European Community Type-Approval of Motor Cycles

– in the House of Commons at 6:55 pm on 24th November 1994.

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Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest 6:55 pm, 24th November 1994

I beg to move, That this House takes note of European Community Documents Nos. 10904/93, 8037/94 and 8618/94 relating to European Community type-approval of motorcycles; supports the principle of a single market in motorcycles which such a process is designed to achieve; shares the Government's view that amendments must be sought to Document No. 10904/93 if it is not to impact adversely and unnecessarily on motorcyclists and the motorcycle industry; supports the European Parliament's amendments set out in Document No. 8037/94 on the deletion of a motorcycle power limit; but opposes the European Parliament's amendment in that Document seeking a role for it in 'comitology'. I am glad to have had the opportunity to listen to the Lord President's speech. I enjoyed it hugely and was able to regain my breath. I gather that my right hon. Friend was worried that I might have missed his pearls of wisdom, which would have been a shame. It was clearly a stimulating debate, but I must make progress.

This debate provides a welcome opportunity for us to comment on the recent developments in the Community's formation of a single market in motor cycles and, in particular, on the draft multi-purpose and power directives and their place in it.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford

I am puzzled by the motion and wonder whether my query could be dealt with before we move on. What does "comitology" mean? I have not been able to find it and gather that it has not been used in the House before. I should be grateful for an explanation.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

There is to be no conferring on this. Would my hon. Friend like the short or long explanation? I have a 45-minute monograph on the subject because, perhaps not surprisingly, the first question to my excellent officials was, "What does 'comitology' mean?" As with most other "ologies"—as it was once remarked in a famous advertisement—it is the science of committee working. It refers to the rather arcane procedure by which the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers[Interruption.] I hope that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) is taking this on board; no doubt she will correct me if I get it wrong. Perhaps she would like to explain it to my hon. Friend—or perhaps not.

The essence of the science is that a process was agreed at Maastricht whereby the European Parliament eventually had the power of veto over proposals made in the form of directives by the Council of Ministers and the Commission. Under the present arrangements, the comitology procedure means that minor detail, not of itself considered to be of sufficient importance to be in the main text of a directive, could be altered simply by, in essence, a committee arrangement.

The European Parliament latched on to the idea that, if it had the power of veto over main directives but did not have the power to deal with the detail, it would leave them with an imperfect power. The current debate about comitology is whether we should extend to the European Parliament the right of veto not only in respect of—[Interruption.] I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) is following this because it is good stuff. The current debate is whether we should extend the right of veto to the minor detail of directives as well as to the directives themselves.

I hope that I can usefully summarise the Government view now—that was the short version. We believe that it would be more appropriate to deal with those matters at the intergovernmental conference that is due to be held in 1996. In all seriousness, that is my explanation and I hope that it will satisfy my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd). It is a fairly arcane subject, but the principle is pretty clear in this case.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford

I am most grateful.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

What does the Minister mean by a minor detail?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

That is not a trick question—nor is it a difficult one. The answer is those details that would have been contained in the subsidiary regulations that follow on and support Council directives. Under the post-Maastricht arrangement, the directive would eventually be the subject of a veto exercised by the European Parliament and all sorts of ramifications would follow. Under the existing, pre-Maastricht arrangement the detail, which could have been altered by committee within the Community, clearly escapes the new veto power.

The question is the extent to which the European Parliament should be permitted to accrete that new power, which would go significantly beyond what was agreed at Maastricht.

I fear that the Parliament has used motor cycle power limits to extend a concept that is not directly related to that measure but has wider political implications. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Government view is that the question should not be debated in this context, but at the intergovernmental conference in 1996.

Photo of Mr Harry Greenway Mr Harry Greenway , Ealing North

Perhaps my hon. Friend could answer the question about which one or two of my constituents are most anxious. Is it correct that no decision affecting motor cyclists will be taken by the House this evening? The matter will be decided later, in the manner that he described.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

My hon. Friend is right. No decisions will be taken on the subject tonight. I appreciate that most of my hon. Friends and the Opposition Members present are keener to move on to the next business. I hope that the House will allow me, therefore, to make some rapid progress and to outline the measure in front of us.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

May I press the Minister? What does he mean by a detail of that kind? Could not technical issues, which could have a great bearing on legislation in one way or another, be involved? Can he give us an example?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

I do not think that it would be especially helpful for us to go into such detail. That is asking for the 45-minute précis, which I hope that the hon. Lady is not keen to hear. My hon. Friends are not keen to hear it either. They have obviously heard me before. Perhaps I may leave the hon. Lady with this thought. She is right. Is it not often said of legislation—as much in this House as elsewhere—that the devil is in the detail? Detailed matters are immensely technical, but they are also capable of making vast differences to the impact of legislation. To that extent, the proposition that the European Parliament advances is perfectly serious. The Government's position, which will find favour on both sides of the House, is that we should consider comitology in the context of the 1996 IGC, rather than in relation to the legislation under consideration tonight.

