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DUP Upper Bann MLA Jonathan Buckley, the incoming chairman of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Infrastructure Committee, has challenged the Infrastructure Minister and the DVA Chief Executive regarding their plan to deal with the driving test backlog.

Mr Buckley said,

“The backlog has veered out of control. It is devastating for all young drivers but especially those young people who own a car, have insured and taxed it but have never been able to pass their test.

On day one in the role of Chair, I will be making this a priority and asking the Committee to back a detailed inquiry into driving tests.

On 1 September last year, outgoing Chair Michelle McIlveen called a special meeting of the Infrastructure Committee to address the growing backlog of young people unable to sit their practical test. We estimated the backlog at that time to be 20k, yet the Minister poured cold water on our figures and sought to downplay the situation. With confirmation of a 22k backlog, Michelle was right, and the Minister was out of touch.

In 2020 almost 30,000 fewer driving tests have been conducted compared to the same period in 2019, so even the Minister’s 22k figure seems suspect.

Minister Mallon previously said that under current risk assessments, examiners can only conduct five rather than the normal six practical tests per day. We need to know are all test centres operating and how many tests can be completed per day over the next six months?

The Minister has said she is working to increase capacity by recruiting more examiners and offering evening and weekend appointments however much of the detail is lacking.

We need a clear plan and fresh thinking to get a fairer outcome for our young people.”