Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Seventh Report

Summary of conclusions and recommendations

35. Our principal conclusions and recommendations are:

(a)We recommend that the transport-related Executive Agencies should continue to take steps to improve the ways in which they communicate and consult with staff, customers and other interested parties (paragraph 6).
(b)We note the efforts made by both the Department and by the Executive Agencies to establish effective oversight of the Agencies by the central Department. Nonetheless, we recommend that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions examine closely its relationship with the transport-related Executive Agencies to ensure that they are properly accountable and transparent to Ministers, and so to Parliament and others (paragraph 7).
(c)We recommend that the Government and the DVLA continue to work together to ensure that the Agency is able to employ enough staff and to gain the other resources it needs to meet all of the new challenges it faces (paragraph 8).
(d)We recommend that the Driving Standards Agency give driving schools direct access to the DTCS booking system, as was promised, as soon as possible (paragraph 11).
(e)Driving a vehicle without a driving licence is a criminal offence, which is not excused by the cost of obtaining a taking the driving test. Nevertheless, we recommend that as part of its research into unlicenced driving the Department examine the impact of higher fees for the driving test on the decision of some drivers not to take the test (paragraph 14).
(f)We recommend that the Driving Standard Agency employ adequate numbers of senior examiners and other staff, so that it is able to ensure that the driving test is of a high and consistent standard, and that Approved Driving Instructors are examined promptly and 'check tested' frequently (paragraph 16).
(g)We exhort the Driving Standards Agency to keep driving test centres open where possible, and to open new centres where appropriate, in order to ensure that access to the driving test is made as straightforward as possible for all sections of the population (paragraph 18).
(h)We recommend that the Driving Standards Agency reassess the means through which it consults with driving schools, its customers and other interested parties over the closure of driving test centres, and put in place a process which enables their needs to be given due weight. We also recommend that the Agency institute a procedure through which interested parties can appeal against a decision to close a driving test centre. Finally, we recommend that the Agency publish the criteria on which it decides to close driving test centres (paragraph 19).
(i)Although we welcome the introduction of hazard perception testing by Autumn 2002, we question why its introduction has taken, and is to take, so long (paragraph 21).
(j)We urge the Chief Executive, and other senior managers, of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency to continue to seek to modernise management structures and attitudes within the Agency. The commitment of managers to modern management techniques appears to be questionable. We support efforts by the Agency to promote a more participative, open approach (paragraph 23).
(k)The Maritime and Coastguard Agency must at all times ensure that adequate numbers of suitably-qualified staff are on duty in Coastguard stations, having regard to the distances between Coastguard stations (paragraph 24).
(l)we record our continuing opposition to the closure programme that is part of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency's Five Year Strategy. We continue to be concerned about the introduction and operation of the new digital Integrated Coastguard Communications System, a matter to which we are likely to return in a future inquiry (paragraph 25).
(m)The Highways Agency has not excelled at communicating with the public and interested parties in the past: although there are some signs of improvement, we urge the Agency to take further steps to become open and responsive in future (paragraph 27).
(n)Although we welcome the target for resurfacing rolled concrete roads with quieter materials within ten years, we urge the Highways Agency to complete the process of doing so more quickly if possible (paragraph 28).
(o)We are profoundly concerned about several aspects of the evidence we have received about the introduction of RAB at the Highways Agency, including the way in which the outside contractor was originally appointed to advise the Agency, the processes through which he, and his company, were then able to secure two further contracts with the Agency worth, in total, more than £9 million, the total cost of implementing RAB at the Agency, and the time taken to do so. We are not satisfied with the explanations we have so far received about these matters from the Agency and from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. We recommend that the Government urgently investigate these matters, and all aspects of the introduction of RAB at the Highways Agency, examining their propriety, whether they comply with relevant domestic and European legislation, and whether the costs incurred and the time taken to implement RAB have been acceptable. Finally we seek further reassurance that the decision to move the Head of Internal Audit from the Agency was not influenced by the fact that he had raised concern about the implementation of RAB: the Government should conduct further inquiries into that matter. We intend to return to this matter in the future (paragraph 34).

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