Equality Bill

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The Chairman: Order. I am sorry to interrupt, but as the Committee knows, we are bound by the knives agreed last week, and we finish at 5 pm, so this will probably have to be the last question.
Q 231John Howell: In that case, let me move on to another issue, which we have heard a lot about—the default retirement age. Where are we going to end up with that in your view?
Vera Baird: The sequence is that we have agreed it should be reviewed in 2011 if nothing else happens before, but on 16 and 17 July, I think, the administrative court will hear a case brought by Heyday, which is the trading arm of Age Concern. It has been to Europe, which said that a default retirement age can be justified for reasons A and B—technical reasons—and the question for the administrative court now to decide is whether the British Government can climb over those hurdles and show that the age is justified. If the court says that it is not, we will have to look again at the whole question of what follows from that, because the default retirement age will in effect go with that judgment. If, on the other hand, the court says that it is justified, then presumably it will hold on, with diminishing importance I would have thought, until 2011 when we finally review it and decide what to do. Much depends on the outcome of that case.
The Chairman: Very quickly, Sharon—the last question?
Q 232Mrs. Sharon Hodgson (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab): Yes, please, thank you for letting me ask one, Mr. Benton. I have a couple of quick questions on pregnancy discrimination—it will probably have to be my only question. The National Union of Teachers is concerned about clause 16(7) and the use of the word “reasonable”, which we keep seeing in a lot of legislation at the moment. The NUT feels that employers could defend discrimination against pregnant women on the ground that complying with anti-discrimination measures is inconvenient or costly.
Vera Baird: Do not worry. We have tabled an amendment today to take “reasonably” out, as we have accepted the arguments that have come forward. We wanted to put a standard in there and we thought that “reasonable” would do it, but we have accepted the argument that it is bad and not good.
Q 233Mrs. Hodgson: The YWCA is concerned about clause 79 with regard to education for pregnant girls in school. Evidence shows that a significant proportion of them are treated less favourably in school.
The Chairman: Order.
Vera Baird: I will write to you—
The Chairman: Order. On behalf of the Committee, I thank you, Minister, and your colleagues, for your evidence.
Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Lyn Brown.)
5 pm
Adjourned till Thursday 11 June at Nine o’clock.
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