BPiA is constantly in touch with breaking news and events in the UK about pension justice and our fight.  Since our campaign began there has been a growing interest in the issue from concerned politicians, jurists and of course the media.  Our network of members and volunteers both here and in the UK constantly monitor the UK media and maintain active contacts in the UK so that you, as a member, can be regularly kept up to date.  Check our news feed to see how we are going.

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End Frozen Pensions: Campaign Update 12th June 2020  

This campaign update covers the period from May 29th to June 12th .  

Parliamentary Activity This fortnight we held ‘virtual’ meetings with Sir Roger Gale MP, to discuss the future of the APPG on Frozen British Pensions, and Lord John Randall, held follow up conversations with Neil Gray MP and Amy Callaghan MP and secured support from Daisy Cooper MP, Kirsty Blackman MP, Neale Hanvey MP and Kirsten Oswald MP. We have also rescheduled our meeting with Bell Ribeiro Addy MP, which was cancelled as result of parliamentary problems. We also have a further meeting with Amy Callaghan MP and Neil Gray MP next week.  

We have also capitalised on the increase in the number of emails to MPs as a result of Broken Faith by collating the website data to calculate which MPs have received the most emails from constituents. We have now emailed these MPs to ask them for a meeting with the campaign.  

Sir Roger Gale MP, Chair of the APPG on Frozen British Pensions. This week we held a very productive meeting with Sir Roger Gale MP, where we talked him through our proposal for an APPG inquiry, beginning 22nd June and running for 6 weeks until August 2020. Sir Roger was very supportive of the plan and agreed to:  

  • Write to the respective Speakers of the representative Houses in Canada, Australia, NewZealandand South Africa to ask them to encourage members of parliament and informal/formal parliamentary groups to respond to the Inquiry.  
  • Write to Guy Opperman MP for an update on the status of the uprating of the pensions of UK pensioners living in EU countries to help us prepare to react to any developments.

We are now working with Sir Roger to get final approval on the APPG inquiry announcement and questions (with added questions for foreign administrations where ‘frozen’ pensioners are resident and civil society groups) and share news of the inquiry with the other APPG officers. It may be possible for the respective national organisations to ask supportive politicians from their nations to make submissions, which will be useful in the UK, but will also provide media collateral for you to use.  

Neil Gray MP, SNP Spokesman for Work and Pensions and Amy Callaghan MP, SNP Junior Pensions Spokeswoman. As previously mentioned, we have been working with Neil Gray MP to secure backing and support for a 10 Minute Rule Bill based on Broken Faith. We have held further discussions on this, and Amy Callaghan MP has provisionally agreed to be the lead sponsor (who will introduce the Bill.) At their request we have also discussed the proposed bill with a parliamentary bill expert who has provided useful advice on our plans. We are due to meet with Amy and Neil again on the 18th, after which we will look to secure cross party co-sponsors to ensure that the Government understand the widespread support for ending frozen pensions.  

Lord John Randall. We held a positive meeting with Lord Randall today (12th) and took him through the campaign’s future, which John has agreed to support wherever possible. We also discussed a range of other tactics and approaches which we will take forward including looking to table an amendment to any future bill on Voting Rights for Expats. (This was a manifesto commitment in the Conservative Manifesto which has not yet been published.) Lord Randall will also be tabling a number of parliamentary questions and we have agreed to remain in regular touch and work together as much as possible moving forwards.  

Media Update - Traditional Media We have scheduled a catch-up online meeting with Guardian journalist Rupert Jones in a couple of weeks to touch base on the campaign and discuss future articles, he is currently snowed under with COVID-19 related stories but hopes to cover the issue towards the end of June or early July.  

We provided information for and secured a quote in an Express Online article by Jess Sheldon on 3 rd June https://www.express.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/1290190/state-pension-uk-increaseamount-triple-lock-rise-frozen  

We also provided an opinion piece focusing on Broken Faith for KCW Global Magazine, which we will share when we receive a digital copy.  

