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The hon. Lady mentioned the workplace parking levy, and of course it has been seen that the tram extensions proposed are closely linked to the plans for a workplace parking levy to be implemented in Nottingham, although of course there is no requirement for them to be so and it is open to the city council, if the tram did not go ahead, to introduce that levy if it wished to do so. Workplace parking levies are one of a range of measures available to local authorities for improving local transport and tackling congestion. Nottingham city's plan to implement a levy is very much in accord
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with the coalition's localism agenda, and I want to make it quite clear from the Dispatch Box tonight that whatever individuals in the House think about that levy, our view is that it is entirely a matter for the local authority to decide whether that goes ahead or not; it is not a matter for the Government to intervene in.

The hon. Lady also mentioned the Nottingham rail hub and improvements to Nottingham station. I know that work is in hand to develop plans and prepare for improvements in Nottingham railway station and the surrounding areas under the Nottingham hub scheme. That includes work to complete the necessary agreements to enable the scheme to proceed. I should deliver the usual health warning about the current financial climate, which the hon. Lady is well aware of, and the fact that we cannot offer assurances at this particular time about taking forward a scheme, although, as she referred to the contribution from the regional development agency, I would just say that obviously if the scheme could be reduced in cost in some way, that makes it more likely to proceed. I hope she might take that message back to colleagues and others in Nottingham. We in the Department do believe, however, that it is a good scheme, which has the potential to deliver wider benefits, including the regeneration and employment benefits that the hon. Lady mentioned, in addition to improving transport links in Nottingham.

It is clear that we face a challenging period. Tough decisions to tackle the UK's budget deficit have been necessary, and they are ongoing. I appreciate, however, that it is not easy for people to see schemes with considerable local support, that have been in development for many years, being put on hold and given an uncertain future. The Government have identified that the most urgent priority is tackling the deficit, and the Department for Transport must play its role in that process. The Department will be in a position to identify major investment that can be supported only after the Government's spending review has been concluded. In a period in which we face tight financial restraint, it is essential that we take a step back and consider which schemes should be prioritised. That is the only way we can put ourselves in a strong position to make the best use of available funds and to establish a strong base for the future development of the transport system.

I would not want the hon. Lady to go away from the debate with a negative impression, however. We face challenges, but we have a strong approach to address them, and the Department wants to work to deliver outcomes that meet national and local needs, and to improve the country's transport infrastructure. We are keen to use whatever tools we can to achieve that.

I thank the hon. Lady for the invitation to visit Nottingham, which I shall be happy to accept, because a tram ride with her is an irresistible suggestion. I look forward to seeing some of the excellent schemes that Nottingham city has been delivering.

Question put and agreed to.

6.26 pm

House adjourned.

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