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Mr. Fabricant: I suspect that there will be a vote. We must at least end consideration on Report at 8.30 because of the draconian conditions laid down by the Government. I want to move on quickly to say that 50 per cent. of accidents involving motor cycles were caused by car drivers, 10 per cent. by pedestrians and fewer than 1 per cent. each by pedal cyclists, buses and coaches and heavy goods vehicles. Other causes--for example, animals running into the road--accounted for 3 per cent. while 35 per cent. were caused by motor cyclists, of whom 30 per cent. were on motor cycles and 5 per cent. on mopeds and scooters.
It is often the car driver who causes the accident. He may be executing a quick turn from the left or right, and, not looking in the rear-view mirror, he may not notice the motor cyclist. Motor cyclists tend to be rather safe on the roads, and the fact that a large percentage of them are involved in road accidents should not lead people to believe that they are causing accidents. In fact, car drivers are the main cause of motor cycle accidents.
According to Whitaker, Hurt and others, and according to "Transport Statistics Great Britain 1998", motor cyclists emerge badly, by comparison with other drivers, from the DETR's annual survey of drivers' observance of speed limits. However, Whitaker estimated that the speed of impact of the motor cycle in 93 per cent. of the 425 accidents in his British sample was under 40 mph, and that in 75 per cent. it was under 30 mph. My point is that accidents involving motor cyclists do not necessarily involve speed.
Mr. Fabricant: Indeed, most do not. I am not sure of the statistic that the hon. Gentleman is using, but we should not belittle him for saying that. An obsession with speed on its own is a distortion of reality--a distortion of the truth.
As I pointed out in an earlier intervention, and as was pointed out by the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Mr. Miller), the speed of a vehicle can of course kill, but the design of the vehicle will also affect its ability to kill. When a bull bar is fitted to a car or a four-wheel drive vehicle merely as a cosmetic device, that too can be a major contributory factor in the creation of a killing machine.
I am very conscious of the time. I am also very conscious of the draconian timetable set by the Government, and of the many other groups of new clauses and amendments that we wish to discuss. I shall therefore not press amendment No. 26 to a vote. I accept the Minister's point that if the issues raised in the amendment were included in the clause, pressure might be put on magistrates and juries to apply fines rather than disqualification or imprisonment. I hope, however, that the House has noted that speed is not the only issue, and that motor cyclists get rather a raw deal.
Mr. Hill: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant) for not pressing his amendment to a vote. He made a well-informed speech, as did my hon. Friends the Members for Eltham (Mr. Efford) and
In our earlier exchanges, I remarked with a degree of awe on the fecundity and fertility of the mind of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow). I fear, however, that fecundity and fertility have now fallen into fantasy. It is preposterous to describe the provisions that we propose as a tax. New clause 7 provides for the money raised by fines to be used by local authorities for traffic matters. There is no taxation here. After all, the fines go into the coffers of central Government now. The provision is not a tax, but a penalty for an offence. Drivers who keep to the speed limits will not be affected; only those who break the law will be penalised.
As with so many road traffic measures--for instance, those to enforce bus lanes--we are dealing with the encouragement of compliance. We expect the number of fixed-penalty offences to fall as more drivers reduce their speed and observe traffic light directions: the Eastleigh proposition, in other words. We believe that fewer fixed-penalty notices will be issued, with a corresponding decrease in the amount of receipts. Increased compliance will also reduce the number of casualties. This will mean lower costs for the motoring community, and safer roads.
'It shall be an offence for any person
(a) to be in possession of a motor vehicle or motorcycle which does not show a valid identifying mark, or
(b) to deface, remove or otherwise alter or attempt to alter a valid vehicle identifying mark;
and for the purposes of this Act a valid identifying mark shall be those numbers, letters or combination thereof marked on or affixed to the vehicle by the original manufacturer for the purpose of identification and so registered in the registration documents issued by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency or such other agency as shall be responsible for such registration.'.--[Mr. Chidgey.]
The new clause is particularly relevant to motor cycles. I am sure that Ministers will be familiar with--indeed, will have read avidly--a 1998 Home Office publication entitled "Nought to Nowhere in five Seconds--a guide to motorcycle security". It is not an election manifesto from any party that I would wish to name. [Interruption.] That publication--with which, as he has acknowledged from a sedentary position, the Minister is intimately familiar--stated that in the past three years, meaning from 1995 to 1998--
Mr. Chidgey: I really should not have given the Minister that opportunity, but my generosity clearly knows no bounds. He will know that when I quoted that title, in my own mind I was thinking of the official Opposition. However, unlike the Minister, I thought it better not to make such a low, churlish and cheap political point. Clearly the Minister does not share my good nature, or perhaps my politeness towards other hon. Members.
That now notorious document, which I am sure will be mentioned in other contexts in future, shows that, in the past three years, 54,800 motor cycles--worth £55 million--were stolen and not recovered. However, the Motorcycle Industry Association's statistics tell a different story. They show that 25,000 powered two-wheelers are stolen annually, which is considerably more than is indicated in the statistics that the Home Office seems to think are correct.
Moreover, of those 25,000 vehicles, only 14 per cent. are recovered. It is a very revealing statistic when one compares it with the stolen car recovery rate, which is 60 per cent. Clearly, motor cycle theft is a growing and disproportionately serious problem. Information would therefore seem to be far more important in that context, to identify motor cycles, than it is in identifying stolen cars.
I am pleased to say that, although motor cycle theft is increasing, there is phenomenal growth in motor cycle sales, which demonstrates that powered two-wheelers are considered a very attractive alternative to car. All of us who have an interest in transport policy and in reducing pollution and congestion should welcome that growth.
The huge growth in motor cycle ownership demonstrates just how important it is to tackle that sphere of vehicle crime. Unfortunately, however, the issue has so far been neglected in our debates on the Bill. As such vehicles become more popular and more numerous on our roads, and as opportunities to steal them off our roads increase, their theft, illegal possession or illegal disposal must be a growing concern.
As the Home Office recognised in its now infamous document "Nought to Nowhere in Five Seconds", it takes no more than five seconds to steal a motorcycle--to load it into the back of a van or to drive it away. Motor cycles are highly vulnerable to theft. Moreover, because there is no left or right-hand bias on a motor cycle, they are very attractive throughout the world market.