§ Lord Laird
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether the current waiting time for an MoT at the Belfast centre is almost two months; and, if so, what steps they are taking to change this state of affairs as a matter of urgency. [HL3929]
§ Lord Williams of Mostyn
The average waiting time for an MoT appointment at the Belfast centre is currently 6 and a half weeks, with a maximum waiting time of 9 weeks for about 40 per cent of customers. Customers who are willing to travel to other test centres can get tests in shorter periods. For example, average waiting times last week for the Larne and Downpatrick centres were just over three weeks.
The principal causes of the current waiting time difficulties have been a significant increase in demand and the temporary closure of test centres for the installation of new test equipment—which in turn requires an extensive programme of staff training. Demand at the Belfast centre has been particularly affected by the current temporary closure of Mallusk, which handled 13 per cent of the agency's throughput last year.
The Mallusk centre will reopen on 16 August 2003, and the programme of refurbishment across all centres will be completed in September. In the meantime a number of steps are being taken to alleviate the position. These include: continuing efforts to recruit additional staff; increased overtime working; longer opening hours; diverting technical staff from other duties to testing; working with the equipment supplier to secure higher levels of productivity; better public information and awareness, so that customers have the option of choosing centres with lower waiting times; and relocating staff in order to match capacity and demand as closely as possible.