A page devoted to UK pensioners and the voting issue
(why the UK is so behind most other countries and takes away the right to vote after 15 years - and the campaign to extend the right to vote)
This interesting report on the world expatriate population identifies a British expat diaspora of 4.7 million. Given that for up to 15 years away a British citizen retains the right to register and vote from overseas, it is striking that on average only some 13,000 to 30,000 maximum have ever exercised this right.
Why not take this opportunity to register to vote in UK general elections by visiting the Electoral Commission website www.aboutmyvote.co.uk?
For those of you who find out that you can no longer vote, we'd appreciate your support by adding your vote here in our on-line poll to remove the 15-year-limit on our national voting rights.
Although Harry Shindler has recently lost the voting rights case he brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), he plans to appeal and, if necessary, take his case to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations.
Lord Lexden fighting our case in the House of Lords has also successfully pressed for an All-Party Inquiry on the issue of British expatriate voting rights.
Imagine being a law-abiding EU citizen, living in the EU, and having no right to vote for the government whose decisions will impact on your daily life.
Subject matter: To strengthen the rights listed in article 20§2 TFEU by granting EU citizens residing in another Member State the right to vote in all political elections in their country of residence, on the same conditions as the nationals of that State.
Main objectives: The goal of the initiative is to develop the political dimension of the European project by reinforcing citizens’ awareness that they share a common destiny. It would have the following effects: - To enhance the concept of European Citizenship; - To facilitate freedom of movement within the EU; In addition, it could contribute to remedying the loss of voting rights presently experienced by a significant number of EU citizens who are long-term residents of other Member States.
Imagine being a British citizen and a long-term resident of another EU Member State but without the right to vote in a UK referendum on continuing membership of the EU, or the right to vote nationally in your country of residence.
The above initiative at the European level, can only add weight to our campaign , to remove the current 15-year-limit on the UK national voting rights of British citizens resident abroad, and not just within the European Union but worldwide.
We would also appreciate you adding your vote here in our on-line poll in support of our campaign to remove this democratic deficit in our voting rights as British citizens.
right2vote4xpatbrits | May 4, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Tags: British expatriates, EU Referendum, European Union, national voting rights, politics | Categories: All EU Brits Need Voice, Copenhagen Voting Recommendations, Democratic Right to Vote, EU Let Me Vote, Europe, European Court of Human Rights, Voting Rights, Voting Rights:UK-Scots or EU-Brits | URL: http://wp.me/p1BdL1-fQ
This April 2013 Connexion article on "What do French expat MPs do?", has interesting answers from two of these
MPs to the question "Why is it important for expats to have their own MPs?"
Axelle Lemaire is the Socialist French MP for the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania:
"It would be very strange for them not to have any political representation in the 21st century. It’s a question of
democracy, and it brings an international view to political debate in France. It’s important that expats have
someone to help them if they get stuck in a problem with no solution. I’m not a diplomat, I don’t represent France,
I just defend my constituents in individual situations."
Philip Cordery is the Socialist MP for Benelux (Holland, Belgium and Luxemburg):
"In the past, expats have not been represented, but they deserve political representation just like everybody else.
They shouldn’t disappear from the democratic fabric. And expats are an increasing demographic, particularly in
Europe. It isn’t just a question of big firms sending people abroad, a whole new generation of expats is
growing up in the EU today."
Axelle Lemaire who includes the UK within her expat constituency, also explains:
"Sometimes people don’t realise that I’m not an Irish or a British MP. I can’t intervene in British government.
I can talk with British politicians, I can explain what’s happening to my constituents,
but I can’t intervene politically on their behalf."
In comparison, after more than 15 years abroad British citizens have no further democratic right
to vote in UK national elections, or any such expat MPs to take on the responsibility for their
representation. This needs to change when e.g. as MP Philip Cordery says "a whole new generation of expats is growing up in the EU today."
If you are one of this new generation of British expats and agree the need for the right to
make your voice heard, we would appreciate you adding your vote here in support in our on-line poll.
We are grateful for the supporting article below in the April, 2013 edition of The Connexion, English language newspaper in France.
Through interviews with French MPs representing French expatriates, the article compares and contrasts the differing interpretations of democracy in France and the UK with regard to their respective citizens living abroad.
The major difference is that however long abroad the French expatriate faces no loss of voting rights and has access to an MP responsible for a non-French-based constituency.
In contrast, the British expatriate is left with no representation after 15 years abroad, apart from recourse to ambassadorial or consular staff. However, these are there to help with problems in the country of residence and not with those concerning British legislation and its often unforeseen outcomes for British expatriates e.g. a referendum on continuing UK membership of the European Union (EU).
To compound the effects of this lack of representation, the Commonwealth & Foreign Office faced with budget restrictions has been closing its Consulates and running down staff levels at Embassies.
If you sense this lack of representation of your interests as a British expatriate, agree that policy created in the UK can have a direct impact on the lives of British citizens overseas or think that you should have the democratic right to have your say, why not add your vote here in support of our campaign to remove the 15-year-limit on your voting rights?
If you have lived outside the UK for less than 15 years, ensure that you still have the democratic right to have your say by registering to vote via the Electoral Commission's website www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.
There are 60,000 British expatriates, the majority retired and living in Cyprus, who have no British government protesting on their behalf as the government of Cyprus is forced by the troika of the EU, ECB and IMF, to heavily tax their local deposits of €100,000 and above as part of the country's bail-out terms.
Once this current eurozone financial crisis broke out, the British government immediately put the minds of British servicemen and civil servants at rest in Cyprus by confirming that their savings would be protected. In contrast the Russian government immediately protested on behalf of all its citizens with large deposits in local Cypriot banks. There is also some anecdotal evidence that such an important financial supporter of the Cypriot government might also have been tipped off in advance.
Following the 23rd January high profile speech by Prime Minister David Cameron on Europe, the British government might at least have used this Cypriot crisis as a concrete example to demonstrate the "lack of democratic accountability and consent (within the EU) that is - yes - felt particularly acutely in Britain" and one reason for the promised British referendum on continuing EU membership.
Isn't this a good reason to add your vote to this HMGovernment e-petition on parliamentary representation for British expatriates as well as adding your support here in our on-line poll to repeal the current 15-year-limit on our voting rights, particularly in the light of a referendum on EU membership?
right2vote4xpatbrits | March 27, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Tags: British expatriates, Democratic accountability, European Union, national voting rights, Political representation | Categories: All EU Brits Need Voice, Anomaly of Voteless Expat Brits in EU, Letter to Cabinet Office, Rights of Expat Brits in Cyprus?, Voting Rights:UK-Scots or EU-Brits | URL: http://wp.me/p1BdL1-fc
If there is a referendum on whether the UK should leave the EU, then surely the British living in Europe should be able to vote?
A Letter of Petition (see below) to the European Parliament has , therefore, been initiated by the British Community Committee (BCC) of France ( www.britishinfrance.com), the UK's eighth-largest expat community and the second- largest (after Spain) in a non-English speaking host country. The BCC has also provided the campaigning website www.votes-for-expat-brits.com which challenges the current 15-year-limit on our voting rights, as a public service to all British expats worldwide.
"As Chairman of the British Community Committee of France, a “not for profit” association registered in France under the French law of 1 July 1901, whose membership comprises the voluntary associations in France organised by and for the benefit of the British Community in France, I am instructed by a resolution passed unanimously at the Committee's quarterly meeting held on 29th January 2013, to petition the European Parliament as follows :
That all citizens of the European Union residing in the European Union but in a different Member State from that of their nationality, should have the right under European Union Law to vote in any referendum organized in the Member State of which they are nationals, concerning that Member State continuing or discontinuing its membership of the European Union or changing the terms of continuing membership, regardless of the period of residence of such citizens outside their Member State of origin, in view of the impact of the decision in question on their personal lives. "
The current 15-year-limit on the right to vote of British citizens resident abroad is the issue. If you agree that this is undemocratic for British citizens resident in the European Union (EU) in the case of a specific referendum on whether the UK should leave, we would appreciate you showing your support by adding your vote here in our on-line poll.
right2vote4xpatbrits | March 3, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Tags: British expatriates, EU Referendum, European Union, human rights, national voting rights, politics | Categories: All EU Brits Need Voice, Anomaly of Voteless Expat Brits in EU, Democratic Right to Vote, Europe, European Court of Human Rights, In Defence of the ECHR, Voting Rights, Voting Rights:UK-Scots or EU-Brits | URL: http://wp.me/p1BdL1-f4
From Brian Cave
The following Freedom of Information request has been sent to the Cabinet Office.
Dear Cabinet Office,
Many British Citizens will have resided in mainland Europe for more
than 15 years [they thereby have no franchise in UK elections) when
any referendum on the IN/OUT question is operational. They are
deeply concerned about the relationship between the UK and the EU.
What measures will be in place to enable Citizens residing outside
the UK for more than 15 years, but who reside within the EU/EEA, to
have a democratic voice in such a referendum?
Yours faithfully, Brian Cave
You can 'follow' the response, which MUST be given by law within 20 days, via this link.
Remember to get as many friends, and acquaintances as possible to add their email 'signatures' to the following petition. It now has towards 1,000.
The first threshold is 10,000. People in the UK can sign!
A few people we meet seem unsure about the Winter Fuel payment - so to confirm you might be eligible see below
A helpful lady in Newcastle told me - don't email us - we are inundated but if you fax we answer more quickly because our manager does not like to see fax paper all over the floor!
And on the phone they are just excellent.
Referenda planned on Scottish independence or becoming increasingly likely on UK membership of the European Union (EU), pose some interesting questions on the voting rights of British citizens living in Scotland, the United Kingdom (UK) or within the EU.
There is also the associated issue of the current 15-year-limit on the UK voting rights of British citizens living outside the UK. This latter issue could again be raised during the next day of the delayed committee stage in the House of Lords, for the Electoral Registration & Administration Bill, which is now currently planned for 14th January, 2013.
It appears that further progress with this Bill could depend on the government accepting, in the face of majority opposition in the Lords, to postpone proposed constituency boundary changes which would reduce the number of parliamentary seats from 650 to 600, until after the next general election in 2015.
This could then allow Lord Lexden, within the scope of the Electoral Registration & Administration Bill, to again attempt to introduce secondary legislation removing the current 15-year-limit on the voting rights of British citizens living abroad. The general understanding among the parties would then have to be that the necessary amendment to primary legislation would be deferred until after the next general election.
However, the continuing undemocratic nature of such restrictions on the normal voting rights of British citizens is also illustrated by:
- The referendum on Scottish independence for which it is proposed that only British citizens resident in Scotland could be allowed to vote and,
Scots who are again by definition British citizens, freely resident and working in the UK but not actually living in Scotland at the time of the referendum on independence, could well feel unfairly discriminated against if not allowed to vote on the future of their land of birth.
Similarly non-UK resident British citizens living outside the UK for more than 15 years but within the EU at the time of a referendum on EU membership, could feel similarly aggrieved at being deprived of their right to vote on their future.
Whether UK-resident Scots or EU-resident Brits, both examples demonstrate why the right to vote should be based on nationality and without time limit, leaving the democratic choice of whether to exercise that right up to the individual voter to decide, and not the political parties with their different agendas.
If you agree, we would also appreciate you showing your support for our campaign to remove the 15-year-limit on British citizens voting from overseas, by adding your vote here in our on-line poll.
According to this article below (The X factor: the economics of voting) in The Economist of November 10th 2012, economists wonder why individuals turn out to vote at all in countries where it is not compulsory. ( In Australia where it is compulsory, Australian nationals and e.g. resident dual-nationality British/Australian citizens face the prospect of being fined for not voting).
According to the economic argument, the benefits of voting must be weighed against the chances of influencing the result, when there is only a slight possibility that a single vote could decide an election anyway.
The “costs” of voting which offset the “benefits” include e.g. the time and effort required to register to vote, to get to a polling station & then select between candidates. Here the individual registration process for British citizens living overseas remains particularly burdensome and indeed questionable in an Internet age when we do so many things securely on-line. Taken together with the short election cycle time & the uncertainties of the postal service, which point to a proxy vote as almost the only option, it is not so surprising that for many British expatriates the “costs” of registering and voting far outweigh the “benefits”.
Yet if everyone thought like that it would still be worthwhile for a single committed citizen to vote even if everyone else didn’t. However, there are of course a lot of other such committed citizens who would also turn out for the same reason or as a civic duty and all acting in a sense to “preserve democracy”. It is the response to those more "nihilist" citizens who espouse the view that all politicians and/or parties are the same and not worth voting for anyway. It is also why British citizens living abroad should be “bothered” about voting in UK elections, despite the barriers to doing so.
The Electoral Commission has at least provided a more convenient guide to registering to vote on www.aboutmyvote.co.uk and we encourage you to use this.
The Economist article concludes that in mature democracies perhaps it’s simpler than all that, and that the costs of voting are so small that it’s easier to just go and vote, rather than thinking about whether it’s worth it or not. The problem with this is that for a lot of British citizens the costs of, or barriers to, actually registering and voting from overseas, are perceived to have been set purposely so high as to actively discourage them from doing so. There is then further discouragement from electoral law currently removing that right altogether after 15 years abroad.
Hence it is not so surprising that of the estimated base of some 5 – 6 million British citizens living abroad only some 30,000 are registered to vote, many having been excluded by the 15-year-rule. Others still able to register to vote seem either not interested, disengaged from the UK or consider it not worth the bureaucratic bother, having concluded that their vote is not that valued by the political establishment in general anyway, let alone having much influence on the final election outcome.
However, if you agree with the democratic principle that a British citizen should be able to vote as a national right , we would appreciate your support for our campaign to remove this 15-year-limit on our voting rights by adding your vote here.
It is instructive that neighbouring Ireland with its current economic difficulties is now recognizing the potential of its large diaspora and “there is strong backing for giving Irish citizens who live abroad the right to vote in presidential elections with 68 per cent saying Yes to 17 per cent saying no, the remainder having no opinion”.
New post on Votes for Expat Brits blog
Nine out of ten of the 149,000 British citizens who emigrated from the UK last year were of working age and up to 8000 were pensioners, all adding to the estimated 5 million or more living overseas.
Of particular concern to the government because of the longer term impact on the British economy and the availability of skills in the UK, should be the increased emigration of e.g. scientists, academics and pharmacists who tend to remain abroad for many years. The example is telling of British scientists emigrating to Boston to work in pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and who tend to stay in the USA for an average of 12 years. This is getting perilously close to that 15-year-limit on their UK voting rights when the government, and indeed all the political partiess, should instead be looking at every incentive to maintain contact and bring their skills back to the UK economy in the future.
The numbers of other professionals such as doctors, engineers and senior company executives who are leaving has also risen sharply in the past two decades, to the main benefit of countries such as Australia, America and Canada, with no serious efforts on behalf of the government to even encourage them to retain an interest through the voting system. However, the bureaucratic barriers from a pre-Internet age, to conveniently registering and then actually voting in time from overseas, are so discouraging that only around 30,000 British voters living abroad are registered as such. The Electoral Commission has at least provided an on-line access guide to this process on http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk.
Yet in the opposite direction and on the sensitive issue of “uncontrolled” immigration, the government is becoming much more selective about who is allowed to settle in the UK, without discouraging “the brightest and the best”. Studies suggest that immigrants from elsewhere in Europe are much less likely to stay than those from poorer parts of the world, who add to the Uk’s long-term population while the above middle-class brain drain continues.
The government is aware that “to continue competing in a global race, businesses must invest in the skills of UK workers, and retain our highly skilled workforce”. Yet the current law limiting voting rights to 15 years and the difficulties inherent in actually registering and voting during that time, give every indication that the Country is quite happy to dispense with the skills and experience of its expatriate citizens.
There is a lesson for all the political parties to be learned from the very low turnout of 15% in the recent Police & Crime Commissioner elections: citizens of all political persuasion need to be reached out to, more informed & then actively encouraged to exercise their democratic right to vote.
If you agree that the government could do more to encourage its expatriate citizens to vote, we would appreciate you adding your vote here in support of our campaign to remove the 15 year limit on our voting rights.
right2vote4xpatbrits | November 21, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Categories: +5 million British Expats Abroad, Benefits of Internet Voting, Brain Drain Voting Link, Diaspora is National Resource, Expat Voter Registration, Exporting for Britain, French Inspire 1 million Overseas Voters, Low Turnouts: both UK & US, MPs concerned by nat/Internat. issues, Need to Change Political Attitudes, Outdated Objections to Voters Overseas, Re-Connecting with British Voters, Voting Rights | URL: http://wp.me/p1BdL1-cJ
With only some 30,000 registered to vote out of an estimated 5 - 6 million British citizens living abroad, the question is whether this is due to apathy or neglect. Neglect encourages apathy and the British government does not go out its way to encourage its expatriate citizens to vote, indeed even denying them the right to vote after 15 years abroad.
If you are a British citizen living abroad and concerned about your civil duty with respect to the UK, the Electoral Commission’s website www.aboutmyvote.co.uk is for you . This states that:
Every British citizen who has been registered to vote in the UK within the last 15 years is eligible to vote in UK Parliamentary (general) elections, European Parliamentary elections and referendums in the UK.
However, here we have the reaction below from a British couple living in France and members of a local British club. Both she and her husband are registered to vote and diligently go through all the bureaucratic procedures required. I asked her if she could tell me what the feeling was in their British Club. Were they interested or apathetic (about voting in the UK), trying to get a feel for it, as it's quite a strong club, collects for charity, does good works, etc?
"It seems that we are unique in that we are the only ones who still care enough to register to vote every year. (Our friends) attitude is, that they have chosen to live here not in the UK, so it has no effect on them what happens there. It seems to make no difference, when we tell them, that their pension’s value, or ability to receive automatic increases can and might be affected by any change of law or Government. I honestly don’t know if it’s apathy, ignorance or head in the sand. I’m even more astounded, as they ALL have children and grandchildren…..”
Another British expatriate living in France also said to me once on the matter of voting in UK elections when I said that we are guests here:
" Guests? How do you make that out, we pay taxes, TVA everything that is asked of us, we contribute hugely to the local economy,......"
However, they still can't vote in France although France in contrast grants full voting rights to its own citizens living overseas and is rewarded by some 1 million registering to vote in the last presidential elections.
Show your support here for our campaign to remotivate the British citizen living abroad by removing the 15-year-limit on our voting rights.
right2vote4xpatbrits | October 31, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Categories: Electoral Commission, Neglect or Apathy | URL: http://wp.me/p1BdL1-cu
Harry Shindler - 91 years old - Veteran of the Anzio Beach-head World War II.
Researcher still today for the war graves of those killed in the conflicts in Italy.
Promoter of memorials for the fallen.
Fighter for Democracy.
He mounts a case for Democracy before the European Court of Justice.
Does he not shame some of us who could do more for the cause of Democracy - our own cause?
He writes to Lord Oakeshott in the following letter....... Let us support him.
1st October 2012
Dear Lord Oakeshott,
My attention has been drawn to a statement you are alleged to have made
regarding British Ex-Pats and their right to vote.
I am the person with a Case in favour of our right to vote before the
European Court of Human Rights.
You will know I am sure that we waged a War -
I was part of it, with many more, to defend our democracy in the UK
and help the return of Democracy in Europe.
We fought for Universal Suffrage, as set out in the UN Charter - and that
I can assure you that British Ex Pats do not spend their time
"sipping Sangria on the Costa del Crime" no more than Members of Parliament spend their time on the Terrace drinking ale. We look for an apology.
Yours sincerely Harry Shindler.
Harry has the spirit of Churchill!! The spirit that got us through that awful War which I myself remember so vividly.
Harry helped to win the WAR - Democracy has yet to be won.
Then let us support him.
Please urge the peers to support Lord Lexden on October 23rd. when he tables an amendment to the Electoral Registration Bill to give the vote for Life to all Britons Abroad.
Find a peer here....
Below are listed those who have been approached. Most are know to be in
support - but one hopes for others.....
BUT they need to be present - to speak and if necessary to vote in support
Lothian (Michael Ancram) Astor (William) (Viscount)
Boothroyd (Betty) **(Baroness) Bates (Michael)
Byford (Hazel) (Baroness) Exeter (Bishop of) - Michael Langrish
Fowler (Norman) Jones (Nigel) of Cheltenham
Lester (Anthony) Norton (Philip)
Patten (Chris) of Barnes Rennard (Christopher)Tyler (Paul)
Royall (Janet) (Baroness) Garel-Jones (Tristan)**
author Brian Cave (email@example.com)
**Baroness Betty Boothroyd's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org (not as in the parliamentary listing)
**Lord Garel-Jones address is email@example.com (not in the parliamentary listings).
More Labour peers in support would be helpful.
The Next Steps. - in the fight for Democracy
What chance is there that Lord Lexden’s amendment to grant permanent Representation to all Citizens Abroad will reach the Statute Book?
It isn’t high. Even if it passed the Lords it still has to get to and through the mine field of the Commons.
The ‘mind-set’ of quite a few politicians is opposed to us. Consider this recent sentiment by Lord Oakeshott at the Liberal Democrat conference.
‘I’ve been raising these questions about winter fuel payments going to people who don’t need them, whether they are sipping Sangria in the sun in Seville or people like me in their 60s with good jobs: why at least should these not be taxed?
The phrase ‘sipping Sangria in the sun in Seville’ exposes a biased attitude towards the pensioner in Spain. It is written of course for verbal effect, but it reinforces the image as paraded by the ‘Mail’ and the ‘Sun’ of well-off pensioners idling in Spain. It casts a slur on any pensioner who has the courage to move to Spain.
The thought easily transfers to all Citizens Abroad. -- 'well-off wasters', or the other label ‘left Britain, not wanted’.
THE FUTURE and the efforts of Lord Lexden. On October 23rd Lord Lexden will put forward his amendment to the Electoral Registration Bill to lift the 15 year limit on Representation for Citizens Abroad. Lord Lexden himself has already received much support from Citizens Abroad. Now we need to ensure support for him from other ‘peers’.
If the Citizen Abroad does not stand up for his rights then we only have ourselves to blame if this effort fails and the Citizen Abroad is left devoid of a Democratic Voice – anywhere.
We must see that Lord Lexden gets support in the Lords. Below is a list of ‘peers’ who may well give support.
Select a peer who appeals to you:. Note the list has only one Labour peer - though it is quite possible that many others may well be supportive. One can locate other peers via
You can copy the item below, then paste, please edit, and send, or write your own message. But please be succinct.
Dear Lord/Baroness/Bishop, I am a British Citizen living in ----------. On October 23rd Lord Lexden will table an amendment to the Electoral Registration Bill to lift the 15 year limit on Representation for Citizens Abroad. I write to urge you to support this amendment. Do not feel bound to reply. Thank you for your time.
Please help to garner support for Lord Lexden!
Author - Brian Cave firstname.lastname@example.org
Please find below letter from Anita Rieu - Sicart to Lord Oakeshott, Liberal Democrats.
It would be highly appreciated if you can circulate and pass this mail on to as many people as possible. Thank you.
Dear Lord Oakeshott,
VOTES FOR EXPATS
I cannot for the life of me, understand why Liberal Democrats - theoretically intelligent, but only theoretically principled politicians, mainly the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and apparently yourself - bearing in mind what can only be termed your most recent derogatory reference to “those sipping Sangria” (on the Costa del Crime?? perhaps) a generic depiction of expats - have such a hatred of expats, and wish to deny them the right to vote.
Neither I nor anyone else can understand Mr. Clegg’s opposition, which he has made plain on a number of occasions. Even more so as it seems to be a totally hypocritical and illogical stance, bearing in mind that his Spanish wife, retains a life long right to vote in Spain. Sauce for one but not the other.
And I am so glad to see that Lord Lexden has highlighted this totally illogical and hypocritical stance by saying in an interview with the CONNEXION newspaper:
“”He rejected a proposal by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg that expats instead should seek French nationality so as to vote in France. “I have pointed out, that if that is the case, you might have expected Mrs Clegg to take British nationality, but she has not and retains a lifetime right to vote in Spain.
“I am opposed to undermining people’s right of choice – compelling them to take out other nationalities if they think of themselves as British.”
I write a monthly magazine which circulates to hundreds of retired expats who have retired in this region, for in the main economic reasons.
Expats living down here, like myself, have come and settled here to try and extend their pensions and lives in retirement. Honest, hard working, they have paid into the UK systems, paid their tax, NHI all their working lives, and many are subject to double taxation, they have saved, brought up their children, looked after their parents, etc. They are retired civil servants, teachers, printers, you name it. I know them, they are my subscribers, I have been here for just over 20 years and have lost my vote. Some of them too are now coming up to their 15th year here and they will lose their vote.
The UK Parliament desperately needs to rebuild its image and restore faith in the parliamentary system, so incredibly tarnished by the scandals of the last few years . Surely you need these voters.
And there are a lot of expat voters out here, Grey Power pensioner voters. As Neil O’Brien, Director of POLICY EXCHANGE recently pointed out, Older people are more likely to vote, and for a long time. By the 2010 general election … 76 per cent of those over 65 voted, as against only 44 per cent of those aged 18-24. And do you realise exactly how many pensioners have retired outside the UK in the last few years?
Brian Cave of http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.fr/ in the Lot, states:
There are (February 2012 figures) a grand total of 12,707,640 State Pensioners – of these 1,197,690 live abroad – that is to say 9.42% of the total – nearly one in ten. Thousands of these expat pensioners still retain their right to vote, despite the ridiculous 15 year rule being imposed on British expat citizens, by the previous administration.
These voters, turn out to vote despite all the difficulties put in their way. Unlike voters at home. Wasn’t the voter turnout in the UK last election one of the Lowest ever?
Presumably your lack of knowledge concerning expats is not surprising, given your party’s apparent total lack of grasp of voter demographics vis Guido Fawkes´ blog, www.order-order.com. As various politicians are pointing out, Expats are very well informed they follow UK politics, are linked and network via skype, internet, blogs, you name it, and take huge interest in what they consider to be their "home."
