Stories

“BROKEN FAITH”

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A veteran of Churchill’s War Room
By Ava Hubble Weekly Telegraph – (Filed: 15/11/2004)

Early in 1941 Flight Sergeant Irene Clayton-Pearson, then 18, and a member of the Womens’ Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), began a pilot’s training course at White Waltham in the UK.

She was in the midst of training when a high level decision was made to discontinue the Second World War course for women. Subsequently, she was summoned to London to be considered for a new posting as an aircraft plotter in Winston Churchill’s Whitehall War Cabinet Room.

She was selected and immediately ordered to report for duty. She says the interview process included a meeting with Churchill himself.

These days Irene and her husband of over 50 years, retired career British Army officer Bob Clayton-Pearson, live in Sawtell, a township on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. They are active members of the local returned services league and the British Pensions in Australia organisation. Needless to say, Irene is often asked to talk about her own war service.

“I was a country girl from a Worcestershire farm,” she explains. “I found working underground in the War Room a nightmare, especially at first. The Battle of Britain period was the most testing, because we had to work in dense dust. It came in through the air-vents [during the intense bombing in central London].”

Irene also recalls the very long shifts. “You stayed on duty as long as there was work to be done,” she says. “There were metal bunks further below where you could go for a short sleep from time to time. We weren’t allowed to smoke. Churchill was the only one allowed to smoke. We always knew when he was about because we could smell his cigar. Food was in very short supply and heavily rationed. One was lucky to get the odd sandwich in the War Room.”

Fortunately, there was a Red Cross soup kitchen nearby. “It helped us survive,” she says. “But we weren’t often allowed to go up into the street. During the bombing no one was allowed above ground.” Notices were posted.

Yet the most harrowing days of her life came in the wake of an “All Clear”, when her WAAF watch was given leave to exit for rest and refreshments. They made their way to the “huge house in Nightingale Square” which the authorities had requisitioned for the WAAFS from the bandleader, Geraldo.

Irene remembers making her way to this mansion, along badly bomb-damaged pavements. “When we got to the house, three of us immediately dashed upstairs to see if there was water for showers,” she says. “The others headed for food in the basement.”

Those in the basement were killed when a bomb, which hit the house next door, also brought down Geraldo’s home. Irene was in the shower at the time. “I remained there for three days until I was rescued,” she says. “Then I found out that many of my friends had been killed.”

Irene is quick to scotch the idea that she was a teenage heroine who rushed to enlist at the outbreak of the war. In 1938, after completing her finals at Worcester College, having studied German, she joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD), mainly because participants were offered a pound a week.

“We learnt about first-aid and fire prevention,” Irene explains. “It was only when war broke out the next year that I discovered that by joining the VAD I had committed myself to war service. I was called up in 1939. By then I spoke pretty good German, and French. My mother was French.”

She immediately applied for pilot training. In the early months of the Second World War women pilots were considered useful for such assignments as ferrying newly-manufactured aircraft from factories to airfields.

Irene, however, was initially appointed (“as a vetted subject”) as secretary to the commander of the RAF’s Oxfordshire operations station in Bicester, Group Captain Bently. Her subsequent pilot training was aborted, just as she was about to begin the “solo flying” stage. She says the top brass cancelled the course after four female British women pilots, including the famous Amy Johnson Molllison, went missing en route home to Britain from the United States. “The women were blamed for the loss of badly-needed aircraft,” she explains.

In 1943 Irene was transferred to Bletchley Park to work on the Enigma machines and contribute to the intense, around-the-clock efforts to break the German naval code. “It was the most soul-destroying job,” she recalls. “You sat, hour after hour, puzzling away, trying to decipher the meaning of groups of letters and figures. For security reasons, you didn’t attempt to exchange a greeting, let alone compare notes, with whoever it was who happened to be sitting next to you.”

After the war Irene was appointed secretary to Stuart Granville-Smith, one of the British judges who conducted war-crimes trials in Germany following the Allied victory. “We started off in Munster,” she recalls. “It was totally devastated. There was not one building left standing. There was nowhere to live. Simply moving about, over rubble mostly, was a challenge.”

Eventually they were “moved on” to the undamaged township of Arnsberg in the Saarland, where they were billeted in the “magnificent home” of the industrialist, Rudolf Krupp. From there, they would travel daily to Essen and elsewhere for the court cases.

Irene met her husband-to-be, Bob Clayton-Pearson, in Germany. During the war he served in the Middle East, Italy and Germany. They were married in 1952 in Powick, Worcestershire. After their subsequent Army postings to Hong Kong, Malyaya, Uganda, Kenya, the Sudan, Somalia, and Oman, they both worked for several years administering United Nations food, health and education programmes.

Irene says they fell in love with Australia during their first visit, in 1960, when they stopped off for a look-see while “trooping home” after an Army posting in Malaya. They returned for holidays time and again. By the time of their retirement in the early 1990s, one of their son, one of three children, had settled in Australia with his wife.

Meantime, since their retirement, the octogenarian Irene and Bob Clayton-Pearson have found themselves battling on, amid the ranks of Britain’s increasingly impoverished frozen pensioners. “I can’t help feeling bitter sometimes,” admits Irene. “Bob and I contributed to the National Insurance Scheme for well over over 40 years [from the time of its post-war inception until their late retirement in 1992].”

Yet since they retired to Australia 11 years ago, their British pensions have been frozen at the 1993 rate of about around £56 a week.

