HC Deb 24 April 1987 vol 114 cc910-24 10.46 am
Mr. Robert Adley (Christchurch)

I beg to move, in page 3, line 34, leave out from second 'provisions' to end of line 36.

In what may be the dog days of this Parliament, the amendment seeks to make a simple correction to the drafting of the Bill. It takes account of revised schedule 2 to the Consumer Safety Act 1978, which was introduced by the Consumer Safety (Amendment) Act 1986, with which we are all familiar in detail. The amendment is purely technical and does not affect the intention of the Bill.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Peter Bottomley)

It is probably best on Report if I stick precisely to the amendment. Later, I should like to say one or two things about the measure. The Government support the amendment. As my hon. Friend rightly said, it corrects and simplifies the reference in his Bill to schedule 2 to the Consumer Safety Act 1978.

Amendment agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read.

Mr. Adley

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

As hon. Members will know, this is the first time that we have had an opportunity fully to debate this measure on the Floor of the House. I shall do my best not to stray beyond the bounds of order, but, of course, we are dealing with an important matter involving road safety and environmental and health considerations and I trust that you. Mr. Deputy Speaker, will allow me to touch on some of these issues.

I thank my hon. and injured Friend the Minister, who is suffering from severe back problems. I hope that if he is called upon to intervene in my speech, or if I seek to intervene in his, and particularly in the latter case, the convention under which my hon. Friend has to keep bobbing up and down can be waived. I hope that that situation will not arise, but if it does I know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that my hon. Friend will welcome your concern for his physical condition.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

If a Minister or an hon. Member is suffering discomfort, it is within the power of the House to allow him to speak from a sedentary position.

Mr. Adley

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister will appreciate that. I am not sure whether he would be better off standing up or sitting down, but before we get too involved in this I am sure that your remarks will be warmly welcomed by my hon. Friend in his hour of pain and need.

I should like to thank my sponsors. This is very much an all-party Bill and has received considerable support from right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House. As I did in Committee, I should like to thank the officials at the Department of Transport. Hon. Members take all the credit for Bills like this, but very often it is the civil servants who do all the work. There is no harm in putting that on record, and I pay tribute to the civil servants for the generous time that they spent in preparing and bringing forward the Bill.

Today we will not see the Press Gallery crammed full, and radio and television will not hang on our every word, as this piece of legislation, or. as my hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Hogg) called it in his O-level Latin, "leg-islation", is debated. I do not know how Hansard will cope with that one. This debate will not attract a great deal of attention. The House is quietly and constructively debating a measure on which it is united. It is sad, but perhaps, inevitable, in a democratic society that only when there is aggravation and unpleasantness that the cameras appear, microphones are switched on and the newspapers come running. I am perfectly happy that our little discussion and debate today should achieve its objective rather than attract a great deal of attention.

I want now to consider matters that do attract a great deal of attention. The high-pitched whine of a deliberately exacerbated noisy motor cycle must come fairly near to the top of the list of those noises and intrusions into life that draw attention to themselves. The peace and quiet of a summer night in the countyside or of suburban slumberers on housing estates can be disturbed by that unpleasant and aggravating noise. People can be worked up into a considerable froth and lather. The Bill seeks to deal with that social nuisance.

There are two principles at stake in the Bill. The first is our attempt to deal with a noise, deliberately made. I shall stress that in more detail shortly. We are not dealing with the everyday activities of motor cyclists. We are dealing with a handful of people who quite deliberately set out to make as much noise as possible. That is unacceptable if their activities disturb and aggravate the majority of their fellow citizens who are merely seeking to go about their lawful and peaceful business.

The second principle relates to environmental pollution, of which noise is a clear manifestation. I believe that in the House we have a responsibility ruthlessly to tackle environmental pollution. In its small way, the Bill tries to do that. The internal combustion engine is a uniquely nasty source of environmental pollution. My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) is one of the sponsors of the Bill. With his Heavy Commercial Vehicles (Controls and Regulations) Act 1973 he took a first and important step to rein back on the environmental pollution caused by vehicles on our streets and on our roads. Indeed, the latest transgressor to a long list of polluters could easily be construed to be the modern coach being driven in a way which the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mrs. Chalker), when a Minister at the Department of Transport described as "intimidating". Furthermore, coaches are parked illegally on the streets of our towns and cities, with their engines running, causing vile fumes to be flung into the faces of motorists and pedestrians. I hope that the House will deal with that matter in due course.

