Saturday 3 December 2016

Private letters reveal extensive lobbying efforts by Prince Charles

Laura Elston in London

Published 14/05/2015 | 02:30

Prince Charles in 2003
Prince Charles in 2003

PRIVATE letters sent by Britain's Prince Charles to Labour ministers a decade ago have been published after a lengthy legal battle.

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The letters reveal the extensive lobbying efforts of the prince despite the fact that royals are supposed to remain neutral on national issues.

In one letter to the then prime minister, Tony Blair. Prince Charles said the armed forces were being asked to do a challenging job "without the necessary resources".

The 27 letters to seven government departments on wide-ranging subjects, including the dominance of supermarkets, badger culling and the herbal medicine sector, were written between September 2004 and April 2005.

Paul Flynn, Labour MP for Newport West, suggested that Charles was putting the future of the Royal Family at risk through politically partial statements.

Mr Flynn branded some of the heir to the throne's opinions progressive, but said others were "eccentric" and "barmy".

"His views are no more significant than the views of a person you might meet in the pub. He's putting at risk the future of the Royal Family by making politically partial statements," Mr Flynn said.

"The serious role of a head of state is to act politically impartially and to intervene when prime ministers act in their own interests rather than the nation's," he added.

A UK government veto on publication was declared unlawful by the Court of Appeal last year - a decision which was upheld by the Supreme Court in March.

In a letter to Mr Blair from September 2004, the prince expressed concern that the Army Air Corp's ability to deploy equipment was being "frustrated by the poor performance of the existing Lynx aircraft in high temperatures".

He added: "Despite this, the procurement of a new aircraft to replace the Lynx is subject to further delays and uncertainty due to the significant pressure on the defence budget.

"I fear that this is just one more example of where our armed forces are being asked to do an extremely challenging job (particularly in Iraq) without the necessary resources."

Mr Blair replied a month later saying he found the prince's letter "constructive and thought-provoking" and that the limitations of the existing Lynx helicopters were recognised by the Ministry of Defence.

The Cabinet Office yesterday afternoon published 27 letters between the prince and seven government departments which were written between 2004 and 2005 and have been the subject of a 10-year legal battle. But fewer than 10 of the letters were written by the prince himself, and none of them contain any of the "black spider" handwriting that gave them their nickname.

Prince Charles exchanged correspondence with two Labour education secretaries, discussing healthy eating in schools and professional development for teachers.

The letters show some of his thoughts on schooling, revealing that he finds the idea that teachers should not impart knowledge but act as 'coaches' "difficult to understand" and that he believed approaches to teaching and learning needed to be "challenged".

He also carried out correspondence with environment, food and rural affairs minister Elliot Morley on the subject of illegal fishing and the High Seas Task Force Mr Morley was chairing to tackle the problem.

In October 2004, he wrote to the minister: "I must say it is enormously encouraging to know of your efforts to try and bring to heel the recalcitrant countries who sanction, either directly or by turning a blind eye, pirate and illegal fishing."

And he added: "I particularly hope that the illegal fishing of the Patagonian toothfish will be high on your list of priorities."

Irish Independent

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