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British Want Investigation Of Royal `Bugs'

LEADING British politicians are asking that the country's intelligence services be put under parliamentary control and demanding an investigation of claims that Queen Elizabeth and her family are the subjects of routine electronic eavesdropping.

The calls follow publication in newspapers here of the transcript of an alleged conversation between the Prince and Princess of Wales, shortly before their marriage broke up late last year.

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The reports say that the couple's angry exchange about the future custody of their two children had been recorded electronically by MI5, the British security service.

Despite firm denials by Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke that MI5 had been involved in the bugging, members of Parliament called for an inquiry.

Tony Blair, a Labour Party parliamentarian who monitors the security services, suggested that a parliamentary committee be created to supervise MI5, which is responsible for external security.

He received strong support from Rupert Allason, a Conservative parliamentarian, who has written widely about espionage.

Mr. Allason said it was "extremely difficult" to obtain information from the government on security matters.

Government embarrassment at the publication of the transcript deepened when a prominent journalist, James Whitaker, said he was "totally unsurprised" that the conversation of the prince and princess had been recorded by the security services.

Mr. Whitaker, whose book on the royal marriage breakup was due to appear this week, said, "The entire family is regularly bugged, from the Queen down." He said the transcript was in his book and alleged that it had been "lifted" without his permission.

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Further confusion was added when Buckingham Palace said that official royal diaries indicated that Charles and Diana had not been together when the alleged conversation was said to have taken place.

As well as stirring debate about control of the security services, the uproar over publication of the transcript has put added pressure on Prime Minister John Major to introduce official curbs on media abuse.

Clive Soley, a parliamentarian who wants the government to back a bill guaranteeing a right of privacy to citizens, said: "The Sun [newspaper] has published a private conversation. It has gone too far. Something must be done to prevent such excesses."

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