Lib Dems Overseas takes action to end seventy years of injustice for 500,000 pensioners

Imagine you took out a retirement plan in your twenties with a private insurance company in order to qualify for an inflation-protected pension. You then discover in horror on retirement, after paying your contributions in full, that if you have moved overseas the pension provider refuses to uprate your pension each year unless you have moved to a ‘qualifying’ country.
Could that really happen?

Very unlikely in the private sector, but this is the reality for over half a million UK state pensioners, including some 100,000 war veterans. A recent survey showed that 50% of ‘frozen’ pensioners are receiving £65 a week or less, compared to the current basic pension of £134.25 a week.

What determines whether your pension will be uprated or not? It comes down to whether the country concerned has a ‘reciprocal agreement’ with the UK, an excuse which is illogical and unfair.
Qualifying countries include the USA, Europe (at the moment) and most British Overseas Territories. ‘Frozen’ countries include Australia, Canada, South Africa and most of Asia. To illustrate the absurdity of the policy, pensioners in the US Virgin Islands are uprated annually whilst those in the British Virgin Islands are ‘frozen’.

Successive British governments have rejected pleas to rectify the injustice on the grounds of cost or simply that ‘this is how it has always been’. Slavery would still be legal today if you use that argument.

But there are signs that campaigns seeking justice are gaining traction and the Lib Dems Overseas (LDO) are at the forefront. Here are some of the latest developments:

  • LDO held a fringe event at the last Autumn Conference to bring the issue to members’ attention.
  • Ed Davey wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions on the issue in April 2020.
  • An excerpt from LDO’s submission to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Frozen Pensions was quoted in its report, which recommended uprating be applied to all UK state pensioners, especially in light of Covid-19.
  • The Canadian government has called on the British government to negotiate a reciprocal agreement and end the freezing of British pensions.
  • An Australian frozen pensioners group has written to all Australian MPs urging them to get their government also to put pressure on the UK.
  • On 27th January, the LDO Executive held a video conference with Wendy Chamberlain, Lib Dems MP, who is coordinating her efforts with the LDO campaign.
  • On the same day the issue was raised at Prime Minister’s Question Time.
  • On 29th January Wendy Chamberlain wrote to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to follow up on the APPG recommendation.
  • Recent compelling articles on the issue have been published by the Guardian and Daily Telegraph.

LDO will continue to make ceaseless efforts to correct an anomaly and injustice that has been ignored by successive governments for over 70 years.

* Colin Bloodworth is a member of the Lib Dems Overseas Executive .

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Well done LDO for highlighting and campaigning on this issue.
    Simon Boyd

  • David Garlick 2nd Mar '21 - 10:35am

    Injustice should be fought and rectified at every opportunity. A useful addition to the carers policy as a building block to a significant set of vote winning policies. We do need more and on the main issues of the day.

  • Stewart EDGE 2nd Mar '21 - 12:10pm

    A UK pensioner will pay UK tax if resident on his total income – so if he has enough other income he will be making some contribution to the State (which after all is paying all state pensions out of current taxation from all sources rather than a fund set aside). I’d be interested in hearing how the taxation issue is allowed for in either ‘qualifying’ or ‘not qualifying’ countries. While sympathetic to people relying just on the state pension who have frozen pensions, I would not want to support a policy which allowed rich people in low tax regimes not to make a fair contribution.

  • Stewart
    Rich people have accountants. I have done tax work myself.
    The large majority of retired people overseas are not rich. Some went to join their families in NZ, Australia, South Africa, and Canada. Being resident overseas means being subject to the tax system of whatever country the person lives in.
    Why should someone living in the United States get the upgrades and not someone in Canada?

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