§ 3.2 p.m.
§ LORD RAGLAN rose to call attention to problems connected with the age of retirement; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. This is the first time that I have had the privilege of introducing a Wednesday debate. I believe it to be on a very important subject, and it is one that I find very interesting. I have been interested in it for some time. I have found intriguing the infrequency with which it has been debated in your Lordships' House. There was a small but illuminating debate in 1959, when the Government imposed a retiring age of 75 on judges, and in 1965 my noble friend Lord Crook introduced a Motion on preparation for retirement. Otherwise, I cannot find another debate on this subject.
§ Meanwhile, we have had many debates on youth, and there are two more Motions on youth to be debated next month. If past experience is a guide, the speakers' list will be crowded, as it is for debates on education. Why is it then, I wonder, that we are so ready to talk about youth and leave old age to look after itself? The social effects and implications of the retirement age are enormous, affecting far more than that proportion of the population which is over 65. For example, the amount of effort and money which is put into social welfare services—including hospitals and medicines—in order to look after the aged, are colossal, and the effect of retirement upon promotion is well known. There must be some reason why the subject comes up so rarely. I can only suggest that youth is simply more fun to talk about. People do not like thinking about old age, and in particular they do not like thinking about retirement, because retirement and the end of life seem almost synonymous.
§ I am not speaking about the end of life, nor am I really speaking about old age. Sixty or 65 is not very old, especially to-day. Churchill took on the Government at 66. It was General de Gaulle's opinions and not his age to which we objected. Adenauer was going strong at 89, and my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack—perennially young—sat on 388 it for the first time at 64. He is now 70, and I have not noticed any falling off in vitality and productivity, although I do not know what he feels like. My noble friend Lord Silkin, who I am very glad is speaking to-day, tells me that by every criterion he is past it. He is 77, but your Lordships will notice that he is extremely active. The noble Earl, Lord Swinton, not here so often now, is I think very formidable at 86.
§ Nowadays 65 is only just past middle age, and youth—or young people, I should say—have the expectation of a long future. It is no accident, I am sure, that the idea of having a retiring age did not seem so important when the expectation of life was low and when at any time someone could die of septicæmia or the plague. The wastage by earlier death, and the opportunity for promotion by natural causes, was greater. In 1901 the expectation of life for men was 48½, to-day it is 68½. For women then it was 52; to-day it is 74½. The average expectation of life for men who have reached the age of 65 has not gone up much over the years—it is now 12 years. For women it has increased slightly, to 19½. What has happened is not that the expectation of life has increased greatly at 65, but that there are simply more people over the age of 65. When Lloyd George introduced the old-age pension, albeit with a means test, in 1908, 5.2 per cent. of the population were over 65. Nowadays the proportion is 12.6 per cent.—that is, one in eight. It is peculiar that women—who seem to be tougher than men and live longer—should be eligible for a pension at 60. It is one of the greater curiosities of our discriminatory legislation, and I hope that my noble friend Lady Phillips may be able to explain it later on. Perhaps it was another attempt to make women feel inferior.
§ The age at which people are eligible for the old age pension, and the age at which they actually retire are, of course, not necessarily the same, though they often coincide. Many retire earlier if they are offered a pension, but few are allowed to retire later. In theory, the State pension is given because we think it right that there should be an age beyond which it is not necessary for someone to work in order to live, although in practice for most people it signifies the age of retirement, whether they want to retire or not.389
§ The age of retirement is fixed for two purposes. One is for the sake of the individual, to allow him to give up his job if he wishes—usually at a mature age. The other is for the sake of the community, to try to ensure that people do not stay on in their jobs beyond an age when it is thought that their physical and mental ability has become too poor for them to carry out their duties adequately. The first I am happy about: if people wish to retire, then good luck to them! It is the second purpose that I am not at all happy about. If people are made to do what they do not want to do, then there must be, on the one hand, sufficient social justification for the compulsion, and, on the other, concern and understanding about what is going to happen to them when they are retired.
§ I know that many people look forward to retirement—or say that they do: at last they can get away and do things which they have never had time to do before. However, although it is impossible to say how many do not wish to retire when their time comes, in my observation and experience the number is very large—probably the great majority. They dislike it for various reasons. For one, they may not like to face the fact that they really are, at last, as old as that. But the main reason, strange as it may seem, is that most people enjoy working. I say "strange as it may seem" because, with all the talk about the leisure that we have and the leisure that we are going to get, and "Won't it be nice?", one is almost persuaded that leisure, or at any rate idleness, is all that anyone wants. But it is not; and to support that view we have no less an authority than Sir Noel Coward, who said a few years ago: "The only way to enjoy life is to work; work is much more fun than fun". And for most people, my Lords, it really is. It is not for the puritanical view that work is good for its own sake; it is not for the economic one that we must produce in order to live; it is not for the reason that people who actually do manage to do nothing are usually very boring because they have little to talk about. It is because the whole structure of civilised existence is built around work—doing something. The concept is breathed in by every child right from the cradle. "What does your father 390 do?" and "What are you going to do when you grow up?" are questions which it seems natural to ask of a child; and all our efforts in education are directed towards urging children to become contributory members of society, fitting them for some kind of occupation or employment.
§ What the ultimate purpose of all our efforts is I do not profess to know. I only wish to make the point that work is a social habit ingrained in people. It governs their social life, their income, their status; it moulds their personalities and their outlook and becomes almost as much a part of them as life itself.
§ It is not surprising, therefore, that retirement is so often seen as the end of life, and that the retirement age is looked upon with fear as a kind of guillotine to existence. Down it comes—chop—and that is the end of them! That it really is the end of life for some, one sees all too often. I have known people die only the following week or within the next few months. The brisk, alert man who runs for the 'bus at 64, two years later looks harassed, bent and old. He looks harassed because he has been pushed out of the house because he has become a nuisance; but he looks bent and old because he cannot find something to do. For forty or fifty years he has done the same kind of job. That is finished; he is cut of things; he is away from his friends, and he has to try to adapt to a new way of life at a time of life when people are notoriously bad at adaptation.
§ I know that this is a problem which has to a certain extent been recognised. Around the country there are organisations which cater specifically for retired people and look after them, or help them to look after themselves, and encourage them to occupy their time with new pursuits, whether alone or in groups. Industry has been very helpful in encouraging employees to take pre-retirement courses run by local education authorities, and allowing them time off to attend. There is one in Newport in Monmouthshire, near where I live, which has been successful. The chief education officer told me of one man who has taken up painting and now wants to write a book. I believe 391 that there has been some difficulty in attracting pupils to these classes, and it is the same everywhere, partly because they do not like thinking about retirement, and partly because they suspect that their employer's encouragement really means that he wants to get rid of them.
§ These courses are supplying an essential need. What they are trying to do in effect is to retrain for another occupation, which is called leisure, those who are about to be deprived of their way of life by the application of an inflexible system. But they are having to remedy a situation which has not, as I see it, been created by the fact of old age, but by society's arbitrary estimation as to when old age begins. I think there should be no mistaking that the system is a crippler, a killer and a waster, and I think it is very necessary that it should be changed. I of course recognise that it is much easier to say that it should be changed than it is to change it, because, besides other things, it involves a change in the social attitude—and that always takes a long time.
§ The fixed age system has these advantages: it is simple, uninvidious, easy to operate, and everyone knows where he is. As the older ones retire at the appointed time, so they are replaced by the next wave eagerly waiting to step in. In the past it has been associated with a method of promotion which has been called "Buggins's turn"—I think that that expression comes from H. G. Wells's Kipps—meaning promotion by seniority. If promotion by seniority is rigidly applied, it produces "gerontarchy"—government by old men—and little stimulus for efficiency and change. But this is a state of affairs which we have been moving away from in the past few decades. It is no longer a condition of acceptance of one's opinion that one should be old or look old. I am told that my father, when he succeeded in 1921—he was then 37—used to return from your Lordships' House saying that you would not listen to anyone under 60. That has changed. Probably your Lordships would not pay as much attention to what I say as to an elder statesman; but what a person has to say is taken nowadays far more on its merits than it used to be. Things may have swung 392 too far the other way, and the young sometimes seem to be listened to or promoted because they are young, and the old tend to be passed over. But, although youth is in vogue, I think it should be borne in mind that, heavy manual labour apart, youthfulness is far more an attitude of mind than a matter of anno domini.
§ The question of promotion is, of course, crucial to discussion of the retiring age. Retirement gets rid of the older "Bugginses" who are in the top jobs, and younger men often see it as the only way that they themselves will obtain promotion. Trade unions, too, I am told—although I stand to be corrected on this—like the retiring age because it helps with full employment. By retiring people, of course, all one is doing is creating another group of unemployed who, instead of receiving unemployment pay, receive the old-age pension. This convenient and simple system may look all very fair and equal, but really it is not.
§ There has grown up recently in engineering a way of thinking, derived I may say from common observation, which lives under the pompous scientific name of ergonomics. It is an "in" science, but all it really means is that one tries to get the machine to fit the man, rather than fitting the man to the machine. Even car manufacturers are reluctantly coming to admit that people vary in physique. We all had equal treatment before then, and sometimes we still do. It would be equal treatment if we all had to wear the same size in shoes; but that will not do, and we know it will not do. The same goes for mental capacity and physical robustness. What I am urging is that we should tailor retirement schemes to fit human beings, rather than think up systems and then try to cram people into them. It is not simple, and it involves a lot more thought, but surely it is much more sensitive and humane. And I believe that there is an economic bonus, too, which should encourage some doubters.
§ There has to be some kind of retirement age for many jobs. One must face that there are those in positions of responsibility—we have all encountered them—who have become blind, deaf, grumpy or just not at their best. Time will do nothing to improve them, and 393 they will not admit that they are not as good as they were. They have disintegrated in the job. It is their dignity, as well as the community, which is protected by the retiring age. But in the case of those who have to leave their jobs when they are fit to carry on—they may be in their prime—both they and the community have lost. I think there should be a means by which a person, having reached a certain age, should be enabled to stay in his occupation, perhaps part time, and at the same time be prepared to take a step down to a less responsible or demanding position at a lower rate of pay.
§ Your Lordships are familiar with what is known as "being kicked upstairs". I often think how lucky noble Lords are to be able to come here regularly and talk politics, promote Bills, see old friends and generally keep in touch. I go to two solicitors. One is 74 and the other is 78. Neither seems to have lost any acumen—at least, I hope that they have not—but they felt the strain; they thought that the time had come when they should remove themselves as heads of their respective firms, and they now call themselves consultants and come in when they feel like it. This is the happy privilege of the self-employed. It is this kind of privilege which I think could, and should, be extended in some way to everyone. Sometimes it has to be—and I am thinking of the retired tax officers whom the Inland Revenue have called in to keep up with the work. I expect that they are very glad to do it. Men like to keep in contact with the work which has been their life, and surely it is possible to devise ways in which this can be achieved. At the same time, the community will be benefiting from their wisdom, experience and expertise. So it is a two-way benefit—both humanitarian and practical.
§ There may genuinely be occasions when older men simply cannot be accommodated within a firm. But, just as school-leavers are found jobs. I suggest it should be the custom, as it is in the Services, or perhaps obligatory, for an employer to find suitable and satisfactory occupation for the retired employee, and not just push him out and forget about him.
§ There is another way in which this will benefit both the community and the 394 elderly person. One reason why I particularly dislike the fixed retirement age is that it creates a category. Categories are invaluable, but they can create a separatism of their own. In this case the effect of the fixed age is that it has generated the idea that the retired person, the old age pensioner, is someone apart, almost another species and that he is no more use—fit only for the scrap heap.
§ Some months ago I heard on television two children declaring that everyone over 65 should be "bumped off", and there is a popular conception that anyone over that age is as good as dead, or anyway only waiting for death. As I said earlier, that is how so many pensioners see it themselves, and popular opinion encourages them to think it. What can be more debilitating and depressing than that? As a result of that, and of time on their hands, if they do not die they are likely to go into a decline; they fall ill and fill surgeries and hospitals—that is, if they can get into a hospital, because hospitals do not like taking people over 65. The illness becomes chronic and they end up as an unnecessary burden on the community which categorised them and rejected them; and I see poetic justice in that.
§ Although there are economic benefits to be had by encouraging people to occupy themselves for as long as they can, I wish to stress the humanitarian side of it. The community exists as much for the individual as the individual for the community. As I see it, the community has evaded its responsibility by making outcasts of the elderly because they do not fit in easily. I should like to see the category "retired person" itself rejected. Instead of sloughing off the elderly into a despond we should encourage them to remain in active life. Idleness is not natural; it is the enemy of health and longevity, and I am sure one of the chief reasons why women live longer than men is that they always have the routine housework to do.
