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Volume 449: debated on Wednesday 19 July 2006

7. What oversight and co-ordination he has undertaken of the Government’s policy on ageing; and if he will make a statement. (86195)

My hon. Friend will be aware that I chair the Cabinet Committee looking at these important issues. The next meeting is scheduled to take place very shortly. The Committee’s terms of reference are

“to develop and monitor the delivery of policy affecting older people”.

We have already made excellent progress over the past nine years, with 2 million pensioners lifted out of poverty, free eye tests for the over 60s and free TV licences. However, there remains more to do, and I am working to ensure that action is taken coherently across Departments to tackle the key issues facing the older generation.

That is an excellent record. As one of the big beasts of the Government and, in this instance, as the Minister with responsibility for the Government’s policies on ageing, will the Deputy Prime Minister have a word with another big beast, the Chancellor, to facilitate the 1 million-plus additional jobs that are needed—including with flexible working arrangements—for the over-55s? Will he also say whether more legislation is being considered to remove the barriers to people working longer, if they wish to?

I certainly will take up with the Chancellor, as another big beast, the point that my hon. Friend makes, but the House will be very happy at the fact that the Chancellor’s wife has given birth to a baby boy.

The Government are clearly committed to doing a lot more on this issue. Our measures will prohibit the unjustified direct age discrimination that many in this House have complained about, and all harassment and victimisation on the ground of age, of people young and old. It is important to keep more people in work, because doing so makes an important contribution to maintaining increases in what are record levels of employment. That aim has a major part to play, and I am attempting to co-ordinate across government in order to achieve it.