What's Mandy up to with Charles and Camilla?

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The Independent Online
PETER MANDELSON, Minister without Portfolio, is at the centre of a new row over his relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles and the Prince of Wales.

Determined attempts at Westminster to force disclosure of his links with the two have been halted by Commons officials who blocked parliamentary questions on the subject.

The moves came amid renewed claims that Mrs Parker Bowles has called on Mr Mandelson at his house in west London, as well as discussing her place in public esteem with him. Some Labour MPs claim she is a "regular visitor" to the minister's home.

But MPs are not allowed to learn anything officially about the "loyal to royal" relationship, because Westminster officials have stopped Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker from asking Mr Mandelson about his role. On Friday, the Commons Vote Office, which lays down what MPs may ask of ministers, ruled out of order a series of questions that he sought to table. They asked:

On how many occasions has he (the minister) met the Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles since 1 May last year, what government matters were discussed, what representations he has received, and what changes to government policy and practice have resulted?

What representations has he received from the Prince of Wales, Camilla Parker Bowles and the Bloodsports Lobby on the Wild Animals (Hunting with Dogs) Bill since 1 May, and what steps he has taken as a consequence?

What was the purpose of his recent visit to Sandringham; what matters relating to government were discussed, and will he make a statement to the Commons?

Whether his role as Minister without Portfolio includes the giving of advice in respect of handling the media to the Prince of Wales or Camilla Parker Bowles?

The bar is unlikely to stifle growing parliamentary pressure to smoke out links between Mr Mandelson and members of the Royal Family who oppose the Bill to outlaw foxhunting.

Mr Baker, a persistent inquisitor of the minister, said last night: "Mr Mandelson is one of the most powerful figures in the Government, but also one of the most unaccountable. Clearly, what he does affects the way the country is run, yet we cannot ask him about his true role."