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Mr. Webb: I thought that the hon. Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) was going to make the opposite point. Let us imagine that there is a blind person with a dog, and that a driver who does not really want to take that person pulls up and says, "Sorry guvnor, that dog looks a bit iffy to me, I won't take you," and drives off. If that loophole is put in the Bill under amendment No. 2, what can a blind person do? They cannot report the number of the cab that has just driven off. Does not that make a nonsense of the whole Bill?
Mr. Dismore: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. Those arguments come under amendment No. 2, and I shall address that point separately. At the moment, we are not dealing with those circumstances; we are dealing with circumstances in which the dog is in the vehicle and causes damage. That is not the situation pronounced on by my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner), in which the dog has not got into the vehicle. We are talking about a situation in which the dog has got into the vehicle and caused damage. On the question of whether the driver can refuse to accept the hire, under the Bill in its current form he could not refuse to take the dog, no matter what was wrong with it.
Mr. Gardiner: I cannot allow my hon.and learnedFriend to get away with that. His own justification for new clause 1 was on the basis of the compulsion on the driver to admit the passenger with the dog. He cannot, therefore, divorce the two elements that he has logically connected.
Mr. Dismore: I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Of course, these provisions are not necessarily both acceptable in their current form, and I fully accept that those points need to be addressed separately. At the moment, we are dealing with the position in which the dog has caused damage to the vehicle. A separate issue
Mr. Gardiner: I hesitate to intervene once again, but I think that it is incumbent on my hon. Friend to give the House an exposition. Again, I claim no particular knowledge of the law, especially of the law of tort, but perhaps we should consider the case of Rylands v. Fletcher. As I understand it, that case hinges on the obligation on a person to ensure that anything that comes from their property does not do damage elsewhere. I understand that that has caused many a legal case and much dispute. This is one occasion on which I would welcome listening to the perorations of my hon.and learnedFriend.
Mr. Dismore: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that. As he will no doubt recall, Rylands v. Fletcher concerned the law of nuisance and the release of water. Of course, we are talking about a rather different release of water under this provision from that which applied in Rylands v. Fletcher. That case concerned a piece of land that was flooded by water that came from another piece of land. It is concerned with the principle of a hazard arising on one piece of land or property and affecting another. Cases have been brought in relation to damage by fire and so forth. I do not really think that the law of nuisance applies in the circumstances that we are debating.
I want to move on to amendment No. 6I shall deal with the amendments in the order in which they appear on the amendment paper. I promise the hon. Member for Northavon (Mr. Webb) that I shall deal with his points in relation to amendment No. 2 when I get to it.
Clause 1(5) indicates that the only grounds for granting a certificate of exemption are medical grounds. That is somewhat restrictive, as there could be other grounds on which it would be perfectly fair to grant an exemption. My amendment would allow a licensing authority to take into account other reasonablenot fancifulgrounds. I shall give the example of someone who has a pathological fear of dogs. When I have been out door knocking and canvassing with my campaign team, one or two of them have been terrified of dogs when we knock on doors. I do not think that that is a medical conditionsome may think that it is a natural reactionbut when a dog is barking on the other side of the door, they tend to run away and send me instead. I always take dog biscuits with me when I am out campaigning, just in case. That is a useful tip for all hon. Members.
Claire Ward: I would not wish my hon. Friend to fall foul of the electoral law, but does giving biscuits to dogs when canvassing for votes constitute the bribery or treating of voters and their families?
Mr. Heath: I cannot quite let the hon. Gentleman get away with the suggestion that a pathological fear of dogs is not a medical condition. If something is pathological, it is medical. If it is not pathological, it is not medical.
Mr. Gardiner: May I help my hon.and learnedFriend out? Although the minicab driver may not have a medical condition and be able to obtain an exemption certificate, he may have a standing contract with someone who has an allergy to dogs. Does my hon.and learnedFriend agree that such a circumstance presents the reasonable ground covered by the amendment?
Mr. Tom Harris: One of the weaknesses of my hon. Friend's argument is that unscrupulous taxi drivers may simply decide that they do not want to carry animals. It would be very difficult to prove that they are telling the truth about their pathological fear of dogs. Will my hon. Friend consider that point?
Mr. Dismore: My hon. Friend has a point, and I deal with it in the amendment that considers the evidence that should be considered by the licensing authority. A pathological fear of dogs is an example of the circumstances that might not be covered by the provision in clause 1 for a new section 37A(5) that outlines the grounds on which an exemption might be granted. If someone is genuinely frightened of dogs
Mr. Dismore: That person might not consider himself to be ill, so I am not entirely convinced that it is covered by the provision for medical grounds. The licensing authority should, however, be able to take account of such circumstances.
Mr. Edward Davey: On amendment No. 6, the hon. Gentleman must convince the House that there are other reasonable grounds by which an exemption could be made by the licensing authority. So far, he has failed to give one example that has not been countered by the arguments of other hon. Members. He must come up with a concrete example before the House can accept the amendment. I ask him to do so.
Mr. Dismore: I stand by my view that a fear of dogs is not a medical condition. The people with whom I canvass would not say that they are ill because they are frightened of dogs. They think it is a natural reaction. I take the point made by the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome that people sometimes have a mental illness that creates such a fear, but people can have a genuine fear that does not go that far.
Mr. Tom Clarke: I would not dream of suggesting that my hon. Friend is making a meal of this, let alone a dog's breakfast. However, when people have a phobia, the treatment involves confronting them with the conditions
Mr. Dismore: My right hon. Friend makes an interesting point. However, the first time that a driver is exposed to a guide dog should not be when he is about to take charge of a moving vehicle. Perhaps the RNIB could help people to overcome their fears through other programmes. However, the provision could create a hazard not only for the driver, the passenger and the dog but for other road users. The driver will be travelling along looking over his shoulder to see whether he will be attacked by what appears to be the placid dog sitting in the back.
Claire Ward: I realise that my hon. Friend is trying very hard to justify the amendment. However, I find it difficult to accept that what he describes as a fear of dogs will not simply mean that the driver will refuse to carry dogs because he does not like them. My hon. Friend must establish the fact that such a fear will not be covered by the provision that relates to medical grounds. I suspect that the amendment would create a loophole so that drivers would be able to say, "I have a fear of dogs, but I have not been to the doctor about it." They would say that just because they simply do not like dogs.