Durham Miners’ Association blasts Rishi Sunak’s decision to ‘plunder’ more than £1bn from pension fund
The secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association has blasted Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s move to block returning more than £1billion to a workers’ pension fund.
At present, Whitehall receives half of any surplus from the miners' scheme, an arrangement that has so far reaped £4.4billion for Government coffers.
The pension fund covers tens of thousands of families, including a considerable number in the North East, and hundreds of ex-miners have died without ever seeing a penny of the several billion raised through the scheme since the privatisation of British Coal in the 1990s.
Durham Miners’ Association’s secretary, Alan Mardghum, slammed the Chancellor’s move over the fund. Mr Mardghum is pushing for 100% ‘compensation’ for the vast sums he argues workers and their families are owed.
“Repaying the £1.2billion would only be a start,” he said.
"We should be getting 100% of the money from a fund we’ve all paid into. The Government has continued to take that money even despite the recommendations made by an all-party Parliamentary committee.
"That’s miners’ money – that’s a fund that miners paid into to secure a future for themselves and for their widows.”
Mr Sunak’s decision has been viewed as a kick in the teeth by former mining communities across the North East, in the latest iteration of a bitter row that goes back to 1994 - when British Coal was privatised and it was agreed the Government would act as guarantor for the corporation’s pension payouts.
Under the existing arrangement, surplus revenue has been split equally between the Treasury and scheme members.
But recent returns on the fund have surpassed initial expectations, earning the Treasury £4.4 billion in extra cash up to this point.
Amid a tough wider economic climate brought on by Covid, the move has also drawn ire over recent days from ex-miners and other community leaders in neighbouring parts of the region.
Mr Mardghum added: “We’ve got widows who are living off an absolute pittance in the North East.
"And these people are still plundering our pension scheme. They’re robbing us.”
The committee said in its report earlier this year that given the “vast sums” paid from the scheme to the Government, it was “unconscionable” that many former miners were struggling to make ends meet.
Since privatisation of the scheme in 1994, the Government has received 50% of surpluses in its value, in return for providing a guarantee that the value of pensions will not decrease, said the MPs.
At the time it was expected that the Government would receive around £4 billion from the arrangement in today’s money, but that has increased to £4.4 billion, and the Government is also due to receive at least another £1.9 billion on top of 50% off any future surpluses, said their report.
A Government spokesman said: “Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme members are receiving payments 33% higher than they would have been thanks to the Government’s guarantee. On most occasions, the scheme has been in surplus, and scheme members have received bonuses in addition to their guaranteed pension.
“We remain resolutely committed to protecting the pensions of mineworkers.”