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Prince Charles 'Black Spider' letters: Future King warned Tony Blair over lack of 'necessary resources' for Armed Forces in Iraq

Published 13/05/2015

'Black Spider' letters written by the Prince of Wales were released following a Freedom of Information request
'Black Spider' letters written by the Prince of Wales were released following a Freedom of Information request

Prince Charles warned the then Prime Minister Tony Blair that the Armed Forces lacked “necessary resources” to do their job in Iraq, secret letters between the pair have revealed.

His fears were expressed in one of the many memos he sent to government ministers, 27 of which were published today after a 10-year legal battle by the Guardian.

Publication of the so-called ‘Black Spider’ letters revealed how the Prince of Wales had warned that the “significant pressure” to the UK’s Defence budget was undermining the ability of Britain’s Armed Forces to perform their “extremely challenging job”.

He initially praised the “hugely impressive surveillance capability” given to Armed Forces in Northern Ireland, but then went on to warn that its ability to use the equipment globally was being harmed by the lack of adequate aircraft.

Signed September 8 2004, Prince Charles wrote: “The aim of the Ministry of Defence and the Army Air Corps to deploy this equipment globally is, however, being frustrated by the poor performance of the existing Lynx aircraft in high temperatures.

“Despite this, the procurement of a new aircraft to replace the Lynx is subject to further delays and uncertainty due to the significant pressure on the Defence Budget.

“I fear that this is just one more example of where our Armed Forces are being asked to do an an extremely challenging job (particularly in Iraq), without the necessary resources.”

The letters between Labour government ministers and the Prince dating from between September 2004 and March 2005 were released after a decade-long legal and tribunal action by the Guardian newspaper.

He also discussed herbal medicine with the PM in person and said an EU directive on the subject was having "a deleterious effect on the complementary medicine sector in this country".

In one of the correspondences the Prince says that the prime minister asked him to put his thoughts in writing, and indicates that he is aware of the Freedom of Information Act.

The Government opposed the release of the correspondence and today said there was a "strong case" for strengthening ministers' veto over the release of documents.

Clarence House warned that the publication of correspondence between Prince Charles and government ministers will "inhibit" the ability of the heir to the throne to raise concerns.

In a statement a spokesperson for the Prince's official residence said the royal "cares deeply about this country."

"The Prince of Wales believes, as have successive Governments, that he should have a right to communicate privately. The publication of private letters can only inhibit his ability to express the concerns and suggestions which have been put to him in the course of his travels and meetings," the statement said.

"This view has been given effect by Parliament, which passed legislation in 2010 to ensure that the communications of The Prince of Wales, and that of The Queen, should be exempt from publication under the Freedom of Information Act. This change emphasised the unique constitutional positions of the Sovereign and the Heir to the Throne. Clarence House continues to believe in the principle of privacy."

Source: Independent

Independent News Service

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