CARMARTHEN East and Dinefwr MP, Jonathan Edwards, has accused the Westminster Government of ripping off ex-mineworkers in a debate in the House of Commons.
Mr Edwards has been a longstanding supporter of a review into the current set-up in relation to the mineworks pension scheme. The Plaid Cymru Treasury Spokesperson helped former miners deliver a petition to Number 10 Downing Street on the issue in February.
The motion debated last night (10 June) was supported on a cross-party basis, however the Minister responding said that the Westminster Government did not intend to review situation.
When British Coal was privatised in 1994, an arrangement was made between the Westminster Government and the trustees of the British Coal pension schemes on future arrangements for pensions from these schemes. The Westminster Government guaranteed that core pensions would not be lost to coal miners or their widows, and in exchange, there was an agreement it would receive 50% of any surpluses generated by the pension fund.
The 2003 review by the Westminster Labour government refused to adjust the 50/50 surplus sharing arrangement and the current Conservative Government have maintained this position. As of November 2018, the UK Government had received over £4.4bn under the surplus sharing arrangements since 1994.
Mineworkers receive an average of £84 a week from the scheme, with at least 6,000 miners having had their pensions cut. In March, 106,000 campaigners signed a petition, delivered to Downing Street, calling for more of the surplus to go to the ex-mineworkers.
In the debate, Jonathan Edwards MP said:
“Coalmining shaped the Wales that we know today. Our landscape was reshaped by massive slag heaps and our population shifted en masse from rural Wales to the coalfields, creating vibrant communities, only for them to be ripped apart by the brutality of Thatcherism. The Miners’ Strike of 1984 remains vivid in my memory.
“I was only eight at the time and clearly oblivious to the forces at work. However, the events of that year and their aftermath left a lasting impression on my political thinking.”
Mr Edwards went on to say:
“The general feeling out there in mining communities is that this is the latest in a long line of injustices perpetrated by the British Government on the miners, their families and the coalfield communities.
“About 22,000 people in Wales are affected by this scandal. I was so proud to present the petition calling for an urgent review to Downing Street in March.
“If the Minister values the hard work of the miners who endured in terrible conditions and their invaluable role in shaping the coalfield communities we live in today, and considering the length of time since the last review, the British Government should accept the motion.”