My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Government Equalities Office (Michael Jabez Foster) has made the following Statement.
The Equality Bill, which is currently before Parliament, will outlaw unjustifiable age discrimination against adults aged 18 or over in the provision of services and the exercise of public functions. It also includes powers to make exceptions from the ban.
We often treat people differently according to their age and this is often appropriate because people’s needs, expectations and circumstances change with their age. Age-based treatment can play an important role in ensuring that people of all ages can participate socially and economically in their community and that services meet people’s differing needs and are delivered efficiently, benefiting individuals and society in general. Different treatment because of age will continue to be allowed when it can be objectively justified or where there are exceptions to the ban on age discrimination.
The powers will be used to put in place a number of specific exceptions, to allow age-based treatment to continue. This will provide a greater degree of legal certainty for service providers to ensure that they do not end beneficial practices or withdraw services out of concern that they may be open to legal challenge. It will also ensure the process of having to justify age-based treatment does not undermine service providers’ ability to continue to provide the service or function on an economic basis or at all.
The consultation issued today Equality Bill: Making it work—Ending age discrimination in services and public functions—A consultation outlines how we are developing our proposals for particular services where we think additional legal certainty is important to encourage beneficial practices and services to continue. It asks specific questions to help shape the exceptions from the ban and obtain further information. The consultation runs until 30 September 2009.
We are placing copies of the document in the Libraries of both Houses. Copies will also be available on the Government Equalities Office website at www.equalities.gov.uk.