Plaid Cymru representatives have this week called for a review of the Mineworkers Pension Scheme (MPS) in an attempt to see former miners reap greater benefits from the scheme.
The calls were made in both the National Assembly for Wales by Plaid spokesman, Steffan Lewis AM and in UK Parliament by local MP Jonathan Edwards.
The MPS has a Government Guarantee which was put in place on 31 October 1994, the day the scheme was changed to reflect the impact of the privatisation of the coal industry. It is a legally binding contract between the trustees and the government. The agreement sees 50% of any surplus after 1994 made available to provide bonuses for scheme members. The remaining 50% is payable to the government.
It is a scheme that includes an investment reserve valued at over £1 billion and a bonus augmentation fund, and, in addition, the sum of all expected future benefits is expected to be worth some £19 billion.
Plaid Cymru representatives have this week repeated their argument that the current arrangements regarding the surplus do not represent fairness for retired miners.
On the floor of the Commons chamber MP Jonathan Edwards asked the Leader of the House for the Chancellor to provide a statement in order for members of parliament to make the case for a review.
Speaking after his question in the House of Commons Mr Edwards said:
“Over a decade ago I was supporting the work of my predecessor, Adam Price, in his endeavours to see the then Labour Government reduce the amount it took from mineworkers’ pension scheme to 15%.
“Regrettably, successive Westminster governments have taken every penny it could from this scheme – a sum that is estimated to reach a staggering £8billion. To add insult to injury, under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the Westminster government was even using money siphoned from the pension scheme to pay miners’ compensation.
“It is high time the current arrangements were revisited to ensure greater benefits and fairness for retired miners.”
Plaid Cymru AM Steffan Lewis led a motion in the National Assembly. He told fellow Assembly Members:
“The issue of the mineworkers’ pension scheme surplus forms part of an unholy trinity of miners’ injustices, along with past state brutality and the intentional de-industrialisation of their communities.
“The National Audit Office in England has estimated that over a 25-year period, the UK Government can expect to reap £8 billion in surplus payments from the fund. In 2014 alone the Treasury received £750 million, and last year saw a further £95 million taken as part of the surplus split.
“The legacy of our industrial heritage lives with all of us today, regardless of our age or background, but with no group more so than former miners, who are today pensioners. A famous slogan of that strike was, ‘The miners united will never be defeated.’ If this Assembly speaks with one voice, if it is united, it could provide a mandate for our Government that might—just might—result in a long-overdue victory for miners and their families.
“Former miners and their families and communities have endured deindustrialisation, disputes, pneumoconiosis, chronic bronchitis, osteoarthritis, vibration white finger and more as a result of their employment. When they were robbed of their jobs, an attempt was made to take away their dignity too, and, as they now enter their autumn and winter years, let us work together for them, in order to ensure them dignity in retirement, with justice in their pensions.”