In the recent debates on the Electoral Reform Bill, a great many MP’s and Lords have spoken up in support of Expats right to vote. Acknowledgement is made of the great contribution to exports, reputation, and the furtherance of the idea of democracy, as acted out by UK citizens. Many acknowledged the ties Expats felt for their home country, that now with modern communications, internet, skype, etc. they followed UK affairs and politics and were as well informed as, or perhaps better, than their UK equivalent. As they said, we celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Royal Wedding, the Olympics, with as much fervour as those in the UK, we are tied by enormous links to our country of birth. The majority of expats are very much concerned for the future of their country, for their children, for their grandchildren.
But you, in your uninformed ignorance, choose to parody them as sangria swilling layabouts, unjustifiably claiming UK benefits. Presumably a grandstand stance you took to please the red top Tabloid press. Your slur will reverberate (possibly going viral) round the expat world totally to your detriment. Don’t expect votes from us, and a great many of the approximately estimated several million expats worldwide who still retain their vote.
Yes, if dynosaurs like you, with your totally uninformed and unbalanced opinions, represent us in the House of Lords, together with the likes of the even more neanderthal Lord Lipsey, who has so proudly recently proclaimed his utter lack of flexibility, in that he has not ever changed his mind in over 30 years, this in his recently published Autobiography, then yes the House of Lords nees to be reformed, but that you or your party should orchestrate it in any way, would be disaster.
Liberal Democrats are much like weather vanes, flicking round in any direction they think will keep or give them power, and the public realise this. Joe Public is not stupid. And they vote. Especially the pensioners.
Think about it.
VAR VILLAGE VOICE
Monthly Subscription Print & Internet magazine about the Var
1142 Route des Miquelets,
Tel. 04 94 04 49 60
The historically, hard-won right to vote in a democratic British society was not willingly conceded by the political
class at the time, but equally can still be rather easily lost again through political calculation or
neglect e.g. as in the case of
the 15-year-limit on voting rights for British citizens overseas.
This suffragette-defaced penny (Object n° 95) is a powerful symbol of the lengths women had to go to, to change
the law and secure the right to vote, including becoming systematic law-breakers and going far beyond civil
disobedience. The image of King Edward VII has been defaced in what was then a criminal act by stamping
"Votes for Women" over the king's head.
By the 1880s some 60% of the male population had the right to vote but no women. Not until 1918, with a
powerful final impetus for their campaign from their successful support work in more traditionally male
occupations during the First World War, were British women over the age of 30 given the right to vote.
In 1928 the Equal Franchise Act extended the vote to all women over the age of 21, on the same terms as men.
Following such an historic struggle to secure their voting rights, shouldn't you make sure that you are still qualified to vote or not via the Electoral Commission's website www.aboutmy vote.co.uk ?
You can also show your support for our campaign to remove the 15-year-limit on our voting
rights by adding your own vote here.
Reference: "A History of the World in 100 Objects" pp 620 - 625: Neill MacGregor, Director of the British Museum.
Suffragette defaced penny (Object n° 95)
right2vote4xpatbrits | September 21, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Categories:
+5 million British Expats Abroad, Anomaly of Voteless Expat Brits in EU, Democracy in Terminal Decline,
Electoral Commission, Electoral Reform & Overseas Voter Reg., European Court of Human Rights,
Hard-Won Right to Vote, Harry Shindler's Human Right to Vote, Lord Lexden Continues Challenge,
Low Turnout - Not No Vote, Outdated Objections to Voters Overseas, Voting Rights, Younger Generation Voters | URL: http://wp.me/p1BdL1-bn
The Winter Fuel allowance
How to claim
Whilst I know that quite a few of us, who under the new ruling from the European Court of Justice, are now
eligible for the WFP have already put in a claim, however for those who haven´t you can download a newly
issued claim form by visiting - a bit small but just click on link below
However let us all be rest assured that IDS will do everything that he can to try and stop these additional
payments including bringing in a temperature test although I do not know how he will do and implement
I can confirm that where I live here in the Gers in SW France temperatures over the last winter
reached -20°C and have spoken to friends in Southern Spain who also experienced severe cold
This I know effected many elderly people who couldn´t afford to buy logs or keep their electric heaters
on for too long.
Many of us paid in our full 40 years (now reduced to 30 years) NI contributions, therefore we are now
entitled to what we paid in for. Please also remember that forms must be submitted by 31.03.13.
Lord Lipsey in his BBC Radio 4 debate with Brian Cave came across as absolutely rigid in his opposition
to UK voting rights for British Citizens resident overseas. This doesn’t seem so surprising now when reading
the review of his autobiography in The Economist July 21st 201 In the Corridors of Power -
An Autobiography. By David Lipsey.
This suggests a certain inflexibiliity and resistance to change a reason for him disarmingly admitting
in his autobiography that his own work on voting reform “must rank the greatest failure among a number
of failures in my political life”.
Although Lord Lipsey has been at or near the political coalface since the early 1970s, he says that his
ideas have remained broadly constant while the political landscape has changed dramatically”…….
“without having changed my mind much on much”, over three decades or more.
It could be added that the global economy in which the UK operates today and the corresponding
environment in which government policy is made has also changed dramatically over the last three or
more decades as well.
This particularly applies to the case of the British citizen overseas, with modern communications and the
internet blurring the traditional definition of an expatriate, the latter well able to remain informed on and concerned by developments in his or her country of birth, even after more than 15 years abroad.
Over the past three decades to again quote The Economist’s review… ”political parties have become less
ideological. Politics these days is about what works”. In the same way the British citizen resident overseas
cannot be categorized as of predominantly any particular political persuasion and is no more “cut off
(from the new professional political class) than the people who send its members to Westminster”.
If you agree, we would appreciate you
adding your vote here in support of the removal of the 15-year-limit on our national voting rights.
right2vote4xpatbrits | September 4, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Categories:
+5 million British Expats Abroad, Anomaly of Voteless Expat Brits in EU, EasyExpat Overview,
Electoral Commission, Lack of Government respect, Lord Lexden Continues Challenge,
Lord Lexden-Overseas Voter Discrimination, Low Turnout - Not No Vote,
MPs concerned by nat/Internat. issues, Need to Change Political Attitudes,
Outdated Objections to Voters Overseas, Re-Connecting with British Voters, Voting Rights | URL:
This is the third time that we have circulated the above and it has always proved popular. The last statistics were
circulated on 06.04.12 and we had 1,798 supporters from 52 countries.
To join contact;- email@example.com
We now have 2,084 supporters from 55 countries: Significent percentage changes have been:-
International Pension Centre for UK
The International Pension Centre deals with all enquiries regarding the payment of State Pension, bereavement
benefits, incapacity benefits and other benefits for those living abroad.
It also deals with enquiries from those living in the UK who have lived or worked in other countries
- apply the European Community (EC) rules on social security
- have a Reciprocal Social Security Agreement with the UK
You need to contact the International Pension Centre if there is any change in your personal details,
like a new address or bank account. These changes must be made by telephone or in writing,
see contact details below.
You must not send changes to your personal details by email. You may still email the International Pension Centre
if your query is not about changing your personal details.
Electronic copies of forms or documents, including scanned documents, are not accepted. Please send either the
originals or certified copies of any relevant documents by post to the address below.
Personal documentswill be returned to you as soon as possible.
|| +44 191 218 7777
||+44 191 218 7021 (WoW has been told this is faster than email - mainly because the managers don't like seeing the paper on the floor!)
(for those with speech or hearing difficulties)
| +44 191 218 7280
||International Pension Centre
Newcastle Upon Tyne
||Monday to Friday 8.00 am to 8.00 pm
If you are visiting IPC and you are using a navigation system for directions please use the postcode NE12 9FA.
|Pension Tracing Service
|| +44 191 215 4491
|Overseas Healthcare Team (Newcastle)
|| +44 191 218 1999
|Non-pensions related benefits
|Bereavement Benefit/Widows Benefit
|| +44 191 218 7608
|Employment and Support Allowance
|| +44 191 218 7117
|Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
|| +44 191 218 7650
|| +44 191 218 7644
|Pro Rata Incapacity Benefit
|| +44 191 218 7051
|| +44 191 218 7652
The telephones can be busy at the start of the week, so it is often easier to speak to us toward the end of the week.
The previous objections below to British voters overseas quoted in the
House of Commons Library Standard Note:SN/PC/5923 "Overseas Voters",
seem now rather outdated in an Internet age, when British citizens around the world
were able to take pride in British achievements at the 2012 London Olympics, and are
not impressed by a suggestion by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Clegg,
that they should change nationality
if they want to continue to vote after 15 years away from the UK.
Why not demonstrate your pride in being British and the undemocratic nature of the 15-year-limit
by adding your vote in support here.
The past objections to overseas voters’ rights described in House of Commons Library,
Standard Note: SN/PC/5923 “Overseas Voters” are answered below:
- · Objection 1: It is unreasonable for people who have been away for so long to retain the
- right to vote because:
- · Answer 1
- · Objection 2
- · Answer 2
- · Objection 3
- · Answer 3
- · Objection 4
- · Answer 4
Vote your support on http://www.votes-for-expat-brits.com/Sign-up-Poll.php
right2vote4xpatbrits | August 10, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Categories: Benefits of Internet Voting, Democracy in Terminal Decline, Electoral Commission, Electoral Reform & Overseas Voter Reg., IER for Overseas Voters., Improving Overseas Reg/voting Rates, Lord Lexden Continues Challenge, Lord Lexden-Overseas Voter Discrimination, Neglected overseas voters, Outdated Objections to Voters Overseas, Overseas Voter Turnout:UKvsUS, Voting Rights | URL: http://wp.me/p1BdL1-aB
The mail below has been sent to all members of the Parliamentary select committee concerned with Pensions Policy. I was stimulated by the publication last week of the latest information on the migration of Pensioners (for February 2012 - they are published every three months)
Best wishes to everyone - Brian
To all members of the Select Committee for Pension Policy.
Each one is addressed personally.
From the Campaign for Representation for British Pensioners.
I write to you each individually. Each of you is motivated in the cause of justice for the individual. What civilised person would not be? Yet today justice for the British Citizen living beyond the shores of Britain is a fragile thing. You are concerned for those who are pensioners, yet as far as I can perceive, your concerns in this barely stretch beyond the shores of Britain. Yet 450,000 State pensioners live in the near continent of Europe and over another 500,000 live further away, with agglomerations chiefly in lands associated as the British Commonwealth and the USA.
There are (February 2012 figures) a grand total of 12,707,640 State Pensioners – of these 1,197,690 live abroad – that is to say 9.42% of the total – nearly one in ten.
There are some astonishing details lodged in the statistics.
During the last year:-
The total number increased by 134,530 - an increase of 1.070%
The number resident in the UK increased by 118,560 -up 1.041%
The number resident abroad rose by 15,970 up 1.351%
PROPORTIONATELY the numbers abroad are increasing faster than those in the UK. The rise has slackened since 2009, no doubt because of the financial crisis and the rumoured difficulties of the Euro, but it has not stopped!
The number relating to those abroad, you will understand is not solely due to an additional clutch of pensioners. The number includes the replacements of those who have died and those who have returned to the UK to end their days amongst their family at ‘home’.
The movement of pensioners since 1973 to Europe is shown in the following set of graphs.
Figures gleaned from the series of Government Statistics on pensions–
[To view earlier years change the 12 to 11,10,09 etc]
The percentage moving abroad has increased year by year without relent from 8.22% in 2002 to 9.42% today.
Why should these figures be important to the members of the Select Committee on Pensions Policy?
1. Are these not British Citizens to be honoured and respected for the service they have given to the United Kingdom?
2. Is it appropriate for the Select Committee to appear to ignore nearly 10% of the elderly citizens of Britain? You may be surprised to learn that the British pensioner abroad feels ignored and rejected by the British Government but she and he most surely does.
The counter arguments.
Some in Parliament (I speak of the 600 not just the committee) would argue that if the pensioner moves abroad then he or she has moved out of the ambit of the sphere of the British Government and therefore is on his ‘tod’ and HMG has no interest. That has been, has it not, the attitude behind the saga of the Winter Fuel Payment? Has not that also been the feeling behind the resistance to paying the DLA or Attendance Allowance? Some of you in Parliament have assumed that the migrant pensioner must be better heeled than those at ‘home’. Some of you have considered that the migrant pensioner is bathing in warm sunshine all the year round. (Yet winter temperatures in much of Europe are colder than Cornwall and certainly more cold than the Western Isles of Scotland where average minimum temperatures in winter are above zero). We are reported as scroungers and parasites in some press items.
Perhaps as a committee you might consider the reasons why so many migrate.
Reasons for emigration
Quality of Life. Many want space and cannot afford that space in the UK. The cost of a tiny terraced house in London could win you a delightful detached house with a large garden in France.
Quite a few follow their children who have previously taken advantage of the ‘free’ movement in the EU. Others follow their children to Canada or Australia. Many have gone to Ireland, again for reasons of space. Others with a zest for life seek new horizons.
Pensioners in Europe (and the World)
All those who migrate to continental Europe assume that having paid into the National Insurance System for perhaps 40 years and also assuming that ‘freely untrammelled movement’ under EU regulations means what it says, have joyously taken up a new life in their old age, carrying the culture of Britain with them. Just as do the British expatriates all over the world. They rejoice in the British successes at the Olympics. They cheer for Wiggo as he cycles through the French countryside. They hold tea parties to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee and watch with fascination the wedding of Kate and Will.
Can you imagine people more British and proud? These are people who know at first hand the ravages of European wars (as I can relate from personal experience! Note Biography link at the end). These are people who see themselves as global or European Citizens. Financial, Family and plain cultural ties glue them to Britain. Great numbers are affected by financial decisions of Parliament. But supremely they are British and are ambassadors for Britain.
There is also a younger generation of Britons who are in the world spreading British influence and giving it all they have in entrepreneurial effort.
Britain’s insulting soggy cloth
Do all these Britons deserve the soggy cloth that is thrown at them by the British Government?
The Government and the Government before, and before that again, has told the expatriate pensioner that after 15 years abroad, his/her interest in Britain has surely waned. A spokesman for Nick Clegg has said:-
“Nick appreciates that there are some British expatriates who have lived abroad for over 15 years and who want to vote in British elections. However, as you may know, Nick supports the existing legislation on this issue, including the removal of the right to vote after 15 years of living abroad. If a Briton has settled in another country, it is intuitive that they would know about and be directly affected by the issues of that country. If they want to become politically active, then they should register to vote in the country they have settled in.” ‘In short – get stuffed!’
there is no word in the Thesaurus which expresses the disdain and open mouthed astonishment that this paragraph engenders in the pensioner within the EU. It is unbelievable that such sentiments can be uttered by a politician who has served in Brussels, has a Spanish wife and speaks Dutch like a native. Somehow the concept of Europe as a comity of nations with threads of the citizens of its nations weaving links across the continent, each binding the whole but tied to their home National Government at the selvedge is lost on him.
The cloth of nations that is Europe would be weakened if the thread that is Britain were to be pulled loose. It could fall apart if certain sentiments are allowed to run on untrammelled through the body politic of Britain.
The words of Clegg, Farrage, and the ranting of the Sun and the Mail are damaging the future role of Britain in Europe. The thread of Britain in Europe needs reinforcement, not to be broken.
The heart of Europe.
Being at close proximity to the British Isles, it is not surprising that the crisis is most acute for the pensioners who live there in the EU/EEA and Switzerland.
We pensioners live in close association and awareness with the United Kingdom. We are so fascinated with the political scene that we watch each Wednesday PMQs, and at other times Dateline London, Question Time and listen to Any Questions each Friday. Most of us have no representation at all in Parliament. There is no-one sitting on those green benches who has any real appreciation as to what it is like being a Briton in Europe, subject to regulations derived from the EU with treaties signed by the UK acting in our name but without any representation from us.
If a Referendum on the future of Britain in Europe should ever come to be, the vast majority of Britons who would be most profoundly affected by the outcome will have no say whatsoever in the deliberation. This is not democracy.
As things are – The Briton in Europe can do no more than sit back and let a distant Parliament decide their future. It is not surprising that our minds hearken back 240 years to the time of George III and the American Colonies when the British Government dictated to those in a distant land. Today it is same syndrome. A blundering Government dictates what its distant unrepresented citizens shall do.
Subjects which should be of concern to the Select Committee on Pensions Policy.
All the above has as it central theme the issue of Representation.
Firstly then--- . Representation for the Briton Abroad at Westminster.
Remember - A Nation does not exist without its citizens.
It is the totality of the Citizens which is the Nation – whether they be resident in a small patch of territory or not.
The Government of a Nation should be through the goodwill of its citizens.
To study this in further detail refer to www.votes-for-expat-brits.com
Large numbers of Britons Abroad have left comments viewable at.
But then there are other matters - All are explored in the next link.
You will also find a biography of the author here and at the end of this article.
1. The taxation of Government Pensions - and associated with this the curious muddles of The Double Taxation Treaties. These are a great mix-up and their impact is quite unfairly imposed on the pensioner in Europe. Their impact is ridiculous. Some pensioners who live in France pay more tax in consequence than should be the case.
2. The problem of use of the British financial institutions. And the maintenance of a bank account in the UK, for British Pensioners.
3. The interpretation of EU Law on Health and Social Security Costs for the British Pensioner. The British Pensioner in Europe is under EU law dependent on the United Kingdom for their Social Security. The phrase is ‘the UK is the competent State for their social security- therefore you, the Select Committee, should ensure that all operates satisfactorily for the pensioner in Europe. The current interpretation of these laws runs counter to his/her interests.
2. The uniformity of payment of pensions to all pensioners in the World.
Those who have moved to the Commonwealth countries of Australia and Canada and SA and elsewhere are grieved that their State pensions are frozen. Yet is it not astonishing that British pensions paid to those in Jamaica (equally a Commonwealth country) or the USA, are not frozen?
These items demonstrate to you that yawning disparities exist in concerns for the elderly citizen abroad in different and perplexing ways.
But the central focus is that we are neither permanently nor adequately represented in the seat of our Nation’s Government.
On October 23rd a debate will open in the Lords on the very point of Representation of the Briton Abroad. If an amendment fails on this then shame will cloud once more the seat of Parliament as it did in 1776.
Please support now in the Lords, and in any future debate in the Commons, the rights of all pensioners (and thereby all Britons Abroad) to appropriate Representation for life in the Houses of Parliament.
Short Biography of the author
To. Select Committee
Dame Anne Begg MP (Chair) Labour Aberdeen South
Ms Debbie Abrahams MP Labour Oldham East and Saddleworth
Mrs Harriett Baldwin MP Conservative West Worcestershire
Mr. Andrew Bingham MP Conservative High Peak
Ms. Karen Bradley MP Conservative Staffordshire Moorlands
Ms. Sheila Gilmore MP Labour Edinburgh East
Mr. Oliver Heald MP Conservative North East Hertfordshire
Ms. Glenda Jackson MP Labour Hampstead and Kilburn
Mr. Brandon Lewis Conservative Great Yarmouth
Mr. Stephen Lloyd MP Liberal Democrat Eastbourne
Ms. Teresa Pearce MP Labour Erith and Thamesmead
The Saga of the Winter Fuel Payment
The letter below was sent from the DWP to one of the correspondents of 'pensioners debout!'.
The very elderly couple who received this letter left Britain on retirement to France before 1998. They have not received the WFP because it did not exist at the time when they moved. The DWP have up to now claimed that under EU law only those who received it before leaving the UK should receive it! The letter shows that the DWP is now thinking differently.
I know that this payment will help this couple immensely.
This accomplishment results from the endeavours of David Burrage co-founder of the Spanish Expatriates Association. http://www.ukgovabusesexpats.co.uk/
If you would have received the WFP if you were living in the UK, then apply - all contact details are on the letter head.
ALSO - if you know (as I do) of retired brits who do not possess a computer and who also do not receive the WFP then talk to them and tell them. There are quite a few who desperately need this cash and have no idea that they are losing out.
FURTHER - 'Representation' The kind of progress above does not come without effort (we used to say 'with the milk'). It depends on people standing up for what is morally just!
Forces powered by journals like The Sun, The Mail and certain narrow thinking politicians act against our interest. Without treaties signed between the UK and the EU none of us could live freely in other European countries. The expatriate needs a dialogue with the home Government. Gradually 'petit à petit' the UK has to take a full role in Europe.
It is for this reason that expatriates MUST have full Representation to the British Government.
There are only a handful of people who are extremely active in any of these causes. They need the support of the many Britons abroad.
There comes a time when all must stand against the antipathetic forces and stand for justice. So that Britain can truly claim to be a democratic State and we Britons can hold our heads high and say 'we are proud to be British'.
To learn more visit www.votes-for-expat-brits.com - to see comments from around the world visit http://polldaddy.com/poll/5099387/?view=results
To stay informed contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to modern communications in today's wired-up world, British citizens overseas, despite being disenfranchised after more than 15 years abroad, can remain informed on and concerned by, national and international issues impacting the UK. We would, therefore, agree with the argument of Kerry McCarthy, the Labour MP for Bristol East, that Constituents come first, but MPs should be concerned about national & international issues.
"........but I know from my postbag that many constituents care a great deal about the environment and want someone to speak up about it in Parliament."
".........And finally, there’s the international element of an MP’s work, which in my case is linked to my role as a shadow foreign office minister. What goes on in the wider world – the battle for human rights, an end to the arms trade, aid and trade for development – is important too, and if MPs aren’t taking these issues up, then who will?"
In a related post, Tim Finch in Brits abroad: How national pride can help us achieve progressive international goals, writing for LabourList in July, 2010, on the contribution of British citizens overseas adds:
"In our research we met many Britons who were innovative business people, who were active in their communities and who were keen to promote progressive goals, such as the extension of human rights and environmental sustainability. They had taken up opportunities overseas because they were adventurous, risk taking individuals who wanted to broaden their horizons. But they often identified the values that drove them as being in some sense ‘British values’ – though they also saw them as universal in their appeal"
Sharing the same British values and sense of pride in being British citizens as those who have chosen to stay-at-home, it seems perverse that the British government should continue to ignore the contribution of British citizens overseas by denying them the right to vote after 15 years abroad.
If you agree we would appreciate you adding your vote here in support.
The Electoral Registration and Administration Bill
On 24th July the 2nd Reading of this Bill was completed in the House of Lords. Transcripts from Hansard of the contributions from Peers who spoke to our interests are given below.
One must be most especially grateful to the Lords Lexden and Norton for their contributions. Lord Bates also drew attention to our situation.
Note well that Lord Lexden will raise the matter of Votes/Representation in the Committee Stage which will take place in the autumn (from mid October).
Note also that the Government itself has no plans in this matter! AND NOTE the phraseology of the statement on this from Lord Wallace does not say REMOVAL but extension. Humph!
We need to plan the next stage of lobbying and strategy. But we need to be prepared before October.
If you can - give some thought as to what we should now do. We are not without ideas but your thoughts are welcome. We need a good number of Peers gunning for us at the Committee Stage.
Please send back your comments and ideas.
Brian Cave - email@example.com - 00 33 (0) 565414269 (http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.com) and (www.votes-for-expat-brits.com)
Extracts from THE HANSARD REPORT 24th July 2012
Lord Norton of Louth:
My other concerns cover what is not in the Bill. There are two omissions. First, the Bill does not address the 15-year rule for those British nationals who live overseas. In the last Parliament, I raised the issue of British nationals working for international organisations. Here my concern is more general. It is an issue that was raised in the other place during the passage of the Bill by Geoffrey Clifton-Brown. As he noted, although there are 4.4 million British citizens of voting age living abroad, only just over 23,000 are registered as overseas voters. In response the Minister, David Heath, said that the Government would give the issue “serious consideration”. I appreciate the reasons for not wishing to rush to judgement. There are practical issues as well as the issue of principle raised by the Minister—the two come together in terms of ensuring the integrity of the ballot. However, there is a countervailing principle in respect of the rights of those who, while they may live abroad, retain British citizenship. It will be helpful if my noble friend gives some indication of the Government’s thinking in the light of the discussions in the other place.
Finally, I urge strongly that the scope of the Bill be extended, as my noble friend Lord Norton of Louth argued, by adding to it provision to enable all our fellow subjects of Her Majesty who live abroad to vote in our parliamentary elections. This would end the existing 15-year limit, for which no clear rationale has ever been offered. There are some, such as Mr Clegg, who are inclined to say that our fellow country men and women abroad should take the nationality of the country in which they reside, even though I understand that Mrs Clegg, who retains Spanish nationality, has a lifetime’s right to vote in Spain’s elections. There are others who say that because they pay no taxes here they should not vote here, but many do pay taxes. In any case, other countries do not admit taxation as a principle for access to their franchises. Others say that our fellow citizens abroad cannot feel a strong attachment to the United Kingdom after some years away from it. However, in the age of the internet, they can follow closely what is happening in their native land and, as online participants, contribute powerfully to developments taking place here whether they live in Perugia, Portugal or Pennsylvania.
I set out the case for change more fully in a debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Wills, in January and I propose to return to it in Committee. The Government have this great issue under active consideration, as the Minister confirmed in a Written Answer to me on 25 June. There could be no better time for action than in this Diamond Jubilee year. Some 5.6 million subjects of Her Majesty live abroad. Many of them today stand hopefully at the bar of British democracy. Let all those who wish to join us be allowed to enter.
I have two ideas to increase the number of people on the register. One has already been referred to, so I shall not spend a great deal of time on it, other than to say that the fact that we have only about 25,000 or 30,000 overseas voters on the register is a real weakness of our current system.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: (Sponsor of the Bill for the Government) in his comments in summing up spoke as follows:---
The question of overseas electors will be raised. I had a conversation off the Floor of the House with the noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, in which we agreed that we are both being lobbied heavily by our local party organisations from Brussels and Luxembourg on this issue. The Government do not have any plans at the present moment to lengthen the period from leaving the country beyond 15 years, nor do we have any really ambitious plans to do what is done in some other countries, which is to allow voting in embassies and consulates. However, the longer electoral period will help.
