Minister claims HS2 will benefit Wales even after northern leg is scrapped
Wales will continue to benefit from HS2 even after its northern leg has been scrapped, a UK Government minister has claimed.
James Davies, a Welsh Office minister, faced questions about why extra devolved cash for HS2, known as Barnett consequentials, would not be given to Wales now that the part of the scheme said to most benefit Wales – the Manchester leg – had been scrapped.
The project has been classed as an “England and Wales” scheme by the UK Government, denying the Welsh Government extra funding on the basis that the Manchester section would benefit rail journeys along the north Wales mainline to Holyhead.
Facing questions in the Commons about HS2 following Rishi Sunak’s decision to scrap the Birmingham to Manchester leg, Dr Davies insisted the major infrastructure project would still benefit people travelling from London to north Wales because of the new tracks laid to Birmingham.
Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville-Roberts quoted the words of Welsh Secretary David TC Davies, telling the Commons: “‘HS2 is going to benefit Wales, it’s going to benefit people in North Wales who will benefit from better access at Crewe to London.’”
She added: “That was the Secretary of State’s central argument to withholding billions of pounds from Wales by claiming HS2 benefited us.
“Now, that the link at Crewe is another casualty of Tory chaos, will Wales Office ministers stay true to their own logic and urge the Treasury to class HS2 as English only?”
Dr Davies replied: “As she knows, rail infrastructure is not devolved and I would argue that investment in Great Britain’s rail infrastructure is of value to those in north Wales and the rest of Wales.
“Furthermore, HS2 is an important connection to the West Midlands, will be from London, and passengers from London to north Wales are likely to still use that.”
Shadow Wales minister Jessica Morden had earlier cast doubt on Network North, the series of infrastructure schemes announced by the Prime Minister to replace HS2, which is tipped to include electrification of the north Wales mainline.
Ms Morden listed a series of other decisions taken by the UK Government in Wales, telling the Commons: “Strong economic links are dependent on the Government actually having an economic plan, but this party opposite’s track record speaks for itself.
“They cancelled the electrification of the mainline to Swansea, they’re spending half a billion pounds and still potentially making up to 3,000 steelworkers redundant, and their pitiful semi-conductor strategy doesn’t even give us a bit part on the world stage.
“Why should anyone believe that their latest promises made for north Wales at a desperate party conference are worth the fag packet they are printed on?”
Dr Davies responded: “I would urge her to be somewhat more positive about the £1 billion that has been announced for infrastructure developments in north Wales by means of the electrification, and also I think in terms of the steel industry in Port Talbot, the half a billion pounds has actually saved very many jobs and also means that decarbonisation can occur.”
Elsewhere in the debate, Conservative MP for Aberconwy Robin Millar asked if ministers were still open to providing the Welsh Government with help to clear the NHS backlog in Wales.
“Twice the UK Government has offered the Welsh Government help in reducing patient waiting lists for important medical procedures. Neither offer has been taken up by the Labour Government in Wales,” he said.
Dr Davies responded: “Having spoken with the Department for Health I can indeed confirm that the offer still stands. He will find it of interest to know that the Labour Welsh Government did write in response to the latest offer several weeks after that offer had been made.
“Unfortunately the minister did not confirm whether they would accept the offer or not.
“In the interests of tens of thousands of patients, I would strongly encourage them to do so.”
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