HL Deb 28 April 1999 vol 600 cc390-404

8.24 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

This is a short Bill, and therefore this will be a short speech. The history of the Bill dates from when my noble friend Lord Addison asked an Unstarred Question on motorcycle parking places, on 2nd March 1998. The noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, answered. for the Government, saying: secure parking is a key concern … The Government have declared that they will change the law when an opportunity arises to put beyond doubt the ability of local authorities to provide devices on the highways to which motorcycles can be attached. "—[Official Report, 2/3/98: col.953] The Government have been immensely helpful in enabling me to bring the Bill forward. I would be Machiavellian if I mentioned the need for more powered two-wheeler (PTW) places, or PTWs in bus lanes. That would be very rude of me, so I shall refrain.

The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions said in A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone in 1998 that it would consider specific measures to assist motorcyclists, such as secure parking on public transport interchange sites—that is, park-and-ride. The Welsh Office guidance for local transport plans 1999 stated: Another key factor for encouraging the use of powered two-wheelers is the provision of safe parking". There has been a considerable increase in sales of powered two-wheelers over recent years. In 1992 a survey of 400 motorcyclists in Bristol found that the lack of secure parking facilities was the issue of greatest concern to riders. Ninety-eight per cent said that they would be encouraged to use a lock if anchor paints were available. A further survey in Sandwell, West Midlands, in 1998 found similar results. In 1991, against a backdrop of escalating levels of PTW thefts, the: insurance companies raised motorcycle premiums by a high percentage.

There can be little doubt about the need for secure parking, and its incentive effect. Before Christmas last year I was fortunate enough to listen to a talk by national association Bikers with Disability. One of the many support services it offers is engineering solutions to aid disabled bikers to modify PTWs to allow them to enjoy their freedom again. Imagine the severe disappointment that a disabled biker would suffer on the theft of his or her specially modified PTW. I apologise at this stage to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, because I know how much he dislikes the term "PTW".

Figures issued in January this year show once again a rise in thefts since 1997. It is estimated that around 25,000 motorcycles are stolen annually, with a recovery rate of 14 per cent, compared with the overall vehicle recovery rate of 65 per cent. I must declare are interest, for somewhere in those figures are two PTWs of mine that were "half-inched"—perhaps in your Lordships' House I should say "purloined".

One of the most stunning of a plethora of ghastly PTW figures is the fact that PTW theft is seven times greater here than in Germany. London is the capital of PTW theft, with double the problem of any other country. These gloomy stories have a financial impact on us all. The extra cost in insurance premiums, police investigation costs and criminal justice fees is borne by us all. As I have said, I have had two PTWs stolen in London in the past four years. I am sure that the financial impact was not borne just by me.

I understand that all parties pledged support for PTWs in their general election manifestos and there is strong support on all sides for the Bill which I bring forward for its Second Reading today.

Many local authorities are beginning to install PTW parking facilities and this Bill is designed to minimise the red tape and financial cost incurred by that red tape involved in installing secure PTW facilities. It seeks to clarify that grey area of the law.

This Bill amends Section 63 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 by merely authorising local authorities not only to provide stands and racks for bicycles but also for motorcycles. It does not interfere with any arrangements already made for bicycles.

It is as simple as that. The effect of the Bill is to give a small enlargement of existing powers to local authorities, but those new powers would be discretionary and there would be no obligation on the authorities to exercise them. The total expenditure of local authorities in consequence of the Bill is likely to be minimal. No effects are expected on public service manpower and it is expected that there will be a negligible impact on businesses, charities and voluntary bodies. I am extremely hopeful that this Bill will enable more PTWs to be secured successfully. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. —(Lord Rotherwick.)

8.33 p.m.

Lord Haskel

My Lords, the noble Lord's Bill is concerned mainly with secure parking places for motorcycles, but bicycles are also slightly involved in the Bill and I want to make sure that cyclists' interests are not overlooked. I must declare an interest as someone who cycles between 2,000 and 3,000 miles per year, many of them on a tandem.

I half-support the Bill because, as regards congestion and pollution, motorcycles come half-way between cars and bicycles. The noble Lord will be aware that under the 1984 Act, authorities responsible for roads already have powers to provide racks and stands for bicycles. This Bill permits them to add securing devices.

