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Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon): The same happens to be true of modern Greek, but that is by the by. I actually discussed this point with the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) in the Library this morning. There is not only a split infinitive in amendment No. 2; there also happens to be a dropped apostrophe, but that does not take away from the substance of the amendment, on which I hope to address the House later, if I catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Heath: The hon. Gentleman has now raised a very important point indeed, because the fact that the apostrophe is not there means that we have no way of assessing whether the amendment refers to a single driver or plural drivers, and that would have an effect on the operation of the clause.

Mr. Webb: I want to bring my hon. Friend back to the question of reasonableness. Does he agree that a private hire driver expects wear and tear as part of the cost of the hire, and that includes wear and tear caused by people who make the seats dirty, and people who have accidents? These are things that happen in the back of a vehicle as part of the ordinary running of a private hire vehicle. Is it not wrong to penalise a particular group of disabled people when they have been acting reasonably? Reasonable wear and tear and reasonable accidents should surely not be included in the legislation.

Mr. Heath: I think that my hon. Friend is right, although when we look at amendment No. 7, which the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) was prepared to support, apparently without caring or troubling to look into its syntactical quality or grammatical errors—perhaps I do him a disservice; perhaps in the original form these errors were corrected—

Mr. Dismore: I was aware of the grammatical errors and I anticipated that the amendment might not be pressed

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to a vote. However, I believe that it raises some important issues, which we need to debate in the House, and should I catch your eye later in the debate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have some points to make on it, in response to some of the points that the hon. Gentleman has made already.

Mr. Heath: I am most grateful for that intervention; as a declaration of intent, it could not be bettered. I am not sure that it took the arguments a great deal further.

I do not want to take too much of the House's time this morning. I accept that there is an issue about the control of animals, or of children—or of adults if they are not entirely compos mentis, whether that condition is chemically influenced or otherwise—in a vehicle, but I consider that there are already proper protections under the law for circumstances in which that would apply. My argument, quite apart from what I have said about the point of assessment—which is relevant to a private hire vehicle that is not a black cab—is that I see very little reason to include in this legislation a specific prohibition or qualification in relation to something that applies much more widely than to those with some form of sensory impairment who make use of an assistance dog. Indeed, I would suggest—reasonably, in my opinion—that those who use assistance dogs and those with sensory impairments are the least likely among the general population to cause what one can only assume to be the mischief that the new clause and the amendments seek to remedy. That is the bone of contention and that is why I do hope that, in the fullness of time, the new clause and the amendments will not be pressed to a vote.

10.15 am

We have not yet had the benefit of the advice of the hon. Member for Hendon on the amendments that he has tabled, so it is inappropriate to deal with them in detail until he has had the opportunity to address the House. My only observation is that I hope that he will explain why he feels that the amendments are necessary, given what is already in the Bill, and particularly why he tabled amendment No. 7, which seems to be a reiteration of something which clearly—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I think perhaps we should wait until we reach amendment No. 7 before we start to debate it.

Mr. Heath: I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I had understood that it was grouped in this group. Am I wrong?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: No; the hon. Gentleman is quite right. It is my fault.

Mr. Heath: I am most grateful, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is a great rarity for the occupant of the Chair to be wrong in any way in the Chamber and I do appreciate the immediate correction.

Mr. Barry Gardiner (Brent, North): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that although many of us may think that

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it is not necessarily a great rarity for the Chair to be wrong, it is a great rarity for the Chair to admit it so quickly and so—

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I think at this point we should return to the amendments.

Mr. Heath: I had no intention of following the hon. Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) down that road. In my experience it is certainly not a rarity; it is simply a rarity for there to be anything wrong with the judgment of the Chair in the first instance, and I would reject utterly any suggestion to the contrary.

I return to amendment No. 7, about which we have not yet heard from the hon. Member for Hendon. The point that I was seeking to make was that the amendment appears, as I read it, simply to reiterate and re-state in a different form a provision that is already in the Bill, which allows an operator to have a certificate exempting him from the provisions of the Bill for medical reasons. I am not clear—but no doubt we shall hear from the hon. Gentleman why I am wrong in my interpretation—why he wishes to re-state that in the Bill and why it is necessary to have a doubling up. Perhaps it is a belt and braces approach. Perhaps he is concerned that the subsection may be contestable in law and he would prefer to repeat the provision elsewhere in the Bill to enable him to direct his defence lawyers to a different part of the Bill in order to adduce additional legal evidence in the case. We do not know; we must wait until the hon. Gentleman makes his speech. We shall listen carefully to the arguments that he adduces in favour of his amendment.

In conclusion, this group of amendments, which may be well-intentioned—I am perfectly happy to accept that the amendments are well-intentioned—in fact does very little to advance the interests of a Bill which, as I have already said, is extremely important. Indeed, I consider that they are to its detriment. Worse, they single out a group of people—a group who are already singled out by virtue of their sensory impairment and their need for the help of assistance dogs—in what could be considered a discriminatory way. That is unjustified. It is not relevant to the operation of the Bill, should it become statute. I hope that, having heard the arguments in some detail, those who have tabled the new clause and the amendments will, having reflected on the matter—it appeared that the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet had done quite a lot of reflection in advance—feel it appropriate to withdraw the new clause and not press the amendments, so that we may make further progress with the Bill.

Mr. Dismore: Before I start to justify my amendments and speak in favour of new clause 1, although perhaps not its precise wording, may I say that I very much sympathise with the aims of the Bill? I have read the briefing from the RNIB, and I very much hope that the Bill will pass today, although a number of issues need to be addressed. Even if the amendments are not accepted today, there will be an opportunity to consider some of the technical issues in another place if the Bill receives its Third Reading today, which I very much hope it will.

In response to the point made in an intervention by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas), I simply say that, although the Bill may become a little more complicated if some of my proposals are accepted,

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my objective is not to make it more complicated, but to ensure that we do not inadvertently create injustices for the owners and drivers of minicabs. Of course our job in the House is to try to ensure justice for those on both sides of any argument. Although it is the natural tendency of hon. Members to favour the less advantaged in society, such as those whom we are trying to help with the Bill—and rightly so—we must ensure, while doing so, that we do not inadvertently cause an injustice to someone else.

The hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath) asks why we have singled out guide dogs. Perhaps he hinted at the answer in his own contribution: if someone wanted to take his pet water buffalo or warthog—or even his ordinary, small pet mongrel—in a cab or minicab, the driver would have the right to refuse to take him. I used to have a pet dog before being elected to the House. On one occasion, when she was in a slightly muddy condition, I tried to flag down a cab, but the driver refused to take her. She was called Griswald. She occasionally damaged the upholstery of my car, so I know that we need to address such issues.

Dogs could be refused passage, as, of course, could a drunk on a Saturday night. We are creating the right for people to insist on being taken. That is the right thing to do, but people must accept the consequences of any damage that may arise from insisting on exercising that right.

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