I beg to move,
That this House recognizes, in view of the gradually rising average age of the population, the importance of making full use of the working capacity of older persons; welcomes the encouragement which Her Majesty's Government have already given to research into the problem of the employment of older persons; and urges Her Majesty's Government to take further steps to promote and co-ordinate such research.
In moving this Motion, I wish to call attention to the Reports of the National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women. The problem of the older worker—or, to be more accurate, the older person who wishes to work, but who finds difficulty in obtaining employment—has been a matter of concern for a number of years because of the steady increase in the average age of our population.
The Report of the Royal Commission on Population, read together with the 1931 Census, makes it clear that the average age of our population has increased by at least ten years—that is to say, by over 35 per cent.—since the beginning of the century. It seems highly probable from official figures available that by the end of this century the expectation of life in Britain will be at least 50 per cent. longer than it was in 1901.
The White Paper, "Provision for Old Age", issued last October, Cmnd. 538, mentions that
for many years to come the number of people over pension age will increase much more rapidly than the number of contributors.
All parties have shown an awareness of this problem and it was with the support of both sides of the House that in 1952 the National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women was set up. That Committee consisted
of a number of most distinguished people and included a number of representatives of the T.U.C.
The National Advisory Committee's first Report, in 1953, stated:
The change in the age structure of the total population requires a similar change in the age structure of the working population … the growing increase in the proportion of older persons in the population will inevitably mean an increase in the amount of current production required for their maintenance.
That might seem to be a fairly elementary, straightforward proposition but, in view of the marked increase in the average age of the population, it is a significant and important one.
The Report summarised the position by saying that at the beginning of the century, for every 100 people of working age, there were approximately 10 people above the present pension age. By the time that the Report was made, in 1953, for every 100 people of working age, there were no fewer than 20 people above pension age. The Report goes on to estimate that in twenty-five years' time, for every 100 people of working age, there will be no fewer than 30 above pension age. It follows from these figures that if everybody who reached pension age were to retire immediately, the burden thereby placed on those of working age would soon become oppressive.
It is right that those older persons who wish to continue working should be given every encouragement and assistance to enable them to do so. The problem should not be considered merely in terms of cold, impersonal statistics. There is a very real human side to the question. People who have always contributed to the support of others, who started in their early working life by contributing, perhaps, to the support of their parents and who later supported their children, suddenly find themselves in a position where, because of a piece of bad luck, they have lost their employment and are not only no longer able to support the young people they used to support, but feel that they have become a burden on the very people whom, previously, they have been in a position to help.
This realisation comes as a great psychological shock, and in these circumstances the inability to find further employment may cause deep frustration and acute unhappiness, especially among the very best and most conscientious workers who still feel capable of making a useful contribution in spite of their advancing years.
Apart from the people who lose their jobs, there are several groups of people in a rather special position who particularly need assistance from the various advisory bodies, either because they have had no previous experience in industry or because they have had no recent experience in industry. The first of these groups includes ex-Service men and women who are seeking civilian employment after leaving the forces. These ex-Service men and women are very grateful for the help they receive from the Regular Forces Resettlement Service, and I am sure that we are all glad to know that last year well over 10,000 of them were found jobs in civilian employment through the Resettlement Service. I believe that about 90 per cent. of those so placed were other ranks, who usually find jobs fairly easily. Some difficulty has been experienced in finding jobs for ex-Regular officers.
Perhaps at this point I ought to tell the House that, although for many years I have been, and still am, a Territorial Army Officer, I have not been in the Regular Army, and, therefore, am not personally affected by this side of the question.
Ex-Regular officers seeking employment fall into two categories. There are those who retired since 1957 under the redundancy scheme, and there are those who retired earlier without the advantages of terminal grants or of special capital payments. Some of the officers who retired before 1957, especially those who retired a long time before, present a very real problem. This is especially acute in the case of some of the older officers whose pensions or retired pay have been eroded by inflation and some of whom are now in difficulties and need to obtain employment to enable them to eke out their slender resources.
Officers retired under the redundancy scheme are in a more fortunate position, both in regard to their retired pay and also their age, which is a very important consideration. The Regular Forces Resettlement Board were recently quoted as saying:
The transition to civil life was easy to make if one was on the right side of forty, and not too difficult in the early forties. The worst possible ages are those in the late forties and early fifties.
This statement is very significant when one considers that the normal retiring age for a Regular major is 45 and a lieutenant-colonel about 48, so it seems that every year a number of efficient and useful officers are forced to retire through having reached retirement age. These officers will regularly be requiring help from the Resettlement Service and are in a very disadvantageous position when it comes to obtaining civilian employment.
Another group of people who require special consideration are those married women who return either to part-time or whole-time employment after their children have reached an age which makes this possible. In some cases, these mothers, some of whom are widows, have technical skills which make it easy to find them employment, but this is not always the case.
Then we have another group of elderly workers who can contribute best at certain seasons of the year when there is a special demand for labour of a kind which they can provide and for skills in which they are expert. An example of this is in agriculture. There is always very great difficulty in the summer in obtaining enough labour of a certain kind, for example, for thatching ricks, a skill which is not usually learned by the younger workers today who have to specialise in more mechanical skills, but which is still retained by a number of older workers who are not merely able to put thatch on a rick, but to make thatch and cut the spars and do the whole job from beginning to end.
These workers are available, but under the present system of the earnings rule it is very difficult for them to work more than a limited number of hours per week without losing part of their pension. It is necessary for them to retire and to take their pension, because there is no employment available for them in the winter months.
I know that this is not the direct responsibility of my right hon. Friend, but I hope that representations can be made. It would ease the position enormously if these skilled rural workers were allowed to earn £130 a year rather than 50s. a week. This would enable them to work regularly at full wages for eighteen weeks or so in the summer, when there is a demand for the particular skill which they can supply, and enable them to rest for the remainder of the year. Such a scheme would work much better. It is not only a matter of cutting into their pensions. It is the unpleasantness and trouble of having to fill in a form every week, which at present they have to do if they are earning more than 50s. a week. The reluctance of elderly rural workers to fill in forms is, to say the least, very marked.
On the information which I have received, in most parts of the country there appears to be relatively little difficulty in placing elderly skilled tradesmen who retain all their faculties and can make use of their skills or those elderly unskilled workers who have retained their health. But in some areas, I believe that there is great difficulty with middle-aged clerical workers or with middle-aged employees of managerial status who have lost their employment with the firm which knew them and perhaps in which they served all their working life. It is very difficult to place them in a new organisation at the level to which they are accustomed. These difficulties are all augmented by the prejudice of some employers, who still tend to think in old-fashioned ways, who are ignorant of the great advances made in the science of geriatrics and who regard new employees as too old at 40.
I have referred to the two reports which have been made, but there have been a number of developments since the second Report was published. Perhaps it is right that I should refer to some of the developments.
It has been ascertained that the difficulties of bringing new workers into a pension scheme can, to some extent, be overcome. The Report on the developments since the Committee's second Report states:
Where upper age limits on vacancies are imposed it is quite often stated to be on account of the requirements of occupational pension schemes. This particularly applies to clerical and commercial occupations, though the number of manual workers covered by pension schemes is already growing steadily. Since the Committee first reported on this subject information has become available. …
which shows that this difficulty is, to some extent, being overcome.
The further Report refers particularly to the position of women and states that women in their sixties have frequently been placed in suitable jobs, particularly in clerical or domestic work, and instances are known of women in their seventies being found work by the labour exchanges. I am sure that this is a most desirable development.
This Report goes on to say that
… opportunities for part-time employment for older workers are restricted, though in some industries, such as textiles, it is hoped that this is temporary and that the position will improve. There are still, however, numerous openings for older women as part-time workers in various forms of employment.
It particularly refers to publicity—a very important subject—and comments:
The publicity the two Reports have received undoubtedly resulted in an increased awareness by employers of the need to make full use of the services of the older workers.
In this connection, it would be right to refer, not only to the great interest taken by the Press in the two Reports that have been published but to the publicity given by wireless and television, and more publicity should be welcomed and encouraged.
Here I should refer to the Nuffield Foundation, one of several organisations that have been pursuing research into this important subject. Professor Sir Wilfrid Le Gros Clark, who has been working in conjunction with the Nuffield Foundation, recently came to the general conclusion that about 20 per cent. of elderly workers could no longer carry out the full range of their accustomed jobs, that the other 75 per cent. to 80 per cent. probably could, but that, for the 20 per cent., there was a need to provide alternative work, or to modify their present working conditions. Further research into this seems indicated.
I do not wish in any way to minimise the difficulties of taking new elderly employees into a business. It involves them coming in over the heads of some younger and more active men who have worked their way up in the business organisation. It may involve them coming in below a number of women who are younger and less experienced than themselves but who are known and relied on by the organisation. This is bound to create friction. There are also difficulties created by the structure of some pensions schemes. These difficulties are beginning to be overcome by the more progressive employers. The percentage of elderly people in employment is increasing, although there is still much leeway to make up.
I feel that this improvement in the position is at least partly due to the Government's action in setting up the Advisory Committee to which I have referred which, with its research sub-committee, has done a great deal to advance the study of this problem. The Committee itself has ceased to operate, but its work is being continued by the National Joint Advisory Council. As I have said, research is being continued by a number of independent foundations, including, particularly, the Nuffield Foundation and Bristol University. I hope that the Government will see that this research is encouraged in every way, and that the results are published in an easily understandable form.
I do not wish in any way to criticise the Reports that have been published. They were published for a section of informed people with technical knowledge and, of course, there was a popular publication, in popular language, designed for everyone. I think that more popular publicity is needed. It is impossible to emphasise too strongly the social aspects of this problem. We must never forget the necessity of reassuring elderly workers by demonstrating that the Government and the nation appreciate the contribution they are making to the maintenance of the standard of living of the whole community.
It is most desirable, therefore, that future Reports and information on this subject should be published so as to be readily comprehensible to the ordinary reader; and the fact that the information is available should be made known on the widest possible scale so as to reach not only the employers, but those older workers to whom this knowledge will give inspiration and renewed confidence.
It is important that this research, and the reasons behind it, should be made known also to those younger workers who have to learn to understand the necessity for the continued employment of older men and women. I hope, therefore, that the Government can see their way to continue on these lines the promotion and co-ordination of research which has already begun to show such useful results.
I beg to second the Motion.
I am particularly glad to be able to take part in this debate. Had I been fortunate in the Ballot this is exactly the sort of Motion I should have liked to table. However, I am lucky in that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn) has kindly asked me to second the Motion.
It might seem strange to some that, at a time when we are suffering from a certain measure of unemployment, we should be considering the re-employment of middle-aged and elderly people. However, we have to take a very long view of the matter, just as we had to do with the "bulge" of babies born immediately after the war—when we had to prepare for their schooling and absorption some years later. If we look ahead at the numbers of elderly people with whom we shall have to deal as the years go by, it will be seen how urgent it is that we should do more planning and research now.
To get the problem into perspective, I should like to run very rapidly through the provisions that have been made for old people since the beginning of the century. There has been a series of Acts dealing with pensions, health, domicile, housing and so on, and it may be quite a good idea to refresh one's mind on what has been done already.
This legislation started in 1908 with the Old Age Pensions Act, which provided 5s. a week for men and women at 75 years of age. In 1911, contributory insurances against ill-health and unemployment were introduced. In 1920, the noncontributory old-age pension was raised to 10s. a week. In 1925 we had the contributory pension for widows and orphans, and old age—providing a sum of 10s. a week at age 65. In 1929 we saw the great transfer of the Poor Law Guardian hospitals to the local authorities, which also took over the care of the aged and the sick. In 1937 there was the "black-coated workers" Act for widows, orphans and old-age pensioners, on a voluntary contributory basis.
In 1940, we had the Old Age and Widows Pensions Act, which reduced to 60 years the qualifying age for women. It is rather interesting to note that that reduction came about only in 1940. That was a result of bearing in mind the problem of the single women, and the fact that the average age of married women was, roughly, four years less than that of their husbands. In 1940 we had the change from Poor Law to Public Assistance. The National Insurance Retirement Scheme was introduced in 1946 and 1948 saw the introduction of National Assistance in its present form, and the National Health and Hospital Service.
That shows a growth of social services designed directly to help the older people, Further, the local authorities were given the duty of looking after the elderly by means of home nursing, health visiting, domestic help, special housing, and accommodation for the old. Bit by bit the nation's attention has been focussed on this problem.
I have picked out for my own clarification of mind, just three or four facts that, to me, are rather startling. First, as the mover of the Motion said, the expectation of life has gone up by 50 per cent. both for men and women since 1901. That is a very startling figure. We cannot expect the figure for the next 50 years to be quite as large or rapid, but there is no doubt that the expectation of life will continue to go up. It is amazing to think that in 1901 the expectation of life for a man was only 49 years and for a woman 52 years. In 1950 it had risen for men to 66 and for women to 71. It has risen further since then.
The second fact to bear in mind, which was also mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend, is that in 1911 one person in 15 was elderly and in 1954 two people in 15 were classed as elderly, and that in 1959 the figure is expected to be three in 15.
A third clear fact is that in 1979 the population will consist of 20 per cent. children, 62 per cent. working men and women and 18 per cent. elderly, so that we shall find the elderly and the children almost balancing each other out. The Beveridge Report expects that there will be round about that time between 8 million and 9 million elderly people.
A point which is of interest to women is that we are obviously the tough sex because there are two elderly women to every elderly man. The great majority of these women are widows due to the effects of the wars. This proportion between women and men will, however, alter. With the increased saving of male babies the sexes will even out and I believe that not so far ahead young women will have a scarcity value. That, however, will not affect the elderly population for some time, and there will continue to be a preponderance of women.
Looking at what has been done in our recent social history, I am very struck—and this is the most important point of all—by the absence of the main factor in old age which would make for happiness and good health amongst the elderly. That factor is that they should feel useful and appreciated by the community. The acute loneliness of old people and the feeling of having outlived any useful purpose is a tragedy and a reproach to our civilisation.
In the old days when the social services were largely upheld by the Church, there was a good deal more comfort in the convents, monastries and voluntary church institutions that helped the elderly because they always had the spiritual side in mind. Although a great deal has already been done on the material side we have rather lost sight of the main element which goes to make people happy when they are old.
It should be our aim to provide employment for middle-aged and elderly people so long as it is possible for them to get about. I have not seen in all the pamphlets and books which I have read so far any reference to research covering this problem and grasping this matter as a whole. There is a colossal waste in human knowledge, experience and good will in this country where we know how difficult it is for any man or woman of 45 or 50 to get back into trades or professions or work of some sort. I see a number of them in my division where many retired people live. It makes me very unhappy to see this waste of knowledge and the contribution that they might make if one could find room for them.
If I might concentrate for a moment on the problem of middle-aged and elderly women, I hope that in the future every girl will be trained for a profession or trade or work of some sort before she gets married, like boys are. That will enable her, after she is married and has finished with child bearing and parenthood, to return as a useful full-time or part-time worker. I remember that when I was very young, across Westminster Bridge on the L.C.C., I voted against my party in support of the employment of married women teachers. It seemed to me then that we were losing the opportunity of the benefit of extremely valuable people. I remember also when I was not quite so young, sitting on the Home Office Probation Committee battling, with some success in the end, to get middle-aged married women or widows taken on as probation officers after a course of training—and one knows how sensible and experienced these women officers have been. I am sure that at the moment we are losing the services of many nurses, midwives—of whom there is a great shortage—and teachers who could come back after marriage if they were encouraged, and, not only encouraged but helped, in the sense of the job being suited to them as well as them being suited to the job.
There is an enormous amount of labour of that kind which is not being used. I have always felt that a married woman, who has been trained before marriage, has gone through the experience of bringing up a family, and who then finds her way back to the teaching or nursing or medical professions or into some occupation of that sort, has an added value which she brings out of her experience in her own home.
There are also a number of jobs in local government and in Government offices that could be turned over to elderly people after a very short period of training. Those of us who serve in local government are aware of the concern about recruiting. There is difficulty in getting young recruits. I wonder whether the whole of the recruiting system should not be reorganised and whether, instead of taking on very young boys and girls in their teens and keeping them up to the age of 60, these youngsters should not be taken at a later stage, better educated and more responsible, so that the jobs which the teenagers are doing now could be given to retired people who could do the routine work perfectly happily and find a comfortable niche in their older years.
The same can be said for business offices where there are a number of jobs which could be done by elderly people, responsible and reliable people, rather than by youngsters. I am certain that with the expectation of life rising to 70, 80 and perhaps 100 we shall have to adopt a totally new outlook in the labour market. After all, we have heard of this wonderful woman doctor in Rumania who administers a dose to people and enables them to recover their youth. Goodness knows what will happen if we all indulge in this. It may well become the rule rather than the exception that men and women will change their jobs at the age of 45 or 50 and refresh themselves by a completely new start in life.
This is a subject which I think is urgent and which the trade unions, the British Employers Federation and, of course, the medical profession should study together with imagination and understanding. One of the principal difficulties is pensions. I am hopeful that, realising what we are facing, the pension system will be made more and more flexible.
