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Thursday, 12 July, 2001, 11:45 GMT 12:45 UK
Ageism watchdog proposed
Elderly lady in garden
The elderly may get a new equality watchdog
Discrimination against the elderly is to be targeted as the government gives its backing to the creation of an age equality watchdog.

The watchdog was proposed by Labour backbench MP Candy Atherton, who says ministers have given their approval to her proposal to put forward a private members' bill on the issue.

An Age Equality Commission would lobby and advise ministers where elderly people are discriminated against in the working world and for goods and services. .

Candy Atherton
Candy Atherton: Discrimination exists in employment and commerce
Speaking at a news conference in the House of Commons, Ms Atherton said old people were charged more for services such as travel, insurance and car hire.

They were also often turned down for voluntary work as well as paid jobs.

The commission she proposes would complement planned government legislation barring any form of discrimination and has been welcomed by the Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

The problem was brought home to her during the foot-and-mouth crisis, the Falmouth & Camborne MP said, when vets over 70 who volunteered to help deal with the disaster were rejected by the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

When ministers later intervened, their help was eventually accepted but she found it "breathtaking that vets were excluded in the first place on the grounds of age".

Because the bill has government backing, it is likely to pass the Common. But Ms Atherton said it still faced a threat from the Conservative MP for Bromley & Chislehurst, Eric Forth, whom she said was likely to lead opposition to the measure.

"I would urge the good folk of Bromley to contact their MP and ask him to take in to account their needs," she said.

The bill would get its second reading around October, Ms Atherton added.

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See also:

03 Nov 00 | Health
NHS appoints anti-ageism czar
14 Jun 99 | The Economy
Bringing down the age barriers
14 Feb 01 | UK
Retirement ages set to go
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