Mark Wood, chair of the children’s charity the NSPCC, has said that it was one of eight charities contacted by the Information Commissioner last year over concerns about the charity’s adherence to the Telephone Preference Service rules. He told MPs last month that this was not the case.
In an evidence session on 20 October before the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into charity fundraising, Wood told MPs that the NSPCC was not among the charities that had received a letter, which Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner, said had been sent to eight major charities in March 2014.
He was responding to a question from the Conservative MP David Jones, who had asked whether any of the charities interviewed that day – NSPCC, Oxfam and the RSPCA – were approached by the ICO last year about its concerns. "We were not," Wood said, while Daphne Harris, chair of Oxfam, and Karen Brown, chair of the RSPCA, also denied that they had received letters.
But in written evidence submitted to the committee since the hearing and published on its website earlier this month, Wood, a former chief executive of the consultancy Jardine Lloyd Thompson Employee Benefits, enclosed a copy of the letter the NSPCC had received from the ICO in April 2014.
He said in his written evidence that he had not recognised Graham’s description of the letter earlier in the same evidence session before the MPs, which is why he said the NSPCC was not one of the eight charities that had received a copy.
He added that the letter was a "guidance circular to a wide range of organisations with no reference to any specific poor practice at the NSPCC or any issues that specifically needed to be addressed by the NSPCC".
Graham, who had given evidence to the committee immediately before Wood, had told MPs that the charities that received the letter appeared to have ignored what the ICO had told them and carried on with their previous practices.
He had said that it was disappointing that the Daily Mail investigation into fundraising practices, published in July, claimed to have found evidence of charities overriding TPS rules in order to call warm donors because the ICO had in its letter expressly drawn attention to the fact that the rules should not be overridden except with prior consent.
The NSPCC was one of the four charities implicated in the Daily Mail’s investigation, as was Macmillan Cancer Support, which last month admitted to having received an automated letter from the ICO in March 2014.
Both charities are being investigated by the ICO and the Fundraising Standards Board – alongside the British Red Cross and Oxfam - to determine whether an agency working on their behalf, GoGen, which is now defunct, exploited loopholes in the TPS rules.
The ICO has declined to reveal the identity of the other six charities which received letters last year, but says it has submitted this information to the PACAC, which is expected to publish it shortly.
An NSPCC spokesman said: "We are continuing to work with the ICO and assessing how the changes to regulations affect our fundraising activity."