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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Freedom of speech

The Assembly chamber and the Welsh blogosphere yesterday was littered with toys thrown out of various Assembly Member's prams in response to the guidance issued by the Assembly Commission on the use of publicly websites.

It might have benefited many of those members if, instead of resorting to kneejerk reactions they had actually sat down with officials and worked out what the guidance means and how much latitude it allows them. I believe that they may well have been pleasantly surprised. It may even have saved Leighton Andrews the trouble of taking legal advice as to whether his human rights have been infringed by the guidance.

This guidance is not about censorship of course, it is about the proper use of public money. There are already rules in place on the use of Assembly resources, including what can be sent out in the post, what can be put in paid-for adverts and what restrictions apply to the use of equipment and offices. The website guidance falls within that genre. It is in line with the guidance that applies to MPs and to local Councillors who use a Council-funded site.

Personally, I pay the costs of my website out of my own pocket. The use of blogspot is free. If AMs want to be free of restriction, no matter how limited, then they can follow suit.
1) You regularly blog from the Chamber using a computer provided by the Assembly and using internet links provided for by the Assembly paid for from public money. You are therefore using public funds to support your weblog whatever you claim, though I note that the guidance applies to he Office Costs Allowance and Staff Salaries Allowance only.

2) The guidance you have published is vague and ill thought-out. I have now sent a series of detailed questions on it to the Assembly Commission. I am also getting legal advice for my own benefit and for that of -so far - 15 other Assembly Members from all parties. You don't know what you are doing.
Peter has always been an online trailblazer. If he goes down, he'll go down in a blaze of net glory. Taking the whole lot of you with him. Thank God. I win either way.
I thought this interesting Peter.


I can't see what all the fuss is about. I only hope that the taxpayers are not paying for all this legal chit chat involving the Commission. Might be seen as waste. :-)
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