Mineworkers campaigner accuses Ashfield MP Lee Anderson of 'blatant political opportunism' over Reform UK's pensions stance

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A leading campaigner has described Reform UK’s pledge to fight for a fairer financial deal over former mineworkers’ pensions as ‘a blatant act of political opportunism’.

It is now five years since a petition with 100,000 signatures was taken to Parliament calling for a review of the Mineworkers’ Pension arrangements for over 150,000 people – many in Mansfield and Ashfield.

Campaigners have claimed former miners and their families have been robbed of billions by successive governments and called for a fair share of the pension pot.

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And despite a parliamentary committee siding with the former mineworkers three years ago, the current Government has still failed to act on its recommendations.

Ashfield MP Lee Anderson with mineworkers campaigner Nick Newton (right)Ashfield MP Lee Anderson with mineworkers campaigner Nick Newton (right)
Ashfield MP Lee Anderson with mineworkers campaigner Nick Newton (right)

Earlier this week, Ashfield MP Lee Anderson and Reform UK leader Richard Tice announced their backing for former coal miners and their families who have been ‘let down’ by successive Governments over the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme.

It was one of a number of measures announced aimed at targeting the traditional Labour vote in areas like Ashfield, at a time when the ‘Blue Wall’ Tory support appears to be waning.

But former Thoresby Colliery miner and campaigner Mick Newton has panned the announcement.

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He said: “This is nothing more than a blatant act of political opportunism in my view.

"I have been representing the views of mineworkers and widows for over the past 20 years regarding this historic injustice and I have had dialogue with Lee Anderson MP in the past.

“I have never been convinced that he would go the extra mile for mineworkers and I was quite upset that he didn't shout up more in Parliament when the Government failed to implement the Select Committee Recommendations three years ago.

"Other opposition parties including the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru have been very consistent over the last several years in supporting the Mineworkers Pension Injustice inside and outside Parliament, and the Labour Party included our cause within the Labour Manifesto at the 2019 election and I also hope this time around.

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"I'm afraid I cannot give my support to the Reform Party regarding their latest statement, my confidence will not extend that far.”

Since 1994 the Government has taken 50 per cent of the surplus in the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme set up for former miners and their families. Approximately £4.4billion has been taken out of the pension fund as a result.

Speaking at the press conference earlier this week Mr Anderson, who switched to Reform UK earlier this year after having the Tory Whip withdrawn, said: “This is our money, this is coalfields money.”

“This is an absolute scandal. These are working class people in areas like Ashfield which have been let down by successive Governments. We must right this wrong.”

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“I’ve had many meetings, two with the current Prime Minister when he was the Chancellor, the Chief First Secretary to the Treasury, I’ve raised this in Parliament, I’ve met with Trustees, I’ve also met with ex-mining groups…so I’m delighted to announce that [Reform UK] will be accepting the BEIS report’s recommendations in full.”

Claiming that the Labour Party and other opposition parties had “completely ignored” the plight of former mineworkers, Mr Tice added: “It’s a long-running sore that should’ve been sorted out a long time ago.”

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