HL Deb 02 November 2000 vol 618 cc1176-92

.—(1) The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 is amended as follows.

(2) In section 63 (power of authorities to provide stands and racks for bicycles), for "and racks for bicycles" substitute "or racks for, or devices for securing, bicycles or motor cycles".

(3) In section 136(4) (meaning of "motor cycle"), for "section 57" substitute "sections 57 and 63".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I apologise for not having played any part in the Bill to date, largely because I have been abroad. I am grateful for the Government's invitation to bring forward these amendments. As a motorcycling Peer, I commute daily to London. I park my motor cycle overnight in the streets of London. Having got somewhat soaked today, I stand in my rather damp socks!

I have much pleasure in moving Amendment No. 321 and speak also to Amendment No. 340. I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford and the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, for putting their names to the amendment. I am also grateful for the cross-party support I have received in the past; and for the past and present support of the Government. These provisions formed my Road Traffic Regulation (Cycle Parking) Bill which went through all its stage in this House last year, only to come to a halt in another place having run out of time.

The Labour policy document, Bike to Basics, stated that motorcycling would be at the heart of the national transport agenda. This was followed by the White Paper, A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone. Like other bikers, I welcome those moves.

By March last year there were around 626,000 motorcycles in the country. Per passenger mile, the energy efficiency of a moped is identical to that of an average stage bus. Moped sales in Greater London rose by 435 per cent between 1995 and 1998 and two-wheeled motor vehicle traffic rose by 16 per cent between 1998 and 1999 compared with an increase of 1 per cent for car traffic.

The amendments are designed to help to deal with two-wheeled motor vehicle theft. The chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Motorcycle Group, Ms Hazel Blears, has suffered from having her motorcycle stolen. I, too, have suffered from having lost two motorcycles in London in the past five years. Many hikers, especially those in London, have suffered similarly. Around 25,000 motorcycles are stolen every year, but the recovery rate is only 14 per cent compared with 65 per cent for cars. Vehicle crime costs this country around £3 billion a year. In the three years up to and including 1999, 52,000 motorcycles were reported stolen, and not recovered. London is the capital of the world for motorcycle theft with twice the problem of any other country, and seven times that of Germany.

The amendments will help to solve these appalling theft problems by enabling local highway authorities to provide secure parking facilities for motorcycles at designated motorcycle parking places on the highway and in local authority off-street car parks. There is no obligation on authorities to provide secure parking under the Bill, but it puts motorcycle parking on a par with pedal cycle parking which local authorities can already provide. Authorities would be able to act where a demand for secure parking exists for motorcycles. The amendments would not allow motorcycle parking in pedestrian areas but would provide local authorities with useful additional powers to help to reduce crime. I beg to move.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, as another motorcyclist—I park my motorcycle next to that of the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick—I support everything he said. I congratulate him on introducing the amendment and explaining the background to it so clearly. I do not have much sympathy with him as regards his socks: nowadays anyone who rides a motorcycle every day need not get wet. The two things that motorcyclists have now are adequate clothing and good machines. What they do not have is adequate parking. If motorcyclists find adequate parking, they require the means to protect their motorcycle from theft. It is essential to provide suitable, solid stands to which a strong chain can be attached in order to make it difficult for criminals to take away the bike.

The noble Lord referred to a figure of 25,000 motorcycles being stolen a year. The figure is rising. Most thefts are of scooters, the use of which is proliferating because of congestion and so on. That is against a background of reduced numbers of parking spaces in some local authorities. For reasons which are not clear—the matter has been given much publicity—Westminster has decided to provide some parking for motorcycles with stands, but it will introduce charges of, I understand, about £2 per hour.

The situation is the same for cycles. They are subject to theft. I recently lost a bicycle in the space of one and a half minutes. It was silly of me: it was a folding bike which I could have taken inside with me. I now take my folding bicycle everywhere with me, even into supermarkets at great inconvenience to myself and others. But that is the only way I can protect a £500 investment. Cycles being light in weight, the stands for cycles require to be considerably less substantial, but they are essential.

Motorcycles need substantial investment. That is recognised. It has been suggested by motorcycling bodies to which the noble Lord and I belong that local authorities could fund such stands by introducing advertising on them. We have made many suggestions. But none is any good because there is an anti-motorcycle culture in this country which does not exist in France, Germany, Holland, Spain or Italy. In Westminster, and to a degree in the Corporation of London area, motorcycles are deemed to be as polluting as motor cars. When we were an unreformed House, a Peer using a motorcycle used to be deemed to be eccentric. I do not think that that applies any longer. One is deemed to be some kind of yahoo.

