The Calcutt Report: UK newspapers fight shy of printing details: Camillagate

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A DOWN-MARKET tabloid, three Irish dailies and a Kent evening newspaper yesterday let their readers into the increasingly open secret of the 'Camillagate' tape.

But most of the British press continued to display uncharacteristic concern for readers' sensibilities.

As underground copies of the transcript of an alleged conversation between the Prince of Wales and his friend Camilla Parker Bowles circulated around the country courtesy of fax machines and photocopiers, newsagents were besieged with demands for Irish newspapers from people with little interest in the latest political manoeuvrings in Dublin.

The tape of the late-night, sexually explicit conversation, said to have taken place in 1989, was first published by the Australian magazine New Idea earlier this week.

Peter Brooke, Secretary of State for National Heritage, told the House of Commons yesterday that the heads of MI5 and GCHQ had indicated that there was 'no truth whatsoever' in rumours that their organisations had bugged three royal conversations around Christmas 1989.

Some MPs and espionage experts believe that the recordings are so professional that they could only have been made by the secret services, and have suggested a dirty tricks operation.

The Daily Sport, which printed the text of the Parker Bowles conversation yesterday, expected to double its circulation to 400,000. Three Irish papers - the Irish Independent, Irish Times and Irish Press - also published the contents of the tape.

David Nolan, managing editor of the Irish Times, said: 'It was a story of some international significance in that one of the alleged participants could become head of state in a European country.'

Maidstone-based Kent Today said in a front-page editorial: 'The public surely has a right to know what this threat to our peculiar way of life actually is.'

As the British press agonised about the rights and wrongs of publication, foreign media had no such scruples.

Italy's L'Indipendente newspaper devoted a full page to the transcript under the headline 'Porno Prince', while an Italian magazine, Noi, planned to run it today.

The text or extracts have already appeared in Germany's Bunte magazine and Bild newspaper, in the New York Daily News and in Sweden's Aftonbladet newspaper. American supermarket weeklies such as the National Enquirer are still considering whether to use it.

A Dutch magazine, Weekend, devoted a four-page spread to the transcript, while the Spanish newspaper El Periodico planned to publish extracts today. The French magazine Paris Match said that it had the tape a week ago but decided not to publish on grounds of taste.