We are considering the issues that flow from the type-approval arrangements for motor cycles throughout member states. That process is intended to establish a single Community-wide market in motor cycles as the market is very fragmented.

Type approval involves the approval of pre-production models or components by European Community certification agencies and checking the conformity of production in accordance with those types. Many of the measures are already in place, but there are two outstanding before the package can be completed and they are quite controversial.

The first is the draft directive on maximum power, maximum design speed and maximum torque. As hon. Members will know, it is proposed that a limit of 74 kw—100 brake horse power—should be set. That is roughly equivalent to a modern 750 cc machine. That proposal found favour with all the other member states apart from the United Kingdom as our excellent manufacturer, Triumph, would be significantly disadvantaged by it.

Photo of Mr Peter Butler Mr Peter Butler , North East Milton Keynes

As someone who has held a full motor cycle licence since my 16th birthday, and had the great pleasure of riding a Triumph 900 cc bike for a few days at Easter, I find the proposal perturbing. That motor cycle had well over 100 brake horse power, but was the safest, as well as the most powerful, machine that I had ridden in a moderately long career of riding and falling off motor cycles.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Order. The history of the hon. Gentleman's motor cycling abilities is interesting, but interventions are supposed to be short and to the point.

Photo of Mr Peter Butler Mr Peter Butler , North East Milton Keynes

Indeed, it is shortening and becoming more pointed by the moment. The Triumph company said that three of its models will have to come out: of production if the 100 brake horsepower limit is imposed. I urge my hon. Friend to do all that he can to prevent that from happening.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

My hon. Friend was merely seeking to condense, in the pithy way of which he is so capable, an entire speech into one intervention.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

I withdraw that remark. Apparently, my hon. Friend has more to say. His intervention was absolutely to the point. So that we are in no doubt, virtually all Triumph's models would fall foul of the proposed restriction and it would certainly have a very adverse effect on the company's production, which is increasing by leaps and bounds. All of us with any interest in the industry are delighted at that increase.

To put it simply and quickly, the United Kingdom alone among European Community countries objected to the limit. It found an ally in the European Parliament, which saw the logic of the UK proposals, to the extent that in May the Parliament voted for nine amendments on Second Reading, which deleted all references to the power limit and substituted a Commission study into the possibility of a link between power and accidents. That is the crucial ground. The amendments together with the comitology amendment are the documents to which the motion refers.

In the light of an adverse opinion from the Commission, it fell to the Council of Ministers to decide whether unanimously to accept all the amendments. In the absence of unanimity, the Council convened a meeting of the conciliation committee—between its representatives and those of the European Parliament—with the object of reaching agreement on a joint text.

At the meeting on 18 October, representatives of the United Kingdom and the European Parliament argued strongly in favour of the power amendments and I am pleased to inform the House that a joint agreement was provisionally reached to proceed on the basis of those amendments.

The whole issue of comitology remained unresolved.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth

As my hon. Friend knows, I represent Triumph. My information is that the worst-case effect of the anti-tampering chapter would be that the model range would have to be cut from 10 to one.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who takes a great interest in those matters because he has represented the company for some time. That information only serves to emphasise the seriousness of the proposal for Triumph, which is not the least of the reasons why we believe that it is wrong.

Our objective in the conciliation process will be to ensure that nothing is agreed which is inconsistent with the present comitology rules or prejudices the separate, wider discussions on comitology that are taking place between the institutions.

Against that background, and having resolutely opposed the power limits and succeeded in our objective, the Government consider that it would be folly if the Council and the European Parliament failed to agree—in the context of the power directive—what to do about comitology. I do not want to prejudge the outcome of conciliation on that. However, there is every hope that common sense will prevail.

The other chapters of the measure that are controversial, or that have excited interest, are the proposals on noise and emissions. They need to be seen against the backdrop of a policy by the UK and its EC partners to try to limit noise and emissions as far as practicable in line with technological developments. I assure the House that motor cycles are not being singled out in that respect. We simply aim, in practice, to apply sensible restrictions on motor cycles which are consistent with those that have applied to the heaviest goods vehicles over the past decade.

