Royal Row

Royal Interference in UK Policy

Republicans in the UK are using the revelation that the Queen asked the Home Office why the radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza - who is to be deported to the US following a ruling in Europe yesterday - could not be arrested to stir up a new row about the sovereign’s impact on policy.

As a constitutional monarch, the Queen is not supposed to get involved in or attempt to influence policy.

The BBC had to issue a groveling apology yesterday after Frank Gardner, the BBC’s security correspondent, revealed details of a ‘private’ conversation with the Queen, in which she said she had contacted the government minister with her questions.

Although Gardner insisted she was not ‘lobbying’ the government, merely expressing her disgust at Hamza’s continued incitement of hatred in the UK, the incident has provided fresh fuel for those who claim the Royals wield too much power at the highest levels.

The pro-republican, left wing Guardian newspaper put the story on its front page, and carried a further report inside about how the British government is fighting a freedom of information request forcing it to disclose “secret documents” on a process which instructs civil servants to seek the approval of Prince Charles and the Queen over some new laws.

The application of the controversial veto was revealed by the Guardian last year and has been described by constitutional lawyers as "a royal nuclear deterrent".

Some observers believe the power underpins the influence Prince Charles appears to wield in Whitehall over pet issues ranging from architecture to healthcare.

In addition, last week, three judges in a freedom of information tribunal ordered the government to disclose copies of confidential letters that Charles wrote to ministers – the black spider memos, so-called because of the prince's sprawling handwriting style. Now, unless they lodge an appeal at court, seven Whitehall departments will, within a month, have to hand over letters sent during a seven-month period during 2004-05.

Sir Stephen Lamport, the Prince’s former private secretary, bizarrely argued in the hearing that the letters should not be release because they would negatively affect the impression he is supposed to give of being impartial, saying, “public knowledge of his letters and their contents would give rise to a different public perception of his neutrality when he became sovereign.”

Lamport said the Prince believes that writing to Government ministers prepares him for when he is made king and will stop the controversial practice when he is crowned. He said that the Prince believes that the “cardinal principle” of never commenting on public policy did not apply to him as heir, only to the Monarch, it said.Anti-monarchists have used the incidents to launcha fresh campaign to persuade parliamentarians to take action against royal political interference.

"Questions about Prince Charles's and the Queen's political interfering and the obligation on parliament to seek royal consent for legislation should cause concern on all sides in parliament," Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, the group advocating replacement of the British monarchy with an elected head of state, told the Guardian.

"The idea that the monarchy is politically neutral and harmless has been exposed as a hoax – royal interference in British political life must be challenged."