Story ideas and case studies We worked with Anne Puckridge to help her submit a Subject Access Request to the Department for Work and Pensions for the information they hold relating to her pension and communication between her and the department before she emigrated to Canada. We hope this request will prove our case that Anne was not informed by DWP that her pension would be frozen before she left the UK.  

We are also working to expand our collection of case studies and produce an MP briefing on people with frozen pensions impacted by COVID-19.  

We are also working with David Coulthard (Patricia Coulthard’s son) to get more information about her military service before reaching out to media contacts.  

We also continue to approach media regarding John Hillman.  

Social Media We are continuing to post infographics on the End Frozen Pensions twitter account regularly with the write to your MP link, we will now commence posting these on the Facebook page as well. These are available for anybody to use and have been shared with the CABP. 

End Frozen Pensions: Campaign Update and Next Steps. 13th May 2020 

Campaign Update This campaign update covers the period from April 12th to May 13th. During the entirety of this period the UK was in lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the beginning of this period the UK Parliament was not sitting due to the Easter recess. It has since returned but is sitting ‘quasi- virtually’ with a very limited number of MPs in the House of Commons chamber and most MPs using video conferencing software to attend.  

Parliamentary Activity We have held several ‘virtual’ meetings with MPs from all major parties. The focus of these meetings was to brief MPs on Broken Faith, with the aim of it being used to raise frozen pensions in the weeks ahead.  

Neil Gray MP, SNP Spokesman for Work and Pensions NG reinforced that the SNP remain fully behind the campaign viewing it as ‘a moral outrage’. He agreed to:  

  • Be one of the lead signatories of an open letter to Therese Coffey MP and help to secure signatories from other SNP members 
  • Table an Early Day Motion in support of Broken Faith 
  • Ensure that SNP MPs table oral questions on Frozen Pensions (for each session) 
  • Secure an SNP sponsor to table a Private Members/10 Minute Rule Bill 
  • Become a listed supporter of the campaign 

We have held a follow up phone call with NG and all the above are underway.  

Neil Coyle MP, Labour, Member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee This was an introductory meeting following his election to the Work and Pensions Select Committee. Neil is fully supportive of the campaign and has agreed to:  

  • Raise Frozen Pensions during the Work and Pensions Select Committee session on 20th May (if possible) 
  • Sign both the Early Day Motion and open letter to Therese Coffey MP 
  • Take over as Vice Chair of the APPG on Frozen Pensions 
  • Table written and oral questions 
  • Become a listed supporter of the campaign 

Neil is particularly interested in the impact of COVID-19 on frozen pensioners. We are putting together a separate briefing for him.  

Shaun Bailey MP, Conservative, Member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee. Shaun is a newly elected MP and broadly supportive of the campaign. He agreed to:  

  • Table written questions 
  • Raise Frozen Pensions during the Work and Pensions Select Committee session on 20th May (if possible) 

He is also considering signing the open letter – newly elected MPs can often be more cautious!  

Andrew Gwynne, Labour MP for Denton and Reddish and Kenny MacAskill, SNP MP for East Lothian. We also held brief meetings with Andrew and Kenny who agreed to:  

  • Sign the open letter and Early Day Motion 
  • Become listed supporters of the campaign We expect to have several meetings in the coming weeks. We are waiting on dates from: 
  • Siobhan BaillieMP and Nigel Mills MP - Conservative Members of the Work and Pensions Select Committee, Bell Ribero Addy MP - Labour MP and Amy Callaghan MP - SNP MP - expected to table Private Members Bill  

Alongside this, we will also be following up with MPs to gain as many signatories as possible for the open letter.  

APPG Update We will be speaking to Sir Roger Gale MP this week to get his feedback on the proposed questions for the APPG inquiry following agreement from the ICBP board. The APPG officers will also be writing to Therese Coffey asking for her to take urgent action on frozen pensions considering COVID-19 and Broken Faith.  