Let me make clear the extent of the reductions in pollution levels. They have now reached the point at which the Royal Commission on environmental pollution, which reported fairly recently, has said there is now only limited scope for further modifications to vehicles … to make them quieter". That underlines how far we have moved. Stricter noise limits are to be introduced for all classes of four-wheeled vehicles from October 1996, resulting in a maximum level of 80 decibels, which is the same as that proposed for the largest motor cycles.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

Is my hon. Friend aware that if one listens to a BMW or a Yamaha FJ1200, one realises that if they are properly tuned they purr very quietly? They are very pleasant—

Photo of Mr Peter Butler Mr Peter Butler , North East Milton Keynes

They are quieter than my hon. Friend's Lotus.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

As my hon. Friend says, they are considerably quieter than my Lotus. Does my hon. Friend the Minister accept, however, that part of the problem is that the current laws are not being enforced by European countries? Surely that point should be addressed before we even attempt to achieve a 37 per cent. drop in noise level, which is what is being asked for in the EU document.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

I note what my hon. Friend says. He will forgive me if I do not accept his invitation to speculate on what should be the practice in other countries because we are, of course, concerned with the implications of the directives here. My hon. Friend was, however, right to point out that when motor cycles are properly tuned and properly operated, there is no reason why they should present offensively in terms of noise. Responsible motor cyclists themselves are happy to accede to that. Problems often arise when motor cycles are either inappropriately altered, to which I shall refer in a moment, or simply badly maintained.

I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Staffordshire (Mr. Fabricant) agrees that although there is no case for discriminating against motor cyclists unreasonably—indeed, I have made it clear that I believe that they have an immensely valuable role to play and that, in the urban context, two wheels will generally consume far less space than four—there is no principle on which one could justify offering preferential arrangements concerning noise and emissions to motor cyclists as against the arrangements that are offered to motor cars.

A series of directives in recent years will result, with the introduction of the latest directive, in passenger car emissions having been reduced, in the space of only six years, by about 90 per cent. in respect of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide, by 60 per cent. in respect of carbon monoxide and by 70 per cent. in respect of particulates. Similar reductions with respect to heavy diesel-engined vehicles, including buses and lorries, will have been achieved when the second stage of the directive comes into effect in October 1996.

Consequently, when we support the Commission's proposals, far from discriminating against motor cycles, we are applying an even-handed policy which reflects an increasing concern by the public at large for improvements in the environment. Against that background, we think that it would be wrong for motor cycles to receive preferential treatment. I shall not go into a great deal of detail on the proposals because the House would not greatly welcome that. Suffice it to say that I think that there is a reasonable level of agreement among the manufacturers and the representatives of the industry that the proposals are reasonable.

It may be worth pointing out that there are, of course, differences between the engines used in motor cycles and those used in cars. There is the issue of the catalytic converter which, since 1 January 1993, has been the basis for securing the large reductions of emissions in modern motor vehicles. The general presumption is that it would be desirable not to move to that—this is certainly the British view—in relation to motor cycles unless it proved absolutely necessary. The Germans take a slightly different view. We believe, however, that we can make a great deal of progress on that position simply by refining the current engineering techniques available to us.

The Government support the new proposals in both areas. We think that they are achievable within the time scale and that the economic cost is sensible. We do not believe that they will be to the detriment of motor cycle performance. The industry has advised the Department that the proposals can be met either by existing technology or by engine modifications. After-treatment systems, such as catalytic converters, will not be necessary. We are not entirely convinced that even more stringent exhaust measures can be justified in view of the low number of motor cycles in the UK in relation to the number of other vehicles. That underlines how we believe that conventional technology can solve the problem.

The remaining controversial chapter concerns anti-tampering. The principle there is fairly straightforward. We all understand why small motor cycles need to be protected from tampering. If they are not, people who are not allowed to ride large motor cycles because they do not have the appropriate licence simply tweak the motor cycles they have, which is dangerous for them and dangerous for other road users. We take the view, however, that anti-tampering is not an appropriate subject for the large motor cycle; that is not where the problem is.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) knows perfectly well that interchangeability in this area is the key to the way in which the industry is developing. It would be futile to insist on anti-tampering measures in respect of larger machines when it is not clear what the objective of such legislation would be.

Photo of Mr Keith Speed Mr Keith Speed , Ashford

It would help the House and the Department's position if my hon. Friend would tell us where we have got on the Motor Cycle Noise Act 1987, which was introduced as a private Member's Bill by the late Robert Adley, the former hon. Member for Christchurch. That bans and causes penalties for fitting illegal exhausts. I do not think that the Act is yet fully operative and I do not know of any prosecutions under it. The Act seems to be totally in line with everything that my hon. Friend is saying, provided that we can bring it into operation.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

I fear that I cannot advise my hon. Friend precisely on the status of the Adley Act; I am aware of it. [Interruption.] I may, indeed, be able to tell my hon. Friend. The message is, however, so opaque that I will not convey it to him now for fear of misleading him. I will, of course, write to him.

