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A Freedom of Information appeal hearing seeking the release of Prince Charles's correspondence with ministers so that the extent of his behind-the-scenes lobbying may be publicly assessed has been adjourned until next year for reasons the panel cannot 'go into'. Guardian (16th September 2010)
UPDATE: "This autumn a seven-year campaign by the Guardian to expose some of Charles's letters to ministers in seven Whitehall departments enters its final stages. The government is resisting the application, which will be decided by a freedom of information tribunal.” The Guardian (31st August 2012)
UPDATE (2): Prince Charles's letters to ministers should be disclosed, judges rule. "The government has for the first time been ordered to disclose copies of confidential letters that Prince Charles wrote to ministers after a freedom of information tribunal said that the public has right to know how the prince seeks to influence government policy." The Guardian (18th September 2012)
UPDATE (3): Seven government departments launch a last-ditch legal attempt to block disclosure of portions of the prince's confidential letters (also known as 'black spider memos'). The Guardian (12th October 2012)
UPDATE (4): "Republic accuses government of royal cover-up after it agreed to veto a Freedom of Information request for access to Prince Charles’s lobbying. In his statement, the Attorney General Dominic Grieve admitted that the letters were ‘particularly frank’ – expressing Charles’s ‘most deeply held personal views and beliefs’ – and would be ‘seriously damaging to his role as future monarch’. Republic has said that clearly Prince Charles has something to hide and that ministers have colluded and conspired with him to keep his secrets under wraps…[so] we’re announcing a new campaign for changes to the Freedom of Information Act that will allow the royals to be held accountable for their interference."
UPDATE (5): Comment from Hayley J. Hooper, Lecturer in Law at Trinity College, Oxford. Excerpt: “The decision in Evans v Information Commissioner  UKUT 313 (AAC) is something of a novelty in several respects. First, this is likely to be one of the last decisions of its kind because as of January 19, 2011 communications between public authorities and the Heir to the Throne are now the subject of an absolute exemption under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 due to an amendment made by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010. Secondly, the decision of the Upper Tribunal created the unusual situation whereby a judicial body had to adjudicate on the scope of several constitutional conventions as they related to the Heir to the Throne. Thirdly, it presents an opportunity to begin debating the proper conception of the public interest in knowing information about the activities of the Heir to the Throne in relation to his preparation for Kingship, and his role in public life generally.” UK Constitutional Law Group (16th October 2012)
UPDATE (6): Prince Charles letters: the attorney general's statement deciphered: The government has blocked the publication of 27 letters Prince Charles wrote to ministers. The Attorney General's justification for the ban turns out to reveal how disclosure of the letters could jeopardise Charles's chances of becoming king. Click on the yellow sections of text within this link for an explanation. The Guardian (17th October 2012)
UPDATE (7): Prince Charles's charity officials given access to Whitehall elite. Eighteen recent meetings with ministers and top officials raise further questions about prince's influence on politicians. The meetings took place over 13 months from the beginning of 2011 and include talks with four secretaries of state, the head of the civil service, the chief government scientist and the prime minister's key adviser on Europe and global issues.
