Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I also place on the record my thanks to you for selecting this debate, which I am pleased to have secured for one simple reason: to give the Government a chance to do right by retired miners and their families in my constituency and coalfield communities across the country.
I understand the significance of the mineworkers’ pension scheme to other hon. Members here today, such as my hon. Friend Gloria De Piero, who has brought so many of those involved together; my hon. Friend Nick Smith, who led the recent Westminster Hall debate; hon. Members who are themselves former miners; and the many other coalfield MPs who join me here today.
This debate specifically seeks to address the injustices of the surplus sharing arrangement agreed in the mineworkers’ pension scheme back in 1994, but I want to start by explaining just why it matters so much to people in areas such as Barnsley. Our community is one built on the coal industry. It once helped sustain some 30,000 jobs in the area, many of which were directly involved in mining itself, where the work was tough, difficult and dangerous. Aside from the economy that depended on it, the industry also fostered an identity and a sense of community spirit that lives on to this day.
In the same way that mining powered our community, our community powered a nation, so I firmly believe that those who did so deserve nothing less than a fair arrangement that properly looks after them in later life. Unfortunately, the current scheme, agreed with the Government on the privatisation of British Coal in 1994, no longer does so. Back then, the Government offered to act as a guarantor to the scheme, ensuring that the pensions hard earned by miners would not decrease in value.