This is because the UK Government does not index the pensions of all Britons who retire to certain countries – mainly Commonwealth and former Commonwealth nations.

The Clayton-Pearsons admit that they were aware of the ramifications of the frozen pensions policy when they came to live in Australia in 1993. But Irene points out that the Labour Party, then in opposition, was campaigning (like the UKIP today), on a platform that included introducing equal pension rights for all expats, irrespective of their retirement domicile.

The promises were not kept. In consequence the value of the un-indexed pensions of thousands of expatriates, including the Clayton-Pearsons, has continued to dwindle, year by year. “We now survive only because of Bob’s supplementary Army pension,” complains Irene. “It was awarded at 1972 rates, but it is indexed.”

British pensioner associations around the world are amassing details of ex-servicemen and women and other expatriate war veterans, including fire-fighters and associated Civil Defence workers, who have become impoverished because of the frozen pensions policy.

The case histories will be despatched to the Law Lords prior to the House of Lords appeal, early next year, of the South Africa-based British frozen pensioner, Mrs Annette Carson.

‘We shouldn’t still be fighting . . .’
By Ava Hubble (Filed: 10/08/2004) From the Weekly Telegraph

Arthur Holley was born 92 years ago in East Greenwich, London, and began his working life at Britain’s Oxo factory in 1928.

Arthur and Pat Holley in retirement near Melbourne

In 1939, when the Second World War was threatening, he was recruited to the London Fire Brigade and was stationed at the Southwark sub-branch, near London Bridge.

During the war, a wing of the station was hit by a flying bomb. Holley escaped injury because he was out on duty at the time, helping to cope with another emergency. His station was hit again when it was operating out of temporary headquarters in London’s Lilian Bayliss School. Once again, Holley was out fighting another fire.

“I was lucky,” he says. “We got back to find the place in shreds. We often wouldn’t get home for days.”

He particularly remembered the docklands fires. “I hope I never see anything like that again,” he said.

He was decorated for his life-saving rescue work at the Surrey Commercial Docks on Sept 7, 1940. He later received the Defence Medal, the London Fire Brigade Council Medal and the Queen’s Long Service Medal.

When he left the brigade in the mid-1960s, he began a 10-year-stint as a fire officer at the House of Commons. He says that if he had known then what he knows now, he would have taken every opportunity to waylay politicians about Britain’s frozen pensions policy.

Because of that policy Mr Holley’s pension has been frozen at £38.30 a week since 1985, when he and his wife, Pat, emigrated to Australia. Mrs Holley, 87, receives a partial frozen pension of about £20 a week. The current full British pension is £79.60 a week.

“We were cut off dead because we retired to Australia,” Mr Holley protested.

The frozen policy also affects expatriates who retire to 47 other Commonwealth and former Commonwealth countries. It does not, however, affect Britons who retire to most non-Commonwealth nations. They receive the same regular cost of living increases as UK-based pensioners.

Mr Holley is a member of the British Australian Pensioners Association (BAPA), which points out that while most parliamentarians now admit that the policy is discriminatory, Whitehall continues to argue that Britain can’t afford to change it. That idea is fiercely challenged by BAPA’s actuary, James Nelson, who argues that it was recently officially announced that the National Insurance Fund had a balance of about £45 billion.

The annual cost of granting parity to all of Briton’s half million frozen pensioners is estimated at a comparatively small £400 million. Those expatriates include former servicemen and women. “They’ve done their fighting. They shouldn’t have to fight for their pensions,” Mr Holley complained.

He and his wife married in June 1940. They had no plans to leave the UK when he retired in the 1970s. But then their son and two daughters moved to Australia.

“We went to see them in 1983,” Mr Holley reported. “That’s when we decided to emigrate, but we didn’t think it would take us two years.” They had trouble selling their house in Kent. “People kept pulling out at the last minute,” he explained. “It happened three or four times. We were worried that we would have to renew our documents.

“We thought we’d have to go through all the health and security checks again.” The couple now have a house in Balwyn, near Melbourne, where their son has settled.

They are hopeful that the South Africa-based frozen pensioner Annette Carson, 64, wins her House of Lords appeal early next year.

A decision in her favour could lead to the abolition of the frozen pensions policy and a more carefree life for expat retirees. Yet victory, even if it comes, will come too late for some, including many war veterans who campaigned for years against the policy. “There’s not many of us left,” Mr Holley said.

The Monday Essay
by Virginia Blackburn, Published in the UK Express

What an utterly shabby people we are when it comes to the treatment of our old-age pensioners. A few weeks ago I wrote about the disgraceful way the elderly are treated in Britain and, since then, courtesy of the e-mails that have come in as a response, have learnt that there are some pensioners who are treated worse still.

They are a large number of those who have chosen to live abroad. Despite paying tax and National Insurance throughout their working lives, nearly half a million British expatriates had their pensions frozen the year they emigrated, a situation that has never been tackled by the Government.

This is a betrayal of its moral obligations. These are people who contributed to the life and health of this country: now, in old age, we are abandoning them.

In essence, the situation is this. There are about 11 million British pensioners living in this country and abroad, and of those who choose to emigrate, about 390,000 live in countries where, like their counterparts here, they receive an increase in the British state pension every year.

A further 460,000, however, 98 per cent of whom live in the Commonwealth, do not. That is because there are some countries, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, which are “frozen” – in other words no increase in pension payment is ever made.

