Following Michael Fabricant’s meeting on 30th January with former miners
from the Cannock coal fields now living in his constituency and concerned
about a Government raid on their pension funds, Michael promised to ask
whether a DTI minister would meet with them down in London. This has just
been refused outright.
Michael wrote to the minister in early February requesting a meeting in
London so that he could hear the miners’ views. Unusually, after 4 weeks
no reply was received from the minister. So Michael then tabled a formal
Parliamentary Written Question:
"To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she or one of her
Ministers will meet ex-miners from the Lichfield constituency in London to
discuss current arrangements for miners’ pension funds in the next four
This forced a reply from ministers. He has now received this Written
Parliamentary Answer which appears in Hansard today:
Mr. Timms: "Issues relating to the current arrangements for the miners’
pension funds are matters for the Schemes’ Trustees."
Michael Fabricant now says: "The answer is ‘No. We won’t see the
ex-miners’. I am frankly astonished at the arrogance of ministers who
cannot spare 30 minutes of their time to listen to a group of ex-miners who
would have travelled down to London to see him and who are concerned about
the future of their pensions. Their pension fund is currently being raided
by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to fill a gaping hole in his budget.
Currently, several hundred million pounds each year are being siphoned off.
Has New Labour lost touch with its roots so quickly?", Michael asks.
Meanwhile, the National Audit Office is investigating the matter after
Michael Fabricant placed the miners’ files in the hands of the Chairman of
the Public Accounts Committee.
"When I met with the ex-miners back in January, I told them that I might not
be able to provide successful outcomes, but at least I could explore certain
routes. I have to say, though, that having said to the minister that no-one
would expect him to commit there and then to any policy change, and that I
only expected him to listen to my constituents, he can’t even be bothered to
do that. He should be ashamed of himself." Michael adds.