Chancellor sparks HS2 row

Chancellor George Osborne, centre, visits Pulman Steel, Sowerby Bridge. With managing director David Shoesmith, left, and Halifax PPC Philip Allott.
Chancellor George Osborne, centre, visits Pulman Steel, Sowerby Bridge. With managing director David Shoesmith, left, and Halifax PPC Philip Allott.

The Chancellor George Osborne was in Sowerby Bridge this week to see first-hand the work being done by steel firm Pulman and Sons.

During the visit he outlined the importance of the HS2 high speed rail link for the future of our economy and called upon Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls to make it clear where he stands on the issue.

Mr Osborne said: “HS2 is an essential part of the long-term economic plan for the country and for Yorkshire.

“That’s what I think and that’s what the local Labour councillors think.

“And under the Conservatives that project will definitely go ahead with all the jobs and benefits that will bring.

“It’s not just about the high-speed lines, it’s about better lines across the Pennines, it’s about better local transport.

“I’d like to see the Calder Valley line be electrified - that would improve journey times around here,” he said.

Mr Osborne was less clear about where a Conservative government would make the £12 billion of welfare cuts it has pledged to the electorate.

He said: “People can see our track record over this parliament. We’ve reformed welfare in a way that protects the most vulnerable - we’ve increased payments for the most disabled, for example.

“We’ve said that if you’re capable of working, you should be working - it’s not fair to yourself and it’s not fair on those who pay taxes if you sit on welfare.”

Holly Walker-Lynch, Labour PPC for Halifax, said: “The Labour Party has made it crystal clear that we support HS2, so I’m not sure why George Osborne has come all the way to Halifax to suggest otherwise.

“Most local people had hoped that he was going to announce his support for the electrification of the Calder Valley line or possibly to join Labour in committing to get rid of the outdated Pacer trains, but sadly not.

“Another Tory just turning up for a photo,” she added.