Expat British pensioners lose pension payments increase case

by Ray Clancy on March 17, 2010

The European Court of Human Rights yesterday rejected an appeal by a group of expat UK pensioners calling for their payments to increase with inflation.

Currently inflation proofing only applies to UK pensioners who live in the European Economic Area or in 15 other countries. But a group of 13 pensioners living in countries including Australia and Canada were demanding that the UK Government change its pensions policy.

They claimed that the rules unfairly discriminate against them and nearly half a million other expat UK pensioners, in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in an appeal against an earlier decision during a eight year court battle.

They wanted the UK to stop freezing their state pensions at the level paid when they reach retirement and said that some expats are receiving as little as £6 a week but should be entitled to annual inflationary increases as they paid into the system during their working lives.

But the ECHR rejected the appeal by an 11 to 6 majority and said that the decision not to index-link pensions was not discriminatory as the pensioners had chosen to live in economies outside of the UK. ‘To accept the arguments would be to lead to judicial interference in the political decision as to the redeployment of public funds,’ the judgement said.  If they had won the decision would have cost the UK government at least £500 million a year.

Those who retired in the early 1970s receive around £6 a week, while those retiring in the 1980s get £30 a week. This compares to the current state minimum of £95.25 per week, paid to pensioners still living in the UK.

Those living in certain countries with reciprocal arrangements, such as the US or EU nations, receive the payment increases. However, those in around 150 countries without such arrangements including popular expat locations such as Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have been denied the extra money.

Lawyers for the UK government had argued that the priority had to be to target money at the poorest pensioners living at home. The Department for Work and Pensions welcomed the ruling. ‘The court has found in favour of the government. We do not therefore plan to make any changes to the current arrangements, which allow for the exportability and up rating of UK state pensions,’ a spokesman said.

‘We will, nonetheless, study the terms of the judgment carefully to ensure that we continue to comply with our obligations under the terms of the European Convention on Human Rights,’ he added.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

sara March 31, 2010 at 11:36 am

It was a VERY sad day for us expats living in Australia, Canada and South Africa and New Zealand because ours is definitely a case of discrimination against us by the Government. Among the 17 judges in the ECHR there was one British judge/lawyer and SOMEHOW he appears to have swayed the rest of the 16 judges to make such a bad mistake by this negative ECHR judgement. This is, for goodness’ sake a European Court for HUMAN RIGHTS. We are definitely being discriminated against. The few people representing our case were chosen to stand on behalf of ALL of us expats and we have wasted so much money in barrister/lawyer fees when we have so little. It appears that the Government now says that we do not pay British income tax. This is their version NOW. When we lived and worked and paid all our taxes, etc. in the UK, we did PAY all our taxes. We were not told then that they would chose to be freeze our pensions if we lived in the ex commonwealth countries. All others who do get their index linked pensions all over the world in countries such as USA, Israel, Phillippines, etc.etc. are also NOT paying UK tax either, nevertheless they do receive all their benefits without being penalised. So why has the Government chosen to punish US only when these others are not punished? If this is not discrimination – what is???? Please explain.


sara March 31, 2010 at 11:50 am

Another serious problem for us expats is that due to the very low value of Pound sterling for such a long time, we lose so much against the Australian $ and Canadian $ etc. So we are penalised TWICE . a). not receiving index linked pensions. and b). the little we DO receive has eroded so much that we lose almost half the value of our pensions because which are sent from Britain then converted into the $. So we have to now seriously consider returning to the UK. We cant see any pensioners living in the UK receiving any better allowances. This is just an excuse. Any why should the money we have worked so hard for, be given away to anyone? UK pensioners or immigrants or fraudsters cheating the system, or even MPs cheating on expenses? WHY????


Peter Morris April 22, 2010 at 7:48 am

Just a slight correction Sara – the case was not lost unanimously – it was 11 to 6 – so those 6 judges understood the discriminatory aspects of the case.

There is an ePetition that people can sign at:


We have around 7,000 signatures so far.

Please have a look and sign if you can.


linda Manser May 14, 2010 at 2:35 am

I could not get on through that link can you re send it please
Thank you


pete November 8, 2010 at 7:04 pm

england employs 'child slavery' tactics in not recognizing pension accountability for those unfortunate children who began work at (14) and, it was commonplace in 1950's to employ the kids as 'factory fodder'. Unfortunately having been so deprived of part of their childhood the bureaucrats to this day refuse to count those (2) years towards pension benefits.

The effect is that anybody working (applies all the more so to women) ) from age 14 to 24 and thus achieving the minimum (10) year pension qualification period is denied a pension. This is a terrible injustice for the 'slave labor' children of that era who are now of pensionable age will not get a nickel off the english government, having been 'used and abused' as child labor the double whammy becomes abject refusal of any/all pension rights. Just FYI


Mr. Adrian Rowe December 9, 2011 at 3:34 am

hi,i live in Nepal.suffer so many otheres no raises and i claimed nothing from the UK,so i am not A drain on the economy ,.The grey Army is All over the world but they forget that many of us give 50 years of work to country Mr. Adrian Rowe


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