The Act addresses exactly the issue, which is that there is a tendency with motor cycles for people to want to meddle with the standard equipment. There is, however, a much more important issue in relation to small motor cycles. Riders in certain categories are allowed to use only motor cycles up to a certain output limit. Tampering with that output would allow them to ride motor cycles for which they are not qualified. It would, however, be almost impossible to detect such tampering because, to the naked eye, the model would look perfectly standard. That is why at the lower end of the power range, anti-tampering makes reasonable sense. What does not make sense—this is the position that we have wanted to take—is to extend that principle right through the power range. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth knows, the effect there is quite counter-productive.

Photo of Robert Key Robert Key , Salisbury

Will my hon. Friend keep fighting for motor cycles in this country? I am sure that he has demonstrated tonight his mastery of the detail which contains the devil, as he has illustrated. When I was doing my hon. Friend's job, I learned that there was no substitute for meeting the kind and generous people who make up the Motorcycle Action Group and who educated me about motor cycling. Let us suppose that I were to ask them to arrange for my hon. Friend to ride pillion on a motor cycle from his constituency to his office. Would he accept?

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

My hon. Friend tempts me with that offer. I should probably need to qualify who the rider of the machine was. My experience of motor cycles came to a somewhat abrupt end around 1960 when Aigburth road, Liverpool and I had a rather closer acquaintance than I intended, since when I have stuck to four wheels. My hon. Friend is a persuasive advocate and, if I may say so in passing, he was also an excellent representative of the industry in the negotiations that he carried out which preceded our present position. On that basis, subject to all the usual warranties, with a substantial independent insurance and, indeed, the obtaining of whatever last rites are suitable in the circumstances, I shall consider my hon. Friend's request favourably. That is about as diplomatic as I can be at this time of night.

In summary, the current EC discussion by officials preceding the Council negotiations has shown that only some progress is being made towards easing the restrictions on anti-tampering. There is no great indication of support for the UK's position. However, the rapporteur to the European Parliament committee which deals with economic and monetary affairs and industrial policy has recently expressed support for our view and has also proposed excluding category B and C machines. Obviously, I am normally referring to category D machines. We intend to support his proposal. We think that he is on exactly the right lines. There is also the issue, which I shall not discuss in great detail, of the chapter on electro-magnetic compatibility. That subject has largely eluded me due to its massive technical significance, nor is it a subject on which there is any great disagreement in the Community.

Overall, I hope that the House will agree that we should press ahead to secure EC type approval—if necessary by accepting those chapters which are not contentious and leaving to one side the chapters on power limits, noise and emissions, which may be contentious. That is in the best interests of Triumph and in the best interests of the Community as a whole. I must make it clear to the House—I know that this is what several of my hon. Friends want to hear—that we are not prepared to arrive at unanimity at any price. We shall continue to ensure that the particular needs of the UK industry and of British motor cyclists are strongly represented and, indeed, are met. On that basis, I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 7:20 pm, 24th November 1994

I am not sure of the circumstances under which I would ride pillion in the way in which the hon. Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key) just suggested. However, it would certainly not be when the Minister was driving.

Labour Members welcome the bulk of the proposals and support the attempts that have been made to safeguard the interests of motor cyclists and the motor cycle industry. It is unfortunate that that entire complex, technical and drawn-out debate—we can see how technical it is if we look at the great weight of volumes in front of us—about how we seek to harmonise type approval of motor cycles throughout the European Union has become completely entangled with a much wider political debate on Europe after Maastricht. The debate tonight, which should have been solely about transport regulations, has become one that carries us to the heart of the argument abut democracy. I am thankful, however, that it has not been hijacked—as I thought it may have been at the start of our deliberations.

Photo of Mr Peter Butler Mr Peter Butler , North East Milton Keynes

Does the hon. Lady accept that only one member state currently legally forbids tampering and powerful motor cycles, such as those in excess of 100 bhp: France? Surely to seek to enforce harmonisation with only one country out of the whole of the European Union cannot be a proper way forward. I should appreciate her support for that view.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

If the hon. Gentleman will wait to hear what I have to say on this mater, the Labour party's position will become abundantly clear. Our view has much regard to the motor bike industry in this country, especially the super-bikes and the position of Triumph.

The Government's proposals in respect of European Union directives 10904/93, 8037/94 and 8618/94 are none the less welcome and I say that categorically. I doubt that we should have wanted to have changed them. We support the single market and we want to apply and set standards. But we do not want to set standards in such a way that we price motor bikes out of the market. We recognise that it is not a single-sector market and we want to maintain the use that is currently made of motor cycles in rural as well as in urban areas. We recognise the important part that motor-bikes, motor cycles and three-wheel vehicles play in the entire integrated transport policy that we want to see. Now that a framework directive has been agreed, the 100-dollar question is, of course, how the Council of Ministers steers its way to seeking agreement on the many technical regulations which Europe needs to approve and which would need to be incorporated in UK law through the adoption of specific regulations.

