For me it is now a day marked with more than a little sadness, there is a small Supermarket on the Autopista Norte near to us, which I stop at regularly on my way back from Copacabana, mainly to buy my fresh orange juice, it is called D1, in the days gone past it was a chain of supermarkets reknowned for laundering money for the criminal fraternity, but that in the main has changed. Anyway, I digress, many of these places have someone outside who makes his living from donations, whilst helping with car parking, and taking your trolley back, after helping to load your car, here there was an old man, who was there rain or shine with his fading white stetson, he always had a smile for you, but recently his health had been deteriorating, resulting in him having one accident after another with passing vehicles, he was always showing me his latest injury, then just over a week ago, I met him outside the store, and he was struggling to walk, using a stick, but it was still little more than a shuffle.
We always made time for a conversation, when I arrived he would come over and open my car door, put his hand on my shoulder and welcome me, when I had finished shopping, he would help me load up, accept a few coins, and say our good-byes, little did I know that last time I saw him would be the last time for good.
The last couple of times I stopped, he wasn't there, I assumed it was because of his leg, but this morning there was a new man doing the job, so I asked him where my friend was, he looked at the ground, and informed me that he had died last week from a heart attack. I have to say, that I was not surprised, he was elderly by anybody's standards, he should have been at home with his feet up enjoying retirement, but like many people here, he probably didn't have a pension, as he may not have contributed to one, but it still came as a shock, and I freely admit that I will miss him.
On a lighter note, it was brought to my attention today, that a UK Government MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg had made comments about Immigrants from the West Indies in the 40's and 50's, and have recently been treated like illegal immigrants, he made the comment that "All British Citizens must be treated equally…" and that gave me an opportunity to write to him.
Why would I want to write to this man? well I believe that he is a man of standards, and believes in the rights of British Citizens, I along with over 550,000 Expats around the world, moved to the 'wrong' country, when I receive my State Pension in five and a half years time, the pension I get on day one, will be the pension I receive to the day I die, known as a 'frozen pension', just because I am in Colombia. If I lived in the USA, Barbados, Philippines or a number of other countries it would be index linked. The stupid fact is that by moving from the UK we save the UK Tax Payer millions, because we do not receive the ancillary benefits associated with old age, but if we were to return to the UK, we could claim the lot.
Therefore I have sent the following email to Mr Rees-Mogg, in the hope that he will help those already suffering as a result of this injustice, which has lasted decades, and successive Governments have refused to address:
I am a British Expat, living out my life in Colombia, having served as a British Police Officer for thirty years, I am concerned that I paid my National Insurance contributions during my time in the Police, and before, and yet I am to be denied my right to an index linked pension, because I happen to live in the ‘wrong’ country. I moved to Colombia, knowing that my pension would be frozen unlike many, for two reasons, my Wife is Colombian, and wanted to remain close to her family, and I am lucky enough to have a UK Police Pension, which is index linked, but that does not mean that when I am of State Pensionable age in five and a half years, that I do not want what should be rightfully mine.
There are 550,000 British Expat Pensioners who are effected by the Frozen Pensions, and although the DWP and your Colleagues have already admitted that their statement is untrue, they still trot out the old phrase, that they will only index link Pensions, in Countries where they have a legal obligation to do so, those of us in these countries, who many think are just in Canada, Australia and the Common Wealth, but in truth are in many countries in smaller numbers, to which I will add in due course in Colombia. Those people are in truth saving the UK Tax Payer millions, they don’t add to the Health Service bills for Hospital Care or Care for the Elderly, they don’t claim housing benefits, or bus passes, they don’t claim Carer Allowances and many more, they pay for all those out of their own pockets to their Host Countries, and should be able to do so with the help of their State Pensions, but they can’t, and when you think there are people on as little as £38 per week, as a result of this unfair rule that could be overturned at the stroke of a pen, it makes the statement ‘All British Citizens must be treated equally’ all the more poignant. If all those Pensioners were return to the UK and claim their full pensions, they would have to be paid, but they would then be able to claim all the Benefits as well, maybe this is what we should do! The UK Government would then have a headache and a half.
No person should in the current climate be expected to survive on £38 per week, if the Government had any humanity about it, it would have ensured that all those people effected are either paid their pension as per their UK counterparts, or given the option to have their contributions transferred in full, by that I mean the amount paid by the Pensioner and the part paid by their Employer, but not paid to them but paid to their Host Country’s pension scheme, so they can draw a local pension, that would be index linked. As it stands, this is little more than bureaucratic theft, and not becoming of a Country that is about to obtain it’s independence from a like minded Organisation, it makes the UK Government look hypercritical to say the least.
We are not asking for something to which we should not be entitled, just for justice, and I hope that you will support the APPG looking at this matter if you don’t already, and that you will help us, by raising the profile of the injustice that effects so many.
Thank you for your time
Now we will have to see if there is a reply in due course.