Esther McVey has says she will not be backing Government plans for tax rises unless HS2 is scrapped.
In an exclusive GB News interview, the Conservative MP criticised the Government for “overspending”, blaming “ballooning” prices of projects such as HS2.
Esther McVey has been a long-term critic of HS2. Image: GB News
“You’ve got to prioritise your spend, you’re not in financial difficulties because you’re overtaxing, what you’re doing is overspending and that’s what you’ve got look at”, Ms McVey said.
The GB News presenter continued: “Something like HS2 is what you’ve got to look at. Lots of people call it a ‘White Elephant’.
“It’s ballooned in price from £35-37 billion to £150 billion, and I did say if you’ve got an open-ended bill on this, then surely you’ve to sort that out before you go to the hard-pressed public and ask for money.”
Ms McVey has long opposed HS2, warning Dominic Raab at Prime Minister’s Questions not to ask Tory MPs to support any tax rises unless the project is scrapped.
The request came ahead of the highly-anticipated autumn statement, which Jeremy Hunt will deliver in the House of Commons on Thursday.
HS2 has been dubbed the 'White Elephant' by many of its critics. Matthew Cooper
A range of tax rises and spending cuts are expected, with Deputy Prime Minister Raab saying the Government has got “some very difficult decisions to make”.
Ms McVey told the Commons: “Given that we have the highest burden of taxation in living memory, it is clear that the Government’s financial difficulties are caused by overspending and not due to under-taxing.
“Does the Deputy Prime Minister therefore agree if the Government has got enough money to proceed with HS2 at any cost, then it has sufficient money not to increase taxes?
“If, however, it has so little money it has to increase taxes, which is the last thing for a Conservative government to do, then it doesn’t have sufficient money for HS2?
“So can I gently urge the Deputy Prime Minister not to ask Conservative MPs to support any tax rises unless and until this unnecessary vanity project is scrapped because I, for one, won’t support them.”
Mr Raab said he understands her “opposition to HS2”, before adding: “I think we have got some very difficult decisions to make, they will inevitably involve a balanced approach, I will leave it to the Chancellor to set them out in the autumn statement tomorrow.”
In a recent written statement, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said that “the approximate cost range for the elements of the scheme committed to by the Government for Phases One, 2a, 2b Western Leg is £53-71 billion in 2019 prices”.
A spokesman for HS2 told the PA news agency: “With over 350 construction sites active between London and Crewe, three giant tunnelling machines currently underground, and works started on our viaducts and stations, HS2 is on budget and making fantastic progress.
“Furthermore, the project is providing work for almost 30,000 people, with tens of thousands more jobs supported through our wider supply chain, and more than 2,700 companies awarded HS2 contracts to date. HS2 is zero carbon public transport that will play a vital part in the Government’s ambitions to level up the Midlands and North.”