Monday Start the week with a phone call from the lead of the Policy Committee at the Corporation of London. They are worried about real cliff edges that certain financial sector businesses will face if the Brexit deal is not passed. We discuss the impact on insurance and derivatives contracts – this is important as many people in Chelmsford work in insurance. Walk down Whitehall to Department for International Development where the Minister is being briefed about a new global pact on migration. Back for a meeting with head of Design Council, Sarah Wier, Britain is a leading nation in design skills and Sarah would like more design teaching to be imbedded in the curriculum. Into House of Commons for questions to the Home Office team, I ask about preventing young people from getting involved in violent crime and specific questions that Chelmsford police officers have asked about improving communications with local magistrates to help safeguard young offenders.
The Prime Minister comes to give a long statement about the G20 subject, I ask her whether EU leaders might give improvements to the Withdrawal agreement, she says it is unlikely. Geoffrey Cox, the Attorney General, makes a statement on the Legal position of the Withdrawal Agreement. I quiz him about the risks of the backstop. He answers that whilst it is a legal risk it is far outweighed by the risk of a chaotic exit with no deal. He also explains why in practice it is unlikely that the backstop with be used. I attend a briefing from the PM’s Chief of Staff on the Brexit negotiations and then join the debate on the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill. This new law will make it easier for the UK authorities to get access to images held on data servers overseas when they are tracing those involved with online child abuse. It’s a hideous crime and one where we do need to work overseas. I’m very pleased to support it.
Late in the evening I am the PPS supporting the Foreign Office ministers during the “Adjournment Debate” on Scotland’s foreign policy footprint. It should be simple, but the Speaker suddenly comes into the Chamber and announces that the Government ministers are accused of contempt of parliament in a motion to be debated tomorrow. The Government wants to table an amendment to the motion and have until the end of the Adjournment Debate to submit it. So, the minister who was about to wind up the Adjournment Debate with a five-minute speech now needs to keep talking until the amendment is written and tabled. I urgently send WhatsApp messages to colleagues asking them to come into the Chamber to help keep the debate going. We finish well after 10 pm with the amendment tabled. I’ve learnt a new twist in parliamentary procedure.
Tuesday Up early to chair breakfast meeting on tackling online fraud. Fascinating to hear from head of the Fraud Squad and businesses from across the UK. There is much more we each as individuals can do to protect ourselves from online fraud. Spend the day in between the Finance Bill Committee, questions to Foreign Office ministers and the debate on whether ministers are in contempt of Parliament starts. When the votes come unfortunately the Government amendment falls by a handful of votes so all that work last night came to nothing. The debate on the Withdrawal Agreement starts. This is going to be five very intense days of debate on the UE/EU negotiations. I listen carefully to what the Prime Minister, Jeremy Corbyn and then Boris Johnson say. The debate finishes after 1am.
Wednesday Helpful meeting with new boss of East of England Ambulance Service. They are putting in a lot more resources to help with the winter pressure this year. Off to get quizzed by Victoria Derbyshire on the BBC. Then back for PMQs, where I ask the Prime Minister to congratulate our early years providers, this is after a new Ofsted announcement that over 95% of our preschools, nurseries and other organisations for early years are now rated good or outstanding. It’s a fabulous achievement, I once chaired a preschool myself, so I know how important this is. Then join a round table with Northern Irish Businesses who are all asking MPs to support the withdrawal agreement. Chair a meeting for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Parliament where we look at ways to support MPs especially those having babies. Then back in to the Chamber for the debate on the Withdrawal Agreement, this time listening from the PPS bench. Interviews for ITV, Sky News and then to Newsnight.
Thursday Up early to finish writing my speech for the debate on the Withdrawal Agreement. I know I will only have a few minutes to speak but there is a lot I will want to say. In the Chamber I ask the Leader of the House to bring forward proxy voting for those on baby leave, pleased to hear she expects to do so soon. Then the third day of the debate on Withdrawal Agreement starts. I listen to the discussion for about six hours and finally speak towards the end of the session. I explain my thought process and conclude that there appear to be three options: this deal, no deal or no Brexit. Because of the lives and livelihoods of my constituents I will be supporting the Prime Ministers deal.
Friday In Chelmsford, lovely start to the day at the Royal Mail sorting office meeting the posties who are getting ready for the Christmas rush. They tell me tales of dangerous dogs and sharpened cat claws that wait behind the letter boxes. They are a great team of postmen and women. It is clear that they really love Chelmsford. Over to Moulsham High School where I meet the head of the Academy Trust and talk to many of the students. I am very impressed! Beautiful carol service in the Cathedral for deaf Children and adults from across Essex. It is really moving. I put on boots and waterproofs to join the Lord Lieutenant, Mayor, Deputy Mayor and students from Thriftwood College planting a new woodland area in Admirals Park as part of the Queen’ Commonwealth Canopy project. This will create a new network of forests and conservation projects across the world. Constituency surgery followed by a lovely cup of tea with Cllr Paul Hutchinson who is the Cabinet Member for Strategic Housing at Chelmsford City Council and the former MP for Braintree, Brooks Newmark. Brooks is now studying how best to help rough sleepers and has been meeting organisations up and down the country. It is really helpful to tell him about the work that is going on in Chelmsford and to discuss some improvements we could do at a national level too.
By the end of Friday I am very ready for a quiet weekend.