Responding to our continuing arguments against the current 15-year-limit on the voting rights of British citizens resident overseas, the latest letter from the Elections & Democracy Division of the Cabinet Office again explains that being disenfranched would not affect one's status as a British citizen because the UK voting franchise is not based on being a UK tax payer:
"........under the 1985 Act, the voting rights of ‘overseas electors’ did not continue indefinitely, but for five years from the time when the UK citizen was last resident and on the electoral register in the UK. Parliament decided to impose a time limit on the eligibility of overseas electors to vote in UK elections, as it was thought that generally over time their connection with the UK would diminish. The length of the time limit has been changed over the years, first increasing to twenty years under the Representation of the People Act 1989, before being reduced to fifteen years from 1 April 2002. In this respect, being disenfranchised of your right to vote in UK elections would not affect your status as a British citizen."
"The UK voting franchise is not based on being a UK tax payer, so it does not necessarily follow that, because someone pays taxes in the UK, he or she has the right to vote in the UK. Some foreign nationals living and paying tax in the UK are not eligible to vote."
As regards the issue of whether or not British expats pay UK taxes, a member of Labour International and without the right to vote has explained that.....
"a large majority of us do so. As a former civil servant and my wife a former teacher, we both pay substantial amounts of tax in the UK and will have to do so for the rest of our lives. Anyone in receipt of a Government pension has to pay UK income tax – former military personnel, police officers, teachers, NHS employees, civil servants and many, many others."
How can continuing to pay taxes in the UK without the right to vote there, be reconciled with the statement that "this would not affect your status as a British citizen", when some Commonwealth and Irish citizens resident and paying taxes in the UK can also vote there?
The government response then that "the UK voting franchise is not based on being a UK tax payer" in fact reduces the national status of British citizens overseas below that of Commonwealth and Irish citizens resident in the UK.
Show your support for the removal of the 15-year-rule by adding your vote here.
News just in.
Remember James Preston - A Businessman who lives in Madrid? He took the Government before the High Court in London because he had no vote.
Well - James has just informed us that he has an appeal before three Lord Justices on the 9th/10th July.
His case was heard on 8th November 2011 - This link tells you more
He has been through one appeal already.
One never knows - This time he might well have a judgement in his favour.
In the light of our earlier email today - it gives a boost - May this news strengthen our resolve.
Help James - Help ourselves - Please get in touch with those Peers and MPs. -- The Fat Lady has not yet sung - It isn't over till she has.
Brian Cave firstname.lastname@example.org
The Electoral Registration & Administration Bill passed through the Commons last week, with the next step scrutiny of the wording and debate in the House of Lords. This could well be as early as next week.
In addressing the case of British overseas voters, Peers should consider the following two issues:
History (recall!) Whilst in the Commons Mr. Clifton Brown MP for the Cotswolds introduced an amendment which would have given all British Citizens abroad the vote for Life. Then under pressure from the Liberal Democrat deputy leader (Mr. David Heath) he withdrew. The excuse was that it was too difficult for the electoral returning officers to identify the potential overseas voters, with the same integrity expected for domestic citizens. And more:-- in Mr. Clifton Brown’s notice of withdrawal he said he would be satisfied if an amendment in the Lords was introduced which could EXTEND the 15 year limit on voting. In tabling his amendment he had asked for REMOVAL of the 15 year limit. His words suggest that he might well have been anticipating an attempt to even reduce this time limit because of ill-perceived difficulties with registering the overseas voters!**
Four Conservative MPs spoke extremely strongly in favour of life time votes for Citizens abroad including Mr. Clifton Brown. Who? - made him change his mind?
The transcript from Hansard of part of this debate is available here.
If the Peers are not pushed hard – will any amendment be introduced?
If an amendment is tabled will it require removal of the 15 year limit? Or another futile extension? Even a reduction?
Nick Clegg – Note that Nick Clegg is the sponsor of this Bill and note well that he is opposed to removal of the 15 year limit. In fact he is opposed to any change.
Europe - David Cameron is encouraging a future referendum on Europe. In this all British citizens living within the EU should have the right to vote (not just those resident in the UK). Those of us who live in EUROPE must be consulted.
The judgement of the European Court of Human Rights on the plea of Harry Shindler – the stalwart 90 year old veteran who lives in Italy – is still awaited. If that is positive the British Government despite opposition will have to change the law. The Government under human rights legislation will be required to grant the vote to us all.
View this Video interview with Harry Shindler.
That we may be assured that the lives we live are respected by the British Government (in business, public service, or simply as good citizens) – that the sacrifices that our military people, including our own families, have made on our behalf through the decades and still make [so that we may be free] are honoured– So that we are not treated as second class citizens, but can say.
‘We are proud to be British – We know Our Government is right behind us.
What you can do
1. It is suggested that you email Mark Harper the Minister responsible in the cabinet office. email@example.com
2. It is suggested that you ask your MP to try to influence any Peers with whom your MPs have contact.
Link to MPs and Peers email addresses……
http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/ 3. If you can email particular Peers, even better.
Here are some points to raise.
- · The grave disappointment caused when the clause removing the 15 year limit was withdrawn in Wednesday's 27th June debate
Please help to achieve a real Democracy for ALL British Citizens in the Parliament at Westminster.
Thank you from the Campaign team
To read the many comments on this site go directly to -----
Comments from >400 Britons Abroad
author Brian Cave - firstname.lastname@example.org
right2vote4xpatbrits | July 1, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Categories: 6-11 Million Unable to Vote, Anomaly of Voteless Expat Brits in EU, Electoral Commission, Electoral Reform & Overseas Voter Reg., IER for Overseas Voters., Improving Overseas Reg/voting Rates, Lord Lexden-Overseas Voter Discrimination, Most Countries Operate IER, New Clause 3 Withdrawn, Overseas Voters & IER Bill, Two Overseas Voting Issues for Lords, Voting Rights | URL: http://wp.me/p1BdL1-9f
VOTES and the British Ambassador to France
Anita Rieu Sicart (see details below) has sent me the youtube link to an interview with the new British Ambassador to France.
She discussed with the Ambassador the value to the British Government/Culture/Economy of the British expatriates and pressed him on the votes issue.
His reply is very telling! Do look at this YOUTUBE video.
It is plain that the few number of expatriates who register (30,000) to vote is a great deterrent to encouraging the development of true democracy.
Do so few register because:-
The current procedure of voting is lousy?
Would you prefer an MP to be particularly Representative of expatriates (like the French) rather than that of an existing UK constituency?
Say what you think and say it loud, to the MPs or Peers now.
To find an MP or Peer (or MP for your ex constituency - if you have one) go to
Mark Harper (Parliamentary Secretary for Political and Constitutional Reform). (n.b. this mail is copied to his office - but that is not enough)
Get this message passed on!
Join the fight to get the vote
Harry Shindler - the 90 year old war veteren who lives in Italy is fighting for the vote.
He is very active and does much voluntary work in aiding fellow Britons, especially those still affected by the war of 67 years ago!
Some important points arise from his letter.
1. The Government may suggest a 'compromise' - too true! A compromise is not good enough! A citizen is a citizen all his/her life!
2. As Harry says - under current system of voting one votes in the constituency where one last lived. This is not in the long term a satisfactory conclusion.
Further - The news today says that a referendum on Europe and the UK is likely to be introduced 'sooner rather than later'. It could be a disaster for many of us - including many who up to now have displayed no interest in this voting issue - if the UK pulled out of Europe!
There are two Bills to go through Parliament in this session. Both could impinge on this issue.
1. The Electoral Registration Bill - currently in its second. reading. The important stage is the next 'Committee Stage' where the bill is debated phrase by phrase by the whole House of Commons. At this stage a clause could be inserted giving the right to vote for LIFE to all citizens. This clause is not there in the Draft.
It is essential that MPs know our feelings.
2. Later on a Bill to Reform the House of Lords is to be introduced. No draft of it exists yet. This Bill could introduce some form of Representation hopefully by election as the French do it.
I hope to send to you soon a detailed 'paper' to send to as many MPs and Peers as can be, to help them form a good judgement.
Best wishes Brian
How to find your last MP.
Campaign for Political Representation at Westminster for Britons Abroad.
Britain doesn’t have a president, but we do have a prime-minister who is the Leader of the Government (a President in all but name). Recently Egyptians all across the world have voted for their President. In Britain 3500 Egyptians voted. Different countries do things in different ways. But surely it is obvious that if Government leaders or the ‘deputies’ have to stand up at election time and state their policies before their citizens across the world then they would have to consider the needs of those citizens. If they do not, they do not get elected. After 15 years…………
The Britons Abroad are Britons ignored.
It is unbelievable that the British Government does not realise that any dialogue is needed with the Citizen Abroad! One asks -when any agreement is made with another country (or EU) does the British Government ever ask itself – ‘What is the impact on the British Citizen who lives in that country?’ No! The question is never asked. When any policy is formulated in Westminster, do they ask ‘What is the effect on our Citizens abroad and their families? No! The question is never asked.
The French do things better – all across the World they vote not just for their President but for DEPUTIES (Members of Parliament), who specifically relate to the needs of French Citizens living in eleven areas of the Globe.
To recall this matter go-- visit-
The following countries all recognise the value and concerns of their citizens abroad
France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Portugal, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden – and USA, Australia, and Lebanon - and Morocco - Egypt - Tunisia – Russia …and more.
The European Court of Human Rights has judged that Britain should allow prisoners (at least the less evil) the right to be represented (have the vote) in Parliament, because they are citizens.
We await the Court’s judgement on the case of Harry Shindler. This 90 year old. citizen wants to vote but is banned because he lives in Italy. He, who served in World War II at the horrendous Anzio Beach-head – just before the Normandy landings in June 1944.
[I, then 12 years old, bombed out in March of that same year, remember the newspaper reports of this allied landing! This terrible war fought for freedom in EUROPE is still fresh in my memory!]
Harry is no criminal – he is a loyal citizen of Britain. But the British Parliament forbids him recognition of his needs and value as a British Citizen.
A modern democracy demands free elections for its citizens. To deny that ….
Is it not a crime? Perpetrated by the British Government against its citizens?
Will you try to influence YOUR MP by forwarding this message to him/her? Do this for all our messages again and again if necessary. Every individual communication matters! The effect is cumulative.
If you have not got an MP, try Mark Harper MP who is responsible for parliamentary reform.
The email addresses of all MPs and Peers can be found at.
The postal address is :--House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
(Author Brian Cave)
Please circulate widely to all who should be concerned about Parliamentary Democracy.
VOTES FOR EXPATS
Please find attached documentation for the above seminar which will be held in the Europe House in Copenhagen.
The Danish expatriate association, Danes Worldwide, are co-orgainsiing this event.
To read online please click on:-
Both of the above formats are now available for download and may I, please, ask and request that you circulate this mail to a wider audience including your MPs whose details can be found by clicking on; http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
Many Thanks & Kindest Regards
This is to advise you that the campaign has recently introduced the following new feature to our website, Media Supporters http://votes-for-expat-brits-blog.com/media-supporters/ which hopefully you will find both interesting and useful background material.
May I then ask you if you will kindly forward this mail on to others, especially your MPs whose e: mail addresses can be found at; http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/ and if you have your own website to put this link on it please?
Some good new articles have just been added concerning French MPs actively campaigning abroad for their expat voters including one, as previously circulated, from Bloomberg.
France vs UK on voting
What happens when expatriates get the Vote - that is to say - Representation?
Is it so extraordinary that the Americans are following the French elections as they affect French residents abroad?
Bloomberg News reports it in the following link. It's worth a read and to ask oneself as one reads "What if this was about British citizens and British Politicians?".
French citizens abroad have had a form of Representation in the Paris National Government for many years. But this is the first time that they have been able to elect Députés for the National Assembly from eleven constituencies around the world in the same manner as constituencies in France. This new situation of direct representation is having a profound effect on the relationship between the citizen and the politician. It is worth comparing the French with the British citizen who can only carry a vote for 15 years after leaving the UK and can then only vote for an existing constituency and so he or she has no direct representation of their needs and interests (or their virtues and value to the British cause) at all.
The French citizen abroad seems, from this and other reports, to have become in consequence more than usually passionate about things French- the culture - its future in the world - its education system- its economy - with this new situation. And the French politician shows in turn an astonishingly greater concern for these distant citizens.
Most British citizens abroad at this time would seem to be disinterested, somewhat alienated, and bored with the British scene at home. The British politicians show little concern for the British Citizen abroad.
How it would all change if the Citizens abroad had someone who represented them by election at Westminster in either the Commons or the Lords!
Brian Cave www.votes-for-expat-brits.com
The power of pensioners is being felt. You must have heard of the the 'granny tax' and the protests following it, especially those who are taxed in the UK.
There are various campaigns for the pensioners. The UK based pensioners campaign is striving to improve the level of the State Pension.
Here is a message from that campaign. It is sent to me from one of my contacts in Spain. I gladly circulate it. Brian
"We pensioners, wherever we live, need to stick together and unite if we are to get the government to take notice of us and appreciate our strength and numbers and resolve.
Pensioners Campaign UK is a non political group lobbying amongst other things for a fair and decent non means tested basic state pension for ALL UK pensioners equivalent at least to the government's own poverty level of £178 a week.
Our campaign has launched today a CD entitled This Country's Retired Army/What is a Senior Citizen which we hope you will download from Itunes or order from our web page, www.pensionercampaignuk.org.uk (which will tell you all about us) and request on the local English language radio station.
Thank you for joining in this campaign."
Thanks Brian Cave - "protector of pensioners"!
British political parties usually take good care of the older generation with 94% of those aged 65 or more registered to vote, compared e.g. with only 56% of 19-24 year olds, hence the recent furore over the “Granny tax” in the Budget. However, it’s different for those living overseas. As the efforts of the Electoral Commission below illustrate, it’s difficult enough pushing up voter registration rates in the UK, let alone for those overseas. In addition, the fact that those aged 65+ are much more likely to vote than the younger generation means that proportionally more overseas votes are lost from this older generation after 15 years as a non-UK resident. This greater sense of responsibility of the older generation is demonstrated by pensioner and WWII veteran Harry Shindler, who is challenging the British government in the European Court of Human Rights over the 15-year-limit on his UK voting rights.
To learn more about this issue click on www.votes-for-expat-brits.com
Vote on-line here: http://www.votes-for-expat-brits.com/Sign-up-Poll.php
The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK parliament to provide integrity and public confidence in the democratic process. In December 2010 it calculated that at least 6 million of those eligible to vote were not on the Electoral Register. Ahead of the fast approaching 3rd May local elections, therefore, it is endeavouring to improve the overall registration rate and e.g. employing social media such as Twitter to reach out to those still to register. It is tweeting to reach out to particularly younger voters to register before the deadline of 18th April.
If still eligible register to vote in UK elections click here: www.aboutmyvote.co.uk
Given the above difficulties in registering the local vote, aren’t the problems even greater in addressing those eligible but not registered to vote in UK national elections within the other 6 million or so in the overseas British communities? Doesn’t this rather nullify the argument of those who point to the relatively low registration rates of overseas voters as a reason for not removing the 15-year-limit on their voting rights? Indeed, even if unwittingly, the 15-year-limit also seems to more adversely impact the older generation. Those less likely to vote it seems from the above statistics i.e. in the 19-24 year old bracket, are not impacted until they are 35 years old or more, compared with a 50 year old more likely to vote but being deprived of this right at 65+, the latter generation with a 94% registration rate in the UK.
A fine example of the voting commitment of the 65+ age group is WWII veteran Harry Shindler, a long term resident in Italy but challenging the British government in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg over the 15-year-limit on his voting rights.
right2vote4xpatbrits | April 3, 2012 at 9:29 pm | Categories: Electoral Commission, European Court of Human Rights, Expat pensioners' rights, Expat Voter Registration, Harry Shindler, Harry Shindler's Human Right to Vote, In Defence of the ECHR, Military Covenant, Older Generation More Impacted, Voting Rights | URL: http://wp.me/p1BdL1-6e
How do the British Pensioners live in France?
Recently I met a British pensioner of long acquaintance in our local supermarket at Gourdon, my home town in the Department of the Lot, France. I had not met him for some years and at first did not recognise him. He looked much older than I remembered and appeared distressed. ‘We’re selling up’ said Jerry ‘if we can find a buyer for our house’. I knew he and his wife Anthea had been resident in France for at least 15 years and before that had owned a second home here during the time he was teaching in Britain.
‘Why do you want to go back?’ I enquired. ‘Its just too expensive here’, he said. ‘We can’t manage any more’.
It is indeed expensive. The food costs far more here than in the UK. I keep a price comparison list. You can easily view the prices in Tesco online and similarly discover the general price of petrol in the UK.
This March I made such a comparison – The basket of goods cost the equivalent of 92.07 euros in Tescos, and the same list was 104.23 euros here in Gourdon. That is to say 113% more expensive compared to Britain. Even four star petrol was fractionally higher in price in March than in Britain. Fifteen years ago everything was so much cheaper in France
The difference in price is so great that many Britons living in France buy various large items, clothes and the like via the internet from England, Nowadays, Marks and Spencer’s, John Lewis, and even much smaller stores will send goods to France and even with the delivery costs it is still cheaper to buy this way.
From personal knowledge I know that small pieces of machinery such as parts for a chain saw and even items as minute as watch batteries can be purchased more cheaply from Britain than in the local shops. Electric fencing and garden ‘seep’ hoses can be so purchased similarly from Britain at a cheaper price than locally.
Why is this? The exchange rate has much to do with it. We hear so often through the British radio and television that the Euro is in dire trouble. My inkling is that we should pay more attention to the markets than to the economic soothsayers of the press and the somewhat biased pronouncements from any Government voice. The undoubted fact is that the Euro is strong against the pound and the pound is horribly weak. The £ stands at about 0.83 pence to the euro. It would be more equable in buying power at 0.74 pence. The more the UK Government go on ‘printing’ money the more it will stay weak and even get worse.
My acquaintance and his wife were teachers. Because of the extraordinary law on taxation this means that they are taxed on their pensions by the United Kingdom. The law is most decidedly an ‘ass’. My enquiries to the HMRC as to why this should be so, get the answer ‘Because the pension comes from public funds.’ This is an absolute bananas of a reply. The Old Age State pension quite transparently comes from public funds, yet that is not, for the British pensioner living in France – I repeat is not - taxed in the UK but is exportable for taxation to France!
The utter stupidity of the laws on taxation of pensions is repeated elsewhere in Europe. Would you not agree that the pensions of nurses comes via the public purse? Yet those nurses who retire to France and Spain can have it taxed in France or Spain. Those who retire to Germany must by have it taxed in the U.K.
The consequence for my acquaintance is that they pay far more income tax to the UK than they would if they were taxed in France. Moreover as they are clearly of advanced years and I know that Anthea suffers severely from arthritis, they need the aid of a ‘home-help’. In France the costs of this employment are 50% deductible against tax. Since their tax on income tax is collected by the UK, this relief is not possible for them. To add extra absurdity the French take the teachers pensions into consideration when viewing their liability to taxation on their State Pension and their local property taxes.
So, through the complexity of archaic laws which derive from the United Kingdom they get a double whammy of an artificially distorted exchange rate and the hard luck of being suspended between two different sets of laws on taxation.
Because they have been non-resident in the UK since before 1998 they will not receive the Winter Fuel Payment.
Then again, our two aged people have to subscribe to their health care in France. This will cost them more than 1500 euros a year and possibly 2,000 (about £1650). I am convinced that this is because of a misinterpretation of European law. The EU regulations on health say that the British pensioners should receive health care in France as any French person should receive it and that the cost should be borne by the U.K. Now the exact wording of the law on costs says and I quote……
“ For the purposes of applying Article 35 and Article 41 of the basic Regulation, the actual amount of the expenses for benefits in kind, as shown in the accounts of the institution that provided them, shall be reimbursed to that institution by the competent institution.” [EU Regulation 987-2004, Article 62]
The competent institution is the U.K. Department of Health. The U.K. is responsible under EU law for the Social Security costs of all British Pensioners living in the EU who have never paid into any social security of their host country but only into the British system. It is beyond belief that the precise wording of this regulation can be so ignored.
Here is part of an email, written on the 10th February, from another acquaintance. “Just as I was yesterday, I am typing Emails sitting up in bed. I am fully clothed in three jumpers, two pairs of trousers and a track suit.
My dear husband, similarly dressed, is tucked up beside me. He is eighty-six, and suffers from epilepsy and a certain amount of mental confusion.
Outside the temperature is minus 2 degrees, and is expected to fall to minus 10 degrees tonight - a big improvement on the minus 14 degrees we had last night.”
And another (let’s call her Ethel) who wrote to me about the non-receipt of the Winter Fuel Payment. I know that their health insurance costs them over 2,000 euros a year.
“As you can imagine, this past year has been extremely hard on both of us and it is only with the support of the excellent French health professionals as well as the kindness of our friends and neighbours (both French and British) that we have managed to cope. We live on a joint pension income of 12,000 pounds sterling per annum and have to draw on our very modest savings to supplement this. Because of our low income, we downsized seven years ago to a tiny, one-bedroomed house which my husband converted from a carpenter's workshop but his illness and treatment cause him to feel the cold in the extreme and, in spite of the size of our house, I dread to think what our heating bill will be this Winter. It is so dreadfully unfair that we and others in our situation are not allowed to receive the Winter Fuel Payment from the British government when our compatriots do! And, of course, there is nothing we can do about it as, having lived in France for more than fifteen years, we are now disenfranchised as well!”
This letter from Ethel, just about sums up the predicament. The EU is supposed to allow free movement of people, with neither loss of privileges nor obstructions placed in one’s path. Yet the British Governments since 1973 have not considered in any manner at all how the diaspora of British folk are faring in the wider Europe. Most of the pensioners are ordinary folk, some rich, some poor, but mostly in the middle income brackets. Most moved to the continent because housing was cheaper and they felt sure that the pound would stay strong.. But the fact is that they are treated as non-existent citizens by their own country. The UK Governments still tax many of them. The Government ignores it responsibility towards their health care. The Governments have disallowed the Winter Fuel Payment to the most elderly. And to cap it all the Governments have not allowed them to be appropriately represented in Parliament.
And now some are forced by the collapse of the £ sterling to attempt to return to the UK where no doubt they will add to the population pressure on the health service and the local social security departments.
Brian Cave – http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.com
The European Union news agency ‘Eur-Active’ on March 1st. announced an important new item of legislation which might (or might not!) affect the hundreds of thousands of British citizens in Europe. It concerns inheritance. The item is produced verbatim below. You can read it and ponder!
This piece of legislation demonstrates brings into sharp focus why the British citizen needs some form of representation at Westminster! and a voice in Whitehall.
Britain has opted out of this legislation.
We have no voice!
European Certificate of Succession Inheritances
Check out the original here....
EU citizens living in a different country than their own will be able to choose which legislation applies when their heirs settle legal inheritance matters, effectively preventing legal disputes between courts.
The legislation represents big progress for European citizens, said centre-right German MEP Kurt Lechner, in charge of the report, which was adopted unanimously by the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee.
”It’s a big step forward for the testator, who will be able to exercise his freedom to deal with his succession, and a huge simplification for the heirs,” said Lechner.
In a nutshell, citizens leaving in another EU member state will be able to state in a so-called European Certificate of Succession which national system they want their inheritance to go through in order to safeguard the rights of heirs, as well as other parties, such as creditors.
For example, an Italian woman married to a Briton and living in Belgium will have the option to choose whether her heirs inherit assets under Italian or Belgian law, avoiding jurisdictional legal disputes.
The use of the certificate is not mandatory. If the person who dies does not draw up a will or a certificate, his or her succession will be dealt with under the law of the member state where he/she had her residence.
The European certificate avoids conflicts that could otherwise come up if several courts in different member states declared themselves competent to handle the inheritance.
”The death of a family member is a sad and traumatic event, without additional legal headaches,” said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, the Commission’s vice president.
The new law on international successions affects millions of citizens. In 2010 more than 12 million people lived in an EU member state other than their own, an increase of 3 million compared to 2005.
The trend in cross-border ownership of assets is also growing massively. It is therefore likely that more assets may be inherited across borders than in the past and that this trend will continue in the future, with consequent tax problems. Potential cross-border inheritance cases range from 290,000 to 360,000 per year.
“I hope that Parliament and Council will be able to come to a final agreement soon. Notably, the European Certificate of Succession would substantially facilitate the legal formalities for successions in cross-border situations,” said Reding.
The regulation would not apply in UK and Ireland, as their respective governments decided to exercise their right to opt out.
James Preston denied appeal over expat voting decision
A British expat whose attempt to force the Government to give him the right to vote in elections was recently overthrown by judges has been refused permission to appeal
James Preston, a fund manager from Leicester, went to the High Court last year to challenge the ban on Britons voting after they have lived abroad for 15 years.
Mr Preston, who is based in Madrid, argued that the time limit was an infringement of his rights under EU law to move to other member states without discrimination, but the case was summarily dismissed in December.
The expat then lodged permission to take the case to the Court of Appeal, but was informed last week this application has been denied.
“We have the right, and will be exercising the right, to have an oral hearing about this, but I’ve been advised success is not very likely,” said Mr Preston.
“I’m very disappointed; if the appeal doesn't go ahead, I can't take it any further.”
The cap on voting is hugely unpopular with many of the estimated 5.5 million British citizens currently living overseas, who argue that they deserve to have a voice in what happens in their native country.
Mr Preston, who moved to Spain in the mid-1990s after struggling to find employment in Britain, claims that he retains strong links with his home, and that it is unfair for the Government to not rate him as sufficiently connected to the country to have the vote, when he will almost certainly be considered British-domiciled – and therefore subject to British tax – after death.
“There’s a perception that every expat is a retiree on the Costa del Sol sticking up two fingers at Britain and drinking sangria, but my story is very different,” he told Telegraph Expat. “I’ve worked continuously for British companies, my wife works for a British company, and my children both go to British schools. And if I got knocked over by a bus tomorrow, 40 per cent of my estate would go to Britain. It’s a joke.”
In his original judgement, Lord Justice Elias said that he appreciated Mr Preston and other expats were “genuinely upset about the rule” but that there was no real evidence that it “does create a barrier of any kind to freedom of movement.”
