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Highway Code (Rule 149)

Volume 820: debated on Wednesday 6 April 2022

Motion to Regret

Moved by

That this House regrets the Alterations to the Highway Code (Rule 149) because (1) of the piecemeal introduction to Parliament of proposed changes to the Code, and (2) it does not extend to handheld devices used by people on (a) bicycles, (b) e-bikes, and (c) e-scooters.

Relevant document: 30th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, I am delighted to have secured the opportunity to express my regret at the proposed revision to Highway Code rule 149 on using mobile phones while driving. I say at the outset that I do not oppose the content of the rule change, but I do not think that it goes far enough and I have a number of questions on which I would like to press my noble friend the Minister—I am delighted to see her in her place—for a response.

For example, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, in its 30th report, noted in its conclusion that

“the House has made clear the strength of its concerns about the Department for Transport’s piecemeal approach to changing the Highway Code”.

I ask my noble friend in particular: when we considered a Motion to Regret in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, some two months ago, why could not these changes have been included as part of that consultation and consideration before both Houses? It seems extraordinary that, less than two weeks after one set of rule changes came into effect, we are presented with, effectively, another. I would like to understand the department’s thinking in that regard.

The Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee expressed its concern

“that the hard copy version of the Highway Code is so out of date.”

That was discussed in the previous debate. Can my noble friend say where we are with a hard copy and how up to date the current Highway Code is on the website?

Perhaps most importantly for the purposes of the debate this evening, I would like to understand why rule 149 as revised is not extended to e-scooters, e-bikes and bicycles. There must have been a very good reason why that was not the case. To make my point: as I was walking in from my London flat to the House today, I was midway across a pedestrian crossing and was approached by a cyclist on his mobile phone—one hand bicycling and one hand on the mobile phone—on the wrong side of the road, and it was not clear whether he was going to stop. Cyclists and those on e-scooters and e-bikes are using handheld phones inappropriately and I would like to understand why the department has not addressed this issue. That has to be a cause of concern. The ABI has expressed very robustly why there is a need for regulation, and I would like to understand why the department did not take this opportunity to include e-scooters more generally in this regard.

As the House may not be aware, I remind it that, in both the last parliamentary Session and the current Session, I have had a Bill seeking to understand why causing death or serious injury by cycling, e-bikes or e-scooters is not placed on the same legal basis as other aspects of the Highway Code, or prosecuted in this regard. I will press this in a Bill in the next parliamentary Session as well if I am fortunate enough to secure a place in the ballot.

Turning to the Explanatory Memorandum to the revision of the Highway Code rule 149, I would like to understand in particular paragraph 6.2, which states:

“The Code does not itself create legal rights and obligations; a failure to observe its provisions does not in itself make a person liable to criminal proceedings. But such a failure can be relied on as evidence in civil or criminal proceedings”.

It then refers to Section 38(7) of the RTA. So we are creating, in effect, a criminal offence, and my noble friend did indeed say that—either in the debate on the Motion to Regret from the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, or in the debate in the name of my noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe in Grand Committee.

Paragraph 7.9 states that

“the Department plans to include stronger and clearer advice on about the use of mobile phones while driving to address some misunderstandings that were evident from consultation responses for example, people wondered whether this change would affect their use of phones as sat navs secured in cradles, which it won’t.”

I would really like to understand whether this paragraph of the Explanatory Memorandum was consulted on. It would be good to have a little more clarity because, subsequently, paragraph 11.1 states:

“No guidance is required for the mobile phone Rule change”—

but we have just been told in the earlier paragraph that it is.

Why is this so important? I totally accept that most cyclists are responsible, but there are some very irresponsible and reckless cyclists. Many of them do not stick to the roads and they mount the pavements, which they strictly should not do. It is of even more concern when we see what is happening with e-scooters. I understand that in the Kantar consultation that the Department for Transport did, 72% of those using e-scooters responded that they did so “for fun”. Frankly, in some of the situations that many of us have been put into, we feel absolutely terrorised by those who are riding e-scooters irresponsibly.

