HC Deb 14 June 1967 vol 748 cc477-9

10.22 a.m.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts (Bedfordshire, South)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the National Insurance Act 1965 by reducing the pensionable age for men to sixty. The provisions of my proposed Bill are simple, and I can state them briefly. They reduce the pensionable age for men to 60. This would mean that a man could either retire at this age, on pension, or, if he wished, could obtain additions to his pension by going on working until he eventually retired.

I shall remain true to my racialist and religious background by developing my case under three heads. The first is to point out the anomaly which at present exists between men and women. Women already qualify for pension at 60, although from 1925 to 1940 both sexes obtained a pension at the same age. It is rather surprising that pensions should be given to women earlier than to men when one considers the devastating fact that at 60 the life expectancy of a woman is about four years in excess of that for a man.

The pensionable age for men is 60 in many countries. Without going into a great deal of detail, I will merely say that in France, Italy, Hungary, Japan, Turkey and the Soviet Union the pensionable age is 60, while in Yugoslavia it is only 55. In many of these countries the qualifying age for men is the same as for women. But that is only the first of my arguments.

The second is that if we believe in technical change—in a computer revolution—the whole aim of a change of the type I propose is to make life easier for our fellow human beings; in other words, to make their working week and working lives a little shorter Our aim in the long-term, if not in the short-term, should be towards earlier retirement. It can be argued that in the short-term this is not an easy object to achieve and that at present people are tending to work well beyond the age of 60, and even beyond 65. Nevertheless, changes in this pattern will have to be made; and I will develop this theme on 26th June when I will put a Parliamentary Question to the Minister of Social Security asking her to allow men to continue working after the present pensionable age and still draw their full pension. This Measure does not force men to retire at 60. It merely gives them the alternative of doing so.

My third argument is a humanitarian one. It is that there is already great need for a Measure of this kind. The figures show that a great many people are being forced to retire between the ages of 60 and 65. The Census of 1961 showed that of people already retired, 128,000 were under 65 while only 41,000 were under 60. This means that about 80,000 were compelled to retire between the ages of 60 and 65. I have received many hundreds of letters from people who have been forced to retire due to ill-health when aged about 60. It is often cynically suggested nowadays that young people think only of themselves. I assure the House that many of them have written to me asking for this alteration to be made on behalf of the elderly.

At Mosley Colliery, workers were offered early retirement. They could retire at 60, and it was found that the great majority of them, as long as they knew that they would have ample or substantial provision made for their later years, chose to retire at the earlier age.

The only argument that can possibly be made against my proposal is on the grounds of cost. If the Minister does not feel inclined to implement the whole of my Bill, I hope that she will agree to cater urgently for those who are obliged to retire at the age of 60 because of ill-health or people who are forced to go on working and, by so doing, make an early grave for themselves. When considering the question of cost one must consider whether there should be a limit on expenditure on the social services. In some cases there must obviously be a physical limit, such as for education, where one is limited by the number of schools and teachers available. Similarly with the medical services. However, in this case the only limit is that of political intent. It has often been said that if we can spend £2,000 million on arms we can afford anything. Many of my hon. Friends would suggest that the money we spend on Polaris should be used for other purposes.

From the point of view of the social services, our national problem is not a shortage of resources but the redeployment of the resources we have in the interests of social welfare. It is in this spirit that I introduce my Motion.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gwilym Roberts.