James Grundy MP: time to end miners' pension injustice

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​Last Thursday, I co-sponsored a debate on ‘Mining Communities and Miners’ in the House of Commons.

​I spoke on a range of issues including the legacy issues that former mining communities face such as dealing with contaminated land, the reclamation of slag heaps, transport connectivity and town centre regeneration, however, the main issue I wanted to raise awareness of in this article was that of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme.

Since privatisation of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme in 1994, in the intervening 30 years both Labour and Conservative Governments have received 50 per cent of surpluses in the scheme’s value, in return for providing a guarantee that the value of pensions will not decrease.

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At the time it was expected that the Government would receive approximately £4bn from the arrangement in today’s money.

Leigh MP James GrundyLeigh MP James Grundy
Leigh MP James Grundy

However, to date, the Government has received £4.4bn, and is also due to receive at least another £1.9bn, on top of 50 per cent of any future surpluses.

There was no empirical analysis or evaluation to inform or support the 50:50 split, and the settlement was considered arbitrary by many former miners and their families.

Whilst it is true to say that because of the 1994 settlement miners’ pensions are now 33 per cent higher than they otherwise would have been, it is also the case that many miners feel that a provision that was first put in place to mitigate against any future shortfall in the fund has instead led to Governments of both major parties instead receiving an undue windfall from the fund, a windfall generated by money paid in by the miners themselves whilst working, and neither the Labour or Conservative Governments of the time paid anything into the scheme.

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I am proud to say that I support the cross party campaign to end this injustice for former miners.

Whilst it may be necessary for future Governments to reserve some portion of the surplus to guard against future shortfalls, as time marches on the number of ex-miners is decreasing as many sadly pass away from old age or disease.

I believe the Government should acknowledge that the continuation of the arrangements in their current form deserves a review, and a better outcome for ex-miners should be found.

A Parliamentary report recommended that the current arrangements should be replaced with a revised agreement in which the Government is only entitled to a share of surpluses if the scheme falls into deficit, and the Government has to provide funds.

In that event, the Government should be entitled to 50 per cent of future surpluses up to the total value of the funds it has provided to make up any shortfall.

The Government should also relinquish its entitlement to the Investment Reserve, and transfer the £1.2bn fund to the scheme to provide an immediate cash uplift to former miners.

It is high time that this injustice for ex-miners is brought to an end.

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