A campaign group is questioning the approach taken by a group of MPs in getting a better pension deal for ex-miners.
The UK Mineworkers Pension Association for Justice and Fair Play Association, whose members say they have been “robbed” of half their pension fund, have repeated their calls for an independent public inquiry into the issue:
The group was responding to Gloria De Piero, Ashfield MP, representing former miners called for the government to agree to a meeting to discuss the controversial pension arrangements.
Ms De Piero, Labour MP for Ashfield, National Union of Mineworkers national secretary Chris Kitchen, and 22 other Labour MPs - including Mansfield MP Sir Alan Meale - have signed a letter, which asks the trustees of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme to meet and review the scheme’s surplus sharing arrangement, which sees investment profits shared between the government and the scheme.
The government has received more than £3 billion since 1994.
Campaigner Mick Newton, a former Thoresby miner, said: “Of course, we welcome any parliamentary activity that raises the profile of our cause. We do not understand the motive behind this approach by the coalfield MPs to the funds trustees, unless it is just a fact-finding exercise.
“The trustees cannot replace the billions of pounds taken.
“This group of MPs should be liaising primarily with our campaign. We have significant evidence and some of that evidence is new.
“Once again we are subjected to behind-the-scenes parliamentary activity. We need an open and transparent independent public enquiry.
“I hope they know what they are doing and are not raising false hope within mining communities.”
Ms De Piero said: “Myself and MPs from other coalfield communities are working hand in hand with the NUM and collectively we remain committed to getting a fair deal for former miners and their widows.”
Sir Alan Meale, Mansfield MP, said: “If they are looking for a public inquiry, I support that, as long as it is led by those that represent miners and pensioners themselves.
“That would take some time and it is a very complex issue.
“We have to safeguard the money for the future and ensure it does not diminish.”
Alan Spencer, General Secretary, National Union of Mineworkers, Nottingham Area, added:”The National Union of Mineworkers are using every means available to highlight and correct the injustice of the billions of pounds the Government as taken from the Mineworkers Pension Schemes.
“Both of our local MPs Alan Meale and Gloria De Piero are at the forefront in Parliament along with mining MPs from across the country in fighting this injustice.
“Following on from a lengthy meeting that took place in Parliament with Gloria and one of her constituents with the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industry to correct this injustice one of his final comments after taking on board their concerns was “why haven’t the Trustees approached me on this issue”.
“To this end the National Union of Mineworkers have wrote to the Trustees for a meeting with the Union and Government Ministers to end this injustice of the current arrangements.
“The Union has also commissioned an Independent report to use as evidence to put forward to a public Accounts Select Committee,evidence they cannot ignore.
“The Miners have worked in the coal industry for a lifetime paying what the believed to be deferred wages into their pension scheme expecting nothing more than a comfortable life in retirement.
“British Coal and consecutive Governments have secured from both the Mineworkers Pension Scheme and the British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme since 1987 a total of just over £10 billion at no expense to either.
“Only the pensioners, many who have given their life to this industry have lost out on this deal and that needs to change.”