Campaigners fighting for a fairer pensions deal for former mineworkers in Mansfield and Ashfield meet business Minister ahead of formal Government response
Campaigners calling for a fairer pensions deal for former mineworkers in Mansfield and Ashfield have met with a senior politician after a Parliamentary inquiry ruled the fund had been plundered by successive governments.
Campaigners say thousands of miners from around Nottinghamshire have been left massively out of pocket from the ‘take it or leave it’ deal – with the Government having already pocketed £4.4bn.
It was due to take a further £1.9bn if the matter had not been addressed but the report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee published earlier this year called on the Government to end the ‘historic outrage’ by handing over an initial £1.2bn to former mineworkers.
In real terms, many miners receive an average of £65 per week in pension, plus a £19 per week bonus, although 25 per cent are paid £30 per week – and 10 per cent of former mineworkers are paid as little as £18 per week, many having paid into the pension pot for years.
In March, trustees of the Mineworkers Pension Scheme gave evidence to the inquiry along with Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, who invited them for talks - but stuck to her guns, saying that the 50/50 split would need to remain.
Committee Chairman Darren Jones MP said that any future talks would be facilitated by the Government, which campaigners said would prevent ministers from ‘kicking the issue into the long grass’.
The meeting finally took place on Monday, June 21, between trustees and the Minister – ahead of the Government making a formal response to the report by June 29.
A statement issued on behalf of the trustees said: “At the meeting the trustees made it clear that they supported the select committee’s findings and recommendations, and now look forward to seeing the Government’s response to the report.”
In its report, the committee formally ruled that the Government should review the surplus sharing arrangements in the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme to ensure they are fair and deliver a better outcome for pensioners.
The Government should also relinquish its entitlement to the Investment Reserve, and transfer the £1.2bn fund to miners, to provide an immediate cash uplift to former miners, the report states.
The report found that, given the strong financial performance of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme, and the ‘vast sums which have been paid to the Government, it was ‘unconscionable’ that many of the scheme's beneficiaries are struggling to make ends meet.
In terms of the 50/50 split, It noted that ‘allowing the arrangement to continue would appear antithetical to the Government's stated aim of redressing socio-economic inequality and 'levelling up left-behind communities’.
Commenting on the meeting, Mick Newton, who had campaigned for a fairer deal for former mineworkers in Nottinghamshire and elsewhere in the East Midlands, said: “The inquiry ruled heavily in the favour of our pensioners and made significant conclusions.
“Time is not on our side, as we sadly lose hundreds of our members every passing week, a great many to respiratory and other mining-related health issues.
“We therefore hope the Minister's response will recognise all the findings and recommendations of the enquiry, so we can progress to a speedy conclusion.
“Our communities watch and wait.”