Former miners in Mansfield and Ashfield 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 alleged mishandling of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 12:41 pm

Campaigners claim former miners and their families have been robbed of billions by a string of governments and are calling for a farer 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.

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Former mineworkers and campaigners in Parliament in 2019, with ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband.
Former mineworkers and campaigners in Parliament in 2019, with ex-Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Now, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has launched an inquiry examining the scheme – and in particular its surplus sharing arrangements.

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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.

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.

He added that if former mine workers were given their fare share of the money, it would bring prosperity back into many struggling communities and, of the 400,000 who initially agreed the scheme in 1994, just 150,000 are still living.

"It’s daylight robbery,” he said. “The Government hasn’t put a single penny into the scheme – it’s just take, take, take. It makes Robert Maxwell look like a pickpocket compared to this.

"It feels like blatant persecution – many former mine workers feel like they are being punished all the way to the grave.”

Mansfield MP Ben Bradley, one of the MPs involved, said: “This has been an issue that I’ve prioritised since becoming an MP as it directly impacts the former miners I represent, as well as their families.”

Editor’s message: 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. Nancy Fielder, editor.