29th Jun, 2022

PM visits factory near Coventry - and says he is 'reluctant to scrap' HS2

John Carlon 14th Nov, 2019 Updated: 14th Nov, 2019

PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson brought his election campaign to Coventry’s doorstep yesterday (Wednesday November 13) with a speech at the London Electric Vehicle factory.

During his visit to Ansty Park, the Prime Minister was asked by The Observer about the delayed consultation into the controversial HS2 rail project – 54 kilometres of which will cut through Warwickshire.

He said: “Any new government that’s come in with something that’s costing the thick end of £100 billion, the responsible thing to do is to get a proper review of that project.

“What I wanted Lord Oakervee (leader of the HS2 commission) to do is to look at the profiling of the spend, the sums that were being spent and where it was being spent, and to see whether the taxpayer is getting value for money. He is going to report on that a bit later on.

“You have to ask if it is being profiled in the right way, and if you should be saving money, asking if there ways of doing it better.

“If it’s a massive national project involving a huge new piece of infrastructure, in theory for the long term benefit of the country, then I am very reluctant instinctively to just scrap it.

“We are going to look at the cost, and if we can save money we will.”

A leaked draft copy of the consultation was revealed to The Times this week, which show the project has been recommended to go ahead despite spiralling costs reaching £88billion.

During his tour of the LEVC factory, the latest models of all-electric London taxis are built, Mr Johnson spoke of his warm relationship with company owner Chairman Li, who bought the heritage Coventry manufacturer in 2012.

Asked if he felt comfortable having British Steel and London taxis run by Chinese companies, he said: “When it comes to critical national infrastructure, particularity telecoms, you have to make sure you strike a careful balance in being able to attract investment but not jeopardise our security co-operation with our very valuable Five Eyes partners.

“When it comes to investment in the London Taxi Company, or British Steel, the strategic concerns are perhaps less worrying.

“In an ideal world I would want UK ownership. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t wonderful opportunities and we are doing our best to attract those opportunities from around the world.

“I look at business here in the West Midlands and the history of Jaguar-Land Rover, in the last twenty years I would say the Tata investment did help to make things a lot better. They were very progressive.

“You have got to have an open and dynamic economy.”

The Prime Minister used his visit to push for his Brexit deal, for the sake of Britain’s ‘psychological health’.

Mr Johnson also turned his guns on the possibility of a post-election ‘Corbyn-Sturgeon technicolour coalition of chaos… that would cause more dither and delay.’

In the first speech of his general election campaign, the PM laid out his plans for a green agenda, supporting electric vehicles, cycling infrastructure, tree planting and clean air.

Speaking to workers at the factory, he hailed the opportunities he believes will come from his Brexit deal: “We will maximise all the opportunities of Brexit, from freeports to free trade deals, from cutting VAT on tampons to banning the cruel export of live animals.

“We can then take back control of our money, our borders and our laws.”

But he refused to apologise to residents of the Derbyshire and South Yorkshire, hit by damaging floods in the same week – where his delayed reaction to the deluge has been criticised.

Spending promises made during the visit included £2billion for colleges, £780million for special educational needs and £18billion for research and development over the next parliament.

Asked if the funds would compensate regional universities for losing access to European research funding and free movement of staff across the EU, Mr Johnson said: “It’s perfectly open for us to participate in all the European programs. Researchers come from across the world and we will maintain an open and welcoming system.

“I am in favour of immigration by talented people to this country, but it is important to have democratic control.

“Postgraduates will find it easier to stay on and get jobs, so they don’t run into visa problems. We have announced a big expansion in Tier 2 visas for scientists and academics so they find it easier as well.

“We will ensure that this country is more outward looking than we have been before.”

The general election takes place on December 12.

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