Our constitution restricts the types of work we can do and the manner in which we do it. Our constitution is lodged with the Charity Commission, has the force of law, and the Board of Trustees is legally responsible for ensuring we abide by it.
The parts of the constitution related to the work we do and how we do it are found in clauses three, fifteen and sixteen. The clauses are repeated below and relate to the objects (the charitable purpose of the organisation and what makes it a charity), the nature of research work, and any political activity, respectively.
Clause 3 – Objects
The reason PI exists, what it sets out to do, and the type of work it can involve itself in, is set out in this clause. The work described in this clause relates to charitable purposes as defined by the Charities Act 2011, and is what makes PI a charity.
3(1) The promotion and advancement of education by research into the practice of whistleblowing and protection of whistleblowers and educating the public therein by all or any of the following means:
(a) the promotion and advancement of research into (and the publication of the useful results thereof) of the practice of whistleblowing and protection of whistleblowers;
(b) the publication and distribution of journals, books, magazines, pamphlets and other literary works to disseminate information and promote discussion on topics connected with the Objects;
(c) the education of the public regarding the practice of whistleblowing and protection of whistleblowers; and
(d) to promote and advance public understanding and inform public debate in those fields whether in the UK or abroad and in particular by making available to the public, through a process of objective, impartial research and rigorous factual analysis, full, accurate and relevant information to assist such public understanding and to inform and improve the quality of public debate.
3(2) To promote the human rights (as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, subsequent United Nations conventions and declarations, and the European Convention on Human Rights) of whistleblowers in the United Kingdom by all or any of the following means:
(a) provision of technical advice to government and others on whistleblowers’ human rights issues;
(b) contribution to the sound administration of the law relating to whistleblowers’ human rights;
(c) commenting on proposed legislation relating to or impacting whistleblowers’ human rights;
(d) raising awareness of whistleblowers’ human rights issues;
(e) promoting public support for whistleblowers’ human rights issues;
(f) promoting respect for whistleblowers’ human rights among individuals and corporations;
(g) international advocacy of whistleblowers’ human rights.
3(3) Nothing in this constitution shall authorise an application of the property of the ClO for the purposes which are not charitable in accordance with section 7 of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 and section 2 of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.
Clause 15 – Research activity
To reinforce the charitable nature of PI, this clause sets out the restrictions on research activity that PI can carry out, that the research must be free to the public, and ensures research activity is governed at the highest level of the organisation, ie at the Board of Trustees.
15(1) Any and all research conducted by, or on behalf of, the organisation must have a public benefit.
(a) Activity in 15(1) may only further commercial and private (ie non-charitable) interests as a coincidence of furthering a public benefit.
(b) Where it is clear a piece of research has a “dual purpose” (in relation to 15(1)(a)), the public benefit of the research must be clearly articulated. The rationale for proceeding with research in such circumstances must be clearly documented at board level.
15(2) Any and all research conducted by, or on behalf of, the organisation must be made publicly and freely available.
(a) Any research activity the organisation is paid directly to complete, ie any research the organisation is contracted to provide, must also abide by Clause 15(1) and 15(2).
15(3) The discussion of research activity must be a standing agenda item at board meetings.
15(4) The board of trustees is ultimately responsible for ensuring that all research activity meets the requirements in this clause.
15(5) Any policy related to research must prominently repeat Clause 15 in its entirety in the opening pages and as an integral part of the document.
Clause 16 – Political activity
Political activity by charities can be a sensitive and controversial topic. A lot of PI’s work could be very political and there are strict rules governing what a charity can and cannot do. This clause ensures proper training is given to all members of the organisation, and that all political activity is reviewed by those legally responsible for ensuring PI operates within the law.
16(1) Any and all political activity must abide by the advice, guidance and rules set forth by the Charity Commission.
16(2) All members of the organisation (whether trustee, employed staff or volunteer) must receive training on the legal obligations related to political activity by charities.
16(3) Any and all political activity must be planned, then discussed and agreed at board level before being allowed to proceed.
(a) The discussion of political activity must be a standing agenda item at board meetings.
(b) Where appropriate, a sub-committee of trustees will be formed to examine political plans, in line with both the charitable objects of the organisation and the extant rules and guidance regarding political activity by charities.
(c) Any sub-committee formed for the purposes of dealing with political activity by the organisation, in addition to complying with Clause 14, must report to the full board as a minimum every quarter, or every time the board meets, whichever is soonest.
16(4) Any policy related to political activity must prominently repeat Clause 16 in its entirety in the opening pages and as an integral part of the document.
16(5) Except for the lawful activities agreed and endorsed by the Board, the organisation does not allow political campaigning or partisan political activities at any organisation workplace or facility, and does not permit the use of any organisational resources, including computers, telephones, email or employee work time for political campaigning, fund-raising, or other partisan political activities.