asked the Minister of Transport what progress has been made in shortening the waiting period for driving tests.
The key to shorter waiting periods is more driving examiners and we have recruited more than 250 since last May. Waiting periods are now beginning to come down, but I am determined to bring about further improvements as quickly as possible.
is my right hon. Friend aware of the widespread anger that the Government should allow a six-month delay in driving tests in an area that is meant to provide a monopoly service? Is he further aware that there is appreciation of his determined effort to reduce the driving test waiting times, unlike the previous Government who were complacent? Why is it not possible to recruit examiners—if not men, why not women?
The waiting periods are coming down and have been reduced to an average of 26 weeks, though that is not remotely good enough. In my hon. Friend's constituency the delay is down from 19 weeks to 16 weeks, but obviously we want to make much more progress. My hon. Friend has put his finger on an important area where much more recruitment is possible, namely in getting more women into the service. I hope that more women will come forward.
Can my right hon. Friend explain why the previous Government cut back on the number of driving examiners when it is a self-financing service? Are we not suffering now from that action?
Indeed we are. It is one of the mysteries of the previous Government—though only one—why they did that. When I took over as Minister of Transport I inherited a waiting list of 800,000. That is why we have given priority to sorting out the muddle left by the previous Government.
Is the Minister aware that his reference to 26 weeks puzzles me, since many of my constituents are having to wait much longer and my son has just been offered a test on 26 October? Why is the position in London worse than that in the rest of the country?
Because the Metropolitan area is one of the most difficult areas in which to find driving examiners. The 26-week figure is only an average. I hope that in London, as elsewhere, we shall be able to improve the situation. What I said about seeking to recruit more women driving examiners has particular application in London.