Privacy Commission Day 1, Witness 2: Zac Goldsmith MP


The PM Privacy Commission spoke to Zac Goldsmith MP on Monday June 13, 2011. The commissioners are Sir Michael Lyons, Lord Faulks QC and Baroness Liddell.

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ML We reconvene, and welcome Zac Goldsmith MP, as our second witness. Mr Goldsmith would you like to introduce yourself and say a little bit about your interest in these issues and what brings you to the debate, as it were.

ZG Thank you very much indeed and congratulations on the initiative. It's hugely important and I think the BBC is probably the only organisation on the planet that can really take this issue seriously and give it the kind of depth that it needs. I come at this from, I suppose, wearing three different hats, without wanting to be too indulgent. The first is that I edited and owned the Ecologist magazine for a decade, which is small campaigning journal, which, in my experience, triggered litigious threats on almost a monthly basis. Fortunately we were never taken to the cleaners, and we actually never found ourselves in court. But I experienced, first hand, on a regular basis the chilling effect of threat of litigation from very large corporations, so I think that's something that needs to be addressed. It's very, very, very real and it's only because I come from a position of privilege and private wealth that I was able to take that risk in a way that I think another owner or editor would not be able to do so. My second hat is that I am someone who is of occasional interest to the newspapers, particularly the tabloids and I have seen again, first hand, that they are, as a rule, incapable or perhaps unwilling to distinguish between what is genuinely in the public interest and what is of interest to the public and I think there's a key distinction, I'm sure we'll talk about some of that. And the third hat, if I can, is that I'm an MP and I very much hope that Parliament will at some point soon engage in this discussion more robustly and I hope we have this discussion and I hope we're able to step in because I think that ultimately it's the job of parliament to set the boundaries.

ML Thank you very much for that. Can I take you back that, to that very high profile case of 2008? What did you learn about the behaviour of the press and what did it lead you to conclude about what needs to be changed?

ZG I'm going to have to ask you which high profile case?

ML Sorry I'm thinking back to the case including your former wife and sister.

ZG Oh I see, the super injunction.

ML Yes.

ZG I mean, I can't go into too many of the details because an element of the super injunction remains, but I was, I discovered late at night that hundreds of e-mails had been hacked, I mean accessed illegally from my wife's e-mail account, my now ex-wife's e-mail account and also my sister's e-mail account. I had no idea which e-mails had been accessed. I simply know that they had been sent to editors of a number of newspapers around the country, purporting to come from me and or my ex-wife, which was not the case. We didn't know who had done this or why it was being done and I sought very quickly to close down any possibility that these e-mails would be published. So they were, one clearly illegally accessed and two no great revelation to anyone, they were just simply private e-mails and discussions and exchanges between members of the family. Initially we sought and obtained a super injunction which prevented any discussion of this in the next weeks and months and when we eventually discovered who it was that had hacked the e-mails, someone we understood and we still believe suffers from quite serious mental health issues, that we applied to have part of the super injunction lifted, the bit applied to myself and my sister, which is why we can talk about it now but not the part applying to the hacker. As far as I'm concerned this is probably the, in terms of the examples that I know of, this is probably the best example of where a super injunction has merit, this is what the they should be there for. I have zero doubt, and I don't believe any tabloid editor would argue with this, that the super injunction bit that remains, the bit protecting the identity of the hacker is absolutely crucial for all kinds of reasons.

ML And can you sort of extrapolate from that where you feel the deficiencies are in current arrangements for regulation and control of behaviour of the press, if indeed there are any.

