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Retirement Age

Volume 35: debated on Tuesday 18 January 1983

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he will take steps to introduce retirement for men at the age of 60 years; and if he will make a statement.

In its report on the age of retirement the Social Services Committee has put forward proposals for phased transition over 10 years towards a scheme of flexible retirement between age 60 and 65 for both men and women. I am currently examining these proposals and the Government response will be published shortly.

Is the Minister aware that if the Government have any serious intention of reducing the massive unemployment totals they will do so not only by reflating the economy, which is important, but by progressing towards a shorter working week and a shorter working life? If the Government can find £2 billion to spend on the Falklands for 1,500 people—some say £3 billion—and if they can spend £10 billion on Trident, why cannot they spend a few billion pounds to achieve retirement at 60 for men, so that many of the youngsters who want a job will be given one?

A change in the state pension age must be regarded as a long-term change for which a great deal of preparation must be made. It is not one that can be fixed only in accordance with short-term economic considerations. The Government have extended the job release scheme because they consider it to be a more cost-effective way of reducing unemployment. We have also ensured that the long-term rate of supplementary benefit is now available to men of over 60 who were on low incomes and who have been unemployed for a year or more.

Will my hon. Friend accept that I thoroughly agree with his long-term aim of flexible retirement for both men and women? Will he agree also that it is crucial that we keep in step with our colleagues in the other European countries so that we are not caught at a competitive disadvantage?

Clearly that is a factor that will have to be taken into account. However, my hon. Friend will realise that I cannot anticipate the formal response that the Government will make to the Committee in due course.