There are some 15 million bicycles in this country and I welcome anything which encourages people to use them more. Identified and secure parking places are an additional encouragement. They remove the hassle of having to find a safe place. What is more, the bike is there when you get back and you are glad about that, because it is your only means of transport. Proper parking places are so much better than just leaving the bicycle leaning up against a wall or a fence where it becomes both an obstacle and an eyesore. Proper parking places look much neater.

Therefore, I welcome the parts of the Bill which encourage cycling. The Government too are moving towards a pro-cycling culture. The White Paper on transport contains a policy commitment to double cycling by 2002 against a 1996 baseline. It is right that they should do so for two main reasons: first, less congestion and pollution, which directly aids the economy; and secondly, better health.

Indeed, in 1993, the Cyclists Touring Club, in its study Costing the Benefits estimated that the annual cost savings to the economy by increasing the level of cycle use by 10 per cent was more than £1 billion. Therefore, substantial benefits are to be gained purely by using our cars less and our bicycles more.

I realise that an increase of 10 per cent bucks the national trend. However, the City of York increased bicycle use by 10 per cent in 1998 and at the same time reduced road deaths. Much of that was achieved by implementing the road safety strategy. So it is possible.

Central to encouraging the greater use of bicycles is safety on the roads. For cyclists and pedestrians, our roads are some of the most dangerous in Europe. So I welcome the steps that are being taken to encourage speed reduction and reallocating carriageway space. The introduction of cycle lanes is welcome but, speaking personally, I believe that cyclists would feel far safer if they were separated from the rest of the traffic, not just by a white line or a different coloured surface but by a kerb raised from the road.

I turn now to the health aspects of cycling. First, health is not just the absence of disease; it is also the presence of vigour, fitness and the ability to work. You perform better if you are fitter and you are less likely to be ill.

The Health Education Council recommends physical activity because research has determined that there is a relationship between physical activity and a reduced risk of a number of diseases. For example, cycling for between six and eight hours per week can bring about an important reduction in the risk of fatal heart disease which is the nation's biggest killer. People are aware of that. That is why many people go to health clubs three times per week and sit on a stationary cycle, often watching television. How much more creative and constructive it must be to use that time to actually cycle to and from work or to and from the station or to and from the shops or to visit friends and family.

Incidentally, I find that one of the major advantages of using a bicycle in an urban environment is that you know exactly how long a journey will take. On a bicycle, you are hardly affected by roadworks or traffic jams, so you can be more certain of your journey time. Cycling does not require any arrangements. You do not have to think about where to park the car. Cycling to and from places takes quite a lot of hassle out of life. Anything which takes stress out of life is to be welcomed.

My main point is that travelling in that way makes exercise part of your lifestyle. Regular exercise then just happens as a part of your normal way of life. That is why I support the Bill: because it is good for the economy and good for health. Who would not want to help the economy and to improve their health at the same time?

I have known the Minister for many years. I know him to be entirely reasonable. How can any reasonable person fail to be influenced by the force of those arguments? Who could not be in favour of improving the economy and improving their health? So I can envisage the Minister cycling from his home in London to his office in Victoria, which is not very far, and then cycling from his office in Victoria to Westminster, which is an even shorter distance. What is more, there are no hills on either journey.

The Chancellor is also encouraging the Minister to use his bicycle as he has raised the tax-free allowance for cyclists on business to 12p per mile. The Minister's department could provide him with a bicycle tax free. That is some encouragement to use the ministerial car less.

I hope that the Minister will support the Bill. I hope that he will ensure that local authorities are offered the appropriate funding to deliver on the Government's policy commitments regarding cycling. I hope, too, that his department will use its influence to ensure that cycling arrangements are incorporated into the plans of public transport providers and that cycling becomes part of the integrated transport system. In that way, cycling will become a real travel option for us all, and we shall all enjoy the benefits.

8.38 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Hereford

My Lords, I am strongly in favour of this modest proposal. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, for bringing it forward. This afternoon I have come from a meeting of West Midlands bishops at a retreat in Worcestershire. Today I travelled from Hereford to Worcester and on to London by train. But yesterday, I made the journey from Hereford to the meeting and back again on my Honda VFR 750, and very exhilarating arid quick it was. However, I parked the bike with some misgiving in the car park of the retreat house. I threw it a lingering and affectionate look as I walked into the house because I did not know whether I would see it again. Nowhere, not even on such hallowed ground, is a bike safe. The statistics are appalling. Like the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, I have been a victim. I fear the debate will be rather anecdotal.

