Reform UK Blyth and Ashington candidate calls for changes to Mineworkers' Pension Scheme deal

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A Reform UK candidate has labelled an arrangement that sees the government take 50% of the surplus from a pension fund for miners “much larger” than the Post Office Horizon scandal.

Mark Peart, the Reform candidate for Blyth and Ashington at the general election on July 4, said it is his party’s policy to adopt the recommendations from a report into the pension scheme by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee in 2021.

The government has been entitled to 50% of any surplus from the Mineworkers’ Pension Scheme since it was privatised in 1994 in exchange for guaranteeing the value of pensions would not decrease.

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The government has benefitted from the scheme to the tune of billions of pounds, and the select committee’s report said it was “unconscionable” that this was the case while many of the scheme’s beneficiaries struggled to make ends meet.

Reform UK candidate Mark Peart said it was a “much larger” scandal than the Post Office Horizon scandal. (Photo by Mark Peart)Reform UK candidate Mark Peart said it was a “much larger” scandal than the Post Office Horizon scandal. (Photo by Mark Peart)
Reform UK candidate Mark Peart said it was a “much larger” scandal than the Post Office Horizon scandal. (Photo by Mark Peart)

The committee recommended the 50% figure be renegotiated in favour of the miners and that the government returned the scheme’s £1.2bn to former miners, providing an immediate cash uplift for pensioners, but the recommendations were not implemented.

Mr Peart described adopting the recommendations as a “key policy” for Reform UK. He said: “The government takes out 50% of the surplus for their own gains for a simple guarantee.

“We propose following the BEIS report and giving the miners back 70% and the return of the reserve fund.

Labour have not come out with that policy yet.”

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Mr Peart also claimed his Labour opponent, ex-miner Ian Lavery, a former president of the National Union of Mineworkers, had not done enough to campaign for changes to the scheme.

He compared the situation to the Horizon IT scandal, which saw more than 900 sub-postmasters prosecuted by the Post Office because of incorrect information from faulty computer software.

Mr Peart said: “When you have a look at what has happened with the Post Office scandal, this is much larger than that.

“This is a private pension fund that the government has not contributed to, yet they have taken out billions. How can they do that? The miners should have been billions richer.

“It should have been allocated fairly.

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“Even when you have the likes of Mr Lavery in his party not fighting for it, you know that there is something wrong.”

Ian Lavery, who was the MP for Wansbeck from 2010 until the recent boundary changes and is now contesting the Blyth and Ashington seat, hit back at Mr Peart’s criticism.

He said: “The fact a Reform candidate is spouting such nonsense, particularly against one of the last mining MPs in the Commons and a member of the scheme, speaks volumes.

“I have campaigned against the unfair distribution of the surplus since it was introduced and have spoken in Parliament on the matter more than any other MP.

“I very much hope that this will be included in the [Labour] manifesto when it is released.”

The Labour Party’s general election manifesto is due to be published on Thursday, June 13.

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