Memorandum from the Association of Retired
and Persons Over 50
1. The Association of Retired and Persons
Over 50 (ARP/050) is a national membership organisation with more
than 80,000 members and 200 Friendship Centres around the United
Kingdom. Membership of the organisation, although open to everyone,
mainly comprises people who have held, or continue to hold, professional
and managerial positions. As would be expected, many members take
a keen interest in social policy issues and since its inception
in 1988 the organisation has worked both publicly and behind the
scenes to gain legislation against all forms of ageism.
2. It is recognised that the remit of the
Committee concerns only age discrimination in employment and the
question it has set itself to address fall within those parameters.
This organisation, which provides the secretariat for the cross
organisational body campaigning on this aspect of ageism, equal
rights on age, fully sympathises with the need to set limited
objectives in the present context.
3. Having said this a number of points should,
in our view, be taken into account.
Current developments in Europe have
resulted in the Government setting a period of six years to introduce
workplace legislation. This is, in our view, far too long and
looks suspiciously like procrastinationparticularly given
the letter written to the Executive Director of this organisation
in 1995 (Annex 1) which states categorically that Labour would
treat the introduction of legislation as a priority if successful
in the next election. This assurance was reiterated by The Prime
Minister on 2 December 1998 when, in response to a question posed
by Quentin Davies MP asking whether he still stood by the earlier
promise he replied, "Yes, we stand by it".
The view frequently expressed by
those opposed to or suspicious of legislation is that it "doesn't
work". Extraordinarily, examples are taken from our own legislation
relating to race and sex to prove this point, although there is
a reluctance to cite the most recent legislation on disability.
The criteria upon which this judgement is based are extremely
narrow and frequently uninformed. Legislation relating to human
behaviour has both an immediate and a longer-term outcome. On
enactment it immediately provides a benchmark against which behaviour
can be measured, it is a standard to which society, by consent,
aspires. Over time, through awareness and enforcement attitudes
begin to change. Every one of the public health acts introduced
in the 19th and early 20th centuries was vigorously opposed. Now
it is unnecessary to remind people it is against the law to spit
on buses. Attitudes change.
Although legislation currently being
discussed relates only to the workplace, this can be understood
given the economic implications of demographic change and the
need to facilitate means whereby older people can be enticed back
into the workforce. However, it must not be overlooked that to
age in our society is to experience discrimination in many ways.
We strongly recommend that the Committee add a rider to its conclusions
stating that legislation in the workplace, however desirable,
must be seen as a precursor to the elimination of ageism across
a much wider field and in particular in the provision of goods
There is evidence that there is considerable
support in the House of Commons for this wider view. During 1998
this organisation conducted a survey of opinion among MPs and
49 per cent of those who returned the questionnaire supported
legislation. A summary of the results is provided (Annex 2). In
2000 a Ten Minute Rule Bill introduced by Lawrie Quinn MP calling
for an Age Equality Commission resulted, when put to the vote,
in support from 200 MPs (Annex 3).
The European Draft Council establishing
a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation,
referred to above is, in its present form unsatisfactory in that
certain key clauses remain to be inserted. Article 6 is cause
for particular concern. Article 6(c), for example, is missing
and in places wording is ambiguous. The Article refers in its
introduction to the fact that discrimination may be permitted
if differences of treatment on grounds of age "are objectively
and reasonably justified under national law by a legitimate aim".
The question immediately arises "What is a legitimate aim".
Such statements are little more than a loophole for the inclusion
of policy aims that allow discrimination. In Article 6(d) it is
stated that "the fixing of a maximum age for recruitment
which is based on the training requirements of the post in question
or the need for a reasonable period of employment before retirement".
What is "a reasonable period of employment?" The Government
appears set to not only endorse an inadequate policy but to defer
its implementation for six years. On both counts that is entirely
unsatisfactory. We recommend that the Committee call for considerable
clarification before any such clauses are ratified.
4. The Committee will receive evidence from
interested parties on all sides and the measure of agreement concerning
the introduction of legislation relating to employment, in spite
of the challenge it presents, will, perhaps, be surprising. It
would be of considerable regret however if in celebrating agreement
on the economic aspects of the matter the moral questions concerning
ageism in its wider sense, which blights the lives of so many
in their later years, were set aside.
The Association of Retired and Persons Over 50
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