In spite of that unsatisfactory answer, I congratulate the Minister and his right hon. Friends on being present in the House not only to present the Budget but to implement it with support from both sides of the House. When the Government consider their Budget, either alone or in conjunction with anybody else, will they consider whether, at this time of high unemployment among young people, a way could be found of helping men aged over 60 who are ailing and desperate to retire to be able to do so? Will the Government bear in mind that my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, North (Mr. Atkins) and I have now collected a million signatures on our petition asking for voluntary retirement for men at the age of 60?
I thank my hon. and learned Friend for his support. I hope that it is as widespread as he claims. On the need for old people to make way for younger ones, I remind my hon. Friend that the job release scheme goes some way in that direction.
In view of the forecast that there will be an increasing number of retired persons, and more young people undergoing full-time education, thereby increasing the burden that will fall on a diminishing number of workers, will the Minister exercise caution before encouraging people to retire too early?
The House fully understands the general point that in normal times we need all the active work from all sections of the community that we can obtain. This would be diminished if we promoted schemes for early retirement more generally, and that is a consideration that the Government must always bear in mind.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that in considering such matters his Department and the Chancellor would be better served if they consulted people such as myself who have an alternative economic strategy to present, rather than consulting the hon. Member for Cornwall, North (Mr. Pardoe), which could lead only to disaster? Will the Minister meet with us more, because I am sure that a better policy would result from such meetings?
I can assure my hon. Friend that I should be more than delighted to consult him and that there is an open door into my office on any day of the week. I have always held the view that the greatest possible amount of consultation is the most effective way to good legislation, and that remains my view.
Does the Minister agree that flexible retirement arrangements—which do not always mean early retirement—should be encouraged where-ever possible? Will he ensure that no obstacle is put in the way of an employer who wishes to introduce arrangements similar to those now being introduced for the mineworkers?
I am sure that the flexible retirement schemes that so many firms undertake are in the interests of both employers and employees, and it is for them to come to their own arrangements about what best suits the particular industry in which they both have a part to play.
Is the Minister aware that the Chancellor is due to celebrate his sixtieth birthday on 30th August this year? While I am sure that the whole House will join me in wishing the Chancellor a long and happy life, is the Minister aware that we intend so to arrange things that the Chancellor will need no fiscal inducement to lay down his heavy burden well before that date?
I can assure the House that when the Chancellor's sixtieth birthday arrives he will be in harness, working for the good of the Government and of the people.