Chatham House

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Chatham House, or the Royal Institute of International Affairs, calls itself an “independent policy institute” and is based in London. According to the website, its “mission is to help build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world”.1
The think tank has a long-established involvement with various corporate members, including British American Tobacco (BAT).

Funded by BAT

Current Funding

British American Tobacco is currently one of Chatham House’s “major corporate members”.2

Historical Funding

Internal tobacco industry documents, now publicly available, reveal that Chatham House has a history of receiving money from BAT, sometimes giving funding in addition to its annual corporate membership fees:

  • In 1990, Chatham House began a major fundraising appeal to coincide with its 70th Anniversary. BAT’s chair, Patrick Sheehy, was a member of Chatham House’s Fundraising Board,3 and the tobacco company funded the refurbishment of the library, donating £70,000 towards it.4 5 6

BAT believed that funding the library was the most comprehensive way the tobacco company could achieve “impact” with its money. BAT noted that: “A number of options of the most effective way of supporting the Chatham House Campaign have been explored including an annual lecture and endowing a junior research fellowship. However these proposals would involve either considerable organizational input from BAT or would not have sufficient impact.”7

  • In 1996, BAT paid £23,500 towards the “Sponsorship for Former Soviet South Project.”8

BAT’s other Involvement with Chatham House

Use Chatham House to “Counter” Critical Report on Smoking

In December 1983, the fourth Royal College of Physicians Report, “Health or Smoking?” was published. For the first time, the report examined the health risks of passive smoking and called for an end to tobacco advertising and promotion.9
One undated BAT document revealed how the tobacco company proposed to use Chatham House in its public relations strategy to counter the Royal College’s report. The document stated:
“The purpose of this note is to suggest an approach to the Tobacco Advisory Council (TAC), who wish to create some publicity for the benefits of tobacco growing in the developing countries, so as to provide a counter to the critical comment that may well emerge from the Royal College of Physicians Report later in the year.” The company suggested a seminar should be organised, with an aim “to publicise the contribution of tobacco to the economic development of many countries overseas”.
The proposed venue was “at an institution such as Chatham House or at a central hotel”. The event was to be organised by BAT and TAC.10
It is unclear from the documents whether the event went ahead.

Getting “Closer to the corporate members”

In the mid-1980’s, one BAT executive noted that “In their desire to make Chatham House more relevant, they would like to get closer to their corporate members”.11

BAT a Council Member

By the late-1980’s, BAT’s chairman Patrick Sheehy was a Council Member of Chatham House.12

Internal Market Project

In the late-1980’s, BAT co-sponsored Chatham House’s “project on the Internal Market, which culminated in the publication of Europe’s Domestic Market”.13

Russian Project “Addresses the Interests” of Corporate Sponsors

By the mid-1990’s, BAT and its employees were considered “active participants in the Institute’s activities, including sitting on the Russian and CIS Programme”.14 As part of this, the company sponsored the Former Soviet South project.15
The benefits BAT reaped as a result of its sponsorship of Chatham House are further detailed in internal documents: One from Chatham House noted:

“The project is funded by companies investing in the region and the highest priority is given to addressing those companies’ interests in all aspects of the project’s work – from setting the research agenda and topics for publication, round tables and briefings, to helping develop contacts with specialists and officials in the West and the CIS.”16

Another internal document from BAT revealed how important these meetings were to the company to give it an inside track to key government officials and other influential people in the post-Soviet debate:

Chatham House’s “value is in the contacts made at the meetings and picking up some issues that might not have been discussed publicly. There are usually Foreign Office officials and key journalists present as well as academics and businessmen”.17

Facilitated the Visit of the Argentinean President

In 1995, BAT was asked to help facilitate the President of Argentina’s business links on a visit to Britain. The tobacco company proposed that it arrange for the President to give a talk at Chatham House.18

