HC Deb 25 June 2001 vol 370 cc378-9
13. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey)

What plans he has for ending age discrimination in employment. [455]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Eagle)

The Government are committed to eradicating age discrimination in employment, and will legislate by 2006. Meanwhile, our code of practice on age diversity is showing results upon which we can build.

Simon Hughes

I know that as a result of last year's European Union directive, 2006 is the date by which we are committed to legislate not simply against age discrimination but against discrimination on the grounds of disability. Can the Government be more ambitious than aiming at the latest possible date allowed for in Europe? Given that their manifesto did not contain a commitment to end age discrimination, will the Government introduce early legislation, or support private Members who do so, to outlaw age discrimination and allow people to go on working without regard to age if they are competent to do so?

Maria Eagle

I hope that the hon. Gentleman heard me say that we will be introducing legislation. He knows as well as I do that it is important to take employers with us. There has to be a balanced approach in making sure that rights are introduced and that those who have to implement them and abide by them know about them and are on board. That is what we will do. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will welcome that, although he seems a bit churlish.

David Winnick (Walsall, North)

Without wishing to be churlish, and as someone who tried to introduce a private Member's Bill on this subject in 1996, may I ask why, if it is right to outlaw race, gender and disability discrimination, the same should not apply to age discrimination? Although I recognise that such a law will come into being at some point, would it not be best for the many people who find themselves discriminated against on the grounds of age, not in their late 50s or early 60s but in their early 40s, to introduce a law earlier than the date mentioned by my hon. Friend?

Maria Eagle

I have every sympathy with my hon. Friend's position, and know of his interest in this respect. We have not been sitting doing nothing—our code of practice on age diversity has started to show results. For example, it is now much less usual to see employment advertisements using age as a criterion, which is a welcome advance. As I said in answer to the hon. Member for Southwark, North and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes), we need to take a balanced approach and ensure that we take everybody with us, and that is what we are doing.