§ About 15 years ago the Farmers' Weekly carried an article on a man who was then Britain's oldest farmer. He was called Mr. Dan Bullen, and he was 100. There was a picture of him in a smock and with a fringe beard, and he carried a pitchfork over his shoulder. He was asked what his receipt was for long life, 395 and I shall never forget his reply. He said, "Keep knocking about, and you'll never have time to die." I suppose he must be dead by now, but I bet he enjoyed life right up to the end. It was his philosophy which was in my mind when I put down this Motion for debate. I am aware that there are many facets of the problem which I have not discussed, but I shall have succeeded in my main intention if I have brought to your Lordships' attention the fact that, life itself being a continuous process and our work being so intimately a part of it, to wrench the two apart at an arbitrary age is poor economics and, worse, is yet another example, however inadvertent, of man's inhumanity to man. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, on his sally into the initiation of Motions and on the choice of the Motion that he has made. He has given us a run over the field at a brisk pace and a philosophic and humane opening to the debate. I suppose that for most of us retirement immediately brings a contrast between getting the sack, or going bankrupt, or otherwise ending one's working life, and it presupposes that provision has been made for what happens after that. Of course one may make provision oneself, tailored exactly to what one expects one's needs will be. It may often be wrong; but one can do that. On the other hand, one may rely largely on the provision that the community will make for security in old age. In that case the community cannot consider the individual requirements of everyone: it must take the mean, or the norm.
The point one has to bear in mind is that the needs of the community at the time that the community makes its plans may be very different from those which exist when the large majority of that community come to enjoy a retirement pension. This is a process that will go on all the time, so one cannot expect that the provision that has been made by the State under Beveridge should last for ever. It must change from time to time and we are bound to question the applicability and appropriateness of some 396 of the assumptions that were made at the time that Beveridge made his Report.
The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, confined himself closely to the subject of the Motion and did not allow himself to be tempted into discussing the problems of retirement as such. We are talking about the problems connected with the age of retirement. Retirement, of course, presents innumerable problems, including notably the level of pensions and supplementary benefits and the whole question of the care of old people. I intend to follow the example of the noble Lord of leaving those for another occasion. It seems to me both appropriate and important that we should discuss the age of retirement, if only because it appears to have been taken for granted by the Government, when preparing their new superannuation plan, that the existing minimum age for retirement under the National Insurance Act is still the right one. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, spoke of society's arbitrary estimation of when old age begins. It may be right, but it is not self-evident, and it ought not to be accepted without justification. So much has changed in the last twenty-five to thirty years. Therefore it seems to me worth while to point to some of the factors and problems and to ask a number of questions—and I am afraid I shall ask quite a lot of questions.
The basic features of the pension provisions in the original National Insurance scheme were, first, that everyone earned the same amount of pension, but there were different contributions for the employed, the self-employed and the non-employed, and for men and women, the differences being related mainly to differences in coverage for unemployment benefit, for widows, and so on. There was a minimum age for pensions of 65 for men and 60 for women, conditional upon retirement, and a higher age of 70 for men and 65 for women at which there was an absolute right to pension whether or not the contributor had retired, subject only to his having paid, or having been credited with, the requisite number of contributions. Lastly, those who postponed retirement earned small increments to their pensions. To these provisions were added in 1961 the Boyd-Carpenter graduated contributions, which were used partly to keep down the cost of 397 flat-rate contributions and partly to increase the amount of the pension by amounts related to the graduated contributions.
For both social and economic reasons it was thought desirable to encourage contributors to continue work after the minimum retirement age. But that age is now becoming increasingly the "appointed day" for the employed to leave their jobs, and the great majority do not take other jobs. Ten years ago 47 per cent, of men retired at 65; five years age it was 57 per cent, and in 1968 it was 70 per cent. Last year it was probably more, and the Government Actuary has assumed that it will increase to 90 per cent, and then stay at that.
Is this growing uniformity of age retirement reasonable? Is it right? Is it necessary? Does it accord with the facts of life? The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has dealt with this point, but I want to deal with it in a rather different way. Some people age more quickly than others. In this respect, time is but a measure of the differences between people. Should not our arrangements reflect those differences? Moreover, in a free country should not the greatest measure of freedom of choice which is practicable be accorded? What was, if not impracticable, at least administratively difficult 25 or 30 years ago is not necessarily so difficult now. Certainly, therefore, we should be looking at the whole issue of the age of retirement again, if only to make sure that it is being decided in the interests of the contributors, of the insured, and of the community as a whole, and not to suit the convenience of the institution that ad-ministers the scheme.
What are the facts and factors? Perhaps I could indicate one or two. First of all, people are living longer. In 1931 the expectation of life at 65 for a man was 11.3 years; in 1961 it was 11.9 years; to-day it is probably 12 or more years. For a woman at 60 it was 16½ years in 1931; in 1961 it was 19 years, and it is undoubtedly more now. At 65 for a woman it was 15¼ years in 1961, and it is thought to be much more now. So there is this comparison between 12 years and, say, 15½ or 16 years as between men and women at 65. On the average, men are now better preserved 398 and more active in mind and body at 65 than they were in the last generation. I do not think anyone would dispute that. It is not just that they are living longer; they are ageing less quickly.
On the other hand, the pressure for more efficiency tends towards earlier retirement, while the vastly increased power of the trade unions, with their instinctive fear of unemployment, tends to lead to the elimination of the elderly from the regular employment fields, in preference to other age groups. Also, the development of occupational pension schemes facilitates earlier retirement, and in some occupations retirement before the minimum age laid down by the National Insurance Act. Then, again, the normal age of retirement appropriate for one occupation is not necessarily the same as for another, any more than is the appropriate age of retirement for one person the same as for another. For example, the appropriate age for a deep-sea fisherman might be different from that of a clerk. There are far more married women in employment now than 30 years ago, and it has been suggested to me by a lady friend of mine that this helps to lessen the feeling spinsters used to have of being under-privileged. Finally, the minimum ages for retirement are fixed arbitrarily without regard to the mental, physical or financial state of the individual.
Of course, there must be rules of general application in any large scheme. But the question that I think is worth asking is how rigid or how flexible those rules should be and how to keep them in line with changing circumstances. After all, the last few years up to 65 for some may be a struggle against declining powers, declining health and declining interest in work. For others 65 may be too early. They may still have plenty of drive, plenty of ideas and plenty of zest for their work. Yet they may have to retire. Admittedly, the State pension scheme offers them the prospect—if they are willing and able and allowed to stay on at work—of a higher pension when they do retire. And well it might; for not only do they continue to contribute up to 70, so long as they are doing more than a few hours work a week, but the National Insurance Fund is saving the money that would have been paid to them as pension if they had retired.
399 But there is no right to claim earlier retirement—and this is the first problem I want to raise. Even if men and women give up work because of illness, they cannot claim retirement pension, though they will get sickness benefit; and if their work gives them up because the employer goes out of business or cuts down staff, apart from any redundancy payment they will have to rely on unemployment benefit for a year, and there-after on supplementary benefit. I will come back to that point again. I wonder whether this is right and really necessary. Some countries allow men to retire at 60, or between 60 and 65, on a rather lower pension than they would get if they remained until 65 or 67, or whatever the normal age in the particular country may be. Should we not do the same?
No doubt consequential changes would be needed. It would have an effect on the supplementary benefit basic rate. But can it not be argued that it would be a good thing for the supplementary benefit basic rate to be at a lower level than the full basic pension that a man would earn by his contributions at 65, or even at 60? Should not a man who has paid contributions all his life, or at least been credited with them when he was sick or unemployed, get more than the man who has not?
The second point is why a man should have to work on until 65 to get the same pension that a woman gets at 60. I know the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, is going to speak in this debate, and with her well-known passion for equality we shall look forward greatly to hearing what she has to say on this point. What law of nature decrees that British women should retire at 60 while in many other countries there is the same retirement age for both sexes? Are they not as strong and healthy as the women of any other land? If there is to be equal pay for women, should there not also be the same retirement arrangements for contributors of both sexes? There is a shortage of women workers in many areas of the country. Yet the Government Actuary tells us that more and more spinsters and divorced women are retiring as soon as they reach 60. Their expectation of life even at 65 is a good deal longer than that of men at the same age.
400 Apart from considerations of fairness, is it really a good thing for women to retire earlier than men? Would not women be much happier if they went on working until 65? This is a point the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, made, and I think there is a good deal of research to be done on this matter. Admittedly, many may be doing routine or repetitive jobs and may hail retirement as a welcome release. Yet we all know that there is a serious risk that as time goes on they will become more and more lonely: the longer their retirement, in other words, the wider grows the gap between the pensioner and the rest of the community. Rightly, great efforts are being made to bridge that gap; but much remains to be done. Would it not be a good thing for them to continue working longer, not only for the community but more especially for their own sakes?
What, then, is the justification for this discrimination? Are women over 60 more prone to sickness than men? Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, will be able to tell us. What is the experience among those who do stay on at work, as compared with men between 60 and 65? What research has been done into this question? One is at any rate entitled to ask whether a snap decision, taken in the circumstances and stress of war, need necessarily stand for all time. Is it not the difference between the treatment of men and women that requires justification, not the removal of the difference? Or does the difference linger on simply because it is too complicated and too controversial to change it? If and when we go into Europe, is it not more likely that we shall bring ourselves more closely into line with European countries in the normal age of retirement—and particularly on a common age for men and women?
The next point is this. Does not the absence of any flexibility downwards in age give rise to difficult problems in those callings, mainly professions, where it is normal to retire before 65? The Services and the police are special cases and are treated as such. Those who leave the Services or the police at a comparatively early age generally seek and find work of a different kind. For some reason, it has become almost the rule for those in some sedentary or at least static professions to 401 retire at or soon after 60. The Report of the National Insurance Advisory Committee has pointed out how absurd it is that people who retire at 60 and do not seriously seek other employment are often able not only to draw unemployment benefit but to be credited with National Insurance contributions as if they were still paying them. When are the Government to bring in the regulations they announced six weeks ago? Perhaps the noble Baroness will be able to tell us.
Now that the Government are proposing to separate the National Insurance Fund into a National Superannuation Fund and a Social Insurance Fund, is there any good reason why a man who has retired from his lifelong career before 65 should not draw a reduced National Insurance retirement pension and cease to pay that part of his weekly contributions other than for health? If he finds another job, is there any reason why he should not have the option of either continuing to draw his reduced pension and paying his social service contribution (that is, other than for superannuation) or else resuming his full contribution as an employed person? Could he not alter that choice at least once, just as a man over 65 who has once retired is able at present to exercise his choice subsequently to revoke his retirement once, and once only, and return to employment?
The next point concerns the whole question of the highly unpopular earnings rule. It is almost universally conceded that there are jobs which people in good health over 65 can do and that it is a good thing that retired people should have something to do. Should this also not be looked at again? An earnings rule may be justifiable when pensions are at a uniform level, but may be much more difficult to justify when pensions are related to past earnings up to one and half times average national earnings.
In the altered circumstances, is not the earnings rule much too low? Ought it not to be related to the sort of jobs that retired people should be encouraged to do? At present there is work at a level of earnings between, I think, £6 10s. and £12 10s, that nobody is willing to under-take, because the most he would get out of a job with those earnings is £1 extra. If the Government's national superannuation scheme comes into operation, 402 what I might call the "dead" band of earnings will vary from the £9 10s. to £13 10s., or thereabouts, bracket in the case of a man whose pension is £5 4s. a week (which is the lowest pension that is quoted) to the £9 10s. to nearly £22 bracket in the case of a man entitled to the maximum pension. That will be the "dead" band. Within these brackets it appears (I may be wrong about this) that additional earnings will not add one new penny to a man's total income.
The White Paper (Cmnd. 3883) says:Something like the existing conditions and earnings rule will remain".That may be so; but the emphasis should be on "something like", and that it should be different. Without advocating complete abolition of the earnings rule, which I know would be most expensive, is it not possible to find a way of encouraging people to retire from a job they can no longer do well and take on a job that they can do well? Lastly, there is the absurd economic obstacle of selective employment tax, which is bound to deter employers from taking on a retired man for more than a few hours a week.
These are the practical problems which are related to the age of retirement. If they could be got over by more flexible rules, how many people on retirement, particularly women, would be willing to accept employment in looking after the really old? This is an important matter that has to be considered. And how many men would find useful jobs to occupy them and help them to eke out their pensions? A paternalistic Government may reply that there are plenty of jobs that a man and a woman can do, and that need doing, without remuneration—voluntary work. But surely one has to admit that, generally speaking, people will take on voluntary work only if they have an income adequate for their own needs.
It is of course true that a great deal more needs to be done in the voluntary field as well as in the field of local government. It is of the greatest importance that the springs of good will and voluntary effort should be encouraged to flow, and that means should be found of canalising them and not fouling them, as they can be fouled i they are made bureacratic. Even if we ever had the resources to provide adequate services in 403 the form of home helps, health visitors and the like, it would be wrong, in my view, to try to provide services entirely on an official basis. But we have not and, mercifully, we never shall.
At present, there are at least l½ million old people who live alone. Of these, some 350,000 need home help and do not get it. The older people get, the more they need patient and understanding friends. It takes longer to win the friendship and confidence of an old person. Some companies encourage those who have just retired to look after the very old and the invalids among their own pensioners. Some churches look after their old and sick. But there are many old people who are not members of any group—not even of a club or an association of old people. The community has so to organise itself, absolutely voluntarily, that there is no old person who is friendless, however difficult he or she may be. For that to be done, the closest liaison between officialdom and voluntary organisations is needed—a sound system for the exchange and pooling of information about the whereabouts and the needs of individuals.
To close, may I illustrate this need by a quotation from a town council's own description of the way they handle the housing needs of old people? Let me add that this is a town council who have a much better record in housing old people than the national average. This is what they say:All applicants on the waiting list are asked every 18 months if they wish to remain on the waiting list. This is done by letter, and if no reply is received, it is assumed that the applicant is no longer interested.How reasonable! How practicable! And how utterly inadequate!
