CAMPAIGNERS are calling for the royal family’s exemption to freedom of information (FOI) requests to end after a historian was refused access to official documents relating to Prince Andrew.

Andrew Lownie, who is writing a biography on the Earl of Inverness, was told papers relating to the Prince are to be kept secret until 2065 after he sent an FOI request to the Foreign Office.

There is an absolute exemption from FOI requests for papers relating to the sovereign, the heir and the second in-line to the throne, meaning that government departments can turn down requests without having to justify them in terms of the public interest.

There is also a qualified exemption for other members of the royal family, including Prince Andrew, until 105 years after their birth.

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Ken Ritchie, secretary of Labour for a Republic, has said the exemption the monarchy gets simply suggests they have “secrets to hide”, with the group insisting the this “dark and absurd” rule must be scrapped.

Ritchie said: “The monarchy is not a private company – it is part of the way our country is governed and it costs us hundreds of millions of pounds each year.

“There is no reason why it should be treated differently from other government institutions, and the royals’ exemption from Freedom of Information legislation simply suggests that they have secrets they want to hide.

“There may be embarrassing questions to be asked about what Prince Andrew did when he was supposed to be a ‘working royal’, but he was paid with our money and he was supposed to be representing our country, so we should have a right to know what he’s been doing in the same way that we can question what our politicians have been up to.

“In the case of Prince Andrew this is particularly important. Speculation around his actions, who knew about them and who tried to cover them up, is damaging not just for the monarchy but for Britain’s reputation as a modern democracy. It is not in our national interests that the facts are going to be hidden away until 2065."

The group posted on social media: "We, once more, call for the exception of the royal family from Freedom of Information requests to end. The absurd and dark exception brings shame to this great nation."

Under normal rules, records transferred to The National Archives at Kew from government departments are kept secret for 20 years. But special dispensation is awarded to the royal family.

Lownie told the Telegraph he believes the royal family should be subject to public scrutiny and feels a “culture of secrecy” shrouds royal correspondence.

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He insisted it was “absurd” Prince Harry could reveal intimate details of royal life but historians cannot look at files relating to the monarchy.

Lownie has been trying to use FOI legislation to access documents relating to Prince Andrew’s time as a trade envoy.

Prince Andrew was the UK's special representative for trade and industry envoy from 2001 and 2011. He was forced to resign a decade into the job after being pictured with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein in New York after the billionaire had been released from prison.

Tristan Gray, convener of anti-royal campaign group Our Republic, said it was yet another sign of the royals dodging accountability while claiming they are public servants.

He told The National: “I used to work in FOI, so I have some experience in seeing how exemptions are used and how up for interpretation they are.

“The issue here is two-fold. Firstly, this is yet another example of the royal family being given a station which means they never have to face any kind of accountability or oversight and that stands in stark contrast to their claim to be public servants. You can’t be both a public servant and be unaccountable to that public.

“It all laces together into a tapestry of a family who see themselves as above the people they claim to serve.

“Secondly, the fact that government has stepped in and provided him cover shows [up] the lie that the monarchy doesn’t actually have any political power.”

Lownie said he was told by both the Department for Business and Trade and the Foreign Office that they did not have any papers relating to a trip undertaken by Andrew.

“I know from talking to diplomats that both of them should have material,” he said.