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Equality Bill

Volume 716: debated on Wednesday 27 January 2010

Statement

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Government Equalities Office (Michael Jabez Foster) has made the following Statement.

The Equality Bill, currently before the House of Lords, 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, so that we can make clear the beneficial and justifiable age-based practices which will be allowed to continue.

On 29 June 2009, we issued the consultation document Equality Bill: Making it workEnding age discrimination in services and public functions inviting views on our developing policy for exceptions from the age discrimination ban and when the ban should be implemented. The consultation ended on 30 September 2009. Today we have issued Equality Bill: Making it workEnding age discrimination in services and public functions. A Policy Statement. This document summarises the consultation responses and sets out our plans for specific exceptions from the ban.

We want the legislation to have the same effects in health and social care as in other sectors, that is:

to eradicate harmful discrimination; and

to permit service providers to treat people of different ages differently where this is beneficial or justifiable or for good public policy reasons;

and to ensure that

when services deal with individuals, they focus on the individual, taking account of his or her age where it is appropriate to do so, and where this helps to offer a personalised service.

In doing this, we will act in accordance with the relevant recommendations of the recent review Achieving age equality in health and social care.

we will create a specific exception to allow financial service providers to treat people of different ages differently, but only where this is proportionate to risks and costs. Prices can still be varied by age, where this genuinely reflects risk or costs and is not an arbitrary decision;

we will improve transparency by requiring financial service providers to publish aggregate data in respect of certain products that anyone can check;

we will improve access by requiring the providers of certain insurance products to operate a signposting and referrals system. Where this requirement applies and an insurer does not provide the service to a person because of their age, they will be required to refer the person to a supplier who can meet their needs or refer them to a dedicated signposting service;

alongside the provisions relating to healthcare and financial services, we will enable any service provider in the public or private sector to use age as a criterion to determine the eligibility for concessions or benefits, where the purpose of the concession is to benefit the age group to which it applies;

we will provide an exception from the ban on age-discrimination to allow specialist group holidays to continue to be provided for people in particular age groups, provided that the age range for the holiday is clearly stated in the promotional material.

if holiday accommodation providers still use age limits then they will need to be able to objectively justify them;

we will explore the issues further before deciding the way forward on vehicle hire where we had not proposed an exception for age limits given firms ability to vary premiums in line with costs relating to insurance premiums.

These exceptions will be set out in an order made under the power in clause 195 of the Bill. We intend to consult on the draft order in autumn 2010, giving people a further opportunity to comment before the exceptions are debated by both Houses of Parliament. We are placing copies of the document in the Libraries of both of the Houses. Copies will also be available on the Government Equalities Office website at www.equalities.gov.uk.