RUSI statement on Charity Commission Regulatory Report

15 September 2009

The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) is an independent think tank that operates with no political affiliation whatsoever. One of RUSI's missions, stated in our bye-laws is to encourage, inform and improve public debate about defence and security matters. If RUSI is unable to undertake any work for political parties, our ability to fulfil this mission will be much reduced.

As a responsible, independent organisation, RUSI undertakes research for the Government of the day as a regular part of its charitable work. Some of this research is published and some is not. Providing research for the Government is clearly in the public interest.

Undertaking contract research for other credible political figures furthers the information which is publically available to those who participate in policy debate and development. This improves the understanding and knowledge for all policymakers and thereby, hopefully, it will improve the quality of the policies which are developed.  This also is clearly in the public interest.

RUSI was paid to develop a specific piece of rigorous research into the Military Covenant which, without the commission from Sir Menzies Campbell, RUSI would not have been able to produce.

This research has been used for the public benefit and it has been widely disseminated - the content of this research has been used in multiple ways to inform the public debate.

Before the project was delivered to Sir Menzies Campbell, the research material was developed into an article which was published in the June 2008 issue of the RUSI Journal (three months prior to  the publication of Sir Menzies’s report).

When undertaking such research it is ‘RUSI’s policy on engagement with political parties, politicised organisations, politicians and political agents, [that] RUSI’s involvement should remain anonymous.’

The research contract which RUSI had with Sir Menzies Campbell specified that:

  • RUSI’s contribution was to remain anonymous, as outlined above. 
  • This research project was completed personally for Sir Menzies Campbell.
  • It was agreed that RUSI owned the content of the research and would use it in other ways.

The purpose of the contractual obligation for anonymity was to avoid the appearance of helping one party over others.

RUSI sought to protect itself from creating the perception it was providing support to a political party through a contractual obligation. When the subsequent report, 'No Choice But Change: The military covenant in its strategic context' was published in September 2008, the issue for RUSI was that the contractual obligation to remain anonymous was overlooked.

RUSI did not consent to the use of an acknowledgement in the Campbell document, and remained unaware of the violation of the agreed anonymity until it was notified of the issue by the Charity Commission in 2009.

RUSI welcomes the Charity Commission’s finding which acknowledged the research paper produced was:

  • well balanced;
  • objective;
  • not seeking to influence or change the law or Government policy; and
  • not in support of a particular point of view which is controversial or in support of a ‘party political’ view.

In light of this finding, RUSI is surprised that the Charity Commission concluded in its Regulatory Case Report []  that we had ‘inadvertently’ given support to a Liberal Democrat MP and the Liberal Democrat party

However, RUSI recognises that while it has a policy to consider carefully the implications of doing work for political parties, politicised organisations, politicians and political agents - as it did so in this instance - it did not maintain an adequate paper trail to demonstrate that this review had occurred and was sufficiently rigorous to demonstrate that it had met its obligations under the Charities Act.

RUSI cooperated fully with the Charity Commission throughout their investigations and we are grateful for the guidance and recommendations. We have already reviewed and amended our procedures in order to ensure that this problem does not occur again.  

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