Scargill barred as trustee of charities

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Miners' union leader Arthur Scargill has been suspended from the chairmanship of two charities after accusations that virtually all the funds of one were due to be transferred to another.

The Charity Commissioners took the action after an investigation into the activities of the Yorkshire Miners' Welfare Trust Fund Scheme and Yorkshire Miners Welfare Convalescent Homes. It is understood that more than pounds 800,000 out of total assets estimated at pounds 920,000 was to be switched from the trust fund to the convalescent homes organisation.

Commissioners have suspended Mr Scargill - who claims that he acted in the best interests of the beneficiaries of the fund - from his two chairmanships allegedly because not all the trustees of the donor charity were fully aware of the plan.

It is also understood that the action was taken on the grounds that gifts have to be made on the basis that a charity can meet the full range of legitimate calls on its resources, not just one. Trustees must ensure that the donation is justified and that the organisation can afford it.

The convalescent homes charity operates two establishments, one of which is owned by the National Union of Mine-workers, of which Mr Scargill is president. Richard Fries, chief charity commissioner, said there was therefore a potential conflict of interest because of Mr Scargill's posts in the two charities and the union. He emphasised that the investigation was still continuing.

Commissioners intervened last January after complaints from trustees about alleged mismanagement and maladministration of the funds.

Mr Scargill, who was said to have adopted a "pivotal" role in the two charities, was served with a notice yesterday morning as he arrived at the Barnsley headquarters of the NUM. The action means that he will not be able to act as a trustee of the charities during the course of the investigation. It is understood that the queries over the transfer of the pounds 800,000 may only be one of the issues concerning some of Mr Scargill's fellow trustees about the way in which the two organisations were managed.

A spokeswoman for the commissioners said, however, there was no question of the miners' leader profiting personally from any of the dealings. "The commissioners have taken this action to protect the assets of the two charities," she said.

The trust fund was set up in 1984 to benefit pitmen, former pitmen and their families. The convalescent homes were established in 1966.

In a statement, Mr Scargill said he had always acted in the interests of the beneficiaries of the charities and that all the matters raised by the commissioners had been brought about by the privatisation of British Coal. He said: "The trustees, including myself as chairman, have continued to take advice from the trusts' legal advisers including leading counsel who specialises in trust law and are satisfied that at all times the trustees and I have acted in the best interests of the beneficiaries."