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Britain's Prince Charles defends 'spider' letters


Prince Charles. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Prince Charles. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire


Prince Charles. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Britain's Prince of Wales has defended his decision to write a series of letters to government ministers.

Charles's correspondence with ministers - known as the "black spider" memos - were released following a long-running battle by Guardian newspaper journalist Rob Evans to see the documents following a freedom of information request.

A Clarence House spokesman said: "The publication of private letters can only inhibit his ability to express the concerns and suggestions which have been put to him in the course of his travels and meetings."

The statement also insists: "The Prince of Wales is raising issues of public concern, and trying to find practical ways to address the issues."

The spokesman said Charles carries out more than 600 engagements a year which "gives him a unique perspective" and has led to him identifying issues that "he, or his charities, or his other connections, can help address".

He went on: "Sometimes this leads him to communicate his experience or, indeed, his concerns or suggestions to ministers, from all Governments, of whatever party, either in meetings or in writing.

"Government ministers have often encouraged him to do so, and many have welcomed the Prince's views and ideas on a range of subjects. There are examples of this in the correspondence that has been made public."

One of the letters was to Paul Murphy, secretary of state for Northern Ireland from 2002 to 2005, to discuss the future of Armagh Gaol.

A Clarence House spokesman said Charles intervened because he "has a long-standing interest in the role of the built environment in community building".

He said the intervention came after the historic building had stood vacant for 20 years.

Charles offered the "help and expertise of his charities in order to find a new and practical solution to help save the site", Clarence House said.

Clarence House said the letters show the Prince of Wales expressing concern about issues he has raised in public such as farming, the preservation and regeneration of historic buildings, the re-use of disused hospital buildings and the professional development of schoolteachers.

"In all these cases the Prince of Wales is raising issues of public concern and trying to find practical ways to address the issues," the statement said.

There are no "black spider" letters among the batch released - so-called because of the black ink used by the Prince and the underlining of words.

Charles's 10 letters are typed, there are a further 14 by ministers and three letters between private secretaries.

The topics range from the state of farming, regeneration of historic buildings, to healthy food.

It is understood that the Prince is "disappointed" that the confidentiality principle was not maintained.

PA Media