The story of our town’s mining heritage is one we’re all familiar with and proud of.
Our community was part of the industrial backbone that powered a nation, and our county’s success owes so much to hard-working miners at the heart of the industry.
They put up with terrible conditions for years, and many now suffer debilitating illnesses for their troubles – while the rest of us were able to heat our homes and keep the lights on thanks to their hard work.
That’s why we’ll always owe them a debt of gratitude, and remain proud of our mining heritage.
But gratitude only gets you so far. It doesn’t put money in the bank or food on the table for those former miners who are now struggling to get by.
They deserve remuneration as well as respect, and we can start by addressing the pension scheme many of them rely on for retirement.
Because it’s appalling to see those who suffered under Thatcher now getting treated with similar disrespect by another Tory government.
Under the terms of the Mineworkers Pension Scheme (MPS) agreed in 1994, in a year that more money goes into the scheme than is paid out, the extra can be split between miners and the Government. Using the small print of this deal, the Government has now taken over £3.4bn out of the scheme.
Despite helping themselves to this money, the Government hasn’t made a single contribution over that period.
That’s £3.4bn taken away from miners who spent their lives working hard to build up a pension pot for their retirement, including thousands here in Barnsley. Money that could be spent on food, bills, or the cost of living with the health problems so many former miners experience as a direct result of their life’s work.
But instead it’s money that has been taken away from them. And that’s just not fair or right.
I’ve met with the MPS Trustees to discuss the existing arrangements, and this week I pressed for a fairer scheme when we discussed it in Parliament.
We owe former miners better, and it’s time we gave them the retirement they’ve earned.