NUMBER 22
Autumn
2005

BAPA Newsletter

 

President's report - I'm alright Jack ! - Priorities - News for Seniors
Bank fees and exchange rates - EDM 1625 - NPC Rally - Our Fighting Fund
1985 - 1995 - 2005

Chancellor of the Exchequer
From a recent speech:

"What is morally wrong cannot be economically right"  Gordon Brown

 PRESIDENT’S REPORT
The following report by Brian Havard outlines just some of the activities of the BAPA Committee

This is a challenging time for BAPA and our members when so many initiatives are frustrated by the imminent Carson appeal to the HoL, not least our plan to pursue a quite separate legal action based on the concept of ‘irrationality’ in UK Govt pension policy. Knowing we could not proceed unless we secured UK legal aid, we did much preparatory work including identifying twenty suitable applicants, but we discovered that an application for legal aid at this juncture would be rejected. We must await the outcome of Carson.

For legal advice regarding these issues and, in particular, the Legal Aid options available, we have employed the services of the successful Legal Rights Lawyer Phil Shiner.

Despite our concerns about the Carson legal strategy, it is the only case before the courts so we are doing all we can to promote its success. We have concentrated on spreading word around Westminster (through MPs, supportive Lords and Ladies, Non Governmental Organisations, etc) about the failure of the courts in the Carson hearings to observe the Govt’s responsibilities under the Human Rights Act 1998. There have been two encouraging developments:

1. The Law Lords have recently declared that the legislation which permits the indefinite imprisonment of foreign nationals suspected of being terrorists was in breach of the Human Rights Act.  By that decision the Law Lords asserted the rights built into HRA, in defiance of Parliament.

If the Govt tries to change the legislation to outflank the Law Lords’ judgment, it will only confirm the suspicions of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the HRA; it has already declared an application by Englishman Tim Walker (submitted by the sex-discrimination activists Parity) as admissible without his case having gone through the UK court system because the Strasbourg court held the HRA to be incapable of protecting human rights. It is a pity that the lawyers acting for Carson were not as astute as the people from Parity.

2. The much respected Institute for Public Policy Research in London has published a booklet ‘Human Rights: Who needs them?’ (by Frances Butler). Many of you may recall that the judge in Carson held: “On this issue, it is important to take into account that the Court is concerned with two areas of government in which it is clear that the judicial arm must give the greatest deference to the legislature and to the elected executive. The first concerns the allocation of resources: how much is to be raised by the Government, by taxation or otherwise, and how the moneys available for expenditure by the Government are to be spent. Those matters are not justiciable.”

The IPPR publication exposes this attitude as nonsense when it affirms that “There are situations where the HRA may require changes in policies and practices which will involve the allocation of resources and costs.  In some cases these could be considerable”. This confirms our repeated complaint that the court failed in its duty on the evidence to declare pensions freezing in breach of the HRA.  The judge concluded “In my judgment, the remedy of the expatriate UK pensioners who do not receive uprated pensions is political, not judicial. The decision to pay them uprated pensions must be made by Parliament.”  How feeble, compared with the staunch declaration of the Law Lords in the case described in 1 above.

We have also put considerable effort into an allegation that the UK freezing policy is in breach of its own Consumer Protection and Unfair Terms legislation. These efforts could be greatly helped by some support from our own Govt. Sadly we have had no success thus far in persuading Canberra to forgo mere verbal complaints and to take some positive action - like its commendable promptitude in announcing substantial tsunami relief. The benefits to Australian Taxpayers of Britain granting indexation to all her pensioners would recompense Australia’s generosity to Indonesia to the tune of a direct saving of $100 Million a year plus an additional input into the economy of $400 Million a year.

Because the Federal Govt has made clear it will engage in no legal contest nor even assist in funding such a move against a “friendly” Govt, we put to them two actions which might greatly help our UK campaign, each involving an international organization to which Australia belongs.

The Consumers Association (CI) is an organisation that “strives to promote a fairer society through defending the rights of all consumers, especially the poor, marginalised and disadvantaged, by  campaigning at the international level for policies which respect consumer concerns.”  Australia has made significant recent cash contributions to CI. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and the Consumers Affairs Division Dept of the Treasury are affiliated members of CI.

We therefore suggested that the ACCC should inform CI of Britain’s pension discrimination policy by country of residence and that CI should in turn request its UK affiliates, National Consumer Council or Consumers' Association, to investigate and report whether the UK policy was breaching consumer protection rules.

The main objective of ICPEN, the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network is “to facilitate practical action to prevent and redress deceptive marketing practices with an international component.” It operates a dispute resolution system for disputes arising out of cross-border transactions. If you have a computer you can participate, as I have.  For more information, and a copy of my submission, go to:  consumer_protection.htm

You should also seek assistance from your local Federal and State MPs, emphasizing that occasional verbal protests from Canberra to the UK have achieved nothing. Positive action is needed – at stake is a saving to Australian taxpayers of $100 Million annually plus an extra $400 Million annually into the Australian economy.  Stress these figures to your MPs. Believe me, your participation will make a difference.

