Blair caved in after secret royal memo on badger culling

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A leaked memo, recording a meeting with Downing Street officials, reveals the Prince of Wales has contacted Mr Blair about tackling the spread of the disease from badgers to cattle.

MPs said yesterday that the Prince's intervention raised fresh questions about the role of the monarchy. Dr Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, said it was inappropriate for the heir to the throne to be interfering on the creation of government policy.

"Given his refusal to enter into a public debate over his opinions, it is highly dubious whether the heir to the throne should be lobbying at all for changes in public policy, let alone doing so covertly using connections at the top of government," he said.

Prince Charles has caused consternation in Whitehall before by lobbying on policy issues. The Prince put pressure on Tony Blair over foot and mouth disease not to introduce a mass slaughter of cattle.

The leaked memo shows that the Prince of Wales has now lobbied Tony Blair about lack of action over the spread of TB from badgers to livestock.

The memo records a meeting on 27 July about animal health issues between the chief veterinary officer, Debby Reynolds, a Downing Street adviser and a senior civil servant at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The memo says: "On tuberculosis, X [a senior No 10 adviser] said that the Prime Minister had been concerned for some years about the increasing incidence of disease and lack of action to stop this. He had been lobbied on this by, amongst others, the Prince of Wales. He would have no qualms about introducing a badger cull providing this was part of a balanced package including animal welfare considerations."

The revelation comes as the Prime Minister prepares to make a major speech on the environment this week. He will call for renewed efforts to combat climate change and meet targets on reducing greenhouse gases.

A friend of the Prince said: "He has come to the conclusion that badgers are implicated in the disease. He fires off these letters all the time. Some politicians dread getting a letter from HRH."

A spokeswoman for the Prince said: "We wouldn't comment on leaked memos. A huge number of people are concerned about this, including the Prince of Wales, who is a farmer at the end of the day. He has an estate."

Prince Charles's organic farm, where he keeps Ayrshire dairy cows and Aberdeen Angus beef cattle as well as rare breeds, is in the middle of a TB hot spot. He has been forced to cull his cattle. In 1994, several badgers had to be culled following a TB outbreak.

Farmers have been pressing for a cull of badgers in areas of high infection. But a cull is likely to draw fierce opposition from animal welfare groups, some of whom have questioned whether badgers spread TB to cattle at all.

The Government refused to comment on the leaked memo but said an initiative to tackle TB would be announced this autumn.