Stop HS2 campaign calls on Prime Minister to cancel HS2 now, or it will be “the scandal that keeps on giving”
A letter written in May 2016 by then Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to then Chancellor George Osborne, which has been seen by the BBC, admitted that HS2 was already over-budget and behind schedule before phase 1 of the project received Royal Assent. The BBC say the documents they have seen are “Evidence that both the public and Parliament were not given the full picture about the true cost” of HS2.
The May 2016 letter said that a delay to the project could bring about cost savings, but that the cost of the project would be a significant challenge.
Another a Department for Transport briefing note labelled as “confidential” from December 2016, before the final vote in Parliament took place, acknowledged that even with planned savings “a significant gap to target price will remain”. In addition, HS2 was allowed to go ahead with tendering for projects, despite the fact it had failed ‘Review Point 1’, which effectively meant the checks and balances in place to try and keep HS2 on budget and programme were deliberately bypassed.
Joe Rukin, Stop HS2 campaign manager said:
“It is now absolutely clear that parliament and the public have been callously and systematically lied to in a calculated manner over the cost and schedule of HS2 for a number of years by senior ministers. Work on the project must stop immediately, as this latest scandal makes a mockery of the concept of an parliamentary democracy and an accountable executive. This is why HS2 Ltd is an organisation that thinks it can get away with anything without any consequences, because they have been allowed to do exactly that, seemingly with the blessing of Government.”
“These documents clearly show that Parliament was misled before voting to approve billions of pounds of public expenditure. This is now well beyond malfeasance in public office, this is potentially another issue that should be added to the ongoing Serious Fraud Office investigation, and it surely calls into question the legality of the work HS2 Ltd are currently undertaking.”
“It is also odd, given that George Osborne clearly knew HS2 was not only going over budget, but that checks and balances on spending were being bypassed, that when he left office the first thing he did in the private sector was set up the Northern Powerhouse Partnership which is packed with members vying for HS2 contracts, and seems to spend most of its time lobbying for HS2.”
“It has now got to the point where there are clearly going to be more and more revelations about this project, which leaves the Prime Minister with a clear choice; cancel HS2 now, or it will be the scandal that keeps on giving.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2, added
“We have been concerned for some time that Parliament has been misled over the cost of HS2 but we hadn’t realised the true extent or the length of time it’s been going on. Only in July this year did a Government minister tell the House of Commons that the budget was £56bn. In reality, the Department for Transport knew that was not remotely possible years ago.
“It is vital that the current review of HS2 looks at the extent to which Parliament has been lied to and that former employees of HS2 who have signed gagging orders are able to speak about the issues freely, both to the review and elsewhere.”
“Preparatory works along the HS2 route are wrecking the countryside even now. It is vital that these are stopped until HS2 gets Notice to Proceed, if it ever does. “