HC Deb 16 February 1987 vol 110 cc719-22

Postponed proceeding resumed.

7.52 pm
Mr. Adley

As I was saying—as they say—perhaps I should repeat the few words I said earlier. I hope that my thanks to the Minister and the Department for the work they have done will be taken as read.

I was saying that there is legislation available at present enabling prosecutions to be brought against individual motor cyclists for having noisy exhaust systems. However, the purpose of the Motor Cycle Noise Bill and the money resolution is to deal with the matter at source, where the total supply can be dealt with by one action, which is clearly not only more time-effective but cost-efficient than the present proposition of the police having to take dozens of individuals to court.

The British Motor Cyclists' Federation supports the Bill and the money resolution as does the Motor Cycle Association. I will not weary the House by reading out endless quotations because this is not a Second Reading debate and, happily, the Bill has already received a Second Reading.

Money for the Bill is needed quite simply to enable trading standards officers to do their job as proposed in the powers they will be given under the Bill. That should relieve the police of a great deal of works.

The Bill concerns non-standard exhaust systems or exhaust systems modified to make more noise. That is the point that has to be stressed. We are dealing with a Bill that is trying to prevent people from deliberately making more noise. The Bill makes illegal the sale or use of unstamped exhaust systems and the trading standards officers, the funding of whom will be provided by the money resolution if the House passes it, will have the power to confiscate unstamped systems, which will obviously cost money. There is a trade at present in approved exhaust systems and one hopes that if the Bill, the money resolution and all its works are ultimately approved by Parliament there will be a growing sale of those approved exhaust systems.

The Bill gives powers to trading standards officers to enter factories to look around and take away exhaust systems which they believe might be contravening the regulations. The relevant clauses mean that they do not have to make a prior appointment but can simply enter the premises.

This is a small but important money resolution for a small Bill. Noise is the curse of modern society and deliberate noise is unacceptable. The internal combustion engine is a major source of noise and pollution and I hope that the House will agree to give its support to this small but worthwhile step.

7.56 pm
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

I wish to support the money resolution which will give effect to the Motor Cycle Noise Bill. The purpose of the money resolution is to authorise limited spending of public money on the purpose of the Bill and to provide finance for weights and measures officers. The explanatory and financial memorandum says: It is estimated that when the provisions are fully operational the cost of purchasing samples and testing them will initially be in the range of £50,000 to £150,000, but as the provisions take effect, these costs will probably diminish. The object of that is to enforce the law proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) who should be warmly congratulated on bringing forward his private Member's Bill and the money resolution that goes with it.

The money resolution should be supported enthusiastically by the whole House. The resolution, like the Bill to which it relates, has the paramount aim of improving the quality of life. As my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch has just said, noise is the curse of modern society. The explanatory and financial memorandum refers to the modest cost. In a population of about 50 million in the United Kingdom, a sum of £50,000 to £150,000 — [Interruption.] It is a little difficult to address the House with another speech going on on the Opposition Benches. In a population of 50 million, a sum of £50,000 to £150,000 works out at one tenth to three tenths of a penny per head per year. That is a small price to pay for improving our environment and controlling and curbing the curse and bane of motor cycle noise.

The money resolution appears to be open-ended and I hope that the Government will not feel inhibited if some further modest expenditure is required. I should like to explain why. Our so-called civilisation is afflicted by far too much loud and strident noise. There are radios blaring, human beings shouting and yelling, dogs harking, unwanted piped music, noise from aircraft, lorries, cars and, as we are discussing, motor cycles. People's nerves are shattered and their senses are dulled. British common law emphasises the right of individuals to the quiet enjoyment of their homes and gardens but all too often that is marred and blighted by the curse of motor cycle noise.

The money resolution relates directly to this matter as it sanctions provision for the work of weights and measures inspectors to inspect and deal with motor cycle noise. Motor cycle noise is particularly unpleasant. It is not only its volume but the character of the noise which is unsettling and juddering, like a pneumatic drill, whether in residential areas or quiet country lanes. In both that is an outrage to people's freedom to live in peace and quiet by day and, even more so, by night.

My constituents have three special reasons for wishing me to support the resolution. First, there happen to be many main roads or trunk roads with houses along them in my constituency that are used by a considerable number of motor cyclists. These roads include the A305, the A308, the A310, the A311, the A312, the A313, the A314 and, most important, the A316, the great Chertsey road, which links with the M25, along which a substantial number of motor cyclists travel.

Secondly, the resolution is of special concern to my constituents because, in addition to motor cycle noise, they have to suffer aircraft noise. The one nuisance has to be taken with the other. If the resolution is passed and weights and measures inspectors are empowered to deal with the nuisance of motor cycle noise, the totality of aircraft noise and motor cycle noise, which comprises a great deal of noise, would be mitigated. The Government have tried already to mitigate aircraft noise by refusing planning permission for a fifth terminal at Heathrow and by refusing to allow a helicopter link from Heathrow to Gatwick. That is not enough, however, and I hope that the resolution will be passed by the House so that motor cycle noise can be reduced as well.

Thirdly and finally, there is a local problem that could be relieved by the passage of the resolution. I refer to the long-standing problem of scrambling motor cycles on the Butts farm estate, which is in the borough of Hounslow but adjacent to my constituency, which is within the borough of Richmond. The two local authorities, Richmond and Hounslow, have dragged their feet. The latest information is that they are only considering erecting fences. They need their heads knocked together. There is a need for legal action to be taken with an order of mandamus against the local authorities. Meanwhile, I am glad that the resolution seems likely to be passed. It will tend to make motor cycles quieter and could contribute to the solution of a distressing local problem.

8.2 pm

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

If it is necessary, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for me to ask for the leave of the House to speak again, I do so.

I used to be responsible for noise regulation under health and safety at work legislation when I was an Employment Minister. I once sneaked a noise meter into the Chamber and during Prime Minister's Questions the reading was 95 dB. Such a noise level would be banned in most factories. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) was not present at the time.

Mr. Snape

The reading would have been 98 dB if he had been.

Mr. Bottomley

I went with my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the health and safety research laboratories at Cricklewood, where she was shown some resounding cymbals. Well, one pair of cymbals resounded and the other pair made only a dull thud when she touched them. The pair that thudded had been sprayed with some noise-reducing aerosol. If I may spread a remark that she did not make, she did not say that she would like to use them on the Leader of the Opposition when he interrupted too frequently during Prime Minister's Question Time.

The money resolution should not be taken as meaning that taxpayers' money will be provided for all the work done by the trading standards officers employed by local authorities. However, regulations made under the main legislation—in other words, the Bill—will be enforced by the trading standards officers. Some local authorities may need to buy silencers for testing, but we have been told that the estimated cost of purchasing and testing will be small. I am not sure whether all the moneys will be provided by Parliament. As the provisions take effect the need for actual enforcement will diminish because suppliers will stop supplying illegal and noisy exhaust systems.

The House and the country will owe a great debt to my hon. Friend the Member for Christchurch (Mr. Adley) in bringing forward this sensible, simple and useful Bill. I do not consider it to be a small Bill because the effect of one noisy motor cycle can destroy the environment, as my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham has reminded us, over almost a mile. The additional work load is expected to have no significant manpower implications. I commend the resolution to the House and I hope that the Bill is enacted.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That, for the purposes of any Act resulting from the Motor Cycle Noise Bill, it is expedient to authorise any increase attributable to that Act in the sums payable out of money provided by Parliament under any other Act.