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Age Discrimination

Volume 543: debated on Thursday 19 April 2012

I discuss age discrimination, as appropriate, with my ministerial colleagues, and my officials hold discussions with industry bodies and others. Earlier this month, the Government endorsed an insurance industry agreement to make motor and travel insurance more accessible to older customers through “signposting” arrangements.

I remember serving on the Committee that considered the Equality Bill with the Minister, and that she was keen to push forward the age discrimination provisions. What has happened in the two years since the Bill received Royal Assent? She has been a Minister, yet the age discrimination legislation has not been implemented.

I have not changed one bit my view that we should push that through. Our consultation proposed a ban on age discrimination in health and social care, and that there should be no exceptions to that, unlike other issues. It is an important lever, and the delay has come about because we want to make sure we get it right. We have consulted on the exceptions, and we are taking our time on them to ensure that we get it right. We will come forward as soon as we have made a decision, and I am sure that that will be soon.

Will the Minister welcome the statistic in the most recent employment figures showing the growing number of women over 50 entering the labour market? They are clearly overcoming age discrimination.

It was good to read that female employment for over-50s has increased by nearly 200,000 in the past 12 months. I understand that most of those jobs are due to business start-ups, which the Government are keen to encourage.

Are not many of those older women trying to enter the labour market because they realise they do not have the pension provision they had hoped for and that they need to stay in employment for longer, as Nick Pearce, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, has shown? They are choosing self-employment because it is clear that there are not enough jobs available to them.

At the same time, the gender pay gap is increasing with age. The Equality and Human Rights Commission says that at age 40, the gap between women and men is 27%, compared with an overall full-time gap of 15.5%. Rather than being complacent and saying that older women are choosing to set up new businesses, should the Minister not take active steps to tackle the toxic combination of ageism and sexism that is hitting older women?

This Government are taking many steps to support women. It would be far more benevolent if the Opposition welcomed an increase in female employment. I do not think women are over the hill at 50; it is shame the hon. Lady does.