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MP blasts Government for 'stealing' miners' pensions

MP blasts Government for 'stealing' miners' pensions

A Labour MP has criticised the Government for "stealing" miners' pensions.

Dennis Skinner, MP for Bolsover, called on the Conservatives to "stop stealing the miners' pension" in the House of Commons yesterday (Wednesday), when he compared the Government to two notorious businessmen.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, he asked: "Is the minister aware that already his government have taken more than three and a half billion pounds out of the miners' pension?

"They're like Philip Green and Maxwell put together. Stop stealing the miners' pension."

Former owner of BHS Sir Philip Green hit the headlines when he sold the company for a £1 in 2015, a year before the retailer collapsed with a pension deficit of up to £571m.

Robert Maxwell, who was the owner of the Daily Mirror, is believed to have used the newspaper's pensions to shore up its ailing share price. He later died after falling off his yacht near Tenerife.

Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent in South Wales, also raised the issue of miners' pensions.

He told the Commons: "Members of my family were either killed or badly injured working in the coal mines of the South Wales valleys.

"We owe all of our miners a debt of gratitude, yet in recent years the Treasury has raked in billions from their pension scheme.

"So can the Chancellor meet with me, retired miners and coalfield community MPs to fix this injustice."

Responsing to the questions, David Lidington, the Cabinet office minister standing in for Prime Minister Theresa May while she was at a Nato summit, said the government recognised the hard work and incredible risks that miners took.

He said: "The benefits due from the pension scheme to all former miners have, as I understand it, been paid in full, continue to be paid in full and the scheme is fully funded to meet those commitments into the future."

When British Coal was privatised, it was agreed the government would act as guarantor for the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme (MPS) and the British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme (BCSSS).

As part of the deal, any surplus would be split equally between HM Treasury and the schemes' members.

In 1996 it was estimated the funds would generate a £2bn surplus over the next 25 years but the schemes have performed better than expected and the Treasury received £10bn.

The MPS has around 200,000 members while the BCSSS has around 57,000 members.

aamina.zafar@ft.com

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