The Frozen Pensions Story
Remember the March 1955 House of Commons statement by Ernest Marples, then a junior minister? Mr Marples was very specific: “People who settle in any part of the Commonwealth get all the benefits; and in ‘any part of the Commonwealth’ I include India, Pakistan and, by special arrangement, the Irish Republic. So, the benefits of National Insurance may be awarded to a citizen who goes to those countries. The benefits are payable because of Regulations made under Section 29 of the National Insurance Act 1946, and not by reciprocal arrangements between this country and any Commonwealth country. The Commonwealth countries are exempted from the normal ban that benefits are not paid when people go abroad.”
The period of New Imperialism or neo-imperialism from the early 1800s to the Second World War saw an unprecedented pursuit of overseas territorial acquisitions by UK and other European countries. The aim was to make their territories bigger through conquest and to exploit the resources of the countries they dominated. This created a perceived excuse for Colonialism which Rudyard Kipling described as "taking up the white man's burden of bringing European civilization to the other peoples of the world”. There was no thought of whether ‘other people’ wanted this type of civilization, which South Africa’s Desmond Tutu has defined, “When the white man came they had the Bible and we had the land; now they have the land and we have the Bible”.
Centuries old democracies in Europe guaranteed freedoms and rights for their people while running oppressive and exploitative colonial systems that caused enormous harm to the citizens of the world beyond Europe. UK supported Cecil Rhodes, gun-runner and wheeler-dealer, whose methods were far from legal or ethical, and who had little interest in democracy. However, he promised to deliver Africa to the British Empire and, for that, the British Government were willing to overlook and condone the methods he used. For a hundred years or more, UK exploited its overseas territories to make UK one of the wealthiest European countries while giving little to dominion development (except of course the Bible!).
Weakened by WW2, UK realised it no longer had the ‘clout’ to dominate nations covering 20% of the world’s land area, and recognised that it would have to concede to the demands for independence coming from the largest of those nations. In 1949, the London Declaration established the Commonwealth of Nations representing 52 ‘free and equal’ member states (including UK) with the reigning monarch as its head. Queen Elizabeth continues to reign over several member states (Commonwealth Realms), while others have independent heads of state. The Commonwealth Secretariat operates from Marlborough House in London, the location donated by HM Queen Elizabeth II. Despite being Head of the Commonwealth and benefactor, the Queen regrettably refuses to speak up for the frozen pensioners or for the Commonwealth countries which lose millions of pounds of income every year through the frozen pensions’ policy. Of course, the Queen is controlled by Government; he who pays the piper calls the tune!
The Commonwealth Secretariat organisation has a Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which deals with serious or persistent violations of the Harare Declaration. CMAG has remained a unique body since it was established; its authority to suspend a member country from the Commonwealth is unique amongst international organisations. It can be convened by the Secretary-General to deal with a perceived violation of the Commonwealth principles and values. However, CMAG has acknowledged that “it is not empowered to call to account the United Kingdom Government for its persistent abuse of the Commonwealth Charter through its discrimination against the Commonwealth”. That Charter declares the intention to oppose discrimination for any reason but, apparently, cannot discipline United Kingdom for its persistent abuse of 500,000 British pensioners in the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth Secretariat is financed and controlled by the UK Government!
To make matters worse, CMAG meets annually in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Yet it has done nothing to address UK’s failure to comply with the United Nations Social Covenant since UK first signed up to that Covenant’s terms. Apparently CMAG is not “empowered” to deal with that abuse of international law either! It could make a complaint to the United Nations but chooses not to. He who pays the piper calls the tune!
Ironically, the word Commonwealth comes from “common weal”, a sixteenth century term for common well-being, a concept embraced by United Nations. Yet, with no restraint whatsoever from the United Nations’ organisation, UK Government drives a coach and horses through the whole raison d’etre of the United Nations philosophy! Does UK Government control United Nations also?
Member states have no legal obligation to one another, but are supposedly united by values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter, originated by the Harare Declaration. Those values include democracy, free speech, human rights, and the rule of law. Except that the British Government of 1949 could never imagine UK as equal to its dominions, nor contemplate giving up its Empire. It set out to continue its colonial domination by covert means, robbing Commonwealth countries of income that should come naturally to them.