ZG I think that there is sort of hyperbole at the moment over super injunctions, as we all know day after day it's been covered by the newspapers but I think we have to put it into context. The reason that we have so many apparent super injunctions being sought and obtained is a direct consequence of the fact that the newspapers, particularly the tabloids, are seemingly unwilling to regulate themselves and I think it's very easy to justify publishing anything in the public interest, even where it's not in the public interest and any attempt by anyone to protect their privacy is considered now, by the newspapers to be almost heretical. But I think it's perfectly normal that people would want to protect their privacy, I mean I would and I'm sure you would too, would want to protect their privacy and I think that what needs to happen now, given that the newspapers are unable to create a framework for themselves, I think what needs to happen now is that a discussion is had publicly and a set of guidelines is laid out by Parliament. I think if we did that we'd avoid the confusion and then where super injunctions are sought they wouldn't be granted except where there's a strong case for anonymity. The problem at the moment is that we're sort of finding our way through the dark, no one really knows what the law says, no one really knows what's private and what's not and the effect is that it is really down to the newspapers up against the odd judge and quite often teams of very expensive lawyers.

ML And is there an appetite in Parliament to take those measures?

ZG On the surface there is definitely an appetite for debate on this issue, the trouble with politicians is that they absolutely depend on newspapers to get to the people on whom they depend on votes, and it's very hard to get to all of your electors and therefore the newspapers provide a very handy shortcut and I think if we were to take this issue seriously then we would have to accept that the newspapers have behaved, on many, many occasions with huge irresponsibility and that requires us to point the finger at those newspapers and that's something that politicians are often reluctant to do, for obvious reasons. So I hope there will be a debate and I hope it will be an honest and robust debate. I suspect you'll find the people who are most critical on these newspapers are those who are at the end of their career and those who won't seek re-election next time. Which is a sad reflection on Parliament, but never the less probably true?

HL As we're talking about parliamentary matters can I ask you as a constituency member of Parliament, you, in your introductory remarks refer to the fact that you have considerable personal wealth, if a constituent came to you whose privacy had been breached in a similar way to the way your privacy was breached, what sort of advice would you give them? Would you think that the Press Complaints Commission for example would be a suitable way for them to go if they didn't have the kind of wealth that would allow them to go to the courts?

ZG Yes, I would have to recommend that they go to the PCC, and in fact I have done in the past for two constituents, and the reason I've done that, obviously, is that you don't have to be wealthy to go to the PCC. And my experience of the PCC is that they operate relatively quickly. I've been to them myself, partly in order to be able to speak with a little bit more authority about this issue in circumstances such as this, and I've found that they're good up to a point. But there's a limit to how far they can go because they are toothless. And I think this issue of costs is really important, I don't think it's the same, often you hear newspapers and commentator saying that because justice is accessible only to the very rich, therefore that access should be closed off to everyone and that seems to be the implication and the arguments that are used. As far as I'm concerned the argument is that we do need to address costs but we need to make justice available to everyone, and if that means capping costs, if it means using, there's something called the Aarhus convention, which means that whoever pays the least of the two combatants, effectively caps the costs, so if I spend £10,000 pounds taking you on and you spend a million pounds defending myself and I lose, I'll pay your £10,000 and I'll pay my £10,000 and the effect is that it evens the playing field in a way that the current law doesn't allow. That is a very, very real issue and I'm speaking with my Ecologist magazine hat on. That's something which I think absolutely has to be addressed. But the fact that current justice is available only to people who have a lot of money doesn't mean that other people shouldn't also have access to justice and I just think it's a non sequitur, which is a bit of a red herring, which has been flagged up by newspapers and I think it's a weak argument.

EF Now, you obtained super injunctions and I think that the first line of the judgment stresses the fact that you were the victim of a crime, and that was a significant part of the analysis by the judge I think. As a member of Parliament do you think that the public are entitled to know about your private life, and if so what are the issues?

ZG This is why this is such a difficult issue because what I regard to be private might be very different to what you regard to be private, and you can have 10 people in a room and they might all have a slightly different idea on where the line should be drawn and that's why this can only be decided upon in my view through very open and wide ranging and transparent discussion and Parliament's a good place for that to happen, notwithstanding the caveat I mentioned earlier. But my own view is that a person's private life should be private unless there is something happening in their private life which makes them hypocritical or if there's a revelation there which suggests that someone may have been engaging in some kind of fraud. So I think that if, for example, I was a politician campaigning, to use a crude example, campaigning against equal rights for homosexuals, if it was the case that in my private life I was secretly homosexual, I would regard it as legitimate that the newspapers want to make that known because I'd been engaging in a straightforward hypocrisy. If I had never discussed the issue of homosexuality in my political campaign and I was secretly homosexual I would regard that to be a private matter and I don't believe that the newspapers would have any right at all to "out" me against my will. I think a lot of it comes down to whether or not people are engaging in hypocrisy, they're tricking the electorate in the case of politicians and I think you could have a similar discussion about people in other positions of...people with profiles in other sectors

