Rejection of call to return £1.2bn pension surplus to miners an 'appalling response' says Doncaster MP

The government has rejected calls to return a £1.2bn pension surplus to former miners in what’s been called a ‘broken promise’ and an ‘appalling response’ from a Doncaster MP.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 10:14 am
Miners at Markham Main colliery
Miners at Markham Main colliery

Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband said the decision was ‘unjust’ and if approved, would have resulted in an uplift of £14 a week to 152,000 former miners including hundreds across the borough.

Back in 1994, when the pension scheme was privatised, it was agreed the government would get 50 per cent of any surplus from the fund, in return for guaranteeing the value of the pensions would not decrease.

As well as reviewing the 50 per cent sharing deal, the committee had called for the government to relinquish its entitlement to the £1.2bn Investment Reserve, and give it instead to the miners.

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However, in a letter to the committee, energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said there were numerous examples of pension schemes that had been ‘unable to meet their basic obligations, let alone increase’.

“The government continues to believe the arrangement agreed in 1994 was fair and beneficial to both scheme members and taxpayers,” she wrote.

“Scheme members have rightly shared in the benefits but the government has taken on all the risk.”

But the Doncaster North MP said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised in the 2019 election campaign that he would ‘tackle this injustice’.

Miliband, who is also Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary, reacting to the government response to the BEIS Committee report on the mineworkers’ pension scheme, said:

“This is an appalling response from the government. Rather than act to right an historic wrong, they have doubled down on an unjust arrangement that will see more than a billion pounds extra taken from retired miners’ pensions by the Chancellor.

“Boris Johnson personally promised during the election campaign to tackle this injustice, and has broken that promise today.

“The message from this government is that they will betray the promises they make to coalfield areas.

“Labour would do the right thing and return what’s due back to miners.

“This would make a significant difference now to retired miners and their families. It is what fairness and justice demands. It is clear now that it will only happen with a Labour government.”

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme members are receiving payments 33 per cent higher than they would have been thanks to the government’s guarantee.

“On most occasions, the scheme has been in surplus, and scheme members have received bonuses in addition to their guaranteed pension.

“We remain resolutely committed to protecting the pensions of mineworkers, but do not accept the committee’s recommendations strike a fair balance between scheme members and taxpayers.”

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In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.