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Profile: Stephen Pound MP

Member of the Parliamentary All Party Motorcycle Group.

Motorcyclists are often forgotten when transport policies are drawn up, according to one of their biggest supporters in Parliament - Stephen Pound, Labour's MP for Ealing North. Pound and roads minister Lord Whitty shared a platform at a fringe meeting during last week's Labour Party conference to urge motorcylists to play a more active role in the integrated transport debate.

Although his declared list of interests does not show it, Pound is an enthusiastic motorcyclist and a member of the Parliamentary All Party Motorcycle Group. At Blackpool he helped win over an initially sceptical - even hostile - audience, many of whom had turned up in their leathers.

Things could have turned ugly early in the meeting when Whitty, declaring himself new to his roads brief, admitted he had never ridden a motorbike in his life. Heckling broke out as he ventured on to the sticky issue of motorcyle safety, voicing the common perception that motorcycling is dangerous - on the grounds that bikers are involved in a high proportion of road accidents.

Bikers countered angrily that accidents were often not of their own making and Whitty was in danger of losing his audience - and a vital element of the Government's integrated transport policy with it.

Pound's job was to get the hostile bikers back on side, and show them that MPs and ministers can be knowledgeable and understanding, even if they sometimes appear stuffy and out of touch.

In his formal suit, Pound looked an unlikely motorcyclists' ally, but he soon won his audience over with tales of makeshift gaskets, hallucinogenic oil mixes, bikes in 200 pieces in his garage and reminiscences about beach battles with scooter-driving Mods in the 1960s.

With the crowd in the palm of his hand, Pound seized the opportunity to press the point that motorcyclists need no longer be the outlaws of the transport world. He urged them to play a more active part in the local transport debate, saying that the recent integrated transport White Paper had opened the way for more positive, pro-bike measures. 'You are pushing at an open door,' he said.

Judging from the White Paper, Pound and his Parliamentary colleagues appear to have done their bit to convince Westminster's civil servants of the benefits of the motorcycle. Now it is up to the bikers to do more of their own lobbying at local level, to get policy makers to ease congestion by encouraging the switch from four wheels to two.

Andrew Bolton

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