Former Eastwood and Kimberley miners receive ‘slap in the face’ from government on pensions
A stance by the Government NOT to hand back more than £1.2 billion and ratify recommendations for a fairer pensions deal for former mineworkers in Eastwood and Kimberley has been described as a ‘slap in the face’.
A report from the Business, Energy and Industrial Stratedy (BEIS) Committee, published earlier this year, called on the Government to end the ‘historic outrage’ and agree to a fairer pensions deal.
Campaigners say thousands of miners from around Nottinghamshire have been left massively out of pocket from the ‘take it or leave it’ deal agreed in 1994 which had seen the Government having already pocket £4.4bn in surplus from the scheme, without putting in a penny.
Now, the Government has issued its official response to the report, which states that whilst ‘government recognises the harsh conditions in which coal miners worked’ they do ‘not accept that it has benefited unduly from the arrangements’.
Darren Jones MP, chairman of the BEIS committee, said: “Members of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme will be deeply disappointed at the intransigent message of the Government’s response to our report.
“It represents a real slap in the face for pension-scheme members that the Government is continuing its ‘take it or leave it’ approach on arrangements around the Government guarantee.
“They have benefited from billions of pounds of surpluses since 1994 without having to contribute a pound of taxpayers’ money to miners’ pensions.
“The Government says it is willing to listen, but it ejects any meaningful negotiation on the guarantee or any review of the terms of the 50:50 split.
“The tone of the ministers’ response suggests they do not understand the reality of the historic injustice felt by thousands of retired miners.
“Ministers should think again and help ensure these pensioners get a fair deal.
“I will be meeting with the pension scheme trustees in due course to discuss the Government’s response and my committee will then agree how best to take this matter further.”
The Government’s response stated it was ‘open to suggestions of ways to improve’ and indicated that if the trustees wished to withdraw from the 50 per cent of surplus guarantee, that they ‘would be happy to have that discussion’, however indications suggest that having the guarantee in place was ‘worth more’ than the share of future surpluses.
Campaigner Mick Newton said of the news: “Thousands of former mineworkers and widows like me will be totally devastated by the government response, and their total disregard towards this historic injustice.
“The BEIS enquiry clearly recognised these injustices and ruled heavily in our favour in their report.
“The Government continues to rob the mineworkers and, in my view, continues to pursue a vendetta that will punish mineworkers and widows all the way to the grave.
“To say I am angry is an understatement, I am absolutely fuming. The select committee offered us hope, while the minister has simply served us total rejection.
“We will not go away and we will not give up the fight.”