constituents in the House of Commons chamber, he is able to summon relevant ministers and officials for a meeting.

Speaking at the Hertie School of Governance in July, Bercow told his audience: "If there's an issue of moment or salience to a large number of my constituents, I ask the minister to come and see me. I was struck early on to find that I got much quicker replies from ministers in government...!"

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Other MPs also expressed serious concern about High Speed Rail 2, including Europe minister and Tory MP for Aylesbury David Lidington, who said he was "alarmed by the mental strain" which the proposed HS2 route was putting on constituents that stood to be affected and have yet to receive "firm information about the probable impact of either construction or operation of the line".

The concerns expressed by MPs like Bercow and Lidington come after former business secretary Lord Mandelson warned that the scheme would "suck the lifeblood" out of the rest of Britain".

"Frankly there was too much of the argument that if everyone else has a high speed train we should have one too, regardless of need, regardless of costs and regardless of alternatives," he said.

"To be frank we didn't feel like being trumped by the zeal of the then Opposition's support for the high speed train, we wanted if anything to upstage them."