Balls: Labour wouldn't give "blank cheque" for HS2 as "a Chancellor should not be a cheerleader"


Shadow chancellor Ed Balls said at today’s CBI conference that Labour supports HS2 as a new north-south rail link, but that its support depends on keeping costs down.

“As Chancellor I would be a strong advocate for infrastructure investment,” Balls said. “But the Chancellor should never become a cheerleader for any particular project.”

Last week MPs approved funding to prepare for the high-speed rail network, which will operate between London and Birmingham and Manchester and Leeds.

“The Labour Party cannot and will not give the government a blank cheque,” he said.

“That is what you would expect from any credible opposition seeing a government desperately mismanaging a project.

“And that is what is happening here with the costs having shot up to £50bn – indeed the costs have gone up by a staggering £10bn in the last year alone. […]

“We will put the national interest and the taxpayer interest first. We will take a hard-headed look at the costs and benefits of the scheme to ensure this is the best way to spend £50bn for the future of our country.”

His comments came after David Cameron’s address, in which the PM underlined his “passion” for HS2 and said he plans to “drive every bit of cost out of [HS2] that we can”.

Speaking at the conference earlier today, Cameron said: “I ask everyone across politics to put their own interests aside – and put the national interest first.”