This is quite against the spirit of what was originally intended: in 1929, pension payments were extended to all those resident in “His Majesty’s Dominions.” These days, 48 out of the 53 Commonwealth countries have been frozen, and some bizarre anomalies thrown up.

Someone who lives on the French side of the Caribbean island of St Martin will receive an indexed pension, whereas their counterpart on the Dutch side will have their payments frozen.

‘A lady in Canada lost £40,000’

More ludicrous still is the fact that a British pensioner resident in France or Spain will receive an increase every year – but a British pensioner in between the two of them, in Andorra, will not.

The reason for this is a complex one, and is usually explained by the fact that frozen countries do not have reciprocal social services arrangements with Britain. But the fact remains that the Government of this country could change the law to extend payments to those living abroad any time it wanted to.

The will, however, is not there. Various MPs on both sides of the House, including the Tory Winston Churchill and Lord Morris of Manchester, the former Labour pensions minister, have raised the issue but a change in the law has never been made. And this has resulted in cases of real hardship.

The Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners, which is campaigning for a change in the law, cites the case of a woman who retired in 1974 at 60 and emigrated to Canada to be near her children: 25 years later, she had lost an estimated £40,000 through pension payments being frozen. Indeed, she would have received just £10 a week, amounting to a total over 25 years of £14,020, against the figure of approximately £53,812 she would have received had payments not been frozen. To deprive an old lady of that amount of money is criminal, in moral terms if not in the law.

This is a situation entirely lacking in natural justice and even common sense. James Nelson, a fellow of the Faculty of Actuaries, wrote a piece about the moral dimension of pension freezing for the British Australian Pensioner Association: he pointed out that if twins emigrated to Australia after retirement age, one 10 years after the other, then the second to arrive would have a 38 per cent higher pension than the first, and that despite the fact that the two had made identical tax and National Insurance contributions in the UK. But, of course, there is little political will to change the status quo, because the people affected, while British citizens, do not live in this country and are thus not here to protest.

One exception is Annette Carson, a 63 year-old Briton who paid taxes for 40 years until moving to South Africa on retirement, at which point she found her pension was frozen.

She went to court and, although being defeated twice to date, next year her case, namely that she should have an indexed pension, will come before the House of Lords.

If she wins, that will open the floodgates for claims to follow. But she should not have to go to the bother and expense of bringing her case to court: her situation is a clear one. She should be treated the same as someone in her position who never went abroad.

We have a moral obligation to look after these pensioners and it is a national disgrace that their plight is largely ignored. Nor would it cost a huge amount in real terms to amend the situation: while it is estimated that the total cost of backdating payments would be £3 billion, none of the pressure groups involved are asking for that.

‘No one is asking for backdated payment’

They are only asking for increased payments from this day forth, an amount that would take only £300 million, or less than three-quarters of one per cent of the total UK pensions budget. The UK Government has said that it can’t afford to treat all pensioners equally, but put that against the £7 billion this country loses every year through welfare fraud, and you see the relatively minor amount it would take to right the wrong.

There will be those who say that by leaving this country, those pensioners have forsaken the right to be looked after by the State. We cannot tell why many chose to do so: perhaps they wanted to be near their children. Perhaps, not realising the effect of a frozen pension, they thought they might enjoy a cheaper standard of living abroad.

But their motive for emigrating is irrelevant. The fact is that if someone pays their taxes for 40 years in the expectation that they will one day receive an indexed State pension, then that is exactly what they should get, wherever they choose to live.

As it is, the Government treats them even more badly than it does the pensioners resident in this country, for the simple reason that it can.

The rest of us had better hope that, by the time we reach old age, especially if we want to join our children abroad, the Department of Work and Pensions has had a change of heart.

“We are not allowed the pensioners’ heating allowance, even though we have to pay rates on our Arundel flat and arrange for it to be heated during the winter in case the pipes burst. We are not allowed the pensioners’ Christmas bonus.”

She recalled that her parents were ordered to refund theirs. “It was paid to them in the November before they left for Australia and demanded back a few weeks later, virtually on Christmas Eve, as soon as the DWP caught up with the paperwork and realised they had emigrated.”

If Heather finds herself widowed again, she says she could not manage alone in Australia. “I would have to return to the UK where I could claim free prescription medicines and other benefits,” she explains. “I hate the idea of having to apply for a supplementary Australian pension. It would not be fair to the Australians.”

Why, she wonders, does Britain persist with its frozen pensions policy. “It makes no financial sense,” she argues. “Imagine the drain on the health budget if we are all forced to go home for good.”

An insult to women
James Hopegood, Daily Mail, 23 February 2005
BARBARA WRIGHT has given her entire working life to the NHS. But despite paying into the NHS pension scheme for the past 34 years Dr Wright, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, has found that the widowers’ pension her husband would get if she dies will be based on her contributions only since 1988.

She and her husband Simon have fallen foul of pension rules that treat widows and widowers differently. Since 1988 all occupational pension schemes have had to provide widowers’ pensions based on benefits built up from that date. In contrast a widow’s pension is based on all of their husband’s time in their pension scheme.

So widowers get far smaller pensions than widows. This unjust, yet legal, situation means that the widower’s pension Simon Wright, an NHS dentist, will get if his wife dies will be based on just one-quarter of his wife’s expected pension. If the situation were reversed, the widow’s pension would be half of the expected pension.

Cardiologist Dr Wright, 55, from Somerset, has lung cancer which has recently spread to her hip and back. She is undergoing chemotherapy. She qualified in 1971 and worked full-time until 1983 when she started to work part-time after the birth of her first child.

