HC Deb 11 March 1975 vol 888 cc285-9

4.15 p.m.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts (Cannock)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Social Security Act 1973 by reducing to sixty the age at which men become entitled to payment of retirement pension.

It is no joy for me to have to introduce again this Bill which seeks to promote basic equality between the sexes by reducing the pensionable age of men. I had hoped that the Government's new pension proposals, to which they refer as being the basis of a pension pattern which could be with us for 20 or 30 years, would include some provision for a more realistic pensionable age which would have made the introduction of this Bill completely unnecessary.

I appreciate that this Bill has no chance whatsoever of finding its way on to the statute book but I feel that it is important to try to persuade the Government, even at this late stage, to take some steps or to make some commitment, even if it is a long-term commitment, in this direction.

The Bill is not designed merely to reduce the pensionable age of men to 60 and to leave it at that. Apart from anything else, the cost of such a move would be prohibitive. The Secretary of State estimates that the cost would be about £1,440 million, although the actual figure is arguable. It depends on the take-up— the proportion of men retiring at 60— though I admit that it would undoubtedly involve a very large sum of money.

What I propose is merely that a common pensionable basic age should be established for both men and women at 60, coupled with a retirement range between 60 and 70, so that a man or a woman could choose to retire at any point within this range at the pension level appropriate to the age of retirement. This arrangement would combine the best of both worlds. On the one hand, it would cater for the men and women who want to retire at 60, 61 or 62.

Since I have been involved in this matter of equating pensionable ages and producing a more flexible system, I have received well over 2,000 letters on this issue, many from young people and from trade unions, but the great bulk, of course, from men and their wives in the mining, quarrying and steel industries who feel that at about 60 they have contributed enough to the national output and that they wish to retire.

Of course, 60 is not a particularly early age for retirement. In many other countries 60 is already a base retiring age, and in one or two countries it is as low as 55. This system would not only have advantage for those who wish to retire early. It would also provide an incentive for men and women who want to continue working. They would be able to retire at 66, 67, 68, 69 or 70 with a considerably higher pension. This could affect the whole of the take-up and retirement pattern, and, in fact, in the end would not only provide a situation in which the cost would be nil but could provide an additional source of manpower which would be highly desirable.

We who have considered the manpower situation realise that we are an ageing society. Thirty years ago there were six times as many people working as there were in retirement. Now I am told the ratio is 3½ to one. At some time very near to the year 2000 there will be as many people in retirement in this country as those who are working. It is, therefore, desirable from that point of view to introduce a system in which there is an incentive for those who want to continue working as well as for those who wish to retire.

The obvious argument is the actuarial one. The present system is actuarial nonsense. A woman retires at 60 with an expectation of life of 20 years. A man retires at 65 with an expectation of life of 12 years. This means that a woman will receive at least £13,900 in pension, whereas a man will receive about £8,500. although a woman will have paid about £100 less into the scheme if she has been in it since 1948. This is actuarial nonsense.

The only attempt to justify this was in the Richard Crossman appendix. Many of my colleagues who are still in the actuarial world believe this to be nonsense. That appendix is meaningless to them.

There are great humanitarian arguments for my Bill. There are also the basic arguments for equality between the sexes. I am convinced that the Government are anxious to make some move towards flexibility and equality between the sexes. I only hope that the introduction of the Bill will play a small part in helping the Government to find a way. There is no time more apt, perhaps, than the present for this basic step towards equality. After all, this is International Women's Year. I have great sympathy with women all over the world who are staking their claims to equality. It must be remembered that sexual equality, like sex itself, is essentially a two-way process.

4.42 p.m.

Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)

I rise to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposing the Bill?

Sir D. Renton

I am opposing the Bill, Mr. Speaker. I do so because I consider that it is ill-founded, unsupportable and quite unacceptable.

The hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) said that he wished the matter to be given long-term consideration, but I suggest to the House that with every year that passes the case for the Bill is likely to be weakened, because men are taking more care of themselves, they are being better treated, they are living longer, and they are remaining more active.

Men and women have it in common that they are all as old as their hearts and their arteries. There are old young men and there are young old men. It is in the national interest that we should not raise false hopes of idleness in late middle age. The House should make it abundantly clear that we hone that men will go on living longer and living more and more active lives as they get older.

An hon. Member put forward such a weak case that I hope that the House will reject it. I do not think it is necessary for me to labour the matter further.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 137, Noes 106.

