Pension ruling approaches

Over 500,000 retired British expats could receive a payday from the UK government if a court case regarding pension rights ends in their favour.

During the last few years 13 expatriate Brits have been locked in a courtroom battle, a test case to determine whether they have the right to receive index-linked increases to their pensions, something that UK pensioners still at home are given, yet expat pensioners are not.

pension drawn in sand

As the law stands now, pensioners who have expatriated themselves will only see inflation-linked increases to their pension if they chose to live in one of the 32 countries with which the UK has a reciprocal agreement- Iceland, Turkey, USA, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein or any of the 26 EU countries.

Known as ‘up-rating’ this increase is not currently available to expat pensioners who live in countries such as South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and many other popular locations around the globe.

The 13 expats behind the case are located in Australia, Canada and South Africa. One of these expats is 78 year old Annette Carson, a Brit expat who has been living in South Africa since 1990. She made one of the original claims to receive index-linked increases but saw her case rejected in the House of Lords, the High Court and the Court of Appeal. A later claim in the European Court of Human Rights was also dismissed. This time an almost unanimous decision was reached by the judges who decided that not giving the pension increase did not fall against the Human Rights Convention that states “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”.

The argument from the ‘Pension 13’ was that their “other status” gave them the freedom to retire in another country without having their pension rights taken away. Last September the 13 embarked on a journey to the last chance saloon of law- the Human Rights Court. There their lawyers claimed that since the pensioners had spent their whole working life paying national insurance contributions denying them their pension increase just because they had left the country was unlawful. However the opposing lawyers fighting for the UK government claimed that priority had to be placed on poor pensioners still residing in the UK, and that without a reciprocal agreement increases could not be placed in the countries in question.

Ms Carson spoke of her plight to The Telegraph: “It is disgraceful that the British Government has stubbornly refused for so long to recognise the needs of thousands of ageing pensioners who in their youth helped to protect and rebuild Britain, who paid years of compulsory contributions, and who now wish only for their dues. Some pensioners have to live on just £6 a week. How the Government thinks that is acceptable I do not know. It's time to make pension parity a reality and reverse this long-standing injustice without delaying any longer.”

Ms Carson has been aided with her cause by Tony Brockman, the chairman of the International Consortium of Pensioners, who said: “Despite the clear injustice of the situation, the Government forced us to pursue our case all the way to the highest possible levels. We are optimistic that tomorrow's ruling will finally vindicate our struggle and that the Government will be forced to pay up. There are elderly people around the world whose lives will be transformed by a positive ruling and we cannot afford to wait much longer for justice to be seen by many of the most vulnerable and elderly.”

The majority of the claimants in the test case feel they are entitled to £82.05 per week, which is two-fold what some receive, however the exact figure differs individually depending on their national insurance contributions and when they left the UK.

If the court were to rule in favour of the 13 then it would mean that over half a million expat retirees with frozen pensions could see a significant rise.

UPDATE: Court rules on pension case...