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Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West): I seek your ruling, Madam Speaker. It is not a matter for the Commissioner for Standards. Is it not correct that, if hon. Members table an early-day motion, they should declare their interest? Having been sitting here, I have been unable to check with the hon. Members concerned, but I believe that the early-day motion was tabled by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Davidson), who has interests with the Co-operative Movement. Early-day motion 682 calls for the Government to protect the Co-operative Movement. None of the Labour Members who tabled it, most of whom have a direct interest with the Co-operative Movement, have declared their interest on the Order Paper.

Madam Speaker: It is normal to put an "R" at the side of an early-day motion and, if there are interests to declare, those should be declared.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East): Further to the earlier point of order, Madam Speaker.

Madam Speaker: The hon. Gentleman knows that I do not take further points of order once I have given a ruling, and I have made a clear ruling, which was very carefully worded.

Mr. Faulds: This is another aspect, Madam Speaker. Would you inquire whether it is at all feasible for the House of Commons itself to decide to postpone prorogation?

Madam Speaker: That is not a matter for me.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Colleagues have referred to the Register of Members' Interests and standards, and have pointed out that, in declaring Members' interests, we should name those who have provided funds for us. A number of hon. Members, including the Leader of the Opposition, stated that they had a blind trust in which they were receiving money--

Madam Speaker: Order. I have dealt with all those matters--[Interruption.] No, I am not going to allow the hon. Gentleman to go on. If he has anything to complain about, it should go through our procedures to the Commissioner for Standards.


Abolition of Pharmaceutical Monopolies in Rural Areas

Mr. William Cash presented a Bill to remedy an ambiguity in the law relating to the dispensing of medicines in rural areas and to abolish the monopoly for the dispensing of medicines within one mile of any pharmacy in rural areas: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time tomorrow, and to be printed [Bill 143].

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Age Discrimination

3.43 pm

Mr. Quentin Davies (Stamford and Spalding): I beg to move,

The Bill would make it an offence to discriminate against adults on the ground of age in matters of employment, promotion, redundancy and access to public facilities, including training and education, and in matters of health care and medical services.

I am by temperament and conviction a deregulator, and I am proud to be vice-chairman of the Conservative Back-Bench deregulation committee. I take it as axiomatic that any hon. Member introducing any legislative proposal bears a substantial burden of proof that the only effective way of addressing an ill and bringing about a necessary improvement is by increasing the corpus of legislation on our statute book. I fear that, in this instance, that test is met. It seems clear that legislation is necessary to deal with the problems we face.

Hon. Members may have noticed in The Daily Telegraph yesterday an advertisement placed by the Association of Retired and Persons Over 50 which set out some interesting facts resulting from a survey by the Institute of Management. That survey showed that 60 per cent. of job advertisements set some age limits beyond which candidates would not be considered, and that one third of all employers have a policy of not hiring people aged more than 45, whatever their experience or qualifications may be, and without examining the individual case.

It is not difficult to conceive of the enormous heartbreak and the destruction of people's hopes and aspirations that such discrimination must inevitably bring about. However, it is a public matter that should concern us all, not just those of us who know, are related to or have as constituents the many direct victims of such discrimination.

It is extremely bad for society and the economy for us to deprive ourselves of the talents and energies of so many people, the wealth and output that might be created by allowing them to practise their trades and professions, and the tax revenue that would be generated if they were in the labour market.

As recently as 1972, some 80 per cent. of men between the ages of 60 and 64 were in employment. Now that figure is down to 50 per cent. No doubt many of those men have voluntarily retired and are happy to be doing little or engaging in non-remunerated activities. It must be in the public interest, however, to encourage people in their 50s, 60s and 70s, and who are willing and able to go back to work, to do so. It is in the interests of us all that they should do that. It must therefore be in our interest to remove artificial obstructions to their re-entering the labour market.

Another aspect of my Bill concerns an even more significant and urgent issue--discrimination on age grounds in the health service. That is entirely contrary to the principles set out in the Act--and the 1944 White Paper produced by the coalition Government--on which the NHS was founded in 1948. It is also entirely contrary to explicit Government policy. Only the other day,

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my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health made a ringing declaration that age discrimination would be contrary to every principle of Government policy in the health service.

Nevertheless, I fear that such discrimination occurs. I should like to read an extract from an article in the British Medical Journal last week by Professor Grimley Evans, professor of clinical gerontology at the Radcliffe infirmary and the Oxford medical school. He writes:

Age Concern has brought together considerable documentation on anecdotal cases demonstrating that this is no theoretical problem. I am sure that only a small minority of clinicians or national health service managers would stoop to the practice that I have described, but the practice exists. I believe that there is no other way of uprooting it than by legislating to do so.

There has been a slightly surprising development over the past few days. One would suppose that such a nefarious form of discrimination would be practised covertly, shamefully and in silence by those who engage in it. Indeed, that has generally been the case. In yesterday's Daily Mail, however, which some Members may have read, there appeared an article written by a Mr. Williams, who is not a doctor but apparently a health economist. Mr. Williams attempted to justify discrimination in health matters on the ground of age. That is a sinister development.

I believe that any right hon. or hon. Member who reads the article by Mr. Williams will agree with me that only one of two conclusions can be drawn. Either it is involuntarily muddled in its thinking or it is deliberately disingenuous. I shall give one example. Mr. Williams makes fun of the idea of providing a hip replacement for a 90-year-old with a terminal cancer. No responsible doctor would dream of imposing the gratuitous trauma of an orthopaedic operation on any terminal patient of any age. Mr. Williams makes my point. Clinical decisions should be made on clinical grounds. They should be made in the light of the specific physiological condition of the individual patient.

If the protections of the National Health Service Act, repeated Government statements and the Hippocratic oath--I have always believed that that oath places an absolute responsibility on all doctors to have prime regard to the interests of their individual patients and not to be guided by extraneous considerations--are not enough to eliminate the practice of age discrimination, we clearly need some explicit change to the law.

A generation ago, the House passed sex discrimination and race discrimination legislation, which has had widespread acceptance. The great effect of those measures was to create a change in attitude, a change in behaviour patterns and a change in culture. These pieces of legislation have been enormously beneficial to those groups which might otherwise have been subject to entirely invidious discrimination. It is time that the

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sections of our population of older ages--we all hope to join their ranks in due time--should be equally protected from unjustified discrimination.

I commend my Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Quentin Davies, Mr. Batiste, Mr. Forman, Sir Anthony Grant, Mr. Robert G. Hughes, Sir David Hunt, Mr. Mans, Mr. Rowe, Mr. Tim Smith, Mr. Temple-Morris, Mr. Waller and Mr. Yeo.

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