- Letter from Peter Simpson to the Charity Commission 07/31/05
- Response from the Charity Commission to Peter Simpson 08/25/05
- Further response from Peter Simpson to the Charity Commission 08/28/05
- Further response from Peter Simpson to Charity Commission 09/13/05
- Letter from the Charity Commission to MP Gareth Thomas 09/14/05
- Letter from MP Gareth Thomas to Peter Simpson 09/26/05
Portions of the correspondence appear below. The rest were scanned digitally and posted in JPEG image format.
I am writing to you in connection with the enclosed leaflet from War on Want which I understand has recently been issued. The leaflet makes little pretence at being anything other than a political campaign against what is termed "Israel’s separation wall" as a means, it is claimed, to aid what is termed "poverty". It is of course to be noted that Government aid to the Palestinian Authority is the highest per capita amount of aid that is offered by Governments to any group of people, well in excess of what was contributed by the G8 at Gleneagles for Africa.
The objects of War on Want when it was formed were to relieve poverty, distress and suffering, to provide mental care advice and treatment for poor persons, and to conduct research into causes of and ways of relieving poverty. It is to be noted that the objects of the charitable fund are not to conduct a political campaign against what it is claimed are sources of poverty. As a political document it is, of course, full of inaccuracies and distortions. My understanding is that your role is to ensure that public funding that benefits from tax relief claims is used solely for charitable purposes and not political objectives. I shall therefore be grateful if you would put this matter as a high priority in investigating what seems to me to be a clear abuse of the charitable objectives that were originally claimed for this fund and to suspend War on Want’s charitable status until it reverts back to its original charitable objectives.
Direct Line 020 7674 2337
Fax: 020 7674 23C1
General Enquiries: 0870 3330123 (Voice)
0870 3330125 (Minicom)
Date: 25 August 2005
Dear Mr. Simpson,
War on Want (208724)
Thank you for your letter of 31 July 2005 regarding the above charity and your concern that it is acting outside of its charitable objects.
Before addressing this point, I would like to take this opportunity to clarify these roles and responsibilities of both the Charity Commission and of the charity’s trustees. While the Commission is the regulator of charities in England and Wales, the extent of our powers is limited by the law. We operate within a statutory framework that is intended to safeguard the independence of charities and to protect charities from unnecessary outside interference. While we are responsible in law for, amongst other areas, investigating and checking abuses involving charities, we cannot administer charities or undo decisions properly made by a charity’s trustees.
The Commission operates within a statutory framework which is intended to safeguard the independence of charities and to protect charities from unnecessary outside interference. The majority of the Commission’s interventions take the form of giving trustees advice and guidance and in doing so it aims to act in a reasonable and proportionate manner. The Commission is not responsible for the internal administration of charities and is statutorily barred from intervening in the internal administration when trustees have acted within their legal powers. The Commission’s powers of intervention are specifically designed for use in circumstances where there is some grave, general risk to a charity’s interests and are designed principally to protect the charity and its assets. Therefore, sometimes we are asked to take up issues that, important though they may be to the complainant, do not raise regulatory issues of a kind that we will pursue.
It is the charity’s trustees who, under the terms of the governing document, are responsible for the running of the charity. The trustees have the legal responsibility for the general control of the management and administration of the charity, and must run their charity according to the rules set down in the governing document. They must also follow the requirements of charity law. However, within this framework, the charity trustees have a wide freedom as to how they run the charity and how they apply its money.
It is for them to take the decisions about how the charity’s purposes will be achieved and how its funds will be applied, acting in what they regard as the best interests of the charity. The Commission does not have power to intervene in the proper exercise by the trustees of their discretion and it is not able to resolve disagreements over a charity’s policy or strategy that are properly the responsibility of the trustees. Similarly, since it is not able to act in the administration of charities, the Commission is not able to instruct the trustees in the manner which particular individuals believe they should act.
