O’Neill was brought in as a junior Treasury minister – and given a peerage – by George Osborne. Prior to that, he had been Chair of the City Growth Commission and a noted HS2 skeptic – until he became a minister. In various interviews he had said that East West links were more important than HS2.
Before becoming a minister O’Neill told the House of Lords Ecomonics Affairs Committee in an inquiry into the Economic Case for HS2 in January 2015
“a number of northern cities get quite irritated with me when I say, with the clarity that I hope I just had a minute ago, that doing things, connecting all these places together, is in my judgment way more important than them to London faster than it is today.”
The thing is, the irritation may well change. As we reported in August, neither of the Labour candidates for Manchester and Liverpool are in favour of HS2, and at the same Lords Economics Affairs committee inquiry into HS2, the leaders of other councils did not have HS2 as their top priority.