Paper calls for new transparency body for think-tanks to boost confidence in sector
The paper by the Centre Think Tank argues that the body would allow the public to see which think tanks are open about their sources of income. Polling carried out in connection with the paper reveals that many people would like more information about who is funding think tanks which seek to influence Government policy.
The author Peter Geoghegan, who wrote the foreword for the paper, said: “As this paper shows, too many think tanks still operate behind closed doors, releasing little information about who funds them and why.
“That many of these anonymously-funded think tanks are registered charities only adds to the sense that the system is broken and in need of reform.
“As someone who has spent years tracing the money behind British think tanks, I welcome the paper’s proposals to increase think tank transparency. Public trust in politics depends on everyone being able to see who is funding these influential political actors.”
The paper concludes that a new funding transparency body should be created by the Government to advise ministers on potential policy solutions and implement a rating system for think tanks.
The report added: “It would have the role of encouraging think tanks and organisations more generally that raise money to be more transparent. It would not be a mandatory body but would be free for any charity or company raising money from the public to join. The goal for this organisation would be to increase transparency and to set a bar for publicly recording donations.”
Director of Centre Think Tank and the author of the paper Torrin Wilkins said: “Our polling clearly shows that the public sees think tanks as lacking transparency.
"Political parties should also take note of these results as the majority of voters from every party thought that think tanks lack transparency.
“To tackle these issues this paper calls for a new funding transparency body, reforms to lobbying rules and better guidance on releasing donor information.
"These will help think tanks to be more transparent whilst increasing transparency with new rules. They also help the public to see which think tanks are transparent on their income sources.”
Mr Wilkins said the lack of transparency surrounding think tanks which “are continually relied upon by governments of all colours, undermines the fundamental principle of democracy that we elect our representatives and know who they are and where they get their money from.
He added: "Without think tanks being clear about who funds them, how can we be certain that they advice and policies that they promote are genuinely in the interests of the public?”
Centre co-commissioned polling with the Millbank Think Tank from Deltapoll in connection with the report. Overall, 59 per cent of respondents thought think tanks were not transparent.
Deltapoll. The poll included 1,036 UK adults from Great Britain and was carried out in October.