UPDATE (8): Prince Charles and the curious case of the Black Spider Letters: "…this case – the case of the 'Black Spider Letters' – really is a fascinating one, involving an examination not just of the legislative provisions relating to the disclosure of information, but also a consideration of the existence and extent of constitutional conventions pertaining to the role of the monarchy in government…this intriguing story is not over. As well as responding to the Attorney General’s decision with a blistering editorial, the Guardian has indicated that it may seek to have the decision judicially reviewed in the High Court; the judiciary may yet have the last word." UK Human Rights Blog (23rd October 2012)
UPDATE (9): Prince Charles: 'black spider memos' to ministers could spark second veto: "Further secret lobbying letters could set cabinet against judiciary again if judges rule in favour of publication 'in public interest'. The prince is known to have strong views on subjects as diverse as architecture, farming and alternative medicine. For seven years, the government has been fighting to prevent the disclosure of the letters – dubbed "black spider memos" because of the heir's handwriting." The Guardian (26th December 2012)
UPDATE (10): Prince Charles held private meetings with eight ministers in 12 months: "Secrecy over the discussions with ministers has led to criticism that Charles, who has acknowledged his reputation as the "meddling prince", may be using the access to advance his own sometimes controversial views in areas of public life including health, the environment, agriculture and town planning, as well as education policy..." The Guardian (28th December 2012)
UPDATE (11): Minister accused of wrongly blocking publication of Prince Charles letters: "Decision by attorney general [Dominic Grieve] to veto disclosure of prince's letters to ministers was fundamentally flawed, high court told...Opening the two-day case at the high court, Dinah Rose, QC for the Guardian, said Grieve's use of the veto was fundamentally flawed and legally unjustified. The judicial review is the latest round in an eight-year battle by the newspaper to gain access to the prince's letters to politicians." The Guardian (9th May 2013)
UPDATE (12): Prince Charles's letters to ministers to remain private, court rules: "Judges reject Guardian attempt to force publication of 'black spider memos' that would reveal efforts to influence government...Cabinet ministers conceded that the prince's private letters – dubbed "black spider memos" because of their scratchy handwriting – contained Charles' "most deeply held personal views and beliefs", which could undermine the perception of his political neutrality...the lord chief justice of England and Wales, Lord Judge, ruled that the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, had acted properly when he employed a rarely used veto to block publication of the letters. The lord chief justice, however, noted that the existence of the veto was troublesome and appeared to be "a constitutional aberration". The Guardian is intending to appeal." The Guardian (9th July 2013)
UPDATE (13): Guardian challenges ban on publication of Prince Charles's letters to ministers: "...Dinah Rose, the QC for the Guardian, opened the two-day appeal in front of the master of the rolls, Lord Dyson, and two other judges, Lord Justice Richards and Lord Justice Pitchford. She is arguing that [attorney general] Grieve's use of the veto, backed by an earlier court, is legally unjustified and should be quashed. She told the court that Grieve had acted unreasonably when he issued the veto in October 2012." The Guardian (24th February 2014)
UPDATE (14): Veto over Prince Charles letters based on value judgment, court told: "Government lawyers defend a decision by the attorney general, Dominic Grieve, to block the publication of letters written by Prince Charles to politicians. Jonathan Swift, the QC for the attorney general, told the court that Grieve "was entitled to take a different view on matters of public interest from the tribunal, without any requirement for fresh evidence or a material error of fact"....Meanwhile, the government has delayed disclosing how much money it has spent in legal costs to ensure the letters remain concealed from the public. In a further freedom of information request two months ago, the Guardian asked the attorney general's department and the Treasury solicitor's department how much money they had spent on barristers and lawyers to oppose the publication of the letters. The Freedom of Information Act requires government departments to respond within a month. Last week the two departments said they needed more time to decide whether to release the information." The Guardian (25th February 2014)
UPDATE (15): Prince Charles letters: Attorney general acted unlawfully, say senior judges: Today's ruling in the court of appeal backs Guardian campaign to have letters to ministers released under freedom of information law. Three senior judges ruled [read the full text of the judgment] that Dominic Grieve, the attorney general, acted unlawfully when he blocked the publication of letters written by Prince Charles to government ministers. The ruling, led by Lord Dyson, the head of the civil judiciary in England and Wales, paves the way for the release of the letters which reveal how the prince lobbied government ministers to change official policies...Grieve had refused access to the letters, arguing that they could cause constitutional problems. He had said their contents could "seriously damage" the prince's ability to perform his duties when he became king because they could cast doubt on his political neutrality... Dyson said the attorney general had been given permission to appeal the ruling at the supreme court. He also ordered the attorney general to pay the Guardian's legal costs, amounting to £96,000. Dyson, the master of the rolls, said Grieve "did not have reasonable grounds" for issuing the veto "merely because he disagrees with the decision" of the tribunal. Grieve "could point to no error of law or fact in the [tribunal's] decision, and the government departments concerned did not even seek permission to appeal it", he added...Dyson, along with Lord Justices Richards and Pitchford, said Grieve "had no good reason for overriding the meticulous decision" of the tribunal, which examined evidence from constitutional experts and arguments from barristers for the government and the Guardian. Dyson called the verdict from the tribunal – which was chaired by a high court judge – "an impressive piece of work". Dyson also ruled that the veto was unlawful under European commission law...A spokesman for the attorney general said: "We are very disappointed by the decision of the court. We will be pursuing an appeal to the supreme court in order to protect the important principles which are at stake in this case." The Guardian (12th March 2014)