Mining groups blast Rishi Sunak’s 'appalling' decision not to return more than £1billion to pension fund
Mining representatives and community leaders have blasted Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s move to block returning more than £1billion to a miners’ pension fund.
At present, Whitehall receives half of any surplus from the miners' scheme, an arrangement that has so far reaped £4.4billion for Government coffers.
According to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, returning the £1.2billion would see a £14 increase to the average weekly pension of £84.
The pension fund covers tens of thousands of families, including a considerable number in the North East, and hundreds of ex-miners have died without ever seeing a penny of the several billion raised through the scheme since the privatisation of British Coal in the 1990s.
“Repaying the £1.2billion would only be a start,” said Alan Mardghum, Secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association, who is pushing for 100% ‘compensation’ for the vast sums he argues workers and their families are owed.
"But we should be getting 100% of the money from a fund we’ve all paid into. The Government has continued to take that money even despite the recommendations made by an all-party Parliamentary committee.
"That’s miners’ money – that’s a fund that miners paid into to secure a future for themselves and for their widows.”
He added: “We’ve got widows who are living off an absolute pittance in the North East.
"And these people are still plundering our pension scheme. They’re robbing us.”
Former mine worker and Hebburn South councillor John McCabe is honourary secretary of the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers as well as the North East Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.
"A lot of people in South Tyneside are being affected by this. The workforce itself is getting older and that pension fund is still growing in respect of the funds available,” he said.
"That money was contributed by mining workers. They should be getting a lot more in return for what they’ve paid – in a number of senses – than they are at the moment.”
He added: “It’s the wrong decision. It’s not equitable, it’s not fair.”
South Tyneside’s MPs have urged the Government to honour an election pledge to ‘resolve this huge injustice’.
"This is theft by the Chancellor from our ex-miners and their widows,” said South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck
"This decision has caused disgust across former coalfield communities and distressed many of my affected constituents.”
She added: "This is not the end of the matter, many of us across the House will continue this fight for justice.”
Jarrow MP Kate Osborne said: “This callous decision by the Government is appalling and a huge kick in the teeth for the 124,000 ex-miners and their families, including many who live in the Jarrow constituency.”
She added: “In the 2019 general election campaign Boris Johnson promised to resolve this huge injustice and he has now broken that promise.”
“This is massively unfair and will see the Government take more than a billion pounds extra from retired miners’ pensions. I urge the Government to think again and right this wrong.”
Ex-miners and others from around the country were due to take part in the Durham Miners’ Gala today, but the event was cancelled due to covid.