Prince Charles has been accused of hiding behind stringent new freedom of information restrictions to conceal lobbying of the Government for changes to policy, after it was revealed that he met at least eight ministers in a 10-month period.
Campaigners called for an urgent review of changes to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act ushered in during the final days of the last Labour government, which granted the heir to the throne – who is obliged to be politically neutral – an absolute exemption from the release of details about his contacts with ministers and senior civil servants.
The amendments mean that the prince, who has been accused of exceeding his constitutional powers – notably last year when he intervened to halt a £3bn property development by the Qatari royal family – is no longer the subject of a public interest test to decide whether the content of his communications with the Government should be published.
Suspicions that the prince is straying into political territory were increased yesterday with the revelation that Charles held nine private meetings with ministers including Chancellor George Osborne, left, Education Secretary Michael Gove and Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman between May 2010 and March this year to discuss policy areas including some of his own favoured issues such as global warming and "tree health". Most ministers refused to reveal the nature of the discussions due to the Prince's FOI exemption, which came into force in January.
The disclosure by the Mail on Sunday came after Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former communications chief, revealed this weekend that the former prime minister became increasingly frustrated with the prince's interventions on policy issues from foxhunting to GM foods and may have raised the issue with the Queen.
Maurice Frankel, of the Campaign for the Freedom of Information, said: "There is a legitimate case to made... in protecting discussions between the Queen and the Prime Minister. But this type of roving lobbying by Prince Charles is a different matter."Reuse content