Mansfield and Ashfield 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 Mansfield and Ashfield has been described as a ‘slap in the face’ after Ministers rejected recommendations.
The report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee, published earlier this year, called on 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 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 response, 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’.
Darren Jones MP, chair of the BEIS Committee, said: “Members of the scheme will be deeply disappointed at the intransigent message of the Government’s response to our report.
"It represents a slap in the face for members that 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 rejects any meaningful negotiation on the guarantee or 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 will be totally devastated by the government response, and their disregard towards this historic injustice.
“The BEIS enquiry clearly recognised this 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 all the way to the grave.
“To say I’m angry is an understatement.
“The committee offered us hope, while the minister has simply served us total rejection – we will not give up.”
A BEIS spokesperson said: “Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme members are receiving payments 33 per cent higher than they would have been thanks to the Government’s guarantee.
"On most occasions, the scheme has been in surplus, and members have received bonuses in addition to their guaranteed pension.
“We remain resolutely committed to protecting the pensions of mineworkers, but do not accept that the Committee’s recommendations strike a fair balance between scheme members and taxpayers.”