HC Deb 09 May 1990 vol 172 c146W
Mr. John Carlisle

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) what investigations are made by his Department into the political activities of those charitable institutions in receipt of grants from his Department;

(2) what guidelines are set for charitable organisations in receipt of Government grants from his Department regarding any policy that might be influenced by political considerations of the officers of that charity;

(3) whether he will consider withdrawing all grants from his Department to any charitable organisation that is under investigation by the Charity Commissioners.

Mrs. Chalker

My Department does not make general grants to voluntary agencies. Our support is confined to specifically identified and agreed projects, both for long-term development and for emergency and refugee relief. Our prime concern is the quality and relevance to local communities in developing countries of the proposed projects. We also take account of the probity and administrative and professional competence of the agencies to operate and maintain the projects; and they are required to account to us for the use of our funds.

We do not fund voluntary agencies' campaigning or political activities. They are independent organisations and as such are free to express their own views. The way in which they do that and the content of their campaigning is essentially a matter for the agencies, their supporters and the Charity Commissioners. I certainly do not see eye to eye with some agencies' views, and when appropriate I do not hesitate to take issue with them. But it is for the Charity Commissioners to judge whether an agency over-steps the guidelines on what constitutes acceptable activities for a charity and it would not be proper for me to seek to intervene in the commissioners' deliberations.

I look forward to continuing to support the excellent work of the NGOs in developing countries. Our support will continue to be confined to agreed projects and will be available only to those agencies which are properly maintaining charitable status.