Tuesday, 16 March 2010

British expats lose pensions appeal

More than half a million Britons who retired abroad will not have their pensions increased in line with inflation after a test case was today rejected by a European court. Judges in Strasbourg dismissed an appeal by 13 expatriates who had argued that the UK government's refusal to uprate their pay outs each year breached their human rights. The group had been leading a campaign to overturn rules which they say result in 540,000 expat pensioners receiving lower state pensions than their counterparts residing in Britain and some other countries.>
The verdict, which ends years of courtroom wrangling, prompted claims that many of these pensioners will now be left "facing the possibility of destitution". The expats, who include Annette Carson, 69, who now lives in South Africa, claimed the government was guilty of unlawful discrimination.

Under the rules, which ministers have conceded are "illogical", British expats in 150 countries including Australia, Canada and South Africa do not see their state pension increased annually in line with inflation, as happens in Britain and the EU.
According to the International Consortium of British Pensioners (ICBP), which supported the 13 in their case, this means that a pensioner who began drawing a full pension in Australia in 1981 will still be receiving £29.60 a week, although the basic UK state pension is now £95.25 a week. That pensioner has so far missed out on payments of up to £100,000. Carson emigrated to South Africa in 1989, and her case was cited in the original legal claims which were rejected in the high court, the court of appeal and the House of Lords.
A subsequent claim in the European court of human rights in Strasbourg was also lost, when all but one of the judges ruled that denying pension increases did not breach a human rights convention declaration that "the enjoyment of (convention) rights and freedoms shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status".
In a hearing in the court of human rights last September – effectively the last appeal stage – lawyers argued that pensioners who had made full national insurance contributions throughout their working lives should not have their pensions frozen and be denied statutory increases just because of their country of residence.
But lawyers for the British government said the priority had to be to target money at the poorest pensioners living at home.

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