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Viscount Falkland: My Lords, the noble Lord is most gracious to give way. There are, of course, many stolen motorcycles, or indeed parts of them, which get into circulation. However, in all fairness to motorcyclists, I think that those who buy motorcycles with "pirated" parts, if I may put it that way, are often unaware that that is the case. As with motorcars, it is very difficult to check whether the vehicle or parts of it have been stolen.
Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, I certainly take the noble Viscount's point, but there must be some vehicles which are recirculated by unscrupulous buyers who know that they are stolen. Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill and hope that the Minister will be able to give it a fair wind.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, perhaps I may first thank the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, for introducing the Bill. It will tackle a gap in the regulations and I believe that it will be of great benefit to all of us if passed. I am delighted to say to the noble Viscount and others that the Government support the Bill and were able to agree that parliamentary counsel should help the noble Lord produce the legislation. However, I fear that the basic workload will still fall upon the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick. The noble Lord has shown great energy and commitment in bringing forward the Bill. I am very much appreciative of his effort.
The Government hope very much that the Bill will succeed. If, by some mischance, it fails, either in this or the other place, I reiterate the Government's commitment to ensure that legislation along similar lines will be pursued. Therefore, we are fully in favour of the Bill.
I have nevertheless to address a few problems. A cultural issue seems to be involved, which was perhaps best explained by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. There are images, reality, and behavioural and safety problems involved with motorcyclists and indeed with cyclists. I have often found it necessary to remark that similar bad behaviour is quite frequent among car drivers who in fact cause the vast majority of accidents. It is true, however, that cyclists and motorcyclists are vulnerable. Motorcycling is often not a very safe means of transport. But it is part of our transport system and one which many people prefer, especially in crowded urban areas.
I should declare a complete non-interest in the sense that I have never been up front on a motorcycle; indeed, I have been utterly terrified as a pillion passenger on such a vehicle. I do not intend to alter that position. Moreover, I am rarely a cyclist. I shall respond in a moment to my noble friend Lord Haskel.
There are other cultural problems. But motorcycling is an important part of our urban transport system and indeed of our long distance transport system. It should be catered for better. Drivers of all modes of transport should demonstrate the kind of tolerance and reasonableness mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. Some of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, reminded me that I am the Minister with responsibility for road safety and that I should deeply deplore what he said. However, he did pull back from the implications of his attitude when driving certain modes of transport.
The Bill builds upon the White Paper which we produced and to which my noble friend Lord Haskel referred in relation to cycling. However, a big chunk of that integrated transport policy related to motorcycling. We recognise that motorcycling can, in many circumstances, make a contribution to the objectives of integrated transport. We have been persuading local authorities to consider introducing in their local transport plans facilities for encouraging motorcycling, in particular by providing secure parking.
Before I continue further in the motorcycling direction, I believe that I need to respond to my noble friend Lord Haskel; indeed, I have been pondering on how to do so, especially as regards his more pointed remarks. I agree with my noble friend's general points, but when his remarks became directed at me I began to feel slightly uncomfortable. I can assure him that the Government are absolutely dedicated to increasing the degree of cycling.
I travel around the country pointing out to people that many car journeys comprise less than two miles and that most able-bodied people could quite easily walk or cycle such distances. That is an important part of our policy. Indeed, we have endorsed the aim of the national cycling strategy of reversing the decline in cycling and doubling the number of cycle trips by the year 2002--and doubling them again by the year 2012. It is a pretty ambitious aim. However, that kind of turnaround has already been achieved in one or two urban areas. We have supported cycling bodies in that aim.
To achieve those targets, it might be incumbent upon Ministers to make some contribution. I am sure that the whole House will be sympathetic to my following remarks. Ministers are not averse to more healthy forms of transport but, unfortunately, the electronic age has not yet arrived for us. We are therefore obliged to carry huge boxes of mail from your Lordships and others around with us at all times. I try to walk to my office in the mornings and my driver follows me around with the red boxes. Therefore I contribute to my own health but not to the health of some others in the community. That matter should be addressed, but I cannot give a clear answer tonight.
