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Files relating to the Duke of York won’t be released by Britain’s Foreign Office until 2065, it has been revealed.
The decision means papers relating to Prince Andrew will not be available for public scrutiny in his lifetime, unless he lives to be 105.
Official documents detailing usually taxpayer-funded business trips taken by Prince Andrew are being withheld.Credit: Getty
The date was released in a government response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request from Andrew Lownie, a royal biographer.
Lownie, who has made a number of requests seeking clarification on Prince Andrew’s numerous business trips, which were usually paid for by the taxpayer, believes a “culture of secrecy” surrounds royal correspondence.
“Members of the royal family are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act but I would hope with a new reign that only pertinent FOI exemptions such as national security, relations with another country, information given in confidence etc will be applied alongside data protection considerations,” Lownie said.
“We are in the absurd position that Prince Harry can reveal the most intimate details of royal life from months ago for personal commercial gain and royal households currently brief against each other, yet historians cannot look at files.
“It is extraordinary that files relating to Prince Andrew, the subject of my next biography, will be closed until 2065.
“Many questions remain about his role as trade envoy, a public appointment paid for by the taxpayer, and his associations with figures such as Jeffrey Epstein.
“There is also a strong public interest in knowing, for example, who is paying for his security now he is no longer a working royal.”
Lownie describes himself as a monarchist but says “that does not mean I do not believe the royal family should not be subject to scrutiny”.
“We need a much more grown up approach to the release of royal records with the onus on keeping closed only what has to be kept secret to protect national security or on data protection grounds.
“The delays in release create a vacuum for speculation and fantasists; their release would go some way to restoring trust in institutions, not least the monarchy.”
Under normal rules, records transferred to The National Archives at Kew from government departments are kept secret for 20 years. However, special dispensation is awarded to the royal family.
Prince Andrew, 63, was Britain’s special representative for trade and industry envoy for 10 years from 2001.
His controversial tenure ended in 2011 when he was forced to resign after a photograph emerged of the Duke meeting Jeffrey Epstein in Central Park, New York, shortly after the billionaire had been released from jail after serving an 18-month prison sentence for sexual offences.
The Duke had been facing increased scrutiny at the time on account of his “very close” friendship with Saif Gaddafi, the son of the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and Tarek Kaituni, a convicted Libyan gun smuggler.
The Foreign Office said information relating to Prince Andrew would be kept from public view until 2065 in a reply to Lownie, dated August 8, 2023.
In the letter, the government states: “Some information is being withheld under Section 37 (Communications with Her Majesty and honours), section 40 (Personal Information) and section 41 Information Provided in Confidence exemptions.”
The Information Rights Unit of the Foreign Office said an exemption to releasing information relating to communications with, or on the behalf of, Her Late Majesty The Queen, was “absolute”.
“We do not therefore have to apply the public interest test,” the letter stated.
The Telegraph, London
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