In the Parliament of April 1955, one brave MP stood out: “We practise political discrimination in Central Africa and it is about time that that was brought to an end. We practise land discrimination at the expense of the Africans in East Africa, and this discrimination and these colour bars tarnish our record as an imperial Power. The sooner we get rid of these evils the better for us all. We are obliged, therefore, to give all the aid and assistance we possibly can to further development in the under-developed countries and particularly for those people for whom, as a Parliament, we are directly responsible.” Notice that, despite the London Declaration that created the Commonwealth, six years later MPs still considered UK as an ‘imperial power’ and indeed a colonial power, still with a Minister of State for Colonial Affairs.
It is educational to observe, at first hand, the total hypocrisy of the Tory government of 1955. In a Parliamentary debate the Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, Mr. Henry Hopkinson, said that the Government’s aim was,"To guide the Colonial Territories to responsible self-government within the Commonwealth in conditions that assure the people concerned a fair standard of living and freedom from oppression from any quarter. Before they left this country, some emigrants supported one political party, and some another, but all have taken with them the old British traditions of justice and fair play, and they do not cast aside these old traditions as soon as they leave these shores. On the contrary, when one lives in a distant land, one finds that these traditions are cherished and that they grow in strength and in meaning.” This was said in the same Parliamentary week in which the frozen pensions’ policy was born to support continued Colonial domination. So much for that British tradition of justice and fair play!
Mr Marples’ earlier promise in the House of Commons in 1955 was ignored by Government imperialists who introduced the concept of ‘regulations’ to drive through Parliament the denial of pension increases (as promised by Churchill) for those who retired overseas, including the Commonwealth. It made no difference that those pension increases had been paid for by people mandatorily contributing to the National Insurance Fund all their working lives; or that many of those contributors had fought in WW2 and then returned to help rebuild a shattered Britain. It made no difference that those Commonwealth countries had provided some of the bravest heroes of WW2 to help UK fight Germany. Westminster abhorred dominion independence and was determined to fight it, covertly! Hell hath no fury like a woman an imperialist scorned!
As outrageous as that policy may appear in retrospect, it pales beside the duplicity being played out in the House of Commons. While the Government reneged on protection for the Commonwealth, a policy which would deprive Commonwealth countries of billions of pounds of economic income, it was also allocating resources to encourage emigration to Commonwealth countries, as recommended in the First Annual Report of the Overseas Migration Board. Continuing their Colonial rhetoric, MPs noted that, “The Empire was built up and made great, and its cohesion was formed, by the habit of migration of the generations which had gone before.” It must have been clear that families divided by emigration under government schemes may one day want to be together again, yet MPs were passing measures which would prevent them from doing so because of the loss of annual pension increases. The British Government nevertheless spent about £185,000 annually (equivalent to about £4.6m today), including £150,000 (£3.75m) on the Australia assisted passages scheme and £35,000 (£875.000) on the child migration scheme. (It was revealed many years later that many of these children were sent to Australia without parents’ consent.)
Today, nothing has changed. The British Government betrayed Commonwealth countries when UK joined the EU (originally Common Market) and UK reneged on trade deals with Commonwealth countries in favour of its new commitment to EU countries. It has subsequently attempted to ignore the Commonwealth by continually referring to the Foreign Office when that department is actually the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). And, of course, it has continued to discriminate against pensioners who retire to Commonwealth countries, despite the Commonwealth Charter and the UK Government’s signature to the United Nations Social Covenant.
TodayBritish pensioners, who have mostly moved to be near families, live in all the countries to which the British Government encouraged emigration: Australia (250,000), Canada (150,000), New Zealand (50,000), and South Africa (45,000). All of these Britons are subject to frozen pensions which can be as low as £17 a week. A good example is that of 96-year-old Delysia Willmott who moved to Australia in 1978 to be near her daughter. At the time her pension was £17 a week; thirty-nine years later, her UK pension is still£17 pounds a week instead of the £119 she would be receiving had she retired to an EU country, or to the United States of America, or to Israel.