There are serious aspects. The noble Viscounts, Lord Ullswater and Lord Falkland, referred to motorcycle crime. As the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, pointed out, there are victims of such crime in this House. It is estimated that 25,000 motorcycles are stolen annually. Some 86 per cent of them are not recovered. As has been said, many are cannibalised, resulting in illegal motorcycles being on the streets. That poses problems for law enforcement and road safety.
Safer, more secure parking would make a major contribution not only in encouraging motorcyclists to use their machines responsibly, but also in making them feel secure in so doing. The lack of secure parking facilities for motorcycles is probably a major factor in the high level of motorcycle theft. This Bill addresses the issue and gives local authorities new powers. Until now they have not had such powers.
The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, asked why the Bill is necessary. It is necessary because local authorities require powers before they can do anything. At present they do not have those powers. Clause 1 of the Bill seeks to address that problem and to amend Section 63 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 which deals only with stands and racks for pedal cycles. We are now extending the provision to motorcycles. I refer in this regard to the ground anchors mentioned by the right reverend Prelate and to the more sophisticated devices which we hope to see provided in the future. Certainly, we shall encourage local authorities to use these powers and to provide such facilities in their own car parks. I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, that only local authorities will have this power under the Bill. But in a sense it is only local authorities' lack of such a power that we have to address. Clearly, private operators can already provide such facilities on their own land.
However on-street parking facilities are the responsibility of local authorities. As regards individuals parking outside their own homes, local authorities would need to introduce an order on motorcycle parking under the regulations. That would enable them to install secure parking devices. However, that does not apply to an individual in regard to providing his own off-street parking facilities.
We have given much support to local authorities to develop their policies for motorcyclists. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said that, by and large, the motorcycling fraternity does not believe that local authorities are particularly helpful to it. Many local authorities have provided facilities for motorcyclists but more could be provided for both cyclists and motorcyclists.
The noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, asked about providing maps. We are happy to encourage local authorities to do that and to encourage a public/private partnership as commercial map makers may also be interested. Cycling and motorcycling organisations may be interested in distributing such information to their members. In some cities information is already made available. Exeter, Cambridge, Gloucester and York provide such information, together with other facilities, for motorised and non-motorised two-wheeled vehicles.
We are devolving responsibilities in other areas of transport policy, and indeed other policies, to local authorities. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, indicated a lack of common approach between local authorities. That will continue to be the case. We are simply giving local authorities powers which they can now use.
The noble Viscount raised the question of whether cyclists should be discouraged, as they occasionally are, from chaining their bikes to railings. It varies from area to area but, by and large, railings are the property of the landowner. An additional problem in the Westminster area, one has to admit in this day and age, is that of security. Many of the heavy notices relate to security problems in the Metropolis.
The Bill may result in a relatively small increase in expenditure for authorities which take advantage of its powers. In general it will be a small installation cost, which they may be able to recover by charging for parking. However, that is very much a matter for the local authorities themselves. The whole purpose of the Bill is to ensure more secure parking for both cyclists and motorcyclists.
I wish to thank all noble Lords who have spoken. If I have missed any points I shall write to noble Lords in the normal way. I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, for producing the Bill. I assure him, once again, of government support. We have bikers and cyclists around the House of all parties--including a biking Bishop. There is truly cross-party and ecumenical support for the provisions of the Bill. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, once again and thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate.
Lord Rotherwick: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken and especially for the kind and supportive words that I have heard this evening. I am aware that the Bill is not guaranteed of success and I shall continue to canvass for it in another place. I am sympathetic to the noble Lord, Lord Haskel. As an ex-biker I can quite understand his excitement about bicycling, although I am not quite sure whether I misheard him when he said he thought that bicycling takes the "Haskel" out of life. On the other hand, I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, about the thrills that I can remember as a bicyclist.
If it is of any help to my noble friend Lord Brabazon, some time ago we listened to the Courier Association, which has a very strong code of practice that it imposes upon all its motorcycling members. I should also tell him that the stolen vehicle statistics I received from the Metropolitan Police state that in 10 years 1.5 million unrecovered stolen vehicles will be used on our roads either as complete vehicles or as part or parts of other vehicles. That is quite an astounding statistic.
If the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, would like to accept a lift from me, I would be very happy to drive him around London while his red boxes follow closely behind, if they can keep up. Finally, I ask that the House give the Bill a Second Reading.
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