HC Deb 21 January 2004 vol 416 cc1312-3
5. Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD)

If he will make a statement on the arrangements for retirement on the ground of ill health for miners in Wales. [148354]

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Peter Hain)

Mining has been an extremely important industry in Wales for generations, and miners deserve a decent retirement. It is a dangerous occupation, and I am very concerned that proper benefits are paid to miners when they retire, especially if retirement is due to ill health.

Mr. Williams

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. He will be aware that the serious ill health scheme, which has supported miners who have to retire through ill health, has run out of cash. The Government recently received £51 million arising from a 1993 revaluation of the investment fund. That was before the Government took the responsibility of acting as a guarantor for the scheme. Will the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry meet with coalfield MPs and National Union of Mineworkers officials to see whether we can release the £51 million so that miners can have that support during their most testing time?

Mr. Hain

I am very happy to meet with coalfield MPs—indeed, I am one myself, so I shall be meeting with myself—to see whether we can resolve this matter. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Government paid to the mineworkers compensation scheme £400 million last year in order to boost its opportunities. We should try to resolve this matter together.

Mr. Speaker

I call Michael Fabricant—[Interruption.] Order. Once again, the House is far too noisy.