Guarantee of free coal to 1,500 former miners

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More than 1,000 former miners will be guaranteed their entitlement to free coal or cash for life under Government moves to cover their concessionary fuel allowance following the collapse of UK Coal.

The Chancellor yesterday announced the Government will guarantee the concessionary fuel allowance for around 400 mine workers who lost their jobs as a result of the recent restructuring of UK Coal as well as around 1,000 retired workers previously employed by the company.

In total, around 1,500 former mine workers who were losing their allowance will be entitled to choose between £1,300 of free coal, or up to £600 cash in lieu of coal per year – in line with the current beneficiaries of the scheme.

The National Concessionary Fuel Agreements were put in place between British Coal and mining unions in the 1980s. When the British Coal Corporation was privatised in 1994, the Government retained the obligation to provide concessionary fuel to former British Coal workers entitled to it and around 69,000 former mine workers or their families receive a fuel allowance each year.

The concessionary fuel arrangements for UK Coal were funded by UK Coal as part of their inheritance as a successor company.

Following a restructuring of the company, and its collapse into administration in the summer, former miners and widows were informed that they would no longer be receiving the fuel allowance due to them.

The Government’s decision follows a concerted campaign by MPs. On Monday Bassetlaw MP John Mann organised a protest outside UK Coal headquarters in Harworth, and last week spoke out in Parliament against the treatment of former miners and their widows. He said: “I am delighted the Government and UK Coal bosses have caved in to pressure and have finally been forced to do the decent thing. The concessionary fuel allowance is a contractual obligation to be paid to former miners and in some cases their widows. It is not a benefit, but part of what these former miners are owed.”

Selby MP Nigel Adams led a delegation of Conservative MPs who asked Mr Osborne to intervene. He said: “It’s great news for the hundreds of former mining families who depend on this allowance especially as winter approaches.”

Speaking at Thoresby Colliery in Mansfield, George Osborne said: “I wanted to help and because we are fixing the economy, we can. It is right and fair that we make sure they continue to receive their allowance.”