Media Update Our focus during this time has been securing media coverage for Broken Faith, which included finalising the book itself. We then held discussions with the Daily Express about covering the launch and with the BBC, this led to:  

  • A well-received piece on BBC Radio 4’s Todayprogrammefeaturing interviews with Anne Puckridge and Inez Minc  
  • An article on the BBC website
  • Strong coverage in the Daily Express and a 2nd piece in the Daily Mirror
  • Liaising with, and briefing, MiriamMargolyesahead of her BBC interview  
  • Working with Sheila and Jim to arrange interviews with Inez and Anne.

Alongside this, we also secured quotes in a further Sunday Express article (12th April) and put together a series of case studies on the impacts of COVID-19 for the Daily Express. We will brief other papers on this aspect as it was not used owing to the then upcoming piece on Broken Faith.  

We have also held a follow up discussion with Rupert Jones (Guardian) who ran a piece on Robert Haley in March.  

Social Media Through the update to the Change.org petition (the one featuring Anne) from Gill, we are seeing high volumes of traffic to the ‘write to your MP function’ on the campaign website. To date, we have seen over 650 people email their local MP via our website. We have also designed a range of social media graphics which highlight some of the veterans from Broken Faith.  

Campaign Next Steps: June - December The activity outlined above reflects that despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic we have been able to build a significant amount of momentum behind the campaign through the publication of Broken Faith to coincide with VE day commemorations. It is our strong belief that we need to build on the current momentum in the media and in Parliament to further grow support for the campaign.  

Over the next 6 months we propose that the campaign be built around the following key themes: •Veterans - building on the launch of Broken Faith  

  • The impact of COVID-19
  • Brexit and UK pensioners living in the EU
  • Exposing weaknesses in the Government’s argument Veterans and Frozen Pensions.

The recent launch of Broken Faith has opened the campaign to new political and media audiences and has captured new support from a broad range of politicians. We have always argued that Broken Faith should continue to shape the campaign and act as the clearest example of the injustice of the policy. We propose that the campaign:  

  • Work with the SNP to table the ‘Overseas Veterans Pensions Bill’ to raise further awareness of the impact of Frozen Pensions
  • Continue to promote and secure coverage for selected veterans including David Barrett (scheduled to appear in the Guardian) and AnnePuckridgeand Gloria Jeffrey (interviewed by the Daily Mail)  
  • Work with supportive Parliamentarians to send an open letter to Therese Coffey MP
  • Broaden our engagement to target the ‘Office for Veterans’ in the Ministry ofDefence 
  • Work with supportive Parliamentarians to secure oral questions and debates
  • Re-engage with military charities and celebrities to build support
  • Leverage public support for veterans through social media to drive traffic to ‘Write to your MP’ section of the campaign website

The Impact of COVID-19. In all our recent political meetings, politicians have raised the impact of COVID-19 on frozen pensioners. We know from case studies from Antigua and Canada that the pandemic has had a damaging impact on frozen pensioners. This will continue to be of interest to political and media audiences in the months ahead. We propose that the campaign and the ICBP: 

  • Conduct a survey of members/frozen pensioners to ask about the impact of COVID-19 on their lives
  • Reach out for specific case studies which could be used in the media, similar to both AnnePuckridgeand Inez Minc with Broken Faith  
  • Repurpose existing evidence from Age UK and other UK based charities to make the case for UK pensioners overseas.

As a result of our recent activity, we have seen many emails sent to Conservative MPs from our campaign supporters and the responses to these have highlighted the Government’s refreshed arguments. These recent responses place an increased focus on frozen pensioners having been ‘informed’ prior to their emigration. This has always been a common part of their argument but is being pushed much more aggressively in the current climate. It is essential therefore that we rebut this argument and do not let this become an argument believed by newly elected Conservative MPs. We propose that the campaign:  

  • Works with AnnePuckridgeto put in a Data Access Request for all information regarding her pension and emigration to Canada to highlight that she was not aware (This will be a test case before expanding to a wider group of frozen pensioners)  
  • Work with supportive MPs to ask DWP to release examples of how pensioners are informed, including how many letters were sent in different years and how many UK pensioners moved abroad in those same years.
  • Table Freedom of Information requests on the issue.

