Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:18 pm on 10th June 2019.

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Photo of Ben Bradley Ben Bradley Conservative, Mansfield 8:18 pm, 10th June 2019

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that, but I think it was a fairly pointless question. I am not in a position to go back and change the past. I am here in this Chamber talking about now.

The Government have had far more income from the scheme than they ever imagined. Many of the beneficiaries who are still with us are increasingly suffering with industry-related health conditions and are in need of support. It would be relatively simple for the Government to shift the balance, perhaps by offering a 70:30 split or going even further. The risk to the Government and the taxpayer is not what it was in 1994. We can split hairs about when the right time to do this might have been, and it was probably several years ago, but we are here now and we are talking about it.

Colleagues have gone into great detail about the costs and benefits of changing the balance. I have sought to do so previously with Ministers, but I feel that the best advocates for the change are the mineworkers themselves. That is why I have sought to get them together with campaigners, trustees and the Government to discuss this. I believe it is now time for the Government to undertake a formal review of the arrangements and consider the case for reform in proper detail.

Former coalfield communities are among the poorest in the country, and older people in particular struggle to make ends meet without savings and without much support beyond their pension arrangements. These coalfield communities are among the hardest working and longest suffering in our country, as the hon. Member for Easington said. The miners worked in darkness so that we could have light and, although much of that happened before I was born, I have every respect for those constituents in my community who worked incredibly hard to look after the rest of us and to ensure that we could have the quality of life that we expected.

Ensuring that miners can keep more of the surplus from these investments will have a life-changing effect. Many of them are on low incomes and it would help to boost their lives individually while they are still around to spend that money. It would also help to boost whole communities, such as mine in Mansfield and Warsop. As my hon. Friend Andrew Bridgen said, more money in miners’ pockets in communities such as Mansfield is money that will be reinvested back into those deprived communities and help to boost them.

Some have suggested an increased guarantee as a compromise to cover the scheme’s bonuses, but although that sounds nice—and sounds like Government doing something—it will not put any extra money into the pockets of those miners. It would merely guarantee what they already get. We have already seen that the risk of needing that guarantee is very small, so I do not think that that is good enough. This is a chance for the Government to show that we are on the side of people who have worked hard and paid into the system, and that we will help them. To me, that is what the Conservative party should be about, so I hope that the new Minister and his Department will work alongside the Treasury and the trustees to review the scheme and to ensure that the hard-working miners who gave so much to their communities, including in Mansfield, will receive their fair share. I look forward to discussing this with him further.