UKSC Compels Disclosure of Prince Charles’ Letters to Government Ministers

A year ago I posted here on the UK Court of Appeal’s ruling which set aside the government’s veto of a decision under freedom of information legislation for the release of “advocacy correspondence” from Prince Charles’s to government ministers.

Last week the UK Supreme Court dismissed the government’s appeal. No date has been fixed by which the letters must be disclosed.

It is not known whether there will be redactions in the documents produced.

An interesting legal issue is how the court dealt with statutory language permitting the Minister to veto. It provides that “an accountable person” (in this case the Attorney General) may issue a certificate, “…signed by him stating that he has on reasonable grounds formed the opinion…” that the department was entitled to refuse the request(see para 40).

By a majority of 5:2 the UKSC held (para 51-2) the Attorney General was not entitled by this wording to issue the certificate merely because, considering the same facts and arguments, he took a different view from that of the tribunal or court. This would be to allow the executive to review a decision of the judiciary, rather than the other way around.

The British Prime Minister is reported to be now considering introducing new legislation which will reaffirm ministers’ power to veto the release of information under the act.

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