A new honours row erupted last night after every MP on a Commons committee that oversaw the controversial HS2 rail project ended up with a knighthood.
Two MPs on the obscure High Speed Rail (London to West Midlands) Bill Commons Select Committee were knighted in the New Year Honours List, meaning all six MPs who served on the committee when it was wound up in 2016 have knighthoods.
The committee chairman, who also received a knighthood two months ago, dismissed the awards as a ‘coincidence’.
A new honours row erupted last night after every MP on a Commons committee that oversaw the controversial HS2 rail project ended up with a knighthood, a claim The committee chairman, who also received a knighthood two months ago, dismissed as a ‘coincidence’
The Mail on Sunday has been told it was intimated to some MPs that if they served on the committee – a vital part of the Government’s plan to force through the scheme in the face of fierce opposition – they might be rewarded with a gong.
A senior parliamentary source said: ‘It was hard to get anyone to serve. It involved endless trips up and down the country to hear complaints by protest groups. Some MPs were given a clear hint that if they joined up they could get an honour.’
Another insider said: ‘No one was told “if you sit on this committee you will get a knighthood”. It is more subtle than that.’
There is no suggestion of any impropriety by any of the MPs.
Last night, the MPs insisted they had not been offered an honour to serve on the group.
Committee chairman, Tory MP Sir Robert Syms, said there was an ‘element of coincidence’ about the way the committee members had received knighthoods recently.
‘The type of MP that serves on that sort of committee are the sort in line for recognition anyway,’ he said. ‘I have twice been in government and was on the frontbench for ten years in Opposition.’
Fellow Tory Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown said his knighthood was recognition of all his work as an MP.
Five of the six MPs on the committee have received ‘High Speed knighthoods’ in the past two years. The latest two are Sir Geoffrey and Labour’s Mark Hendrick.
Committee chairman Sir Robert received a knighthood in October; Labour’s Dave Crausby received one in January and Tory Henry Bellingham got his in 2016.
The sixth member, Conservative elder statesman Peter Bottomley, was knighted in 2011, before the HS2 committee was set up.
The citations for Mr Hendrick and Mr Crausby praised their hard work on a committee ‘which sat for almost 100 days over eight months, taking evidence from up to 40 petitioners a day’.
By contrast, none of the three MPs who failed to see the committee through to the end has been honoured: Lib Dem Mike Thornton, who lost his seat in the 2015 Election, and Labour’s Yasmin Qureshi and Ian Mearns, who stepped down from the committee.
The £56 billion HS2 project, which will see 200mph trains running from London to Birmingham, was devised by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009. But critics have called it a ‘white elephant’ which will cut a swathe through beautiful parts of rural England.
They also claim the 32-minute saving in rail journey times does not justify the cost.
The dispute followed claims that Theresa May used the honours list to hand out ‘political favours’. The chairman of the powerful 1922 Committee of backbench Conservatives, Graham Brady, was awarded a knighthood, along with gongs for other pro-Brexit MPs.
But there was nothing for police, fire service and ambulance crew heroes on duty at the Grenfell fire and Manchester and London bombings.
Sir David, Sir Henry and Sir Mark could not be contacted for comment.