To sum up, it is right to question and again to look at the ages and conditions of retirement for both men and women, to see whether they cannot be more closely tailored to individual needs as well as national needs, especially at a time when we are considering passing to an earnings-related system of superannuation. Some may prefer a lower pension at an earlier age. My Lords, I am doubtful whether it is appropriate for the Ministry to do this. One must face the fact—I say it in no derogatory way 404 —that officials are unavoidably steeped in the tradition and doctrine of existing practices. Fresh and uncommitted minds should surely be enlisted for the task.
§ 3.50 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF DURHAM
My Lords, I hope I may ask the indulgence of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, and of your Lordships, in that urgent business in Durham means that I have to leave your Lordships' House before the end of the debate. I am grateful to my right reverend friend the Bishop of Chester, to the Whips and to others for allowing me to change places in the order of speakers. I am very sorry indeed not to be able to attend the whole debate, and I shall look at my Hansard with even greater interest than usual.
In the preface to his Pelican original called, The Psychology of Human Ageing, Dr. D. B. Bromley remarks that:… we spend about a quarter of our lives growing up and three-quarters growing old".He continues:It is strange therefore that psychologists and others have devoted most of their efforts to the study of childhood and adolescence.I am sure Dr. Bromley would share our gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, for initiating this debate and so ensuring that the problems of ageing are not entirely crowded out of our minds by the problems of youth, important though those problems be. Further, it is surely an additional merit to focus these broader problems on retirement and the age of retirement; not least because it looks as if, because of developments both in medical care and in industrial organisation, most people—most of us—are going to be retired for at least a third of our lives.
What I want to argue is that any attempt to grapple realistically with these problems demands a radically different attitude to retirement from that which is current to-day, though I shall also argue that this radically different attitude to retirement is one that matches a radically different attitude which we shall in any case need to bring to the whole of a man's working life if our society is to sustain the rapid technological development that computers will not only bring about in the future but are bringing about already. What I am asking for, indeed, is that we shall set our thinking on this 405 subject in the broadest possible perspective; and it is one that very much accords, if I may say so, with points made by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan. I also hope that my remarks may set out some theoretical considerations which harmonise with, and form a background to, those powerful, practical points which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has just put before us.
In Cmnd. 3883, the White Paper on National Superannuation and Social Insurance published in January, 1969 (to which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has already referred), where there is an argument for maintaining the minimum pension age at 65, retirement is clearly understood as retirement"from regular employment". In Appendix I retirement has the same context. "Earlier retirement" is to be discouraged because, it is argued,the general need of the country's economy is for people to continue in work as long as possible.A better example of a traditional, unimaginative, outdated approach to retirement it would be difficult to find anywhere. Here, because work is contrasted with retirement, retirement becomes a synonym for idleness, for doing nothing; and the man who is retired then thinks of himself consistently as pensioned off, played out, no longer needed, waiting only for death to get rid of him altogether.
I know that that is a very popular view of retirement taken by those in the prime of life, but what I am implying is that White Papers ought to be one step ahead of this popular view, especially when our industrial patterns are in any event, and very soon, going to demand radical changes in that viewpoint, of which the traditional attitude to retirement is but a part. True, what is called "retirement" necessarily brings major changes. May I read again from Dr. Bromley's book, to which I have already referred? "Retirement marks a transitionhe rightly says,from fairly full active engagement with other people to extensive withdrawal or disengagement from them. A retired man cannot rely upon occupational activities to maintain his social interests, his identity, his prestige.True, what we call retirement does bring in that way a major change.
406 In our industrial society it has been traditional for remunerative employment, by and large, to provide a purposive pattern within human existence; a status and a distinctive role for the worker, and a network of lively relationships with colleagues or workmates. And so a sudden cessation of employment means that purpose is lacking, and there is a loss of status, a loss of relationships which have been the very fibre by which the man has lived. Further, those now reaching retirement age may have been told—I fear that almost certainly they have been —that hard work every day except Sun-day was a Christian duty, looking back to the idea of Genesis of work as punishment:In the sweat of they face shalt thou eat bread.I marvel that so many people have enjoyed the punishment. It only shows how misguided so many people may be. But retirement, doing nothing, in that con-text suggests a guilty truant or, perhaps even worse, a prisoner whose problems have begun when he has passed through the gate into another world that he did not realise existed before.
So, not surprisingly, our existentialist philosophers have equated retirement with death. The retired official, denied his characteristic behaviour responses, is dead, even though the. blood be coursing through his veins. There is the picture of the man who suddenly discovers overnight that his skill, his energy, his capacity to make rapid decisions are no longer needed by anybody: he is retired and is virtually dead. A cheque and a gold watch, or perhaps, more ominously, an easy chair and a clock, and all the pleasantries of the office party can so easily seem to be but the sugar on a pill, a pill whose taste becomes all the more unpleasant as the years go on.
That, my Lords, is the traditional attitude to retirement embedded in many of the features of our society, from office parties, on the one hand, to White Papers, on the other; and it is in that context of idleness that so many of the problems about the age of retirement arise. But my point is that this is an altogether superficial and facile way of looking at the matter; that the developments of society are demanding its radical review, and that we shall solve the problems surrounding the age of retirement only when 407 we do some much bolder thinking and break away from that traditional way of regarding the matter.
Let us go back to the brute facts. It may be the case—the White Paper sup-poses that it is the case, though I should not myself have supposed it to be the case in the North-East—that the shortage of manpower is so acute that it is worth paying older people the same rate as the younger for less work. I say"less work"for it is commonly supposed that the majority of men and women show an increasing diminution in efficiency as employees after, say, 45, so that by 60 it becomes a lively question as to whether they are, financially and economically speaking, worth as much as younger people. It would be disastrous if a superficial answer to an economic problem concealed first the need which age necessarily brings with it to reorganise—the problem of adjustment; and, secondly, the need for an entirely new perspective, not so much on retirement as on man's working life. Let not retirement be thought of as a cessation from work: it is rather a time to exercise new skills, to develop new social relationships, new attitudes and new interests; and then it is of a piece with the pattern of work in a society as intensively technological as our own will soon be.
Here is the crucial point It is not only retirement that brings its problems. Technological developments are bringing the same problems, and before very long they will occur in increasing numbers. We have all known mathematicians whose best research was behind them at the age of 30. What we must foresee is the technological genius providing us with an industrial pattern for ten years, but then having to give place to an even younger genius whose skills have produced the next technological revolution in an historical sucession. Problems of the age of retirement might then be as low as 45, even 35, for it will be retirement in so far as retraining for an entirely different job will be needed, and at a time when natural abilities are already, even at 35, on the decline.
At the same time, it would be preposterous still to indulge in the idea of retirement as pensioning off and being idle, and in that context the problems, human and financial, would indeed be 408 appalling. But if we have already taken, as I hope, a more constructive attitude to retirement, we have available the answer to this related problem. That is why I said at the start that a whole new approach is wanted. We have to get rid of the attitude and the outlook that makes a hard and fast distinction, a black and white contrast, between work and leisure, between work and retirement. We must think rather of life as a succession of different patterns of purposeful activity having both individual and social value. In this way we need an entirely new assessment not so much of what is meant by "retirement", as of what is meant by "working life".
As Dr. Bromley remarks:Even before retirementa man'soccupational skills may become functionally inadequate or obsolete. Technological changes such as automation bring about occupational redundancy".Indeed they do. In the mining industry, which characterises County Durham more than any other, we know that they do. But the overall need is the same—to acquire, Dr. Bromley says,new skills, new attitudes and interests, new social relationships.It has been said that the kind of readjustment which a person faces at retirement can probably be paralleled only by the changes he went through in his youth. I would add—or the changes that our technological society may increasingly impose on us throughout our lives. The special significance of retirement is not that it brings with it a cessation of work, but that at that stage of life there is a need to discover a purposive social activity suited with our ageing to our declining talents. To quote Dr. Bromley for the last time, he says:Elderly people may very well engage in activities which had not previously been open to them, or they may take up once more hobbies and activities which circumstances had forced them to abandon in earlier life. Ageing, therefore, though accompanied by selective withdrawals from certain social activities and occupational responsibilities may at the same time involve the commencement or renewal of other participant activities.What then is my main point? It is that, in facing the problems of retirement and the age of retirement, we should make sure that we do not do so with contrasts like work and retirement in our minds, but with the picture of human existence 409 as embodying a succession of simultaneity of purposive patterns. Whether we call that work or leisure or retirement matters very little. The real problem—and it is one for us at the different stages of our lives—is one of constant readjustment to different patterns of existence, not better or worse, but suited at different times to our different capabilities.
May I in conclusion indicate three practical corollaries to those general considerations? First, we surely need some far more flexible concept on our Statute Book than that of the "retiring age". Perhaps we ought always to call it the "pensionable age", meaning by that the age beyond which the State will guarantee everyone's financial security, for the very good reason that those then of pensionable age were once young and contributed their part to the welfare of the community. As has been said:Security and reasonable standards of living during old age are rights achieved by an individual in return for his contribution, by way of his work and service to the welfare of the community.It follows from what I have said that there may be many transition ages, and I certainly welcome the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, for continued employment of some kind wherever that is practicable. This is part, it seems to me, of the new feature of our society and senior executives might well be retained as consultants. In this regard, if I may say so, the Church may be for once a good example of the possibilities which the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, raised, of how people can be associated with its ministry while changing the pattern of their lives over the years. We all know a most reverend Primate, a Member of your Lordships' House, who is now a curate in the West Country and who is certainly very active by pen and by talking.
I come to my second point. It is generally agreed that the crucial difficulty of transition is just before the transition itself. It has been said:It is not so much old age and retirement as the transition to old age and retirement which creates problems of adjustment.The critical period for adjustment is rather the period just before retirement, though that period may not be short. It has been said, for instance, that an executive needs to be preparing for about ten years before the actual age of his 410 retirement, if he is to discover a consolidated pattern.
Of course there arises a need of education for retirement. Taking up the point of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, I am glad to see that provision has been made for this in about 300 centres of adult and further education. I am glad to acknowledge the work of the Pre-Retirement Association—a charitable organisation which functions as a central servicing body, which is linked with local committees dealing with education for retirement. Some local education authorities are combining with industry in this very matter. For example, there is in Birmingham an admirable retirement council which organises courses on the premises of firms who themselves request it. A certain number of firms up and down the country, for example, Rolls-Royce and Pressed Steel, are providing their own courses, and I am glad to think that some industrial chaplains are associated with the work.
This all seems very promising, yet in spite of the general recognition of the need, in spite of the willingness of industry and educational authorities and other agencies to co-operate in meeting it, the vast majority of people retiring do so without any preparation whatever—and they number about 400,000 people a year. Perhaps the reason, as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, suggested, is that people are loath to accept the fact, even loath to contemplate the fact, of ageing, and the prospect of death which it inevitably anticipates. If the implications of reaching retirement age are not frankly faced and accepted, pre-retirement courses will obviously not be accepted either. But the greatest social disservice anybody could surely render would be to cultivate what I might call, in the Californian metaphor, a "Forest Lawn" attitude to death.
This brings me to my last point—a point which I am sure your Lordships will have discerned more than once to be near the surface. As will be clear, for me the framework of this new attitude to retirement and the age of retirement, this new attitude, indeed, to the whole idea of our working life, is a conviction of a wider purpose belonging to human existence; something which over-arches this succession of purposive patterns. So it is entirely consistent with what I have 411 said that death should not be regarded as the end, but as yet another transition, the beginning of yet another stage in personal development. It may be indeed one of the most daunting and unpredictable of all transitions. But having learnt to set changing patterns in a wider purpose, even the prospect of death which retirement anticipates need be no ultimate problem, but be welcomed, perhaps, as the greatest of all possibilities.
To conclude with a practical point, it seems to me that, whatever other agencies may share in the work, all the Churches should be specially concerned to promote the basic education, outlook and convictions in personal adjustments that retirement, like life in general, brings with it. We need much more study of human ageing, that three-quarters of our lives; and it would seem that here would be a fruitful area for co-operation between the Government, the Churches and those responsible for our national economy and our industrial life. The result might be an entirely new approach, not only to the age of retirement, but to problems such as re-training and even revised wage structures. If that seems incredibly far-fetched, let me say only that I doubt whether the problems of the age of retirement can be solved unless there is a willingness to work towards and foster radical changes in our attitudes to work and life, with which will go equally radical changes in wage and salary structures. The importance of the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, seems to me to be as far-reaching as that.
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, like my two predecessors I would begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, for having introduced this Motion. It is not a highly exciting Motion, and perhaps not one that is of special interest to most noble Lords in this House. But I find it a very fascinating subject, particularly as I have to declare a personal interest in the question of retirement. On any criterion which has so far been laid down, whether it is the criterion of the right reverend Prelate or that of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, I have long passed the age of retirement—indeed, I have passed it by three years beyond the age which the noble Lord, 412 Lord Raglan, attributed to me. Nor do I propose to retire, unless I am forced to do so by reasons of health, or otherwise.
