Minister warns Brown over spending cutbacks

Adonis will not accept sacrifice of £8bn high-speed rail line amid pressure on public finances

Lord Adonis, the Secretary of State for Transport , has become the first senior minister to launch an offensive against cuts to his major spending plans, ruling out any withdrawal of support for his ambitious high-speed rail line despite growing pressure on the Government to cut some big projects.

In an interview with The Independent, Lord Adonis issues a clear message to sceptics as well as to the Prime Minister that he will not tolerate any attempt to sacrifice the high-speed line, which could cost the public around £8bn.

It comes as pressure grows on Gordon Brown from his own party to "come clean" over spending and admit that some sacred cows will have to go. Data released by the Centre for Economics and Business Research today suggests that around £100bn in tax rises and spending cuts will be needed by 2018 to restore the public finances.

The Prime Minister's support for a high-speed rail line, ultimately linking London to Glasgow, was central to the deal that saw Lord Adonis move to the Department for Transport (DfT) last year. Allies believe he could walk out of Mr Brown's Cabinet should backing for the project waver. The Government's spending plans beyond 2011 remain a mystery, though the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, has promised that more details of future spending will be laid out ahead of the next election. Mr Brown has said that "hard choices" will have to be made, but has stubbornly refused to reveal where spending cuts will come.

However, Lord Adonis signalled that he will not compromise over his chosen pet project, despite the prospect of a decade of spending cuts. "High-speed rail is a long-term project. The fact that we have constrained finances for the next few years shouldn't lead us to constrain our ambition," Lord Adonis said. "On the contrary. What we're planning for is the infrastructure we will need over the next generation. We won't be spending serious money on it for at least five years. The bane of infrastructure planning in this country has been the failure to think for the long term and to cancel projects because of very short-term funding constraints."

The jockeying among ministers for a major slice of a limited pot of money is set to kick off in earnest after the Pre-Budget Report in the autumn, when Mr Darling will announce his projections for the economy. The Independent understands that some tentative discussions over future spending plans have begun at an official level.

Currently, several departments are working on the basis that they will continue to be looked upon favourably by the Treasury. Officials at Ed Balls' Department for Children, Schools and Families are hoping that the Government's pledge to raise the compulsory age for education or training to 17 in 2013 and 18 two years later will save them from major cuts. However, the Secretary of State for International Development Douglas Alexander's aid budget is only guaranteed to rise until 2013. No commitments have been made beyond then.

Doubts over the future of high-speed rail have increased over recent weeks, with Britain's transport budget already under intense pressure – and it could yet be raided further to prop up other departments. The recession has triggered clauses committing the Government to help rail companies cover losses in expected revenue, while the renationalisation of the East-coast mainline rail franchise also looks set to leave a hole in the DfT's accounts running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

But Lord Adonis said that "neglect on the part of successive governments" had left Britain's transport infrastructure lagging behind that of other countries. "I believe passionately that we will only become a thoroughly modern country when we have a thoroughly modern transport system," he said. "Developing the plan for high-speed rail is as big a reform as we have carried out. The Prime Minister is absolutely committed to that, too. If we are going to be a successful country in the 21st century, we are going to need a modern rail system that must include high-speed rail between our major conurbations."

He admitted there would be "difficult decisions" to make on spending over the coming years, but high-speed rail must not be included in any cuts or delays. "The difference between doing it [the high-speed line] soon and doing it in another generation would be huge," he said. He is determined to have a clearer read out of costing and timescale for the project by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the Labour MP Jon Cruddas told The Independent that Mr Brown needed to end his Government's "sense of denial" over the future of spending. "We can only start to have the debate about what we will champion when we acknowledge the consequences of a massive, global recession," he said. "I don't know anyone who doesn't realise spending cuts are coming – they understand that the world has changed. But we are letting the Tories off lightly by not comparing what our priorities are to theirs in the new financial climate."

Yesterday, Britain's top civil servant also warned that any future government would have to deal with the "immense" challenge of much tighter public finances. Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, told the BBC that future ministers would have to decide where their priorities lay in light of shrinking budgets across Whitehall. Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman, has also called on both the Tories and Labour to concede that some "big programmes" will have to go.

News
peoplePerformer had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer
News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Media baron Rupert Murdoch owns News Corps and 20th Century Fox
theatrePlaywright David Williamson is struggling to find a big name to star as the media mogul
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
books
Life and Style
tech

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Functional/Full Life Cycle

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Systems Tester - Functional/Non-Func...

SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfordshire - £350 - £360

£350 - £360 per day: Ashdown Group: SQL Developer with T-SQL, Watford, Hertfor...

Business Intelligence Consultant - Central London - £80,000

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Intelligence Consultant - C...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?