Prince of Wales declines inquiry into Camillagate

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The Independent Online
THE PRINCE OF WALES has rejected an invitation from the Press Complaints Commission to take part in an inquiry into the taping of a telephone call he allegedly made to his long-time friend, Camilla Parker Bowles.

Buckingham Palace said last night that the Prince had expressed concern about the practice of eavesdropping on private calls but that he did not wish to become embroiled in an investigation.

A spokeswoman said the refusal to become involved was not tantamount to an admission that the tape was authentic. If he had agreed to complain, that too could have been viewed as a form of admission, she said.

Mrs Parker Bowles has failed so far to reply to the PCC's invitation, which was issued last week. If she also turns it down, the commission's inquiry into royal privacy and the role of the press will effectively end.

Public sympathy for the Prince and Princess of Wales over the taping of their telephone conversations was considerably weakened when Lord McGregor, the commission's chairman, told Sir David Calcutt that the Wales's used the press to leak stories about each other. Despite Lord McGregor's disclosure, Sir David's review of press self-regulation called for a tightening of newspaper behaviour.

Prince Charles's press secretary, Charles Anson, wrote to the PCC yesterday to decline the offer of an investigation. The text of his letter was not released, but palace officials said it made clear the Prince's concern over the tapping of telephone conversations.

'He would be happy if the PCC carried out an inquiry into the wider issue, but it would be wrong to say he is offering his support or co-operation for it,' one official said.

The Press Complaints Commission has never followed up a third- party complaint about breach of privacy without the co-operation of the people involved. Its members next meet tomorrow and will decide then whether to pursue a number of complaints made on the Prince's behalf by members of the public, after publication of the tapes in the Sport, Kent Today, the Mirror and the People.

Mark Bolland, director of the PCC, said: 'I would be very surprised if the commission decided to investigate . . . without the co- operation of either Prince Charles or Camilla Parker Bowles. The commission has never investigated a third-party complaint about privacy without the principals' co-operation.'

The call allegedly between the Prince and Mrs Parker Bowles was made in December 1989. The Prince is supposed to have been using a mobile telephone.

Such calls can be picked up by enthusiasts using inexpensive radio scanners, but the clarity of the recording was seen by some as proof that more sophisticated forces were at play. Among the suspects were security officials using advanced listening equipment at GCHQ in Cheltenham.