Charity Commission rejects MPs’ call to investigate think tank

27 Mar 2024 News


The Charity Commission has decided not to investigate the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) after a group of MPs urged it to do so.

Earlier this month, the Good Law Project made a formal complaint about the IEA on behalf of Layla Moran, Clive Lewis and Alyn Smith – MPs for the Liberal Democrats, Labour and SNP, respectively – as well as Green Party candidate Siân Berry and former Commission board member Andrew Purkis.

It accused the IEA of having extremist views and being in breach of charity regulations around political campaigning. It said the Commission “would be amply justified in opening a statutory inquiry”.

The regulator has now decided against any formal action, which the charity called “a clear victory for freedom of expression”.

Complaint dismissed

A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “We assessed the matters raised by the Good Law Project and did not identify concerns that the IEA is acting outside of its objects or the Commission’s published guidance.

“We therefore did not consider that regulatory action was required.”

The free market think tank welcomed the regulator’s rejection of what it called a “vexatious complaint”.

“This publicity stunt has backfired by reconfirming the IEA is acting consistently with our status as an educational charity,” a spokesperson for the IEA said.

“This is a clear victory for freedom of expression in the face of those trying to silence different perspectives.

“We look forward to continuing to advance the public understanding of economic ideas from a free market perspective.” 

Good Law Project executive director Jolyon Maughan said the Commission had dismissed its complaint “with uncharacteristic speed”.

“We are considering with our lawyers the Charity Commission’s explicit indication that it won’t regulate the political activities of think tanks,” he said.

Regulatory alert no longer stands

This comes after Commission chair Orlando Fraser earlier this month criticised “unfounded complaints” made to the regulator about “the alleged non-charitable nature” of some think tanks’ research.

Writing in the Times, he said “some have sought to weaponise the Charity Commission as regulator in campaigns against think tanks with whom they disagree”.

Fraser also said at a recent event that a regulatory alert issued in 2018 no longer stands. He said the 2018 alert was made by the regulator at a “pretty frebrile time” and “is no longer effective”.

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