I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
We had sort of curtain-raiser for the new clause last night at the all-party reception with the Motor Cycle Industry Association and other motor cycle groups. I was delighted that, when I drew the attention of those present to new clause 15, it received overwhelming support. It also enjoys the support of the Liberal Democrats, which is a bonus.
Well, certainly the two who were at that event. It would probably depend on the way the pendulum swings, so I take my hon. Friend's point. However, I am grateful for their support because in the Minister's peroration on the last debate, he said that, in road safety terms, he could not concede on this. Yet in road safety terms he must allow the new clause to go through. There is overwhelming evidence that allowing motorised two-wheelers to use bus lanes improves road safety. That is the clear finding of the Transport for London survey, which shows that there has been about a 20 per cent. reduction in accidents, despite an increase in the use of bus lanes when motor cycles have been allowed to use them.
I will say no more about the matter, as the case for doing what I suggest is overwhelming. There needs to be a national standard. Otherwise, it is very confusing if we leave it to each local authority—or within London, to each borough—to decide for itself. The local authorities in Colchester and Peterborough have already done what I suggest, and people are thinking of doing it in Essex. If it is a good thing in some areas, why not in all areas? Surely, in the name of road safety, we should now make it a national standard.
We did, indeed, have the curtain-raiser for the new clause yesterday. I can confirm its provisions represent a long-standing Liberal Democrat commitment, for which we were happy to reiterate our support. The arguments have been put and there are many other important new clauses to get on to. One point that I would pick up on is that a number of local authorities have already gone ahead with this provision. Rather than wait for it to come in piecemeal, authority by authority, let us get on and do it nationally.
A long-standing Liberal Democrat commitment is usually the time it takes to get from one doorstep to the next. Of course, in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, that could take a considerable period of time, whereas in my constituency it does not take long at all—although in my constituency we have abolished the Liberals, so we do not have the problem that we had there some years ago.
The purpose of designated bus lanes is to give priority to buses and other classes of traffic. The more that other motorised vehicles have a statutory right to use them, the more their purpose can become devalued. However, I am very sympathetic to the principle of improving facilities for motor cyclists, including their use of bus lanes. Some local authorities have allowed motor cyclists to use bus lanes, and the Secretary of State has permitted motor cycles and licensed taxis to use the M4 bus lane. That was a sensible and welcome move. However, there are concerns for the safety of other road users, in particular cyclists and pedestrians. We are awaiting the results of trials allowing motor cycles into bus lanes in London and Swindon before revising the guidance, which recommends that motor cycles are not normally allowed to use bus lanes. I understand that Transport for London has extended its trial by 18 months, as it wants more evidence before it makes it a permanent feature.
I was at the all-party reception last night, and I saw a flash of inspiration come over the hon. Member for Christchurch because he thought that in allowing motor cycles into bus lanes he had found a Tory policy that was actually popular. What he did not tell us, however, was that generally the Conservatives are opposed to bus lanes. If it were not for Labour Members, there would not be any bus lanes for the motor cycles to use. Some time in this debate, I would be interested to hear—
I am sorry, Mr. Pike. I was responding to some of the points made by the hon. Gentleman.
In Birmingham, for example, where one bus lane has been taken out for a good reason, I am told that the Tory local authority has no intention of putting it back. There will be no motor cycles in that lane. We must take careful note of what the hon. Gentleman said last night. I hope that the motor cycle fraternity will bear it in mind, as they cast their votes for the new, popular Tory policy, that the Tories may be in favour of motor cycles in bus lanes, but they are not in favour of bus lanes.
The Minister recognises a popular policy, albeit not that new, but it has nothing to do with the number of bus lanes. We are saying that wherever there is a bus lane, powered two-wheelers should be able to use it. I believe in local democracy, and although I think that it is important to have a national standard and that wherever there is a bus lane it should be used by powered two-wheelers, I would wish to continue to allow individual elected local authorities to decide where there should be bus lanes.
The hon. Gentleman is telling us that democratically elected local authorities should be able to take a decision, but that is precisely the situation now: local authorities can take a decision on whether motor cycles go in bus lanes.
That is a completely different proposition from whether there should be a bus lane in a particular locality. When the Minister has time to reflect on this matter, he will realise that it is desirable to have national laws that are applicable nationally, so that motor cyclists, wherever they are in the country, can be confident that when they see a bus lane, they can use it, in accordance with the law. Obviously, there will be bus lanes only where elected local authorities choose to place them, except for those that are the responsibility of the Department, the Highways Agency or the other Administrations.
I am glad that the Minister accepts the strength of our argument. He says that TfL plans to extend the experiment for another 18 months or so, but the evidence already produced, if it is analysed properly, shows overwhelmingly that lives would be saved if the proposal were accepted now, and I therefore want to test the Committee's view.
Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:-