Pensions and Retirement,
19 November 2021
FROZEN BRITISH PENSIONS
I recently saw your piece on the “Triple Lock”, and I am writing to you today to protest in the strongest terms the inexplicable current view of this Conservative government. To abandon the “Triple Lock” pledge that was part of the Conservative government’s manifesto in the last General Election – for what? – £2.75 per week for each pensioner. What makes this so unbelievable is the status of the National Insurance Fund (NIF). National Insurance Contributions (NICs) are paid into that Fund. This Fund is also used to pay the State Pension. There are a few other, minor payments from the Fund, but nothing of great import. This Fund is ring-fenced and can only be used as a National Debt offset, thereby reducing the amount of interest accrued on that Debt. The balance of that Fund is in excess of £47 billion as of 31 August 2021. It just does not make sense.
I am also writing to you today regarding what has been labeled “Frozen British Pensions”. The State Pension is not only paid to millions of pensioners living in the UK, but also to over 1 million UK pensioners living overseas – 637,567 live in countries where the UK pensioners receive the annual increase (3.1% next April) and 488,746 pensioners live in countries, like Canada, which is where I live, where they NEVER receive the annual increase. There is no pattern between those countries where UK pensioners receive the increase and those countries that don’t.
There are over 126,000 UK pensioners living in Canada – over 22,000 of them receive less than £20 per week, and they will always receive less than £20 per week which has less spending power each year – this year, inflation is currently 4.4%, and could rise to over 5% in the next few months, with more and more pensioners being driven beneath the poverty line.
This issue has the complete support of the Canadian Parliament. In December 2020 the Canadian High Commissioner in London handed over a proposal to the British Government which included negotiating a comprehensive social security agreement that included the uprating of our British State Pension. Three months later, the British Government sent one of their lowly pension ministers – the answer was that the UK Government was not even interested in having any discussions.
A number of organisations from around the world – British Pensions in Australia (BPIA), the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP), and the South Africa Association of British Pensioners (now defunct) raised a legal challenge in 2002 and this was pursued through the UK courts in 2002, 2003 and 2005. The UK Government prevailed in all three cases and their main tenet in these cases was that a country had to have a reciprocal [social security] agreement with the UK in order that UK pensioners living in that country could receive the annual inflationary increase to their British State Pension. The only ray of hope coming from these hearings came from Lord Carswell in the Supreme Court hearing who;
declared that regulation 3 of the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Regulations 2001 (SI 2001/910) was unlawful”.
A class action was raised, made up of Annette Carson (the original litigant), 5 pensioners from Australia, and another 5 from Canada. They took the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2008, and then to the ECHR Grand Chamber in 2010, and again the UK government prevailed. No further appeals could be made.
In those days, there were not the massive legal databases that we have today. If those databases had been available in the 2000s, then the British Government’s case would not have got passed the first court case. In 2013, Freedom of Information (FOI) request 2013/595 was made to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that:
‘confirmation that reciprocal agreements are not necessary to uprate pensions in countries where this is no such agreement. i.e. confirm up-rating could be done by domestic legislation’
the response from the DWP was:
‘Bi-lateral agreements are not necessary in order for pensions paid outside Great Britain and the EU to be up-rated. There are currently no plans to change the existing longstanding policy of successive governments on the uprating pensions overseas; this policy was upheld in a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in 2010 which found in favour of the UK government’
This was drawn from the 1997 House of Commons, Social Security Report, Third Reading, Uprating of State Retirement Pensions Payable to People Resident Abroad. If only that information was known to Annette Carson’s defence in 2002!
There is so much more to this story, and how we continue to struggle year on year with this cruel and unfeeling British Government. We recently produced a booklet based on recent interviews carried out.
If this story is of interest to you and your viewers please feel free to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I was the previous Chairman of the International Consortium of British Pensions (ICBP), but had to resign in 2017 due to ill health. BPIA and the CABP jointly own the ICBP. The ICBP is our political arm in London and works very closely with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Frozen British Pensions (APPG), which is chaired by Sir Roger Gale, MP (Con). No UK TV program has run an in-depth analysis of this scandal, so you would be the first…
Member of the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners (CABP)