It is clear that no self-discipline is being exercised by the bus and coach industry on that point. The Government are being forced to use legislative powers to deal with another aspect of road safety by forcing speed-governors on the coach industry. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Transport will recognise that the noise and fumes aspect—and we are dealing with motor cycle noise in the Bill — or coaches is a matter with which the Department of Transport must deal next.

I can safely say that this :is likely to be a popular Bill in its attempt to deal with a source of great aggravation. I want however, to stress clearly that the Bill is in no way anti-motor cycle. No hon. Member who has supported the Bill or was a member of the Committee was motivated by spite or hostility towards motor cycling. Indeed, particularly in many rural areas, the mobility provided by the motor cycle for people on low incomes is a vital part of their lives. I do not want the message to leave the House that the Bill is hostile to the interests of motor cyclists.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (Surrey, South-West)

Will my hon. Friend confirm that many of my constituents who are motor cyclists have welcomed the Bill? They believe that the ill-feeling caused by the appalling noise made by some cycles gives the whole motor cycle fraternity a bad name. My constituents welcome the measure.

Mr. Adley

I believe that my hon. Friend must have been peering metaphorically over my shoulder. I wholeheartedly concur with her comments. I shall carry straight on from the cue with which she has kindly provided me and amplify the point that she has just made.

I have received strong support from the Motor Cycle Association for the Bill. I want to put on record my thanks to that association for the display of noisy exhaust systems that it showed to me as part of its campaign to get Parliament to deal with the problem which it knows—as my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) said — gives the motor cycling fraternity a bad name.

The British Motorcyclists Federation has also lent its strong support to the Bill. I want to quote from a letter that I received from Mr. John Chatterton-Ross, the director of Government relations for the British Motorcyclists Federation. He wrote: I am writing on behalf of the British Motorcyclists Federation to give our support to your work on this subject, which I understand is the subject of a bill sponsored by you. Around fifty thousand motorcyclists belong to the BMF and we regard the solution of the noise problem as a matter of the first importance. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West. She echoed the sentiments of those responsible elements within the motor cycling fraternity who recognise that they all suffer and that their hobby and interest suffers as a result of a handful of unfortunately motivated people.

Support for the Bill ranges far wider than that. I have received a number of quite surprising communications of support. I do not want to weary the House this morning with endless quotations. However, I was impressed and particularly delighted to receive a letter from the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association. I want to quote from the director general of that association, Mr. John Groom. He wrote: May I congratulate you on the progress of your Bill and may it soon become law. As an individual I have sometimes been asked were I a legislator what single measure would I like enforced; my answer has invariably been a measure to combat noise pollution and especially the searing racket created by motor cycles. But I also write on behalf of the 160,000 registered blind people and guide dog owners in particular. Noise for all of them, so reliant on hearing, is a blind man's fog. Indeed, wind is described in such terms. The success of your Bill will help every one of them. Only a very immodest person would not be humbled to receive a letter such as that.

Amongst the numerous representations from diverse quarters of our nation, I have received support from the Lancashire Association of Parish Councils, from the planning and transportation committee of the Association of District Councils, as well as from numerous individuals, local authorities at all levels, my constituents and from hon. Members' constituents all over the country.

The purpose of my Bill is specifically to control the quality of replacement exhaust systems and silencers for motor cycles when they are offered for sale. I stress the words "when they are offered for sale". New motor cycles must comply with the noise limits set out in European Community directives, and replacement silencers should match the original equipment in quality and performance. Many of the cheaper replacements currently on the market do not do so. To anyone who doubts that, I commend a visit to the Motor Cycle Association to see the wide variety of deliberately noisy exhaust systems that are available for sale.

There is now a British standard for motor cycle exhausts, and the Bill will enable the Secretary of State to require replacements to be marked with a standard number or with the words "Not for road use". It will mean that all silencers offered for sale must bear some marking. Again, I stress that we are dealing here not with the initial equipment supplied on new motor cycles, but with replacement exhausts deliberately designed to create as much noise as possible.

