Update: this story is 4 years old; see comment @ 21. It’s still relevant though.
Here’s a bit of news that is surprising and also very disgusting. The UK royals are going to get a special helping of secrecy in a new amendment to their Freedom of Information act.
The Royal Family is to be granted absolute protection from public scrutiny in a controversial legal reform designed to draw a veil of secrecy over the affairs of the Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William.
Letters, emails and documents relating to the monarch, her heir and the second in line to the throne will no longer be disclosed even if they are in the public interest.
Sweeping changes to the Freedom of Information Act will reverse advances which had briefly shone a light on the royal finances – including an attempt by the Queen to use a state poverty fund to heat Buckingham Palace – and which had threatened to force the disclosure of the Prince of Wales’s prolific correspondence with ministers.
Including what?? An attempt by the Queen to use a state poverty fund to heat Buckingham Palace? I did not know about that.
And that business of Charles’s prolific correspondence with ministers? As I understand it he’s not even supposed to be doing that – he’s constitutionally not permitted to interfere with the government. No wonder he wants to keep it a secret, but why is the government, however Tory (and LibDem), helping him?
Lobbying and correspondence from junior staff working for the Royal Household and Prince Charles will now be held back from disclosure. Buckingham Palace confirmed that it had consulted with the Coalition Government over the change in the law. The Government buried the plan for “added protection” for the Royal Family in the small print of plans called “opening up public bodies to public scrutiny”.
More privileges for the already-privilege-laden; what a good idea.
Ian Davidson, a former member of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), told The Independent: “I’m astonished that the Government should find time to seek to cover up royal finances. When I was on the PAC what we wanted was more disclosure not less.
“Every time we examined royal finances we found extravagance and indulgence as well as abuse of expenses by junior royals.
“Everywhere we looked, there were savings to be made for the Government. This sends the wrong message about public disclosure and accountability.”
Not to mention democracy, equality before the law, equal rights – quite a few things.
Paul Flynn, another member of the committee, described the special protection for the Royals as “indefensible”. He said: “I don’t think it serves the interests of the public or the Royal Family very well.”
Mr Frankel said he believed that Prince Charles was the driving force behind the new law.
“The heir to the throne has written letters to government departments in an attempt to influence policy,” he said.
“He clearly does not want these to get into the public domain.”
Yeah, see, because that’s what he’s not supposed to be doing – attempting to influence policy. The Royals are not supposed to do that.
At the end we get more on that gruesome item about taking money from the poor to heat Buck House.
In the public interest? The stories they didn’t want us to know
*In 2004 the Queen asked ministers for a poverty handout to help heat her palaces but was rebuffed because they feared it would be a public relations disaster. Royal aides were told that the £60m worth of energy-saving grants were aimed at families on low incomes and if the money was given to Buckingham Palace instead of housing associations or hospitals it could lead to “adverse publicity” for the Queen and the government.