Clause 41

Road Safety Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee am 4:30 pm ar 18 Ebrill 2006.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Tests: approved assistants

4.45 pm

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

I beg to move amendment No. 86, in page 47, line 29, leave out ‘, understanding'.

I shall try to be faster, Sir Nicholas, but you were going at such a speed, it hardly gave us a chance to speak. I shall rise to my feet a little quicker in future. We seem to have sped through our proceedings.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

The hon. Gentleman needs to lose a pound or two.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

That is the problem with the recess, of course. I am sure that it applies to everyone in Committee.

Our concern is simple. We understand entirely the need for approved test assistants, although we want to ensure that they are subject to proper scrutiny. Had I risen to my feet a little quicker, I would have liked to raise a number of issues about test assistants and some of the tables in schedule 5 that relate to them.

Amendment No. 86 is quite specific. It deals with subsection (2) and some of the circumstances in which a test assistant may be used. We have little difficulty with support being given to those who have difficulty hearing, but we are considerably concerned about the word “understanding”. If someone does not understand what is said to them, does that mean that they might fail to understand road signs, or various other instructions that may be given?

The amendment is a probing one. We want the Minister to explain the Government’s thinking in referring to someone who may have difficulty understanding questions or instructions in the relevant tests—factors that will clearly be applicable on the road as well. Is what is meant a lack of understanding of language, learning difficulties or mental impairment? We seek clarification from the Minister on exactly which circumstances someone’s lack of or difficulty in understanding would be warranted. I look forward to his response.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Minister of State, Department for Transport

I, at least, appreciate the speed with which you go through the amendments, Sir Nicholas.

I hope that I can give the hon. Member for Wimbledon the assurance he seeks. When one is sitting the driving test, there are a number of instructions that the person setting the test has to give about the test itself. It is only right, in our view, that a person should have any assistance they need in order to understand those instructions. If they are hearing impaired, they need to have those instructions relayed in such a way that they can understand them, so someone who understands sign language would need to be made available. Equally, if a person does not speak English or Welsh—the languages in which we can provide the driving test—it may be necessary to have a translator.

The lack of comprehension that a person is allowed relates to the instructions for the test itself, not the content of the test or the nature of road signs. It is not possible to have an assistant translate a road sign; one needs to be able to understand a road sign oneself and act accordingly. The assistant will be present to help the individual only with the mechanism of the test, not with the skills on which one is being tested. I hope that with that explanation the hon. Gentleman will be happy to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Shadow Minister (Transport)

With the Minister’s clarification—as helpful as ever—about the mechanism of the test, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 41 ordered to stand part of the Bill.