EF If someone was an MP and simply said they were married without necessarily extolling the virtues of married or family life. Would that statement be enough do you think to render them vulnerable to a story if they committed adultery?

ZG I think that's a statement of fact, it's not a statement of opinion, you're either married or you're not.

EF So you have to go further you think

ZG My own view is you'd have to go further, yes. It would be very hard to describe someone as being hypocritical for stating the fact that they're married even while at the same time they may have hundreds of girlfriends within their constituency, I think that's a separate issue. I think if they adopt a more hard line Christian approach for example in their literature then again I think they'd be fair game.

ML Can I just come back to that line of discussion then and ask you because I'm left with the impression that you see just one line for all and don't see the need for special requirements for those who hold public office or are celebrities, both of which has been the suggestion of bringing about different requirements, different expectations

ZG Well I think if you are occupying high office, for example, an MP or a borough commander of a police force or whatever it happens to be, I think that comes with greater levels of responsibility and inevitably that means there's going to be greater interest in that person. But I don't think, I maintain that unless and MP or a borough commander or whoever it happens to be is engaging in clear hypocritical activity, I still think they're entitled to a private life and I think if we at some point work out where that line is drawn I think a lot of people will decide it's just simply not worth entering public life. There are lots of very, very talented people out there who would love to be able to give something back, to engage in the big political discussions and try and improve the direction in which this country is going but who are never-the-less discouraged from doing so because of the aggression and the violence of our newspapers and I think that's an issue, a serious issue.

ML So there's already a problem for us in terms of people being discouraged

ZG It is certainly an issue, there are plenty of people I know who have been involved who've been great success stories in their own field who would very much like to get involved in politics but would not want to put their family through the kind of strain and stress that it involves at the moment. I'm not suggesting the newspapers shouldn't be taking a very active interest in people who hold public office but I think there is a line to be drawn there and I think the newspapers seem to, it's almost as if that line no longer exists at all and I think that's an issue. I think it makes us a less civilized country in fact.

ML You said that the matter ought to be discussed in Parliament. Can you be a bit more specific about that in the sense do you envisage there being actual legislation defining what privacy is or do you want the matter debated generally perhaps leading to legislation.

ZG I think there should be some kind of legislation, it's a really difficult issue for the same reason you're conducting this hearing yourself, but I think we should aim to produce parliamentary guidelines around privacy, now what form that takes I don't know. As you know, as you know we have a draught defamation paper which has already been responded to I understand by many hundreds of people, not only the newspapers but lots of other people as well

ML I don't think that's actually got privacy strictly within its' remit

ZG No but I don't think you can look at one without the other. I think it's, I think defamation and libel are part of the same package. And I suspect that if we have a discussion in parliament around privacy laws that will have to happen separately but I hope the discussion will happen within the same context as the decisions being made around defamation and libel.

EF you discuss the question of costs and that's obviously a big disincentive for anybody to take on a newspaper. Sorry to be a bit tactless about this but your father was of course quite a one for taking on newspapers when he ran campaigns or certain things he didn't think were appropriate. Do you think that it goes both ways and there should generally be some alternative means of getting satisfaction other than the courts, to stop either over mighty newspapers or over mighty individuals who have power?