Four years ago, for a few heady months, I was the proud owner of a Suzuki GSXR 750. It was double locked in the palace garage and was stolen, together with my daughter's boyfriend's Honda, in broad daylight at 5 o'clock on a weekday afternoon. The thieves had planned their raid very cleverly, bringing in their anonymous van at a time when numbers of plumbers and carpenters were moving in and out and one more Transit van would go unnoticed. I never saw or heard anything more of my beloved bike. I suppose I should have seen it as some kind of judgment on me, at my advanced years and in my serious calling, wanting what is an archetypal hooligan bike. The fact is, I still feel it, like a bereavement.

As the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, said, two-wheelers are altogether desirable. Bicycles are healthy and non-polluting. Motorcycles are quick, convenient and cause amazingly little congestion. Eight motorcycles can be parked in the same space as one motorcar. However, worries about security are a serious problem. They are a significant deterrent to many who would otherwise use a two-wheeler.

For pedal cycles, the need is for cycle racks to be in a prominent place in full view, easily visible. I believe that most cyclists are perfectly happy to carry a chain and lock, but those are inevitably not very sophisticated devices. Bicycles can easily be dismembered even if the frame is locked to the rack. I remember going to Hereford station recently on my own bicycle and being slightly alarmed to find, in the next rack to where I was putting my bike, a frame chained to the rack. Every other component had been removed. So, I caught the train with some sense of misgiving. Mercifully, my bike was intact when I returned. It seems to me that what matters is that if we are providing bicycle racks for pedal cycles, they should be in an obvious place and not like the one at Hereford station tucked away where no one can see it.

Motorcycles require rather different treatment. Ground anchors of some kind are the only answer to the ruthless, highly-organised gangs of thieves. Many forms of suitable anchor are available from the high-tech Bikesafe bollard operated by a smart card and requiring payment per hour to the simpler, cheaper but equally effective steel rails, bars or loops to which a motorcycle can be secured. This requires the motorcyclist to carry a very substantial heavy-duty chain or locking device. With a sizeable bike, that is probably not a difficulty, but for riders of small, lightweight bikes it may be quite impractical to carry a suitable locking device. Therefore, I believe we urgently need, in every town and city, some secure parking of the Bikesafe/smart card kind which provides all the necessary equipment on site.

I hope the message will go very clearly from this brief debate and that the security interests of motorcyclists will be taken much more seriously for the benefit of those of us who are bikers and because of the environmental benefit for the common good.

8.43 p.m.

Viscount Addison

My Lords, perhaps I may declare an interest, as a motorcycle licence-holder, an owner of a motorcycle and subscriber of annual funds to a motorcycle insurance company for the privilege. I am also a member of the All Party Motorcycle Group. Perhaps I may add that I have had my motor cycle knocked over while parked in the Palace of Westminster. That set up a concertina effect, damaging not only my own motorcycle but also that of my noble friend Lord Rotherwick. I am pleased, therefore, that the Bill gives powers to authorities to provide, among other measures, stands or racks to enable the bicycle to be held in a stable, upright position while it is parked.

To be serious, this Bill is long overdue. We have heard of the numbers of motorcycles stolen, literally picked up off the streets. Any measure that helps to secure a motorcycle to its surroundings must be of benefit to all, except the thief. Lately, I have been interested to note that motorcycle magazines have published a kind of Which report on locking and securing equipment for motorcycles. Those useful reports have highlighted the various strengths and weaknesses of available restraints, which is helpful to both owners and insurance companies alike.

Many insurance companies offer discounts if certain alarms or devices are fitted, but there is not much to beat the heavy-duty lug in the road through which a serious section of chain can be passed. I trust that the Bill will enable authorities to be helpful to motorcycle owners who have no garage or garden frontage at home and that they will allow some flexibility in providing or supporting the fitting of lugs in suitable places outside the owner's home. Perhaps the Minister would respond to that point.

Also, I should like to see flexibility in car parks, such as NCP car parks, to accept motorcycles. We have heard the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford speak about the fact that eight motorcycles can be parked in one car parking place. I do not see why the NCP car parks or other car parks feel that they losing revenue by allowing motorcycles to be parked there or why they cannot provide bays for motorcycles. Many owners would be only too pleased to pay for covered accommodation for their motorcycles and thereby reduce the risk of theft.

I commend the Bill to the House and support my noble friend Lord Rotherwick.