Lord Berkeley

My Lords, I cannot resist asking the noble Viscount whether he puts his eccentric folding bicycle on top of the vegetables in the supermarket trolley or underneath.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, I am talking about being an eccentric motorcyclist. I do not think that Peers riding bicycles have ever been deemed eccentric, unless they have enormous baskets and make a point of going the wrong way down one-way streets, rather like the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, who tells us all about it from time to time but who is not in his place at the moment.

Motorcyclists are generally seen as hobbledehoys and yahoos, unless they are Peers, in which case they are deemed eccentric. That attitude, which is not present in other countries, is behind the absence of racks for motorcycles. Provision is very patchy. Some local authorities with chief engineers who ride motorcycles or who are favourable to them have reasonable provision for motorcycle parking. In Wandsworth, for example, there are substantial stands for parking motorcycles.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, has done a great deal of work with his committee to examine provision for motorcyclists. We are optimistic about the outcome of those discussions and deliberations, but unless the anti-motorcycle attitude is dealt with head-on, we shall not get the co-operation that the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, and I—and, I hope, the Minister—want to encourage better provision for motorcycles.

If that does not happen, current levels of motorcycle theft will continue or even increase. The criminal organisations that steal motorcycles know that for technical reasons it is currently very difficult to secure a conviction. The Crown Prosecution Service is unwilling to allow prosecutions for organised motorcycle theft unless it thinks that a conviction is likely. The problems of gathering evidence and matching the numbers on frames and engines to their rightful owners, as well as other complicated technical issues, make it very difficult to get hold of the criminals, who make a good living out of the practice.

I support the amendment wholeheartedly and I hope that the Minister will do the same, as well as perhaps hinting at further support for motorcycling.

Viscount Craigavon

My Lords, as a fellow motorcyclist and cyclist, I am happy to support the amendment. It is useful to remind the House of motorcycles and cycles. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, on the work that he has done on an apparently small amendment to the Bill. He did a great deal of preparatory work on his Bill last year.

At a previous stage I said that I hoped that we were pushing at an open door. I believe that we are, so I shall not be long. However, I should like to add one statistic to what has already been said. Unfortunately, the recovery rate of stolen motorcycles is only about 16 per cent. One can imagine the difficulties that that causes for some people.

I hope that the Government will strenuously encourage pilot schemes if the amendment is accepted so that people can see the success of that mode of parking. Once it is proved to be a success, I hope that we can find other ways of encouraging local authorities to take it up as soon as possible. The only proper trial scheme with secure parking that I recall had a 100 per cent success rate. If the Government are encouraging, I hope that the motorcycle industry, enthusiasts and the police will encourage secure parking.

I am slightly worried by the reference of the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, to charges for secure motorcycle parking. I hope that it does not become a source of revenue for local authorities. I hope that the Government will keep an eye on that. We need to reduce the ridiculously high rate of motorcycle theft.

6.45 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Rotherwick has been working on the issue for some time. If he is successful, as I am sure that he will be, I congratulate him on his efforts and I thank the Minister for looking favourably on yet another excellent suggestion.

Lord Whitty

My Lords, the noble Earl pre-empts me effectively. I can hardly say no now.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, knows, I strongly supported his Private Member's Bill last year. We recognise that motorcycle theft is a serious problem for motorcycle riders and society as a whole. Anything that we can do to improve the security of motorcycles must be a good thing. The amendment is pitched just right and it is important that central and local government support it.

The Government do not share the alleged anti-motorcyclist culture that the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, referred to. We have a constructive relationship with motorcycling organisations. They support the amendment and we support their contribution to an effective transport policy. For law and order and transport policy reasons, we consider the amendment appropriate and I accept it as it stands.

Lord Rotherwick

My Lords, on behalf of all bikers, I thank the Minister for his kindness. I hope that the amendment will result in the creation of a large number of secure places on the streets.

Most motorcyclists have one other serious concern: the lack of motorcycle places is leading to the parking of a large number of motorcycles on the pavements next to street lights. That is not a safe place to park them. That is the only downside that I can see. I repeat my thanks and that of a large number of bikers for the Government's support for the amendment.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Attlee moved Amendment No. 322: After Clause 258, insert the following new clause—

  1. MOTOR CYCLES IN BUS LANES 2,360 words
  2. cc1185-8
  4. cc1188-9
  6. cc1189-92