“It is inherently unlikely that the loss of the right to vote would be sufficient to cause [expats] to up sticks and return to the UK,” he added.
Mr Preston said that he and his wife were now considering renouncing their British passports to take Spanish citizenship, and that it would be “down to the lobbyists” to continue the fight.
Graham Richards, a France-based expat who has campaigned for the abolition of the 15-year rule for many years, said the rejection of Mr Preston's request was all the more depressing when one considered that French politicians are currently visiting London and other world cities to court the votes of French expats – who retain life-long voting rights and, from this year, will elect their own representatives.
“It’s unfortunate that James Preston is not afforded this right,” he said.
The Government is currently believed to be reviewing whether the 15-year limit remains appropriate.
Why does Britain resent its expats so much?
The recent icy weather that embraced Europe, at least served a purpose: contacts back in the UK now believe me when I say that Spain isn’t warm all year round. At the height of the cold spell, we had to abandon our car at the finca and walk into Soller, the local town because our precarious track was knee deep in snow. Reliant on log fires and a few electric radiators, because the central heating costs are so excruciatingly high here, most expats and locals alike took to wearing multiple layers and gloves indoors and waited patiently for normal service to be resumed.
Do Britons envy the expat lifestyle?
Back in the UK, I found myself in conversation with two charming elderly German ladies, long time residents in the UK, who in passing told me how wrong they thought it was that retired British expats living overseas claimed winter fuel payments and expected state pension increases. There was of course an irony in that. I asked them if as expats in the UK, they felt entitled to claim the same sort of benefits from their country of origin and they said that indeed they did. Their argument was that most British expat pensioners living abroad were affluent and had no need for heating or pension increases.
Despite having the vote back in their own country, these same ladies also felt it right that British expats should be disenfranchised after 15 years of living overseas. They’re not alone. Few of those I’ve quizzed in the UK, think we expats are entitled to keep voting back home -despite the tax we’ve contributed to the British economy, and for most of us, continue to pay. They no doubt take their lead from the Britishgovernment –and much of the media- which seems to harbour a deep resentment of British expats in general. Media resentment often seeps out in a subliminal way. Ever noticed the sheer number of expat surveys reported in the press which uncannily reach the conclusion that life as an expat isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? And what of the scaremongering TV shows about foolish Britons leaving the UK for a jammy life abroad, only to lose all their money or find the grass isn’t greener after all?
But it’s not just the issue of winter fuel payments, increases in state pension and voting rights that get the goat of those back in the UK. There’s deep envy of the apparently idyllic lives most expats lead in a foreign land-a land of milk and honey seemingly without pressures and deadlines-where Britons spend their days idling in village squares knocking back sangria and watching the sun go down.
The reality of course is very different and most of us who have chosen life in a new country cope with similar pressures to those back in the UK. The landscape, cuisine, and culture might be different but the majority of us still wake up to normal every day hassles and stresses which form the fabric of life. All the same, it would be a fallacy to claim that most British expats don’t enjoy a better quality of existence overseas. We do, otherwise why on earth would we ever have left home?
So, perhaps it all just comes down to jealousy. We’re the ones that got away, that took the plunge where others wouldn’t or genuinely couldn’t. As a London friend put it, “You expats live a life most of us can only dream about. In all honesty, what is there to like about you?”
Find out more about Anna Nicholas here
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EXPAT VOTING RIGHTS: THE CAMPAIGN GOES ON
Expat Brits vow to continue fighting 15-year voting rule
A recent case at the High Court in the UK may have dealt a blow to the voting rights of Britons living abroad, but the expat lobby has vowed to fight on.
Under current UK legislation, British expatriates living elsewhere than in the UK lose their right to vote on UK matters after 15 years. Briton James Preston, a Madrid-based fund manager who has been campaigning to have the rule changed, recently took his case to the High Court. The case was dismissed and Mr Preston now intends to appeal.
Controversy has raged over this issue for some time now. One of the reasons given for persisting with the 15-year time limit has been the argument that over time, a person’s connection with the UK is likely to diminish if they are living permanently abroad. This is an argument that is dismissed by the pro-expat lobby. France-based Anita Rieu-Sicart, editor of Var Village Voice, is an active campaigner against the time limit. She has previously pointed out that expats should have rights to vote on UK issues as, among other reasons, many of them still pay taxes to the UK, and may also have children whom they send to school in the UK or could even have children or grandchildren in the British Armed Forces, arguing, therefore, that they still have a keen interest in the affairs of the UK and a right to participate in the shaping of decisions.
French Property News contacted Mark Harper MP, the minister for political and constitutional reform, for his reaction. A Cabinet Office spokesperson replied to say: "The Government welcomes the Court’s judgement that the time limit on overseas voting is lawful. The Government is considering whether the 15-year time limit remains appropriate."
During a recent heated exchange on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Brian Cave, who is based in the Lot department and runs the Pensioners Debout blog, which discusses the problems of the British pensioner living in France and Europe, said: "Many of us expats have very close links with Britain. I have a grandchild who is educated in Britain. I have children living in Britain. Am I not to be concerned with their welfare, education and the health service? Of course I am." In the same section of the show, Labour’s Lord Lipsey said that it was highly unlikely that there would be any change to the legislation.
Brian Cave is a long-time campaigner against the 15-year legislation. Talking toFPN about the Preston case, he says: "I don’t think this decision by the High Court will have a significant impact. Remember the other case of Harry Shindler before the European Court of Human Rights? He is a British World War II veteran living in Italy who petitioned the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to complain that he is no longer permitted to vote in UK elections. If he loses on that, it will go before the United Nations Court of Human Rights."
Asked if he was confident that the 15-year time limit will eventually be changed, Brian says: "Yes. I know that there are MPs who want to see it changed. The dilemma is to what? Life or another extension to X years? The second option (an extension) will achieve nothing at all."
In other expat news, France is one of the most popular places to retire to, according to new research. Customer data from financial experts Standard Life found that, based on overseas pension payments, France is the fourth most popular retirement location. France has long been a popular place for retirees, not least because of the relaxed pace of life and standard of living. Indeed, only recently, France was found to be the top European country in which to live when it comes to standard of living, for the third year in a row. The Quality of Life index from uSwitch scored France highly for factors such as healthcare and highest life expectancy. What’s more, last year, the French parliament made it easier for early-retiree expats to access that celebrated health cover in France by no longer requiring that they spend five years’ residence in the country before assuming health cover rights.
Equitable Life compensation cheques in the post – at last
Compensation payments have started to flow to hundreds of thousands of victims of the Equitable Life scandal, bringing closure after more than a decade of anxiety.
The Government had promised that payments would begin in June 2011, but only a tiny fraction, 3,000, of the 1 million victims who lost money had seen any redress by the end of the year.
However, Mark Hoban, the financial secretary to the Treasury, has confirmed that systems have finally been speeded up, so that tens of thousands of payments are now being dispatched every week.
Annuitants, who rely on their policies for their pension income, older investors and the estates of the deceased are first in the queue for their share of the £1.5bn compensation, spread over three years, that the Government agreed to pay for regulatory failure.
Liz Kwantes of the Equitable Members Action Group said: "On top of the most vulnerable, it is not easy to see exactly who is prioritised. Company schemes seem to be getting cheques and some quite yo
Compenation payments have started to flow to hundreds of thousands of victims of the Equitable Life scandal.
ung investors have contacted us saying they have been paid. We wondered if they are paying out those which are easiest to resolve. But it has been a very long wait, so naturally everyone is pleased."
To be eligible for compensation, you must have bought an Equitable Life conventional with-profits (CWP) policy or an accumulating with-profits policy (AWP) between September 1 1992 and the end of 2000.
With-profit annuitants must have bought in the same period, or paid money in between January 1 1993 and when the company closed in December 2000.
Compensation is based on how your Equitable investment performed compared with a typical policy elsewhere. Annuitants are being paid their entire shortfall, because they are unable to surrender. Past losses will be paid in five annual instalments, with future losses made in a single payment each year thereafter.
Final payments will not be made until summer 2014, and the action group said the battle would go on. "We are sad some members get nothing, so continue to campaign and lobby MPs," Kwantes added.
Margaret & Gerald Hales & Stephen Kidgen - Conservatives Abroad
Debate on abolishment of 15 year rule
THE HOUSE of Lords held a debate on electoral reform last week following a campaign to abolish the ‘15 year rule’ that meant any Briton living abroad for more than 15 years lost the right to vote in British elections.
Lord Lexden, the official historian of the Conservative Party, described the 15-year limit for expat Brits living abroad as a “…problem that had been allowed to go on for far too long.” He declared Britain’s policy on expat voting as “unjust” and compared it to other democratic nations such as the US or France, where citizens are granted lifelong voting rights regardless of where they chose to reside. “No other leading democracy takes as restrictive an approach as our country,” Lord Lexden stated during the debate, “… it is high time the United Kingdom joined the international consensus.”
The Conservatives Abroad Association has one of the organisations spearheading the campaign to change the voting rights of British expats abroad and many of the estimated 5.6 million British expats currently living abroad argue that disenfranchisement is a violation of their rights.
During the last year, there has been added pressure on the Government to revisit this issue and a dedicated campaign group, Vote for Expats, was set up to encourage Britons living abroad to write to their old MPs as well as government ministers and European politicians to express their discontent.
Lord Lexden said the changes in voting rights for expats had “chopped and changed” considerably during the last twenty years; changes which he said were “without rationale.” He said: “Our fellow citizens abroad are surely entitled to a firm, stable set of arrangements; instead they have been subject to arbitrary upheavals.”
Viscount Astor supported Lord Lexden during the debate, raising the issue of postal voting following the shambles that occurred during the last election when many expats who had registered for postal votes did not receive their ballot papers in time to return them. His Lordship commented: “These people are basically being disenfranchised every time an election is held,” adding, “Many people go abroad or work abroad, but that does not mean to say that they have lost interest in this country… They should be able to take part in our electoral system.”
Lord Lexden concluded his part of the debate by asking that the Government abolished the time limit as part of their planned reforms of the electoral system.
Lords differ on expats’ voting rights -
By ALYX BARKER
ROME -- While Conservative peer Lord lexden called for the 15 year limit on expats' voting rights to be abolished yesterday, Labour Lord Lipsey doomed the campaign just weeks ago, saying there was "no chance whatsoever" of the rule being lifted.
Speaking in the House of Lords debate on electoral reform yesterday afternoon, Lord Lexden said that any attempt to establish a better electoral registration system “would be deficient and incomplete if it did not tackle” the problem of British expats’ voting rights which has “been allowed to continue for far too long.”
Currently, UK law denies citizens the right to vote in elections once they have lived abroad for more than 15 years.
Other democratic nations grant their expatriate citizens life-long voting rights, including the USA, France, Australia, the Netherlands and Italy.
Lord Laxden commented “No other leading democracy takes as restrictive an approach as our country. It is high time the United Kingdom joined the international consensus.”
He pressed for the urgent consideration of the issue, since the current plans to reform the registration system “can provide the perfect vehicle for change.”
Lord Wills tabled the debate, which he called “timely” since “the government has embarked on significant change to electoral registration.” in the pipeline is draft legislation that will change the system from household to individual voter registration.
Lord Laxden’s remarks stand in stark contrast to Labour Lord Lipsey’s adamant condemnation of the campaign to extend expats’ voting rights. Lord Lipsey said in a BBC Radio 4 debate recently that there was “no chance whatsoever” of the 15 year rule being lifted.
Lord Lipsey also disagreed entirely with Lord Laxden's comments on the timely nature of the debate, saying instead that it has "appalling timing," given plans to reduce the number of MPs.
But Lord Laxden concluded his speech in the House of Lords with: “A great opportunity has arisen to end their disenfranchisement. We should seize it,” and called for the “unjust time limit” to be “swept away completely.”
Liberal-Democrat life-peer Lord Tyler has agreed with Lord Laxden that there is a window opportunity to discuss the issue, saying that the concerns of expats could be addressed in the context of general plans for electoral reform. Lord Tyler did not envisage immediate reform however, commenting that a bill could be expected within the next two years.
Expats’ voting rights campaign organiser Brian Cave said: “This speech by Lord Lexden was more than a passing reference. It was a major statement and is something of a milestone in our campaign.”
Public statements of two House of Lords peers show the Lords are divided over the voting rights of expatriates
REPRESENTATION for British Citizens living abroad.- UPDATE
Radio 4 is a wonderful medium for getting noticed!
On December 27th last, as you probably remember, I was debating this subject on the Today programme with Lord Lipsey, a Labour life-peer whose particular interests are horse and greyhound racing and the industry associated with these activities. He is opposed to expatriate British Citizens having any representation at Westminster.
If you haven’t heard this exchange, you can hear it via the following link.
Then on January 5th, I happened to hear Lord Tyler speak on Radio 4 (another Today programme) on the subject of reform of the House of Lords. Lord Tyler, a Liberal-Democrat life-peer, has worked on interests concerning the Dartmoor National Park and the Council for the Protection of Rural England (now called the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) – [I was chairman of the Forest of Dean Branch for a while].
I think you can sense where my sympathies lie.
I thought I would write to him - Why? Because while all this palaver of voting rights and representation has been going on I consulted around and eventually, after some considerable time, I produced a ‘discussion paper’ on the possibility of expatriates having representation by election in the House of Lords.
You can view this ‘discussion paper - version 5’ on this next link (a very early version was previously circulated).
Lord Paul Tyler replied by return, within 20 minutes, and his words were encouraging. He said the discussion paper arrived ‘at such a timely moment’ and explained that he had been working with Mark Harper and Nick Clegg ‘on the Coalition programme’. There is likely to be a bill ‘to rationalise a range of electoral issues within the next two years’.
Personally I think that two years is an awful long time, but at least very gradually, very gradually indeed, our campaign is gaining recognition. But do not imagine that all will go smoothly. There seem to be large numbers of MPs in Parliament who seem dead set against allowing any British citizen to be represented who has the temerity to reside abroad. The influence must be maintained on those who can change the law and also to encourage change and to debate laws within the EU and with those countries throughout the World where British Citizens reside.
It is understood by too few why the expatriate needs Representation. An example landed on my computer this morning. It concerns inheritance taxation across the European Union. It is a nightmare scenario. The concerns of the British Citizen, especially the elderly citizen, need to be considered. Who is going to do so other than someone in Parliament who has some gist of our concerns?
More on this will be discussed later in another circular.
Brian Cave ( http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.com )
Eric Dunn - 29.11.2011
I live in France and have been elected to the conseil municipal of my village since 2001. I can man the polling station and supervise the voting of my fellow citizens in French national elections, but cannot vote in them.
Neither can I vote in UK national elections, having been out of the country too long. Yet I still pay UK tax on my principal source of income, an RAF pension, as well as paying the multitude of direct and indirect taxes in my country of residence.
I believe that EU citizens resident in a member state other than that of their origin should be able to choose to vote in the national elections of one state or the other.
Why Political Representation is now so important to all ‘Expatriate British’ citizens now living in Europe
Europe is in a special situation in the World.
Consider your position if the European Union ceased!
But first let us view Europe as part of a changing world. Political structures are changing fast. Much arises from the spirit of the younger generation, gaining power via the ease of social networking. Young professionals of all nationalities are talking to each other. Close bonds between people cross the ancient boundaries.
In Europe not only is this happening, but also the past enmities which tore Europe apart (and which the older generations remember extremely well) have virtually disappeared.
All these changes demand a new order of political structure.
BUT AT THIS TIME the British press and political commentators are pushing an anti-Europe theme.
What then would be your position if the European Union collapsed?
Before 1973*, any Briton living in continental Europe would be an absolute foreigner, totally dependent on the laws of the separate countries of Europe. You could not move freely in Europe from job to job, or live in one country and work in another. You would be unlikely to get a resident permit unless you could prove that you had sufficient funds to support yourself. You would have to provide yourself with full health cover by some means or another. The social security system would have been unlikely to support you. You would have no guarantee of permanent residence. Problems which might arise politically between the State of residence and the UK could force you to leave. Only through the treaties which have created the European Union can you be sure of your right to stay. These treaties are signed on your behalf by the UK. You are, whether you wish it or not, represented by the UK. But you cannot comment on your condition in any official manner without a representative MP in Parliament. The Government dictates to you what you can or cannot do.
The situation for the people who have retired from the UK to the Continent is, in these matters, extreme. Today there are 434,000 such citizens.
Normally all their income stems from the UK.
Many are by law taxed in the UK (ex -Military, Police, Firemen, Teachers, Local Authority staff).
The treaties relating to health cover mean that the costs of health cover (theoretically) are the responsibility of the UK.
They normally have families, grandchildren in the UK about whom they are concerned.
If Europe collapsed then these 434,000 elderly citizens could well be in a mess, with a difficult health care and financial situations.
Even the younger citizens abroad often have parents or siblings in the UK about whom they are concerned.
And above all, is there any citizen (old or young) who retains any attachment to Britain, not concerned about the performance of Britain in World Affairs?
Europe is indeed a very special case in the World. There are Continent wide European treaties which enable citizens to move freely between the States. Younger Britons often do so. The same Europe-wide treaties apply to them as they move. British Citizenship remains a constant in these moves. The British Citizen is an ambassador of British Culture – however unwittingly. The British Government should recognise this fact. There should be a two-way flow of spirit and information between the British Government and the British Citizen. It sounds so obvious, but it does not exist!
A New Order. In Europe, it would seem desirable – essential- that a form of communication should exist between the individual citizen, his/her nation, and the European Union by representation. If something goes amiss to whom would he/she seek redress? Fortunately one can go to the European Commission. Nevertheless would it not be welcome if the UK could and would consult those who are directly affected – the British citizen in Europe – by parliamentary representation? This could be achieved by an MP directly elected by these citizens. Through such an MP or MPs, the citizen can relate directly to Government and this would change the current attitude of dictate from Government to one of consultation with the Citizen Abroad.
Conclusions. Seek appropriate Representation, eventually by elected MPs. for citizens abroad. A new order of representation will take time to achieve but it will come faster if you make it known that you desire the British Government to take notice of you and your needs by at the first step guaranteeing a vote for life for some form of representation
Send your opinion to Mark Harper, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, House of Commons, London SW1A OAA email@example.com
and get others to sign up and comment on http://votes-for-expat-brits.com/
* Notes on demographic changes since 1973. When the UK joined the EU, the number of elderly British citizens on the continent has grown from extremely few – almost zero in most countries – to 102,000 in Spain, 55,000 in France, about 38,000 in both Germany and Italy and 9,000 in Portugal The numbers in Cyprus are now growing rapidly and number 17,600, increasing by over 12% in the last year alone. Ireland has 123,000.
The exact figures can be obtained via the Dept. of Works and Pensions tables –
Brian Cave originator of http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/
Is a “British” Citizen Abroad a Citizen Ignored?
The Select Committee on Political and Constitutional Reform has reported on the 4th November 2011, on the subject of voting.
There are two references to overseas voters in the report. The first mentions the inadequacy of the postal vote – A very welcome observation! The second is copied below.
pp. 99. The Committee also received written evidence from a number of expatriates calling for the Government to abolish the current 15 year limit on voting in General Elections when living overseas. Mark Harper responded that it was “something that Government is considering at the moment, but we have not reached a decision”.
The expatriate desire to be recognised is noted – this is a good thing and a tiny step forward. But it is a very thin chink in the door. The door is not locked but hardly ajar.
If you are a British expatriate then you are affected by the treaties between the country where you live and the UK signed in your name.
If you are concerned about the way Britain performs on the world stage.
If you receive your income from the UK, have family in the UK, or may one day return to the UK. Then you should express your feelings.
YOU CAN make a difference. You can push at the door! – Get out your fingers and Write.
1. To the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform,
Mark Harper, Cabinet Office, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA .
Dear Mr Harper…. I am a British citizen and I want to have a say for life in how my country manages itself in the world and in all matters that affect me and my family.
I want the vote for life.
2. TO YOUR MP (to find your MP click on - http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/
Dear…. I am a British citizen and your constituent! I want to have a say for life in how my country manages itself in the world and in all matters that affect me and my family. Please act in my interest now and when a vote comes before Parliament.
Brian Cave contact, firstname.lastname@example.org
What the lack of correct political representation
is costing expat Brits in their pockets
The Determination of International Laws. The international laws which affect all expatriates are discussed, agreed to, and signed by the British Government in the name of all British Citizens. Unfortunately the Expatriate British Citizen is never consulted through any process of Representation.
The agreements are drawn up by Whitehall Civil Servants according to the perceived interests of the British State. The Minister of State involved is unlikely to understand the effect on the expatriates. Other politicians, unless pre-warned, are even more unaware. It is absolutely necessary that they should know what is happening in OUR name. It is necessary that in each population there is someone who can transmit the citizens’ feelings to the senior politicians (the cabinet) and to Whitehall. In democratic countries there is a feedback from local councils (or from individuals) to MPs to Government. An individual or someone acting for a group [say in Bristol] can in Britain explore this channel of communication. THE EXPATRIATE BRITISH CITIZEN usually CANNOT do this. He/she has no appropriate Representation.
Britain has the closest set of treaty links with The European Union. Essentially it is supposed to mean that a British Citizen can move freely without loss of benefit between the States of the Union – This is enshrined in EU Law – But in certain instances the British Government fails in its obligations.
The British Citizen elsewhere in the world can be even more disadvantaged.
Because of this yawning gap in political communication, the expatriate is disadvantaged, but the disadvantage varies from country to country (within the EU) and from continent to continent in the World. It would seem that The Citizen abroad, is a Citizen ignored.
A. The European Union
Many of the problems within the EU are discussed in the blogsite http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.com
Here I give little more than headings – it is necessary to go to the blogsite and explore the various entries to learn more
The relevant EU laws are:-
REGULATION (EC) No 883/2004 [The Law on Social Security Co-ordination in the EU]
REGULATION (EC) No 987/2009 [Implementation of this Basic Law] Both are binding documents – here and there breached by Britain.
No expatriate – neither the young nor the old- is entitled to live and work in the EU without the backing of these and other EU laws. The expatriate needs Representation when changes are proposed.
The legal area is clouded by the Double Taxation Agreements between every separate nation which interfere with the operation of the continent wide EU laws.
There is no political interest in the UK for creating a level playing field in Europe. The expatriate has no easy way of influencing a debate on any of these laws. He needs Representation.
The numbers of expatriates who have actively spoken out in France, Italy and Spain in any political sense, could easily sit round one table. We need a proper channel of political communication.
A.1 Health charges . The EU law indicates that all British pensioners (holders of an S1 form) should receive cover for health costs as though they lived in Britain. In Spain they do. In France they do not – The top-up cost in France is between 1,000 to 3,000 euros a year for an aging couple increasing with age.
A.2 Extra Benefits for the disabled and elderly. The UK Government is still extremely reluctantly accepting that it should make payments of the Winter Fuel Payment (worth either £200 or £300 per home), Attendance Allowance, and other benefits to expats in Europe. Only the EU Commission has stood up for the British expatriate. The disabled expatriate, the aged mother who has out of necessity gone to live with her children in France have no power to stand up for themselves. They need Representation of their cause.
A.3 Double taxation. Problems in this area are outside of EU regulation and relate to agreements between each pair of countries. Those expatriates who receive a government service pension from the UK in France [Military personnel, Police, Fireman, Teachers, -curiously Nurses are not so disadvantaged] pay out £100’s and sometimes £1000,s in Tax to the UK authorities more than they would if their incomes were taxed in France. In Spain such persons do not have to declare such incomes at all (!) as indeed neither does a French person in similar circumstances in Britain.
Again the British expatriate has no system of Representation to protest in any political manner at such injustice.
A.4 The Military Covenant. The current British Government has declared its respect for the ex-serviceman. There are those who want to live in the EU beyond the UK and of course elsewhere in the world.
http://www.mod.uk/NR/rdonlyres/A41BEF29-DA63-4F63-9954-1C2693587744/0/revised_Feb08_military_covenant_factsheet.pdfUnder EU law they are entitled to move within the union and obtain any rights which they would enjoy if otherwise they lived within the UK. Regarding the three items above,:-
Their available incomes would be less (in France) than if they lived in Spain.
They would pay a fair proportion of their health costs (in France)
The reception of the Winter Fuel Payment would at the moment be doubtful when they achieve 60 years of age.
The ex-serviceman will lose out as do all others; but moreover the ‘covenant’ would be breached. They also need Representation!
A.4 Other Financial Problems for the expatriate..
The chief is the lack of financial freedom in the use of banks and investments.
If you do not already possess a UK based account or it disappears because your bank goes bust, then it is extremely unlikely that you can open an account from a non-UK address. This is not a legal constraint on the banks. It is their own convention. It surely should be illegal to so discriminate within the EU.
No-one ever takes this up politically because no-one Represents the expatriate.
B. BEYOND THE EUROPEAN UNION
Refer to http://www.britishpensions.org.au/morald.htm
This reference states the legal history of the matter of Frozen Pensions.
The State Retirement Pension of expatriates in Commonwealth countries like; Australia, Canada & New Zealand have their pensions frozen at the level at which they existed when they moved. It is not frozen in the USA. It is frozen in the Faroe Islands, but not in Iceland.
It is not frozen in Turkey but is frozen in Albania. The situation is chaotic and absurd.
The expatriates are not adequately Represented in Parliament.
Other examples of frozen/unfrozen pensions.
In the tax haven of Liechtenstein [principality between Switzerland and Austria] the British State pension IS NOT frozen.
In the tax haven of Monaco [principality in the south of France] the British State Pension IS frozen.
Brian and Helen Cave
le Fourquet, Gourdon, 46300, France
Question - is Tunisia a more advanced democracy than the UK - it rather seems so ...
Tunisian vote in their expat constituencies!
Brian Cave of Pensioners Debout writes.........
READ this item from the Guardian. I quote directly from
the Guardian for Thursday October 20th 2011 (Lizzie Davies).
Tunisians abroad vote 'with hands trembling and tears flowing'.
