PMQs: Cameron makes out ‘Devo Met’ Northern Powerhouse report supports HS2, when it doesn’t.

Yesterday at Prime Ministers Questions, David Cameron praised a report from the Royal Society’s City Growth Commission, which as a result of debates following the Scottish Referendum calls for more powers for English regions. However, the commission said transport was more important than devolution in improving the economic fortunes of English provincial cities, with commission chairman Jim O’Neill saying:

“The whole idea of connecting cities through much more sophisticated and affordable and better infrastructure in my judgment will probably do more for those cities than anything to do with devolution per se.”

This lead the Prime Minister to rather get the wrong end of the stick at PMQs:

“I think Jim O’Neill has done an absolutely first-class job. I think there’s a real opportunity here as the Chancellor has spoken about, to create a northern powerhouse by looking at how we can use high-speed rail and other infrastructure to link up our great northern cities so that we really have a proper rebalancing of our economy, that’s what this is about and I think that Jim O’Neills work is all to the good.”

However, if he had bothered to actually read the report, he might have actually known it did not support HS2 at all, with O’Neill having to tell Sky News afterwards:

“Controversially, as we concluded pretty early on, doing something to give a state-of-the-art infrastructure between those close geographic northern cities is probably way more important for them than HS2 in terms of the economic connectivity of the people in those cities.”

“Ask anybody that ever contemplates going from Hull to Liverpool or Leeds to Manchester or the other way, our modern infrastructure is just hopeless here compared with many other parts of the world.”

Stop HS2 Campaign Manager Joe Rukin responded:

“We have said since day one that what is needed all across Britain is better local transport infrastructure, as the vast majority of rail users take short trips to work, they are not the big bucks inter-city business users who would benefit from HS2. The very last thing anyone would want to do if they truly want to rebalance the economy is make it easier for the high earners who could afford it get to London more quickly.

“The response at PMQs is disgraceful. Mr Cameron is trying to make out that a report which shows HS2 is the last thing the North of England needs, actually supports HS2. This is just another in a long list of examples which show politicians will say anything to try and get support for HS2, even when all the facts are against them. Praising this report and saying HS2 will help its’ objectives is like trying to spin night into day, and the Prime Minister should be ashamed of himself.”

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