Prime Minister Rishi Sunak repeatedly refused to say if the UK would build the flagship HS2 high-speed rail line to Manchester, where his Conservative Party’s annual conference is taking place this week.
(Bloomberg) — Prime Minister Rishi Sunak repeatedly refused to say if the UK would build the flagship HS2 high-speed rail line to Manchester, where his Conservative Party’s annual conference is taking place this week.
The future of HS2 has hung over the convention, amid reports Sunak is preparing to scrap the northern leg of the project. He told the BBC he’ll “look at the facts” before making a decision. The Tory mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, said Sunak would be turning his back on the party’s manifesto promise to “level up” disadvantaged regions if he pulled the plug on HS2.
Meanwhile members of his party are feuding over whether to take Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights, and senior Tories are calling on Sunak to cut the country’s tax burden from its highest level since World War II.
Read More: Sunak’s Indecision Puts Tory Rivals on Edge Ahead of UK Election
Key Developments, Stories:
- Health Secretary Steve Barclay, Home Secretary Suella Braverman to address conference on day 3
- UK Transport Chief Slams ‘Sinister’ Anti-Congestion Measures
- What Is the UK National Living Wage and How Does It Work? Q&A
(All times UK)
CBI to Sunak: Give Firms Clarity on HS2 (8 a.m.)
Rain Newton-Smith, the director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak should provide businesses with clarity over the HS2 high-speed rail line.
“We would encourage the PM to make sure we have a clear plan for HS2,” Newton-Smith told Bloomberg TV.
Sunak Says He’ll ‘Look at Facts’ on HS2 (7:40am)
Rishi Sunak repeatedly declined to confirm reports that he’ll scrap the second leg of the high-speed HS2 rail line between Birmingham and Manchester.
The premier told the BBC he would “look at the facts and take my time to get the decision right for the country.” He insisted he wouldn’t be “rushed” into making a “premature decision because it’s good for someone’s TV program.”
But in another indication that he is preparing to scrap part of the HS2 project, Sunak likened his approach to his recent decision to water down the government’s green agenda, and said that once he’s made the call on HS2, he would “take time to explain it to people.”
Untaken Decisions Overshadow Conference (Earlier)
Three pending decisions are overshadowing this year’s Conservative Party conference: the fate of the HS2 high speed rail project, whether Britain might seek to leave the European Convention on Human Rights, and when the government might be able to cut any taxes.
Sunak has been non-committal on all three. He’s refused to say he’s still backing the planned Birmingham to Manchester leg of the rail link, his aides say he’s yet to make up his mind on the ECHR, and Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt has said he wants to cut taxes, but he doesn’t have the fiscal headroom to do so at present, and moreover, it would stoke inflation and worsen the cost-of-living crisis.
Tory Mayor Warns Against Scrapping HS2 (Earlier)
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street warned Rishi Sunak against canceling the leg of the HS2 high speed rail project linking Manchester – where the party conference is taking place – to Birmingham, in the region he administers.
Street, who has played a key role in boosting the Conservative Party’s fortunes in the West Midlands, told journalists that if the premier scraps the northern leg of HS2, it would be akin to turning his back “on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to level up” opportunities nationwide. “You will indeed be damaging our international reputation as a place to invest,” he said.
The mayor said that private sector companies including Siemens, EY, Mace and Arup are willing to help support the government in delivering the project. “We know we’ve got to do this, and possibly even take some of it off the public balance sheet,” he said. (James Woolcock)
–With assistance from Lizzy Burden.
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.