Labour will not undo HS2 decision, shadow minister confirms

Labour will not undo Rishi Sunak’s decision to scrap HS2, as the party will work with what inherits at the next election, “not the one we wished we did” as top shadow cabinet minister has said.

In an exclusive interview with The Yorkshire Post ahead of Labour’s conference in Liverpool, Pat McFadden, the party’s shadow cabinet office secretary and national campaign coordinator said that Sir Keir Starmer’s party will not be “pressing rewind” on the landmark decision announced this week by the Prime Minister.

Mr Sunak announced on Wednesday that HS2’s northern legs to Manchester and beyond would be scrapped, and that tens of billions of pounds of savings would be funnelled into various rail, bus and road projects across the UK.

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However, despite backing the project under Sir Keir’s time as Labour leader, Mr McFadden said that the party would not be reversing the decision at the next election if the Conservatives followed through with it.

Labour will not undo HS2 decision, Pat McFadden has confirmed to the Yorkshire PostLabour will not undo HS2 decision, Pat McFadden has confirmed to the Yorkshire Post
Labour will not undo HS2 decision, Pat McFadden has confirmed to the Yorkshire Post

He said that now that land is starting to be allocated for new uses after the Government decision to lift its protections, and that funding is being diverted to new projects, the party is forced to look at what it inherits.

“The change the county needs will have to start from the situation that we do inherit, not the one that we wished we’d inherited,” he said.

He added that the new projects earmarked for funding by Mr Sunak in his speech, such as a tram network for West Yorkshire and a new station in Bradford should not be undone to fund HS2.

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“We do not want to be in a position where we’re creating more uncertainty and threatening to cut funding from other projects in the future,” he said.

It comes as a spokesperson for Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, said that he “shared the frustrations” of one member of the public who wrote to him regarding a major policy announcement being made to the media, rather than to MPs in Westminster during Parliament’s recess.

More widely, when asked about the party’s vision for Yorkshire and Levelling Up at the next election, Mr McFadden said that current projects announced by ministers would also be honoured.

“Where things have been committed, where money has been committed, we’re not in the business of cancelling anything like that,” he said, adding: “We want to give people certainty. If money has been committed, they will get the money.”

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It comes as Huw Merriman, the rail minister, confirmed that the £100 million, 2-year study into the feasibility of getting HS2 trains to Leeds and upgrades to Bradford would now be shelved, as it is “no longer relevant” less than three months after it was announced by ministers.

Mr McFadden said the backdrop of several projects being re-announcements of policies scrapped under Rishi Sunak and previous prime ministers showed that the current Government cannot show itself as a party of change at the next election.

“He’s actually done us a favour by admitting that the country needs change,” he said, adding that “simply cancelling a railway line” isn’t a radical offer, and that it is “not credible” that the party who can deliver that change is the Conservatives.

Yesterday Labour won the Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election in Scotland in what the party hailed as a “seismic” victory against the SNP which saw a 20.4 percent swing towards Sir Keir Starmer’s party.

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Polling experts said the margin of victory suggested that Labour could be on the way back to becoming a significant political force in Scotland which could in turn pave the way to a workable majority in Westminster after next year’s general election.