The way HS2 Ltd communicates with residents affected by its plans amounts to an unacceptable ‘culture of defensive communication and misinformation’, senior MPs have said.
The Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee (PACAC) has issued a follow-up report to the recent Parliamentary Ombudsman investigation into the treatment of residents by HS2 Ltd the company responsible for developing and promoting the new high speed rail network.
Its report says that what should have been consultation events were turned into public relations exercises, and the information that was made available to the public was 'either too generic to be of use or was inconsistent'.
Committee chairman Bernard Jenkin MP, said: ‘There is still a culture of defensive communication and misinformation within this public body and that is not acceptable.
'Unless those responsible for delivering HS2 understand that first and foremost they serve the public, they will continue to be criticised for having complete disregard for the people, some of them vulnerable, who are impacted by this large-scale infrastructure project.’
Last year an Ombudsman report dealt with a group of six families whose small community faced break-up under plans for HS2. It identified a series of failings in communication and engagement and in complaints handling which the Ombudsman said amounted to ‘maladministration’.
Last month, the HS2 Bill Committee, which heard nearly 1600 petitions from members of the public for changes to the HS2 Phase One Bill, published its the final report.
The PACAC says that as a result, it remains ‘unconvinced that the necessary changes, identified some time ago, in the way HS2 Ltd engages with the public, have ever taken place’.
It is claimed the consultation process was treated as a one way 'box-ticking' exercise by HS2 Ltd, with no genuine two-way engagement.
Stop HS2 campaign manager Joe Rukin said: ‘Yet again, HS2 Ltd have been found wanting, but MPs have no problem voting for this vanity project.
'The whole case for HS2 has been based on misinformation, refusing to release any information that shows it in a bad light, and treating the public with a complete disregard. This is not only the culture of HS2 Ltd, but the culture of the Government proposing it and the MPs willing to support it.’
The Phase One Bill passed its report stage and third Commons reading on Wednesday afternoon.