Frozen UK Pensions – European Court of Human Rights – Decision

The European Court of Human Rights has rendered its decision and you can find the complete Frozen UK Pensions Judgment on the Pension Parity UK website. The summary reads as follows:

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:

  1. Since all pensioners are forced to contribute to the pension arrangement, then all should receive the same pension independent of residence.
  2. Inflation happens in all countries so there should be equal treatment for inflation in all countries
  3. As was observed by the domestic authorities, it would be difficult �to defend the logic of the present situation”
  4. 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.

Follow-up Frozen UK Pensions – Should Legality, Equity or Morality Apply?

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Pension Parity For UK Pensioners

It is somewhat ironic that a Google search for pension parity in the UK turns up an exchange of letters in the Times Online. Rosemary Bennett had written an article entitled We’ll have to work until we’re 70, just as it was in Lloyd George’s day. She was commenting on the 100th anniversary of the creation of the state pension on August 1, 1908. Lord Turner of Ecchinswell, the architect of radical reforms in which the retirement age will rise to 68 by 2046, suggested that it will be at 70 by the end of the century. The final paragraph of the article stood in sharp contrast to this.

Anyone working for central or local government, the NHS, the police, the fire service and the associated regulators is still entitled to a generous final salary pension and most can retire at 60. Taxpayers are paying £21billion a year to fund these pensions.

A few days later, Bernard Keeffe then commented that Lloyd George’s pension would be a luxury to the modern OAP if you compare it to the general level of salaries. Stephen O’Loughlin responded that Compared to those in the 1900s, our pensions seem rather handsome. He cited the various items such as the single person pension credit, the housing and council tax benefit and the winter fuel allowance and is additionally entitled to free bus travel, prescriptions etc.

Pension Parity UK
Pension Parity UK

.. and why is this exchange on pension parity in the UK so ironic? Well that happens to be the title of a new website which has just gone online. The International Consortium Of British Pensioners (ICBP) is taking the case for pension parity to the European Court of Human Rights. It is supported internationally by a number of British State Age Pensioner Groups.

The pensioners it represents have two strikes against them. Firstly they do not benefit from all those extra credits that Stephen O’Loughlin mentioned. Secondly and much more importantly, they have non-indexed pensions which are frozen at the levels set at retirement. If these pensioners had emigrated to Europe or to the USA, they would be receiving fully indexed pensions just as if they were resident in the UK. However the pensioners represented by this website chose to emigrate to countries in the Commonwealth. There is no logic nor equity in what is happening.

These pensioners seem to be the forgotten people in the discussion on pension parity. Even recent petitions to 10 Downing Street go unanswered. A petition from Canada drew 1,518 signatures but no response. A petition from New Zealand drew 1,631 signatures but no response.

Apparently the government has no time to redress this profound inequity against basic human rights. The Pension Parity website details how you can help British Pensioners who have had their pensions frozen at rates ruling 20 years ago or more and are now in their 80’s or even 90’s, and living on a pittance. The only recourse seems to be to go outside the UK to bring international pressure. It’s certainly not one of the UK’s finest hours.

Follow-up Frozen UK Pensions – Should Legality, Equity or Morality Apply?

Unfreezepensions – epetition reply – UK Government

The UK Government has now given its epetition reply to the online petition by British pensioners living in certain countries who sought to have their pensions indexed to inflation. The full response is in fact only a partial response as laid out. It might better have been expressed as follows:
Our priority, given the limited resources available, is to ensure that pensioners resident in the UK and in the countries listed below continue to see an increase in their living standards commensurate with the growth of the economy as a whole:
Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jersey, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mauritius, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Sark, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey, USA and Yugoslavia.

We can do nothing for the pensioners resident in these other countries:
India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe and most other Commonwealth countries.

Given the true facts, such an answer is unbelievable.

FURTHER UPDATE: If you want to keep up the pressure, and why not, sign up for another petition that Roy and Joan Brentnall have started on the same topic. After all it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil.

Canadians’ Pensions Frozen
Frozen Pensions Petition At Number 10
Frozen British Pensions Still On Their Way To The European Court

Frozen British Pensions Still On Their Way To The European Court Of Human Rights

Unfreezing British pensions is simple equity.

Unfortunately one unfinished piece of business that Tony Blair could not handle before resigning was the inequitable treatment for half of the UK pensioners who have chosen to live outside the UK. Since he was on record as a staunch proponent of the need to be “even-handed, fair and just in our application of our values to the world“, it was somewhat surprising that those affected are still forced to seek equity via the European Court Of Human Rights.

For those unaware of what is happening, a short video from Australia gives a quick summary. Ron in the US gets a fully indexed UK pension while Bob in Australia does not. Listen to them as they explain the situation.

As the latest issue of Justice For Expatriate British Pensioners (July 2007) explains, it should be a no-brainer for the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. The arguments are overwhelming:

  • All pensioners have already funded their own pensions during their working lives, but inflationary increases are blocked each year for less than 5% of these pensioners.
  • The cost of correcting this inequity would be less than 1% of the National Insurance budget.
  • The National Insurance Fund has an accumulated surplus of ?38.5 billion, more than 90 times the annual cost of correcting the inequity
  • A majority of Members of Parliament in a free vote would now support the unfreezing of these pensions.
  • Pensioners who have emigrated are a lesser charge on the UK social services system so this anomaly which forces some pensioners to stay in the UK and not join their children in certain countries is working against the UK economic interest.

Clearly Gordon Brown has a number of weighty dossiers to consider, but this no-brainer should be quickly dispatched if he has a moment. It seems so inefficient that the European Court Of Human Rights should be asked to rule on this, when there are so many more arguable cases for them to consider.

If you or any members of your family are affected by this in any way or merely want to get involved on a cause that affects so many more vulnerable members of society, then contact by e-mail the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners or its Quebec representative, Mary Kapadia. Or if you are a UK citizen, you can sign the Petition at Number 10 at the link below.

UPDATE: Unfreezepensions petition – The UK Government Responds

FURTHER UPDATE: If you want to keep up the pressure, and why not, sign up for another petition that Roy and Joan Brentnall have started on the same topic. After all it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil.

Frozen Pensions Petition At Number 10
Canadians’ Pensions Frozen
Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (website)