This is an open letter to British Prime Minister from expat Roger Boaden MBE about the deception used to canncel winter fuel payments for many expats in Europe.
"Dear Prime Minister
On 26th March on television you said: “Treating people with dignity and security in their old age after a full working life is one of the most important things we can do as a country and that’s why I’ve been so clear that pensioner benefits like the free TV licences, the free prescriptions, the Winter Fuel Payments - they will continue for everybody! I think it should be your right and I think we need to make that very clear.”
I am sure you were sincere, but, those words produced some anger and hollow laughter amongst the almost half a million British Pensioners living in EU/EEA countries. I have written to you twice since you became Prime Minister. I didn’t get an acknowledgement to the first, and the reply I got to the second, proved you didn’t really see either letter. This is probably the last chance I will ever get for my words reach you. So here goes!
When we moved to France we knew we would not be eligible for free bus passes and TV licences. However, we were able to claim the Winter Fuel Payment, and one hundred and thirty five thousand of us did so, but, 95,890 lose it this year. Thanks to some pretty nifty footwork on the part of Iain Duncan Smith, the UK Regulations were changed by Statutory Instrument, without a debate and without a vote in the House of Commons.
Many of us can manage without the WFP, but some elderly British Citizens, in poor health, will suffer hardship, because they live in so-called ‘hot’ countries. Average winter temperatures of between 7.0°C and 7.3°C, measured across five months, have been declared ‘hot’ for Greece, Spain and France, with some Regions regularly recording winter temperatures which are minus for weeks on end.
96% of all pensioner households living in the UK receive the WFP automatically. Only 29% of all pensioner households living within other countries of the EU/EEA have bothered to claim it. When one reads that your Secretary of State for Work & Pensions considers it ‘obscene’ that we should be paid that particular old-age benefit at all, you will appreciate why there has been hollow laughter.
As for ‘free prescriptions,’ you clearly are unaware the bi-lateral agreement between the UK and France means the French only claim back what they pay out for us, which at best is 70%, and often less. My wife and I will have spent €3,174.75 (£2,351.67) from our pension income on our top-up health ‘mutuelle’ insurance by the end of this year to cover the balance. So, please do not tell us ‘they will continue to be our right, and will continue for everybody’!
We are extremely grateful for one thing - the uprating of our pensions each year by the generous amount you have protected through the ‘Triple Lock’, one reason why half a million British Pensioners will raise a cheer if you win the Referendum. We are fearful if you don’t. We are sure many on your benches, including Iain Duncan Smith, would like to see the uprating of pensions stopped for us, just like our compatriot British Pensioners in Canada and Australia.
If the Referendum result causes the UK to leave the EU, many pensioners will need to reconsider and might well be forced to return to the UK because of financial difficulties. Reassurances from you would help British Pensioners who have retired to the EU Continent to be sure that they will be as protected as far as possible, as though they were still resident in the UK. These citizens have done what elderly citizens have always done - moved to quieter and more spacious surroundings in their retirement - as they did in going to Bournemouth, Southend or Torquay in the 30s, they take advantage of the EU to move to France, Cyprus or Spain today. They still remain proudly - almost fanatically so - British.
Roger and Maria Boaden
Department for Work and Pensions deception exposed
Figures published this week by the UK’s Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) expose the cruel deceptions ministers and officials have pursued relentlessly for four years concerning the numbers of Winter Fuel Payment (WFP) claimants living in the European Union.
The latest WFP claimant statistics published by the DWP are very revealing.
Two years ago the DWP published figures which now have been proved as only being untrue, but to have been gross exaggerations of statistics that DWP officials must have known were false as they inflated the total of claimants of the WFP.
The DWP deliberately exaggerated the estimates they produced and publicised - even giving their figures to the Daily Mail three weeks before making them available to MPs.
The DWP predicted there would be 130,000 additional claimants from other EU countries by 2014/2015.
The numbers published today show only 63,160 additional claimants with 41% of those additional claimants living in the Republic of Ireland - a country which was declared ‘cold’ by the DWP, and therefore those claimants will continue to receive the WFP.
The DWP also predicted an extra cost of £30 million and did so in ways which pointed the finger at expats living in France and Spain. There also is evidence that they maintained their false predictions with a letter written on behalf of David Cameron, dated 17th April 2015, repeating that ‘this will save around £30 million a year.’ The figures published yesterday show the figure was just £17.06 million.
These new figures reveal the total increase of claimants from those six countries and one overseas territory, all of which have had the WFP removed on grounds they are all ‘hot’, came to 53% of the total increase.
This mocks the statement made by Iain Duncan Smith that, “It's absurd and offensive that taxpayers fund payments for people who have retired to the Mediterranean…”
Background to the Winter Fuel Payment
The Irish Republic was declared to be ‘cold’ by the DWP. In the temperature figures from the Met Office used by the DWP, Ireland at 5.5°C was a fraction ‘colder’ than the SW of England at 5.6°C.
This means that all claimants in Ireland will be paid the WFP in November and December 2015.
Claimants in Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus, Malta and Gibraltar will not.
Furthermore, an important statistic shows Ireland has the highest number of British Pensioners of any EU country. (see Statistics chart below)
When first deciding to use the so-called ‘temperature test policy’ to determine which the ‘hot’ countries were, the DWP required the Met Office to supply them with average winter temperatures for all EU/EEA countries.
The Met Office Report (2012) used datasets published by the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia. These incredibly important sets of worldwide temperature data covering the period 1961/1990, was used as the baseline norm against which climatologists and meteorologists could measure climate change in later years.
It should be noted that Dr Tim Mitchell, who conducted the research for the CRU, stated: “Where a country includes a number of different climatic regions (i.e. regions in which climate varies coherently), it is possible that the models may represent the changes accurately in each region, but that the average change over the country as a whole may not be physically meaningful.”
