Dear Lib Dems Overseas,
It is sad for me to address you when many of you are at home, locked down.
The Coronavirus, which spread from China two months ago, is now engulfing the world. However, you will certainly be safer if you and those around you follow strictly the rules concerning social distancing, washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, and taking care that you ensure you rely on your Covid19 information only from credible, reliable local sources or international organisations.
For many of you with a meagre frozen pension at this time of crisis, we have asked the Lib Dem Leader Ed Davey to write a letter asking the government to consider unfreezing your pension. Baroness Sal Brinton has also been active on our behalf in the House of Lords. Colin Bloodworth, our Head of Policy, is busy preparing for the party's autumn conference with a motion which will be backed by an LDO fringe event calling for the permanent unfreezing of pensions to be part of the Lib Dems party's pension policy platform.
I have also written on behalf of the executive offering our collective services of duty of care to all our members outside Europe. We cannot offer funds but more someone for members to talk to about their issues and to try to find solutions together. Please contact us if you need help.
We had our first skype meeting last week of members who have shown interest in being active in North America.
This all forms part of the 2020 strategy that your executive approved in February, a summary of which can be found here.
Keep safe and we'll see it through together.
Chair, Lib Dems Overseas.
The latest LDO newsletter is now available here.
If we have your email address you should have received a copy by email (unless you unsubscribed from emails).
Jonathan Fryer, Chair of the Lib Dems International Relations Committee wrote this article on his blog www.jonathanfryer.wordpress.com on Sunday, 22nd March as part of the Lib Dems Overseas campaign to unfreeze pensions.
The British government has rightly asked people to be aware of the vulnerability of older people to COVID19, especially those with underlying health conditions. But I wonder if their concern stretches to British OAPs who live abroad and who have the added challenge that their state pension is frozen at the level it was when they emigrated. This is the situation for those British OAPS who do not live in a country in the European Economic Area (EEA) or with a social security agreement with the United Kingdom.
The basic British state pension is only a fraction of that of many EU Member States, as it is. It is due to rise in April, from £168.50 to £175.20 per week, though that is barely enough to live on. But imagine what things are like for overseas pensioners whose pension has shrunk way below that, despite the fact that they paid in their National Insurance contributions during their working life.
The Guardian recently highlighted the case of former Royal Navy serviceman, Robert Haley, who retired to Australia. His pension has remained frozen at £46.90. And his case is just one among many thousands. An estimated half a million British pensioners live abroad, some in countries where medical treatment is not free, making the fear of Coronavirus even more daunting.
The cost of unfreezing pensions for the men and women affected has been estimated at £600 million, which sounds a lot until one compares that with the figures that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been brandishing this week. Moreover, the humanitarian imperative cannot be over-stressed.
Liberal Democrats Abroad, which brings together several thousand Party members around the world, is adopting this issue as a major campaign and is asking co-Leader Ed Davey to take the matter up urgently with the government in London.
UK LIBERAL DEMOCRATS OVERSEAS 2020 STRATEGY
- Champion the needs of UK citizens living overseas within the UK party and by lobbying the UK government
- Contribute to promoting liberal democracy worldwide, in association with Liberal International.
- Increase the profile, membership, services and activities of Lib Dems living overseas.
CHAMPION THE NEEDS OF UK CITIZENS LIVING OVERSEAS
Provide input from an overseas perspective to relevant Liberal Democrat policies.
Develop policy proposals that directly support the unique needs of UK citizens living overseas.
o Pensions - the ‘unfreezing of overseas state pensions’ and building on the work undertaken in the 2019 Lib Dems in Europe and Lib Dems Overseas policy proposal paper.
o The right to vote in the UK elections for UK citizens living overseas – we are focussed on working to obtain and protect the right to vote for life
CONTRIBUTE TO PROMOTING LIBERAL DEMOCRACY WORLDWIDE
Create a political diplomatic network of active Lib Dem members in as many countries as possible outside Europe.
Current focus of activity is concentrated in the Asia-Pacific, including Afghanistan.
Active participation in Liberal International as well as the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE).
INCREASE THE PROFILE, MEMBERSHIP, SERVICES AND ACTIVITIES OF LIB DEMS LIVING OVERSEAS
Use comprehensive communication tools and tactics to reach our members and share our activities with UK citizens overseas.
Help grow the newly formed Liberal think tank ‘Paddy Ashdown Forum’ to develop strong Lib Dem policies and ideas.
Provide ad-hoc Duty of Care to those members in need on request.
A CHARTER FOR PENSIONERS
A large group of 18 million workers would have little difficulty in grabbing the attention of the government. But what if the 18 million happen to be pensioners? They cannot threaten to stop work and down tools since they already have done. They are not likely to rampage through the streets and cause mayhem so what recourse is left to them? There is one important tool they can still use, namely their vote!
‘’It may be warm in Bali, but our UK pensions are still frozen!’’
A social get to know each other organised by our National Coordinator - Victoria Bateman.
An opportunity for all members, supporters and friends to get together, talk politics (or whatever) ...
Phone: +1 647 723 6134
Join us for a fun & lively debate through 20 questions about the future of Europe.
For all politically interested Europeans in New York City, organized by the US chapters of En Marche (France), LibDems (UK) , Neos (Austria) & D66 (Netherlands).
A first coffee morning meeting initiated by LDO in Bali Indonesia on Friday 24 January attracted a total of five attendees, all of whom had frozen pensions with the exception of one who was about to draw his first pension which of course would also be frozen.