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We welcome the Government's response to our worries in this area. It is most reassuring to see that the Government have taken on board our concerns and those of many noble Lords and have agreed to put
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It is important that businesses are made aware of these regulations as soon as they are available. Businesses cannot and should not be asked to operate in a climate of uncertainty, where it appears that a statutory provision will prohibit their entire market model. This is true at all times, but is even more true given the current economic climate.
Saga is grateful for the assurances given by the Government in response to concerns expressed by many on these Benches. However, it remains concerned about the possible restrictions on financial services that it supplies to the over-50s. Amendment 129A was suggested by the Association of British Insurers in order to address this issue. The amendment would mean that insurance companies would use age as a factor of differentiation, as long as there was no demonstration of,
and that if differentiation were not allowed there would be an adverse impact on other age groups. We have raised this concern because many insurance companies are worried that they have not had the same reassurance as the holiday sector. That is despite the fact that, when the Government released their Green Paper on discrimination, they said that they "probably" wanted to allow insurance companies to,
Insurance companies are worried because they fear that, if they are forced to offer premiums to all age groups, they will become much less competitive in the specific age sector in which they are currently operating. Saga, for example, would not be able to offer its favourable rates to over-50s because it would also have to design packages for those under 50. These would have to reflect different needs and desires, so Saga would risk losing its reputation for specialism and expertise in the older market.
Moreover, the ABI is developing a signposting system, which would mean that older people would be directed toward travel and motor insurance products that are suitable for their group. Saga has spoken very much in
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Will regulations also be brought forward to exclude insurance companies and other related services from breaching this Act? If so, when might companies reasonably expect to see these regulations? I also look forward to hearing the Minister's comments on Amendment 128, which was tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins. This is just one example of many where there will be an appropriate case for making regulations to provide an exemption to this Act. How many regulations does the Government estimate will be needed to allow legitimate differentiation to continue? Do they expect to have all those in place for the moment the Bill becomes law? We argue that this is necessary for the stability of business and security of the many market models.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, I wish to make a contribution on this amendment. However, I will not say what my stance will be until I have had a response from the Minister. During Second Reading, I made two points. One was my concern about the marginalisation of the Christian church. The second was on the provision for the elderly. Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, I take advantage of Saga holidays because I like going on holidays with people of a similar age.
On Second Reading, I argued for the holiday sector provided by Saga. The Leader of the House responded and said that the exemption would be provided for them in the Bill on the same day that the Bill was passed. What we did not do at that time-at least, I did not-was to address the financial services that Saga also provides. As the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, has said, Saga is quite concerned about this and quite rightly so. I would like to hear a response to this amendment that the Government will put in regulations, not in guidance, the provision of financial services for the elderly by Saga. If it is in regulations, it would only confirm what the Government currently do in respect of providing the elderly with winter fuel allowance and a free television licence, with which later this year I will be provided, as is any 75-year-old. Consequently, I support the spirit of this group of amendments. At Second Reading, I was told clearly that this measure would not be in the Bill, but that it would be in regulations. Saga makes a legitimate provision for the over-50s. I would like it to have an exemption for financial services, as we have been told that it will have for its holiday provision.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I hope that it is appropriate for me to make a declaration of interest on behalf of all Members of this House who are over the age of 60 so that we do not have to do it one by one. Of course, for that reason, all of us support allowing Saga to discriminate in our favour and we very much hope that the regulations will continue to benefit old people like myself in perpetuity until the reaper comes.
However, the problem with this amendment, and those related to it, is that it is far too broad. Some time ago, I was lobbied by the insurance industry and I pointed out the danger of its seeking to water down the position that the Government have now got themselves into on the Bill, which is the right position. When I began at the Bar, I used to teach insurance law at night school. One day, a person came to me having stolen the underwriting guide for a major insurance company. It said that the underwriters recommended in the motor insurance industry charging more for black people than for white. So, in 1974 to 1976, when I was doing the Race Relations Bill and the Board of Trade and the insurance industry tried to adopt a hands-off approach to discrimination law, I argued extremely strongly that that should not be the case. We gave in to some extent, but not in the way in which they wanted.
It is extremely important that we do not take out of the Bill in the key definition sections an escape clause that would allow the insurance industry in general to discriminate on the basis of race or any other protected ground. I know that that is something with which the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, would agree. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will confirm that the Government will be rock-like and steadfast in standing up to any pressure from the insurance industry that would allow widespread discrimination to leak into these other areas, for whatever reason. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies, that I am as self-interested as he is.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, the Government made a rod for their own back by having such an immensely complicated Bill face such a short amount of possible debate in the other place. To have a Bill of this length would have been bad enough, but, bearing in the mind the effect it could have on so many groups of people, it is even worse that the House of Commons was not permitted because of the guillotine to debate all these matters in sufficient depth. There are many points, apart from the amendments in this group, which should have been investigated very thoroughly.