Mother-of-two Dr Wright says: ‘I suspect that I made more contributions into the NHS pension scheme before 1988 than I did after that date, but those will be completely ignored. It is a glaring inequality. It may well be perfectly legal but it is incredibly unfair.’

This rule hits public sector workers the hardest. The National Association of Pension Funds says that many private sector pension schemes chose to treat widows and widowers equally no matter how long they have been in the scheme.

But this was not the case for many in the public sector. Over three quarters of all NHS staff are women, so they make up the bulk of the pension scheme’s 1.2m members. They are all potentially affected by this iniquitous rule. In the great majority of cases husbands die before their wives, so the cost of amending this rule would be modest.

Tim Sands, pension project manager at NHS Employers, says that women were given the one-off opportunity to buy pre-1988 widowers’ pension entitlement for their husbands when the rule originally came in, but very few took it up. He says: ‘We do recognise that this is an issue. But it is Government policy that retrospective changes won’t be paid for by pension schemes and we have to work within the framework of Government policy.’

The NHS pension scheme is being overhauled and Mr Sands says that changes are being introduced that are intended to address this issue. From 2008 existing employees will be able to transfer all their pensions over to the new NHS pension scheme.

Pension predicament
Caroline Zentner LETHBRIDGE HERALD Canada Sunday, 20 September 2009

Brenda Webster left England for Canada more than 32 years ago but to say she has a fondness for the Queen would be an understatement.

She’s written to the Queen to wish her happy birthday and convey her respect and admiration and has been thrice thrilled to see letters in her mailbox with Buckingham Palace as the return address.

But Webster is decidedly not thrilled with a pension policy of the British government. That’s why she plans to join the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners at their information meeting in Lethbridge Tuesday.

Webster and about 550,000 other British expatriates who contributed to a British state pension have had their pensions frozen at the same level ever since they received their first payment. However, not all Britains living abroad are in the same boat — about another 550,000 are receiving indexed pension payments. If Webster lived in the United States, Israel, the Philippines or another European Union country her pension would be indexed. It depends whether Britain has an agreement with the country in question.

“Because we live in Canada our pensions are frozen the date we get them or the date we leave the United Kingdom,” said Sheila Telford, director of the non-profit Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners. “As a result, with years, some very elderly people are on a pittance of a British pension compared to anyone in the same situation in, for example, the United States where their pensions are up-rated for inflation every year.”

Telford said frozen pensions are mainly a problem in Commonwealth countries such as Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and India, the very countries that Britains are most likely to retire to if they don’t stay in Britain. In Telford’s estimation, the main reason the pensions are frozen is because it would cost the British government about a billion dollars a year to unfreeze them.

“They’re saving a billion dollars by not paying us and they say they don’t have to pay us because there is no reciprocal agreement with Canada or Australia,” Telford said. “But they very interestingly omit to point out that Canada and Australia are bending over backwards to try to have such an agreement with them. But they will not sign one. They will not negotiate one. They’re not interested because it would cost them too much money they think.”

“It’s so unfair,” Webster said. “What really gets me is if you live in the United States you can get it. I have a friend who was a prisoner of war. He gave his life almost for his country. Is this the thanks he gets?”

Webster joined the British air force at age 17 and worked in the agriculture industry after she left the military at age 21. She contributed to the country’s pension plan all that time and even after she immigrated to Canada in 1977.

“I never had anybody help me financially. I feel like I’ve earned (a decent pension),” Webster said. “I would like to see fairness. What is fair to one should be fair to another.”

The Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners has tried to get the British government to unfreeze pensions through the courts. They lost their case in both the British courts and the European Court of Human Rights. Earlier this month they took the matter to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, a court roughly equivalent to the Supreme Court, Telford said.

“We felt we made a very strong case,” she said. “Now 17 judges have to look at the law, look at what’s right and judge. To me, the arguments we make are so telling but sometimes law and justice are not the same thing.”

Telford said many Canadian members of Parliament are aware of the situation and have been supportive of the alliance’s fight. As it stands, Canada pays many of these British expatriate seniors guaranteed income supports because their incomes are so low. The British government also saves in health-care costs.

“They’re saving way more than they would actually pay in pensions if they did the sums,” Telford said, adding Canada pays indexed Canada Pension Plan benefits to Canadians living in Britain.

YOUR stories from around the World

Joy’s story. From Queensland, Australia
250,000 British pensioners in Australia are currently waiting with bated breath for the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on the legality of freezing the pensions of all British pensioners from the date of their arrival in Australia, while paying fully uprated pensions to all in Europe and America. The derisory comment on behalf of the British Government that “nobody forced them to settle in Australia” does little to promote goodwill towards us.

In 1986, having just retired from a life of teaching, for the previous 20 years in a school for physically handicapped children, I learned that my youngest brother was terminally ill in Australia. He was an MLC Insurance Company Manager and had a wife and four school age children. My husband and I sold up in Beckenham, Kent, and emigrated in order to help the family.

We had both paid our full National Insurance dues and taxes but none of Her Majesty’s Government officials told us we were about to have our hard-earned pensions frozen as soon as we reached Australia. What impertinence. We live in hope of achieving parity from the UK, not, may I stress, back pay. Can BAPA, the British Australian Pensioner Association, ask for fairer than that. I think not.
Joy.

