A Conservative MP has set up a group inside parliament to scrutinise the work of the National Trust without informing the charity.
Andrew Murrison MP, who has criticised the organisation several times in the past, has created an all party parliamentary group (APPG) for the National Trust, according to reports in the Guardian over the weekend.
APPGs are typically created so that MPs and peers can work on issues they are interested in with the support of experts, rather than to scrutinise named organisations.
The National Trust said it was saddened that Murrison had not notified the charity in advance about his plans but said it was “always delighted” to work with politicians.
In 2020, the charity published research into the colonial history of some of its properties, leading Murrison to warn the National Trust against becoming “an organ for promulgating a particular world view”.
National Trust: We are happy to engage with MPs
The Guardian reported on Saturday that the most recent weekly email update on APPGs, sent to all MPs and peers, said that the new APPG on the National Trust will meet for the first time this week. The email said that the group would “apply parliamentary scrutiny to the operational and strategic direction” of the charity and invited parliamentarians to contact Murrison if they wanted to join his group.
Civil Society News contacted Murrison to ask how many of his colleagues had taken up his offer but he did not reply.
The charity said in a statement: “We are a national institution and interest in our work is always welcome.
“While sadly we were not notified about the new group, we would encourage all parliamentarians with an interest in the Trust's work to attend. The National Trust would be very happy to provide a secretariat for the group, as is customary for organisation-specific APPGs.
“The National Trust is an independent charity, regulated by the Charity Commission, but we are always delighted to engage with politicians who have an interest in our work.”
The National Trust published research in September 2020 looking at evidence of links between some of its properties and colonialism and slavery.
The report was criticised by some politicians, many of whom focused on the choice to include Winston Churchill’s former home in the research. Jacob Rees-Mogg MP, the leader of the House of Commons, argued that the report showed the National Trust was “abashed” about British history.
Speaking in parliament in November 2020, Murrison said that the charity was guilty of “remorseless hectoring”.
He told a debate: “I suspect that most of the membership, like me and my family, flock to National Trust properties to admire an elegant pile of bricks or a beautiful landscape before going for a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake – job done, and happy days.
“It is leisure, it is breathing space, it is succour for the soul and a welcome break from the remorseless hectoring about this and that, to which, as citizens, we are subjected day in, day out.”
A subsequent inquiry by the Charity Commission cleared the charity of any wrongdoing.
When the pandemic hit, online donations to the National Trust more than trebled. Our members stayed with us, more are joining and we are back on the way to 6 million. Thank you. #ForEveryoneForEver https://t.co/XjHLCkz7oA— Celia Richardson (@ricotheyounger) February 4, 2022
Tweeting about the Guardian story over the weekend, Celia Richardson, director of communications at the National Trust, wrote: “When the pandemic hit, online donations to the National Trust more than trebled. Our members stayed with us, more are joining, and we are back on the way to 6m [members]. Thank you.”