HL Deb 23 March 1987 vol 486 cc3-5

2.42 p.m.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many provisional motor cycle licences were issued in each of the last three years, and how many passes of each of the two-stage test for a full licence were issued during the same period.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, comparable figures for provisional licences issued containing motor cycle entitlement over the last three years are not available. During the year ending 30th September 1986, 387,641 provisional licences were issued with motor cycle entitlement. In 1984, 58,317 riders passed part 1 of the motor cycle test, and 45,403 passed part 2. In 1985, 49,961 passed part 1 and 42,502 passed part 2; and, in 1986, 44,004 passed part 1 and 40,070 passed part 2.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that somewhat incomplete Answer, though there were a lot of figures. The fact that there is only one year of provisional licences▀×1986—is rather a pity for the purposes of the record. However, is my noble friend aware that those figures are enough to make the point in which I am interested—that since provisional licences have had only a two-year validity since October 1982 there seems to be an alarming disparity between the number of provisional licences issued in 1986, of which there is a record—nearly 400,000—and the number of passes of the two-part test, which is only about 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. of that total?

Is my noble friend aware that there is a strong implication that a large number of provisional licence holders are riding around on motor cycles after their licences have expired? They are therefore illegally on the road and no action is taken. What plans do the Government have to check the use of provisional licences, and to find out how many have expired and how many motor cyclists are riding illegally?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it is of course an offence to ride a motor cycle without a provisional licence or after it has run out after the first two years. It is not known how many licence holders use their motor cycle entitlement to ride a motor cycle on the road. I believe that many people apply for a provisional licence and possibly never use it, as they go directly to driving a car. We are conducting a review at the present time of motor cycle safety and the effects of the Transport Act 1981. There is also a discussion paper entitled Safer Motor Cycling which was issued in August 1986. The responses are now being considered.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that it is not much use Parliament having passed the 1981 Act limiting provisional licences to two years if his department does not take the necessary action to enforce validity? Will my noble friend accept that he has an obligation to see that the law is made effective and that provisional licence holders either take their tests or remove themselves from the road?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I accept that. That is one of the reasons that we are having a review. It is an offence to ride a motor cycle without a provisional licence, just as it is an offence to drive a car without a licence. Anyone who is caught will be subject to the usual sanctions.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I am sure that the Minister recognises that many of us appreciate the review that the Government are undertaking. However, will he also recognise that there is considerable concern at the massive numbers of fatalities and injuries suffered by motor cyclists? Can he say whether, as a result of the two-part test, there has been any decrease in fatalities and injuries?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I do not have to hand the figures for fatalities and injuries involving motor cyclists. As the noble Lord will be aware, they are published regularly by my department. I think I am right in saying that the last figures showed a slight decrease. However, there is no doubt that they are still too high. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that motor cycling is less popular now than it was a few years ago, if popularity is measured by new machine registrations. Those registrations have gone down from 175,000 in 1983 to just over 103,000 last year.

Lord Somers

My Lords, can the Minister say whether, when a provisional licence has expired, it is justifiable to issue another licence and so allow motor cyclists to continue riding ad nauseam with only a provisional licence?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

No, my Lords. That was one of the points of the changes that were made. If the test is not passed within two years, that licence lapses and another licence cannot be obtained for another year after that.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, can my noble friend explain the position before the obtaining of a provisional licence? Is it simply a situation of paying your money and taking delivery of a motor cycle, or is some degree of skill and training required at that stage? Surely that is of even more concern.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I think the situation is the same as the situation with a motor car. One can get a provisional licence on application and then drive with L plates. In the case of a motor cycle, the licence is valid for only two years.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, will my noble friend not agree that in a motor car one is not allowed to ride or drive unaccompanied during the period of the holding of a provisional licence, and that that is a very different situation?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I agree. It is a different situation.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House whether the Government have any proposals to introduce compulsory training in the future?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, that is indeed one of the proposals being considered in the review.