Westminster urged to address 'frozen' expat pensions

The British government should work with legislators from Canada and Australia to end a freeze on the state benefits of UK state pensioners who move abroad, according to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Frozen British Pensions.

An inquiry by the APPG also recommended that the UK government end the ‘frozen’ pension policy and seek to provide UK pensioners living in ‘frozen’ countries with their full uprated UK state pension as soon as possible, rather than limiting their benefit payments.

The report noted that there were 510,000 UK pensioners whose British state benefits had been frozen, with 75 per cent of those impacted by the policy living in Canada or Australia, both of which provide full state pensions to their pensioners living in the UK.

The report also found that around half (49 per cent) of those with frozen state pensions received a UK state pension of £65 per week or less, well below the full basic state pension of £134.25 per week and new state pension of £175.20 a week.

Consequently, over half (51 per cent) were found to have struggled financially because of their frozen pension, while almost 90 per cent of ‘frozen’ pensioners were not informed that their pension would be frozen before they left the UK.

A submission from the Canadian government stated: “Over the years, the government of Canada has raised, and has sought to address, this issue with the UK, including by proposing the two countries negotiate a comprehensive social security agreement that would provide for the indexation of UK pensions.

“To date, UK officials have not engaged on this issue. As it has done in the past, the government of Canada will continue to raise this issue with the UK through various channels, where appropriate.”

Meanwhile, the Australian government said it had been “working to resolve this issue for some time”, adding that it had “made a series of representations to the UK government in recent years, including at ministerial level”, and would continue to do so.

An inquiry by the APPG saw it receive over 800 submissions of evidence by stakeholders impacted by the policy, including civil society groups, the UK government, foreign governments and politicians in countries with impacted residents, while it also conducted a confidential survey of over 2,500 UK pensioners living on a ‘frozen’ pension overseas.

The report concluded that the policy was “illogical” and favoured UK pensioners in some countries over others, while it also noted that the impact could be particularly harsh on “veterans, former public servants and members of the Windrush Generation who have returned to their country of birth”.

It stated that while full reciprocal agreements were not needed for the government to uprate state pensions of UK pensioners overseas in line with the UK’s triple lock, Westminster should conduct talks with foreign governments “immediately”.

The APPG’s chairman, Roger Gayle MP, said: “It should make no difference whether that pensioner is now choosing to live in Vauxhall or Vancouver, Devonport or Darwin, on Wearside or in Wellington: they have done their time, paid their dues and are entitled to a full and uprated payment.

“As the chairman of the APPG on Frozen Pensions I regard it as a disgrace and a matter of national shame that the United Kingdom has for so long denied to elderly citizens, very many of whom have proudly served our country in the Armed Forces or the Civil Service, the funds that they need to live on in old age and, sadly, sometimes in ill-health.

“It is past time for this injustice to be addressed and the wrong of decades righted.”

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