asked the Minister of Transport how many new driving test centres he expects to open in the next 12 months.
Most of the new examiners I am recruiting can be accommodated in existing centres. Some new centres will be required and I am discussing the provision of these with my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction.
Will my right hon. Friend say what are the limiting restraints on the provision of new test centres throughout the country?
One of the limiting factors at the moment is budgetary. The second is finding sites for the centres. Using my hon. Friend's constituency as an example, there is no site suitable at present to house a new centre. We are hoping that one will be found. I pay tribute to the pressure that my hon. Friend has brought on the Government on this matter.
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House how many of the new examiners that he hopes to appoint will be situated in the North-West of England, where the waiting list for driving tests is growing ever longer? Surely, some of the new centres should be situated in the North-West to alleviate the enormous backlog that exists.
We are trying, clearly, to increase the number of driving examiners. There is a later question on the Order Paper about this matter. The average waiting time for driving tests in the North-West is 22 weeks. That compares with a national average that is four weeks longer.
Will my right hon. Friend, in examining his policy towards the creation of further driving centres, bear in mind that it makes greater sense financially and that it is more convenient for additional inspectors to be appointed, wherever possible, to the existing centres rather than indulging in further proliferation of the rent, rates and acquisition costs involved in extending the network of test centres?
That is a suggestion that we have taken very much on board. But the fact is that, in some parts of the country, it is impossible to find accommodation for the numbers that are needed to reduce the waiting list for driving tests.