London, March 9: A questionnaire completed by every member of the Prince of Wales’ household has revealed a culture in which servants were given official gifts, some of which were sold for profit.
More than 50 staff employed by Prince Charles filled in the detailed question and answer form at the request of Sir Michael Peat, the Prince’s private secretary.
Their answers were used by Sir Michael and Edmund Lawson, QC, to prepare their report into the aftermath of the collapsed theft trial of Paul Burrell, the former butler to Diana, Princess of Wales.
The report will be published on Thursday when officials at St James’ Palace are hoping that the thoroughness of the investigation — along with the findings in a 100-page document — will disprove claims that the four-month inquiry has been a “whitewash”.
The report will concede that mistakes were made over the handling of official gifts given to the Prince, but it is understood that no individual will be singled out for criticism over the practice, or the handling of the Burrell case. The report is expected to call for the introduction of stricter guidelines to prevent confusion over what “gifting” practices are acceptable in future. One option is a register of all official and private gifts to members of the royal family.
Michael and Lawson travelled to Highgrove last week to question Prince Charles and to brief him on their findings. It is understood that he confirmed to them that in the past, he had given unwanted official and private gifts to his staff as a “perk”.
Sir Michael has informed the Inland Revenue of his findings. St James’ Palace can expect to have to pay a “substantial” bill to cover tax that should have been paid on the sale of the gifts given to staff.
The inquiry began after Burrell was acquitted at the Old Bailey in November of stealing more than 300 items formerly belonging to the late Princess of Wales. The report will also examine whether there was a cover-up in 1996 over a homosexual rape allegation made by one servant against another.
Officials at the palace are irritated by sniping criticisms of the inquiry: they see it a genuine attempt to identify a problem and put their house in order.