Prince Charles letters: outrage at Attorney General's 'cover-up'

Oct 17, 2012

Dominic Grieve blocks decision to publish letters in which prince ‘sought to influence government’

Getty Images

ATTORNEY GENERAL Dominic Grieve has sparked outrage with a decision to block the release of private letters sent from Prince of Wales to seven government departments.

The case arose from a Freedom of Information request submitted by Guardian journalist Rob Evans to publish letters sent between September 2004 and April 2005. The Administrative Appeals Chamber gave Evans the go-ahead last month but yesterday Grieve overturned the court decision.

Grieve said that, unlike the appeal court, he thought that the correspondence was part of Prince Charles' "preparation for kingship" so his attempts to influence policy could not be likened to that of any other lobbyist.

There was nothing improper in the nature or contents of the letters, he said, but they reflected the prince's "most deeply held personal views and beliefs" and were in "many cases particularly frank".

Grieve added: "They also contain remarks about public affairs which would in my view, if revealed, have had a material effect upon the willingness of the government to engage in correspondence with the Prince of Wales and would potentially have undermined his position of political neutrality.”

The Guardian, which hopes to challenge the veto in the High Court, described the decision as a "right royal cover-up".

"There is no dispute that the prince has been bombarding ministers with his self-interested and often reactionary views for years," said the paper's editorial. "In his attempt to justify the unjustifiable, Mr Grieve has clutched at a fragile constitutional doctrine and adopted a deeply dubious legal course."

Claiming that such matters are protected by FoI laws allows ministers to pretend their concern is to protect the proper training of a good and useful prince, the Guardian said, when in fact it is "primarily to cover up for the constitutionally dubious blunderings of an indulged and even dangerous dauphin".

Archie Bland of The Independent joined in, writing: “Stop trying to pull a fast one, Dominic. We all know you're trying to protect Prince Charles from himself."

It is "perfectly obvious to anyone who speaks English" that blocking the correspondence will not “undermine the prince’s position of political neutrality”, Bland said. "Instead, it will help Charles maintain the illusion of political neutrality while exercising his influence as much as he likes."

One reason the judges originally ruled in favour of releasing the letters, said an editorial in The Times, was that the evidence showed "Prince Charles using his access to government ministers" and they felt it to be "in the overall public interest for there to be transparency as to how and when Prince Charles seeks to influence government.”

The Times concluded: “It is lamentable that Mr Grieve has failed to see this."

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Disqus - noscript

None of the Fleet St. establishment will aprove of this decision, for obvious reasons, but it's probably for the best. After all this hoo-hah wecan hope HRH has learnt a lesson, to back off a touch.

Btw, lovely how the Guardian talks of his 'often reactionary' views - it has to say 'often', because so many of his views in fact chime with the Guardian/BBC/Islington view of the world!

This is a very wise response. As a former Prime Minister said of the Queens weekly meetings she does not leak and neither does she want his job. Thus he could be frank and they could be honest and frank with them too. There is a very important role here of the Head of State and it is unworthy of any newspaper to undermine one of the few checks and balances of the UKs political system post Maggie Thatchers removal, just to flog some momentary extra newspapers. Guardian Editors and others there are some lines not to cross otherwise may Hell mend you and your business