The Met Police has published some helpful information on the web:

“E-scooters are classed as motor vehicles under the Road Traffic Act 1988. Which means the rules that apply to motor vehicles, also apply to e-scooters including the need to have a licence, insurance and tax. It’s not currently possible to get insurance for privately owned e-scooters, which means it’s illegal to use them on the road or in public spaces. If you’re using a private e-scooter you risk the vehicle being seized under S.165 Road Traffic Act 1988 for no insurance.”

It goes on to state the level of penalties. One can be issued with

“a £300 fine and six penalty points on your licence for having no insurance”


“up to £100 fine and three to six penalty points for riding without the correct licence.”

It goes on to state other offences as well.

I would be interested to press my noble friend on how the Government intend to respond to the ABI press release and the letter that it has sent to the department, showing that in the latest figures, for the year ending June 2021, there were 882 accidents involving e-scooters resulting in 931 casualties—the equivalent of 17 people every week—of which 732 were e-scooter users. It asked, modestly, that the data from the current government trials be shared with the relevant stakeholders and that the experience of other countries that have deregulated the use of e-scooters be considered. It asks respectfully that there should be a degree of regulation, but it draws the line at liabilities falling on to motor insurers and premium-paying motorists without a corresponding insurance requirement for e-scooters. My noble friend will be more familiar with that letter than I am, and I would like to understand how the Government intend to respond.

I pay tribute to Matt Briggs, who lost his wife in February 2016. She was mown down while crossing the road, completely innocently, by a cyclist who caused injury by means of wanton or furious driving, which is the case the prosecution brought. It was an illegally-used bicycle—it had no brakes. As of yet, this issue of equating road offences caused by cyclists, e-bikes and e-scooters with those caused by other motor vehicles has not been addressed.

To conclude, I ask my noble friend the Minister to address these questions. Why the piecemeal approach, with changes to the Highway Code being brought literally within two weeks of each other? Why will rule 149, as amended, apply only to cars and other motor vehicles, and neither to e-scooters, which are recognised as vehicles under the law, nor to e-bikes and regular bicycles, when we know that cyclists are using hand-held mobile phones illegally?

How do the Government intend to address the concerns of the Metropolitan Police that e-scooters are motorised vehicles being driven by people under 16, who have not passed a driving test and are not insured? How will the Government respond to the ABI about insuring e-scooters, e-bikes and bikes generally, and properly ensure the regulation of their use? Finally, when will the Government amend the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 to create criminal offences relating to dangerous, careless and inconsiderate cycling for users of pedal bikes, electronically assisted bikes and e-scooters, as for other motor vehicles? I beg to move.

My Lords, I am delighted to support the regret Motion in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh. I was weaned on the Highway Code, and when I was taught to drive by Durham Constabulary many years ago the Highway Code was an integral part of the training.

Your Lordships will know that the Highway Code is not law. A breach of the code is not a crime per se. However, it is important to understand that a breach of the Highway Code can be used as evidence to support a prosecution for the commission of an offence such as careless driving or dangerous driving.

Obviously, the code needs to be revised from time to time, and the public are entitled to think that a new code will reflect the realty of life on our public roads. Furthermore, I recently spoke on an Oral Question on e-scooters, when I described their introduction on public roads as

“a catastrophe waiting to happen”.—[Official Report, 8/2/22; col. 1390.]

There have been a number of deaths already during the pilot use of e-scooters, and there appears to be little or no guidance or regulation available on their use. Privately-owned scooters cannot be used on public roads, but this appears to be more honoured in the breach than the observance.

This is an area of road safety that is crying out for regulation and guidance. In my view, it is the greatest threat to public safety in a generation. There have been two changes to the Highway Code recently, within weeks of each other, presumably requiring additional print runs, and yet there is no reference to e-scooters in the new code, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said.

The Highway Code should be taught in schools—I hope it is. In any event, it should cover contemporary changes in the use of the road before they are implemented. The current, updated code fails massively in this regard, and I ask the House to support the Motion in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh.

