The government has asked King Charles to approve his post-Brexit “world-leading” environmental bill, as laws requiring landowners to step up protections could affect his business interests.
Environment Minister Rebecca Pow wrote to the then Prince of Wales in 2019 asking if he would accept section seven of the Environment Bill, which becomes law in November 2021.
It refers to the need to “protect land environments with natural settings or natural resources, or places of archaeological, architectural, artistic, cultural or historical value”. Those who violate the Conservation Covenant agreement may be fined.
After the bill became law, ministers hailed it as a benefit for post-Brexit Britain. “We are setting an example for the rest of the world,” declared Environment Secretary George Eustace at the time.
However, the government then missed a statutory deadline to set targets for what it called an “ambitious” environment bill. By the time they do, it will be months too late, with conservation charities saying the targets for nature, clean air and water are impressive and fall short of promised environmental benefits by 2030.
In letters revealed on Saturday and sent in October 2019, Pow informed Charles: “The Bill contains protective convention measures affecting the interests of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall. Part 7 of the Bill (The deed of conservation) applies to crown land as it applies to any other land.”
These conservation conventions are new agreements between governments and landowners in certain areas of biodiversity and national significance that require landowners to refrain from certain activities that damage or pollute the environment.
The prince’s private secretary, Clive Alderton, replied to Boo agreeing to the law, confirming he was “satisfied with the bill”, the letters show.
The Duchy of Cornwall generates around £21 million a year for the Duke and his family. Income from the estate passed to the Prince of Wales, now Charles’ son William, who used the income to fund his public, charitable and private activities. The Duchy comprises approximately 53,000 hectares (130,000 acres) of land in 23 counties, the majority of which is in the South West of England, as well as many areas of natural beauty and importance affected by environmental objectives.
Charles has previously meddled in government affairs when they threatened to affect his business. last year, guardian revealed he used a controversial process in 1992 to force ministers in John Major’s government to secretly change a proposed law in favor of his estate.
Under the procedure, the late queen and her eldest son were given an early copy of the draft law so they could check whether the legislation affected their public powers or private assets such as his Duchy of Cornwall or Sandringham of private property. This procedure differs from the more familiar Royal Assent – a form of making bills into law.
This Guardian’s The Queen agreed that the late monarch had used the process to lobby for change privately in recent decades, an inquiry has found. During her administration, more than 1,000 acts of parliament required ministers to seek her or her son’s approval before they could be implemented. These included rental reform legislation that became law in 1993, when evidence emerged that Charles was pressuring elected ministers to secure exemptions that would prevent his own tenants from being entitled to buy their own homes.
The Ministry of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs declined to comment. Bucksham Palace has been contacted for comment.