LAST week, Parliament debated the lobbying bill. I am glad that changes were made to the wording governing charities to make it clearer that they are free to continue their important work campaigning on the issues which matter to them.
The most important 'gagging law' this month relates to the Royal Charter which seeks to regulate our press.
Newspapers should resist attempts by all main political parties and 'hacked off' to bully them into accepting the terms of that charter.
Our free press has not always behaved well but it has protected us from the powerful, uncovered corruption and hypocrisy and if it starts to self censor as a result of regulation, that would erode our ability to hold our leaders to account.
The Royal Charter may protect individual members of the public from intrusive reporting but, in reality, it will offer even more protection to the powerful.
I will not be supporting it.
OCTOBER is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The perception continues that domestic violence affects only a small minority; this is simply not true, it can happen to anyone.
Most people would certainly take action if they saw someone being assaulted in the street by a stranger but domestic violence usually happens behind closed doors and is carried out by those who are closest to their victims.
We need to make sure this issue is not minimised as it makes people uncomfortable.
One-in-four women are physically abused by their partner during their lifetime and two women are killed each week in England and Wales by a current or former partner.
On average, a woman is assaulted 35 times before first contacting the police.
Those suffering from domestic violence need to know that support is out there.
I would urge anyone who is suffering in silence to call the 24-hour national domestic violence freephone helpline on 0808 2000 247, which is run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge.
You can also find out more about the work they do via the following website www.nationaldomesticviolencehelpline.org.uk/
Domestic violence does not just hurt those who are the victim of physical attacks, in family households where it occurs, 90 per cent of incidents take place with children in the next and sometimes even the same room.
This is highly damaging especially as half of those children also become victims at some point.
I WAS so pleased to attend the launch of Moor Pony Resources last week, a fantastic charity based in Dartington.
They provide opportunities for young and vulnerable people, such as those with special needs or mental health problems, to interact with Dartmoor hill ponies, with a view to offering them support and personal development skills.
Moor Pony Resources works in conjunction with social services, local Dartmoor hill pony organisations and equine therapists.
The charity works on two brilliant levels — as well as giving those in need a chance to enjoy some equine therapy, they also rescue, rehabilitate and re-home Dartmoor hill ponies.
It was a pleasure to attend their launch, it is always great to hear about a local project doing good work in the community and this one kills two birds with one stone rescuing the ponies and supporting the vulnerable.
For more information on the work Moor Pony Resources does and to find out about the programmes it runs, contact Kate Legum on 07973501830 or log on to www.moorponyresources.co.uk/default.html
I THINK it is fair to say that politicians are not known for being funny so I was delighted to pick up some great one-liners at the joke telling competition at Bidwell Brook School.
Much of an MP's role is very serious so it was lovely to have a little silliness and slapstick injected in to my afternoon.
It was great to join the judging panel for a brilliant afternoon; a personal favourite from the day: What goes oom oom? A cow going backwards, of course.
MY next surgery is at my office in Totnes Conservative Club on Friday, October 25, from 2.30pm to 4.30pm.
The one after that is in the newly-refurbished café in the Sainsbury's at Yalberton Road in Paignton on Wednesday, November 13, from 2.30pm to 5pm.
After that I will be at Brixham Conservative Club on Friday, November 15, from 3.30pm to 5.30pm.
To book a surgery appointment, contact Nina Smith on 01803 868378 or at firstname.lastname@example.org