Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20
WEDNESDAY 10 JANUARY 2001
MR D BIZLEY,
MR P ATKINSON
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.
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
27. So we have invented the wheel.
(Mr Cameron) Yes; re-invented the wheel again and
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.
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
35. In a practical sense what example do you
have of that which you might be able to furnish us with? Do you
(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
37. How much notice do you get then?
(Mr Cameron) Of a test centre closure?
(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.
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.