Think-tanks: Charitable Status

Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons on 9th March 2023.

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Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)

Whether she has had recent discussions with the Charity Commission on the potential impact of the charitable status of some think-tanks on the transparency, accountability and effective regulation of those bodies.

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Equalities)

Think-tanks in England and Wales that have charitable status must ensure that they abide by the same rules that apply to all charities under charity law. That includes meeting the Charity Commission’s reporting requirements, and in so doing, demonstrating transparency and accountability to the public.

Photo of Peter Grant Peter Grant Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Europe)

A number of think-tank charities do exactly what the Minister has suggested, and they gain plaudits from transparency campaigners for their willingness to be open about who funds them. There are others that refuse to give out any meaningful information. They take millions of pounds from American oil companies, and produce so-called research briefings that deny climate change and encourage Governments to ban legitimate protest against oil and gas development, for example. A lot of them are housed at 55 Tufton Street, and pay their rent to a wealthy donor to the Conservative party. They do not ever educate anybody, which for an education charity might be seen to be a wee bit of a problem. What they are in effect doing is laundering money, by taking money from sources that are, by law, prohibited from funding party political activities in the United Kingdom, and using it to promote politically biased research. When are the Government going to get to grips with that, and recognise that a research institution that does not follow the rules of ethics is not a research institution and is not an educational charity, but a political organisation that should be regulated and taxed on that basis?

Photo of Stuart Andrew Stuart Andrew Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Business and Trade) (Minister for Equalities)

If Peter Grant has a specific concern about an individual charity or organisation, he needs to raise that with the Charity Commission. It is the regulator, and he must take that up with the commission.

Photo of Lia Nici Lia Nici Conservative, Great Grimsby

I thank the Minister for meeting me a few weeks ago to talk about Grimsby ice rink. The ice rink is coming up to 50 years old, and it probably has about two years of life left. Places such as Grimsby have not had the kind of investment from Sport England that we would really like, and it could be key to regenerating a new area in Grimsby that is currently very deprived. Can he meet me?