Ministers are trying to use emergency powers to ban HS2 damning report.
Ministers' bid to block report that says HS2 is in danger of failing: Transport Secretary among those calling for PM to veto release.
Ministers are trying to use emergency powers to ban report
- Francis Maude and Patrick McLoughlin say it would cause 'difficulties'
- HS2 critics say the gagging attempt is ‘absolutely disgraceful’By ByTim Shipman
Ministers are trying to use emergency
powers to ban the publication of a damning report into the £50billion
High Speed Rail project.
Office Minister Francis Maude and Transport Secretary Patrick
McLoughlin called on David Cameron to veto releasing a report that
labelled HS2 ‘red/amber’ and in danger of failing.
They claim it would cause ‘political and presentational difficulties’ and could seriously damage the project.
HS2: Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude and Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin called on David Cameron to veto releasing the report
HS2 critics say the
gagging attempt is ‘absolutely disgraceful’ and are using Freedom of
Information laws to demand that the Project Assessment Review, from
November 2011, be published. The Information Commissioner has rejected
ministers’ objections and ordered them to release the report.
in a leaked letter to Mr Cameron, circulated to ministers, Mr Maude and
Mr McLoughlin urge that an emergency veto be put in place.
Such a veto is hardly ever used, but was deployed to stop publication of Cabinet discussions of the Iraq War.
Ministers are also considering whether to appeal against the Information Commissioner’s decision.
HS2 has faced widespread opposition and claims of soaring costs.
letter to Mr Cameron says: ‘Continuing with the appeal would create
political and presentational difficulties at a crucial point in the HS2
project’s development . . . [therefore we should] exercise the veto now
. . . Counsel has advised that we are very likely to lose the appeal.
consider that the importance the Government attaches to the successful
implementation of the HS2 project . . . justifies the use of the veto in
this case as exceptional.
of such recent information would also have a chilling effect on
assessments of other Government projects and, indeed, on advice prepared
for Government ministers on many other subjects.
‘Counsel has advised that it will be better to veto now rather than after an adverse tribunal decision.’
Francis Maude: He claims the report would claim it would cause 'political and presentational difficulties' and could seriously damage the project
A Whitehall source accused ministers of treating the report ‘like top secret intelligence’.
Government sources believe Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood wants
publication blocked because it would ‘create a precedent’ meaning all
Project Assessment Reviews would have to be released.
Jeremy is also blocking the release of correspondence between Tony
Blair and Gordon Brown and former US President George W Bush, which the
Iraq Inquiry wants to publish.
Despite calls for the appeal to be dropped, the Mail understands it is likely to go ahead.
sources predicted that if the Government loses the appeal – as its
lawyers expect – then ministers will apply the veto. ‘I’m sure that’s
what will happen,’ one insider said.
Rukin, of the Stop HS2 campaign, said it was ‘absolutely disgraceful’
that MPs and the public will not be given the information before a
Commons vote to approve HS2 next spring.
‘Trying to keep this secret is an absolute scandal,’ he said.
seems that David Cameron’s so-called transparency agenda is just a
fraudulent aspiration.’ The Department for Transport refused to comment,
but a source in the department said the latest review found that HS2
was only an ‘amber’ risk, rather than ‘red/amber’.
Cabinet Office source argued that it was in the public interest to
ensure that advice to ministers is not inhibited or watered down because
of concerns it may be made public.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on leaked documents.
‘This Government is proud to lead the world on transparency.
‘We have published over 10,000 datasets on health, education, justice and transport to drive up the standards of public services and improve accountability.’
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