|Private Hire Vehicles (Carriage of Guide Dogs etc.) Bill
Mr. Gerrard: The amendments deal with definitions. The Bill includes definitions for guide dog, hearing dog and assistance dog. These tidying-up amendments define them all as ''assistance dog.'' The definition includes guide dogs and hearing dogs but also other working dogs. That is quite important, although it covers a relatively small numbers of dogs. There are several other categories of working dogs and they would all be swept up in the definition of assistance dog.
One of the amendments deletes the reference in the Bill to the yellow jacket. There are two reasons for doing that. First, not all assistance dogs wear yellow jackets. Many doprobably the majoritybut certain assistance dogs wear red rather than yellow, and some owners of assistance dogs tend not to put a jacket but perhaps just a coloured harness on the dog.
Secondly, private hire vehicles are often booked by telephone. It does not make sense to have a clause in the Bill that says that the dog must be wearing a yellow
Column Number: 15jacket when one hires a vehicle. How the operator would be able to distinguish over the phone whether a dog is wearing a yellow jacket is difficult to envisage. I know that videophones are on the way, but they are not here yet and they may not be universally used. Therefore, it makes sense to take out the reference to a yellow jacket so that we do not unintentionally introduce a nonsense. Amendment No. 6 uses the term ''prescribed charity'' rather than ''specified charity'' and brings the paragraph into line with the terms in the rest of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
Amendment No. 8 is another technical amendment and contains a series of definitions of phrases such as ''driver'', ''licensing authority'' and ''operator''. I was rather surprised about some of the provisions, including the references to three pieces of legislation: ''the 1998 Act'', ''the 1976 Act'' and
The amendments are mainly technical. We must remove the yellow jacket reference and ensure that the definition of assistance dog covers all the categories of dog that might be involved.
Mr. Boswell: I start with a general and positive point. Dogs for the Disabled is an admirable charity and is located by a whisker in my constituency. I thoroughly enjoy visiting the people there and seeing how they train dogs to do remarkable things for disabled people. There is no suggestion from the Opposition of any covert, let alone overt, opposition to the intentions of the hon. Gentleman or his Bill. His amendments are well placed, but in the spirit of my earlier remarks I want some further assurances.
Although it should perhaps be incumbent on me to know the Disability Discrimination Act, I confess that I have not checked it cover to cover. After all, there is a limit to the extent to which one can check multiple cross-references, unless one is a draftsperson, to check that it has been conceived correctly. Will the hon. Gentleman assure me that the substance of the regime for private hire vehicles covered by the legislation will be the same as that for taxis?
Mr. Gerrard indicated assent.
Mr. Boswell: The hon. Gentleman nods, which is helpful. Having said that, and in the knowledge that I do not have the text in front of me, I shall ask him a couple of specific points about the drafting of the amendments. He referred to a ''prescribed charity'', and I presume the DDA specifies the charities that that covers and that the Secretary of State may make an order to prescribe them as such. I am not a lawyer, but there is always the potential that a list that specifies one type may be held to exclude another. There is a slight
Column Number: 16difficulty in singling out assistance dogs for blind people, those for deaf people and other assistance dogs, as a dog may have an obligation to cover the multiple disabilities of an individual who, for example, was blind and had locomotive disabilities. No one wants to see a situation in which a dog that qualifies to do two jobs is somehow disqualified under the arrangements by a legal accident.
I do not want to make a meal of this for the Committee, as these are matters on which the hon. Gentleman and his advisers may want to reflect, but my final point concerns amendment No. 6, which relates to dogs that are trained to guide blind persons. They are what most people would think of typically as ''guide dogs''.
Paragraph (b) refers to the special category of assistance to deaf people and paragraph (c), the third category, to general assistance. A slightly different standard of approval of what is being done is required in the different cases. For example, it is not clear from the proposal whether the blind person referred to is a registered blind person. There are more people who are visually impaired than there are those who have no sight at all. The definition of a deaf person, and the appropriate amount of training, are also not clear from the provision.
The third category, training by a prescribed charity, does not define the amount of training or the nature of the assistance given, but it appears to impose a slightly different sort of test. For example, it is not clear why, given the role of the Royal National Institute for the Blind in respect of visual impairment or of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People in respect of hearing loss, they could not all be swept up within the single category of prescribed charities, which would make it simpler.
My point of substance is that, whenever categories are broken down and different ones proposed, it may involve two separate interests or two slightly different methods of handling a situation, and that may have unfortunate legal consequences, which we neither seek nor fully anticipate. However, the amendment is more straightforward than the clause and is therefore a welcome simplification. Assuming that it is accepted, I shall be happy to consider it again on Report.
In the spirit of my earlier remarks, I ask the hon. Gentleman to reflect on whether the amendment really optimises the proposal and to ensure that nothing has been overlooked which would help to make its implementation clearer and better.
Mr. Gerrard: I take the hon. Gentleman's point; we do not want to leave loopholes in the Bill. The meaning of ''prescribed'' is as in the Disability Discrimination Act. The Secretary of State has the power, through statutory instruments, to define the organisations covered. I do not want the Bill to include a list that would have to be amended in primary legislation, if for example, new organisations were to be included.
Dual-purpose dogs should not be a problem provided that they come within one of the categories. It would make no difference if they fell within two of the categories.
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With the amendments, the section will still include references to the disabled person having a disability that consists of epilepsy or otherwise affects his mobility or manual dexterity. Those phrases will remain in the measure, which is pretty much a catch-all one. I understand what the hon. Gentleman said about definitions and creating loopholes, but I do not think that there are any in the proposal. However, before Report I will ensure that the Bill contains no unnecessary loopholes.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 6, in page 2, line 22, leave out from beginning to 'which' in line 24 and insert
(a) has been trained to guide a blind person;
(b) has been trained to assist a deaf person;
(c) has been trained by a prescribed charity to assist a disabled person who has a disability'
No. 7, in page 2, line 28, leave out from 'objects' to end of line 33.
No. 8, in page 2, line 33, at end insert
(a) section 13 of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998 (c. 34) (''the 1998 Act'');
''licensing authority'', in relation to any area of England and Wales, means the authority responsible for licensing private hire vehicles in that area;
''operator'' means a person who holds a licence granted under
(a) section 3 of the 1998 Act;
(b) section 55 of the 1976 Act; or
(c) an equivalent provision of a local enactment;
''private hire vehicle'' means a vehicle licensed under
(a) section 6 of the 1998 Act;
(b) section 48 of the 1976 Act; or
(c) an equivalent provision of a local enactment.'.[Mr. Gerrard.]
Clause 1, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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