December 13 2013 Latest news:
Annabelle Dickson, Political Correspondent
Monday, October 28, 2013
Suffolk MP David Ruffley is gearing up to defy the government over its controversial north-south high speed rail project this week saying his scepticism has intensified in the wake of a report which suggests this region’s economy could be hit if it is built.
The Bury St Edmunds MP says he intends to abstain in Thursday’s vote leaving the government in hot water as it faces a growing rebellion against the High-Speed 2 rail project, with the Labour Party also set to be luke warm about the £50bn project.
It comes after figures in a consultants report obtained by the BBC through a freedom of information request suggested Suffolk’s annual output could fall by almost £78 million.
It is thought that about 60 Conservative may not back the government and with the Labour Party set to impose a one-line whip - meaning MPs do not have to turn up to vote if they do not want to - the project could be in jeopardy.
Mr Ruffley said: “From when the government in this parliament started banding around the benefits for UK plc I was always sceptical. The idea that it will yield in growth to the British economy of £60 billion - depending on which figures you rely on - I never thought it was realistic.”
He added that the Department for Transport had not provided a “convincing denial” of a previously unpublished report suggesting there could be a negative impact on Suffolk.
He said: “Here we are told for the first time officially in a report which had to be unearthed that we could be worse off with HS2. My concerns grow with each year that passes. I have very strong reservations about it.”
Across the border in Norfolk, MPs Richard Bacon and George Freeman also have concerns about the project and said they needed questions answered, particularly about the cost of the project, before they give the government their backing.
Fellow Suffolk backbencher Peter Aldous however will give the government his support, saying hat rebalancing the economy towards the regions was central to the future prosperity of the UK.
“Much of the work I’m doing in Waveney has this objective as it is important that all regions have every opportunity to grow,” he added.
Witham MP Priti Patel, who is leading the Essex lobbying efforts for improvements to the East Anglian rail network said High Speed 2 could open up new economic growth, jobs and investment opportunities and claimed the project was not being pursued at the expense of other infrastructure schemes.
“Under Labour, just nine miles of existing tracks were electrified, Essex was ignored and our transport infrastructure fell behind our international competitors. Network Rail will now be pumping around £2 billion into the rail network in the East of England and I am working with colleagues, rail users, businesses and local authorities to push for more improvements to the Great East Main Line, as well as for our roads including the A12 and A120 to be upgraded.”
Former rail minister and Chelmsford MP Simon Burns said he believe that suggestions that East Anglia would lose out if HS2 was built was a “bogus” argument.
He said: “Obviously wherever you have a major infrastructure programme there will be benefits where that programme is and the top side is that it is estimated to £15 billion worth of benefits to those parts of the railway that are going to have the railway.
“Of course Norwich or Ipswich are not going to get the benefits because they are not on the line of route.
“What we have got to do is make sure that the service along the whole of that route into East Anglia is improved.”