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Think Tanks: Finance

Question for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

UIN HL9041, tabled on 12 October 2020

To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to require think tanks who seek to influence government policy and the policy of registered political parties to publish the (1) source, and (2) amount, of donations they receive to fund their work.

Answered on

26 October 2020

Think tanks which have opted for charitable status must ensure they abide by the rules that apply to all charities under charity law. Charities can undertake political activity but only in pursuit of their charitable purposes, and only to the extent that the political activity remains subsidiary to the charity’s purpose and does not become an end in itself. Charities must not participate in any party-political activity, or support a political party or candidate. The Charity Commission sets this out clearly in its guidance on campaigning and political activity which was published in 2008.

Most charitable think tanks carry out their charitable purpose well. There are many examples where important contributions have been made in a responsible manner and in line with the law. Where charities, including charitable think tanks, do not operate in line with the law, or where they cross the line in terms of political activity, the Charity Commission, as the independent charity regulator and as tasked by Parliament, has the legal responsibility to hold charities to account under charity law and deal with those matters proportionately on behalf of the public.

The Government encourages greater transparency as a matter of good practice, but it is not a legal requirement for charities to publicly disclose the identity of individual donors. Donor anonymity is an important consideration in ensuring people have the confidence to donate to charitable causes they care about.