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Letters from prince could be revealed

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: March 15, 2014

By John Aston

The Prince of Wales wrote to a number of government departments, giving his views on a range of issues   PICTURE: Chris Jackson/PA

The Prince of Wales wrote to a number of government departments, giving his views on a range of issues PICTURE: Chris Jackson/PA

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The Attorney General is to challenge a Court of Appeal ruling that he has unlawfully prevented the public seeing letters the Prince of Wales wrote to government ministers.

Lord Dyson, the Master of the Rolls, and two other appeal judges opened up the possibility that the royal correspondence could soon be revealed to the public gaze.

They unanimously ruled that the Government's principal legal adviser has "no good reason" for using his ministerial veto and overriding the decision of an independent tribunal, chaired by a High Court judge, in favour of disclosure.

The case is believed to mark the first time that anyone has challenged the Attorney General's powers to block access to information.

A spokesman for Dominic Grieve said he will now take his case to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, "in order to protect the important principles which are at stake in this case".

Prince Charles is known for his strong opinions on a range of topics from the environment and farming to complementary medicine and architecture. He has faced accusations in the past of "meddling" in day-to-day politics and criticism over his "black spider memos" – the name given to the hand-written letters he pens to government ministers expressing his views.

Guardian journalist Rob Evans applied to see a number of written communications between Charles and various government ministers between September 2004 and April 2005.

Mr Evans sought disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA), and under the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.

The Upper Tribunal declared in September 2012 that he was entitled to see "advocacy correspondence", described as letters Charles had written seeking to advance the work of charities or to promote views. The prince wrote to seven departments: Business, Innovation and Skills; Health; Children, Schools and Families; Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Culture, Media and Sport; the Northern Ireland Office and the Cabinet Office. A month after the tribunal ruling, the Attorney General used his ministerial veto by issuing a certificate under Section 53 of the FOIA.

He said the public could interpret the letters sent to ministers in the last Labour government as showing Charles to be "disagreeing with government policy".

Mr Grieve said any perception that Prince Charles had disagreed with Tony Blair's government "would be seriously damaging to his role as future monarch because if he forfeits his position of political neutrality as heir to the throne, he cannot easily recover it when he is king".

Mr Evans accused Mr Grieve of failing to show "reasonable grounds" for blocking disclosure.

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  • StanStill  |  March 15 2014, 8:13PM

    WHY DOESN'TJOBSWORTH EVANS GET BACK TO HIS GUTTER PRESS. THOSE LETTERS WERE PRIVATE LETTERS FROMHRH TO HMG, AND ARE NO BUSINESS OF ANYONE ESLSE. I hope Grieve wins and puts Evans in his place, nosey git.

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