Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to require quad bike riders on public highways to wear helmets; to make provision about the registration of quad bikes; to make provision about the dangerous and anti-social use of quad bikes; and for connected purposes.
The Bill will promote safe use of road-legal quads and reduce the number of off-road quads on our streets by making the wearing of helmets compulsory, making necessary the installation of vehicle immobilisers, making registration of all quad bikes compulsory and empowering police to remove problem off-road quads from our streets permanently. I thank the many stakeholders who have worked with me on the Bill: West Yorkshire police, the West Yorkshire Deputy Mayor for policing and crime, the Royal College of Policing, the National Farmers Union, Brake, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety.
The constant, loud, piercing drone of quad bikes is an all too familiar sound in many of our towns and cities. These vehicles have important and legitimate uses in agriculture and related industries, but they are tools, not toys, and their careless, reckless and unsafe use on our streets is a menace. My constituents have had enough. Most issues are not caused by road-legal quad bikes, which, like any road vehicle, must be registered, have an MOT and be driven by a responsible adult with a licence and insurance. Instead, our streets are plagued by quads legal only for off-road use, which do not require registration. Most off-road quads are not approved for use on public highways precisely because they do not meet road safety standards. The lack of registration also means that they are harder to trace by police.
The antisocial use of quads centres in cities and the suburbs, but the vehicles used are often stolen from farms. The National Farmers Union sees it as a particular problem and estimates that some 1,100 quad bikes are stolen from farms each year, costing farmers upwards of £3 million. If just a fraction of those end up on public roads, that is hundreds of illegal quads running rampant on our streets. These vehicles are designed for herding animals in fields, not tearing up tarmac in our towns and cities.
Data from West Yorkshire police shows that antisocial quad use is a growing problem. There were over 10,000 reports of antisocial use of quads and bikes in West Yorkshire in 2021, a shocking 42% rise on the previous year.
The problems of antisocial quads are threefold. At the most basic level, they are a disruptive and persistent noise nuisance. Just one antisocial quad rider ripping through a neighbourhood will disturb hundreds and hundreds of residents. That constant noise causes distress to residents and undermines public confidence in our police. They also damage the local landscape, tearing up fields, green spaces, embankments and parks. Only last week, a constituent contacted me about a convoy of no fewer than seven quads racing between families on park space. On more than one occasion, community sports groups in my constituency have had to cancel or postpone matches and training because of damage to their local playing fields from quads. Most seriously, they are a risk to other road users, pedestrians and the drivers themselves. Only last year in Bradford, a man was killed when his quad veered and collided with another vehicle.
I recently spoke with a constituent who told me they had seen a young person on a quad weaving through traffic on two wheels on a busy A road in excess of 40 miles per hour, a danger to every road user and pedestrian nearby. What was the rider’s choice of headwear? Was it a helmet to protect their life? No, it was a balaclava to protect their identity. I propose to make wearing a helmet compulsory for all quad users on public highways. In Northern Ireland, it is already a requirement. Why that is not the case in the rest of the United Kingdom is a mystery. The argument is self-evident: when the worst happens, the results are catastrophic. A quad user is twice as likely as someone in a car to get into an accident in the first place and then is 10 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed. The compulsory wearing of helmets would make the law consistent with that for other similar vehicles.
Police have powers to seize these vehicles, such as under section 165A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 for unlicensed or uninsured vehicles, and under section 59 of the Police Reform Act 2002 for vehicles used antisocially, but they still face an uphill struggle. The police will always prioritise public safety. Where they judge they cannot risk injury to pedestrians, other road users, the rider or their officers, they will not give chase to quads. So to take action, police must link a quad being used antisocially to an owner with an address. That can take hundreds and hundreds of hours of police time, piecing together official reports from members of the public, scouring community intelligence on social media or reviewing CCTV from businesses such as petrol stations for that one frame showing the rider’s face, all to make a strong enough case to act.
That work does get results. For example, in my neighbouring city of Leeds, after a ride out involving over 100 vehicles in 2016, police were able to take action that resulted in 13 convictions, with sentences between 12 months and two years. However, it is labour-intensive and should any one link in the chain break, the police can do little. Yet effective changes can be made to help the police and will reduce the number of illegal quads on our streets. Unlike for cars, the installation of immobilisers is not a legal requirement. That vital piece of technology has been required in all cars since 1998. The device provides an additional layer of security and makes it that much harder for opportunistic thieves to make away with them. By making immobilisers a requirement, we make theft harder and reduce the number of quads getting on to our streets in the first place.
My Bill also proposes extending the registration scheme for licensed road-legal quads to cover all quad bikes, including those allowed for off-road use only. That establishes a clear line of ownership right from the point of sale, which will help police in their inquiries when investigating reports. It means that, once seized, stolen quads can be more easily returned to their rightful owner.
Finally, police will be empowered so that, once they have taken a problem quad off the road, they can make sure it stays off the road. I was astounded to learn from senior police officers that, once a quad has been seized, police have little control over where that vehicle ends up. If it was stolen and its rightful owners can be found, it can be returned, but quads are frequently sold at auction as proceeds of crime. Because of a lack of registration and regulation, once a vehicle is sold, the police are almost powerless to prevent it from ending up right back on the very streets that it has been plaguing, starting the cycle once again. We must break that cycle. The seize and release approach is not working; police must be given the power to seize and destroy nuisance quads, taking them off the streets permanently.
We need to stop seeing these vehicles as toys. If we continue to let them slip through the cracks in legislation, we will fail to protect legitimate owners from needless theft, we will fail to protect residents dealing with chronic noise and we will fail to protect all road users and pedestrians who remain at risk. It is time we brought in measures to provide consistency, protect road users and legitimate owners of quads, and stop the blight of their dangerous and antisocial use on our streets and paths. I commend this motion to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
That Judith Cummins, Barbara Keeley, Nick Smith, Graham Stringer, Mrs Sharon Hodgson, Dan Jarvis, Yvonne Fovargue, Charlotte Nichols, Kate Green, Rosie Cooper, Jackie Doyle-Price and Naz Shah present the Bill.
Judith Cummins accordingly presented the Bill.
Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 6 May, and to be printed (Bill 281).