Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) (Con)
Will the hon. Lady please explain which wards in the city council will benefit from the tram but are those in which she says 60% of people do not have access to public transport?
The wards are those such as Clifton South in the city and places such as the Meadows, which I wanted to talk about. The Meadows and Clifton are two areas of my constituency that suffer from significant social disadvantage, including high unemployment, low skills and low educational attainment. Clifton also has a disproportionate number of pensioner households and a large retirement village. The tram will transform those communities, regenerating their neighbourhood centres and offering full accessibility for people with mobility difficulties, including wheelchair and motorised scooter users, and it will provide a vital link to workplaces and training providers. But most importantly, it will bring jobs. The Centre for Economic and Business Research projected that between 4,000 and 10,000 new jobs would be created by NET phase 2. All this, and a hugely positive impact on the environment—cleaner air and a healthy cut in carbon emissions—make this scheme well worth investing in and excellent value for money.
I am delighted to know that the Minister is a fan of light rail, and I know that he is fully briefed on Nottingham’s tram. I certainly welcomed his comments earlier in the week at the parliamentary tea for light rail when he said that local funding was a matter for local people. He knows that the local funding for Nottingham is secure. The mechanism is in place. So I hope that he will give his backing and the backing of his Department for this exciting expansion of light rail in the UK.
Last but not least, I want to draw the Minister’s attention to the Nottingham hub—the £67 million station improvement project to be jointly delivered by the city council and Network Rail to transform our railway station into the sort of modern transport interchange that the city needs. Everything is in place between the city council and Network Rail. The only piece of the jigsaw that is in doubt is the contribution from East Midlands Development Agency. We in Nottingham value EMDA and the important role that it has played in the city and the region. Securing its future is a discussion for another day, but we hope that the changes to regional development agencies will not be allowed to undermine this project and the opportunity to create a wonderful new entrance to the city.
Earlier this week the Prime Minister spoke about the review of spending commitments and said:
“Projects that are good value for money and consistent with the Government’s priorities will go ahead.”—[Official Report, 16 June 2010; Vol. 511, c. 868.]
I know that we in Nottingham can demonstrate that our plans meet this test. Can we afford to go ahead with these schemes? The real question is, “Can we afford not to?” and the answer is most definitely no. These transport schemes are absolutely vital to the economy of Greater Nottingham and the East Midlands region. They will deliver on jobs, on regeneration, on cutting unemployment and on improving access to training and skills. They will help us to meet the targets for a greener low-carbon future. They represent excellent value for money. If we need to be a bit more flexible on what we are asking for, tell us. We will be, but do not leave us stuck in the slow lane when it comes to economic growth. It would be short-sighted and very costly to delay these well-thought- out, well-planned projects for the sake of small savings now.
As I draw my remarks to a close, I would like to ask the Minister the questions that people in Nottingham are asking me. Have the Government produced an analysis of the impact that delaying or cutting these projects will have on local and regional economic growth? What criteria will the government use to assess which major projects to continue funding? When will the decisions be made and who will be making those decisions?
Finally, will the Minister accept my invitation to come to Nottingham to see the congestion we face on the A453, to enjoy a trip on the tram, to look at the exciting plans for the railway station and to hear from residents, businesses and councillors from all parties about why investing in our infrastructure is vital for the future of Nottingham?