The subject that we are discussing today is one in which every man and woman in the country and, indeed, in this House should be interested. After all, none of us can escape old age except by death. There is many a Member of this House, of a certain age—one might call them elderly—who is having a happy and contented old age because he is still of service to his country here. If old age is to become protracted we must make the best of it.
We must do so economically because we are a small country. We have a population of only some 50 million and we have to compete with the United States with 150 million, Russia with her enormous numbers and China with her millions. We cannot afford to allow 8 million or 9 million of our population to waste away as elderly people. Every single Briton who can, must contribute instead of becoming a dependant.
What is good for us economically is more important from the humanitarian point of view. There is at present great sadness in old age where there should be contentment and great loneliness where there should be companionship. Both of these disadvantages could be banished if use could be found for the endless hours and if we could bring people back into contact with the living world. That should be our main preocupation and not just the material one of providing hospitals, houses, chiropody and so on. I think that we should see to it that for others—here I am speaking as a Member of the House—as well as for ourselves old age should be a period of fulfilment and eventually of happy contemplation.
I was helped this morning by that excellent paper the Daily Mail and I brought it with me. They had a quiz of two or three of our well-known actors and writers about old age. I quote from this paper what Sir Compton Mackenzie said:
The secret of enjoying life at any age is lever to waste time.
Mr. Maurice Chevalier, who is 70, said:
I am happier now than I have ever been.
Dame Rebecca West said:
Sometimes it can be such a nuisance to be young.
That delightful elderly lady—I am sure that she will not mind my calling her that—who is, as the Daily Mail says, lovelier to look at at 76 than she has ever been before, Dame Sybil Thorndike, says:
I enjoy being old because you do not take yourself so seriously. You do as you like more and you are not afraid of people.
If we try to provide old age with contentment and happiness we can have no finer object.
I conclude by suggesting that the mood in which we should tackle this problem is the mood of a rhyme which I have for a long time had by me and which I commend to all Members of this House who are of a certain age. It is this:
I start by congratulating my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn) on his good fortune in the Ballot and on his wisdom in choosing this subject for debate this morning. He covered the subject very fully, and certainly a number of the points which he put provoked me.
I should have thought that one of the purposes of these debates which we have on Fridays is not so much to seek points of disagreement that arise so readily between us on so many subjects, but to throw down, as it were, some bones which we may chew, provoking thoughts which we may take away with us, and to put to the Government some proposals for progress and changes which we believe are due and overdue.
I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) on the speech which she has just made. I was interested in what she forecast about the scarcity value that we may expect to find among attractive young women. I must say that, speaking for myself, they have always had a scarcity value. Since my hon. Friend referred to Mr. Maurice Chevalier, perhaps I may say to her that if she has not yet had an opportunity of seeing the film which is attracting large crowds and if she is able to go to it, she will hear Mr. Maurice Chevalier in a song which suggests, "What would little boys do if it was not for little girls?" I think that reinforces the point she made.
I do not propose to speak for very long, but I should like to refer again to the background against which, I believe, we have to consider this question of the wider and more useful employment of older people. I make no apology for going back to some of the figures which we have been given this morning. I refer to the White Paper Provision for Old Age, Command 538, and I will read out what I think are vivid phrases in a series of sentences. In paragraph 12, page 6, it states:
The structure of our population is such that for many years to come the number of people over pension age will increase much more rapidly than the number of contributors. In simple demographic terms, in 1911 only one person in fifteen of the population was a man over 65 or a woman over 60. Today it is one in seven.
I suggest that, in fact, the position is somewhat more challenging than even those figures imply. The figure that we have there is that today one person in seven is of pensionable age. That, of course, is the result of a calculation based on the total population of about 50·2 million.
In the context of our discussions this morning, as I understand it, we are not so much concerned with the total population and its relationship to the elderly but with the effective working population. We must, therefore, deduct from the 50·2 million those who are below the age of 15, which leaves us with a total of 38·7 million, there being about 11½ million boys and girls below the age when they normally leave school and take up useful and creative work. This immediately makes the ratio one in five. There is one person of pensionable age, a woman of 60 or over and a man of 65 or over, for every five of the effective available working population.
We must now make a further deduction to take account of those who can properly be regarded as available for effective work. Here I realise that I am on dangerous ground in the presence of my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance and my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead, because whatever words I use may well involve me in some criticism if, in deducting a proportion to take account of those effectively available for work, I take too high a proportion of the women of the country. But I believe it is necessary to arrive at the actual ratio so that we can see, in due course, how many people there are today who are effectively in creative work as against those who may be regarded as retired.
If we take 38·7 million, the total population less the under-15s, and assume that half of those are women, we then have to consider the difficult question of how many of those women we should not regard as being in active work. I suggest that we should deduct one-third of those women, that is, one-third of 19 million, which is 6⅓ million. I apologise if I am using too many figures. That reduces the figure in my calculation of the numbers available for work to 32·4 million, and our ratio has now dropped to one in four and a half. Then, if we deduct the 7¼ million who are women of 60 and over or men of 65 or over, we arrive at the figure of 25¼ million, and the ratio has become one in three and a half.
Without claiming that these figures are accurate in the sense that a Government Actuary or, perhaps, even a Government spokesman would be required to present them, they are sufficiently accurate to support my contention that not in 1980 or 1990 but today the posi- tion is that we have one person of pensionable age for only three and a half persons effectively available for work and below pensionable age. That is a formidable challenge.
The position is not quite as bad as that, however, because a considerable proportion of those I have deducted because they are of pensionable age are in work. To arrive at this figure, I refer to a document which will be known to right hon. and hon. Members, the Report of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance for 1957, which gives the most recent figure we have to hand. A chart on page 30 shows that, in the year ending 30th June, 1957, one-fifth of those who received pensions had worked for the maximum of five years between the age of 65 and 70 for men. The figure is 32,500 out of a total of 159,000 who started to draw their pensions at that time. I believe that that is a very encouraging sign which makes the position I have tried to describe slightly less formidable than it might otherwise appear to be.
We can take it that the ratio we must consider is of the order of one in four. When I was a child, I was haunted by the saying that every fourth person in the world is a Chinaman. I remember that we used to look round among ourselves and wonder whom they were, and the more timid were confronted with the possibility that they were not, in fact, ordinary English school children but were strange oriental children. That is a lighthearted aside, but, seriously, I should be glad if my hon. Friend would at some stage make some reference to this ratio.
We are in the challenging position, therefore, that those who have had so much attention paid to them as they leave the "bulge" at the other end of the line, those of whom the British public is very conscious and for whom we strive to do what we can in education and opportunities for work and leisure, must assume a very heavy burden. If the developments which have been referred to by my hon. and gallant Friend and by my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead are to continue, those who are young now will carry the load for a great many years. They will be responsible not only for earning their own living—the wives too, in certain circumstances, when families are growing up—but they will carry an increasing proportion of elderly people, in the sense that those who have retired through ill-health or other reasons are, in the long run, sustained not only by their own earlier contributions to the nation's wealth but also, to some extent, by the creative work of those who are in active work.
This is the significance of a system to induce people not to retire at 60 or 65 but to work on for as long as may be. I wonder whether there is any other machinery or any other forms of inducement, persuasion, enlightenment or education which can be made available for this purpose. We all shy away from the idea of raising the retirement age. One of the troubles is that we have these two ages fixed in our minds, these two lines which all must cross—the women at 60 and the man at 65—lines which people approach, in many cases, with growing apprehension. One is either on the right side or on the wrong side. When a person reaches 58 or 59 and people ask his age, they do not ask it out of idle or vulgar curiosity. They ask the question to find out whether he is at the retirement age or not.
My hon. Friend will agree, I think, that an arbitrary age is quite artificial. After all, he must have heard it said that a man is as old as he feels and a woman as old as she looks.
As to the latter part of what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) has said, about a woman being as old as she looks. I could not disagree. I am very grateful to my hon. and learned Friend for his intervention. It is a yardstick. We have this yardstick of age. and every day of our lives we find that it is a very unsatisfactory one. It is one thing to criticise the system that we have. It is another thing to accept the responsibility which is put upon one if one criticises, namely, to find some reasonable alternative. I am faced with the difficulty of suggesting that there is this grave difficulty, this psychological effect, and I am conscious that I have nothing very positive to set in its place.
Undoubtedly our present system which, in hard cash terms, may not be quite as interesting as at first it seems, is intended to encourage people to stay on at work beyond the age when they are entitled to retire and claim the consequences of, perhaps, a lifetime's contributions to an insurance scheme.
It is satisfactory to me, and to all hon. Members, I think, that the increments provisions are to be applied more flexibly. I should be out of order in referring to that at length, but I know that the House is seized of this problem and of the steps which are being taken to make it easier and more interesting for people not to be caught up in the difficulty that if they fall short of their increments by one they have lost some twenty-three or twenty-four weeks.
The question of the earnings rule also arises. We are first confronted with the old argument about insurance, that one does not draw if the house does not burn down or if one is not genuinely retired. The system is based on the assumption that one retires because one has an urge to do so or because one has health reasons, and if one does not retire in the full sense but continues in work, one does not draw the pension.
However, I welcome the increased earnings which are to be permitted without affecting entitlement to pension. This has been urged upon my right hon. Friend and his predecessors many times, and I think the whole House and the country welcome the prospect that earnings can now be increased without invoking the earnings rule.
It is important in considering the employment of older people not to allow the idea to take root in our minds that pensioners are beyond our discussion. A great deal of valuable work is being done by those whom we term pensioners within the limits of the earnings rule and by those who, although of pensionable age, are in full work.
That brings with it the question of the value of the work which is done. It has economic value and enormous social value. I find it difficult always clearly to define how we are to bring together the social reality and the economic reality. In so many of our problems that is the difficulty. What is wholly desirable socially can, in certain circumstances, be economic madness, and what is absolutely acceptable in hard economic terms can be very cruel socially. We are trying to relate the demands of both factors and bring them together so that we have the maximum recognition in practical terms of social needs but at the same time we have not destroyed the force of the economic argument and do not bring about a reduction in the rate of creation of real work, which in the long run is all that is available for distribution in the social sense.
What are we to do about it? I am sure the House is very conscious of the nature of the problem, but there is a question-mark—so what? What is possible in practical terms? What can we do to urge our fellow-countrymen, those who lead industry and anybody else who may be able to play some part in this, to provide work on a broader scale for those who are getting on in years?
I have suggested that there might be a possibility that we should lay less stress than we do upon the two specific ages. That may not be possible. I wonder, also, whether there is room for a scheme similar to that in force by which industrial undertakings employ a certain percentage of disabled people and have to state that specifically if they are undertaking certain Government contracts. That has meant that over the years a great many disabled men have been provided with useful employment, and all that goes with it, without applying the law of diminishing returns almost before they started.
We have to ask ourselves whether there is a range of things which elderly people can do better than the middle-aged and the young. It is wrong to assume that when one gets older one is less capable over the whole field. I do not believe that we can seriously suggest that we should devise some complex system of putting square pegs in round holes in requiring people to employ the elderly, who may be slightly infirm as well, in jobs which are not really suited to them. There is also the question of employing the elderly in workshops or parts of factories where they can all work together and where the work is somewhat lighter. It seems to me that there we have the danger of the feeling that they are segregated. Those who command more vivid phrases than I do might be using such words as "ghetto" and "compound".
I suppose that in the long run it is a matter of trying to season public opinion to recognise that somewhere there is a compromise, as always, between what is absolutely sound in strict economic terms and what is the responsibility of the community as a whole to those people who have reached the age in life which the rest of us will inevitably reach if we do not die before then and which, perhaps, we all hope to reach, although I believe there is on the part of all a certain fear of extreme old age.
In industrial Lancashire, we are very conscious of this problem. We feel that we have a higher age pattern than many other industrial communities, and with unemployment this becomes an added problem. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service provided me with some figures the other day which show that of those who are at present without work the over-fifties represent some 29 per cent. I suspect that that figure is proportionately higher in some of the Lancashire industrial towns than in others. To analyse these figures leads us into a very complex field as to trades, areas and how age groups divide. Certain it is that this thing doubles up. All the burdens, financial and psychological, of unemployment, are much worse when one is old.
I decided one recent Christmas not to make an official tour, but to seek a list of names of the people who had these qualifications: that they were old, clearly above pensionable age, infirm, and lonely. I was soon made aware that the list could be as long as my arm, and that Christmas Day I could visit only a limited number of people. However, there were many thousands of whom I knew already. The difficulty was to decide who might take some pleasure from being remembered.
I do not accept that all those people were beyond the day of their usefulness. It has always seemed to me, as it must have seemed to many other hon. Members, that it is tragic that old people should have the feeling that they are no longer wanted, that they no longer have any use except to sit in a rocking chair and retire and to be people apart. What my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead said earlier pinpointed the question of people's approach to an age when they started to get old and had to be made to feel, in realistic and practical terms, that, although their strength might be waning, there was not necessarily a corresponding waning of usefulness, and that in the second half of the twentieth century there was scope for their useful employment.
It is possibly insulting to leave the idea that digging holes and filling them in is the sort of work which is good enough. Perhaps it is better than nothing, and I should not like to develop that theme without very careful thought.
Those are some of the problems. I hope that my hon. Friends with governmental responsibilities will take note of the points which we are trying to put and that they will give a lead to public opinion. They will have the support of the Press and all hon. Members if they can give a lead to industry and all those concerned to open their minds a bit wider on this problem and, as soon as possible, to get away from the evil doctrine that when a person reaches a certain age he is then to be discarded. I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend on his success in bringing this Motion to our attention.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn) must be congratulated on bringing the Motion before the House and, therefore, before the country, because the problem of the employment of older people has been before us for a long time and is one which will undoubtedly become more acute as the years go by.
In considering this matter, we have the assistance of the Report of the National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women, to which my hon. and gallant Friend referred in his Motion. That Committee sat under the chairmanship of no less a person than my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation. We know how active he is in his present work, and from the Report we can see how active he was in the consideration of this problem.
When reports are produced, it is always of great advantage to see who made them, because one can sometimes criticise the set-up of a committee before criticising its report. However, my right hon. Friend was assisted in the preparation of this excellent Report by several prominent people. There was somebody from the Treasury, and somebody from the University of Cambridge. I regret that Oxford was never represented by more than its town clerk. If Cambridge could have a professor, the least that could have been done was to have had a professor from Oxford.
There was my old friend Dr. Godber, from the Ministry of Health, who, in the old days, used to be a medical referee, so that he knew of the problem of older people who had met with injury. The National Old People's Welfare Committee was represented, as were the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Health. That was a strong Committee and it has produced an excellent Report in two volumes.
The Committee wisely drew attention to the extent of the problem. A dividing line of whether people are older or not has to be drawn, and the Committee wisely chose that of pensionable age. It drew attention to the fact that in 1911 there were in Great Britain 2¾ million men of 65 and over or women of 60 and over, which was 67 per 1,000 of the population, or about one in 15—not a very high proportion. In 1951, there were more than 6½ million, 135 per 1,000, or two in 15. Making its best estimate, the Committee suggested that by 1977 there would be nearly 9¾ million, about 195 per 1,000, or nearly three in 15 of the population.
The situation is already serious, and it would be much more serious if all people of pensionable age took their pensions and ended work. By taxation and contributions to pension schemes, and soon, those below that age have to maintain those people of pensionable age who have retired. In 1977, 23,325,000 people will be "producers of all ages" and those over minimum pensionable age not in economic employment will number no fewer than 8,225,000. Those figures are given in the table in page 11 of Cmd 8962.
One always tends to put these things on a personal basis. It is a toss-up whether I shall be alive or not then, but if I am, I shall have long ceased to be a Member of the House and long since given up performing a useful function to the country. Some of those people will have to support me. By then, the cost of retirement will be a great deal more and will have a serious effect upon the standard of living of everyone, because with that drain on the country's resources and that brake on the production of those who are usefully producing, there will be a considerable increase in taxation, or an increase in the prices of goods, or a considerable reduction in standards of living.
That is a problem which will increase as the years go by. In many ways we can be thankful for it. The enormous advances in medical science, the enormous advances in public health, the fact that certain diseases, respiratory diseases and so forth, do not have the killing effect which they once had, are all things for which we can be extremely grateful, but their consequences have to be faced. The only solution must be that, when physically and mentally able to do so, older people should not only remain in employment, but should be encouraged to remain in full employment producing for the country and earning proper wages for themselves.
The problem divides itself into many subheads. To begin with, the problems of men are different from those of women. Secondly, we must consider the problems of men and women respectively in both unskilled and skilled employment. We have to consider those who have professional or scientific qualifications who, for one reason or another, may be looking for employment when they become older.
It is clear that the problems of unskilled men and women are the greatest. Although it is not without exceptions, as a general rule unskilled labour requires more physical strength. Younger people are generally considered, probably wrongly, to have greater physical strength than older people. For that reason, there is a natural reluctance on the part of employers who have vacancies to engage older men or women for unskilled labour.
