HC Deb 09 June 1992 vol 209 cc132-3
4. Sir Michael Neubert

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what policies she has to promote employment for British people within the EC.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

We are working to give our people better access to jobs in other EC countries by improving the system for exchanging job vacancies between member states, securing mutual recognition of qualifications and providing information about living and working elsewhere in the EC.

Sir Michael Neubert

With British people keeping fitter and living longer, is it not against both the spirit of the times and natural justice that the European Commission should limit applicants to its posts to people aged 35 or under? Will my hon. Friend do all that he can to root out that blatant example of Brussels ageism?

Mr. Forsyth

I agree. Indeed, the first speech that I made in my new post was on the subject of ageism. It is astonishing that the European Commission should be one of the worst practitioners of ageism. If one wants to apply for a job as a dishwasher or an administrator with the European Commission, one must be under the age of 35. On that basis, I hope that the House will forgive me for pointing out that most of us in this Chamber would be considered too old for the job.

I agree with my hon. Friend that the policy of ageism is not only undesirable but stupid. It diminishes the supply of talent to the economy throughout the Community, and I hope that efforts made to combat ageism will be taken on board by employers throughout the United Kingdom and by the European Commission.

Mr. McLeish

I also welcome the Minister to his new position in the employment team. The whole of Scotland rejoices in the fact that he has now been moved from the Scottish Office. Unfortunately, however, he will now visit upon the unemployed and those who need training the right-wing policies that have done so much damage in Scotland.

Is the Minister aware that, between September 1979 and September 1991, the number of people employed in Britain fell by 13,000? Why do the Government have the most appalling employment record in post-war Britain? Does he accept that, with fewer people working in this country, his policies have failed? We now need urgent action to tackle not only the growing problem of training but the scandal of rising unemployment and the reduction in employment.

Mr. Forsyth

I am sure that the reasons for my moving from the Scottish Office, where I was responsible for education, to Employment were the same as the reasons for the hon. Gentleman's move from Scottish spokesman on education to employment. The hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that both of us now enjoy a wider brief.

On the hon. Gentleman's point about unemployment in the European Community, surely he would agree with those of us who argue that as there are 15.5 million people unemployed in the Community, our first priority must be to ensure that there are measures to create jobs and get people back to work. What a pity that Opposition Members support so many of the highly damaging proposals coming out of Europe which would destroy jobs in Britain and throughout the Community.

Mr. Rowe

I welcome my hon. Friend's earlier comments about ageism. Does he agree that one of the great difficulties for many people trying to keep employment is the working of the pensions system., which makes it profitable for employers to get rid of people aged 50 and above, and makes it difficult for such people to find employment elsewhere?

Mr. Forsyth

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to such difficulties. There are ways round those problems and we have asked managers and jobcentres, in discussion with employers, to draw to employers' attention the benefits of employing older workers and some of the ways round the difficulties to which my hon. Friend has referred.

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