CARSON APPEAL March 2003

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Also see High Court begins Appeal hearing - Expat Pensioner Fight begins

Frozen pensions ruling awaited
(Filed: 01/04/2003)  The Telegraph on line

Judgment was reserved last week in the High Court appeal on the frozen pensions of some British expatriates.

The three-day hearing followed a test case brought by Annette Carson, 62, an author who has lived in South Africa since 1989, which was rejected last May.

Mrs Carson's solicitor, Graham Chrystie, said there was cause for some optimism as "important concessions" had been made. He expected a ruling in about six weeks' time.

Like many pensioners who retire overseas, Mrs Carson feels that it is unfair and illogical that the basic state pension is raised for Britons living in some countries but not in others.

For example, someone retiring to America, would get the increase, but some one retiring to Canada would not. Pensions are frozen in many countries that are popular with British pensioners, such as Australia and South Africa.

Mrs Carson started to receive her basic state pension of 67.50 a week in 2000, but it has been frozen at that level since. If she lived in Britain, she would be receiving 75.50, after making full national insurance contributions between 1960 and 1983 when she worked as an advertising copywriter.

In the High Court last year, Richard Drabble QC, for Mrs Carson, who brought the case against the Department of Work and Pensions, spoke of "the burning sense of injustice" felt by the pensioners who are affected.

In his ruling, the judge cited one pensioner living in Australia who has received "the inconsiderable sum of 6.75 each week" since reaching his 65th birthday in 1972.

Mrs Carson, whose case was chosen as representative of the situation facing thousands of pensioners, was not in the High Court yesterday to see the start of her appeal as she cannot afford the air fare.

Her total pension is 103.62, including other benefits. She has had to move from Johannesburg to a small farming town in the Western Cape called Ladismith to save money.

Her solicitor, Graham Chrystie, said the "frozen pension" problem has left thousands of pensioners struggling to make ends meet. He said: "Most do not fit the stereotype of the rich, 'gin and tonic', expat brigade."

It is estimated that it would cost nearly 400 million each year for Mrs Carson and other "frozen" pensioners to receive the same increase that pensioners remaining in Britain get.

Next month, the basic state pension will rise to 77.45 for a single person. Yesterday Help the Aged said there had been "a betrayal of trust" because all the pensioners have paid their national insurance contributions on the basis that they would be entitled to a decent state pension.

Mervyn Kohler, head of public affairs at the charity, said: "There is no natural justice within the situation at all."

Expat pensioner fight begins
 

Andrew Verity
BBC News Personal Finance correspondent reports from the Court of Appeal

Annette Carson

 

 
 

 

 

 

Annette Carson is appealing for inflation linked pensions

The government is unfairly discriminating against 460,000 pensioners without even attempting to give a rational justification for it, the appeal court has been told.

More than half of the 760,000 UK pensioners living abroad have their pensions frozen at the moment they retire and are denied any inflation linked increase.

The oldest pensioners in some countries are stranded on a basic pension as little as 7 per week - less than a tenth of the current level - even though they may have paid National Insurance all their working lives.

But nearly 300,000 pensioners who have retired to other countries get their pension fully uprated with inflation, the court heard on Monday.

Costly justification

The court was hearing an appeal by Annette Carson, a British pensioner now living in South Africa.

Ms Carson says the government is discriminating against her by refusing to uprate her pension simply because where she chose to live.

She claims government policy is in breach of the Human Rights Act.

Under bi-lateral agreements with countries including US and EU members, the government has uprated pensions for British people who retire there.

Government discretion

But arrangement with other countries such as Canada South Africa and Australia were drawn up much earlier, in the 1950s, before inflation became such an important issue.

"The present anomalous position is a matter of historical accident, and the true justification for maintaining the current position is purely cost, which cannot justify unfair treatment," said Richard Drabble QC for Ms Carson.

In June the High Court rejected Ms Carson's case.

Mr Justice Burns said the Human Rights Act did not apply and pension upratings were "a matter for government discretion".

However, Ms Carson's lawyers point to other recent cases successfully brought under the human rights Act.

In one case former Gurkhas successfully claimed they were unfairly denied UK government compensation payments for the brutality they suffered at the hands of the Japanese during World War II.

High Court begins appeal hearing over frozen overseas pensions
By Becky Barrow
(Filed: 25/03/2003)

A High Court appeal began yesterday to decide the incomes of around 430,000 Britons whose pensions are frozen by the Government because they choose to live abroad.

The appeal follows a test case brought by Annette Carson, 62, an author who has lived in South Africa since 1989, and which was rejected last May.

While acknowledging "a strong and understandable sense of grievance", Mr Justice Stanley Burnton said the decision must be a political, not judicial, one.

Like many pensioners who retire overseas, Mrs Carson feels that it is unfair and illogical that the basic state pension is raised for Britons living in some countries but not in others.

For example, someone retiring to America, would get the increase, but someone retiring to Canada would not. Pensions are frozen in many countries that are popular with British pensioners, such as Australia and South Africa.

Mrs Carson started to receive her basic state pension of 67.50 a week in 2000, but it has been frozen at that level since. If she lived in Britain, she would be receiving 75.50, after making full national insurance contributions between 1960 and 1983 when she worked as an advertising copywriter.

In the High Court last year, Richard Drabble QC, for Mrs Carson, who brought the case against the Department of Work and Pensions, spoke of "the burning sense of injustice" felt by the pensioners who are affected.

In his ruling, the judge cited one pensioner living in Australia who has received "the inconsiderable sum of 6.75 each week" since reaching his 65th birthday in 1972.

Mrs Carson, whose case was chosen as representative of the situation facing thousands of pensioners, was not in the High Court yesterday to see the start of her appeal as she cannot afford the air fare.

Her total pension is 103.62, including other benefits. She has had to move from Johannesburg to a small farming town in the Western Cape called Ladismith to save money.

Her solicitor, Graham Chrystie, said the "frozen pension" problem has left thousands of pensioners struggling to make ends meet. He said: "Most do not fit the stereotype of the rich, 'gin and tonic', expat brigade."

It is estimated that it would cost nearly 400 million each year for Mrs Carson and other "frozen" pensioners to receive the same increase that pensioners remaining in Britain get.

Next month, the basic state pension will rise to 77.45 for a single person. Yesterday Help the Aged said there had been "a betrayal of trust" because all the pensioners have paid their national insurance contributions on the basis that they would be entitled to a decent state pension.

Mervyn Kohler, head of public affairs at the charity, said: "There is no natural justice within the situation at all."