HC Deb 11 November 1971 vol 825 cc1199-201
1. Mr. Carter

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what is the latest unemployment figure for the 55-and-over age category.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Dudley Smith)

At 12th July, the latest date for which in-formation is available, 168,464 people aged 55 years and over were registered as wholly unemployed in Great Britain.

Mr. Carter

That figure represents one in four of all unemployed. Does the hon. Gentleman realise that, if we take the numbers of unemployed who have been out of work for a year or more, 52 per cent. of these people fall into the 55-and-over category, and, further, a large number, possibly even the majority, of these people will never have employment again? Will the hon. Gentleman, therefore, consider taking action which would restrain —[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."] This is a serious matter. Will the Under-Secretary of State consider taking action which would restrain employers from making redundant people who are 55 years of age and older ; and, second—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—will he consider—

Mr. Speaker

Order. There is enough for the Minister to answer now.

Mr. Smith

It is true that people in the older category are more numerous, but, despite the general increase in unemployment throughout the country, older workers have not fared noticeably worse than other sections of the community. My Department always does whatever it can to persuade employers not to discharge older workers and to engage older workers where at all possible.

Mr. John Page

Is the Manpower Research Unit in my hon. Friend's Department particularly investigating the problem of people 55 years of age and over?

Mr. Smith

Yes, Sir; this is one of the problems of our times, and we are looking at it in considerable depth.

Mr. Sillars

Will the hon. Gentleman look at the problem of miners of 55 and over who were made redundant several years ago? This is an acute problem. Will the hon. Gentleman consider having a special inquiry into their difficulties?

Mr. Smith

I do not know that a special inquiry would solve deep-rooted problems of this kind, but we are aware of the very difficult situation of the older miner. Fortunately, as the hon. Gentle-man knows, there are schemes to help people in that situation. However, I do not think that one should ever give up hope that one will be able to find employment for those who are quite senior in age.

Mr. Speaker

Order. May I make the position of the Chair clear in the matter of supplementary questions? I did some-what curtail the supplementary question being asked by the hon. Member for Northfield (Mr. Carter), but I did so only in the interest of other hon. Members who have later Questions. It would be much easier for the Chair to allow supplementary questions almost ad infinitum in each case, but I have to consider other hon. Members who wish to ask Questions. That was the only reason why I intervened.

Mr. Carter

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.

22. Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will seek to introduce, for a limited time, an employment premium to employers in respect of redundant men, over the age of 45 years, whom they re-employ when jobs become available.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Howell)

As my hon. Friend will know, a scheme has been introduced in assisted areas to help those who are over 45 to find training. When we see how this is working, we may consider extending the scheme to other areas.

Mrs. Oppenheim

Will my hon. Friend agree that, as these men form a substantial part of the hard-core, long-term unemployed who may never be employed again, they should be treated as a priority group throughout the country and not just in the development areas and that encouragement should be given to employers to employ them when they can, especially as many Government training centres say that they retrain faster than younger men and make more stable employees?

Mr. Howell

I accept my hon. Friend's last point, and I accept that this is a very serious problem. We are watching the situation in the light of the experiment in the assisted areas.

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