HL Deb 24 April 1986 vol 473 cc1274-5

3.10 p.m.

Lord Moran

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will take steps to put an end to the widespread practice in London whereby motor-cycles overtake lines of traffic by travelling on the wrong side of the white line.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, overtaking by crossing the white line at the centre of the road is a criminal offence only when it involves reckless, careless or inconsiderate driving or the contravention of road markings such as a double white line. The Metropolitan Police take steps to prevent and detect such offences as part of their general responsibility for policing London's traffic.

Lord Moran

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Do I understand that to mean that motor-cyclists who cross a single white line are committing no offence? If one drives on any evening from this House to Albert Bridge one sees a large number of motor-cyclists crossing the white line. Is this not a very dangerous practice and does it not put them and other people at risk? I am surprised if it is acceptable to the police and to the Government.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, all the information is available to the noble Lord in the Highway Code. I assumed all along that the noble Lord was referring to the white line in the centre. If a person overtakes safely, it is a matter for him.

Earl Cathcart

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that accidents involving motor-cyclists are unlikely to decrease until motor-cyclists can be persuaded to conform to the normal rules of traffic control and to desist not only from the practice described in the original Question but also other practices such as weaving among moving vehicles in built-up areas?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that weaving can be dangerous. The Highway Code makes it clear that when traffic is moving slowly in queues motorists should not change lanes to the left in order to overtake. I am well aware of the point my noble friend makes. With regard to numbers of injuries, the commissioner has informed us that 66 motor-cyclists were killed in London in 1985, a decrease of 34 on the 1984 figures. The figures are coming down.

Lord Wigoder

My Lords, did the noble Lord say that it is not an offence to cross a single continuous white line in the middle of the road? If it is not, what is the difference between a continuous white line and a broken white line?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I refer the noble Lord to the Highway Code. Page 21, paragraph 85, says: You must not overtake:—if you would have to cross or straddle double white lines with a solid line nearer to you". There are then two other conditions which the noble Lord will no doubt find interesting.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, the noble Lord said that the Metropolitan Police take appropriate action in such cases. Can he tell the House how many successful prosecutions there have been in the past 12 months or the past two years? Although this is a dangerous offence for motor-cyclists, are not many car drivers also guilty of the offence?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the figures available centrally on the offences of recklessness, carelessness and inconsiderate driving do not distinguish cases involving overtaking. In 1984, the latest year for which figures are available centrally, eight motor-cyclists were convicted in London of failing to comply with double white lines. In England and Wales as a whole the figure was 726. The same technical rules as apply to cars exist in the Highway Code.