Mineworkers’ pension scheme campaigner calls on Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire MPs to take action on mining issues

A former Thorseby miner who has campaigned for the mineworkers' pension scheme has questioned what MPs are doing to support the ongoing campaign.
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Former miner Mick Newton, 60, has called on MPs and parliamentary candidates to put the mineworkers’ pension scheme back on the agenda – five years since a petition with 100,000 signatures was taken to Parliament calling for a review of the Mineworkers’ Pension arrangements for over 150,000 people.

Campaigners have claimed former miners and their families have been robbed of billions by successive governments and called for a fair share of the pension pot.

Campaigners said they were calling for action due to the sad loss of up to 10,000 former mineworkers and widows every year through mining related illnesses.

Mick Newton, right, with former mineworkers campaigning for a fairer pensions deal outside Downing Street in 2021.Mick Newton, right, with former mineworkers campaigning for a fairer pensions deal outside Downing Street in 2021.
Mick Newton, right, with former mineworkers campaigning for a fairer pensions deal outside Downing Street in 2021.

When mineworkers and their families signed up to the pension scheme in 1994, Mick said they were told by ministers that ‘no more than £2 billion’ was needed from the pot to guarantee its future.

Their plight was subsequently supported by a Parliamentary Inquiry, but to date no action has been taken.

Mick said: “Not only has it been five years since we delivered the petition, but it has been nearly three years since recommendations were made by the BEIS parliamentary select committee inquiry in June 2021.”

From September 22, 2022, there was an increase to miners’ pension payments protected against inflation, meaning miners' pensions increased by around 11 per cent, rather than four per cent.

This came after HM Treasury accepted proposals from the trustees of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme to bring forward Bonus Protection.

But campaigners feel more needs to be done.

Mick added: “Some MPs, such as Yorkshire's Stephanie Peacock MP and Ed Miliband MP, are in support of the mineworkers' campaign and are taking the issue to the doorstep with an election on the way.

“But what is being done in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire area?”

Mick said he felt there were three main issues facing former mining communities, in what he referred to as a ‘mineworkers' manifesto’, and said he desperately hopes to see government action on these issues.

He said the main issue was the pension injustice, with the second concern being the withdrawal of social (capita) investment from former mining areas.

He said: “Mineworkers have paid millions through their wages into CISWO – The Coal Mining Social Welfare Charity – and yet we are losing leisure and social facilities at an alarming rate.

“Greater democratic accountability would go a long way to ensuring our community assets continue to exist and social capita remains where it belongs.”

He said there are also ‘serious concerns’ over the health of former miners fighting lung disease, but are unable to receive compensation or disability payments due to limited access to CT scans.

Mick explained how a simple x-ray could not pick up the extent of damaged lungs by coal dust and that CT scans were the “most effective diagnostic tool” for miners with pneumoconiosis and other lung-related diseases.

“Mineworkers, widows and mining communities are watching and waiting with interest in the run up to the general election later this year,” Mick added.

Lee Anderson MP said: “I fully support a fairer split of the Mineworkers Pension Scheme and have raised this issue many times with the government, but what I won’t do is agree to any deal that gets rid of the guarantee.

“The guarantee is vital to ensure ex miners and their families see a year on year increase in their pension. I will continue to press the government for a fairer deal which will see an end to the deal agreed by unions and trustees 30 years ago.”

Coun Ben Bradley MP said: “I was able to successfully secure the extension of the guarantee to cover bonuses, which protects the level of investment that pensioners get currently and I think is really the most significant positive step there's ever been, in terms of the Ts and Cs of the MPS.

“However, negotiations on the profit sharing arrangements ground to a halt because the Trustees of the scheme won't discuss the removal of the Government's guarantee.

“Obviously at the point where Government no longer receives a benefit from the scheme, it’s not going to continue to guarantee the pension fund in the way that is has done in the past.

“However – back before Covid – trustees said they they would not consider the removal of the guarantee, which led to a stalemate.

“To the best of my knowledge, the government remains open to the discussion, but unfortunately it's not been a discussion the trustees of the MPS have been willing to have.

“Until that changes, truthfully there's little I or any politician can do.”