That brings one to the sort of question which one asks oneself on the question of age. It is quite easy to lay down rules as to the age of retirement of people who are employed as Government officials, local authority officials and those employed in large undertakings, where they have a fixed age of retirement or a variable age of, say, between 60 and 65. But a large number of people have no particular age of retirement: it is a matter of complete flexibility and of their own judgment. The question one has to ask oneself is: who is going to decide whether a person like myself or any other noble Lord in this House ought to retire? At what time is he no longer able to make a useful contribution to our discussions here? I am afraid that this is a matter which each of us must judge for himself, assisted, if we are fortunate, by members of our family, provided that they will be very frank and tell us plainly when the time has come for us to go.
I remember that a couple of years ago we had to consider this question in connection with this House, and the Government and the Opposition jointly decided that at the age of 75 a noble Lord should be allowed to speak, but not to vote. May I say, with great respect to both Parties, that I thought that a foolish decision. If one had to make a decision of that kind, I would rather one allowed a noble Lord to vote and not to speak. He is much less of a bore when he is voting than when he is speaking. His vote may be more eloquent; and, anyway, it would not matter if there were such people on both sides. However, 75 was decided as the right age.
In general, I agree very much with what the right reverend Prelate has said. I think that retirement should take place at an age when people who are compelled to retire should be able to assume a new life, and not at a time when they are merely eking out in the best way they can the few years which are left to them and usually, in the process, killing themselves before their time. I have known a number of people who have retired at the age of 65 but who did not long survive to enjoy their retirement. I remember one person, very high up in local government, who had spent a lifetime at his job. He started as a boy, 413 and rose to the very top. He told me how much he was looking forward to his retirement because his wife wanted to go and live in North Wales, where she had originally lived, and he anticipated thoroughly enjoying doing the things that he wanted to do, which was mainly to play golf. He did not last twelve months. Having lived a sedentary life, it was quite impossible for him to change over at the age of 65 to playing one or two rounds of golf a day, which is what he was trying to do. So I very much agree with the right reverend Prelate that in most cases retirement should occur at an age when a person can take on something else which he is competent to do, and in which he can make a contribution to the community.
That, of course, is looking at the matter from the point of view of the individual himself. But there is another aspect, and that is the point of view of the community. In the first place, one has to remember that so long as a person occupies a certain position he is preventing somebody else from occupying it. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, referred to this as "Buggins's turn". I think it is important to maintain an incentive for younger people to get on, and to hope that the time will come when they can till positions of greater responsibility. If a position is held for too long by somebody in a higher post he is really depriving others of this opportunity.
But there is another question that arises. Is the older man as good a man, generally speaking, as he was when he first took on this same job? It is my view that the vast majority of people at the end of a limited period—I would say that in most cases this period is five years—have exhausted their capacity to make a contribution to a job. That, perhaps, is one of the unconscious reasons why Governments change and Ministers move from one job to another after five years. I think it is a good thing. A man starts full of enthusiasm; but after a number of years he has nothing more to say, nothing more to contribute to his job. It is right in those circumstances that he should, if he is young enough, go on to something else, and that if he is not as young as all that he should be allowed to retire. Moreover, generally speaking, people are not as physically fit when 414 they reach retiring age as they were when they took on a particular job. Most of them become a little deaf, or a little blind and so on. One knows from personal experience that one is not as completely efficient as one was years ago. So in the public interest I think it is right that retirement should be at a sufficiently early age to enable a person to take on something that is well within his present capacity and to which he can make a useful contribution.
My Lords, I have referred to people who are in positions either with the Government, with the local authority, with public corporations or in large-scale employment. But, if I may become somewhat discursive, there are other types of people who may be considered. There are professional people, the clergy, Law Lords and others of that kind. Each case has to be looked at separately. What I should deplore—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, rather leaned that way—is that we should have to decide cases on their merits. In my view, that would be an invidious task. I do not know who would be regarded as sufficiently capable of saying to a person, "You ought to retire." This can be said in one's own family, where one can talk these things over frankly; but I should hate to be told by my boss that I was no longer capable of doing my job. It must be hateful to be told by anybody, be it the Archbishop of Canterbury or anybody else, that one is no longer fit to do one's job. I think that retirement should, not be as flexible as that; that it should be at a fixed age for any particular task.
So far as people in the professions are concerned, I suppose that to a great extent the question of the right retiring age settles itself. If you are a member of a profession and you are getting "past it", you soon know, because your clients cease to call, or they want to see some-body else. You begin to be made to realise, perhaps in the kindest way, that it is time to settle down. But even so, in the professions I think it is wise for people to retire before they are so old as to be incapable of undertaking any other form of activity. That decision requires a good deal of self-control. It means that a man has to retire when perhaps he feels he is still capable of carrying on. If I am not being too invidious, I would refer to Lord Raglan's 415 example of the two solicitors of 74 and 78. Well, I suppose they will retire one day; but when they do, it will be much too late for them to undertake any other form of activity. From the point of view of their own enjoyment of life it would have been wiser of them to have retired. Perhaps I ought to say that to myself.
The question arises in connection with Members of the House of Commons: ought they to have a retiring age? I think, most definitely, Yes. I know that we can all point to particular individuals who are exceptions to the rule; but I believe that, by and large, a person sit-ting in the House of Commons, with the hours he has to keep and the obligations of a constituency, is not fit to carry out his duties effectively after the age of, say, 65. In my view, there ought to be a rule that Members of the House of Commons should retire at the end of a Parliament after they have reached the age of 65. I should be sorry for one or two individuals who are still prominent there; but I think that it would be in the interests of the public as a whole.
And, my Lords, what about this place? I suppose that we do no harm. We are not representing anybody when we come here; many of us are hereditary. As the Constitution stands, I suppose we are entitled to come. I should not lay down a retiring age for this House, for the simple reason that I do not think it matters very much. If it did matter, I think the same considerations as apply to the other place should apply here. But I do not consider that I am doing any harm by coming here and spending my afternoons—such as I have to spare—and occasionally making stupid speeches. But if it were otherwise, if what one said really mattered, then I think one ought to retire.
Then we come to the Law Lords. I forget whether there is a retiring age for them; but it is most important that Law Lords, of all people, should be completely in possession of their faculties. I am quite certain that some Law Lords are not able to hear all the proceedings; they are unable to hear counsel's speeches, and some cannot see counsel clearly. I am sure that, even so, they may possibly be in possession of all their faculties; though I am not so sure that that is necessarily always the case. There ought 416 to be a reasonable retiring age for Law Lords and Lords of Appeal. I should say that 70 would be a reasonable age at which to expect them to retire. I have not said anything about the clergy because, judging by those who have spoken this afternoon, perhaps there should not be a retiring age for them, any more than for any other noble Lords in this House. We invariably get valuable contributions from those who speak here. In any case, I believe that they have a retiring age of their own.
My Lords, this has not been a very useful contribution, I fear (though I have enjoyed making it), and it has been discursive. But the upshot of it all is that I agree very much with the right reverend Prelate that the retiring age should be as low as possible. It should certainly not be at an age when people have long passed their best. People should still be in retention of their faculties and able to undertake other work, not necessarily the same, and perhaps rather less strenuous, and they should thereby also give an opportunity as well as an incentive to younger men to take their place.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ BARONESS SWANBOROUGH
My Lords, like other Peers I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, for having introduced this Motion and also for his courtesy to the women Peers in not disclosing their ages. We know that our ages are known, we regret them ourselves and we are delighted to have them hidden whenever we can. This whole question of retirement is such a broad one that we cannot begin to cover all its aspects this afternoon. I feel very strongly that retirement for those who are far from it holds a tremendous promise of something ahead. It speaks to them of leisure, of a vision of doing things which they would like to do and for which, for the moment, they have not the time. They think it will be a great opportunity for doing all those things they have not yet decided upon quite definitely.
But by the time retirement comes, if one has not discovered beforehand what one wants to do, there will never be sufficient time in which to do it. And so I think it is essential that in life varied interests, and real ones, be not only known but exercised, so that when retirement comes it can be worth while. For years and years I listened to a man I know very intimately who was always 417 looking forward to the time of retirement when he would have nothing to do. But he had given so much to his own profession that suddenly to be bereft of his day-to-day work left him completely derelict, because he had nothing at all to do. His work had been everything, and therefore his retirement seemed to be the end of everything.
My experience of retirement is threefold. I am far beyond retirement age myself. I do a full day's work and a very full week's work, and part of the job that I do is for the elderly, the aged and the very aged. Many of the women with whom I work are past not only retirement age but post-retirement age. As has been said over and over again this afternoon, men and women are living longer. What has not been instanced quite so much is that from the point of view of health they feel much better for much longer than they have done in the past.
I hope that the day is not too far distant when, after a certain age, it will be possible to renew an agreement to continue working on a special basis. It would obviously have to be founded on health, sound health of mind as well as of body, and the greatest necessity would be to find a way of operating such a scheme to be acceptable to all and to leave no hurt feelings or broken hopes. To my mind, the ideal would be that at a certain age a person, with all the tremendous experience he had gained, would have the courage to become an elder worker. Having reached the top of the hill, such people could start to walk down the other side. This might mean shorter hours and longer holidays and a ceding of responsibility to younger men. But the experience gained through long years of work would be available, without damaging the aspirations, advancement and hopes of the younger men.
I profoundly believe that retirement, instead of being the end of something, should in fact be the start of a new venture; a thing that one has thought about for a long time; a thing for which one has prepared a pattern and for which one has conditioned one's outlook; a time when, because of experience gained in many fields and glimpsed in others, one proves to be less materialistic in one's make-up; a thing which can 418 be infinitely enjoyable because of its selection and its content—a thing, in fact, which the stresses of the past will help come into shape and a thing that one hopes will serve the aspirations and the beliefs of one's future and of one's work.
My Lords, since the day of Nye Bevan and his tremendously far-sighted recommendations, the work for old people in this country has gone ahead in a way that makes one proud whenever one goes abroad to visit other countries and sees what they are doing. But one must never forget that the greatest strength is that local government on a national scale has done so much, such really superb work, in regard to old people. All over the country one sees all sorts and kinds of work and of undertakings for old people.
Being an old person myself, I some-times wonder whether perhaps too much is done and in that way there is removed from the individual the sense of recognising that he has something to contribute and the feeling that it is necessary to keep on contributing that bit that he can give. The worst, the very worst, of being old is being unwanted, fearing that one is a drag on other people and, above all, realising that there is not much more road to travel and in that journey one would not want to be travelling, just for the sake of travelling, for travel's sake alone, but one would want to be living life at the same time.
We have found, in the W.R.V.S., where we run 28 residential units which look after 700 old and very old people, that not only do types change each year but, with the passing months and years, the period of healthy living has also extended very considerably. In 1950, the average age of applicants for residential care was in the age group 65 to 70. In 1960, it was 70 to 75. To-day, it is 80 to 85, with several able-bodied applicants who are over 90. I have not the trained mind, but to me that seems to point the fact that as people are living longer and are more able to look after themselves for a longer time so should responsibility be laid on them for a greater length of time.
All of us who work in this field can tell from experiences other than our own that if all personal responsibility and the 419 feeling that one is needed is removed, the result in the individual is distress and despair which becomes so dominant that life itself appears to be very bleak. It is for this reason, and following the advice of a very formidable geriatrician, that the Service to which I belong is building a home for 32 people of retirement age who in fact can have the responsibility of each other from the point of view of being grouped together.
This building will have clutches of bed-sitting rooms with all the usual amenities, and the four people who are grouped together will be interwoven, inasmuch as they will help each other and do all the little odd things for each other which are necessary. They will look after their own breakfasts and teas, and have their main meals and all the heavy work supplied to and for them. If, however, one of the four in the clutch should become ill, with a head cold or something not at all serious, the others will bring up his meals and look after him. Any sort of temporary upset will be looked after in this way, so that the four, as human beings, will, every one, have a certain responsibility which will have a great value in making each person recognise that a certain amount, although not too much, is dependent on him. The heavy work of the undertaking will, of course, be done by those people who are responsible, but the four people living alongside each other, without obtruding on each other's privacy, can do a great deal for each other. Shopping can be undertaken, books changed, newspapers fetched, pensions collected, letters posted and all the rest of it.
I realise that this is not a big or even an exciting experiment; and yet, undertaken in this shape, I think it is worth mentioning, because of the change which we hope it will bring in removing from retired people who live alone the feeling that they are not wanted and in preventing a sense of loneliness. There is a great deal of work which can be done within the community by a great many women who are over the retiring age. My face is set against getting people to work for the wrong reasons, by which I mean inveigling them into work with the promise of work as an anodyne or soporific; but I am convinced that, so long as health can sustain it, work is a 420 great stimulant; and the people with whom I work put in a very heavy week's work long beyond retirement age. They are happy in their work and do good service, and if the image is not of beauty, it is at any rate of mature and practical compassion and carries conviction with it in its endeavour.
§ 4.43 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF CHESTER
My Lords, many figures and statistics have been quoted during the course of this debate and I hesitate to add to them, except for the reason that there are some which I think will put this question of retirement into its proper setting. I understand, on the figures of the Registrar General, that there are 2 million men in this country over the age of 65—that is to say, that one in ten has reached the age of retirement; and that there are 5 million women over the age of 60—that is, one woman in ten has reached the age of retirement. I understand that every day 1,150 people retire from their work; These figures I think illustrate the importance of the subject that we are debating.
