HC Deb 25 May 2000 vol 350 cc595-6W
Mr. Caton

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what plans he has to reduce the percentage of the surpluses from the Mineworkers Pension Scheme and British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme taken by the Government. [123438]

Mrs. Liddell

Since 1994, the DTI has acted as guarantor to the former British Coal pension schemes. In doing so it underwrites 100 per cent. of any downside risk to guaranteed benefits in the event of scheme deficits. The guarantee means that basic pensions will always rise at least in line with inflation and will never fall in cash terms. In return the Government receive 50 per cent. of any actuarial scheme surpluses—the remaining 50 per cent. being available to the scheme Trustees for distribution among their memberships. The Government have no plans to re-open the guarantee arrangements, but it is discussing with the Trustees whether there are opportunities to build upon them to the mutual benefit of Scheme members and Government.

Ms Squire

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry when he next plans to meet trade unions to discuss the use of the surplus in the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme and the British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme. [123126]

Mrs. Liddell

[holding answer 24 May 2000]: Decisions on the allocation of the members' share of any surpluses in the coal pension schemes are principally issues for the Trustees of the schemes. I meet representatives of the mining unions regularly and I am always prepared to discuss a broad range of issues including the Mineworkers' Pension Scheme.