NUMBER 21
SPRING
2004

BAPA Newsletter

Retirement with dignity  - Unfreezing is affordable - Making a difference
Registering to vote - The immoral dimension - BAPA Research - Can you help ?

Some useful forms - National Pensioners Convention - London Rally - Still crying poor
Financial report - BAPA Executives - Consultative Committee

2005 is UK Election Year
British expatriates with frozen pensions can make their point

In the coming months, leading up to the next General Election in Britain, the British Australian Pensioner Association, BAPA, is planning a campaign to support the Liberal Democrats.

Both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, while in opposition, supported the principle of equality for all British Pensioners, wherever they chose to live in retirement, when they came to power. Both those political parties, when in power, let us down.

Currently Tony Blair and New Labour are struggling to retain office and Britain’s Michael Howard and the Conservative Party are failing to attract the support they need to form government.

This is a great opportunity for the Liberal Democrats.  They are unlikely to gain sufficient seats to win Government but they stand the best chance they have ever had to secure the balance of power.

Among the many sound Liberal Democrat policies the pre-eminent one, so far as frozen pensioners are concerned, was expressed in no uncertain terms in their policy statement:

Retirement with Dignity

“2.6 Overseas Pensioners

2.6.1 Pensioners who go to live abroad get no annual uprating in their pensions at all, unless they live in another EC country or a country which has a reciprocal social security agreement. This discrimination is inexcusable  Liberal Democrats would ensure that non-resident pensioners get the same uprating as resident pensioners.”

The same document contains a great deal more in the way of policies which support all British pensioners.

There are half a million British Pensioners living overseas, mainly in the old Commonwealth countries, with their pensions frozen at the date of their retirement. A 95 year old British Pensioner living in Brisbane, who has a 100% contribution record, is surviving on a British pension of about £7 a week and must rely on support by the Australian Government and his family to meet his nursing home costs. Like any    other    pensioner,   he justly   expected   that  his own lifetime of contributions would fund his declining years. Another BAPA member aged 92 joined the London Fire Brigade in 1939 and was on duty throughout the London Blitz, mainly in the Docks area.  In all he served 28 years in the Brigade and, after retirement, another 10 years as a Fireman in the House of Commons.  He came to Australia for family reasons in 1985 and immediately had his State pension frozen.

Nearly 50% of British overseas pensioners suffering from the inequity of the frozen pension live in Australia.  In the coming months, leading up to the General Election in Britain, BAPA will be calling upon those who still have a vote to support the Liberal Democrats and to urge all their relatives and friends in Britain to do everything they can to increase the Liberal Democrat vote.

BAPA calls upon all the other British Pensioner organisations Worldwide to join this campaign of support for the Liberal Democrats.

Un-freezing is affordable

The British Government claims it would cost about £400 Million a year to un-freeze all pensioners living in those countries subject to this form of discrimination. 

Their own published records reveal that the National Insurance fund had reached £27.5 Billion surplus by March 2003 and was continuing to grow at the rate of over £2 Billion a year.

In addition the Government admits it saves an average of over £1,500 a year for each British pensioner who chooses to live overseas – this amounts to over another 1.5 Billion pounds a year.

The only British expatriates who can avoid the whole of their pension being frozen, wherever they live, are Civil Servants and recipients of Public Service pensions, including MPs. See “the Immoral Dimension”.

Making a difference

Even if you are unable to get a vote in the UK you can still make a difference.

BAPA is suggesting that all frozen pensioners worldwide should support the Liberal Democrats in the forthcoming general election because of their positive attitude to our problem.  We therefore suggest:

Firstly;        Write to all your friends and relatives in Britain and encourage them to support all frozen pensioners by voting Lib Dem.  Also ask them to pass on the suggestion to as many others as possible.

Secondly;    Write “Letters to the Editor” to local newspapers all over Britain.  Choose areas you have lived in or enjoyed visiting – say how much you liked their area – tell them you are now in Australia and have your State Pension frozen – tell them how the Lib Dems plan to reinstate all frozen pensions and ask their readers to support the Lib Dems.  Sample letter.

