By Rob Cooper
Prince Charles has used charities he set up to lobby Ministers to get them to change their policies, it was revealed today.
They have written to Government departments about altering the VAT rate and calling for cuts to regional development spending to be reversed.
After the documents were released under Freedom of Information laws the Government were today told to ‘come clean’ about the extent of the Prince of Wales’ lobbying.
Five of his charities have sent 17 emails or letters to four departments, the Guardian revealed.
Documents reveal the Prince’s charity Business in the Community asked Vince Cable to reverse his decision to get rid of the Northwest Regional Development Agency.
The quango has funded Business in the Community’s work with disadvantaged secondary schools.
Grant Shapps, the Local Government Minister, received a letter from the Prince’s Regeneration Trust calling for a cut in VAT on restoring historic buildings.
Ros Kerslake, the chief-executive, argued that reducing the rate would cost between £13million and £48million a year – but would deliver a benefit within three years.
The Minister replied saying it was not possible to reduce the rates under European arrangements but offered to provide details of a heritage regeneration funding scheme.
Just three months later the department awarded the group an £800,000 grant. They deny that the two were linked.
An ex-ministerial adviser claimed that under Labour the government had an ‘open door’ policy and Prince Charles’ requests were given high priority.
Paul Richards, a special adviser to Patricia Hewitt and Hazel Blears, told the Guardian: ‘There was a frisson of excitement when a letter came in from Charles and there was easy, open-door access for his office and charities in a way I felt other organisations would struggle to match.
‘My sense was that the charities were given a star status and that means they get priority and I would be astonished if that was any different under the current government.’
The Prince has founded 18 charities and is President of 20. Many of the bodies he supports champion his own causes.
He has also held ten meetings with Government Ministers – including Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell and Education Secretary Michael Gove.