An official warning has been issued by the charities regulator to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) over breaking charity law in a report regarding Brexit.
Today, the Charity Commission criticised the Westminster think tank for a report into the post-Brexit economy in the United Kingdom. The said report was published last September, however, it has since been taken down.
The regulator said that the report and an associated launch event was considered as a breach of charity law. It added that the offences amounted to “misconduct and mismanagement on the part of the trustees.”
The think tank promotes free-market policies and a clean break from the European Union. It has said that it is “disappointed” at the findings.
In the warning, the Commission said that the publication breached its rules on campaigning by explicitly attempting to change government policy over an issue that is not related to the purposes of the IEA, which is considered as an educational charity.
It also said that the report and the launch event did not meet the essential standards of neutrality and balance.
While the regulator recognised that educational think tanks are not required to be completely neutral, it said that the reports must present balanced information and enable the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
The deputy chief executive at the Charity Commission, David Holdsworth, stated: “Charitable think tanks are charities and need to behave as such, including by complying at all times with charity law.”
He added: “I hope that our official warning now encourages the trustees of the IEA to recognise and understand that they must run the organisation as a charity, and comply with charity law.”
The Charity Commission has summoned the IEA to provide written assurances that it will not be involved in political activity that breaks its rules.
It has also informed the think tank to establish a process to make sure that future publications and other activities promote its purpose as an educational charity.
The regulator said that the failure to address the issues that were raised in the warning would be grounds for more serious action, such as the suspension of trustees.
Neil Record, the IEA chairman and a former economist at the Bank of England, stated: “The IEA is considering a range of options, as we believe this warning has extremely widespread and worrying implications for the whole of the think tank and educational charity sector.”
He continued: “A precedent is being set: research papers – and their launches – which put forward policy proposals may now fall outside the parameters of what the Charity Commission considers acceptable activity.”