§ The Secretary of State for Social Security (Mr. Peter Lilley)
Denmark, Iceland and Norway currently have equal state pension ages above 65 and many others, such as Canada, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the USA, have equal state pension ages higher than the present retirement age of British women. The majority of European Community countries have equalised, or are intending to equalise, state pension ages at 65. Most of the Scandinavian countries and the USA have, or are moving to, an equal state pension age of 67.
§ Mr. Lilley
I can confirm the points that my hon. Friend makes. During the period in which we intend to introduce equality in the state pension age, it would cost about £12 billion a year more to equalise at age 60 than to equalise at age 65. I do not believe that that would be a sensible use of a huge amount of public fiscal resources—equivalent to 6p or more on income tax. Suggestions that we could save money by equalising at 60 are way off beam.
§ Mr. Wigley
Does the Secretary of State accept that there is considerable dismay among many men who very often have to retire even earlier than 60? The average age at which men retire is now 57 and they are unable to obtain pensions, whereas women can get them at 60. In the present economic climate, people should not have to feel deprived if they do not have a pension with their work because they should be able rely on the state pension much earlier than 65.
§ Mr. Lilley
Of course, there can be other state assistance for people who, for any reason, have to retire or are jobless prior to the state pension age. A great many people have private pensions, which enable them to retire earlier than that age. It would be an odd use of public resources if extra money were to be channelled to those who have perfectly adequate resources to look after themselves in retirement.