The problem is not nearly so acute for those with a skilled trade behind them. Indeed, in many ways the employment of older people in that type of work is an advantage. Their years of experience in a skilled trade have a strong commercial value. Such a person can say, "I have thirty or forty years' experience in this industry. That gives me a skill and knowledge which should attract a high wage, and which should be of great assistance in the factory or industry in which I have been working for so many years."
Page 10 of the Report says:
As it is on men in this age group"—
that is, the younger age group—
that the Armed Forces, the Police, the Fire Service and all the occupations for which full vigour and activity are necessary must rely, it is clear that other occupations must employ a smaller share of them.
I disagree with that finding, because it assumes that the police, the Armed Forces and the Fire Service require young men of extreme physical fitness. They certainly require some men of that category, but not to the extent of 100 per cent.
The police, for example, employ many men upon semi-clerical work, such as keeping records, writing reports for the courts, keeping fingerprints, and similar matters. In addition, as has been so often stated in our debates upon the traffic problems which beset us in the large cities, the older policeman probably has the necessary experience and tact to deal firmly with the motorist who is not likely to produce a revolver or flick knife and so have to be dealt with physically. He usually has to be dealt with only verbally. The police do not require all their men to be able to deal with the more dangerous type of criminal.
The same consideration applies to the Fire Service. Not all firemen are called upon to climb to the top of long ladders—a job which, I am sure, no hon. Members would try to do. The same holds good for the Armed Forces. Is every quartermaster sergeant a young man, capable of running five miles with full equipment, carrying his weapons? In every regimental depot there are many older soldiers, and no doubt the same can be said of the Navy and Air Force.
Most certainly they have, and they have done so with great valour. But they generally do so when the unit has gone back rather more quickly than was expected and the rear echelons have to bring out their weapons and use them. They are not usually the ones who go into action first. When a unit is in difficulty, the knowledge and experience of the older men provide a degree of balance, and a rallying point around which the younger men can gather to produce an excellent defence. I entirely agree with the hon. Member. He has made a useful interjection.
Quartermasters are very useful in fighting the graft which exists in all depots. and have, by their experience, equipped themselves to know all the answers. being old soldiers.
I do not want to express any views about graft in any depots, but I agree that the quartermasters know all the answers, and that nobody understands better than they, with their years of experience, how to deal with Army forms. That requires a lifetime of knowledge, and they can be very usefully employed on that task.
The test which should be applied is set out on page 20 of the Report. It is stated that
The test for engagement should be capacity and not age.
That is certainly the test which should be applied normally in every question which concerns the employment of men and women.
Very often there is a break in a woman's employment, when she leaves to marry, or upon the anticipated arrival of her first child after marriage, but in later life, when her children can be left to look after themselves, she may desire, for one reason or another—perhaps through having become widowed, or because she wants to earn a little extra money for the family—to seek employment again. and she naturally wishes to return to the trade that she knew before she married. Although such people may have lost some of their skill and facilities because they have been away for many years, they soon pick them up again, and they provide a steadying influence in the workshop. They are not so hot-headed as the younger women.
Let us face squarely some of the problems with which employers have to deal when they are considering the employment of older people. There are the traditional attitudes. There is the feeling which the Committee so aptly summed up in the expression "Too old at 40"—an expression with which hon. Members on both sides of the House would thoroughly disagree. This attitude has been largely broken down since the war, because of the increased amount of employment available. Employers are looking for labour to a greater extent than labour is looking for employment.
Pension schemes are a greater difficulty. When the new National Insurance Bil becomes law, that difficulty will be removed, because a person changing his employment will not lose his right to pension. The difficulty arises when a firm which has a private pension scheme thinks of bringing in an older person and has to fit him into the scheme upon a mutually satisfactory basis. The basis of the scheme usually is that before a person draws a pension upon retirement he must have contributed for a considerable number of years, and if a person enters employment half or two-thirds the way through the length of his employable life he cannot expect to draw his full pension upon retirement.
That, of course, is the hardship and perhaps there is a feeling of resentment against the firm because it is not able to take on all that anticipated trouble. The simplest way out is not to employ an older person. Fortunately, under the new Government scheme when it comes into force, that difficulty will, I think, he removed.
It is sometimes said that older people have mental or physical handicaps. That, of course, is no solution. It must depend on the individual. If, physically or mentally, a man is not what he was, then he will not have to be so particular about the type of employment that he seeks. However, it is sometimes a little difficult to say to a person, "You are not what you were," because the last thing that will happen is for that person to agree with that.
So far as managerial, executive and professional employment is concerned, we are up against very considerable difficulties. Undoubtedly the man in the professional, managerial and executive range, by the time he reaches whatever age it may be, has fixed ideas. He has been brought up in a particular occupation and he thinks that he knows that occupation inside out. If an employer takes on someone with such fixed ideas it is not always easy to fit him into the old-established method of running the business.
Again, one often sees advertisements for this type of scientific or professional person consisting of a simple notice stating the age limits of people who can apply. It is very unfortunate that that should happen, because one knows of people who for many years have been occupying positions, often of responsibility, people with professional or technical qualifications, who for one reason or another lose their empoyment. Perhaps the firm "packs up" for any reason one likes to suppose. Such people have the very greatest difficulty in obtaining fresh employment.
Of course, there is always a difficulty—it is such a great difficulty that I cannot suggest a solution for it—when an older person is brought in over the head of a younger person who is expecting, in due course, to have the proper amount of promotion. Naturally, the older person will not come in under the younger person. He will say, "Why should I work under a person twenty years younger than myself? If that older person is brought in over the head of someone who has done useful work for the firm, thereby blocking his promotion and letting him think that is so, an employer is making potential trouble in the firm, because he will have discontented people who think that their promotion is being unreasonably blocked.
That must apply in any particular case, and it is really the duty of those employing older people to consider how best that difficulty can be overcome. The easiest way, of course, is to promote the person already there so as to raise him to the same rank as the older person being brought in. That, perhaps, is an expensive way of doing it, but, at any rate, it is a solution.
I know how hard the appropriate Departments of the Ministry of Labour work to find employment for that type of person. I know that Government Departments help, because they employ large numbers of professional and scientific people, in finding employment for suitable people with the right qualifications. I should like to pay a tribute to the services that have been rendered by the appropriate Departments of the Ministry of Labour in finding employment for what I might call difficult cases.
I do not mean difficult people; that is quite another thing. I am thinking of the difficult cases where, owing to age, employers are not anxious to rush for the services of certain people. I know how patiently and even persuasively these Departments have sought to help these people and how, in many cases, they have nearly always been successful. I do not think that their services are sufficiently advertised, and I should like to pay them this tribute.
I am surprised that the hon. and learned Gentleman has not mentioned the effect of unemployment in connection with this problem. Surely that is a big factor in some areas today.
It is a very big factor. I entirely agree. It is referred to in the Report. It is a very important factor, because there is a tendency, when redundancy comes along, to say, "Let us make the older people redundant," either because they are older or because they are going to draw a pension.
I think that that is an entirely wrong policy for the reason that an older person is much less likely to obtain fresh employment. By the time the older person has been out of employment for a little time owing to redundancy in an area it is not so easy for him if it is a question of shifting to another district from the one in which he has lived for many years and in which, perhaps, he owns his house. He is not at all anxious to shift somewhere else.
When redundancy comes along employers and trade unionists alike ought very seriously to consider that the last people who should be made redundant are the older workers. If necessary, the younger workers can go elsewhere, and perhaps take up a new trade. It may be that redundancy occurs because a particular trade, not only in this country but throughout the world, is retarded. The younger person will learn a new trade quicker than an older person. If it means going to another part of the country where employment is better, a younger person can do that more easily and with less mental strain.
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) for his intervention. It has enabled me to point out the facts. Where redundancy occurs, the last people who should be stood off, temporarily or permanently, are the older ones. It is much less a hardship for younger people to have to make the necessary arrangements to cope with the difficulties of unemployment.
I, too, wish to congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn) on his choice of this subject when he was lucky enough to win the Ballot. What I cannot quite understand is why so many hon. and right hon. Members opposite should think my hon. and gallant Friend's choice of subject so unimportant that they have not even taken the trouble to attend, let alone intervene in the debate—
May I finish the sentence? Is it their belief that the welfare of a growing proportion of the population, which already numbers 7 million of our fellow citizens and which in 25 years' time will number 10 million, is so trivial a matter that they do not trouble to intervene at all in the debate, and does that account for the fact that for half an hour there was not one hon. Member on the benches opposite?
Now that the hon. Gentleman has said that there was no one on these benches, I would draw his attention to the fact that I am the only Privy Councillor in the House, on either side, who is listening to the debate, that there are four Conservative back-benchers present now, that right hon. Gentlemen have been listening to part of the debate and that the proportion of Labour Members in the House is higher than that of Conservative Members?
The right hon. Gentleman has shown himself to be considerably wounded by the truth. The fact is that there were no hon. Members opposite for half an hour. I am willing to concede that on Fridays there are other calls on hon. Members, and I wish to ask the indulgence of the House, if I have to leave before my hon. Friend replies to the debate, owing to an engagement in the North of England.
Perhaps I ought to say that the quality of those hon. Members attending on both sides of the House makes up for their lack of quantity. However, I am glad to see that the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), who takes such a sincere interest in this problem, is present.
This theme is one of such vast canvas that it is impossible to cope with everything one wants to say. There are two subjects to which I wish to draw the attention of the House. The first is the need for more research into employment demands in this sphere, and the second is the need for more research into the effect of any pension scheme which may, or may not, be in force at the time. As in all social matters we are here in the presence of conflicting trends. On the one hand, this country, as a great exporting and industrial power, needs more manpower. On the other hand, as the standard of living rises, as prosperity grows and is diffused among the entire population, there is, naturally, a tendency for people to want more leisure and to wish to give up the heat and burden of the struggle for life and to retire earlier. I wish to deal with both those trends.
Regarding manpower, despite the present dip in employment referred to by the hon. Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) from 98·2 per cent. to 97·2 per cent., I think that the hon. Member would agree that, anyway since the war, there has been a shortage rather than a surplus of labour, and any Government that failed to achieve full employment, generally speaking, would not remain long in office—unless there were such a world depression that no Government could do anything about it. We face a future of substantially full employment, and if I say that even during another period of Government by the party opposite—unless they went in for wildly inflationary schemes—this would be possible, I think, in return, they should do justice to the present Government by agreeing that that is the proper policy to be pursued by any party which is in power.
As the hon. Member for Sowerby would be quick to point out, there are trends, even within a situation of full employment—automation, electronic control, mechanisation, self-service in distribution—which tend to reduce the demand for labour in general, and, particularly in full employment, cause a transfer of the demand for labour into new or other fields. In America, for instance, we have seen that the great growth of heavy industry and the great efficiency which has come to the distributive industry has been compensated by an equal growth in service trades. So the employment situation as a whole has kept up with the dramatic rise in the birth rate. Far from thinking that 60 million jobs, which was regarded as a great target by President Roosevelt, is remarkable, there is now no undue comment about the fact that there are something like 65 million people in employment, despite their current relatively high unemployment position.
When examining the manpower demand of the country we have to recognise that all the trends towards higher productivity, will to some extent be taken up by a longer period of education for children. We have seen the school-leaving age rise to 15 and—this is a nonparty matter—we all want to see it increased to 16, and perhaps that is not the end. We all hope that there will be more and more further education at county colleges and expanded universities, and that a technologically equipped educational system will absorb more of the time made available by the greatly increased productivity of manpower and womanpower.
Not only will a longer educational period take up some of the higher productivity, but there is an enormous amount to be done in the way of shortening the average working week. We can look forward, not only to a shorter working week and not only to the average holiday of two weeks being extended to three, four, five or even more weeks, but therefore to the fact that, despite the relatively high efficiency of most of the use of manpower in this country, we shall no longer have any reservoir of unused labour in any large quantities for the predictable future.
Take, for example, the location of the normal reservoirs of unused labour in the countries of the world today. It is on the land. If we compare our agricultural output—and I am no farmer—with that of other highly industrialised countries, we find that in this country we produce half our food with 4 per cent. of our working labour force; so that we cannot expect that percentage to be reduced in order to release more people to work in the cities. Even in America, that highly industrialised country, 12 per cent. of the labour force is on the land. As the farming industry becomes more efficient the reservoir of labour for industry and distribution will increase.
What do we find in other countries? In Russia, that formidable competitor of the West, there is no less than 45 per cent. of the entire labour force on the land, which shows at once the relative inefficiency of its agriculture and its immensely strong labour reserve on which to draw for industry and distribution, with a shortened working week, a longer period of education and all the progress of industrial civilisation.
If we carry these rather cosmic views into our own future, we find that a picture of future employment has been worked out. I refer the House to page 23 of the excellent Phillips Report on the Economic and Financial Problems of the Provision for Old Age. I am astonished that this subject, which touches on the old age of the entire population, should still command so little interest among hon. Members opposite that now there is just one hon. Member on their benches, the hon. Member for Sowerby, who is taking a great interest. I feel it a compliment that a man of such quality should be present listening to me.
Will my hon. Friend be a little patient in this matter of the nonattendance of hon. Members opposite? I am quite certain that the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) has gone out of the Chamber to try to recruit some of his hon. Friends.
We shall see whether my hon. Friend is right in his prophecy.
I was talking about Table VIII in page 23 of the Phillips Report. At first sight this appears to be a valuable table. It shows that whereas about 1 million people over the minimum retirement age—which for women is 60 and for men 65—were working in 1954, it is probable that 11 million in those age groups will be working by 1979. Although that would indicate a 500,000 increase, no less than a 50 per cent. increase, in the elderly labour force, one must point out that this table is almost completely valueless, since it is drawn up as a mere projection of the current proportion of elderly people in the present population to the estimated future total population of this country in 1979.
In paragraphs 85 and 86 of the Report there is a list of factors influencing employment altogether, and particularly influencing employment of the elderly, which are not even taken into account in drawing up this table. Even were the table, by some miraculous coincidence, proved correct; even if, by 1979, the elderly labour force had increased from 1 million to 1½ million, the effect—because of the greatly increased growth of the absolute numbers of the elderly—would be that whereas now 60 per cent. of the people over the minimum retirement age not working, there would then be no less than 80 per cent. of those above the minimum retirement age not working. It is my view that the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North for more research is particularly important in order to try to formulate what future demand there will be for labour, and particularly for elderly labour.
After all, we must not be too confident. As was pointed out by the hon. Member for Sowerby, we have to take into account the effect of unemployment at whatever level it may be from time to time. The rather confident second Report of the National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women, which seemed to be so complacent about the relative success which had attended its first Report, was written in the middle of the most acute shortage of labour which this country has known since the war. We must not be too complacent about the things to which attention is drawn in that Report. So far as I know, there has been no attempt by the Government, or any of the excellent university or voluntary bodies which operate in this sphere, to analyse the demand for labour in a country approaching the condition described by Professor Galbraith as "an affluent society."
Already the average earnings of the population are approaching in real terms earnings which are at the bottom level of the middle-income bracket. What will be the effect on the demand for labour as the population tends towards, and becomes, a middle-income society?
I assume that by definition a middle-income household makes more demand on the services of its fellow-citizens than does a low-income household. Therefore, we can be confident that as earnings rise—and they will rise if world trade remains high and our products remain competitive—there will be ever more opportunities for employment and for labour. There has been no analysis of this situation, and I should have thought the National Advisory Committee would have remained in existence to carry out some such analysis. We have to ask that any such analysis will take into account the trends that go the other way today, such as the increased demand for leisure, for a longer period for education and for a rising standard of life which we hope will promote in turn longer holidays and an earlier retirement age to escape from the bustle of the working life.
I therefore plead for more research. There are conflicting ranges of influence. First, there are the influences which promote early retirement. They include a higher standard of living, the demand for more leisure, less need for earnings in older age, private pensions and the growth of savings. On the other hand, there are influences that promote late retirement, such as better health and longer expectation of life. There is also the boredom of many people when they are deprived of the daily occupation and pleasure of their work. We have seen in rather pathetic detail, from Mr. Townsend's survey of Bethnal Green, the effect of loitering about, the wasting of time, and the loss of status as head of the household when the man has to be at home all day. As private pension schemes grow, I hope the killing of time in order to save money will be less necessary. But unless the level of educational quality improves, people will lack purpose in their old-age, and the fear of this will have to be considered as a factor militating against early retirement. We have also to take account, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet) has said, of a future in which there will be fewer single women because the balance between the sexes has altered. The fewer single elderly women will be more in demand to look after other elderly households. There are other factors which are neither for nor against early retirement, neutral factors that will change from year to year and from decade to decade according to the general state of the economy and the demand for labour.
I come now to the main subject I want to discuss, which is the effect on all that I have said of the Government's pensions scheme. I am delighted to see here, patiently enduring the debate, the hon. Lady the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. Before I start any criticism I must say that I thoroughly approve of the Government's present pension proposals and am a keen supporter of them. They will improve enormously the present pension arrangements. That does not mean that one cannot imagine a simpler pension proposal that might have to be introduced gradually, which might be better than the one we have now.
I want to single out for praise the generous and far-sighted increase in the increments which the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance has recently announced. If we are to have increments, let them be generous. I shall come to this subject in more detail later. I say this now only so that what I may say later will not be taken as a slight on the present pension proposals.