The enforcement of the Bill's provisions would be by trading standards officers employed by local authorities who would have powers largely identical to those provided in consumer safety legislation. At present, enforcement of the law against the use of noisy exhaust systems is an almost impossible task for the police, who are left to chase offenders round the countryside and towns. All hon. Members would agree that our police forces have many tasks laid upon them by the House and many calls upon their time by members of the public, and we could all, without difficulty, think of more urgent things for them to be doing than trying to deal with this problem. The Bill will enable trading standards officers to deal with the problem at source. It is a simple measure because it transfers to trading standards officers powers which until now they have not possessed.

The Bill provides for maximum penalties that will enable the courts to deal firmly with persistent offenders who might have much to gain from flouting the law by selling cheap, substandard silencers to young, immature riders who need little encouragement to make a nuisance of themselves. Noisy motor cycles are a nuisance. The Bill seeks to make them remain as quiet as they were when new, and it has the general support of all responsible motor cycle organisations, including riders and manufacturers.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Worthing (Mr. Higgins), who is one of the Bill's supporters, has made the point several times to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State and to many of his colleagues that, in due course, he wishes the Government and the House to deal with the behaviour of the handful of anti-social motor cycle delivery drivers who spend their time weaving in and out of traffic, causing great danger to themselves and potential danger to other road users.

Last night I had the honour to address the annual dinner of the Amicable Society of Blues, which is neither a supporters club for Chelsea football team nor anything to do with the Conservative party. As hon. Members will know, it is connected with Christ's hospital school. When I mentioned what I was doing this morning, I receive widespread support for my Bill. One of my fellow diners raised the problem of the deliberate leaving-on of the two-way radios fitted to delivery motor cycles. My hon. Friend the Minister might comment on whether the Government will support a measure to deal with that form of noise pollution.

May I ask my hon. Friend some more questions directly connected with the Bill? Is he satisfied that sufficient funds will be available to trading standards officers to enable them to carry out the tasks that they are being given by the Bill? I have had contact with trading standards officers, who have expressed anxiety about the funding that will be made available to them as a result of the Bill. Has my hon. Friend consulted them directly? If he has not, will he do so, not just on funding, but on whether they are satisfied that the Bill gives them all the powers that they need to deal with the problem?

What action will my hon. Friend take to publicise the measure? Although it would be inappropriate and unfortunate to pretend that merely by passing legislation we can eradicate the problem instantly, there is no doubt that the wider the publicity about the contents of the Bill, the more likely we are to discourage importers and those who sell these offensive pieces of equipment. I hope that my hon. Friend can find some funds for this purpose from his Department's budget for publicising measures that he wishes to bring to the attention of the public.

Has my hon. Friend yet had, or does he intend to have, contact with Customs and Excise officers so that we can deal with those who import noisy exhaust systems? I shall not be unkind enough to name the countries from which some of those systems come, but I urge my hon. Friend to consider that effective way of tackling the problem.

Noisy motor cycles are but a tiny example of the cost to the nation of trying to cope with the problems created by the internal combustion engine. We do not seem to hear much about the costs to society. We hear from the Automobile Association, the Royal Automobile Club, the Road Haulage Association, the Freight Transport Association, the Bus and Coach Council and from endless permutations of the road transport lobby about the wonderful manifestations of the internal combustion engine that they have been inflicted upon society. Rarely, if ever, do we hear about the immense range of problems, difficulties and costs that they impose upon society, of which noisy exhausts on motor cycles are just one example. Some of those organisations have made the ludicrous proposition that since motorists pay money in road tax and tax on fuel, it should be returned to motoring-related activities. It is one of the silliest and most illogical arguments that I have heard. It is the same as suggesting that the money raised by the Government in gambling tax should be spent on building more casinos. None of us would support that.

We should recognise that the road transport industry in all its manifestations is a ghastly environmental polluter. I commend to my hon. Friend the Minister a recent report on the diesel engine by Friends of the Earth, and I hope that the Department will soon publish its response to that report. Even the Road Haulage Association recognises that there is much validity in some of the comments in that report.

If the Bill receives its Third Reading, I hope that events elsewhere will not overtake our attempt to place it on the statute book. To make the task of my hon. Friend the Minister easier, I have obtained the support of Lord Bottomley of Middlesbrough in the county of Cleveland to act as the Bill's sponsor in the other place. He is well known to many of us in this House, and is universally admired both here and in the other place. I am sure that he will give the Bill the treatment that it deserves and see it speedily on its way.

