HC Deb 27 May 1993 vol 225 cc683-4W
Mr. Dunn

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what plans he has for the future of his Department's executive agencies; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor

My plans are as follows:

  1. (a) DVOIT: preparations for the privatisation of the agency are proceeding to timetable, with the aim of completing the sale by about the end of this year.
  2. (b) The Vehicle Inspectorate: the consultation document issued last September said that standard setting and enforcement will continue to be provided by the agency. That remains my firm intention. I am grateful to all those who commented on the options described in the consultation document for the future provision of the testing of heavy goods vehicles and passenger carrying vehicles. I have carefully considered those views and have concluded that, in principle, VI's testing activities are suitable for transfer to the private sector, provided 684 effective arrangements can be made to ensure that road safety standards are protected. The scope for this transfer is to be given further study. A copy of a letter to be sent to interested bodies about this has been placed in the Library; copies are available from my Department on request. I shall reach a final decision and announce it when the further studies have been completed.
  3. (c) Transport Research Laboratory: I believe that the laboratory should be transferred to the private sector so as to enable TRL's managers and staff to compete more effectively for research work both here and abroad. I am appointing consultants to advise me on the options for privatisation and their feasibility.
  4. (d) The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, Driving Standards Agency and the Vehicle Certification Agency: As my hon. Friend indicated on 20 November 1992, Official Report, columns 406–407, we have been looking at the options for these agencies as part of the normal reviews of their framework documents. I have now concluded, on balance, that there should be no change in the status of DVLA at this stage.
  • In the case of the Driving Standards Agency, I am not satisfied that fair and uniform standards of testing could be secured if the work were contracted out, without disproportionate enforcement arrangements. The agency was awarded the charter mark last year and I want it—like DVLA—to concentrate on further measures to improve the quality and efficiency of its services.
  • The first priority for the Vehicle Certification Agency over the next few years is to ensure the smooth and effective adaptation to the new EC arrangements for whole vehicle-type approval. The options for privatisation and contracting out will, however, bg reviewed again for all three agencies in three or four years time. Meanwhile, I have asked the chief executives to make full use of the market-testing initiative to secure best value for money.