It is strange that we are so ignorant of these facts and that we hear so little of them. Therefore, we are greatly indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, for making articulate this area of our social life which must be of such importance. For it is an area which lends itself to tensions in the lives of individuals and is therefore a matter of concern for the whole of society. Moreover, it is strange that we hear so little about retirement, for reasons not only of the size of the problem but also because so many of the demands of modern society are throwing the question of retirement into relief. For instance, we know the many demands that are being made that leadership should be in the hands of young and energetic people and not in the hands of old people. There is often real resentment when older people hang on to positions of leadership and block the opportunities for promotion and for young people to be able to accept the full responsibilities of a particular matter with which they are concerned.
Again, we are all aware of the pressures of modern life, of the speed with which we have to equate ourselves, with the immense anxieties which come into our lives. We know that we tend to wear out 421 earlier in life than did our fathers who lived in more leisurely days. It is all the more important to accommodate to the fact that young people should be bearing the immense burdens rather than people who may physically, spiritually or mentally be inadequate to their demands. Finally, we know that pension schemes, which were not in existence years ago, now make it financially possible for many people to retire who would otherwise have worked on to the end.
From my observation, the reaction of people who come to retire depends largely upon their temperament. A large number of people whom I know look forward to retirement and it comes to them with a sense of relief. They think of their retirement as opening doors of new opportunity, of giving them an opportunity to do things which they have longed to do and which they have never had the opportunity to do—to travel, to give more time to their families than they have done in the past, to undertake some social service of their interest, actively to promote some charity in which they have been interested, to have time to pursue their hobbies which have only been part-time in the past. We all, I am sure, know those people who have found in retirement a real relaxation and an opportunity for new and positive development of their lives. Indeed, are there not many, when one asks them how they are getting on in retirement, who tell of their enjoyment of it with the words, "I now wonder how I ever had time to do my own job."
On the other hand, there are many people, perhaps the majority, for whom retirement is something which they look forward to only with dread. It is a cloud on the horizon of their daily lives. And because it is that so many thing are distasteful to them they try not to think about it and, when it comes it comes with all the more traumatic effect into their lives. Why should this be? One reason, surely, is because people dread the possibility of doing nothing. I believe that it was written on the gravestone of a charlady, who had worked herself into the grave:She has gone to Heaven to do nothing for ever and ever.For her that may have been the idea of Heaven, but it is not for most people. 422 I think that that is the basis of the dread which so many people have of impending retirement.
There is also the difficulty of adjusting oneself to permanent leisure. My right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham has spoken of this with greater eloquence than I can, but I can imagine so well what a break it is for so many people to depart from the life of routine which has been part and parcel of their existence for so many long years. The regular going to the office, the regular hours, the taking of decisions, the freshness of tackling new problems, all this has become the very heart of the person's life, and the idea of breaking the routine is something which they dread. My right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham has spoken of distaste at the loss of status in the position that one has occupied; of the loss of friendships and companionship and relationships which have formed so much a part of a person's work, and, of course, the loss of a sense of purpose. Therefore, there is a strong case for giving help to those who need it, and advice on the way in which they can meet what must inevitably be the lot of the very great majority of us.
Mention has been made of those firms which accept this as part of their duty towards their employees, of the provision that there is for centres of adult and further education, and so on. My right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham has spoken of the work done by the Pre-Retirement Association, and it is interesting to note that that Association remarks that the facilities which it offers are not taken up with the energy and enthusiasm that one would have expected from a society which seeks to meet so obvious a human need. Why should this be? Is it not because the refusal of people to prepare for retirement is evidence of a deeper malaise in our society—a malaise which shows itself in the fact that people are not prepared to face realistically the facts of life, the fact of increasing age, the fact of the lessening of our abilities, the fact of the inevitability of decay and finally of physical death? We so easily shut our eyes to these things and live in a fool's paradise, and when these things catch up on us they cause—as they do very often—a deep malaise in a person's life.
423 I am sure that my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham was right in stressing in his speech that we have to create a new attitude towards life as it is in its completeness, and to see life as a series of changing patterns which make new demands upon us and for which we must be preparing ourselves at each stage. May not this perhaps be illustrated most clearly by that moment in our existence which many of us will come to when we have to be completely dependent upon other people? No one likes to be beholden to others, but for many of us that experience will be some-thing that we must undergo. Yet can it not be seen as something that is positive and creative? Think, for instance, of the way in which young people to-day see and accept the opportunity of service to the aged, and how young people, who may in other ways be tiresome and difficult, find great satisfaction themselves in helping old people, in looking after their houses and gardens, doing their shopping and so on. May not this be the creative thing that some of us will be required to do at the end of our lives, when we can do nothing for ourselves but can call forth from other people something that is good and creative?
I trust we shall see this Motion as calling us to a radical re-assessment of the meaning and purpose of our life here on earth. I agree with my right reverend friend the Bishop of Durham who said that the gospel of work must go; that we must rid ourselves of this guilt that is in the hearts of many of us that if we are not working there is something that is wrong with us. We need to look at our life in its fullness and its totality. For the Christian this means looking at death as a mere incident within it, but that at each stage we are preparing ourselves for it, and using the opportunities that come to the full. That is something for which people can indeed be prepared, but it is ultimately something which alone concerns the individual and his attitude towards the verities of life. If this debate has enabled us, and those who hear it and read it, to understand these things more clearly, then indeed the noble Lord will have done us all a great service by introducing it.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, I should like to thank my noble 424 friend for putting this Motion on the Order Paper, which deals with what I consider the most important social problem with which the Government, the local authorities and the whole community, have to deal, namely, that of an ageing population. When I was a young woman we used to have debates on the infantile mortality rates, and we were much more concerned with the other end of life. To-day, the problem of the ageing population is one of immense importance.
I was surprised when my noble friend challenged me—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, did—and said that here is an opportunity for the noble Baroness to prove that she believes in equality; and they quoted certain statistics, and reminded the House that men retire at 65, and women retire at 60. Then my noble friend said, I thought with a little tinge of jealousy, that a woman's expectation of life is longer. My Lords, I am not going to prove my passion for equality, as it is called, by demanding that women should work to 65 years of age. The whole theme of my speech is going to be that we should protect men and reduce their minimum age of retirement to women's age, or less. In fact I was intending only to discuss men to-day, because I believe that the problems of retirement are felt more by men than by women—indeed, one speaker asked a question about that.
May I say this, at the risk, of course, of being shot at? I believe that men always have to feel that they justify their existence through work. I believe this to be the key to the whole matter—I am glad to see the noble Baroness nodding. Women, on the other hand, whether they are married without children, married with children, or single, justify their existence in other ways, by caring for somebody; by caring for the home and by manifesting a maternal instinct—even when caring for their old husbands when they are retired.
May I ask my noble friend sitting behind me, who suggests that women should retire at 65: are these two old people to be there, trying to get a meal for each other; or is it better perhaps, in the present circumstances (of which I do not approve), that the woman at least shall retire at 60, so she can continue to look after the house—
§ LORD RAGLAN
My Lords, I wonder if the noble Baroness will give way for a moment. She has delivered five minutes—
§ BARONESS SUMMERSKILL
My Lords, two or three people have rather challenged me on this theme. We cannot deal with this matter simply by quoting statistics. Statistics are hard things which can be interpreted in all kinds of ways. We are talking about a way of life, and about how we, as Parliamentarians, shall so plan legislation that the way of life after, let us say, 60 or 70 is as happy and as acceptable as it is possible to make it. That is how I conceive the debate to-day.
It is a fact that women are more capable of facing up to retirement, to widowhood (and, after all, widowhood raises many problems), and indeed loneliness, than men are. We have had a number of suggestions as to what people should do ten years before their retirement. Of course, it is no good telling poor people in the lower income groups about all these rather grandiose schemes in which they may indulge in order to prepare for retirement. My simple prescription for it all—and I believe that everybody is capable of doing this—is that the thing to do years before retirement, in fact all your life, is to cultivate friendships. Good friendships endure. It has been said before—but how true it is!—that fellowship is life. Nothing keeps life in the old body more than to know that people are coming to see you and look after you. When I listened to my noble friend (it was probably the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham) remind the House of a number of things that might be done ten years before retirement, I felt that most of them were a little complicated. But the cultivation of friendships—and by "cultivation" I mean that one has to give as well as to receive—is an important recipe. That particular prescription will survive so long as the individual does who cares to accept it.
Most of what I say will concern men at work, and their problems of retirement 426 and the age of retirement. I think that most major problems of retirement can be solved, save one; and that is ill-health. Ill-health transforms retirement from a period of relaxation and freedom from the physical and psychological burdens of work to an enforced rest accompanied by some physical disability—a horrible picture of retirement for anybody. While most men look forward to some years of well-earned leisure after a long working life, the fact is that the average retiring age of 65 is not far short of the average expectation of life. I am well aware that in assessing an expectation of life one has to start from number one; but, broadly, the fact is that the average man who retires at 65 has not many years to go.
I believe, with the noble Lord, that we must approach the whole subject in a new manner. I believe that the age of retirement should be related to the nature of the employment and the occupational hazards over a period of years. It has always seemed to me to be grossly unjust that an industrial worker, engaged in heavy manual labour, should have the same retiring age as a sedentary worker; and that a man should be expected to work in a coal mine or steelworks for the same proportion of his working life as a clerk at a desk before he is entitled to a retirement pension. I agree that there are those cases where he can opt out, but I am thinking of the full retirement pension, and in my opinion the minimum age should be reduced. Just let us picture the industrial worker over all these years, compelled to breathe the dust of the mine or a dirty factory, while another man with the same retirement age can spend the period in a well-ventilated office.
Retirement, however, does not necessarily solve the problem of the industrial worker, for the damage has already been done. Let me take an example. Since the reduction in the morbidity and mortality rate from tuberculosis, the chief killing and disabling disease of the respiratory system is chronic bronchitis. Not only is this disease responsible for loss of working life, but the sheer physical misery of respiratory distress must be seen to be fully appreciated. The facts are that 33 million working days and 30,000 lives a year are lost from this disease, most of which is preventable. 427 As I have said, retirement does not necessarily solve this problem. The damage is done while the man is at work, and only partial amelioration is possible on retirement. The victim has been exposed for years to atmospheric pollution, to industrial dirt and dust. As with the most lethal respiratory disease, lung cancer, abstention from smoking can protect one to some extent, but it is the length of exposure to unhealthy working conditions that must determine the severity of the symptoms. And it is a tragedy (I speak with some passion, because I had an industrial constituency in the North for the last eight to ten years of my life in another place, and I saw these men) to see men in their late fifties and early sixties short of breath, with a permanent wheeze, desperately trying to keep going until the age of retirement.
We hear a great deal about pollution these days. Workers have died prematurely from the effects of air pollution for generations. It seems to me that it is only when pollution on the roads affects the motorists and the better off that it becomes a national scandal, with the attendant publicity—indeed, international publicity.
Certain occupational diseases are scheduled, but these are very limited. They carry some financial compensation. But there are other disabling conditions, such as chronic bronchitis and arthritis, which can be attributed to long years at a particular job. In consequence, retirement at the outset is burdened by ill-health because the man has been expected to work too hard and for too long. It is remarkable how relatively few men complain, apart from wages, about their conditions of work. It is of course easy to criticise the industrial worker. He receives criticism from people who have never done any manual work in their lives. But most of these men have a laudable pride in a job which becomes a habit—a habit which they are forced to follow—and they feel they would perhaps be upsetting their whole family if they confessed that they wanted to retire. As a result, it is often the most conscientious who develop stress symptoms long before the age of 65.
Recently it was announced that professional footballers will receive a retirement pension at 35. This indicates that signs of physical deterioration make it 428 obvious that there is little chance of a star footballer emerging after the age of 35. Nobody disputes this. I am not urging pensions for all at 35, but I want to point out that it is significant that a man in heavy industry must continue working for another 30 years before retirement, while the young footballer is pensioned at 35. Similarly, in the police force men are retired at 55, because at that stage they are considered unfitted to undertake tasks calling for great physical strength. I believe, therefore, that this is the right principle; namely, that the age of retirement should have some relationship to the character of the work and the vulnerability of the worker to prolonged physical strain.
When we come to consider the intellectual activities, my noble friend Lord Silkin rather devoted his energies to the Law Lords, for whom I have some affection. I must confess that I have not noticed that they have been suffering from those disabilities when they are here. They hear everything I say very well, and their eyes seem to be pretty good, too. Of course, I do not spend much of my time in the courts. But what may make up a little for any defect in their ears and eyes is the fact that they have had tremendous experience; and experience, my Lords, comes with age. Therefore, I attach great importance to experience. I would much rather see those mature men sitting there than a lot of young Don Juans looking marvellous, with long hair and (to use the modern expression) being "with it". Give me the old Law Lords with their experience, my Lords! I attach great importance to that.
So we come to the other end of the scale, to those engaged in intellectual work, and we find all kinds of anomalies there. Everyone knows that in his own particular field these anomalies exist, but perhaps I may speak particularly of the field of medicine. In medicine we find the surgeon and the physician with the same retiring age, although it may be argued that the surgeon, standing for many hours in the operating theatre, is exposed to greater physical strain. I would say that the single-handed general practitioner is subject to greater strain than either of them, and I believe his expectation of life is pretty low. The psychiatrist, who has a sedentary job, 429 retires at the same age, although his experience and knowledge of human behaviour and the functionings of the mind has been slowly acquired after years of work. It is a recognition of the value to the community of the knowledge and experience of the kind that the psychiatrist has acquired which entitles the judge to continue to pronounce judgments at the age of 75. I believe it was only comparatively recently that the age was fixed at 75. Before that I believe judges could go on much longer. However, as I have said, their value to the community was that they had experience, and that can be bought only with age.
