Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

SPAC Nation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:42 pm on 8th January 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Helen Whately Helen Whately The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 9:42 pm, 8th January 2020

I begin by thanking Mr Reed for calling this debate and raising these very serious concerns. I also thank his constituents and all those who have had the courage to speak up and bring this situation to his and our attention. I thank other Members who stayed here tonight to intervene and contribute to this debate.

I am answering the debate, as the Minister for arts, heritage and tourism, on behalf of the Minister for civil society, Baroness Barran, who sits in the House of Lords. The allegations concern a charity, and charity policy sits within our Department. I am grateful to have the Minister for safeguarding and vulnerability—the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend Victoria Atkins—and the Minister for London, my hon. Friend Chris Philp, on the Front Bench with me.

I have listened carefully to the hon. Member for Croydon North; I have read a great deal of the media coverage; and I watched the “Panorama” documentary. I find the accusations deeply concerning. These are very serious allegations, and they clearly must be properly and urgently investigated.

The Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry into SPAC Nation on 5 December 2019, and that inquiry is looking into its finances, governance, safeguarding and overall compliance with charity law. However, it was not the Charity Commission’s first engagement with SPAC Nation. The Charity Commission launched a regulatory compliance case in April 2018 and then issued an action plan to SPAC Nation’s trustees in June 2019.

The Charity Commission was not satisfied with SPAC Nation’s response to the action plan. Along with the further allegations and concerns that have been raised in the media and by the hon. Gentleman, that is why it launched its statutory inquiry in December. It also issued an order under section 84 of the Charities Act 2011, requiring the charity to bank the money it holds in cash.

I hope the hon. Gentleman will understand that while the Charity Commission is carrying out its statutory inquiry, I cannot comment on the specific allegations in this case. A report will be published by the Charity Commission once the investigation is complete. Although the Charity Commission cannot investigate criminal offences, it does have the power to refer charities to the police. I understand that, in parallel, the Metropolitan police are already reviewing these allegations of fraud and other offences relating to SPAC Nation that he has raised, including directly with them.

One of the most upsetting aspects of the allegations is the alleged exploitation of vulnerable young people. The suggestion that the very people who most need help and support are being taken advantage of is particularly worrying. This is a known risk, which is why a huge amount of work has been and is being done across government to improve safeguarding practices and make our society safer for young people.