The Hybrid Bill to authorise the first phase of the High Speed 2 project has received its First Reading in the House of Commons. The High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill will grant deemed planning permission along with the powers to acquire land, build and operate the railway from Euston Station to Curzon Street in Birmingham.

In broad terms, a hybrid Bill proceeds as a Public Bill (Second Reading, Public Bill Committee, Report and Third Reading) with an additional Select Committee stage after Second Reading in each House at which objectors whose interests are directly and specially affected by the Bill may be heard. There is now a further written Environmental Impact Assessment stage prior to the Second Reading.

The first public consultation is on the environmental statement. This opportunity includes not only comments on the statement itself, but views on the environmental impact of the project and its merits, both in principle and detail. The consultation takes place under the new House of Commons Private Business Standing Order 224A and closes on 24th January 2014, at the curiously precise time of 11.45pm. Representations made will be provided to MPs and summarised by an independent assessor prior to the Second Reading debate.

At Second Reading MPs will vote on the principle of the Bill. There will then be an opportunity for those directly affected by the project, including landowners and local authorities to petition Parliament to seek changes to the detail of the scheme. These petitions will be heard, with evidence and submissions by Counsel, by a Select Committee. After the Select Committee has made any amendments, other changes may be made in the Public Bill Committee and Report stages. Following Third Reading in the Commons, the Bill will then proceed to the House of Lords with the procedure essentially being repeated.

A paper on the HS2 Bill process is available at http://www.39essex.com/docs/seminars/ hs2_hybrid_bills_and_eia_1113_rha.pdf