DCMS as principal regulator of exempt charities

National museums and galleries and the British Library


guidance on conflicts of interest

Request an accessible format.
If you use assistive technology (such as a screen reader) and need a version of this document in a more accessible format, please email Please tell us what format you need. It will help us if you say what assistive technology you use.


On 1 June 2010, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport became the principal regulator for certain national museums and galleries and the British Library, which are sponsored bodies of DCMS.

This new responsibility is set out in section 26 of the Charities Act 2011, which has made all charities subject to formal regulation. Although all charities must comply with charity law, so-called ‘exempt charities’ were previously outside the scope of the Charity Commission’s formal regulatory powers.

The Secretary of State (as one of several principal regulators), has the objective, as far as he reasonably can, of promoting compliance by the charity trustees of certain museums and galleries with their legal obligations in the administration of the charity. This involves regular monitoring and high-level supervision, which on occasion may involve more detailed work, including liaising with the Charity Commission on any complex issues that require the use of its regulatory and investigatory powers.

Principal regulators have the power to request any necessary information that may help it to meet its objective of promoting compliance with charity law. However, the charities that are now subject to the Secretary of State’s principal regulator role are also subject to the formal investigation and enforcement powers of the Charity Commission. The Commission may only exercise those powers following consultation with the principal regulator.

All principal regulators have a memorandum of understanding with the Charity Commission which describes how the Commission and respective principal regulators will work together. Read the memorandum of understanding.

DCMS and the Charity Commission have also jointly prepared guidance on conflicts of interest (PDF 208kb) which is intended for the particular use of trustees of charitable museums, galleries and libraries, including those sponsored by DCMS. It identifies instances where charities might need to contact the Charity Commission for advice or authorisation.

Institutions which are now subject to the principal regulator role of Culture Secretary and which also receive funding from DCMS are:

The British Library

The British Museum

The Imperial War Museum

The National Gallery

The National Maritime Museum

National Museums Liverpool

The National Portrait Gallery

The Natural History Museum

The Royal Armouries

The Science Museum Group

  • Read about governance, trustees and annual reports


The Victoria and Albert Museum

The Wallace Collection

Published 26 November 2012