Monday 14 Jan Not a good start as I trip and fall down the stairs on the way into the Tube. Ouch!
BBC Interview about the Withdrawal Agreement and the “meaningful vote” due for Tuesday (I will be voting for the agreement as I see this as the best way to deliver on the referendum result and move forward).
Meet a great group of A level politics students from Moulsham High. They ask excellent questions about local issues as well as national and international ones.
Listen to Theresa May explaining the reassurances she has received from EU leaders – they are not as clear as I had hoped. Lots of discussions about what happens if the Withdrawal Agreement falls, it is all extremely unclear. In the 1922 Backbench Committee Theresa May pleads with Tory MPs to support the Withdrawal Agreement or face great uncertainty. I meet lots of ministers who are concerned about impact of “no deal” Brexit.
I join security ministers for an event about cyber security. Banks, insurance companies and Heathrow Airport explain new ways to help people protect themselves from digital fraud and ID theft – I will feed these into the Science and Tech Committee report on digital government. Stay very late in House of Commons listening to colleagues debating Withdrawal Agreement. It is midnight when I leave and it is clear that many Conservative MPs won’t support the vote.
Tuesday 15 Jan Day of big “meaningful” vote on the Withdrawal Agreement. Start day at the Science and Tech Select Committee discussing energy policy and climate change. I am impressed to hear how the cost of generating electricity from solar and wind power has reduced massively because of technological improvements, however we could do more to encourage building more fuel-efficient homes and helping people switch towards electric vehicles. In House of Commons I ask Health Minister to check “no-deal” Brexit planning for prescription foods as well as medicines. This affects at least one child in Chelmsford who needs very specialist foods because of a rare medical condition. The minister promises to look into this. The debate on Withdrawal Agreement continues and people are very stuck in their positions. I join a debate on local government funding with Priti Patel, MP for Witham. We put the case for Essex County Council, which is doing some excellent work but facing great pressure on adult social services.
When the vote comes on the Withdrawal Agreement the Government loses by over 200 votes, many worried faces about what happens next. The PM quickly challenges Labour to ask for a vote of confidence in the Government and offers cross party talks. Corbyn rises to the challenge – a “no confidence” motion is tabled.
Wednesday 16 Jan No confidence vote day. Right in between Prime Minister’s Questions and the No Confidence Motion my “Low Level Letter Box (prohibition) Bill” on health and safety for postal workers is scheduled to be debated. It is an important issue of our postmen and women, but I am worried I will get lots of abuse for raising it today, it is not, however, possible to take it off the agenda. I start the day on Radio 5 Breakfast talking about the Bill and spend the morning nervously re-writing my speech. At noon PMQs is very feisty and I present my letter box bill. It is very scary as hundreds of MPs are listening, but it gets unanimous support. Wow! My phone goes crazy with messages of support from all across the country. It seems to have really touched people, reminding them that MPs are still working on other things that aren’t all about Brexit! I listen to lots of the debate on the no confidence motion, where MPs are very divided. Outside the Chamber, I join discussions on tackling homelessness, standing up for Christians facing persecution overseas and the work the UK has been doing with other countries to stop sexual violence being used as a weapon in war. MPs are united in wanting to work together on these issues. Helpful meeting with new Minister for Universities and Science.
Eventually we get to the vote on the no confidence motion which the Government wins. I listen to Theresa May offering cross party talks, but Jeremy Corbyn quickly answers back saying he refuses to meet unless she rules out “no-deal” Brexit. This worries me, I don’t want a “no deal” either but unless talks do happen it will be difficult to make progress.
Thursday 17 Jan Radio 5 Live call early to chat about letter boxes again, this time with a delighted postie. We are not asking people to change their existing front doors, just asking developers not to put low boxes in large numbers in new developments. In the House of Commons, I join members of the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies to discuss progress in transferring EU laws onto UK law book. I have been serving on the Westminster committee that is covering this. It is good to hear updates from across the UK.
Join a debate on Children’s Services. Essex County Council has just been graded “Outstanding” by Ofsted, which is a massive turnaround as only nine years ago it was failing badly. Essex is the second largest area for children’s services in the country, so there are helpful lessons to share. The Ofsted report looked into work done by social workers, the adoption and fostering services, work with migrant and homeless children and our family hub. It is such a positive story. Cllr Dick Madden and the Essex team get much praise from the Minister – very well done! Meet with legal experts to discuss next steps for letter box bill. Lovely email from Cllr Roy Whitehead, leader of Chelmsford City Council, I wrote to him to ask for help for the Farleigh Hospice team who keep having parking problems when on home visits. They are going to get special permits to allow them to use residential parking bays when they are calling on patients.
Write letters regarding situation on Chelmsford busses – still getting lots of complaints about delays and cancellations to services. This is not good enough.
Friday 18 Jan Excellent meeting with Anglia Ruskin Students’ Union. We discuss their campaign to let students register with two GPs surgeries (one at home, one at Uni) they are really pleased that I have asked the minister to look into this. We also discuss housing, student loans, apprenticeships and transport, especially use of the Park and Rides.
At St John Payne School, I am very, very impressed by the students. I join an excellent science lesson about pin-hole cameras and meet sixth formers who tell me about their plans for University and further study.
Extremely busy constituency surgery with a very wide range of issues. One of the attendees gives me a thank you card and flowers – very touching. My small team work hard to help with individual queries and it’s really appreciated when people take time to say thank you.
Lots of emails and letters about Brexit.
It is my husband’s birthday. We decide to escape for the weekend – though the phone doesn’t stop buzzing. It’s clear there are more difficult days of discussion ahead