Monday, August 22, 2011

Royal Preorgative?

Prince Charles is president of 20 charities which are widely seen as an extension of his own social and environmental goals. Eighteen of them were founded by him. Charles has repeatedly come under fire for his attempts to influence public policy. Prince Charles's charities have lobbied government ministers and senior officials to change policies on politically sensitive topics including VAT rates and regional development spending.

Prof Adam Tomkins, a leading expert in constitutional law at Glasgow University, said that because the charities were set up by Prince Charles and appear to reflect his sometimes deeply controversial political agendas, their interventions undermined royalty's traditional non-involvement in politics. "We need to explore whether this is a deliberately constructed network of organisations to do more political work that the heir to the throne could, were the spirit of the constitution adhered to. The overall pattern raises a question about whether the constitutional propriety of the political independence and neutrality of the monarchy are being jeopardised by a long-standing pattern not just of work on good causes but on campaigning on political issues, which are sometimes party-political." Tomkins said.
The heir to the throne has become famous for sending handwritten "black spider memos" to politicians expressing his views on the issues of the day - and he is not embarrassed about them. "What some people call meddling I call mobilising," he said

A former ministerial adviser who handled lobbying from the prince and his charities on housing and complementary medicine said he felt that interventions by the prince and his charities have previously been granted priority in Whitehall. Paul Richards, special adviser to Hazel Blears and Patricia Hewitt, former secretaries of state for communities and health, explained "My sense was that the charities were given a star status and that means they get priority and I would be astonished if that was any different under the current government."

Business in the Community, a charity of which Charles has been president for 25 years, urged the business secretary, Vince Cable, to rethink a decision to scrap the Northwest Regional Development Agency.

The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment urged the local government minister, Grant Shapps, to incorporate greater community engagement in planning and promoted its own planning work around the country as something for him to consider in the national planning policy framework. Three months later the Department for Communities and Local Government awarded a £800,000 grant to the Foundation to advise local groups on new developments.

Charles held meetings with 10 government ministers, including talks at Clarence House with the chancellor, George Osborne, the education secretary, Michael Gove, the international development secretary, Andrew Mitchell, and the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman. Their discussions remain secret because of exemptions in freedom of information laws concerning communication between members of the royal family and public bodies. The same exemptions do not apply to the charities.

Taken from here

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