Prince of Wales Correspondence Vetoed

In his post of 19 September 2012, Robin Hopkins commented on the decision of the Administrative Appeals Chamber of the Upper Tribunal in Evans v IC & Seven Government Departments [2012] UKUT 313 (AAC), in which Walker J held that it was in the public interest that the majority of the correspondence from The Prince of Wales to those Government departments to be disclosed.

Instead of bringing an appeal, the Attorney-General today announced that he was vetoing disclosure under s.53 FOIA. In a ten page Statement of Reasons the AG stated that he had taken account of the views of the Cabinet, former Ministers and the Information Commissioner (who had not supported disclosure). Of particular note is the reason given by the AG that “it is of very considerable practical benefit to The Prince of Wales’ preparation for kingship that he should engage in correspondence and engage in dialogue with Ministers“. Urging views upon Ministers comes, in the view of the AG, within the ambit of advising or warning the Government under the tripartite convention. The AG adds that the contents are very frank and concern The Prince’s deeply held personal beliefs, but contain nothing improper.

The veto is concerned only with the correspondence of The Prince of Wales at issue in the Evans case. It remains to be seen whether the ongoing FOIA litigation concerning access to the Duchy of Cornwall’s information will result in a similar response.

Update: Following the announcement of the Attorney-General’s veto, the Guardian (for which Mr Evans writes) has announced that it intends to seek judicial review of the decision under s.53. As far as I am aware, the small number of vetoes previously issued have not been challenged by way of judicial review (see Lamb v IC (EA/2009/0108) at [5]).

Christopher Knight