The row over Prince Charles being given access to confidential Cabinet papers has taken on a new twist. It seems that his son, and the second-in-line to the British throne, Prince William has also been occasionally given these confidential documents.
A Cabinet spokesman confirmed that as a future heir to the throne, it was "appropriate that he is regularly briefed on government business." The Queen and Prince Charles receive such materials routinely. The Cabinet Office has declined to comment whether any other royals were also receiving such confidential documents.
The latest news however has not gone down well with anti-monarchist group Republic, which is already up in arms over news that Prince Charles has been given confidential government papers. Even junior government ministers are not given access to the documents.
According to the Cabinet Office's 'precedent book' Prince Charles, the Queen, ministers and a handful of others get papers from cabinet and ministerial committees at least since 1992, when the book was written. The book states that the need for Cabinet documents to be kept secret is so vital that cabinet ministers are handed their copies in person and ministers of state and junior ministers do not normally receive copies of any such written statements.
The Republic earlier this week, received four chapters of the Cabinet Office's precedent book after a three-year freedom of information battle. Referring to the latest information that Prince William is also an occasionally recipient of confidential documents, Republic's chief executive Graham Smith said: "There is no mention of this access in the documents released this week. It appears to be a free for all."
He continued: "We support Labour's call for an inquiry, so we can know how much information is being handed to which royals." Republic has written to Prime Minister David Cameron, urging him to end the practice of sharing confidential documents with the Prince of Wales.
It is not immediately known whether the Republic will push for a similar move with Prince Williams now that it has been confirmed that he also does receive such documents occasionally. Earlier, Smith said: "The disclosure of cabinet papers to Prince Charles is quite extraordinary and completely unacceptable. Not only because they would contain highly classified information but because it gives him considerable advantage in pressing his own agenda when lobbying ministers."
Smith continued: "Charles has no legitimate need to see Cabinet papers at all. His political and private interests and the high degree of secrecy surrounding his lobbying mean there is a real danger this information can be information can be abused without any possibility of accountability."
Labour MP Paul Flynn has called for a parliamentary inquiry, saying that the access made the Prince of Wales the country's "best-informed lobbyist." Shadow energy and climate change minister Clive Lewis also backed the call for a parliamentary review.
The Daily Mail noted that news that Prince William has received such confidential documents "is all the more surprising" because the Duke of Cambridge is "not even a full-time working royal". It noted that although he has been steadily taking on duties on behalf of the Queen, his main job is as a pilot for the East Anglian Air Ambulance Service.
Bernard Jenkin, who chairs the cross-party public administration and constitutional affairs committee that scrutinises the Cabinet Office, said it was "outrageous" to describe Prince Charles as a lobbyist. "This is really a debate about the Prince of Wales' conduct, not what papers he sees," Jenkin added.
He said the vast majority of people would agree that the heir to the throne should have access to such documents. The BBC noted that Prince William had not been keen to embrace his royal roots in the past but now, with marriage, fatherhood and entering his thirties, there seems to be a shift in his approach. "Access to these documents allows him to understand Whitehall and to prepare when he is king," the BBC said.
The broadcaster continued: "His supporters will argue this makes perfect sense as it's better to have an informed future monarch than an ignorant one. His critics will question the lack of transparency and the need for him to see such sensitive material in the first place."