Division No. 140.] AYES [4.23 p.m.
Allaun, Frank Cunningham, Dr J. (Whlteh) Grant, George (Morpeth)
Anderson, Donald Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Bain, Mrs Margaret Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Beith, A. J. Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Hardy, Peter
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Dempsey, James Hatton, Frank
Blenkinsop, Arthur Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Hayman, Mrs Helene
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Henderson, Douglas
Bradley, Tom Evans, loan (Aberdare) Hooley, Frank
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Evans, John (Newton) Huckfield, Les
Canavan, Dennis Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Carmlchael, Neil Faulds, Andrew Hunter, Adam
Carter, Ray Fernyhough, Rt Hon E Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)
Cartwright, John Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Janner, Greville
Clemitson. Ivor Flannery, Martin Jeger, Mrs Lena
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Cohen, Stanley Fletcher Ted (Darlington) Kaufman, Gerald
Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen Forrester, John Kelley, Richard
Conlan, Bernard Freud, Clement Kilfedder, James
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Kinnock, Nell
Cronin, John George, Bruce Lamble, David
Cryer, Bob Graham, Ted Lamond, James
Lee, John Radice, Giles Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Reid, George Tierney, Sydney
Lipton, Marcus Richardson, Miss Jo Torney, Tom
Litterick, Tom Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Urwin, T. W.
Loyden, Eddie Roderick, Caerwyn Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
McCartney, Hugh Rodgers, George (Chorley) Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
McNamara, Kevin Rooker, J. W. Ward, Michael
Madden, Max Roper, John Watkins, David
Magee. Bryan Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Watt, Hamish
Mahon, Simon Sandelson, Neville Weetch, Ken
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Sedgemore, Brian Weitzman, David
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Selby, Harry Welsh, Andrew
Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Silverman, Julius Whitehead, Phillip
Newens, Stanley Skinner, Dennis Whitlock, William
Noble, Mike Smith, Cyril (Rochdale) Wigley, Dafydd
Oakes, Gordon Snape, Peter Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
O'Halloran, Michael Spriggs, Leslie Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Stallard, A. W. Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Palmer, Arthur Steel, David (Roxburgh) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Pardoe, John Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Park, George Stott, Roger Young, David (Bolton E)
Pavitt, Laurie Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Pendry, Tom Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Penhaligon, David Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Mr. Michael English and
Price, C. (Lewisham W) Thompson. George Mrs. Ann Taylor.
Alison, Michael Goodhart, Philip Nelson, Anthony
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Goodhew, Victor Onslow, Cranley
Arnold, Tom Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Page, John (Harrow West)
Bell, Ronald Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Bitten, John Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Peyton, Rt Hon John
Biggs-Davison, John Harvle Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Pym, Rt Hon Francis
Blaker, Peter Havers, Sir Michael Raison, Timothy
Brittan, Leon Hayhoe, Barney Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Brotherton, Michael Howe, Rt Hn Sir Geoffrey Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Burden, F. A. Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Carlisle, Mark James, David Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Channon, Paul Jessel, Toby Rost, Petar (SE Derbyshire)
Churchill, W. S. Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Sainsbury, Tim
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Jopling, Michael Shelton, William (Streatham)
Clark, William (Croydon S) Kershaw, Anthony Shersby, Michael
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) King, Tom (Bridgwater) Silvester, Fred
Cope, John Knight, Mrs Jill Speed, Keith
Costain, A. P. Lane, David Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutstord) Lawrence, Ivan Sproat, lain
Durant, Tony Le Marchant, Spencer Stanbrook, Ivor
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Loveridge, John Stanley, John
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) McAdden, Sir Stephen Stradling Thomas, J.
Elliott, Sir William Macfariane, Nell Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Fairbairn, Nicholas MacGregor, John Townsend, Cyril D.
Fairgrieve, Russell Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Wall, Patrick
Farr, John Mates, Michael Walters, Dennis
Finsberg, Geoffrey Mather, Carol Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Fisher, Sir Nigel Mawby, Ray Wiggin, Jerry
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Mayhew, Patrick Winterton, Nicholas
Fookes, Miss Janet Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Fox, Marcus Monro, Hector Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Montgomery, Fergus Younger, Hon George
Fry, Peter Moore, John (Croydon C)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) More, Jasper (Ludlow) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Mr. Percy Grieve and
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Mr. Patrick Cormack.
Glyn, Dr Alan Neave, Airey

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gwilym Roberts, Mrs. Joyce Butler, Mrs. Maureen Colquhoun, Mrs. Lena Jeger, Mrs. Millie Miller, Miss Jo Richardson, Mrs. Ann Taylor, and Mrs. Audrey Wise.