Prince Charles asked DfID about support for his Turquoise Mountain Foundation, newly published letters reveal

Charles asked Labour's Douglas Alexander, then the international development secretary, about this charity in 2008, according to correspondence released under the Freedom of Information Act

Prince Charles
Prince Charles

Prince Charles asked the Department for International Development to provide support for one of his charities, newly released correspondence shows.

The latest batch of letters, published yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act after a long campaign by The Guardian newspaper, includes correspondence between Charles and Labour's Douglas Alexander, who was then the international development secretary.

A letter from Alexander to the prince shows that Charles asked the department to support his Turquoise Mountain Foundation at a meeting between the two in January 2008.

Other newly released letters show that in May 2008 Caroline Flint, who was then housing minister, agreed that Hank Dittmar, then chief executive of the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment (now renamed the Prince's Foundation for Building Community), should meet officials from her department after an intervention by the prince.

Turquoise Mountain was set up in 2006 by the prince with the then president of Afghanistan, with the aim of reviving the country’s traditional crafts and regenerating Murad Khani, a historic area of Kabul.

"You asked about possible support for the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in Afghanistan," the letter from Alexander says. "We have moved away from funding smaller-scale initiatives such as this and towards funding larger-scale government programmes.

"Nevertheless, as a UK-based organisation, Turquoise Mountain is eligible to apply for funding through our Civil Society Challenge Fund. Our civil society team would be happy to provide more information."

The letter adds that Alexander "would be delighted" to meet representatives of the prince’s charities.

Nobody from Turquoise Mountain was available to respond to telephone calls from Third Sector, but it is understood that the charity did not approach the DfID for funding during Alexander’s tenure. He remained in post until the end of the last Labour government in May 2010.

The prince’s reply, sent in March 2008, said: "I know that the chief executives of my various charities are very much looking forward to welcoming you to the offices of my Foundation for the Built Environment in Shoreditch in May and I cannot thank you enough for finding time in your programme to undertake this visit.

"Conscious of your busy schedule, I have asked the chief executives to be as succinct as possible!

"But I do hope that their presentations will give you a sense of what I have been trying to achieve over all these years and, perhaps, highlight some more areas in which we can work ever more closely with your department."

A Clarence House spokeswoman said the prince had a long-standing interest in many issues and had set up various charities to address some of them, including the built environment and the effects of climate change.

"The Prince of Wales has also been passionate about preserving traditional arts techniques, for their own cultural importance, but also for the potential livelihoods they can provide," she said.

"This led His Royal Highness to establish both the Prince's School of Traditional Arts and Turquoise Mountain – the latter specifically enables Afghans to preserve their traditional crafts while earning a wage."

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