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Global Britain

Volume 719: debated on Tuesday 6 September 2022

20. If she will make an assessment of the potential impact of the Government’s policy on uprating UK state pensions overseas on delivering the Government’s global Britain agenda. (901321)

The integrated review of foreign policy, defence and security sets out the Government’s vision for global Britain. We are delivering this though our diplomatic, economic, development and security partnerships, prioritising Euro-Atlantic security and the Indo-Pacific tilt. We have become an Association of Southeast Asian Nations dialogue partner, and we have provided £2.3 billion-worth of military support to Ukraine, published a new international development strategy and agreed the AUKUS deal.

The United Kingdom state pension is payable worldwide and uprated where there is a legal requirement to do so. This has been the policy of successive Governments for over 70 years.

Do these Ministers actually understand? Do they read the world’s media? Do they not understand that we are alienated and isolated from all our traditional allies in Europe and from the United States? Do any of them think that the new Prime Minister’s comments about France and President Macron helped anyone?

On what the hon. Member says about alienating the world, we should look at what really happened in practice. The United Kingdom led the world on stepping up and supporting the people of Ukraine. Whether militarily, economically, diplomatically or on a humanitarian basis, we have stepped up to the plate at every level in that regard. Whether with COP26, the summit on freedom of religion or belief, or the summit coming up on the preventing sexual violence initiative, the United Kingdom is leading the world and standing up for our values of democracy, liberty and open societies.

The job interviews have taken a long time today.

I cannot believe I am actually having to ask this question, but over the summer thousands of UK pensioners living in Canada had their pensions stopped as a result of proof of life forms not being sent to them and therefore not being able to be returned, pushing many of them into debt and having to borrow for basic bills. To reinstate their pension, they have had to phone an international number, with calls lasting up to an hour. What does it say about global Britain if we cannot even pay our pensioners living abroad? What support can the Department and the British high commission give to pensioners in Canada to ensure that their pensions are reinstated as quickly as possible, and can the Minister confirm that this issue—this debacle—has yet been sorted out with the Department for Work and Pensions?

I thank the hon. Member for that question. I know he has had a written response from the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, who leads on this matter, and had a conversation with a Minister at the DWP.

Let me answer specifically about pensions in Canada. I was recently in Canada, and this pensions matter was raised with me by my parliamentary counterpart in Canada, so let me answer that point specifically for the hon. Member. State pensions are uprated where there is a legal requirement to do so. The United Kingdom and Canada have two arrangements concerning social security, neither of which includes state pension uprating. The Government continue to take the view that priority should be given to those living within the United Kingdom when drawing up expenditure plans for additional pensioner benefits. That has been the position of successive Governments for the past 70 years.

Implementing the Truro review is a manifesto commitment. The recent independent review on progress, which the Foreign Secretary has fully accepted, has confirmed that there is still much to do to implement Truro in full; will the Minister meet me to discuss taking this forward?

I will be delighted to do that—and, as a previous envoy, I appreciate my hon. Friend’s brilliant work.