Worksop mineworkers' pensions - Government’s response ‘slap in the face’ for scheme members

The Government’s response to an enquiry which called for a fairer pensions deal for former mineworkers in Worksop and Bassetlaw has been described as a ‘slap in the face’ after Ministers roundly rejected recommendations.

Monday, 5th July 2021, 7:00 am

The report from the BEIS Committee, published earlier this year, called on the Government to end the ‘historic outrage’ and agree to a fairer pensions deal, alongside handing over an initial £1.2bn to former mineworkers.

Campaigners say thousands of miners from around Nottinghamshire have been left massively out of pocket from the ‘take it or leave it’ deal agreed in 1994 which had seen the Government having already pocketed £4.4bn in surplus from the scheme, without putting in a penny.

Now, the Government has issued their official response to the report, which states that whilst ‘government recognises the harsh conditions in which coal miners worked’ they do ‘not accept that it has benefited unduly from the arrangements’ – an outcome which has left campaigners ‘deeply disappointed’.

Former mineworkers campaigning outside Downing Street

Darren Jones MP, chair of the BEIS Committee, said: “Members of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme will be deeply disappointed at the intransigent message of the Government’s response to our report.

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"It represents a real slap in the face for pension scheme members that the Government is continuing its ‘take it or leave it’ approach on arrangements around the Government guarantee.

“They have benefited from billions of pounds of surpluses since 1994 without having to contribute a pound of taxpayers’ money to miners’ pensions.

"The Government says it is willing to listen, but they reject any meaningful negotiation on the guarantee or any review of the terms of the 50:50 split.

"The tone of the ministers’ response suggests they do not understand the reality of the historic injustice felt by thousands of retired miners.

"Ministers should think again and help ensure these pensioners get a fair deal.

“I will be meeting with the pension scheme trustees in due course to discuss the Government’s response and my committee will then agree how best to take this matter further.”

The government’s response stated that they were ‘open to suggestions of ways to improve’ and indicated that if the trustees wished to withdraw from the 50 per cent of surplus guarantee, that they ‘would be happy to have that discussion’, however indications suggest that having the guarantee in place was ‘worth more’ than the share of future surpluses.

Campaigner Mick Newton said of the news: “Thousands of former mineworkers and widows like me will be totally devastated by the government response, and their total disregard towards this historic injustice.

“The BEIS enquiry clearly recognised these injustices and ruled heavily in our favour in their report.

“The Government continues to rob the mineworkers and, in my view, continues to pursue a vendetta that will punish mineworkers and widows all the way to the grave.

“To say I am angry is an understatement, I am absolutely fuming.

“The Select Committee offered us hope, while the minister has simply served us total rejection.

“We will not go away and we will not give up the fight.”

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Sam Jackson, editor.