July 5 2000

Union boss 'put No 10 visits on his expenses'


ROGER LYONS, the trade union leader, fiddled his expenses by claiming for food and drink during meetings in Downing Street with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, a tribunal was told yesterday.

The General Secretary of the Manufacturing, Science and Finance Union allegedly made unreceipted claims for "sustenance" despite receiving hospitality from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The allegation against him was made by Marcia Solomon, a former employee, at an employment tribunal in London where she is seeking compensation and damages for unfair dismissal. She claims that Mr Lyons and Nelson Mendes, the union's finance head, between them defrauded the MSF of up to 130,000 while "living the high life off union funds" during her three-year employment.

Ms Solomon, a former secretarial assistant to Mr Mendes, said of Mr Lyons: "He seemed to be claiming back unreceipted expenditure for food and drink in respect of almost every single meeting he ever attended, including meetings with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The same was true with the various media interviews Roger was conducting.

"One reason I found this all so bizarre was that I would expect tea and coffee to be provided at such meetings. I certainly would not expect that an individual invited to meet the Prime Minister would be expected to pay for hospitality at that meeting."

The sustenance figure claimed is said to be 4 after meeting Tony Blair and 19.65 after meeting Gordon Brown, sums that Mr Lyons is expected to maintain were to buy drinks at a pub in Whitehall afterwards.

Ms Solomon, 32, was dismissed from her 19,500 job last December after outlining allegations against the two men to John Chowcat, who was then the union's assistant general secretary. Mr Chowcat has since left the union on severance terms said to amount to about 250,000.

Ms Solomon, who now works for the GMB union, which is supporting her in her claim, alleged that Mr Lyons misused union credit cards, obtained interest-free loans and misused expense accounts.

Sarah Moor, counsel for the MSF, told the tribunal that Mr Lyons, who had previously opted not to give evidence, would now do so and open his bank accounts to scrutiny.

The union contests the allegations and accuses Ms Solomon of being motivated by malice. The hearing continues today.

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