(CNS): As the Overseas Territories Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) meeting kicked off on Tuesday, the question of pensions and healthcare for retired British citizens living in the territories appeared to dominate the talks. Peter Hayes, the FCO’s director of the overseas territories, opened the talks about retirees who paid into the UK pensions system and are living in the territories but don’t receive increases in their pensions allowing for inflation.
Pensioners living in Bermuda or Gibraltar do and other British Overseas Territories leaders are asking for equitable treatment to those living in the UK or the crown dependencies.
“It comes down to the question of what constitutes a British citizen, which we all are,” Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin reportedly said. The matter was described by the premier’s press secretary in a release from London as a “major issue” for some territories because British pensioners often find themselves seeking welfare assistance from the BOT government where they live.
The UK takes the position that it cannot afford to pay overseas pensioners the increases because it could make the British government liable to pay similar increases to all citizens living in Commonwealth countries.
“For that theory to have any relevant basis would mean the overseas territories are not British territories,” McLaughlin argued. “We are not residing in some foreign land. The British Overseas Territories have been owned by Britain for hundreds of years.”
The question is a strange one for the Cayman Islands, however, as any British national who resides in Cayman who is not Caymanian can only claim welfare or support from the government in any way if they have Cayman status. Non-Caymanians of British origin are not treated any differently from any other foreign resident unless they have status, and need a work-permit or legal residency rights via marriage or wealth to be here in the first place.
During the discussions among the territories, however, Hayes suggested that UK constitutional and pension lawyers meet to try to find a solution to hopefully satisfy the BOTs if one could not be found. The leaders of the BOTs also agreed to formally write and put their positions forward again for consideration.
Roger Edwards, MLA for the Falkland Islands, led this discussion for the BOTs with various BOT ministers joining in. Richard Harrington, Undersecretary of State for Pensions, led the discussion for the UK Government.
Discussions on health were led by Turks and Caicos Islands Premier Rufus Ewing and Lord Prior of Brampton, who is the Undersecretary of State for Health. Issues discussed included the number of territory patients that can receive treatment in the UK under the NHS, telemedicine, health tourism and other matters to do with health.