I commend the Bill to the House. The Government should act as soon as the Bill is on the statute book, and I hope to receive the support of the Minister in my small endeavours.

11.9 am

Mr. Bruce George (Walsall, South)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I apologise for intervening at this stage, but as a member of the Defence Select Committee that investigated the Westland affair, I wish, through you, Sir, to ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to make a statement at the earliest possible opportunity—probably on Monday —about the startling allegations about share dealings in Westland at a crucial time for the determination of that company's fate. I seek an assurance from the Minister that policy relating to critical defence industries is determined by legal process and by the Government, and not by the activities of anonymous and unidentifiable shareholders.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is not a matter for me, but his remarks will doubtless he passed on.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, North)

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Can you tell the House whether the Department sought to make a statement today? The information indicates a serious concert party and suggests that the evidence lacking to the Select Committee on Trade and Industry has now come forward. That sheds a very different light on these unhappy matters.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I understand that no request has been made for a statement.

11.12 am
Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

Returning to the Bill — [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I would not say, "Hear, hear," when I hear of illegal share dealings. It happens so frequently these days that we should have a Minister permanently present to deal with the problem which damages the legal fabric of our country, as well as respect for law and order.

As the hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) said. the Bill has all-party support, and no one will be surprised at that. I am not so sure that the hon. Gentleman would receive all-party support for his comments about buses.

Mr. Adley


Mr. Soley

Or coaches. The Government of which the hon. Gentleman is such a great supporter have done much to decimate rural bus services, and to lower standards, which we all know will continue to fall. In principle, what the hon. Gentleman says is right, but the Government have compounded an already difficult problem.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman made it clear that the Bill is not to be seen as an anti-motor cyclist Bill. Many people have strong views about the safety and noise of motor cycles, but many people also know that motor cycles provide enjoyment and satisfaction and that they have a real use. Those who have been motor cyclists—I include myself — know of the satisfaction that motor cycling can give.

We must not discourage noise pollution and at the same time encourage atmospheric pollution, which represents an important part of the problem. I suspect that the Minister will be aware that that underlies some of the problems of legislating in this area.

I do not claim to be an expert — although I have some personal experience—but the problem arises not so much from the quality of exhausts in the first instance as from exhausts that are damaged, and thus made inefficient, either by use or deliberately by the person who uses the motor cycle. We should be realistic, and understand that young people are likely to damage exhausts to get the extra noise that adds to the excitement and draws attention, which is attractive to teenagers.

I am not saying that I ever damaged the exhaust of my Triumph Tiger 100, but my brother ran an Enfield down the road with no exhaust at all — which seems to me considerably worse—with dramatic effect. Young people do that sort of thing for short periods. They usually grow out of it, but it is upsetting to others who have to suffer the noise and who may not want to have their attention drawn to a teenager while they are sunbathing or watching the television.

I was struck by the contents of a letter from R. W. Osborne to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett). Mr. Osborne argued convincingly about the way in which the Government should approach the matter. He said that, given that the test certification process is involved, it might he useful for the Government to consider the case for the police or test certificate officers to allow perhaps 14 days for a person to put right a non-dangerous fault. That suggestion has some attractions, although I do not claim to have thought it out carefully.

Mr. Osborne has given the matter some thought and his suggestion could be useful in dealing with this difficult problem and in ensuring that the police are not seen as taking people through the courts unnecessarily. After all, the aim of the process is to ensure that a fault causing noise, or other non-dangerous fault, is repaired effectively.

I was encouraged to hear that the British motor cycle industry is doing rather better than it was, and in particular that Triumph motor cycles are being produced again. British motor cycle exports, even to Japan, are improving, and we must not do anything to damage the industry's chances. The Government already have a reputation for destroying manufacturing industry, and it would be sad if they placed further burdens on the industry that prevented British machines competing effectively with Japanese models. Japanese models tend to be quieter, not least because of their multiple piston systems, but as a result of that they cause more atmospheric pollution. While legislating to inhibit noise pollution by British motor cycles, we should not forget other aspects of pollution caused by imported motor cycles. The subject clearly needs careful consideration.

