Friday, 15 November 2013

George Osborne promises coal or cash for ex-miners - as is their right

During a visit to Thoresby Colliery in north Nottinghamshire this afternoon, the Chancellor George Osborne announced that he would reverse the decision to cut the entitlement of former miners' winter fuel allowance. Mind you, he didn't quite put it like that.

Osborne said the government would guarantee 400 pit workers, who had recently been made redundant, a free delivery of coal every year worth £1,300 or £600 in cash instead. A further 1,000 retired workers will also get help under a concessionary fuel scheme dating back to the 1980s.

Mr Osborne said it was "important to support a group of people who through no fault of their own had lost out" and demonstrated the government's wish to support workers in all industries across the country. "I am determined to help those ex-miners so the government is going to step in and pay for the concessionary coal," he added.

However, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, John Mann, who has been campaigning to save the miners' fuel allowance, said ministers had "caved" in to pressure in the face of potential legal action. "The concessionary fuel allowance is a contractual obligation to be paid to former miners and in some cases their widows," he said. "It is not a benefit, but part of what these former miners are owed."

The National Concessionary Fuel Agreements were put in place between the state-owned British Coal Corporation and the mining unions in the 1980s. When British Coal was privatised in 1994, the government retained the obligation to provide concessionary fuel to former British Coal workers entitled to it. The responsibility passed to UK Coal when the company restructured its operations and changed its name in 2001.

Osborne later tweeted: "When UK Coal went bust ex miners lost their coal allowance. A very unfair situation I have put right today."

Give me strength.