One of the most sobering experiences I have had in politics is meeting former miners struggling to breathe as a result of their industrial injuries. Mineworkers and their families are extremely proud people, and considering their industries were sustained in a nationalised industry, we the general public owe them a deep debt of gratitude.
Huw Chiswell in his masterpiece 'Y Cwm' sings about the vital role played by the coal industry in the history of the south of our country and the economic devastation caused by the deliberate decision of the British Government to shut the industry down. The story basically surrounds two long lost boyhood friends re-meeting back in the Valley after one of the friends (Sion) had moved away to find a job. They recall their youth:
"A rwy'n cofio nawr
O ni'n meddwl bo ni'n fechgyn mawr
Cerdded gyda'n tadau
Y llwybr hir ir pylle"
I remember now, thinking we were big boys, walking with our fathers, on the long path to the pits.
The last part of the song is haunting:
"O fe fu newid mawr
Ers iddi nhw gau yr holl bylle na lawr
Fel y gweli di hun
Does dim nawr i ddal y bois rhag y ffin
A tithe wedi magu blas
Am rhagor o awyr las
Ond rwy'n credu taw ti oedd y cyntaf i weld
Y tywydd ar ein gorwel"
There has been a big change, since they closed down the pits, as you know yourself there's not much to keep the young from leaving, and you having had a taste of different horizons, but I think you were the first to see the weather on our horizon.
The chorus is beautiful, grounded in the importance of the local square mile to every Welsh person as personified by that great Welsh patriot DJ Williams:
"Y graig yn sownd o dan ein traed
A chariad at y cwm yn berwi yn ein gwaed"
The rock tied soundly to our feet, and the love for the valley boiling in our blood.
Please forgive the poor translation, it does not do justice to the majestic nature of the poetry in the song. I once asked Huw, who comes from neighbouring Cwm Tawe, which valley he was referring to in his song. He said it was a song for all Welsh valleys – and no other song resonates my love for the Amman valley more.
I was deeply honoured therefore to once again last week in the House of Commons to raise the plight of formers mineworkers and their families who have been unfairly treated by the British Government when it comes to their pensions.
In a deal brokered by the last British Labour Government, the UK Treasury receives 50% of all surpluses generated by the MPS in return for guaranteeing the Scheme. Analysts calculate that the Treasury has accumulated nearly £8 Billion over the last two decades at a rate of £1million a day.
In reality the Miners Pension Scheme has proven to be extremely profitable and safe, with zero risk to the Treasury. The 50% share demanded by the Treasury for acting as a guarantor is completely unjustified. During the debate I called on the British Government to review the arrangement – it's the very least that could be done to treat mineworkers and their families with elementary dignity.