‘They have robbed us of our pen­sions’

Cynon Valley - - HEALTH & LIFESTYLE - James mCCaRTHY james.mccarthy@waleson­line.co.uk

THE UK Gov­ern­ment has skimmed more than £10bn from min­ers’ pen­sions while work­ers get as lit­tle as £10 a week from the pot, it is claimed.

Fu­ri­ous former col­liers say they want back the cash they be­lieve has been stolen from them.

Ken Sul­li­van, who spent 24 years un­der­ground at Oak­dale Col­liery, has started a pe­ti­tion in an at­tempt to get his case ar­gued in Par­lia­ment. So far he has 30,000 sig­na­tures.

“They were sup­posed to take 50/50 up to a max­i­mum of £2bn but they never stopped at £2bn,” the 64-year-old said.

“When Labour came in, they promised to look at it, but didn’t. At the mo­ment they have taken some­where in the re­gion of £10bn.

“We want a re­view to stop them tak­ing the money out. We are not ask­ing for a hand­out, we are ask­ing for the pen­sion we have paid for.”

The sit­u­a­tion dates back to 1994 when Bri­tish Coal was pri­va­tised. Min­is­ters agreed the Gov­ern­ment would act as guar­an­tor for two pen­sion schemes.

Under the deal, any sur­plus would be split 50/50 be­tween the Trea­sury and scheme mem­bers.

The Minework­ers’ Pen­sion Scheme had 200,000 mem­bers and the Bri­tish Coal Staff Su­per­an­nu­a­tion Scheme 57,000.

In 1996 it was es­ti­mated the funds would gen­er­ate a £2bn sur­plus over the next 25 years.

But they have done bet­ter than ex­pected and the Trea­sury has a to­tal of £10bn to spend.

“They have robbed us of our pen­sion,” Mr Sul­li­van said. “We are only get­ting half the pen­sion we should have in real terms. It would make a huge dif­fer­ence to me. I would be able to do a lot with my grand­chil­dren that I’ve not been able to.”

Harry Parfitt was a miner for 40 years.

“They have been tak­ing a mil­lion pounds a day of our money since 1994 – it’s ter­ri­ble,” the former Pen­rhi­w­ceiber Col­liery man said.

“Since 1994 they have taken £10bn of our money.”

While working, min­ers con­trib­uted 5.25% of their pay to­wards pen­sions.

The huge sum has arisen from sur­pluses, money held as an in­vest­ment re­serve and a £1.1bn, sev­enyear con­tri­bu­tions hol­i­day dat­ing back to Bri­tish Coal’s in­volve­ment.

Ash­field Labour MP Glo­ria De Piero met Busi­ness Sec­re­tary Greg Clark to find a so­lu­tion last year. She got nowhere.

“Min­ers and mine work­ers’ wid­ows are some­times on just £10 a week,” Mr Parfitt said.

“What we want is a re­view to al­ter the 50/50 agree­ment.”

Id­wal Mor­gan is sec­re­tary of the NUM Coke­mens’ area.

“It’s rob­bery, that is what I think,” said Mr Mor­gan, of Moun­tain Ash.

“We said at the time it was scan­dalous they were tak­ing 50% of the profit. It would be lovely if they could get the Gov­ern­ment to re­im­burse it.”

How­ever, he had lit­tle faith they would stump up the cash.

“Un­til the Tories are re­moved there is no chance of do­ing it – but by all means try,” he said. “I would tell Theresa May the mem­bers of the Con­ser­va­tive cab­i­net, at the time this was done... should be in prison be­cause this is noth­ing less than rob­bery.”

He ac­cused the Tories of fail­ing to look after “the or­di­nary peo­ple”.

“The amount of money they have taken out is scan­dalous,” he said. “The min­ers’ pen­sion scheme was de­signed so that the last pound left in the scheme went to the last mem­ber left on his deathbed. It was not there for profit but for the in­di­vid­u­als who con­trib­uted.”

Mr Mor­gan urged the Gov­ern­ment to “give it back to the min­ers”.

“It would ben­e­fit the re­tired min­ers and their wid­ows and the chil­dren de­pen­dent on them,” he said.

St­ef­fan Lewis AM called for an in­de­pen­dent re­view into the mat­ter.

“When the deal was struck for a 50/50 split, the tax­payer was tak­ing on a li­a­bil­ity but the scheme has per­formed far bet­ter than any­one en­vis­aged,” he said.

The scheme has “rarely been in deficit”.

“The tax­payer has ben­e­fited from bil­lions of pounds,” said Mr Lewis.

“I think an in­de­pen­dent re­view would come to the con­clu­sion that a 50/50 split is not a fair re­flec­tion of the li­a­bil­ity be­ing borne by the tax­payer.

“There is a case for a fair split, but no-one can sug­gest a 50/50 split with half be­ing taken out of the fund is a fair re­flec­tion of the risk.

“This is not a gold­plated scheme. There are min­ers on £40 a week. The num­ber of mem­bers is di­min­ish­ing ev­ery year as well. For peo­ple who have worked un­der­ground, in their au­tumn and win­ter years to have a de­cent pen­sion is ap­pro­pri­ate.”

A Gov­ern­ment spokesman said: “The Gov­ern­ment guar­an­tee of the Minework­ers’ Pen­sions Scheme guar­an­tees that a mem­ber’s pen­sion, in­clud­ing in­fla­tion in­creases, will always be paid.

“This means that a mem­ber’s to­tal pen­sion, in­clud­ing bonus pen­sion, will not fall in cash terms.

“Mem­bers have re­ceived pen­sions ap­prox­i­mately 33% larger than would have been the case with­out the guar­an­tee.”

Former miner Ken Sul­li­van, from Tre­de­gar, is gath­er­ing sig­na­tures for a pe­ti­tion and has re­ceived sup­port from 30,000 peo­ple so far

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