Margaret’s story. From Australia
As a young man, my brother moved to Australia in the 1960’s, followed in the 70’s by my parents who were in their late 50’s. They wanted to meet their daughter-in-law and grandchildren, but had no idea that their pensions would be frozen.

When my brother moved out to the sticks, Mum and Dad came back to England to be near me, but my father’s health deteriorated and my husband (who had retired 6 years earlier, and was on the full Age pension), decided we should go with them if they returned to the warmth of Australia.

We had both worked for the NHS, as had my mother, and Dad had been a St. John’s ambulance driver, before the County took over the job.

Despite a full contribution history and 6 years in the army—serving 3 terms in West Africa—my husband’s pension was promptly frozen, along with my part-pension. My parents received their £10 Christmas bonus in November, but returned to Australia in the last week of that month, and the £10 was deducted back from their December payments.

Over the next 20 years, both of my parents and my husband, suffered a great deal of ill-health, their care all paid for by the Australian people, thus saving the Uk a small fortune.

Mum and Dad had their pensions topped-up by Australia, and since the recent death of my husband, Len, I too get a small pension from them. This is hardly fair, when the UK had all our contributions for around 40 years.

Each year my husband and | have returned to UK to see our children, and during our time over here, our pensions were uplifted; I wonder how much the administration costs amount to for that?

I am now in my 70’s, and for as long as my mother is alive, I shall continue to spend most of the year in Australia, but sheer economics will eventually force me to return to Britain, and use the NHS, unless we get parity.

The other hidden cost, is Australia’s retaliation over the frozen pensions which make it virtually impossible for any of my children to join me over there. Dad and my husband are now sadly gone, and my brother is in poor health, so at times,I am run ragged helping him as well as my mother, with no help from the younger generations so far away.

If people paid for an insurance with one company, they wouldn’t expect to receive their payments from a completely unconnected company, but yet that is what the UK Government has done–taken all our contributions on an empty promise, and now expect the Australian Government to pick up the tab for a good part of our pensions.
Margaret.
Good luck with the battle for a “Fair Go”.

Alistair’s story. From Brazil.
As a Merchant Navy Chief Engineer, Lloyd’s Register of Shipping Senior Ship and Engineer Surveyor and Independent Marine Surveyor I paid 40 years of contributions. All the above earned foreign exchange for the UK.

If it were not for Lloyd’s Register Pension which has very minor cost of living increases and the fact that I served more than ten years abroad it is not liable to UK Income Tax my wife and I would be in a sorry state. The UK government spokesman on the BBC stated that the increase in UK pensions is based on UK inflation and that people in South Africa would gain from it. The devaluation on the Pound has reduced my pension in Brazil from nearly R$ 6.00 to R$ 2.80 per pound while we have over 5.00% inflation. We are not using the NHS .All our pensions go to pay BUPA and we are living on our savings. If all the 500,000 people returned to the UK how would the NHS cope. Plus it costs L. 20,00 each month to transfer our pension through the bank..
Alistair.

Jack’s story. From England
I am a Canadian citizen who has lived and worked most of his life in the UK. I have three daughters – two who live in Canada and one in the UK. Should one of my daughters in Canada ask me to join her, for whatever reason, I would be penalised by having my pension frozen. Obviously this would not apply to the one in the UK. I have written to the Prime Minister to ask what grudge his government holds against Canada, Australian, and New Zealand.

You will be aware that there has been a lot of discontent over the expenses paid to MPs in the UK. It also arose that they obtain substantial pensions when they leave the House of Commons. I have written to the Prime Minister asking if these pensions would be frozen if an ex-MP went to live in Canada, Australia or New Zealand. You may know the answer to this question. The reply I received from 10 Downing Street is that my letter has been sent to the Treasury. If the reply is of interest I will let you know.
Jack.

Paul’s Story from England
I wish to retire to Thailand in October of this year. I have paid 44 years into the state pension scheme [involuntary].
I wished to opt out of the scheme but had I done so I would NOT have been able to have my ‘EMPLOYERS CONTRIBUTION’ [???] paid into a private pension scheme.
My argument is that the EMPLOYERS CONTRIBUTION is my contribution also.

The clever government have created a smokescreen whereby the employee believes he has only paid for part of his/her pension.

Any employee would take this sum into account when employing me.

Any trade union requesting a pay rise for me would have this sum [employers contribution] as part of the employers loss and would adversely affect any pay settlement.
Paul.

Michael’s Story from Australia
Having all my sons & daughter living here plus 4 grandchildren, and residing in England we felt completely isolated, so we sold our lovely house and have been here for 6 m0nths, it is Paradise and health wise I feel so much better, I am on 20 tablets a day for many different problems.
The one big drawback is the state pension being so measly, we are finding it quite hard to manage the usual Household bills, also for the first two years I have to pay for my Prescriptions, which is well over $200 per month.

We do not want to return to the UK, we just are hoping the legislation goes through the European Courts and all Pensioners Overseas are paid a proper pension which they paid into for 40yrs, by the way I served in the Forces for 5yrs, Malaya & Ceylon, in the 50s.
Michael.

Rev Michael Porteous’s Story from Thailand
My story is pretty complicated: but this is just to say that if you live in Thailand, your pension is frozen. I have spent a lot of time arguing with them, to no avail. First it was my Australian pension rights (I have dual nationality. I’m Australian & worked there for about 14 years; and British & worked there until I was 64) which I wasn’t allowed to have UNLESS I lived in the UK. I didn’t live in the UK; I lived in Thailand & the British government has no ‘agreement’ with Thailand, whatever that might mean. Just playing with words- and people’s lives.
Rev Michael Porteous

Barbara’s Story from Australia
I retired to Australia in 1994, following 23 years at the University of London ending up as Senior Personnel Officer. I chose to retire to Australia as I had lived and worked there in the early and late 1960’s, leaving in 1971 to return to the UK for domestic reasons.

