In an exclusive interview conducted for the BMF’s membership magazine, Motorcycle Rider, Mike Penning MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, reveals himself as a motorcyclist keen to tackle the issues facing motorcycling today.
The wide-ranging interview, conducted by the BMF’s Government Relations Executive Chris Hodder, covered rider testing, the red tape challenge, type approval regulations and Britain’s strength in Europe.
The Minister, having first started riding motorcycles as an Army despatch rider, currently owns a 900cc Ducati Monster and a Royal Enfield and despite his own riding being limited these days, said he saw motorcycles as “an enormous benefit for the environment because of their ability to keep moving, give off less emissions and cause fewer traffic problems than a car.” He was however concerned at the “number of riders inappropriately dressed for riding” and that was one of the reasons that he was passionate about training and educating riders.
Tackled over the thorny problem of rider testing and licensing, the Minister said that he fundamentally disagreed with the previous administration’s knee-jerk reaction to the European legislation on testing. “I keep referring to a single test and I still think that’s the best idea. We have to create a test that gives people the skills to enjoy their future riding and ensure that they are safe with other people on the road” he said.
On the test itself Mr Penning said that while he was frustrated at how long it has taken to get to the present revisions, “getting it wrong would be devastating to the industry, motorcyclists and, indeed, Britain. It’s not so much about getting people on to two wheels, but rather getting people to stay on two wheels – and stay safe,” he said. “In fact, one of the only television advertising campaigns I’m doing this year is focused on motorcyclists, because I’m committed to their safety” he added.
Tackling red tape had also been a priority he said and streamlining the SORN arrangements by removing annual renewals was just a start, adding that his red tape challenge (www.redtapechallenge.cabinetoffice.gov.uk) makes it easy for people to submit suggestions.
On European issues he said he had permission from the Prime Minister to “push back as strongly as possible” on anything he didn’t like and on the Commission’s latest Type Approval legislation he said he would do just that.
Questioned on our standing within Europe since the finance veto, the Minister said that all that will happen is that the European Parliament will realise that when we say no we mean no. “I get on very well with my European counterparts, but they know exactly where I stand” he said.
Note: Mike Penning is the Member of Parliament for Hemel Hempstead. After the May 2010 election he was appointed as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport. He was born in North London in 1957 and educated in Essex at Appleton and King Edmund Comprehensive Schools.
Note 2: Motorcycle Rider is the BMF’s quarterly membership magazine sent to all Individual Members and officials of affiliated clubs.