Turning now to your particular concern, I would first note that the Charity Commission is aware of War on Want’s latest actions, and has been in communication with the charity regarding its political campaigns. However, although organisations that are established to pursue political purposes cannot be charities, campaigning and political activity may be carried out by recognised charities as a means of furthering their charitable purposes. It is the trustees’ responsibility to decide whether the activities they are carrying out will be an effective means of furthering the purposes of the charity and whether they will do so to an extent justified by the resources applied.
I would suggest that if you wish to take this matter further then you should contact the trustees of the charity directly to express your concerns. We record the charity’s correspondent as being Mr Martin Hughes, 4 Holtwhite Avenue, Enfield, Middlesex, EN2 ORS. I have also enclosed for your interest our publication CC9, ‘Campaigning and Political Activities by Charities’, which gives guidance on the legal and regulatory framework for charities wishing to engage in campaigning and political activity.
1 realise that this will not be the answer you were looking for, and am sorry that I cannot be of more assistance in this instance.
Please note that our minimum retention period for correspondence is six months. I suggest that you retain this correspondence for future reference as we may not keep it beyond six months.
Esme Gaussen (Ms)
Regulation and Enablement Division.
WAR ON WANT (208724)
YOUR REF: EG-G500149-RED(Ldn)
Thank you very much for your letter of 25th August in response to my letter of 31st July concerning the above mentioned Charity’s campaign against what is termed Israel’s "separation wall".
I note from your second paragraph that one of the functions of the Charity Commission is to investigate and check abuses involving charities. That was precisely the reason for my original letter in connection with the above. You say that the power of intervention of the Commission is where there is some grave general risk to a charity’s interests and to protect the charity and its assets. That again is precisely why I wrote my original letter to you. I note with surprise, however, that you make no mention of the responsibility to ensure, from the perspective of all UK taxpayers that charities do not abuse their status to claim the benefits of charity status for purposes for which they are not entitled to so claim to the detriment of the general body of UK taxpayers.
You say that Charity Trustees have a wide freedom within the framework of their governing document as to how they run the Charity and how they apply its money. You further suggest I should be writing to the Charity’s correspondent, though I fail to understand what you are suggesting would be achieved by this. No doubt the Trustees in question do consider that the activities they are carrying on are an effective means of furthering the purposes of the Charity, would you expect otherwise?
The Charity claims that its objectives are to target what it terms the root causes of poverty. Leaving aside the fact that poverty is a relative term, in the particular instance of the Palestinians, I would challenge you to identify a picture of a "starving Palestinian" or anyone that remotely looks like starving. I have never in the last five years of the Intifada seen a picture of anyone of such a description. Apart from anything else huge quantities of ED financing has been pouring into this area of a level per capita well in excess of what has been spent in starving Africa. I have seen plenty of pictures of starving people in Darfur and Niger and other places in Africa in the last five years, never mind about Ethiopia, Biafra and other such instances in the past.
Secondly the Charity claims that the root cause of it what it terms as Palestinian poverty is Israeli occupation. That is manifestly false and without Justification as there are plenty of statistics of the increase of the GDP of the residents of the West Bank and Gaza throughout the period of what this charity would term Israel’s occupation right up until the time of Mr. Arafat’s launch of the Intifada in 2000. It was only from late 2000 that the GDP of this area reduces as a result of the launch of the terrorist campaign against Israeli civilians (so did Israel’s GDP), the response to which is the so called "separation fence".
I cannot think of a clearer instance of where the subject of the so called relief of poverty has been made totally subservient to the Charity’s clear political objectives and agenda. It follows that I cannot think of a clearer example of a total abuse of a charity’s charitable status as clearly the funds for which UK tax payers are being asked to further subsidise are being used for a political agenda.
I would therefore hope that you will review your response of 25th August and see that it is your responsibility to investigate this abuse and require the Charity to desist. If you continue to fail to do so I should tell you that it is my intention as a UK tax payer affected by this situation to seek judicial review of the Charity Commissions failure to exercise the powers granted to them to ensure that charitable status is not abused.