A lot of people ask what happens at Party Conference, especially as the pictures on the TV make it look rather boring. Actually behind the scenes, on the “fringe” it was full of energy.
My first meeting was on boosting living standards. The room was packed with delegates from all over the UK and we discussed new policy ideas on housing, apprenticeships, and the industrial strategy. During the three days, I took part in 10 different panel debates on online safety, the music industry and Brexit, financial services and trade policy for manufacturing. We also had standing room only for the launch of the Policy Forum for science & technology which I chair.
Many charities and businesses also attend the conference. I met Cancer Research UK, Asthma UK the British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK. Britain is spending more on research and development than at any time in last 40 years. I want to make sure we keep our world class leadership in these areas and will use my seat on the Science and Technology select committee to stand up for patient organisations and medical research.
I had a long discussion with Greater Anglia about their plans for the conductors’ strike. It is a completely unnecessary strike and the last thing commuters need. Already 8/10 of our Chelmsford trains operate safely without conductors. Fortunately Greater Anglia have trained 120 other staff to cover the strike days so that disruption is minimised. I hope there will be an agreement soon.
At conference I also met, Shelter and Crisis, the housing charities. They explained to me that they have been working with the Government on new policies for housing. This includes £2 billion for social housing and £10 billion for Help to Buy. Many people in Chelmsford write to me about housing issues so this is helpful. I'm also supporting Essex County Council’s bid for road and rail improvements. These are vital for future development.
Lots of people write to me about animal welfare and health issues. I was pleased by the Government’s announcements on stopping the trade in Ivory, stricter sentences for animal cruelty and introducing and opt-out systems for organ donation. This will save 500 lives a year.
All in all, it was an extremely busy and productive few days, it was late in the evening by the time I got back to my AirBnB – which was a river boat on the canal – what a welcome calm!
On Saturday I went to Thurrock to help Essex MP, Jackie Doyle-Price deliver some resident surveys. We discussed the suggestion to increase resources for Essex police by adding £10 onto the council tax and dedicating the additional funds for local police. I think many people in Chelmsford will support this - do let me know what you think!