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Labour Conference: no 'blank cheque' for HS2

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls has insisted there will be no ‘blank cheque’ for HS2 after reports that the Labour Party would review the project, should it come to power after the general election in 2015.

Today shadow chancellor Ed Balls said a Labour government would establish an independent infrastructure commission to “end dither and delay in infrastructure planning”.

He said the party supported a new north-south rail line but costs for HS2 had spiralled and there would be “no blank cheque” for the project from a Labour administration.

He criticised the coalition government, which he said had “totally mismanaged” the scheme.

He said: “David Cameron and George Osborne have made clear they will go full steam ahead with this project – no matter how much the costs spiral up and up. They seem willing to put their own pride and vanity above best value for money for the taxpayer.

“Labour will not take this irresponsible approach. So let me be clear, in tough times – when there is less money around and a big deficit to get down – there will be no blank cheque from me as a Labour Chancellor for this project or for any project.

“Because the question is - not just whether a new High Speed line is a good idea or a bad idea, but whether it is the best way to spend £50 billion for the future of our country.”

Meanwhile Labour leader Ed Miliband is expected to reveal the party’s plans for a big expansion of housebuilding in his speech on Tuesday.

According to the Financial Times, Mr Miliband will say the party would oversee the construction of thousands of new homes should it win the next election.

Meanwhile shadow chancellor Ed Balls told The Times that the maximum price of properties that could be bought through the government’s Help to Buy scheme was too high and risked causing a bubble in London and the south east.

The scheme provides loans for 20 per cent of the value of properties worth up to £600,000.

At a fringe meeting on Sunday MP Catherine McKinnell said a future Labour government would make housebuilding a priority.

At the same meeting councillor Mike Roberts, a member of Labour’s housing group, said the group would discuss the idea of lifting restrictions on local authority borrowing and introducing a land value tax to replace business rates and stamp duty with Labour’s shadow Treasury team. He also said he favoured rent controls to deal with unaffordable rises in rents.

Chuka Umunna, shadow business secretary, promised an inquiry into blacklisting in the industry. He also said apprenticeships would last a minimum of two years and be level three qualifications.

Labour leader Ed Miliband is due to speak to the conference tomorrow.



Readers' comments (1)

  • How when the supply chain of materials and labour appears to be unable to build current targets

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