Clive sponsors Bill to give police power to tackle mini motorbike problem

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I, too, commend my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Blackley (Graham Stringer) for promoting the Bill. I am pleased to sponsor it.

I want briefly to take up one or two issues with the Minister. He has said that he believes that powers to deal with the problem already exist and that they work. He cited some examples. However, I contend that they do not work and that people who live near every green space in my constituency, including Eltham Park, Middle Park, Horn Park, Shooters Hill Park, Eaglesfield Park, Plumstead Common, the Course, Altash way and Woodlands Farm, face a problem with the bikes week in, week out.

Dr. Ladyman: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Clive Efford: No, I shall not give way to the Minister because he has plenty of time to respond to all the issues that we raise. With all due respect, he can just sit and listen.

The problem has grown out of all proportion since the introduction of new powers, including section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 and a plethora of road traffic measures. According to Revenue and Customs figures on a Government website, there has been a 20-fold increase in the number of Chinese imports of mini-motos. The number has rocketed from 7,000 in 2001 to 144,000 in 2005. Similarly, the Motor Cycle Industry Association estimates that the sales of mini-moto vehicles have increased from 10,000 in 2002 to 100,000 in 2005. We are not, therefore, considering the position that existed when we introduced section 59 of the 2002 Act to tackle antisocial behaviour.

I should like the Minister to take my next point on board, so I would be grateful if his Parliamentary Private Secretary shut up for a minute. It is a day for Back Benchers and Front Benchers should listen.

Dr. Ladyman: Will my hon. Friend give way?

Clive Efford: No, I will not.

Officialdom is out of step with the general public on the issue that we are considering. If the Association of Chief Police Officers had to rely on being re-elected, as we do, perhaps it would take a different attitude to the Bill. The Home Office is targeting £200,000 in 28 areas to try to tackle the problem. If the Minister believes that current legislation is working, let me list those areas: Manchester, Mansfield, Liverpool, Sunderland, Birmingham, Harlow, Southend on Sea, Tendring, Reading, Gloucester, Derby, Coventry, Hodge Hill, Blackburn, Chester, Oldham, Salford, Gateshead, Newcastle upon Tyne, South Tyneside, Hull, Wakefield, York, Camden, Kent, Cheshire, West Cumbria and Newport. We are trying to tackle the problem throughout the country, yet the Minister appears to believe confidently that we have the powers to do that. I could give examples of ACPO being out of step with its officers in my community and lagging behind their views.

I work closely with safer neighbourhood teams in my area and they frequently tell me of the difficulties that they experience in using section 59 powers to stop a bike on open space. Indeed, police officers are lucky if they manage to stop one because they often cannot chase them. Health and safety regulations restrict their ability to do that because the bikes might rush out of a park on to a road, and that poses danger to the public or the individual on the bike. When they stop bikes, they can issue the rider with a warning notice under section 59. However, if they stop a bike for the second time, they cannot identify it as the same one. That is a key factor in trying to tackle the problem.

I can give examples of residents who have complained about noise nuisance on open space and the police have dealt with it. Yet residents have told me, “We phoned the police and they did nothing.” I have then contacted the police to tell them that people had complained of noise nuisance but that the police had let it go on all day. The police have replied that they had been there, issued notices and dealt with culprits, but that the problem is so vast that somebody else was there in the afternoon, and the residents get the impression that the nuisance had continued all day unchecked. In addition, there is no way of knowing whether the same bike went back in the afternoon. Registration would deal with that key point.

I understand the Minister’s point when he says that the people who are most likely to use the bikes in an antisocial way are least likely to register them and keep registration plates on them. I accept that. However, if there has to be an engraved registration number or a plate on the bike, and the consequence of its removal is the immediate confiscation and destruction of the bike, that deals with the individual and the problem.

We are asking for a tool to enable the police to tackle the problem. Not only Back Benchers, but the police and the communities that suffer from the plague of mini-motos are calling for it. There is no lack of determination on the part of the police to use the powers about which my hon. Friend the Minister is so confident. However, those powers have loopholes. We have new circumstances and a new machine that is being used antisocially that we did not consider when we drew up previous legislation. A registration scheme that requires those bikes to have a number on them, so that failure to register and number the bike means its immediate removal and destruction, is a tool that will give the police powers to deal with the problem without delay. The public are demanding that it be tackled and I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to listen.

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