The International Consortium of British Pensioners continues its tireless battle for the consciences of the UK government to seek upratings for all Ex-pat pensioners. A new website, pensionjustice.org, describes the unfairness of the present policy and the severe hardships it creates for some who have been heroes in defending the values for which the UK stands.
Here is a short video that sets out the facts of the present situation:
The core issue is almost unbelievable:
If you decide to move to Australia, Canada, South Africa or one of 170 other countries, your basic state pension won’t increase annually, as happens in the UK. It will be permanently frozen at the date you retire or when you arrived in that country, and it will never increase, no matter how rich or poor you are, or how much you’ve paid in national insurance contributions.
However, if you move to an EU country, the US, or one of a seemingly random list of other countries including Israel and the Philippines, your state pension will increase in line with inflation.
Pension Justice or Pension Fairness and Morality
In some ways choosing PensionJustice.org as the website domain is unfortunate. The Guardian article clearly sets out the situation as viewed currently from a strictly legal point of view by Her Majesty’s government. That might be interpreted as justice but it is far from fair. The effect on some of Britain’s finest could even be seen as immoral.
British pensioners who live in any of the 30 countries that make up the European Economic Area – or Switzerland – get annual increases to their basic state pension.
These so-called "upratings" are also paid to pensioners living in 16 countries or territories with which the UK has a reciprocal social security agreement requiring increases to be paid: Barbados, Bermuda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Israel, Jamaica, Jersey, Mauritius, Montenegro, the Philippines, Serbia, Turkey, the US and Macedonia. No other countries get the increases.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office says: "Our position on this issue has been endorsed by the European court of human rights. We do not apply living increases to the pensions of those living in [countries such as] Australia. Our policy in this area has remained the same since 1955, and we believe it is the fairest system possible for those who live and pay tax in the UK."
In 1955 UK state pensions became payable worldwide. But the agreements signed with countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand during the 1950s didn’t include upratings.
Note that this official position states that their policy is fair for those who live and pay tax in the UK. By direct implication, they are confirming that they know that this is not fair for many expats who have chosen to live in the wrong country.
Getting That UK Sense of Fair Play Involved
The legal profession is notorious for sticking to the niceties and so perhaps it’s time to go to a higher authority to get fair play on frozen pensions:
After exhausting the legal process, the International Consortium of British Pensioners has decided to appeal directly to the Queen in her diamond jubilee year. In a letter sent to her last month, 73-year-old Jim Tilley, who moved to Australia in 1971 and is honorary chairman of the British Pensions in Australia group, said: "We pray that … you will see reason to request your government to be less intransigent about this issue."