MPs demand inquiry into revelations that Prince Charles sent staff to work in Whitehall

Ministers urged to explain why Clarence House employees were given government posts

The Prince of Wales was accused tonight of an “astonishing” breach of his constitutional role by dispatching employees to work in two Government departments.

The disclosure that three members of his staff had been seconded to Whitehall followed last week’s revelation that the heir to throne has had 36 private meetings with Cabinet members since the 2010 general election.

Demands for 27 letters written by the Prince to ministers in the previous government to be released have also been blocked by the Attorney General.

MPs are preparing to challenge ministers over the secondments when Parliament returns next month and will attempt to trigger a Commons inquiry into the Prince’s influence over the Government machine.

Clarence House confirmed three staff members had been seconded to departments over the past five years.All three were said to be junior personnel who had been given the placements, which ranged from six weeks to two years, to develop their careers. It strongly denied they had been sent there to advance issues close to the Prince’s heart.

But the Labour MP Paul Flynn said the latest disclosures – the first known secondments from the Royal Household to Whitehall – were the “last straw”. He told The Independent: “We now have this extraordinary story that he put his minions in two departments. Few things really surprise me, but I’m astonished by this. His main qualification for the job is that he doesn’t get involved in politics.”

Mr Flynn said he would be pressing to add the issue to the agenda of the Commons political and constitutional reform select committee, of which he is a member.

“While we are calling for transparency in lobbying, that principle certainly extends to lobbying by the next in line to the throne,” he said.

One staff member from Clarence House was seconded to the Cabinet Office for two years and a second spent six weeks in the department, which has oversight of constitutional issues. A third employee spent a year in the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which is responsible for agriculture and GM foods, subjects in which the Prince takes a close interest. It also has responsibility for the planned badger cull, which he supports.

An unnamed minister told The Sunday Times the secondments raised fears the Prince was exceeding his position as a constitutional monarch in waiting. “I think it’s undemocratic. There is a question about what they are doing and whether they are influencing policy,” the minister said.

Paul Farrelly, a Labour MP, said he would ask ministers about the secondments when the Commons comes back after the summer recess. “It raises constitutional questions about the influence the monarch in waiting has over policy and there will be questions in the House when it returns,” he said.

A Clarence House spokesperson said: “We have had two secondments to government departments in the past two years. The secondments were suggested on the basis of professional development and the paperwork was arranged by the relevant HR departments.

“One secondment was one year and the other was for two years. Both have come to a natural conclusion. There was no official feedback mechanism and no regular meetings were attended with the Prince of Wales’s Household.

“The secondments were on a like for like basis. One secondee has now left Clarence House and the other is due to return shortly after a sabbatical.

“Over the past five years, in addition to the two secondments already discussed, there has been one other secondment, for six weeks to the Cabinet Office. We have no new secondments planned at present.”

Ministers have previously expressed private fears that Prince Charles may interfere too readily in government decisions when he becomes king.

The former Downing Street director of communications, Alastair Campbell, wrote in his diaries that Tony Blair was irritated by the Prince’s public interventions over sensitive policy areas.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy