A BREAKTHROUGH which could boost thousands of Barnsley miners’ ‘grossly unfair’ pension payments will result in an urgent inquiry being launched next week, it was revealed yesterday.

Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock, who has spearheaded the bid on the behalf of ex-miners in Parliament, welcomed the inquiry into the terms of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme (MPS) which could see cash reserves being unlocked to boost payments.

A cross-party group of MPs will now delve into the £1.1bn pension pot and make recommendations to the government, hearing from a range of people - including representatives from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) - on the issue.

Stephanie said changes to the scheme are ‘long overdue’ and vowed to keep pushing for a fairer deal for ex-miners and their families.
( ‘Following my calls for it, I welcome the decision to hold an inquiry into the terms of the pension,” she added.
( “There are a number of different aspects to the scheme where I have been campaigning for change alongside the trustees and the NUM, including the average weekly pension, its bonus element, money currently held in the investment reserve and the surplus sharing arrangement.
( “I hope this inquiry will provide an important opportunity for a cross-party committee of MPs to hear evidence from ex-miners, the NUM and other bodies, and look at each of these elements in detail.

“If you are an ex-miner who is a member of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme, I’d encourage you to submit evidence to the inquiry, so that your views and experiences can be taken into account.”
( An agreement - set up in 1994 - sees the government take 50 per cent of any surplus cash generated, which so far has topped £4bn, despite making no contributions.

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A previous admission from the government to MPs - in the form of a response to a written question - showed the initial deal that entitled them to such a large proportion of money was based on no expert actuarial advice.

“Former miners and their widows have been scrimping and saving to make ends meet,” Stephanie said. “They deserve a deal that protects their pensions and recognises their contribution to the UK’s economy.

“There’s currently £1.1bn remaining in the fund and I believe that this money could provide a direct and almost immediate financial uplift to many retired miners’ pensions, providing greater financial security for them and their families.

“The committee will hear from a range of experts on the issue and written evidence can be submitted on UK Parliament’s website by searching for the MPS.

“After Easter, members will grill government ministers on the subject.

“Former miners, many of whom are suffering from poor health as a result of their service, deserve a larger share.”

Chris Kitchen, secretary of the Barnsley-based NUM, welcomed the breakthrough and will be one of the people giving evidence in the inquiry on Tuesday.

He told the Chronicle: “It’s something we absolutely support as ultimately this is what we’ve been campaigning for, so I’d urge as many people as possible to submit their opinions before the cut-off date on April 13.

“This was only announced yesterday so it’s a bit short notice, but it’s good that people still have the time to do it that way.

“The current pension average of £84 a week is an insult to those who have worked hard for decades, so this puts us one step closer to securing the cash they deserve.

“It could make a tangible difference to what people receive as there’s more than £1bn sat there which rightfully belongs to miners.

“If that’s unlocked, or the government revise their surplus sharing terms, trustees will then be able to distribute it accordingly.”