MP Kevan Jones hits out with 10 questions Durham Miners must answer

Labour MP calls for Durham Miners Association to open up accounts and save jobs

Emily Barber Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, Kevan Jones
Shadow Minister for the Armed Forces, Kevan Jones

Durham miners have been presented with the ten questions they must answer over the cash that could save the Gala.

Labour MP Kevan Jones has raised the stakes in his funding battle with the Durham Miners’ Association, with a list of hard-hitting funding questions.

The Association has said it faces a difficult task in funding the Durham Miners’ Gala after it was handed a £2m legal bill in a failed fight to widen a Government compensation scheme.

After losing a battle on behalf of miners suffering from osteoarthritis the Association made clear it will need extra help to keep the Gala going.

Durham North MP Mr Jones seized on the cash-call, saying it raised questions over what the former NUM branch had done with more than £6m left in its accounts when it converted to an association in 2007.

He said: “The Durham Miners Association says that we must take into consideration the legal costs that they have incurred in recent years, as well as the losses in the stock market that their finances are said to have suffered from.

“But even taking these into account, does the fact that the DMA had £6.4m on its books in 2007 not mean that the relatively small £60,000 costs of running the Gala could easily have been met from within their own funds?

“And if the Durham Area NUM claims to be active and responsible for benefits to its members, why in 2007 did it not register any activities in its returns to the Certification Officer, and why did it only pay out £2,400 in benefits compared to the £81,000 it spent on pens for its members?”

Mr Jones added: “I am a proud supporter of the Durham Miners’ Gala and I believe that it is a fantastic event that celebrates the rich cultural and historical traditions of mining in the North East. It is a unique celebration of Durham mining and trade union history.”

Last night the Durham Miners’ Association hit out at the MP, issuing a statement defending its work on behalf of its members, though stopping short of publishing its accounts.

A spokesman said: “We are proud of our record in establishing case law which has resulted in over £4bn in compensation being awarded to British miners.

“For over ten years, Jones has waged a vendetta against the Durham Miners and its solicitors, Thompsons. He has raised all these questions on many occasions and they have been answered and we do not intend to revisit them.

“Accounts to which Jones refers were properly audited within the rules of the Durham Area (NUM). As we have said in previous press statements, we are not claiming that we have no money left but what we have left is greatly depleted since the Durham Miners’ (NUM) accounts of 2007 and it is self-evident, with no working miners paying contributions, a time will come in the near future when the Gala cannot be funded.

“Jones has shown no sympathy with our disabled miners who, did not lose their case in the High Court but were prevented from having their case heard. About this scandal, Jones has nothing to say.

“Jones’s latest outpourings have created a situation where we have been inundated by members of the public and the Labour and trade union movement asking us why, when we are facing so many problems in our communities, is Jones spending his time attacking the Durham Miners?”

THE TEN QUESTIONS

1) NUM Durham Area received £10.9m from its solicitors for the handling of the coal miners’ compensation scheme. In 2007 it had £6.4m in investments. What has happened to this money?

2) Why in 2007 did the Durham NUM have offshore funds of £687,628 with a market value at £934,413?

3) With the North East Area NUM having only 35 full members, including only seven contributing members in Durham, why did the President and General Secretary have a combined remuneration package of almost £170,000, particularly as the expenditure for the 2007 Gala was just £59,595?

4) When were the General Secretary and the President of the NUM North East Area and the NUM Durham Area last elected by the membership?

5) Why did only 12 people, three of whom had a direct financial interest, take the decision to de-list the Durham NUM as a trade union and establish the DMA as an unincorporated association, whose accounts are no longer published?

6) In 2007, the Durham Area NUM had only seven contributing members and 15,370 associate members. Why were these people not consulted about the future assets and organisation of the union?

7) The Durham area NUM claimed to be active and responsible for benefits to their members. So why is it that they did not register any activities in their returns to the Certification Officer in 2007, and only paid out £2,400 in benefits?

8) Do the DMA leaders have cars and travel paid for as part of their current roles? The
2007 accounts they registered a combined £12,318 in cars, and an additional combined £16,370 in ‘other’ expenses, which they have not
disclosed.

9) The DMA claim to have been burdened by a £2m legal bill for the osteoporosis case, which they lost. Why was this funded completely from the union’s coffers, and why did their solicitors, who received a £120m, not make a contribution?

10) If the DMA are asking for public financial support for the Gala, why are they not willing to publish their accounts?

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