The addresses of all British local papers can be found through www.newspapersoc.org.uk/home.html .    Your actions might also catch the attention of the Law Lords and give them an insight into the way frozen pensions affect our lives.

Registering to Vote

You will not be able to obtain a vote if it is over 15 years
since you were registered to vote in Britain.

To vote in UK elections your name must appear on the electoral register.  Once registered as an overseas elector you will be able to vote in Parliamentary elections and European elections in the UK but not in local government elections.

The electoral register is compiled by each local authority. To register you should contact the electoral registration officer at the address of the local council offices where you last registered when living in the UK or if you left the UK with your parents, before you were old enough to register and wish to support them, the electoral registration officer for the area where you last lived. They will send you the forms.

If you have Internet access you can find contact details for your local council by visiting the website www.upmystreet.co.uk and entering the postcode of your last UK address.

Overseas electors are eligible to register for up to 15 years after they were last registered. The Register of Electors is updated every month. You can return your application form at any time but the electoral registration office must receive the form within 3 months of your signing and dating it. 

You will need to register each year. The electoral registration office should send you a reminder 2-3 months before your registration expires. With your registration form you will also be sent information on proxy and postal voting.  As postal voting is extremely problematical from overseas, due to postal delays, we recommend appointing a proxy.

The Immoral Dimension

Civil Servants and recipients of Public Service pensions, including MPs, who retire to a "frozen" country, get special treatment which partly exempts them from the "freezing" regime.

 

The clue to this "rort" first appeared in the magazine of the Civil Service Pensioner Alliance.

“What does happen, and there may be some confusion about this, is that those in receipt of an occupational pension, like the civil service pension, which is contracted out of the State Earnings Related Pension Scheme, will receive the increase to their Guaranteed Minimum Pension element with their occupational pension. In the case of civil service pensioners, in addition to the increase to their civil service pension in April, in line with the RPI increase as at the previous September, they will also have their GMP element increased”

 

A word of explanation. The GMP is not an extra pension, but is part of the pension from the occupational scheme. All contracted out schemes have to provide such a pension.

The GMP is not usually indexed by the scheme. Instead, the DWP calculates the amount of indexation and pays it with the state pension. Sounds crazy, but this is the way it is done.

Pensioners who live in a "frozen" country do not get the indexation of the GMP from the national insurance fund. But if they are civil service pensioners, they get it from the pension scheme instead.

This has been confirmed by officers of the DWP;

 

“You asked whether civil service pensioners who retire to a frozen country will have their full GMP indexed.

We have liaised with colleagues in the Cabinet Office which has responsibility for Civil Service Pensions. Cabinet Office have confirmed that the article that appeared in the Civil Service Pensioners Alliance magazine is correct in stating that where a civil servant moves permanently abroad to a country with no reciprocal arrangement, the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme takes responsibility for paying the GMP element uprated in line with inflation”

 

It is evident from this reply that the writer was previously unaware of the special arrangements, and had to ask colleagues at the cabinet office. The next writer also, it seems, was previously unaware, and had to ask colleagues in the Treasury;

 

“It seems that your enquiry relates mainly to the arrangements which the Civil Service scheme applies to its pensioners, which is strictly speaking a matter for HM Treasury. I have, however, checked the position for you and can say that the Civil Service scheme uprates the entire occupational pension, including the GMP element, where the pensioner is living in a country which does not have a reciprocal agreement to uprate the state retirement pension. I understand the authority for this treatment is contained in a "Treasury Direction". If you wished to go into further detail about the policy on Civil Service pensions, you would need to contact the Treasury as the responsible Department”

 

A further enquiry to the same source elicited the following;

 