It is disgraceful to all of us, and to the Government, that the first-class Report of the Phillips Committee has not, for its own sake, been previously discussed in this House. It is being referred today by several of us for the first time. This is a poor compensation for the energy, time and thought that went into its preparation. I want to give it a little attention but necessarily I must use the figures in the Report although in every case they are outdated because the Report was presented as long ago as December, 1954. It was based upon figures which were current previous to that date.
I hope that the House will remember that the Phillips Committee recommended a change in the present retirement arrangements which make a retirement pension available to women at 60 and to men at 65, subject to retirement and to an earnings rule. If the retirement is deferred, increments are earned. This arrangement changes at 65 for women and 70 for men when, without any need for retirement or any earnings rule, the pension is granted as of right, without a means test and without any conditions whatever.
It is this current situation which the Phillips Committee recommends should be altered. It recommended that a higher minimum pension age both for men and women and that these should be imposed gradually, and with warning of the changes, so that without unfairness to individuals the changes could be introduced. It recommended various changes in unemployment and sickness conditions so that people whose retirement is deferred by Government decision should not suffer thereby in any way.
Despite its wealth of detail and its fresh outlook on pensions, the Phillips Report recommended a pension with a retirement and earnings rule and an increment system; as a result of its main recommendations increments would only have been earnable for two years. It proposed for men a minimum retirement age of 68 and a change in respect of women to a retirement age of 63. leaving only two years during which people could defer retirement and earn increments.
We are not the only country with an industrial civilisation. What do other countries do for their elderly? It is an interesting fact that we are the only country in the world so far operating a retirement condition for the retirement pension. The United States has an earnings rule and France has a system of increments but we are the only country that operates all three. What are the results of our present system? I apologise for using 1951 figures here. In that year, half the total of men between the minimum retirement age of 65 and the absolute retirement age of 70, if I may so call it, were still in employment. They numbered about 420,000 in all. The other 420,000 who were not in full employment included many who were disabled and were looked after in some other way. Of the remainder many would have been unwilling to do any kind of work at all.
There remained at most a potential of perhaps 300,000 men who in 1951 might have gone back to work, or continued at work, had jobs been available and all the conditions been suitable. For all the talk there is about the effect of the earnings rule on employment, very few people indeed had their pensions reduced by the operation of the earnings rule, but what we do not know is how many people were kept out of part-time, or even full-time, employment by the operation of the earnings rule, because that is a subject of decision in each case and we cannot measure it.
The trends I have been discussing in the case of men were far less satisfactory in the case of women, because out of 1⅓ million women between 60 and 65 only under 20,000 remained at work. I am not for a moment criticising those who retired. They were either looking after their families or cultivating their gardens—whether mentally or physically—but a society that wants more manpower and womanpower must take note of these facts. Retirement conditions and the earnings rule may possibly keep some people out of work. That is a fact we must take into account. Are the increments sufficient to offset this tendency? Do they keep people at work more than the retirement condition and the earnings rule keep people out of work? Here I would refer the House to paragraph 122 of the Ministry of Pensions publication of 1954 called:
Reason given for retiring or continuing at work".
That paragraph says:
The great majority, 93 per cent., of all men reaching the age of 65 said they knew that a higher rate of National Insurance retirement pension could be obtained by staying on at work. Only seven in a 1,000 said this was their reason for staying on at work, but one in four said their knowledge of the arrangements had influenced them in making a decision.
That is pretty weak evidence in favour of the increments. Three in four were not influenced by them and only seven in 1,000 deferring retirement said that it was the main reason for their action. I must admit that when that was written increments were substantially lower than they are to be from the time when the Bill now before Parliament is made into an Act, when increments will go up by something like 50 per cent.—anyway very substantially.
The Phillips Committee suggested that there should be a gradual rise in pension age with adjustments of the other benefits. It warned the country that this would not lead to any vast saving in cost. because it rightly said that, though society would have to pay out pensions later, on the other hand there would be offsetting costs to take into account. Pensions would have to be payable gradually later, but increased sickness and unemployment benefit would compensate for this to a large extent.
At that time the Committee reckoned that there would be a saving for the community in 20 years, by raising the pension age three years in due course. of something like £50 million in addition to which there would be the increased yield of taxation flowing from people who thereby were caused to stay longer at work and have higher earnings. Those figures are very much out of date, not just because the Phillips Committee reported four or five years ago, but also because since then the Tory Government have twice increased pensions and the total effect would have to be recalculated.
I must look, as the Phillips Committee did, not only at the lower cost which might emerge from any such change, but at the higher production which might flow from tempting people to stay longer at work and the higher human satisfaction achieved by those who stay longer at work. The savings which would in fact be achieved by any such change would be very much more than was estimated because, although the pension is higher, so the increments will be much higher and the total sum will have to be recalculated if we are to learn any lessons from this.
It is a fact that the retirement condition seems to be generally popular. On the whole, neither side of the House wants to attack it, but the earnings rule, which is its inseparable twin and which stands or falls with the retirement condition, is very unpopular. It might be argued in favour of retaining the earnings rule that people should not be allowed to have from society both pensions and wages. They might then earn more in their last decades than in the full prime of their youth, but is this not in practice already? Women of 65 and men of 70 are able to get the pension whatever their wages are and I hope that sometimes their incomes are more than at any other time in their lives. If they are working with their minds, as in many cases they are, why should not this also apply when they are working with their muscles?
Then there is the fact that occupational pensions are payable, I think, in all cases without any test of what is being earned elsewhere. If that is not unsatisfactory in private pensions and at the age of 65 for women and 70 for men, what is so offensive to the principle that the age should be reduced?
That I fully accept—I say I fully accept it, but I know of several firms which pay pensions and move people into lighter employment. The hon. Member will not deny that that does not stop a person moving to another employment and earning possibly a higher wage. His first pension would not be reduced once a man is over 70 or a woman is 65, if that in fact happens.
It seems to me that the increments are a corollary of the right to defer drawing a pension. If the drawing of a pension depends up to a certain age on retirement and retirement is deferred, it is only moral that there should be some reward for deferment of retirement and, therefore, of the pension. That is the basis of the increment system. If, however, the pension falls to be drawn at a fixed age with no retirement condition, there is no point and no moral status for any system of increments.
Therefore, what I suggest now is that we should seriously consider, and the Government should seriously consider, the arguments in favour of having a fixed age for drawing a pension without retirement condition, without earnings rule and without an increment. I do not suggest that this should come into force now, or that it should necessarily come into force at all, but I am suggesting that the labours of the Phillips Committee, and the Majority Report, which I shall discuss. deserve consideration by the Government. At least there should be a study of the effect in long term of the suggestions which are made.
No, I think that most unfair. I will come to the Beveridge Report in a moment. I am glad that the hon. Member mentioned it, because it is very nearly next on my list. In particular, before coming to the Beveridge Report, I should like to draw the attention of the House to paragraph 23 of the Minority Report of the Phillips Committee, submitted by Professor Cairncross. I shall read ten lines which I think are most relevant to this whole subject. That paragraph says:
If a growing number of old people have to be helped to lead happy and useful lives I can think of nothing more important than that they should learn to retire slowly, continuing in work for as long as possible, but for diminishing stretches of time, at a diminishing pace of work and with diminishing responsibilities. It is wrong, wasteful and cruel that men should be faced with the choice between drawing their pension, retiring altogether, or nearly so, and staying on in their job with an undiminished load. It is this as much as anything that makes men brittle and cuts short their retirement while their wives, who have learned to ease off more gradually, outlive them. From the point of view of a happy and prosperous society it is desirable that men of 65–70 should be free to choose, not whether to retire, but how much to retire: far more desirable than that every able-bodied man should postpone retirement until the last possible moment.
That was the subject introduced, I was glad to note, by my hon. Friend the Member for Heywood and Royton (Mr. Leavey), who spoke so well. It is this suggestion that I wish to put before the House, not urging its adoption, but urging its study.
Professor Cairncross suggested that the retirement age should be raised gradually, say, to 68 for men and to 63 for women, at which age the pension could be drawn without any conditions whatever. That would leave men and women free to earn whatever they liked, with no limitation by earnings rule after they have started to draw their retirement pension. It would enable men and women to take less intense jobs at lower wages without in any way contributing to wage cuts that, some people might suggest, employers, both public and private, might like to inflict upon people who have other sources of income.
Let use recognise that if the elderly had another source of income and were able to stay on at work, many more employment opportunities might be made available for them, at lower rates of wage than in their prime, which simply do not exist at present because to pay them the full wage means that the job they perform is not economical. The suggestion by Professor Cairncross would lead to this result. There would be more income for those who are now working and above the minimum retirement age. Today's equivalent of the 400,000 men and the 200,000 women who in 1951 were over minimum retirement age and still working would immediately draw a pension, but there would be no increments for those who had deferred their retirement. There would be no higher rate of pension for deferment.
What about the other 400,000 men and the 1·1 million women who in 1951 had retired completely? The effect of Professor Cairncross's suggestion would be that there would be no discouragement by way of earnings rule to their partial re-entry into the labour market. There might be more of them who would work part-time or full-time. From those who chose to work would flow more production, and from the higher production higher revenue, and particularly higher satisfaction for the individuals concerned. I therefore regard this as a most important suggestion.
I am shocked that there has been so little discussion both of the Phillip Committee's and of the Cairncross proposals. All these suggestions can be enormously clarified by research. Many things cannot be clarified by research. Here, however, where motives can by sample be examined, as we saw in the Reasons for Retirement Report, to which I have referred, the social scientist can do useful work. I very much support the Motion, which asks precisely for more research.
Here we have a country that is inevitably, both in history and in prospects, moving towards an affluent society, a community of middle-income men and women, a community which will have more employment opportunities simultaneously with opportunities for more education and leisure. Let us at least ensure that the pension rules that obtain at any time do not distort the incentives of men and women, as they do so much now. I therefore very much support my hon. and gallant Friend's Motion. I do not suggest that these steps need, or should, be taken rashly or speedily, but they should at least be seriously considered.
The House is indebted to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn) for bringing forward this Motion today. It deals with a subject which we must all have studied because of the every-day problems which occur in our various constituencies. The Motion uses the words:
research into the problem of … employment … and urges Her Majesty's Government to take further steps to promote and co-ordinate such research.
It is very largely in the direction of research that much can be done.
I do not intend to take up too much time by reading, but I should like to quote from the National Advisory Committee's First Report, at Chapter II, entitled "The National Problem". It is in this light, as a national problem, that we should regard the subject of the Motion. I quote from paragraph 13 of the National Advisory Committee's Report:
Further, the economic conditions of this country—highly industrialised, thickly populated and dependent on its trade—make it vitally important to make the best possible use of all available resources, including manpower. The country cannot afford to reject fit and willing older people from the labour force or to employ them below their full capacity.
The Report goes on to point out that while, in 1951, there were over 6½ million people, or 135 persons per 1,000, of or above the ages of 65 for men and 60 for women, in 1977 this figure will be nearly 9¾ million, or about 195 persons per 1,000. That is a staggering figure. The only other figures I wish to quote are that in 1951 the producers, of all ages, totalled 23,225,000 and an additional 5,600,000 people were above minimum pension age and not in economic employment. By 1977, that figure of 5,600,000 will have risen to 8 million.
This is a subject which, if not tackled, could become one of the most serious handicaps to our economic advancement. As a country, we need the productive ability of these people. They have a part to play and they are very willing to play it if allowed to do so. It has been proved time and time again that they are adaptable to a change of work reasonably late in life if the right length and kind of training is given to them. Perhaps a little more patience is necessary than with younger people, but it would pay us a big dividend to understand the problem of these ageing people and try to give them the sort of training that they are so ready to accept.
Possibly, when we consider this problem, we do not always give as much thought to the married woman returning to employment as we do to the man. It can be said that this is quite natural. The man is probably in employment from the age of 17 or 18 until he retires, while the woman may have a break when her family comes along and then for a long period she may dissociate herself from employment because she is fully employed, and in many cases over-employed, in her own house with her own problems. Nevertheless, it is a deplorable thing that so many women, after their children have married and gone away, should be seen going on two, three or even more afternoons a week to such functions as whist drives.
Yes, in the afternoon. It was for the benefit of the older Labour supporters. As citizens, they are entitled to quite as much of our consideration as anybody else.
The ladies do not particularly want to go there, but they must break the boredom of their existence. They must get away for a short period from their houses. Although a woman may grumble at the time, there is nothing worse for a woman than not to have supper to get ready for two, three or more children and not to hear the sound of people hurrying into the house at six or seven o'clock at night and asking her various questions. When that busy occupation has been taken from her, she misses it very much. She has something to give. We should do all we can to make it possible for her to have, if she wishes, some form of profitable occupation.
There is also the very human side of a woman whose family leaves her, and especially the working-class woman, if one can use that awkward and nasty phrase. She also misses the financial assistance which her children brought into the home. At the time that she misses them when they have got married and moved to another part of the country, or even abroad, her husband is less able to give her additional money, or even the same amount of money, for her own female wants, for the little privileges which she might wish to purchase. We should look in a very human way at the understandable feeling of those women.
Very shortly after men and women have retired they sometimes experience a feeling not only of utter boredom, but a feeling that they are positively not wanted by those they have previously known and worked with. Those of us—and I believe that there are many of us in the House—who take the trouble to check these matters will find that a very large proportion of the people who seek treatment in mental hospitals go there because they have this awful feeling that they are useless, that there is no point in living any longer.
The psychiatrists at the various mental hospitals have to do an enormous amount of work in trying to persuade them that they are wanted and that they are useful citizens. Their work is very largely discounted if, when the patients return, they find that it is extraordinarily difficult to find a little niche into which they can fit. That is one of the reasons why we should take notice of the Report and the Motion which my hon. and gallant Friend has tabled.
If we need an example of the way in which this boredom works upon a woman, we have only to go to our own constituencies and watch the fit woman of perhaps 62 or 63 who goes to the shops, sometimes two or three times a day, to make small purchases, not because she desires those purchases immediately, but because she feels that she can meet another human being and have an intelligent conversation. They are there for all of us to see if we want to see them. That is the type of individual who, it is most distressing to think, is only there because she cannot find a more useful occupation.
If we require any more proof whether these men and women can do a useful job, we have only to cast our minds back to the war period when the so-called discarded, the old and the useless, as they were sometimes called, returned and did jobs which were greatly to their credit; and we know that they did them exceptionally well.
One can go on talking sympathetically about these people and repeating that something should be done. However, there are difficulties, and we must face them. There are the difficulties of salaries. It is said and held by many that, if we allow the ageing population to take up jobs, they will depreciate the salaries of the whole industry. The difficulties are there as a challenge to us. When one wishes to improve or to introduce social legislation, anybody at any time can always very easily present a long list of difficulties. If one adopted the attitude that, because of all the difficulties, nothing should be done about it, very little improvement would be made throughout the centuries.
I do not think that it is impossible for members of the T.U.C. and employers to get together and make some sort of agreement on salaries which would make possible what I feel we all want to achieve. The same applies to industry. In our various activities outside the House many of us try to find occupations for the aged or the ageing, thereby helping the employers and the persons employed.
Promotion is not so difficult. When many of these men go back they are quite happy to do a job knowing full well that there will be no promotion. They would not wish to stand in the way of the younger members who are earning their promotion. I do not believe that that is an insuperable difficulty.
Hours of work pose a problem which we can and must consider. There are many aged men who are much earlier risers than some younger people. It is usually father or mother at the age of 60 who is constantly calling up the stairs to urge the young people down to eat the breakfast which has been cooked, and in some cases to put on the shoes which have been cleaned, and hurry off to work. The older people have been up some time. I believe that all these problems are not beyond solution.
We shall all grow old. I have never noticed in the House that the older Members say, "I am becoming useless. I will step back and allow the younger Members to take charge. I intend to resign from my Ministerial position. I intend to do this, that or the other, because I have turned 60 or 65 and, therefore, I feel that I cannot play such a helpful part". It is quite the reverse. It is those people to whom today we can look for help.
There is a law of the jungle which applies to the old. When some of the "kings of the jungle" grow old and decrepit, they are pushed out of the herd. They are not allowed to eat, and they die. I urge this House not to adopt that law of the jungle, but rather to help to frame—and to adopt—a law of civilisation that will give these people an opportunity to live in dignity with us all.
I should like to begin by saying how impressed I have been by the very sincere and moving speech of the hon. Member for Horn-church (Mr. Lagden). I agree with him entirely. This is not a party matter. On a Friday, we do not debate in a partisan way, because it is then that we have an opportunity to discuss such social matters as this in a way which, I think, shows Parliament at its best. The hon. Gentleman's very impressive speech was obviously based on a close contact throughout the years with the people of whom he has spoken. It was a very useful contribution to our discussion.
I have already informed the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) that I had one or two things to say about his speech, so I hope that it will not be regarded as discourteous if I proceed to say them despite the fact that he is not now in his place. Having complained about other hon. Members not being in their places, he has made his speech and gone away. In fact, he told us that he was later leaving the House, so if we move, in due course, to the Motion dealing with unemployment and conditions in the Lancashire cotton industry, he will not be here; but we will at least do him the courtesy of not drawing attention to the fact that he is neither in his place nor in the House.
