Lavery denies claims over union payments

Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck.
Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck.

Morpeth’s MP has come under further pressure over financial arrangements with a trade union after a fresh matter was brought up on the BBC programme Newsnight.

But Ian Lavery has again clarified his position and strongly denied claims that he has benefited from compensation payments made to sick former miners.

He was Northumberland branch general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) from 1996 and from 2002, he was national NUM president.

He resigned to take up his seat in Parliament in 2010.

Newsnight reported that the MP for Wansbeck received a £72,500 mortgage in 1994 from the NUM benevolent fund and was charged less than half the market interest rate.

It said it was yet to be established in public whether the mortgage has been paid off in full by Mr Lavery, or if a large portion of it was written off.

This relates to the part of its investigation which says the NUM wrote off a sum of £109,911 in 2007.

Last month, an article in the Sunday Times newspaper included criticism over his remuneration and expenses between 1996 and 2010 – the union received £1.6million of donations from miners who had been compensated for industrial injuries over the same period.

In addition, a complaint was lodged with Kathryn Hudson, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, that he did not declare £60,000 in redundancy pay, which was said to have been paid over a three-year period, in the House of Commons register of members’ interests.

In a statement, Mr Lavery said: “As the former general secretary of the NUM (Northumberland area), I am extremely proud of our record in gaining the maximum compensation, running into tens of millions of pounds for members, former members and their families.

“This was at a time when they were being abandoned by their former employer.

“My contract of employment, which set out my redundancy, was signed in 1994 long before the union’s success in achieving compensation for mineworkers.

“My mortgage, also agreed in 1994, was granted by the union’s Provident and Benevolent fund, which received no contributions from compensation donations. The arrangement for accommodation was common for union officials across the British Coalfield.

“Until Ellington Colliery closed in 2005, Northumberland was a working coalfield and from 2002 I was national president of the union.

“All financial agreements between myself and my former employer were determined by the union’s executive in my absence.”