“As regards the Civil Service scheme, this ties in with the state additional pension position in the way which you would expect. In other words, as I understand it (and I would say again that I'm not responsible for the Civil Service scheme's rules and arrangements), the CS scheme generally pays indexation only on the excess-of-GMP pension, plus up to 3% pa on the post-88 GMP. Indexation on the pre-88 GMP, and any indexation over 3% on the post-88 GMP, is then effectively paid through the state additional pension (SERPS). As an exception, if there is no entitlement to an indexation increase through SERPS - perhaps because the COD eliminates any SERPS entitlement, or in the case with which you are concerned, because the state pension including SERPS is frozen - then the National Insurance computer system sends a notification to the CS scheme which then does pay indexation on the whole pension (ie including the GMP element).”

 

We then asked the Liberal Democrat spokesman on pension matters and were sent the following extract from Hansard.

 

Expatriate Retired Civil Servants

Mr. Webb: To ask the Minister for the Cabinet Office whether civil servants who retire abroad to a country where pensions are frozen for expatriates continue to have their guaranteed minimum pension uprated; and if he will make a statement. 8 Jul 2004

 

Mr. Alexander: When a pensioner covered by the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme (PCSPS) becomes permanently resident in a country where state pensions are frozen for expatriates, the Inland Revenue advises the PCSPS that the state pension will not attract uprating increases. The PCSPS will then uprate the Guaranteed Minimum Pension element of the PCSPS pension in line with increases under the Pensions Increase Orders.

 

This is all done in secret. It is probably an obscure group of code lines in the National Insurance computer programs. Most civil servants will be unaware of it.  Members of Parliament are probably also
unaware, but ignorance is no excuse in law.  This is hypocritical.  Top civil servants in the DWP advise the Minister on the continuation of the freezing regime. Like Sir Humphrey Appleby of “Yes Minister”, they see no inconsistency between what they advise and what they enjoy.

 

BAPA Research

The BAPA Executive Committee team, together with the Consultative Committee and a team of volunteer letter writers continues to research relevant information from Government and non government sources and from selected legal advisers.

 

Much of the information we acquire is sensitive and cannot be publicised prematurely – to do so could adversely affect our cause.

 

However we will continue to publish as much as we can both in our newsletter and on this web page.  We will also, where appropriate, report on the official attitudes of the British political parties during the period leading up to the 2005 elections in the UK.

 

Can YOU help ?

If you need a vital and interesting spare time activity why not join our letter writers – send an e-mail to James at ann33_james@bigpond.com or drop a line to our secretary, Jack, at Box 35, Christies Beach, SA 5165.

 

If you have a story to tell, illustrating the effect that a frozen pension has had on you or on any of your acquaintances, send your story to David at yeomanoz@yahoo.co.uk

If you have any particular expertise that could be of value to our cause, and are willing to devote a little time to helping our research why not offer your assistance as a possible member of our Consultative Committee – put together a brief CV and send it to Jack at astoner@senet.com.au

 

We would particularly welcome help along the above lines from BAPA members who have retired within the last five years or so.

Some useful forms

See our Membership Form and a special Enquiry Form to send to the DWP in order to discover your entitlement if you are not yet of retirement age and do not know whether you will be entitled.

Why not lend a helping hand. Make a photocopy of the Enquiry form for any friend who does not know whether he or she is eligible for a UK pension. Persuade them to fill in the form and post it off to the DWP.

National Pensioners Convention

Members may be interested in the our reasons for acquiring by affiliation a closer relationship with the predominant UK pensioners’ organisation whose main concerns obviously relate to the well being of  their members in the UK. When in 1997, Derrick Prance, our bastion of strength and ‘linkman’ in the UK, emigrated to Perth, the NPC seemed the natural choice to fill the void, particularly in publicising and lobbying of the frozen pension issue. The NPC is very active in the UK and has several affiliates within their group. They are in a position to make numerous representations to the UK government regarding pensioners’ welfare and above all they have the ear of the government hierarchy at close quarters.  BAPA successfully introduced the frozen pension issue into the Pensioners' Manifesto which will be their campaign document leading up to the next general election so we are hopeful that our voice will be heard by all and sundry.