I have the impression that the problem arises mainly from relatively small motor cycles. Large motor cycles seem to be used predominantly on main roads. Small motor cycles which have had the baffles of their exhausts spiked can be intensely annoying and extremely noisy. As I understand it, that is the sort of issue that the hon. Member for Christchurch seeks to address in the Bill. It is the noise factor that has attracted all-party support. It is the annoying relatively low capacity motor cycles that make such a noise and can be so incredibly frustrating that have caused so much trouble in city and country areas alike. It is on that basis that the Opposition—

Mr. Adley

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who speaks on behalf of the official Opposition. I shall not go over his initial points, but Charlie's Cars is certainly providing my constituents with a service that they could not have enjoyed before the recent legislation. Does the Labour party accept, however, that pollution by noise and diesel fumes, especially from coaches, is a major problem in our cities and that if the industry will not deal with the problem the Government will have to legislate?

Mr. Soley

I thought that that was implicit in my comments, but I will make it explicit. Yes, we agree. The whole pollution issue, both atmospheric and noise pollution, is extremely important particularly in city areas. I was saying that putting noise limits on British bikes must be seen in the context of the need to deal with atmospheric pollution by foreign bikes competing in British markets. My point was not that we should reduce the noise limits but that we should set higher standards for imported bikes in terms of atmospheric pollution. I think that the hon. Gentleman agrees with that.

Mr. Adley

My point goes wider than motor cycles. Coaches, especially, are causing a major problem.

Mr. Soley

I am happy to confirm what the hon. Gentleman says. Indeed, the Opposition have expressed concern that the Government are not moving fast enough with regard to lead in petrol, which is another aspect of the same problem.

There is overall support for the Bill, for all the reasons that the hon. Member for Christchurch has given. It is important to stress that the Bill is not an anti-bike measure. I believe that there is merit in examining ways to ensure that standards are maintained in terms of noise and non-dangerous repairs without necessarily dragging people through the courts. The Minister may find it useful to consider that at a later stage. There is no doubt that motor cycle noise is a great nuisance in some areas and must be dealt with. On that basis, we welcome the Bill.

11.21 am
The Parliamentary-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr. Peter Bottomley)

First, I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) for your kind remarks about my incapacity, which I hope will not be too obvious. If I lock up, I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Neubert) will nip out and fetch the sticks that I have been using for the past few days.

During most of the debate we were honoured by the presence of the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley), who would no doubt strongly confirm the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch about the effect of noise pollution on those who are hard of hearing. As my hon. Friend said, extraneous noise complicates life enormously for those with weak hearing. As I have responsibility for the transport needs of the handicapped and disabled, and as in my previous position at the Department of Employment I had responsibility for work opportunities for the handicapped and disabled, I should point out that my hon. Friend's Bill, which has all-party support, will benefit not just those who are fit and have good hearing but those who are less fit, hard of hearing or blind. As my hon. Friend said, the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association also supports the Bill.

As the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) echoed in his welcome contribution on this point, all-party support for a measure of this kind is important. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch has also secured the support of the whole motor-cycling community, both the trade and the riders. As my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West (Mrs. Bottomley) said in her valued intervention, motor cyclists themselves are interested in protecting the good name of motor cycling. As I said when we launched our consultation paper, "Safer Motorcycling", the Government, and indeed the whole House, wish to preserve and enhance the good aspects of motor cycling while cutting out the bad. I am grateful to all those who responded to that consultation paper, which was concerned mainly with safety, but we are also concerned to reduce environmental pollution of all kinds and to cut out unnecessary pollution.

Noise pollution carries further than anything else, at least in the short term. One may argue about the effects of burning coal and about acid rain which carries across continents, but the noise from a motor cycle can be louder than an aeroplane. Most of the Department of Transport is based in the south tower at Marsham street, just across Horseferry road from Westminster hospital. The motor cycle noise that I hear from the 12th floor can thus be heard by all the patients and staff in Westminster hospital. The same applies to old people's homes, and so on, throughout the community. People who need and deserve less noise are annoyed and irritated by motor cycle noise and the most vulnerable are disturbed the most. I believe that there have been very few representations against the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch told me earlier today that he had had one letter from a member of the Motorcycle Action Group but that he had dealt with it by telling the writer that the group supported the Bill.

