§ 2.52 p.m.
§ Lord SHINWELL
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether local authorities are advised to help able-bodied persons who have reached retirement age to engage in gainful or voluntary occupations of service to the nation.
My Lords, the provision of such help is not a statutory responsibility of local authorities. However, the Government recognise that many people over the State pension age wish to continue in employment, whether paid or voluntary, and sympathise with this wish. The Government are aware of the important contribution which some employers and voluntary organisations are making to helping older people find suitable work. In the Government's view, this is an area which is best left to local initiatives.
§ Lord SHINWELL
My Lords, while I appreciate my noble friend's Answer and the fact that local authorities have no statutory responsibility in a matter of this kind, surely his Department can circularise them and advise them to create some kind of organisation which will prevent this vast reservoir of talent being floated down the river. Surely something can be done. It requires some measure of organisation, and surely the Government have some responsibility in the matter. Cannot something more be done?
My Lords, I recognise what my noble friend has said about the reservoir of talent available in this age group, but there is quite a number of voluntary organisations throughout the country and the Government would wish to encourage their work. I doubt whether setting up a separate organisation, or requiring local authorities to carry out this work, would contribute helpfully.
§ Lord SHINWELL
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I am not asking for the creation of a separate organisation? We have far too many organisations already. I want local authorities, with some measure of common sense and appreciating the need for some action, to appoint someone who can take charge of this affair and put a bit of guts into it. Surely that could be done.
My Lords, local authorities could take informal action, but at the moment they have not any statutory powers in this respect. However, I should not like my noble friend to think that we are unsympathetic to the general proposal that he brings forward, which is that there is a need to open up avenues whereby retired people may engage in active occupations.
§ Lord LEATHERLAND
My Lords, might I ask my noble friend—and I do so as one who is approaching early middle age—whether it would not be possible for the Ministry of Labour job centres to be asked to compile registers of old people—one of those who want paid part-time employment and another of those who are willing to do voluntary work?
My Lords, certainly job centres are able and willing to give advice to people of any age who wish to seek employment. My noble friend's suggestion about a register is an interesting one, which I will consider.