By Humphrey Carter
BRITISH pensioner Bernard Murphy, who has lived in Minorca for the past 12 years, is lobbying the British government over its stringent cold weather payments to pensioners living overseas.

Murphy, “encouraged” by what the chairman of Conservatives Abroad, John Taylor told the Bulletin on Wednesday, said yesterday that the feeling he gets is that the Labour government's attitude to him and many others is “you've chosen to live abroad, so get on with your life,” and he does not believe that is fair.

For a British pensioner living in another European Economic Area or Switzerland to be entitled to a Winter Fuel Payment, he or she, must have acquired entitlement to the benefit before leaving the UK.

Those who moved abroad prior to the Winter Fuel Payment scheme being introduced are not entitled to the benefit. Murphy, who is still waiting for “personal and official Conservative policy comments” on the matter from his Conservative MP for Basingstoke Andrew Hunter, said yesterday that he and many of his fellow pensioners in Minorca believe that they were “conned” by the Labour government which, he claims, only introduced the Winter Fuel Payments under obligation to the European Commission “rather than through any sense of being fair to all ex-pat pensioners.” In his letter to Hunter he goes on to state “this matter may seem relatively trivial to the Labour Government and the Minister of State but I can assure you that for the ex-pat pensioners living in Europe on small fixed incomes it is of considerable importance and one on which they will reflect when considering how to vote in the forthcoming election.” In fact, Murphy believes that, in the true sense of the spirit of the European Union, “it is only logical” that Britons living abroad, but within the EU, should be entitled to all the same benefits they would enjoy if living in Britain, whether it be cold weather payments or child allowance. “We have no social security benefits here,” he said. “I was very encouraged to read what the chairman of Conservatives Abroad had to say, not only regarding their awareness of the problems Britons abroad, in particular pensioners, are facing but also the idea of expatriate voters being given a voice in the Lords or the Commons,” he said. “I and many other pensioners living here like the idea of having a voice in the UK. “I know numerous ex-pats who don't bother to vote ‘what's the point' they say and slowly give up. “I would say an official elected body representing and looking after the interests of Britons living abroad is long overdue,” Murphy said yesterday. “The budget may be good for the grey vote in Britain, but it means nothing to us pensioners living abroad,” he added. “I intend to continue lobbying my MP, he did take the issue up with the Minister of State, Malcolm Wicks MP, but all I got was a letter explaining how the Winter Weather Payment Scheme works and an explanation that the Labour Government only expanded the scheme to some pensioners overseas in order to comply with European Law. “I may well be going to England in April and I intend to raise the issue with my MP at his monthly surgery at his local Conservative Club,” Murphy said.

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