ZG I do but I think the cost issue is going to be really important. I think in this country we tend to have sympathy for David in a David and Goliath battle and whereas the narrative at the moment tends to be around big companies versus small publications where instinctively most people would be on the side of the small publication. Usually David is the individual and Goliath is the 100 million pound or the billion pound tabloid enterprise and I think we need an even playing field for both sides, I think it's absolutely crucial that but I don't think that we're going to do that without capping costs, without have some kind of restriction, so that we all have equal access to justice, but in an ideal world the laws would be clear enough that we wouldn't have to see so many of these cases go to court and that's where I think the PCC has a role but I don't think that the PCC has covered itself in glory in the last few months partly because of its failure to get serious over the phone hacking allegations, no longer allegations, phone hacking saga, and for other reasons as well. But I think that route is something that should be strengthened. There was a two page piece, one-and-a-half page piece written in the Times recently suggesting that I had avoided paying stamp duty on my property, now to this day believe it's not possible to avoid stamp duty but certainly if it is possible to avoid stamp duty I certainly haven't done it myself. And this was a fairly straightforward case and I wanted to try the PCC just to see what would happen and I went to the PCC and they managed to organise an apology very quickly but my apology rather than being one-and-a-half pages, I think page 6 and 7 it ended up being 2 or 3 lines, without my name in the title, underneath an advert on the letters page. Now technically I got my apology. That's something I can use if a constituent writes to me and says we read this in the Times and we're appalled, I can send them the apology. But I think there needs to be much more balance and fairness. I think another thing that we ought to be looking at, which I know that the editors would reject but I think most people would accept, is that where the newspapers step over the mark, where they get it wrong the apology should be very nearly as prominent as the original mistake. I think if you did that the reputational risk to newspapers and editors would be such that they'd be much more careful. So I don't think it often comes down to costs. Very few people take on newspapers to make money they do it to clear their reputation that's their prime motivation.

ML And do you think the PCC ought to have some equivalent body, powers to fine newspapers

ZG I think they could, I would like to see the PCC greatly strengthened. It's a voluntary organization, as you know, it is paid, if not entirely then substantially themselves, I think the entire thing's paid by the newspapers and there's no real sanction there. It relies on the willingness or the eagerness of editors to maintain the voluntary approach and I think newspapers do take that seriously because if they get it wrong the PCC will be even more discredited and it will be replaced by something with real teeth. But I think the PCC should be more independent and I think it should have greater sanctions and I think should be able to fine and I think it should be able to be more proscriptive in terms of the kinds of apologies newspapers print. I think if it did that we'd see a more civilized approach by newspapers.

EF Should it be publicly funded do you think?

ZG I suppose the question is has it had enough time to prove its worth as a voluntary organization paid for by, it's not a voluntary organisation, it's a self regulating force paid for by the newspapers. I think my own view is it's probably, probably time to transform it into something which is publicly funded, more independent and with much greater beef. We're probably at that stage, but there's a debate to be had around that.

EF How can we safeguard the role of investigative journalism, what are the measures that we need for the future to make sure that even it were possible to see a strengthened PCC

ZG The thing is, the arguments often used against privacy laws and super injunctions and so on is that this will stifle investigative journalism, but I don't see that the one follows the other. I think most people would have been appalled had they looked into the issue relating to Trafigura for example. but I think most people, if you were to have a discussion, a broader discussion, whether in Parliament or in the pub most people would accept that whatever laws were brought in would not curtail that kind of investigative reporting. But equally I think that most people would accept that hounding someone who has been accused of murdering a girl, this is a recent case, was wrong. I think most people say that that man's life has been probably ruined, that the stain will always be next to his name, he'll probably always find it hard to gain employment or friends and I think that's something that's wrong and I just think that if you had a sensible discussion it wouldn't be difficult to draw a line between the two. Any measure, any measure at all that threatens the ability of investigate reporters to uncover the truth in legitimate areas would be rejected by Parliament, by pretty much everyone, myself included. I am a passionate, I don't believe you can have a free society, I don't believe you can maintain a democracy without a properly vigorous free press but that's not the same as having a press which is scraping the barrel and engaging in an invasion of privacy on a level which I think is totally uncilvised which does no good to society at all. And I just don't buy into the argument that these newspapers are merely dishing out what their readers want. I drove down the M4 the other day and there was a pretty nasty accident, my children were looking out the window and I told them not to, because I didn't want to see whatever happened, I didn't see what happened myself, they never-the-less looked, they were curious. Now I don't think anyone would accuse my children of welcoming the fact that there was a crash on the M4, it's just something that they looked at in the same way that if you put a copy of the Daily Mail in front of me now, I'll read it, I'll read it warts and all, not just the serious political stuff but anything that's in it, or the Sun or the News of the World. I think that there's a responsibility that the newspapers have to respect boundaries of what I regard to be just plain decency.

