Gwythian Prins 'should have consulted' before publishing anti-EU article

Andrew Purkis, the former Charity Commission board member who complained about the piece, says the regulator's chair has told him Prins should have consulted other board members before proceeding

Gwytian Prins: Charity Commission board member
Gwytian Prins: Charity Commission board member

An investigation has concluded that the academic Gwythian Prins should have consulted his fellow Charity Commission board members before publishing an anti-EU essay, according to the person who sparked the inquiry.

Andrew Purkis, a former Charity Commission board member, wrote last month to William Shawcross, the commission’s chair, alleging that Prins’s essay Beyond the Ghosts - does EU membership erode Britain's global influence?, published by the group Historians for Britain and the Institute for Economic Affairs, was a "multiple breach" of the Code of Conduct for Board Members of Public Bodies.

The essay was published just weeks after the commission issued controversial guidance on campaigning ahead of the EU referendum, which it later revised after receiving complaints that it was too restrictive.

In response to Purkis’s complaint, the Charity Commission and the Cabinet Office said they would be looking into whether or not Prins had breached the code.

Purkis said he had received a reply from Shawcross detailing the outcome of the investigation.

"Shawcross said he had considered the matter and discussed it with Prins and the other board members," said Purkis. "He said he had concluded that Professor Prins should have informed and consulted the board that he was considering publishing the article.

"It was an inadvertent error and Shawcross has put in place all the necessary measures to ensure there will not be a repetition."

Purkis said he believed the letter amounted to a tacit acknowledgment that Prins had indeed breached the code – albeit inadvertently.

"What was said was said with good grace, and I think it was the least harmful way of saying yes, he breached the code," Purkis said.

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "Charity Commission board members are part-time and have outside interests. In this case, the failure to disclose the essay in advance was an honest mistake.

"The Charity Commission chairman has dealt with the matter and put in place measures to prevent any repetition."

A Charity Commission spokesman said the regulator did not comment on private correspondence.

Prins’s term as a board member was due to come to an end on 2 June, but it was announced this week that he had been reappointed for a further year.

Board members Eryl Besse and Tony Leifer, who were also due to step down in the coming months, had their terms renewed until December 2018, and Orlando Fraser had his extended until the end of December 2017.

Purkis said he thought it was "significant" that it appeared Prins would be the first of the reappointed board members to leave.

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