This piece first appeared in The Weekly Telegraph on 1 March
The text here may not be identical to the published text
The 400,000 UK pensioners around the world living on frozen UK pensions have lost a determined champion with the death of Michael Colvin, the Conservative MP for Romsey. The MP is believed to have perished with his wife in a fire at their home near Andover in Hampshire, England in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Michael Colvin, born in 1932 the son of a Royal Navy captain, was a traditional Tory. Schooldays at Eton were followed by the military college Sandhurst. From there he moved into the Grenadier Guards, serving in Berlin, Suez, and Cyprus. He entered Parliament in 1979, winning a Labour seat in the landslide that brought Margaret Thatcher to power. His views were often controversial and went against accepted beliefs. He was until his death a staunch supporter of field sports, and was chairman of the Country Sports Association. He was President of the shooting club at the Houses of Parliament, campaigning against restrictions on handguns. And he wanted Britain to have more nuclear weapons rather than less. But he had another side. He supported organic farming, was concerned about the costs to elderly people of nursing home care, and in 1997 he took over from Winston Churchill as the unofficial spokesman in the Commons for the 400,000 ex-patriate British pensioners whose pensions are frozen all the time they live abroad.
Despite having paid a lifetime of full National Insurance Contributions, many of these pensioners are living on tiny amounts of money, calculated when they were first paid in a foreign country and never increased with inflation. The vast majority of these ‘frozen pensioners’ live in ex-Commonwealth countries – Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand. When their champion Winston Churchill decided not to stand at the 1997 General Election it is not surprising Michael Colvin took up their cause.
Douglas Ross, President of the Canadian Alliance of British Pensioners told The Weekly Telegraph
"It is a terrible tragedy. Our thoughts go out to his family. But it is a sad day for us too. The news was passed among pensioners in Canada and Australia in the early hours of Thursday. Michael Colvin continued the tradition of putting down Motions for MPs to sign and took a leadership position in the House of Commons in support of frozen pensioners around the world. We have been extremely grateful for his support and interest in our cause for many years, both recently and under the guidance of Winston Churchill. He had another Early Day Motion ready to table in this parliamentary session and was planning to coordinate it with a letter to every MP."
A previous Motion attracted 144 signatures. In July 1998 Michael Colvin used that to demand a debate on the issue in the House of Commons
"The Secretary of State will be aware that many British pensioners live overseas, some of them in countries where their pensions have been frozen at the rate that they were receiving when they emigrated. Why has not her review addressed that injustice? Does she recall that the Minister of State, when Chairman of the all-party Select Committee on Social Security, recognised that injustice and recommended that there should be a debate in the House in Government time with a free vote? I believe that that would be a good idea now, so that the 144 people who have signed the early-day motion calling for the unfreezing of those pensions may air their concerns."
That debate, like any change in Government policy on frozen pensions, is still awaited. And Douglas Ross says the campaign will continue.
"There are a large number of MPs from all parties who support our cause and we will, of course, be seeking to identify someone who can follow Michael Colvin to lead the campaign in the House."
1 March 2000