Regulator criticised over response to MPs’ complaint about climate sceptic think tank

08 Apr 2024 News

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Civil Society Media

The Charity Commission has been accused of failing to take adequate action to investigate a complaint by cross-party MPs about a climate sceptic think tank, and warned of a potential judicial review.

The Good Law Project (GLP) sent a letter to the Commission last week saying it had taken the “first step” in a legal process to challenge the regulator over its response to a complaint about the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).

GLP and cross-party MPs including Layla Moran, Clive Lewis and Caroline Lucas wrote to the Commission in October 2022 about GWPF, expressing concerns about trustees’ “apparent misconduct or mismanagement” related to money spent on “politically motivated research”.

GWPF submitted a serious incident report to the Commission following the letter and the regulator said it was assessing the concerns raised.

GLP has now written to the Commission accusing it of failing to take action against GWPF and proposed a judicial review.

The MPs and GLP have urged the regulator to strip the GWPF of its charitable status.

Commission: ‘Constructively engaging’ with trustees

The Commission has now said it opened a regulatory compliance case into the charity, founded by former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson, after receiving GLP’s letter in 2022, but it did not say it had done so at the time. 

A spokesperson for the Commission said: “We can confirm that we have received a letter from the Good Law Practice regarding the Global Warming Policy Foundation and will be responding to them separately.

“A regulatory compliance case was opened into the Global Warming Policy Foundation when an ‘open letter’ of complaint was received in 2022.

“During this time, we have been constructively engaging with trustees on the issues raised. 

“We plan to publicly report on the outcome of the case once it has been concluded. Scrutinising the available evidence thoroughly and with due care takes time.”

Good Law Project: Regulator ‘has sat on its hands’

On a crowdfunding page for the proposed legal action, GLP states the Commission “has sat on its hands” over its intervention into the charity, which describes itself as an educational organisation that aims to “combat damaging and harmful climate-change policies”. 

The MPs “haven’t received any substantive response” and it is “time to hold the Charity Commission to account for failing to do its duties”, the page reads.

Its letter to the Commission reads: “As a registered educational charity, GWPF is obliged to engage in such an effort. It must advance its stated objectives in a manner which is politically impartial, and not disseminate one-sided material or ‘propaganda’.

“From its establishment, however, GWPF’s trustees have unashamedly operated it as a think-tank that seeks to shift the dial on public discourse around the climate crisis in a denialist direction, and to resist the imposition of ‘net zero’ and other green policies.”

Commission chair Orlando Fraser recently criticised “unfounded complaints” made to the regulator about “the alleged non-charitable nature” of some think tanks’ research. 

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