Minister Splutters As Kay Burley Spots She Just Contradicted Government's Position On HS2

Kay Burley and minister Rachel Maclean
Kay Burley and minister Rachel Maclean

Kay Burley and minister Rachel Maclean

Rachel Maclean was left red-faced after she ended up contradicting the government’s recent statements on HS2 this morning.

HS2, the high-speed rail project at the heart of the Conservative pledge to level up the country, has made headlines after reports that the government is thinking of scrapping sections of it.

Defence secretary Grant Shapps told the media on Sunday that it was “irresponsible to keep ploughing money into the HS2 project”, suggesting it would be “crazy” not to review the soaring costs.

Sky News’ Kay Burley then asked Maclean on Monday morning when the public can expect more details on an announcement around HS2.

She replied: “I’m not expecting any announcement in particular, when there is an announcement it will come forward.”

Burley asked: “So there isn’t going to be an announcement?”

The MP replied: “I don’t know if there’s going to be an announcement or not.”

As she was reminded of the defence secretary’s recent comments around funding for HS2, Maclean said she’s just seen “speculation” in the media and that the chancellor and prime minister have to consider the costs around such a project.

She added: “Our focus is on delivering HS2.”

The Sky News host responded: “Ah, so Grant Shapps is wrong? So your focus at the moment is on delivering HS2? All of this speculation is incorrect?”

Maclean insisted: ″The focus is on delivering HS2.”

Burley asked if that meant the government were also focused on transport for the north-west – and if the northern section of the high-speed railway would be safe.

Maclean replied: “As I said, I’m not here to make an announcement about HS2. You’re asking me about speculation that was in the media.”

The Sky News host pushed, again: “OK, just to clarify, you’re pausing it not cancelling it?”

“No, there is no announcement at the moment,” Maclean said. “You’re asking me about speculation and reporting. It’s not for me to say, I’m the housing minister.”

“You’re representing the government,” Burley pointed out.

But Maclean just maintained that it was not for her to make an announcement about the progress of HS2.

She added that the chancellor Jeremy Hunt was right to keep reviewing funds at a time when finances are under pressure.

She was also asked on Times Radio that if HS2 is cancelled, levelling up will still stand. Maclean replied, saying "absolutely", and pointed to a series of other community projects around the UK which are linked to its central policy.

"As a government minister I always worry about every penny," she said.