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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 18:55 GMT 19:55 UK
Palace defends prince's letters
Prince Charles at a rural show
Prince Charles is a great supporter of rural life
St James's Palace has defended Prince Charles after he came under fire for a letter-writing campaign to ministers.

The prince is said to have been bombarding the government, including the Lord Chancellor, with letters on issues ranging from "compensation culture" and red tape to political correctness in Britain.

It is the Royal Family's role to take an active interest in British life

St James's Palace

Sources close to the prince say he is very upset that letters intended for ministers' eyes only have found their way into the press.

Details of Charles' leaked letters had appeared in the Daily Mail.

A spokeswoman for the prince said that he should have been entitled to confidentiality.

"I think it is the Royal Family's role to take an active interest in British life and it is part of their role to highlight problems and represent views which are in danger of not being heard," she said.

"That role can only be fulfilled properly if complete confidentiality is maintained."

'Dangerous waters'

The prince has already come under fire over claims that he had written to Prime Minister Tony Blair to relay countryside campaigners' views that they were being treated worse than ethnic minorities or gays.

And in August he urged Downing Street to do more to help British citizens in Zimbabwe.

Lord Chancellor
The prince allegedly wrote to the Lord Chancellor

But the Daily Mail's claim that the prince has been writing to a minister on average once a fortnight has led to criticism from some politicians.

Former sports minister Tony Banks said the prince was getting into ''very, very dangerous waters'' by becoming embroiled in ''party political issues''.

Mr Banks said Prince Charles was in danger of stripping away the reasons for having a constitutional monarchy.

However, Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith told the BBC the prince should be free to speak his mind on political issues, and criticised the leaking of the letter-campaign.

''Personal correspondence between two groups should remain just exactly what it is,'' he said.

The prime minister's official spokesman would only say that No 10 had ''an excellent relationship with the Prince of Wales and welcomes the fact that he keeps in touch with him and other ministers''.

Leaks

The Daily Mail claims Charles wrote to Lord Irvine in his capacity as the head of the judiciary in England and Wales.


I dread the very real and growing prospect of an American-style personal injury 'culture' becoming ever more prevalent in this country

Prince Charles

Details of the correspondence were said to have been leaked by Whitehall sources, who said the Lord Chancellor had been "bombarded" by letters containing criticisms of the growth of regulations, bureaucracy and the rise of litigation.

"I and countless others dread the very real and growing prospect of an American-style personal injury 'culture' becoming ever more prevalent in this country," he was said to have written.

"Such a culture can only lead ultimately, to... an atmosphere of distrust and suspicion, let alone the real fear of taking decisions that might lead to legal action."

He also complained about "the degree to which our lives are becoming ruled by a truly absurd degree of politically correct interference", giving the example of horse chestnut trees being felled in Norwich last year over fears that falling conkers could injure passers-by.

British life

The prince's spokeswoman pointed out that the Queen meets the prime minister every week in private to express her views.

To the accusation that the prince's privileged position gives him too much power to advance his own concerns, such as wanting to keep fox hunting, the palace spokeswoman said: "He does have a track record of representing minority views but that's one of the very strong roles of the Royal Family to do that.

"The Prince's Trust, for example, is the result of minority concerns."

She added: "It's proper and right that he should take an interest in British life.

"It's not about exerting undue pressure or campaigning privately."

The prince has been known in the past for being outspoken on a range of subjects including architecture and organic farming.

BBC royal reporter, June Kelly, said the prince may in future think it better to communicate by the spoken rather than the written word.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Marr
"Prince Charles can and often does tell the Queen's ministers exactly what he thinks in private"
Political historian Anthony Howard
"The prince probably hasn't got enough to do"
Boris Johnson MP and Stephen Pound MP
"He's got himself into massively deep water"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Prince's politics
Should Royals get involved in political affairs?
 VOTE RESULTS
Should Prince Charles get involved in politics?

Yes
 64.83% 

No
 35.17% 

6798 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

25 Sep 02 | Politics
25 Sep 02 | Politics
13 Aug 02 | Politics
01 Jul 02 | England
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