A motion passed in the Canadian House of Commons put the spotlight on the plight of the “approximately 136,000” UK pensioners in the country. Campaigners say the controversial policy means most receive less than £60 a week. Paul Manly, an MP from British Columbia, tabled the motion which states that “frozen UK pensions represent an injustice to both UK pensioners in Canada and to Canadian taxpayers”. The move comes as cross-party pressure builds in Westminster for the UK to accept Canada’s invitation to negotiate a reciprocal agreement to up-rate pensions.
Mr Manly’s motion states that UK pensioners in a host of countries including the United States receive annual indexed increases, and claims the frozen pension policy in Canada forces thousands of people from Britain to rely on social assistance.
He told the Sunday Express: “There are an estimated 3,000 UK pensioners living in my [electoral division] of Nanaimo-Ladysmith who are affected by this unjust policy. I’m very pleased that the motion I put before the House of Commons on Tuesday received unanimous consent from all parties.
“There is no way the UK Government can justify its refusal to index the UK pensions of Canadian residents. It’s disrespectful to Canadian taxpayers who subsidise the shortfall and discriminatory to UK pensioners, including veterans who served in the British armed forces.
The Canadian MP’s concerns about pensioner poverty are share by counterparts in the British House of Commons.
Romford Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell said: “These are people who have spent years paying in National Insurance contributions and who, if they were in the UK, would be guaranteed a 2.5 percent uplift in their pension. At a time when we should be encouraging better relations and free movement of people between us and our Canadian friends, freezing pension payments is an unnecessary and unfair obstacle.”
David Linden, the SNP MP for Glasgow East, also condemned the policy.
He said: “It’s now been over four months since the Canadian Government wrote to UK ministers, suggesting a reciprocal agreement on social security that would tackle the injustice of frozen pensions.
“Quite aside from it being incredibly rude not to respond to another Government, the UK’s inaction on frozen pensions sends a deeply damaging message from a country which is meant to be pursuing the much vaunted Global Britain strategy.
“Many of the UK nationals living abroad and impacted by frozen pensions are our brave veterans – this is now way to treat them and ministers must get their act together.”
The passing of the motion in the Canadian Parliament has encouraged campaigners in their fight.
A spokesman for the End Frozen Pensions campaign said: “The motion passed by the Canadian Parliament is another powerful symbol of how the Government’s frozen pensions policy is damaging the UK’s relationships across the globe. It is quite rightly viewed by our allies as immoral, indefensible and unjust and runs counter to the Government’s ambitions for a truly Global Britain.
“It is a continuing disgrace that there are UK pensioners living overseas who feel abandoned by their own country as a result of this immoral policy. The Prime Minister must take the opportunity provided to him by the Canadian Government and use it to bring about the end of this indefensible policy and provide dignity in retirement for all UK pensioners irrelevant of where they live.”
Last week work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey said her department will “respond to the Canadian embassy” about its request for a reciprocal agreement.
She said that for the last 70 years “it has not been the policy to initiate new agreements” but she pledged to “continue to consider the matter carefully”.