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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40 - 59)




  40. Is there any independent system by which either you or the other instructors can appeal for some independent assessment of the use of a centre by the general public and by yourselves?
  (Mr Cameron) No.
  (Mr Atkinson) No, we are not aware of any.

Mr O'Brien

  41. Would the independent complaints adviser, who is part of the structure put in place by the Secretary of State, accept your complaints?
  (Mr Cameron) Probably so. We usually try to do it through the good offices of the Chief Executive.

  42. I am looking at this document which does say that the Agency has appointed an independent complaints adviser who will deal with complaints where appropriate. Are you saying that you have not made a complaint to this person?
  (Mr Cameron) No, we have not.

  43. Why not?
  (Mr Cameron) Because we usually try to deal with the Chief Executive and take the view that that is the best way forward.


  44. But you are not getting the answers, are you?
  (Mr Cameron) In some cases no.

Mr O'Brien

  45. But this is a Government appointed person, so would that not be a better Agency to complain to?
  (Mr Cameron) Probably so.

Mr Donohoe

  46. Why are you so woolly on this? If your business is being affected, as it is, why are you not shouting from the rafters? Why do you not employ people to lobby the Government, to say this Agency is a waste of space? Why sit back and say you have nowhere to go?
  (Mr Cameron) I suppose in some ways it is because we have to work with this Agency and what we desperately try to do is have a good and reasonable working relationship with them and that is not always the best way of pursuing it by going above their heads. It is a new Chief Executive and we like to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he is going to do things slightly differently.

  47. How many meetings a year do you have with him?
  (Mr Cameron) We have one official one but we do see him and his officials fairly frequently.

  48. How many times have you seen him or his predecessor in the last year?
  (Mr Cameron) Three times. We see his officials on different aspects of their whole operation, as opposed to just servicing.

  Mr Donohoe: So if I were to sum up the relationship between you, you would say it was totally unsatisfactory, would you?


  49. Supine. You are very large, you are very powerful, you are very rich, yet you accept that if somebody decides to shut down one of the main outlets for your business, you do not want to say too much about it in case you upset the person in charge.
  (Mr Atkinson) I do not think I would interpret it that way.

  50. No, that is my interpretation. That is why we are asking the questions. Let us take Oxford for example. When did it close?
  (Mr Atkinson) It closed prior to September last year.

  51. What has happened since.
  (Mr Atkinson) During the period September to November test waiting times were excessive in our view and they have started to ease.

  52. How much business did you lose?
  (Mr Atkinson) It is very difficult to assess how much business we lost because nobody could get a driving test. It was not just BSM, it was pupils in general could not get a driving test.

  53. I understand that but you are telling us that for two months nobody in Oxford could get a driving test.
  (Mr Atkinson) It was very difficult.

  Chairman: Yet you did nothing to complain about it.

Mr Donohoe

  54. Did the people who were paying you to learn to drive continue to have driving lessons during the period of the delay?
  (Mr Atkinson) In some cases not.

  Mr Donohoe: That is perhaps why you do not have a great deal of need to make representations about the extended timescale for driving tests.


  55. You are being asked how much profit you made in that period.
  (Mr Atkinson) Is that from that particular one centre in Oxford or are you talking about the organisation as a whole?

  56. We are just interested in this particular centre.
  (Mr Atkinson) I could not give you a figure off the top of my head as to what profit.

Mr Bennett

  57. You would agree that actually you benefit financially, do you not, because people had to take refresher courses while they were waiting for the test?
  (Mr Atkinson) I am sorry, I do not accept that it is in our interests at all to have driving tests delayed for an excessive period. It is not in the pupils interests, it is not in our interests. We are not in a situation of keeping quiet with DSA in order to promote profit for the organisation. That is not in our interests and not in the interests of pupils who are learning to drive. It is very disadvantageous for everybody concerned.
  (Mr Cameron) It actually impinges on road safety. What usually happens is that rather than carry on having lessons a pupil will cut down the number of lessons because generally they have a budget which they work to in order to get the test and they cut down on lessons which means they are losing out and they are having to prolong the process of learning, which means they are probably not as good drivers when they eventually get on the road.

Mrs Gorman

  58. Has it ever occurred to you to write to your MP about this problem? Everybody else in the world does.
  (Mr Atkinson) We have occasionally taken that step and encouraged instructors to write to MPs as well. Our view is that we have a working relationship with the Agency, we have access to the Chief Executive of the Agency and there is a process in place where we have a formal annual meeting with the Chief Executive and we raise the issues specifically at those meetings through his good offices and an open-door policy at an earlier time, if it is appropriate.

  Mrs Gorman: May I give you just a tiny piece of advice? If you want to poke a big stick at an official, the best way to do it is to go through your MP, because they do not have the kind of relationship which you have, meaning you have to keep them sweet in order that they do not give you trouble. I would recommend that you do that at a future date.


  59. I am sure that is good advice, but I want to come back to Oxford. Is the situation still the same today? Is there somewhere open in Oxford dealing with tests?
  (Mr Atkinson) There is one test centre open in Oxford when there were two.
  (Mr Cameron) They have imported examiners into Oxford to get the waiting list back down to something like normality.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 14 May 2001