The Charity Commission has been urged to clamp down on “BNP organisations masquerading as veterans charities” by a group of former senior army generals.
The call came in a letter signed by General Sir Mike Jackson and General Sir Richard Dannatt, former heads of the army; Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, former chief of defence staff, and Major-General Patrick Cordingley, commander of the Desert Rats in the Gulf War. The letter, widely reported in the national press, warns that the armed forces are in danger of being hijacked by far-right extremists “for their own dubious ends”.
It is the start of a campaign launched this week to highlight the British National Party’s strategy of cloaking itself in the military.
Earlier this month The Times reported that the BNP has made a point of targeting veteran charities with offers of support. It has also highlighted on its website, individual donations by its members to organisations including the Royal British Legion and the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
A Charity Commission spokesperson said: "The Charity Commission is aware of the press coverage regarding Nothing British about the BNP's report, Stolen Valour, in which the Commission is mentioned. We have obtained a copy of the report and will be responding directly to Nothing British on the points that they have raised.
"Charities should usually seek to maximise their income. However, in some circumstances trustees may decide that it would not be in the best interests of their charity to accept a donation, if this would damage the charity’s reputation or its ability to do its good work would be compromised. Trustees should be able to demonstrate how and why they have made any such decision and the Commission is happy to advise in such cases.
"There is nothing in charity law that prohibits members of a political party from establishing and/or being the trustee of a charity. However, no charity can have political purposes or support a political party. All trustees must act only in the charity’s best interests and must not represent the interests of any outside organisation or their own personal interests. To do otherwise would be a breach of trust.
"‘Soldiers off the Street’ is not a registered charity, and must not claim to be a registered charity. We have not received any application to register from an organisation by that name. Any application to register as a charity would be considered in line with the registration criteria as set out on our website. In order to register, charities must be established for exclusively charitable purposes for the public benefit and must not have any political purpose."