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Welsh Government accused of hypocrisy over pursuit of fair share of HS2 spending

10 Oct 2023 3 minute read
Plaid Cymru Leader Rhun ap Iorwerth

The Welsh Government has been accused of  hypocrisy and “inconsistency” over its position on ensuring that Wales gets a fair share of the spending committed to the blighted HS2 scheme.

The UK Government announced last week that it was pulling to plug on the Northern leg of the multi-billion pound route it had designated as an England and Wales project.

As a result, unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, Wales doesn’t receive Barnett consequentials from spending on HS2 because national rail infrastructure in Wales is reserved to the UK Government.

The England/Wales designation was originally justified with the assertion that there would be benefits to parts of Wales, including reduced journey times when the £180 billion project reached Crewe.

Politicians from all parties in Wales had argued that the decision has effectively robbed Wales of up to £5bn in rail infrastructure investment that it would have received if the project had been designated as a project only affecting England.

England only

In the Senedd today(10 October) Mr ap Iorwerth referred to a written response from the Welsh Government, in which the Council Genera,l Mick Antoniw, acknowledged that the decision to cancel the Birmingham to Manchester HS2 route “makes the case even clearer that HS2 is an England only project” and that the Welsh Government is giving considering to all options available to challenge the decision, “including legal avenues.”

However, when challenged by the Plaid Cymru leader in the Senedd, First Minister Mark Drakeford refused to say that the government would pursue a legal challenge against a Keir Starmer-led Labour administration at Westminster.

“The Labour party can’t have it both ways. They can’t say on one hand that the Conservative UK Government should pay Wales the compensation its owed as a result of HS2, and at the same time say a Labour Government should be allowed to weight up different spending priorities. And they can’t threaten potential legal action against the Tory Government whilst refusing to commit to taking a Labour Government to court on the same issue,” he said.

“We know we can’t trust the Tories in Westminster. Their commitment last week to electrify the north Wales line unravelled as quickly as the Prime Minister took to find the back of a fag packet to scribble the original promise on.

“The Labour party and the First Minister are signalling that a Labour UK Government would also prefer to just talk a good game rather than act in the best interests of economic justice for Wales.

“Plaid Cymru will always stand up for fairness for Wales over HS2.”

Legal avenues

In his written response, Mr Antoniw said: “The decision to cancel the Birmingham to Manchester HS2 route makes the case even clearer that HS2 is an England only project. The Welsh Government is giving consideration to the options available to us to challenge this decision, including legal avenues, should the UK Government continue to classify it as an England and Wales project.

“Our current approach through Ministerial engagement, working with stakeholders and through the support of the Senedd is to request UK Government address comparability and secure the re-classification of HS2, and to address the fairness of England and Wales project investment decisions to enable greater rail infrastructure investment in Wales, particularly in light of the UK Government’s Network North announcement.

“However, if we cannot reach agreement through these arrangements, the dispute resolution processes, which were published as part of the Intergovernmental Relations Review in 2022, are operational and open to us.”


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Gareth
Gareth
7 months ago

Once again the Labour party here seem to be putting the union, England in this case, ahead of the people of Cymru. Why would people vote for this ? Kicked in the teeth yet again.

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
7 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

In practice the people of England aren’t going to benefit either, except London of course. “Network North” was merely a set of illustrative examples designed to dupe Red Wall Tory seats to vote Tory again. They won’t actually happen. I’m surprised they didn’t chuck a sprat at Tory-held Wrexham though.

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
7 months ago

More proof that Welsh Labour doesn’t exist in its own right, its a mere branch of the Westminster Labour Party. As such Welsh Labour can never fully represent Wales. Welsh Labour dances to the Westminster tune.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
7 months ago
Reply to  Linda Jones

Hopefully that’s something that a Starmer win come the next Westminster elections will make crystal clear, and why Plaid Cymru need to up the ante on Labour at Senedd level from now onwards and particularly after a Starmer win at Westminster.

Sally-Anne
Sally-Anne
7 months ago

Welsh Labour needs to buck its ideas up… This is not the same Cymru as before the pandemic, even people who don’t want Cymru to be independent can see that Wesdtmisnter is not good for us as a country (its not good for any of the countries in the “union”)… and though many will vote for Starmer’s Labour for many it is with clenched teeth, even amongst Labour voters. ..and Starmer has very clearly let us no that he doesn’t care about Cymru, because he knows that Labour have the Senedd and he knows that Welsh labour, just as other… Read more »

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
7 months ago
Reply to  Sally-Anne

Either that or try to get something in writing from Starmer before a General Election, regarding protection of devolution, extension of same, and no Tory-style financial sleights of hand a la HS2 and the ‘Levelling Up’ fund. Make any Welsh-branch support for UK Labour conditional on that, otherwise Starmer will exploit Drakeford’s loyalty, sure as eggs.

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
7 months ago
Reply to  Sally-Anne

As people may have gathered from posts I make on here, I don’t advocate independence, but I do think day-to-day autonomy and better representation is the way forward. The Westminster FPTP system is designed to maintain a Two-Party Dictatorship. Getting rid of it, and breaking England into federal regions, would be two things the UK could do to work better as a true union of equals, not a forgotten outlier of London. The UK government would look after civil defence and international relations, then the nations and regions would look after themselves, a bit like the Channel Islands do. You… Read more »

Richard Burton
Richard Burton
7 months ago

So Welsh Labour have written a letter to complain. They’ve got the votes in the bag either way. Plod on Cymru..

Peter
Peter
7 months ago

So Wales was never going to pay a Penny towards the building of the hs2, It was going to be paid for by the English tax payer. But now it is cancelled they want a share of the money that will be saved by not building it. Welsh Labour in a Nutshell, always wanting something for nothing. What is it that our Senedd don’t get? You only get something out of what you put into it. And if you don’t don’t put anything in, you don’t get anything out. I am afraid that the Welsh government are trying to run… Read more »

WilliamG
WilliamG
7 months ago

Unfortunately Wales is effectively a One Party State. Labour in Wales can do and say whatever they like and they will still get voted back in.

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