The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council, Mansfield MP Ben Bradley, has described the Government’s response to a report into former miners’ pensions as “disappointing”.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published its response on Monday (July 5) to a select committee report reviewing the terms of the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme.
The scheme affects the incomes of thousands of families across the East Midlands, including many in Nottinghamshire.
The review was conducted by the BEIS committee in April after pressure from campaigners and MPs to alter the terms of the longstanding pension agreement.
The scheme includes a 50:50 surplus arrangement between the Government and former miners and a guarantee that the value of pensions will never decrease.
But the select committee report found that some former miners were “struggling to make ends meet”, with the Government having received more than £4.4bn from the scheme.
This was despite an initial promise that no more than £2bn was needed to ensure the scheme was protected.
Conducting the inquiry, the BEIS Select Committee recommended that the Government should free up around £1.2bn in surplus funds to provide a “cash boost” for former miners and their widows.
The committee also recommended that the Government should alter the surplus arrangement to a 70:30 split in favour of the miners, describing it as “unconscionable” that former miners are financially struggling.
However, in its response the Government said it views the current arrangements as “fair and beneficial”, stating that it is “unable to agree to” the recommendations made by the committee.
Councillor Ben Bradley MP was one of the politicians leading the calls for change in Parliament and spoke at the select committee reviews in April.
He said: “I have made my views on the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme clear and I think we could find a better resolution and a deal for the miners.
“I was one of the MPs who called for the inquiry in the first place and I think I’ve made my commitment to that pretty clear.
“We wrote to the Chancellor to follow up on the BEIS committee report along with Lee Anderson and Brendan Clarke-Smith and it’s disappointing in terms of the outcome and the response to the report.
“But it’s equally not the end of the road, this conversation has gone on for years and it will continue to go on.
“Everything stays as it was, but Lee, Brendan and I will, as I say, continue to make the case.”
In his response to the committee, Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, set out the Government’s stance on the scheme.
In the letter, he said: “I met the Trustees on June 21 to discuss the Committee’s report and it was very useful to get their views on how we might move forward.
“I asked them whether they might feel able to proceed without the continued Government guarantee, which would enable all surpluses to be shared amongst scheme members.
“However, there are numerous examples of pension schemes that have been unable to meet their basic obligations, let alone increase pensions to the extent the MPS has under the current arrangements.
“The Government continues to believe that the arrangement agreed in 1994 was fair and beneficial to both Scheme members and taxpayers. Scheme members have rightly shared in the benefits but the Government has taken on all the risk.
“In the meantime, I am unable to agree to the Committee’s recommendations.”
The Government’s response comes less than a week after Mansfield District Council agreed to write to the BEIS department calling for the £1.2bn in surplus funding to be redistributed to former miners.
Andy Abrahams, Mansfield’s executive mayor, told full council on June 29 that the issue needs “urgent and immediate attention”.