Today, the British Government, through frozen pensions, deprives economic income to each one of those Commonwealth countries and more: Australia £250m pa; Canada £150m pa; New Zealand £50m pa; and South Africa £45m per annum. Over the past sixty years UK has deprived the Commonwealth of tens of billions of pounds which would have improved the education, health and development potential in many countries. Today, British MPs claim to be ‘proud’ of the £12 billion a year of overseas aid spent on spurious projects in questionable countries; some is spent in Africa where, had pension parity for all been paid from the beginning, it probably would not have been needed. Today, the Department for International Development spends taxpayers’ money through offshore accounts and tax havens where it disappears off any ethical radar (we deal with this elsewhere in this website). MP’s are proud?
British MPs have nothing to be proud about. British MPs and ministers, past and present, and members of the royal family who supposedly have responsibility for the Commonwealth, should hang their heads in shame that they have allowed such iniquity to continue for sixty years.
Anyone with any moral fibre, with any feeling for ‘the old British traditions of justice and fair play’ could not bear to allow this disgraceful policy to continue for another day.
But then, British standards are not what they used to be. Today, MPs have little interest in justice and fair play, preferring to turn away from issues that can be put aside while following Party whips and accepting without question ‘regulations’ which do not affect them. Will integrity ever return to the Palace of Westminster?
Finally, we must never forget those shadowy groups who operate covertly to influence government policy to their own distorted ends; we have them in our sights! We will not forget.
Next: BRITISH SHAME! What democracy?
23 January 2017
BRITISH SHAME! The Rhodes Connection
The betrayal of those who had fought in WW2 and returned to help rebuild a shattered UK was not because of affordability – the UK economy was at its highest point since WW2. It was not a matter of payment through British Post Offices, for arrangements had already been made to pay pensions through Consular offices overseas. It was not the thought that future costs would be huge since inflation was not expected to increase much if at all. It was not because of an expected high emigration volume of pensioners since few ordinary people ventured overseas in those days, particularly after retirement.
Why should the government of a wealthy country choose to exploit and discriminate against a small group of its own pensioners for no apparent reason or benefit?
To answer that question we have to go back before both wars, to a time when the British Empire dominated political thought and action. Around 1867, Disraeli established Conservative Central Office, and local associations around the country, which continued political campaigning between elections. As a Sephardic Jew, he claimed nobility which he argued made him an equal to the aristocrats with whom he rubbed shoulders in the House of Commons. The rhetoric he expounded, welcomed by those aristocrats, about Britain’s place in the world and its right to rule the greatest Empire the world had ever seen, shaped Conservative thought for generations. His leadership would eventually, in 1874, result in the first outright Conservatives election victory for thirty years.
In 1871, its eyes on South African diamonds, Britain annexed Griqualand West as a Crown Colony, much to the delight of Cecil Rhodes and the anger of the adjacent Boer republics. Rhodes had begun to formulate his plan to extend the British Empire ‘from Cape Town to Cairo’ and had started to build a secret group of influential people who would eventually carry that vision into the very heart of the British government. Rhodes confessed to huge imperial ambitions, adding that the accumulation of wealth was no longer his prime objective. “The object to which I intend to devote my life is the defence and extension of the British Empire. The British Empire stands for the protection of all the inhabitants of a country in life, liberty, fair play and happiness and is the greatest platform the world has ever seen for these purposes … it is mainly the extension of the Empire northwards that we have to work for in South Africa.” Rhodes believed that he could deliver Africa to the British and he continued to keep his dreams alive behind a shield of clandestine groups, a shield which still protects those dreams and groups today.
With the Conservatives in power, General Gordon, who had met and fallen in love with Rhodes, promoted Rhodes’ vision to the young British MP, Reginald Baliol Brett, and proposed a secret group whose members would be sworn to secrecy. Brett would go on to play a prominent part in government, and continue to promote Rhodes’ vision of Empire, for many years to come. At about the same time Alfred Beit, a diamond buyer from Hamburg arrived in South Africa and was gradually drawn into close, and ever closer, relations with Rhodes. Beit would later become a close friend and benefactor of Winston Churchill who he bailed out of financial difficulties on more than one occasion. General Sir Charles Warren and General ‘Chinese’ Gordon thought they had spotted something remarkable in the young Rhodes, as did many others including the banker Nathan Rothschild and Alfred, the Lord Milner (second only to the Prime Minister David Lloyd George in the administration of Britain) who by the turn of the century had trained an elite corps secretly destined to further Rhodes work. Rhodes’ cronies included the British foreign minister Joseph Chamberlain and a score or more of the British aristocracy, including the Lords Rosebery (a former prime minister), Brand, Lothian and later Viscount Astor; also the Lords Amery, Selbourne, Grey and in particular Lord Esher (former Reginald ‘Regy’ Brett), important advisor on political matters to Queen Victoria, Edward VII and George V.