Like the Minister, we have no problem at all with nine out of the 12 chapters in the proposal: those relating to tyres, lighting, external protectors, mirrors, fuel tanks, safety belts and so on. But we question the current proposals in respect of noise, anti-tampering and emissions. We accept that noise is a problem, especially when the motor bike is driven or maintained irresponsibly. We need to look carefully at what is feasible in the long term. We should support research that addressed the contribution that all variables could make to reducing noise. We also want to see an immediate reduction of decibel levels. I was pleased that the Minister referred to that in his introductory comments.

Anti-tampering is, of course, related to power restriction. There is no doubt that the powerful motor cycle lobby deserves to be congratulated on the campaign that it has waged to secure a future for the super-bike and for British manufacturing.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

Will the hon. Lady take it from me, as someone who has had a Yamaha throbbing between my legs while driving through the streets of Turkey, that, in fact, extra power and extra acceleration get one out of difficulty and not into it? I appreciate the value that she places on it.

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

I think that the House will note what the hon. Gentleman says.

I also very much welcome the voluntary agreement that has been made in conjunction with the International Motorcycle Manufacturers Association, which looks at the relevance of the proposals for smaller vehicles, but which recognises that the manufacturing processes of the super-bike can survive. That is important. I am not so sure about similar compromise over emissions. I am very concerned that we ensure that we follow through the recommendations of the 18th report of the Royal Commission on transport and the environment. That is our most recent reminder that industry has to find a way in which to reduce emissions and that our perpetual objective has to be the production of even cleaner vehicles backed up by proper use.

Whether the proposals from Brussels are achievable by 1997 with those issues is a matter, therefore, for urgent and careful consideration. We must reduce emissions in the shortest possible time scale. We need targets and they need to be agreed across the Community. But, by the same token, those targets have to be realistic in quality and time. Equally, however stringent the controls applying to the motor cycle industry, which results in a small but none the less significant amount of carbon monoxide and other damaging pollutants, the same requirements must be levelled at other vehicles, and, indeed, other industrial processes.

I expect the Minister to set out how he expects to balance the interests of the industry with the equally compelling demands for environmental protection. I suspect that we shall return to that issue time and again. The problem is that all the modifications that we want to see to proposals from Brussels are part and parcel, as we have already heard, of the whole discussion about comitology and democracy.

Is not it ironic, therefore, that this debate is taking place not only as the Government's weakness and disunity over Europe is exposed, but after the previous debate on setting up a Deregulation Committee, which will be the basis of getting rid of regulations in future? Despite all our criticisms, and whatever we may say from the Labour Benches, at least Parliament, through its elected representatives, will have some say, however limited. I suspect that the Government will allow Labour Members nothing more than the opportunity to say that we disapprove of the rubber-stamping that they will give to wiping regulations off the statute book. I refer to the debate that we have just had about setting up a special Committee.

Although those who are elected to the European Parliament have a proper part to play in the process of making primary legislation, the same cannot be said of their accountability to the people who elect them in respect of subsequent technical amendments to that legislation. I was interested to hear that the Minister could not define what the technical issues might be. I could give him many definitions.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest

May I say in my own defence that it is not that I could not give the hon. Lady such definitions, but that many of my hon. Friends advised me in the strongest terms that I should resist the temptation to do so?

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

Obviously, the Minister has to make up his own mind about to whom he listens and to whom he is accountable. Technical amendments could easily follow primary legislation from the European Union and have all sorts of unforeseen consequences. That could make life very difficult for many manufacturers in this country.

The right of elected Members to have a say and to be consulted about future amendments, regardless of how technical the changes may or may not be, is fundamental to our democracy. That problem was not resolved by the Maastricht treaty, but the issue has surfaced and become central to this evening's debate about two or three-wheel vehicles.

We cannot support the last part of the motion. We believe that whatever is agreed must satisfy the principles of democracy and accountability. Parliamentarians, whether in this Parliament or in the European Parliament, cannot be denied the right to represent the people who elect them.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way on that point. Is not it excellent that my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie), who has a Toyota factory in her constituency, drives a Toyota? Does the hon. Lady agree that my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-East (Mr. Lightbown), who is the Comptroller of Her Majesty's Household, should drive a Reliant Robin three-wheeler, which is made in Tamworth?

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

I think that the hon. Gentleman has managed to confuse the issue even further. In view of the number of hon. Members who wish to speak in the debate, particularly those who ride motor bikes—my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) wishes to make a contribution—I do not wish to confuse the issue.