Brian Havard – President of BAPA.

I'M ALL RIGHT JACK!

 Newsletter 21 revealed how Ministers, MPs and Civil Servants have certain elements of their pension uprated.  It was a well guarded secret, protected from public gaze and only now brought into the open by the investigative skills of one of our committee members. But this is not a one off occurrence.

Another little known perk for parliamentarians was slipped through in 2002. It came to light when Gordon Brown unveiled his then 3 year spending review on July 18th. A review that saw pensioners abroad again denied uprating. At the same time MPs awarded themselves a massive pension rise of 25% under rules sneaked through just two days previously. It was accomplished and passed by a simple nod of the head!

Their payouts, funded by the taxpayer, have climbed while pensions overseas continue to decrease in value.

The move was a brutal snub to the millions of ordinary people struggling to save for retirement, and also to those of us living overseas who exist on a frozen pension. In spite of protests by the DWP and Treasury the move went ahead. MPs argued that the average length of time a member serves in Parliament has dropped in recent years.  Tory Minister John Butterfill, then a trustee of the Parliamentary fund, said many members had left well-paid jobs for the Commons and needed greater security. To my way of thinking they should have considered the consequences before making the move!

Isn't it reminiscent of when they tell us "You must have known before you left for Australia that your pension would be frozen".  To me it sounds very much the same. Yet we have no power to redress the situation in the easy manner achieved by our so called "representatives" in parliament.  Derrick Prance.

PRIORITIES

There are two urgent matters coming up:

1. To try to influence the law lords.

Of course we can have no effect on the legal aspects, but one might hope that the lords would leap to defend the moral dimension of the case.

First, note that the case is not presented to the full house, but only to a panel of three or maybe five law lords, sitting as judges – a bit like the Australian High Court.

While it would be improper, and maybe even counter-productive, to contact the law lords directly, we can maybe exercise some influence by publicity. The case comes up at the end of February, but after that there will be a period of some weeks or months while the judges scratch their heads.

We need to have members writing letters to UK newspapers and to UK MPs. If you need a little guidance on what to say and whom to say it to, ask us.

Apart from the obvious unfairness of the freezing regime, we need to tell the lords about the special treatment enjoyed by civil servants, MPs, and judges. You can read all about it at: immoral_dimension.htm - follow the link to "How it is done".

2. The annual uprating.

This comes in two parts:

a. The uprating order, which sets rates of benefits for the new year.

b. The uprating regulations. This is the document that continues the freezing regime each year. It is presented to Parliament early in March, and usually goes through “on the nod”. We would like to find a way of ambushing the regulations (not the uprating order). One way of doing this would be to organise a mass emailing and mailing to MPs, starting with those who have signed Kate Hoey’s motions.

We need the help of as many BAPA writers as we can muster.

Item in “News for Seniors”

Probably you have all received your copy of the recent Centrelink publication which carried an article on the British pensions.

While there are a few errors in the item on page 15 (including even our web site address), it has resulted in a few dozen contacts by ’phone, email or letter. These reveal how very confusing people find the UK pension system.

One caller was suspicious when he received a letter from DWP with a return address in Singapore! Others said that the offer to pay voluntary contributions said that they might get a pension increase, but there was no indication of how much more they would get. We need to tweak the noses of the DWP people. Please let me know of any other confusing statements in letters and forms from DWP.

Bank Fees and Exchange rates

A few months ago I raised queries regarding the rates of exchange people are getting on their pension. I now have the official word from the British Pension Service.
 
If your pension is being paid direct into your Australian bank account by direct credit every four weeks (or maybe less often), the paying agent is HBOS - Halifax Bank of
Scotland. HBOS takes a fee on each individual payment.

If the amount of your four-weekly payment is £125 or more, then the fee is capped at a flat £1. If the payment is less, then it is 0.8 of 1% of the amount. For example, on a pension of  £100 the fee is 80 pence.

HBOS then transmits the resulting funds to your Australian bank at the best possible bulk exchange rate at the time. One of our members says it comes through BankWest, but that seems to make no difference.
Contrary to what I had thought, the Australian banks seem to credit the payment without any additional fees, apart from normal account keeping fees.

James Nelson F.F.A.
Vice President of BAPA

EDM, Early Day Motion 1625
Raised in Parliament by Kate Hoey MP

Regarding the NPC Manifesto mentioned in our last Newsletter, the following EDM 1625 was raised in Parliament by  Kate Hoey MP.

"That this House welcomes the publication of the first ever Pensioners' Manifesto; believes that the views of the UK's 11 million pensioners are currently not adequately addressed; and furthermore calls upon the Government to endorse the key points of the manifesto, in particular the linking of the basic state pension to earnings"

The key points demanded by the NPC are:

1. £105 a week basic State pension to all men and women
2 The basic state pension to rise every year in line with average earnings

3. Free long term care

4  Free nationwide travel

5. Replacement of council tax with a fairer system based on the ability to pay

6. Abolition of age discrimination in the provision of goods and services

It is almost inevitable that the Manifesto would give emphasis to the plight of the resident UK pensioner but as the key points quoted above  were not an integral part of the EDM, hopefully the frozen pension will not be entirely ignored, but how much better it would have been if we were one of the key points! The number of MP's supporting the EDM before its expiration date was approximately 150.

