Bognor Regis man wants information law extended

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A BOGNOR Regis campaigner has called for charities to become more transparent.

Andrew Goodwill wants them to be covered by the Freedom of Information Act.

“Charities are not covered by the act at the moment because it only applies to public bodies,” he said. “But they are funded by public money. If they came under the act, they would become fully transparent.”

He has written to the government’s charities minister, Nick Hurd, to request this.

He is still waiting for a reply but intends to step up his campaign in the new year.

Mr Goodwill, 51, of Ivy Lane, made his comments after he appeared on the BBC programme Panorama for uncovering investments made by Comic Relief in firms making bombs, booze and cigarettes.

He raised his concerns four years ago with the now defunct News of the World only, he says, for the story to fail to appear. It was the same at other national newspapers.

Mr Goodwill said it was wrong for the charity to put money into the stock market.

“People have sat in cold baths of baked beans or had their heads shaved to raise that money,” he said. “They would expect it to be spent on deprived children or buying mosquito nets for Africa not put into investment funds.”

Mr Goodwill discovered in 2009 Comic Relief had invested £630,000 in BAE Systems, £3m in tobacco and £300,000 in alcohol shares.

The charity has raised £900m-plus in nearly 30 years, however, some £100m is invested in the financial markets.

Comic Relief defended its investment policy. It said charities had to maximise their returns. Ethical screening would have limited its ability to do this.

Money was placed into large managed funds and not individual companies, it said.