Speaking in a debate on the arrangements for the sharing of the surplus generated by the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme, Andrew Bridgen highlights the fact that any increase in pension to retired coalminers and their widows will, in the main, benefit the former coalmining communities where the vast majority still live and would be a good investment for the Government.
As a Member of Parliament whose paternal grandfather was a coalminer and whose major conurbation in my seat is called Coalville, I think the hon. Gentleman will know whose side I am on in this debate. Does he agree that, given that the vast majority of retired coalminers and their widows still reside in the coalmining communities in which they worked, and some of them died, any increase in their pension from this overfunded, well-endowed fund will only go back to enrich the communities in which they have lived and worked all their lives and it would be a good investment for the Government?
It is not often that I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but, absolutely, those people are certainly not going to be buying yachts and making investments in offshore tax havens. They are going to be spending that money in the local economy and supporting local businesses.
The hon. Lady talks about coalfield communities. Does she agree that they are gritty, proud, and among some of the hardest working and most honest communities in the country? These are not communities that expect something for nothing—they worked for everything they got—but what they do expect is what they are due and deserve from their pension fund, which they have worked so hard for.
It has been really good to see the solidarity shown from both sides of the House on this issue. Earlier, the hon. Gentleman mentioned investment in pit areas. Miners typically stay in those areas and invest in them, and not only do retired miners tend to stay in the areas where they worked; they also give so much back. There are some fantastic retired miners and widows of miners in my area, such as Alex Bennett and Margot Russell, who have done amazing work locally and have given so much back. I was going to say that these people should be rewarded, but this is not about giving them a reward; this is about giving them what they worked for, and that is so important.
Does the hon. Lady agree with me that in this debate, for once, the right hon. and hon. Members taking part in it are not asking the Government to put their hand into their pockets, but asking the Government to get their hand out of the pockets of the former miners and their widows?
Well, I think we will hear whether Treasury Ministers see it in quite that way at the end of the debate.
I have done a quick calculation: if it is correct that there are currently 158,000 beneficiaries and the surplus taken of the Government share of the fund is about £4.45 billion, that is over £28,000 for every surviving beneficiary that the Government have already taken from that fund.
The hon. Gentleman makes a powerful point—possibly with the aid of his calculator—that I had not put forward this evening, and it shows the scale of this injustice. He is right to state that on the Floor of the House for us all to hear.