Senior Tory warns she won’t support tax rises unless HS2 is scrapped

Esther McVey has threatened to vote against tax rises in the autumn budget (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA). (PA Media)
Esther McVey has threatened to vote against tax rises in the autumn budget (UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA). (PA Media)

A senior Tory has warned she will not support any tax rises in the autumn statement unless the Government scraps HS2.

Conservative former cabinet minister Esther McVey said the new high speed railway is an “unnecessary vanity project” as she told MPs it was clear the Government’s financial difficulties are caused by “overspending” and not due to “under-taxing”.

Ms McVey, who represents the Tatton constituency in Cheshire and has long opposed HS2, warned Dominic Raab at Prime Minister’s Questions not to ask Conservative MPs to support any tax rises unless the project is scrapped.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is due to deliver his highly-anticipated autumn statement in the House of Commons on Thursday, where he is expected to announce a range of tax rises and spending cuts.

The Deputy Prime Minister reiterated the Government has got “some very difficult decisions to make”.

During the Conservative leadership race in the summer, the now Chancellor said he would have made Ms McVey his deputy prime minister if successful.

HS2 tunnel boring machines (HS2)
HS2 tunnel boring machines (HS2)

Ms McVey told the Commons: “Given that we have the highest burden of taxation in living memory, it is clear that the Government’s financial difficulties are caused by overspending and not due to under-taxing.

“Does the Deputy Prime Minister therefore agree if the Government has got enough money to proceed with HS2 at any cost, then it has sufficient money not to increase taxes?

“If, however, it has so little money it has to increase taxes, which is the last thing for a Conservative government to do, then it doesn’t have sufficient money for HS2?

“So can I gently urge the Deputy Prime Minister not to ask Conservative MPs to support any tax rises unless and until this unnecessary vanity project is scrapped because I, for one, won’t support them.”

Mr Raab said he understands her “opposition to HS2”, before adding: “I think we have got some very difficult decisions to make, they will inevitably involve a balanced approach, I will leave it to the Chancellor to set them out in the autumn statement tomorrow.”

Mr Raab deputised for Rishi Sunak at PMQs, as the Prime Minister is away at the G20 summit in Bali.