Shadow chancellor also unveiled plans to ‘get Britain building’

The Labour Party will commission an independent expert inquiry into HS2 to work out how future infrastructure can avoid cost overruns, the shadow chancellor has announced.

In her speech to the party conference in Liverpool today, Rachel Reeves attacked the government’s failure to keep costs on the rail project under control and claimed Britain had become the “sick man of Europe” when it came to major project delivery.

“By the time this government even recognised that they had a problem, the project was already £30bn over budget,” she said.

rachel reeves

Source: Labour Party

Rachel Reeves speaking at the Labour party conference in Liverpool earlier today

“The question must be: how was it ever allowed to get to that point? If I were in the Treasury, I would have been on the phone to the chief executive of HS2 non-stop, demanding answers and solutions on behalf of taxpayers, businesses, and commuters.”

Reeves also revealed that she had asked Darren Jones, shadow chief secretary to the treasury, to work with industry experts and trade unions to examine every major government capital project “line by line” to ensure that she could “get Britain building again” on day one of a Labour government.

The shadow chancellor’s speech also outlined her plans to cut waste in government, through a variety of measures including cutting money spent on consultants, and a firm approach to fiscal restraint.

She said a Labour government would legislate so that the Office of Budget Responsibility would have to issue forecasts for any major change in tax and spending.

Reeves re-iterated the Labour Party’s plans, trailed this morning, to cut planning red tape.

The party’s proposed reforms to planning policy would see priority areas of the economy – including battery factories, laboratories and 5G infrastructure – fast tracked.

Meanwhile, communities would be given incentives for allowing development, clearer national guidance would be set for developers to avoid unnecessary litigation and the stamp duty surcharge paid by non-UK residents would be raised to 3% to pay for 300 new planning officers.

Addressing the last of these policies at a fringe event earlier today, the vice-president of the Royal Town Planning Institute said it was “not enough [but] a start”.

“I think what we need to be thinking about is the building the pipeline of planners,” said Lindsey Richard.

“We’re talking about immediate action needed for immediate resourcing but then we need to be thinking about short term and then longer term. So it’s around building that pipeline, making sure we’ve got more apprenticeships.”