Monday 11 February Start the week by meeting First Bus Essex. I’ve been working with Cllr John Spence to get improvements to Chelmsford buses. I am delighted that the company promises action on all our requests, including a new evening service to Chelmer Village, extra buses to Great Baddow, Galleywood, Springfield and Beaulieu Park and to restore the stopping service at the Vineyard shops. There have been too many cancellations and delays to bus services recently so hopefully this will make a big difference. Let’s make sure the company delivers on its promises. The changes will come in at the end of April, I do hope people will use the services, or we will lose them.
In Westminster I go to listen to one of my colleagues launching a new “think tank” paper on foreign policy and overseas aid. I expect this to be a hot topic in months ahead. Chelmsford Councillor Sue Sullivan comes for a catch up, she’s going to the House of Lords for a meeting about arts, culture and the impact on mental health. Interesting. I do a TV interview for BBC Look East about the Duke Street Bus Gate, apparently over fifty thousand people have been fined. Surely this needs to be reconsidered!
MPs meet to discuss Brexit. Lots of colleagues are worried about the impact of a “no deal” exit. I join a small committee of MPs considering election law. We agree to make changes so that those with disabilities will not have to account for any costs due to their disability as part of their election expenses. This will help more people with disabilities to stand. MPs vote on a new bill to make sure many of the regulations affecting Financial Services will continue post leaving the EU. I join colleagues who have been helping with financial legislation in No11 Downing Street for a catch-up. Steps 13,903
Tuesday 12 February Interesting meeting of the Science and Technology Select Committee deciding priorities for next year. We agree to launch an inquiry into Genetic Testing in the NHS and will also do a detailed inquiry into the role of science in addressing challenges to food production due to climate change. Areas like genetic modification of crops could bring big benefits but are also controversial unless properly regulated. The Prime Minster comes to the Chamber to update colleagues on latest Brexit talks. It’s clear that people are getting concerned as the date for leaving draws closer.
I join the Women and Equalities Select Committee to meet with the Head of the General Medical Council about the health service in Northern Ireland. There is a very specific concern that women carrying babies with life threatening conditions are having their own lives put at risk.
MPs from all political parties join to meet with businesses. There is standing room only. We hear from representatives from the Car industry, ceramics sector, insurance companies, farming and food production. They tell us that businesses are losing contracts, slowing investment, reorganising supply chains and stockpiling because of the risks a “no deal” Brexit would bring. Colleagues are giving very mixed messages on what they actually want to see from negotiations, so I finish off an article I have been working on for a while on potential ways forward and send it off to The Times. Steps 12,778
Wednesday 13 February. Fascinating breakfast meeting with experts in Antimicrobial Resistance. More and more infections are becoming immune to antibiotics and new solutions are urgently needed. The UK has been leading much of the world’s research on this. It is really helpful to get a detailed update.
I attend a briefing on apprenticeships ahead of National Apprenticeship Week which starts on 4 March. I’m impressed to learn that 650 people started apprenticeships in Chelmsford last year. I join colleagues to meet Cabinet Member David Liddington who has been leading much of the Brexit talks. Not an easy job, but it’s clear that he is trying to make progress. After PMQs I going to meet the Immigration Minister and am pleased to be able to raise some constituency cases, as well as a wider discussion on immigration policy for students and researchers. Helpful meeting in No10 on policy matters, depressing meeting of the 1922 Committee, which shows that colleagues remain very divided about best way forward on Brexit. Steps 12,362
Thursday 14 February Pleased that my article is in The Times, helpful comments. In the House of Commons for Transport questions, hoping to ask about road safety and pavement parking as lots of people from Chelmsford have raised this. But the Speaker doesn’t call me – annoying. I write to the minister instead. Long, long debate on Brexit, I listen closely to comments from colleagues for nearly five hours. But the Speaker decides not to call me (again!). Helpful catch up with Foreign Secretary. Unhelpful when the Government loses a Brexit vote because the group of MPs from last night’s 1992 Committee have decided to abstain.
I join Essex MPs in writing a letter opposing library closures. Steps 8,593
Friday 15 February Busy day in Chelmsford. Start at Lloyds Bank, where I meet many of the staff and hear about the work they are doing to try to help customers avoid financial fraud. They tell me some scary stories about how people are drawn into scams and how sophisticated the scammers can sometimes be. Do not trust anyone who emails you and asks for money! Do check out the “Take Five” campaign to stop fraud.
Very useful discussion at the Citizens Advice Bureau. Their new law clinic is proving to be really successful and is making a huge difference for many people.
At Baddow Hall Junior School I meet some wonderful pupils. I am really impressed to see their work and they ask very perceptive questions. I’m lucky to arrive for Golden Time and see them enjoying a chess club – excellent!
At the City Council I have a meeting regarding the John Shennan Playing Fields. This is an old municipal rubbish site which may now be considered for development. Residents have asked me questions about it. I am reassured when I hear about the many legal and environmental protections that would have to be put in place before any actions are taken. The Council promise to write a more detailed letter.
Meet Heart FM in Duke Street to look at the Bus Gate. It is really confusing! No wonder so many people are finding themselves with a fine. Steps 7,943
Saturday 16 February The “half term” recess has been cancelled for MPs so the trade trip I was meant to be leading to China has been cancelled. I go northwards to help by brother move house and stop off in Peterborough on the way. There, the Labour MP is in prison for lying to the police. I join local councillors and volunteers who are trying to make sure local people are still represented. Interesting….. It’s clear that a bye-election is brewing. Steps 9,731