Prince Charles 'summons' senior ministers for private talks on his pet subjects
After revelations that Tony Blair was enraged by prince's lobbying, coalition now has to endure it
Sunday 03 July 2011
Prince Charles was propelled into a political row last night after it emerged that he had summoned some of the most senior members of the Government for private talks over a period of 10 months.
The Prince of Wales has met at least nine ministers, including the Chancellor, George Osborne, and the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, for secret talks – often at his London residence, Clarence House.
The heir to the throne appears to have targeted ministers with responsibility for some of his "pet subjects", including architecture and the environment, according to a report in the Mail on Sunday.
The revelations, detailed in a series of responses to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, revived the dispute over the Prince's penchant for "meddling" in government policy. Former Labour ministers revealed a number of years ago that they frequently received hand-written letters from the Prince, covering significant issues of the day.
But it emerged yesterday that the Prince's interventions had infuriated the New Labour hierarchy. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's former press secretary, revealed that the then Prime Minister was enraged by the Prince's attempts to "challenge" and "influence" key government policies on issues from genetically modified food to reform of the Lords and the fox-hunting ban.
At one stage Mr Blair accused Prince Charles of trying to "screw" the Labour government, and complained to the Queen.
But, far from scaling back his political activities, the Prince has been as active as ever in lobbying politicians. He appears to have taken an even more direct interest in the affairs of the coalition, preferring to meet ministers in person rather than communicating by letter.
In most cases, the ministers and the Prince refused to reveal what they had discussed, hiding behind controversial changes to the Freedom of Information Act that give the Royals special protection from public scrutiny.
Some Cabinet ministers, including the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, and the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, would not even say if they had met Charles to discuss politics.
However, it was revealed that the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, was called to his office to discuss the issue of "tree health" on two occasions, accompanied by two highly paid senior officials each time.
On another occasion the Prince had a one-to-one meeting on global warming, with the Climate Change minister, Greg Barker.
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