I quite understand why my noble friend Lady Warsi has not so far sampled the joys and delights of a Saga holiday, but I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Coity, has done so, and I look forward with unbridled delight at the thought that I may meet him on some future joint cruise. I should say that I have some interest in Saga, albeit that I have no pecuniary interest of any kind, but there was a time when I did some lecturing aboard Saga ships. Having learnt what a good job it does, since then I have been on several of those cruises, which have been self-funded.
The trouble with what we are discussing is that we are asked to take so much on trust. Those of us who have experienced Saga will know that it does an exceptionally good job for the over-50s. The cruises are extremely well organised and I have never met anyone yet who has not enjoyed them. I draw the House's attention to the last words said by Mr Michael
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"The Solicitor-General says that she understands the problem, but the problem will not be met by guidance. The law in this land is not determined by the Government's guidance; it is determined by legislation".-[Official Report, Commons, 2/12/09; col. 1203.]
That is exactly the problem we face now. We would be failing in our duty if we did not press the Government on precisely what they mean by the kind words and gentle attitude they have expressed. Saga says that it is pleased that the Government probably-it underlines the word probably-want to be allowed to continue aged-based concessions and age limits on group holidays. I wish I could join Saga in the happy notion that this is actually what is going to happen.
I was interested to see the introductory speaking note on these amendments. Hearing that it was from the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, I immediately became very drawn to it because I trust her utterly in what she says, as I think we all do because we all share a great regard for her. I read the note very carefully and I cannot say that it gave me the assurance I am sure she means me to have. She means to make a positive, written-in and clarified point about this very complicated Bill. The note says:
"I am happy to confirm that marketing goods, facilities or services specifically to people who share a protected characteristic is lawful now and nothing in the Bill will prevent service providers from continuing to do it".
I cannot see any firm and clear statement that the law is going to say what will protect these holidays, and that is the crux of the matter. I trust the noble Baroness to the end. Perhaps she is not totally able to influence precisely the wording of the Bill, but I do not think businesses can function if there is a doubt. If there is a possibility that what they propose to do is not going to be within the law, they cannot make those offers. They can act only in accordance with the law, and what the law will say, if we pass it as it is clearly written before us, is that there is going to be a doubt as to whether these services will be able to continue.
Apparently, consultation is still going on and the Government do not doubt that the case is a good one. If so, why not make it clear beyond peradventure that these holidays and services will still be available when the legislation goes through? It is that which moves me to get to my feet. I do not want to prolong my speech because much of what I would have said, particularly about insurance, has already been said by my noble friend Lady Warsi. However, it is extremely important for us to give clear assurance to these people that their services may continue.
Baroness Coussins: My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, referred a couple of times to an amendment in my name, I should tell noble Lords that I have informed the Public Bill Office of my wish to withdraw it. However, it is clear that that information did not make it to the Marshalled List.
Baroness Greengross: My Lords, I declare an interest in that the founder of Saga and his son were both very good friends of mine and I worked closely with them. Having run Age Concern's insurance and travel services, I am jealous of the advertising that Saga has had this afternoon in your Lordships' House. We, too, had specialist services for people over 50, which still go on.
The purpose of the Bill is to make it illegal to discriminate in a harmful way against people in the protected categories or because of protected characteristics; it is not to get rid of the benefits. It we took the Bill to its logical conclusion, we could not have boy scouts, girl guides or youth holidays. We could not do all sorts of things that we take for granted and that are of benefit to our society, and bring together groups of people who have common interests. I think not only of state benefits but of all sorts of other activities which people enjoy and which are beneficial to society. The Bill is obviously not just about older people, although we all have a tremendous interest in making sure that older people do not lose out because of it. However, I feel strongly that that is not its intention. As a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, I would be very worried if it was going to try to enforce something which harmed older or younger people.
We have to distinguish between legitimate exceptions. An exception is legitimate if there are higher actuarial risks in a form of insurance. For example, if you are over 80 and go on holiday to the United States for over a month, the actuarial risks are demonstrated to be greater for certain categories of people than for others, and it is quite justifiable to charge more because of them. That is not the same as saying, "We will not insure you at all, because you have had a certain number of birthdays", or, "We will not allow you to have credit from a bank", or "We will not allow you, however good a driver you are, to hire a car". That is harmful discrimination. We are talking here about getting rid of that but keeping legitimate exceptions which mean that risk has to be paid for. Insurance and holiday companies are not charities but businesses, and they are legitimately able to charge to recover their costs and to cover their risks. We have to get that absolutely right in our minds, but make sure that benefits such as the Freedom Pass, cheaper hairdressing for older people on a certain day and TV licence benefits are not caught by the Bill.
