A wide ranging group of organisations from all walks of life, which includes the Motor Cycle Industry Association, the National Farmers Union, the Agricultural Engineers Association, the RAC Foundation, the Land Access and Recreational Association, the riders groups MAG and BMF and the Auto Cycle Union have come together in a coalition to lobby against a Parliamentary Private Members Bill which seeks to force all off road motorcycles and quadricycles to be registered and carry number plates.
The Bill, proposed by Graham Stringer MP has been put forward against a background of strong public concern about the illegal use of motorcycles in public places by mainly young anti social elements of society. The problem has been fuelled in recent years by the rise in the number of cheap Chinese imports of mini motos and 'pit bikes'.
However, the number of imports of very cheap Chinese bikes fell by around 59% in 2006 against a backdrop of effective police and community action against illegal motorcycling by the Home Office, the Police and the industry. Where enforcement campaigns have taken place, public complaints have fallen by as much as 80%.
The coalition of organisations strongly shares public concerns about illegal motorcycling but is arguing that new laws are not needed when riding a motorcycle illegally, particularly an unregistered mini moto, in a public place can break in excess of a dozen existing laws. Instead, the array of existing laws needs to enforced far more effectively than they are at present.
The coalition is particularly concerned that Mr Stringer's Bill has unintended consequences that would have wide effects on off road motorcycle sport and motorcycles, quadricycles and all terrain vehicles (ATVs) used for agricultural purposes. Motor racing would also be affected, with Kart tracks and Kart owners being required to register machines and fit number plates, with this adding further bureaucracy and cost to the breeding ground of Formula One racing.
The impact on off-road motor sports would also have a knock-on effect on farmers and landowners who provide land for these events under farm diversification. The new rules could affect the viability of these activities and thus reduce or remove valuable income streams from farm businesses. The requirement to display number plates on agricultural ATVs would also be impractical and an unnecessary further imposition on farm businesses.
Huge costs are implied by the proposed registration scheme and the creation of a massive bureaucracy to administer the system. Costs and additional legal requirements would pass onto legitimate owners of competition and working machines while in the meantime there would be little effect on the core problem of anti social behaviour. Illegal users would simply remove number plates and other identification marks, much as they do at present.
The Bill recently received its Second Reading in Parliament, despite strong opposition from both the Government and Conservative Front Benches. The Bill will go before Committee for amendment before returning to the floor of the House of Commons for its Report Stage and Third Reading vote.
The coalition of groups are calling for the Bill to either be rejected at Third Reading, or for MPs to amend it so that legitimate off road motorcycle and quadricycle users do not need to face cumbersome, expensive and ineffective regulation.