Think tank cleared by regulator over Sewell Report criticism

The Charity Commission has cleared the race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust after the charity said a group of backbench Conservative MPs had launched a “politically motivated” attack on its work.

The commission began looking into the trust in April after the charity was part of a large group of charities and individuals that criticised the controversial report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, chaired by Tony Sewell.

The charity said the report, which concluded that the UK did not have a systemic problem with racism, was "frankly disturbing".

The trust then said it understood a letter had been sent to the regulator from a group of 15 unnamed backbench Tory MPs urging the commission to investigate the charity for “pursuing a political agenda”.

The commission did open a case, but said yesterday that it had found no breach of its guidance on political activity in the charity’s criticism of the CRED report. The commission also cleared the charity over its decision to work with the Good Law Project to challenge certain public appointments.

“Following careful assessment of the concerns raised, the commission says that it was within the charity’s purposes to engage with and take a position on the CRED report and has found no breach of its guidance,” the commission said.

The regulator said it welcomed a decision by the charity’s trustees to strengthen the charity’s internal policies and procedures on political activity.

The commission said it also examined issues relating to party political neutrality and was aware of the appearance of a senior executive from the charity at an event organised by an unidentified political party alongside several elected representatives.

The regulator said: “The commission expects trustees to ensure that their charity’s engagement with political parties and politicians is balanced so that they are not perceived to be supporting one party over another, in order to protect the trust’s independence and reputation.

“The trustees have given assurances that they endeavour to engage with a range of parties and political viewpoints.”

Sir Clive Jones, chair of the Runnymede Trust, said the charity was reassured by the regulator’s conclusions in the case.

“As the nation’s heartfelt outpouring after the recent European football final confirmed, the English people – and indeed the people of all four nations of the United Kingdom – understand that racism still exists and must be tackled in all its forms.

“Today’s feedback from the Charity Commission confirms our belief that the Runnymede Trust has an important and worthy role to play in supporting our country in our shared commitment to achieve racial equity, and to make the UK a truly inclusive and post-racial society.”

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