My Parliamentary Question on HGV Driving Tests

I have received this answer to my recent Parliamentary Question:

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to increase the rate of HGV driving tests undertaken. (12055)
Tabled on: 08 June 2021

Answer:
Rachel Maclean:

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has put in place a number of measures to increase driving tests. These include offering overtime and annual leave buy back to examiners, asking all those qualified to conduct tests, but who do not do so as part of their current day job, to return to conducting tests, and conducting out of hours testing (such as on public holidays).

The DVSA has also started a recruitment campaign to increase the number of examiners. The aim is to increase testing capacity and reduce the backlog as quickly as possible, whilst maintaining a COVID-secure service for customers and examiners.

The answer was submitted on 14 Jun 2021 at 15:17.

Wokingham Town Centre

I was pleased to see more people about enjoying the new town centre on Bank Holiday Monday. Cafes and eating places were particularly popular with many sitting out in the sunshine. I visited some shops to see how they are getting on now we have had some relaxation of pandemic rules.

More of the new units are trading. Those who have not been recently should go and have a look for themselves. We need to use our town shops and services, and give them a boost after lock down.

Mayor making

It was a pleasure to be able to attend a civic service and ceremony in  person after a year of lockdown. On Sunday I joined others at St Paul’s to wish the Mayor of Wokingham well in his second year in office. Numbers were very limited, so it was a  hybrid event with well wishers also following the service on Zoom.

Winnersh bypass

The new bypass includes new prohibitions on turning right at the light controlled crossroads between King Street Lane and the new  bypass. Please observe the signs, as accidents have resulted from people who disagree with the controls. Councillors say that it will help cut congestion to have the new  bypass with these restrictions. The new bypass  can be entered  from the roundabout on the Reading Road for westbound and from the Earley Way junction for eastbound.

The Israel/Palestine crisis

I am receiving around 15 emails day from the two sides in the conflict seeking U.K. support for their respective positions.

The U.K. is working with the USA and the UN to favour a diplomatic solution where Hamas stops its rocket attacks on Israel and Israel stops her military attacks on Hamas. Both sides would then show a willingness to enter talks under independent chairmanship to try to sort out answers to the many outstanding disagreements. The UK regrets all loss of life in this conflict which is why it supports a ceasefire and talks.

The government sets out its action plan for better animal welfare

ACTION PLAN FOR ANIMAL WELFARE

What are we doing?
We are a nation of animal lovers. The UK was the first country in the world to pass legislation to protect animals in 1822, and we have achieved remarkable things in this area ever since. However, we want to go further, setting new higher ambitions which continue the tradition of protecting animals in the UK and abroad.

Our Action Plan for Animal Welfare sets out Government’s plans on animal welfare for this Parliament and beyond. The document provides a high-level overview of over forty policy reforms we intend to tackle across five different workstreams, outlined below with our key proposals pulled out:

• Sentience and Enforcement
Our landmark Sentience Bill will recognise and enshrine animal sentience in law, and will create an expert committee on animal sentience to report on government decisions, holding Ministers accountable to Parliament for animal welfare in policy making, in a targeted and proportionate way. In addition we will support more legislation to improve enforcement – such as the use of penalty notices.

• International Trade and Advocacy
We will ensure our high animal welfare standards are not compromised in our trade negotiations and we will use our position as a global leader for international advocacy on animal welfare. Legislation will be introduced to ban the import of hunting trophies from endangered animals broad, to ban the import and export of detached shark fins, and to stop the advertising and sale here of unacceptable animal attractions abroad. We will explore next steps on the fur and foie gras trades and implement the Ivory Act.

• Farm Animals
As part of protecting and enhancing the welfare of farm animals we will end the export of live animals for slaughter and fattening. Our upcoming consultation on food labelling will consider reforms to make it easier for consumers to purchase food that aligns with their welfare values. We will support livestock farmers financially via our ‘Animal Health and Welfare Pathway’. Further reforms in this area include introducing effective powers to tackle ‘livestock worrying’ and considering other improvements to welfare on the farm, such as examining the use of cages for laying hens and farrowing crates for pigs.

• Pets and Sporting Animals
We will bring forward legislation to tackle the trade in puppy smuggling and introduce compulsory cat microchipping. Our cross-Government taskforce will crack down on pet theft and we will also take forward wider reforms such as the licensing of animal sanctuaries, as well as consider improvements for racing greyhounds and for equine identification.

• Wild Animals
Keeping primates as pets will be prohibited by law, and we will consider further legislation for a close season for hares whilst cracking down on the illegal practice of hare coursing. We will improve standards for zoos, including in relation to their conservation activities. We will also consider restricting the use of glue traps for pest control and bringing forward measures to tackle wildlife crime.

Why now?
The coronavirus outbreak has underlined the importance of animals in our lives. From the overwhelming companionship provided by our pets, to the importance of a secure food supply chain founded upon high-welfare farming, to conserving and protecting wild animals, animal welfare has never been more important.

Now we have left the EU and our Transition Period has ended we have the opportunity to go further than ever in protecting our animals. In areas that were previously under the jurisdiction of EU law we can now more freely make our own reforms and fulfil our manifesto commitments on animal welfare.

