A DISPUTE over miners’ ‘pitiful’ pensions and the government’s reluctance to unlock £1.2bn to provide an immediate cash boost is set to continue - after they were handed an 11p monthly rise.
The hike - described as a fresh ‘kick in the teeth’ - comes despite the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee’s inquiry into the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme (MPS).
Members were heavily critical of the government’s actions in claiming at least £4bn from the pension pot, many of whom live with long-term illness and disabilities after
But the government rejected the proposal that the £1.2bn ‘Investment Reserve’ - a fund left by British Coal to be called on in the event of a deficit - be given to ex-miners, equating to a £14-a-week uplift.
Last week, miners instead noted an 11p monthly hike, something which ex-miner Alex Mathewson told the Chronicle he was disgusted by.
“After 46 years’ mining, I had the 11p monthly rise and that’s despite both the Tories and Labour taking billions out of the pension scheme,” he added.
“Many of us spent a lifetime underground - we were used by governments for their gains.”
Some, according to the BEIS inquiry held last March, survive on just £18 a week.
Barnsley East MP Stephanie Peacock sparked the inquiry alongside other coalfield MPs and has since continued to pressure the government on behalf of local ex-miners.
“The average pension for former mineworkers is just £84 but the majority receive even less than that,” she added. “The government has extracted £4.4bn from their pension scheme.
“That isn’t the government’s money, it’s the result of miners’ pension contributions from their years of hard work to keep our country moving.
“I have been campaigning for justice for retired miners for a number of years now.
“This pension raid injustice is the result of an arrangement created by the Conservatives when privatising the pension scheme in 1994.
“The Treasury takes 50 per cent of the miners’ pension funds surplus value and can extract funds from the investment reserve, in exchange for underwriting the pensions if the scheme went into deficit.
“However, the scheme has instead performed very well - the government has now taken billions away from the miners’ scheme, without contributing a single penny themselves, due to a payment holiday which began in 1987.
“The last decade has seen coalfield communities fall victim to some of the worst cuts in the country.
“Now, as the cost-of-living rises, ex-miners are being placed in an even more difficult financial situation.
“During the last general election campaign in November 2019, Boris Johnson made a ‘categorical pledge’ to ex-miners that ‘all their cash is fully protected and returned’.
“The Prime Minister has committed a great betrayal and it is simply a disgrace that this government has broken the promise that they were elected on.”