8.47 p.m.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, this is a useful Bill which provides a very simple aid to those who ride pedal cycles as well as motorcycles. I should, of course, declare an interest like everybody else. I am the rider of a motor scooter, and therefore the provision of racks, stands and devices for securing bicycles or motorcycles at the roadside would be of benefit to me. Scooters provide a cost-effective and convenient means of transport and are becoming more popular as traffic densities worsen. I shall listen with some care to how the Minister replies to his noble friend Lord Haskel as to what he proposes to do with his ministerial car on his way home.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, outlined in introducing the Bill, it is the ability to secure a bicycle, or particularly a motorcycle, to something solid that is absent in most instances. I wish to concentrate this evening on problems connected with motorcycles. Local authorities in London have provided a good number of spaces for the parking of solo motorcycles at the roadside and they are very well used. However, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford identified, there are problems with security. The most helpful Explanatory Notes which accompany the Bill go right to the heart of the matter. Page 2 states: motor cycles are vulnerable to theft by persons who can lift the whole vehicle and remove it in a van or lorry. The Bill thus provides for devices that secure motor cycles. It continues: these devices could be in the form of a bar to which a motor cycle could be chained or tethered". There you have it—simple and very cost-effective. The motorcycle trade reports a substantial increase in the number of motor cycles, especially scooters, sold this year and so the Bill is very timely.

The cost of installing such devices would not be substantial but would have to be covered from the general rate. The concept of individual meters or some form of parking ticket is not practical for a motorcycle for on-street parking. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, that some arrangements could be made for charging for off-street parking. As the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, stated, the new powers contained in the Bill are discretionary and local authorities must judge for themselves the need for these devices.

The Explanatory Notes recognise that the cost to local authorities would be minimal. Motorcyclists would benefit from reduced insurance premiums if these bars were fitted in the pavement, particularly in residential areas where motorcycles are parked overnight or over a weekend. Some scooters even have a built-in safety chain for that purpose. It could be seen as a useful crime prevention exercise.

What would also be most useful to motorcyclists is the provision of some form of map that would show where the parking places for solo motorcycles are located. Not every street has them and therefore it often requires driving up and down streets in the neighbourhood of one's destination in order to happen on a parking place. They are often tucked away in side streets, and not obvious from a glance up the street.

If the local authority goes to the expense of providing the security bars in the pavement it would be very convenient if they could also provide a map of where they are. I am sure that sponsorship would pay for the printing of the map in any local authority area, and perhaps the noble Lord the Minister could say whether he would encourage local authorities to provide this information in the way that I have suggested. I realise, of course, that the demand for the maps would be relatively small, but I am sure it would assist the air quality of the area by reducing the amount of time spent driving around looking for these spaces. All in all, this is a useful modification to Section 63 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, and I believe that your Lordships should give this Bill a fair wind.

8.50 p.m.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, I should like to join in the congratulations paid to the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, on originating this small and modest Bill, and to those offered to the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, who, together with the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, was responsible for raising the subject in your Lordships' House originally.

I must declare an interest, as chairman of the Motorcycle Industry Theft Action Group, which has been in existence now for seven or eight years and which was set up to address the problem of motorcycle theft. Motorcycle theft at that time had reached such proportions that insurers were no longer willing to write policies for motorcycle riders; certainly not new policies. The effect that that would have had on motorcycle sales would have been dire indeed; so something had to be done about it.

We drew into the Motorcycle Industry Theft Action Group all those who had some interest or some expertise in this matter. They included, obviously, the Home Office, the police, the insurers, various motorcycle groups and others. I think that we can claim to have been successful in quite a short time, not only by bringing in the help of, in particular, the Metropolitan Police Stolen Vehicles Squad, which worked very closely with us, but also by involving the Association of Chief Police Officers and creating some kind of awareness of the danger faced by motorcyclists if they are not properly protected. They have to be made aware of the dangers of leaving motorcycles where they could be stolen.

Of course, if you are like the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford and you choose a bike that thieves find most desirable, you have a particular problem. I would say to the right reverend Prelate that there are some quite simple measures that one can take in addition to locking up motorcycles, even when there are not the kinds of parking places that we are discussing. Perhaps I may suggest to him that a very old canvas cover could be used. Thieves, by their very nature, are lazy people and they tend not to look under covers. However, if they have targeted your motorcycle beforehand and have made an organised effort, your cover will not protect it. But, generally speaking, I have discovered that an old cover is very effective, in addition to all the other devices that we put on to motor cycles.

