The Prince of Wales tackled the then prime minister Tony Blair over the lack of resources for the Armed Forces fighting in Iraq, previously secret letters have revealed.
Publication of correspondence between Charles and government ministers following a long-running legal battle showed that the Prince lobbied Mr Blair and other ministers on a range of issues from badgers and TB to herbal medicine, education and illegal fishing.
Twenty-seven letters – 10 from Charles to ministers, 14 by ministers and three letters between private secretaries – were released following a 10-year campaign by Guardian journalist Rob Evans to see the documents after a Freedom of Information request.
The Prince, who will one day as king be head of the Armed Forces, complained to Mr Blair about British forces in Iraq ‘’being asked to do an extremely challenging job without the necessary resources’’.
Charles is understood to be “disappointed” that the confidentiality principle was not maintained as his memos – written between September 2004 and March 2005 – were finally published.
Clarence House defended the Prince’s decision to write the letters, with a spokesman saying: “The publication of private letters can only inhibit his ability to express the concerns and suggestions which have been put to him in the course of his travels and meetings.’’
But his top aide suggested the experience was unlikely to put him off raising matters that are brought to his attention in the future.
Charles’s principal private secretary William Nye said: ‘’He will think about how he deals with things but I think he’ll continue to want to reflect the views that he hears from members of the public, and talk about things that matter to our society and the world to ministers of any government.’’
There were no handwritten “black spider” letters among the batch released – so-called because of the black ink used by the Prince in some correspondence and his habit of underlining words – and all were typed.
In one detailed and lengthy letter to Mr Blair, dated September 8 2004, the Prince wrote of problems with deploying new Oxbow surveillance technology. He described the technology – which he had seen in Northern Ireland – as a “major advance” for the military but warned that the deployment of the equipment was “being frustrated by the poor performance of the existing Lynx aircraft in high temperatures”.
‘’Despite this, the procurement of new aircraft to replace the Lynx (helicopter) is subject to further delays and uncertainty due to the significant pressure on the defence budget,” Charles said.
‘’I fear this is just one more example of where our armed forces are being asked to do an extremely challenging job (particularly in Iraq) without the necessary resources.’’
In his response to the Lynx letter, Mr Blair replied on October 11 that year, saying that “limitations of the existing platform” were well known by the MoD, and the budget for the coming years included investment in helicopters.
In the same note to Mr Blair, the Prince asked him to put “pressure” on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs over the bureaucratic burdens facing farmers.
As of March last year, more than a quarter of a million pounds (£274,481.16) had been spent by the Government on legal fees to try to block the publication of the letters.
The real cost is likely to be much higher due to ongoing legal wrangling since the figures were published.
Charles offered trust’s help with Armagh Gaol
Here is a summary of two of the letters exchanged between the Prince of Wales and government ministers:
• Charles wrote to Paul Murphy, then-Northern Ireland secretary, on September 6 2004. The Prince discussed the future of Armagh Gaol, which had stood empty for 20 years, and offered the help of his charity, the Phoenix Trust, which later became the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, in deciding its fate.
The Prince writes: “I mentioned the issue of Armagh Gaol and suggested that my Phoenix Trust would be only too happy to help with any advice with regard to its conversion and re-use.”
In a letter in reply, dated October 13, 2004, Mr Murphy said he was “grateful for the offer of support of your Phoenix Trust in relation to Armagh Gaol”.
• Charles wrote to to former prime minister Tony Blair on February 24, 2005, raising the issue of tuberculosis in cows, which cost the taxpayer £100 million annually and highlighted that “badger culling is effective in ridding cattle of TB”. He said: “I urge you to look again at introducing a proper cull of badgers where it is necessary.”