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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 06:23 GMT 07:23 UK
Minister welcomes Prince's letters
Prince Charles in the Lake District
The prince has been outspoken on farming issues
Prince Charles's letter-writing campaign to the government has been welcomed as "refreshing" by Environment Minister Michael Meacher.

He refused to say whether or not he had been one of the ministers who had received correspondence from the Prince.

But he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that as long as Prince Charles did not engage in party politics he was entitled to express his opinions.

Environment Minister Michael Meacher
Mr Meacher: Prince is entitled to his opinion
Mr Meacher is the latest to join the debate over the Prince's letters, which are said to have been sent to ministers on issues ranging from "compensation culture" and red tape to political correctness in Britain.

St James's Palace has defended the Prince's right to express his opinion amid criticism from anti-royal campaigners.

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

Prince defended

The minister told Today: "I don't think anyone can say that someone in his position is not entitled to present whatever views he holds provided he doesn't engage in party politics."

But he said Prince Charles had been very careful to raise wider issues such as the environment or architecture.

"I think it is very refreshing for someone in his position to be taking a serious thoughtful position on issues of public importance."

A spokeswoman for the Prince has already said that the Royal Family has a role to take an active interest in British life and to highlight problems and represent views that might otherwise remain unheard.

But the Prince should have been entitled to confidentiality, the spokesman said.

The Daily Mail's claimed that the Prince has been writing to a minister on average once a fortnight.

Stance criticised

But the Prince has been criticised for bombarding ministers with letters.

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

The Prince has previously been outspoken on a range of subjects including architecture and organic farming.

Labour MP Paul Flynn said the Prince's views on fox hunting and GM foods reflected the narrow concerns of a multi-millionaire landowner.

A Whitehall leak inquiry is said to be underway into how details of the letters came to appear in the Daily Mail.


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