The parking situation at the moment is very worrying indeed. The Bill provides for local authorities to provide further encouragement, although I do not think it is any more than that. Perhaps when the Minister replies he will tell us more precisely what effect this Bill will have—because I do hope that it has a chance of getting on the statute book—in terms of ensuing local authority action.

Even in the London area it is necessary, if you wish to avoid the unpleasant surprise of finding a parking ticket on your motorcycle, to find out what particular local authority laws apply to motorcycles. I think it is fair to say that in the past some criticism has been extended, from both sides of your Lordships' House, to the local borough of Wandsworth. However, in one way it is a model in this area. It provides excellent motorcycle parking; just the thing that is suggested by the noble Lord in this Bill. In addition, it allows motorcyclists to park on spaces, whether they are spaces for residents or spaces with meters. However, it will not, of course, allow motorcyclists to park on yellow lines.

If you are a new motorcyclist and you move down the road to the borough of Lambeth, let us say, or to Wimbledon, you may think that the same thing would apply; but it does not. It is necessary to find a friendly parking warden. They are often friendly to motorcyclists because they themselves more often than not use what are known as powered two-wheelers. Incidentally, I prefer the term "powered two-wheelers" to the acronym "PTWs", but perhaps both are slightly offensive and rather long-winded. However, most parking wardens have had some contact with motorcyclists and are willing to explain what the local regulations are.

Indeed, I was told in Wimbledon—this is a strange one—that in that authority one was not permitted to park a motorcycle unless it was parallel to the kerb because it provided no obstruction to traffic in that way. That is an odd one and I have never heard of it anywhere else. It is a curious thing, but there is no standard approach taken by local authorities, either as to what is permissible by way of motorcycle parking or what is supplied for motorcyclists by way of "fixings", as is suggested in this modest Bill.

If you go to other countries in Europe, and to France in particular, people are not so fussy about where you park a motorcycle. The police will not interfere; nor will parking wardens, if motorcycles are not causing an obstruction. They also provide very high-quality fixings, should you choose to use them. In this country, there has always been an underlying attitude about motorcyclists which does not exist in other European countries. In some local authorities, certain engineers, who are responsible after all for some of the decisions taken with regard to motorcycles, may to some extent be anti-motorcycle. They consider them to be a nuisance. That is not unknown in Britain. Motorcyclists are either seen as ruffians or eccentrics—certainly, Peers are seen as eccentrics—and so there is a kind of cultural attitude to be overcome. I hope that with motorcycles. including scooters, increasingly being used on the roads, that attitude will be broken down.

The advent of large numbers of scooters has aggravated the parking problem of motorcycles considerably. It is very difficult now, if you have a big motorcycle, to get on to one of the designated spaces, of which there are not nearly enough. Also, people are rather selfish about where they park. They often park obliquely in a space which might otherwise allow a motorcycle to be parked there also. Some motorists park rather carelessly, something of which motorcyclists must become aware.

Some innovative thinking will be required from local authorities with regard to paying for parking space improvements. Not only could they advertise in the area concerned in order to generate some income—that should not be difficult because, for a modest fee, garages selling motorcycle spares and clothing would be glad to advertise—but, in addition, they could provide helpful advice on parking, which would introduce good manners; and good manners are very much needed in our society in many areas. I shall say no more about motorcyclists except that I welcome the Bill.

On cyclists, I was interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, particularly because I am a cyclist as well as a motorcyclist. In recent weeks I have become more of a cyclist because my doctor told me that I had to lose weight. I take doctors very seriously because I do not see them often, and I have been cycling around London and losing weight very quickly. I feel a lot better for it. I am sure that everything my doctor said was absolutely right and that people should be encouraged to cycle.

But cycling in London is a very exciting business. I get more thrills cycling in London than I ever got on a motorcycle. I cannot understand how some people are so brave and foolhardy as to wear things like Sony Walkmans when they are on cycles, which means they cannot hear the traffic around them. I am amazed by the bravery of young women in particular, who cross the road on cycles with verve and flair with scarcely a look around them. It is an extraordinary experience and I am enjoying it very much. We should do more cycling.

