Planned new ‘anti-tampering’ laws won’t apply to current bikes

Planned new ‘anti-tampering’ laws won’t apply to current bikes

Government ministers say we can keep our pipes and tuned motors – probably…


Parliament and the British Government seldom spit out much in the way of positive stories for motorcycling (or anything else at the moment), but last month saw a small nugget of good news for anyone who likes to modify their bike, when Transport Minister Trudy Harrison seemed to rule out new anti-tampering laws for existing bikes.

The Government had released proposals last year around ‘anti-tampering’ legislation, which was aimed at maintaining the emissions, safety and efficiency of new cars and bikes. The idea is not new: if the law says that bikes must perform in a certain way when new – emissions, safety systems, noise, say – then it must make sure that end users also comply with those rules. There are various ways to do that, of course – the MoT test does check cars for emissions, and if your bike has ABS it shouldn’t have any warning lights. In extreme form, this type of regulation could mean that only standard original factory parts could be fitted to a bike throughout its life – a disaster for the aftermarket sector and folk who want to improve or customise their machines.

The proposed laws seemed to spring from new types of vehicles that are emerging – electric and self-driving cars. High-voltage electrical motors and batteries will bring new dangers, and a self-driving car obviously has massive potential for mayhem if its software was fiddled with by dodgy aftermarket hackers or the like.

So, safety experts were keen to see rules that would prevent unauthorised repairs or modifications to these software and hardware systems, keeping things to approved standards, while updating the overall regulations on safety and emissions for road vehicles.

Seems sensible enough – but then, it looked like that might turn into a general blanket ban on aftermarket modifications to all vehicles. Worried MPs, including bikers like Steve Baker MP, spoke against oppressive new anti-tampering rules at a parliamentary debate, pointing out the jobs and taxes provided by the aftermarket and tuning trade, as well as the benefits for riders.

Replying to the debate, Transport Minister Trudy Harrison spoke favourably about the long heritage of vehicle modification and the industries which support this, revealing that she modified her own cars when she was younger. She said that the Government’s plans should protect a healthy aftermarket sector and protect motor sports and heritage vehicles. She firmly stated that any new regulations will not be retrospective, with new measures targeting ‘safety and health’, particularly the tampering with advanced and autonomous driving systems and modifications that increase emissions from new and future vehicles.

Good news, then – but the new rules aren’t law yet. Mrs Harrison confirmed that the Government would announce further plans during the summer and is still considering any new laws.

Craig Carey-Clinch, of campaigning body the National Motorcyclists Council, said: “Ruling out historic vehicles is a welcome step, but as always, the devil will be in the detail in relation to safety and emissions systems. But for now it is clear that motorcyclists have made a significant impact, demonstrating the value of political engagement. “We will await the Government’s more detailed plans with interest to see if the minister’s warm words translate into a positive result.”

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