The figures published by the CRU are absolute temperatures. Therefore, in a situation when average winter temperatures have been proven to fluctuate substantially year on year, it was a deliberate mistake to use these absolute temperature datasets, these temperatures were adopted by the DWP in order to make their ‘temperature test policy’ work.
The Met Office publish, what they call: ‘UK climate anomaly maps relative to 1961- 1990 average.’
Those maps show the differences each year by which average winter temperatures have fluctuated from the ‘norm’ of the CRU datasets.
Looking carefully at the SW of England - the DWP chosen baseline region - for the last twenty years and you will find not only fluctuations every single year, but fluctuations in the anomalies ranging from -1.0°C to >2.0°C. In other words the 5.6°C baseline of SW England, chosen by the DWP, has fluctuated between 4.6°C and >7.6°C, over that twenty year period.
This proves beyond doubt it was irresponsible to select absolute temperature figures to make decisions about the removal of an individual’s legal old-age benefit.
Particularly so when noting that the winter averages of 7.0°C for France, 7.1°C for Greece and 7.3°C for Spain were declared to be ‘hot’ by the DWP in the pursuit of their policy.
Nevertheless the DWP went ahead and used the figures, but quickly found they had to ‘manufacture’ their own interpretations. In fact the Met Office admitted to us, following a Freedom of Information request: “DWP interpreted the data from this report to inform its policy for future eligibility to Winter Fuel Payments.”
The figures for each Nation in the Met Office Report show France to have had an average winter temperature of 4.9°C across the extended winter favoured by the DWP. Ireland by contrast was 5.5°C, and Italy was 5.7°C - both countries ‘hotter’ than France.
When the DWP published the list of countries which were too ‘hot’, France was declared ‘hot’, and excluded, but Ireland and Italy were listed as ‘cold’, and not excluded. The DWP had made France ‘hot’ by adding average winter temperatures from French overseas territories in the tropical zones of the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean to that of France, claiming this had to be done because they were integral parts of France.
However, the ‘had to be’ part of that wasn’t applied by the DWP to Gibraltar, which is a British overseas territory. Gibraltar and the SW region of England are together the constituency for six Members of the European Parliament. If Gibraltar was added to SW England it would affect the temperature statistics since they declared Gibraltar to be a ‘hot country.’
We believe there is a simple explanation as to why there was a massive surge in Irish claimants. With 136,000 recorded British Pensioners, the highest in all countries of the EU - outside the UK - any fool should have calculated there would be a problem with Irish Pensioners.
Ireland has its own Fuel Allowance for winter heating - at €20 per week, much more generous than the UK - but only paid to those on strictly means tested low incomes. Tens of thousands of Irish Citizens will have worked at some time in the UK, acquiring a UK National Insurance Number, and, at least, a partial UK Pension, if not a full one.
You do not have to be a genius to realise that many of those Irish Citizens, on receiving a letter, following the CJEU Judgment in Stewart, telling them they could claim £200 a year tax free without any means testing, would jump at the chance with alacrity.
And yet, many British expat pensioners who are in genuine need of this help with their winter fuel costs, are denied payment, because they live in the so-called ‘hot’ countries.
See these links for more information:
For the record, should anyone think I have something against the Irish - my wife is Irish, and is entitled to a partial UK Pension and a partial Irish Pension, because she has worked in both countries.
However, living in France, any possibility of claiming the WFP has been removed from us both forever. But, if we were to move to Ireland, then my wife can claim again as a British Pensioner, even though we experience winters in France much colder than anything she ever experienced in Ireland!
I am convinced Iain Duncan Smith pressured his officials to target Spain and France in particular. He has proved to me many times over that he and his officials have not even begun to comprehend the significance of the continental climate. Temperatures which are very hot in summer, fall to devastatingly low levels for many days at a time in winter, especially in some Regions throughout France, and in the mountainous Regions of Spain, Greece and Cyprus.
Over a two year span Iain Duncan Smith gave a number of briefings and statements to national newspapers attacking those who had retired to Europe to become expats. Yet the Met Office Report of December 2012 given to him, proved that two regions of Spain were colder in winter, and one the same, as Ireland.
Furthermore, 15 regions of France also were colder than Ireland in winter. I find it impossible to explain why Iain Duncan Smith felt it was necessary to attack defenceless British expat pensioners, when the ‘savings’ he achieves by making elderly British Pensioners suffer, amount to a tiny 0.75% of the total amount spent each year on the WFP, and a fractional 0.0096% of the total for which he has overall responsibility.
I am 75 years of age, and I live with my wife Maria, in a rural French hamlet close to the borders of the Regions of the Limousin and Aquitaine. We both experienced life-threatening ill-health in the UK, and found we could no longer afford to live in Beckenham. In 2002 we sold up and moved to France.
We settled in an area which in winter is much colder than anything ever experienced in London. Yes, this past summer has been exceptionally hot, and as we watched the house martins prepare to fly south early, we know there is a pretty cold winter ahead of us.
I worked for the Conservative Party from 1958 to 1988, and during my time I organised and managed three General Election campaign tours for Edward Heath, followed by three more for Margaret Thatcher and held a number of national appointments in the party organisation.
From 1988 to 1994 I was the director of the Shopping Hours Reform Council which campaigned successfully to reform the Sunday trading laws in England and Wales. Proposals I drafted in the summer of 1988 were precisely the same as those which received an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons in the summer of 1994.
I have prepared this news release on behalf of the many thousands of British expat pensioners across Europe who are dismayed and horrified at their callous dismissal by Iain Duncan Smith who has described the old-age benefit he has taken away from them, as ‘obscene.’
Roger Boaden MBE
CLICK HERE to enlarge Statistics Chart