The DVLA has introduced more online services, recruited extra staff, is using overtime and has secured extra office space.
I appreciate the efforts being made by my right hon. Friend, and I understand the various union issues involved, but it is clear from numerous constituents who have got in touch having been unable to get through to the DLVA—this also applies to the MPs’ hotline—that the delays are having an impact on urgent and severe cases relating to other issues. I am sure that Members across the House are experiencing the same thing. What is the timeline for ensuring that the DVLA provides the service it is tasked to do, which we very much need it to do?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the dual problems of the impact of the pandemic and the strike action through the year, which I am pleased to say is now resolved, led to a backlog, particularly of occupational licences—that was at 55,000. I am pleased to report to the House that that has now been entirely cleared and those are being processed in five working days. The rest of the work is now being processed much more quickly as well, and we expect the service to return to normal next year.
The Transport Committee has been raising concerns about the DVLA’s performance for well over a year and it does not seem to have approached the pandemic and its management of confidential and paper records as other Government agencies with similar challenges have been able to do during the pandemic. Does the Secretary of State not recognise that the delays that are still ongoing, particularly for heavy goods vehicle drivers and those who wish to be driving HGVs, are only adding to the crisis in the supply chain and in lorries delivering essential goods?
The hon. Lady is right to be concerned about the backlogs that built up, but she is wrong to suggest that that still applies to HGV drivers. Those licences are now being turned around in five days for medical applications. There are considerably more applications than before the pandemic and that has led, alongside our 32-point plan, to more HGV drivers coming on to the road now. I have to stress that the unnecessary and lengthy strike at the DVLA came at the worst possible moment and it hurt vulnerable people. I am pleased to say that that strike has now collapsed, which is enabling the DVLA to get on top of the rest of the list.
I note what my right hon. Friend says, but my constituency is a major centre of the logistics industry and HGV drivers are certainly still experiencing problems. This problem has continued for years now. Can I urge him to redouble his efforts to ensure an improvement to the service?
As I mentioned, at its height, there were 56,000 applications. The last figure I saw last week showed that that was down to 9,000. There is a regular flow; it will never be zero because, of course, applications come and go. Medical applications are processed within five days and the only time that is not the case is when additional medical information is required. Those medical applications—the D4 forms—require checks from the DVLA to make sure that the information is correct, so the turnaround will never be faster than five days. If any Member has an issue with occupational DVLA applications, please let me know, because I will personally look into it.