ML Is there a problem that touching much of the debate is played out with examples drawn from the lives and circumstances of the rich and famous and therefore it's very difficult for the ordinary member of the public to see where their own interest lie in this

ZG Yes, I think so, I think that's an issue. It's partly that if the newspapers are going to invest money in trying to dish the dirt on an individual the likelihood is it's because that individual is rich and famous, rich and or famous. And so it's not surprising that the majority of attempts to obtain for example, super injunctions or to close down stories come from people who are rich or famous. But there are plenty of examples of people who are neither rich nor famous who also seek anonymity, sometimes rightly and sometimes wrongly. And there are plenty of examples of people who are neither rich nor famous who have been taken over the coals by the newspapers, the difference being that once they've served that purpose, once the stories have been generated, because they're not rich or famous, they're not in the public eye the likelihood is that they'll disappear from public view a few months later. So I don't think that's an argument, I don't think it's a legitimate argument the newspapers are using, because this is something which is only available to the rich and famous it needs to be dismantled. The realities are there are a lot of innocent victims in this mad competition among the media to sell as many copies as possible on the back of seedy exposés.

EF Can I take you into the area that the impact of new media, particularly social networking, whether that makes it very much more difficult to control private information once it becomes known to one or more individuals.

ZG Yes, I think it undoubtedly makes it harder to control what is in the public sphere, Twitter, Facebook and so on and anonymous blogs and so on. The tools now exist that if you want to get information out you can but equally before the age of Twitter, before the age of the internet it was still possible to break injunctions, it was still possible to let people know things that you weren't supposed to let them know. And whereas yes, it will make it harder to police it, it doesn't mean that the law should be abandoned. The irony is that you have newspapers now, take the Daily Mail, which has been very strong on this issue campaigning against super injunctions; it campaigns also for harder laws on drugs. Well we always know that people will always take drugs, they're never going to eradicate drugs, the fact that there are always people who are willing to take drugs and defy the law doesn't seem to stop them calling for harder laws in relation to drug control. Now that's another issue clearly but I think that the, I give you another example, and I could very easily go online and incite people to engage in race violence even, the fact that I can do that and I can probably do it anonymously doesn't I think mean that the government should change the laws on incitement to racial hatred. It just means that the government needs to be more alert, the police need to be more alert, and we need to show that there's a willingness to come down on people who break the law and if the law's wrong, which is a separate issue, well then there's a separate route to take, lobbying government for a change in the law. But for as long as the law stands it is the job of the authorities to try and enforce it, no matter how difficult.

EF Going back to the case involving your wife and sister that as you said earlier on related to illegal acts as to private information, how did you find the police in that case?

ZG The truth is that I didn't at first go to the police, because the police have a reputation for running a leaking ship and I thought it would be more useful if I tried to do some of the work myself and I sought help from a professional organisation who compiled most of what I needed which I then handed over to the police at which point actually I have to say that the police were superb. Very, very helpful, there was no leakage of any sort and they were able to help me get to the bottom of the issue and I was then able to go back to the court with fresh information, so the police were superb and I probably could have gone to them at the start. I have no complaints at all.

ML The question of what's in the public interest, is of course, what's at the heart of all this and the public are interested in all sorts of things, and you think, I think you were saying, was that they're not necessarily as interested in, as editors of newspapers seem to think they are, in footballers sex lives. Somebody has to decide ultimately what is in the public interest, at the moment it's the judges. If you're going to give the power to some tribunal or increase the power of the PCC, never-the-less it has to be a judgment made by somebody, perhaps informed by what Parliament has decided. Who are the best people to decide these things?