The NPC Pensioners' Parliament on 18-20 May this year was attended by Maria Eagle, the DWP Under Secretary, (Malcolm Wicks the Pension Minister was unable to attend due to the debate on the Benefits Protection Fund Bill), Nigel Waterson, a Shadow Minister for the disabled, and Sandra Gilley MEP for the Lib Dems, so hopefully they were made aware of our issues. In his opening address the NPC President Rodney Bickerstaffe made a very enlightening comment about Early Day Motions. He observed that EDM 144 involving the welfare of retired greyhounds had received 241 signatures whilst EDM 55 regarding the welfare of retired people received only 55. That I believe illustrates most graphically the lack of compassion and priority given to pensioners by our members of parliament.

In the Manifesto issued by the conference the National Pensioners’ Convention stated:

"The state pensions for those expatriates living in countries not covered by reciprocal social security arrangements with Britain should be uprated annually in line with those pensioners living in the UK"

London Rally
By Tony Walsh of BAPA

On the 28th July James Nelson, BAPA Vice President, and I met Joe Harris of the UK National Pensioners’ Convention, in Melbourne. He told us of the event in Central London on the 8th September this year in which the NPC is organizing promotion of their manifesto, which includes their support for abolition of the frozen pension policy. They expect at least 1500 of their members at the rally.

The idea is for people to meet their MP's and Joe invites us to join them to make our own representations if any of us may be in London at that time. I will be there and will be writing to those MP's with whom I have already made contact, indicating that I would like to meet them.

If you would like to join me please e-mail me on tandpw@smartchat.net.au

Still crying poor
From the Weekly Telegraph:

“Britain would have to pay most towards the EU's eastward expansion after vaulting up the wealth league with a ‘wonderful, magnificent economic development’ since the 1980's.”

 ”Britain, is now the richest of the big EU states with a per capita income of 111 per cent of the EU average in 2003.”


Financial Report

Many thanks to all those generous BAPA members, new and old, who contributed to our fighting fund during the past financial year.  Without your support we could not carry on.
 

Summary of income and expenditure 2003/04

Income  
Contributions, including new members
Interest earned
Total
$ 24,464.00
    715.00
$ 25,179.00
Expenditure  
Legal expenses & research
Newsletters 18,19, 20 & Aust. Post
Bank fees and taxes
Misc. expenses, including audit
Subscriptions  to Parity and NPC
Total
Credit balance for the year
$ 14,367.00
$   3,544.00
$      169.00
$      280.00
$      124.00 
$ 18,484.00
$   6,695.00


The credit balance will be reserved for continuing our fight for pension parity.

 

While repeating our thanks for the generosity of so many, we do still appeal to those of our members who have not made a contribution in the past year to come to our assistance now. 

 

The coming year, leading up to the next general election in the UK is likely to be an expensive one.  We must be prepared to react to the ruling on the Carson Appeal – whatever the outcome.

 

I would also, particularly, like to thank our committee members who have covered all their own expenses during the course of the past year.
 

BAPA Executive Officers

President: Brian Havard behavard@bigpond.net.au
V. President:  James Nelson ann33_james@bigpond.com
Secretary:  Jack Stoner   astoner@senet.com.au
Treasurer & Mem Sec: David Waterhouse  
W A:  Derrick Prance derrickprance@yahoo.co.uk

Consultative Committee

June Borsberry     juniveebee@yahoo.co.uk
Frank Yates Frank_Yates@telus.net
Philip Currah    Philip_Currah@telus.net
Tony Walsh  tandpw@smartchat.net.au

                               

Web Address:   www.britishpensions.org.au

Secretary:  Box 35, Christies Beach, SA, 5165

Treasurer:  PO Box 550, Burpengary, Queensland, 4505

Member of the World Alliance of British Expatriate Pensioners
Affiliated to PARITY and the National Pensioners Convention

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