Scargill defiant after calls to quit from miners' charity

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The Independent Online
Arthur Scargill yesterday threatened the Charity Commissioners with legal proceedings after they accused him of misconduct. Barrie Clement, Labour Editor, finds the miners' leader insisting that he has always acted in the best interests of his members.

The Charity Commissioners yesterday called for the removal of Arthur Scargill from the chairmanship of two coal industry welfare organisations after he was found guilty of mismanagement.

After a year-long investigation the commissioners said it was "necessary or desirable" that Mr Scargill and Frank Cave, president and vice president respectively of the National Union of Mineworkers, should be removed from their posts with the charities.

Mr Scargill yesterday responded by threatening the commissioners with legal action in the High Court and pointed out that the NUM national executive and annual conference had backed his decisions over the welfare organisations' assets.

NUM officials have until the end of January to contest the decision to remove them from the trustee boards controlling the Yorkshire Miners' Welfare Trust Fund Scheme and the Yorkshire Miners' Welfare Convalescent Homes.

The investigation by the commissioners followed complaints by two trustees nominated by British Coal, who argued that the transfer of pounds 800,000 from the trust fund to the convalescent homes had been improper.

The two British Coal nominees said the decision had been taken at a meeting where several trustees were absent and that the transfer had failed to follow the correct procedures.

Mr Scargill's fellow trustees alleged that inaccurate minutes had been presented to meetings of the trust fund scheme's most senior officials.

There is no question that Mr Scargill or Mr Cave profited personally from the trans- action. It is thought they were keen to switch the cash to avoid the trust fund becoming involved in "partnership-funded schemes". These were introduced at the time of coal industry privatisation in 1995.

Mr Scargill and Mr Cave opposed the schemes because they believe that such welfare projects should be funded by the state and management - a position they believe is endorsed by their union's policy.

The commissioners also found that places at the convalescent home run by the charity were "improperly denied" to ex-mineworkers who failed to keep up union membership after taking voluntary redundancy.

The two union officials were suspended from the trusteeship of the charities in June, pending the investigation.

Mr Scargill has always insisted that he has acted in the best interests of the two organisations' beneficiaries and that the decisions had been based on the advice of counsel.

He has insisted that the trustees of the fund decided in May 1995 that it was not in the best interests of the trust to accept "partnership funding".