Monday 13 June 2022 Think Tanks have an important role to play. They often bring together experts from many different fields to research and examine thorny issues and can bring new ideas on how to tackle problems. I host the launch of a new Think Tank which is forming a collaboration of Scottish universities including the Universities of of Edinburgh, Glasgow and St Andrews. One of their first projects will be to look at how countries can improve cyber security which is a growing challenge.
I meet the rails minister to discuss Chelmsford trains and Beaulieu Park Station. The new station is on track and going through various stages of finalising design and engineering. The tendering for the contract for both the station and the new North East Bypass is due to take place towards the end of this year. This will be a critical time, especially as costs of construction have been rising. It is also a very complex project which involved moving both tracks of the Great Eastern Mainline and splicing in new tracks whilst also keeping the trains running. It was good to hear that the minister is a firm supporter of this project.
I also spoke to her about the most recent timetable changes. If you are a rail user and are facing over-crowding on any services, please do email me as the minister has promised to look at adding extra capacity if there are specific times of day that need more carriages or more trains.
I joined representatives from the insurance sector to discuss recent industry trends and a new Financial Services Bill that is due to come to parliament. This is an important issue for Chelmsford as many thousands of local people work in insurance companies, both in Chelmsford itself as well in London.
Late in the evening I sit in the House of Commons chamber to listen to the adjournment debate discussing the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War and remembering those brave members of the armed forces who lay down their lives for freedom and democracy.
Tuesday 14 June 2022 At the Royal College of Engineering I meet with experts from across the engineering sector to discuss our new International Development Strategy and how UK companies can help build the clean, green infrastructure that so many African countries need.
From the Foreign Office I talk with Foreign Ministers from many different African countries about the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that is due to take place next week. There is an important vote to chose the Secretary General of the Commonwealth. We believe new forward looking thinking and energy in the Commonwealth would be a huge benefit not only to the member countries but across the world and are pressing for a change of leadership.
I catch up with our officials who represent the UK at the World Bank. A few weeks ago we helped agree an unprecedented $170 billion package of support to help the worlds poorest countries with the increased cost of living. It is crucial this funding gets to where it is needed urgently, especially in areas like the Horn of Africa where the drought has now raged through four consecutive "rainy" seasons and many many people face possible starvation.
Wednesday 15 June 2022 I join colleagues for a beautiful service of remembrance in St Margarets' Westminster for the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War. It is particularly moving to me as my late stepfather played a major role in bringing together the Task Force of ships. I remember him arranging for me to visit the ships when they returned, so battered and bruised with their crews so brave.
In the House of Commons I join a debate on the proposed rail strikes. In Chelmsford our trains carry many people to and from work and hundreds of children and young people in and out of schools and colleges. Scheduling a rail strike when so many young people are trying to sit A levels, GCSEs and other exams is hideously irresponsible and risks disrupting their futures.
As Foreign Office Minister I answer a debate on funding and support for Palestinian refugees.
Thursday 16 June 2022 A packed day of meetings in the Foreign Office and with cross government colleagues on different security issues.
Friday 17 June 2022 I start my Chelmsford day with a meeting on how to support a local resident who has a particularly challenging security issue which I hope we will be able to resolve.
In Beaulieu, I meet the local head of Countryside to discuss infrastructure. There is an incredibly exciting bit of construction taking place with the new bridge which will carry traffic over the rail line and dual carriageway and then onto what will become the new North East By-Pass. This massive structure is being welded together and assembled beside the rail track and is due to be moved into position in the autumn. The bridge itself is an £18 million investment and is made from British steel. We also discuss the new medical centre. It is going to be a state of the art new building, tendering for the contract is taking place now and construction will also start in the autumn.
I meet with politics students from Boswell's School, who ask me a huge range of different questions. They are a very thoughtful bunch.
The week finishes with an online catch up with Essex MPs and the NHS leads from our hospitals, GPs, ambulance service and mental health providers. The NHS is still facing huge pressure as we come back from the pandemic and demand is at the highest ever levels. But it is good to know that various projects have been taking place which will help improve services and cut waiting times.