What are the next steps?
To enact these plans the Government has an ambitious programme of legislation in the upcoming session, including the Animal Welfare (Sentience), Kept Animals, and Animals Abroad Bills, which will deliver all of the Government’s manifesto commitments on animal welfare. All non-legislative work will be progressed in parallel. Legislation on many of the policy areas referenced in these plans will be introduced in the coming months. Where we have committed to gather further evidence ahead of introducing any changes we will work closely with stakeholders and the public on this.

For more information on the Action Plan for Animal Welfare please contact animals.bill@defra.gov.uk
End of HMG document

Those of you who have written to me with views on meat labelling should write in to the address above with your views as the government is looking at changes.

Update on Step 3 of the Government’s Covid-19 Response

Dear John

I want to thank you and your constituents for your patience and sacrifices that continue to be made as we progress along our Roadmap. Businesses, pubs, and restaurants have been waiting to welcome customers back through their doors; grandparents have endured months without seeing their grandchildren; weddings have been postponed; funerals sadly constrained; and religious festivals such as Eid are yet again facing restrictions.

I want to thank everyone because our collective efforts have so visibly paid off, giving us the time to vaccinate more than two thirds of all adults across the UK. More than one third – nearly 18 million people – have also received their second dose. This has unquestionably saved many lives.

It is thanks to these efforts that I was able to confirm today that we have met our four tests for further easing lockdown in England. With deaths and hospitalisations at their lowest levels since July, and the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers today agreeing a reduction in the alert level, the data now support moving to Step 3 in England from Monday 17 May.

As a reminder, these tests are:

• The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully
• Evidence shows vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisations and deaths in those vaccinated
• Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisations which would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS
• Our assessment of the risks is not fundamentally changed by a new Variants of Concern.

This means the rule of six or two households that has applied outdoors will now apply indoors – and the limit for outdoor meetings will increase to 30. From next Monday, we will be able to sit inside a pub or restaurant; we will be able to go to the cinema; and children will be able to use in door play areas. We are reopening hotels, hostels, and B&Bs and reopening the doors of our theatres, concert halls, and business conference centres. We will unlock the turnstiles of our sports stadia, subject to capacity limits.

From next week groups of up to six people or two households will be able to travel within the UK and stay overnight, meaning schools and colleges will also be able to organise trips with overnight stays. We will no longer require face coverings in classrooms – or for students in communal areas in secondary schools and colleges – and all remaining university students will be able to return to in-person teaching, where they should be tested twice a week.

We will increase the number of named visitors for those in care homes from two to five, and residents will have greater freedoms to leave their homes without having to isolate on their return.

This unlocking amounts to a considerable step on our Roadmap back to normality. To give businesses time to prepare, I will be setting out our approach to moving to Step 4 later this month, including the conclusions of our reviews on domestic certification and social distancing.

Today, we are taking a step towards that moment when we learn to live responsibly with Covid – when we cease to rely on detailed Government edicts and learn to make our own decisions, based on the best scientific advice, about how best to protect our families and those around us.

From next Monday we are updating the guidance on close contact between friends and family, setting out the risks for everyone to make their own choices.

I would urge everyone to think about the vulnerability of their loved ones – including whether they have had a vaccine, one or two doses, and whether there has been time for that vaccine to take effect.

We must encourage everyone to keep getting tested regularly and continue to follow social distancing when not with friends and family including in workplaces, shops, pubs, restaurants, and other settings.

We only have to look at the very sad situation in other countries to see the lethal potential of this virus, and we must continue to fight the spread of variants here in the UK. While we have no evidence yet to believe these variants are completely vaccine resistant, we must remain vigilant.

Today I have announced the single biggest step on our Roadmap. It will allow us all to do many things we have yearned to do. Let us protect these gains by continuing to encourage everyone to exercise cautions and common sense.

Yours ever

The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
THE PRIME MINISTER

Make it easier to get a GP appointment

On a call yesterday for MPs with the Secretary of State for Health I raised the issue of GP appointments. I asked that GP surgeries should have a phone and internet booking system which allows a patient to get an on line or face to face consultation as appropriate. I have been getting complaints where a surgery requires someone to ring at a single  specified time each day to see if they can get an appointment that day. In the worst cases there is great difficulty in getting through at all. NHS surgery services should allow forward booking with good phone access as many good practices already offer. I was told this is an issue which senior NHS management is working on. It would be possible for NHS England to require a minimum  standard or to issue New guidance.

GWR Train services

I attended a meeting on Sunday to hear the news about the cracks in the Hitachi trains which have led their removal from service pending reports and  repairs. GWR rely on these trains for their longer distance and faster services. There is unlikely to be an early and quick fix. I asked if the old 125s can be brought out of retirement to fill in service gaps. We await details on how these new trains are going to be repaired and when that might happen. In  the meantime  Train users need to check the reduced timetables available. There will be refunds for cancelled services. 

GP appointments

I have had a number of complaints from constituents who have been encountering difficulties with getting a face to face appointment with their GP, or getting any appointment at all. I am taking this up with the surgeries concerned. I also raised the general issue of access to GP appointments at the Friday MPs call with local Health Authorities, who promised to look into it and report back.