Regulator rejects call for investigation into Tufton Street think tank behind Liz Truss’s budget

Former Charity Commission board member 'troubled’ by the decision and the speed of the complaints dismissal

Liz Truss Tory former prime minister

A complaint about a Tufton Street think tank launched by a group of cross-party MPs has been dismissed by the Charity Commission in just 12 days. 

Widely acknowledged as the inspiration behind Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-budget, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) was reported to the regulator over apparent breaches of charity law earlier this month. 

Backed by a group of politicians, the Good Law Project sent a 19-page letter of evidence which accused the dark money think tank of rule breaking, including claims the IEA falls foul of regulations around political campaigning, educational research and inappropriate links with openly political offshoot organisations.

However the complaint was dismissed only two weeks later with the watchdog responding that it will not “stifle” the “important thinking” of the think tank. 

Another complaint by the Good Law Project against the Global Warming Policy Foundation has taken well over a year to address, while the watchdog’s rapid hands-off approach to this “well-evidenced” claim has “troubled” Dr Andrew Purkis, who was a previous board member of the Charity Commission and helped draft much of the current guidance. 

Purkis said: “We should expect the regulator to investigate this specific complaint with due care on its individual merits.”

The day after the complaint was launched, the Charity Commission changed its guidance over think tanks, the Good Law Project highlighted.

The commission said guidance issued in 2018 – which the complaint referenced – was “issued at a time when the commission decided it was appropriate to remind trustees of charitable think tanks of their duties”.

However the letter went on: “Today, the commission feels confident that trustees understand their obligations under charity law, and thus we can confirm that the historic 2018 alert has been withdrawn.”

The Good Law Project highlighted that by ‘historic’, it meant 14 March 2024 the day after their letter of complaint was submitted.

Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s disastrous mini-budget was widely credited to the think tank, whose director general celebrated the economic policies at the time calling it a “boost-up budget”. 

The Good Law Project said the response leaves the IEA, “free to keep pushing the messaging of its donors whilst enjoying the public subsidy and reputational laundering charitable status affords”.

Layla Moran, one of the MPs in the cross-party group who had called for the Commission to act with “utmost urgency” to address concerns around the IEA, had warned, “one charity promoting extremist views and acting outside the rules is a blight on the whole sector.”

In response to the claim, the regulator wrote it had “assessed the issues raised” and “have not identified concerns that the charity is acting outside of its objects or the Commission’s published guidance.”

The Charity Commission has previously been accused of failing to control the IEA, with an ex-watchdog official saying the secretive think tank should be stripped of its charitable status. 

Lawyers at the Good Law Society are considering how to tackle the sudden complaint dismissal so as to ensure ideological allies of the Tory Party are properly regulated. 

(Image credit: UK Government / Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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