The Charity Commission has ordered the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) to remove a report from its website because it was “not sufficiently balanced”.
At the Commission’s request, the IEA, registered as an educational charity, removed its report Plan A+: Creating a prosperous post-Brexit UK on Friday but said it was concerned about the regulator’s interventions.
David Holdsworth, deputy chief executive of the Commission, said the report in question “overstepped the line of what is permissible charitable activity”.
He said: “The report was not sufficiently balanced and neutral as required of an educational charity under charity law.
“We also found that the charity had been undertaking political activity not in line with the charity’s purposes.”
The Commission continues to investigate the IEA due to concerns related to its political activity.
The IEA responded to the Commission’s request by removing the report from its website and ceasing its promotion.
However, the charity said it was concerned about the regulator’s interventions.
Neil Record, chairman of the IEA, said: “We believe it is increasingly unclear what charitable think tank activity is acceptable, and what is not.
“A worrying precedent is in the process of being set: research papers – and their launches – which put forward firm policy proposals may now fall outside the parameters of what the Charity Commission considers acceptable activity.”
Record added that the IEA is now looking to set up a non-charitable arm as a result of the Commission’s interventions.
Commission to write to think tanks
Earlier this year the Commission ordered the Legatum Institute Foundation to remove a report, Brexit Inflection Point, from its website.
In response to the IEA’s comments, the Commission said it was “disappointing that the trustees of some charitable think tanks appear not to fully understand their duties and the requirements that charity law makes of educational charities”.
Holdsworth said that the Commission will write to all charitable think tanks this week with formal regulatory advice to remind them of their duties as trustees to ensure that they comply with the law.
He said: “Charitable think tanks are first and foremost charities and need to behave as such. The law is quite clear that charitable think tanks and education charities must retain balance and neutrality in any research work and publications.
“Society is stronger where there is robust debate and fresh ideas. However the law sets down clear limits for charities who seek to educate. This has always been the case and the law has not changed in this regard.”