Charles faces scrutiny: Commons starts inquiry into royal meddling

Prince Charles was in the uncomfortable position of facing a Commons inquiry into his political influence today, after a committee of MPs decided to investigate his meetings with ministers.

The Commons' political and constitutional reform committee will look into reports that the prince held 36 meetings with ministers since the coalition came to power.

"Official meetings, sometimes instigated by ministers, are important to the prince in his role as heir to the throne and ministers from successive governments have found that he brings important insights, perspectives and knowledge built over 40 years of experience," a spokesman for the prince said.

Neither Clarence House nor Whitehall will reveal what was said at Charles' meetings with ministers, but it appears he has met with David Cameron seven times since 2010.

He met four separate ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government and held six meetings with ministers in the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

The choice of departments seems to tally with the prince's interests, including horticulture, homeopathy and opposition to modern architecture.

The committee of MPs – which includes historian Tristram Hunt – will examine the role of the 'royal veto', a mechanism which allows him to challenge any law that affects his private interests. A similar law exists for the Queen.

"In modern times, neither the Queen nor the Prince of Wales has refused to consent to any bill affecting Crown, Duchy of Lancaster or Duchy of Cornwall interests, unless advised to do so by ministers," the palace said.

"In matters of legislation, the Queen always acts on the advice of the government. Every instance of the Queen and the prince's consent having been sought and given to legislation is a matter of public record."

Graham Smith, chief executive of Republic, said it was revealing that the prince had not once met with the chancellor.

"He is only meeting ministers relevant to his political interests," he said.