POLITICS

John Whittingdale Tells Guido Fawkes Not To Abuse Parliamentary Privilege While Giving Evidence On Injunctions

14/11/2011 17:52 GMT | Updated 15/11/2011 11:17 GMT

Basic probability dictates that when you get more than 10 peers in a room after lunch, one will fall asleep.

But against the odds the majority of Lords on the joint privacy and injunctions select committee were awake when chairman and John Whittingdale stopped Paul Staines, aka Guido Fawkes in his tracks when the blogger began to talk about Tom Watson.

Whittingdale stopped Fawkes in his tracks, saying "I don't want to go into individual cases... I don't want to use this committee to air allegations that you would not make outside the committee" - and revelations were limited to the news that Zac Goldsmith and Jemima Khan had tried to prosecute the blog abroad. Oh, and how an intervention from leading law firm Carter Ruck over a story about hair dye had led to the blogs' servers being based abroad.

"If I didn’t have the protection I have I would not be able to function. I have to take what measures I think are appropriate. The hosting of the blog is in the US, as I have protection there," Staines told the committee.

While the Lords and MPs grappled with twitter, unique views, salaries and accountability, Staines and fellow bloggers Richard Wilson, Holy Moly's Jamie East and the New Statesman's David Allen Green valiantly explained that it doesn't matter about the audience you start off with - if you have something interesting to say, people will find it. There are few better examples of this than Richard Wilson - the man who first exposed Trafigura's superinjunction on twitter.

The witnesses were on their best behaviour - with Allen Green even promising not to "abuse" parliamentary privilege.

The final word on privacy came from Staines. While parliamentarians wonder how to regulate the blogosphere, they also need to consider privacy itself. "I don't pay any attention to the right of privacy," he told the committee.

"When we talk about privacy we are really talking about censorship. I don't want to live in a society where judges are censors. There are loads of things I don't want my wife to find out, but I wouldn't take out an injunction. The right to a family life isn't said to include a right for the public not to know you have cheated on your wife."