The curious thing is that there is a great shortage of judges and psychiatrists and I always fail to understand why the country keeps the judge until he is 75 (which is quite right) and yet jettisons the psychiatrist at the age of 65. For in the field of psychiatry, as in many others, there is a serious shortage of men and women. I think we should look at the whole of that field again. It seems that a self-employed writer at any age, provided his material is suitable, can find a publisher to print and distribute his work without any fear that his ago will deter-mine his fate.
My Lords, in the time at my disposal I have given only a few examples to illustrate the disadvantages to the individual and the community of fixing an arbitrary age for retirement. I know it is easier for the civil servants; I know it is easier for the machine; but if we are to tackle the real problem of our ageing population we must face up to this issue. The policy that we pursue to-day ignores the variations in human personality, the nature of the environment and the strain and stress involved in different occupations. I believe it is inhuman to condemn many men who toil until they are 65 to premature death, and it is wasteful of human resources to condemn others, whose minds are still agile, to stagnate while they might be able to make an important contribution to the social and intellectual life of our nation.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ LORD GARNER
My Lords, I join with others in paying tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, for introducing this Motion. The ground has been so well traversed in so many speeches that there is little left for me to do other than to 430 underline briefly one or two points. In fact, my only excuse for intervening in this debate is that I am a living example of the sort of problem raised in the Motion. But for retirement I should not be enjoying the privilege of addressing your Lordships at this moment, and, indeed, I suppose I should not even be a Member of your Lordships' House.
Among the problems of retirement which the debate has brought out, it seems to me that two are outstanding. The first is "when" and the second is "how". At varying stages we have run the gamut of the sort of age at which people retire, from the octogenarian recalled by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, to the young footballers of 35 mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill. So where along the line from 35 to 85 should be the desirable point for retirement? Secondly, should there be different points, having regard to the nature of the job and the character of the individual?
My Lords, if I say something about my own case it is merely by way of illustration. My position is that I was retired at 60 with a not (I think I can mention it) insubstantial pension after 38 years of service. I do not know what statistical expectation of life I have. My own personal intention is to survive for another 25 years, although I gather from what the noble Baroness was saying that she would think I am probably being optimistic.
§ LORD GARNER
My Lords, they are good. Conceivably my wife might survive another 10 years beyond that time. If these optimistic forecasts were to be fulfilled, the taxpayers would be paying a pension to me or to my widow for as many years as in fact I have worked in the State service. So one might argue, mathematically, that it was rather a poor deal for the taxpayer. Of course, one could add the comment—although I want to de-personalise the argument here—that anyone capable of still further years of useful work should not be retired when he is still in that position.
In my view, there are at least three strong reasons why, at least in the professions or in a Service like my own, there are arguments for retirement at a 431 relatively early age, because I think benefits do accrue to the State, to the individual and to the Service. I think the State—meaning the State in a general sense—benefits in a way because a man with experience who has learnt a special faculty a special expertise in one walk of life, can, if he is still vital and flexible enough, be of immense value by bringing his qualities to bear in another sphere. Indeed, this cross-fertilisation of ideas which has been and is still going on between universities, industry, commerce, banking, the Civil Service and the Armed Services can bring in, and I think in many cases has brought in, much needed fresh ideas. We suffer a good deal generally from insufficient interchange at earlier stages, and I think something can be done at this late stage to fill the gaps by judicious appointments of those who retire early enough and are fit enough to be of continuing value.
Secondly, from the point of view of the individual, the difference between retiring at an age when one is fit and eager for new horizons to conquer, and retiring when one is finished with the job, with no fire left in the belly, seems to me to be comparable to the difference between, if I may coin a phrase, kings and cabbages. Retirement should certainly not give a feeling that one has reached the end of the road, but simply that a chapter has ended and a new chapter, equally exciting and stimulating and worthwhile, lies ahead.
Thirdly, from the point of view of the service, I think this is often the governing consideration. Most organisations have a structure like a pyramid: the base is very crowded and the top is represented by one small dot. Clearly, not everyone in the service can hope to reach the summit, but a reasonable degree of promotion ought to be available for all who are at least worth their salt. Otherwise morale suffers and the organisation loses its cutting edge. But this just is not possible if the ablest people in one generation reach the top posts, as they should if they are good enough and if they are real fliers, in their forties, and then stay on for another twenty years or so; because this means that the next echelon, the next stage below them, either have to be altogether passed over for promotion, which is bad, or themselves 432 reach the heights in their fifties, which is a little late in itself, thus in turn, if they stay on another ten years or so, holding back the next tier below them.
The phrase "Buggins's turn" has been mentioned in this debate and it is usually employed in a deprecatory sense, but what is in question is the efficient management of a service. It is not really a question of Buggins's turn in any improper sense; it is a question of identifying at an early stage the fliers, the people who are going to the top, and ensuring that they get the right experience at a sufficiently early stage and do not get frustrated and lose some of their steam, and so that the organisation maintains a lively and efficient attitude. Certainly I can confirm that very strongly from my own experience when I was responsible for the management of the Diplomatic Service.
So, for all these reasons and for some others, I would suggest that there is a strong case, at least in a service comparable with my own—and there must be many professions in a similar position—for regarding retirement at around the age of 60 as normal. I should think it should not be later, and in appropriate cases should possibly be earlier. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, and others who suggested that there must be some flexibility, some attention paid to personal qualities and human requirements. It certainly is the case that some people run out of steam before the normal retirement age, and it is only right, in the interests of the service as a whole, that, subject to proper—and I would emphasise "proper", by which I mean adequate, full—compensation, those people should be retired rather earlier than the normal age.
So much for the "when"; but it is of course very intimately linked with the "how". Most of what I had to say on this point has already been said, notably by the right reverend Prelates. The vital need is to satisfy the individual about to retire that he still has a role in society and can be socially and economically useful. And this, of course, must apply to all sections of the population. We must get rid of this numbing atmosphere, "If I retire, what shall I do? I shall have nothing to live for". Indeed I am inclined to think that the word "retirement" is a little 433 unfortunate. It carries all the wrong psychological overtones. By itself it implies withdrawal and suggests that a man's active life is finished.
I have already indicated various ways in which people from the professions might be usefully employed in retirement. I admit that it is much easier to employ people who have acquired skills of this kind as consultants and so on. It is much easier in that category than in many others. But it is equally important that the prospect of creative activity should be held out for all in retirement. Of course there is always ample scope for voluntary work, both in the home and in the community, but I am inclined to think that, to be fully satisfying, something more is necessary. I can only express the hope that this debate, which has thrown out some very valuable ideas and suggestions, may lead to what the right reverend Prelate called the creation of a new attitude towards these problems; that in that new atmosphere we may be able to provide satisfying outlets in the community for all in retirement and, in a word, give to those over 60 or 65, whatever the age may be, the same sort of service, the same sort of concentration of effort, as is given in many ways so admirably to young people to-day.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ LORD CROOK
My Lords, I join with other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Raglan for introducing this debate this afternoon. Some of what I would have said has already been said much better than I could say it. Other temptations which were put in my way by the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, I shall not follow. In my view, the discussion of the new superannuation Bill and the other regulations which will come to us will give us plenty of opportunity to deal with the points the noble Lord made. In my view, we are this afternoon talking about a very sober proposition, one that will affect at least 10 million people in this country by the end of this decade.
I join with my noble friend Lady Summerskill who said that we do not want too many statistics, but I should like to give a few more to add to those given by the right reverend Prelate, and to look at the census figures of the aged in this country, which I think is essential in this debate. In the year 1901, the year in which I was born, I understand 434 from the expectation of life figures given by the noble Lord, Lord Raglan that I had an expectation of life of 48 years and that last year I had an expectation of 68 years. So I have run past my time in either case. In 1901 the percentage of the population aged 65 or over was 4.7 per cent. Twenty years later it was 6 per cent. By 1961 it had reached 11.9 per cent. And all the time the total projection of the figure to the end of the percentage has to be applied to a rising population in this country. On any projection of the figure to then end of this year, 12½ per cent. is the likely figure. So by the end of this decade we shall have 10 million people either on pension or moving into the pension field.
I think we ought to be clear that the people included in the pension figures to-day are not jus: those who have reached the Government pension age of 65; many in firms and in the Civil Service are retiring at 60. What is more, I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, was correct when he said that all the pressure for a reduction in the age of retirement will come from the unions, because to my knowledge employers are at the moment also pressing for, and in certain cases are succeeding, in obtaining a reduction in the age of retirement to 55.
Thanks to better health, better housing, improved wages and reduced hours of work, this is not eally a question of age. In the years that I have lived in this century a large proportion of the people who reach retirement age, whatever it is, are fit and capable, and most of them can expect a further 12 to 15 years of life. The average life of the working people among whom I, as a trade union leader, have moved can be divided into three quite clear sections. First, there is the 14 years of education. The second period covers the 45 to 50 years of work. The third stage is readied when work is taken away from them compulsorily. Then they ought to have ahead of them 10 "golden years". In fact, all too many retired people all over the country face boredom; years which can bring them ill-health, either physical or mental from a sheer lack of interest in the lives that they lead. Some of them, pondering about retirement, think about the little jobs that they are going to get after they retire. Only a small proportion get 435 such jobs, and an even smaller number get jobs which, from their point of view, are congenial compared with their past work. Others plan in their minds that they will aid in voluntary efforts in the country. This is a most praiseworthy thought; but it is not always capable of being realised because of the limited number of opportunities available. Others there are who merely look with general pleasure on retirement. Gone is the daily grind, they tell themselves. No longer is there the routine of being subject to a boss; years of freedom lie ahead. There will be time for that bit of gardening.
But I am afraid that all too many do not even bother to think about the future, and their retirement comes to them as a shock. That, I believe, was what the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chester, said. There are those who retire in the belief that it is going to be a good time. It might be so for the first few weeks or months. But life cannot be lived in that vegetable kind of existence by the ordinary able-bodied man. The man from the factory finds himself completely lost. He does not know what to do with himself. This matter has been investigated again and again.
Typical of the kind of thing that one reads has been written by the Reverend W. E. Beveridge, the Industrial Chaplain to the Bishop of London, who has written so much on this subject and who has shown himself to be so knowledgeable in this field. He has recorded that a man said to him:I used to be happy as a lord when I knew I had to get out of bed and go to work. I still wake up at the same time every morning, but then I remember that I have no work to go to now, so I just lie there.In this case, as in so many others, the man is hanging around the house. As his wife said to the Reverend Beveridge:He is always sitting there wanting a cup of tea. When he goes out for a walk you are glad to see the back of him. It gives you a chance to get on.The men concerned have, in their own view, as the right reverend Prelate said, lost their status. If they were clerks in offices they were accustomed to getting up at 7 o'clock and catching the 8.5 to town, coming home on the 5.20. They met people in the office, they met others at lunch, and they talked with people in 436 the train. They felt that they had a place in society. But when they have retired all that has gone. The factory worker normally went to work at the 8 o'clock hooter and came out when the hooter sounded later in the afternoon. He misses his lunch and a yarn in the canteen, and his drink at the local with his mates. Now that has gone. If he goes back to the local he is no longer one of them. He is not in the factory, he is no longer in the works, and gradually he realises that he is on the scrap heap.
Not all are so badly off. Some of the factories to whom I paid tribute before have progressive programmes and have worked out plans of varying kinds. Others have benefited from the great work done by local community councils, the W.V.S., local education authorities and the pre-retirement organisations which now exist in some 17 regions of the country. I will not detain your Lordships by repeating the tributes which I paid on March 4, 1965, when moving the Motion to which the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has referred, when I declared my interest as the President of the Pre-Retirement Association. I paid tribute then to all those who work on that body and who have done so much.
One or two firms have started up sub-factories where retired workers can attend and produce goods, attending for some hours of the day on any days that they choose, and being paid at trade union rates. It is not an easy thing for a firm to do, and not necessarily something that many factories can afford to do. Others have co-operated with local education offices, and have seen to it that their workers have preparatory talks. I am glad to say that nowadays there are a few large progressive firms which have on their staff people called "retirement officers" to deal with this kind of problem. Some firms give time off each week for a period, gradually increasing the number of days off as the weeks go by. But this can be a tricky business. Our records show that one factory who were trying an advice service with lighter work for the final five years, produced exactly the opposite reaction to that which was expected. "I see", said some of the men, "they are going to bring the age of retirement earlier and this is how they are going to put it over on us". This difficulty of the reaction of employers and of workers is one that has 437 to be inquired into. I say this to your Lordships merely to illustrate that there are these problems.
Phased retirement is no new idea. Some 15 years ago Sir Alec Cairncross, subsequently known to your Lordships as head of the Government Economic Service and Economic Adviser to the Treasury, had a good deal to say on this. In his minority reservation to the Phillips Committee on the Economic and Financial Problems of the Provision for Old Age, which your Lordships will remember debating, he said:If a growing number of old people have to be helped to lead happy and useful lives, I can think of nothing more important than that they should learn to retire slowly, continuing in work for as long as possible but for diminishing stretches of time, at a diminishing pace of work and with diminishing responsibilities.He went on to say that in his view it was wrong, wasteful and cruel that men should be faced with this position because this would make them brittle in the latter years of their lives.
