PN220904G

EMBARGOED UNTIL

00.01 WEDNESDAY 22 SEPTEMBER 2004

WOMEN DRIVERS SHOULDN'T PAY MORE FOR MOTOR INSURANCE FOR SAKE OF SEX EQUALITY, SAY LORDS

EU COMMISSION ALSO NEEDS TO RETHINK IMPACT ON LIFE ASSURANCE, PENSIONS AND ANNUITIES

A House of Lords EU Committee Report, published today, calls on the European Commission to rethink details of proposals designed to extend gender equality legislation to trade in goods and services. The Commission wants to ban the use of gender in assessing premiums and benefits for insurance, pensions, annuities and similar financial transactions.

The Report says it would be wrong to penalize younger female drivers just for the sake of removing sex differentiation when younger males have far worse accident, claims and convictions records.

But insurance companies must justify the use of gender as a criterion. Independent monitoring should safeguard consumers' interests.

Gender may still be used for the time being in calculating life assurance and annuity premiums and benefits. But the European Commission must do more independent research on longevity and the relevance of gender.

The Chairman of the Inquiry, Lord Williamson of Horton, said:

"The Commission need to do more work to see where the balance of advantage lies for European consumers. As they stand, the proposals will lead to anomalies and inconsistencies."

"In time, gender can and should be taken out of most calculations for car insurance premiums. But when companies set premiums for newly-qualified drivers with no track record, gender matters."

"Britain is the biggest annuity market in the EU, and the only one where annuitisation is compulsory for some pensioners. The special characteristics of the UK annuity market must be taken into account. Many women who depend on the annuities of male breadwinners stand to lose out."

The Committee also recommends:

  • The Directive will not solve the problem of inadequate female pensions. Other ways will have to be found to give women more equitable retirement income

  • Insurers should explain the basis on which actuarial decisions are made in readily understandable, non-technical terms

  • People who let out rooms in private accommodation (especially where facilities are shared) should still be able to stipulate the sex of tenants or lodgers.

The Committee publish their Report in time for the Employment Council meeting in Brussels on 4 October, when EU Ministers are due to discuss the draft Directive. They have also recommended a debate on it in the Lords.

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1. The inquiry was conducted by Sub-Committee G (Social Policy and Consumer Affairs) of the European Union Select Committee.

The Sub-Committee is chaired by Lord Williamson of Horton who was Secretary-General of the European Commission from 1987 to 1997.

 The other  members of the Sub-Committee are:

Lord Colwyn

The Earl of Dundee

Baroness Greengross

Lord Harrison

Baroness Howarth of Breckland

Lord Howie of Troon

Baroness Massey of Darwen

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood

2. The report is published by The Stationery Office: Sexual Equality in Access to Goods and Services, House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union, 27th Report, Session 2003−04, HL Paper 165, ISBN 010 400528 9, price £13.50. The full text of the report will be available on the internet via www.parliament.uk shortly after publication.

3. Home Office statistics quoted in the Report show that males consistently committed over 85% of serious motoring offences, including 97% for dangerous driving and over 94% for causing death or bodily harm.

4. The relevant Commission draft Directive is Commission Document 14812/03 SOC 469 MI 283 SURE 24, 14 November 2003.

For copies of the report please contact:

  • Melanie Moore, Committee Secretary on 020 7219 3376. 

For requests for interviews please contact:

  • Gordon Baker, Clerk to Sub-Committee G, on 020 7219 6635      

 [ENDS]