By Jonathan Isaby
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Welsh Secretary Cheryl Gillan's private opposition to the proposed High Speed Rail scheme is well known. It would dissect her Chesham and Amersham constituency in Buckinghamshire and her local Conservative association has already stopped paying into CCHQ coffers in protest.
A couple of weeks ago, the Sunday Times (£) quoted her as saying that if necessary she would sacrifice her ministerial career to oppose HS2 in public:
“If the proposals go through as they are, I cannot vote for them. If that happens, the prime minister must decide whether he wants me to continue as a minister or not… This project goes right through my backyard and I have never made any secret of my opposition to it. If the project goes ahead, I would resign the whip unless the prime minister tells me he would allow me to vote against it."
This prompted Labour MP Susan Elan Jones to ask at Welsh Questions yesterday for an assessment on "the potential effects of High Speed 2 on the economy of Wales".
"The Government are currently consulting on a new national high-speed rail network. That is part of a wider programme of modernisation of the rail network, including electrification of the Great Western main line to Cardiff."
But this prompted Elan Jones to ask a very direct question of the Secretary of State:
"I have heard of trains cancelled because of snow on the line and leaves on the line, but never before because of the Secretary of State on the line. The high-speed rail link, HS2, would bring great benefits to Wales, but our Buckinghamshire-based Secretary of State opposes it. If our Secretary of State will not stand up for Wales, why does she not resign?"
Gillan batted away the question thus:
"I thank the hon. Lady for her close interest in my career. The Government are having an open consultation on HS2, and now that she has expressed such a great interest in the subject, we will expect her representations."
By coincidence, David Cameron was at her said as she spoke, as it immediately preceded Prime Minister's Questions.