At around 10pm Tunisian time - 8am in Canberra, Australia -
Najia Oun made history. Walking into a polling booth and dropping
a little piece of paper into a transparent ballot box, she became the
first person to vote in her country's first ever free elections.
Read more here in the Guardian.......
Of all places in Canberra!
Canberra! The capital of Australia of all places where one million three hundred
thousand British Citizens live and where very few of these British Citizens have
the right to vote as British Citizens.
The British Government denies this right of natural justice to its Citizens amongst the Nations. The Country of Fairness and Decency amongst the Nations is shamed by this outrageous, dictatorial attitude. Shame! Britain is a Nation whose politicians walk on the World Stage pronouncing that democracy is to be brought to Libya, Egypt and indeed Tunisia, and all other 'errant' nationStates and yet have the gall
to deny it to their fellow citizens.
Amongst these Citizens in Australia are 252,000 British Pensioners whose
State Retirement Pensions are frozen by the British Government - That is to say- the Old
Age Pension for which, through National Insurance Contributions throughout their working
lives they thought they had paid. Many of these pensioners left Britain to join their grown
up families and grandchildren. Is this such a crime, that they should be cast aside by the
successive governments of a country for whom so many of them gave so much in conflicts
and wars for the cause of freedom, democracy, and their country?
Will all Britons,young and old, rich or poor, Stand Up, Speak Out and add your names to
Brian Cave originator http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/
ROGER GALE is Conservative MP for Thanet North and has sent British expatriates demanding their voting rights, the following message:
I have received a number of recent communications relating to progress – or lack of it
– towards either extending the duration of time within which ex-pat UK citizens may vote in UK general elections or granting the vote for life.
The thesis appears to be as follows: it is recognised that while the ex-pat (European) community is generally able to vote in local and EU elections, those who have been resident outside the UK for more than 15 years are denied the right to vote in a national election unless, of course, they have adopted another nationality. It is also clearly understood that most European Union and some other States grant ex-pat voting rights in perpetuity.
The government feels obliged to contest the “Harry Shindler Case” under UK law as it stands. As HMG is considering amending the law (an amendment that will have to
be agreed between the coalition partners in order to gain the necessary majority
in the House) this might seem perverse but the convention is clear: we implement
UK law as it is and not as we would wish it to be or as it might become.
Looking forward, the Registration Bill, due to be introduced in January, provides a
realistic vehicle for a change if the Government is minded to extend voting
While I appreciate – and share – the sense of frustration felt by those who want to “get
a move on” I now propose to use my best efforts to calmly and courteously seek
to press the case for change. It would be helpful if those ex-pats with an interest in the subject (and it has been pointed out by others that the level of pro-active support is lamentable in some areas) were to write to /e-mail their own MPs** seeking support for legislation through representations to the Cabinet Office.
I remain convinced that Mark Harper, as the junior Cabinet Office Minister, genuinely
wants to help but this, clearly, will be a Coalition Cabinet decision and it is, therefore, important that Liberal Democrat as well as Tory MPs understand the sense of injustice that is felt throughout an ex-pat community that has worked for, supported, paid taxes in and sometimes fought for the United Kingdom.
Roger Gale MP
Daily Telegraph article on voting for expats
Expats hope for voting reform support from select committee
Expats fighting for a change in the voting legislation that currently deprives them of their UK vote after 15 years of living abroad are hopeful that their arguments will be raised in a select committee hearing this Thursday.
Longstanding expats hope their right to vote will be restored Photo: Visions of America, LLC / Alamy
The disenfranchisement has long been a thorn in the side of expats, many of whom still contribute to the UK tax system or work for UK companies abroad.
It is hoped that the nine-member cross party group will use Thursday's political and constitutional reform select committee to support the expats who have petitioned, blogged and sent in letters demanding change.
Originally from Twickenham, retiree Anita Rieu-Sciart moved to the Var region of southern France 20 years ago for economic reasons. In her letter to the committee she said: "We have worked and paid in to the UK all our working lives; paid in tax, for health, and everything else. Why should we lose the right to vote, because in our declining years we decide to live elsewhere?
"Don’t you find it utterly hypocritical, and possibly totally cynical, for Prime Minister David Cameron... to nail his colours to the mast at the UN, appealing for UN support for beleaguered peoples in the Arab belt of North Africa and elsewhere, striving to achieve democracy and the right to vote, when at the same time his Government is denying this same right to vote to British citizens, who have done their utmost for their country, and paid in to all the UK systems.
"Virtually no other European country strips its citizens of their right to vote. The over 300,000 or so French citizens now living and working in the UK have their own parliamentary representatives. But somehow our Government can’t make it possible for all its citizens to vote in UK general elections."
Parliament's reason for limiting the right to vote, up until now, has been that over time a person's connection with the UK is likely to diminish if they are living permanently abroad.
Expat James Preston, who has surpassed the 15 year watershed by working for a British property investment firm in Madrid, is currently locked in a court battle with the Government over what he considers his fundamental democratic right.
He said: "Until I got married and had children, I really never felt the need to vote. It was my strong feelings about the Iraq war that persuaded me to think about voting in the forthcoming UK elections, but now that I’ve reached the 15 year watershed of living in Spain, I’ve lost the chance. I’m basically being stripped of a fundamental democratic right. The right to vote.”
PARLIAMENTARY SELECT COMMITTEE MEETING THURSDAY 13 OCTOBER – ON POLITICAL/CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM & TV DEBATE!!!
VOTES FOR EXPATS
Dear Friends, Readers, contacts, Expat Websites, Clubs & Associations, please help – this is an urgent call For your help and co-operation.
Clubs & Associations Please circulate to your members
As you know for quite a while a number of people, myself amongst them , have been campaigning to get the 15 year rule abolished by which expatriates living elsewhere than in the UK, lose their right to vote after 15 years, despite as we have pointed OUT on numerous occasions, many such expatriates, pay taxes in the UK
A new website came into being recently votes-for-expats.com and people have signed up in hundreds, adding their comments, a majority of them resenting Taxation without Representation, as well as making many other points, particularly ex-servicemen who have fought and served their country.
Now a Parliamentary Select Committee is meeting to debate this subject – however only as part of other matters – Thursday 13 October. The General Public has been invited to make submissions. YOU CAN HELP BY WRITING TO THEM! . And we have only been informed about this Select Committee hearing in the past day or so, we need your help.
I and others, Brian Cave of Pensioners Debout blog and website, Graham Richards, who has campaigned for compensation for investors in the Equity pension scandal, Sylvia Moore of International Labour, Christopher Chantry of the votes-for-expats website. etc. have all made submissions. My submission which is unfortunately rather lengthy, you can find below.
I would urge you please if you value your votes, and want to vote, and look after your pension, and what happens to the future of the UK. Your children, grandchildren and their futures, please support this initiative and write in to the committee.
As one contact pointed out to me, a couple retired from the Met Police, the index linking relating to their pension may well be changed, as far as they can see for the worse, shortly they will lose their right to vote. This might also be the case concerning your pension. WITHOUT A VOTE YOU HAVE NO SAY.
And it is not just pensions that may be affected by present and future legislation - how do you feel about being regarded, as Non Resident, and therefore requiring a special Non-Resident’s pass to enter the UK. Think about it. Without a vote you can do nothing.
The list of the Select Committee is attached herewith, but are also listed below so that you can cut-and-paste them into your email.
Nick Clegg’s address has been added as he seems to have opinions on the subject, possibly not favourable, so perhaps it would be wise to supply him with your comments.
DO PLEASE ACT NOW – THIS MIGHT BE THE ONLY CHANCE FOR US TO GET A HEARING, AND MAKE OUR FEELINGS KNOWN.
By all means cut-and paste anything you wish from my submission or from the votes for expats website, or any other information, I will try and include in this mail. I know not everyone is a writer. But do not hesitate to make your feelings known. As ex-serviceman Bosworth on the votes for expats website points out, barely 50% of the electorate voted last time. Isn’t it time they valued the votes of the electorate, and gave us our votes back. You pay taxes and have paid into and worked for the system and country all your life, as most of us have, you are entitled!
I apologise for the length of this missive, but it is important. Please act now.
Best regards Anita
The Debate is going to be televised, however via the Internet (NOT NOTE BBC Parliament!). So you can watch the proceedings.
THE TELEVISING of the Select Committee Thursday 13th at 10.00 a.m UK TIME - 11.00 a.m. Continental time) on UK Parliament TV. The link is:-
You can at about 10.58 a.m.(Euro time) on Thursday raise the above link via your PC and go to the TODAY item and then to the bottom right section of the four compartments which appear (COMMITTEES) click on the appropriate " Political and Constitutional Reform slot at 10.00 a.m. UK time" A live video will appear of the procedures.
You should also mail to:
The Cabinet office, which is at:
The Minister (Mark Harper) for Constitutional Reform, who will be presenting his case to the Select Committee
Select Committee members
Pensioners Blog site
Colin Blackwell in the latest comment to this blog has informed us that the Cabinet Office has asked for feedback on its Bill to change how Voter Registration is done. Basically this is the best immediate shot we have to abolish the 15 year rule.
As many British Expatriates as possible need to email email@example.comTHIS WEEK i.e. by Oct 14th urging that the 15 year rule is dropped in this legislation.
More information athttp://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/individual-electoral-registration-draft-bill .
The under current is that a consensus is building within the coalition to extend the cut off period back to 20 years rather than 15 years as opposed to abolishing it completely – so the more responses they get this week the better.
Vote on the issue - go to http://votes4xpatbritsblog.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/voting-rights-blog/
Parliamentary Select Committee for Political and Constitutional Reform.
MORE NEWS on the voting debate.
The Select Committee progress is to be televised on the BBC PARLIAMENT CHANNEL at 10.00 UK Time (11.00 a.m. Continental time) on THURSDAY 13th October -
The timetable of Parliamentary activities can be read via this following link.
You have to look for and choose the TV link for the correct day.
Representations which quite a few of us have made to the committee could be referred to.
I note that the subject is entitled " The Government’s proposals on individual electoral registration and electoral administration."
That bothers me a bit - I have no knowledge of these proposals - (has anyone outside the inner circle of Government?).
Let us hope that our submissions forces the members to widen what might well be a disappointingly narrow compass.
If you haven't written please do so. It could be the last chance to get fair representation. These submissions must be sent before the end of tomorrow- Tuesday
I have been sent another email address which is GODDARDA@parliament.uk
Annabel Goddard is the Committee Assistant for the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee.
Her duty is to see that all submissions are copied and distributed to the members.
Please circulate this email information freely.
The Parliament TV web page reads for that time slot.......
The Government’s proposals on individual electoral registration and electoral administration
- Mark Harper MP, Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office
Up dates from the ever energetic Brian Cave
1. A fresh appraisal of the Winter Fuel Payment - The EU has indicated that if you are a British OAP then you should receive this 'Age Risk benefit' even if you had not received it before leaving Britain. (This information comes to me through the courtesy of David Burrage of the Spanish expatriates Association)
link to ....... http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/2011/09/winter-fuel-payment-action.html
2. Several people have contacted me about the taxation of their British Government Pension (military, police, teachers etc.) My gut feeling is that such taxation is morally
wrong. They are disadvantaged - often quite seriously to the extent of thousands of £s. ( I owe much in this to the help of my daughter -a British accountant - and a French accountant friend)
link to ... http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/2011/09/unfair-financial-burden-for-retired.html
3. A comment by Ian Duncan Smith made me rather cross. I suspect that he is a simple man of humble origins, probably good hearted at base, but has been mislead by the 'let's be nasty to anyone who leaves the shores of Britain' attitude rampant in Britain.
I have ensured that he will receive a personal comment from me.
link to http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/2011/10/island-syndrome-of-ian-duncan-smith.html
An important fork in the road of the history of democracy.
The circumstance is as important as the votes for women.
Nowadays not to allow women to vote would be considered primitive. The authoritarian line taken against the women petitioners - the suffragettes - by the UK Government was barbaric. Now, it is just as primitive not to allow all British citizens to vote.
The vocal attitude of some in Britain to widening the suffrage at this time is likely to be as barbaric and unthinking. If Britain takes the wrong road then the reputation of Britain for democracy will be grievously wounded.
The communication revolution has shrunk the world and British citizens from Australia to London are equally aware of what happens in Britain. Nearly all (I doubt if there any who are not) are affected [and have always been so- even if only in a small degree], by the decisions of the House of Commons' parliamentarians and Whitehall bureaucrats. Whatever is decided in Britain reverberates round the world and no British citizen can be unaware or unaffected. The blog item below expands on this.
Some of you have added names to the petition Votes for Britons -http://votes-for-expat-brits.com
Many have not. I earnestly beseech you to do so now.
The petition web site is mounted by a small team of expatriates representing 'Labour International' (Dr. Sylvia Moore) and 'Conservatives Abroad' (Christopher Chantrey). others have joined the team - Graham Richards with huge experience in developing the campaign to get fair compensation for Equitable Life investment victims is one and another is Anita Rieu-Sicart, editor of Var Village Voice. The Labour International Branch at Geneva and neighbouring France is developing ideas for further action.
The following MPs and Peers have supported the principle of this campaign. Conservatives - Roger Gale, William Hague Labour- Diane Abbott, Denis MacShane, Martin Linton, Bill Bret (peer), , Lib Dems - Charles Kennedy, Paddy Ashdown (peer) .
But it is a truly huge herculean and almost impossible task task to make expatriates around the world aware of this campaign. We can only contact the majority through the portals of web-sites and media outlets. The internet is a great tool for democracy in the 21st century, but unfortunately there are those portals which are blind to the significance of this.
Nevertheless we have made a good start.
Read, on the web-site, some of the 200+ comments from around the world, and you will realise the resentment that other British citizens feel in being denied representation in Westminster.
In demonstration, as a response to our messages, The Telegraph has mounted the following - based on an article by Anita. The link is:----
I attach a poster which has been designed by one of the Pensioners Debout! correspondents. You can print this and pin it up in your local supermarket!
Yes I know Brian has sent it sideways - but you could print it off
le Fourquet, Gourdon, 46300, France
Tel- ++33(0)565 41 42 69
web site:- www.lefourquet.net
Blogs :-- http://pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/
A new posting on a EU consultation initiative on the Double Taxation Conventions which affects all 'government' pensioners in France has just been published on the blog.
A Call to Action
Pressure is gathering force to persuade the British Government to change the law relating to expatriates not having the power of voting for their National Government.
Remember, democracy springs from the people, not Governments.
The British Government is almost alone in Europe in not admitting that the democratic vote is an inalienable right of the citizen.
Yet, surely, the nature of what it means to be British is something apart from the attitude of the Government. This is the crux of the matter. Britain is its people, not the Government.
Although the British Governments do not deserve our support, we British Citizens throughout the world are Ambassadors for the British spirit, the British culture.
We deserve to be fully recognised by the British Government as active in the countries where we live as representatives of Britain.
Recently, even Morocco (hardly renowned up to now for democracy) set up polling stations throughout Western Europe for its citizens to vote on the Moroccan Constitution. But no British expatriate can vote after 15 years of non-residence, however close your links remain with the land of your birth. Those who live within a day's distance of Britain, and those who are in daily touch with Britain, must surely sense the inequity of the current situation?
Is it not time that Britons throughout the world stood together for the cause of British fair play?
Our attitude could change the attitude of the British Government. But this change will only happen if the pressure is great. This pressure is needed before the Autumn.
Your voice is needed.
Why this autumn?
At this time there are two current cases in law -that of James Preston [before the High Court in London] - and that of Harry Shindler [before the European Court of Human Rights] fighting to be recognised as British Citizens with the right to vote. These both need the support of all British Citizens across the World.
Harry Shindler is resident in Italy. He is an ex soldier of World War II and approaches the age of 90. He, particularly and personally, seeks our support.
You, a British Citizen, you, at this time can stand up for yourself, your fellow citizens, your pride in the British way of life.
We must change the mind-set of British Governments by our deeds. Governments should be our servants, not our masters.
Link to the following site, originating from a consortium of concerned agencies. All is explained in detail - including the cases at law- and please act. And make others aware of this need to act - now!
VOTES FOR BRITONS
Follow the tag 'Show Your Support' to register on the petition and give your views.
ACTION FOR VOTES to the Westminster Parliament
Items about votes crowd in. We seem to be getting close to achieving the objective of extending the voting powers of expatriates.
In the House of Lords on 2nd March there was a debate [To change the voting arrangements for expatriates]- to viewlefourquet.net/Hansard H-L-2-March-11.doc This Hansard report indicates that Mark Harper MP (Forest of Dean) and Parliamentary Secretary for Political and Constitutional Reform is informed. [I am grateful to the Labour International Organisation for sending me the Hansard report - All three expatriate branches of the main political parties seem to be collaborating on this matter.]
This is important because:-
A Government which considers itself the arbiter of the grant of the vote, is treating the 'citizen' as a 'subject' - a form of servility.
Whereas the true position of Government should be as a servant of the citizens.
It is for this reason that a change in the law is an essential commencement of a change in the relationship between the British Citizen in Europe and the British Government.
The elements of the matter.
1. Mr. Harper appears to be minded to introduce a bill which will remove the 15 year cut off for expatriates (everywhere or just Europe? - we do not know, though it should be a inalienable right for all British Citizens ).
2. Incidentally to this- Mr. Harry Schindler ( a British National who now lives in Italy but fought in the army through Italy in 1944- see the links given below) sought a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights ECHR on the 15 year ruling [i.e. no franchise after 15 years abroad].
The outcome was successful. David Burrage Legal Advisor to the Spanish Association of British Expatriates writes to me in consequence as follows:-
My understanding of the current situation is that the ECHR have sent a reasoned legal opinion to the UK government informing them they consider that, to disenfranchise EU resident expats of their voting rights, merely because they have chosen to reside in another Member State violates their human rights including the right of free movement as enshrined in Community law. The Court has therefore given the UK a time limit in which to set out their response.
The weighty argument for a change has been laid out!
Mr. Schindler's story can be followed in the following links.
3. On 16th March there is a judicial Review brought by James Preston on the same issue.
4. Contrary to this, there is considerable body of ignorant opinion in the UK ( and previously among MPs and Peers) which seems to imagine that we expatriates have no interest in the UK. Mr Harper would have to face this confrontation and he needs our support to confound that opinion.
5. We must give Mr. Harper all the support possible.
6. Below, I repeat my framework letter to Mr. Harper. If we do not push hard at this time, we may not get another opportunity.
7. In the House of Lords debate, it is mentioned that the UK constituency base for votes for expatriates is often not helpful to them and is a reason why some/many do not use the short term vote which they have. You may wish to develop this thought in your letter.
If the case is won, then other benefits may well follow:- on health costing; the freedom to move in Europe without direct or indirect restrictions on banking, investments and social security benefits; the smoothing out of double taxation rules; the standardisation of the £ versus the Euro (like Denmark, where the Krone is still the currency). One would have an MP to whom to take your concerns. You could be truly British AND truly European- eventually- if this push succeeds. Failure to take the opportunity could lead to the UK seceding from Europe if Eurosceptic attitudes persist. This little act of extending the vote is not in itself important, but in changing the outlook of fortress Britain, it is!
You yourself may not wish to vote, but a change in the law to give us the vote for life is perhaps like pushing at the political log-jam. It could bring in its wake an understanding of Europe which has been lacking in the UK. I have written various 'essays' on the UK attitude (refer to the blogsite). In the 1920's people retired to Bournemouth Bexhill or Blackpool. Now in 2011 the destination is often France, Spain or Italy. The continental countries are no longer foreign places. The British diaspora in Europe (and the world) is important to the policies (the interests)of Britain. British people need to be able to relocate in Europe without hindrance and to take with them the spirit of Britain and the certain understanding that we have the support of the British Government and that we can in turn relate to that Government. It should be no more difficult to retire to Montpellier today than it was to retire to Torquay in the '30s.
The framework letter.
Dear Mr. Harper,
I learn [from the Pensioners Debout blog site], that you are possibly minded to introduce a bill before parliament extending the vote to expatriates beyond the current 15 years, at least for those who live in the EU. It should be a natural Right, for life.
I feel strongly that this should come about.
(here is included a variety of reasons - you may well have you own list)
I am a UK pensioner.
The UK is the State responsible for our health costs because of EU laws. Health laws of the EU/UK are important to us.
Treaties involving the EU (and our country of residence in the EU) and the UK are of enormous importance to us, and yet we cannot give an opinion on them.
As an (ex-teacher/ fireman/ soldier etc) we are still British taxpayers.
The UK provides our OAP.
Our savings are through UK establishments. We have a bank account in the UK.
Our grandchildren are at school in the UK. Our children live in England and we are in almost daily communication by internet and telephone.
We are as aware through TV and the Internet of British Life as one could be in the UK
It would be helpful to word your own letter, stating your own personal experience/reasons. I urge that one is always courteous- and as brief as possible. Mr. Harper is aware that although you are urged to write, you do so with your own conviction. Circular letters and petitions do not have an immense value.
I strongly emphasise that your support is necessary.
If you have not already done so, PLEASE WRITE an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you copy in to me (Bcc) it would help. You can circulate this mail as you wish.
You could also inform your own MP, if you have one.
le Fourquet, Gourdon, 46300, France
Tel- ++33(0)565 41 42 69
web site:- www.lefourquet.net
Blogs :-- pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/
OH BRITAIN, where did we go wrong ?
We're "broke" and can't help our own Seniors, Veterans, Orphans, Homeless etc.,?????????
Are you aware of the following?
The British Government provides the following financial assistance: -
BRITISH OLD AGED PENSIONER Weekly allowance £100
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS / REFUGEES LIVING IN BRITAIN Weekly allowance £250
BRITISH OLD AGED PENSIONER Weekly Spouse allowance £25
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS / REFUGEES LIVING IN BRITAIN Weekly Spouse allowance £225
BRITISH OLD AGED PENSIONER Additional weekly hardship allowance £0;00
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS / REFUGEES LIVING IN BRITAIN Additional weekly hardship allowance £100
BRITISH OLD AGED PENSIONER TOTAL YEARLY BENEFIT £6,000
ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS / REFUGEES LIVING IN BRITAIN TOTAL YEARLY BENEFIT £29,900
.....................................from Brian Cave organiser of Pensioners Debout! Stand up!
Dear Readers of Pensioners Debout and copies to a few other contacts! TWO YEAR REVIEW
After two years, I had hoped to shut the blogsite at Christmas 2010. I spend a fraction of my energies on these political things, but even that fraction wears the spirit. But yet, one should never surrender!
Like so many before me I get dispirited by the intransigence of the bureaucracy; and the apparent deafness of politicians.
I thank all those who correspond. This encouragement is necessary.
Whether any major changes will arise as a consequence of the blog - I cannot say. I continue, but true old age approaches and beyond eighty Natural History will command my greatest interest.
I review the last two years.
1. The Double Taxation Convention. I am still in correspondence with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs
I have demonstrated that if my teachers' pension was taxed in France and not in the UK I would pay no tax. The big gripe is that rebates available against French tax, cannot be used because all one's income tax goes to the UK. My wife and I need home help aid. 50% of the cost is recoverable from one's French tax bill. Our French income tax is nil. This year the unusable rebate will amount to more than 1,000 euros. The saving, if fairness prevailed, is considerable.
2. Representation to Parliament. I have written again this January to my MP (this relationship ceases in two years) who is also [note well] Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform. I have also rewritten to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. My letter of Sept. 23rd to the FCO [David Lidington] was never answered. It included a dossier of instances from readers who had reported short shrift from their reputed MPs.
This representation, I suspect, is the root need for the British pensioner in Europe. If the politicians had to consult us, perhaps they would not ignore us. Most British Citizens in Europe do not however use such voting rights as they may have. Many have no-one at all to whom to turn as a political/social representative of their interests in the UK.
It is not apparent that there exists a politician with a statesmanlike attitude to stand up for the British Citizen in Europe. One could argue for a Commission to review the status of the British Citizen in Europe. I have made such a suggestion. Britain is in this matter the most un-democratic of all the major nations in Europe. Only the Irish fare worse.
The Chart of Voting positions across Europe here linked was recently sent to me by a reader.lefourquet.net/CHARTEUvotes.pdf
The British Pensioner in Europe represents the best of British Culture. We are good ambassadors for Britain, but the British Government does not see this. The deplorable 15 year cut-off is an insult to the elderly British Citizen in Europe.
3. The matter of costing for Health. This seems to me to be the most unfair issue for the elderly British Citizen who has retired to France. I deal with it at length.
I had written in October to the EU Parliamentary Committee on Petitions. It is unfortunate that in that European 'confusion' of bureaucrats, my submission papers were misfiled and I have needed, in effect, to start over again. I repeated my plea in December.
The argument here hinges on the interpretation of Article 17 of the current EU regulation 883/2004 which came into force on May 1st 2010.. It reads..
"An insured person or members of his family who reside in a Member State other than the competent Member State shall receive in the Member State of residence benefits in kind provided, on behalf of the competent institution, by the institution of the place of residence, in accordance with the provisions of the legislation it applies, as though they were insured under the said legislation."
OK? so far.. i.e one's health treatment is the same as a that given to a French national.
Then again Article 24 states "shall nevertheless receive such benefits for himself and the members of his family, insofar as he would be entitled thereto under the legislation of the Member State .. competent in respect of his pensions, if he resided in that Member State." i.e. the pensioner should receive treatment as though he was living in the UK.
Article 24 clause 2 says that the costs will be borne by the 'competent State' -- i.e. the UK.
None of this mentions the level of costing! How much! Note well that quite a few French people obtain 100% cover of State approved costs if their circumstances warrant it. The amount you pay depends on your circumstances. The circumstances of the British pensioners is that they are covered for Social Security by the British State. This is indeed a fact under EU law. Should they not get 100% cover as well as they would in the UK? I have clearly demonstrated that France has demanded payment from Britain for the health costs of the British pensioners in the past years far in excess of that that demanded by Spain and Italy where health cover is for the pensioner 100%. It even costs the UK far more to pay France for our 60%-80% cover, than it costs to give pensioners 100% cover in the UK. My detailed study of this was presented to the Dept. of Health. It was not, it seems, even read. You can find my material via the blog site.
