HC Deb 05 November 1980 vol 991 cc1279-81
19. Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on his examination of the problems experienced by motor cyclists and road safety.

29. Mr Lee

asked the Minister of Transport if he will make a statement on his examination of measures designed to improve safety for motor cyclists.

Mr. Fowler

Casualties among motor cyclists are a cause of wide public concern and I believe that measures to improve safety are essential. The most urgent need is to improve the safety of the young and inexperienced rider. I will be proposing three main measures: a reduction in the maximum size of the learner machine; the introduction of a two-part test for learners; and a limitation on the duration of the provisional entitlement to ride a motor cycle. I hope to introduce legislation on this at the earliest opportunity.

Mr. Carlisle

I agree that this is a vital and urgent matter. Is my right hon. Friend satisfied with the present standard of training that is available for motor cyclists and the thoroughness of the motor cycle driving test?

Mr. Fowler

I am satisfied with the standards, although we shall review them. The real problem is not so much the provision of training facilities; it is that young riders are not taking advantage of the training facilities that exist. About 85 per cent. of those going on to the road for the first time as riders are not undergoing training. That is a totally unsatisfactory situation, and that is what we are aiming to improve.

Mr. Lee

Has my right hon. Friend made any estimate of the number of lives, particularly young lives, that could be saved if and when these measures come into force?

Mr. Fowler

The casualty rate has gone up from 43,000 in 1972, to 67,000 in 1979. At the moment 1,100 motor cyclists are killed each year, and about half of those are teenagers. That is the size of the problem, and that is why it is urgent to act.

Mr. Hardy

Will the Minister say why he has not taken question 31, standing in my name, with questions 19 and 29? Does he feel any sense of obligation to local authorities such as the South Yorkshire county council, which is seeking to pursue motor cycle safety and which, if it is to maintain that attitude, will need a great deal more Government support than appears to be threatened now? Does he agree that it is urgent to take action to amend the regulations to reflect the reality that motor cycles today are 30 miles an hour faster than vehicles of equivalent size 20 years ago?

Mr. Fowler

I apologise for the first omission, but the hon. Gentleman has got his supplementary in.

Generally—and I shall look at the position in South Yorkshire—there is no problem about training facilities. The training facilities are there—[Interruption.] We should not argue about this matter. The training facilities are there.

The problem is to persuade young motor cyclists to take advantage of them.

I accept that the power of the machines is too high. That is why we propose to bring down by about half the power of the machines that learners can ride.

Mr. Higgins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his Department should be congratulated on the excellent and effective television advertising "Think Bike" campaign? Will he consider extending that to a "Think Car" campaign for motor cyclists, who cut in at traffic lights and put their feet under the front wheels of motor cars?

Mr. Fowler

I shall consider that suggestion. The first part of my right hon. Friend's question is important. One reason why the casualty rate is so high stems from the inherent difficulties of motor cyclists and the fact that many car drivers do not notice them. That has been the purpose of our advertising campaign, and that campaign will continue.

Mr. Booth

Will the changes that the Minister proposes to make in motor cycle licensing and testing require primary legislation? If not, will he assure us that we shall have ample opportunity to debate them in the House? If the House and the Minister are convinced, as I am, that it is wise to have different categories of motor cycle licence, will he seek to persuade his fellow Transport Ministers in the Community that Community licensing of motor bikes, as reflected in the directive, might be changed to take account of this factor?

Mr. Fowler

The short answer is that it will be in the main transport legislation. Therefore, right hon. and hon. Members will have an opportunity to debate it not only on the Floor of the House but in Committee. Clearly, the right hon. Gentleman will have the time that he took on the previous Bill to put his points.