Iain Duncan Smith, Tory MP and secretary of state for work and pensions, is reportedly looking at stopping winter fuel payments to pensioners living in Spain, Greece and other warm countries by applying a “temperature test”.
The FT said the attempt by Duncan Smith to “claw back relatively small amounts from expats wintering by the Mediterranean” is indicative of his frustration at the “indiscriminate nature of fuel payments”.
It is not the first time the idea of introducing a temperature test has been mooted by Duncan Smith. In August last year, the MP described a ruling from the European Court of Justice, which meant that British expats living within the European Economic Area are all entitled to a winter fuel allowance, as “ludicrous” and vowed to fight it. He added that he would introduce the temperature test in order to ensure those pensioners living in warm countries did not receive the payments.
As reported at the time, pensioners living abroad were not surprised by the news, likening it to the long running argument over their “frozen pensions”, where most expat pensions are frozen at a certain level, without increasing each year in line with inflation as they do for those living in the UK.
A campaign led by a group called Pension Parity-UK to have the pensions of expats living abroad “index-linked” was dealt a severe blow in 2010 by the European Court of Human Rights, which upheld the UK government’s position. This latest measure is likely to be seen by some expatriate pensioners as an extension of existing policy decisions rather than as something radically new.