The hon. Gentleman might also remember that certain courtesies, customs and practices are observed in this Chamber. While I do not wish to go further, I can tell him that, in his opening remarks, he very nearly reached the stage of bringing this debate to a complete conclusion. If I developed that I might myself bring the debate to a conclusion now, but if the hon. Gentleman has a word with the Patronage Secretary, his own Chief Whip, he may learn that when an hon. Member begins to reckon up, at a certain stage, how many hon. Members are present, Mr. Speaker, or Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may have to take notice. The hon. Gentleman's speech, which was carefully prepared and well delivered, would not have been delivered at all had we on this side taken advantage of the constitutional position. The House cannot continue—particularly in this kind of debate—unless its well-recognised courtesies are observed.
We all feel very much for the elderly people who need a job but find it most difficult to get one. The Motion calls for more research. I am not against more research, but I think that the House would agree that, rather than more research, we need to initiate the kind of action that will provide elderly people with jobs—and the first action is to get a very much higher level of employment.
The truth is that when there is a high level of employment it is not too difficult to fit in the elderly people. It is very difficult, in a period of recession such as we are now experiencing, when unemployment figures are high, for the best-meaning employer to do so. If the Government want to make sure that our elderly people are employed their obvious task is to maintain employment at the highest possible level. It is quite certain—it follows as the night the day—that if there is a diminution in employment some of the first to suffer are the elderly folk. Therefore, when we move from the recession, the Government must stimulate employment to the point where jobs are available for older men and women.
There are one or two problems now besetting elderly people in their search for work that ought to have Government aid in their solution. I do not now quarrel with, or pick on any particular economies, but I wonder whether all the economies that took place in the various Government Departments were absolutely necessary. For instance, I wonder whether, in the Ministry of Labour, we did not cut rather too deeply in the search for economies when the duties of specialist officers in the employment exchanges were merged with those of officers performing other duties.
It may then have been justifiable to give up the specialist appointments officers, and to cut down the number of officers dealing specifically with elderly people. Whether or not that happened in a period of very full employment, when the problem of fitting in these people was not too difficult, the Parliamentary Secretary would, perhaps, agree that there may now be a case for looking again at a revision of that policy.
To fit elderly people into employment is a specialist job of the Ministry of Labour. Just as it is necessary to have specialist officers to look after the disabled, so we need officers with special knowledge, at the exchanges where are fairly large numbers of older men and women, whose main task would be to find them jobs.
We all know that the Ministry of Labour cannot find suitable employment for them merely by waiting for employers to tell the exchange managers that there are jobs vacant for three elderly people or five disabled people. The work is not done in that way. It is done by the officer designated specially to look after a particular category of people going round to employers, being au fait with local industry, and recommending disabled or elderly people for suitable vacancies. I believe that the bulk of such people have been placed in work because of the specialist knowledge of those officers whose particular concern has been the disabled or the elderly.
Obviously, the Parliamentary Secretary cannot today give an undertaking, but I should like him to give consideration to this matter, because I am quite sure that as the number of jobs decreases it will be more and more difficult to place elderly people who need work. Only by the use of specially designated officers—particularly in the large employment exchanges—will it be possible for employment to be found for these people.
There is another kind of elderly person who finds it almost impossible to get work, and that is the man who has spent his working life in a certain industry and who, through no fault of his own, becomes redundant because of the recession in that industry. If we reach the Motion dealing with the Lancashire cotton industry we shall hear of a number of cases where the decline in this great industry has thrown a number of people out of work and amongst them people over 60 years of age—though not 65; they have not reached the retirement pension age. They find it absolutely impossible to get work anywhere else, because they have never been trained for any other job than the one which they are doing. This applies to cotton workers, coal miners and those who have spent a lifetime in an industry which is now declining.
I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to examine whether or not there could be some extension of the provisions which are made for training people in industry—and we usually think in terms of young people being trained for new industry—in these areas where there is likely to be a higher incidence of unemployment among elderly people by reason of the decline in the main industries which support the population.
It may well be found that by means of some special training of perhaps three months' duration in another kind of work, new industries going into those areas may find employment for these elderly people. I therefore ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether, where the need is great in areas such as I have described, there could be organised some training or retraining for the kind of industry which is to be put into those areas or which has already been put there.
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is not a little worried—because I certainly am—that the increased retraining facilities which have recently been made available by the Ministry of Labour are, I understand, not being fully used in mast parts of the country at the moment? Therefore, why does he have such confidence that retraining facilities would be used if they were made available?
I did not know that the retraining facilities were not being used. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to tell us about that. I find it surprising to be told that they are not being used. From my personal experience during the war and subsequently, I find that retraining is the one way in which we can move large masses of people from one kind of employment to another. I am surprised to be told that with unemployment rising, retraining centres are not being used to the maximum.
The reason why I place some optimism on the benefit which can flow from the use of retraining centres is that I believe that men who have been in coal mines all their lives and are over 60 are not capable of doing other work unless they are given some kind of retraining. That is what bothers me. We ought to make them capable of doing other work. The Parliamentary Secretary and I have visited a training college for the disabled and we have seen throughout the years how retraining can make a tremendous difference and can find employment for people who previously were unemployable.
That is all I wish to say now, because I know that we are all anxious to hear the Parliamentary Secretary. I generally welcome the Motion as, I am sure, the House does. But I believe that now it is a question of administrative action largely through the Ministry of Labour. I am sure that we shall all be delighted to hear what the Parliamentary Secretary is able to add to this debate.
When one has the rare opportunity, as a back bencher, of following a spokesman from the Front Bench it is always a temptation to cross swords with him, but on this occasion I hope that I shall be permitted to say, as a very junior Member, how much I agree with what the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) said and, on the whole, how he said it.
Perhaps it was just a little tarnished at the beginning by what I thought was a rather pompous and heavy-handed rebuke that he delivered to my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) for leaving the Chamber for only a few minutes, perhaps to get a little nourishment, having sat through the debate for over two hours.
I had not the slightest intention of intervening in the debate when I came into the Chamber, but I do so for two reasons. First, this is a problem which very much concerns my own constituency, where there is a more than average proportion of old people who have retired from the East End of London and have gone to live in the numerous small bungalows that abound in southeast Essex. I know well enough that the fact that so few of them are able to go on working is an immense problem to them.
The second reason why I intervene is that this is obviously a growing problem. I apologise to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn) for not having been present at the beginning of the debate. Indeed, I have been here only for about the last hour. I was detained elsewhere professionally and was unavoidably prevented from coming here at the beginning of the debate. Therefore, I hope I shall be forgiven if I repeat anything that has already been said this morning.
Clearly, the facts that underlie this debate are beyond dispute. Many of the points are common ground on both sides of the House. We are, as has been said, an ageing population. That is a fearful cliché and I hope the House will forgive me if I emphasise that fact once more. Nevertheless, it presents a terrifying problem for the future unless we do something about it in the next few years.
The expectation of life is increasing. The National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women published its first Report in October, 1953, and in that Report there is a table showing the expectation of life. It shows that for a male of 65 the expectation of life has increased by ten to twelve years in the last fifty-year period, and for women by eleven to fourteen years in that period. There is every indication that the expectation of life will continue to rise.
We have, at the same time, fewer people willing to go on working once they reach the age of 65. Four people out of every ten decide to retire at the age of 65—a proportion very similar to what it was years ago—although the opportunities for sedentary work and work more suitable for elderly people are greater than they were fifty years ago. That trend is bound to continue. For those reasons, I believe that future generations may condemn us for not having foreseen this problem which will be with us for some thirty or forty years and for having failed to take adequate steps to prevent the problem being aggravated. It may be that we missed an opportunity of doing something to deal with the problem when the House considered the Pensions (Increase) Bill.
If we are an ageing population with more and more people becoming old-age pensioners, and yet at the same time there are greater opportunities for older people to work than there were fifty years ago, there may be some justification when next time it is decided to raise the old-age pension to raise it not at 65 years of age but at a slightly higher age—perhaps 67 or in that region—as an inducement to people to go on working those extra two or three years. I hope that when next the retirement pension is raised it will be considered as a further inducement to encourage older people to go on working, so that the proportion of those who retire at 65 will be reduced because, of course, it would be to everyone's advantage if that could be done.
It was my intention to speak for only a very few minutes. I do so only because I believe that this is an immensely urgent problem and I hope that the Government will take some action to help to solve it before it becomes very much worse, as it is bound to do on the figures which are beyond dispute.
Is it in order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for the hon. Gentleman the Member for Accrington (Mr. Hynd) to accuse hon. Members of deliberately holding up the debate when, in fact, they are talking about a subject which is very near to our hearts and when we have had no contribution from hon. Members opposite, except that of the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), who wound up the debate for the Opposition?
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Exeter came into the Chamber one minute ago. He has been out of the Chamber for the last couple of hours, to my knowledge. He knows perfectly well what has been going on and why there have been so few speeches from this side of the House. Therefore, I have risen a little earlier than I otherwise might have done to call attention to the importance of this Motion as effecting the employment of older men and women, particularly in Lancashire.
The difficulty of finding employment for older men and women in Lancashire arises not only in the cotton industry but in other industries as well, including engineering, the docks, shipbuilding and ship repairing, the slipper industry in the Rossendale Valley, the coal industry and others. When a deputation of Labour Members representing Lancashire met the Prime Minister on 2nd December last, the Prime Minister admitted this fact and, indeed, he said in a subsequent letter that the industries with the largest number of unemployed on Merseyside were those engaged in transport, communications, shipbuilding and ship repairing.
That is why, over the last five years, desperate efforts have been made not only in this House but by a large number of organised bodies in the County Palatine, by the Lancashire County Council, both sides of industry, the Cotton Board, the Lancashire and Merseyside Industrial and Development Association, and others. The House will remember the Petitions presented by myself and some of my colleagues from Lancashire, and the demonstration of mayors, who attended here in their robes, because they had got together to try to make a joint effort to do something about it. We blame the Government for this situation, and the older people in Lancashire will blame the Government for not having seized their opportunities.
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Gentleman seems to be reading very liberally from his notes. I realise that that is entirely in order, but it seems to me that his notes were prepared for a quite different Motion. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to go on speaking to the Motion in his name which concerns the industrial situation in Lancashire?
It is perfectly in order as long as the hon. Gentleman's speech refers to the rising average age of the population, the working capacity of older persons and the employment of older persons. He must not deal with the young in the Motion before the House.
It is obvious that in the present state of employment in Lancashire it is impossible to make use of all older people or younger people in the county. That applies particularly to the cotton textile industry, which employs a considerable proportion of older people. When the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) has been longer in the House, he will realise that it is possible for an hon. Member to refer to notes, although he is not allowed to read his speech unless he happens to be one of the privileged occupants of either of the two Front Benches. They, presumably, are not able to make speeches without reading every word of them. Back benchers are supposed to be able to make speeches purely from their notes.
This unemployment problem arises largely from the very unsatisfactory state of the cotton textile industry, which is so well known to the House that I do not propose to go into very much detail about it, but merely to summarise it by recalling the very heavy duty-free imports of textiles from the Commonwealth, the problem of foreign cloth coming in from Eire and in other ways, and the refusal of the Government, time after time, to do anything about it, because, as the Paymaster-General told us when we were discussing this matter last June, there are obligations which we have to Hong Kong.
It will be remembered that my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Burke) was provoked on that occasion to ask whether or not it would be possible for Lancashire to become a Crown Colony and get similar types of assistance. Subsequently, the older people in Lancashire who were seeking employment were comforted to some extent by the announcement that there was to be a limitation of imports from Hong Kong. Afterwards that turned out, greatly to the disappointment of those older workers, to be not an agreement at all but a voluntary undertaking on the part of Hong Kong to limit, as they put it, their exports to this country, but actually to send more than they are doing now.
I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would draw on his copious notes, which he has so very thoughtfully "prepared" for this Motion, to tell us what proportion of cotton workers in Lancashire are of pensionable age and how many former cotton workers in Lancashire over pensionable age are now in employment?
The hon. and gallant Gentleman's interruption shows base ingratitude when I am supporting his Motion. I would have thought that in the copious notes which he prepared to enable him to move his Motion he would have included in them that information. His researches have been very incomplete if he has not that information to hand.
I was saying that the least the workers in Lancashire can expect from the present Government is reciprocity in this matter of imports from the Commonwealth to match the exports which we are trying to send to the Commonwealth and concerning which we have been rather discouraged, in the case of India by a 25 per cent. duty and a very strict quota, and, in the case of Pakistan, by a 50 per cent. duty even if an import licence is possible of obtainment. It is heart-breaking to go to my constituency—as I am sure that all my Lancashire colleagues on both sides of the House would agree—these days and see so many older workers out of work, drawing unemployment benefit. For them, at any rate, it has been abundantly proved that Tory freedom does not work in this respect.
In 1951, the number of workers in the industry, many of whom are older workers, was 318,900. This number fell to 214,800, the latest figure in the Ministry of Labour Gazette, a drop of 31,500 in a year and a drop of 100,000 since 1951—practically one-third of the workers in the industry have been made unemployed during that period.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to extract from the figures the actual number of older workers, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. In any case, we have no definition of what an older worker is. I do not know whether I would come into that category or not. If we take the term "older workers" as meaning those over 50—those with one foot in the grave, like myself—then a large proportion of those included in the figures I have just quoted are undoubtedly within that category.
Turning to the unemployed, among whom, obviously, many of the older workers are included, because the older workers tend to be put off first, there are over 20,000 unemployed in the cotton spinning and weaving sections alone, plus 102,600 on short time.
Unfortunately, this industry is concentrated in the north-west region, which makes it all the more difficult for older workers to obtain employment because it is in a limited part of the country geographically. In the north-west region, there are over 108,000 unemployed. This is second only to the Scottish region. In my constituency of Accrington, in only the part attached to the Accrington Employment Exchange, there are, at the latest date, 1,066 unemployed, which is 333 more than last month. Because over 300 mills have been closed in the last few years in Lancashire, I can well understand the hon. and gallant Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn) wishing to put his Motion before the House on behalf of the older workers. What hope have we for the older workers of Lancashire when one-quarter of the mills have been closed within that period?
The Government tell us that there is to be what they call stabilisation. That is the word the Prime Minister used when we went to see him. Apparently, his definition of "stabilisation" for the cotton textile industry implies a further decline of 10 per cent. With that prospect, the hopes of the older workers, at any rate in Lancashire, are very dim indeed.
There are many subsidiary problems connected with this industry with which I will not weary the House, because there are other hon. Members opposite who wish to support the Motion. It will have a very much better chance of being carried, of course, if fewer hon. Members on this side than on the other side speak. The Chairman of the Cotton Board said something very important not long ago. It was:
The cotton industry is not a decrepit one asking for special favours. What it wants is an opportunity to compete on equal terms in a fair market.
The older workers of Lancashire will have far better prospects if the problem is looked at in that light rather than from the narrow point of view.
It is not only in the cotton industry in Lancashire—I emphasise this—that the older workers, both men and women, have fewer prospects of employment. The same applies to other industries in Lancashire as well. Time and time again from this side of the House a plea has been made for definite Government action through diversification of industry in the county. There has been a trend of migration from north to south. Industries are springing up around the orbit of the London area and people are leaving Lancashire for places in the South. Between 1951 and 1957, 22,000 people migrated from Lancashire. I do not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman could help me by telling me how many of those were older men and women workers. Unfortunately, I have not been able to extract that information. Certainly, there must have been a large proportion of them in the total of 22,000.
The Prime Minister told us that he did not think that migration in itself constituted a problem. Be that as it may, it is certainly a serious thing if the older men and women workers of Lancashire, who have worked there for the greater part of their working lives, must leave the county and go south to look for jobs. I have every sympathy, of course, with the older men and women workers in other parts of the country. I do not take a selfish point of view at all. I am not saying that it is only Lancashire which wants to be helped, but, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you will allow me, I hope, to do what a Member of Parliament ought to do—put in a special plea for the older men and women workers of my constituency who find it so difficult at present to find employment.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), who has spoken so eloquently, and, if I may say so, at such short notice, with notes which were quite obviously prepared for another speech on another Motion. I compliment him on the expert way in which he adapted his speech as he went along to the Motion now before the House. I thought that, occasionally, he did seem to stand on his head in presenting certain facts, and I should like to recall to him, since we are talking about older people today, a little ditty which runs:
'You are old, Father William,' the young man said,
'And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?'
We have, I think, been assuming all through the debate what has hitherto been an accepted fact, namely, that the proportion of older people in the population is steadily increasing and is likely to continue to do so. I have here the Report of the Committee on the Economic and Financial Problems of Provision for Old Age, which, in page 15, states that this is, in fact, the case. The expectation of life, it is said, has increased by about 50 per cent. and will go on increasing.
