Press release issued by the Registrar
CARSON AND OTHERS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM
The European Court of Human Rights is holding a Grand Chamber hearing today Wednesday 2 September 2009 at 9.15 a.m. in the case of Carson and Others v. the United Kingdom (application no. 42184/05). The case concerns the applicants’ complaint about the United Kingdom authorities’ refusal to up-rate their pensions in line with inflation.
The hearing will be broadcast from 2.30 p.m. on the Court’s Internet site (http://www.echr.coe.int).
The case concerns an application brought by 13 British nationals: Annette Carson, Bernard Jackson, Venice Stewart, Ethel Kendall, Kenneth Dean, Robert Buchanan, Terrance Doyle, John Gould, Geoff Dancer, Penelope Hill, Bernard Shrubsole, Lothar Markiewicz and Rosemary Godfrey, born between 1913 and 1937. The applicants spent some of their working lives in the United Kingdom, paying National Insurance Contributions, before emigrating or returning to South Africa, Australia or Canada.
Summary of the facts
In 2002, Ms Carson brought proceedings by way of judicial review in the United Kingdom to challenge the failure to index-link her pension. She claimed that she had been the victim of discrimination as British pensioners were treated differently depending on their country of residence. In particular, despite having spent the same amount of time working in the United Kingdom, having made the same contributions towards the National Insurance Fund and having the same need for a reasonable standard of living in her old age as British pensioners who were living in the United Kingdom or in other countries where up-rating was available through reciprocal agreements, her basic State pension was frozen at the rate payable on the date she left the United Kingdom. Her application for judicial review was dismissed in May 2002 and ultimately on appeal before the House of Lords in May 2005.
With the exception of one dissenting judge in the House of Lords, all the judges who examined Ms Carson’s complaint in the British courts held that she was not in an analogous, or relevantly similar, situation to a pensioner of the same age and contribution record living in the United Kingdom or in a country where up-rating was available through a reciprocal bilateral agreement or that, in the alternative, the difference in treatment was reasonably and objectively justified. Social security benefits, including the State pension, were part of an intricate and interlocking system of social welfare and taxation which existed to ensure certain minimum standards of living for those in the United Kingdom. Contributions to the National Insurance Fund could not be equated to contributions to a private pension scheme, because the money was used, together with money provided from general taxation, to finance a range of different benefits and allowances. Quite different economic conditions applied in other countries: for example, in South Africa, where Ms Carson lived, although there was virtually no social security, the cost of living was much lower, and the value of the rand had dropped in recent years compared to sterling.
The domestic courts further held that Ms Carson and those in her position had chosen to live in societies, or more pointedly economies, outside the United Kingdom; to accept her arguments would be to lead to judicial interference in the political decision as to the redeployment of public funds.
The applicants allege, in particular, that the United Kingdom authorities’ refusal to up-rate their pensions in line with inflation was discriminatory and that some of them had to choose between surrendering a large part of their pension entitlement or living far away from their families. They rely on Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life), Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the European Convention on Human Rights.
The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 24 November 2005. In a judgment of 4 November 2008, the Court held, by six votes to one, that there had been no violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 (protection of property) to the Convention and that it was not necessary to examine the complaint under Article 8 taken in conjunction with Article 14. On 6 April 2009 the case was referred to the Grand Chamber at the applicants’ request.
Composition of the Court
The case will be heard by the Grand Chamber composed as follows:
Costa (France), President,
Christos Rozakis (Greece),
Nicolas Bratza (the United Kingdom),
Peer Lorenzen (Denmark),
Françoise Tulkens (Belgium),
Josep Casadevall (Andorra),
Karel Jungwiert (the Czech Republic)
Nina Vajić (Croatia),
Dean Spielmann (Luxembourg),
Renate Jaeger (Germany),
Danutė Jočienė (Lithuania),
Ineta Ziemele (Latvia),
Isabelle Berro-Lefèvre (Monaco),
Päivi Hirvelä (Finland),
Luis López Guerra (Spain),
Mirjana Lazarova Trajkovska (“the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”),
Zdravka Kalaydjieva (Bulgaria), judges,
Sverre Erik Jebens (Norway),
András Sajó (Hungary),
Nona Tsotsoria (Georgia), substitute judges,
and also Vincent Berger, Jurisconsult.
Representatives of the parties
Government: James Eadie, Counsel
Helen Upton, Agent,
Applicants: Timothy Otty, Ben Olbourne, Counsel,
Philip Tunley, Adviser.
Nine of the applicants will also attend the hearing.
After the hearing the Court will begin its deliberations, which are held in private. Judgment will be delivered at a later date1.
1 This summary by the Registry does not bind the Court.