Papers on British palaces' upkeep could be released

LONDON, Dec 21, 2009 (AFP) - Correspondence between the British government and Queen Elizabeth II's Buckingham Palace official residence over the upkeep of royal palaces could be made public, a newspaper said Monday.

Britain's information commissioner has directed the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to release the letters to The Independent after a three-year battle by the daily, it said.

A DCMS spokesman said the ministry had 35 days to decide whether to appeal to the Information Tribunal over the ruling.

The contents of the 100 plus letters and memos are not publicly known. They were written by members of the royal household and ministers during discussions over public subsidies for the palaces.

DCMS has so far refused to release the documents, saying it wished to respect the confidentiality of the royal household and releasing them would inhibit the frank exchange of views between the government and Buckingham Palace.

However, deputy information commissioner Graham Smith said the commissioner believes "that disclosure of the requested information would enhance public awareness and understanding of the funding and accommodation arrangements of the royal household and this would be in the public interest".

There are several official royal residences, such as Buckingham Palace in London, Windsor Castle to the west and the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.

Others, such as Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands and Sandringham in eastern England where the royals are spending their Christmas break, are Queen Elizabeth's private property.

Source: AFP

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