Osborne guarantees concessionary fuel for miners

File photo dated 28/03/2011 of Chancellor George Osborne, who will meet European finance ministers today to discuss the details of a possible bail-out of Portugal, amid fears that British tax-payers will have to find more than �4 billion as part of a rescue package. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday April 8, 2011. Mr Osborne flew out to Budapest last night for a two-day summit in the Hungarian capital after Portugal's prime minister Jose Socrates said his country would be seeking European help. See PA story EU Bailout. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
File photo dated 28/03/2011 of Chancellor George Osborne, who will meet European finance ministers today to discuss the details of a possible bail-out of Portugal, amid fears that British tax-payers will have to find more than �4 billion as part of a rescue package. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday April 8, 2011. Mr Osborne flew out to Budapest last night for a two-day summit in the Hungarian capital after Portugal's prime minister Jose Socrates said his country would be seeking European help. See PA story EU Bailout. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
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The Government has guaranteed the concessionary fuel allowance to hundreds of former miners during a ministerial visit to the Mansfield area.

Making the announcement at Thoresby Colliery, near Edwinstowe, on Friday, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne revealed that the government will guarantee the allowance for around 400 mine workers who lost their jobs after UK Coal went into administration.

The Government will also guarantee the allowance for around 1,000 retired workers previously employed by the company.

Mr Osborne said: “A number of local MPs brought to my attention that former mine workers were losing their concessionary fuel allowance, through no fault of their own when UK Coal went into administration.

“It is right and fair that we make sure they continue to receive their allowance and that is why we are bringing them into the Government scheme.”

In total, around 1,500 former mine workers will be entitled to continue to receive their allowance in the form of cash or coal, the Government said.

They will be entitled to choose up to £1,300 of free coal, or up to £600 cash in lieu of coal per year – in line with the current beneficiaries of the scheme.

The news comes following pressure on the Government from Mansfield MP Sir Alan Meale, who tabled a debate in Parliament last week on the issue.

Speaking at Westminster Hall, sir Alan said: “I believe that the Government has a moral and financial responsibility to those who were promised concessionary fuel as part of their employment package, and who now find themselves at sea.

“Mineworkers die on the job, their lives are shortened by the work they do, and we should be proud of them and support them in their old age.

“We should not think of trying to remove any entitlement they have gained through their work.”

The call for the concessionary fuel allowance to be reinstated was also backed in the debate by Bassetlaw MP John Mann and MP for Sherwood Mark Spencer.

Two weeks ago, Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions Chris Bryant also visited the Ollerton area with Sherwood Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Leonie Mathers to speak to former miners and their widows about the impact that scrapping of concessionary fuel for former UK Coal employees was having.

The National Concessionary Fuel Agreements were put in place between British Coal and mining unions in the 1980s.

When the British Coal Corporation was privatised in 1994, the government retained the obligation to provide concessionary fuel to former British Coal workers entitled to it.

The concessionary fuel arrangements for UK Coal were funded by UK Coal as part of their inheritance as a successor company.

About 69,000 former mine workers or their families receive a fuel allowance from Government each year under the National Concessionary Fuel Scheme.

The announcement means that a further 1,500 former mine workers who would otherwise have lost their benefits following the collapse of UK Coal will now be brought into the scheme, the Government said.