I am really worried that people will need to be reassured, and I hope the Minister will reassure me that the guidance and the regulations will clarify the position so that we will not worry that older people, or indeed younger people, are to be less well catered for because of this Bill and that we will be certain that this Bill will improve their quality of life, because that is what we all want. I hope very much the Minister can reassure us completely so that the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, who always makes such a good case for older people, can be as reassured as I am that this Bill is going to do good things, not harmful things, to older people.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, for very many of the reasons that she and the noble Baronesses, Lady Warsi, spelled out. I am sorry
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It is very important that we get this clear in the right places. As my noble friend has said, the intentions of the Bill are one thing, but we need to make clear what is to happen. Club 18-30, Saga Holidays and others are concerned about this, and insurance companies do not want to have to quote for particular ages when other companies are more than happy to do so. Only a very few people experience any form of trouble in getting insurance cover, as we know from research that Oxera has done. If you are of a certain age and you apply for car insurance, you may be charged rather more not just if you are 18 but if you have got into trouble because of your driving. There are all sorts of areas such as this.
It is very important, however we make this clear-this is very much the point that has come out in speeches-that it is in regulations, and it must be somewhere where you can see quite clearly that it is possible to find the sort of insurance that is needed. I was talking to somebody of a very elderly age, way beyond even my ancient age, who told me they had been covered to drive to the particular place by Saga Holidays itself-by package insurance. When you think that it is possible to do that, no doubt on the basis of a good clean driving record, it shows how well this area is covered. But it must be made clear in regulations. I would prefer to have it in the Bill-if that cannot happen, it must be covered in regulations-that this is not just what is intended, but what will happen.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, perhaps to address the balance and to comfort the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, I should say that there are all these holidays for people between 18 and 30 and between 18 and possibly slightly older, and that not only Saga and Age Concern offer this. But that is not why I got to my feet. If one reads Clause 13(1) with more care, as I did earlier, I think almost everything is potentially illegal.
Technically, that would include the Boy Scouts, for instance. What worries me about the suggestion of regulations, which is clearly infinitely preferable to guidance, is whether the regulation will derogate from the primary legislation. Would the regulation be ultra vires the Act? Does one have to have some degree of exceptions in the primary legislation? I do not know the answer to this, and I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Lester, necessarily has the answer either-even if he thinks that he has.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: I am sure that I do not have the answer to satisfy the noble Baroness. The problem is that if she reads only Clause 13, she does not read what is really important here-the detailed
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Baroness Butler-Sloss: I have not yet found the power to do this by regulation in the Bill, although I am sure that it is there. The trouble is that it is such a long Bill that I have not found it. However, if it does require, among other things, to have the power to make regulations, I should be a great deal comforted about the ultra vires issue.
Baroness Thornton: I thank the noble Baroness-that is very helpful. I am sure that the whole House is looking forward to the holiday snaps of the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, and my noble friend Lord Davies, as a result of this debate. In responding to Amendment 22, I shall also respond to Amendments 126, 129 and 129A. I shall refer to Clause 195, but I know that we will discuss the powers in it when we reach that point in the Bill. I hope that I can also reassure all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate about the Government's intention and that the Bill gives us the powers and exceptions to do what I think will make everybody content.
Amendment 22 is about targeted marketing. I am happy to confirm that marketing goods, facilities or services specifically to people who share a protected characteristic is lawful now, and nothing in the Bill will prevent service providers from continuing to do it. Amendment 126, in the name of the noble Baronesses, Lady Warsi and Lady Morris, would write into the Bill exceptions from the ban on age discrimination for age-based holidays, financial services products for particular age groups and, where evidence-based, insurance. This issue was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and my noble friend Lord Davies, and I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, is concerned about it too. My noble friend Lady Royall was then able to offer some reassurance, including saying that the future of Saga holidays was secure. I am grateful for the opportunity to expand on that here today. I hope that sharing some of my thoughts with the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, will reassure her. I am adding to my note so I hope that I can give her further reassurance that we are absolutely clear that we will deal with her concerns and with others that have been expressed.
Outlawing age discrimination has always been about eliminating inferior treatment and exclusion from services open to the majority, simply because age. The legitimate use of age for the provision of benefits and activities for particular age groups is not the target. I pay tribute here to the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross; there is no doubt that she is responsible, through her work over many years, for the progress that has been made against age discrimination. I welcome her remarks. We have consulted on the issue of the legitimate use of age
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On a start date, this would mean that the ban on age discrimination outside the workplace would come into force in 2012 across the board. It is our intention that the exceptions-which will be in an order, which I will come back to-will come into force on the same date. I will expand on that in a moment. We proposed this for financial and other services and were waiting for the National Review of Age Discrimination in Health and Social Care to report on a sensible implementation date for those sectors. The report of that review recommended 2012 for those services too, and in launching it my right honourable friend Andy Burnham indicated that he was minded to accept our recommendation on this.
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