UK Expats Call For Commonwealth Action Over Frozen Pensions

By Editorial 21 August, 2013

A group that campaigns on state pensions payable to British expats has called for Britain to be suspended from the Commonwealth on the grounds that its arrangements for index-linking pensions for British residents in some countries but not others amounts to discrimination.

Britain has special arrangements in place with a number of countries which allow expats to continue to receive pension payments at the same rate that they would receive them in the UK. In many countries, however, the amount paid is frozen at the rate applicable when the expat left the UK, and they therefore miss out inflation-linked increases. Countries where British pensioners are disadvantaged in this way include Commonwealth nations such as Canada and Australia, while residents in a number of non-Commonwealth jurisdictions, including the USA, receive the full current amount.

The International Consortium of British Pensioners complains that this is unfair. The group argues that the discrepancy amounts to defaulting on the Commonwealth Equality Charter, which the UK signed earlier this year, and it says it is asking the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, which includes Commonwealth foreign ministers, to review whether the Government is "in violation of core Commonwealth values of equality and fairness."

The group's Australian representative, Jim Tilley, told the media that the rules were drawn up at a time when expatriate pensioners were likely to be wealthy, but that this was no longer the case.

In July, a report prepared by UK Parliament’s Commons Library warned that British pensioners living in Europe would lose the benefit of co-ordinated social security schemes if the UK were to leave the EU, significantly reducing pension rights. It added that in cases where there is an imbalance between the number of UK expats in a particular country and the number of that country’s nationals in the UK, it may not be possible to come to a bilateral agreement.

Tags: Expatriates | Australia | United Kingdom | Canada | United States | Expats | Pensions | Pensions |


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