HL Deb 04 February 1988 vol 492 cc1183-5
Lord Rodney

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 what progress has been made in curbing motorcycle noise in urban areas since the answer to Lord Rodney's question on 21st November 1985 (Official Report, Vol. 468, col. 654).

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

My Lords, a new directive on motorcycle noise has been agreed by the European Community. It will introduce more stringent requirements for new motorcycles from 1990. The Motor Cycle Noise Act 1987 allows the Secretary of State to make regulations controlling the quality of replacement exhausts and silencers for motorcycles when they are offered for sale. We are preparing regulations to introduce both those new controls and I expect that we shall consult on them very shortly.

Lord Rodney

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply, which seems to refer in the main to new motorcycles. I am not sure that new motorcycles make most of the noise. I have never seen a motorcyclist stopped for making too much noise. Can the Minister tell the House whether it will be possible to institute periodic checks such as those which are made for speeding?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, we all appreciate that noisy motorcycles are a great problem. Concerning the use of noise meters at roadsides, the police have found that procedure difficult to operate because of the problems of finding suitable test sites and of excluding noise from other sources. I can assure the House that there are prosecutions for motorcycle noise offences and that the police prosecute when they can.

Lord Hunt

My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is not only motorcycle noise in urban areas which causes grave concern? Trail riding in upland areas and particularly in the national parks is also a problem.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord. It is possible that the noise problem is even worse in rural areas than in urban areas where there are other background noises. However, we believe that the various measures concerning the sale of replacement silencers and making sure that they are up to scratch, together with the regulations for new motorcycles, will go some way towards alleviating the problem.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, taking into account the Answer which the Minister has just given, we have legislation to deal with exhaust systems and silencers on new machines and also replacement equipment. Therefore the whole problem is now one of enforcement. Does he agree that it is difficult to see how a Community directive can assist with enforcement? Do the Government have any ideas on solutions to the problem? Enforcement could tie up police to a considerable extent. However, the nuisance must be dealt with. Responsible motorcycle organisations agree with that assessment of the situation.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, that is quite correct. The police do not have the resources to do absolutely everything that they might like to do. However, I can assure the House that exhausts are checked in MOT tests and a motorcycle can fail the test if one is leaking or insecurely mounted. Motorcycles will also have to have silencers which conform with the regulations.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that many young motorcyclists actually tamper with their exhausts in order to remove the silencing material? Therefore it is necessary for the police to institute roadside checks in order to see whether the silencing material is still present.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it is an offence to tamper with an exhaust pipe so that it makes more noise than it should. I understand that there have been prosecutions involving such actions. The new British standard replacement silencers should be made tamper-proof if possible.

Lord Elton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the level of noise from motorcycles is still unsatisfactory? In June 1934 my father moved an amendment into the Road Traffic Act of that year which made it illegal to supply a vehicle which was not silenced. In 1974 I moved an amendment to the Road Traffic Bill which made it illegal to drive such a vehicle and which was later struck out in another place. Can the Minister give an undertaking that in the year 2014 my son will be able to assure me of a happy issue to my family's involvement in the matter?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend that it will be sooner than that.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that one of the most troublesome matters, apart from the total volume of noise that a motorcycle can make in the daytime in traffic, is the early bird who gets up to go to work on a motorbike and wishing to say hello to a boyfriend or girlfriend left behind in the house revs up his bike as a symbol that he is off? Those are the people who wake everyone up and disturb them.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, it is an offence to ride a motorcycle which causes excessive noise or to ride in such a way as to cause excessive noise which could have been avoided with reasonable care on the part of the driver. That covers the point which my noble friend makes. On the other hand, I should think that it would be quite difficult for the police to bring prosecutions in such circumstances.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, as the Member of your Lordships' House who sponsored the last Bill dealing with that subject during the last Parliament, I ask whether it is not regrettable that no progress has been made as a result of the passing of the Act.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Lord for piloting the Bill through the last Parliament in its closing stages. As I said in my original Answer, we have now prepared regulations to introduce the new controls. We shall be consulting on them shortly. I hope that they can be introduced quite shortly.