Think tank accuses Conservative MPs of attempting to 'weaponise' the Charity Commission

The think tank Runnymede Trust has criticised what it said was a group of Conservative MPs for “weaponising” the charity regulator in a “politically motivated” attack on the trust’s work.

The race equality charity said today it understood a letter had been sent to the Charity Commission from a group of 15 unnamed backbench Conservative MPs urging the regulator to investigate the charity for “pursuing a political agenda”.

The letter claims the charity’s criticism of the recent controversial Sewell Report was driven by concerns with the government, rather than the report’s conclusion, the charity said in a statement

The trust said it regretted the recent trend for politicians to simply file complaints against charities whose efforts to address and challenge racism they disagreed with. 

It made reference to the National Trust, which has been under fire since last year after it published a report researching its properties’ links to slavery, despite the regulator receiving just three complaints about the charity’s work or purpose.

Runnymede also highlighted how Barnardo's had “fallen foul to this worrying trend”.

The children's charity had to defend itself from a group of Conservative MPs in December who dismissed the charity’s attempt to talk about white privilege as “ideological dogma” used “by certain multinational corporates as a means to divide and conquer”.

In a statement, the Runnymede Trust said: “We are extremely concerned that the efforts made by these charities to address racism are the single common factor behind the grievances.

"Given that equalities minister Kemi Badenoch is expected to speak about the Sewell Report in parliament today, we note that the timing of the letter in question has the appearance of being highly orchestrated. 

“This raises further serious questions about the underlying motives for this action, and precisely who is behind it.”

The trust also said it believed the letter was motivated by its response to the Sewell Report. 

The charity said: “Any attempt by politicians to weaponise the Charity Commission or use it as a bulwark against organisations that express their dissenting voice on matters of national importance should be a cause for significant alarm.”

“Having pointed out what we believe to be the predictable and highly politicised nature of the letter, it is our considered view that the actions of the MPs in question will cause significant concern to every person in this country who stands opposed to racism and prejudice in all their forms.”

Runnymede pointed out that regulations did not prevent charities campaigning on issues related to their core charitable objectives. 

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “We take all concerns raised with us about charities seriously, and assess them carefully to determine whether they fall within our remit as regulator”.

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