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Oct 28th, 2013

Gagging law: Public meeting with Stephen Gilbert MP

By Megan Bentall

Last week saw the final wave of public meetings about the gagging law between 38 Degrees members and MPs across the UK. This included a meeting in Newquay with MP Stephen Gilbert.

Before the meeting, 38 Degrees members got together with Robin and I from the office team to learn more about the law. It was a great way for members from St Austell and Newquay to meet and share ideas before turning their fire on their MP.

Robin and Stephen Gilbert were joined by Eva Watkinson from Action Aid, and the panel was chaired by Paul Gergahty from Peoplefund.it

The audience asked some fantastic questions. Wanting to know things like why the bill was being rushed through so quickly and why it was acceptable to pass a law that left so many grey areas open to interpretation. Several local campaigners spoke up to express worries over what would happen to them if they carried on their campaigns around important issues like NHS privatisation and saving school playing fields in the area. People had to speak up to be heard, and passions were running high, which made for a fiery if constructive debate.

The meeting went on for an hour and a half. It was a great event, and it’s just a shame that there were so many questions not everyone had to time to ask them!

Public Meeting in Newquay

After being asked, Stephen said he couldn’t commit to supporting any positive amendments in the Lords without seeing them first. However he mentioned that the local Lib Dem Lord was interested in working with groups like 38 Degrees to stop charities and organisations concerns. And after seeing people power at work at the meeting on Friday night, Stephen Gilbert should be feeling the pressure to do the right thing.

Public meetings with MPs on the gagging law have happened across the country in the past couple of weeks – in Cornwall, Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol, Cambridge and elsewhere. You can read about the effect they are having in the national press here.

A huge thank you goes out to all the 38 Degrees members in St Austell and Newquay who came along and turned up the heat on their MP. If we can get our MPs to speak out and pile pressure on the lords, and persuade them to not obstruct positive changes, then together we can stop this law.

What do you think? Were you at the meeting? What do you think are the best questions to ask our MPs? What else should 38 Degrees members do to stop the gagging law? Post your comments below.

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