Or.... You may read the report here.....lefourquet.net/Healthcosts.doc
Then again, Article 35 of 883/2004 states "The benefits in kind provided by the institution of a Member State on behalf of the institution of another Member State under this Chapter shall give rise to full reimbursement."
Another Article (62) in another 'implementing Regulation' 987/2009 states "For the purposes of applying Article 35 and Article 41 of the basic Regulation, the actual amount of the expenses for benefits in kind, as shown in the accounts of the institution that provided them, shall be reimbursed to that institution by the competent institution..." The competent institution is the Dept. of Health - i.e. the NHS.
I add --- The French State has recently declared that it will in future ask for the 'actual' charge.... Humph. Well?
As you well know, a British Pensioner couple in France normally finds their medical bills exceeding 1400 euros a year for a top-up insurance.
On all this I have petitioned the EU. I fear for another let down. Yet - miracles can happen.
[ Concerning the French Hospitals; the French Government appears to be on course to privatise all of them. Further, as you know the costs of medicines and treatments is increasingly being transferred to the patient and thus increasing the costs of mutuelle insurance. All this exacerbates the problems for the British expatriate pensioner. A French based petition exists to sign. www.petition-mdhp.fr Please do.]
4. The Winter Fuel Payment is relatively speaking a minor issue, but important to those who do not get it, and are on low incomes largely as a result of the 25% fall in value of the £. It may be a silly payment but it should be fairly implemented. Follow the 'postings' on this. David Burrage in Spain (I am in regular contact) is pursuing this matter through a petition to the EU. He has shown that it is by definition an 'old-age benefit' issued that the competent State (i.e. the UK) and the UK should not prevent its provision within Europe to all those British pensioners who would receive it, were they to reside in the UK.
5. Banking. That the UK Banking system is not freely accessible to all British Citizens in the EU could potentially create a very difficult situation for some of us. One hits a blank wall of interest. If your UK bank disappears or you have good reason to change - then you are unlikely to be able to open an account with another Bank. It is the Banks which set this ruling - not the law. I contacted the British Banking Association without any response. The Treasury recognises the problem but no legal move is made to make it make it illegal for Banks to refuse an account to a British Citizen in Europe solely on grounds of not being resident in the UK.
6. Payment of benefits (Attendance Allowance, Carers Allowance, and Disability) . Here is some success and has succeeded. The pushing has been done by quite a few others, not least by one Conservative MP fighting for one of his constituents in France! Well done. (Roger Gale). I remark on the intransigence of the Civil Servants, who devised obstacles to the payments [the infamous 26/52 week clause] to prevent payments to those who most certainly deserve them. In effect the EU law came to the rescue.
All the people at the addresses below probably find my correspondence tedious. I doubt that I will win any of these battles fighting alone. The arguments are valid whether one or many people campaign. But it helps if others actively fight as well. Otherwise those to whom I write might well imagine that no one else is bothered.
If you are moved to write to anyone feel free. Personal letters are so much more effective. I can produce some guidelines but every person has a different experience. You could be quite brief - stating you have read the blog and followed the relevant arguments and that you support them. Three sentences! You can copy anything I have published including this email. It is important to be polite, though I admit to losing my cool from time to time, especially with the Dept. of Health (because I could never contact anyone with a power of decision - I only had contact with a civil servant of whatever rank). The people to whom you write are at heart ordinary people and one should try to win them over, not raise their hackles.
Nevertheless, any replies are likely to be disappointing. The civil servants just quote the accepted rules (as seen in the UK!) back to you. Politicians refer you to the civil servants who quote the accepted procedure back to you. If you write to a senior politician they pass your material (if indeed they ever see it) to a c.s. unread. the c.s doesn't read it either and just quotes etc (e,g, the Dept of Health.).
The British based politicians and civil servants are exceedingly reluctant to consider changing the law or to accept EU law. Eventually the laws will have to be changed or else Britain perhaps leaves the EU.
The British media are not interested in Europe and even less in the Britons in Europe, unless they can cast a gripe at those who are spongers on the systems, and thus set the minds of politicians, and the British public against those like us who dare to cross the shores of Britain into the wider Europe. We all trust the British Government to assist the elderly British Citizen to live and move freely in Europe; and to be a worthy citizen in Europe. But can we?
Your MP - If you have one...
The House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
Mr. Mark Harper, Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA. Email email@example.com
Mr. R. Thomas [Tax Treaty Team] HMRC 100 Parliament Street, London, SW1A 2BQ- - Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mr. David Lidington MP Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London SW1A 2AH
Dept of Health (Andrew Lansley Secr of State) Richmond House, 79 Whitehall, London SW1A, 2NS
To send a personal petition to the EU [more info on the Blog] write to:--
The President, European Parliament, (Committee on Petitions), The Secretariat, Rue Wiertz, B-1047, Brussels. For more information I give a link below.
The EU law is our hope. The British law, so far as it concerns the elderly Briton in Europe, is unsuited to the changing political/demographic scene in Europe. The British Government could do much. It should be 'at the heart of Europe' and it should ensure that the British citizen is not left out in the cold. But year upon year the successive Governments sit on the fence.
The blog will continue, if less intensively. Who knows! miracles can happen.
le Fourquet, Gourdon, 46300, France
Tel- ++33(0)565 41 42 69
web site:- www.lefourquet.net
Blogs :-- pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/
Much of this campaign now seems to focus on Equitable Life so WoW offers a tirade
It is beginning to dawn that maybe the revolting student strikers are not entirely wrong.
If this shocks you – I need to bring you up to date with the UK National Insurance Scheme.
Mr Charles Ponzi would be proud of the UK’s so called National Insurance scheme.
To remind you - a Ponzi scheme is a fraudulent investment operation that pays returns to separate investors from their own money or money paid by subsequent investors, rather than from any actual profit earned.
Does that sound a bit like the National Insurance scheme!
For many years we cheered on the scheme and joined all the new bits, graduated pensions and every sort of “you give us extra and you will have a lovely old age” enticements. Mostly though these schemes were mandatory – don’t pay – go to prison!
But we trusted them didn’t we?
Suddenly sometime last year the government discovered they didn’t have the money to pay our pensions – somehow it was all our fault for living so long. It came as a huge surprise to most of us.
Oddly “they” the Civil Service, and successive governments CAN afford their schemes. How can that have happened – were they more careful with the money THEY invested for THEIR retirement than they were when it came to our retirement?
Let us for a moment remember that politicians don’t have long political careers and so they don’t really care what happens to the nations pensions since theirs – by the divine right of something or other – is completely protected and so they don’t have to worry.
We on the other hand have been Ponzied and were any other pension fund to behave in the same way as the National Insurance fund then the trustees, like Charles Ponzi, would be behind bars.
Who are the trustees of the National Insurance Scheme - a little research suggests “The national insurance scheme is administered by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)” – so are they the trustees and responsible?
In a sense and in a legal vacuum here perhaps we, the subscribers, should have a claim to being trustees – you and I who so stubbornly live longer and continue to want to eat and keep warm. So not the sort of people you would trust with their own money are we?
So – our fault again.
“It is a pension time bomb” as the papers scream – “we are living much longer” – all seems to come as a bit of a surprise down Whitehall way except for an elite group called “the Government Actuarial Service”.
So what have the 131 of them been doing? Trevor Llanwarne, their boss, thinks they are doing a good job and runs a department which costs £800,000 or so a year – about double last year’s cost - clearly a man with an eye to the problems of the national debt.
I am sure Mr. Llanwarne is a fine actuary and I bet he and his department and all their predecessors – now retired on those “special pensions” which are not a part of our willful living longer thing – have been issuing shrill, loud and dire warnings that” IT CANNOT GO ON.”
Well if they have – Bravo – but if not – well not much Bravo at all – because if we have actuaries and no-one listens to them – what are they doing? Why are they there and why this sham?
If you pay people to do a job and ignore them for 60 years there has to be a problem somewhere – if not a huge waste of money.
And then there is the issue that as one of the biggest economies on earth we manage a pension ranked right at the bottom of the EU pension’s league. Don’t get me started on that one.
Oddly the Treasury have not done well on this either because anyone with a private pension had that nice Mr Lawson insisting, in the Thatcher years that we were “overfunded” – amazing to think that was ever Treasury thinking and then grumpy Gordon took away tax breaks which finished Lawsons job and further “underfunded” the pension funds. Bravo Mandarins!
Mandarins - 100 – General Public - 0
So – if I were a student and I saw that elected governments had frittered away my Dad and Mums pension on TSR2, the Suez disaster, more Admirals than ships, the Millennium Dome, identity cards or whatever – I might just say – why do I have to pay for 60 years of a sham Insurance scheme by working till I am 108 (wont be long that one), pay through the nose to get an education and then blame the “older generation” for not dying at a time that the government actuaries thought reasonable.
Pass me a banner to wave on my Zimmer frame.
On the other hand maybe Churchill was right when he said K B O - keep buggering on.
Not much else to do I fear!
To the Editor (various newspapers - edit freely - but note the emphasis on representation - not just voting)
Representation of British Citizens in Europe at Westminster.
If any readers have tried to contact any MP or Government Office at any time and have not had any satisfactory response, can they please contact me?. You may even have had a brush-off with such a retort as 'I/we only deal with problems from constituents resident in Britain'. I am in correspondence with David Lidington, Minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on this matter.
He wrote to me in the following terms:-
"Expatriate citizens contact government about a wide range of issues covering the responsibilities of different government departments and agencies and I think that it is both fair and logical to treat representatives from expatriates in exactly the same way that we do those from people resident in the UK, where it is the constituency MP who takes the case up with the appropriate Minister.”
This comment is, as someone commented to me, baloney. After 15 years out of Britain no expatriate has a representative MP, some never have had. You cannot then discuss your pension, your taxation (yes- quite a few expatriates are taxed in the UK) or your welfare problems, if there is no-one there to whom you can write! Hardly 'fair and logical' . The reasons why the British Citizen in Europe should have representation in Westminster are quite varied. They are laid out in the blogsite pensionersdebout.blogspot.com - please view Concern 2 in that site. Over many years others have written about this matter, I note particularly the Var Village Voice in Provence, and the Riviera Reporter. It is time to put the pressure on again. With your help!
The UK is out of line with most other major European countries. France has recently declared its intention to allow French residents in the UK to have an elected representative in the Assembly.
As a first stage towards appropriate representation, I am supporting the notion of a Minister for the British Citizen in Europe. Such a person could get to grips with the intricate issues that face various British expatriates. You may not realise, for instance, that under European Law, if you receive the British Old Age Pension, then the United Kingdom is responsible (the 'competent' State, as they say) for the support of your social welfare - it is not France! France is not responsible for paying for your welfare. There are 400,000 British OAPs in Europe beyond the UK. Does the UK Government have your interests at heart? There are many more younger British people. Their situation in the developing social structure of Europe should also be a concern for the UK Government.
This issue is not just about 'the vote'. If you do not want a vote, then you need not bother to exercise it. It is about having politicians in Westminster who care about the needs of the British Citizen in the European Community. Who ensure for example that we are not ignored when treaties are arranged. Who demonstrate that the British Government values our contribution to the European culture.
A dossier of poor dealing would be helpful. Please send to me at email@example.com
Items from residents in Spain, Italy and Germany and elsewhere are as welcome as from France.
or if you do not possess email then post to le Fourquet, 46300, Gourdon, France.
So please report your experiences with UK politicians and bureaucrats, including favourable ones.
Bonjour to all the correspondents to Pensioners Debout, and others,
The following posting has been entered onto the blog-site pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/
The Costing for Health Care for Pensioners in France.
A seven page document has been sent to the new Minister of Health, Andrew Lansley.
I am satisfied that the OAPs in France should have no need to pay for a top-up mutuelle health insurance. By definition in European law, the Department of Health of the UK is the competent institution within the EEA to cover the social security needs of British OAPs,
It has taken me some months to gather the information on this matter!
I believe that the UK Government could save more than 50 million pounds and the OAP in France the costs of the mutuelle insurance of about 550 euros or so per year per person, if the UK Government would wake up to the scandal of this system.
The covering letter to Mr. Lansley also says:-
The above statement seems extraordinary and it has arisen, I am sure, without malicious intent.
The Regulations on which these payments are based are complicated and overly bureaucratic. They are based upon a system which pre-existed the accession of the United Kingdom to the EU in 1973.
In this electronic age the existing hugely inaccurate system could be replaced by another whereby the actual payments could be transmitted by electronic means, eliminating a great deal of waste.
The document is viewable at
Please read it. It is not light reading. There are references to all the EU regulations which touch on this matter.
I will be happy to receive your observations.
Best wishes ... Brian
le Fourquet, Gourdon, 46300, France
Tel- ++33(0)565 41 42 69
web site:- www.lefourquet.net
Blogs :-- pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/ Follow this site
SHOULD UK OAP's be forced to pay for "top up" health cover?
A 'posting' on HEALTH MATTERS on the blog... pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/ has been published. This draws attention to the apparent fact that British Pensioners in receipt of the British OAP everywhere in the EEA should pay nothing for their health care and should not need supplementary health insurance. It is a matter of importance to French residents.
Everything is explained through various links attainable through indicated links on the blog site..
The major link is directly viewable via lefourquet.net/BlogSOCSEC.html but the introduction of some interest is on the main blog site.
Some of you have already seen earlier versions of the major item. The latest has important additions and also corrections of mistypes and references and also links to the relevant EU Regulations.
Some minor points are still to be added when and if I receive the details from the Department of Health, London.
Please circulate as you will and encourage others to contact me.. It will be necessary to involve the Ministry of Health after the election and possibly the EU Commision.
EQUITABLE LIFE - Campaign news
I wondered if you could feature my own particular fight for compensation for my group please?
If you go to www.expatsradio.com you will find an interview (caption has a picrure of Honor Blackman) I gave this week which is proving very popular and has already been circulated quite widely.
If you go to www.emageurope.org click on country France, then click on Useful Links and scroll down you will find bottom left a list of my support group.
00 33 (0)5.62 62.28.75
WINTER FUEL ALLOWANCE - see below
There is development on the matter of the Winter Fuel Payment.
A posting on the blog site has been entered.
Please tell anyone who you know does not receive the WFP and who does not possess internet access. Get them to write. The outline draft letter can be used in publication and disseminated.
Attention is also drawn to a letter of a general nature sent to all three political parties.
le Fourquet, Gourdon, 46300, France
Tel- ++33(0)565 41 42 69
web site:- www.lefourquet.net
Blogs :-- pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/ Follow this site
More news from Brian Cave - the tireless champion of pensioners in France and indeed anywhere outside the UK
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Contact: Romano Subiotto QC
Tel: (0)20 7614 2296 or +32 475 319 223
Court Challenge Against Voting Law That Disenfranchises Britons Abroad
LONDON – Yesterday, lawyers acting on behalf of James Preston applied for judicial review of the British law that strips British citizens living overseas for more than 15 years of the right to vote in Parliamentary elections. Mr. Preston’s lawyers argue that the law penalizes British citizens as a result of their exercise of free movement and establishment rights guaranteed by the European Union, in violation of European Law.
The Government says that restricting the right of British citizens to vote in Parliamentary elections is justified, but Mr. Preston disagrees. “I’m a British citizen and only a British citizen, married to a British wife and both of us work for British firms. I read British papers, my children attend a British school and my estate taxes are owed to the British government when I die. This law penalizes me for taking advantage of the opportunities that the British government promised to all citizens when Britain joined the EU. The spirit of this law is entirely inconsistent with British democratic traditions as well as our foreign policy, where we work to bring democracy to far off corners of the world.” Mr. Preston, born in Leicester, now lives and works in Madrid, Spain after posting by his British employer 15 years ago.
Unlike the United States or other major countries in the European Union, such as France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, the United Kingdom strips citizens of the right to vote in Parliamentary elections for the mere fact of having resided abroad for more than 15 years. Though exceptions exist for the military, civil servants and British Council employees, all other citizens, including Church of England missionaries and English teachers at British schools around the corner from the British Council, lose the right to vote after 15 years abroad. In addition to British citizens like Mr. Preston, the only other citizens who do not enjoy the right to vote are children, individuals who suffer from mental illness, and criminals.
Mr. Preston’s counsel, Romano Subiotto QC, noted that, “The British voting law penalizes British citizens who exercise their fundamental rights to move freely between European Union countries. It prevents British citizens from enjoying the same free movement rights guaranteed to the citizens of other EU countries. This law is an anachronism in this day and age of easy, quick, and reliable communications.”
Mr Preston is represented by Romano Subiotto QC of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP and Daniel Jowell of Brick Court Chambers, both of whom are acting on a pro bono basis in view of the important constitutional issue raised by this case.
Questions and Answers
Q. Does the law prevent all citizens resident abroad from voting?
A. No. Only those citizens, who have been absent from the Registrar of Electors for 15 years or longer are prevented from voting. Citizens who have been resident abroad for less than 15 years are still able to vote, either in person in their constituency in Britain, or by proxy or mail-in ballot. In addition, members of the British military, civil servants, and employees of the British Council, a registered charity, as well as their spouses and civil partners, retain their right to vote, regardless of the length of their absence from Britain.
Q. Is European law relevant to British voting laws?
A. Yes. When Britain entered the European Union, it obtained free movement rights for its citizens across the Union. At the same time, Britain opened its borders to workers from other European countries. Workers from other major European countries have come to Britain to prosper, all the while enjoying the full rights of citizenship in their home countries, including the right to vote. But British citizens wishing to pursue similar ventures in Europe lose the right to vote, a penalty that goes to the heart of British culture and traditions. By penalizing its own citizens for the exercise of free movement rights, Britain infringes the guarantees of the European treaties.
Mr. Preston takes the position that the 15-year rule is a penalty that results directly from his exercise of his fundamental rights to move and establish himself freely throughout the European Union. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union protects these fundamental rights, and the Court of Justice of the European Union has consistently held that any penalty, however minor, arising from the exercise of these fundamental rights violates the relevant provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
Q. How is the law discriminatory?
A. Members of the armed forces, Crown servants, and employees of the British Council are exempted from disenfranchisement after 15 years abroad, leading to the curious result that, for example, a Briton employed by the European Commission will lose the right to vote after living in Brussels for more than 15 years, whereas a Briton working on the other side of the road for the UK embassy to the European Union will not, however long he/she has resided in Brussels, now a mere 2 hour train ride from London, i.e., closer to London than many towns in the UK. Mr. Preston’s view is that the law is therefore discriminatory. What is more, because of its arbitrariness, the 15-year rule is inherently incapable of providing an objective and justified basis to determine who should have the right to vote. Why should Britons, who have lived in, say, Brussels, for 16 years lose the right to vote while those, who have lived there for 14 years still enjoy that right? Indeed, why should Britons, who live in another state of the European Union because they have been requested to do so by UK companies, or because they represent the UK in international organizations, such as the European institutions in Brussels, or work for NGOs representing UK interests, be penalized by losing the right to vote?
Are citizens abroad less affected by the actions of Parliament and less interested in British matters? If so, would this justify excluding them from voting?
A. The Government is likely to argue that the law is justified because, among other things, it achieves what they consider to be the indispensable public interest objective of preventing residents abroad who are not proximate to Britain from voting. But this justification is not legally sufficient and factually incorrect. It is clear that citizens abroad demonstrate a range of engagement with Britain and the British Government, and thatmodern day communications have given Britons abroad more ability than ever before to remain close to their homeland. Mr. Preston is a case in point – his identity remains British, preserved in part through strong ties to British life through family, business and cultural connections, as well as by an enduring commitment to the shared ideals and beliefs that characterize the United Kingdom. Like many other Britons abroad, Mr. Preston also continues to be affected by many decisions of Parliament much in the same way as citizens resident within Britain – he remains liable for estate taxes in Britain and his children are likely to attend British schools and universities, as well as being affected (like all other British citizens) by the British Government’s international actions, such as the decisions to send troops into Iraq or Afghanistan. The British Electoral Commission recently recognized the continuing connection that citizens overseas maintain with Britain. When launching a campaign to encourage overseas voting, the Chair of the Electoral Commission, Jenny Watson, confirmed that: “British citizens living abroad come from a wide variety of backgrounds, but we know that most maintain strong links with the UK. It is easier than ever before for British citizens abroad to keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues back home and many will also want to have their say in elections.”
The 15-year rule has no bearing on the degree to which a British citizen will be affected by the election of the next Government. If disenfranchising citizens without a connection to Britain is indeed the law’s purpose, it goes much too far. At the same time, the law makes no effort to determine the level of connection to Britain and the British government of citizens at home or resident abroad less than 15 years. Disproportionate laws are not consistent with British constitutional traditions.
Would it be too complex for the Electoral Commission to organize voting for people in Mr. Preston’s circumstances?
A. No. The Electoral Commission already maintains an active service intended to register and facilitate voting by British citizens resident abroad who remain eligible to vote (i.e., whose absence has yet to exceed 15 years). Mr. Preston requests only the same services that are already available, namely the opportunity to return home to Britain to vote, to vote by proxy, or by mail-in ballot.
Q. Would it be too complex for candidates for Parliament to campaign overseas?
A. Candidates for Parliament are entitled to promote their candidacy in any way they see fit. Most candidates today use a range of modern means to communicate their candidacy to voters, including websites and telephone solicitation. It is a truism that communication and political debate no longer depend on physical proximity. There is no evidence that citizens abroad who retain the right to vote are not sufficiently well informed to cast their ballots, or that the information made available by candidates for Parliament is not reaching them. Moreover, candidates for Parliament have access to the Electoral Register, a list that directs them to their constituency’s voters, whether at home or across the European Union or the world. Finally, recent campaign visits by French and other foreign politicians to London, where many of their potential voters live, have demonstrated the feasibility of communicating, even in person, with voters abroad.
These arguments aside, the convenience of campaigning for politicians is not a relevant factor upon which the government may disenfranchise British citizens, and more fundamentally, there is no suggestion that the free expression of opinion would be jeopardized, or indication how it would be jeopardized, if Parliamentary candidates decided to campaign among expatriates abroad or decided not to campaign among them, but communicate in some other way.
Q. Rather than bringing proceedings before the High Court, would it not be simpler for interested citizens like Mr. Preston to simply return to Britain for a short period of time, and then leave, re-starting the 15 year grace period in the process?
A. Yes. The effect of the law can be easily defeated if Mr. Preston simply returned to Britain for a very short period of time to re-establish residency, and then returned to Spain. In those circumstances he would be permitted to vote for a further 15 years. That the law is ineffective at accomplishing its purpose shows just how unjust the law really is. There is no reason why British citizens abroad with sufficient means to return home temporarily should continue to have the right to vote, while those citizens without such means lose the right to vote. Though Mr. Preston could defeat the law’s operation, he challenges it because he recognizes that it represents a violation of fundamental principles of fairness and the rights of citizens to participate in the political process.
Q. Who is James Preston?
A. James Preston was born in Leicester in 1968 and grew up in Lancashire. He read history at the University of London and following graduation found work as a commercial surveyor with, among others, Jones Lang Wootton, the British commercial property consultancy firm. In 1995 Jones Lang Wootton assigned Mr. Preston to a posting in Madrid. He has lived in Madrid ever since, and is currently an employee and part owner of the Spanish subsidiary of a British property investment management firm. Mr. Preston is and remains exclusively a British citizen.
Mr. Preston and his British wife Nicola have two children, aged 4 and 6, both of whom are British citizens and both of whom attend a British school in Madrid.
Contact: Romano Subiotto QC
Tel: (0)20 7614 2296 or +32 475 319 223
Keep up to date with Brian on his blog
General Blog Site Letter 6600 visits.
Recipients of this email are :- all who have contacted the blog site by email; certain MPs shown to be concerned; and media sites – many of whom have supported the site. All email addresses are hidden to try to maintain anonymity.
The number of visits approaches 6600. Probably the number of individual visitors is well over 5000. Four people are known to have viewed the site more than 100 and two of these more than 150 times. It is hugely difficult to get the British media interested in the issues surrounding the expatriates. The email list is extended here to include some of these.
The latest monthly posting for March develops from correspondence about the illegal position of the British Government in relation to non-payment of sickness benefits to some pensioners and other younger persons who have moved to the wider Europe. An attachment of it with this email gives you the substance of it. There was a debate in Westminster on the subject in January and the links include a detailed critique of that by David Burrage, legal advisor to the Spanish Expatriates. To read the links you may need to raise the blog site. Some of the links are ‘weighty’ but it needs to be understood that the Government is indeed in breach of the European law and these documents are definitive proof of that.
Through correspondence with readers, the issue of British Banks not opening accounts for British people on the continent rumbles on. I have recommended that one person places this matter before the Financial Ombudsman. An individual could also place a personal petition before the European Union Commission. Neither may succeed but the awareness of this absurdity which could cause financial problems for the British Citizen in these very difficult times for managing our money ought to be raised …! British people with British funds need British banks to provide cheques in £s.
Another issue in correspondence is the matter of the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card). Most pensioners in Europe will have received a letter from the UK asking that one applies for this card from Britain. The letter was badly worded and confusing. No doubt huge numbers of pensioners are just befuddled by it. This new card is needed if you travel out of your resident country to any other, including to the UK. The UK picks up the tab for any treatment to you or your dependants whilst on your visit.
Organisational blog notes. On the site, the ‘gadget’ of ‘followers’ will be removed fairly soon. My experience of the blog system makes it clear that the ‘follower’ gadget is not as useful as the ‘google alert’.
I have inserted an ‘INDEX’ – so that one may more easily trace past postings.
Thank you for your support and try to get the blog site known by people who can influence change… write to your MP and use your vote (if you have one!). The postal voting system for expats is pretty damned useless but one should try!
None of the the Political Parties display in my opinion, a statesmanlike attitude towards Europe. None have a core interest in Europe or the ‘diaspora’ of the British people within it. It would seem that our main hope resides with the EU Commission who may put pressure on the British Government to behave honourably towards the British people in Europe.
