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Monday, 8 April, 2002, 17:20 GMT 18:20 UK
Canada backs legal case against UK
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Canadian government said that diplomatic discussions had failed
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By Sarah Toyne
BBC News Online personal finance reporter
The Canadian government is backing a legal case being brought against the UK government, because a quarter of a century of diplomatic discussions have reached deadlock.

We very much support the principle of the cause

Andre Thivierge, Canadian government official

It is backing a British-born pensioner - Anette Carson, who now lives in South Africa - who is taking the UK government to court over its refusal to uprate her pension each year.

It has written to her solicitor to express its support for her case. More than 140,000 British pensioners living in Canada share a similar plight to Ms Carson.

A Canadian government official also said that it would be sending two senior legal officials to attend the hearing which takes place in London next week.

A spokesman for the UK Department for Work and Pensions, said that it could not comment until after the proceedings.

Support letter

In a letter to Ms Carson's lawyer in London, Jane Stewart, the Canadian Human Resources Development Minister, said that the Canadian government had become increasingly exasperated with the UK government's refusal to index pensions of Britons living in Canada.

Andre Thivierge, director in the International Affairs division of the department, told BBC News Online that the matter had been discussed between Jean Chretien, the Canadian Prime Minister, and Tony Blair in February 2001.

Mr Thivierge said the Canadian government had made repeated attempts to resolve the issue diplomatically at the most senior levels during the past 25 years.

"Minister Stewart has written to the solicitor voicing the support of the Canadian government for this cause," he said.

He went on: "It is a question of fairness. These people contribute equally. They have made these pension contributions and are not being adequately compensated."

Canadian situation

The pensions of the 140,000 or more British pensioners in Canada are effectively frozen at the sum they were receiving when they first emigrated, or when they retired.

Mr Thivierge said that the matter had been frequently broached by the Canadian High Commissioner in London, and had been discussed with other senior UK ministers, including Robin Cook, former UK foreign secretary, last year.

"It is at the point where we are evaluating our options," he said.

"This court case interests us immensely. The outcome will be of tremendous interest to Canada."

Mr Thivierge, who negotiates social security agreements on behalf of the Canadian government said that the issue was about fairness.

"The principle of non-indexation is the crux of it. We feel that it is an unfair policy, whether you live in Canada or South Africa, New Zealand or elsewhere. We very much support the principle of the cause."

Frozen pensions

The UK government uprates the pensions of about 12 million Britons worldwide, apart from 490,000 people.

British pensioners living in 48 of the 54 Commonwealth countries, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have their pensions frozen either at the date they arrived in their new country of residence or at the date they first became eligible for a pension after emigration.

However, pensioners in many European countries, the United States and a number of other countries, see their pensions increase each year.

Graham Chrystie, Ms Carson's solicitor, said that he was very "indebted" to Minister Stewart and the Canadian government's support.

See also:

24 Oct 01 | Business
Judicial review for expat pensioners
15 Mar 02 | Business
Australia attacks UK over pensions
14 Jan 02 | Business
April hearing for ex-pat pensioner
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