Last night I attended the launch of an important new all-party Parliamentary Group. I don’t often mix well with politicians as most seem self-serving folk determined to boost their own ambitions, rather than serve those who voted for them.
But this occasion was different. It wasn’t one of those groups that MPs queue up to be part of in the hope of fancy foreign junkets, but a forum fighting for justice.
In this case justice is being fought for more than half a million pensioners who are not given an annual increase in their state pension.
Their crime? They retired to the wrong country. How can that be possible? Shouldn’t all pensioners who have paid in for years be granted the same pension when they retire? That’s my view, but some people even think those who move abroad should lose their ongoing pension rights.
I think that’s balderdash. And so does the Government, to be fair, as it treats the majority of overseas pensioners exactly the same as if they still lived here. But what’s not fair is that the pension rules have created a divide between those who get the annual increases and those that get none.
People who have retired to the EU or more than 20 other countries – including the United States and Mauritius – have their state pension increased each year. But anyone who has moved to countries such as Australia, Canada, South Africa and a 100 more places has their pension frozen at the rate it was paid when they leave the country.
The problem is believed to affect around 565,000 pensioners who have had their pension frozen at the rate it was when they left the UK. That’s just under half of our overseas retired community.
All they seek is parity with their, often, near neighbours. The setting up of a Parliamentary Group with cross-party support is a key step in achieving justice for them.
Tory MP Sir Roger Gale launched the group with support from Labour MP Dame Anne Begg. I trust more MPs will join the fight for pensioner parity.