As reported in the Yorkshire Post and Barnsley Chronicle on 22nd February,
held a debate in the House of Commons last week to discuss the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme.
In securing the debate, she took the opportunity to press a Government Minister to amend the controversial surplus sharing arrangement which has seen the Government pocket over £4.4bn from the scheme since 1994 – all without paying a single penny in.
The Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme was established upon the privatisation of British Coal in 1994, and still contains around 160,000 members across the country.
An agreement was struck at the time between the Government and the trustees of the scheme that the Government would act as guarantor to the pensions to protect their value, in return for 50 per cent of any surplus made.
Since 1994, lucrative returns made by the scheme has seen the surplus soar, and the Government has raked in over £4.4bn without paying into the scheme.
This includes £617m this year alone, with another £427m planned over the next three years.
This is in contrast to the average weekly pension for a retired miner of just £84, whilst others are forced to get by on as little as £59.
A previous admission from the Government to the Barnsley MP in the form of a response to a written question showed the initial deal that entitled the Government to such a large proportion of money was based on no expert actuarial advice.
In previously refusing to review the surplus sharing arrangement, the Government has identified their role of guarantor in protecting pension values as providing an entitlement to funds.
In the debate, however, Stephanie suggested that with a reducing and aging membership the guarantee no longer provided value for money for members, as the Government’s risk is in continual decline.
Pressing the Government, Barnsley East’s MP asked Business Minister Claire Perry to protect the bonus element of the scheme, and amend the surplus sharing arrangement that will see a greater share of any surplus given to retired miners and their families.
The Minister also offered to meet the Barnsley MP following her request, alongside MPs of other coalfield communities, scheme trustees, and the NUM.
Commenting, Stephanie said:
“Miners in communities like Barnsley toiled for years in dangerous, gruelling conditions to help keep our lights on and our country running.
“Yet in retirement many are forced to get by on a pittance, whilst this Government is happy to take billions from their pensions pots without paying a single penny in.
“Not only does the surplus sharing arrangement no longer provide value for money for its members, it’s staggeringly unfair.
“Retired miners and their families should be given a greater proportion of any surplus, and the scheme should be immediately reviewed and amended to ensure they get what they have only ever wanted: their fair share.”