ZG It's the job of Parliament to make the law, it's the job of the judiciary to interpret the law, to interpret what it is that Parliament has said and there's always going to be room for discussion, but I think in this issue there should always be room for discussion because it's not always a black and white issue, so say what I regard to be private another person might think it's absolutely legitimately in the public interest. And that is simply the nature of the issue that we're discussing. So ultimately it's going, as you say, it's going to have to come down some kind of judgment and I think that once parliament has created the framework it's going to be for the judges to decide. I can't think of an alternative, I can't think of a better alternative. But hopefully with enough clarity in the law there'll be less ambiguity and therefore fewer examples which will fuel the hyperbole that we've seen in recent weeks.

EF So you don't think there should necessarily, the judges, be replaced by some form of quick and easy tribunal which will deliver justice in a slightly less grand but more modest way

ZG It's not something I've looked at so I can't give you an authoritative answer but I'm interested in the outcome. I want a situation where the press are able to do what we want them to do which is to expose corruption and hypocrisy and fraud. They need to survive in order to do that. But at the same time I want the newspapers to be required to recognise the boundaries of what constitutes privacy and public interest, and if that's something that will be delivered as a result of the kind of tribunal that you're talking about then I'd be very happy about that but it needs to stack up

EF Would you be prepared to say how much taking these procedures cost you?

ZG Through the courts?

EF Yes

ZG I can't give you an accurate answer because the whole episode cost an absolute fortune, including trying to find out who it was who'd engaged in the hacking, before the judgment was made I employed media experts to try and ensure that the more aggressive tabloids recognised that publishing private e-mails was wrong and I would challenge it, I was putting out a number of fires at the same time, so I was working alone and the cost of these things combined with taking on lawyers and seeking and obtaining the super injunction it came to a very substantial sum, and absolutely out of reach for the vast majority of people. If I survived only on the MPs salary that I receive I would not have been able to engage in a fraction of the activity that I engaged in, but I have absolutely no doubt that I was right to do so. Now, as it happens I don't know what all the e-mails were, I don't know what they all said, but I'm confident that there was nothing in the e-mails, well I know as a matter of fact, that there were no revelations in the e-mails which would have called into question my suitability as an MP, but they were never-the-less private, private exchanges between myself and other members of my family. Whether or not they were interesting, whether or not they were embarrassing to me, I still don't think that those are the kinds of things that should be published in a newspaper, particularly given that they were accessed illegally. So I did the right thing but I would not have been able to do the right thing had I been an ordinary Conservative candidate, which is what I was at the time, a candidate, not an MP, and I would simply have had to deal with the consequences, which would have been very uncomfortable a few months before an election having to deal with all kinds of tittle tattle which I would have been better off doing without. So again, I don't believe that if you had any tabloid editors, any of the tabloid editors sitting here talking about this particular case I think they'd be very hard pushed to justify publishing those e-mails. But it's not the kind of example you read about when you read about the discussions and debates that rage over super injunctions because it's not convenient, this is a classic case of where a super injunction is absolutely justified, and will remain justified because of the mental health of the person who remains subject to the part of the super injunction

ML Can I ask you about parliamentary privilege. As an MP you have privilege to speak freely on anything and there's no way of challenging that. What do you think of MPs naming people, or member of the House of Lords, in breach of injunctions?

ZG It very much depends on the case. Parliamentary privilege is a wonderful thing. I believe it goes back 350 years. It was born of a need to strengthen Parliament in the face of an over-bearing monarchy. It's got origins that could not be more noble, and I think it's a shame therefore that the most recent example of where parliamentary privilege was used was used in order to expose the sex life of a footballer. I think that's not what parliamentary privilege was designed for it's not what parliament fought for, I was sitting behind the MP, John Hemming, when he decided to use privilege and I squirmed with embarrassment, this is not what Parliament is about. And I don't believe even John Hemming entered Parliament to expose the sex life of footballers. I think there are more important things to be done, I don't know if Britain is a better place for knowing what Ryan Giggs has been getting up to. Whether or not he was right to get a super injunction, I don't have the details and I don't have the details of the super injunction, but I do know that there are more important things for Parliament to be getting on with than exposing the sex life of a footballer. But equally I wouldn't want anything brought in which would jeopardise the fact of parliamentary privileges, something that I may have to use myself but if I do it will be for slightly more important purpose than exposing a footballers sex life.