In 1994 I had not reached retirement age, being only 55, so I had no idea that my State pension would be frozen. I have to say it would not have prevented me from coming here, even if I had known. The main reason for fighting for equality as far as I am concerned is to do with principal, although I am also fighting for those pensioners who are less fortunate
than I.
Barbara

Dian’s Story from Britain
I moved to Australia in 1990 from Oxfordshire and applied for my British state retirement pension at age 60 in 1995. This pension was frozen for over thirteen years, at exactly £59.20 per week, until I returned to live in Oxfordshire in 2008, when it was unfrozen and raised to £86.44 a week. Because I am living in the UK it will now be indexed annually.

I moved to Australia to be with my husband, not from choice. I enjoyed the sunshine and all that Australia has to offer but had we moved to the South of France I would have had sunshine, a FULL pension and all that the South of France has to offer.

No amount of convoluted thinking can call this fair despite being told that “fairness is in our DNA”!
Dian.

June’s Story from CANADA:
This is the story of a pension fighter who sadly passed away in 2008. She wanted her story to be known, so we are publishing it for her.

My financial deprivation through this dirty business of the freezing of certain expat British pensions, is as yet not spectacular. I am a relatively new immigrant to Canada where my income is already considered low enough to entitle me to regular tax rebates, for which I’m profoundly grateful.

“You emigrated at YOUR age?” people say…. and thereby hangs an unpleasant little tale.

When I retired at 65 I had every intention of going to be near my only son….he had gone to Canada to work when he was 21, so I had seen him only occasionally for about 45 years. He was a wonderful correspondent (handwritten in those days!) but that made his absence even more marked, and his marriage and the birth of his children brought total frustration.

At about the time of my retiring I had been looking through SAGA magazine, planning a cheap rate trip over the water, when my eye caught a brief letter to the editor. Those few lines told me that if I moved to any Commonwealth country I would be deprived of the annual cost-of-living increase in my state retirement pension. I was dumbfounded. How could this be so?

I made frantic enquiries wherever I could and learned the dreadful detail – I realised that as the years passed I would find myself in significant financial straits. My plans ground to a halt; I recall those first years of the beginning of a life without a busy career and deprived of plans to be with my family, as a very painful period.

Frequent recalculations and research as to the situation for people who had taken the plunge, confirmed my original view that if I took a chance and went, my family might in time be caught up with the necessity to contribute to my needs. I couldn’t do it. They had their own difficulties.

So I continued that rather hollow life without family around me for another decade. Then, calculating that as I would probably would not live forever…the time had come when I might take a chance and embark upon the Big Adventure, risking the steady decline in my pension value.

‘Nine-Eleven’ happened during the course of the immigration process, with consequent complications, so two long years later the visa came through and I finally arrived in Canada in my late 70’s, excited and satisfied I had made it at last.

Life near family has been all that I had anticipated. But I have become even more conscious of what I have missed during those years. The grandchildren have already started living their own lives, sometimes away from this area, and the ‘bit in between’ is the part I’ve missed which can never be relived. My former excellent health also suffered from such a radical move made so belatedly.

No great tragedy here when set against the world’s suffering, but an unjustified individual deprivation brought about by government dishonesty. Living now so close to the United States border, where I might have lived all those comparatively empty years without pension penalty, has been a constant reminder to me of the lack of integrity of successive British governments who had bleated nauseatingly through the decades about their ‘beloved Commonwealth’

My fight continues for rescinding of the legislation that causes misery and financial anxiety to our old people, including those who survived World Wars at close quarters. Just over half a million of us find it hard to make the volume of noise necessary to strike unease into the heart of government: but we continue by persistent individual and group challenge, not through the law alone, to remind the UK executive of the shameful wrong they perpetuate.

One day soon they must be defeated.

June Borsberry
RIP June you are sadly missed

More of YOUR stories

Derrick’s story. From Khom Kaen, Thailand
I came to live in Thailand in 1994, little did I know that my pension would be frozen. In England I had my own business, paid all my taxes – hand on heart – never claimed a penny, and paid all my dues. I am now getting just over 50 pounds per week, things are very difficult. To me it is highly immoral and I would have thought illegal. I would like to see a member of the present government appear on HARD TALK, and give there reasoning,

Roger’s story. From Perth, Australia
I emigrated in 1983 to Perth and was clearly told at that time that my pension would be fixed. However I was NOT told that this only applied to certain countries and not others eg USA etc. I am offended in the extreme to be expected to swallow the various stories about why it cannot happen and cannot accept that “someone” thinks I will not see the unfairness in the current situation. As far as I’m concerned if one person gets indexation we all do and I would also accept that if one persons pension is frozen then that would be the fate of us all but I will not accept the nonsense currently being peddled and am also somewhat mystified at the ferocity that the British Gov’t has fought this case.

Michael’s story, from Brisbane, Australia
I am at a loss as to why 1 pension from the civil service is index linked, and my 2nd pension the age pension is frozen, when they both come from the UK. I have lived in Australia since 2006 and came here because my wife’s daughters both live in Australia. My employment has been with the MOD army department for 21 years, and without my civil service pension I would not be able to survive, as the dollar gets stronger.