My Lords, I begin by commending my noble friend Lady McIntosh for bringing this important matter before the House this evening, and for the diligent research she has done in forming her speech. I agree 100% with what she said at the beginning about cyclists who ride dangerously. I have no time for them. They bring into disrepute the vast majority of cyclists who behave responsibly, and they give us all a bad name.

My noble friend raised the important issue of why the measure before the House does not apply to cyclists. I hope that when my noble friend Minister replies, she can confirm that cyclists who ride while using their mobile phone can be prosecuted, perhaps under some other legislation than that before us. Of course, cyclists are slightly different in that, whereas a motorist can have points on his or her licence for the offence, that does apply to cyclists, who do not need a driving licence. Can the Minister reassure both my noble friend Lady McIntosh and me that cyclists who risk their own lives as well as being a danger to pedestrians by talking on their phone can be prosecuted under legislation?

My final point, to pick up on a point made by previous speakers, is about e-scooters. It seems to me that the best way to handle e-scooters that are illegal is simply to confiscate them. They are portable and quite easy to put in the back of a police van. By definition, that would prevent a reoffence by that person with that scooter. I wonder if my noble friend has any statistics on whether there are more e-scooters in London now than, let us say, three or four months ago. My impression is that the exponential growth has perhaps stopped, but that may just be my own perception. Could my noble friend say what guidance is given by the Metropolitan Police to officers on the beat for when they see an e-scooter that is not a legitimately rented one? What are their instructions? How are they meant to deal with what is manifestly an offence? Having said that, I welcome the provisions before the House this evening.

My Lords, I too congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, on introducing this Motion. I have previously made my views about e-scooters plain, and I shall not bore the House by doing so again.

I know it is the Minister’s job to defend the wretched things, but I can see no purpose in them. The last time we had a debate about them, she said—again, I understand why—that they are seen as another method of transport and as an alternative to the overuse of the private car; I do not think she used those words, but I shall use them now. Perhaps I can look forward to going down to the other end of the building and, when I pass Speaker’s Court, instead of a line of ministerial limousines seeing a rack of e-scooters, and I will watch the noble Baroness—I am not sure what will happen to her red box—sail out of Carriage Gates on an e-scooter. I do not think it is likely to happen, and I am not sure that it should, given her ministerial responsibilities.

So far as the Motion itself is concerned, I differ slightly from the noble Lord who has just sat down. The noble Lord was known as the Bicycling Baronet in his younger days.

The Bicycling Peer, as he now is. He was right to remark that there are a minority of cyclists who, to say the least, do not do the cycling fraternity much credit. But he also talked about how there must be some way of prosecuting them for using a mobile telephone. I refer him to the tragic case mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, in which the prosecution for “furious riding”—or whatever the phrase was—was dredged from the Victorian era and referred to hansom cabs. The fact is that there are no specific offences so far as the furious or dangerous riding of bicycles is concerned. I believe, and I think the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, would agree, that there should be. Those specific offences should also cover the use of mobile telephones.

I will close with an anecdote about the minority of cyclists who misbehave. If you stand at the corner of Parliament Square and Bridge Street, as I did waiting to cross the road only last week, you can see that, despite the facilities provided for cyclists, there are some—again, a minority, I emphasise—for whom the sight of a red light is a challenge and the sight of a pedestrian is an obstruction around which it is all-too-easy to weave. I did try to remonstrate with one such cyclist as recently as a week ago. I shudder to repeat what he said, but I have not been called such a name since I left the British Army more than 50 years ago.

So I have to say that legislation in this area is long overdue and I hope the Minister will give a sympathetic response to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, this evening.

My Lords, I rise to support my noble friend Lady McIntosh and commend the way she introduced her regret Motion. There are over 1 million privately owned e-scooters. Does my noble friend the Minister really believe that all of these e-scooters are being ridden on private land? Is it not time that the Government got serious about e-scooters and what is actually happening out there? Similarly, even in the trial areas, does the Minister really believe that e-scooters replace journeys that would otherwise have been taken by car? It is a completely different way of getting around.

