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MP apologises for failing to declare interest during HS2 debates

An MP has apologised in the House of Commons for not declaring publicly that his house was set to be bought by HS2 Ltd when he opposed the high-speed rail project in a parliamentary debate.

HS2 Ltd offered to buy properties that would be seriously affected by construction of the new line under an ‘exceptional hardship scheme’, which Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, was signed up for.

In previous Parliaments, Bridgen had been vehemently against HS2, and had called the line a “white elephant project,” in 2015 during a parliamentary debate.

But now the MP has admitted in Parliament that he should have clearly disclosed his interest in HS2 at that time, as well as in October 2013 when he submitted a written question opposing HS2 to the transport secretary.

“Following a report made on 14 February by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, I would like to apologise to the House for the failure to disclose a financial interest in a Westminster Hall debate on High Speed 2 on 25 March 2015,” Bridgen announced in the Commons yesterday.

“I should have declared that, owing to a court order caused by my divorce, I was in the final act of selling my house to HS2 under the extreme hardship scheme.”

Bridgen did however point out that he did declare his interest in the project in debates on 28 January 2013, 26 June 2013 and 28 April 2014, but said that “on reflection” he should have declared his interest in October 2013 and during numerous meetings concerning HS2 between 2013 and 2015 which he attended where he did not declare his link to the planned rail link.

“I have sought to co-operate with the Commissioner for Standards throughout this inquiry. I have never made any secret of how close HS2 was running to my then property in north west Leicestershire,” said Bridgen.

“That in no way clouded my view of the HS2 project, which I opposed before the route was announced, during my interest and afterwards. I thank you for the opportunity to put this all on the record, and I apologise to the House profusely for any omissions I may have made.”

In addition to the exceptional hardship scheme, in February Camden council also announced it was in the process of building six new apartment blocks for residents affected by HS2 construction.

The news follows RTM reporting last week that the award of around £8.6bn worth of civil engineering contracts for HS2 had been pushed back from April to June by the company.

HS2 was given royal assent in Parliament at the end of February, effectively giving it the go-ahead for work to start as soon as possible. 

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J, Leicester   29/03/2017 at 09:01

Andrew Bridgen on the whole has tried to make the best of a bad situation for Northwest Leicestershire from the HS2 project, albeit with limited success. His two recommendations - 1) to move the proposed East Midlands station to East Midlands Airport, allowing an interchange with international flights and the East Midlands Gateway freight terminal scheme and 2) to divert the funds saved from rerouting the line at this point, avoiding the need for a £300 million tunnel under the runway, to fund the reopening of the Leicester-Burton line to passenger traffic - were both great ideas which sadly fell on deaf ears. Frankly, I don't much care that he didn't declare that his house was sold - it's common knowledge anyway. At least he has done his best to stand up for the local area with regards to HS2 - one might even argue that his personal issues as a result of the route puts him in a better position to empathise with those along the route facing upheaval.

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