Scrap white elephant projects, says Truss
MINISTERS must be prepared to scrap expensive “white elephant” projects to help “unleash the economy” after Brexit, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury says today.
Liz Truss, who is leading a review of Government spending this year, says she will examine “all major investment projects” funded by Whitehall to judge their contribution to prosperity.
The announcement is likely to be welcomed by Tory MPs opposed to pro- jects such as the £56billion High Speed 2 rail line.
In an article hailing The Sunday Telegraph’s campaign for a greater defence of free markets, Ms Truss, seen as a possible party leadership contender, says Brexit should be used as a chance to give voters more control over their lives.
She says low taxes are “a route to self-determination” and suggests Britain should be learning from Tokyo’s liberal planning system as a model for creating more affordable homes. She also warned against a “spending bidding war with Labour”. She states: “We will conduct a zero-based capital review – examining all major investment projects across government and judging their contribution to future prosperity.
“We will also look at how budgets contribute to human capital, including how much they genuinely boost aspiration and opportunity. In reviewing this evidence, we must be prepared to junk the white elephants, the programmes that haven’t worked.”
Take Back Control is the defining political message of our time, but what does it mean in practice? To the Left it translates as putting power in the hands of the Government to run our lives. For the Conservative Party, Take Back Control must mean lifting up the individual – and that’s why we launched our Campaign for Capitalism last year, to promote a smaller state, freer markets and economic liberty.
Liz Truss, in an excellent article in these pages, makes it clear that she agrees with us, and the reader can infer some incisive criticisms of the status quo. There has been “mission creep” in government; “vested interests” shape policies to their own benefit. Ms Truss calls it “bad politics to think we could ever win a spending bidding war with Labour”, which is precisely what the Government has tried to do with its pledge to splash £20billion on the NHS. Labour has promised to match the figure and increase it.
Moreover, when Ms Truss makes reference to “white elephants”, many readers could probably draw up their own list, from green energy projects to the foreign aid target, and not forgetting the hulking great mammoth that is HS2. High speed rail’s original price tag was £34billion; it now stands at £56billion and some fear it could cost over £100billion. There will be benefits, of course, but they will be swamped by such mindbogglingly high costs. The Government has got to stop plugging away at this expensive scheme and have the courage to drop it. The money should either be used for tax cuts or for small, highervalue-added projects, such as road bypasses.
As Ms Truss writes, the solutions to a lot of Britain’s challenges lie in looking abroad: to Japan for railways, to Canada for infrastructure and America for energy policy. The goal should be to deliver value for money and expand opportunity and autonomy. Freedom doesn’t just bestow material wealth, it has a moral quality, because when people are truly independent they have to take responsibility for themselves and their families and thus make better choices. Hopefully the Conservative Party will seek to return real control to the people in 2019.