Insurance brokers join in Equality Bill concern

Insurance brokers are asking for exemptions in the Equality Bill so firms can maintain customer age-restrictions.

The Bill will make new age-specific insurance policies unlawful but existing policies will be unaffected.

However, insurers say their businesses will be adversely affected and argue that fairness can be achieved in other ways.

They are the latest businessmen to warn of the impact they could face if the Equality Bill becomes law.

The Association of Convenience Stores, the British Chambers of Commerce and the Confederation of British Industry have all raised concerns in recent months. So has the Royal College of Nursing.

The Government has also heard from religious groups who fear that several new proposals in the Bill could restrict their freedoms.

Under the current law, religious groups can restrict certain posts to Christians whose private conduct is consistent with the Bible’s teaching on sexual ethics. These posts must be for the purposes of organised religion, which could include jobs like a youth worker.

But under the Equality Bill the Government is specifying that this protection can only apply to posts that mainly involve leading worship or explaining doctrine.

The Bill’s explanatory notes make it clear that this protection “would not apply to a requirement that a church youth worker or accountant be heterosexual”.

Solicitor General Vera Baird has called the existing exemptions for churches ‘a licence to discriminate’ and says they should be kept “as narrow as possible”.

Neil Addison, head of the Thomas More Legal Centre, believes the plans epitomise the failure of the Government to “respect the right of religious organisations to defend their own identity and to preserve their own integrity”.

Writing in The Catholic Herald this weekend, he argued: “Nearly every form of discrimination is banned even for private associations and churches.

“Or, to put it another way, they are to lose the right to choose.”

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