The same day as The Sun revealed that Labour have given HS2 sceptic a veto on their party’s support of the project, David Cameron has told Politics Home that the project “can’t go ahead without all party support”.
This comes ahead of a vote in Parliament next week on the HS2 Paving Bill which asks for MPs to effectively sign a blank cheque for design work on both phases of the project, due to escalating costs. Following increasingly scathing reports on HS2 from cross-party bodies such as the Public Accounts Committee and Treasury Select Committee, Mr Balls today told BBC Radio Five Live:
“If the case is clear, the benefits are strong, it’s the best way to spend the money and the costs are under control, at that point I would be happy to say we’ll support it. But what I am not going to do is say we support it when the costs are rising, the benefits are unclear and the government are acting like cheerleaders rather than proper stewards of public money. That is not a road I am going to go down.”
Balls has consistently said that the costs for HS2 cannot continue to escalate, which today they have confirmed to have done, to a potential of up to £5.3bn, following the final confirmation that Wales has received Barnett consequential funding as a result of HS2 this week.
Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin said;
“Over the last three years we have seen the costs of HS2 keep going up and the proposed benefits keep going down. This culminated with the revelation last weekend, that even though the Government paid KPMG quarter of a million to invent an untested model to bolster the case for HS2, they still had to hide the fact it was bad for many parts of the country. Finally we have had confirmation today that Wales has received top-up funding because of spending on HS2, and now this precedent has been set for Wales and surely Northern Ireland, the cost could go up another £5.3bn.”
“Ed Balls and his Labour colleagues have kept saying there can be ‘no blank cheque for HS2’, but a blank cheque is what MPs are due to vote on on Thursday. If they are true to their word they will vote against this white elephant at the earliest possible opportunity and put it out of its misery. It seems to us that David Cameron has finally realised what a daft idea HS2 is and is trying to play political games so he can drop HS2 and claim it was all Labour’s fault. Instead of engaging in punch and judy politics, he should have the courage to admit he was wrong and drop HS2 before more taxpayers money is wasted on his vanity project.”
Penny Gaines, chair of Stop HS2 said,
“There is a clear shifting of the political atmosphere around HS2. Politicians across the political spectrum are having a close look at the proposed railway, especially after the revelation that numerous local economies far away from the line will suffer if HS2 gets built. What they are finding is that the business case for the railway is extremely shaky, that HS2 will damage the environment and that there are a lot better ways of spending £50 billion.
“With the latest government fightback, they are saying is that in spite of calling the project High Speed Two, and using an excessively fast design speed, the project has nothing to do with needing faster railways. With the Paving bill next week asking for a blank cheque for a specifically high speed railway, it’s time that politicians accept the public have seen through the muddled thinking from the Department for Transport. It’s time to cancel HS2 and stop wasting time and money on this boondangle.”