On Monday I attended a planning inquiry about proposed new housing in Hassocks to make the case that local people should be deciding where development goes through their neighbourhood plan.
The public were literally silenced at the meeting and have effectively been shut out of the decision-making process. Instead, an army of developers and QCs were in the room, all expressing their view on detailed aspects of a village they didn’t live in.
I raised these points again in another Commons debate on planning this week, and I also spoke about the blight caused by the promoters of the unwanted Mayfield new town.
Later this week I will be speaking in a debate on bank closures, which has been of great concern in our towns and villages. Retail banking has changed rapidly, with more and more people now banking online. Rural branches now have very few visitors.
But high street banking services are still needed, for instance by the elderly, local charities and voluntary groups, and of course local businesses.
The good news is that post offices can provide most of the necessary banking services – but this does require them to be open and fully functional.
Tuesday was a big day at Westminster as we celebrated the centenary of giving women the right to vote.
Today only a third of MPs are women, which is progress, but there is further to go. However, there is growing concern about the abuse and intimidation of candidates at elections which has especially affected women.
A female candidate who had stood in Bristol spoke at a lunch in Pulborough last year about her experience of this, and the audience was rightly horrified.
This week the Prime Minister asked the Committee on Standards in Public Life to undertake a review into abuse and intimidation – mostly of women – in elections and to ensure social media companies help to sustain a genuinely open public debate in the future.
Of course, online bullying doesn’t just affect political candidates. Coincidentally, this week my constituents Katie Price and her mother Amy visited the Commons to put their case for new measures to tackle online bullying. They spoke about the horrible bullying of Katie’s son, Harvey, and I have been supporting their campaign.
The Government has also announced a Law Commission review of legislation relating to offensive online communications. Social media has transformed our society and politics, and can be a force for good, but it cannot be allowed to be a platform for hate.
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