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Volume 503: debated on Monday 11 January 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what mechanisms are in place to ensure that staff who drive (a) a vehicle for which (i) his Department and (ii) one of its Executive agencies is responsible have valid driving licences and (b) their own vehicles in the course of their official duties for (A) his Department and (B) one of its Executive agencies have valid driving licences and insurance; what guidance is issued to those staff in respect of road safety while carrying out official duties; what steps are taken to monitor compliance with that guidance; what requirements there are on such staff to report to their line managers accidents in which they are involved while driving in the course of their official duties; and whether such reports are investigated. (302175)

The core-Department’s Driving Policy and Guidance applies to all driving and travel by staff on official DEFRA business. It covers the Marine Fisheries Agency and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate also. Other DEFRA departmental bodies should have their own equivalent arrangements in place in line with DEFRA’s Safety Policy signed off by the permanent secretary.

Individual employees must follow all procedures and guidance extant to keep them safe and healthy while driving and travelling on DEFRA business. They must have:

(i) a full valid UK driving licence for a properly taxed vehicle and appropriate motor insurance;

(ii) obtained a driving permit from the relevant official vehicle manager if using a DEFRA owned vehicle or, hiring a car from a car hire company;

(iii) submit their driving licence, insurance, MOT documents and proof of vehicle tax details to their manager on request annually as part of the risk assessment process applicable to driving on official business. Managers are responsible for ensuring compliance with this risk assessment requirement; and

(iv) report motoring convictions, offences, accidents and incidents.

Senior managers must, in accordance with the DEFRA Safety Policy, ensure compliance with this policy in areas within their span of control. This includes provision of budget for appropriate training where identified and nominating a named person or persons to co-ordinate risk assessments for driving and travel activities within their control. They are required to ensure the safe and efficient operation of vehicles used on official business.

Drivers must observe all legal requirements with regard to reporting accidents. All incidents and accidents (including near misses) that occur on an official journey must be reported to the departmental health and safety unit (DHSU). Accidents or incidents involving a pool or Private Use Scheme car must also be reported to core-DEFRA’s travel liaison unit and the contracted supplier for accidents and breakdowns.

Managers must ensure reporting of all accidents, injuries or near misses, monitor the effectiveness of preventative measures by investigating accidents and near misses, carry out initial investigations, and review local risk assessments, following accidents, incidents and near misses, keep appropriate records of documentation checks, and request copies of vehicle check lists from individual drivers at regular intervals.

The DHSU monitor accident/incident reports to identify trends, advise managers where requested and investigate accidents and incidents if so requested, arrange training as necessary, keep a central log of completed risk assessments and regularly audit completed risk assessments.