It is good to have the opportunity to speak in this debate, and it is a pleasure to follow Grahame Morris, who raised some important points and set out a measured and non-partisan case, which is exactly what is required in this discussion.
I am proud to represent Mansfield and Warsop in Parliament. For most of the 20th century, mining was the most important industry and my constituency still has a proud coalmining heritage. It still dominates many aspects of our area and I have been working on the mineworkers’ pension scheme since I was elected. I have regularly met with the mineworkers’ pension campaign team and constituents affected by this important issue. I have held meetings with Ministers and trustees to help to lobby for changes to the terms of the scheme. This has been a very frustrating process; we have been through so many Ministers now, explaining and making the case each time. In March, I was pleased that the former Minister met a delegation, including Les Moore and my constituent Mick Newton, who has been a brilliant local campaigner on this issue in Mansfield. Mick, alongside campaigners including Trevor Cooke and many others, has been lobbying on the issue for many years.
I recognise—as do the Ministers with whom I have had this discussion—that the Government have done far better out of this scheme than they ever imagined when it was first agreed. The arrangement that was settled back in the 1990s saw the UK Government acting to guarantee the scheme and all pensions in cash terms in return for a 50% share of future services. It is important to recognise the importance of the Government guarantee and the protection it has provided to former miners. It means that the trust has been able to invest with security, and it has done incredibly well with those investments. Some credit for the fantastic investment returns made by the scheme has to come back to the fact that the guarantee allows the trust to invest without risk. That being said, time has moved on. The risk has moved on—it is not the same as it was back then—and I believe there is a case for revisiting the sharing arrangements, that the balance should be tipped in favour of the miners, and that the recipients of the scheme should keep more than 50%.