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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360 - 379)



  360. Are you satisfied with the number of fines which are not enforced because of your poor records?
  (Mr Bennett) I am not satisfied, no. I think it would be very wrong to say we are ever satisfied. What I think I am satisfied with is that the record accuracy is improving insofar as we can affect that record, and that we are prosecuting more successfully and avoiding a lot more missed payments.

  361. Errors on driving licences are increasing at the moment when you issue them.
  (Mr Bennett) I am not aware of that.

  362. I thought the figure we had showed that you were slower at turning them around and that there were more inaccuracies on the licence.
  (Mr Bennett) My understanding is that on the ordinary driving licence turnaround we had had some problems in performance terms, that is true, and we are taking longer to turnaround licences than had been the case. In fact that has now been largely addressed and for the last three months we have been hitting the Secretary of State's target. However, for the year we missed it by about three days. I am not aware of inaccuracies.

  363. What level of accuracy do you achieve?
  (Mr Bennett) In terms of driver licence accuracy, and address, honestly I do not know. Overall accuracy on our data base against the data that is available which we can check against the record, we know is about 2.1 per cent inaccurate.

  Chairman: We are looking for the relevant annexe to quote back at you your own information.

Mr Donohoe

  364. The point is that there is an acceleration, is there not, of bad performance within your Department on issuing licences in the timescales required?
  (Mr Bennett) No. As I say, it was quite poor. We had a problem on ordinary driving licences issue earlier last year because of the problem of photocards on licences and the additional checking which needed to take place. In fact that was addressed very strongly and since November, December, and this month so far, we are well inside the target. If you take the average across the year, by the end of the year we will have missed the overall Secretary of State target by three days. So, yes, we had a problem, we addressed that—you are probably aware that the photocard checking is now done at post offices so we moved out the issue, renegotiated the contract, and took the pressure off the system.

  365. Why are you continuing with the issue of ordinary driving licences? Surely all driving licences which are re-issued should be with the photograph?
  (Mr Bennett) That is right, they are. All of the ordinary driving licences are with photos, but the photocard side of the driving licence has made the process that much more complex because we have to check passports, for example, for identity. That has increased the time frame.

  366. How many of these are you issuing a year?
  (Mr Bennett) Driving licences?

  367. Yes.
  (Mr Bennett) About 5.4 million a year.

  368. That figure must decrease every year, surely?
  (Mr Bennett) We are talking about changes to driving licences, are we?

  369. Any issue of any driving licence must drop, surely?
  (Mr Bennett) I can get that figure if you want it.

  370. It is dropping, is it?
  (Mr Bennett) In overall applications?

  371. Yes.
  (Mr Bennett) No. In overall applications we are getting around 5.4 million.

  372. The driving licence is for life, is it not?
  (Mr Bennett) Yes, but the photocard licences are catching up, so we are getting—

  373. How many years is it between one licence and another with a photograph on it?
  (Mr Bennett) The photocard licence runs for ten years now because of the picture because there is a need for a new photograph. Before it used to run probably for life.


  374. I want to remind you of your own target from your own information. Your performance against the Secretary of State's targets on customer service targets for 1997-98 is 98 per cent—98.1, 98.6, 98.2, and in the year to date, 97.8.
  (Mr Bennett) On the accuracy?

  375. Yes.
  (Mr Bennett) The figure I have is 97.9, yes.

  376. You do not think that is a deterioration?
  (Mr Bennett) It is slightly under target. The target is 98 so we are behind but it is pretty close. Yes, we have certainly got to push it.

Mr Donohoe

  377. Why have been you unable to meet your targets in terms of answering telephone calls to your Agency?
  (Mr Bennett) Why are we not able to meet them?

  378. That is right.
  (Mr Bennett) In terms of the telephone calls, we had a problem. There were at least two areas, one was the photocard licences and the other was on the telephones.

  379. It took me 25 minutes to get through to you one day.
  (Mr Bennett) Telephone lines were a particular problem and indeed we had a full report completed on that and have put a lot of effort into it. We had a Catalyst consultant in to look at all of the aspects of the telephone area—

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