Mark Harper torn apart by Kay Burley over timing of Rishi Sunak’s HS2 decision

Mark Harper quizzed over Rish Sunak’s HS2 video

Tory Transport Secretary Mark Harper was torn into by Kay Burley this morning, who accused the Government of not being straight with the public.

Following Mr Sunak’s conference speech, in which he confirmed the Manchester to Birmingham leg of HS2 will no longer go ahead, a video was posted to the Prime Minister’s Twitter feed explaining the new policy to the public.

However journalists quickly picked up on the fact the video was clearly filmed in Downing Street.

In addition, the suit and tie worn in the video appear to have last been donned by the Prime Minister on September 29 – almost a week before the Government came clean on its HS2 plans yesterday.

The revelation could potentially cause a headache for Mr Sunak, not least because of continued insistence on the record – and to key players like West Midlands Mayor Andy Street – that no decision had been taken to scrap the project until this Tuesday evening.

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Pressed on the timing of the HS2 decision, Tory transport secretary Mark Harper claimed despite the video being filmed before Mr Sunak left Downing Street, no decision had been signed off until Tuesday.

“I took the formal final decision on Tuesday, and it was agreed by the Cabinet at its meeting on Wednesday morning and then announced properly by the Prime Minister to the country in his conference speech”.

“I don’t really know why people are getting so het up about this particular issue.”

Ms Burley didn’t accept his exasperation, pointing out: “You knew about it at the beginning of the week and you didn’t tell us!”

“Why did he record a video saying it had been scrapped when it hadn’t been?”

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After Mr Harper repeated that the decision had only been taken by Cabinet yesterday morning, the Sky presenter doubled down: “Why did he say it had been scrapped when it hadn’t then, because you say a decision was only made on Tuesday, this was filmed at least before last Sunday”.

The Transport secretary said he and Ms Burley “could keep going around this circle if you want, I’ve been very clear about what happened with the details”.

“I’m very happy to answer the substantive questions about the decision we made for your viewers”.

A furious Kay Burley cut him off, saying: “Ok minister, with due respect I do the questions if you don’t mind – I’ll decide what I’m asking you during this eight minutes that we have!”

Two days after he seemingly filmed a video confirming the scrapping of HS2’s northern leg, he told the BBC: “Look, there’s already spades in the ground and we’re getting on with delivering it”.

“I’m not going to comment on all this speculation. We’ve got a project, we’ve got spades in the ground and we’re getting on with it but it’s right to focus on levelling up.”

The PM’s spokesman said: “The decision was taken by cabinet this morning. Of course the prime minister has done a lot of work on it over a number of weeks but legal responsibility of the decision lies with the transport secretary and a decision isn’t a decision until the cabinet signs it off”.

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