Campaigners and academics call on Clegg to end 'regime of secrecy' surrounding monarchy2nd Mar 2011
Campaigners, journalists and academics have today written to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg to call on him to include the royal household within the remit of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and expose the royals to greater scrutiny.
The royal household has always been exempt from the FOIA and ministers recently moved to make that exemption absolute by removing the 'public interest test' on information requests. The letter urges Clegg to repeal the exemption by adding amendments to the new Protection of Freedoms Bill which he is currently steering through parliament.
The letter points out that the royal exemption is "a glaring anomaly" in the government's plans to "throw open the doors of public bodies, to enable the public to hold politicians and public bodies to account".
The letter has been signed by:
Graham Smith, Executive Officer of Republic
Heather Brooke, author and Freedom of information Campaigner
Roy Greenslade, Professor of Journalism and former Mirror editor
Cllr. Mike Harris on behalf of Index on Censorship
Professor Stephen Haseler, Director of the newly formed Reform Foundation
Professor Adam Tomkins, John Millar Professor of Public Law at Glasgow university.
The signatories have said in their letter:
"By addressing this issue and bringing the monarchy and royal household fully into the scope of the Act you will send a powerful message to the country about how serious your commitment to transparency is. You will make clear that no public official, elected or otherwise, is beyond the scrutiny of the British people, and that citizens of this country have a right to know in whose interests and for what reasons government decisions are being made."
"This is not simply about the royal household's use of public funds - it is a serious issue of accountability and transparency that goes to the heart of government. It is well documented, and admitted by Clarence House, that the Prince of Wales routinely lobbies government ministers on a wide range of controversial and deeply political matters such as the environment, education and health."
"The current lack of scrutiny over such actions means that citizens have no means by which to judge if ministers are taking decisions according to the public interest or to suit the interests and agenda of the heir to the throne."
"To choose to continue the regime of secrecy surrounding the monarchy would not only represent a profound missed opportunity, it would also call into question your personal and political commitment to accountability."
Graham Smith of Republic has added:
"The continued secrecy surrounding the palace and Clarence House is simply unacceptable in a modern democracy. This MI5-style secrecy must end."
"The people have the same right to access information from the palace as they do from government, yet legislation has not only kept the monarchy in the dark, the government has now removed all chances of holding ministers to account for Prince Charles's lobbying."
The letter can be seen at www.republic.org.uk/cleggletter.pdf
Republic is staging a protest outside Buckingham palace against royal secrecy on Thursday March 3rd. See http://www.republic.org.uk/What%20we%20do/What%27s%20On/demo.php for details.