I would like to start by paying tribute to all hon. and right hon. Members who have contributed to today’s debate, and to the many emotional and passionate speeches reflecting the importance of this issue. This is a question about real people and their incomes. It is about real people who have done some of the hardest work in our country, and about the respect and loyalty owed to them by their Government.
This subject is really important to me because, like many of those who have spoken today, I have a strong family connection. My family worked in the pits in the north-east for generations. My grandfather, George Stephenson worked at the Windlestone colliery in County Durham, following in the footsteps of his father, John. My uncle Bert worked at the Dean and Chapter colliery and then at the Mainsforth colliery. My great aunt Daisy and great uncle Tom spent most of their working lives at the National Coal Board in Team Valley in Gateshead. I grew up with stories of hard work, tough times, soot black baths and three pints after a hard day’s work because you could not taste the first through all the coal dust.
The Whips are rarely mentioned in this place, but the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Whip, the Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury, my hon. Friend Rebecca Harris, is on the Front Bench this evening. Her grandfather worked in the mines and her great-grandfather was in charge of the pit ponies at Boldon colliery in County Durham, so we both have strong links with the mining industry. I know that the same goes for one of my predecessors in this role, the Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, my right hon. Friend Claire Perry. Her connections to mining communities were so strong that she had to pass responsibility for their pensions over to me.