Since the pandemic, the number of e-scooters and cyclists has dramatically increased, shooting through crossings and red lights. Does my noble friend the Minister not think that it would be a good idea to increase the level of vigilance and pulling people over? I know my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham is a bicycling aficionado. Perhaps he could be used in an advertising campaign to promote proper, responsible cycling on our roads.

In conclusion, can I ask my noble friend why this opportunity with the Highway Code has not been taken to address the issues around e-scooters raised by my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering? It sems an ideal opportunity and, having not addressed it in this current draft, I assume we will be looking at future action that will have to be taken. To build on what the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, said, e-scooters are not a catastrophe waiting to happen; it is happening right now.

My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lady McIntosh for bringing this matter to our attention. I would like to broaden the issue slightly by drawing attention to an extremely dangerous situation whereby cyclists travel up— illegally —a one-way road the wrong way. Although it is legal to do this on some roads, which are indicated, motorists cannot see such an indication and do not know that it is legal for cyclists to do this. I wonder whether the Minister could clarify the issue and have a big drive on stopping this very dangerous habit of riding up roads the wrong way.

My Lords, I also congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for spotting these errors, one might say, in the government legislation. I agree with a lot of what she says, but obviously not always. Personally, I do not have any bad feeling about e-scooters and e-bikes as, so far, touch wood, I have not actually been run over or come close to being run over by them—but I have been run over twice by cars. If we look at those killed or seriously injured, it is cars that are the biggest threat. During lockdown, those killed or seriously injured fell massively, and cyclist casualty rates decreased by a third. So it is cars on our roads that are really the biggest problem.

I do not join in this criticism of cyclists; it is a tiny minority who do not obey the law, and I shout at them just as much as anybody else would here. I was coming into work, to your Lordships’ House, the other day, and a cyclist on the junction of Parliament Square went through a red light, cut across the pavement and went straight through the gates into the Commons. Without running, I followed him and caught him locking up his bike. I pointed out what he had done was very dangerous, asked who he was and could I speak to his boss—that sort of thing. Of course, he would not give me any information and I did not feel up to grabbing his pass. There are people who break the law absolutely everywhere if they think they can get away with it and, clearly, this person, who works in this prestigious establishment, thought he could get away with it as well.

If we are going to be serious about stopping people breaking laws such as using hand-held mobile phones, we need more traffic police. The traffic police in London do the most incredible job, but their numbers have been systematically cut over the years. They need more funding and they need more officers, basically.

Perhaps I may just say—this is completely off the point—please do not use the word “accidents”. That presupposes, and prejudges, that whatever happened was a genuine accident. “Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to do that.” Actually, no, because these crashes, these collisions, these “incidents”, as the Met Police call them, actually happen mostly because people are using their phones, they are not concentrating, they are picking something up from the floor, they are drunk or they have drugs in their system. So, please, these are not accidents. Those in the road safety community get really upset about it, because they do not think what has happened to their loved ones was an accident most of the time.

I too thank the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, for securing this debate. The Government have recently broadened the scope of the Highway Code’s rule 149, which now makes it an offence to use a hand-held mobile device for almost any purpose while driving, and not just to make and receive calls and texts. The offence caries a fine of up to £1,000 and six penalty points on the driver’s licence. So, if they commit the offence twice, the number of penalty points could lead to a disqualification.

The regret Motion raises concerns about the scope of changes to the Highway Code, and the “piecemeal” way in which it has been amended. More specifically, the Motion highlights the fact that the latest changes to the Highway Code, to which I have referred, do not extend to hand-held devices used by people on bicycles, e-bikes and e-scooters.

It would seem to me that the happy relationship between some cyclists and e-scooter users and motorists —and who does or does not get more favourable or preferential treatment—clearly remains in fine fettle. It must add an exciting additional dimension to the Minister’s ministerial role. The changes to rule 149 were implemented through the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2022 that came into force on 25 March 2022. Since 2003, it has been an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving if the device is being used for “interactive communication” —that is, receiving a call or sending a text.