Chatham House’s China Task Force

In the 1990’s, BAT was one of the Member Companies of the Chatham House China Task Force 19, whose remit was to “cover the handover of Hong Kong and to ensure continuing good relations with the Chinese”.20 To be a member of the Taskforce, BAT had to donate £15,000 to £20,000 and chair 4-5 meetings a year.21
The China Task Force was strategically important to BAT, as during this period the company was trying to force a relaxation of the Chinese investment restrictions and gain greater access to the lucrative Chinese market.22
By the late nineties, BAT’s chairman at the time, Martin Broughton, was invited to be in the “inner core” of UK-China Forum.23 At one stage the Chair of the Forum was ex-Conservative politician, Michael Heseltine.24 In 1999, Martin Broughton was appointed Chairman of the UK-China Forum Industry Sub Group. 25 26
Included on the list of issues to be addressed by the subgroup was “British support for China’s membership of the WTO”.27 As noted in an academic paper by members of the Tobacco Control Research Group and others, BAT stood to gain tremendous economic benefits if China were to become a member of the World Trade Organisation as it would contribute “to significant concessions on the liberalization of the tobacco market in China”.28
In the paper, the academics argued that forums such as the UK-China Forum were important for BAT to “exert influence” because, “in both the United States and Europe, support for aligning domestic and foreign policy on tobacco was increasing.”29


  1. Chatham House, website, about, accessed July 2014
  2. Chatham House, Annual Review 2012–13 – Navigating the new geopolitics,
  3. Patrick Sheehy, membership of the Seventieth Anniversary Fundraising Board, 17 April 190
  4. Heather Honour, Note from Honour to Prideaux regarding the Chatham house appeal, 19 July 1990
  5. British American Tobacco, Extract of Minutes of Meeting of the Chairman’s Policy Committee held on 20th July 1990, 20 July 1990
  6. Patrack Sheehy, Letter from P Sheehy to Christopher Tugendhat regarding the BAT Industries’ donation to the Chatham House Appeal, 31 July 1990
  7. British American Tobacco, Chatham House, 19 July 1990
  8. Chatham House Enterprises, Invoice in favor of British-American Tobacco Company Limited, 15 October, 1996
  9. Action on Smoking and Health, Key dates in the history of anti-tobacco campaigning, 2013
  10. British American Tobacco, Proposed Seminar on Tobacco in the Developing Countries, undated
  11. EJ Symons, from EJ Symons to Chairman regarding the Chatham House – Royal Institute of International Affairs, 29 May 1984
  12. Patrick Sheehy, Letter from Patrick Sheehy to Helmut Maucher regarding Royal Institute of International affairs, 28 November 1988
  13. Patrick Sheehy, Letter from Patrick Sheehy to Antony Pilkington regarding enlist support, 28 November 1988
  14. Keith Gretton, Membership of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, 17 May 1994
  15. Royal Institute of International Affairs, Rural and Agricultural Development in Uzbekistan, 1995
  16. The Royal Institute of International Affairs, Former Soviet South Project – Benefits for Consortium Members Former Soviet South Project – Benefits for Consortium Members, undated
  17. Heather Honour, Royal Institute of International Affairs: Post Soviet Business Forum, 20 January 1995
  18. Michael Leach, Presidential Visit to Britain, 24 November 1995
  19. Member Companies of the Chatham House China Task Force, undated,
  20. Chatham House China Task Force, undated
  21. Heather Honour, Chatham House: China Project, 9 January 1995
  22. British American Tobacco, Prime Minister’s Visit to China, undated
  23. David Wall, Letter from David Wall to Martin Broughton regarding UK-China Forum, 27 January 1999
  24. Royal Institute of International Affairs, UK-China Forum: Inaugural Meeting – 15th February, undated
  25. British American Tobacco, Martin Broughton FCA, undated
  26. Nicola Shears, Note from Nicola Shears to Wei Ming Ooi regarding China task force, 2 July 1999
  27. British American Tobacco, UK China Forum: Industry Sub-Group, 13 May, 1999
  28. Chris Holden, Kelley Lee, Anna Gilmore, Gary Fooks, and Nathaniel Wander, “Trade Policy, Health, And Corporate Influence: British American Tobacco and China’s Accession to the World Trade Organisation”, International Journal of Health Services, Volume 40, Number 3, Pages 421–441, 2010
  29. Chris Holden, Kelley Lee, Anna Gilmore, Gary Fooks, and Nathaniel Wander, “Trade Policy, Health, And Corporate Influence: British American Tobacco and China’s Accession to the World Trade Organisation”, International Journal of Health Services, Volume 40, Number 3, Pages 421–441, 2010