Former miners in Bassetlaw take a step closer to getting a fair share of pension pot
After years of campaigning, a Parliamentary inquiry is set to take place tomorrow into the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme.
Campaigners claim former miners and their families have been robbed of billions by a string of governments and are calling for a fairer share of the pension pot.
When miner workers and their families signed up to the pension scheme in 1994, they were told by Ministers that ‘no more than £2 billion’ was needed from the pot to guarantee its future.
But campaigners have hit out at successive governments after an accepted figure of more than £4.5 billion was taken from it over the last 25 years – meaning some miners and their families were not receiving ample funds for their investment.
Now, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee has launched an inquiry examining the scheme – and in particular its surplus sharing arrangements.
Last week, the committee called for evidence about the controversy ahead of the inquiry – which will take place in Parliament at 9.45am on Tuesday, March 23.
Witnesses will include trustees of the scheme and the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers.
The committee will inquire into how the surplus-sharing arrangements were agreed, the Government's role as guarantor of the scheme and the issue of the Government’s entitlement to receive 50 per cent of any surplus in the scheme’s value.
The committee is expected to run a follow-up session on the issue in April.
Committee chairman, Darren Jones MP, said: “One of the main issues is the fact the Government has benefited from the 50:50 surplus sharing arrangements to the tune of billions of pounds and yet has not made a single financial contribution as the Scheme’s guarantor.
“This is an issue of considerable importance to many former miners and to their local communities, who rightly want the pension scheme to properly recognise the hard work and sacrifices made by miners during their working lives.”
In December, a group of MPs representing coalfield communities, led by Doncaster MP Ed Milliband, wrote to the committee chairman calling for an inquiry into the surplus sharing arrangements.
The letter highlighted that the Government has received over £4 billion from the scheme but has made no contribution to it since 1994.
Bassetlaw MP Brendan Clarke-Smith, who is also secretary of the Coalfield Communities All-Party Parliamentary Group, said the issue was something he had campaigned for and welcome the inquiry.
He said: “Since being elected, my colleagues and I have pushed on this issue to help our former miners, including a number of times in Parliament.
"We have spoken with campaigners and Ministers in order for the matter to be brought forward.
"The Government has acted and protected the bonuses, which was welcomed by trustees and is a good start.
"Now there is a formal process to look at this in BEIS SC, which is also very welcome.
"I will continue to campaign on behalf of retired miners to make sure they get the help and support they deserve.”
Mick Newton, former Thoresby Colliery miner and trustee of the Miners’ Pension Scheme, said the total amount taken – including a separate scheme for former managers – is closer to £8bn and, if unchecked, could reach £11bn in three years’ time.