Responding to new guidance issued by the Charity Commission on the EU referendum, Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth CEO, said: “I will today be writing to both the Prime Minister and the Chief Executive of the Charity Commission to raise my profound concerns at how this guidance was made available to the press before being given to the very charities that it is intended to help in their vital work.”
“Friends of the Earth first started considering what a Brexit might mean for the environment three years ago and we have followed a diligent process, in line with Charity Commission guidance¹, including commissioning independent research from a leading academic which shows a Brexit would be devastating for our environment.
“After reviewing this evidence very carefully, the Trustees of Friends of the Earth unanimously agreed in April 2015 that campaigning for Britain to remain in the EU was essential to support the delivery of our charitable purpose, and failing to do so would be contradictory to this.
“We were aware that the Charity Commission was intending to publish new guidance for charities specifically with respect to campaigning on the EU referendum, and contacted them on Friday 4 March to ask for a copy only to be told it would be available later this week. It is therefore very disappointing to discover that copies of that new guidance had been given to the press first – before they were available to charities this morning.”
Craig Bennett added: “Since March 2008, Charity Commission Guidance note 9, or ‘CC9’ has already regulated what charities can and can’t do when campaigning. This states very clearly that campaigning and political activity can be legitimate and valuable activities for charities to undertake, as long as it supports the delivery of an organisation’s ‘charitable purpose’ – which in itself is approved by the Charity Commission.
“This is a guidance note that Friends of the Earth paid very close attention to while planning our campaigning activities, on a wide range of issues, over the last eight years.”