Equality Bill

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Q 203Mrs. Sharon Hodgson (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab): There will still be a provision in the Bill for a default retirement age or forced retirement at 65. You are probably aware that this issue is currently being considered by the High Court. Do you believe that this form of direct age discrimination is justified?
The Chairman: We have discussed this issue.
Mrs. Hodgson: I am sorry.
The Chairman: So very brief answers.
Stephen Alambritis: Small employers are helped where the Government has an indicator of what the retirement age is. We would leave the retirement age up to the Government. But a small employer without a human resource or legal department is helped by an indicator.
The Chairman: I have given a business voice a sentence or two, so I shall give the same to a trade union voice.
Sarah Veale: Just to repeat, we do not think that there is a justification for having a mandatory retirement age. We think employers should judge on the individual’s ability. It is contradictory to have within age discrimination laws a provision that specifically allows employers to discriminate purely on the grounds of age.
Q 204Dr. Harris: I want briefly to ask the gentleman from the insurance industry a question. Do you recognise that there is concern that there might be discrimination against people who have genetic factors that put them at risk when it comes to getting fundamental insurance, such as life insurance associated with a mortgage, if the moratorium were to go?
Nick Starling: At the moment, there is a moratorium on genetic testing. It is an agreement between the Government and the insurance industry. I believe that it will last until 2014, but I will have to check that.
Q 205Dr. Harris: So if it went—
Nick Starling: There is no question of its going at the moment. It is there, in place.
Q 206Dr. Harris: After 2014, unless you can see the future, it might well not be there and the insurance industry would presumably want to stratify, because that is its job. Do you recognise that there is a risk—it may not be your problem, but it may be a public concern—that there would be an uninsurable group of people who therefore, essentially, could not get insurance because of their genetic characteristics?
Nick Starling: One of the reasons why we extended the moratorium to 2014 is because that is quite a long time away and we do not quite know what the position of genetic knowledge will be or what the situation would be if people could do their own genetic testing and find out about themselves. So we have extended it precisely because it is an uncertain future and an unknown situation. That is why we think that a moratorium, which the Department of Health and Ministers have agreed has worked well, is the best way forward. I do not want to speculate on what might happen by then, except to say that we have agreed that there has to be a lot of discussion leading up to 2014, based on the current science.
The Chairman: Thank you.
I thank Stephen and Nick, Dianah, Sarah and Katja for their evidence.
Ordered, That further consideration of the Bill be now adjourned.—(The Solicitor-General.)
12.59 pm
Adjourned till this day at Four o’clock.
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