Brians’s story. From Angaston, Australia
I was born in England, my father being a staff officer (with an MBE)at the War Office for many years. We lived at Sevenoaks, Kent and survived the bombing and rocket attacks of WW2. My aunt was in the WAAF and married an Australian airman at the end of the war. I was attracted to this country from boyhood. I worked in England and paid all tax and health payments from 1951 until 1970 when I finally migrated to Australia.

I am now 74 years of age and my UK pension has been frozen for many years and with the current exchange rate I do not received enough to live on, so I must keep working. What is retirement then? I am now a member of APiA and wonder if and when the UK Government will do the right thing by us – who do not live in “approved” countries – even though we are members of the Commonwealth ?

Ronald’s story. From Pretoria, South Africa
I had to emigrate to South Africa on the 10-02-82 as my wife and I were Made redundant at our respective employment at more or less the same time. An advert in my local paper offered a job as a Quality Manager in S.A. which I got as I was a Quality Engineer in the U.K.

We emigrated as I could not obtain employment anywhere in the UK. My frozen Pension was okay until 2007 but it is now shrinking at up to 8% a year as food and energy (Electricity has risen 25% this year and a further 25% in the next 2 years). I now grow my own vegetables to survive. My savings will last me this year only, I face my Senior years of increasing severe poverty at 2012

Roy’s story. From Johannesbourg, South Africa
I was born in 1915 and started working at the age of 14. in World War 2 I served in the 5th Battallion (The Buffs) and fought for England in Egypt and Italy. I was discharged on VE Day as a battle casualty. After the war I worked as a typewriter mechanic in London until 1952 when I left to work in South Africa. For the years that I worked in and fought for England I get the princely sum of 17 pounds a week since 1981 and have not had an increase since then. At the age of 94, which I am now, if it was not for the fact that my wife is Swiss and received a pension from there, I would not be able to survive.

Paul’s story. From Cape Town, South Africa
The difference between pensioners in the UK and those living in countries where pensions are frozen is that those living in Britain are a political constituency while those living elsewhere are not. Politicians can just ignore this anomaly as those who have had their pensions frozen have, generally, lost their right to vote in British elections. However, were we able to vote, our views would have to be recognised as they would clearly affect the decision for whom we voted. Why not link the debate about pension parity with a debate about reinstating the right, as a British citizen, to vote in a General Election? At least we would be able to influence the outcome which may well influence our decision to continue living abroad or not. This issue can best be described as a clash between between law and justice. I expect nothing different in today’s Britain. I guess we should consider ourselves fortunate that we don’t live there anymore. At least we’re free while resident Brits are now enslaved. I think this erosion of personal liberty and freedom has been surrendered over the last 20-30 years or so. Let’s hope that the loss of freedom in Britain also becomes a question to the politicians.

Lesley’s story. From South Africa (19/03/10)
I write on behalf of myself and my mother both British and living in South Africa. When my mother and I contributed to NI we were never informed that this rule of people living in certain countries would not have their pension index linked. I have read the judgement and cannot understand how they came to the conclusion that the pension is to ensure a standard of living in the UK.

Perhaps they should come and vist SA and see the cost of living. To say that it is cheaper here is absolute rubbish. Firstly salaries are much lower than the UK. However visitors from the UK Switzerland and Australia say we are more expensive for food and electricity etc. Most people in SA struggle to get by with inflation running rampant and if interest rates go up many will be in dire straits.

Please continue this fight for equality. Why should immigrants be afforded all the perks in the UK and not us. We pay for private medical care some £300 plus per month and yet cannot claim this back from the UK tax. There is something very wrong with the system and many pensioners are going to be forced back to the UK. If they want to discriminate then it should be applicable to all who live outside the UK.

Clive’s story. From Denpasar, Indonesia (16/03/10)
Like most pensioners, I paid full N.I. and income tax for over 40 years as a British citizen (never unemployed by the way until redundancy). I chose to live in Indonesia but my government pension was frozen. (yes I knew it would be). I still pay income tax on my pension! the world recession has hit here as well and cost of living has gone up. the exchange rate has dropped by nearly 20% in the last 6 months or so.

So yes we are just as impoverished here as in the UK. Billions of £s are paid by UK government in overseas aid etc. (which I aplaud.) Its about time justice was done and we pensioners were treated like human beings instead of “out of site (out of the country) out of mind.

Anthony’s story. From Mandurah, Western Australia
My wife and i have been getting our British Pension for about five years now. We should be getting what we paid for that is just like residents. That is regular cost of living increases.

Trouble is we have now been hit with a double whammy, being the awful exchange rates at present; we have lost about $100.00AUD a month just because of the silly finance markets.

This to a degree could be minimized if the British pension were paid via the Australian pension system. Rumour is that the banks get the pension payments about a week prior to paying us, and benefit by holding the payment for that time ?

Lynne’s story. From Cape Town, South Africa
I am about to retire aged 62. I will receive a full pension as I worked for it and paid in for the remaining few years. I was a member of a union when I worked in Publishing for Heinemann and Sage and when I worked for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations till 1992 when I came to South Africa. Cannot remember which unions sadly, but they would.