Until very recently, that was the generally accepted view and nobody ever questioned it. It is quite clear that the introduction of the various antibiotic drugs and other drugs which keep people alive, when they would otherwise die, perhaps, of pneumonia at the crucial age of 50, are an important factor in this respect. We have a larger number of old people than we had in the past. People are now living to a greater age than did their fathers and grandfathers. It will not, however, have escaped notice that there has recently been a serious discussion among medical men as to whether this will be the trend in the future.
It has been suggested in an energetic discussion in medical circles, which is still continuing, that this state of affairs will not continue into the future. The children who are now growing up will have the longer life which the present generation may reasonably expect, but it is said that, partly as the result of the vitamins, special foods, orange juice and so forth which we are now accustomed to give our children, and partly as a result of the tempo of life which in modern times and highly civilised communities causes a problem, people will come very much earlier to the age of puberty. This has, in the past, been shown to cause earlier death.
Even for laymen, I do not think that this is such an extraordinarily difficult thing to understand. Anybody connected with the land or with animal husbandry realises that, if a plant or an animal is brought on very much more quickly than is usual in its normal habitat, it tends, so to speak, to "blow up" and die early. I myself have raised bulbs in the greenhouse and I know that, if I force bulbs, they flower very adequately and quickly, but I cannot use them again for three years. Their strength has been exhausted.
In the same way, it is suggested by these medical men of high authority that the very large amount of vitamins and foods and the very great pressure of modern events which bring a child on to grow up much earlier than it used to—we can see that in the figures about juvenile activities—will in the end have the effect that these children will not last so long as, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you and will go on and I will.
That ought to be investigated. It has a bearing from the Government's point of view. We shall have to decide whether or not this type of feeding, which grew up principally during the war years and to which we have up to now attached the greatest possible importance, is in the best interests of the children. We see in races and families which are suddenly released from dire poverty into conditions of much greater wealth where they can achieve satisfaction of all their bodily and spiritual needs a most extraordinary flowering of energy and intelligence. The most miserable families who have managed in the past generation to escape from the hinterland of Russia, the Jews from Bessarabia, Bucharest and other parts of the world where for centuries they have been oppressed and underfed and have been political and social outcasts, have when they have gone to Australia, the United States or some other country where conditions are absolutely different—Israel might now be a case in point—shown an extraordinary flowering of energy and talent. That is a phenomenon with which we are all familiar.
This suggests that the filling of our children with—one could almost call them drugs—patent foods and this appalling swallowing of tablets which goes on year by year and day by day all over the country may not be in the best interests of our children. I hope that further investigations will be made and that before long we shall be able to have an authoritative medical opinion.
My last point is on the question of migration. In the Report of the Committee on the Economic and Financial Problems of Provision for Old Age it is said in paragraph 63 that the influence of migration has been of subordinate importance in the matter of the employment of old people and of the numbers of old people in the population. That is unfortunately true. The main reason is that up to now the newly developing countries of the Commonwealth and elsewhere have been unwilling to receive our old people as well as our young people.
One can understand that fewer old people present themselves for migration. Naturally, the older one gets the more inclined one is to stay in the place to which one is used. It is the case that in very many families those who emigrate are the young people, leaving their parents or perhaps a single parent behind in this country. It is also the case that this country has to support the old person who is not capable of work whereas the younger Commonwealth country gets the benefit of the young people who can by their work contribute to the building up of that country.
I know that everything is not on one side. I am told that every migrant to Australia costs the Australians £1,000 to equip him in the way of buildings and necessary public services which have to be laid on when people go to live in otherwise virgin country. One realises, therefore, the economic difficulties which the Dominions have in receiving very large numbers of people. They look to have that £1,000 repaid to them in due course by the work which the young migrants will do. One can understand that they are not so keen to receive old people who will never be able to work and will need to receive pensions or subventions for the rest of their natural lives.
Looking at it from this country's point of view, it is necessary that the Dominions and the Colonies should consider whether it is in their real interests to receive whole families rather than only parts of them. I can quote a very tragic example from my constituency. The man concerned is an Anglo-Egyptian refugee. It is a rather special case. After coming to England, this man's brother and the brother's wife emigrated to Australia. However, this man, who is not very old—he is in his forties—is blind, and because of that the Australian Government are not willing to receive him on economic grounds, although the brother who has been received in Australia is willing to have him with him and to be entirely responsible for his financial support. The result is that his unfortunate man, who lost his livelihood in Egypt, is compelled to live the rest of his life in this country instead of joining his brother in Australia.
That is a hard illustration to support my contention that the Dominions ought to consider the interests of whole families rather than only the working section of families. I hope that anything that I have been able to say in this regard will cause them to reconsider to some extent the regulations, which I appreciate are so very important for them and which have an economic background which this House should not underestimate.
The longer I am a Member of this House the more I am struck by the part which coincidence plays in its functioning. It is a remarkable thing that my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) should have found himself in the House to address himself to the Motion and that I should find myself privileged to follow him from this side of the House to discuss the same question. My approach to the question, although I am in full sympathy with the approach of my hon. Friend, is from a rather different point of view. The problems in my constituency are not those of the textile industry, and so they are rather different.
I should like for a few moments to look at what some of those problems are. In one respect, at any rate, I can hope to have the sympathy of hon. Members opposite in that I am not fortified with copious notes and in what I have to say I shall have to draw largely upon my memory.
I would particularly direct attention to one thing about the Motion. It refers to the employment of older men and women. I wish to refer to the special problem involved in the employment of older women. In a place like Widnes, which is primarily concerned with the heavy chemical industry, the problems are different from those in other parts of Lancashire which are concerned with the textile industry, where there is a long tradition of the employment of women and it is normal for women to go on to a considerable age in the same employment.
Our problem is rather different. We have the difficulty of finding employment for older women within a heavy industry. One of the biggest criticisms which can be made of the Government is that they have shown themselves on the whole strangely unaware of the importance of diversifying industry not only as between heavy industry and light industry, but particularly as between those industries which provide employment for men and those which provide employment for women.
The Government can congratulate themselves to the extent that as a result of the "brilliance" of their policy they have at least succeeded in getting more unemployment among men than there is among women in this area. That is something which has not happened before and it is a great "triumph" for Conservative policy at work. Nevertheless, whatever happens in the fluctuations of unemployment, it remains the case that in heavy industry towns there is a special problem of providing industry which will not require a great deal of heavy physical effort.
On a point of order. I have listened very carefully to what the hon. Member has said, and for a long time he has not referred to the employment of older men and women. He has been talking purely about employment levels in his constituency. Is not that an abuse of the rules of the House and should not the hon. Member be asked to confine his attention to the Motion?
The point I was trying to make in my few stumbling words—and I can understand that the implication escaped the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams)—was that, on the whole, older women are less capable than young women of doing such heavy work. That seems to be a proposition which might commend itself to the sympathetic and serious attention of even the hon. Member.
What I was trying to show was that in a town primarily dependent on heavy industry and where, for generations, there have been traditional skills, in an industry like the heavy chemical industry a special problem is involved, and that, unless a conscious effort is made to diversify industry and to introduce those industries calling for less physical effort by the workers, older women will find it very difficult to get employment. It is not a problem which will solve itself, unless some effort is made to introduce light industries into areas based on heavy industry.
It is a problem different from that confronting the textile industry areas, where there is an industry traditionally drawing upon older men and older women in more or less equal proportions. That is not to say that the problem in those areas is not acute.
I agree, but if the industry is there, and it can be expanded to meet increased demands for its products, there is still this special problem in the sort of area I have in mind. As I have said, it is a remarkable achievement that the Government have managed to create as much unemployment among males as among women in the heavy chemical industry in my area. That is something which I would not have expected them to be able to do.
I emphasise that we need a clear indication from the Government that they are prepared to recognise the special needs of those towns which do not count in an absolute sense among the areas where there is little employment for older people, but where there is a grave shortage of work for older women, and where that problem will not be solved merely by an expansion of the existing industries.
When I first became the Member for Widnes, the unemployment figures of the area could be counted on the fingers of two hands. They are now about 5 per cent. for men, but about 8 per cent. for women. Even when employment among men was very small indeed, there was still substantial unemployment among women, particularly older women who could not undertake heavy physical work.
I hope that as a result of the debate and the attention which my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington has directed to the problems of the North-West and Lancashire, the matter will be studied seriously, not merely as a problem for the textile industry, unfortunate though that is, but as a problem of other areas of the Merseyside where it is important that new light industry should be introduced.
I intend to follow the remarks of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl). How grateful the people of Lancashire must be that we have a Conservative Government in this country and that the unemployment figures are within the 3 per cent. unemployment laid down by Lord Beveridge in his Report as representing full employment. I remember when we had a Labour Government in 1929. By the time that Government had been kicked out, in 1931, unemployment figures had reached 3 million.
The hon. Member may catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
It took a predominantly Conservative Government until 1939 to get those figures down to the 1 million mark. If we had had a Labour Government over the last two or three years, with the enormous recession which has taken place in the United States of America, I do not know what would have happened to the heavy industries about which the hon. Member for Widnes has been speaking. No doubt history would have repeated itself. The people of Lancashire must be extremely grateful that they have had the wisdom of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to guide them through these dangerous times, and when in due course they are asked to endorse the Government of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I have no doubt that they will return them to power with an increased majority.
There are three Motions on the Order Paper, and I cannot help but feel that the only two speeches we have had from the Opposition, apart from the petulant outburst from the Opposition Front Bench by the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), who has now gone away, did not strictly refer to the first Motion, although they were no doubt within the rules of order. In fact, they related to the third Motion, which is about the industrial situation in Lancashire.
I propose to refer to the first Motion, which was moved at the beginning of our debate by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn). There is on the Order Paper a second Motion on the subject of the current roads programme and it might have been of assistance if we could have discussed that at the same time. More work on the roads would obviously make it easier for older people to get employment. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) is not in his place waiting to move that Motion.
Further to that point of order. Irrespective of whether or not my hon. Friend is here, is it in order to anticipate a debate on a Motion which has not yet been moved?
It is not likely to be moved. One has to take account of the possibility of a Motion being moved. I applied that consideration to the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd), because if I had stopped him on the ground of anticipation, as I might have done, he would have said that he did not intend to move this Motion.
I hope that there will not be too many interruptions, because I shall then have to take longer than I had intended. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Enfield, East is ill and it is regrettable that we shall not have the opportunity to discuss his Motion. I hope that he will put down the Motion again at a later date, when I have no doubt that my hon. Friends will again put down a very reasonable Amendment, so that we can have a discussion upon the enlightened policy on roads which has been followed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport.
There is no doubt that it is eminently desirable, and even essential, if we are to have a high standard of life, that the question of the employment of older men and women should receive a high priority in the policy of any of our Governments. We have to have the right outlook towards old people. I have always found it most distasteful to hear the word
"retirement". Paragraph 2 of Cmnd. 538—Provision for Old Age—says:
How best to make proper provision for the old is one of the biggest social problems of our time. Its importance and its difficulty are alike increased in a community such as ours in which the proportion of older people has risen and is going to rise further. It is vital, too, in considering the personal responsibility of each of us to make such provision as we can for our own old age.
Lying behind that paragraph is the idea that a person should suddenly stop active work. I should like legislation to be passed to make it illegal to refer to pensions or retirement pay. I should prefer to see it called "deferred pay".
When I left the Royal Air Force I received a disability pension, which I believe is called a retired pension. I received it at the age of 25 because of some incapacity. The phrase "retired pay" gives one the idea that one should stop at home in one's garden waiting for what my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) has described as "the inevitable experience." I should prefer to call it deferred pay—something which a person has earned, and which encourages him to start his life again and perhaps take up some other employment. That is a step that could be taken towards giving people the idea that they should never retire and sit back and do nothing. It would give them the idea that they have a right to a certain deferred pay after so many years' work, but would also encourage them to find some other form of employment.
It is right that people should be entitled to some protection in their old age, and for many years it has been the practice of Governments of every persuasion to increase payments to old people by various national pension schemes for the benefit of those who do not happen to have the good fortune to benefit from superannuation schemes run by a business. We can be very satisfied with the progress that has been made today, and especially since the coming into power of the Conservative Government in 1951, when the pension was 26s. a week for an old-age pensioner at the age of 65. It was increased by my right hon. Friend the present Lord Privy Seal, in his first Budget, in 1952, to 32s. 6d., then to £2 and finally to £2 10s. The old-age pensioner—or the person receiving deferred pay, as I should like to call him—is now receiving a higher payment than he has ever before received, in real money. The Conservative Government have every reason to be satisfied with the progress that they have made in this connection.
I now want to refer to the Report of the National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women, which was set up by Lord Monckton. The introduction states that the Committee's terms of reference were:
to advise and assist the Minister of Labour and National Service in promoting the employment of older men and women.
It is a fairly lengthy Report, and I hope that hon. Members will allow me to pursue my arguments quietly, because I do not want to have to go into great detail. At the back of the Report there is a very interesting summary, to which I propose to make some reference. It sets out some of the major points made by the Committee in its Report. The first set of important points are those contained in paragraphs 11 to 13, which point out the reasons why the employment of older person should be encouraged. The first point it makes concerns the changing age structure of the community. Reference is often made to the ageing population of this country. Most civilised countries, to the extent that they are civilised, have an ageing structure of population, because of their better medical facilities, and people are inclined to live longer.
The Committee also refers to the steadily increasing length of life. This has been going on for generations. I remember how we used to have great fun at the expense of the party opposite when they were in power and tried to take credit for the increasing length of life of our people, and the decrease in child mortality. When we were in Opposition then we used to point out that this had been a continuing process for a long time, and that the people who deserved the credit were not any Government but those involved in medical research, and so on, who had really investigated these matters.
The third point made by the Committee in the paragraphs to which I have referred is the vital importance of ensuring that we get as much work as possible out of our older people, because of our manpower needs. No one can argue that if a significant proportion of our people were not doing productive work a very serious burden would fall upon those who were doing the work. For that reason the greatest encouragement should be given to the employment of old people.
The economic consequences to society of not employing old people would be very serious. Production would fall off. There would be more people to absorb the limited production, and the result would be a considerable reduction in our living standards. I know it can be argued that by increased automation and mechanisation fewer people will have to work in order to provide a decent standard of living for all, but the more people who work, even with more automation, the higher will be the standard of living, and it is very desirable, from that viewpoint alone, to ensure that old people are kept working for as long as possible.
Does not my hon. Friend agree that the effect of automation upon a certain industry may be to make the working day shorter? It may then be possible, or even desirable, that people should go on working for a long period, which they can easily do, well into their old age. Will my hon. Friend develop that point, as a possible solution?
That was the point I was making. As automation becomes even more general—and although some people think that automation is new I would point out that it has been going on all my life—added opportunities arise for older people to play their part. My hon. Friend may not have been quite right. I believe the suggestion is that by increased automation the strain on the worker is so reduced that the older person may be able to play an adequate part in industry.
According to the Report of the National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women, the strange thing is that muscular effort does not bar older people from doing relatively hard jobs. They seem in many cases more able to do jobs which are looked upon as heavy than are younger people. I am surprised to know that, but it is in the Report—that effort of that nature is not a bar to the employment of older people.
There are many assets that an employer could get from the employment of older people. With an older man he normally gets a steady worker who is not likely to look round for another job, somebody who has a pride in his craft and who is far more adaptable than many employers think. I am reminded of one firm in the Midlands in particular. I will not mention its name because I am not absolutely certain of my facts, but I believe that the firm has opened a department—I think my hon. Friend knows the firm to which I refer—which is staffed entirely by people over the age of 65.
I did not want to mention the name of the firm, but I understand that it has staffed the department entirely with people over the age of 65 who are capable of maintaining the same production as that of much younger people.
Before my hon. Friend passes to his next point, could he say something about the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw)? He said that perhaps in the future people would not be living as long as, according to statistics, they have been living. He suggested that it was quite possible, if the medical evidence was correct, that in future people may live for a shorter length of time. I should like to hear my hon. Friend's comments on that.
As the right hon. Gentleman says, it depends on how much we eat. I should have thought that with medical science progressing as it is, and provided that we are not too greedy, the span of one's life would tend to lengthen rather than shorten.
Some people might think that a very grim thought, but I think that what I am saying is correct.
In paragraphs 27 and 28 of the Report, the National Advisory Committee refers to the question of accidents. Apparently—this is somewhat of a surprise to me, as I think it may be to other hon. and right hon. Members—the liability to industrial accidents is less for the old people than for the young. They are less likely to be injured. Of course, they are more liable to certain risks, more liable apparently to injury from falling bodies—I use the word not in its human sense—and also from falling themselves. We all know of cases of elderly people who slip and break a thigh, and so on, and who are liable to contract respiratory pneumonia and die. That is the sort of risk one has to bear in mind where the employment of old people is concerned, but they are not any more prone to accident risks, in fact they are less prone, than younger people.
One criticism often made of old people is how difficult they are to employ, and so on. I do not think we should lose sight of the fact that ageing is a continuous process throughout one's life. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister once said to me—I hope he will not think that I am breaking his confidence because he was talking to me privately—that all life is but a rearguard action with death. We should bear in mind where old people are concerned that we are fighting a very stern rearguard action.
