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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 440 - 455)



  440. May?
  (Mr Newey) Yes. It depends what the particular type of inspection is. There is something called an initial operator's visit where you are looking at perhaps a sample of vehicles but also the general facilities on the site. We might be asked by the Traffic Commissioners or we might, on our own initiative, want to do a fleet inspection where we go in and tell the operator we want to look at every single vehicle on the site and wait for some others to come in for example.

  441. How many of such inspections have you done at the request of the Traffic Commissioners, let us say, within the last 12 months when figures are available?
  (Mr Newey) I have not got a number in my head. We spend around £3 million on the activity annually answering those sort of requests.

  442. Can you supply that information to us?
  (Mr Newey) Yes.


  443. Is it still the case there are Traffic Commissioners operating from offices outwith the regions they normally have to deal with?
  (Mr Newey) I think they are more rationalised now. I think there are still some boundary discrepancies. It is not my field.

  444. I understand that but you have emphasised, Mr Newey, more than once intelligence. This has been the basis of many of the things you have said this afternoon. "We target people more, we try and keep an even-handed approach between foreign vehicles and British vehicles and we rely on intelligence and we swap intelligence." Traffic Commissioners are a big source of accurate intelligence about the industry.
  (Mr Newey) Yes. We have full access to the Traffic Commissioners and the Traffic Area Offices' data bases with details of operators, their licences and so on, we can get that irrespective of any boundary issues. We can always get that information in full and complete.

Mr Donohoe

  445. Are there variations between regions as there used to be or are they more inclined to have similar rates of examination? That was a major problem at one time, was it not, that you had a pro-active Commissioner in Scotland but the exact opposite—and I will not say where—somewhere else in the United Kingdom?
  (Mr Newey) Yes, there are variations, and the Traffic Commissioners produce annual reports which show what those variations are. In terms of VI's role in meeting Traffic Commissioner's requests, I think it is true to say last year we managed to answer all their requests for work within a very reasonable period. To some extent checks can be initiated either by the Traffic Commissioners or by the Vehicle Inspectorate so there can be a balancing act there if you like.

  446. What are you doing to standardise that approach across the whole country?
  (Mr Newey) We are not strictly standardising because if, for example, in one part of the country the general condition of vehicles as measured by annual tests and so on is better than in others, then we will give relatively less attention to that part of the country, and there are these variations which are fairly consistent over the years. So there is some variation in our targeted approach.


  447. Do you want to tell us what the creation of the Driver Vehicle Operator strategy board has produced in the way of benefits?
  (Mr Newey) I think it has produced benefits on probably three levels. First of all, because it involves not just the DVO Agencies but the Department as well working together we have a better strategic outlook on things. For example, we are looking at ten year strategic plans to talk about what we think the major changes are going to be in our industries.

  448. How often do you meet?
  (Mr Newey) About every month to six weeks.

  449. Who fixes the agenda and who writes the minutes?
  (Mr Newey) There is a task force which serves the deputy secretary in the Department, Willy Rickett, who is chairman of the Strategy Board. Just to return to the advantages and the benefits at the strategic level, we are certainly delivering better policies on the ground through better co-ordination, and very much in line with the current Government's intention of modernising government we are looking at delivering much better joined-up services to customers on the ground, that is the 25 million motorists who have to have an MOT every year, for example, and, also in my case, the goods and PSV industries.

  450. That all sounds very cheerful, what steps are taken by the Department to oversee your activities. All of you, that is.
  (Mr Bennett) From my point of view, I have come in relatively recently but we have regular meetings with the Minister.

  451. How often did you meet the Minister last year?
  (Mr Bennett) I have only been here for three months but I have seen him twice, so about once every six weeks; formally that is. In addition with the Department, we have an advisory board which meets three times a year, and I have been to two of those, I think.

  452. How often does anybody at ministerial level come and see your facilities?
  (Mr Bennett) Relatively regularly, I do not think he has been since I have been there but certainly Lord Whitty has been down to see DVLA, and we encourage regular visits. In fact, Willy Rickett, for example, the Director General, Transport, Strategy and Planning, has been down recently and spent a day with us at the DVLA.

  453. Mr Harvey?
  (Mr Harvey) About the same sort of level. We would see Lord Whitty about twice a year at VCA and a couple of times additionally elsewhere, in London or wherever. We have two advisory board meetings a year with senior members of the Department. We have a very regular relationship with our policy people in Vehicle Standards in the Department.

  454. Mr Newey?
  (Mr Newey) A similar picture. Lord Whitty has been to Bristol twice in the last year.

  455. There are advantages in having Ministers in the House of Lords.
  (Mr Newey) And he has in his diary two dates for the coming year.

  Mr Donohoe: He is going to be in office, is he?

  Chairman: Ignore that. Gentlemen, you have been very tolerant, it has been very interesting. The Committee are anxious to keep a continuing watch on what is happening in the Agencies, as I am sure you realise. It may be an inconvenience to come and see us but you will always be welcome and we can expect to see you again before long.

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