Work Force Skills

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 29th November 2007.

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Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle The Exchequer Secretary, Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee 10:30 am, 29th November 2007

We started from a lower base after 18 wasted Conservative years, which saw apprenticeships all but destroyed, massive youth unemployment and an entire generation condemned to the scrap heap. We have made great progress in the last 10 years, and we intend to make even more in the next three.

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Joyce Glasser
Posted on 1 Dec 2007 2:41 am (Report this annotation)

Parliamentary Sec. at HM Treasury, Angela Eagle, talks of the massive youth unemployment that Labour's apprenticeship schemes reduced. Ms Eagle then refers to a whole generation on the scrap heap under the Tories -- who are presumably no longer on the scrap head under Labour -- and then asks her opponent for her views on ageism in the workplace.

The Labour party cannot take the moral high ground on this one. I would ask Mr Eagle for her views on ageism in the workplace -- and in the provision of goods and services for that matter, where Labour failed to legislate and massive inequalities persist. Without the EU DIRECTIVE on employment equality we would never have had the age legislation. We waited six years from the publication of the EU Directive to implement the age legislation; if the UK had waited any longer, we would have been fined.

Under Labour there have never been any apprenticeships for older workers -- the billions of pounds spent were spent on those under 25. The older workers went untrained and remain untrained. Wasn't it Tony Blair who came into office proclaiming that he wanted to make Britain young again? And he did. Thousands of businesses do not employ anyone over 55? What is the percentage of employees at the Treasury who are over 60? Ms Eagle might point to the statistics showing older people re-entering the workforce. Most do so out of economic necessity given the high cost of living, the tax of pensions, stealth taxes and the low state pension. And older people are taking menial jobs, earning far less than the young people they now compete with for an increasing number of low paid jobs in service industries.

Labour's former Secretary of State at the DTI, Patricia Hewitt, ensured that older workers continue to be tossed on the scrap head even with the EU legislation enshrined in the Employment Equality Age Regulations 2006. Against all the evidence and public consultations, she approved the CBI's idea of having a National Default Retirement Age of 65, the most discriminatory policy imaginable. Now all men and women at work who turn 65 can be forced into what is called "retirement" by a simple statutory procedure. The Employer decides; the employee has no choice and no recourse in law. The scrap head might have edged up a couple of years, but so has longevity. Meanwhile, the number of people with decent occupational pensions is declining, the state pension is declining in relation to the cost of living, our care homes are substandard, nursing homes are closing, older people are being evicted from their homes and elder abuse is rampant.

The Tories' record on age discrimination was pretty bad, but Ms Eagle has nothing to boast about. The three major tenets of the UK's Age Regulations are currently up before the European Court of Human Rights: where they belong.