I swear that, for the past few times that I have spoken, the time limit has been reduced just before me, but I do not blame you, Madam Deputy Speaker.
I am honoured to represent a rich mining community, home to the Lady Victoria Colliery, which was Scotland’s first super-pit, with a workforce of almost 2,000 at its peak. It was nationalised in 1947 by a Labour Government who invested in working class communities. A thriving mining community grew up around this pit in Newtongrange and in other Midlothian towns which, like many other mining communities, have suffered since the closure of the pits.
The site of the colliery is now home to the National Mining Museum, which is a fantastic museum and events base. It ensures that the role and the national significance of the mining industry and the impact that it had on the lives of those who lived in mining communities are never forgotten, and yet mining communities are being forgotten by this Government. Their voices are being ignored and they are being unfairly and unjustly treated, as we have heard from all parties in this debate today.
We have heard about the average miner’s pension, but some retired miners and their widows are living on roughly £60 a week at the bottom, and that is just disgraceful—absolutely disgraceful. It has also been reported that at least 6,000 ex-miners have had their pensions cut, and that is despite the huge profits that are being made by the Government—an estimated £10 billion over the past 20 years under this current arrangement. At the time of the agreement, it was estimated that the scheme would generate a £2 billion surplus over 25 years, but, as we heard from some of my colleagues, that has been underestimated and there is actually more.
The amount given to ex-miners must be re-evaluated. The Government have been rewarded with huge undeserved sums and, as we have heard today, they are treating the mineworkers’ pension scheme as a cash cow. It was meant to be a safety net for miners, not a money earner for the Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent used a phrase that I thought was particularly illuminating. He said that pensioners were subsidising the Government. Is that not disgraceful?
The work of miners in Midlothian and across the country was integral to the development of the wealth of our country. Britain developed in part on the backs of miners, and we have to show our gratitude to them, we absolutely do. The miners’ work was very physically demanding and, as we have heard, it has led to many retirees living with associated health conditions.
I would like to take the chance to pay tribute to the Lothian Miners’ convalescent home, Whatton Lodge, in East Lothian for all the work that it does looking after retired miners and their families. It celebrated its 70th anniversary recently. It does great work for miners in Midlothian and across the Lothian area.
I am glad to have been called to speak in this important debate. Ben Bradley talked about not even having been born when some of the pits were closed. I think that I just pip him on being a little bit younger. It is so important to have young voices from across the Chamber speak in this debate, because we must ensure that the voices of miners are not lost.