HC Deb 22 April 1986 vol 96 cc164-5
13. Mr. David Atkinson

asked the Paymaster General if he has any plans to remove retired people from the unemployment figures; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Lang

We have no plans to do so. However, we shall continue our endeavours to ensure that those receiving benefits are genuinely available for work.

Mr. Atkinson

Will my hon. Friend confirm that unemployment figures include retired people who do not want to work, are not seeking work, and have no need to work? Does he know how many people in that category are included in the unemployment figures? Does he not agree that it gives a false impression about how many people are presently unemployed?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is right. The 1984 labour force survey showed that some 60,000 people in the claimant count were not seeking work because they had retired. This underlines the fact that the unemployment count is not necessarily the best way of getting a true picture of unemployment.

Mr. Evans

Is the Minister not ashamed of the fact that all we have heard today from Tory Back Benchers are suggestions about how the unemployment figures, can be further fiddled? If the Minister wants to reduce the unemployment figures he should at least extend the job release scheme to those under the age of 62. That was the way it applied under the Labour Government.

Mr. Lang

The job release scheme has a useful role to play. Can the hon. Gentleman tell us whether it is the intention of any incoming Labour Government to reintroduce into the labour count retired people who have been removed from it?

Mr. Ralph Howell

Is my hon. Friend aware that his answer about the number of retired people included in the unemployment count is totally unsatisfactory? There is no sense in including such people in the figures. What plans has my hon. Friend for introducing a work test to establish exactly how many people are actively seeking work?

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is knowledgeable in these matters and takes a close interest in them. He will have heard me say that we are unhappy about the adequacy of the availability for work test and that we are looking at ways of making it more effective.