£475m National Fund dispute grows

The Attorney General has announced that he will seek to close down the National Fund, one of the richest charities in the UK, and spend its £475m assets on paying off the national debt.

The National Fund was set up with £500,000 in 1928, by an anonymous donor – believed to be Stanley Baldwin, who would later become Prime Minister – with the intention of paying off the national debt following the First World War.

However, the UK’s national debt currently stands at £1.7tn, and the fund has never grown above 0.066% of the national debt and has therefore been stuck in a legal limbo.

Civil Society News revealed that deliberations about the fund had been going on for nine years without any action,

The Attorney General has sought agreement from the Trustees of the fund, to apply to the high court to ask that the terms of the trust are amended so that the money can be released.

Their office has argued that it has a duty to stick closely to the original purpose of the fund in order to respect the wishes of those who have contributed to it.

The Attorney General Jeremy Wright QC said: ‘Almost 90 years ago an anonymous donor bequeathed money to the nation and yet we have not been able to put it to good use. We have been working with the Treasury, Trustees and the Charity Commission to find a solution consistent with the donor’s original objectives of extinguishing the national debt.

‘I am applying to the high court to ask that the fund is released and if that application is successful, the Fund could be used to benefit the nation by helping to do what the original donors intended.’

However, the Labour Party has called on the Government to give the money to smaller charities.

Steve Reed, the shadow minister for civil society, said: ‘This £475m would be a tidal wave of support for small charities, but it’s a drop in the ocean compared to the national debt. In fact, the national debt is rising so fast that by the end of the same day this payment is made towards it, the debt will have risen by nearly the same amount.

‘This government never misses a chance to sideline charities. Here’s a real chance to do some real good but the government is threatening to do nothing instead.’

Thomas Barrett
Senior journalist - NewStart Follow him on Twitter


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