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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I shall spare the House that lecture much as I am being tempted to go down that road by those in a sedentary position. I have nothing to add to the point that I made in Committee, and nothing that I have heard this evening persuades me otherwise. While I congratulate the noble Lord on a clever amendment, I hope that he will withdraw it.

Lord Stallard: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind remarks about the amendment. It would have been better had he answered it or even discussed it. I am not asking for the kind of report to which he referred. I am asking for a very limited report. It relates only to

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those people who are eligible under the Act for a retirement pension of any category. That would reduce the numbers he mentioned.

I gather that the relevant statistics are already available on computers in the various countries. It is merely a question of getting them together and publishing them in one report. It is not as far fetched as the noble Lord would have us believe, involving millions of clerks sitting down with pen and ink and big ledgers to collate the statistics. They are all on computer and could be taken up.

The number of pensioners in some of the countries the noble Lord mentioned are no more than 10, 12 or 15. In one country I believe there are only two pensioners. Therefore, it is not the major task that he says it is.

The biggest task is in the Commonwealth countries, where pensioners are entitled to more consideration. Certainly the statistics for those Commonwealth countries are available. Details of the economic circumstances of their populations are compiled in those countries in the same way as we collect details of the economic circumstances of our own population. In England we always seem to imagine that everybody else lives in the dark ages and we are far in advance of everyone. I can tell the noble Lord that in those countries they are just as advanced, and in some cases they are more advanced than we are in the collation of these vital statistics. The Minister did not reply to that point, or certainly not adequately.

The Minister never mentioned reciprocal arrangements. He said that some countries would not want such an arrangement. We can do nothing about it if they do not want it. Those countries are entitled to say that. I say that there are countries which would welcome such an arrangement, in the same way as America, Finland, Greece, and a total of some 33 countries. We have accepted their willingness to enter into a reciprocal arrangement and have done so. Nobody can understand why we refuse to make such an arrangement for Commonwealth citizens, to whom many of us are indebted for so much.

I shall not go on any longer. I cannot accept the Minister's response. I know that I may stand to win by 12 votes to nine, but I should like to test the views of the House.

8.52 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 190) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 22; Not-Contents, 85.

Division No. 5


Addington, L.
Airedale, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
David, B.
Dean of Beswick, L.
Donoughue, L.
Elis-Thomas, L.
Hamwee, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Macaulay of Bragar, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
McCarthy, L.
Monkswell, L. [Teller.]
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Seear, B. [Teller.]
Shaughnessy, L.
Stallard, L.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Tordoff, L.
Turner of Camden, B.


Acton, L.
Addison, V.
Aldington, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Annaly, L.
Astor, V.
Barber, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Borthwick, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L.
Braine of Wheatley, L.
Bridges, L.
Brookes, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Buckinghamshire, E.
Butterfield, L.
Butterworth, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Clanwilliam, E.
Coleraine, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Crathorne, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Dundonald, E.
Eden of Winton, L.
Erroll of Hale, L.
Gisborough, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Goschen, V.
Hacking, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Howe, E.
Inglewood, L. [Teller.]
Jenkin of Roding, L.
Kimball, L.
Kingsland, L.
Leigh, L.
Lindsay, E.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Long, V.
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.]
Macleod of Borve, B.
Marlesford, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
McConnell, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Moyne, L.
Norrie, L.
Northesk, E.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Parkinson, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Pym, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Renton, L.
Rodger of Earlsferry, L.
Seccombe, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strange, B.
Strathclyde, L. [Teller.]
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trumpington, B.
Ullswater, V.
Whitelaw, V.
Wynford, L.
Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

14 Mar 1995 : Column 807

9 p.m.

