THE plight of cash-strapped Barnsley miners who have been left with paltry pensions due to an ‘unfair’ arrangement which has allowed the government to pocket billions was brought before a minister again this week.

Stephanie Peacock met with Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Bim Afolami MP, to discuss the controversial Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme (MPS) after the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select (BEIS) Committee recommended that the 50-50 surplus sharing arrangement end, and that the £1.2bn reserve fund be returned to former miners.

The Barnsley East representative spoke out having recently attended the mining memorial in Grimethorpe, which marked the 30th anniversary of the village pit’s closure.

However, this has not happened more than two years since the recommendation was made and the MP - backed by ex-miners and the National Union of Mineworkers - handed a copy of the BEIS report to ministers.

She said: “I was pleased to visit the Treasury to discuss the pension scheme and outline why changes are needed.

“The minister listened to my arguments and has agreed to look at them and meet me again in the near future.

“I took a copy of the BEIS report which concluded the government should not be in the business of profiting from miners’ pensions.

“It is vital that former mineworkers are given the justice they deserve, and I will continue to advocate for change on their behalf.”

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The government have pocketed £4.4bn from the arrangement but this figure is set to rise to £6bn, while former miners receive pensions of just £84 per week.

Ministers said ex-miners have received 33 per cent higher pensions and bonuses but it’s been refuted by locals.

Johnny Wood, who worked at Grimethorpe Colliery and is an organiser of the village’s annual memorial event, added: “My dad died and didn’t get a penny from that pension scheme, but the government can take the money having not put anything in.

“It makes miners feel very angry as it’s unfair.

“These men were the backbone of this country - we shouldn’t have to be fighting for what’s rightfully ours.”

A report compiled by the NUM said the row dates back more than a decade and called for common sense to finally prevail.

“Prior to and since the privatisation of the coal industry, the NUM have always campaigned for a fairer distribution of the surpluses arising out of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme.

“Many attempts have been made to lobby successive governments so that these changes could be made.

“We have also had numerous meetings with the trustees of the MPS over the years.

“These meetings were held to highlight the unfairness of the MPS surpluses issue and ask for their support in seeking a review of the current surplus arrangements.

“Many previous government ministers - Labour and Conservative - have said that they could not change the agreement because they may have needed to use some of the surpluses to assist or subsidise the coal industry.

“The NUM is of the view that because there is no longer a deep-mined coal industry working in the UK, it’s now time to review, not renegotiate, these funds for the very people that it was intended to benefit, the MPS beneficiaries themselves.”