The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled against 13 expat pensioners seeking to have their UK state pensions rise in line with inflation, bringing to an end a titanic eight-year court battle.
1.1 million UK pensioners live abroad. 565,000 reside within the European Union or 15 other countries, including the USA, with whom there is a reciprocal agreement to “inflation-proof” pensions.
545,000 pensioners, however – spread across 150 other countries, including Australia, Canada, and South Africa – had their pensions frozen at the level at which they started to draw them in their country of residence.
According to BBC News, this saves the UK government at least £500 million a year.
The latter pensioners say they deserve equal treatment. After all, they argue, they paid their National Insurance Contributions (NICs) in exactly the same manner as other pensioners.
Take the case of Annette Carson, 69, for example, who moved to South Africa in 1990. After emigrating, she continued making full NICs and on retirement in 2000 began to receive pension payments.
While pensioners in the UK now receive a basic state pension of £95.25 a week, however, Ms. Carson’s remains frozen at the level it was ten years ago – namely £67.50 a week.
The oldest expat pensioners retired in the early 1970s and receive as little as £6 a week; those who retired in the early 80s receive about £30 a week; and those from the early 90s get about £50 a week.
John Markham, a pensioner living in Canada, said: “There is an image of people living well in the sunshine – but there are plenty of cases of real hardship.
“The ECHR ruling is completely indefensible and will leave half a million pensioners facing the possibility of destitution.
“All British people should have equal freedom of choice as regards where to live in their retirement. Many of us have families overseas – children who have moved abroad for example – and will want to join them in our old age without having to worry about becoming a financial burden.
“What the government is doing is utterly immoral, unjust and un-British. We are calling on the British public to stand up for the rights of our present and future pensioners. Don’t let the government get away with this – we must fight on until we achieve pension parity for all.”
Visit the ECHR website to read a summary of the judgment.
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