Monday 8th November I start the week full of cold and cough. I know this has been affecting many people. For the first time in over a decade I realise I am not well enough to travel to Westminster. This means that I miss votes on the important Environment Bill, I am glad however that wording has now been agreed which will lead to a significant improvement in the cleaning rivers, I know lots of Chelmsford residents are concerned about this.
Dosed up on Lemsip I have a very helpful conversation with the Ambassador Bankole, The African Union’s Commissioner for Peace and Security about the extremely concerning situation in Ethiopia. Much work is being done by international partners to try to encourage all those fighting to stop the violence and agree a ceasefire. However, the security situation is worsening, the conflict has the potential to spread quickly with little warning. I take a decision that we should advise British Nationals to leave the country whilst there are still flights readily available.
Tuesday 9th November Working from home I take many calls with Foreign Office staff. The new travel guidance is published and I join the British Ambassador in Addis Ababa on a conference call to brief journalists on the situation.
Wednesday 10th November Parliament is in Recess for the rest of the week, I had hoped to take a day off and spend the morning visiting a potential care home for my mother to stay in. In the afternoon I join an international round table of ministers focusing on International Taxation. New rules have been agreed which will make it easier for countries to get their fair share of taxes from international corporations. The UK has been championing this issue for many years. It is especially important in the digital age where more and more purchases are made online. It is also important that developing countries get their fair share of these taxes, especially as the covid pandemic has made their financial situation made even more difficult.
Thursday 11th November In Chelmsford, I pop in to visit a wonderful parent and toddler group run by Home-Start in the Trinity Methodist Church Hall before heading over to Galleywood war memorial for a simple but beautiful service of remembrance. We lay wreaths of poppies and hold the silence when the eleventh hour strikes. I think of all those still affected by wars across the world.
After a constituency surgery I meet online with Royal Mail managers from our local sorting office and head office. Unfortunately, a covid outbreak is making it even more challenging for them to bring services back to normal after the major changes they have made to all their delivery routes. We go through all the measures that they are introducing to resolve the situation, including bringing staff in from other areas as well as using more automated sorting processes.
A meeting with one of Chelmsford’s housing associations gives me the opportunity to raise issues that some tenants have been facing. I hear how the pressures on maintenance staff and contractors are causing delays to repairs.
I spend the evening at a meeting of the Essex County Cricket Board. It has come to light that an allegation was made four years ago that a racist remark had been made at a Board meeting, and unfortunately it was not properly investigated at that time. This was before my time on the board. The Chairman resigns.
Friday 12th November I start the day at Kings Road Primary school where two inspiring year six pupils show me round. I am most impressed by the school’s ethos. Many of the children tell me how much they appreciate their teachers and the calm, respectful atmosphere. I see how the Nuffield Early Language Initiative (which I introduced as Children’s Minister) is helping some of the youngest children who would otherwise fall behind in early language skills. The school council ask me questions about what it is like being an MP. They are a great bunch.
In Nickleby Road I meet residents at the supported housing run by Sanctuary. They have just won a national competition and been named as the best supported living scheme in the country. I hear how the staff help young adults, often with complex special educational needs and disabilities, on their pathway towards independence. The stories are hugely uplifting.
I speak with the National Federation of Housing Associations about the issues faced by social housing tenants.
A visit to the new Job’s Centre in the Meadow’s Shopping Centre is another positive meeting. In this huge new premises, they will be able to help many hundreds of people on Universal Credit to improve their skills and get better paid employment.