Regulator finds no evidence Tony Blair interferes improperly with charity bearing his name

A report by the Charity Commission says trustees of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation have demonstrated the organisation's independence from its patron

Tony Blair
Tony Blair

The Charity Commission says it has found no evidence that the former Prime Minister Tony Blair improperly interferes in the affairs of a charity bearing his name, and of which he is patron.

In August last year, an article in The Mail on Sunday by Martin Bright, who had recently resigned after five months as a website editor at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, alleged that Blair exerted substantial influence over its operation and used part of it as a personal think tank.

The commission said at the time that it was assessing Bright’s concerns, which included the claims that "huge amounts of time were spent in meetings to ensure the website didn’t embarrass Blair" and that Blair’s private office frequently interfered in Bright’s work.

A spokeswoman for the commission said the regulator opened an operational compliance case in August because of the Mail article.

The regulator later met the charity and has today published its report on the case on its website.

The commission said it did not gather any evidence from Blair himself, but the charity was cooperative throughout its inquiries.

The report says: "The trustees were able to demonstrate that they were aware of and fulfilling their duty to uphold the charity’s independence from the patron and other stakeholders, such as donors." The report says the charity had agreed a memorandum with the patron to govern their relationship, which "provides that the patron’s role primarily is to promote the foundation and its activities".

It says that Blair or a representative can attend trustee meetings as a non-voting observer, but Blair "does not regularly exercise this option" and trustees and staff "have little day-to-day direct contact with the patron".

The report says: "He is sent the annual business plan and five-year strategic plan for comment after it has first been signed off by the trustees and may choose to discuss this with them."

It concludes: "We found no improper interference by the patron in the affairs of the charity or any activities that would affect its status as a charity."

In the "lessons for others" section of the report, it says the case shows the importance of having written patronage agreements. "This is particularly important where there might be public perception that the trustees’ decisions (or those of an individual trustee) are not made independently and in the interests of the charity," the report says.

The charity, which had an income of £1.6m and employed 30 people in the year to 30 April 2013, was set up in 2008 to provide "the practical support required to help prevent religious prejudice, conflict and extremism", according to its charitable objects.

A spokesman for the charity said: "We welcome the results of the report from the Charity Commission examining the independence of the faith foundation. Its conclusions are exactly what we expected." He said the charity was "grateful for the constructive approach the Charity Commission took" and he hoped the report's conclusions would prove useful for other charities.

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