Many of these men were homosexual, at a time when this was against the law, and there is no denying that they strongly influenced British politics from late Victorian times through the Edwardian period. Brett kept a journal in which he recorded his affairs with men and boys, while Rhodes had his angels and lambs, as well as Neville Pickering with whom he lived. Gordon had his brandy and his boys, while Kitchener had a “constant and inseparable companion” in his aide-de-camp, Captain Oswald FitzGerald, with whom he perished in 1916 in a torpedoed ship. Kitchener, like Gordon and Rhodes, avoided contact with women, took a great deal of interest in the Boy Scout movement, and decorated his rose garden with four pairs of bronze sculptures of boys.
Yet another millionaire, the little known Abe Bailey – who through astute gold investments accumulated a huge fortune, political contacts and eventually an English baronetcy – also supported Rhodes in many of his ventures, including the Jameson Raid. Some idea of the future influence of these moguls may be gleaned from the fact that Bailey was a close friend of Winston Churchill from the time the latter was a war correspondent in South Africa. Indeed, Bailey’s son, who became the second Baronet Sir William Milner Bailey, married Churchill’s daughter Diana. Churchill himself never bothered to hide his admiration for Rhodes’ imperialism and when Rhodes applied for self-rule for his African dominions, the most influential of the British aristocrats who supported the idea was the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.
The Royal Charter of 1889 was far more extensive than Rhodes had originally requested; it gave him the right to acquire unlimited ‘heathen’ lands on the same terms as were granted to a much earlier adventurer Sir Walter Raleigh. In a nutshell, whatever Rhodes could take he could keep as long as it was heathen territory and unclaimed. Rhodes recruited a number of influential British aristocrats, lured by cheap share options, to serve as directors of the chartered British South Africa Company. The company chairman was the Duke of Abercorn, with the Duke of Fife vice-chairman. Perhaps most significantly, Albert Grey – later Earl Grey, arguably Britain’s most respected politician – agreed to join the board. Lord Rupert Cecil, Salisbury’s son, was appointed legal counsel while a handful of experienced Rhodes acolytes, including Alfred Beit, did the real work.
After Rhodes’ death in 1902, the stewardship of the secret circle’s affairs fell to Alfred Milner, who was political pro-consul in South Africa. As Lord Milner he soon held a seat on the Queen’s Privy Council and later served as Britain’s Minister of War, eventually developing the secret circle into a global political network. Through Milner’s control, the secret circle built a power base at the very heart of the British government, with such influence that it would eventually write the terms that ended the Great War, help to establish the uneasy peace that followed, and even make attempts at appeasement with Hitler during the Second World War. Milner also established the funding of Rhodes Scholars bursaries for the most gifted students to become political and business leaders internationally. Rhodes scholars now can be found in the highest political and business environments world-wide. The secret circle has continued to evolve, establishing the Royal Institute of International Affairs (RIIA) as well as similar political instruments in countries around the world. The RIIA, still secretive and better known as Chatham House, is widely recognised as the most influential global political think-tank of our times.
Another of Rhodes’ aspirations – the recovery of the Holy Land for the Zionists – developed into a reality. The Balfour declaration, as was generally believed in 1917, was a letter from the British foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, to Baron Rothschild offering Palestine to the Zionists. The Rothschilds had been involved in the Rhodes’ circle from the start; Nathan Rothschild was a trustee of one of Rhodes wills. Furthermore, Leopold Amery, who had taken over the running of the evolved Rhodes circle after Milner’s death in 1925, announced in Neville Chamberlain’s 1937 Parliament that he had written the Balfour Declaration with Milner. This has never been denied or raised eyebrows, perhaps because Milner, then and now, is remembered not as the head of Rhodes secret circle but as the super-diplomat who ended the Great War. But there is no doubt that Rhodes’ secret circle – with Milner at its head – influenced decisions relating to WW1 and continued to exercise enormous influence at least through the Second World War and probably longer.
