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.
The International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP) for 8 years has followed the legal route to try to prove that the freezing of about half of expats’ pensions in certain countries, mostly in the Commonwealth, was discriminatory. This was turned down finally in the European Court of Human Rights in March 2011.
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?
It was good news to hear that The Gurkhas won their High Court battle today for the right to settle in Britain.
The judge, Mr Justice Blake, made clear that the long military service of these men, their wounds sustained in battle. their conspicuous acts of bravery, their acts of gallantry and their commitment and loyalty to the Crown all point to an unquestionable historic “moral debt of honour” and gratitude which the ordinary people of Britain embrace and celebrate.
This was despite a petition to 10 Downing Street earlier in the year which was rejected:
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Allow all Ghurkas to have the service and pension rights of the British Army and that all who have served in the British Army can stay in Britain if they choose to do so.
There is no news on the pension front for the Ghurkas but hopefully that same moral debt will be paid.
By coincidence this week I received a letter from the UK Department for Works and Pensions in response to a letter to 10 Downing Street. The two-page form letter provides only partial and very guarded responses. There is much better and more complete information on the Pension Parity UK website.
The letter concludes with the following (here slightly abridged but retaining the original sense):
You may be aware that the issue has been considered in the Courts. In May 2002 the High Court found that the Government was not in breach of the Human Rights Act. This decision confirmed the Department’s understanding that the Government is not obliged to uprate State Pensions where it has no legal obligation. An application has now been made to the European Court of Human Rights. The Court has decided to give the application priority treatment.
If Courts are now accepting historic moral debts, perhaps the answer in 2008 will be different.
Related: Paying a moral debt
Despite being lauded by hypocritical politicians, Gurkha soldiers have been treated appallingly. Now, justice may be done
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.