I should expect the Government— who have given us the "quango state" where Ministers are no longer accountable to anyone, even when they are found by the High Court to be in breach of their own law on compensation to victims of crime, and who have entrusted their massive deregulation programme to a committee of their own appointees and so-called "technical experts" who sat on the deregulation task force— to argue against the European Parliament having its say at each and every opportunity. It is entirely consistent with the Government's stance on accountability.

The Minister may ask what that has to do with the debate, but it has everything to do with it because the debate is about accountability. Fortunately, on this occasion what is written on the Order Paper has been overtaken by events. We cannot support the Government's position on comitology, but as that proposal has now been superseded by conciliation talks between the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the Community, we have no difficulty supporting the main part of the motion.

Whether the whole motor cycle package falls or proceeds will depend very much upon whether the European Union supports the principle of democracy at all levels—local, national and international. We want to ensure that there is further parliamentary scrutiny of the three controversial parts of the legislation. For those reasons, we shall not oppose the proposals.

Photo of David Tredinnick David Tredinnick , Bosworth 7:34 pm, 24th November 1994

I am grateful to be called to speak in the debate. I am very proud to represent the new British motor cycle industry: the Triumph plant at Hinckley. I begin by congratulating the management and workers at the Triumph factory on their great achievements over the past few years. I also congratulate Conservative-controlled Hinckley and Bosworth borough council on making it possible for the factory to move to Hinckley and have such great success.

Nothing better illustrates the failure of socialist policies and the success of Conservative policies than the history of Triumph. The House may recall that the now right hon. Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benn) spent £4.2 million of public money on the Meriden motor cycle co-operative, which tried unsuccessfully to revive the old Triumph firm. From the start, the operation was plagued by inefficiency and union demarcation until its eventual collapse in 1983. It is remarkable that Triumph, like the phoenix, should have risen from the ashes. Garry McDonnell, a fitter at the new Triumph plant, has said: We don't need unions … I worked at Meriden and what a mess that was. Nobody seemed to know what was going on". My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister visited the plant, and he found— his findings are relevant to the motion— a factory which is ready to expand to a capacity of 30,000 machines a year and which is expected to bring 400 new jobs to the area. However, the Liberal councillors of Hinckley and Bosworth borough council opposed the company's expansion in Hinckley and, as a consequence, I believe that Triumph almost moved its entire works away from the area. I hope that the electorate will remember that in the local elections.

Triumph intends to build more than 12,000 vehicles world wide for the 1995 model year. Some 80 per cent. will be exported to 28 markets around the world. The number of employees at the factory has doubled in the past year from 160 to 330. Whereas in 1991 the factory produced only two models, in the three-year period since then, it has produced 10.

I pointed out to my hon. Friend the Minister the problems that the proposed European legislation could create for the factory. From conception to production, Triumph is now capable of creating a new motor cycle machine in 18 months—the fastest development rate in the world. The company has subsidiaries in Germany, France and America, and it has now started exporting to America. Triumph is now planning for an expansion into a second state-of-the-art facility in the immediate future, and on 24 July this year the new Triumph motor cycles raced at Donnington for the first time.

The proposed multi-directive for motor cycle whole vehicle-type approval would have three serious consequences. My hon. Friend the Minister has addressed some of those consequences, and I shall expand on them a little more.

In its present form, the anti-tampering chapter would destroy the modular manufacturing process—a Lego process devised by Triumph—by disallowing the use of certain interchangeable parts in the engine. The industry has proposed that that chapter be restricted to small motor cycles and mopeds, as my hon. Friend knows. Triumph would like to see support for that proposal.

On the noise issue, Triumph believes that motor cycles of 175 cc or greater that achieve 82 or 80 decibels (A) are sufficiently quiet. Motor cycle noise pollution is an issue that involves not only the original equipment supplied by the manufacturer, but environmental conditions and individual driving styles. Because of that, it is impossible to determine what the effects of further proposed reductions will be.

In Triumph's opinion, after-market replacement silencers are making a large contribution to motor cycle noise problems. In many instances, the manufacturer's silencer is replaced by one that does not provide equivalent noise protection. That area requires greater control. Triumph believes that further research should be conducted before more severe noise level reductions are considered. The company has made a substantial contribution of time and money to research and my hon. Friend the Minister might like to follow that example.

Pollution has been mentioned, The majority of motor cycles are small two-stroke vehicles which are used because they consume little fuel and are inexpensive compared with larger machines. Making those vehicles comply with the noise limitations will increase their price by 25 per cent. because additional equipment will be required. That will destroy the market for an inexpensive, low-fuel consuming vehicle.

The British motor cycle industry has been reborn in the form of Triumph, and this is a crucial time for its development because it is the first year during which it will export vehicles to America. Triumph believes that the proposed chapters would seriously damage its hopes for continued growth and success. My hon. Friend the Minister should consider the harm that that would cause not only to manufacturers but to users.

