Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:49 pm on 10th June 2019.

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Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington 7:49 pm, 10th June 2019

Absolutely. I could not put it any better myself. It is now time to review the surplus sharing arrangements and the level set in 1994 and consider whether the decisions taken then were taken with the best financial advice and in the best interests of miners.

To be fair, the Government have been consistent in their arguments against making changes to the scheme. These arguments are set out in various responses to parliamentary questions and were restated by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury in her response on 14 May to a cross-party letter co-ordinated by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent. I want to summarise the Government’s response because it is important to consider their arguments. The first is that the sharing arrangements work well for beneficiaries; the second that the sharing arrangements provide fair compensation for the Government; and the third that there can be no unilateral action and that changes can be made only with the agreement of the trustees. I want to take each point in turn.

First, does the surplus-sharing scheme work for beneficiaries? The Government’s position is that the scheme has worked well. In her letter of 14 May to my hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent, the Chief Secretary said:

“The sharing arrangements has meant beneficiaries enjoy bonus payments worth more than 33% of their index-linked benefits”.

As highlighted in a previous debate by my good and hon. Friend Stephanie Peacock, the average payment from the scheme is just £84 a week, and it is a great deal less for widows, many of whom have outlived their husbands by many decades. Our industrial legacy means that many miners, like my father, never reach retirement age. Those who do are often in ill health, and will draw their pensions for fewer years than those who retire from other industries and sectors.

We often talk about deferred wages. When miners made those contributions, week after week and year after year, the expectation was that they and their families would have security in their retirement. After we delivered the Downing Street petition, w Sullivan, a campaigner and former miner, spoke of some widows receiving pensions of

“as little as £8.50 a week”.

Emlyn Davies, another campaigner, receives just £57 a week in return for 26 years’ work in the pit: a poverty pension for years of working in damp, dark, dangerous conditions, sacrificing health and wellbeing. Let me say to Conservative Members, and to people watching this debate, that to me it seems offensive to argue that the scheme is working well for beneficiaries when miners and their widows are receiving such a pittance as £8.50, £57, or even £84 a week.