We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats

My open letter to Charity Commission & President's Club 

January 25, 2018 9:13 AM
By Jo Swinson
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Jo Swinson speaking at Lib Dem conference.

Today, I've written an open letter, signed by MPs from all parties, to the CEO of the Charity Commission and to the President's Club.

The letter calls on the Charity Commission to urgently investigate the President's Club "because of the "serious and potentially criminal nature of the behaviour."

There can be no place in 2018 for respectable fundraising events which objectify women and subject them to groping and harassment.

The letter also asks that the organisation investigates "whether the Trustees are fit to hold such office, given their apparent failure to properly discharge their duties to protect health and safety of workers and the reputation of the charity."

In the letter to the President's Club I've also made clear that "There can be no place in 2018 for respectable fundraising events which objectify women and subject them to groping and harassment."

The Trustees of the President's Club have fundamentally failed in their duty.

Indeed not only do the reported events of last week impact on the reputation of the Presidents Club Charitable Trust, they also put at risk the reputations of charities that were being supported by the event.

No doubt these charity partners, sponsors and donors to the Presidents Club Charitable Trust will be reassessing their involvement with your charity following these revelations.

The full text of the letters are below:

Letter to the Charity Commission

Dear Helen,

As you will no doubt be aware, today's Financial Times report of the event hosted by the Presidents Club Charitable Trust (registration number 1017310) last Thursday has prompted widespread condemnation.

I have attached a copy of our letter to the Trustees of the charity which outlines our serious concerns about the reported behaviour of the attendees, including the sexual harassment of staff working at the event. It seems likely from reports that these incidents included criminal behaviour.

While in usual circumstances the charity would conduct any initial investigation, the serious and potentially criminal nature of the behaviour means we believe it warrants urgent investigation by the Charity Commission for England & Wales, including as to whether the Trustees are fit to hold such office, given their apparent failure to properly discharge their duties to protect health and safety of workers, and the reputation of the charity.

The report by journalists from the Financial Times is available at https://www.ft.com/content/075d679e-0033-11e8-9650-9c0ad2d7c5b5.

We consent to the Charity Commission disclosing our identity as the source of the complaint with Trustees.

Yours sincerely,


Jo Swinson MP, Nicky Morgan MP, Jess Phillips MP, Maria Miller MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Anna Soubry MP, Harriet Harman MP, Jamie Stone MP, Anna McMorrin MP, Yvette Cooper MP Tulip Siddiq MP Anneliese Dodds MP, Ruth George MP, Tom Brake MP, Yvonne Fovargue MP, Tracy Brabin MP, Heidi Alexander MP, Kate Green MP, Liz Kendall MP, David Lammy MP, Sharon Hodgson MP, Stella Creasy MP, Sarah Champion MP, Dawn Butler MP, Paula Sherriff MP, Helen Goodman MP, Mary Creagh MP, Pete Wishart MP, Ed Davey MP, Ian Murray MP, Stephen Lloyd MP, Tim Farron MP, Rachel Reeves MP, Christine Jardine MP, Alison McGovern MP, Layla Moran MP, Luciana Berger MP, Thelma Walker MP, Lucy Powell MP, Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Jonathan Edwards MP, Naz Shah MP.

Letter to the President's Club:

Dear Mr Meller, Mr Soning and Mr Ritchie,

As you know, today's Financial Times publishes shocking and deeply concerning reports about the Presidents Club Charitable Trust fundraising dinner held last week.

There can be no place in 2018 for respectable fundraising events which objectify women and subject them to groping and harassment. Raising large amounts of money for good causes is no excuse for the behaviour reported by FT journalist Madison Marriage: women working at the event being directed to wear specific underwear and 'sexy shoes', men repeatedly groping women, or exposing genitals to them, or declaring 'rip off your knickers and dance on that table'. The reports certainly suggest several cases of sexual assault.

I welcome the statement issued, presumably on behalf of yourselves as Trustees, that these reports 'will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken'.

However there remain several unanswered questions about the discharge of your duties as charity Trustees, and how such a situation has arisen in the first place.

In particular, I draw your attention to the Key Principles of the Code of Fundraising Practice (2016), which states that the work of all fundraising organisations will be 'legal, open, honest and respectful'. Section 15.2.2 states that with regard to employing staff at events, organisations have a legal duty to 'carry out a sufficient and suitable risk assessment before undertaking an event of any size'. That the event brochure apparently carried a full page warning that no attendees or staff should be sexually harassed suggests that the charity was aware of this risk.

ACAS provides guidance on dress codes within the workplace, crucially that they should 'relate to the job and be reasonable in nature'. It is hard to imagine how it could be seen as reasonable to specify the colour of underwear for hostesses employed to assist at a charity fundraising event.

Another key duty of Trustees towards the charity is 'protecting and safeguarding its reputation', as outlined in the Charity Commission for England & Wales' Guidance. This discusses the need to 'identify the reputational risks your charity may face in its fundraising and to plan for their management' and ensuring there is 'adequate consideration of the impact of your charity's fundraising on its donors, supporters and the public', and 'adequate control… over your charity's fundraising approach'.

It seems clear that the Trustees have failed in this duty. Indeed not only do the reported events of last week impact on the reputation of the Presidents Club Charitable Trust, they also put at risk the reputations of charities that were being supported by the event. No doubt these charity partners, sponsors and donors to the Presidents Club Charitable Trust will be reassessing their involvement with your charity following these revelations.

In light of the seriousness of these concerns I am also submitting this complaint directly to the Charity Commission for England & Wales.

Yours sincerely,

Jo Swinson MP, Nicky Morgan MP, Jess Phillips MP, Maria Miller MP, Caroline Lucas MP, Anna Soubry MP, Harriet Harman MP, Jamie Stone MP, Anna McMorrin MP, Yvette Cooper MP, Tulip Siddiq MP, Anneliese Dodds MP, Ruth George MP, Tom Brake MP, Yvonne Fovargue MP, Tracy Brabin MP, Heidi Alexander MP, Kate Green MP, Liz Kendall MP, David Lammy MP, Sharon Hodgson MP, Stella Creasy MP, Sarah Champion MP, Dawn Butler MP, Paula Sheriff MP, Helen Goodman MP, Mary Creagh MP, Pete Wishart MP, Ed Davey MP, Ian Murray MP, Stephen Lloyd MP, Tim Farron MP, Rachel Reeves MP, Christine Jardine MP, Alison McGovern MP, Layla Moran MP, Luciana Berger MP, Thelma Walker MP, Lucy Powell MP, Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Jonathan Edwards MP, Naz Shah MP