Rhodes wrote: “Why should we not form a secret society with but one object – the furtherance of the British Empire and the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under British rule.
This was the perception of those who directly influenced government. This was the perception of the aristocracy, many of whom had made huge profits from British Colonies and, before that, from slavery. This was the perception of the Conservative Party. This was the attitude which, after WW2, confronted the claims for independence from British Dominions. The British Establishment were not used to being told what to do, particularly by people who they still regarded as ‘uncivilised’. They could not let go of the Empire that easily; they had to hit back, avenge the insults from the ‘natives’ who now demanded independence.
In an unaccustomed position, weakened by WW2, they fixed on how they could prevent British money going to the independent colonies in the future. However, to prevent ordinary MPs, and particularly Labour MPs, from being able to stand against them in the House of Commons, they first had to create a new system which allowed the Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce ‘regulations’ into a Finance Bill; henceforth the House of Commons could vote down a whole Bill but could not vote out a single regulation. The scene was set for the vengeance of the Tory Imperialists.
The only way to stop uncontrolled future money flowing to former Dominions and Colonies was to stop the possibility of pensions being paid to British citizens overseas. That would be amended in the future through a series of reciprocal agreements with certain ‘preferred’ countries, a process is now the basis for payments to pensioners in certain countries. However, government has admitted in the House of Commons that a reciprocal agreement is not a legal necessity for the payment of pension parity to all.
In effect, the Tory Government of 1955 was deliberately choosing to withhold pension payments from the very people who had fought for the freedom it now enjoyed. These were WW2 veterans who survived and returned to help rebuild a shattered Britain, and who paid into the National Insurance Fund all their working lives. These WW2 heroes would become the first ones to suffer the indignity of losing, without being told, the annual pension increases they had paid for, at a time when there were few private pensions for ordinary workers, in order to get security and dignity in retirement. So much for Rhodes, ‘protection of all the inhabitants of a country in life, liberty, fair play and happiness’
But that is not the end of the story. Why should subsequent governments continue to maintain a policy which is clearly unjust, immoral, unethical and discriminatory? Is it possible that the secret groups originated by Rhodes still influence political decisions? Does that group contain people who are also bound together because of personal behaviour and preferences and who cannot protest against a clear infamy in government? Are there external forces of the Rhodes influence that still bring pressure to bear to maintain outdated perceptions? These are subjects for future consideration, currently being researched by our members around the world. We will continue to expose these infamies until the frozen pensions’ policy is finally ended
Next: BRITISH SHAME! The Commonwealth
11 January 2017
BRITISH SHAME! The Betrayals Begin
On 21 March 1943, with plans for a ‘welfare state’ already in place, Churchill told the public that, following the war, "a four-year plan" of post-war reconstruction would included a "national compulsory insurance for all classes for all purposes from the cradle to the grave." That plan included future increases for pensioners. Throughout the war, the government used means-testing for allowances for the dependants of soldiers killed in action, though the cost of actually monitoring the means test was estimated at £2. 2s 6d (£2.12) per case; the resulting pension was a mere 3s 3d a week (£0.15). The tests led to many injustices: when an elderly couple moved to live with a son’s family they lost their pensions because the son became responsible for their upkeep; a woman in her eighties lost her pension when she was proclaimed to be co-habiting with a nineteen-year-old working man to whom she had rented a room. Such was the attitude of government towards the poor and vulnerable, a situation which has changed little (look at the record of Iain Duncan Smith 2010-2015 for proof of that same attitude today!).
When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt said, “‘We wanted as many nations as possible to accept the fact that men, for one reason or another, were born free and equal in dignity and rights, that they were endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” The Declaration was the first-ever code of basic human rights which would give effect to the United Nations determination that ‘human rights should be protected by the rule of law’. Many of the provisions from the Declaration of Human Rights were incorporated into two legally binding instruments of potentially global application: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, both of which the United Kingdom government signed, though not until the 1970s. Yet from the moment of signature, consecutive UK governments have failed to comply with the terms of the International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, and have betrayed United Nations and human rights through the continual refusal to end the discrimination of the frozen pensions’ policy. United Nations will not accept a complaint from ordinary citizens; it will only investigate non-compliance if it receives a complaint from a government member of the United Nations. So the injustice goes on, condoned by United Nations organisation; so much for ‘dignity and rights’!
