A LETTER written by Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith which calls for a fairer deal for former miners, has been signed by a cross-party group of 34 MPs.
In the letter Nick Smith MP has called on the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond to revisit the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme arrangement to give former mineworkers and their families a fairer share for their decades of hard work.
The current arrangement sees the Government acting as guarantor for mineworker pension payouts, with surpluses split evenly between the Treasury and scheme members.
Mr Smith said: “Many of my relatives worked down the pits. Members of my family were badly injured working in the coal mines of South Wales.
“It was difficult, dangerous work and our former miners and their widows deserve better.
“The current arrangement has seen the Government take £3.1bn out of the pension scheme since 1994, without paying a penny back in. This doesn’t seem right, especially when you have former colliers getting by on an average payment of just £84 a week.
“The Government can offer stronger protections for the pension bonuses that former miners get when the scheme is performing well by including this in the guarantee. The portion of the surplus they receive can be increased by reducing the share that goes to the Government.
“This would mean that when the fund performs well and posts healthy surpluses, the miners themselves would see more money coming back to them.
“Miners worked hard for decades – it’s time they had a fair share and a fairer deal in return. It’s time to get on with it.”
Mr Smith has been calling for a better deal for miners for a number of years. This campaign has included working with pension scheme trustees and members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), leading debates in Parliament and previously making the case for the Government to consider taking a reduced cut of the surplus.
Most recently Mr Smith took part in a debate on the pension scheme, following which he wrote to the Minister for Energy Claire Perry to call for a meeting between the minister, departmental officials and coalfield MPs to discuss the issue and to ask for a breakdown of where the government claims to have spent £1bn in coalfield communities over the last 20 years.
The following MPs have added their signatures to Nick Smith MP’s letter so far:
Nigel Adams MP (CONS)
Tonia Antoniazzi MP (LAB)
Sir Kevin Barron MP (LAB)
Ben Bradley MP (CONS)Kevin Brennan MP (LAB)
Alan Brown MP (SNP)
Chris Bryant MP (LAB)
Sir William Cash MP (CONS)
Ann Clwyd MP (LAB)
Wayne David MP (LAB)
Gloria De Piero MP (LAB)
Jonathan Edwards MP (PLAID)
Julie Elliott MP (LAB)
Chris Elmore MP (LAB)
Chris Evans MP (LAB)
Helen Goodman MP (LAB)
David Hanson MP (LAB)
Carolyn Harris MP (LAB)
Gerald Jones MP (LAB)
Susan Elan Jones MP (LAB)
Stephen Kinnock MP (LAB)
Ian Lavery MP (LAB)
John Mann MP (LAB)
Conor McGinn MP (LAB)
Ed Miliband MP (LAB)
Grahame Morris MP (LAB)
Albert Owen MP (LAB)
Stephanie Peacock MP (LAB)
Dennis Skinner MP (LAB)
Ruth Smeeth MP (LAB)
Owen Smith MP (LAB)
Gareth Snell MP (LAB)
Jo Stevens MP (LAB)
Nick Thomas-Symonds MP (LAB)
Nick Smith MP’s letter in full:
We are writing to you regarding the surplus sharing arrangements for the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme and ways that we can ensure a fairer deal for former mineworkers.
The 1994 arrangement saw the UK Government agree to guarantee the scheme and all pensions in cash terms in return for a 50% share of any subsequent surpluses.
This has seen the Government receive a total of around £4.1 billion from the scheme since 1994, although it has not made direct payments into the scheme itself.
We want to fully recognise the importance of the Government guarantee and the protection that it provides to former miners and are clear that this must continue.
However we do believe that there is a strong case both for providing greater protection for pension bonuses and for revisiting the sharing arrangements. We understand that the trustees have been in communication with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) regarding long-term protection for bonuses and have put forward a proposal for consideration.
It is our belief that the strong returns generated by the scheme combined with the absence of direct payments from the Government make the continued withdrawal of a 50% share for the current arrangement difficult to justify.
Specifically, we call on the Government both to include a stronger level of protection for members’ bonuses as part of the guarantee and to consider taking a reduced share of the surplus to allow a greater proportion to be returned to mineworkers.
To this end, we would request that HM Treasury undertake a formal review of the surplus sharing arrangements, the case for reform and means of enhancing existing bonuses along with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
We would additionally request clarification regarding the Minister with overall responsibility for the scheme as we understand that this position has not been formally confirmed.
We look forward to working with HM Treasury, BEIS, former mineworkers, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the trustees to assist with this and how we can work together to make sure that former mineworkers, their families and communities receive their fair share for their decades of hard work.
Nick Smith MP