It seems The Sunday Times examined the financial records of the Northumberland Branch of the NUM for the period from 1996 to 2010, when Mr Lavery was its general secretary. Noting donations totalling £1.6 million, the paper suggested Mr Lavery’s payments of “almost £750,000” suggested that he had profited from compensation paid to sick and injured miners.
In a response to the allegations on his website, Mr Lavery pointed out:
We represented tens of thousands of former miners and succeeded in bringing in tens of millions of pounds in compensation and reduced earnings allowances. That has been a lifeline for these former miners and their families.
The recent attacks in the media have failed to represent the work that I am proud as a full time official to have played a part in. The biggest criticism would appear to be the fact the NUM employed its officials on excellent wages, terms and conditions. This is something the union fought for all of its existence and something that we can rightly be proud of. My wages, terms and conditions were set according to union agreements and I was privileged to be well paid for a job I loved.
The Sunday Times went on to question the redundancy pay Mr Lavery received when he resigned as president of the whole NUM (a position he took up in 2002) to stand for Parliament. The issues were whether he should have received any redundancy pay at all, and whether he should have declared it to the Independent Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.
Mr Lavery explained:
Following allegations that this should have been declared, I met with the Parliamentary Commissioner at the earliest opportunity to provide clarity on the matter and will continue to cooperate fully.
Finally, last weekend, The Sunday Times alleged that Mr Lavery received a home loan believed to be around £250,000 from the National Union of Mineworkers (Northumberland Area) provident and benevolent fund. He stated:
Sections of the press and sadly some within my own party have sought for political ends to use innuendo and half-truths to attack me and my proud record as a trade unionist. They have also made false allegations about a £250,000 mortgage between the union and myself, which I totally refute and am taking legal counsel on.
None of the allegations related to criminal activity but supporters of Mr Lavery have made it very clear that they consider him to be undergoing trial-by-media.
Fellow Labour MP Grahame Morris tweeted: “Solidarity with good friend and comrade Ian Lavery under sustained attack from Tory press.”
Ucatt (the union for workers in the construction sector) activist Stuart Grice tweeted: “Ian Lavery is a decent and honest MP. keep fighting the fight comrade.”
And everybody’s favourite nonagenarian, Harry Leslie Smith, tweeted: “Murdoch press will stop at nothing to see the end of trade unionism democracy and a just society.”
This is likely to receive a fair bit of publicity from the right-wing press – if only for the reasons Mr Smith laid out on Twitter.
This Writer will not offer any judgements other than to remind everyone that it would be wise to remember UK law insists on the presumption of innocence.
Before you make judgements of your own, please take the time to read Mr Lavery’s response to the allegations.
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