Richard Hyde has dedicated his life to working for the British government in a variety of posts around the world – including a spell as “our man in Madagascar”.
He has been awarded both an MBE and an OBE. But while the government clearly values his work, it steadfastly refuses to give him the full state pension he has paid for.
Richard, who is 73, is one of several hundred thousand older Brits living overseas who are out of pocket as a result of the “frozen pensions” policy.
While the basic state pension will rise by £3.35 to £119.30 a week in April – the biggest real terms increase since 2001 – Richard, and around 560,000 other Britons, won’t get a penny extra. Instead they will watch the value of their UK pension dwindle away.
As Green party MP Caroline Lucas, a member of the all-party parliamentary group on frozen pensions, says, the government “has finally agreed to take a closer look” at the issue.
“Current legislation is counter-productive, causing people to relocate back to the UK … at a greater cost for taxpayers”
– Caroline Lucas, MP, Green Party
Campaigners say the current policy is discriminatory and inhumane, and results in financial hardship for British citizens around the world. Some of the very oldest pensioners have had their payouts frozen at as little as £6 a week, when the maximum basic state pension is now £115.95.
Richard grew up in Kent and started working for the British government in 1965. After a career in the diplomatic service that took him all over the world, he retired to Madagascar – where he had previously worked for a time – in 2002 with his Malagasy wife Ana. However, it wasn’t long before he was working again: in 2005 the British embassy in Madagascar was closed by the UK government to save money, and Richard was asked to become the honorary consul there – a post he held until 2012. He then held another official position in the country before retiring for the second time in 2014.
Ana died in early 2014, and in August 2015, Richard moved to Chiang Mai in Thailand, which he knew from an earlier stint working in Burma (now Myanmar).
Richard’s state pension was frozen at £70.49 a week when he reached 65 in March 2007. Needless to say, Madagascar and Thailand are both on the list of “frozen” countries. Richard, who has two children aged 45 and 43, says he can’t afford to move back to the UK because of the high cost of living, and points out that he doesn’t cost the government any money in terms of the NHS, social services etc.
“It has twice recognised my work with accolades, yet is still unwilling to pay my full pension – one I’ve contributed to during the whole of my working life,” says Hyde, who was awarded his MBE for work in Belgium, and his OBE for services to the British community in Madagascar. “It’s a major injustice that the government denies people their rightful pension. I expect the government to respect the right of people to the pension they have paid for.”
– Richard Hyde
Words: Rupert Jones, The Guardian, 13 Feb 2016
Photo: Richard Hyde, with his late wife Ana, after receiving his OBE in 2010