MINERS’ leaders have hit back after being “smeared’’ by a MP.

The Durham Miners’ Association (DMA) warned earlier this week that it might struggle to fund the Durham Miners’ Gala in future because it must pay a £2m legal bill for an unsuccessful compensation claim for miners with osteoarthritis.

North Durham Labour MP Kevan Jones said that the last DMA accounts filed in 2007 - before it deregistered as a union and became a claims handling company - showed that it had £6m, including £1m in offshore bank accounts. He questioned what had happened to this money.

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But the DMA has said that it suffered losses in the financial crisis.

Spokesman David Temple said: “The investments of the Durham Miners, which are managed by a professional management company – as are all trade union funds – took a massive hit in the stock market crash, which followed the 2008 banking crisis.

“This wiped an estimated 40 per cent off their value.

“Since that time, in addition to representing our members in thousands of tribunals, processing individual legal claims on their behalf, paying a permanent staff to maintain and repair our Grade II historic listed buildings, we have funded 14 Galas.

“We have never said that we have no money left. What we are saying is that looking after the interests of an ageing membership, at a time when their benefits are increasingly under attack by an uncaring government must take priority over the funding of the Gala.”

Mr Temple added: “Rather than condemn a legal system which has denied these miners their day in court, Jones chooses to smear the very organisation which has fought a six-year battle to get compensation for these men."

The DMA is urging people to help fund The Gala by joining its Friends of the Durham Miners’ Gala. Details are at www.durhamminers.org