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The Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP,

10 Downing Street

London, SW1A 2AA

22nd March 2013

Dear Prime Minister,

As chair of the International Consortium of British Pensioners, I represent almost 600,000 very, very angry British Pensioners living overseas.

As I’m sure you are aware, 10% of the 12 million plus British Pensioners live overseas; half of them have their pensions uprated every year as if they still live in the UK; the other half, who live mainly in the Commonwealth, do not.  Over the years, Pensions Ministers of all stripes have admitted that this is illogical.

What is even more illogical is that in opposition politicians of all stripes say this policy must be changed, yet this inequitable, immoral and unfair situation still continues when those very same people are in Government!

I would draw your attention to two important statements that were made on Monday 11th March, one by the H.M. the Queen (as head of the Commonwealth), the other by Professor Steve Webb as Pensions Minister.  Both statements were very relevant to the situation of retired British citizens resident in “frozen” countries around the globe.

On Monday morning, the Minister, a witness before Dame Anne Begg as chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, stated categorically that the Government has no plans to rescind this policy of pension freezing in (mainly) Commonwealth countries.  The main reason given was that of cost, which would be approximately £650 million (0.7% of the N.I. budget of £90 billion) in the current year, when the Government is seeking to cut £12 billion from benefit expenditure.

To argue, as the Pensions Minister did, against a 0.7% increase in the National Insurance budget because the Government is attempting to save 6% of state funded benefits is disingenuous at best:  the pensioners concerned, in addition to saving the Government all pension increases, already save them 100% of all social and health benefits by virtue of their residence abroad.

There is nothing about this ongoing frozen pension policy that is just, as you yourself stated when you were leader of HM Opposition. It is an expedient and callous way of saving money by discriminating against the 4% of UK pensioners whose pensions are frozen. A frozen pension is just another name for age discrimination, as the older you get, the smaller your pension becomes – “death by a thousand cuts” to quote Lord Goodhart – to the extent that a 95 year-old pensioner in a “frozen” country receives less than one-third of the pension of a 65 year-old in exactly the same circumstances.

On Monday evening the Queen signed the Commonwealth Charter on equal rights calling for an end to discrimination for any reason. She said “Our shared values of peace, democracy, development, justice and human rights…mean that we can place special emphasis on including everyone in this goal, especially those who are vulnerable”.

We call upon the British Government to heed this Charter and be bound by the values it espouses.

The Commonwealth Charter, the 2010 Equality Bill, and the Convention on Human Rights all condemn age discrimination. And, significantly, the UK Supreme Court reiterated only a month ago:   “A discriminatory rule or practice can only be justified by reference to a legitimate aim other than the simple saving of cost.”

Apart from cost, the only other reasons the Minister gave for freezing pensions were that the “rules have never changed” under the current or previous Governments, and that pensioners were aware of the frozen pensions policy when they decided to emigrate. In our view, advising a person that they will be discriminated against will not stand as a defense for putting the discrimination into practice.

An estimated 5.5 million people of British heritage live overseas, and 1.1 million of these are UK pensioners.  These people, for the most part, are proud of their British heritage and retain strong links with their mother country. Many of them, and indeed individuals currently resident in the UK, will be adversely affected by this discrimination as they reach pensionable age. They should be regarded as an asset in spreading their British values around the globe, especially to Commonwealth countries.  It becomes difficult to promote these values when the UK, one of the richest countries on the planet, seeks to balance its budget on the backs of some of its oldest citizens by this ‘long-standing policy’ of freezing pensions.

Just because the frozen pensions policy is ‘long-standing’ doesn’t mean it is right, nor does it mean it is immutable.  In fact ‘long standing’ in the context of frozen pensions means it is overdue for a change.  UK state pensions are being drastically overhauled to make them fit for the 21st century, and it is appropriate to do the same for the policy that freezes the pensions of just half of UK pensioners overseas. Pretending that the discrimination doesn’t exist will not make it disappear.

