Monday starts with a meeting with Royal Mail and trade unions. I visited the Chelmsford sorting office just before Christmas and was very impressed by our local postmen & women. They asked me to help to stop house builders putting in doors with low-level letterboxes as these cause back problems for deliverers. I’m now leading a “ten minute rule bill” to change building regulations.
Meet Amber Rudd to discuss Universal Credit. She’s planning the new pilot phase to make sure problems can be identified and corrected before wider roll-out, its good news as lots of Chelmsford residents have written to me about this. Helpful meeting with energy grids to discuss ways to increase efficiency of energy supply from sustainable sources.
In the Chamber Corbyn quizzes Brexit ministers, feisty. I slip out for a TV interview. Very noisy protestors outside Parliament, quite threatening. Back into Commons to help Foreign Office Ministers who are updating MPs on latest developments in Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe case (very difficult). Listen to Heath Secretary present the new Long Term Plan for NHS. This is good news, especially the increases in GP and community care, cancer and cardiac care and mental health provision.
Take an evening break to join colleagues at a screening of the new Channel 4 movie “The Uncivil War”. It’s all about the referendum and is very well worth watching. Back to Chamber for discussion on Parliament reforms to reduce the bullying culture, some colleagues even try to stop this! Back to office to clear emails. Day finishes 11.15pm. steps 10,357 floors 39.
Tuesday Interesting first Science and Tech Select Committee of the year looking at how to improve digital government. We’re doing better than many other countries but still much to do especially when awarding government contracts to smaller businesses.
Conference call with NHS managers and Sutherland Lodge Surgery. VERY good news! the inspectors have been in and the surgery has been taken out of special measures. Well done to all who have worked so hard on this.
In Chamber where industry ministers are taking questions. I tell the new minister for space and science that the sensors that took those incredible photos of Ultima Thule near Neptune last week were made in Chelmsford. Very well done to all at Teledyne e2v!
Meet with Immigration Minister to discuss new immigration policies. Help Foreign Office Minister during a debate on democracy in Uganda; I am often amazed by how much those in other countries watch these debates, and the positive influence it can have. In main Chamber to debate amendments to Finance Bill. It’s very important that we get the Bill through as it brings a tax cut for those on lowest incomes. Votes, debates, votes, debates, votes. During votes I catch 3 ministers and discuss issues some Chelmsford residents have raised on loan charge policies, mortgage fairness and doctors’ pensions. Government wins seven votes and loses the one which seeks to block no-deal Brexit planning. Of course the evening news only reports the vote the government lost. Late night emails to my former Irish colleagues asking them to keep working on improvements to the EU negotiations so that the issues with the Backstop might be improved.
Wednesday Join Women and Equality Committee for a forward planning meeting before heading off to the Foreign Office to meet ministers. LOTS of police outside Parliament, apparently there has been another threat to MPs. In Commons for Prime Ministers Questions followed by a feisty exchange with the Speaker who has just decided that we will now vote on an amendment to a law without debating it. This goes against decades of parliamentary procedures. I am concerned about the impact on transparency and democracy.
Meet a group of year 12 students from Boswells School who are visiting Parliament – they ask some very good questions. Debate on the Withdrawal Agreement starts, I listen to first few hours. The Government is trying to improve the negotiations to address concerns raises by colleagues. Support Foreign Office team in a debate on persecution of journalists led by the MP for Maldon. Write letters, answer emails, then off for a reception for MPs and their partners. It is really nice to meet the other half’s of many of my colleagues as I realise I’ve been doing this job for over 18 months and this the first time there has been a chance to take a break to meet families.
Thursday I go across London to the BBC studios for to the Victoria Derbyshire programme. She has brought together a mixed group of people who voted leave and remain from across the UK to talk about what they think about a “no deal”. It’s interesting to hear their views, as many have got businesses that could be affected. Out of the 18 guests only 3 or 4 want a “no deal” or WTO-type exit.
In the House of Commons where it’s day two of the Withdrawal Agreement debate. I’ve decided to speak today so it means I have to be in the Chamber for most of the eight hour session. There are some hugely powerful speeches, I hear some colleagues explaining how they are changing their minds and will now support the Bill. Leave London very late, trains are now running on time but sadly from my email inbox it’s obvious that many Chelmsford folk have had another difficult day of commuting. I contact other Essex MPs and suggest we should ask Greater Anglia for a joint meeting. It’s not good enough.
Friday I’ve had to cancel all my Chelmsford appointments for today which is very annoying, but unusually Parliament is sitting on a Friday in order to give get the debate on the Withdrawal Agreement moving forward faster. I’ve agreed to help with the afternoon session. Before joining the debate I have a very helpful call with the Acting Vice Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University about the British Science Festival that we will be hosting in Chelmsford next year. This will be the first time Essex has ever hosted the festival. It will also be 100 years since Marconi made that first radio Broadcast so it will be a very exciting year.
After many hours in the Chamber I finish drafting my speech for the 10 minute rule bill. Just before leaving Westminster I get a letter from one of the Treasury minister’s. He is going to deal with the mortgage issue I raised with him on Tuesday– hooray! This will help thousands of people who were given mortgages by Northern Rock and others prior to the financial crash and are stuck on very expensive mortgages policies.
Saturday Great to be in Chelmsford High Street with many local councillors and volunteers. It’s very helpful to hear the views of local residents. As well as discussing Brexit, people ask about the long term plan for the NHS, local housing issues, the armed forces covenant and lots of other issues. In Great Baddow, I join local residents Jane Edwards and Billy Taylor who explain to me about problems with potholes and the difficulty wheelchair users have with some of the cracked pavements. The Government has given Essex County Council some extra funding to help deal with potholes so we will have to get these fixed.
End the week in Chelmsford Cathedral at a beautiful ball to raise funds. What a treat.