A petition signed by more than 100,000 people demands a fairer share of pension fund
County Durham MP Grahame Morris is calling on the Government to give ex-miners a fairer share of their pension profits.
He wants the Government to review the Mineworkers Pension Scheme – so that former miners are able to enjoy a better standard of living.
Mr Morris, MP for Easington, is to lead a Commons debate after more than 100,000 people signed a petition about the Mineworkers Pension Scheme surplus sharing arrangements.
Following the privatisation of the coal industry in 1994, the UK government agreed to guarantee that the miners’ pensions would not fall in cash terms, in exchange for a 50/50 share of any surpluses.
It was designed to protect the income of former miners. But it turned out to be a windfall for the Government, which has so far collected £4.4 billion as a result of the agreement.
Meanwhile, the average payment from the scheme is just £84 a week. Widows, who often outlive their husbands by many decades, receive significantly less.
Mr Morris said that an equal share is not a fair share, and there is no justification for the Government to take billions of pounds from the pockets of miners and their widows. The risks to the Government are marginal, and they have never had to put any money into the scheme.
The pension fund was created through the subs of miners. They sacrificed their health and wellbeing in the pits to build the nation’s wealth, he added.
He said they are not asking for special favours, but simply a fair share of the pension pot that miners built up through decades of working in the industry.
Mr Morris said that many miners – including his father and grandfather – died prematurely in their 50s.
And he said that thousands of miners die early each year due to the dangerous working conditions they experienced, which can lead to industrial diseases and cancer.
The Government guaranteeing the miners’ pension had allowed the pension’s trustees to make investment decisions which led to high returns, he said. This meant it was fair that the Government received some of those returns – even though it has never been called upon to make a single payment to the scheme, the MP said.
But the current arrangements, in which the Government gets half, was “not a fair share for miners”. Miners and their families are entitled to a fair share of the surpluses and an end to poverty pensions, said Mr Morris.