London: Britain`s royals will benefit from
changes to freedom of information laws meaning their letters
will no longer be disclosed even if they are in the public
interest, the justice ministry said on Saturday.
The ministry said it planned to introduce "enhanced
protection" for communications with Queen Elizabeth II`s
family and household as part of wider reforms to information
laws brought in six years ago.
"Communications with the monarch, the heir to the
throne and second in line to the throne will be subject to an
absolute exemption (from disclosure laws) and the rest will
remain qualified," the ministry said on its website.
The aim was to protect the "long-standing conventions
surrounding the monarchy and its records", it said.
"For example the sovereign`s right and duty to
counsel, encourage and warn her government, as well as the
heir to the throne`s right to be instructed in the business of
government in preparation for their future role as monarch."
The announcement was buried in the small print of a
package of proposed changes to the law -- entitled "Opening up
public bodies to public scrutiny" -- which were unveiled on
Friday by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
The proposals will go before parliament in February.
The royals have experienced several embarrassing
revelations under Britain`s information freedom laws --
including that the queen asked the government for help from a
fund for poor people to pay heating bills on her palaces.
Britain`s Freedom of Information laws were hailed as
a watershed when they were introduced in 2005 by the previous
Labour government of then-prime minister Tony Blair.
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace was quoted by The
Independent newspaper as saying the change in the law was
needed to protect the constitutional position of the queen and
the heir to the throne, Prince Charles.
"This constitutional position relies on
confidentiality, so that all such correspondence remains
confidential," the spokesman said.
But the anti-monarchy pressure group Republic vowed
to campaign aginst the "disgraceful" change.