HC Deb 04 November 1980 vol 991 cc1082-3
5. Mr. Hicks

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he now has any proposals to extend the job release scheme to include males in the 62 to 64 years of age group; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Jim Lester

A decision about the future of the job release scheme will be made as part of the review of the special employment and training measures which is now in progress. Decisions will be announced as soon as possible before 5 April 1981 when the present schemes are due to end.

Mr. Hicks

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, in the view of his Department, the job release scheme was very cost-effective as well as being socially desirable? Would he not agree that in areas such as Cornwall, where the average age of people in work tend to be high, by further extending this scheme he could be making a major attempt to alleviate local unemployment?

Mr. Lester

Yes. I can confirm that we believe that it is a very cost-effective scheme. We regretted the change that we had to make which arose first and foremost because the previous Government made the change in an election year and provided no money for that change, and, secondly, because legislation was required to deal with the tax point. As my hon. Friend knows, we protected the position of the disabled by retaining the age of 60. We shall bear his points in mind.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts

Will the hon. Gentleman take the proposition more seriously? Will he not accept that there is a particularly high level of unemployment because of the present system among this age group? Will he not agree that the high level of unemployment has made nonsense of all the statistics so far produced about the cost of reducing the age of retirement and introducing flexible retirement schemes?

Mr. Lester

Yes. It is part of an overall package of measures. One has to decide which of the measures within the package is providing most support at any one time, whether for young people, for people in temporary work or for this type of job replacement.