Yours sincerely

ABW (Tony) Bockman

Chairman

International Consortium of British Pensioners

Comments

  1. George Morley says

    Stopping the pensions of all ex-pats will never happen. To stop all would have to include the EU and they would not allow that and I’m sure that the Commonwealth countries would then also be much more verbal than they have been to date because they would then be picking up the pieces and that would also have to include countries where there are reciprocal agreements assuming it were to be done worldwide.
    I for one would have to sell up and return to the UK as the only option and I would not be alone should that come about.
    You obviously try to keep abreast of the news in the UK Martin and in so doing hopefully make appropriate comments where possible. Everyone involved should be doing the same and let’s make ourselves a damned nuisance if necessary to get the message across. The pressure is on and now is the time to make even more effort in this campaign for justice.
    Don’t just think about it but do it in print.
    Write to your old local newspaper on line, along with the MP in your last constituancy. You will find them at : http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
    You might just find my comment somewhere signed Morgeo.

  2. Jane Davies says

    This will not happen, imagine the cost of 1.1 million expats returning to the UK all entitled to a fully up-rated pension and all the add on benefits and the use of the NHS and other aspects of their caring needs? Maybe those pensioners are confused about the proposed stopping of spouses claiming a pension based on their husband/wife’s contributions. Even the lying hypocrite Steve Webb would not have the nerve to do that.

  3. Martin Moss says

    Dear ABW (Tony) Bockman,

    I have just heard something very frightening from some pensioners from England visiting Toronto. They told me that the British government are considering STOPPING ALL pensions for British pensioners living abroad!

    I don’t need to tell you that will be devastating for most of these seniors that have paid into the pension fund for 30 years or more, and even served in the British armed forces in the defense of Great Britain.

    Yours truly,

    Martin Moss
    Toronto, Canada
    Formerly Leeds, England

  4. Martin Moss says

    Dear ABW (Tony) Bockman,

    There is only ONE effective way to get the British government to change this ubfair legislation. That is have a documentary or a dramatic film based on the “plight” of some of the “frozen” pensioners around the world.

    This would shame them into paying out what is actually NOT there money!

    Your’s truly,

    Martin Moss
    Toronto, Canada
    Formerly, Leeds, UK

  5. A.N.Bonnerjee says

    A very good letter MrBockman,
    Pl let me know how I can become a member of ICBP.

    Thank you
    Abhik

  6. George Morley says

    A very good letter that is putting the situation as it really is. Why they refuse to address this knowing it to be wrong is beyond me. And even the (EHRC)Equality & Human Rights Commission do nothing when approached. How bent is the system ? They say when asked about it
    “To bring a claim it must be established that there is a difference in treatment of people in a similar position.”
    So I would submit that a pensioner resident in Niagara Falls Canada is in a similar position to one resident in Niagara Falls USA and that’s discrimination with a capital D when one gets the uprating while the other does not.
    We need to hit the government at every opportunity and I guess all of those commenting here are already doing this so I would say to any not doing so to send a copy of a suitable letter to a relative and ask them to send it on in their own name especially if they are resident in the UK.
    Keep the pot boiling and we WILL win this fight.

  7. Andy robertson-Fox says

    Let me repeat the point made by Jane Davies that there is no need whatsoever for any from of reciprocal agreement; the UK government could pay the uprating world wide tomorrow if it so wished. Previous UK Secs of State at the DWP, Stephen Twigg (1999) and James Purnell (2007), have confirmed this in the House.
    As far as I am aware there is a reciprocal agreement between the UK and Canada but it does not include provisions for uprating pensions. The agreement was made in 1976 but the UK was not satisfied that the Social Security arrangements in Canada met the required criteria to introduce uprating. In 1979 Canada, having now enacted the necessary legislation to satisfy this criteria approached the UK government but the request was turned down as not being “affordable” – (sounds familiar?!); there was, at 1979 prices remember, over £3 billion surplus in the NI Fund at the time. Hope this helps

  8. Veronica Feargrieve says

    Re the reciprocal agreement; do I understand correctly that we don’t actually have one betw the UK and Canada. Because the UK? or Canada? did not sign it.

  9. Jane Davies says

    Veronica, The state pension payments are paid out from the NI Fund (surplus £28-30 billion, this is not government money it belongs to those who have paid in. State pensions do not come out of general taxation so the state of the economy is irrelevant. The financial situation is one of the lies trotted out by the DWP along with the need for reciprocal agreements.