Let me make it quite clear that the employers and the T.U.C. have been most helpful in these matters;. Without the financial aid of some of them the Pre-Retirement Association would have got nowhere. We owe a great deal, for instance, to the Chairman of our organisation. Dr. Beric Wright. I think we should be grateful to the employers and the T.U.C. because they have played a part with all the others in setting up the organisation. I do not think I can do better than to quote what Sir Richard Powell, as Director-General of the Institute of Directors had to say, namely:Surely it's not too much to expect a firm to give some thought to preparing their employees (who have served them all their lives) for the day when the strident alarm of the hooter on the factory chimney means nothing to them at all as they lie in bed of a morning—when there's nothing to do but potter about in the garden trying to make what used to be a weekend's work last a full seven days.They are wise words and true.
One can only hope that more and more employers will come to realise that the men who run the machines are worthy of at least as much thought as the machines that are thrown on the scrap heap. The trouble is. of course—and I said this in the last debate—that there is absolutely no co-ordination on this sub- 438 ject in this country at all. More and more enlightened local authorities help to set up pre-retirement organisations in cities and towns. Some training boards are now putting pre-retirement education into their training plans, and I hope that the Central Training Council will advise others to do so. The stepping-down idea which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, advocated is again being tried by a number of people. Of course it was pioneered years ago in the Civil Service, where people taking the pension at 60 are allowed to come back in the grade lower down to help out the manpower position. It is in the Civil Service that those of us who deal with pre-retirement have had the greatest breakthrough during the last few months, because the Civil Service Department has urged that all civil servants should be encouraged to take advantage of any pre-retirement facilities in their area.
I should like here and now to express my gratitude to my noble Leader, who is the Minister responsible for the Department, on this first general acceptance of the principle in the Civil Service. This follows earlier individual efforts by the Ministry of Public Building and Works and the Treasury. Of course that is the limit of the amount of help the Treasury have ever been prepared to give. Yet as President of the Pre-Retirement Association I, or my right honourable friend Douglas Houghton, have been round trying to get the small amount of £5,000 a year for which we asked and which was to double up the contributions of employers and trade unions, and we have had nothing but congratulations on all that we were doing—approval from each Government Department in turn as they shunted us round and round until, at the end of twelve months, we found ourselves where we came in.
One of the things that I hope will come out of this debate, one point to which I want to address myself, is that one Department somewhere will be made responsible for dealing with this. I am not advocating which Department; I am not trying to say that it is easy to select it. But the position ought not to arise that we can have a debate here and go away, then come back in five years and have another one, and meanwhile there is no central place dealing with this problem. I think that this central agency 439 should be the focal point. It could do some of the things which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, wanted done for research and investigation into this subject, and could produce some of the new ideas about which the right reverend Prelate spoke.
I dislike ever suggesting the appointment of Royal Commissions or Inter-Departmental Committees (I think the second is better than the first), but it may well be that what we want is something like that in order that we may obtain and set down, once and for all, some knowledge of what the problems are. That could and should be done by discussing them with the multitude of organisations taking different steps and doing different things; with the many firms who are doing first one thing and then the other, and trying experiments; with the people and voluntary organisations who are helping in this work. Somebody should be trying to get all this information together. It is something that we have tried to do, in a limited way, in the Pre-Retirement Association; but without funds and the ability to employ full-time staff we have been unable to do it.
I was interested to see that the reply for the Government to-night is to be given by my noble friend Lady Phillips, for I have lively memories of the original meeting on September 26, 1963, of the Preparation for Retirement Committee which was setting up the Pre-Retirement Association. At that meeting a very energetic little school teacher, then known as Mrs. Norah Phillips, got up and made a noble defence of the position of women. Therefore, I know that my noble friend Lady Phillips, whatever kind of brief she must in her position have to speak to in her reply to this debate, is one who personally understands what we are talking about this afternoon, and appreciates something of the problem that we have.
My Lords, I conclude by saying the total of the over-65s now exceeds the total of the young in this country. But they have nobody to lend them banners or to chalk things for them; no one to encourage them and to march through the streets, and put their bottoms on the pavement. I always fail to understand why we have to accept preparation for the other milestones in life—schooling, 440 work, marriage, parenthood, and so on—but have never come to regard preparation for retirement from active work as one of the problems that we should look at. We have failed singularly to prepare people for what should be a life of reward, for the new form of leisure that is to be theirs on their attaining this mystic age—whatever it is—when they have to retire. But in the belief that someone, at some time, somewhere, is going to do something about this, I support the Motion.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I did not put my name down to speak because I did not know what pattern the debate was going to take. But I feel there is a contribution that I can make, and as the last day of my three score years and ten draws to its close I trust that your Lordships will bear with me if I do make a few comments on the Motion which the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has so ably introduced.
I have retired twice already. When I was 51 I retired from thirty years of business in the East. I then found myself again employed in this country, and retired once more when I was 65. This brings me to the first point that I want to make when we are debating the problems of retirement, and this is the problem which faces the man who serves his country, his business, or himself in a tropical country. It is inevitable that he must step down at about the age of 50. Of course, since I was young the pattern of employment in the East has changed, in that the self-employed and the partnership businessman—the lone planter and the like—is disappearing, and in the business field his place is taken by the large firm, who ordinarily can provide somewhere in a temperate climate for their servants to work in after they retire from the East.
So far as Government Service is concerned, I know I am right in saying that the Government have a very good pool arrangement, and a Department which is constantly reviewing the problems of their servants who return to this country at an early age, and try to fit them into suitable employment. At the same time, I think it is fair to mention in this debate the problems that do face the professional or the self-employed who retire from tropical countries in their 441 early fifties. From Thackeray to E. M. Forster, of course, everybody has poked fun at the "box wallah" and the "buffer" from the East; and in a more sinister manner "Lord Haw-Haw" and "Tokyo Rose" did their test to decry the services which our countrymen rendered, and still render, to our economy in the East.
My first point is to make an urgent appeal that we should brush aside that image which I feel is so false. Let us remember that many of these men are very capable, very adaptable. They have been used to responsibility from an early age and have had to make decisions, often "off the handle", sometimes without anybody to consult or from whom they can seek advice. It is worth remembering that they are also adaptable in terms of meeting other people. I was discussing this point with somebody here to-day, and it was suggested that they are particularly suitable for personnel officers. However that may be, among our communities there are problems of retirement which strike the individual who works overseas at an earlier age than the age of which we speak to-day when we talk of the pensionable age at sixty-five.
I was much struck by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Crook, and linked it up with what was said about the need for activity of mind. I do not altogether agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham that "the gospel of work must go." If we substitute the word "activity" for the word "work", then surely the gospel of activity must not go. When the noble Lord, Lord Crook, talked of the problem of the bedroom slippers about the house on retirement, I thought of two Scottish expressions. The first is, "Oh, he will live long enough. He puts on his boots when he gets up"; and the other one is, "He will be all right. He has bought a big dog." Any of your Lordships who have a big dog know that it needs exercise and makes an old man hop around.
I should now like to turn to what the noble Lord, Lord Garner, said about the age of 60 in terms of retirement from Government service. As one noble Lord said to me to-day, it is ridiculously low. I do not agree with the right reverend Prelate that in this day and age we may wear out sooner because we 442 work harder than our forbears who led a leisurely life. Medical science and a proper diet may have offset the difference between the high pressures of to-day and the so-called leisurely life of some time ago, and I wonder whether 60 is not too young an age to retire. I wonder whether it is better to have a high age of retirement and ask a man to retire early, or to have a low age of retirement and ask a man to stay. This is an important point and is connected with what the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, said about the need for flexibility in dealing with retirement problems.
I do not altogether agree that people are not facing up to retirement. I am a director of an insurance company, and any of your Lordships who follow the figures of the life assurance business will know that the number of individuals who are insured is increasing by leaps and bounds every year. That seems to me to be clear enough evidence that many people are taking the view that they are going to retire, that they are going to need resources and that now is the time to provide for them. If I may say so without criticism, I think the importance of the life assurance business in our economy is sometimes overlooked, and the Government have perhaps overlooked it in the plans which have now been laid before Parliament. I shall not refer to them lest I let fly.
That brings me to a technical point concerning the existing pension arrangements. I refer to the married woman who is considerably older than her husband. This is a point which is worth looking at. She may be ten, twelve or fifteen years older than her husband, and when she retires she cannot normally draw a pension until her husband is 65. If she has subscribed so that she is entitled to a pension, that pension is taxable and is grossed up with her husband's income. That is a small technical matter which the noble Baroness might care to get her Department to look at. I may be quite wrong in thinking that the problem is insurmountable, but I know of one case which is very difficult.
My next point is concerned with the old age pensioners' earnings. There has been some relief recently, in providing that an old age pensioner can earn more money without affecting his pension, but I believe that the limit is far too low. 443 I feel that a great deal of the trauma among those wage earners who have to face retirement arises because, no matter what their energy, either of body or of mind, any earnings they bring into the family purse are bound to affect the pension which they draw. If only on grounds of a moral sense, the rules should be greatly relaxed and old age pensioners should be entitled and enabled to earn more and to pocket more, because there is much part-time work that can be done. I should like to see something done in that direction.
Those are the four points which I had it in mind to make. To return to what I said about my disagreeing with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham on the gospel of work having to go, I am sure he would agree with me, if he were here, that the gospel of activity must stay. May I refer to another old Scottish tenet on which I was brought up which goes like this, "Don't rust out; wear out."
§ 5.58 p.m.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
My Lords, we are all very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, for bringing our attention to the problems connected with retirement and for doing it in such a thoughtful and splendidly philosophical way. At his age, I am sure we all agree that he can hardly be accused of having a vested interest. I am not quite certain that some of the ages of noble Lords which he gave were correct. He probably sought them from one book, when he should have sought them from several and checked up on the mean.
It is clear that previous generations have also given attention to the questions that we have been discussing to-day, as the following quotation will show:We must combat the infirmity of old age as we would resist the approaches of a disease. To this end we should be regularly attentive to the articles of health, use moderate exercise and neither eat nor drink more than is necessary for repairing our strength without oppressing the organs of digestion. Nor is this all. The intellectual faculties must likewise be assisted by proper care as well as those of the body, for the powers of the body, like the flame in the lamp, will become languid and extinct by time if not recruited. Indeed, the mind and body equally thrive by a suitable exertion of their powers, with this difference, however, that bodily exercise ends in fatigue whereas the mind is never wearied by its activity.That was written by Aristotle some time ago. It would be interesting to know what 444 old age was at that time, as I recall that Catherine of Aragon, at a much later time, was described as an old woman when she was 32; one of the many reasons making me very pleased that I live as a woman in this century. I am also happy to learn from the introduction of the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, that I have not yet reached middle-age—a very consoling thought.
My Lords, in the question that we are discussing to-day I think we would all recognise that the society in which we live, the country in which we live, has a curious obsession with the question of chronological age. If a man breaks his leg and this is reported in a newspaper, you will invariably see,"Man, 42, breaks leg", though I have never been quite certain what relevance his age has. Marlene Dietrich said on one occasion that she was asked her age more times in England that in any other country in which she travelled. It is therefore obvious that any discussion we have will be bedevilled by the attitude that we take as a community towards the question of chronological age.
It is worth remembering—and one or two noble Lords have made reference to this—that the question of retirement is not one which would have concerned our grandfathers, because in fact they were not fortunate enough to have years in which to enjoy retirement. In many cases, neither would it have concerned our fathers, even; so it is indeed a situation which is very much of the present generation. Because the idea is so new, and because many of us have not really learned how to use our leisure, the prospect of retirement fills many people with a sense of fear, as so many noble Lords have stressed to-day. There is the fear of physical deterioration—and it would be useless to suggest that the fear of physical decay is not with us all. I remember once saying on television, when I was supposed to be discussing middle age, that I should like a new neck. I was inundated with all sorts of suggestions from ladies, and I received a large jar of cream from somebody who assured me that this would do the trick. But there is no doubt that physical and mental deterioration is a very real fear, and this is unfortunately associated with the ideas of retirement.
445 I was happy to hear one noble Lord—I believe it was the noble Lord, Lord Garner—suggest that we should have another word for this phase. I should like to use the word "challenge" rather than the word "problems" This is a challenge. This is a new phase of life which we have been given; this is a bonus period of years; and therefore the word "problems" seems to me rather to depress a discussion on it from the beginning. As the noble Lord, Lord Crook, was kind enough to say, I have been very much concerned with the Pre-Retirement Association from its inception, and I remember sharing the platform with an eminent American professor who said that every human being needs "security, response, affection and adventure". I should like to suggest to your Lordships that these needs are true when you reach the age of retirement just as they are true in the middle years or in the earlier years. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has indicated the number of people in this age group. I think he said it was 12.6 per cent. of the population. I would suggest to any politician that this could in fact be a new source of student power. If they were to get together' with banners, as one noble Lord suggested, they could be a very formidable group to consider.
In this very thoughtful debate I think we have heard a universal acceptance of certain ideas. One is that we must have an attitude different from that which is current to-day, and that we must set our thinking on the broadest possible lines. I was rather interested to hear the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham refer to work as a punishment. Having been brought up as a Catholic, of course I was also taught that work and discipline were necessary for the punishment of the body in order that the soul could afterwards enjoy the Other Place. I am glad to say that I have enjoyed the punishment of work, and, with the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, I should not like to feel that we have cast out the idea that there is a dignity in labour. Work is there to be enjoyed if you are truly healthy and if you are in the right job. As several noble Lords have suggested, our life is a succession of different patterns, and this is in fact what retirement is all about.
