To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what steps he intends to take in regard to national insurance contributions in the light of the decision of the Equal Opportunities Commission in Northern Ireland upholding the complaint of Mrs. Frances Finnegan that she was obliged to retire at 60 years; and what is his assessment, in the case of a woman deciding to work until the age of 65 years, of the effect on her pension of continuing to pay national insurance contributions until that age.
[holding answer 11 December 1987]: Action in the particular case of Mrs. Finnegan following the findings of the industrial tribunal which ruled on her complaint is a matter for the Department of Economic Development in Northern Ireland. In relation to Great Britain, the Sex Discrimination Act 1986 provides that it is unlawful for an employer to dismiss a woman on grounds of age where a comparable male employee would not be dismissed. These arrangements in respect of retirement from work have no direct bearing on the provisions of the social security scheme. Employees are liable to pay national insurance contributions up to state pension age, but no liability is incurred thereafter except in respect of employers' secondary contributions. State pension age itself is outside the scope of directive 79/7 on equal treatment in social security. Entitlement to pension cannot be increased after state pension age by either men or women, unless pension is forgone. Increments of about 7½ per cent. a year may then be earned for the first five years after pension age. We have no plans to change these long-standing arrangements.