I am incensed about the frozen pension and see it as a clear case of discrimination.
Lynne

Christopher’s story. From New Zealand
I served for 23 years in the British Armed Forces in Malaya, Borneo, Tanganika etc as well as many times in Northern Ireland. Then for 13 years in the British Civil Service. Paid all National Insurance contributions and taxes – still paying tax in the UK on Military and Civil Service pensions. Came to New Zealand to reconnect with family. Penalised by a frozen pension for doing so.

My wife also worked all those years paying taxes and National Insurance contributions and is also now penalised by having her pension frozen. Surely we paid our dues during our working lives and helped pay the pensioners of the day are we not entitled to some consideration in our pensionable ages. Also now suffering the weakness of the pound on the exchange markets which does not help us at all.

Those who are living in Spain, Portugal etc anywhere in the EEC as well as other countries like the USA also get their annual fuel allowances and Christmas Bonus. It has also come to light in the past couple of years the number of foreign nationals going to Britain and claiming benefits like the child benefit and getting them when their children are not even in the UK. It now transpires these benefits are still being paid to the tune of 50 million pounds to the foreign nationals when they are no longer in the UK. This all adds to the feeling of injustice we feel about our worked for and paid for pensions.
Chris.

Paul’s story. From Thailand
I have no children and worked from age 15 [1959]until early retirement. I paid extra NIS to give me the full 44 years contributions. Most of my working life [38 years] was with an ’employer’ who supposedly also paid towards my pension fund..[???] Who ACTUALLY earned this ’employers payment’?

Should my trade union request a pay increase this ‘payment’ would be added to my employers loss of profits thus decreasing any settlement reached… Plus any employer seeking labour would add this cost to the cost of employing such ‘labour. In other words.. ALL contributions are paid by one person.. The employee.

Had I wished to opt out of the system I would not have been allowed to have this ’employers contribution’ added to any pension fund I was hoping to open. Plus, having no children, I was taxed to the hilt with very few benefits available to me should I become unemployed or homeless. I have paid for this state pension over and over and NO government should dictate to me as to how much of it is payable should I choose to reside anywhere.
Paul.

Eve’s story. From West Australia
I am writing this on behalf of my husband and self. We were both born in England and lived and worked there from the age of 14 to 44 years and never ever out of work
My husband served in the Royal Marines during the war mainly in the Far East whilst I was stationed in Devon in the land army. We paid our “stamps” and did our duty for our country. It is the money that we paid in for 30 years that is being refused us now.

We migrated to Australia in 1970 where we worked until retirement. I did not apply for a UK pension being under the impression that I had to wait until my husband retired. We were also not told that our pension would stay at the same rate whilst others who went to non commonwealth countries would be treated differently. Why is this so?

We are now 84 so we don’t expect to live long enough to hear the outcome in the European Court.
Eve.

Pat’s story. From Woollahra, Australia
I have just about given up hope of getting any increase in my pension.
I started working in 1937- worked in the Health Service until I was 63 year of age.

During WWII I was in the Army and served as a Nursing Sister in India and Burma with the 14th Army, there were many discomforts.
At no time when I came to retire did I hear of frozen pensions- either from the authorities, papers or radio and tv.

I only came to Australia because my son and daughter were living here and I had no relations living in the UK, so it has been a shock that after all those years paying out, any pension would be frozen.
Pat.

Dennis’ story. From Bunbury, Australia
I recently read an article in the International Express re the declining value of state pensions.

What about the demise of British Pensioners living in Australia & New Zealand.

From the time we leave the UK we get no increases in our pension and are therefore receiving a pension that is declining in value in real terms every year.

I find this incredible as we live in a country that is part of the Commonwealth with the Queen as Head of State and I would also add supported the UK in two world wars.

Had we taken the decision to reside in Germany a country we have fought two world wars against we would enjoy the UK increases because Germany is in the EU.

Where is the fairness and justice in this?

Australia is no different to any other country in the fact that it suffers the same inflationary pressures brought on by oil increases giving rise to increases in the cost of living, yet we are forced to live on a pension that is decreasing in value every year.

We have been discriminated against because we have chosen to live in a country which supports Britain and is a member of the Commonwealth.

If Britain is a democracy then let it not discriminate against it\’s Pensioners because they chose to live in one country and not another.

Fairness and Justice for all British Pensioners is not an unreasonable request is it?
Dennis.

Mollie’s story. From Morayfield, Australia
I am a double above knee amputee so am in a wheelchair, hand operated not electric but I do everything myself including getting up a fairly steep concrete ramp to the dining room.

The hostel takes 80% of our income for rent and keep so there is not much left.

There are bills to pay, telephone, chemist etc. My clothes are all hand me downs.

I am 92 and still cheerful in spite of a variety of things wrong with me but I never feel old.

I am not complaining just stating facts.
Mollie.

Prof. Eileen’s story. From Queensland, Australia
I am incensed that my aged pension is not index linked because it was contributory. I worked for 21 years in England before coming out to Australia and the contribution for my pension was deducted from my salary for all of that time.

It is not a charity by the UK Government, it is our entitlement for which we have paid.

I am particularly incensed that if I lived in Germany, whom my father had to fight in his Spitfires & Hurricanes in WWII, I would get my pension index linked, but because I live in a Commonwealth country which fought alongside Britain, it is not.
Eileen.

Douglas’ Wife’s story. From Kenmore, Australia
My husband is 84, he served in the fleet air arm during the war and is now legally blind with macular degeneration.

I am 83 and was in London all through the war serving at the War Office.

We now live in Australia thank god we have the Royal Society for the Blind here.
Mrs Douglas T.