Tony Blair has asked me to respond to your letter
of 31 May regarding age discrimination in employment, in my capacity
as Shadow Employment Minister.
The issue of age discrimination must be tackled
for a number of economic and social reasons:
First, if we throw people out of the labour
market at 40-plus; or even earlier, many families will not be
able to maintain themselves for 40 or more years without becoming
reliant on state support. 15 years from now, for the first time
ever, Britain's over 50 population will be larger than the 15-44
age group. For this reason, the state will simply not be able
to keep up with the costs of age discrimination.
Second, industry often benefits from the skills
and experience of older workers. The assumption that older workers
do not learn as quickly or as easily as their younger colleagues
has been proved wrong in various studies that have been undertaken.
Older workers have been shown to demonstrate loyalty to companies
and their contribution has proved overwhelmingly to be a valuable
Third, discrimination is morally wrong. Employment
is about more than just earning wages, important though that is.
Work gives people a sense of dignity and purpose. Studies have
shown that people wish to work even if they do not need the money.
Older people are as entitled to this dignity as anyone else.
For these reasons, the next Labour Government
will introduce legislation to make age discrimination illegal,
just as discrimination on the grounds of race and sex are today.
We are currently talking with a group of experts to decide exactly
what form this legislation might take. Our commitment, however,
is clear: age discrimination has no place in a modern economy
and will take steps to remove it.
Ian McCartney MP
Shadow Employment Minister
18 August 1995