Mr. Adley

Perhaps I should clarify that. The Motorcycle Action Group, which is represented on the National Motorcyle Council, is one of the supporters of the Bill.

Mr. Bottomley

No doubt a few traders will hod that when the Bill becomes law they will be selling fewer noisy motor cycle exhausts, but they should not complain about that as the profit margin on quiet, legal exhaust systems should be roughly the same as on noisy, illegal ones.

Mr. Adley

Does my hon. Friend agree that all Governments should campaign against the deliberate creation of pollution for profit, whether by selling noisy motor cycle exhausts or by operating coaches and trying to beat the competition regardless of the cost to the community?

Mr. Bottomley

That may he so, but, at the risk of falling out with my hon. Friend, I should point out, as the hon. Member for Hammersmith knows, that when we put forward a safeguarding proposal for WEIR — the Western Environment Improvement Route — along the railway line at Earl's Court, the letters that we received expressed as much concern about increases in the number of trains as about road traffic. I suspect, therefore, that a debate on the relative merits of trains and coaches would produce arguments on both sides. When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy was at the Department of the Environment, he said that he thought that the way to flush out the environmentalists would be to put forward a proposal to close the M1 because nobody liked roads and to build a new railway line across southern England to see how many people would favour the activities of a modern Brunel in their area.

Mr. Adley

The road transport industry and those selling seats for hire and reward on the roads do not pay the track costs and other expenses, which amount to £600 million per year, for the railways. Sir Robert Reid once commented that if he parked a train illegally at Piccadilly Circus he would soon have somebody down on his neck. If my hon. Friend the Minister seriously intends to raise debate — I hope that he will — about the relative environmental advantages of road and rail, he must start from a fair comparison. I look forward to discussing the subject at great length on that basis.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Not today, please.

Mr. Bottomley

I am sure that Sir Robert Reid welcomes the feeder traffic that he receives through coaches and buses. Many people arrive at railway stations on roads, some on foot, some on bicycles, and some on motor cycles— if that keeps me in order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Some arrive by car, but many arrive on buses and coaches.

Mr. Adley

I did not mention buses.

Mr. Bottomley

My hon. Friend is trying to put me off.

If you do not mind, Mr. Deputy Speaker, perhaps I can return for a moment to the comments made by the hon. Member for Hammersmith. He talked about destroying manufacturing industry. It is probably worth noting that, with the changes in productivity in this country, many people in manufacturing wish that more things were produced in this country or that they could buy more of their components here. If the hon. Gentleman listened to senior people in Vauxhall and Ford, he would probably hear them saying things that were not terribly polite about their predecessors for sourcing so much outside Great Britain. In fact, the proportion of cars assembled in this country has increased from 41 per cent. to 50 per cent. in the past year or so. That is good news for Britain.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the British motor cycle industry. I should declare an interest because I own some shares in NVT, which was a great part of the British motor cycle industry. I should also declare that I bought them well before I became a Member of this House. They have been valueless for most of the time that I have been in the House. I do not intend to sell them while I am the Minister responsible for roads and motor cycling. I hope that I shall not discover that another Minister has been involved in buying or selling such shares.

I take the hon. Gentleman's point about the health of the motor cycle manufacturing industry. The reproduction and replica motor cycles that are made in this country. as well as some of the new, modern advanced ones that are made for use by the police services, are greatly welcomed by those who have the interests of the British motor cycle manufacturing industry at heart.

In the main, we are talking about the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch. However, the hon. Member for Hammersmith also referred to rural bus services. My hon. Friend referred in an intervention to Charlie's Cars. I am sure that such a service would not have been possible without deregulation. My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, South-West was invited to inaugurate the Godalming town bus — I am sorry, I mean the Haslemere town bus. I referred to Godalming because the county council discovered that, because the subsidy required was so low, instead of being able to bring in two new bus services, it could add a third, which, I believe, included Godalming.

Generally, there has been benefit from deregulation. Perhaps the hon. Member for Hammersmith and some of his hon. Friends who have doubts would like to consider how soon the benefits of deregulation could be extended so that in our own constituencies in London we can have more services going into areas where, up to now, there have not been any services—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The Minister's comments do not have much to do with motor cycle noise.

Mr. Bottomley

That depends on whether one thinks a motor cycle is more or less noisy than a minibus service or a taxi service. We may discover that some people are giving up their motor cycles and using the new forms of public transport.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

indicated assent.

