§ 20. Mr. Biggs-Davison
asked the Minister of Transport what is the average time between applications for and the holding of driving tests in the metropolitan traffic area.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
The average time is 33 weeks. This is far too long, and waiting times everywhere must be reduced. New examiners are being recruited and trained, despite the present moratorium on recruitment in the Civil Service. A thorough review of possible measures to improve the situation further is well under way.
§ Mr. Biggs-Davison
Is my hon. Friend aware that in these summer months some of my constituents have been told that tests cannot be held after 4.15 p.m.? Is it also the case that tests are not being 1773 held on Saturdays, despite the accummulation of tests which should be held?
§ Mr. Clarke
We are looking at what can be done to make the best use of the manpower that we have. My understanding is that full use is being made of our examiners within present limitations. I will inquire into the local matters referred to by my hon. Friend, but, of course, tests are not held at times and in places where traffic conditions are so severe that they might adversely affect the candidates.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Do I understand from the Minister's original reply that, notwithstanding the Government's cuts in public expenditure, if there is a need for extra expenditure it will be forthcoming?
§ Mr. Clarke
We have a policy of recruiting civil servants where there is a need for them and not indiscriminately recruiting across the board. More important, the hon. Gentleman might like to reflect on the fact that these examiners are paid entirely from the fees charged to examinees. It is an entirely self-financing service, and no increase in public expenditure is involved.
§ Mr. Aitken
Since there is a pressing need to reduce driving test delay times, and since there is also a requirement to reduce Government expenditure and not to recruit new civil servants, will my hon. Friend give serious consideration to transferring the responsibility for these tests to the AA and the RAC, which would carry them out perfectly well under Government supervision?
§ Mr. Clarke
We are prepared to look at—indeed, we are looking at—every reasonable suggestion, but we must guard against anything that either reduces the standards of the testing applied or was even believed to reduce the standard of the tests required for the new driving licence applicants.