Read on the Blog ‘What is Europe? – an essay.’ Access it via the INDEX.
pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/ Follow this site--
WoW supports Brian Cave and his campaign
Brian and Helen Cave
le Fourquet, Gourdon, 46300, France
Tel- ++33(0)565 41 42 69
email:- firstname.lastname@example.org web site:- www.lefourquet.net
Blogs :-- pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/
Follow this site naturelot.blogspot.com/
It seems UK pensioners are being denied benefits, for which they have paid in for over the years, if they move abroad to France and indeed other EC countries
It is an interesting subject and Brian is doing a great job raising it in parliament and getting a petition going
Supported by WoW - THE What's on site in L'Herault
Read on …..
Pensioners Debout! Stand Up! Blog site The number of visits exceeds 6100. I intend to send an update every 500 or so visits or quarterly - I do not want to burden you.
Message from Brian Cave. To everyone who has contacted me (mostly ordinary folks but also media people and some politicians).. If like me you have had heavy colds and bronchitis (besides other ailments!), you just want to curl up and bury your head until the summer arrives. But it is wise to stay alert. One must not lower one's guard!
I think we are in the doldrums of any campaign . But one perseveres. I will attempt to post some comment each month on the blog - The Monthly Comment. This month I have made an analysis of OAP migration to Europe (which see on the blog).
Most people who read the blog site can do damn all about it - but numbers do count in any world which has any political connexion. It matters that those who can take action know that many others are concerned., so never undervalue the numbers game. The importance of this blog site is that amongst the many who read it, now and then it comes to eyes of someone who has power to act. It is important to direct this blogsite in the direction of those who might act and also forever widen and widen its influence by telling others of its existence. Mostly such seeding falls on stony ground, but some seed might land on fertile ground and grow into a 'beanstalk'. So, please, disseminate the address of this site, and get others to read it..
This last month I was contacted about the problem of not being able to open a UK based bank account from an address in Europe. There is no legal obstruction to doing so and I am sure that this obstruction by the banks has created problems for some expatriates. I have a relative by marriage who is Dutch and lives in England and has opened a German Bank account but has never lived in Germany. It demonstrates a different attitude from the British Banks! The attitude of the British Banks inhibits free movement of the expatriate and is not in the spirit of the EU Treaty (Article 18). There are grounds for creating a personal petition to the EU, but it needs copies of correspondence involving the individual who has been personally affected.
Years ago, before being resident in France, I myself opened a French account from an address in England. This matter needs pushing... but I have my time and brain occupied and importantly am not personally affected. Is there someone out there who can spearhead this objective?
I have had other further comments about people with difficulties over the DLA (Disability Living Allowance) scandal. Fortunately there are other people in the front line of this matter and who are pushing it hard.
The group who is spearheading the Equitable Life scandal is in touch with me and support my blog.
On the matter of the effect of the interpretation of the Double Taxation Convention in France on the Government Pensions... there I myself continue.. Through the 'stats counter' information I note the continuing traffic on the internet to my blog site. I am sure that one repeated viewer (>100 visits) is a Whitehall person (a seed on fertile ground?). I have suspicions (by reading the name of the servers and location involved) that other viewers with EU connections are looking. (A Washington spy network has also peeped!) My EU petition is therefore slowly simmering. One must be patient! And keep one's cool!
>From Spain I get various messages and also much guidance from the legal advisor to the Spanish Expatriates.
The whole picture of the disparate issues which fall in hard manner upon the elderly expatriate is complicated. My blog is trying to put all into a coherent framework.
The Winter Fuel Payment is one matter which you yourself could raise with George Osborne. I have written to him (the letter is on the blog site). He says he will retain the WFP - but will the unfairness to so many expatriates be also maintained? Read my letter and judge for yourself. Find the letter via CONCERN 1 (Freedom of Movement) and then under Winter Fuel Payment you find the link to the Letter to George Osborne. Essentially I suggest that the WFP is linked to the Pension and becomes taxable. It should be paid at Christmas time. By that means the poorest benefit most, and it is received at the coldest period so that it is there at a time appropriate for the fuel bills- and moreover the very elderly expatriate OAP, currently denied this payment, will also benefit. George Osborne was sent this letter in October and has not answered.
If only one could get the ears and hearts of the MPs in Westminster. Foremost amongst the MPs is Roger Gale - who originally was drawn in on the DLA issue via his constituent who is closely involved. If only all the 600+ MPs shared his interest.
The Equitable Life Campaign is doing its best to contact other MPs.
My own MP Mark Harper, is well aware of what is going on. Is yours? Tell them of the blog site! And tell the would-be MPs in May.
The General Election approaches... Please use your vote.. You can find out how to contact the MP of your last area of habitation in the UK via a link on the blog site (It is helpful to know your last UK post code). There are some British Citizens in Europe who have no possibility whatsoever of having a vote!
If you insert "Find Your MP" into the search engine, you will find various routes to locate the incumbent.
Remember - I am not a young whiz-kid. Finding my way round the computer world is not that easy. Do I need a newly fashioned clever web-site to deploy the message? Can anyone help?
I have come to realise that the best way to keep informed on changes on the blog site is to raise 'Google Alert' - if you write that phrase in the search engine you will see what to do - add "Pensioners Debout!" when asked. [The 'followers' route seems to be too difficult.]
Lastly have you anything at all to offer in comments about this blog site, or items which might be worth airing and sharing?
To know that there are people out there who support me is very comforting and enables me to continue. I do not maintain it for fun!
My very best wishes for the Spring to come.
le Fourquet, Gourdon, 46300, France
Tel- ++33(0)565 41 42 69
web site:- www.lefourquet.net
Blogs :-- pensionersdebout.blogspot.com/ Follow this site
12 Jan 2010 : Column 167WH
Tuesday 12 January 2010
[Mrs. Joan Humble in the Chair]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.-(Jonathan Shaw.)
Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): Good morning, Mrs. Humble. I am grateful for the opportunity to raise this issue and I hope that my voice will last long enough for me to place my concerns on the record.
Simon Morgan e-mailed me just before Christmas. He told me that his father had died on 12 December 2009. Chris Morgan and his wife had lived in Alicante in Spain and were endeavouring to secure the payment of exportable benefits. Let me quote from an article written by Chris Morgan for the Costa Blanca News in May 2009.
"In the past, the Department of Work and Pensions...decided that anyone who was receiving a disability living allowance, carer's allowance or attendance allowance and moved to another EU country would not receive this allowance. In 2005, a 'test' case was put before the European Court of Justice...in an attempt to"
secure these benefit payments for
"non-UK residents. On the 18th October 2007, the ECJ ruled against the UK but for the next 18 months the DWP procrastinated,"
"'We are considering the legal implications of a decision by the European Court of Justice and will inform you of the outcome when the result is known.' In March this year"-
that is, 2009-
"we were informed by the DWP...that they were now able to look at our case. The letter went on to say, 'The ECJ have decided that certain UK disability benefits are to be considered sickness benefits. This means that they will be paid to some people who leave the UK to live in another EEA state or Switzerland.' The letter-
to Chris Morgan-
"then states, 'The decision affects Disability Living Allowance (care component only), Attendance Allowance and Carer's Allowance. These benefits can now be paid'"
if you satisfy
"'certain eligibility conditions'...from a letter we received at the end of April...it would appear that the DWP have shut the door on ALL those, like us, who are already living abroad because this latest letter states, 'As you had not been present...in Great Britain for 26 weeks out of the previous 52 on the day you asked us to look at the decision again, you cannot get Attendance Allowance'".
The late Chris Morgan, eight months ago, summed up the Government's shameful position precisely and they have been wriggling on the hook ever since.
The UK/EU Disability & Carers Group, based in Northern France, wrote to the Prime Minister recently, saying:
"While you are busy deciding when you are going to comply with the European Court of Justice ruling...we...have received...the following message from the wife of one our members who resides in Spain, having gone there on doctor's"
"with the hope that it would prolong his life-as it did."
12 Jan 2010 : Column 168WH
The letter says:
"I am writing on behalf of my husband.
They do not think he will last until next week. We are just waiting for the Army to fly in my two sons tomorrow and then they will increase the morphine and he will not be lucid. They say he is fading fast.
The first thing he said this morning was, 'The DWP has won. I am going to die before they cough up...' The rest is unprintable."
My first question to the Minister is how many more UK citizens now living within the EU or in Switzerland will have to die without receiving the benefits to which they are entitled, while this Government remain in breach of the law?
The Minister is aware that this is not the first occasion on which I have raised this issue in debate. He is aware that I have tabled parliamentary questions to his Department and have challenged the Prime Minister orally on the subject at Prime Minister's Question Time.
The Minister may find that he has a personal interest in this matter. Another claimant has written from his home in France to Revenue and Customs, declining to pay his tax. That claimant says:
"For over six years I have been denied the Disability Living Allowance to which I am entitled under judgement of the European Court of Justice. I am very disabled and losing my sight, yet the DWP continues to squabble with the European Commission, which is now taking"
Her Majesty's Government
"to court for failure to pay British citizens living in the EU the sickness benefits to which they are entitled under Community law. This sickness benefit would be tax-free, and exceeds the amount of my private pension, which you tax-like rubbing salt into an open wound."
Mr. Peter Atkinson (Hexham) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate and on the work he has done over a considerable length of time in sticking up for the unfortunate British citizens who have been so shamefully and dishonourably treated by the Government.
Several of my constituents reside in Spain on doctor's orders-my hon. Friend mentioned that earlier-because living in a warmer climate helps their disability. Recently, with the collapse of the pound against the euro, their financial situation has become much more urgent and that has added to the trouble faced by my constituents, my hon. Friend's constituents and those of all other Members.
Mr. Gale: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind comments and his support: he, in common with a number of Members on both sides of the House, is seeking justice for that group of people.
As I said in the summer Adjournment debate-I will put it on the record again because it is relevant-setting aside the matter of law, which we will come to in a moment, there is an impression abroad that the people we are talking about are rich, have gone to the sun, saying, "The hell with the United Kingdom", and live in splendid retirement with big yachts and lots of drink, and that they do not need any benefits. My hon. Friend has made the point that a huge number of those people have gone south for the benefit of their health, because they have respiratory or other conditions, and are eking out an existence. The other important point, to which I will return, is that they have been UK citizens and taxpayers, and many still are.
12 Jan 2010 : Column 169WH
The chap I mentioned a moment ago who wrote to Revenue and Customs lived-his family and all their friends still live-in the parliamentary constituency of Chatham and Aylesford. Some 50 Members of Parliament from all parties have a constituency interest in this subject, and I hope and believe that more of them will join us later this morning.
Many of the claimants have appealed against the DWP ruling. That is why they have sought the support of their UK Members of Parliament. I believe that the appeal process has been deliberately spun out by the Department. On 3 December 2009, my constituent, John Hamilton, noted that the Directgov website had been revised to read:
"The Department for Work and Pensions...has selected a small number of these appeals...(known as lead cases). These have been sent for tribunal hearings. The DWP has requested that similar cases are suspended until the tribunal has made a decision.
It is expected that the tribunal will not hear these cases until January 2010 at the earliest."
That is despite the fact that on 20 November 2009, tribunal Judge Jeremy Bennett ruled:
"The Tribunal Service at Sutton shall establish the availability of the parties and their representatives before listing, subject to the proviso that the hearing must take place in January 2010 unless directed otherwise by a Judge hearing this case."
That was translated by Daniel Vickery, Social Security and Child Support Appeals tribunals team leader at Sutton into the following request:
"Could you please provide me with your availability for January and February."
My constituent, John Hamilton, has now been told to look at dates at the beginning of March, so Judge Bennett's ruling is effectively being pushed into the long grass.
In the meantime, what of the grounds for the Government's continued defiance of the ECJ ruling-the so-called past presence test, requiring a claimant to have lived in the United Kingdom for 26 of the previous 52 weeks to be eligible to claim? In response to one of my earlier parliamentary questions back in June, the Minister asserted:
"The Department is already complying with the European Court of Justice ruling on the payment of exportable disability benefits."-[Official Report, 22 June 2009; Vol. 494, c. 680W.]
We now know that statement to have been ill-advised.
The European Commission website states:
"The European Commission has decided to take legal action against the United Kingdom for not paying certain benefits"-
exportable DLA, attendance allowance and carer's allowance-
"to EU citizens residing abroad."
Abroad in this case means within the European Union or Switzerland. On 9 October, the Commission addressed a letter of formal notice to the UK authorities. The British Government had two months to respond. That is the first stage of what is called the infringement procedure.
The British Government did reply within two months-just. However, in response to my question asking for sight of that response, the Minister for Pensions and the Ageing Society said:
"Correspondence between the European Commission and the member states...on such cases is generally regarded...as confidential".-[Official Report, 8 December 2009; Vol. 502, c. 249W.]
12 Jan 2010 : Column 170WH
I should like to know why. The infringement proceedings are in the public domain; why is the Government's response not in the public domain?
The clue might be found in the tardy answer, sent on 17 December, from the Prime Minister in response to my oral question to him on 11 November. It took the man in No. 10 more than a month to be able to tell me:
"We have carefully considered the application of the 26 out of 52 weeks 'past presence' requirement and believe it to be compatible with European Community law."
So I guess that is what we said in reply to the Commission.
Perhaps it is a pity that instead of relying on his hapless junior Minister for advice, the Prime Minister did not read the Commission website for himself. It states:
"British authorities require the claimant to have spent 26 of the previous 52 weeks in the UK...This requirement goes against the European rules coordinating social security benefits and justifies the Commission's decision to start an infringement procedure".
Nothing could be clearer. The Government of the United Kingdom are coldly and deliberately acting outside European law. That fact is confirmed by Jackie Morin, a member of the Commission's staff, in a letter to my constituent John Hamilton dated 3 December 2009.
Quite simply, the Government are in breach of the law and they are disingenuously using weasel words and artifice to try to deny to sick, elderly UK citizens who have served this country-many of them in the armed forces-and who have paid their dues throughout their working lives the money owing to them.
The situation gets worse. Overnight, I received an e-mail on the matter. Unfortunately, I have not been able to go back to the person who sent it to me to secure consent to name them, so I shall have to hand it to Hansard on the understanding that for the moment their anonymity is protected. The e-mail states:
"In June last year (2009) I received a letter from the DWP Debt Collection for what they describe as an overpayment of £3,800 for Carers Allowance...I explained...that I had not left the UK permanently in August 2004"-
the date to which the attempted reclaim related-
"had sold our property then, rented afterwards, and the pensions department were informed of change of address, and"
"had taken permanent residence in France at the beginning of March 2006. The lady I spoke to said she would call me back the following week, but did not...I received no phone call. I have received no correspondence until today."
That was 11 January. The e-mail continued:
"My allowance was stopped at that time"-
"and my husband, who is 72 years old and had suffered a massive heart attack (leaving his heart working at 70 per cent.), has diabetes, diverticular disease, asthma, arthritis and...mobility problems as a result...was awarded Attendance Allowance for life in 2003. I had to leave my full time job to become a £50 a week full time carer. Today I received a letter stating if I do not repay this amount"-
"by the 19th of this month legal action will commence...we do not have any money, the house we live in belongs to our daughter"
"have no savings. We receive £160 per week which includes an allowance for me as a 'wife', and our daughter and son in law help us out financially. We do not even own a car. There is no way we can afford to repay...money, which I believe I do not owe anyway...as we are waiting for reinstatement of our benefits, which we have pursued since August 2006".
12 Jan 2010 : Column 171WH
Mr. Atkinson: In the case of my constituent, who comes from Northumberland and moved to Spain a long time ago, when the move took place, he was told that disability living allowance would have to stop and he accepted that as one of the penalties of moving abroad. Then, when he discovered the result of the European judgment and reapplied for the allowance, he was told that he was out of court because of the past presence test; he had not lived in the UK for 26 weeks out of 52. This is a classic Catch-22 situation. He thought he had been deprived of disability living allowance, only to be told that if he was entitled to it, he could not have it because he did not pass the test as he had already moved from the United Kingdom.
Mr. Gale: I fear that the situation my hon. Friend describes applies in many cases and I shall come in a moment to what I believe may prove to be the Government's fall-back position, because I can see another area of wriggle room developing if we are not careful.
I believe that the Minister is not only an honourable but a decent man. I know him very well as a Kent Member of Parliament, and outside the Chamber as a friend. I also know that Ministers have to do the bidding of their civil servants, the Secretary of State and the Cabinet, and I know that the Cabinet is in turn leant on by the Treasury, which is seeking to save, for blindingly obvious reasons, every penny that is available. However, I hope that the Minister will believe that it is quite wrong of his Department to send out threatening letters to elderly and infirm people, seeking to claw back money that they do not owe; not only that, they are owed money by the United Kingdom Government.
Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con): I, too, pay tribute to my hon. Friend's doughty crusade on this matter. Has he any idea of the number of people involved and the sums involved?
Mr. Gale: Information is very hard to come by. The Minister may be able to shed more light; he has access to figures that I do not have. I know roughly the number of appeals that have been lodged. We are probably looking in total at between 2,000 and 3,000 cases across the whole European Union and Switzerland. The majority are in France and Spain or Majorca, and there are some in Greece and one or two others dotted around the European Union, but not many. With regard to the sums involved, the Minister is on record, I think, as saying that this situation could lead to a sum rising to £50 million annually. I am not quite sure what the justification for that figure is, so I hope that the Minister will have time to explain to my hon. Friend, the expatriate community and me how those figures are arrived at.
……. End of section 1 …….
12 Jan 2010 : Column 171WH—continued
However, that is not really the point, is it? The point is that there is a legal requirement on the Government to pay the money. The point is that we are not dealing with people who have come from overseas to the United Kingdom and claim every benefit known to man, or the kind of people who are reported on the front page of the Daily Express today as using the United Kingdom as a social benefits milch cow by obtaining a national insurance number for future benefit use. We are not talking about people like that. We are talking about people who have devoted their entire working lives to the United Kingdom, who have paid their taxes, paid 12 Jan 2010 : Column 172WH their dues, done everything right, served in the armed forces, given their lives to this country-for this country in some cases-and in retirement have chosen to live somewhere warmer and slightly more comfortable to end their days.
Those are the people we are talking about. Those are the people we are damaging. They are not ciphers or numbers-2,000 or 3,000. I do not care if there is only one of them; they deserve what the law says they are entitled to, and that is what the Government-our Government, my Government, the United Kingdom Government-are denying. I am ashamed of that.
I want to hear from the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper), that a Conservative Government will honour their legal undertaking, and ensure that those people receive the money that is due to them or sadly, in some cases, to their estates. It is open to the Minister, even now, to recognise that the Government have acted shamefully and that they are wrong, and to agree this morning that his Department will pay all the money
due to those who have had benefits terminated when leaving the UK, and have subsequently submitted fresh claims from the EU country of their current residence.
I want to clarify one further issue. For the avoidance of doubt or misunderstanding, and to satisfy the claimants and the European Commission, any such payment, which I believe will have to be made, will have to be backdated to the date of termination or of first claim. The Government can either choose to do that honourably and graciously now, or wait for the European Commission's infringement proceedings to take their course, be taken back to the European Court of Justice-during which time more claimants will die-be ruled against, and then fined and forced to pay. I hope that the Government choose to settle.
I said earlier that I could see wriggle room appearing if we did not nail the matter down now, and I shall not settle for back payment to the date of the most recent claim. Those payments should not have been terminated when people left the United Kingdom; they were lawful then. To be fair, the Government did not know that they were lawful then and nor did we, which is why so many people did not appeal at the time. We now know, however, that they were lawful; that is what the European Court of Justice said in its ruling. Any payments made will, therefore, have to be backdated to the date of termination or of first claim. The Government have been caught breaking the law, and they have to pay the bill.
John Barrett (Edinburgh, West) (LD): I commend the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) on his passionate speech, in which he described many detailed and moving cases. I also congratulate him on his long track record on this matter, and on everything he has said today. He has done more than anyone to highlight what is an all too familiar tale of a Department that is willing to use every trick in the book to avoid meeting its legal and moral obligations.
The hon. Gentleman has done an excellent job in framing the issue today, and I do not wish to go over ground that he has already covered. However, it is worth re-emphasising what we are not dealing with 12 Jan 2010 : Column 173WH here. As he said, this is not a tabloid-friendly tale of people from other European countries arriving in the UK and claiming benefits, as has been reported in some quarters. The men and women affected are from here and have paid their taxes here, but are having their entitlement denied to them when they need it most. As has been said, they are not wealthy people. This cannot be spun as part of a wider Government crackdown on wealthy non-doms; the 2,000 to 3,000 or so people who are affected are generally elderly and manifestly in poor health with advancing disability. They have paid their taxes and national insurance contributions and have earned the right for help with their disabilities. Many of them have moved abroad not out of choice but on medical advice.
The reason to move to some place with warmer weather at this time of year should be self-evident-it is tempting for the younger and the able-bodied, let alone for those who have worked all their lives, such as an older couple I know who lived in Scotland. The man had worked for the Ministry of Defence until he retired at 65. When he retired he was living in MOD housing, and he and his wife decided to look around for warmer weather and a reasonably economical place to live; they decided to head for Spain. He had paid his dues all his life and had never asked for a penny, and for the Government now to put so much effort into avoiding their responsibilities to them in this way is shameful. The Government are
avoiding those responsibilities, but the job of Government is to provide fair and decent treatment, particularly to the vulnerable and the disabled.
When I was a local councillor, I had experience of a local authority trying to deny individuals fair treatment. When elderly people fell in the streets, the first response they would get would be from loss adjusters who would try to put them off and imply that it was their fault. Most people gave up and went away. We have a Government with a track record of denying for years a fair deal to investors in Equitable Life, despite the ruling of the ombudsman. Today we are dealing with benefits paid for by those who have worked all their lives-many of them never taking a penny. Many of them are ill and some are disabled, and they have gone to live abroad, many for health reasons. They are being denied not something that can be argued about, but an entitlement. The question has been taken up at European Court level. This is an entitlement, not something that is up for debate. The Court has decided: the Government were found guilty, and in the run-up to the election the Minister has a lot of explaining to do.
The European Court of Justice ruling on 18 October 2007 was very clear. It said that those eligible and in receipt of the care component of DLA, attendance allowance and carer's allowance should be able to continue to receive those benefits when they leave the UK. That was because they were classed as "sickness cash benefits" under EU law. That ought to have been the final word on the issue, and the Government should have accepted the ruling and paid out the benefits. Instead, it seems that the ruling itself has been warped by the Department to create yet another loophole.
We are now in the farcical position whereby claimants cannot have their benefits reinstated if they had them removed before the European Court of Justice ruling, 12 Jan 2010 : Column 174WH because the Government will not admit that their decision to remove benefits before then was wrong. The ruling by the European Court was that people should be entitled to receive those benefits. People who had their benefits removed by the Government before the date of the ruling should have them reinstated immediately, with backdating and a full apology. Instead, they are told that unless they appealed within 13 months of losing their benefit, they have no grounds for their benefit to be reinstated. Essentially, if they took the Department for Work and Pensions at its word and made the mistake of assuming that the Government would act within EU law, they would miss out. Not only that, but when someone writes to the Government to request that their benefit be reinstated they have to meet the eligibility criteria of having been resident in the UK for at least 26 weeks out of the past 52. The very fact that their benefits were removed, means that they are already living abroad, so there is little prospect of meeting that criteria at any time.
If I have misunderstood the situation, I invite the Minister to clarify it, but it seems as if every possible effort has been made to construct artificial loopholes and roll after roll of red tape to keep vulnerable people from receiving the help to which they are entitled. I agree with the hon. Member for North Thanet that the Minister is a decent individual, but he is trying to defend the indefensible. It seems that Ministers have been making up the rules as they go along, and that is quite deplorable behaviour.
In the Minister's winding-up speech, we need to hear that this shameful saga will not be allowed to drag on into the next Parliament, although I doubt he will have much say in that matter. It is an embarrassment that the European Commission has seen no other option but to take the UK Government to court to try to force us to meet our obligations. I appeal to the
Minister to save the time, expense and embarrassment of battling another court case, and to instead announce today that the benefits will be reinstated without further argument or details hidden in the small print. I would also like a firm answer on how many people stand to be affected, and how much this will cost the Government-how much money the Government have withheld from them so far. I would not be at all surprised if the money spent fighting a legal battle in the European Court of Justice, and now fighting the Commission, was not too different a sum from that being held back from UK citizens.
Will the Minister also publish a copy of the Government's response to the Commission's letter of 9 October 2009, giving formal notice of legal proceedings? The Government have refused to make the letter public, citing confidentiality. Frankly, it is not a matter of national security. Those people-possibly thousands-missing money that is rightfully theirs deserve to know whether the Government are still attempting to wriggle out of their obligations. The Government have so often professed to be interested in fairness; it ought to be a matter of shame for Labour Members here today that the matter has still not been resolved.
People on low incomes who depend on such benefits to make ends meet do not have time for endless pontification from the DWP. As we heard this morning, some who have fought the battle have lost not only the battle but, in the meantime, their lives. I hope that today's debate will have pressed home to the Minister how far there is 12 Jan 2010 : Column 175WH to go before fairness is delivered to those people. I cannot help but feel that if the time and energy spent by civil servants and the Government in devising ways to avoid their obligations had been invested in finding a fair solution, we would not be debating the issue today. I hope that this is the last time that we do so.
Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs. Humble. I know that you take a great interest in matters relating to the Department for Work and Pensions, given the nature of your constituency. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale), who has been a long-standing campaigner on this subject. He demonstrated his usual doughty fighting spirit on behalf of all who depend on Members of the House to speak for them.
I shall mention, as did my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet, the UK/EU Disability and Carers Group, a group of those affected by this problem. I mention it for the Minister's benefit. It e-mailed me late last year, saying that no member of the group at the time-more than 100 people-had received the legal reinstatement of their disability living allowance or even had the opportunity to have their case heard by the Tribunals Service. That brings me to a point made by my hon. Friend. Even once the law was established, it seems that the Government did not move with appropriate speed. I shall say a little more about that later.
