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Trust accused of lacking credibility

 

Calls for official review into how the English conservation charity is being run

Politicians have roundly criticised the National Trust and are urging the UK government to undertake a formal review of the national charity.

In a Commons debate, Conservative MPs accused the trust of having its own agenda, not listening to its members and lacking credibility. 

It follows recent of negative publicty for the conservation group during which it was slammed for a report documenting links between its properties and slavery or colonialism. 

Andrew Murrison, Conservative MP for South West Wiltshire, ran the debate and said: “The trust mission is clearly laid out in statute: to be clerk of works to a large wedge of our national treasures. There is evidence, however, that in recent years the trust - frustrated no doubt with that simple custodial function - has been interpreting its remit much more broadly. I submit that that requires scrutiny.” 

Murrison also said the body was trying to hard to be different, despite what members wanted.

He added: “I suspect that most of the membership, like me and my family, flock to National Trust properties to admire an elegant pile of bricks or a beautiful landscape before going for a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake - job done, and happy days.

"It is leisure, it is breathing space, it is succour for the soul and a welcome break from the remorseless hectoring about this and that, to which, as citizens, we are subjected day in, day out.” 

Conservative MPs are concerned that the trust has been being too political. 

Sir John Hayes, Conservative MP for South Holland and the Deepings, said: “The National Trust is beginning to lose credibility, frankly, both with its membership and the public, because of misunderstandings about its purpose."

He criticised the charity for aligning itself with the Black Lives Matter movement, and said: “The National Trust, whether gently or more loudly, needs to disassociate itself from some of the rather foolish things that some of its leading members have said.” 

Nigel Huddleston, heritage minister, said that a government review was not the way forward. 

“The Trust is, in so many ways, a hugely successful heritage organisation, but that does not mean that we should not ask serious questions about it or how it should be held accountable,” he said. 

He emphasised that as a charity it was accountable to the Charity Commission and its trustees. 

Huddleston explained: “The National Trust is an independent body. It is independent of the government and does not receive any ongoing public funding for its work, and its activities are overseen by its board and the regulatory Charity Commission.” 

A National Trust spokesperson said: “As a charity, the National Trust is independent of Government and receives no direct funding. It is entirely appropriate that there should remain a divide between politics and the charitable sector. This allows charities the freedom to serve its members and society more broadly.

“We will take on board all the helpful comments made by MPs at the debate and continue to focus our efforts on welcoming members, visitors and families back to the places in our care.”

 

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