Writing to MPs

Dear Editor,

I’m hearing the same from many people from in and around Hampshire area that when they email or write to their local MP they only ever receive an automatic response, but that’s it. Whether it is Brine (Winchester), Malthouse (Andover), Jaywardena North Hampshire) or Miller (Basingstoke), people are telling me the very same – they never get a reply. It has been like this for well over six months.

After all, they have a salary of circa £82,000, plus expenses. For the most part in the last 18 months, the only time they actually turned up at Westminster was a couple of weeks ago when they were ‘recalled’ from summer recess to ‘debate Afghanistan’.

So where are they, where have they been, conspicuous by their absence?

Am I right in saying that all MPs are obliged to reply to constituents? After all, they are highly-paid public servants to serve us – the voter/constituent. Are they not, or has that concept been lost in the last 18 months?

Nigel Johnson, address supplied

Banning protests

Dear Editor,

Not many people are talking about the Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

But if it passes the Parliament, it will have an impact on all our lives.

The bill gives unprecedented powers to the police to ban peaceful demonstrations outright and to ban ‘noisy’ protests. The definition of a noisy protest includes a protest involving noise made by just one person.

It’s been revealed that the Police Federation was not consulted on this huge extension of police powers. Furthermore, a respected group of former police officers has expressed grave concerns.

In a letter to the Home Secretary, they said: “Echoing the concerns voiced by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and other professional bodies, we believe that this Bill has dangerous and harmful implications for the ability of police officers to enforce the law and for the health of our democracy as a whole.”

If the next time a group of residents, or even a single resident, wants to protest against a housing development or a council decision, the Police could just say ‘No’.

You might expect this from the Chinese Government in Hong Kong, but we shouldn’t put up with it in the UK.

If any other of your readers are worried at the prospect of their right to protest being curtailed, I would encourage them to write to their MP and ask them to oppose this repressive legislation. Or they could support organisations like Unlock Democracy which are campaigning against the Bill.

Stephen Philpotts, address supplied

A303 petition

Dear Editor,

Locals need a swift resolution to the Stonehenge traffic chaos. The proposed tunnel is not the answer, as it will take too long to build,

Instead, the A303 should be made into a dual carriageway and pass through a cutting alongside the existing road. The Planning Inspectorate have already rejected the present plan.

This delivers the same benefits as the tunnel, but can be completed quicker, at a lower cost and with less environmental damage and without closing the A360 for three months.

I have started a petition regarding this - www.change.org/Alternative_to_Tunnel_Vision

Ian West, Winterbourne Stoke

Car meets

I am writing in response to the news item about car meets (“Cllr’s ‘warning’ to car meet organisers”, page 5).

Unfortunately hosting any car meet in a public space is going to attract those who don’t wish to follow the meet rules and therefore ruin/spoil it for others that are following the rules of the meet.

Because the car community is big, not everyone is going to know everyone or know their number plates (especially as these are easy to change). So I don’t think it’s fair to assume that the hosts knew who these people were or what their intentions were.

The car meet in question was a static meet (meaning the cars where stationary with a few pops and bangs here and there from people who wanted to show off what their car can do. This was allowed by the people who were hosting the event, but only for a short period of time and they could only do it once).

Police were notified before the event was due to take place and they got permission from the owner of the car park before announcing the event.

Joanna Ashton, address supplied

It’s not broken

Dear Editor,

I see absolutely no reason for the upcoming elections bill. It is a case of fixing something that in my view is not broken.

Why on Earth is there a need to provide ID? Whenever I go to the polls it is the same two old ladies behind the desk. It is solving a problem that doesn’t exist.

More alarming still, the Elections Bill will allow ministers to define and curtail ‘campaigning’, and in a move reminiscent of backsliding democracies everywhere could make coordinating opposition an offence, and permits political meddling in the Electoral Commission. By putting restrictions on campaigning and cross-party co-operation, this bill stifles healthy opposition.

In our current system, unaffiliated organisations, charities and even the person on the street can be part of the debate, and even stand if they have a deposit to waste. And where independent groups can provide voters with information on parties and their policies.

The real menace to our democracy comes from the fact our national print media not only feels the need to present opinion as fact, but the loudest opinions are also skewed to one side and are often counterfactual. Also, the fact that offensive or untrue statements are allowed to profligate unchallenged on social media - it is everybody’s job to challenge these, not the platforms.

This bill has either been dreamt up in response to some sorts of conspiracy theories, rather than listening to the governments’ own security services (who only recently published a report on election meddling), or worse this and other Bills reducing the power of judicial review of Ministers’ decisions are a completely cynical attempt to keep the ruling party in office perpetually, stamp out healthy (and necessary) dissent and make the UK one of the growing numbers of democracies in name only.

The Policing Bill which banned ‘noisy protests’ (what other kind of protests are there?) gained significant coverage in the media. The Elections bill seems to have invited silence, and democracy dies in silence.

Robin Sutherland, address supplied

Thanks to town

Dear Editor

I am writing on behalf of USDAW to thank people in the Andover area including the police for stopping by USDAW’s freedom from fear stall last weekend. The objective of USDAW’s long standing freedom from fear campaign is to create a safer shopping environment for staff and customers alike and has the support of the retail companies. USDAW also campaigns for the employment of more police officers complete with reduction of vexing paperwork so that police officers have more time to their community reassuring people and deterring crime.

There was a very poignant backdrop to the stall with John Carroll falling victim to violent crime at while at work at Tesco Andover earlier this month. USDAW extends its condolences to John Carroll’s family, his Andover community and to his workplace community - and workplace communities have very close bonds. In the meantime USDAW is working with the retail companies to improve safety and security procedures in stores.

John Barstow, member of USDAW executive council