Today I encountered just the kind of situation which was pointed out earlier. It was extremely difficult to find a space to park my cycle in Holborn where there are cycle spaces, but not nearly enough. I had to park my cycle on a post which told people about the length of time they are allowed to park cars. When I came back, the cycle was where I had left it. It did not have a ticket on it, but I had felt uneasy leaving it there when I went to my meeting. One is terribly inhibited on a cycle and is often left to fasten it to railings.

When the Minister replies, perhaps he can tell us something about the position of cyclists who use railings, posts and other fixings on which to attach their cycles. There are some alarming notices around. One read, "If you put your cycle against these railings, it will be removed or destroyed". What is so special about railings? Why are people so worried about cycles on their railings? I do not understand that. The cycles are often more attractive than the railings. But it is perhaps one of our British traits to say: "We do not like cyclists. We do not like their clothes, their lycra shorts" and so forth—and that has a knock-on effect on the way we view our railings.

Life is as difficult for cyclists as it is for motorcyclists. There is a kind of war between the two groups and I find myself in the middle. When I am on a cycle, I dislike motorcyclists and when I am on a motorcycle, I dislike cyclists. But again, that is a British trait. We are all members of groups, clubs or parties and we hate everybody who is not part of our group. As I get older, I am trying to be more fair and even-handed with everybody and I hope that everybody will follow my example. I hope that I do not lose my temper tomorrow with a cyclist when I am on my motorcycle!

The noble Lord, Lord Haskel, gave an excellent speech and I hope that it is reproduced elsewhere. That will encourage more people to use cycles and to improve their health. I look forward to what the Minister has to say and hope that he will be able to tell us that this Bill will have a fair wind. We all know that it is difficult to get Private Member's Bills on to the statute book, but this Bill would provide enormous encouragement for people and local authorities. It would also have a knock-on effect. It would start to break down the cultural attitudes against motorcycles in particular.

The orderly parking of motorcycles would make motorcyclists themselves more orderly and more acceptable. Many things could be achieved. I look forward to the Minister's remarks.

9.3 p.m.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I shall not attempt to repeat the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. On a modest Bill like this 13 minutes was a triumph!

We welcome this Bill from these Benches. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Rotherwick on having introduced it. I find it hard to understand why it is necessary. After all, it has very modest aims. As far as I can see, practically speaking, it merely requires local authorities to put up rather stronger posts than they do at present.

I take note of what the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, said; that is, that it also improves the situation of cyclists. I am the first speaker so far—perhaps the Minister will be another—who has no interest to declare. I am not a cyclist, nor a motorcyclist. I do possess a motorcycle licence which I obtained when I was 16—one was allowed to have one in those days, which is quite a long time ago—but I do not now drive a motorcycle and do not ride a pedal cycle either.

I am a pedestrian in London; I am a user of the Tube and the bus and I am a motorist. As the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said, one has to change one's allegiance as one uses the different forms of transport. As a pedestrian I dislike cyclists intensely. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, is an exception to the rule, but mostly they ride on the pavements; they go on the wrong side of traffic bollards; they nearly knock you down as you are crossing the road; they disregard pedestrian crossings; they go the wrong way up one-way streets, and do all sorts of other things which, as a pedestrian, one finds thoroughly objectionable. As a motorist, of course, I make it my business to try and knock over as many of them as I possibly can—or at least I think I should do that but I never get around to doing it. However, that is what is in the back of my mind and, I hope, will never come to the front of my mind.

Motorcyclists in London, unfortunately, are somewhat tarnished by the reputation of the couriers who behave in much the same way as cyclists. I am sure no noble Lord would be tempted to behave in that way, but noble Lords who are cyclists must agree that they taint the reputation of bikers generally. I use the word "biker"; I am glad that the Bill says, "motorcycles". It does not say, "powered two-wheelers" or "PTWs", otherwise I could not support the Bill, unlike the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland.

However, the courier fraternity could be taught a lot, and not only the courier fraternity who generally tend to ride the larger bikes, but the pizza delivery fraternity. They tend to ride the smaller bikes around London and look extremely perilous. I suppose it is mostly their own fault that they get knocked over, but it is not something one would wish to emulate.

