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Goods Vehicle Testing

Volume 497: debated on Thursday 22 October 2009

9. What assessment he has made of the effect on small and medium-sized businesses of changes to arrangements for the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency to test goods vehicles. (294801)

In assessing its change programme, VOSA considered the impact on its entire customer base, most of which consists of small and medium-sized businesses. Service criteria have been established, based on independent market research and customer consultation.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Operators will welcome any improvement to efficiency in the test station network, but there is great concern among very small businesses about the likely cost impact when the tests are carried out by a private company. When will he be able reassure them, and when will a decision be made, as to the likely cost of tests under the new arrangements?

The overall policy is to ensure that we have testing facilities that are closer and more responsive to the customer base. Indeed, as my substantive answer suggested, some 90 per cent. of all operators have fewer than six vehicles. That represents the vast majority of VOSA customers, and we are keen to ensure that they are not penalised. There is a £6 premium on designated third-party premises at this stage. We are reviewing that and would expect to see it removed within the next two years.

Motorcyclists on the Isle of Wight must get their vehicle to the mainland for it to be tested. That is at least an hour and a quarter each way. What is being done to ensure that a test station is available on the island?

I shall write to the hon. Gentleman about the position in the Isle of Wight, but overall, we seek to ensure for customers that 90 per cent. of the population is covered by facilities that are within either 30 miles or 60 minutes of them: that is our 30-60-90 rule. Obviously, we will struggle to maintain that in some places, but we will always review the situation and undertake to look for further designated third-party premises.