Simon Jenkins: HS2 lobbyists are embedded in the Whitehall machine led by contractors and consultants
“Modern government is addicted to multi-billion-pound prestige projects, from aircraft carriers and health computers to the Olympics and HS2. This reflects the power of headlines, but also of industry lobbyists embedded in the Whitehall machine.
“Last week the chairman of the committee on standards in public life, Sir Christopher Kelly, warned that ‘preferential access to decision-makers’ by powerful interests was damaging respect for Whitehall.
“But what he merely called ‘no smoke without fire’ is a raging inferno, influencing campaigns for military procurement, runways, academy schools and planning changes. Contractors and consultants promised ministers and officials untold glory in return for contracts.
“The HS2 lobby has been led by contractors and consultants who manoeuvred themselves into what has become almost an arm of government. They promised ministers and officials untold glory in return for contracts. The lobby was actually set up by transport officials in 2009 to press their case, largely with the Treasury.
“Since then the HS2 project has been allocated an astonishing £750m of public money – enough for how many schools or hospitals? – without a single spade being turned and before any decision was made to go ahead.”