Judges rule that Prince Charles’ letters to government must be made public

Today judges ruled that letters sent by Prince Charles to ministers should be made public.

Mr Justice Walker and two other judges ruled that:

“The essential reason is that it will generally be in the overall public interest for there to be transparency as to how and when Prince Charles seeks to influence government.”

This ruling means that seven government departments will have to release letters that Charles has written to them during seven months between 2004 and 2005.

One of those testifying, law professor Adam Tomkins, said that the Prince had lobbied on a range of issues including:

“The perceived merits of holistic medicine, the perceived evils of genetically modified crops, the apparent dangers of making cuts in the armed forces, his strong dislike of certain forms of architecture (leading him to make high-profile interventions in a number of contested planning developments), a range of issues relating to agricultural policy.”

Prince Charles has a history of holding very strong views, which are at variance with experts. In 2008 he warned that companies developing GM crops were in danger of causing “absolute disaster” and will “cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time.”

Johnjoe McFadden, a molecular geneticist at the University of Surrey, retorted:

“Prince Charles claims that GM crops will be an environmental disaster. But his vision for agriculture would be a much greater disaster for the world’s poor whose primary concern is to find their next meal.”

This is one example of Charles’ unorthodox views on particular issues. It is important to know the extent to which he has lobbied government ministers on issues.

A stream of letters sent by the Prince of Wales to government ministers may not be a serious matter if they were simply treated in the same way as any member of the public who has a particular view on a policy issue.

However evidence shows that government departments have treated the Prince’s lobbying in a uniquely respectful way.

Paul Richards, a former advisor to Hazel Blears and Patricia Hewitt, said that his letters go “to the top of the pile” and are approached with “great reverence”.

Richards was speaking about his experience in health, the Cabinet Office and communities and local government departments and claims that Charles wrote a lot on issues like planning applications and health policy.

Paul Richards also went onto say that “parliamentary lobbying is a controversial activity, and commercial lobbyists would never have the kind of direct access Prince Charles appears to have.”

The only way that worries over the extent to which the Prince has influence over government policy will be resolved is if letters by the Prince to the government are made public.


Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.