EF Do you think that's something that Parliament itself ought to consider, the extent to which it's appropriate to use parliamentary privilege in circumstances which you describe?

ZG I'd be very nervous indeed of any measure that threatened to curtail that power, I think it's an important tool that we have at our disposal. Although I have not personally had to consider using it, there are circumstances in which I might need to use it and I think as an MP, if an MP gets it wrong there is always the sanction that they can be deselected or sacked by the electorate at the next election. I wish that that was possible more often, but it isn't, and I never the less think that that is the ultimate safe card, democracy. So I disapprove in the way it was used recently but the mechanism itself I think is sacrosanct and should be maintained.

ML Doesn't that go to the heart of the issue, not only for parliamentary privilege but also for the rights of the press that the price of a free society and proper pursuit of those who do wrong, it actually is to allow those freedoms to continue.

ZG But I don't believe it's impossible or even difficult to maintain the kind of freedoms you're that talking about, that are implied in your question, with a respect for privacy and decency. I think the two are different issues. And yes there will be occasions where a story, a particular episode, is absolutely on the razor's edge, and that's where the judgment can fall on either side. There are examples relating to MPs, which I won't go into now, where I would find it very, very difficult to judge myself whether or not they're private or public. But I think the vast majority of examples that we could be discussing this morning if we went through example after example I think we'd probably agree, I think most civilised people without a vested interested in the newspapers would agree on what constitutes on which story is private and which story is public. I don't think it's beyond the wit of man to draw the line, and I think that's something that we need to do.

ML If you had to speak directly to the listeners of the PM programme would you encourage them to have confidence in current arrangements or underline that these arrangements need change?

ZG I don't think people can justify confidence in the current arrangements at all. I think, as the newspapers often say, that the stories that are kept out of the newspapers tend to be kept out because the person keeping them out has got deep pockets, I think that's wrong. I think that kind of access to justice should apply to all. I think whereas newspapers might dish up some fascinating stories about peoples' private lives, I think most people, most people would accept that there is a line to be drawn, I very rarely meet people, occasionally you meet fanatics who don't believe there should be any privacy at all, I think if we go down that route we will find ourselves in the situation where people simply don't step forward into positions of responsibility because it's just too stressful for them and their families. And I think most people would accept that because someone has become a successful footballer or actor or artist that they should have to forfeit all manner or semblance of privacy despite that being the main plank in the argument used by the tabloids. I think if we had a discussion with 100 people we'd probably find that there was a reasonable consensus, one that there needs to be a line drawn between what's public and what's private and I think we'd probably come close to drawing where that line should be drawn. And I think if we do that then the law can follow.

ML Can I offer an invitation to you. Are there any questions you'd have hoped we might have asked you?

ZG I'm fascinated by the conclusions that you're going to reach and I hope you're going to have an opportunity to speak to, what I would describe victims of the press, who are neither rich nor famous, there are a few examples of that. People whose lives have been absolutely turned upside down, purely and simply because for newspapers there was a profit to be made in turning their lives upside down, regardless of whether there's any public interest in doing so. I hope there will be a few people giving evidence because I thing that too often I think it comes down to the celebrity versus the newspaper and it's much easier for the newspaper to appear to be the thing on people's side. And in times of difficulty that we are in at the moment there's not a lot of sympathy for either the rich or the famous at the moment. But I would just say that that's a diversion, there are lots and lots of victims of a very, very powerful newspaper industry, and really no one to stand up to the industry, and I think that's the problem and I think that's where Parliament really has to step in. Only Parliament can step up, only Parliament has the strength and ability to stand up to the newspapers.

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