446 The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, made me feel rather a little alarmed when he said, speaking of this House, "Nobody listens to us; we do not do any harm". I rather wondered whether it was worth while replying to this debate. I must say that when I read the papers I certainly do not think that we have any great influence, for they rarely bother to report us; and I am quite certain that I shall not find a word of what I have said in the papers to-morrow. But as several noble Lords have said, it is useful to feel that at any rate we do no harm.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I think, posed one very important question (and this is very relevant to something which I shall come to a little later) about the flexibility of the pensionable age when he said,"Who will decide when we must retire? Somebody will have to make the decision ". I recall the battles that have gone on in women's organisations when they have decided that the young wives must move over and join the older wives. Nobody has ever been able to determine when one has ceased to be young and become old. Similarly, I think that some youth groups have this problem, and this is a very relevant question to pose: who will decide what is the right age and what is the right condition in which you should retire?
The noble Baroness, Lady Swan-borough, brought to her contribution all that great compassion and thought which she always does, and I was particularly pleased to hear about her residential units, because I had the pleasure of hearing of these before. She said that this was perhaps not a very exciting experiment. My Lords, I believe that it is an exciting experiment, because it is hitting on the real crux of the matter. You need to be wanted, you need to do something, and this is what they are achieving—helping one another.
The noble Baroness also dealt with the question of the necessity for varied interests in our leisure, and said that we should be able to renew our work on a different basis. This seems to me to be the theme which so many noble Lords have introduced: that one would not necessarily work at the same kind of work but would be able to work at other kinds of work, whether in a paid or a voluntary capacity. I was somewhat startled to hear from a solicitor friend 447 of mine the other day that when he advertised for an office boy, for a retired man, he had 270 applications, and that most of them said they were not concerned about the salary; they just wanted something to do. This reflects very much the theme which has run through our debate to-day.
I would say to those noble Lords who have referred to this necessity for preparation (and also, if I dare for once take issue with her, to my noble friend Lady Summerskill, with whom I always agree) that preparation for retirement is often necessary, and that it is not as high-powered as my noble friend perhaps thought. I hope she will come along to some of the courses, in which I have been privileged to participate, in such industries as I.C.I, or Rubery Owen (there are so many that I could mention) where they are taking these very exciting courses at various ages—50, 55, 60; again, nobody is quite sure when he should begin this preparation. But these courses are attended in worktime, and they are extraordinarily rewarding. It is here that we see—or here, at any rate, that I have learnt—the difference in the work patterns of people. I have talked to the brewery managers, who of course have a problem because they lose not only their jobs but their houses. I have talked to the seamen, who must return to their homes and will probably do the housework better than their wives—they have got a very special problem; and I have talked to all levels of workpeople, who have to meet retirement in different ways because their pattern of life is different.
In this connection, I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, that I take his point about those of our men who work overseas. I have been privileged to work with many of them when they have re-turned in the field of voluntary social service, where their very special talents have been picked up. But, as I say, I take the point that he has made in this connection.
My Lords, the preparation for retirement, particularly that initiated by the Pre-Retirement Association, is being picked up by local education authorities. It is being picked up quickly, but it is not quickly enough. But at least there is a recognition that, just as we prepare 448 for going to school, for going to the university or for entering marriage, we need to prepare for this phase of our life; and we are seeing that the universities, various organisations like the W.E.A. and local authorities, are all now beginning to arrange these courses, and that these courses are being taken up quite enthusiastically.
Now I come to the points raised in connection with the Government contribution to the question of retirement. I should like to say at once that I am sure your Lordships will agree that the record of Her Majesty's Government in trying to make the financial problems of retirement less, is good. The pension is now quite a reasonable one. If one talks to pensioners as I do, often I find that they in the community are the least dissatisfied. I have had old ladies say to me:"For the first time in my life I have a little more money to spend completely on myself ". This is a condemnation of the low wages on which many of them had to manage and a recognition that they are not unhappy that they are being helped.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, posed several questions in relation to the pensionable age. To those noble Lords who raised points about compulsory retirement, I should like to emphasise this point because it is important. The State schemes provide the contributory and non-contributory pensions; but they do not prescribe the. age at which retirement must take place. In other words, the National Insurance Scheme sets out a minimum pensionable age. I think that that is rather important. People have come to group the two things together. The State does not actually say that this is the compulsory pensionable age, but the minimum pensionable age of 65 for a man and 60 for a woman. As the noble Lord, Lord Crook, said, when I was Mrs. Phillips and posing questions—in other words, I was playing poacher rather than gamekeeper, a job at which I still feel I am much better—I asked then why women had to retire at 60 rather than at 65. I had a very interesting repercussion (which the noble Baroness will appreciate) from the nurses, who said, "We do not want to go on until we are 65. You are not doing us a service by pressing this point." It needs, I would say, a great deal of 449 thought. This has been reflected in the debate to-day; we have had the plea for a higher age of retirement and the plea for a lower age of retirement; so that it seems there is a great area (and we know this) for investigation and research and for looking at this question.
The official reason given for the age of retirement being still 60 for women and 65 for men, is that the scheme takes into account the normal family situations. Most men reach the age of 65 with a younger wife. I was rather heartened to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, that it is possible for an older women to get a younger husband—especially one younger by 10 years. So I shall be able to look around much more assiduously. But the fact is that if the pension age for men and women were the same, it would mean that when the husband reached pensionable age and retired, it would be some time before the wife could draw the pension which she had herself earned. That is the present situation; but this is one of the things that I should like to take back to my right honourable friend, for I have strong feelings about this myself; although I am beginning to wonder now whether I should be doing a disservice to the female population if I pressed for the age to be a little higher. Perhaps we should be suggesting that it should be lower, with the option of continuing in work.
The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, then brought forward the question of the different retirement ages for individual occupations. This, of course, was reinforced by the powerful argument advanced by the noble Baroness, Lady Summerskill, and the noble Lord, Lord Garner. I do not think it will be news to your Lordships if I say that successive Governments have taken the line that it would not be right for reasons of principle to have different ages of retirement for particular groups of people by reference to the nature of their employment. One of the main features of a National Insurance Scheme is that it is essentialy based on the pooling of risks among the whole population. The National Insurance Scheme is not intended to make separate provisions for widely-differing circum-stances of groups of people whose jobs may cover a whole range of mental or physical effort.
450 Having said that, I feel certain, knowing my right honourable friend as I do, that he will look at this debate to-day and I hope that I will be able to discuss this question with him. I am sure that in any case we all agree that whatever the State does need not influence what a particular firm or group of firms or organisations do with their own employees. I think this may meet some of the points raised by the noble Baroness.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, is this not exactly the point? That while what the State does need not influence individual firms, what individual firms do influences what happens to their members; so that there may be this gap between a retirement age of 60 and 65. I was arguing that it should be possible to retire at different ages with different pensions. Nowadays the computer can easily work that out.
§ BARONESS PHILLIPS
Yes, my Lords, I am coming to that point. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, is a great expert at making things sound very simple. I am always confronted by reasons why they are not so simple. If we consider the fact that you could have a reduced or a discounted pension and that these should be made available to those who retire before the minimum pension age—in other words, the opposite of giving the increased pensions to those who postpone retirement—it is fair to say that it is less practicable than it appears at first sight. In the first place, it would add considerably to the complexity of the present scheme and the proposed new scheme which the noble Lord will understand I cannot discuss now; but I know that he will enjoy discussing it when it comes to your Lordships' House again.
Secondly, there is little doubt that it would lead to an increase in early retirement, the reduction in retirement pension rates being made good either by occupational pensions or by recourse to supplementary benefits. In the long term, it would inevitably lead to pressure for a general lowering of the pension age. Whether we decide that this is right or wrong, the noble Lord, Lord Garner, made one important point: that we might have the situation in which people retire for a longer time than they have contributed during their working life; 451 and we have always to recognise in Government that we are handling the money of the general community.
On the question of the earnings rule, raised by Lord Drumalbyn and, I think, by Lord Ferrier, while the earnings rule has been seen as a definite deterrent 1 would only say to the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn (and I know he will forgive me for this) that it was the present Government who took off another earnings rule which I once came to see him about, the one on widows. It was not the previous Government that took that off. The earnings rule in this connection has to be seen not as a penalty for those engaged in work after pensionable age but as a measure of fairness between those who retire and those who postpone their retirement. Its level is set so as not to offer an undue incentive to people of pension age to make a token retirement to secure a pension together with a substantial income from part or full-time work. This level is kept under regular review, and of course, it is done in this way because one factor which is borne in mind is the figure for the average earnings of those at work. I can assure the House that this question is being looked at closely, particularly at this time.
I am afraid that I am not able to tell the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, when the regulations in connection with occupational pensions will be laid; but I understand that it is likely to be quite soon. On the question of the employment of the older worker, it is useful that we should remind ourselves—this is why I should like it on the Record—that the Government have on the question of selective employment tax tried to make it easier for the employment of the older worker by relaxing this particular tax in connection with those whose establishments are not classified as manufacturing industries and who are refunded two-thirds of the selective employment tax paid in respect of part-time workers. These relaxations in the operation of the tax are particularly designed to encourage the employment of pensioners, the continued employment of workers approaching pension age and other older workers, particularly women, many of whom, for family reasons, prefer part-time work.
My Lords, I would endorse all that has been said by your Lordships about 452 the attraction of older workers. I have had a staff of over-60s and their absentee rate was absolutely negligible. Their loyalty was without question, and the amount of work they put in I would commend to anyone. Perhaps my task in retirement should be to set up an agency for the employment of older workers for the benefit of those of your Lordships who would like to apply. I was not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, was telling us that it was his birthday or the eve of his birthday; but in either event, if I may say so, he is a great credit to the hard-working life that he has had and an excellent example of how intellectual capacity keeps pace with the physical.
Throughout this debate, my Lords, I gained the feeling that there is a wide area in which a great deal of investigation and research is still needed. I know this to be the case. I believe that, if he has achieved nothing else, the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has brought this fact to the notice of those who should be doing far more about it; and we hope that the general community will gradually have a change of attitude. I like this philosophy of the poet—I feel it meets the case we have been discussing to-day—who said:Let me but live my life from year to yearWith forward face and unreluctant soul;Not hastening to nor turning from the goal.Not mourning things that disappear into the pastOr holding back in fear from what the future holds;But in youth and age travel on with cheer,And let the way wind up the hill or down,New friendships"—as the noble Baroness said—high adventure and a crown.I shall grow old but never lose life's zest.Because the road's last turn may be the best.My Lords, life is for living, and if there is a challenge to the scientists to-day it is, I suggest, not to reach the moon but to enable human beings to live fully until the moment they die.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ LORD RAGLAN
My Lords, I feel that anything I say now will spoil the effect of my noble friend's speech. I thank her for what she has said, and I thank all noble Lords who have spoken. 453 I never knew before that sometimes that courtesy can be heartfelt. For one moment last week it looked as if the only people who would be speaking in this debate would be my noble friend Lady Phillips and myself. But your Lordships at last came forward, and I am grateful to have heard your ideas and contributions. I am sorry to have got the age of my noble friend Lord Silkin wrong. I thought that he told me he was 77.
§ LORD RAGLAN
I should have checked my references. My noble and learned friend Lord Gardiner is 69, not 70—he is in his seventieth year.
My noble friend Lord Silkin came out more strongly than I might have expected for a fixed retirement age. But he went on to say that we should all choose our own time for retirement, which rather contradicted his first view. It is unfortunate that we are not all the best judges of our own abilities, and if we left it to everyone to decide when he should retire we might as well leave it to everyone to decide, for instance, when he should be promoted. This is one of the difficulties that we face in thinking about: this problem.
I liked the idea of my noble friend Lady Swanborough, of the man walking up to the top of the hill in his job and then walking down again. That is something of what I had in mind. I also agreed with her when she said that almost too much can be done for the aged. One can overdo it. I know of one woman who refused to live with her family because she was not allowed to do anything. She preferred to live on her own and fend for herself, and she felt better for it.
My noble friend Lady Summerskill, not for the first time, jumped on me for something that I never said. Any sexual jealousy which she thinks that I have exists only in her imagination. I merely asked why women should be eligible for an old-age pension at age sixty and men at age sixty-five. I acknowledge the superiority of her sex—at least I always do when she is in the room. She has grown so accustomed to flying to the defence of her sex that she thinks 454 that any mention of women in a speech by a man is an attack. I assure her that mine was not, and if she reads my speech she will see that it was not. Otherwise I agreed with everything she said.
The noble Lord, Lord Garner, mentioned "Buggins's turn". I think we ought to get this right. So far as I understand it, "Buggins's turn" means promotion by rigid seniority. That is how it was meant originally, and that is how it is meant generally. I do not think that you can have any variation of "Buggins's turn": it is either Buggins, or it is not. My Lords, I heard all the debate except for one moment when I had to retire, and on two things all your Lordships were agreed: that this is a most important social matter, and that we should take a long look at it as it affects society and the individual, and should try to cultivate a new attitude and a new flexibility towards it. I am very pleased indeed at having had the opportunity to raise it, and I now beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.