The EDM has now been resurrected by Kate Hoey within the new session of Parliament as EDM 74 and to date has received 91 signatures.

Jack Stoner.

National Pensioners Convention Rally
Houses of Parliament –  8th Sept 2004

By 12.30 we were in Westminster Hall. I spoke to people about the "frozen pension issue" and was amazed that so many knew so much about it. I think this is an endorsement of all the work that has gone on in the past.  I met Robert Syms the Conservative MP for Poole. He had a good appreciation of the issues involved and he thought that the situation was getting weirder - his words not mine. He said he thought the issue continued to languish because the people affected were not voters. He said that the Conservatives have no policy on this matter and he would refer it to the Shadow Minister and make some representations.

I talked to one of the union people present - from Unison and he told me that they are getting complaints from migrants to the UK from Commonwealth countries who now, after retirement, wish to return.

I spoke to Joe Harris the NPC General Secretary about this issue and also to the President Rodney Bickerstaffe. Both thought that they should examine the paragraph in their manifesto and possibly expand it to include such people.  Brian Havard’s  good wishes were read out during the rally  and mention was made of my presence. 
Tony Walsh.

Our Fighting Fund
Currently our Fighting Fund is over $41,000

This sum, together with the bulk of any additional sums which we receive is reserved for initiating any necessary action after the Lords have brought down their ruling on the Carson Appeal. We do not exclude helping the Carson appeal if it has to go to Europe.  In terms of legal expenditure $41,000 is a very small sum.   Committee members do not charge expenses except for the substantial cost of printing and posting the news letter, and welcome letters to new members.  They do not travel at BAPA expense, and only see each other when on holiday or on some other travel at private expense.

BAPA does not and has never charged an annual fee for membership – we have always relied on the generosity of our members to contribute, each year, in accordance with their means.  We have now entered the new and important landmark year of 2005.  February/March we have the Carson Appeal.  March/April, hopefully, we will hear the decision of the Lords.  And, probably in May, we have the UK General Election.

During the past year we have done our utmost to inform and persuade influential Parliamentarians, Associations and Senior Bureaucrats concerning the discriminatory nature of Pension Freezing in selected countries.

2005 will be a year of great activity - progressing the Frozen Pension fight.  Please consider carefully what you can afford as your this year’s contribution to the Fighting Fund.

It is heartening to see how much is being donated to the tsunami appeal by governments, corporations and individuals. The committee decided not to contribute BAPA funds for the tsunami appeal. We believe that individual members will be responding in a heart-felt way. If this means that they have to cut down on their contributions to BAPA funds so that they can contribute to the relief effort, then that is probably the right thing to do at this tragic time.

 

1985 – 1995 – 2005
& Still Going Strong, thanks to YOU But now we need YOUR help

The Australian British Pensions Trust Fund, ABPTF, was founded by Roy Byrne in 1985.  It was decided to adopt the new title British Australian Pensioner Association, BAPA, in 1991 and our Association was incorporated in South Australia in 1995.  Throughout the past twenty years the BAPA engine room has been a small group of dedicated committee members.

Currently we have some 3,000 members – the most recent membership number issued being 3,155 – of whom close to 500 have their E-mail addresses registered with us.

If you have a computer, an E-mail address and are under 75 (preferably under 70) we invite you to offer your services to our Committee.  We do desperately need more help.  All our deliberations are carried out over the internet – there will be no need to travel – but we do need a wider base of people with whom to exchange ideas and develop themes.

If you have a special skill, or experience of value to a committee, that would be an added bonus.  Please don’t be shy, offer your help now.  Each of our current Committee members could do with an understudy to assist them.

E-mail Addresses

Nearly 500 BAPA members have already listed their e-mail addresses with us.  They get first look at each newsletter and we also send them other news items as things happen.  If you have an e-mail address and would like to be added to our list please send it to yeomanoz@yahoo.co.uk.

BAPA Executive Officers

President: Brian Havard behavard@bigpond.net.au
V. Pres:  James Nelson ann33_james@bigpond.com
Secretary:  Jack Stoner astoner@senet.com.au
 Treasurer:  D Waterhouse yeomanoz@yahoo.co.uk
WA:  DerrickPrance derrickprance@yahoo.co.uk

Consultative Committee

June Borsberry

Frank Yates        

Philip Currah

Peter Morris

Tony Walsh        

juniveebee@yahoo.co.uk

Frank_Yates@telus.net

Philip_Currah@telus.net

petermorriscpa@btopenworld.com tandpw@smartchat.net.au

Web Address:   www.britishpensions.org.au

Secretary:  Box 35, Christies Beach, SA, 5165

Treasurer:  PO Box 8, Mooloolaba, Queensland, 4557

 

Member of the World Alliance of British Expatriate Pensioners

Affiliated to PARITY and the National Pensioners Convention

Our Objective is
Parity not Charity

 

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