Charity Commission throws out MPs' complaints against Runnymede Trust

The Charity Commission has dismissed complaints made by a group of Conservative MPs against equality charity Runnymede Trust over the charity's criticism of a controversial race relations report earlier this year.

The charitable think tank was among a raft of critics of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities (CRED) report, which was released in March and claimed it could not find evidence of institutional racism in the UK.

The Trust condemned the report “as insulting as it is farcical” and that its assertion that “institutional racism no longer exists is premised on the flimsiest of basis”.

The Trust’s robust stance, which was echoed by many charities including Mind and The Equality Trust, led to complaints about the charity to the regulator from a group of 20 Conservative MPs.

As a result the regulator opened an investigation in April 2021.

The case looked at whether the charity was “engaging in lawful political activity”.

But “following careful assessment of the concerns raised the Commission says that it was within the charity’s purposes to engage with and take a position on the CRED report and has found no breach of its guidance”.

The Trust has been asked by the Commission to ensure its lobbying involves all political parties and is balanced “ in order to protect” its independence and reputation.

The commission also looked at the Trust’s work with the Good Law Project, set up to challenge certain public appointments, but also found there was no breach.

“We take all concerns raised with us about charities seriously – whether they come from members of the public, parliamentarians, or the media,” said Charity Commission director of regulatory services Helen Earner.

“We treat all complaints with respect and assess them impartially and expertly against the legal framework. That is what the public expects.

“In this case, we have found no breach of our guidance. However, we have told the trustees of the Runnymede Trust that they must ensure the charity’s engagement with political parties and politicians is balanced.

“It is not for us as regulator to tell trustees how best to further their charity’s purposes. Charities are free to take up positions that are controversial, if the trustees come to a reasoned decision that doing so furthers the charity’s cause.”

“But all charities must comply with the rules associated with charitable status. Being a charity comes with privileges, but also with important responsibilities. We expect the trustees and senior leaders of the Runnymede trust to pay heed to these responsibilities, as we expect all charities to.”

Runnymede Trust chair Clive Jones said: “Today’s feedback from the Charity Commission confirms our belief that the Runnymede Trust has an important and worthy role to play in supporting our country in our shared commitment to achieve racial equity, and to make the UK a truly inclusive and post-racial society.

“The Runnymede Trust has met with every prime minister since Ted Heath in 1970. We look forward to continuing our relationship with parties across the political spectrum and with stakeholders across our communities – and to meeting with Boris Johnson when the opportunity presents itself.

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