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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: £20000 - £25000 per annum + c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

£15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food