THOUSANDS of Barnsley miners’ ongoing battle to unlock more than £1bn of pension cash was brought up on the national stage this week thanks to a local MP’s campaign.
Stephanie Peacock, who represents Barnsley East, spoke at the Labour Party’s conference in Brighton on the issue of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme (MPS).
After years of campaigning alongside the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the MP spoke to highlight their call for an end to the ‘unfair’ deal which has seen the government take £4.4bn from the pension pot.
It comes after ministers rejected proposals to supply an immediate £1.2bn cash boost to thousands of ex-miners involved in the scheme - saying they believe arrangements are ‘fair and beneficial’.
The response to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee inquiry into the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme (MPS) was called a ‘slap in the face’ to those who toiled down the pits and their families by Ms Peacock.
She told the Chronicle: “The miners’ pensions scandal has gone on far too long with the government taking billions from the fund whilst the average ex-miner receives just £84 a week.
“I am pleased that a Labour government would put an end to the scandal and implement the recommendations of the cross-party report into the pension scheme.
“This would end the unfair surplus sharing arrangement and returning the investment reserve of £1.2bn to miners.”
Some miners, according to the inquiry held on March 23, survive on as little as £18 a week.
The MPS was established as the larger of two schemes for pit workers in 1952.
In 1994, upon the privatisation of British Coal’s operations, contributions were closed and the government stepped in as guarantor - in return getting 50 per cent of surpluses, used to improve members’ benefits or offer contribution holidays to employers.
The BEIS Select Committee report said the government ‘failed to conduct due diligence’ in undertaking the 50-50 split, and not accurately forecasting how much it could receive.
It also proposed the government only be entitled to shares of surpluses if it has to pay to counter a deficit, and only to make its money back, given the ‘relatively low degree of risk’ attached.
The government dismissed the select committee’s finding that it has ‘benefited unduly’ from the arrangements and said concerns have only come about due to the scheme’s success.
Stephanie added: “The theft of mineworkers’ pensions has been a national scandal.
“The Prime Minister has refused to implement the unanimously agreed cross-party recommendations and it is nothing short of disgraceful.
“There can be no more delays - the government must act to right this historic wrong.
“This isn’t just about the money, it’s about our values and it’s about doing right by people who have worked incredibly hard in dangerous conditions.”