I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision about the registration of driving instructors.
The Bill provides for two deregulatory measures to simplify the registration of driving instructors. The first measure allows a driving instructor to request voluntary removal from the register of driving instructors. The second simplifies the process for re-joining the register where a person’s registration has lapsed for between one and four years.
To become registered as an approved driving instructor—or ADI as they are known—a person currently has to pass three examinations that test theory, driving ability and instructional skill. They must be medically fit and a fit and proper person to be entered on the register. The total cost of taking all the required tests, obtaining a trainee licence and joining the ADI register is approximately £750.
A driving instructor’s name is added to the register on qualification and remains on the list for four years. Once a person is on the register, they are required to take a standards check within four years to ensure that they are still instructing to an approved standard.
Under current legislation, a person can be removed from the register only—I find this quite extraordinary—if the registration runs out or they are removed from the register for conduct, competence or disciplinary reasons. The Bill would allow for voluntary removal from the register in the case of illness or other commitments such as caring for an older relative, maternity leave or a period of residence overseas.
Let me give three examples, which have been brought to my attention, of how the current legislation impacts on ADIs who wish to leave the register. The first is an ADI who was caring for his terminally ill parent and could not attend his standards check. Under current legislation, he had to be removed from the register for disciplinary reasons, which was absolutely ridiculous. To return to the register, he would have to requalify via the three-part qualification route, and his disciplinary record would be taken into consideration.
The second example is a female ADI who felt compelled to renew her registration despite taking a career break from instruction to bring up her two young children. If she had not renewed her registration at a cost of £300 it would have lapsed and she would then have had to undergo the three-part requalification process, which is crazy. The ADI felt that that was discriminatory. She would have preferred to leave the register voluntarily and return at a later date via the shortened route.
The third and final example is of an ADI who allowed his registration to lapse after having a heart attack. At the end of the 12-month period in which he could reregister without requalifying, the ADI was still on medication and did not feel well enough to resume instructing. The registrar did allow him a two-month grace period, but although that was welcome the ADI felt that he had been placed under undue stress, which could impact on his recovery.
Currently, if an ADI has been off the register for less than a year, they can reapply and will be added back on to the register, subject to conduct and medical fitness requirements. However, if the ADI’s registration had lapsed for more than a year at the time they reapplied, they would have to retake the three ADI qualification exams.
The problems caused by the current legislation were brought to my attention by a constituent who runs a driving school that employs 200 drivers. His reasons for contacting me on this issue are as follows. The driving instructor industry is, for a number of reasons, losing driving instructors—I was surprised by this—and the process of qualifying can be a long one due to the waiting times for tests. As a result, the UK has a shortage of driving instructors, of which I am sure that the House was not aware. My constituent’s company has a waiting list of some six weeks for pupils to start to learn to drive, which is hindering many young adults in their careers. This is a common issue across the country, and my constituent has spoken to many driving school owners in Thurrock and in Essex more widely who are experiencing the same issues.
As the role of a driving instructor is not a physical one, many ex-driving instructors would like to get back to instructing, but the lengthy requalifying process is making them decide against it, which is a shame as they have much in the way of skills and experience to give the industry. If the ADI is within 12 months of their registration finishing, however, they can just reapply without having to go through the whole process again. To help alleviate the problems of getting ex-instructors back into the industry we need to streamline the process, and, if possible, extend the 12-month period.
The cost of retaking the three qualifying exams and the time taken to complete them are both cited as reasons why such a small number of instructors return to the profession after a break. It is extraordinary that, of the 43,000 registered ADIs, only 25, on average, wish to return each year.
Simplifying the process of returning to the register after a break of one to four years by allowing the instructor to pass a standards check instead, would reduce the qualifying time from 36 weeks to only six weeks and avoid the £194 cost of undergoing the three-part qualification. The standards check that returning instructors would take would be the same as the one that practising ADIs currently take during the period of their registration to ensure their continued competence to instruct.
A person applying to re-join the register by that route would have a maximum of three attempts at passing the standards check. If they failed three times they would have to repeat the full requalification process if they wanted to re-join the register, thus ensuring that the highest standards are maintained. This faster route would not be available to those removed from the register for disciplinary reasons.
The majority of driving instructors in Great Britain—they are in all of our constituencies—are very small businesses or self-employed. The changes to current legislation, which I was told by the Department for Transport were necessary to meet the concerns of my constituent, are outlined in the Bill. They would allow ADIs to be placed on the register more quickly and at a lower cost, benefiting both instructors and driving school owners such as my constituent. There would be no lowering of standards as the returning instructors would be tested to the same rigorous standard as their colleagues already on the register. I should warn the House that it is not my intent to give instructions on how to drive or to set up a school of motoring.
The geographical extent of the Bill will be for Great Britain, excluding Northern Ireland. This Bill will allow instructors voluntarily to leave the register for a period of time for health reasons or for family commitments and provide a simple, cost-effective way for them to return to their profession without compromising instruction standards. I commend the measure to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That Sir David Amess, Rosie Cooper, Martyn Day, Margaret Ferrier, Mr Roger Godsiff, Kevin Hollinrake, Steve McCabe, Wendy Morton, John Redwood, Andrew Rosindell, Dame Angela Watkinson and Mr Mark Williams present the Bill.
Sir David Amess accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on