“Worst fears” realised as North braces for scaled back integrated rail plan

Elliot Chappell
© Jevanto Productions/Shutterstock.com
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Ministers will today unveil the long-awaited integrated rail plan. They are expected to drop the eastern leg of HS2 to Leeds and downgrade plans for Northern Powerhouse Rail, which will now not go through Bradford – the seventh biggest but worst connected major city in the UK – in a bid to save £14bn. Labour’s Jim McMahon described reported scaling down of the rail plans as “our worst fears” this morning. “There is no new money coming to the North of England,” the Shadow Transport Secretary said. “If you look at the original HS2 project, the most recent estimate was £110bn – even curtailing that back, we’ve now got on the table £96bn. Of the £96bn, £40bn is the Euston to Crewe link. That’s not investment in the North, that’s a London link.” Grant Shapps will announced the package at 10.30 am.

Boris Johnson attempted to draw a line under the sleaze row last night. Amending an opposition day motion from Labour calling for a ban on MPs’ second jobs, the government successfully managed to water down proposals. The Commons voted, 297 votes to none against (opposition MPs abstained), to restrict outside work to “reasonable limits” and ban parliamentary advice or consultancy. It is important to note that nothing has changed at this point – the code of conduct remains the same while we wait for final details to be drawn up by the cross-party committee on standards. According to The GuardianJohnson’s proposed rule changes would likely affect fewer than ten MPs. And, as Chris Bryant asked today, how do you effectively monitor whether they spend more hours than they should on their outside interest? You can’t help but feel the plans are purposefully vague to allow as much wriggle room as possible, and that maybe a blanket ban would work better.

Second jobs dominated the day yesterday – Johnson endured a difficult Prime Minister’s Questions session, with fewer Tories showing up than usual, and had to admit to the 1922 committee that he had “crashed the car” over the Owen Paterson scandal. But snuck out under cover of the Tory sleaze row was a significant change to the government’s means testing for its social care policy. Under plans announced in September, it was thought that any costs incurred would count towards a new £86,000 limit on care costs, after which point the state would step in. Ministers, however, are seeking to amend the Social Care Act 2014 so that only costs actually paid by a person – not means-tested help received from the state – will count towards the cap, meaning only wealthier people are likely to benefit. MPs are expected to vote on the change next week. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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