HC Deb 20 October 2003 vol 411 cc364-5
8. Syd Rapson (Portsmouth, North)

If he will make a statement on progress in encouraging the employment of people above pensionable age. [132608]

The Minister for Work (Mr. Desmond Browne)

Our "Age Positive" campaign is encouraging employers to adopt non-ageist employment practices. Studies show that there has been a marked reduction in the number of companies using age in recruitment. Currently around 930,000 pensioners work. That represents an increase in the employment rate of pensioners from 7.8 to 8.5 per cent. since 1997. Furthermore, we are committed to extending opportunities for older workers and to introducing age discrimination legislation. We are promoting employment among those aged 50 and over and helping people over pensionable age to remain in work if they wish to do so.

Syd Rapson

I thank the Minister for his reply. I cannot understand anyone wanting to work after pensionable age and I shall not be joining them. On behalf of my constituents who have an interest, however, may I ask the Government to take seriously the proposals agreed at the Labour party conference that those in occupational pensions should be able to draw their lump sum, carry on working and draw their pension when eventually they voluntarily retire, without encountering any disbenefit?

Mr. Browne

The implication of my hon. Friend's question is correct. If people choose to take the state pension later while they work on, they deserve a better deal. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State made the direction of the Government's policy clear at the conference. In addition to enhancing the situation in relation to deferment by increasing the percentage points by 7.5 to 10.4, we propose to offer people the choice for the first time ever of a taxable lump sum if they defer their pension.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)

If the Government are so committed to ending ageism in the workplace, why is there a compulsory retirement age of 60 in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office?

Mr. Browne

The hon. Gentleman probably knows fine well that it is Government policy across the civil service to move from a pension age of 60 to 65. That is a matter for consultation. Once those consultations have concluded, it will be clear how that will apply across each Department.

Mr. Roger Berry (Kingswood)

Would it not be helpful for Government Departments to set an example? Why, for example, should the Ministry of Defence tell one of my constituents who worked as a health and safety adviser that he must retire at the age of 60 not because he could no longer do the job—indeed, he was first employed 12 months ago—but because he had reached the age of compulsory retirement?

Mr. Browne

My hon. Friend highlights why it is so important for the Government to change the policy not only in their Departments but across the country. I cannot, of course, comment on individual cases, but we all know that older workers, whether they be in the Ministry of Defence or elsewhere, have a wealth of skills and experience that can benefit businesses, public services and the economy as a whole. We want employers not only to allow people to work, but actively to recruit workers of that age range.