Alongside this, one of the areas identified by Parliamentarians as a clear indication of the absurdity of the frozen pensions policy is the discrepancies between nations, best exemplified by the case study of Peggy Buchanan and the Canadian/US border. We propose that the campaign should place a real push on highlighting this and the ‘two classes of pensioners’ asking politicians and the media the question - Why is a UK pensioner living in Canada worth less than one living in America? This approach will translate well into the work that members will be doing in their individual nations and work can be coordinated with their respective agencies. This will also come into sharper focus when the UK approaches our scheduled departure from the EU at the end of the year, at which point it is expected that the Government will formally agree to uprate UK pensioners living in EU member states without a reciprocal agreement.  

If we are successful, this will directly take on and rebut two of the Government’s core arguments:  

  • Pensioners were aware of the policy before they left
  • It is only possible where reciprocal agreements have been made

This will then allow us to frame the argument as one of a personal political choice. It is not about reciprocal agreements, if the EU 27 all have agreements without one. It is false to claim all pensioners knew and therefore consented to the policy. It is not about ‘money’ when you uprate a pensioner in the USA but not Canada. It is a question solely of political will. Whilst we and the campaign have been arguing this for a long while, this approach will remove the central thrust of the Government’s arguments and make the path to victory for the campaign a little clearer. To do this we will need: 

  • Support from Parliamentarians in ‘frozen’ nations in signing a letter to the British PM asking why his Government treats their residents as 2nd class pensioners 
  • Support to identify pensioners in ‘unfrozen’ nations to use as a comparator
  • Significant pressure to be put on Governments in your respective nations and broadening out to nations such as South Africa We will then make sure that this is all shared with political and media audiences to add pressure on the Government to act. Brexit and UK pensioners living in the EU Although the Covid-19 pandemic is currently the main political issue of the day, the Government position is still that the timeline for a deal with the EU at the end of the year will stay. This will bring political attention back to the issue of EU pension rights, following the Government announcement in December 2019 that it ‘plans’ to uprate UK pensions for pensioners living in EU member states. This will provide the campaign with several opportunities to highlight the unfairness of frozen pensions (and specifically the geographical disparities) in the media and within Parliament and we will look to exploit these to the benefit of the campaign.

Other priorities. As we have done throughout the campaign, we will look to leverage as much political and media pressure as we can generate and believe that the above will provide ammunition for the campaign moving forwards. But it is essential that the campaign continues to focus on building wider support and knowledge of the issue through:  

  • Securing more MP meetings and new supporters - with a focus on newly elected Conservative MPs
  • Agreeing new petition with change.org featuring Inez Minc, RobertHaleyand Peggy Buchanan 
  • Launching an APPG inquiry into Frozen Pensions
  • Showcasing ‘Windrush’ case studies where possible

 
 

Jim Tilley scored an important interview with 'Startsat60', the popular website for Australian seniors. Click HERE to read it. It must have sparked a lot of interest, as we note a surge in new member applications since its publication.

On May 7th, Lord Randall addressed the House of Lords on what is commonly referred to as 'The Windrush Issue'.  This is what he said:

My Lords, this scheme is an attempt to compensate a generation of people who found themselves with a genuine and terrible injustice. It is a real stain on this country’s recent history, highlighted by that moving speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin. I draw to the attention of the Government another injustice that will not be addressed by this measure yet affects many of the Windrush generation and many others, too, throughout the world.

Monica Philip was one of the Windrush generation who accepted the invitation from the British Government to emigrate from the Caribbean to help fill the employment gap in the UK. She arrived in the UK shortly before her 21st birthday in 1959 and worked tirelessly in a variety of jobs, including as a courier for 15 years in the Ministry of Defence. Her mother’s illness and failing eyesight forced Monica to leave the UK and return to Antigua in 1996, two years before her due retirement age.

