Frozen pension expats call for UK suspension from Commonwealth

Published:  26 Aug at 6 PM
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Campaigners protesting over freezes in UK state pension payments to expats in certain overseas locations are calling for Britain to be suspended from Commonwealth membership.

British pensioners living in non-EU overseas countries which have no bilateral agreement with the UK are suffering from a freeze on their inflation-linked state pensions from the moment they leave the country. The result of this financial discrimination has left those who have emigrated over the years with as little as £6 per week to live on.

One pensioner, now 102 years old and living in Australia, is receiving the lowest amount of all, just over £6, with the Australian government picking up the tab to ensure her survival. UK pensioners in the USA and EU states receive annual increases as if they still lived in the UK, but those living in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and many other retirement havens do not.

Figures released in 2012 suggest that half a million pensioners living abroad are affected and, according to International Consortium of British Pensioners chairperson Sheila Telford, the coalition government is reneging on the Commonwealth Equality Charter. The charter was signed by HM Queen Elizabeth as head of the Commonwealth in March 2013.

Telford believes that, until the discrimination is ended, Britain should be suspended from the Commonwealth. She says 95 per cent of those affected are living in Commonwealth countries, making the inequality a Commonwealth matter, although heads of countries involved have refused to discuss it as the UK government controls the agenda.

Canada and Australia are irritated by the UK government’s stonewalling over the issue, and feel their tax revenues should not be used to cover the UK’s lack of responsibility towards expats who have paid pension contributions all their working lives. According to ICBP’s Jim Tilley, the government is hiding behind a law which should be changed to reflect the increased cross-border mobility of UK pensioners.
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