Monday Start the week at the quarterly meeting with representatives of UK manufacturing, tech, food and energy sectors. They explain how important it is to avoid the uncertainty of a “no deal” Brexit. Into House of Commons to hear from the Prime Minister with latest news of Brexit negotiations. She takes questions for over three hours. I am minded to support the PM’s deal as to me all the alternatives seem very risky. I am interviewed by BBC, Sky, ITV and Channel 4.
Tuesday Break my “No Brexit before Breakfast” rule with an early interview for Radio 5.
The Science and Tech Committee finalise a report on Quantum Technology. I am really pleased about this; it was a subject Chelmsford’s Teledyne-e2v first raised with me, the Committee then agreed to do a full enquiry into this technology and as a result the Government is now increasing investment.
I join 18 other colleagues for the “Bill Committee” for the Finance Bill. I will spend 5 days locked into a room going line by line through the 315 pages of changes to tax law that are a result of this year’s Budget. I spend the lunch break rushing over to help the Foreign Office minister who is called to answer urgent questions from MPs about the situation between Russia and Ukraine. Back to Finance Bill. Five hours of tax discussion later I’m ready for a break!
I join many colleagues at the annual dinner for the motor industry. It is helpful to catch up with representatives from Ford. Quite a few of their employees live in Chelmsford and have been in touch we me regarding Brexit talks.
Wednesday Another early radio interview – this time with LBC. Then to the Foreign Office for a catch-up with ministers before PMQs. I spend the afternoon in the debate about the Offensive Weapons Bill. This new law will make it much more difficult to buy and sell knives on the internet. It will also make it illegal to own “Zombie” knives, knuckle dusters and to carry acid in public places. Young people in Chelmsford have told me their concerns about UK knife crime and acid attacks. The Bill is passed. I write to all the Chelmsford secondary school head teachers to tell them the news.
Thursday I join colleagues from the Women and Equalities Committee to meet the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. We are doing an inquiry on abortion law in Northern Ireland. It is a very sensitive subject.
In the Commons Chamber for an Urgent Question. The opposition are now asking for all legal opinions on the Brexit negotiations to be made public. This is strange as a couple of weeks ago they only wanted the opinion on the final agreement. I read the latest analysis from the government about different Brexit scenarios for trade.
At 11.30 the Finance Bill committee meets to discuss changes to VAT and Capital Gains Tax laws. I get a text message that my elderly dog is very unwell, but no one is able to leave the Committee, or the Bill won’t pass. Rapid texts to vet and neighbours. I get back late that evening to the good news that the dog has just got an infection, not the suspected heart attack. Lots of antibiotics needed.
Friday Up early to Stansted. Spend day in Belfast with the Select Committee taking evidence on inquiry into abortion law. Harrowing stories from women who have carried pregnancy even when they knew the baby had fatal abnormalities and would not survive birth.
Back from Airport, grab a sleeping bag and head off to Chelmsford Cathedral. I join 100 volunteers for a “sleep out” to raise money for CHESS Homeless charity. At 4am it was jolly cold, and I think of those who sleep-rough every night. Thank you to everyone who sponsored me and encouraged me to do this - and to the lovely people I met during the night, including the super team from the 6th Chelmsford Scouts. The bacon butty at 7am hit the spot!
Saturday It's Small Business Saturday and I join owners of start-ups, small and medium sized businesses who have come together in the “shared space” at Saxon House near the Station. They are learning about direct marketing and how to grow their companies – what a great group of entrepreneurs. Then around the corner to “The Transition”, where Essex based traders who sell on the Etsy platform are having a showcase of their work. It is full of stunning hand-crafted jewellery, clothes and wooden goods. One of the designers shows me the feather “angel wings” that she has been making for nativity plays – she has even had an order from the Holy Land! It is wonderful to meet the creators, hear their stories and do a bit of Christmas shopping too.
I drop into the Cathedral for their Christmas Market on the way home, super signing. By the time I leave I am even more laden down with goodies sold in aid of the National Trust and some beautiful bowls from the Bishop’s wife. What a treat – and so good to spend a day not thinking about Brexit.