In 2019 the High Court upheld the quashing of a conviction of a man who had taken a video on his phone of a road traffic accident while driving. The court accepted the argument that using a stand-alone feature on the phone—recording a video, taking a photo or searching for music stored on the phone—was not an interactive communication within the definition of the regulations. In response to the judgment, in 2020 the Government launched a consultation on expanding the offence of using a mobile phone while driving. Following the consultation, the Government said that

“all use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving is reckless and dangerous, and not just when being used for the purposes of a call or other interactive communication.”

The Government also said that more than 80% of respondents “agreed with the proposal” to broaden the offence to cover the use of stand-alone features on a phone.

The original consultation document, though, did not make any reference to extending the offence to include other road users, such as cyclists or users of e-scooters. The Government’s response to the consultation stated that some respondents had raised the issue of extending the proposals to those road users, but the Government made no commitment to do so. Why did the Government make no such commitment? Does the lack of such a commitment mean that changes will not be applied to cyclists, e-bikes and e-scooters at any stage in the foreseeable future, or is there a possibility that they will be? That would add strength to the point in the regret Motion about making changes in a piecemeal way.

As I understand it, the Highway Code—I think it is rule 66—already states that cyclists should

“keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear”.

To what extent do the Government think this rule already prevents cyclists exercising the functions that rule 149 outlaws?

The regulations create a new exemption for contactless payments in certain circumstances. This is presumably to allow for drivers to use toll booths and drive-through restaurants—it is an interesting exemption. In recent months road traffic accidents have been reported at both, hopefully not—I say this not too flippantly—because someone took the words “drive-through” too literally. Do the Government believe that learner drivers should be taught how to safely use and negotiate toll booths and drive-through restaurants in light of the fact that road traffic incidents have recently been reported at both?

The Government say in the Explanatory Memorandum that changes to the Highway Code reflect the changes in the statutory instrument. They say:

“The government will also expand the advice contained on to address some common misconceptions about the law on mobile phone use while driving which became evident through the consultation process.”


“For those responsible for enforcement (police and courts), the government will rely on them to alter their guidance as necessary to reflect the changes to the law.”

Reference has been made to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee, which noted that more information had been given in the Explanatory Memorandum this time about plans to publicise the changes. The committee also stated that this House had

“made clear the strength of its concerns about the Department for Transport’s piecemeal approach to changing the Highway Code”

and that the committee remained

“concerned that the hard copy version of the Highway Code is so out of date.”

A question has already been raised on that issue, and no doubt the Minister will respond to it. I too ask what the Government’s response is to the comments made by the SLSC.

In the context of changes and whether they are piecemeal, how many more changes to the Highway Code are already in the pipeline, reflecting statutory provisions either already determined or currently going through the legislative process? Perhaps the answer is none, but it would be helpful to hear from the Government what it is. How many changes have there been to the Highway Code over the last five years? Is it the Government’s policy to make changes to the code immediately those changes have been decided, or does the department seek if possible to make changes to the code, say, only once a year?

Finally, what exactly are the Government’s intentions about publicising the changes we are discussing? Against which criteria would the Government judge whether such a publicity or advice campaign had been successful or otherwise achieved its objective? My feeling—which may of course be wrong—is that the Government have done far too little to publicise sufficiently recent changes in the Highway Code and the reasons for them and their purpose. I am sure that this is one of the issues which has prompted the regret Motion that we are discussing this evening.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady McIntosh for enabling the opportunity to discuss this important issue and broader issues around road safety and micromobility, including e-scooters—to which I will probably come back in a letter, as I suspect that it is slightly beyond the scope of what we are discussing this evening. A lot of very important issues were raised, and I want to ensure that I cover them in detail.