The Report points out the wide variations in the employment of older persons between various factories. Some employers, apparently, are prepared to be sympathetic concerning the employment of old people while others have a natural antipathy to taking them on. I should have thought that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service could have done something to bring the social responsibility in this matter to the attention of the employer of labour who always takes on younger people.
There are various reasons why employers do not wish to take on older people. One reason, which is more serious than we think, is the question of superannuation schemes run by private businesses. It is sometimes most unfortunate than when men or women of, say, 50 years of age wish to get a job they find themselves precluded because of the pension scheme which makes it almost impossible for them to be taken on unless the employer is prepared to pay a very substantial sum to the insurance company in order to provide a pension for them. This situation will be improved, of course, when the Government's pension scheme goes through and when pensions will be freely transferable from one employer to another. I hope that the objection to employing older men and women will disappear during the next year or two.
One of the greatest problems where old people are concerned is the retired business executive. Normally, when a man works himself up through a business and becomes a manager or some other form of executive he looks forward to a steady period of employment with not much likelihood of losing that employment. I believe that most employers today when they find that an executive is going off a bit towards the end of his career give him a simpler job to do so that he can work out his time until his superannuation becomes due. Occasionally the other thing happens. A man may be harshly treated by his employer. He may, for instance, work in a nationalised industry—I am not making any cracks about nationalised industries—which has to shut down part of its activities. He may find that the business in which he works goes bankrupt and that he is thrown on to the labour market at an advanced age and that it is extremely difficult to get alternative employment.
This is really a social matter to which we have all to face up. One of the criticisms is, of course, that if an older man is brought into a business it obstructs the promotion of the people already there. I think that a man should get a job on his merits. If he is the best man for the job he should get it. That applies in particular to Regular Army officers, the sort of men who come out of the Service at the age of 45. Many will be coming out at an even earlier age under the Government's new retirement scheme for officers, and they will want to get other employment. Very often they find it difficult to settle down and to obtain a position commensurate with their intelligence. If a man has been a colonel in the Army, he is highly intelligent and has had a tremendous amount of training—[Interruption.]—I do not think that the hon. Member for Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) should make noises like that about people who have served their country.
That shows where the hon. Gentleman is so ignorant. If a man is capable of being promoted to the rank of colonel, it is unlikely that he is a fool. We are always getting these sort of sneers from hon. Members opposite where serving officers are concerned. These men have served their country for a number of years—very much better than some hon. Members. It is rather disgraceful if, when they are having a tough time and trying to get themselves rehabilitated in civil employment, remarks of this sort should be made. I hope that they do not reflect the feeling of all hon. Members opposite. The hon. Member for Openshaw does himself a serious amount of damage by saying such a thing.
The employment of people who have held executive positions in the Army or in business is difficult, when, for some reason or other, their career is interrupted, and I think that more should be done by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour and National Service—I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will draw my remarks to his attention—to ensure that these people are given an adequate chance to get started again in industry. It is very important that we should not allow those people to lose their employment, perhaps because they have been in the wrong firm, or something of that kind, because they will be ruined for the rest of their lives.
I know something about this problem because at the age of 25 I had to leave the Air Force and make myself another career. If one has been trained as a serving officer, as I was, that is not easy even at 25. In fact, it is tremendously difficult and it needs a great deal of determination to get fixed up somewhere else. It calls for a lot of hard work and one is behind the other chap from the start because he has had more experience. It is important that people in the 50-yearold range should have a chance to rehabilitate themselves if they should suffer this mischance which I hope will never happen to them.
In the second Report of the National Advisory Committee, in paragraph 33, reference is made to a point which I mentioned earlier. It states:
We remain convinced that there is no essential relationship between the minimum age of eligibility for pension and the age at which retirement takes place. Although it is necessary for the efficient working of any pension scheme, as well as to meet the requirements of Income Tax law, to fix a minimum age for the payment of pension, this should not also fix—or even suggest—the age for retirement; but the evidence of this enquiry confirms the need for continued efforts to overcome the idea that it must.
That reinforces the point I made earlier, that when they get their pension, or deferred pay as I prefer to call it, people should not necessarily be called on to retire from active work. I know of a man aged 72 who is forced to retire under the terms of his pension. He cannot continue in his employment, although he is far brighter than many men of 50 whom I know, and is quite capable of performing his important job in industry for several years to come. This is a matter which ought to be examined by the Government. It is undesirable to lose such important people to industry and we should make a great effort to ensure that they have the opportunity to continue to work until they feel that they do not wish to go on any longer. As I said earlier, I think that the employment of older men and women in industry is a social problem. It is one in which everybody must play their part. The Government can give a lead, but the real responsibility falls on the shoulders of industrialists and others who must see that jobs are made available for those people who do not wish to retire.
A good deal of ground has been traversed during this debate. Quite understandably, some of the speeches made by my hon. Friends have dealt with local problems affecting the employment of older persons, and they have not confined themselves to discussing the more general questions which are implicit in the Motion. I, also, have a local problem. There is not much point in talking about the employment of older persons if there is not work for them to do. Conditions have changed very much since the publication, in 1954, of the Watkinson Report, which is referred to in the Motion. Our whole approach to this problem is bound to be different if we have incipient, and, still more, if we have chronic unemployment.
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) in his attempt to draw attention to the dangers to the employment not only of younger persons, but of older persons, which arise from the too heavy concentration of particular industries in particular areas. It is most important to consider the diversification of industry in those parts of the country where too many industrial eggs are in one basket.
My hon. Friend the Member for Widnes drew attention to the extraordinary problem in his constituency, where there is a big distinction between employment prospects for men and women among the older workers. In my constituency, which is not in Lancashire but is next door to it, and, at one end, is substantially textile, there is an industry which, traditionally, has employed men and women in about equal proportion and where it has been possible for older workers to continue at their jobs.
In normal times the cotton textile industry has employed as many older persons as any other type of worker because, as they got older, these workers have not lost their skill. Working conditions have been tolerable enough for many older workers to carry on with satisfaction to themselves and to their employers. But a recession in the main industry in a locality threatens the employment of everyone and, first, of the older workers. When people are being laid off, it is natural for everyone to say about the older worker, "Well, he can retire and draw his pension."
The younger workers go on unemployment benefit. They may have young families to keep and, naturally, there is a feeling that it is the older worker who should go first. One can see—I have seen it in my own constituency—a gradual spreading of decay, of decline in the level of industry, a fall in the morale of the whole of the people, because they see that the industry, on which they have depended for so long and so heavily, is dwindling. The young people are going, leaving the older ones behind to look at derelict and empty mills.
This is one aspect of that wider problem, and it goes so deep into our social, human and economic purposes that the whole nation should be addressing itself to the prospect of employment for a reasonable span of working life, and should not be content to see whole areas risking the livelihood and happiness of old and young, because of dependence upon one industry, or on a group of particular industries.
In places like Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where is the headquarters or the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance, there have been local additions to the prospects of employment of older people who can carry on with lighter jobs longer than with heavier ones. Cardiff is another place, where, owing to the transfer of Government business—it is very familiar to hon. Members, because it is in Cardiff that our Income Tax is dealt with—there is a considerable block of clerical and similar employment in an area which was dependent in the past upon heavy industry. These measures are welcome, because they balance the industries, and offer a better prospect for the continuance of the work of older persons, as years go by.
On the general aspect of the matter, the country should shortly redefine its retirement policy. Until it is settled more clearly than at present, we shall be very much confused and have many threads running across our debates on the problem of the older workers. What do we expect now to be the normal span of working life? Are we prepared to put a fresh span of years to it? Are we ready, as the Phillips Committee suggested, to consider the lifting of the retirement age?
All the evidence is to the contrary. Pressure is not for an extension, and the lifting, of the retirement age, but, on the whole, for a lowering of it. In many countries where there are elaborate social security schemes the age of retirement for both men and women is lower than it is in this country today. Is it our social aim to have a long period of retirement, or to make work more satisfying and enjoyable and retirement more contented and secure? These are the fundamental issues.
Are we prepared to contemplate different retirement ages for different types of work? That is something which has been introduced into the social security systems of other countries. Do we wish to continue to say that the retirement age for the clerk should be the same as for the coal face worker? Again, all the evidence of opinion is against differential ages of retirement according to the nature of the job.
If we are to have a universal pension age, and the same or even a lower pension age, all the problems of the employment of the elderly worker have to be reassessed in the light of personal desires, social purposes and economic aims. If we say that our aim is that people should be able to give up work earlier than now, that we are to provide an adequate retirement pension for them so that there is no need for them to do any work, and that we do not want them to do any work, that is, at least, a clear-cut objective. It is an oversimplification of the issue, but that, at least, would enable us to know better where we stand. I do not think that we should ever say that.
We do not want to deny people the right to work merely because they are getting older. We do not want to deny to employers the right to continue the older worker in the job. After all, he may have experience and skill which is irreplaceable. If it came to the point, the employer would be able to pay the older worker much higher wages to keep him. We do not want older persons to be bored, idle and discontented. What we are really aiming at surely, and what we want, is people to continue at work as long as they can do so effectively and to the mutual satisfaction of themselves and their employers. We want to make work enjoyable. That should be a social and economic aim. There is a lot to be done in industry to strengthen the desire to carry on at work. There is a great deal in our conditions, in methods, in accommodation, in amenities, in hours of work, and so on.
If we are to encourage people to stay on, and if it is to the general good that all those who can do so should do so, we have to decide the conditions under which they will carry on at work. [Interruption.]
There are too many debates going on at the same time, Mr. Speaker.
We have to bear in mind, in this context, the obvious difficulty of the older worker in heavy industry who, much as he would desire to do so, find difficulty in carrying on with his job and who may be unsuited to alternative employment. We have to make some special provision for the older worker who has to give up because of the nature of his job. I think it possible to consider differential inducements or special compensations.
I do not regard our present system of social security as at all sacrosanct. There are features we shall have to incorporate in it as time goes on, to adjust our social security system to the differences of physical ability, differences in the nature of jobs, and the different values we place upon particular types of employment. We have a long way to go yet in discussion and appraisal of the future of our social security system.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), made an interesting speech, as he usually does, raising some very provoking questions about the earnings rule and increments, and so forth, which we have debated on many occasions in this House. There, again, I think that we got an indication of the confusions in our social policy and in our social security policy. I made an interjection in the hon. Gentleman's speech which, I think, was rather misunderstood. I did not mean that what he was advocating was the abolition of the whole Beveridge concept and a return to Poor Law conditions, obviously not. One can think very badly of the Tories, but not quite so badly as that.
What I really meant to convey was that what he was advocating was the destruction of the Beveridge concept of the retirement pension—in other words, the retirement principle which is written into our social security scheme and which, when once we abolish the retirement condition and the earnings rule, reverts to the position of pre-Beveridge days, when we had, not a retirement pension, but an old-age pension that was payable on obtaining a specified age irrespective of whether the person had retired. Lord Beveridge rejected that whole policy and replaced it by one of retirement pensions.
We have to be clear in our minds about this. Are we to give people pensions plus the capacity to earn full wages, or are we to give them an adequate pension when they retire, whether of their own choice or whether conditions force them to retire? I say, in parentheses, that one of the things we must get rid of is enforced retirement of fit people, irrespective of the demands of those lower down the scale who might be anxious to get them out of the way so that they might take their place.
We have to look at the standard working life anew and be prepared to accept something longer. The truth is that all our thinking about the older worker, retirement and the rest is governed by the retirement ages or the pension ages put into the social security scheme. We are merely imprisoned by that.
Dr. Janet Vaughan, the only woman member of the Phillips Committee, said that she could see no biological or other reason why there should be earlier retirement for women than for men. That, however, is written into our social security scheme and he would be a very bold Member of this House who suggested that the pension age for women should be raised to 65 to make it equal to that for men; and yet at one time, the pension ages of men and women were the same.
Yes. As a great supporter of the principle of equal pay, who has lived long enough to see it applied in the Civil Service, I am fully in agreement with the idea that we should carry that equality over a wider field than merely that of the pension age.
The hon. Member for Leeds, North-East regretted that there had been no discussion of the Phillips Report in the House. We remember the circumstances in which the Phillips Report came out. The then Minister of National Insurance, the predecessor of the hon. Baronet when a Member of this House, virtually swept the proposal for a higher retirement age out of the window before anybody had time to discuss it. I am not denying that his political judgment may have been right, but there are various reasons why we have not discussed the Phillips Report in this House. It is largely that events so quickly overran much of the purpose of the Report that it had lost some of its point for discussion in the House.
This is a very wide subject. It deserves much more attention than we are able to give it in comparatively short debates of this kind, although the range of debate is bound to be so wide that it becomes inconclusive. The kernel of the matter is that as a people, we have to address ourselves again to the whole problem of the length of working life and the sort of social purpose that we have in the provision for retirement.
In that way, we will get the picture much clearer and not be confused by the competing claims of those who want an adequate pension, those who want to draw their pension and carry on with work at the same time and those who wish to defer their retirement and get a higher pension at the end of work. Those are all confusing elements of the present scheme. As the years go by, we shall probably get much bolder in deciding that it is work, and not retirement, that we want to make the most enjoyable thing in life. There is nothing more satisfying than enjoyable work, as most hon. Members fully realise.
I have a picture at home of the House of Commons as it was about 1870 or 1880, in the days of Gladstone and Disraeli. There appear to be many elderly, bearded gentlemen sitting in the House along the row in which I sit and in which I am interested. All those men look as if they are about 70 or 80. On examination of the records, I find that they were men of 40 or 50. Looking along this bench today, one sees many bright young people.
One sees many bright young people in the prime of life, in their forties and fifties.
That typifies the alteration that has taken place in the community in the last seventy years. The expectation of life of those old, bearded gentlemen in the House of Commons fifty or seventy years ago was only about 60 years. Today, the expectation of life of all of us who sit on this bench is about 75. That is borne out by the tables in the First Report of the National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women, which show that at birth, during the last fifty years or so, the expectation of life at birth has risen from 45 to very nearly 70.
We may expect that people will, in the future, live even longer. One hears of people in the southern part of Russia and -he Ukraine living on honey. That enables them to live to well over 100. I have had sent to me some advertisements about that honey. I hope to eat some of it and live for a long time. I am very pleased to know that people are interested n the length of my life.
There has been a great change in sentiment in the last twenty or twenty-five years. When I first entered industry, in the days of unemployment in the North of England before the war, when a man reached 65 or a woman reached 60 the employer had to say, "I am sorry. There are young people coming on and you will have to go". In industry today, we find in all types of jobs and all walks of life that men of 67 or 70 and women of nearly 65 are being kept on beyond their retiring age. There has been a change of sentiment. Employers recognise that they are capable of doing a good day's work and can be employed longer.
I do not wish to detain the House. I know that the winding-up speeches have to be made. I congratulate my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel R. H. Glyn) on tabling this very important Motion, especially the following passage:
That this House recognises … the importance of making full use of the working capacity of older persons",
which is now being very largely taken into account, and
welcomes the encouragement which Her Majesty's Government have already given to research into the problem of the employment of older persons.
We shall undoubtedly need more research, but it is encouraging to see that the Government have recently brought in a new pensions scheme which goes a long way towards tackling the problem of allowing older persons to be employed
in industry beyond the normal retiring age. We hope that that Measure will bring about a considerable degree of wellbeing so that people now working can look forward to a longer and happier old age.
I, too, shall try to be brief, because I understand that some other hon. Members wish to speak. I feel that the debate, in some respects, has been an unreal one, because it has been related to what I regard now as an unreal Report—the Report on the National Advisory Committee on the Employment of Older Men and Women. The Report referred to a situation of full employment. All the issues with which we have dealt today must be related, ultimately, to whether or not work is available, or whether serious consideration is to be given to a reduction in working hours in industry; one or the other—or, perhaps, both.
I listened with considerable interest to my hon. Friend the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton). He and I have belonged to a service in which retirement has been an active issue for forty-five years, to my own knowledge. In my young days, every young man almost looked forward to his sixtieth birthday so as to enjoy a pension that was ex gratia in those days. Nobody expected, on reaching retirement age, to become just a parasite in the social life of the community, but to be able to do many of the things that he never had the chance to do when working.
There have been some changes in people's approach to retirement, but I cannot altogether agree with my hon. Friend that it is in the interests of older people to go on working until they nearly drop dead, irrespective of the effect that that may have upon young people who are also trying to make a career in industry or the professions.
Work varies very considerably. My father was a quarryman, and although many quarrymen in North Wales work until they are 70 or 75 they do not continue that very hard and dangerous work for its own sake, but because their economic circumstances make it essential to carry on long beyond what is regarded as a normal working age.
In these matters one cannot have a general policy. The policy must be related very much to the man concerned, to the nature of his work, and his approach to his work—whether he regards it as something that is combined with pleasure. I can assure hon. Members that in some industries there is much very hard work and very little pleasure. In many of the repetitive industries the work is not very pleasurable, at the best of times—
I hope that my hon. Friend has made that clear. Incidentally, that agrees with the point of view that has been expressed to me, and which I personally hold. The House of Commons is a very pleasant place, and I can quite understand the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) not wanting to retire from it at all. I shall not, either, if the people of Openshaw are kind enough to allow me to carry on; but that is only by the way.
