As noted in my May blog on this the UK All Party Parliamentary Group on Frozen British Pensions ceased to exist when Parliament was dissolved on 3 May. Subsequent to the election it has been re-formed and met for the first time on 18 July. Once again it reflects an all party interest with Sir Roger Gale (Cons) still chairman, and vice chairmen from Labour (Yasmin Qureshi), Lib Dem (Lord German) and SNP ( Mhairi Black). They may be joined by a DUP member later. Mhairi Black replaces Ian Blackford who is now the SNP parliamentary leader. Given the government’s dependence on the DUP, the official views of that party would be interesting.
Points arising from the meeting:
- Sir Roger would talk to the new Pensions Minister, Guy Opperman, and others;
- Lord German had requested two debates in the Lords on the subject;
- The group committed to submit more Parliamentary Questions to fully explore what is going to happen to pensioners living in the EU and add pressure on the government to address the situation for all expats, not just those in the EU.
- It was agreed that a challenge to the Social Security Benefit Up-rating Regulations in March 2018 remained the most viable parliamentary mechanism to achieve change, and given the support of the Official Opposition, it was hoped that the government might compromise before a vote was needed.
Labour has tabled Early Day Motion 159 against the Social Security Benefit Up-Rating Regulations 2017, the Statutory Instrument used by the government last March to withhold pension increases from 550,000 recipients living outside the UK. It was tabled by Labour leader (and APPG Member) Jeremy Corbyn, and co-sponsored by Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell and Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Debbie Abrahams. They have been joined in this by Sammy Wilson of the DUP and Caroline Lucas of the Greens.
The strength of all party support for the unfreezing together with the weakness of Theresa May’s government and the similar but higher profile issues around post-Brexit pensioners in the EU bodes well for a more favourable outcome than has been the case up to now.