Row over ECJ ruling on fuel subsidies for expats

Published:  30 Aug at 9 AM
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A ruling by the European Court of Justice allowing British expats to receive winter fuel payments has sparked debate both home and abroad. Previously, the winter fuel subsidy of £300 a year was only available to pensioners living in the UK and not Brits who have retired abroad.

However, the ECJ ruled last week that the subsidy should be available for all British pensioners living in the European Economic Area and Switzerland. The news has been greeted with anger by Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who called the new rule “ludicrous”.

In a widely reported speech, Mr Duncan Smith said the government will introduce a temperature test so Brits living in hot countries do not receive the handout. This was, however, met with concerns that pensioners living in mild parts of the UK would also miss out.

The online publications of the new organisations that ran the story received hundreds of comments from pensioners living both in the UK and abroad. The Daily Mail, for example, stopped allowing comments after more than 300 angry pensioners had their say.

Many living abroad argue that allowing even those in hot countries to claim the payment would actually save the government money by encouraging more people to move abroad and therefore reducing the strain on the UK’s medical services.

The Daily Telegraph also received hundreds of comments, with some saying that the move to prevent expats from claiming the winter fuel bonus is not surprising given the government’s effort to avoid ‘up-rating’ the frozen pensions of Brits living abroad.

In May 2012, a long-running legal effort by British expats to get their frozen pensions up-rated like those in the UK ended at the European Court of Human Rights without success.

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