However, having said that, I noted that the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, described bikers as generally either "ruffians" or "eccentrics". I am sure that that is not the case. Moreover, I believe that my noble friend Lord Rotherwick said that 25,000 motorbikes are stolen each year. To my mind, that means that there are 25,000 motorbikers out there who have bought stolen vehicles. So, presumably, not all motorcyclists are perfect in that sense. Perhaps the fraternity should look to itself to a certain extent. I give way to the noble Viscount.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, the noble Lord is most gracious to give way. There are, of course, many stolen motorcycles, or indeed parts of them, which get into circulation. However, in all fairness to motorcyclists, I think that those who buy motorcycles with "pirated" parts, if I may put it that way, are often unaware that that is the case. As with motorcars, it is very difficult to check whether the vehicle or parts of it have been stolen.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I certainly take the noble Viscount's point, but there must be some vehicles which are recirculated by unscrupulous buyers who know that they are stolen. Nevertheless, I welcome the Bill and hope that the Minister will be able to give it a fair wind.

9.8 p.m.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, perhaps I may first thank the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, for introducing the Bill. It will tackle a gap in the regulations and I believe that it will be of great benefit to all of us if passed. I am delighted to say to the noble Viscount and others that the Government support the Bill and were able to agree that parliamentary counsel should help the noble Lord produce the legislation. However, I fear that the basic workload will still fall upon the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick. The noble Lord has shown great energy and commitment in bringing forward the Bill. I am very much appreciative of his effort.

The Government hope very much that the Bill will succeed. lf, by some mischance, it fails, either in this or the other place, I reiterate the Government's commitment to ensure that legislation along similar lines will be pursued. Therefore, we are fully in favour of the Bill.

I have nevertheless to address a few problems. A cultural issue seems to be involved, which was perhaps best explained by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. There are images, reality, and behavioural and safety problems involved with motorcyclists and indeed with cyclists. I have often found it necessary to remark that similar had behaviour is quite frequent among car drivers who in fact cause the vast majority of accidents. It is true, however, that cyclists and motorcyclists are vulnerable. Motorcycling is often not a very safe means of transport. But it is part of our transport system and one which many people prefer, especially in crowded urban areas.

I should declare a complete non-interest in the sense that I have never been up front on a motorcycle; indeed, I have been utterly terrified as a pillion passenger on such a vehicle. I do not intend to alter that position. Moreover, I am rarely a cyclist. I shall respond in a moment to my noble friend Lord Haskel.

There are other cultural problems. But motorcycling is an important part of our urban transport system and indeed of our long distance transport system. It should be catered for better. Drivers of all modes of transport should demonstrate the kind of tolerance and reasonableness mentioned by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. Some of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, reminded me that I am the Minister with responsibility for road safety and that I should deeply deplore what he said. However, he did pull back from the implications of his attitude when driving certain modes of transport.

The Bill builds upon the White Paper which we produced and to which my noble friend Lord Haskel referred in relation to cycling. However, a big chunk of that integrated transport policy related to motorcycling. We recognise that motorcycling can, in many circumstances, make a contribution to the objectives of integrated transport. We have been persuading local authorities to consider introducing in their local transport plans facilities for encouraging motorcycling, in particular by providing secure parking.

Before I continue further in the motorcycling direction, I believe that I need to respond to my noble friend Lord Haskel; indeed, I have been pondering on how to do so, especially as regards his more pointed remarks. I agree with my noble friend's general points, but when his remarks became directed at me I began to feel slightly uncomfortable. I can assure him that the Government are absolutely dedicated to increasing the degree of cycling.

I travel around the country pointing out to people that many car journeys comprise less than two miles and that most able-bodied people could quite easily walk or cycle such distances. That is an important pan. of our policy. Indeed, we have endorsed the aim of the national cycling strategy of reversing the decline in cycling and doubling the number of cycle trips by the year 2002—and doubling them again by the year 2012. It is a pretty ambitious aim. However, that kind of turnaround has already been achieved in one or two urban areas. We have supported cycling bodies in that aim.

To achieve those targets, it might be incumbent upon Ministers to make some contribution. I am sure that the whole House will be sympathetic to my following remarks. Ministers are not averse to more healthy forms of transport but, unfortunately, the electronic age has not yet arrived for us. We are therefore obliged to carry huge boxes of mail from your Lordships and others around with us at all times. I try to walk to my office in the mornings and my driver follows me around with the red boxes. Therefore I contribute to my own health but not to the health of some others in the community. That matter should be addressed, but I cannot give a clear answer tonight.

There are serious aspects. The noble Viscounts, Lord Ullswater and Lord Falkland, referred to motorcycle crime. As the right reverend Prelate and the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, pointed out, there are victims of such crime in this House. It is estimated that 25,000 motorcycles are stolen annually. Some 86 per cent of them are not recovered. As has been said, many are cannibalised, resulting in illegal motorcycles being on the streets. That poses problems for law enforcement and road safety.

