Out of Africa to find no support at home: Former civil servant in Togoland receives brush-off from DSS

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The Independent Online
JAMES MOXON is a legend in his lifetime. He is the only white man ever to rule as an African chief. He worked in colonial and post-colonial Africa for many years. But the physical isolation he endured is nothing compared to the trauma he is suffering trying to obtain a state pension.

His experience shows how intransigent the Department of Social Security can be. Its lack of flexibility reveals an urgent need for a change in the law.

In 1941, Mr Moxon, from Ludlow, Shropshire, started work in the colonial service. He was appointed a district commissioner in Togoland, a region in west Africa. He lived and worked in an isolated area of the country.

In 1947, he was posted to Accra (where he subsequently became mayor) and he remained there for the rest of his career in the colonial service.

He worked in the countryside and was totally reliant on the central office staff for information about life outside. He says: 'My immediate superior officer was in the regional office, 50 miles away from where I was based.'

In 1948, the National Insurance Act set up the National Insurance scheme in Britain, which pays benefits and a retirement pension on the basis of contributions. Isolated in Africa, Mr Moxon was unaware of what the scheme was all about.

In 1957, he retired from the colonial service, received a small pension, and joined the civil service of newly independent Ghana still unaware that if he wanted a state pension in Britain he should be contributing. Ten years later, he retired from the Ghanaian civil service.

The first Mr Moxon knew anything was amiss was in 1981. A friend of his, who had also been in the colonial service, made inquiries about a retirement pension. When Mr Moxon realised he should have been paying, he asked the DSS if he could make back-payments. He says: 'I was told I had 'missed the bus'. The opportunity for people in my position to make back-payments of contributions expired two and a half years earlier on 6 April 1979.'

The DSS told Mr Moxon that it had been his responsibility to find out about the scheme. He had not paid, he had missed the deadline for back-payments, and there was no pension. End of matter.

Mr Moxon appealed to the Secretary of State for Social Security. The DSS accepted that none of the publicity at the time the scheme was launched had come to his attention, but it still rejected his request to pay out of time.

Elizabeth Cowell, a solicitor with Morgans in Ludlow, is acting for Mr Moxon. She says: 'The DSS policy seems to be about being as obstructive as possible. It is grossly unfair. Here is a chap who has served his country for very many years often in very difficult conditions. He is extremely meticulous - undoubtedly if he had known about the scheme he would have paid.

'There are surely others in the same position as Mr Moxon, all of whom are suffering through no fault of their own.'

The DSS would not comment on individual cases, but a spokesman did say that in 1948 there was wide publicity in Britain and abroad about the new scheme and information was made available to the Foreign and Colonial Office.

The DSS said of the rules governing back-payments (which allow just six years to make up missed payments): 'We just apply and administer the law.'

Mr Moxon was 65 in January 1987. He spends part of each year in Ghana and part in England. He should have been receiving a state pension for nine years. He has received nothing.

(Photograph omitted)