Yvonne Fovargue MP: Fighting for a fair pension deal for ex-miners

Last year, alongside MPs representing former coalfield constituencies, I called on an influential Parliamentary Committee to investigate the current arrangements for the Mineworker’s Pension Scheme (MPS).

Friday, 7th May 2021, 7:16 am
Updated Friday, 7th May 2021, 7:18 am
Yvonne Fovargue MP

The report published last week is good news and I hope will bring about change by Government.

Under an agreement made on the privatisation of British Coal in 1994, the Government guaranteed that any pension under the MPS earned up to privatisation would not fall in cash terms, while any surplus would be shared 50-50 between scheme members and the Government.

Since then, the Government has received over £4.4 billion out of the miners’ pension fund, without contributing any money in.

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The Government states that the current situation represents a fair settlement. It says the guarantee provided by the Government gives MPS recipients security in the face of future uncertainty.

However, it cannot be right that the Government has received billions from the MPS fund, without having paid anything in, while miners and their wives and families are receiving an average of just £84 a week from the scheme.

There was no actuarial basis for the 50-50 surplus-sharing arrangement and the MPS trustees wanted to renegotiate it.

Unfortunately, it appeared to many that the Government was simply using money that should be there for miners and their families as its own cash cow.

This has created a situation where the Government both manages and profits from the scheme but makes no financial contribution.

It is shocking that those who worked through their lives in the dark and sacrificed their health to keep the country going should be treated in this way.

The Parliamentary Committee report recommends amending the 50/50 surplus sharing arrangements in miners’ favour, and immediately giving the £1.2 billion currently held in the Investment Reserve to former miners.

This is a fantastic win for former mineworkers who have long been campaigning along with the NUM for a fair deal from the pension scheme.

Although this is a great success for our campaign, we still need to keep the pressure up to ensure that the government accept the committee’s proposals in full and I will continue to put pressure on the government.

The NHS is our greatest institution, established more than 70 years ago to provide universal healthcare free at the point of use.

I am committed to upholding its founding principles as a comprehensive, integrated, and public NHS that is there for all of us when we need it.

I share the concerns that private sector involvement in NHS services has created a fragmented and marketised system. The Health and Social Care Act 2012, which I have consistently opposed, introduced competitive tendering; it requires NHS commissioners to advertise many larger contracts to private firms and it prevents proper integration.

As a result, NHS spending on private providers has more than doubled since 2010. In 2019/20, the Government awarded a record £9.7 billion of the health service budget to private providers.

The Health Secretary said a new Health and Care Bill - to be implemented in 2022 - would promote integration between the NHS and social care sector, remove bureaucracy and improve accountability.

With waiting lists rising to 4.7 million, 387,000 patients waiting over a year for treatment, and frontline staff exhausted, the test of any reorganisation will be whether it delivers the standards of care patients deserve, while at the same time supporting NHS and care staff.

Any proposals to improve the integration of health and care services must be accompanied by an NHS rescue plan to bring down waiting lists and ensure patients receive the quality care they deserve.

Reforms must also be accompanied by a long-term workforce plan, a strategy to reduce health inequalities, and a sustainable social care plan, which Ministers have repeatedly delayed.