The issue to which I want to refer in particular is this. What do we mean by "older people"? We have all been talking today about people between the ages of 60 and 70, and perhaps older. The tragedy in a large number of homes in my constituency and in adjacent constituencies today is that people of 45 and 50 are finding it difficult to secure employment. Almost every weekend, when I go to my constituency to consider problems appertaining to my constituents, people come to see me and tell me that owing to redundancies arising out of mechanisation, rationalisation, and even automation, they find, having served in one industry for many years, that at the ages of 45, 55 or 60 they are, to all intents and purposes, on the scrap-heap.
As I have said, they have spent many years in one industry. They are skilled and capable, and yet at this comparatively early age they have become redundant in their industry; and when they go into the general market for work they find that they have none of the qualifications which are necessary in a general sense.
In that respect, the situation today is the same almost in character if not in quantity as it was in the inter-war years. I remember that when I was in Liverpool, serving on the tribunal of the National Assistance Board, in the central division of Liverpool one of the most tragic things was the number of people who had been put on the scrap-heap at a very early age—many in executive positions in shipping firms, many in higher executive positions as well as in the artisan and other grades.
When we were hearing the case of one man, he said to the three of us on the tribunal, "How would any of you three gentlemen like to have to accept cigarettes or tobacco from your daughters or sons aged 18 or 19 for cleaning their shoes because you were out of work and could not get some of these amenities?" This is a very serious matter for fathers and mothers between 45 and 50 who are in that serious position vis-à-vis their children.
The problem which I see in Lancashire is not so much the problem of the very old people, for whom we have made some provision, however inadequate it may be, for their retirement pensions, but rather the people who are in the age range between 45 and 60 and, on the other end of the scale, the school leavers and the young people who find it very hard to get work of any sort. It seems to me that we shall not resolve any of these problems simply by extending retirement ages or ranges. The only way is by obtaining much higher production, an expansion of our industrial effort and a greater realisation that with automation, rationalisation and mechanisation, the Government and industry, and the Civil Service as well, will have seriously to consider in advance how they are to face these redundancies which arise, as they do, in my part of Lancashire.
This problem applies not only to the cotton industry. Sometimes when we talk about Lancashire, its unemployment and short-time work, many of us make the mistake of thinking that it is confined entirely to cotton. In fact, even in my area, where there is a good deal of diversification of industry, there is this creeping, growing problem of unemployment and redundancies increasing week after week. When I talk to the trade union people there, and even to some of the employers and managements at factories and works, I do not see anybody really trying to face up to the problem of how we are to deal with this question of redundancies in industry as they come along.
When I was a good deal younger than I am today, I remember thinking, of the processes of mechanisation, and so on, that it would be a good thing if industry and the Government considered whether, as men got older, they could not be gradually released from the hold of industry. Instead of men who had been whole-time employed, perhaps for forty or forty-five years, finding no employment at all afterwards, which is a break in an active man's life, I thought that there ought to be a scheme whereby they could be gradually relieved from full employment and go into some other kind of employment which would eventually fit them for retirement.
In my constituency, the two problems at present are that of the older men as such, the people over 65 and up to 70, and that of fathers and mothers who still have their families to look after, who may still have their children waiting to go to secondary schools and universities or colleges, and who, because of the difficulties arising in connection with their employment, are finding it extremely difficult to be able to manage.
I hope that we shall have another committee to examine the situation as it is now and not as it was in the time of the Watkinson Committee. In so far as the Motion calls for constant attention to this aspect of the lives of the people, am fully in agreement with it, but I thought it well to find out what the Government have been doing to merit the compliments of the hon. and gallant Member for Dorset, North (Colonel Glyn) about their work. I agree that there has been research, but I cannot find that very important and essential problem is being tackled by the Government in an earnest way.
I welcome with the greatest sincerity the Motion moved by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Colonel Glyn) today, because the only time that I was fortunate in the Ballot I also chose this subject, but my particular Friday disappeared from the Parliamentary calendar, for some reason, and I did not get the chance to move my Motion. Therefore, I am very anxious to say something about the subject now. My hon. and gallant Friend dealt with it in a well-informed and interesting speech and I will try to deal with some of his points.
I should first like to say, concerning the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens), that I am sorry that for reasons which we all understand he could not stay until the end of the debate. In his reference to a speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph), he suggested that there was something to be ashamed of in the small attendance in the House today. I am making no complaint about the attendance. My own attendances on Fridays would make it rather hypocritical of me to do so. What has astonished one or two of my hon. Friends and myself is that up to 2 o'clock, apart from the right hon. Gentleman's speech we had not heard from a Member of the Opposition on this subject. We were the more surprised because I myself noticed that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Sowerby (Mr. Houghton) seemed to half rise to his feet and then for some reason became discouraged and sat down.
I am most anxious to explain that episode. I had an interest in the Motion before the House and in the Motion to be moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd). I was anxious not to seek to intrude upon the time of the House more than once during the day, and I was undecided as to what I should do. That was my problem. There was no indecision about speaking on the subject; the indecision was only in relation to the point at which I should intervene.
I was delighted to find that, a few minutes ago, the example of his hon. Friends the Member for Accrington (Mr. H. Hynd) and the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) stimulated the hon. Gentleman himself into action. I was looking forward to hearing him because we always listen with great interest to whatever he has to say on a subject such as this and indeed on a great many others.
Since the hon. Gentleman has made those comments, I should like to assure him that I refrained from contributing to the debate only because I understood that he wanted 25 minutes at least in which to reply on behalf of the Ministry of Labour.
I should like to say, in all generosity, that the right hon. Gentleman was kind enough to stand down, as it were, in my favour. I am most grateful to him. It is very sad that we shall not have the pleasure of hearing his speech.
Some hon. Members have drawn attention to the difficulties of older workers in their constituencies in various parts of the country. I shall try to deal with the matter as generally as I possibly can. My hon. Friends the Member for East Grinstead (Mrs. Emmet), the Member for Leeds, North-East and the Member for Hornchurch (Mr. Lagden) tried to put this matter in the broad context of the whole needs of older people. All their speeches on that subject made a deep impression, and I am sure that that is the way in which we should like to consider the matter this afternoon.
A number of other hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Sowerby, drew attention to matters which are the responsibility of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. I have had the pleasure of the company of my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance during a great part of the debate, and I am quite sure that she has made a careful note of the points which have been made. These matters were, I think, wholly applicable to our discussion because they have, as all hon. Members recognise, a very important effect upon the length of our working life and on the enthusiasm people have to continue working. There are aspects of the problem which I shall try to deal with later. My hon. Friend has noted some of the detailed points, which she will consider.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Blyth, who has, I see, been kind enough to come back to listen to what I have to say, mentioned two important points. He spoke about the reduction in the staff which took place some time ago in the Ministry of Labour. It is perfectly true that staff cuts were made, but all along we have made, and I assure him that we shall continue to try to make, every effort to maintain the efficiency of the placing services even at such a time as the present when, because of increased unemployment, the insurance work in the local offices of the Ministry of Labour is, naturally, larger than it was. I take his point, and I will pay great attention to it.
The right hon. Gentleman suggested the possibility of a special placing service for older people. This is an important matter, and it was considered, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, in the second Report of the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Older Men and Women.
He spoke also about extending training provisions for older people, not only for those dislodged in the normal course of events but also for those dislodged from industries which are or which have been declining on a large scale. The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the position in the Government training centres. It is true at the moment that there is a certain amount of unused capacity in them. It is very largely in the engineering trade. The main reason for places being empty is the recession in the industry, which is reducing the employment opportunities. We have always taken the view—I think the right hon. Gentleman would agree in this context—that it is only right to train people in Government training centres if the employment prospects after training are seen to be reasonable; but it is, as he knows, open to anyone of any age who is unemployed to apply for training.
I would be honest and say that the number of older workers who have applied for training and who have got training is small. One difficulty in this matter is that the courses at Government training centres are fairly intensive and it is possible that a number of older workers, particularly in the higher range of age, might not be able to stand the pace of the course. But I am anxious that the unused capacity should be filled up, and I hope that the attention which the right hon. Gentleman has drawn to it and which I am trying to draw to it will have the result of making more older people apply, and we shall consider their applications extremely sincerely.
My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) referred to the firm in the Midlands which had made a definite effort to employ a number of people of an advanced age. The firm was a pioneer. In 1949 it established a works for its employees over the age of 70 who did not want to retire. The project is continuing, and the example has been followed by a number of firms all over the country. We and, I think, the House would like to encourage the growth of these efforts where they are practicable.
The attention of the debate has been given mainly to the higher age groups, but as the hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) has directed our attention to those who are rather younger I should like to point to the meaning of the word "older" in the First Report of the Watkinson Committee, which says:
By 'older' men and women we mean not only those who have reached pensionable ages but all those who on account of age meet with special difficulties in retaining or obtaining employment.
My right hon. Friend, who is now the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation and who was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour at the time of our last discussion on this subject said during that debate that any man or woman over the age of 40 was a difficult placing proposition for the Ministry of Labour; no doubt in times of particularly good employment this age would rise and in times of particularly bad employment it might even be lower.
Since the last Report of the Committee an increasing amount of thought has been given to the problems of employing workers from the age of 40 upwards. Not only is the proportion of older people in the population rising, as has been pointed out by a number of my hon. Friends, but I am pleased to say that this is accompanied by a rise in the number of older people at work, which is most important.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead pointed out that there were two elderly women to one elderly man. I remember discovering when I was at the Ministry of Pensions that nearly all the centenarians in the country at that moment were women. From what the hon. Lady said, I am very pleased to feel that we men are to have a chance of looking to our laurels, because I understand from my hon. Friend that very shortly young women will have a scarcity value, and that, I think, will give us our chance—in one sense.
In Appendix C of the second Report of the National Advisory Committee published in 1955, the figures of men at work between the ages of 35 and 54 were between 6 million and 7 million, and more than 2 million were between the ages of 55 and 64; the figures for women were 3 million between 35 and 54, and ½ million between 55 and the retiring age for women, 60. By 1957, after three years, all these figures had increased. There were more in each of these categories.
It is extremely difficult to forecast the future numbers and composition of the working population, but, quite apart from any economic changes there may be, the population prospects suggest that there will be a material increase in the numbers of men and women over 55 at work, but a decline in the number between 35 and 54.
As the House knows, Sir Walter Monckton, as he then was, appointed the National Advisory Committee in 1952. That Council made two Reports. The first Report was accepted by the Government and employment exchanges were instructed as far as possible to secure jobs for older workers. Local employment committees discussed the recommendations and there was a great deal of publicity.
In the years following the issue of the first Report, there was much evidence of greater sympathy and understanding by both employers and the general public of the special needs of older workers. The special second Report, which was published in December, 1955, reviewed the position since the first Report and, among other things, dealt with one question which had been much discussed, the possibility of a statutory requirement on employers to employ older workers.
In the minds of the members of that Committee, it was all bound up with the question of whether there should be some differentiation by the placing service between older workers on the one side and the rest of the population on the other. This matter was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Blyth. In both cases, the Committee was against such a proposal. It took that view because it did not consider that older workers could be considered in the same way as disabled workers for whom a quota applies. Registered disabled workers are substantially handicapped, as is recognised by their being on the register, but there is nothing to show that an older worker, merely because he is old, is substantially handicapped. We are therefore not anxious to make this fairly rigid distinction between older workers and the others.
As the House knows, the Committee has now been wound up. The reason for this was given in a letter which I as its Chairman wrote to every member, most of whom willingly accepted that decision. I pointed out that the two subjects with which the Committee had been dealing, the employment of older people and research into the problems of older people could best in future be dealt with by other bodies—on the employment side by the National Joint Advisory Council which advises my right hon. Friend on employment problems, and on the research side by the various research agencies, the Medical Research Council, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and so on.
As I said, that decision was willingly accepted by almost all the members of the Committee, and I want in a moment to say how I think the research aspect can best be handled in future. To sum up the employment situation, employment exchanges will make every effort to continue to place older workers where they can; the difficulties to which the hon. Member for Openshaw and other Members drew attention, and the general employment difficulties, obviously raise wider questions which cannot profitably be discussed now. The employment of older men and women naturally depends upon the general employment situation, and if it improves, as I am confident it will, the efforts which will continue to be made by the Ministry of Labour should meet with greater success. I am certain that local employment committees can help in this matter a great deal, and the National Joint Advisory Council will be asked from time to time for its advice and assistance.
There is no doubt about the importance of research into specific aspects of the employment of older workers, because it has been stressed in both the Reports of the Watkinson Committee. The last recommendation of the second Report spoke of the desirability of industry carrying on its own research into these problems. Some industries, particularly the woollen and allied textiles industry in the north of England, have sponsored research on their own account, and a certain amount of research has been taking place under the auspices of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, the Medical Research Council, and the Nuffield Foundation.
The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has been carrying out investigations of a fairly general nature into the effects of automation on skill and social organisation, and has been considering the difficulties which older workers find when they have to retrain at a fairly advanced age. Its conclusion is that the kind of training which the older workers need when they have to change their jobs is probably entirely different from that which the younger worker would need when he had to train for his job.
A certain amount of current research into the problems arising from these findings is going on at present. Both in the laboratory and in the field the Medical Research Council has been trying to establish the effect of changes in jobs on middle-aged workers, and has been undertaking a survey of a number of manufacturing industries on Merseyside. This point is perhaps applicable to some of the problems mentioned by the hon. Member for Widnes. Further industrial studies await the outcome of this work and other work which is going on at present.
The hon. Member for Openshaw raised the question of gradual retirement. This matter is considerably exercising the Hinds of a number of research workers, who point out the advantages of fitting the job to the worker. In other words, when a worker becomes unable to do certain jobs, the suggestion is that he should have a gradual move to retirement rather than be suddenly cut off from work, as the hon. Member suggested. One of the great problems of industry is that of pacing, which arises from the fact that at some age the accustomed pace of work becomes a little too much. If the pace could be lowered in respect of certain jobs it might provide a useful answer to the problem.
The work carried on by Mr. Le Gros Clark was mentioned in this connection by my hon. and gallant Friend, and many other individuals—Mr. Welford in particular—have been looking into this matter. There is a useful bibliography, for the benefit of any hon. Members who would like to study this subject further, in which Mr. Speakman of the Nuffield Research Unit has tried to bring together all the results of this research. Our intention is to continue our active interest in the problems of research and to try to make regular arrangements for liaison between ourselves and the research bodies.
At the final meeting of the Committee, last November, some members urged the need for a link between industry—which knows the problems—on the one side, and the research workers—who could investigate them—on the other. At that meeting we promised that the Ministry's officials should discuss with the D.S.I.R. and the Medical Research Council what additional steps we might take to secure the close co-operation between employers, trade unions, and other interests, which would be necessary to achieve this objective.
I fully accept the need for further research and greater contact between research workers and industry. It is really a question of deciding what is the best machinery to adopt. I feel that the machinery needs to be flexible. I have decided that the best means would be to have a regular meeting of an interdepartmental committee representing the departments interested in this work. I believe that the best means of providing a link between the research departments, on the one hand, and industry on the other would not be to enlarge the committee, but, from time to time, to call a conference, which might be a one or two days conference, to discuss the whole range of problems about which industry would give its views and the research workers would tell industry how research in that line would be possible. That is the direction in which I should like to move in this field.
I entirely appreciate what my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Dorset, North said about the necessity for getting simple and comprehensive information out of research. That is most important.
This has been a very opportune time for the debate because it has given me the chance of saying, in view of the Committee having ended its work and the misapprehensions which one or two people have mentioned to me, that there is no question of my right hon. Friend or of the Ministry of Labour and National Service losing interest in this problem. We intend to press forward as hard as we can on the employment problems which have been discussed and also along the line of research which I have just indicated to the House. Therefore, I have the greatest pleasure in accepting the Motion moved by my hon. and gallant Friend.
I wish to thank my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, and, through him, the Government, for the way in which this Motion has been received. I am sure that it will be a matter of great encouragement to the older workers throughout our community to know that the Ministry of Labour and National Service is still taking a deep and close interest in their predicament. I am sure that we all welcome the news that liaison between the research organisations and industry is to be promoted. I believe that I am speaking for both sides of the House when I say that we appreciate the work that has been done and is to be done in this direction.
There was one unfortunate little incident in this debate. I regret that the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) felt stung into intervening. at a rather late stage perhaps. I do not believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) intended to provoke the right hon. Gentleman who had not been here and who, perhaps, did not realise that for a substantial part of the time this morning there was only one hon. Member of his party present. As I say, I do not believe that my hon. Friend really intended to provoke the right hon. Gentleman in what he said, but, nevertheless, it had the effect of getting the right hon. Gentleman to his feet and his making a most interesting contribution to the debate. We welcome the support which he and his hon. Friends have given to the Motion.
That this House recognises, in view of the gradually rising average age of the population, the importance of making full use of the working capacity of older persons; welcomes the encouragement which Her Majesty's Government have already given to research into the problem of the employment of older persons; and urges Her Majesty's Government to take further steps to promote and coordinate such research.