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13. The Secretary of State may make payments to the Older Persons' Commissioner of such amounts, at such times and on such conditions (if any) as it considers appropriate.

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14. In the House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975, in Part III of Schedule 1 (certain disqualifying offices), the following entries are inserted at the appropriate places--
"Older Persons' Commissioner."
"Member of the staff of the Older Persons' Commissioner."
15. In the Northern Ireland Assembly Disqualification Act 1975, the same entries as are set out in paragraph 14 are inserted at the appropriate places in Part III of Schedule 1.
16.--(1) Regulations may provide that the office of Older Persons' Commissioner shall be added to the list of "Offices" in Schedule 1 to the Superannuation Act 1972 (offices etc. to which section 1 of that Act applies).
(2) The Secretary of State shall pay to the Minister for the Civil Service, at such times as he may direct, such sums as he may determine in respect of any increase attributable to provision made under sub-paragraph (1) in the sums payable out of money provided by Parliament under the Superannuation Act 1972.'.

Amendment No. 12, in schedule 5, page 107, line 40, at end insert--'Older Persons' Commissioner'--

.--(1) The Part of this Act which relates to the Older Persons' Commissioner has effect, in relation to times before the commencement of any other relevant provision of this Act, as if references--
(a) to regulated services in England and Wales; and
(b) to the provider of such services,
were or included references to services which would be regulated services in England or Wales, or (as the case may be) to the person who would be the provider, if that provision were in force.
(2) Sub-paragraph (1) has effect subject to any provision made under sections 117 or 118.'

Mr. Burstow: The new clause introduces the proposition that the Government should establish an independent commissioner for the rights of older people, who would have a number of duties. I want to explain our concerns and why we thought it necessary to table the measure.

A piece of work published earlier this year by Action on Elder Abuse caused me to think that we needed a commissioner to advocate the rights of older people. That body, which is connected with Age Concern and a number of other organisations of and for older people, was established in 1994. In 1995, it set up a pilot helpline to give older people and their carers, friends and relatives the opportunity to report confidentially issues of abuse and other concerns. The service was rolled out nationally in 1998.

The report found that it was necessary to undertake a detailed analysis of two years' worth of calls to the freephone service to see what the trends were. Some 3,919 calls were analysed, of which some 1,564 were about incidents of abuse. As a country and a House, we have acknowledged and taken the necessary steps to start to address child abuse, but there is still too much of a taboo around the subject of the abuse of elders.

Action on Elder Abuse looked at how it would be appropriate to define such a subject. In 1994, a number of definitions were to hand. The definition that it alighted on--in the article "Listening is not enough"--is

That definition was signed up to by Action on Elder Abuse in 1995. The analysis bears some reflection. The organisation started by looking at the main types of abuse,

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of which there are five. The first is physical abuse: hitting, slapping, pushing, restraining and over-medication, the last of which has been a particular concern of Members on both sides of the House for some time.

The second is psychological abuse: shouting, swearing, frightening, ignoring, blaming or humiliating.

The third is financial abuse, whether it be the illegal or unauthorised use of a person's property, money, pension book or other valuables.

The fourth is the sexual abuse of any person forced to take part in sexual activity without their consent.

The fifth is simple neglect; a person is deprived of food, heat, clothing, comfort or medication.

When the definitions are applied, a number of things emerge. It was found that three in four of the callers felt that abuse had occurred. Some 42 per cent. of the calls concerned alleged abuse in sheltered accommodation; 5 per cent. concerned abuse in hospital, 10 per cent., abuse in residential homes; 11 per cent., abuse in nursing homes; and 66 per cent. were concerned with abuse in a person's own home. The survey found that psychological abuse was twice as likely to occur as physical or financial abuse.

The findings of the research are disturbing, showing that abuse is taking place in a range of care settings. The number of people in a formal care setting is small and, given the substantial number of calls expressing concerns about those care settings, it is right to ask the Government to help older people, their relatives and others by providing a mechanism to flag up those concerns.

A director of older person's rights would be able to give a clear focus to the work of the National Care Standards Commission, and beyond it. He would be able to look across all care settings and establish a highly visible position to which people could turn in confidence, in the secure knowledge that their rights would be respected and their needs met.

I hope that such a post will be established in this country--even if it is not established by the Bill--and that a position will be created that has influence over policy makers at a national and local level; that has influence over practitioners; that ensures that there is compliance with minimum standards; and, crucially, that promotes respect for older people and their dignity.

Often when Ministers respond to such amendments, one of the lines of approach is that the amendments are technically defective. In this instance we have relied heavily on parliamentary counsel, because the new clauses and amendments bear a passing resemblance to proposals tabled by the Government to give effect to their commitment to establishing a commissioner dealing with the rights of children in Wales. I hope that Ministers will not deploy the same argument this evening. I hope that they will address the central concern about the need to raise the profile of issues affecting older people, in the context of abuse.

I accept that the Bill already deals with some of the matters to which I refer, but I believe that the new clause is a necessary additional step which would go a long way towards dealing with many of the worries that I--along with other Members and a number of outside organisations--have about the rights of older people and discrimination against them.

Mrs. Spelman: I shall be brief, because the hour is late. [Interruption.] I am keen to ensure that all the

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remaining groups of amendments are given proper attention, and I am mindful of the fact that other Ministers are involved in those.

I entirely appreciate the needs described by the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow). They have been well expressed to all Members in publications by recognised voluntary organisations with real expertise, such as Help the Aged and Age Concern. Some of those publications have been excellent, describing in detail the problems experienced by older people. Probably the most moving is Age Concern's document "Turning your back on us", which deals with discrimination in the health service. However, I think the real question asked by the voluntary organisations is, "What is the most effective way of tackling the problem?"

I must tell the hon. Member that I am not persuaded that the best solution is the establishment of an older persons' commissioner. Very professional charities working with the elderly point out that we as politicians must beware any suggestion of tokenism. In a letter to me, Help the Aged expressed its fear that the creation of a Minister for older people--which has happened in Germany--would be a nine-day wonder in practice, and that the existence of one designated person to deal with such matters would make it too easy to compartmentalise. The absence of any real resources or power for that person would make it difficult to get things done.

Established voluntary organisations say that the problems of the elderly should be dealt with in departments where there is power to change the way in which things are done. In particular, they would like the national health service to stamp out all age discrimination in the service.

Mr. Burstow: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Mrs. Spelman: The hon. Gentleman has had his turn. Will he let me develop my argument a little?

In some very good work, the all-party parliamentary group on ageing and older people explicitly calls for NHS powers to be reinforced. The group says that it should be illegal for treatment to be refused to older people simply on the ground that they are older.

Mr. Burstow: I am listening closely to what the hon. Lady is saying. She has prayed in aid a number of the national charities that work for and on behalf of older people. Does she acknowledge that a number of them are, in coalition, campaigning for an entity--a commission, I think--to deal with age discrimination? Indeed, earlier today we considered, and voted on, a ten-minute Bill drafted by that coalition.

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