LONDON -- Two British newspapers Sunday published the transcript of a tape of a steamy telephone conversation said to be between Prince Charles and his friend Camilla Parker Bowles, while a top official ruled out a government investigation into alleged security service involvement in 'Camillagate.'
Only days after a government report urged tough new restraints be placed on the press, the Sunday Mirror and People, two London newspapers with national circulations, published the full transcript of the recording. The transcript first appeared in an Australian magazine last week.
Most British newspapers previously had refrained from printing the transcript, apparently out of respect for the heir to the throne.
Speculation about the prince of Wales' relationship with Parker Bowles, a married woman and mother of two, has been raging for months, and increased in December when Charles officially separated from his immensely popular wife, Princess Diana.
The tape records a couple, alleged to be Charles and Parker Bowles, confessing their love and longing for each other in sometimes graphic terms. At one point, Charles allegedly tells her, 'Your great achievement is to love me.' At another, he allegedly says, 'I'll just live inside your trousers or something.'
Newspaper reports have speculated that British intelligence agencies may have been involved in the recording of the tape and leaking it to the press. Members of Parliament on the influential House of Commons Select Committe on Home Affairs planned Monday to question Stella Rimington, the head of MI5.
However, Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke, the Cabinet minister in charge of MI5, Sunday rejected suggestions that security services may have been involved and said there would be no government investigation.
'There is nothing to investigate,' he said, adding that the security services' telephone tapping was very strictly controlled.
'I am absolutely certain the allegations that this has anything to do with the security services...is just extremely silly,' he said.
Nevertheless, the House of Commons Select Committee published a report last week recommending a tightening of parliamentary control over the security services.
'We should be able to oversee or scrutinize the work of the security service, looking at issues of policy and areas of activity and work for the security service,' said one member of the committee, MP John Greenaway.
But Clarke said, 'The only people at the moment who are under strict control on telephone interceptions in this country are the security service and the police, which is why it seems to me obvious that the gap in the criminal law should be plugged so that newspapers, commercial rivals and retired bank managers can be stopped more effectively from bugging anybody's telephone calls, whether they be the mightiest in the land or the poorest.'
Meanwhile, newspaper editors defended their decision to print the transcript.
'Yes, I will be criticized. Yes, I will be damned,' said Colin Myler, editor of the Sunday Mirror. 'But why should the people of Britain be treated with such hypocrisy and contempt?'
The People newspaper also defended its publication of the transcript, saying high society hushed up an affair between the last prince of Wales and a married woman. He succeeded to the throne as Edward VIII in 1936 but abdicated months later to marry Wallis Simpson.
'The British people should have had the right to know what was going on then. You have the right to know what is going on now,' the newspaper said.
Reports of Charles's alleged affair with Parker Bowles and his estrangement from Princess Diana have led some to question whether he will ever be able to succeed to the throne. The British monarch is also head of the Church of England, which frowns on divorce, and is generally expected to set a moral example for the rest of the nation.
The transcript of the so-called 'Camillagate' tape was published last week in a tabloid, The Daily Sport, in three Irish newspapers and one English regional paper. However, most national newspapers had maintained a self-imposed embargo on printing the transcript.
A report last week, authored by Sir David Calcutt, called for a tribunal headed by a High Court judge to regulate the behavior of the press. The tribunal's rulings would be backed by heavy fines.
The Calcutt report also recommended the creation of new offences to protect the privacy of private figures.
While millions of newspapers readers were titillated by details of his supposed love life, Charles spent the weekend at the royal estate Sandringham in Norfolk with his parents and some close friends.
Parker Bowles' whereabouts were not known. Reporters have been staking out her home in Wiltshie since Wednesday, but there has been no sign of her.