In 1998, Monica was advised that she was entitled to a UK state pension, payment of which commenced in October 1998 at a rate of £74.11 per week; but it has remained at that level ever since. It is extremely unfair that this hard-working lady, who is now of course elderly, accepted the UK Government’s call to work here and, after paying for 37 years the same contributions as everybody else and then accepting the responsibility of returning to Antigua to look after her ailing mother, was effectively cheated out of her rightful pension. Her younger sister, who also emigrated to the UK but remains here, received a full pension which, with annual increases, is roughly double that of her elder sister.

I should like to highlight another Antiguan, Harold Williams, who left the island in 1955 aged 20. He worked hard and was always employed; he did his National Service here in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers regiment. For 40 years, Harold contributed diligently to the national insurance scheme. When he returned to Antigua, he was at no time informed that his pension would be frozen on his return. These frozen pensioners never have an increase in the basic pension, and this iniquity exists for the majority of Commonwealth countries. Strangely, in the Caribbean only Barbados and Jamaica do not have frozen pensions.

In my years in the other place, I consistently heard Ministers of all Governments give their excuses for this state of affairs. It can be resolved without a huge cost to the Treasury. I know that the measure we are discussing cannot address this; indeed, the Minister is not from the relevant department. However, this is indeed another stain on our country’s much vaunted sense of fairness and equality. I urge the Government to think again and I will return to this until we right this wrong. I thank noble Lords for their indulgence in letting me raise this issue today.

As more people become aware of the injustice of the UK government's discriminatory selective freezing of pensions, there is still a surprising amount of confusion and misconception about possible outcomes. A recent letter from an Australian pensioner in the International Express is a good example. Jim Tilley had previously presented the latest figures from the UK's own Government Actuary to support the argument that there is plenty of money in the bank to cover uprating. This elicited a response from Jim Dale, in Queensland:

Cash Strapped

Another letter from Jim Tilley (Edition May 1) on the subject of “frozen pensions”.

In his letter he quotes a lot of numbers which, I have to admit, sail completely over my head. I would love to know where he got them from and wonder whether they are even accurate.

I have to admire his tenacity and dedication as he must realise that, should the British government ever decide to index link all overseas pensioners in line with those residing in the UK, the decision will only apply to those who qualify for a pension after some date in the future.

In other words it will not apply to existing pensioners such as himself (or me). So, I have to repeat that I admire him immensely for doing this on behalf of future generations of pensioners.

Jim Dale
Brisbane, Qld

Jim was quick to put things into perspective, writing:

In response to Jim Dale’s comment (edition May 16), the figures used in my letter from edition May 1 are authentic. They can be found in the UK Government Actuary’s report of January 2019.

Unlike Jim Dale, who wrote “the figures sail completely over my head”, I am a qualified Chartered Management Accountant and I can read and understand the actuary’s report.

The fact is, the National Insurance fund has a current balance of approximately £30billion, about £13billion above the Actuary’s prudential balance, which he claims is required to manage the National Insurance fund, and from which, just £600million/year is required to uprate fairly all the UK’s frozen pensions.

Moreover, this actual NI balance is forecast to soar in five years to £61.7billion, more than £40billion above the Actuary’s prudential balance. Consequently, in my view, to claim the UK is so cash strapped it cannot uprate 520,000 frozen pensioners’ pensions, is ludicrous UK Government dishonest propaganda.

Further contrary to Jim Dale’s stated opinion, uprating all UK pensions to parity, for which BPiA is campaigning, will apply to all, including existing, UK pensioners, not just those who will become entitled in the future.

BPiA hopes that this letter will persuade all UK pensioners who read the letter to apply for BPiA membership to help BPiA improve their own retirement income. Furthermore, whatever they may have partially deducted from their Australian Centrelink pension, they will still be better off.

Jim Tilley BA(Hons) ACMA. FCPA
Woronora Heights, NSW

The UK government hasn't a leg to stand on when it cries poor over pension uprating. Only sheer bloody-mindedness can explain the persistent refusal of successive governments to right this historical injustice.