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Retirement Age

Volume 951: debated on Tuesday 13 June 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what representations he has received from the Equal Opportunities Commission and the National Association of Pension Funds on the subject of the retiring age for men and women; and if he will make a statement.

My right hon. Friend and I have received copies of the National Association of Pension Funds' publication "Towards Equality in Retirement Ages" and of the Equal Opportunities Commission's consultative document "Equalising the Pension Age".

We shall shortly be publishing a discussion document on the elderly which takes account of the views expressed in these publications. We look forward with interest to the response to our document.

Are not all shades of opinion, including that of the TUC, now reflecting the need to move towards flexible retirement, with the ultimate objective of a common retirement date for both men and women? In these circumstances, is the Minister satisfied that the document to which he refers is all that is needed? Should he not now be under- taking a detailed financial assessment of the true cost of moving towards a common retirement date? Most of the statistics produced by the Government so far appear to some of us to have been somewhat bogus.

The figures that we have produced are not bogus. A great deal of information has been given of the cost of moving towards equalisation. Flexibility will be a central issue in the document. We deal with this in great detail, as well as equalisation. But we feel that there is a need for a national debate on this issue.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is very difficult to reconcile the principle behind the current legislation on equal opportunities and sex equality with the startling difference in the retirement ages for men and women? Does he agree, further, that this applies also to widows and widowers who when in employment often have equal wages and equal responsibilities, bearing in mind that the widower does not receive a pension? Will my right hon. Friend take these factors into consideration?

Yes, and they will be discussed in the document. I accept that the present differential is illogical, but, as I have explained already, equalisation creates many problems and difficulties, and these will have to be discussed fully.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that what really matters is not a blanket reduction in age but flexibility, so that each individual can retire at the age which suits him or her best and which suits his or her job? Does he recognise that we shall make little progress with flexibility until he persuades his Treasury colleagues to reduce the penal rates of tax on personal savings?

I accept fully the first part of what the hon. Gentleman says, but I cannot accept the second part.