Mr. Bottomley

The hon. Member supports that, arid I am most grateful.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

In my constituency it has been suggested to me that many of the new minibus services that have been introduced since deregulation have resulted in people not having to use motor cycles. That has met with considerable support from those who worry about the safety of people on motor cycles and those who worry about the noise and the other pollution caused by motor cycles.

Mr. Kirkwood

That was better.

Mr. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman is not supposed to introduce divisions between hon. Members of the same party.

To return to the content of the Bill and avoid further problems with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I say that the hon. Member for Hammersmith also referred to the different types of exhaust systems for motor cycles. He referred to original equipment, to equipment that is modified in ownership and to replacement equipment that is deliberately more noisy than the original equipment, which must meet the standards. He was right in saying that—there is no problem with original equipment.

The Government support the Bill and welcome the initiative of my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch in bringing it forward. It will greatly help our efforts to reduce motor cycle noise and should encourage the motor cycle trade to ensure that it supplies replacement exhausts and silencers to enable every model to meet the noise limits set in European Community directives. For most of the machines that are currently on the road, that means compliance with the limits set in directive 78/1015/EEC. From 1990, new motor cycles and, therefore, replacement exhausts for those machines must comply with a new directive, 87/56/EEC, which was agreed at the Environmental Council last November. Now that that directive has been adopted by the Council, we intend to prepare draft amendments to the construction and use regulations to make the new limits applicable at the due dates to new machines registered in Britain.

I can assure the House that those improvements can be made by European motor cycle manufacturers whose Governments are party to the agreement, with improvements to detailed design and key components, and to the silencers and the sources of mechanical noise. The new limits and the dates of their implementation reflect the policy to which the Government are now committed, that is, to make motor cycle manufacturers improve their products and keep in step with the progress that is being made by car, lorry and bus manufacturers to reduce noise at source. It is one thing to ensure that new motor cycles are quiet, but we also need to ensure that they remain that way in use.

My hon. Friend's Bill will help to ensure that, because it strikes at important aspects of the problem of replacement silencers. We should be able to require replacement silencer manufacturers and importers to demonstrate that their products do all that they are supposed to do. If my hon. Friend succeeds in cutting down the nuisance caused by inadequate silencers, a great many people will have good cause to be grateful to him.

The question of enforcement has been raised. When I went on a short tour of south-east Asia last year, I visited a vehicle testing station in Singapore where a whole group—I am not sure of the collective term for young motor cyclists and their motor cycles—

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

A roar.

Mr. Bottomley

Yes. A roar of motor cycles and motor cyclists was gathered in that vehicle testing station. They were the previous night's collection of motor cyclists who had wrongly drawn attention to themselves through their noisy behaviour. They were summoned to have their vehicles tested. That caused a degree of aggravation for the motor cyclists and provided a low-cost opportunity to test whether their cycles met the various requirements, including the noise requirements. It may be that such an approach could be considered by police forces in this country. Perhaps it could be tied in with trading standards officers or with the vehicle examiners in the Department of Transport. I am not saying that that is what must be done, but it would be a way of trying to scoop up people and have a low-cost but effective way of checking that motor cycles do not make too much noise.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith referred to Mr. Osborne, who had been in correspondence with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) on a defective vehicle rectification scheme, under which, instead of immediate prosecution, people would be required to put their vehicle in good order and to demonstrate that they had done so. That idea is being promoted by several police services. People will be able to see how effective it is and whether it can be extended. No one wants to see unnecessary prosecutions. There are various ways of avoiding prosecutions. One is to reduce the number of offenders. That is the key point which, in a low-cost way, goes to the source of much of the obnoxious, unnecessary and illegal noise made by motor cycles.

Having done as much as possible on that, there is also the question of what happens when one finds a person who has a vehicle component which does not meet the construction and use regulations. Perhaps it once did but has been modified by age and use or deliberately to produce excessive noise. It seems that vehicle rectification would work as well as it does on other vehicles which are found to be unsafe, although not to the extent that they need to be immediately prohibited. Making a vehicle meet legal requirements is better than tying up the time of courts and the police officer involved. Mr. Osborne's suggesting is being used and I am sure that people will consider taking it further.