Following the war, the incoming Labour government maintained the contributory pension scheme and its rules already in place while it set about implementing the plans for the welfare state. However, progress was limited by a colossal war debt of more than 200 per cent of GDP, higher than it had been in 1815. Inflation was an unknown phenomenon at the time so that increases in pensions were not considered necessary; pensions bought what they had always bought. The value of money had not changed for decades and no one saw any reason to think it would be different in the future. Also, few people other than government employees chose to retire overseas and so the issue of pensions for overseas citizens was put to the back of the queue. However, the British Colonies were never far from parliamentary minds and in February 1954, the Labour Cabinet met to establish a single body for colonial activity – the Movement for Colonial Freedom.
And then, for the Labour government, the unthinkable happened - with a narrow win in the 1951 general election, Churchill was back. Although in his late seventies, he still had national and global prestige and he set about ending rationing while continuing to deliver the vision of the welfare state. A new pension law was passed which increased pensions but also increased the amount of contributions which people had to pay.
In March 1955, The House of Commons (the House) at last got around to debating the payment of pensions for people who retired overseas. Ernest Marples, a junior minister, explained that “people who settle in any part of the Commonwealth get all the benefits. And in ‘any part of the Commonwealth’ I include India, Pakistan and, by special arrangement, the Irish Republic. So, the benefits of National Insurance may be awarded to a citizen who goes to those countries. The benefits are payable because of Regulations made under Section 29 of the National Insurance Act 1946, and not by reciprocal arrangements between this country and any Commonwealth country. The Commonwealth countries are exempted from the normal ban that benefits are not paid when people go abroad.” Clearly, the intention was to treat all pensioners equally and fairly, at least in the Commonwealth.
You will probably remember that pensions under the 1946 Act were confined to residents in Britain and that it was intended that the new National Insurance Scheme would introduce a higher level of pension to which overseas residents were not expected to contribute. Suddenly, that fairness of not getting what you had not paid for was betrayed and became not getting even when you had paid for it all your working life – that is for those who retired abroad to a country other than the Commonwealth!
The Government had not introduced this measure as a Bill for debate in the House but had used ‘Regulations’ so that MPs would have great difficulty changing one issue amid a block of other matters. An MP observed that “as the Bill stands the Treasury has complete licence to alter or modify the rights of pensioners under these paragraphs in any way it wishes.” The Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, Mr. Douglas Dodds-Parker, responded with an assurance: “I think we can rest assured that these individuals will enjoy the benefit which we wish to give them under the Bill. It is specified earlier in the Bill that in fact the application is restricted to a group of individuals who are living in the United Kingdom or whose pensions are expressed in sterling.” With hindsight, the next betrayal stares out from the page – the Government would decide who would get what and the Commonwealth was not necessarily protected!
To make sure that MPs in the House of Commons were not in a position to change anything during debate, the Government took to delegating Junior Ministers to answer MPs questions, changing the sequence of questions, and limiting the time allowed for debate. It was also observed that the House was almost empty of government MPs during the debate but that they all arrived to take part in a vote later (despite having very little idea of what the debate had covered).
While the Government was planning to renege on protection for the Commonwealth, it was also allocating resources to encourage emigration to Commonwealth countries as recommended in the First Annual Report of the Overseas Migration Board. MPs noted that “The British Commonwealth and Empire was built up and made great, and its cohesion was formed, by the habit of migration of the generations which had gone before; and that the Australian and Canadian Governments were anxious to have more British people, and were carrying out a vigorous recruiting campaign in Britain.” The British Government had spent about £185,000 annually, including £150,000 on the Australia assisted passages scheme and £35,000 on the child migration scheme. (It was revealed many years later that many of these children were sent to Australia without parents’ consent.)
