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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 17:31 GMT
MP challenges Guides' age policy
Girl Guides
The Guide Association has a strict retirement policy
An MP who supports flexible working ages has called on the Guide Association to change its strict retirement policy.

Andrew Selous has written to the organisation asking if they will allow a Brownie leader to stay on past her 65th birthday.

Ann Mitchell runs the 1st Studham Brownies in Bedfordshire but is being forced to retire on her birthday in June.

No new leader has been found and despite Mrs Mitchell's keeness to carry on, Guide rules could mean the pack will have to close down.

We force people to retire at 65 whether they want to or not

Andrew Selous, MP

Mr Selous has written to the movement, which began in 1910, asking it to change its policy and allow Mrs Mitchell to stay on.

He told BBC News Online: "I feel very strongly that we have tremendous age discrimination in this country.

"We force people to retire at 65 whether they want to or not.

"I just think that it is extremely wrong.

"There is no reason that individuals could not be assessed as to their suitability on a yearly basis."

No choice

The Studham Brownie pack currently has 24 members from Studham, Dunstable and Whipsnade.

Mrs Mitchell told BBC News Online she wants to carry on.

I will be really, really upset to see it close

Ann Mitchell
"I would have continued, I'm not leaving through my own choice, I'm leaving because of the rules.

"I have always known about it, it is not a shock. My priority is to find another leader to continue the pack.

"But to find leaders is a nightmare, I don't know how we will do it.

"If there is no replacement it will close. For what I put into it I will be really, really upset to see it close."

A spokeswoman for the Guide Association said Mrs Mitchell will not be allowed to continue.

"There is nothing the Guide movement will do about that.

"It is sad in one way but a good thing in others.

"We do our best to find volunteers but when it comes to a village like Studham there is even less people to call upon."

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