Dáil Éireann - Volume 618 - 03 May, 2006

Written Answers. - Driving Tests.

Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Transport if he remains committed to using the private sector to reduce the driver testing waiting backlog; if so, the way in which he intends to do this; when it will commence; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16258/06]

Ms McManus asked the Minister for Transport the way in which he intends to reduce the waiting times for a driving test in view of the ongoing difficulties in increasing the number of driving tests. [16222/06]

  Mr. Cullen:I propose to take Questions Nos. 90 and 171 together.

I refer the Deputies to my reply to Question No. 502 on Tuesday 25 April. As I have indicated on a number of occasions, the delay in providing driving tests is a matter of regret to me. I believe it not only represents a poor service to the public but it is also hampering the development of initiatives which I wish to pursue and which will contribute further to road safety. The driving test and those who deliver it are a key element in the road safety strategy.

It is my objective to eliminate the backlog of driving tests by mid-2007 and my Department has developed a package of measures in consultation with staff interests to achieve this. Additional staff have been made available to the driving test service. 7 additional testers have been trained and are carrying out tests while a further 10 driver testers are due to commence training shortly.

I am pleased to acknowledge that a very high number of the existing driver testers have indicated that they will participate in a bonus scheme which commenced in February and will make a significant contribution to the reduction of the backlog. My Department is still in a position to offer early tests to those applicants requiring an urgent test, once they provide satisfactory documentary evidence of the reason why.

An important element of the package of measures to reduce the backlog was a proposal to contract out a set of numbers of driving tests. The Civil Service Arbitration Board has determined that, otherwise than by agreement, the contracting out of core work of driver testers to a private firm is not contemplated or permitted by the provisions of paragraph 21.9 or by any other provision of Sustaining Progress.

However The Board urged a resumption of discussions at which all options — and they emphasised all options — should be considered, with a [1316] view to ensuring that a solution is implemented without delay. My officials are currently in discussions with the Unions in relation to a way forward with a view to dealing with the backlog by the middle of 2007.