Exclusive: No official records of ‘personal’ meeting between Institute of Economic Affairs and Jacob Rees-Mogg

Controversial libertarian think tank suggested EU laws and regulations which should be repealed or reformed

There are no official records of a meeting between a senior minister and a controversial think tank held earlier this year, NationalWorld can reveal.

Jacob Rees-Mogg met with the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) in March and again in June, but responding to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request the Cabinet Office was only available to provide any detail on what was discussed at the earlier meeting.

While the June meeting was logged in the government’s official transparency data, suggesting the meeting related to government policy, a Cabinet Office source said it was in fact a personal meeting, so shouldn’t have been logged.

At the meeting in March, a representative of the libertarian think tank discussed repealing retained EU law and regulations with Rees-Mogg and a special adviser.

The IEA has been criticised for a lack of transparency over how it is funded, especially in light of its close ties to the Conservative Party and Liz Truss’ short-lived administration in particular.

Think tank suggested EU laws and regulations to be scrapped

Government transparency releases show Rees-Mogg met with representatives of the IEA on 2 March and 20 June this year, while he was serving as Minister for Brexit Opportunities and Government efficiency under Boris Johnson.

The purpose of the 2 March meeting was “to discuss regulations as a Brexit opportunity,” while the 20 June meeting was held “to discuss government efficiency,” according to transparency releases. Campaigners have criticised the government for failing to provide sufficient details about the subjects up for discussion when third parties lobby the government.

It is unclear what was discussed when Rees-Mogg met with the think tank again in June, as the Cabinet Office has claimed that it holds no record of minutes, notes or any other materials relating to the meeting, in response to an FOI request by NationalWorld.

A Cabinet Office source suggested that the meeting had been declared in transparency data erroneously, as it was in fact a personal meeting with no officials in attendance, despite being recorded as relating to government efficiency. NationalWorld reported last month that a meeting between a senior minister and a lobbying firm had been removed from transparency logs as it was a political meeting.

At the 2 March meeting, records obtained by NationalWorld show that the IEA suggested retained EU laws and regulations the government should repeal or reform, and discussed the “role of the regulators in the UK economy”. Records show that Rees-Mogg stressed his ambition for regulators to be “growth-focused”.

NationalWorld later reported that the government was considering scrapping the Working Time Regulations, an EU-derived regulation which offer workers a number of rights and protections including the right to refuse to work more than 48 hours per week, and accrued holiday pay.

Rees-Mogg also met with the Taxpayers Alliance and the Adam Smith Institute around this time, both right-wing think tanks which have been criticised for failing to disclose their funding sources.

IEA’s links to Conservatives

The IEA has longstanding links with the Conservative Party, particularly to MPs on the free-market, libertarian right, such as former Prime Minister Liz Truss, who set up a parliamentary wing of the think tank and had former staffers from the think tank on her team in Number 10.

The think tank has been credited with pushing for a number of the policies in Truss and former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget, including scrapping the top rate of income tax and the cap on banker’s bonuses.

Responding to the mini-budget, IEA director Mark Littlewood said “this isn’t a trickle-down budget, it’s a boost-up budget,” adding that “if this was the Chancellor’s ‘mini’ budget, l look forward to the ‘maxi’ budget”.

However, a number of these key policies were reversed after the mini-budget prompted a disastrous reaction from financial markets, and added to the Bank of England’s concerns around monetary policy which led to higher interest rates.

A recent report on think tank funding which looked at a number of organisations across the political spectrum found that the IEA was among the least transparent. Many think tanks, including the IEA, have charitable status.

Open Democracy’s Who Funds You report gave the IEA the lowest possible ranking, noting that it provides ‘no or negligible information’ regarding its sources of funding, after declaring income of £2,343,000 in the last two years.

The Adam Smith Institute and Taxpayers’ Alliance both also received the lowest possible transparency rating, according to the report.