|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Lawrie Quinn: My hon. Friend mentions a loophole. On amendment No. 2, what would happen if a dog became boisterous or agitated during a journey? If the Scooby Doo dog becomes animatedalthough Scooby Doo is, of course, already animatedwill the driver be able to stop in the middle of the journey and ask the passenger with said dog to leave? How would that affect the original contract?
Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend makes a valid and important point. Amendment No. 2 deals with the behaviour of a dog before it gets into the vehicle. It does not deal with what happens if a dog becomes agitated after it gets into the vehicle. I suspect that amendment No. 10 addresses that problem, although I accept that it may not be on all fours with my hon. Friend's argument. I would be much happier if the definition of assistance dog in amendments Nos. 2 and 10 applied to a dog that had been trained by a prescribed charity no matter what the disability. If we do not address that serious loophole today, it will have to be sorted out in another place.
Mr. Edward Davey: The hon. Gentleman's point does not stand up to much analysis. All dogs that are trained for use by a blind or deaf person, or the people covered by proposed new section 37A(9)(c), will have a certificate to show that they have received full training. Should the driver of a private hire vehicle wish to question whether a dog was properly trained and thus came within the parameters of the Bill, he could ask for such a certificate. I should be surprised if the people who own the dogs did not have the certificate with them.
Mr. Dismore: The hon. Gentleman misses the point. He is right to say that proposed new section 37A(9)(c) refers to a dog that has been trained by a prescribed charity. It covers people with, for instance, epilepsy and problems of mobility and manual dexterity. However, proposed new section 37A(9)(a) and (b) do not say that a dog has to be trained by a prescribed charity.
I fully accept that if the dog is trained by the RNIB, RNID or a similar organisation, it may have a certificate of training. I am sure that both the driver and the dog owner would be confident that the dog would not be
Claire Ward: My hon. Friend raises an important point and he has proved why it is important to scrutinise the Bill. Proposed new section 37A(9)(a) and (b) could provide an opportunity for an unsuitable person to train a guide dog for a blind or deaf person. However, surely a dog could not be trained to guide a blind person if it was boisterous by nature.
Mr. Dismore: The problem is that that becomes a matter for the lawyers in relation to what is meant by "trained" and "guide". If there is a certificate to say that a dog has been trained by a registered charity, that would be conclusive. However, there is no provision for that. I think it is a drafting error that could be corrected in another place. I am sure that when my hon. Friend the Member for Walthamstow responds, he will tell us whether there are organisations that are not registered charities that do such work.
However, there is a loophole. As I said, there is no reason in principle why I should not set myself up as a dog trainer, although bearing in mind my experiences with Griswald it is clear that I would not be very good at it. She seemed to be trying to train me rather than the other way around, which is the problem with many pet dogs.
Mr. Edward Davey: The hon. Gentleman says he thinks he has found a loophole, which he describes as a drafting error. Does he really think that lots of people are queueing up to pass off their dogs as guide dogs and dogs for the deaf? Does he have any evidence to back up that claim?
Mr. Dismore: There is no reason for people to do that at the moment. However, we are talking about imposing an obligation on someone who is outside the guide dog loop. It is fine if someone who does not represent a registered charity agrees to train a dog and the deaf or blind person is happy with the dog, but we are proposing to impose an obligation on someone else who has to take it for granted that the guide dog is what it purports to be.
There are rules about allowing guide dogs into restaurants. I suspect we could be opening a can of worms for restaurants as wellif I can put it that wayif we go down the route of not specifying what we mean by a guide dog. The hon. Gentleman may well be right; perhaps it is belt and braces.
Bob Spink: We are in the realms of the absurd. Is the hon. Gentleman seriously suggesting that we issue licences for the dog to show that it has been trained? That would be a dog licence in reverse because it would be attached to the dog rather than the owner. Who would issue that licence? Would we require an inspection department to check that the standards were being upheld?
Mr. Dismore: I am pleased that you are getting into the spirit of the morning, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The intervention of the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) was rather silly. The answer is simple: if the Bill stipulated that the dog had been trained by a prescribed charity, the problem would disappear. Both parties could thus have confidence, and the law would be confident that a proper arrangement was in place for the dog. I am not sure of the precise arrangements for a dog that the RNIB trains and whether it has a certificate, docketor doggetto prove it. If so, there would be a clear presumption that the dog was properly trained.
Claire Ward: I want to revert to the serious point about the definition of an assistance dog. Let us consider dogs who are being trained but who are not yet fully trained to be guide dogs for the blind or for the deaf. The dog obviously needs to be exposed to circumstances that it will encounter later. It needs to be able to guide a person with a disability into a minicab or taxi or on to public transport. The definition in the Bill does not cover dogs that are being trained. Does my hon. Friend believe that we should consider that?
Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend makes an important point. I assume that part of a dog's training is in getting in and out vehicles, and that the driver will be part of the training set-up, and will therefore know the propensities of dogs that are being trained.
Amendment No. 10 does not go as far as amendment No. 2, but I believe that it should be accepted. The RNIB brief states that a properly trained assistance dog is required to sit on the floor between the owner's legs or lie down in the well of a cab. However, what happens if the dog is too big for the vehicle or if the person in charge of the dog refuses to make it sit on the floor? A dog can make a terrible mess by sitting on a car seat, especially if it is moulting. It is fair for the driver to be able to insist that the dog sits on the floor. That is also good practice.
Mr. Edward Davey: The problem with amendment No. 10 is that it fails to deal with small private hire vehicles. A dog's inability to sit on the floor may be no fault of the owner, and may have nothing to do with the dog's size or its behaviour.
Mr. Dismore: A dog that is uncomfortable in a vehicle lets it be known pretty quickly. It will not stay put. We must also consider the animal welfare issues. If a dog is uncomfortable, it is not right to force it to go into the vehicle.
Perhaps proposed new section 37A(6), which deals with the physical characteristics of the vehicle, covers paragraph (a) in amendment No. 10. An exemption could perhaps be made under it if the vehicle were too small to take a dog. However, it does not cover paragraph (b), which relates to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby made when he asked what would happen if a dog that initially sat on the floor tried to get on to the seat or started to jump about. Paragraph (b) would deal with a dog that started to misbehave during a journey because it would allow the driver to stop and require the dog to leave the vehicle.