Triumph now has a range of 10 machines based on its modular construction, which is as simple as a system of child's building blocks. It gives the company the ability to develop quickly new models that are in line with the requirements of the market. That principle is threatened with extinction by the anti-tampering chapter. It is in the interests of Britain for this measure to be examined in the most sympathetic light by the Minister. On behalf of all my constituents and those who work at and manage Triumph I hope that he will do so.

Photo of Mr David Chidgey Mr David Chidgey Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Employment) 7:41 pm, 24th November 1994

I draw the Minister's attention to the fact that many motor cycle users, including members of the Motor Cycle Action Group and others who have been mentioned, have expressed a great deal of anxiety about the implications of these European Union documents. The detail and extent of the proposed restrictions could lead one to conclude that the European Commission is seeking to become the designer of motor cycles.

It appears from the detail of the proposals that there is a clear strategy to reinforce the policy of limiting the power of motor cycles to 74 kw. That strategy is built on a range of subtle, minor but critical restrictions on engine design. For example, it is proposed that manufacturers should be prohibited from designing motor cycles that are able to accommodate a range of interchangeable parts. That restriction would apply if such interchangeability allowed the power of a particular model to be enhanced by more than 10 per cent.

We know that there is no evidence linking motor cycle power to accidents, and that on a number of occasions the European Parliament rejected the proposed power limit. Clearly, this new proposal to restrict interchangeability is designed to support such a power limit through the prevention of the interchangeability of parts. It seems to be a back-door attempt to avoid the opposition of the European Parliament to the imposition of the 74 kw limit, and it should be resisted.

Interchangeability of parts is a key factor for manufacturers who produce a range of motor cycles. Triumph's product range, costs and manufacturing efficiency depend on the modular design concept, and the foundation of that company's success has been the interchangeability of parts in the modular design process.

I am advised that since the new Triumph factory was established about three years ago, sales of motor cycles have been a great success and are predicted to pass 20,000 machines by the end of this year. The combined effect of the type-approval motor cycle proposals could be to eliminate some highly successful models from the company's range. It would reduce the sales volume by more than a third and the consequent loss of revenue could approach £20 million, to which must be added the loss of business to the numerous suppliers and sub-contractors who provide components to the main company.

The loss of business and jobs that the proposed restrictions on interchangeability would create, if implemented, is clearly unacceptable. The House would wish to be advised that Ministers have been able to assure the motor cycle industry and users that those concerns have been addressed and resolved.

Photo of Mr Gary Waller Mr Gary Waller , Keighley 7:44 pm, 24th November 1994

I am delighted that the Government have taken a robust line on the proposals in the multidirective from the Commission. I welcome the fact that the European Parliament has reinforced its reputation by acting as a brake on the untrammelled ambitions of the Commission to extend its role and intrude unnecessarily into this area. I am glad that in their approach to motor cycling in recent years the Government have done a great deal to improve safety, especially on training.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Mr. Key), I pay tribute to the Motor Cycle Action Group, as well as to the British Motorcyclists Federation. I have certainly always found their representatives to be highly responsible and well-informed proponents of their case.

I should like to deal with the proposals that are objectionable. It is difficult to justify the proposal on tampering, even if it did not hit particularly at British manufacturers. It would certainly prevent riders from even legally upgrading their machines, thus reducing their freedom. It can reasonably be said that freedom is an intrinsic part of motor cycling, and many motor cyclists like to work on their machines and modify them. Sometimes that has regrettable effects, especially when people fit unacceptable silencers, about which I shall speak later. The freedom of motor cycle users to modify their machines should not be unnecessarily attacked in this way—provided the modifications remain always within the law.

Forbidding the interchangeability of parts would certainly affect Triumph in particular, but that approach would also be detrimental to many small United Kingdom manufacturers. This proposal could appropriately be applied to small motor cycles, especially restricted machines such as mopeds, but it is difficult to see how its extension to larger machines could he justified in any way.

There is no scientific evidence that the proposed power limit that the Commission seeks to introduce will increase safety. I am glad that that proposal seems to have been put off, at least until further investigations have been conducted.

I appreciate the perception of many people that motor cycles, as manufactured, can be noisy. Anybody who has attended the demonstrations by the industry will be aware that nearly all noisy machines are those that have been illegally modified by the fitting of after-market, unacceptable exhaust systems. If we enforced the existing law properly, we would eliminate nearly all the nuisance to which people refer. It is notable that in many countries that support these proposals nobody has even begun to seek to enforce the law as it stands.