  10. Veronica Feargrieve says

    The letter is very well done. I hope it has some effect.
    One Q I have: if the old country is in such a financial state, why aren’t they cutting out the uprating on the pensioners in the UN-frozen countries. Or is it that once you start giving it you can’t stop it.

  11. Jane Davies says

    Please keep up the momentum with this letter, you will need to change the wording slightly about when the Queen signed the new Charter, ie; “recently signed”, but this is such a good tool and to send it as a “one off” would be such a shame. Have you sent it to the heads of government and newspapers of the frozen countries, also UK newspapers?

  12. Jean & James Brown says

    Congratulation on the letter to Mr. Cameron. It may seem that the following comments indicate we are ungrateful for the Trojan efforts of the executive of the CABP & the ICBP. We are not, their work is difficult and often they must think a thankless task.
    Around when the campaign started, to index all pensions, we wrote and suggested that until all, or at least most, of the population in the UK agreed it was the correct thing to do the chances of any UK Government passing the necessary legislation would be remote. As Tony Bockman clearly states, of any stripe, all opposition parties are in favour and all government parties are against. For every communication with any political/government person three are needed to be addressed to the general public. Either directly, telephone, radio, TV, newspapers, internet services explaining why now is unfair and how indexing ALL pensions will save the UK money. We mean of course that pensioners living outside of the UK save the UKmore money in medical costs by far than the cost of indexing. In our opinion this has always been required to achieve the goal, today it is essential. Britain is economically in a poor way, in fact one of the worst of countries and the population are aware of this. It seems not unreasonable for most not to be over enthusiastic about spending more money and that their Government is not in favour of anyway. It doesn’t help the cause that in any non-indexed country the British pensioner organization has only a small percentage of such pensioners belonging. A fact we suspect the UK Government is well aware. The recent request to encourage friends and relations to assist is a good move. We wrote to around 50 people but doubt more than 5 will react We suggest this is a good average of positive responses so obviously it will need many hundreds of thousnds of appeals by this route, hence the need to get to people via other means, as noted above.
    We are 88 & 82 and do not expect to see any indexing. However the British pension scheme as now enacted is wrong and a wrong that should be corrected. We do thank all the people who are driving this effort and doing most of the work.

  13. Ken Harrap says

    Another letter which outlines the facts and demonstrates something that we already know and that is politicians cannot be trusted to do the right thing and that their own self interest trumps everything. How many instances have we heard of where an opposition politician agrees that “the disenfranchised pensioners have been done a grievous wrong and if and when the politician’s party does form the government they will do all within their power to make things right”, only to see that when they do come to power all is forgotten. I do not see how they can live with themselves and sleep at night. Professor Steve Webb is just another in a long line and no doubt there will be others before we finally see justice done.

  14. Keith and Janet Sadler says

    Great letter….Please send a copy to the Queen specially as she just signed this
    new discrimination declaration on March 11th.
    Justice will prevail…..one day
    Keith and Janet Sadler

  15. Brian Lager says

    Please, send a copy to our prime Minister, Mr Harper, and to Mr Baird. I have lost count of the number of letters I have written to countless British members of parliament. All echo the same theme, nothing we can do about it. Now we have the ammunition we need to fight against these reprehensible policies.

  16. Jeff Chipps says

    A really excellent letter!! It’s about time the gloves came off and ! applaud you for doing so.
    Keep up the pressure with letters like this send them to whoever will publish them. it’c much better to be published by an “minor” newspaper,than not to be published at all!!
    Pile the pressure on through as many media outlets as you can – we’re with you!

  17. Andy robertson-Fox says

    At last a letter that really spells it out.

    I would, however, have liked to have seen Webb’s argument that “there is an assumption that people live in Britain all their lives and then retire to Australia whereas many have lived in Australia for twenty years or more..” discredited. Length of residence pays no part, it is the number of NI contributions and qualifying years that determines the pension and whether part of ones life has been spent in Australia, Canada or Timbuktu is quite irrelevant.

    A positive move but the ICBP must be ready to either combat Cameron’s reply or chase him up if required and look at other means of pushing the cause….just sending a letter will not bring about a thaw but constant pressure – and I mean constant – is vital if the right result is to be achieved and in a realistic and reasonable timescale.

  18. Jane Davies says

    Absolutly brilliant…well done. Are you going to send this to all the UK and Commonwealth newspapers too?

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