Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20 - 39)



  20. Are you saying that because of lack of trained personnel the hazard test cannot be introduced until 2002?
  (Mr Cameron) No, the Driving Standards Agency feel that there is a need to research and test the questions etcetera before they can implement it. Our view is that it could have been implemented earlier but that we are happy that it is going to be implemented rather than not implemented, though we feel it could have been implemented earlier.

  21. I am looking at a document published by the DSA in winter 2000, so it is a current document, and they refer to the hazard perception, outlining how it will apply, who it will apply to and how the test will work. If the documentation is there, and this is what they are issuing to people, why is it going to take so long for it to be brought in?
  (Mr Cameron) That is a very good question and we questioned the same thing ourselves.


  22. Did you get an answer?
  (Mr Cameron) No, we did not. The answer we did get was that there was a need to make sure that there were sufficient scenarios in order to make the test a viable and proper test. We believe that is still no excuse and that it should be brought in much earlier. If it is important from a road safety point of view, then our conception is that it should be in much earlier.

Mr O'Brien

  23. I referred to best practice in my previous question and you said yes, this is being pushed by the Agency and you accept that. Is this against best practice that it is taking so long to introduce the hazard test?
  (Mr Atkinson) It seems an undue delay to get the test.

  24. As against the best practice.
  (Mr Atkinson) Yes; as against the best practice.

  25. Have you made representations on that particular issue to any other body than the Driving Standards Agency?
  (Mr Atkinson) To the DETR in general.

  26. What was the response from the DETR?
  (Mr Cameron) That they are guided by what the Driving Standards Agency tell them that they can do in the time that is available.

  27. So we have invented the wheel.
  (Mr Cameron) Yes; re-invented the wheel again and again.

Mr Donohoe

  28. What representations have you made about the rationalisation which is taking place as far as test centres themselves are concerned?
  (Mr Atkinson) We do not appear to be consulted on the estate which the Driving Standards Agency have; we merely receive notifications of changes to the estate in that if test centres are closing or if new centres are opening we are informed of the event rather than consulted upon it. We have not particularly given formal representation to the Agency about the test centre closures which have taken place, although informally we have consulted with the Chief Executive about particular issues which have taken place. We have referred to situations.


  29. Do you not mind where they are? Why have you not said anything about it?
  (Mr Cameron) We have asked on a number of occasions to have some idea of the template which they use to decide which centres are going to be closed.

  30. Surely they set that out at the beginning of their report.
  (Mr Cameron) Not to any great extent.

  31. Have you questioned them in detail?
  (Mr Cameron) Not in any great detail and we have asked on many occasions for a template to decide how far from one centre somebody will have to travel. Unfortunately the DSA have not been able to come up with that as yet.

Mr Donohoe

  32. Do you think that is in fact the reason for the backlog of people waiting for their driving test? Do you believe this is part of the reason?
  (Mr Cameron) There seems to be an ad hoc decision to close a centre more on the cost of the centre, we feel, rather than on the requirements of the number of people in that area, the demographics, etcetera. We feel it is very much judged on cost rather than on necessity and certainly not on priorities from the public's point of view.

  33. You do not accept then that they are providing a service in real terms.
  (Mr Cameron) We accept they are providing a service, but not as good as it could be.

  34. A very poor service.
  (Mr Cameron) Yes, and certainly as far as test centre closures are concerned it would seem that there is no real ability to judge why they are closing the centre and when they do close a centre then that does cause terrible problems with regard to bookings.

  35. In a practical sense what example do you have of that which you might be able to furnish us with? Do you have one?
  (Mr Cameron) Yes. For example, they recently closed one of the centres at Oxford and that meant that they were totally unable to give anybody a test in Oxford for the conceivable future. They would not open the books far enough in advance to provide a test at all. It is purely because one centre had been closed. In fairness I have to say it was not closed because DSA wanted to close it, it was closed because the lease ran out and they were unable to renew the lease.

  36. When that happens in an area, surely you make representations in letter form to the Chief Executive. What responses are you getting to any of those letters you write? You must do that surely. It is affecting your business.
  (Mr Cameron) We usually get the answer that they have a problem, they are trying to overcome it, they are desperately trying to get another centre. One of the difficulties is that this does not raise its head until such time as the problem is actually there.


  37. How much notice do you get then?
  (Mr Cameron) Of a test centre closure?

  38. Yes.
  (Mr Cameron) For the one in Oxford none at all.
  (Mr Atkinson) We get notification, we get the press release in effect that the test centre has closed.

Mr Donohoe

  39. You do not get any notice at all.
  (Mr Cameron) No, not with one like that. The reason for that was because they were in negotiation with the landlord and there was a possibility that that could come to a successful conclusion, so they did not want to go public. The problem is that it throws into total disarray any planning for somebody trying to learn to drive.

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