A report by the Certification Officer (a government body responsible for the conduct of trade unions) has shown Ian Lavery, the chair of the Labour Party, received £165,000 from the Northumberland area National Union of Mineworkers which had just 10 members, four years ago, before he entered Parliament in 2010. This makes sadly familiar reading.
Although Lavery has broken no laws, he should not be defended by the left. Lavery’s own statement is incredibly weasely: “Under my stewardship, the union always complied with the rules and the certification officer signed off every year’s transactions. As the Certification Officer’s report makes clear, no member of the union, past or present, has made a complaint about the financial affairs of the union. I am pleased that the Certification Officer has decided to not appoint an inspector or take further action.”
Lavery ran the Northumberland Area NUM for 18 years and was also the last NUM President, succeeding Arthur Scargill, who was also involved in a scandal over his Barbican flat, which the union pays for . As with Scargill, payments were made to Lavery to allow him to buy property, initially with a loan from the benevolent fund. He was able to profit from by putting the money into an endowment fund, even though it “underperformed”. In 2007 the NUM wrote off the loan. When Lavery became an MP in 2010 he received termination payments of almost £90,000 as the role of President was then abolished.
Neither Lavery nor the NUM were able to provide proof of a proper redundancy process. In fact the union asked for £30,000 to be returned by Lavery but accepted £15,000 as a final settlement. defence Lavery has defended his actions by pointing out he will not be investigated any further and highlighting the work he did while in charge of the NUM: “It is astonishing to see the level of media interest in a union being cleared of wrongdoing and in the terms of my employment, dating back to 1994, which were set by our members.” What is missing here?
Lavery was paid for his role, he wasn’t a volunteer, yet he somehow received payments that would far exceed anything earned by the miners he represented from 1992 to 2010, many of whom lost their jobs as the industry declined. Miners still suffer from the ill-health caused by working in the industry; many had their livelihoods and prospects of working again completely destroyed. Yet just ten members approved these payments? Such a lack of scrutiny should never have been allowed.
As with MPs, union officials should not receive more than an average wage. The Labour left should be clear that Lavery’s actions stink. The labour movement should have no truck in defending corruption and bad practice, whoever it may involve.