It is worth setting out a little of the background-I shall try not to repeat what was said by my hon. Friend-and saying something about the benefits. I shall also ask the Minister about the thinking behind the Government's stance. The three benefits are the care component of the disability living allowance-the mobility component is not included in the European Court of Justice ruling of 18 October 2007-the attendance allowance and the carer's allowance. The Court decided that those benefits should be removed from the list of non-exportable special non-contributory cash benefits, but should be classed instead as sickness benefits and
therefore paid, as my hon. Friend said, to those who live elsewhere in the European economic area or Switzerland.
I shall give the House an idea of the scale involved. Slightly more than 3 million people in the United Kingdom receive the care component of DLA, less than 1.6 million receive attendance allowance, and about 500,000 people receive carer's allowance. I mention that because I shall be asking the Minister to give us an idea of the number affected by the ruling and the Department's estimate of how many might be affected in future. I shall give an example: in 2008-09, about £4.7 billion was spent on attendance allowance for the 1.6 million who received it; it is a significant sum.
To put matters into context, it would be interesting to hear from the Minister how much is involved in the present case. My hon. Friend said that a parliamentary answer gave an estimate of £50 million. That is a large sum, but it pales into insignificance when put next to the total amount of benefits paid. I shall have some specific questions on that aspect for the Minister.
It is worth spending a brief moment to consider the chronology of this case, as it is one reason why those overseas who are affected are so agitated. They may think that things are clear after the ECJ ruling, but they 12 Jan 2010 : Column 176WH believe that the Government have moved at a slow pace. My hon. Friend set that out well. However, the Government have not only moved a slow pace but have looked for every opportunity to delay making a decision.
The ECJ judgment was delivered on 18 October 2007. The Government responded reasonably quickly with a written statement to Parliament, saying that they would carefully consider the implications of that judgment. Within a week, one could not expect them to say anything else. In December, two months later, we heard only that the disability and carers service was "preparing guidance", and would give full details of eligibility criteria in April. Not an awful lot had happened, especially given what we had been told publicly, in two months.
At the beginning of April 2008, five months after the ECJ judgment, Parliament received a third written statement. Again, we were told that details would be set out on the website, and that officials were continuing their discussions with the European Commission. We still had to wait. Even five months after the decision, the Government were still not able to set out the eligibility criteria, either for those who had been claiming the benefits before moving abroad or those who lived abroad and were claiming for the first time. Later that month, the criteria were eventually published.
In December 2008, more than a year after the ECJ judgment, the Government admitted that they had received 1,700 requests for payment of DLA, attendance allowance or carer's allowance from people who had previously lived in the UK. That information was gained in response to a question from my hon. Friend, who has been questioning the Government on the matter for some time. In January 2009, my hon. Friend followed up that question, asking the Minister how many of those 1,700 had been settled. He was told that the implications were still being considered.
Later that month, again in response to a written question, the Minister said that the Government had set out their estimate of the increased case load and expenditure due to the ECJ ruling. He said that in 2010-11 they expected that the case load would reach 20,000 people at an annual cost of £50 million. That was assumed to be the first full year following full implementation of the judgment. That estimate is broken down into £30 million for DLA, £10 million for attendance allowance and £10 million for carer's allowance. I am not clear, however, whether that is for those who were claiming benefits before leaving the UK or whether it includes those living abroad who were claiming for the first time. That estimate gives no indication of whether the Government expect those numbers to change.
John Barrett: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the matter would be helped along if the DWP were to speak to the Department of Health on the matter? Considering the cost of claims to be a matter exclusively for the DWP would be to look at only part of the picture. Many who go abroad are not using GPs or health workers; they are not using NHS services, which has an impact on the Government's budgeting. The cost of claims may be a matter for the DWP, but the costs to the NHS would dwarf that figure.
Mr. Harper: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. I am dwelling on the cost because it is our view that once the law is clear, the Government should move 12 Jan 2010 : Column 177WH quickly to implement it. The Minister will doubtless be able to make clear the reason for the use of the past presence rule to limit the number claiming for the first time from abroad. I presume it is because an estimate has been made of the potential number, and that that number is significant. I am simply trying to get a handle on what that might be.
Mr. Gale: My hon. Friend cites a figure of 20,000 claims. It is the first time that I have heard that figure. It is a phenomenal increase on the 3,000 that we believe are in the system now. Where on earth are these figures coming from? We ought to know that, too.
Mr. Harper: The straightforward answer from my point of view is that they come from a written answer; the Minister can tell us where the numbers come from. It is difficult to reach a total. The estimated case load for disability living allowance is 20,000, but in an excellent piece of Government speak, no numbers are given for attendance allowance and carer's allowance because they equal
"less than 5,000 and therefore"
"zero when rounded to the nearest 10,000"-[Official Report, 28 January 2009; Vol. 487, c. 563W.]
Only someone in government could, on seeing that 5,000 people were entitled to something, round the figure down to zero, but that is what we are told has happened.
To put the figures in context, the £50 million estimated expenditure is about 0.1 per cent. of the total spent on such benefits, while the number of people affected is about 0.4 per cent. of the number on such benefits. Those numbers do not seem that dramatic or significant, given the Department's estimates for the growth of disability living allowance, attendance allowance and carer's allowance over time. I do not understand why the Government are
working so hard to limit the number of claims, and I would be grateful if the Minister filled us in on that.
At the end of February 2009, a month after the Minister answered that question, we had the fourth written statement to Parliament. That was 10 months after the previous one and one year and four months after the original judgment. On a Government website, Ministers finally published details of the eligibility criteria for those who were not claiming disability benefits when they left the UK, but who wished to claim them when they moved abroad.
In a parliamentary written answer, the Government stated that the past presence test had been modified for those claiming from another EEA state so that they had to have been in Great Britain for not less than 26 of the previous 52 weeks. The Government also said that the test would be applied only once, on the date on which the entitlement to benefit was established. In other words, someone who claimed more than six months after having moved abroad would not be eligible for benefits. It would be helpful if the Minister told us how many people living abroad would be eligible for such benefits if the past presence test was not in place and what estimates the Department has made of the number who will be eligible over time. The Department must have done some thinking about that when deciding on its implementation of the ECJ ruling.
12 Jan 2010 : Column 178WH
In June last year-these things move very slowly-the Government said that they had had 2,100 requests for payment or reinstatement of awards from people living in EEA states. At that point, decisions had been made on 1,100 requests, with 1,000 pending a decision. For the benefit of hon. Members, will the Minister give us the latest information on how many requests for payment of benefits have been received and how many have been processed and had a decision made on them? Of those on which a decision has been made, how many have resulted in a benefit being awarded? In other words, how many requests for benefit have been successful?
There is another disappointing aspect to the lack of dispatch in the Department's approach. In June last year, the Government said that 1,400 people who lived abroad were in receipt of benefits, but that the DWP had only "started to process" claims for DLA from other states following the statement on 24 February. It therefore took a year and four months after the ECJ ruling for the DWP to start processing claims. Given that we are talking largely about disabled and elderly claimants living abroad, such a period can be significant.
The issue has obviously attracted great interest. There has been an e-petition on the No. 10 website, the media have given the subject a lot of coverage, and colleagues such as my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet have raised the issue in Parliament. As he said, the Prime Minister wrote to him saying that the 26 out of 52 weeks past presence rule was
……. End of section 2 …….
12 Jan 2010 : Column 178WH—continued
"compatible with European Community law".
I have been through the ECJ judgment carefully-it is not riveting reading-and it would be helpful if the Minister set out why the Department thinks that the past presence test is compatible with the ruling, given that the European Commission does not think so and has indicated to the Department that it intends to introduce infringement proceedings.
On the issue of openness and transparency, I can understand why the Minister does not want to share specific correspondence, but given the information that has not been provided to the House-my hon. Friend drew attention to it-it is disappointing to see what is available on the European Commission website. There, the Commission clearly sets out that it is taking legal action against the UK for not paying benefits and that it
"addressed a Letter of Formal Notice to the UK authorities. The British authorities have two months to respond",
as my hon. Friend said. Again, the Department took the full two months, so it did not exactly act with all due speed. The Commission then sets out the benefits and the ECJ ruling. It also says that the past presence test
"goes against the European rules coordinating social security benefits and justifies the Commission's decision to start an infringement procedure."
We can get all that information from the Commission website, but when we ask Ministers to set out the discussions that they have had and the position that they have taken, we get rather less information. This is not something that I thought that I would say, or that we hear often in the House, but the European Commission is being more open and transparent than the British Government, and the Minister should rectify that.
I have asked the Minister to set out the number of claimants abroad. Just to be clear, will he tell us what estimate the Government have made of the predicted 12 Jan 2010 : Column 179WH case load and expenditure for existing claimants who move abroad, claimants who already live abroad and both sets of claimants combined? The Minister has talked about 2010-11, which is assumed to be the first full year for implementation of the ruling, but what does full implementation actually mean and why has it taken two years to reach this stage?
It is worth making one final point, which my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett), who speaks for the Liberal Democrats, have touched on. One reason why the issue has attracted attention and annoyed some of those living abroad is that the same European Union rules that say that British citizens who lived here all their lives, paid taxes, contributed, worked and then moved abroad should get the benefits under discussion, also say that people who come here from other European countries are entitled to other benefits. We read all the time in the papers-the stories are not made up, but are backed by parliamentary answers-about people who have come to the UK from other European countries and have not worked here or paid taxes, but who, under EU rules, can claim benefits for themselves and their children. People find that extraordinary. We hear stories about Polish workers coming to the UK who can claim child benefit for their children, when their children do not even live here, but in Poland.
The Government never seem to look for clever loopholes to avoid paying such people, who never seem to have any trouble claiming benefits. I do not suggest that they should not get
those benefits-under EU rules, these things work in both directions-but it is strange that the Government have looked for every opportunity to deny money to those who have worked here, paid their taxes and gone abroad. Ministers never seem to make similar efforts with those who come to this country, and I am not saying that they should, but there is a disparity. People who come to this country never seem to have any trouble claiming money when they have not contributed. [Interruption.] It is all very well the Minister sighing, but that sort of thing enables people who are against our membership of the EU to score an easy hit. It also enables those who represent, shall we say, somewhat less democratic parties in this country to stir up all sorts of feeling against those who come here from other European countries. As everyone who has spoken has made clear, people are looking for fairness-they want people to be treated fairly.
Once the law is established following the ECJ ruling, it will be incumbent on the Government to implement it as soon as possible so that those who are lawfully entitled to benefits receive their lawful entitlement. On the basis of what I have said and what my hon. Friend so ably said in opening the debate, it is clear that the Government have not moved with due speed. At each stage, they appear to have taken the maximum time available to them and tested every deadline. That is not how the Government should behave, particularly when many of the British citizens involved are elderly and disabled, and when every month really matters.
In his response, I hope that the Minister will answer the questions raised by my hon. Friend and other hon. Members who have spoken in this debate, and that he will move to resolve the issues surrounding the past presence test and its lawfulness, or otherwise, and implement the settled law with all possible speed.
12 Jan 2010 : Column 180WH
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Jonathan Shaw): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs. Humble. As other hon. Members have noted, you take a personal interest in matters relating to the Department for Work and Pensions.
I begin by paying tribute to the hon. Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale), who has been pursuing this issue for a long time. He and I have had meetings and he acts in his own doughty way but always in a manner of reasonableness, as the hon. Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) said. The hon. Member for North Thanet expresses his views in a forthright way, and I appreciate the manner in which he has presented his case, not only during this debate but during our meetings in the Department.
The starting point is the judgment by the European Court of Justice in October 2007, and I want to explain what that meant. In case C-299/05, the Court decided that certain benefits belonging to Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom should not be classified as special non-contributory benefits under European law, but should instead be classified as sickness benefits. That change in classification for the UK mainly affected disability benefits-the disability living allowance care component, attendance allowance and carer's allowance, which have been referred to.
The relevant legislation is EC regulation 1408/71, which co-ordinates social security systems in the European Economic Area, and provides rights for workers and people who used to work and, in certain circumstances, their family members. Not all people who are eligible to receive benefits in the UK can export them if they leave the country. For instance, someone who resides in the UK can claim DLA without having a national insurance contribution record. When they leave the country, however, the UK is no longer responsible for paying them and they are not covered by the regulation. Each member state is free to decide who is entitled to be insured under its legislation, which benefits are to be granted and under what conditions, and how those benefits are calculated. Any such decisions are, of course, subject to challenge from individuals or the European Commission.
When people are covered by the regulation and wish to export their benefit, they are no longer required to meet normal residence and presence conditions although they are still required to meet other conditions of entitlement under domestic legislation. In the UK, that includes a past presence test, whereby an individual is required to have been present in the UK for 26 of the previous 52 weeks, on each day of the award of benefit. For people wishing to export their benefit we have modified that condition so that it is applied only on a single date, on which other conditions of entitlement can be established.
The unmodified test is not new-it has always been part of the conditions of entitlement that all customers are required to meet. Unlike the state pension, for example, disability benefits are not paid because relevant national insurance contributions have been made. They are not means-tested and are paid out of general UK taxation. The purpose of the past presence test is to establish a connection with the UK that is appropriate and proportionate.
The hon. Member for North Thanet said that we have failed to comply with the Court's decision. However, since the judgment, more than 1,700 people who have 12 Jan 2010 : Column 181WH left the UK for another EEA state have been able to export their benefit. They are currently being paid while resident abroad, as long as they meet the eligibility criteria for payment. The hon. Gentleman represents a campaign group of people who previously received benefits, but who moved abroad before the date of the judgment and consequently lost them. As noted by the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson), who is no longer in the Chamber, when those people moved abroad they would have known that their benefits would cease, and would presumably have taken that into account when making their decision to leave the UK. Automatically to reinstate benefits to that group of people could be contrary to both domestic and European law. Apart from ensuring that customers satisfy all relevant domestic requirements, including whether they need help in looking after themselves or caring for others, they also need to satisfy European law on sickness benefits.
Mr. Harper rose-
Jonathan Shaw: If I can make my point, I will come to the issue that the hon. Gentleman has referred to.
We know that some customers may have worked in their country of residence. Once that happens, even if they have now stopped work, they are no longer the responsibility of the UK for payment of sickness benefits, and they will need to claim sickness benefits from their new state of residence. People in the UK can receive a disability benefit, even if they have no income at all. However, under European law relating to sickness benefits, in order to be
eligible for payment a person needs to be in receipt of a state pension, or a long-term benefit such as incapacity benefit, or to have paid recent national insurance contributions.
People who moved abroad before the judgment and lost their benefits-such as the constituents referred to by the hon. Member for North Thanet-have written to the Department to ask the Secretary of State to reconsider the disallowance decision, and we have looked carefully at all the available options. We can revise a decision when we have made an official error. The definition of an error specifically
"excludes any error of law which is shown to have been an error by virtue of a subsequent decision of a Commission or the court."
When we decided to disallow benefit when people moved abroad, the decision was made under relevant legislation that was appropriate prior to the decision by the European Court of Justice. People reclaiming benefits they received in the past must therefore not have worked in their state of residence, must be receiving a long-term contributory benefit such as incapacity benefit or state pension, or must have made recent national insurance contributions. They must also satisfy relevant domestic conditions of entitlement.
As I noted earlier, we consider the past presence test to be a necessary condition of entitlement to a non-contributory benefit, as it establishes a recent link to the UK. However, we recognise that people abroad who have not left the UK recently will not be able to qualify.
Mr. Gale rose-
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Jonathan Shaw: Let me make this point as it is relevant to a question raised by the hon. Gentleman.
There are exceptions to the situation that I have outlined, and they include cases when people are terminally ill. When we announced the criteria for payment of the disability living allowance care component and attendance allowance for people claiming from abroad, we made it clear that people in such circumstances would not have to satisfy the 26-weeks past presence requirement.
The hon. Gentleman referred to an e-mail that he received on 11 January and the case of people who were asked to pay back around £3,000. I cannot answer in detail about that specific issue now, but I would be happy to look into the case and consider it carefully.
We are paying benefits, including state pensions, to many thousands of expatriates abroad. Most of our expatriates in the EEA live in Spain, and over the last year Ministers and senior officials have visited Spain to meet them and their representatives. They have demonstrated a genuine interest and concern in the lives of British nationals overseas. We are aware that UK nationals may experience difficulties abroad, and we want to help where we can. Since May 2007, my Department has supplied a team of six staff based in Alicante, Malaga and Madrid to provide customer service to support UK nationals living in Spain.
Mr. Harper: The reason why I tried to intervene earlier was to ask the Minister about the Court ruling. I have two questions: first, I think that the Minister said that if the Department were to reinstate benefits from the time the relevant people moved abroad, or from when they lost them on moving abroad, it would in some way breach European or domestic law. I am not quite certain which aspect of law would be breached.
Secondly, what is the Government's view of the ECJ ruling? Did it change European law or simply set out what European law had been all the time?
Jonathan Shaw: I shall answer those points in my speech.
As I was saying before the hon. Gentleman intervened, we are providing staff. We have a presence, and are working with the Spanish authorities. That is in contrast to the characterisation the hon. Gentleman attempted to give of our interest in British people living overseas. The team on the ground offers up-to-date and accurate information on entitlements; it liaises with the Spanish authorities to resolve the most complex cases; and it also works closely with and improves co-operation with the Spanish benefits agency-the National Institute of Social Security. The team is approached on occasion by customers who are priority cases in difficult welfare and health care situations, and who need quick intervention. Recent cases have included dealing with terminally ill customers requiring medical cost advice, and giving support to vulnerable customers when benefits have not been claimed.
People who cannot receive a benefit from the UK may be able to receive a benefit or service from their new state of residence. If they are integrated in their new community and satisfy relevant conditions they may be able to receive benefit and assistance from social services, just like people who come to the UK. In fact, we know that people can and do receive help. For 12 Jan 2010 : Column 183WH example, there are messages on various websites. One person who left the UK in 2004 recounts that she had three strokes and has
"received excellent treatment in France".
She writes on the website:
"I received a letter telling me I am considered 80% or more disabled and will receive an allowance which will pay for a home help. My husband will also get an allowance for helping me in the house with washing, dressing etc."
She goes on to say that although she is happy with the help she gets in France she feels bitter that she cannot get help from the UK, as she and her husband paid into the system all their working lives.
I am pleased that lady is receiving the help she requires. As Minister for disabled people I strongly support the provision of services for disabled people, but the imposition of conditions such as the past presence test is compatible with regulation 1408/71. If the hon. Member for Forest of Dean wishes, I shall send him details of the regulation. Conditions of entitlement under domestic legislation must be taken into consideration.
The European Commission has indeed written to us to start infringement proceedings, as hon. Members have noted today, on the basis that it considers the past presence test to be an unlawful residence test. We have replied explaining our position in detail and in particular ensuring that the Commission understands how we treat workers. We have not yet received a response.
Members have asked why we do not agree with the Commission. The UK is not alone among member states in disagreeing from time to time with the European Commission in this and other policy areas. I am sure that hon. Members present have disagreed with it, and have called on the UK Government to argue their case. Of course, that is what we do when we disagree. However, we have never published such correspondence with the European Commission. It is important that we can have frank and robust exchanges with the Commission, and to publish them would undermine our opportunity to engage in them. That is not true just of the present case; it is the general custom and practice.
Mr. Harper: I think the Minister was guilty of slightly mischaracterising what I and my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet said. I did not ask why the Government disagree with the European Commission. I asked the Minister to set out in detail why the Government think that the past presence test is compatible with the ECJ rule. I have no problem with the Minister disagreeing with the Commission-I frequently do so-so I do not want to leave him with the idea that I am complaining about that. I just want to know why the Government think that what they are doing is compatible with the ECJ ruling. The point that I made about the Commission was that it was apparently being more transparent about its discussion with the British Government than the Government were being.
Jonathan Shaw: I am grateful for that clarification of the hon. Gentleman's position.
……. End of section 3 …….
12 Jan 2010 : Column 183WH—continued
Several hon. Members raised the issue of costs. The figures referred to this morning are projected costs of £50 million by 2011, on the existing past presence test. That is what we project at the most, and that was our reply to the parliamentary question tabled by the hon. Member for North Thanet. That does not take account 12 Jan 2010 : Column 184WH of what would happen without the past presence test, if benefits were backdated in the way that the hon. Gentleman argued for.
Mr. Gale: Where are the 20,000 people?
Jonathan Shaw: On the basis of the number of people moving abroad and who have already moved abroad, and the cases that have come up so far, we make a general estimate. I shall set out our method in more detail for the hon. Gentleman, in a letter that I shall ensure is placed in the Library. As I have said, we estimate what the figure will be at the most, but we obviously need to be cautious when accounting for public expenditure.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (John Barrett) talked about savings. It is a reasonable point that other savings will be made when people move abroad; but, of course, people's patterns and plans change. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has met people who have moved to Spain and then decided to move back to the UK, as of course they are entitled to do. It is difficult to make projections relating to people's behaviour and the social services they will use.
In most cases, when people are dissatisfied with a Department's decision they have the right to appeal to an independent tribunal.
Mr. Harper: On the point about cost, the Minister has clarified the answer that he gave Parliament about what would happen if the past presence test were used, and without backdating. Has the Department made any estimates of the costs of the two elements? How much would it cost if claims were backdated to the point when people left the UK, and what would the situation be without the past presence test? Has the Department made those estimates, and can the Minister furnish us with the information today, or include it in his letter to my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet?
Jonathan Shaw: I shall certainly ensure that we can provide a response on the costings, to take into account not applying the past presence test, as the hon. Gentleman suggests.
We have identified and submitted a small number of cases for tribunal hearings and applied for those appeals to be appointed as lead cases. I know that there has been some criticism of the delay, but obviously hon. Members will be aware that the tribunal service is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and I will ensure that the criticisms are passed to that Department.
The need to get things right and deal with the delays is because the benefits were designed before the rulings came into being, as the hon. Member for Hexham noted. We have had to get the system right. It is not the case that we have been wantonly disingenuous and dragged our heels, as some Members have tried to characterise the Government's behaviour. Members should look at the track record in terms of the benefits that the Government have paid out to disabled people and compare it to that of other Governments. I think our record stands up very well. The hon. Member for Forest of Dean made a point about Polish workers and talked about how some extreme parties would use that case. Perhaps he should not fan those flames in the way that he did.
12 Jan 2010 : Column 185WH
Mr. Gale: All we are asking for is consistency. The Government appear to be perfectly prepared to pay people who now live in the Minister's constituency, or people who live in my constituency in Kent, considerable sums of money, in the form of benefits decreed by the European Union-I have no problem with that. That money is paid to people who are not resident in the United Kingdom, people who have come here and paid no taxes, no rates, no nothing, for the majority of their working lives. They may be paying taxes now, but they have not paid them for 30, 40 or 50 years. Therefore, we cannot understand why United Kingdom citizens-UK passport-holders-who are now resident in European countries are being discriminated against, and those citizens cannot understand it themselves. That is the point. It has nothing to do with racism, extremism or anything else.
Jonathan Shaw: I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman made that point, because it contrasts with the efforts of his colleague, the hon. Member for Forest of Dean-[Hon. Members: " No, it does not."] It was the hon. Member for Forest of Dean who raised the point that I am now responding to and who set the tone. It is reasonable for me to respond to what he said. I happen to disagree with him. If he does not like that, it is a matter for him.
We will continue our dialogue with the Commission. We have set out why we believe the past presence test is reasonable and fair. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for North Thanet as he takes this case forward. I am sure that this will not be the last point we hear from him on the subject. I am grateful for the contributions from all hon. Members who have spoken in this morning's debate, which has provided the Government with the opportunity to set out our case.
Since 2002 the proportion of OAPs leaving the UK has increased year by year so that the total % living abroad has risen from 8.2% in 2002 to 9.3% in 2009.
In all 31,660 OAPs moved abroad in 2008/9. About 57% of those migrating last year went to live in Europe, and there were fairly large contingents also to the expected English speaking countries of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA (which at 3,260 was the largest receiver of all in the world outside Europe). One thousand more was added to the statistic of ‘Abroad – not known’ location.
Within Europe the number moving to Spain averages about 6,700 a year [see further note below]. To France about 4,300 a year. The number in both countries has more than doubled in seven years. The greatest annual % increase is to Bulgaria and also Greece (but since numbers are low such a statistic is unhelpful in any analysis).
The number of male and female OAPs in each country reveals some interesting figures (see further below). In Spain in 2009 there were 16,110 more females receiving the OAP than males. In France the figure is 9,550. The proportion of women to men is however lower than in the UK, though quite extraordinarily it is much higher in Germany where there are more female British OAPs as male in every age group and twice as many overall!
What do these figures tell us?
1. That increasingly, little by little, the elderly population prefer not to live in the UK.
Why? This ought to be an issue discussed by the politicians.
2. The excess of women over men is largely explained by the fact that the age group of men between 60 - 64 is not recorded. Over the age of 80 there is a increasing excess of females. There is a considerable number of very elderly women probably living alone amongst the OAPs in France and Spain. These women are less likely to be ‘worldly-wise’. They are probably not computer literate. This group is most likely not to bother with the issues of the Winter Fuel Payment (and almost certainly do not receive it!), or the vote, or be aware of this blog site.
There are 32,320 OAPs over eighty in Europe excluding the UK and Ireland.
Over ninety there are 3,430.
Excess of very elderly women v. men:- over eighty, by 10,760 - over ninety by 1,270 (37%).
If we add in an equal number of men as there are of women in the 60-64 age bracket, then the numbers of elderly over 60 for France increase by 10,000 and the numbers for Spain 16,000.
FURTHER:- anecdotal evidence supported by unofficial estimates would suggest that in Spain and France there are large numbers of OAPs who spend the winter in those countries. Probably some numbers spend more than 6 months a year outside the UK, though claiming permanent residence in the UK. In the Alicante region alone it is claimed that the true "winter" resident numbers of UK OAPs is about 180,000, vastly in excess of the official count. This practice is driving a cart through the regulations. These quasi residents are probably receiving the WFP ; paying taxes in the UK; and perhaps saving the UK some funding on the NHS. This is a muddle which needs attention - but NOT the clunking iron fist of regulatory power!