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Thursday, September 23, 1999 Published at 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK


Man who came in from the cold

John Taylor: Winter fuel payments are "sexist"

It's not every day that an ordinary, everyday pensioner battling bureaucracy hits the headlines.

But not every pensioner's personal battle has been as successful as that of retired postman John Taylor, 64, of North Yorkshire.

When winter fuel payments for pensioners were introduced in 1998, Mr Taylor spotted a discrepancy: women over 60 who qualified for certain benefits could get an extra £20 to cover winter fuel bills, whereas men were not eligible until they turned 65.

[ image: John Taylor:
John Taylor: "It's blantant discrimination"
The payment has now increased to £100, but the same rules apply.

Not content to just write a letter to the local paper, Mr Taylor - a member of pension campaigners Parity - enlisted the aid of human rights group Liberty, and sought a judicial review of the government's "sexist" policy.

In October 1998, the High Court referred the case to European Court in Luxembourg to decide whether or not the payment regulations are in breach of the 1979 EU directive prohibiting sex discrimination in social security schemes.

An advocate-general of the court has now backed up Mr Taylor's stance - although only a preliminary finding, it could be indicative of the court's findings due later this year.

Fight for the under-dog

Although Mr Taylor will be eligible for the payment by the time a decision is made, he wants to help the UK's 1.2 million men aged between 60 and 65 who currently miss out.

[ image: Parity campaigns for equal pensions for men]
Parity campaigns for equal pensions for men
"Is it fair that the fairer sex - no disrespect to them - but is it fair that the fairer sex receive the state pension at 60, plus winter fuels payments, plus statutory travel concessions, and an unemployed man of the same age does not?" Mr Taylor asks.

"It is blatant sex discrimination, unjustifiable sex discrimination."

Long history

Mr Taylor took his first stand against the powers-that-be more than 30 years ago.

"I have always been a battler.

"When I first moved into my happy home, right slap-bang outside the front door there was a great big air raid shelter.

"I was a keen gardener and I wanted to get rid of it. Rubbish would pile up against it, and my youngest daughter fell off another one in the town."

There were many letters back and forth, and eventually the shelters were demolished.

His fate to be a campaigner was sealed.

"Somebody has got to make a stand. If Emmeline Pankhurst had not gone to Royal Ascot, where the hell would women be now?"

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23 Sep 99†|†UK
'Sexist' fuel payments case backed

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