Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has taken up the fight of state pension unfairness towards British expats.
His party has few days to mount a campaign and win a vote in the House of Commons to extend uprating to all expat state pensions.
The race is against MPs leaving Westminster for the Easter recess which starts on March 30 and before April 9, when the Pension Increase (Modification) Regulations 2017 come into force.
Corbyn’s intervention is welcomed by expats but viewed as too little, too late.
The new regulations exclude state pensioners in at least 120 countries from receiving uprated payments – increase in the pension agreed by Parliament.
The current increase is 2.5% in line with the rise in wages in the year to September 2016.
Frozen pension payments
Only state pensioners in the European Economic Area or living in countries with a reciprocal benefits agreement Britain receive the uprating.
Thousands of pensioners in Commonwealth countries are excluded, such as expats in Australia, Canada, India and South Africa.
In these countries, the state pension payment is frozen at the amount first paid on retirement.
“This is a chance to make an historic change to our pension system and end the arbitrary discrimination against some British pensioners living overseas,” said Corbyn.
“It is contrary to natural justice for some pensioners living abroad to be left behind while others have their pensions increased in line with inflation.
“The next Labour government will treat all our pensioners equally, wherever they live, and ensure that overseas pensions are levelled up not down when Britain leaves the EU.”
John Markham, chairman of the International Consortium of British Pensioners, welcomed Labour’s support.
“Frozen pensions are the dirty secret of successive governments, who have been content to ignore pensioners they felt were out of sight out of mind, regardless of the implications,” he said.
“Many expat pensioners are just as reliant on their state pensions as those living in the UK.
“Freezing their pensions leaves recipients with dwindling incomes, deprives them of their prized independence and leaves many in dire poverty towards the end of their lives.
“I am glad this national embarrassment is finally getting the attention it deserves.”
The government says uprating frozen expat pensions would cost £500 million a year.