[Mr. Roger Gale in the Chair] — Pensioner Poverty

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 23rd February 2010.

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Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs) 9:30 am, 23rd February 2010

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's intervention. Part of the problem with the current legislation is that it does not apply to older workers. I agree that often older workers in the workplace are undervalued. A more flexible approach to retirement could benefit older workers and employers. By retaining older people in work, perhaps on a part-time basis and on a sliding scale towards retirement so that they are not facing a cliff edge, employers will ensure that skills and experience are passed on to younger workers.

In its fifth report, the Work and Pensions Committee was pretty damning of the default retirement age, describing it as "discriminatory and unnecessary" and stated that the Committee looked forward to its being abolished. It is still legal to force a worker aged 65 to retire against his or her will purely on the basis of age. It is similarly legal to refuse employment on the same grounds. It is outrageous that only a third of people retire voluntarily, while the rest face an often depressing end to a life of valuable contributions to this country. The anger felt over such a policy is reflected in the fact that almost nine out of 10 people over 50 think that the default retirement age is unfair.

I ask the Minister to consider changing the draconian and wholly unfair law on older people's right to work. The Equality Bill could be a good vehicle to do that, but given the current discussions, it looks like the Government do not plan to take that step.