HC Deb 09 March 1970 vol 797 cc887-8
7. Mr. Brooks

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what percentage of the total population of Great Britain forecast in 1980 he estimates to be unproductive; what proportion of this unproductive sector will be retirement pensioners; what percentage of the total working population will be aged 16 to 25, 26 to 35, 36 to 45, 46 to 55 and 56 to 65 years, respectively; and whether he will now introduce legislation to permit individuals to work as long as they are able and willing.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Security (Mr. Brian O'Malley)

In 1980 between 55 per cent. and 60 per cent. of the total population of Great Britain are currently expected to have no earnings, or earnings of not more than about £2 a week. About one quarter of these will be retirement pensioners. Among those with earnings it is estimated that the percentages for the age groups mentioned will be about 22 per cent., 22 per cent., 20 per cent., 20 per cent., and 15 per cent., respectively.

As to the last part of the Question, there is no need for legislation, because there is nothing in the social security scheme to stop those who are able and willing from continuing to work as long as they like.

Mr. Brooks

Would my hon. Friend confirm that there are certain deterrents to people working beyond minimum pensionable age, not least in the provision of unemployment and sickness benefits? As well over one-fifth of the whole population above school-leaving age will be above minimum pension age by 1980, is not the time coming when a Royal Commission might look into this problem of retirement activities?

Mr. O'Malley

It is true that men working over the age of 65 do not receive earnings-related supplement to sickness or unemployment benefit, but my hon. Friend will have noted that as a result of the Government's new scheme the sharp distinction between earnings-related sickness benefit and the retirement pension will be narrowed very much. But this is an important subject, and I take my hon. Friend's point.

Mr. Dean

Dealing with the aspect of older people, does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a strong case for improving the earnings rule and the increments to encourage people who wish to go on working after the normal retirement age to do so?

Mr. O'Malley

The hon. Gentleman will know that the amount which can be earned under the earnings rule was increased only a few months ago. He will also know that concerning the increments elderly pensioners will be far better off under the new pension scheme which we are proposing than they are at the moment.