Arthur Scargill faces new fight – with his own union

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The Independent Online

In his heyday Arthur Scargill was the union hero who took on the Thatcher government in the bitter miners' strike of 1984-5. But now, more than quarter of a century later, Old King Coal has another battle on his hands – against the very union he used to lead.

Yesterday it emerged that Mr Scargill, who is now 72, has been told by the National Union of Mineworkers that he no longer qualifies for full membership. Mr Scargill, who stood down as the union's president in 2002, is one of a number of people who has received a letter telling them of the decision to revoke their membership. He is understood to have told friends he intends to fight the move.

Ken Capstick, who has worked for the union for 30 years and currently edits its Miner magazine, has also been told he is being expelled.

"We have been told that the reason we are being expelled is that we don't qualify under the union's rules," Mr Capstick said. "A number of us have been raising claims of financial irregularity in the union and I believe we are now being subjected to a witch-hunt because of this. We will definitely challenge this decision, which has been made on extremely spurious grounds."

Mr Scargill has received wide criticism for arguing about the withdrawal of payments to him from the union. It was reported in June that Mr Scargill's solicitor had written to the NUM to demand the reinstatement of concessionary benefits which were removed as a cost-cutting measure.

However union members were angry after it was revealed that Mr Scargill reportedly received tens of thousands of pounds in annual payments for a London flat.

Mr Scargill was given use of the property the Barbican area of the capital when the union was based nearby in 1982. But the offices have been in Sheffield since 1983, leading many to question why he was able to continue claiming expenses for the rent and running costs of the apartment.

The NUM's national secretary Chris Kitchen said Mr Scargill remained honorary president of the union, but had lost his voting rights.

Mr Kitchen said Mr Scargill could become a "life member", "retired member" or "honorary member", but not a full financial member.

He confirmed that Mr Scargill had been sent a letter informing him that he did not qualify as a member according to the union's own rulebook – which Mr Scargill was instrumental in drawing up. Mr Kitchen added that the the union's Yorkshire area section had reviewed Mr Scargill's membership and made the decision.