Road safety is a key priority for the Government. We are constantly reviewing laws and deliberating over policies that can make our roads safer, and also feel safer, for all road users. The recent changes to rule 149 of the Highway Code fall firmly in the former category of constantly reviewing our laws. The changes to the Highway Code arise from a change in the law when the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2022 came into force on 25 March this year. The regulations broaden the offence of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, so that it now captures drivers who use their phones for stand-alone or offline functions, as well as the interactive communication functions that had previously formed the parameters of the offence. Once the law had changed, it followed that users of public highways should know about it. Therefore, rule 149 of the Highway Code was duly amended to reflect the change.

This change will make it much easier for the police to enforce the offence. No longer will the police have to prove what the driver was doing on their phone; they will simply have to be satisfied that a driver was indeed using their phone while driving to impose the appropriate sanction. This should act as a substantial deterrent to those who might be tempted to pick up their phone and risk not only their own life but the lives of other road users. As my noble friend Lady McIntosh has confirmed, nothing in the Motion we are debating today implies a criticism of or opposition to the changes in those regulations as reflected in rule 149, but rather a concern about the timing of the update to the Highway Code to reflect that change in law, and how this law deals with users of other modes when they use hand-held mobile phones.

I turn first to the nature and timing of the changes to the Highway Code. The Highway Code needs to keep pace with change and should be updated as necessary for two reasons: first, to reflect changes in the law—as is the case in the update to rule 149—as and when they happen, but clearly not before because the law must have already changed; and, secondly, to reflect changes in how our roads are used. An example of this was the recent change to the hierarchy of use to ensure that vulnerable road users are protected from those who have the capacity to cause more harm. It is not always possible to align these alterations exactly, due to the statutory process that we are required to follow to update the Highway Code as set out in the Road Traffic Act 1988. As noble Lords will know, changes to the Highway Code are laid before your Lordships’ House, and indeed are laid in Parliament for 40 days, before they actually come into law. There is always a process which must be gone through.

Furthermore, sometimes a consultation may precede a change in law or a change to the Highway Code, and consultation feedback needs to be thoroughly analysed. This can further lead to uncertainties as changes are resolved through the correct and proper process post consultation and on publication of the consultation response. Sometimes the public may be under the impression, through media coverage, that something is already in place when actually it is just the noise about the consultation that has alerted road users to what might be happening.

Given how technologies are changing and revolutionising the way people think about how they travel and the sorts of devices they use—including new micromobility devices—we anticipate that there will be further changes to the Highway Code that are not yet in the formal pipeline but are certainly being considered by the department. One such example would be how we will change the code to reflect automated vehicles. We have already consulted on this, and we are considering at the moment exactly how that change will be reflected in the code. It is sometimes not a quick process, because we absolutely have to get it right.

Where it is possible and would not hold up progress unnecessarily, we would endeavour to align changes. But, of course, we had changes in January to the hierarchy of road users, and then changes two months later—it was not two weeks, because we had to lay the changes and then they had to be approved by Parliament—which could come into force only if the law had been changed. However, the law had not been changed by your Lordships’ House or the other place; we were dependent upon that law change. Had the law not been changed, obviously we could not have changed the Highway Code. So, we will continue to change the Highway Code as and when we see fit.

I say again that we will try to combine changes if it is appropriate and there is no risk that it would hold up a change because, for whatever reason, another change does not proceed as appropriate. But I feel that a succession of changes demonstrates how seriously we take road safety in the department and the breadth of work that we are undertaking to ensure that all road users are as safe as they can be, particularly given the changes resulting from a change in usage around the e-scooter trials and cycling, but also to reflect that we are more cognisant nowadays of the vulnerabilities of certain road users.

Adopting this so-called piecemeal approach also has a secondary benefit. As the Minister responsible for this, I feel that sometimes it is quite difficult to communicate these changes. We spend a lot of time and quite a lot of money thinking about how we will communicate changes which pertain to a specific area. If we are making changes to a specific area—such as mobile phones, or motorways and high-speed roads, as we did last year—it is much better and easier to tell the travelling public how we have changed the code and what it means for them. I feel that there is a secondary benefit to focusing on one type of change at a time, because it gives us this ability to hone that message, rather than having a more general message—which, I am afraid, the media would probably not be interested in—of “Check the Highway Code: it has changed”. So, I think that this approach has a lot of benefits.

