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Rudd: new PM must press ahead with HS2

By Pete Madeley | Staffordshire | Politics | Published:

Theresa May's successor must press ahead with HS2 to prove a commitment to boosting Britain's economy, a senior government minister has said.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd

Amber Rudd has insisted that committing to the controversial rail project was a litmus test of whether the next Tory leader was serious about the UK's long term economic prosperity.

A number of Conservative leadership candidates – including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove – have questioned the future of the £56 billion line, predominantly over concerns about costs and usage.

The first phase of HS2 is set to run from London to Birmingham, with a second stage passing through 45 miles of Staffordshire countryside on its way to the north west.

Work and Pensions Secretary Ms Rudd, said: “HS2 is a very good example of thinking long term.

“I want to be part of a government that reaches across the whole of the country. A national government has to have national priorities. National projects have to come from the top.”

Mr Johnson is among Tory MPs who believe the project’s funds would be better spent on alternative schemes, including funding new transport links between northern cities and focusing on improvements to existing networks.

Others, including Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant and Stone MP Sir Bill Cash have expressed concerns over its impact on the environment.

Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss said last month HS2 would be considered as part of the government’s spending review.

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In an interview with the Financial Times Ms Rudd, who is part of the 60-strong One Nation group of moderate Tories, said she had not yet decided whether to stand for the leadership herself.

However, she is likely to have a key role in deciding who succeeds Mrs May when she eventually leaves Number 10.

So far former Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, International Development Secretary Rory Stewart and Commons leader Andrea Leadsom have confirmed their intentions to stand.

Ms Rudd said the economy was her priority, which was why she could never support a leadership candidate who was prepared to take Britain out of the EU without a deal. “The biggest threat to the economy is the threat of no deal,” she said.

She added that while the government was carrying out contingency planning for a no deal exit, nobody should ever want it to happen.

“It’s like you put on a seatbelt when you drive a car but you don’t necessarily want to crash the car because you’re wearing the seatbelt,” she said.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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