HL Deb 20 May 1993 vol 545 cc1851-2

3.20 p.m

The Viscount of Falkland asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they expect to implement the Motor Cycle Noise Act 1987.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, it is not possible to give a firm commitment and a date for the bringing into force of the 1987 Act and of the regulations to be made under it. However, these will follow as soon as possible after a related amendment to the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. We now propose to go out to public consultation on those.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that the great majority of cyclists and the organisations which represent them are keen to keep the level of noise from motor cycles as low as is reasonably possible? Is the Minister also aware that the admirable piece of legislation passed in 1987 sought to forbid dealers selling "after market" exhaust systems, which are often designed for the race track, to people owning road bikes? Is not the present position ludicrous in that it is against the law for an individual to use those systems but it is still legal for a dealer to sell them?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, that is precisely why we wish to move as fast as possible in amending the 1986 regulations before moving on to the 1987 regulations. I understand full well the desires of the motor cycle industry to have the 1987 Act implemented. We too wish to have it implemented.

Lord Bottomley

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I raised the issue in this House after the legislation came from another place? Little did I believe that it would take so long to be implemented. Will the Minister give a more categoric assurance that the matter will be dealt with more speedily, a few years having elapsed since it was first introduced?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, if I could give the House a more categoric date I would be willing to do so. However, we need to go through the procedures and first pass the 1986 amendment. I can assure the noble Lord that we are determined to push on with the matter as fast as possible.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the invention of the fax machine has made the motor cycle a totally unnecessary means of conveyance since its sole purpose is to take documents from one yuppie to another? Furthermore, since the motor cycle endangers the lives of the elderly Members of your Lordships' House who have offices on the other side of the road, would it not be best to prohibit its use altogether?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am sure that some Members of your Lordships' House will agree with my noble friend. However, I have every confidence that there will be others who do not.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the House will be surprised that in response to his noble friend's question he did not reply that that was not the Question on the Order Paper, which these days is his characteristic reply? Will the Minister indicate the process of the consultation? How long is it likely to be? Has there been a demand from motor cycling organisations and others for the Act to be implemented as rapidly as possible? Finally, can we expect to have legislation dealing with both matters in the course of the next Session of Parliament?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, we are going out to consultation on the amendment to the 1986 regulations and there will be four weeks in which to respond. However, as the noble Lord will know, the EC Commission needs to be informed under the standstill directive and will require at least three months in which to notify other member states and to consider the matter. Therefore, the timing remains a little obscure.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, nevertheless, is it not disappointing that six years after the Act was passed—I believe that I was the Minister responsible, but I can hardly remember that far back—it has not yet been implemented? It was broadly welcomed on all sides of the House. Is that connected with the fact that trading standards officers must be able to inspect dealers' premises; and are there enough trading standards officers to carry out that job?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, my noble friend will remember the Private Member's Bill passing through your Lordships' House. He will also be aware that soon after the 1987 Bill was made an Act the European Commission also decided that it was time to do something about motor cycles. Therefore, everything on this side of the Channel had to go into limbo until we received the EC resolution and agreement, which we now have. We have since been working on the problem and hope to work a little faster.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, will the Minister take it from me that a great deal of the draft legislation coming from Brussels is vigorously opposed not only in the European Parliament but here among motor cyclists? I believe that it would be good if we in this country sorted out our own legislation so that we could at least show the meddling European bureaucrats that our house is in order before they come in through our door?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I was interested to hear what the noble Viscount said, especially from those Benches and with his Leader sitting beside him. One of the difficulties has been trying to reconcile what is in our legislation and making that work with agreements within the EC.

Lord Chalfont

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is perhaps indelicate, if not improper, to be discussing such matters in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Donington?