Of course, we always think about how we communicate, and communication is never a one-off: when we change the Highway Code, it does not mean that we stop communicating a few weeks later because we think that everybody knows about it. That never happens. We always think about where our most vulnerable people need to be advised on elements of road safety. We will do this ad infinitum, and always do.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh expresses regret that the Government have not taken the opportunity afforded by the recent law change to extend the dedicated offence of using hand-held mobile phones to cyclists and e-bike riders. Cyclists and e-bike riders tend to be covered by other laws. The laws that we have changed most recently are under the Road Traffic Act, which tends to cover vehicles. However, like all road users, cyclists and e-bike riders are required to comply with many road traffic laws in the interests both of their own safety and that of other road users, and we reflect that in the Highway Code. So, it is not a specific offence to cycle and use a mobile phone or headphones, but cyclists and e-bike riders can be prosecuted by the police for careless and dangerous cycling, with maximum fines of £1,000 and £2,500 respectively.

So, cyclists must concentrate on what they are doing. I am always appalled when noble Lords stand up in your Lordships’ House and tell me about things that have happened to them on the road, and I am always rather embarrassed that I have not been able to stop it—but I do not stop trying. It is really important that we do not demonise all cyclists. There are some bad apples out there, and we need to make sure that they are held to account. Indeed, my noble friend Lady McIntosh raised the tragic incident which happened to Mrs Briggs. I know that this is an area of concern to her, and we too want to ensure that we crack down on reckless cyclists. We launched a review exploring the case for a specific dangerous cycling offence, and we are looking at what we will do next and will publish our response shortly. Just to put the record straight on e-scooters, it is the case that an e-scooter user falls under the regulations, and it is an offence to use a hand-held mobile phone on an e-scooter. They can be fined, and they could also get six penalty points.

I said that I will write on broader issues around e-scooters, because a lot has been raised. I will also write regarding my noble friend Lord McColl’s point about one-way streets.

On the point about guidance, there were two different types of guidance. We felt there was some confusion with the general guidance to the public, with people saying, “Can I still use my mobile phone if it’s in a cradle?” That was the confusion we wanted to try to mitigate, but we expect police forces and other enforcement agencies to update their own guidance. They do not need us to do it for them, quite frankly; they are very capable.

I reiterate that we do not feel that our approach to the Highway Code has been incorrect. In the circumstances we were presented with, it was important to choose specific topics and put them into the Highway Code when they were ready, or when either the law had changed or the consultation had reached its natural conclusion. We will continue to do so, but of course we will combine changes if it makes sense to do so. The next big change probably will be automated vehicles. I can also update noble Lords: a new hard copy of the Highway Code is available for purchase for £4.99 at all good shops and online retailers. It was published on Monday 4 April. I imagine there will be a subsequent amendment later this year, particularly if we get automated vehicles through, but again we cannot take anything for granted so we would not want to wait until then to make any further changes.

For the time being, I thank all noble Lords who took part in the debate and my noble friend Lady McIntosh. I will certainly write.

I am grateful to my noble friend for her responses and to everybody who has spoken. We have had a passionate cyclist and a number, myself included, who feel more vulnerable to cyclists, e-scooters and other road users.

I was taken by the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, about how cycling injuries had gone down. One of the reasons for that—and I do not know whether it was through the Highway Code—was that, because of Covid, thankfully cyclists were not allowed to cycle in clumps on country roads. I think that has prevented a lot of accidents.

I look forward to seeing how automated vehicles will respond to reckless and furious cyclists, e-bicyclists and e-scooters, but we live to fight another day.

I am very grateful for all the contributions. I am sure my noble friend is aware that we take great interest in every change to the Highway Code. I thank the Government for this one. I regret once again that it does not extend to vehicles other than motorised vehicles, but I do not intend to press this Motion to a vote. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion withdrawn.

Sitting suspended.