A question arose on consultation and how we might proceed. Obviously I do not need to remind my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch that the Bill gives the Secretary of State powers to make and lay regulations. We consult the trading standards officers and Customs and Excise, and everyone is agreed that there will be no problems over powers. My hon. Friend wanted that assurance.

My hon. Friend also asked about finance. Obviously trading standards officers would like to have more funds. Most people in the public service would like to have more resources and most would also like to have more pay. All hon. Members will understand that general plea. It is worth saying that trading standards officers already visit motor cycle accessory shops in the course of their duties. The additional task of checking that exhaust systems meet the law will be fairly marginal, and I do not think that it will cause an enormous problem.

My hon. Friend asked about publicity. There is substantial interest in and support for the Bill in the trade and motor cycling community which will do all it can to publicise the Bill. The motor cycle industry is well organised—both importers and retailers. Together with wholesalers, they will ensure that the information is passed on.

My hon. Friend referred to the possibility of a general election in the next 13 months. He has wisely enlisted the interest of Lord Bottomley of Middlesbrough. I am sure that their Lordships will not find the disguise so complete that they think I have moved up to join them. It may be worth saying that Arthur Bottomley, as most of us know him, and I have been confused on several occasions. I normally accept the invitations I receive that are meant for him and he normally turns down the ones he receives which are meant for me. The classic case was when Conservative central office asked him to open the Conservative fete at Thurrock. He said he did not want to and was then told that Mrs. Thatcher paid great attention to who opened Conservative garden fetes in Thurrock and that, by the way, there was a charity marathon and would he run the last five miles with the runners as it would do his future in the party a great deal of good. He then explained that he had been a Privy Councillor and a Labour Cabinet Minister, that he had no intention of running five yards for the Conservative party, and that perhaps the office should approach me.

Mr. McNamara

The Minister is doing well — 21 minutes so far.

Mr. Bottomley

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding me that I should spend a little more time on perhaps the most expensive general election promise ever made. Perhaps we can return to that on some other occasion.

Mr. McNamara

A fulfilled promise, unlike the Government's promise on the National Health Service.

Mr. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman also refers to the decision announced yesterday to meet in full the review body's recommendation on nurses' pay, and I am grateful to him for welcoming what the Government have done.

In Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch took us through the main features of the Bill and I intended to make a public apology to him again. In Committee he spoke about the Dykes Act and today we were grateful to see my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. Dykes) present for the debate. In Committee my hon. Friend said in relation to the Dykes Act that we took the first hesitant steps in coming to terms with the severe, anti-social nuisances which can be caused by manifestation of the internal combustion engine."—[Official Report, Standing Committee C, 11 March 1987; c. 19.] That was a series of polysyllabic words which drew a gasp from me which was perhaps rightly interpreted by Hansard as me saying, "Who wrote that'?" I was not in any way suggesting that that had not been written by my hon. Friend.

The reference to Hansard reminds me that Peter Walker of Hansard invited me to go on Budget day to Ripley to meet the Wey valley advanced motor cyclists, a group within the Institute of Advanced Motorists which has provided great support for the Bill. Throughout the country active motorists anxious to promote all that is good about motor cycling and to reduce all that is bad have supported the Bill. It is to be welcomed that throughout the land responsible motorists have lent that support.

We can go into other issues about motor cycling on other occasions, but perhaps it would not be out of order for me to say that I welcome the reduction in the casualty rate. Obviously the number of casualties is related to the number of people who motor cycle. Yesterday we announced that motor cycle casualties, including moped and scooter users, had fallen by 8 per cent. because of a reduction in motor cycling. That has reduced the actual casualty rate by 3 per cent., which is welcome. What is not welcome is the fact that there were some 750 deaths, 15,000 people were seriously injured and there were 36,000 slight injuries. That makes a total of those involved in accidents of 52,000. We need to promote the interests of motor cyclists and motor cycling, and the Bill does so in reducing noise pollution.

I am grateful to all hon. Members who have helped to bring the Bill to this stage. The Government hope that it will receive its Third Reading today, move to another place and, if possible, be enacted. In that way, the industry will be prevented from being tempted to fit illegal exhausts, we shall find life quieter and more pleasant, and people will be able to take up motor cycling without damaging the interests of others.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third tune, and passed.

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