Protesters running a campaign to win all British expat state pensioners annual increases in line with the rise in the cost of living want the UK suspended from the Commonwealth until the government agrees with their demands.
Pensioners living in many countries are paid the state pension at a fix rate determined by the first payment made when they retired.
Some pensioners aged in their 90s are picking up just £17 a week, while pensioners of the same age in other countries are paid the full rate of £110 a week.
The full pension is only paid in countries in the European Economic Area (EEA), which covers the European Union and a few other nations like Iceland and Switzerland; or nations that have an agreement with the UK, like the USA.
Many Commonwealth countries that are favourite retirement destinations are outside the EEA and do not have a bilateral agreement – these include Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Hiding behind the law
Official figures suggest around 500,000 state pensioners do not receive index-linking to inflation-proof their pensions.
The International Consortium of British Pensioners is co-ordinating action to try and win these pensioners extra money.
However, they failed to overturn the government decision in the European Courts of Justice and have no other legal recourse to follow.
“The government is hiding behind the law and won’t change. We say the law is out of date and does not reflect changes in people’s mobility,” said a spokesman.
“They were originally drafted after the Second World War when anyone emigrating to retire was considered wealthy. We want the Commonwealth countries to back us on this by suspending Britain’s membership until the matter is sorted out.”
Not only that, the government failed to tell thousands of pensioners that their incomes were not inflation-proofed when they retired – they only found out when the payment did not increase, explained the spokesman.
“The state pension is payable to anyone that qualified wherever they are in the world, but is only increased overseas if the UK has a legal obligation or reciprocal agreement. This has always been so, and anyone considering retirement overseas should take this into account when budgetting their finances,” said a Department of Work and Pensions spokesman (DWP).
Countries paying the index-linked state pension are listed on the DWP web site
Information about the International Consortium of British Pensioners is available from the group’s website