John Healey MP has urged the Government to increase ex-miners’ pensions immediately after a damning report by a Parliamentary committee.
He has been campaigning for years for changes to the Mineworkers Pension Scheme and its controversial ‘surplus-sharing arrangement’ which means any surplus is shared 50:50 between the government and members.
In December Mr Healey and other coalfield MPs called for an inquiry by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee.
The committee’s report, published today (29 April), heavily criticises the Government, saying it “failed to conduct due diligence during the 1994 negotiations, and was negligent by not taking actuarial advice.” It says the 50:50 split is “arbitrary” and the Government’s share “is not proportionate to the degree of financial risk it actually faces.”
It says the Government has received £4.4bn – more than double what was expected – and is set to pocket at least £1.9bn more. The Government is a guarantor but has paid nothing in and is not expected to have to.
The average miner gets £84 a week. Half get less than £65 a week, a quarter less than £35 a week, and one in 10 gets less than £18 a week.
The Select Committee recommends a revised agreement where the Government only receives a share of surpluses if the scheme falls into deficit and they have to make up the shortfall, and for miners to get an immediate cash uplift from transferral of a £1.2bn fund.
Mr Healey said: “The Government simply cannot justify getting billions from a scheme they’ve never put anything in that was built on the backs of miners.
“I’ve been fighting on this for years but all I get from Ministers is that they won’t even consider a review. It’s shameful.
“Thousands of ex-miners are dying every year, and those still with us are suffering with poor health and struggling to get by every day. They need help now and an immediate increase to their pensions.”
The BEIS report says: “Given … the vast sums which have been paid to the Government, it is unconscionable that many of the scheme’s beneficiaries are struggling to make ends meet.
“It is patently clear today that the arrangements have unduly benefited the Government, and it is untenable for the Government to continue to argue that the arrangements remain fair.
“Government should not be in the business of profiting from mineworkers’ pensions.”
Last year Mr Healey discovered that South Yorkshire has the highest number of members of the MPS in the UK. One in five members – more than 27,000 – live in and around South Yorkshire, and 6,710 in and around the Wentworth & Dearne constituency alone – more than in the whole of the North West region or in the four southernmost English regions combined.
The Labour Government spent £90m on one-off payments to MPS members on the lowest incomes and increased mining pensions by 20% over and above inflation.
In addition, miners and their families were compensated for respiratory disease and vibration white finger. In Rotherham more than 20,000 ex-miners and their families received more than £120m while over £250m went to more than 40,000 claimants in Barnsley.