Scargill used Thatcherite policy in bid to buy London flat

  • 15 January 2014
  • From the section England
Shakespeare Tower, Barbican
Image caption The NUM flat was situated in Shakespeare Tower in London's sought-after Barbican Estate development

Former miners' union leader Arthur Scargill tried to use laws introduced by Margaret Thatcher to buy a council flat in London, the BBC has found.

In 1993 he applied to buy the flat on the prestigious Barbican estate under the right-to-buy scheme championed by Thatcher, his political enemy.

News that he tried to exploit a flagship Conservative policy has angered current miners' union leaders.

One former Yorkshire miner said: "It's so hypocritical it's unreal."

The rent on the flat was paid to the Corporation of London by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), of which Mr Scargill was the then president.

After Margaret Thatcher became prime minister in May 1979, the legislation to implement the right to buy was passed in the Housing Act 1980.

The sale price of a council house was based on its market value but also included a 33% to 50% discount to reflect the rents paid by tenants and encourage take-up. The policy became one of the major planks of Thatcherism.

Conservative minister Eric Pickles said: "The revolution is complete if even comrades like Arthur Scargill want to take up the right to buy."

Evidence of Mr Scargill's attempt to buy the Barbican property under the scheme is contained in legal documents obtained by the BBC's Inside Out programme.

The papers relate to a 2012 court case in which Mr Scargill lost the right to stay in his London flat for life at the expense of the NUM.

Image caption Arthur Scargill (centre) was the figurehead of the National Union of Miners (NUM)

The 76-year-old told the BBC that had he succeeded in buying the flat he would subsequently have transferred its ownership to the union.

He said this would have saved the union a substantial amount of money and provided it with an asset.

However, his application was refused because the flat in the Barbican Estate's Shakespeare Tower was not Mr Scargill's primary residence.

He did not mention in his application that the flat was paid for by the NUM and it was established in the Barbican court case that, from 1991 until 2008, the NUM's national executive committee did not know it was paying for the flat.

NUM general secretary Chris Kitchen said: "The fact that Scargill tried to use Thatcher's right-to-buy scheme is bad enough, but there is no evidence it would have been signed over to the NUM for the benefit of the members.

"We just have his word which 10 years ago would have been enough for me, but not now.

"Unfortunately the perception I had of Arthur the great trade unionist, socialist, just is nothing like the reality as to the man that I know now and that I've been at loggerheads with for most of my term of office."

'Huge outcry'

Former Scargill loyalist Jimmy Kelly, a miner at the Edlington Main pit near Doncaster in the 1980s, said he was astonished to learn of the attempt to buy the Barbican flat.

"It's so hypocritical it's unreal," he said. "It was Thatcher's legislation, actually giving council tenants the right to buy their own houses.

"I think if it had been made public before then there'd have been a huge outcry. I think people would be astounded by knowing that.

"During the strike there was nothing better than him [Scargill], we'd have followed him to the end of the world and, in effect, we probably did."

Mr Pickles, the communities secretary, added: "This government's reinvigorated right to buy is helping build new affordable homes and gives something back to families who have worked hard, paid their rent and played by the rules."

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