Old and young now have same rights
The headlines have been full recently with the news of a new law against age discrimination, which has come into force this month, and it is a matter of great personal pride to me, because...
The headlines have been full recently with the news of a new law against age discrimination, which has come into force this month, and it is a matter of great personal pride to me, because what the national papers haven't pointed out is that this new UK law stems from the European Parliament and I was one of the leading MEPs who guided it through the Parliament.
Quite rightly people are protected in law from being treated unfairly because of their sex, race or disability. Yet this is the first time that older and younger people have been given the same rights.
If you think age discrimination is not a real problem just think that close to half of young workers say they've been held back at work because of their age, and the challenge at the other end of the age ladder is even bigger when you think that one-in-three of our workers will be over fifty in fifteen years time.
What this law will do is give everyone a fair chance at work, dependent only on their skills and ability, and regardless of a person's age.
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In the European Parliament this week I was pleased to vote to back further improvements for the protection of animals. I work with the Animal Welfare Group of MEPs and my postbag is always full of local people highlighting issues of concern on animal rights, whether it be the cruel practice of seal clubbing in Canada or protection of the migrating birds in Greece, raised with me recently by an Essex constituent.
Europe is leading higher animal welfare standards and pressing each EU country to come up to scratch, it seems that we still have work to do when the vote included a call for an absolute end to dog, bull and cock fighting, a measure which I am sure readers will agree is long overdue.
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I am delighted also to be speaking to inaugurate the East of England Cooperative Party in Ipswich that will see the merging of Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk individual groups. The Coop stands for fair trade, for ethical business and for people having a say in the running of their communities and the new merged East of England Co-op Society party will be even stronger in pressing these aims.
Finally to close on a personal note, I was pleased to support a lobby from anti-tobacco groups, which showed that the smoking ban in public places already agreed in Ireland and Italy, and planned for Britain, is currently due to be introduced in half of all European countries.
My own mother died from emphysema after a lifetime of heavy smoking, which was common to her generation.
I hope bans will be expedited across the rest of Europe, together with help for smokers to quit, so that future generations are not blighted by this deadly habit.
Richard Howitt MEP is Labour Euro MP for the East of England.