[Diggers350] Independent: Royal Family feudal elite granted new right of secrecy

Simon Fairlie chapter7 at tlio.org.uk
Mon Aug 25 01:41:19 BST 2014

Clearly  a distraction since, like the tabloid press,  you focus so  
much attention on this tedious line of aristocrats

Are they a 'Distraction', or 'Irellevant' Simon?
> Britain's feudal elite granted immunity from FOI laws.
> http://rosaleen-thewhistler.blogspot.com/2010/05/house-of-saxe- 
> coburg-gotha-ruling.html
> Royal Family granted new right of secrecy
> Coalition to write special exemptions into Freedom of Information Act
> http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/royal-family-granted- 
> new-right-of-secrecy-2179148.html
> 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.
> 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".
> Maurice Frankel, head of the Campaign for Freedom of Information,  
> said that since the change referred to communications written on  
> behalf of the Queen and Prince Charles it might be possible for  
> "park keepers working in the royal parks" to be spared public  
> scrutiny of their letters written to local authorities.
> The decision to push through the changes also raises questions  
> about the sincerity of the Liberal Democrats' commitment to  
> government transparency. In opposition, senior Liberal Democrats  
> frequently lined up to champion the Freedom of Information Act  
> after it came into force in 2005.
> 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."
> 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."
> Later this month, lawyers for the Cabinet Office, backed by Prince  
> Charles, will go to court to continue to resist Freedom of  
> Information requests of ministers to publish letters written to  
> them by the Prince of Wales.
> A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said that the change to the law  
> was necessary because the Freedom of Information Act had failed to  
> protect the constitutional position of the monarch and the heir to  
> the throne. He explained that the sovereign has the right and duty  
> to be consulted, to encourage and warn the government, and by  
> extension, the heir to the throne had the constitutional right and  
> duty to prepare himself for the role of King.
> "This constitutional position relies on confidentiality, so that  
> all such correspondence remains confidential," he said.
> But he said that change would also mean that correspondence not  
> covered by the absolute exemption would be made public 10 years  
> earlier than under the current disclosure rules.
> The Palace's position was backed by Professor Vernon Bogdanor,  
> research professor at King's College London.
> He told The Independent: "The essence of constitutional monarchy is  
> that the Queen and other members of the Royal Family remain  
> politically neutral. The Queen meets the Prime Minister once a  
> week, when both are in London, to discuss government policy.
> "The heir to the throne has the right, and perhaps the duty, to  
> question ministers on policy so as to prepare himself for the  
> throne. Such discussions are only possible if they remain  
> confidential. Otherwise the 'neutrality' of the Queen and of the  
> Prince of Wales could be undermined.
> "When the Queen meets the Prime Minister, no one else is present –  
> not even the Queen's Private Secretary. For this reason, it is  
> right that the Royal Family should be exempt from FOI."
> The Government claimed that the thrust of the changes announced  
> yesterday would make it "easier for people to use FOI to find and  
> use information about the public bodies they rely on and their  
> taxes pay for".
> The Ministry of Justice intends to increase the number of  
> organisations to which FOI requests can be made, bringing in bodies  
> such as the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Financial  
> Services Ombudsman, and the higher education admissions body UCAS,  
> and also all companies wholly owned by any number of public  
> authorities.
> 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.
> *A "financial memorandum" formalising the relationship between the  
> sovereign and ministers set out tough terms on how the Queen can  
> spend the £38.2m handed over by Parliament each year to pay for her  
> staff and occupied palaces.
> *The Queen requested more public money to pay for the upkeep of her  
> crumbling palaces while allowing minor royals and courtiers to live  
> in rent-free accommodation.
> *As early as 2004 Sir Alan Reid, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, had  
> unsuccessfully put the case to the Department for Culture, Media  
> and Sport for a substantial increase in the £15m-a-year grant to  
> maintain royal buildings.
> *The Palace planned to go ahead with refurbishing and renting the  
> apartment of Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace after it  
> had lain empty since her death in 1997.
> *A letter exchange revealed a tussle over who has control of £2.5m  
> gained from the sale of Kensington Palace land. Ministers said it  
> belonged to the state, while Buckingham Palace said it belonged to  
> the Queen.

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