The Deputy is incorrect that I am not remotely concerned. I agree that the start of the contract with Applus+ has been difficult, largely due to the success of my efforts to ensure people comply with the national car test. I was criticised in the House when I introduced a proposal to impose five penalty points on those who do not comply with the NCT. This proposal resulted in a surge in the number of applications for the test.
In addition, the first quarter of the year is generally very busy as most cars are registered in this quarter. I accept that difficulties have arisen. Under the contract agreed with the Department, Applus+ must reach specific targets and failure to do so will result in the company being penalised vis-à-vis the payments it receives. In response to concerns raised by my Department, Applus+ has taken a number of steps to address the problem. It employed an additional 14 vehicle inspectors and a further 18 inspectors will soon commence employment. This will bring to 420 the number of vehicle inspectors available to the company, the highest figure ever. An additional 29 posts are being created in the company’s call centre, 26 administrative staff will shortly commence employment and two new test centres are in operation.
While I accept that a problem arose at the beginning of the year, it is being tackled. In the period up to mid-April, the number of applications on the waiting list peaked at almost 32,000. By 30 April, the waiting list had fallen to 7,180.