It was also noted that since WW2, Britain had absorbed approximately 200,000 to 300,000 emigrants from the Continent, with a further inflow of British subjects from the West Indies who, too, were doing essential work within UK’s economic system. However, an MP observed that the real cause of the emigration was attractive government adverts offering £75 trips to England, and suggesting that when they came there would be television sets and free accommodation. When they arrived, there was no one to tell them that that was not the case or that the state pensions they worked for all their lives would be frozen if they retired to their home countries. During the Coronation, a [reciprocal] agreement was signed between UK and Australia covering emigrants by Australian old-age insurance benefits, so ensuring that emigrants to Australia lost nothing by emigrating.” (This is not actually the case because UK retirees get only a proportion of the Australian benefits today.) In other words, the Government was well aware that it was taking away future pension benefits from other emigrants. (In recent years the Government has acknowledge to the House that a reciprocal agreement is not a legal necessity for paying pension parity; it is merely a current excuse for paying it for certain countries.)
In the Budget of that year, the Chancellor advised the House that economic growth through the 1950s meant that the country had “reached the stage of being on the verge of prosperity” and that the Government intended to distribute benefits of £100 million. In the event, around £45 million went to ‘just over 200,000 companies, of which £21 million went to only 300 companies, each of them already making £1 million a year profit or more’. While trading profits for those companies from 1952 to 1954 had increased by £381 million, tax on those companies had declined by £136 million. In this Budget those same companies also received tax concessions of another £20 million. Personal tax changes meant that a £10 a week family worker actually paid more tax, and a £10,000 a year professional received £5 a week more. There was no increase for pensioners as stated by Churchill.
With Churchill retired (5 April 1955), the Conservative government were free to commit their infamy and to introduce the rule that people who retired overseas would have their pensions frozen at the point of leaving the UK, even when they had contributed to the new National Insurance scheme all their working lives. It was not a question of affordability – the UK economy was at its highest point since WW2. It was not a matter of convenience of British Post Offices for arrangements had already been made to pay pensions through Consular offices. It was not the thought that future costs would be huge since inflation was not expected to increase much if at all. It was not because of an expected high emigration volume since few ordinary people ventured overseas in those days except under government schemes.
Why should the government of a wealthy country choose to exploit and discriminate against a small group of its own pensioners for no apparent reason or benefit?
Next: BRITISH SHAME!The Colonial Connection
4 January 2017
Party politics promotes the idea of ‘dignity in old age’ and ‘preservation of pensions values’ despite the fact that British state pensions are among the lowest of any country in the developed world. What politicians say rarely is what they mean and never what they intend.
During the coming weeks, in this Blog, I will tell the disgraceful story of British pensions and how politicians dispossessed 500,000 British pensioners of the pensions they contributed towards all their working lives – and that at a time when private pensions for the ordinary citizen were few and far between. MPs cared and still care nothing for the fact that many of those frozen pensioners fought in WW2 and then returned to help rebuild a shattered Britain – gun fodder through the war and gun fodder back home!
The origin of the state pension dates back to the early 1900s and the Great War of 1914-18. Returning soldiers were promised ‘a country fit for heroes’; for many, the reality was unemployment, poverty and near-starvation. And this was before the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s! When the government offered subsidised emigration to countries of the British Empire (in the early post-WW2 years The Commonwealth Office still promoted Rhodesia [Zimbabwe] as a grand place to settle), the majority who volunteered were found to be unacceptable because of malnutrition.
At the same time, the aristocratic ruling class of British government ministers were conscious of the people’s uprising in Russia and the spate of upper-class assassinations across Europe. They feared a similar uprising in England from the mass of population living in poverty and who had little to lose. They needed something that could be introduced quickly, which would have an immediate effect, and would cost as little as possible (they did not want to increase taxation or reduce the substantial subsidies doled out to wealthy landowners, including themselves). The answer was the altruistic-sounding, though petty in substance, ‘pensions for the elderly’. At a time when Poor Laws and Workhouses still operated in many areas, the pittance level of these payments nevertheless enabled the elderly poor to have some dignity; in the presence of mostly extended poor families, often those meagre payments were the only means of avoiding total starvation.