Schedule 4 [Equalisation]:

Baroness Hollis of Heigham moved Amendment No. 191:

Page 108, leave out from beginning of line 11 to end of line 40 on page 110 and insert:
("(1) From the date of commencement of this Act, any person shall be entitled to be treated as having attained pensionable age at any time between the dates upon which they attain the age of 60 and 70.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendment No. 191 encompasses the Labour Party's position on the flexible decade of retirement. Until 20 or 30 years ago, men worked full time until they were 65, whereupon they stopped work and moved smoothly on to their pension, which would support them and their wives. They moved smoothly from work to pension. That world has gone. People's working lives are becoming more uncertain, more precarious, more casualised and shorter. Forty per cent. of people experienced

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unemployment in the past five years, and as many expect to do so again. Those in work find the steady full-time job dissolving like wet sand under their feet. Their jobs are becoming casualised; they are put on temporary contracts—just as the Government have put people on to contracts of 51 weeks at a time to avoid providing statutory employment rights. I have to say that that is a pretty disgraceful activity. Others see their work fragmented into part-time fractions. Still others, especially if unskilled or in poor health, find that after the age of 55 or 60 they never again find another job.

All the government arguments which were advanced at Committee stage, about the ratio of working age to pensioners founder on one simple fact: that what matters is not the ratio of people of working age to pensioners, but the number of workers to those of pension age. If people are not in work, whatever their age, they are likely to be on benefit of some kind. I hope that the Minister will respond to that point.

Pushing up the pension age will do nothing to alter the so-called dependency ratio unless those people denied pensions are in work; and increasingly they will not be. And why not? The whole of the Government's argument founders on that simple fact. The trend across Europe shows that people, especially men in manual jobs, are leaving the workforce earlier and earlier. They are not wanted in the labour market. In the scramble for jobs, unskilled men in late middle age and with uncertain health lose out on the one hand to the young and fit men with more skills, perhaps with a family to support, and on the other to women who, as second earners, are often willing to work part time for very low pay, at rates of £1.50 or £2 an hour. Those rates are not a living wage but such people can do so because their wage is the second income of the family.

At the very time that the relatively poor men are leaving the labour market earlier—that is happening across Europe —the Government are retaining the pension age at 65 and are pushing up the women's pension age to join it. Instead of most families stopping work one day and drawing a pension the next, they will experience a twilight gap of at least five years when they are neither in work nor eligible to claim their pension. A few in that gap will have decent occupational pensions. For the remainder, the gap will still have to be spanned by benefit—invalidity benefit, unemployment benefit, income support, call it what one will as long as, in the Government's eyes, one does not call it a pension.

And why, my Lords? It is because the Government are obsessed with an inappropriate concept of a dependency ratio which takes no account of unemployment, no account of women's capacity to work longer than the part-time hours they work at present, and no account of the country's potential with investment for economic growth. It ignores the fact that by 2020 the UK will have one of the best support ratios in Europe and one of the cheapest.

Hence the amendment, which takes account of all those considerations. It proposes a flexible decade of retirement with a pivotal age of 63. Such an amendment has three great advantages. First, it is cost neutral. It costs no more than the present system and may even generate modest savings. Secondly, it is fair between men and women.

14 Mar 1995 : Column 809

Thirdly, it is flexible because it allows men and women to choose when to retire and not to have an arbitrary year before which they cannot retire imposed on them by government. The choice is in their hands. They may be comfortably off with a good occupational pension and happy to draw a reduced state pension. If they or their partner are in deteriorating health or if they have demanding caring responsibilities for an elderly parent, they, too, would welcome that choice. But equally the choice, as now, would remain to work past the fulcrum year of 63. The choice will be theirs, not the Treasury's, not the Minister's, and not that of the noble Lord, Lord Mackay. It will be made according to their health, family responsibilities, financial situation and work prospects. And why not, my Lords?

The provision is cost neutral and actuarially neutral. I am confident that a flexible decade is what most people would like and welcome. With a pivotal age of 63 we can afford it. It permits a much smoother progression between work and retirement. It empowers people to make their own choice of when to retire. I beg to move.

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