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Mr. Speaker: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me notice of his point of order. There is no action that I can take in relation to the particular occurrence that has caused him concern. I can, however, make it clear that I strongly deprecate the manipulation of correspondence from Officers of the House in a way that misrepresents its contents.
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Of course I appreciate what you have said, as I am sure the whole House--certainly hon. Members on this side--will have done. Cannot this matter be pursued any further? If the person concerned has--as he clearly has--done what my hon. Friend said he had, surely further action is required. At one time, if I may remind you, Sir, those who showed such contempt
Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wonder whether you could answer a simple question. Has this gentleman personally apologised to the Serjeant at Arms' Office in the House of Commons?
Mr. Nigel Beard, supported by Mr. Adrian Bailey, Liz Blackman, Mrs. Claire Curtis-Thomas, Mr. Howard Flight, Dr. Brian Iddon, Mr. David Kidney, Mr. Giles Radice, Mr. Syd Rapson, Sir Michael Spicer and Mr. Andrew Tyrie, presented a Bill to amend the Summer Time Act 1972 so as to provide for the maintenance of British Summer Time throughout the year: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 11 May, and to be printed [Bill 87].
The hundreds of constituents who encounter the daily barriers of age discrimination face persistent and recurring problems that are a blight on their everyday lives. Across the country, thousands of ordinary British people hoped that they had every right to expect a fair deal as they got older. Far too often, the reality is quite different from those hopes and aspirations.
Working in Scarborough and Whitby with the local Age Concern group and the Association of Retired Persons over 50--commonly known as ARPO50--I have tried to set up challenges to the individual cases that have been brought to me in my constituency surgeries. However, this engineer feels that the lack of appropriate parliamentary tools for the job has made the whole procedure of trying to solve those problems far more complicated than it needs to be. That is why I hope that the House will join me in calling for an end, by law, to the discrimination against older people in work, health, public services and the consumer market. We need to have action in law as soon as possible.
I believe that the House should be doing all in its power to create new opportunities for older people to work, volunteer, learn and retrain where necessary, so that they can play the fullest possible part in our society. My constituency is well known as containing a large number of people aged over 50, and my constituency experiences tell me that we in the House should fulfil their hopes and give them a significant and vibrant role in the society in which they want to play a part. In health, housing and the care systems, we need to provide the opportunity of independence and security for all, particularly my elderly constituents. Let us be honest: many of us who are present now will eventually find ourselves over the age of 50. It would therefore be inappropriate for me not to declare a personal interest in that regard.
One year on, what has actually happened? I believe that there has been some progress, but it is modest progress. I commend the Government for tackling ageist attitudes and practices in our national health service, many examples of which have been brought to me in my constituency surgeries. A good start has been made, but, owing to the lack of the readily available parliamentary toolbox that I mentioned earlier, the battle against age discrimination is far from won. The issue needs a comprehensive focus: we need a comprehensive campaign to tackle it head on. I hope that my proposals for the establishment of an age equality commission will lead to a national crusade
I also commend the excellent work done at national level by Age Concern and its partners during the "debate of the age" programme last year. My Bill seeks to build on the successes of that programme, and the evidence that was gathered during the national consultation. It seeks to encourage and support the Government in the fight against age discrimination in which they need to engage.
Earlier this month, the employers forum on age, chaired by Howard Davies, produced an important yet simple manifesto entitled "End Ageism in Employment". I hope that the newly formed commission would see it as an early priority to consult and involve employers throughout business in order to develop effective, practical, workable age legislation before the deadline of 2006. The commission must focus on the implementation of flexible options at the end of people's working lives, and it must include a review of the age bars that exist in current employment law. Given that age discrimination in employment costs the country more than £26 billion every year, promoting age diversity in the workplace will be crucial to ensuring the United Kingdom's future competitive and economic success. That key part of the toolbox for our economic future is built into my Bill.
The simple fact is that people continue to live longer and healthier lives than ever before, many having left paid employment in their early 50s. Birth rates continue to fall, and far fewer people are coming into the labour market. Recent surveys across business have established that 91 per cent. of firms are affected by skill shortages, but many employers continue to base employment decisions on grounds of age. I deplore that.
I believe that the employers forum on age offers a promising start. The forum, set up by 170 of the major public and private sector employers, representing nearly 10 per cent. of the UK's work force, is correct to place
I hope that the House will send a clear signal to Government by supporting the Bill. I hope that that will encourage Ministers to review, as a matter of urgency, current employment practices not only in wider industry but, in particular, in the civil service, thereby promoting age diversity and increasing participation in that service by all individuals, irrespective of age. I hope that the Government will then share that practice with wider industry, so that proper legislative propositions may emerge from that test-bed.
I express a simple engineer's view that this debate is of prime importance to our nation's future, as well as very timely. Next week, the House will have further opportunities to consider similar issues raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingswood (Mr. Berry) and by the hon. Member for Grantham and Stamford (Mr. Davies). That cross-party approach to the issue of ageism will be appreciated by all hon. Members, and I am encouraged by the support that my proposals have received from members of all political parties in the House. I hope that my proposal finds favour with the House, and that the progress of the Age Equality Commission Bill will offer dignity, security and opportunity to many of our fellow citizens over the age of 50.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Lawrie Quinn, Mr. Austin Mitchell, Ann Keen, Mr. Jim Dobbin, Ms Dari Taylor, Mr. Alan Campbell, Angela Smith, Mr. Richard Allan, Ms Rosie Winterton, Mr. Paul Burstow and Mr. Bob Blizzard.
Mr. Lawrie Quinn accordingly presented a Bill to make provision for the establishment of an Age Equality Commission to advise the Government on discrimination issues in relation to older people: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 11 May, and to be printed [Bill 88].