Prince Charles’ letters to be released under the FOIA

The Supreme Court has ruled that Prince Charles’ correspondence with government departments will be made public under the FOIA. The Upper Tribunal had ordered disclosure in 2012 as a response to a FOI request made by Guardian journalist, Rob Evans, but the government had used its veto power to stop it. However, the Supreme Court has now decided that that the veto had been unlawfully used.

The Campaign for Freedom of Information has welcomed the ruling. Its Director, Maurice Frankel, said: “This is a critical decision which strengthens the FOI Act. It says the courts not ministers normally have the last word. If the government disagrees with a ruling on good grounds it should appeal. The veto is not a trump card to be slipped out of a minister’s sleeve to block any embarrassing disclosure. Minister will now have to argue their case not impose it.”

The Campaign said that the FOI Act was amended in 2010 to prevent the release of the monarch’s correspondence with a public authority or that of the next two in line to the throne. No future FOI request for Prince Charles’ correspondence will now succeed, despite the current ruling.

However, Frankel pointed out that this change did not affect disclosure under the Environmental Information Regulations. “The government cannot amend these to strengthen the veto, because European law does not allow for a veto at all” he said.

The judgement [2015] UKSC 21