All the evidence shows that motor cycles contribute only a tiny proportion of vehicle emissions. A figure of 3 per cent. has been quoted. I do not believe that it is necessary to adopt exaggerated means of limiting emissions. I note the view of the British Motorcyclists Federation that the proposed emission limits could not be achieved without the incorporation of catalytic converters. There are clear differences of view between the Department and that organisation on this matter, and I hope that they can be explored further.

In conclusion, the motor cycle is the means of personal powered transport that does the least damage to the environment. As my hon. Friend the Minister pointed out, it certainly takes up very little space.

The motor cycle is the means to jobs—running into seven figures—and enjoyment for many people in Britain . I believe that the multi-directive is wrong to seek in effect to discourage the use of motor cycles by pushing up the price beyond the reach of many people.

Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Norwood 7:50 pm, 24th November 1994

As a practising motor cyclist who has ridden motor cycles ranging from a Corgi 50 cc to my current 1,000 cc, I shall say just a few words as a member of the all-party motor cycling group.

Our position on tampering is exactly right. Anti-tampering regulations should apply at the lower end of the range where people are learning and there is a risk of accident and death. Provided that problem is dealt with, there is no case whatever for regulations to apply to motor cycles of more than 125 cc. If people want power, they will buy it. There is a huge range available from 125 cc to 1,200 cc bikes. If people want it, they will get it and tampering is irrelevant.

The second issue is noise. I see no point in intensifying regulations on noise. We have to enforce the existing legislation. Noise mostly comes from smaller bikes. Many towns on the Mediterranean sound as if they are occupied from 5 o'clock in the morning to 4 o'clock the following morning by giant bumble bees and wasps as people ride up and down on small motor cycles and mopeds that have been adapted not to achieve as much speed as possible but to create as much noise as possible. We have to concentrate not on intensifying present limits, as most motor bikes do not create noise problems, but on enforcing existing regulations.

In respect of emission and noise control, the Minister should remember, first, that if regulations are applied too intensely they will damage a valuable and growing British industry.

Secondly, perhaps the motor cycle should possess some small advantage against the motor car, if it is not to the detriment of the community generally. Motor cycles occupy very little space, they consume much less fuel and they are much more efficient in terms of their use of the roads. If regulations push up the cost of manufacture and purchase, instead of buying motor cycles people will be shifted into buying cheaper old bangers that are much less environmentally friendly, consume more fuel and take up more road space.

The Minister has to have in mind, first, protecting British industry, and secondly, ensuring that the proper balance is struck between vehicles that take up very little space and are pretty efficient.

Photo of Mr Steven Norris Mr Steven Norris , Epping Forest 7:53 pm, 24th November 1994

We have had a good short debate. I know that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Ms Walley) wishes to give uncritical support to extensions of European powers against those of the European Parliament and I am sure that remark will be noted outside the House.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Tredinnick) made some sensible points on behalf of Triumph and I hope that he will be assured that, to a large extent, he was pushing at a open door because we understand the position of Triumph and we certainly do not want to do anything to frustrate it.

The hon. Member for Eastleigh (Mr. Chidgey) was quite right just to mark the card on the extent to which interchangeability and anti-tampering are related and how interchangeability could be a threat to power output. We fully understand that point and will, of course, ensure that it is taken on board in resisting the Commission's proposal.

I hope that my hon. Friends will forgive me for putting it in this way, but the hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) is a well-known motor cyclist and on this occasion he spoke eminent common sense. He was right about anti-tampering and made the point that when one is considering emissions and noise it is sensible to get the issue into proper balance. That is how we have tried to approach the matter—not by insisting on onerous regulations that would put motor cycles at a disadvantage to cars, but simply by recognising that, in general, society is seeking less harmful emission levels from all vehicles and less noisy vehicles. Not many hon. Members will disagree with him about the bumble bee effect, which we all understand.

The summary of our approach, which appears to have found favour with the House, is simply that we will be protecting British interests, particularly those of Triumph. That is not only the right thing to do from our domestic standpoint, but also represents a commonsense approach to issues such as power limits. We shall continue to press for what I believe to be a reasonable position on both noise and emissions—one for which there has been general support this evening—with the qualification that we do not want to be over-zealous.

We have taken a commonsense position on anti-tampering that appears to have found favour. On that basis I am happy to commend the motion to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of European Community Documents Nos. 10904/93, 8037/94 and 8618/94 relating to European Community type-approval of motorcycles; supports the principle of a single market in motorcycles which such a process is designed to achieve; shares the Government's view that amendments must be sought to Document No. 10904/93 if it is not to impact adversely and unnecessarily on motorcyclists and the motorcycle industry; supports the European Parliament's amendments set out in Document No. 8037/94 on the deletion of a motorcycle power limit; but opposes the European Parliament's amendment in that Document seeking a role for it in 'comitology'.