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. Last year, 175,000 new powered two-wheelers were sold in the United Kingdom, which was the highest motor cycle and powered moped annual sales figures for 18 years. Moreover, since 1999, sales of those vehicles have increased by 10 per cent; and they are more than four times greater than they were only five years ago.
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.