Safer, more secure parking would make a major contribution not only in encouraging motorcyclists to use their machines responsibly, but also in making them feel secure in so doing. The lack of secure parking facilities for motorcycles is probably a major factor in the high level of motorcycle theft. This Bill addresses the issue and gives local authorities new powers. Until now they have not had such powers.

The noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, asked why the Bill is necessary. It is necessary because local authorities require powers before they can do anything. At present they do not have those powers. Clause 1 of the Bill seeks to address that problem and to amend Section 63 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 which deals only with stands and racks for pedal cycles. We are now extending the provision to motorcycles. I refer in this regard to the ground anchors mentioned by the right reverend Prelate and to the more sophisticated devices which we hope to see provided in the future. Certainly, we shall encourage local authorities to use these powers and to provide such facilities in their own car parks. I say to the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, that only local authorities will have this power under the Bill. But in a sense it is only local authorities' lack of such a power that we have to address. Clearly, private operators can already provide such facilities on their own land.

However on-street parking facilities are the responsibility of local authorities. As regards individuals parking outside their own homes, local authorities would need to introduce an order on motorcycle parking under the regulations. That would enable them to install secure parking devices. However, that does not apply to an individual in regard to providing his own off-street parking facilities.

We have given much support to local authorities to develop their policies for motorcyclists. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said that, by and large, the motorcycling fraternity does not believe that local authorities are particularly helpful to it. Many local authorities have provided facilities for motorcyclists but more could be provided for both cyclists and motorcyclists.

The noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, asked about providing maps. We are happy to encourage local authorities to do that and to encourage a public/private partnership as commercial map makers may also be interested. Cycling and motorcycling organisations may be interested in distributing such information to their members. In some cities information is already made available. Exeter, Cambridge, Gloucester and York provide such information, together with other facilities, for motorised and non-motorised two-wheeled vehicles.

I should make clear that the Bill is an enabling measure. There is no obligation on local authorities to provide secure parking.

We are devolving responsibilities in other areas of transport policy, and indeed other policies, to local authorities. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, indicated a lack of common approach between local authorities. That will continue to be the case. We are simply giving local authorities powers which they can now use. Nevertheless, I suspect that both the facilities and the by-laws will continue to be different where they are part of devolved local democracy. We are trying to remove barriers in order that local authorities may provide the facilities dealt with in the Bill.

The noble Viscount raised the question of whether cyclists should be discouraged, as they occasionally are, from chaining their bikes to railings. It varies from area to area but, by and large, railings are the property of the landowner. An additional problem in the Westminster area, one has to admit in this day and age, is that of security. Many of the heavy notices relate to security problems in the Metropolis.

The Bill may result in a relatively small increase in expenditure for authorities which take advantage of its powers. In general it will be a small installation cost, which they may be able to recover by charging for parking. However, that is very much a matter for the local authorities themselves. The whole purpose of the Bill is to ensure more secure parking for both cyclists and motorcyclists.

I wish to thank all noble Lords who have spoken. If I have missed any points I shall write to noble Lords in the normal way. I wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, for producing the Bill. I assure him, once again, of government support. We have bikers and cyclists around the House of all parties—including a biking Bishop. There is truly cross-party and ecumenical support for the provisions of the Bill. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, once again and thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate.

9.21 p.m.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken and especially for the kind and supportive words that I have heard this evening. I am aware that the Bill is not guaranteed of success and I shall continue to canvass for it in another place. I am sympathetic to the noble Lord, Lord Haskel. As an ex-biker I can quite understand his excitement about bicycling, although I am not quite sure whether I misheard him when he said he thought that bicycling takes the "Haskel" out of life. On the other hand, I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, about the thrills that I can remember as a bicyclist.

If it is of any help to my noble friend Lord Brabazon, some time ago we listened to the Courier Association, which has a very strong code of practice that it imposes upon all its motorcycling members. I should also tell him that the stolen vehicle statistics I received from the Metropolitan Police state that in 10 years 1.5 million unrecovered stolen vehicles will be used on our roads either as complete vehicles or as part or parts of other vehicles. That is quite an astounding statistic.

If the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, would like to accept a lift from me, I would be very happy to drive him around London while his red boxes follow closely behind, if they can keep up. Finally, I ask that the House give the Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.