A reduction from 64 to 60 in the qualifying age for the job release scheme would in the first year create some 50,000 opportunities for replacement workers. This would cost about £132 million in the first year and a further £196 million in subsequent years.
In view of the cost effectiveness of reducing unemployment in this way and the great number of people seeking early retirement, will my hon. Friend therefore consider introducing this measure?
The Government are continuing relentlessly to fiddle the unemployment figures. Would it not be better to give men and women the right to retire voluntarily at 60? That would give to people who want it a dignified retirement and their jobs would become available for younger people who are desperate for work.
In view of the popularity of this scheme with employers and employees, why do the Government not adopt a step-by-step approach by reducing the retirement age one year at a time? They could start by reducing it to at least the qualifying age of 63, which is what it was when the Government took office.
That is always a possibility and an option. There have been seven changes in the age conditions since 1977. At present about 30,000 people are supported under the scheme, at a total cost of £111 million. It is an expensive scheme.