HC Deb 13 April 1976 vol 909 cc1124-6
4. Mr. Walter Johnson

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what representations he has received from the TUC concerning the lowering of the retirement age for men employed in the heavy engineering industry.

Mr. John Fraser

None, Sir.

Mr. Johnson

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are thousands of men over 60 in the heavy engineering industry who are doing jobs beyond their physical capacity, thus causing breakdowns in health, early retirements, and sometimes early deaths? Will the Government devise a scheme to enable men over 60 years of age to retire before the normal retiring age of 65, on full pension, subject to medical control and examination?

Mr. Fraser

I must tell my hon. Friend that early retirement on the State pension is primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. Apart from that, the age of retirement for various groups of workers is usually a matter for negotiation in the firms or industries to which they belong. I have not received any representations from trade unions on this matter.

Mr. Marten

As many employees over 60 who are made redundant are unlikely to get other jobs, what would be the difference in cost between such persons drawing unemployment pay or social security benefit, on the one hand, and retirement pay, on the other, at the age of 60 or above?

Mr. Fraser

On the hon. Gentleman's premise, I think that the difference would be fairly small. I have considered this problem. It is not an easy matter, by any means. It is primarily a matter for another Department. It is not easy to devise a scheme that does not have economically damaging side effects.

Mr. Greville Janner

Will my hon. Friend at least consult the Secretary of State for Social Services to ascertain whether some scheme can be evolved which will mean that people who are over 60 and unfit will be entitled to retire early?

Mr. Fraser

I understand that some such arrangement is at present available, but that sort of question must be addressed primarily to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

16. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will take steps to enable men employed in his Department to retire on pension at the same age as women.

Mr. John Fraser

All officers employed by my Department are covered by the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme or similar schemes, which do not differentiate for pension purposes between men and women.

Mr. Janner

Does my hon. Friend agree that if that same excellent principle were applied throughout the employment areas and not merely in the Civil Service, about 750,000 jobs would become available, because older people would leave them and younger people would be able to take their places?

Mr. Fraser

It does not necessarily follow that because retirement is encouraged young people will take the place of those who have retired. Secondly, it is a matter of great expense if it is done by way of the State pension scheme. Thirdly, if it is an occupational pension scheme, it is a matter for negotiation, not direction.

Sir John Hall

Does the Minister agree that in view of the greater life expectancy of women, especially married women, there is a case for arranging for the retirement of women at the same age as men, and not earlier?

Mr. Fraser

It is undeniable that there are discrepancies and discrimination in the arrangements as between men and women, but in terms of the State pension scheme that is not a matter for which I have to answer; it is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Services.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Does my hon. Friend agree that although the cost of an immediate reduction of the pension age of men to 60 may be prohibitive there is an overwhelming case for a Government scheme to reduce the pensionable age of men to 60 over a period of 10 years? Does he accept that there may also be a case for the selective introduction of retirement at 60 in certain areas now?

Mr. Fraser

A case can be made out for selective treatment. It has been done in the past, usually by selective redundancy schemes in the docks and elsewhere rather than by means of a retirement scheme.

Mr. Marten

Does the Minister know how many of today's unemployed are over the age of 60?

Mr. Fraser

I cannot give the number without notice, but it is true that unemployment is disproportionately high in the over-55 age group. Not so long ago we were looking at the resources of skilled manpower and trying to fill places by bringing extra manpower into the market. The House voted for a relaxation in the retirement earnings rule, so that people could go back to work. It is not right to seek a short-term solution to the problem.

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