Learner drivers with expired theory tests must pay to resit, says minister
Learner drivers whose theory certificates have expired during the pandemic will have to pay to pass again before sitting their practical test, a minister has confirmed.
Transport Minister Rachel Maclean told the Commons the Government has “no current plans” to extend the validity of driving theory awards, and that those whose certificates have reached their two-year expiry date will have to pay a further £23 fee to go through the process once more.
However, Ms Maclean added that those who have paid £62 to book a practical driving test will be reimbursed if this cannot take place due to coronavirus restrictions.
Her comments came as an MP called for the the expiry date of theory tests to be extended due to the growing backlog of learner drivers unable to sit their physical examinations due to the three lockdowns.
Raising the matter in an adjournment debate, the SNP’s David Linden (Glasgow East) said: “Extending the validity of theory test certificates would provide a huge amount of relief for young people who are already concerned about the additional costs of learning how to drive.
“But looking at this issue from a purely administrative point of view, once lockdown is lifted there will be a flood of individuals looking to resit their theory test.
“On 8 January the number of expired theory test certificates due to lockdown stood at just shy of 50,000 – and that is according to Marmalade Insurance.
“That means that at £23 per theory test, that is a loss of £1.1 million for UK learner drivers.”
In response, Ms Maclean told the Commons: “The maximum duration of two years between passing a theory test and a subsequent practical test is in place to ensure a candidate’s road safety knowledge and ability to identify developing hazards is current.
“And this is set in legislation and we have no current plans to lay further legislation to extend it.
“And I do realise of course that this will affect and disappoint some learners, (Mr Linden), and also the driving instructors for understandable reasons.
“But it is nevertheless important that road safety knowledge and hazard perception skills are up to date at the critical point that they drive unsupervised for the first time.
“Those with theory test certificates expiring will have taken their theory test in early 2019 and since then, unfortunately, their lessons and practice sessions will have been significantly curtailed during recent lockdowns – and it is likely that their knowledge base will have diminished.”
Intervening, Mr Linden said: “There is also this issue that if the Government, as it sounds like they are today, is so insistent in ensuring that people have to go back and resit an exam they’ve already passed… will the Government at least waive the £23 fee?
“That strikes me as being a reasonable compromise at this stage.”
Ms Maclean replied: “Of course we have considered this issue and the view at the current time is that actually the candidate who’s theory test certificate expires… they will have actually received the service for which they paid the fee.
“So if we are to waive that fee for the subsequent test then someone has to pay and that has to be paid for ultimately by the taxpayer. So that’s a decision that I think that we’re not taking at this current time.”
She added: “If a practical test is already booked, however, at the time when the theory test expires, the DVSA will refund the fee for that practical driving test.”
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