Former miners’ president Arthur Scargill faces £100,000 legal claim from his own NUM union

NUM Scotland badgeThe National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is threatening to sue its former leader Arthur Scargill for £100,000, a BBC Inside Out investigation has discovered.

The money was paid to cover legal bills run up by the International Energy and Miners Organisation (IEMO),  which Scargill is president of.

The IEMO spent it recovering a loan of £29,500 given to former NUM chief executive Roger Windsor. The NUM is also questioning other payments of over £600,000 to the IEMO.

In a statement to the BBC’s Inside Out, Scargill said the £29,500 the organisation recovered from  Windsor had been donated to the NUM and if costs were recovered, it would pay back more to the union.

Scargill said the NUM agreed in 1990 to pay costs for the IEMO’s legal action against Windsor, who had still not paid the IEMO his total debt. The NUM’s legal action would also be against Alain Simon, general secretary of the Paris-based IEMO.

The BBC Inside Out programme says little is known about the role of the IEMO. No accounts have been published since 1993.

In 2010, the NUM’s current president Chris Kitchen stopped subscription payments of £20,000 a year to the IEMO, which had been paid since 1985 and totalled more than £464,000.

NUM president Chris Kitchen said he was refused access to the IEMO’s accounts. “The trouble happened when I was asked to justify paying that amount of money and I asked for sight of accounts from the IEMO and was refused to be given them,” he told the BBC.

“It’s difficult, you can’t justify expenditure if you can’t know what it’s been put to.”

Scargill said the NUM had breached its own conference decision when it stopped the payments. He said the IEMO’s accounts had always been presented in accordance with the instructions of its congress.

Meanwhile, the NUM is also asking questions about a one-off payment of £145,000 paid to the IEMO shortly before Scargill retired from the NUM in 2002. The union’s national executive committee was never consulted.

Scargill said the payment was a grant and because it was made by an NUM trust fund, it did not need to be reported to the union’s national executive committee.

Since he stepped down as NUM president 12 years ago, there have been many questions about the way Scargill ran the union and especially what he did with its money.

The union’s bosses discovered they were still paying £30,000 a year in rent for his London flat.

When they stopped paying in 2011, Scargill sued the NUM at the High Court in England, but lost. Documents arising from the case show that Scargill, a fierce opponent of Margaret Thatcher, tried to use her “right-to-buy” legislation for council tenants when he made an application in 1993 to buy the Barbican flat at a discounted price.

The 1984-85 mineworkers’ strike – led by then NUM leader Arthur Scargill, who refused to hold an industrial ballot of NUM members about strike action – bitterly divided many communities across the UK and polarised a generation of voters in Scotland and the UK.

The deep-mine coal industry in Scotland collapsed last year with the bankruptcy of its operator. There remains large reserves of deep-mine coal in Scotland.

Other documents included a letter apparently from NUM vice-president Frank Cave setting out Scargill’s alleged right to remain in the Barbican flat at the NUM’s expense for life. Cave died of cancer a month after the letter was written.

In his judgment, Mr Justice Underhill said it was very unlikely Cave had written the letter. There had been “a lack of transparency” in Scargill’s dealings, and he had been “prepared to be economical with the truth”.

The judge said: “I believe he suffers to a high degree from the common tendency to reconstruct his recollection in a manner favourable to himself.”

Scargill said he played no part in writing the letter but, after an amendment to the letter made in Scargill’s own handwriting was produced in evidence, Mr Justice Underhill ruled against him.

Scargill said he stood by his evidence, and that the judge “inexplicably disregarded” other evidence in the case, indicating that the late Mr Cave had been “alert, aware and orientated” right up to the time of his death.

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