Jon Trickett, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, has said he is "not minded to accept" the Charity Commission’s refusal to release details of correspondence it had with the Atlantic Bridge Education and Research Scheme, the defunct charity founded by the Conservative former defence secretary Liam Fox.
Last month, Trickett submitted a request to the commission under the Freedom of Information Act, asking it to disclose all papers submitted for its regulatory case report on Atlantic Bridge and any correspondence between the charity and the regulator during the investigation.
But in its response, dated 2 October, the commission said that it did hold letters, emails, telephone memos and minutes of meetings, but it would not release them because it was exempt from releasing information under the act if disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the exercise of its functions as a public authority.
Trickett told Third Sector yesterday that he would look into appealing against the regulator’s decision to the Information Commissioner's Office.
"There is a distinct air of mystery surrounding Atlantic Bridge," he said. "Many questions remain unanswered. And in my view it is the Charity Commission’s task to act in the public interest in such matters.
"I am not minded to accept this blank refusal of relevant information to be disclosed in the public interest."
A spokeswoman for the commission said it was always clear in its freedom of information responses that anyone who was dissatisfied could contact it to request a review of its decision before appealing to the Information Commissioner.
Atlantic Bridge was founded by the former defence secretary Liam Fox and run by his associate Adam Werritty to further public education on both sides of the Atlantic. It was wound up by its trustees in September 2011 after a regulatory case report in July 2010 by the commission found that it promoted a policy closely associated with the Conservative Party and said that its "current activities must cease immediately".
A supplementary report published in July this year revealed that the commission ruled out using its powers to try to recover funds spent on non-charitable activities. It said the regulator was satisfied that Atlantic Bridge had no outstanding funds when it closed after it gave £415.55 to the Winston Churchill’s Britain at War Experience.