Hucknall councillor vows that miners will never be defeated over pensions scandal

A Hucknall councillor has slammed the Government for its treatment of ex-miners in the wake of the mining pensions scandal.

Friday, 30th July 2021, 11:59 am

Speaking at meeting of Ashfield District Council, Coun Keir Morrison (Lab), who represents Hucknall South, said he was ‘sickened’ by the way successive Governments had treated miners over their pensions and called on the current Government to ‘do the right thing’.

The Government recently caused uproar by refusing recommendations of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee on the Mineworkers Pension Scheme and hand back the £1.2 billion investment reserve – a deficit fund left by British Coal – to ex-miners.

At the meeting Coun Morrison and fellow Labour Hucknall South member Coun Lauren Mitchell, put forward a motion for the council to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking him to act immediately to the findings of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee and implement their recommendations.”

Coun Morrison's dad Ian was a former miner at Hucknall Colliery

Speaking at the meeting, Coun Morrison said: “I’m sure every member in this chamber will know an ex-coal miner, whether that be a friend or a family member, our district once upon a time played a crucial role in contributing to Britain’s energy supply through mining.

“My dad was a tail gate ripper, for those of you who don’t know, this was one of the most dreaded jobs in coal mining.

"A ripper was the worker driving drills into the coal seam with barely any PPE.

“Some of you maybe old enough to have gone down a working coal mine, as I have, but to paint a picture imagine working in conditions that are red hot, pitch black and dusty.

"No it’s not hell, it’s a working mine where colliers would travel miles underground to and from the face before even starting work.

"Coal mining wasn’t just a job, our communities and heritage here in Ashfield were built as a result of the industry.

"I walk into Hucknall town centre on a Saturday morning now and I’m greeted by some of my dads old comrades who despite everything they’ve been through and seeing their industry destroyed by Thatcher’s government they still raise a smile and manage to tell old mining stories of the past, often with typical pit humour.

"That’s why it breaks my heart to see these proud old men hobble around hunched up crippled by life changing disabilities caused by working down the mines.

“Like many other miners my dad has industrial illnesses and disabilities caused by coal mining.

"Some people may think that they were paid too much anyway or thought well they had a laugh what more do they want?

I’ll tell you what they want – dignity in old age!

"This is only a fraction of what they deserve that’s why it’s sickens me to say that successive governments have pilthered the mineworkers pension scheme for decades.

"This money belongs to the miners, which they paid in with their wages in good faith, hoping that one day they would be able to look after their families and children.

"Miners have been forced to pay for failed so called ‘regeneration’ projects in towns and districts like Ashfield where areas like ours still to this day feel the affects of the coal industry being destroyed by greed and political ideology.

"Give the miners what they have always deserved dignity in old age and a fair share of the pension surplus.

"It’s high time this government did the right thing,

“No matter how hard the politicians try, I can guarantee that the miners united will never be defeated.”

The motion was voted for by all Hucknall councillors of all parties – Coun Chris Baron (Con) did not vote due to having left the meeting early – after it had been ammended by Coun David Hennigan (Ash Ind) who represents Sutton Central and New Cross, supported by former miner Coun John Baird (Ash Ind), who represents Greenwood & Summit.

The amendment proposed that the three party leaders on the council, on behalf of all councillors, write to all Nottinghamshire’s MPs and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer – stating that Ashfield District Council believes that:

The Government should implement immediately the full findings and conclusions of the BEIS Select Committee’s investigation into the Mineworker’s Pension Scheme.

That Government should not be in the business of making money from the Mineworker’s Pension Scheme and should now hand back the £1.2 billion from the investment reserve fund to the miners and their families.

That Government should now seek to negotiate a fairer arrangement to benefit the miners and should not be seen to profiteering and should only take money from the scheme if it falls into deficit and then only at 50%.

Coun Hennigan said: “We need put a strong motion, that illustrates the sheer contribute our ex-miners put in at the coalface to show our strong support for our miners who’s been shafted yet again by successive Labour and Conservative governments.

"Amazing ex-miners like Charles Chiverton and Mick Newton are campaigning tooth and nail yet MPs like (Hucknall’s) Mark Spencer have shown little or no interest in our ex-miner’s or their families.

Coun John Wilmott (Ash Ind), who represents Hucknall North, said: “I’m proud that our councillors voted so strongly for this.

"It was especially poignant at my colleague Coun Baird – an ex-miner of 30-odd years at Bentinck Colliery – seconded the amendment.

"John was an outspoken critic of the Government in his time on the pits.

"He became a reluctant TV star on programmes like Panorama who followed his battle for better pay and conditions.

“Bottom Pit and Top Pit in Hucknall played a key role in life in Hucknall.

"They shaped our marvellous town.

"Now, despite promises from Boris Johnson in the General Election, they have been told that they can’t have the money they rightly saved.”