MPs continually complained about payments to “these ungrateful people who now will have no reason to work” even when it was pointed out that it cost more to feed an MP’s dog than the amount awarded to a pensioner couple. In 1925, MPs voted to replace the pension payments with a contributory scheme. Pensions were payable at local Post Offices to residents in Britain only since there were no British Post Offices in overseas countries (though people returning to UK could claim accumulated back-payments). However, from 1929, overseas payments were made to ex-government officials through British Consulate offices in 'His Majesty's Dominions'.
Until 1946, that pension remained at ten shillings (£0.50) a week, when it was increased to twenty-six shillings (£1.30) a week; at the same time, MPs awarded pensions of thousands of pounds a year to certain public officials. However, even that minimal payment was confined to residents in Britain; Parliament said this was because of the forthcoming National Insurance Scheme which would introduce a higher level of pension to which overseas residents were not expected to contribute. The scene was set for the first betrayal!
In the early post-WW2 years, the Empire-loving British Establishment had to come to terms with independence for India and Pakistan in 1947, followed by Burma (Myanmar) and Ceylon (Sri Lanka) the following year. Gradually more countries became independent from British rule, events which were to influence future British pensioners. In the wings of government, the secret circle of Cecil Rhodes followers, which had dominated government through two major wars (which I will deal with in a future blog), were still active in promoting the concept of ‘Empire’ and Britain’s Colonial superiority. This underbelly would demand the next betrayal!
For now, there was one more decision passed by MPs which would have a lasting effect, and which has caused the frozen pensions injustice to continue for more than sixty years – Parliament granted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the right to impose ‘regulations’ without the prior consent of MPs. MPs could reject a set of regulations as a whole, but could not reject one regulation nestled in the middle of a Parliamentary instrument. The scene was set for infamy, betrayal and injustice which Churchill, still active in politics though now in opposition, would never have condoned.
The Colonial Establishment had to wait until the great man retired ten years after the new 1946 pensions’ scheme had been agreed!
Next episode: The Betrayals Begin
19 December 2016
I have just read FairPlay 25, the regular newsletter of British Pensioners in Australia and a great way of keeping up to date with the fight for justice for British frozen pensioners. However, in this edition there was something that I can only describe as a betrayal of biblical proportions. This is the suggestion of partial uprating by Sir Roger Gale, who chairs the House of Commons All Party Parliamentary Group on Frozen British Pensions.
The suggestion is that frozen pensions should be uprated on the frozen value at which they are currently paid. That would mean that the older retirees who get as little as £30 a week would receive an additional few pence while those who retired recently could receive extra pounds. That would mean that the pensioners who have fought for years, and financed the fight for parity, would get the least while the recent retirees who have done nothing would get most.
But there is an added twist. Sir Roger says that ‘gradually, over time, it would resolve the problem’. On the face of it that is true, but how would it solve the problem? It would solve the problem by ignoring older pensioners until they die and are no longer ‘the problem’. That is disgraceful! That is throwing on a rubbish heap to rot thousands of British pensioners, many of whom fought for Queen and Country in WW2 and then returned to help rebuild a shattered UK. Those patriots worked all their lives and paid into the National Insurance Fund for a reasonable state pension at a time when private pensions were few and far between. These are the British citizens that Sir Roger and the British Government want to die in order to ‘solve the problem’.
Sir Roger says ‘it would be a step in the right direction’ but that is obfuscation. For years, the British Government has avoided every approach and every effort by pensioners to reach a reasonable conclusion to the unjust, unethical, immoral and discriminatory frozen pensions’ policy. And this is a policy which is non-compliant with the United Nations Social Covenant. If it is handed partial uprating on a plate, the Government will wash its hands of any further improvement and any future ‘direction’ would disappear overnight.
This is the Judas betrayal: committing British pensioners to die without the pensions they paid for; ignoring those who have bravely fought for Queen and Country as well as for pension parity; treating British pensioners as collateral damage to be shrugged off as people who can be forgotten and left to die.
For less than thirty pieces of silver in today’s terms!
We must refuse anything less than the full uprating for which we have fought, if necessary accepting only a short extended period over which full uprating is paid equally and to all. Partial uprating is a disgrace to Parliamentary democracy, a disgrace to the England we knew and loved, a disgrace to every MP who thinks for one second it is a solution.