With the referendum in Scotland on separating from the United Kingdom occurring tomorrow, there is much discussion on a whole series of financial matters. It seems that there is an intention that pensions as in the past would continue to be paid by the government in London. However that raises a very interesting question. Continue reading
Preventing Elder Abuse Is A Priority
Many countries are now making the elimination of elder abuse a priority. The UK Government has a website, which encourages all to Recognise and report elder abuse. Elder Abuse comes in many forms that may cause harm to older people. It includes intending to harm, harming without intent and the neglect that leads to harm. The website notes that elder abuse includes actions relating to financial or material matters, including theft from the abused person, fraud, or coercion regarding wills and any financial transactions. Another website has been set up to promote ‘Action on Elder Abuse’.
There is surprisingly little movement on the UK Frozen Pensions issue. 1.1 Million British Old Age Pensioners have chosen to spend their retirement years overseas and in doing so, they save the British Economy over 7 Billion Pounds every year. More than half of these receive the same pension as they would receive if living in the UK. The other 545,000 pensioners resident mainly in the British Commonwealth countries such as Australia and Canada have their pensions locked in value at the time they emigrated.
The UK Treasury would benefit from a change in policy and it would correct a moral debt of honour. However the number of MPs who support this long-needed application of the English principle of fair play grows only slowly.
Half of the UK pensioners who have emigrated must now await the deliberations of the European Court of Human Rights on whether their pensions will continue to be frozen or whether they will be increased in line with inflation. The decision is likely in March 2010.
An excellent source for all the background on this case can be found at the Pension Parity UK website. The inequity of the situation is apparent to anyone who studies the figures. The callousness of the British Government in this dossier is even greater when one considers that the National Insurance Fund, into which all these frozen state pensioners have contributed to fund their pensions, has a massive surplus.
Some figures recently added to the Pension Parity UK website bring out the unfairness of the situation in even more graphic detail. The page on Our Pension Rights now includes the total pension payments made to all countries. From these values, you can calculate the average pension paid out in each country, which is shown in the table below.
|Average UK State Pension being paid|
The clear division among countries is very revealing. Those countries with the yellow backgrounds are those where pensions are indexed exactly as in the UK. Those countries with the blue backgrounds are where pensions are frozen. These values are for 2008/2009. Thus we see that the average pension paid out in Spain, France, Barbados and Jamaica is more than 2 1/2 times the average pension paid out in Canada.
As year follows year, the disparity will grow even bigger. Those in the ‘blue’ countries will stay essentially the same. Those in the ‘yellow’ countries will rise in exactly the same way that pensions in the UK rise.
How much longer will this unfairness, which affects over 500,000 UK state pensioners, be ignored and perpetuated?
The European Court of Human Rights has today notified in writing its Chamber judgment in the case of Carson and Others v. the United Kingdom (application no. 42184/05).
The Court held, by six votes to one, that there had been no violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the European Convention on Human Rights.
Only a lawyer could determine the weight of the various considerations, however as a layman I was struck by the fact that the dissenting voice was that of Lech Garlicki, President of the Court. The following is my interpretation of what he said. He felt there were 4 powerful arguments that should rule:
- Since all pensioners are forced to contribute to the pension arrangement, then all should receive the same pension independent of residence.
- Inflation happens in all countries so there should be equal treatment for inflation in all countries
- As was observed by the domestic authorities, it would be difficult �to defend the logic of the present situation”
- A violation that results from legislative omissions in the UK like this is still within the reach of European supervision.
Of course those in the UK Government who refuse to look at the logic or equity of the situation will shelter behind the legal niceties however flawed they may be. It is disappointing that the other 6 judges of the ECHR did not have to respond to the 4 arguments that the President of the Court presented. This will most surely not be the end of the road.
Ten Downing Street has a new website, or rather blog.
Brown’s website is Web2.0tastic
Based on open source WordPress code, the site ticks off every Web 2.0 word-bingo box – even claiming to be in Beta. It’s got everything the kids want: A Flickr page, a YouTube channel, podcasts and even a Twitter section – “it’s 10 Downing Street here! I’m at 10 Downing Street!”
If you want the latest news from 10 Downing Street, then you can just follow them on Twitter.
Unfortunately for certain UK pensioners, the latest news always turns out to be the same old same old. Today 10 Downing Street responded to a petition from Roy and Joan Brentnall of Canada that closed on 11 June 2008. It asked the Prime Minister to remove the discrimination against British State pensioners who retire to the Commonwealth countries rather than Europe or the USA.
It has taken over 60 days to produce a response.
It is largely a copy and paste version of what was given to a petition on January 3rd of this year. Perhaps as a signal of the priority given to UK pensioners, even the copy and pasting created an unintelligible sentence. Presumably the petition that Derek Richards of New Zealand started, which closed 11 July 2008, will get the same response whenever they have time to copy and paste that one.
On the 100th anniversary of Lloyd George setting up the UK state pension system, it would be nice to see the discrimination removed and pension parity restored.