Welsh Government accused of hypocrisy over pursuit of fair share of HS2 spending
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.
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.”
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.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.