BASINGSTOKE is the worst place in the UK for the gap between white people and black or ethnic minority people passing their driving test.

Figures obtained from The Guardian newspaper following a freedom of information request show a possible racial bias being applied in practical examinations across the country, with women also significantly less likely than men to pass their test.

The statistics from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) show that black women had the lowest pass rates at 32 per cent and white men the highest at 56 per cent across the UK.

White people were more likely than BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) to pass their driving test in 347 out of 350 test centres in 2016-17.

The largest gap was found in Basingstoke where 49 per cent of white applicants and 27 per cent of BAME applicants passed, followed by Barnsley, York and Worthing.

Samina Hemmuth, coordinator of Basingstoke Multicultural Forum, said the statistics were worrying, but don’t necessarily show a racial bias.

She added: “It’s highly disappointing because you would expect it to be a narrower gap in Basingstoke. But we don’t know the reasons, such as if there is a language barrier and they don’t understand the instructions or if someone comes from abroad and is used to driving on the other side of the road.

“It’s hard to say if a racial bias has come into play unless you speak to individuals who feel that there’s a bias. There could be a number of factors.”

Samina said she knows of people from the BAME community in Basingstoke who had suffered bad experiences in the past with their driving lessons, but said this was a number of years ago.

She added: “It needs to be looked into in more detail. If there is a racial bias then of course we want something to be done to find out the root cause.”

Mark Winn, DVSA chief driving examiner, said: “DVSA is committed to considering equality, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of its work and unconscious bias training is mandatory for all staff.

“The driving testing and training regime tests candidates’ ability to drive safely and responsibly as well as making sure they know the theory behind safe driving. All candidates are assessed to the same level and the result of their test is entirely dependent on their performance on the day.

“We constantly monitor our examiner’s performance so they conduct and assess driving tests in accordance with the standards set. This includes the supervision of live tests.”

The DVSA is also changing its approach to driver examiner recruitment, to appeal to a wider pool of candidates and make sure the workforce reflects the wider population.