Monday Start the week meeting Professor Roderick Watkins, the new Vice Chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, with my colleague Stephen Metcalfe the MP for Basildon who sits on the Science and Technology Committee with me. Chelmsford has been chosen to host the British Science Festival in 2020 which is hugely exciting and the first time this has ever come to Essex. We meet the Chief Executive of the Festival and offer to help.
Over to the HQ of MakeUK, the manufacturers organisation, for a discussion on Brexit. I hear how many small manufacturers, food producers and tech start-ups are simply not ready for a “no deal” Brexit.
In the House of Commons, I join a subcommittee considering the changes that need to be made to anti money laundering laws because of Brexit. There are dozens of these committees happening at the moment. We agree the necessary changes. The whole House of Commons stays late to vote on changes to Chemicals regulations, these are just to make sure that the safety laws that cover chemicals will not drop away when we leave the EU.
Tuesday Another committee meeting – this time to agree what’s going to happen to some very technical Financial Services laws when we leave the EU. In the House of Commons Chamber I support the Foreign Office Ministers who are taking questions from MPs about Iran, Yemen, Russia, Venezuela and China. It’s good to hear the work the Foreign Office are doing to help protect Christians suffering persecution across the world, many Chelmsford constituents have written to me about this.
The Prime Minister comes to update MPs and tells us that the changes to the Withdrawal Agreement may need another two weeks, but that she will give MPs a vote on whether to delay the exit date for a short period if more time is needed. She explains that an extension beyond June would not be possible due to the European Elections.
I go to listen to business leaders including some from large companies and representatives of the Federation of Small Businesses. They are pleased to hear the news from the Prime Minister but there are still lots of questions. Votes happen late.
Wednesday Meeting with the Jo Cox Foundation and police leaders regarding intimidation of MPs and journalists. Over to the Foreign Office for a team briefing. Very complex session with the Women and Equalities Select Committee taking evidence from the Northern Ireland Secretary and the Secretary of State for Women on the inquiry we are doing into abortion. Meet a great constituent who has come to speak to me about Eating Disorders as there is a mass campaign day. Over to PMQs.
Host an event for the Charity Tearfund who are doing amazing work to remove plastic waste pollution in some very poor countries. I’ll be giving up single use plastic for Lent again this year and am encouraging others to do the same. Then chair a round table on Harassment in Parliament, this time with the Fawcett Society.
Join a discussion with the small business minister on workers’ rights. I raise the issue of maternity and paternity support for parents of very premature babies. Then over to 10 Downing Street for a very helpful meeting with the boss before a heading off to the House of Lords to listen to a lecture by the leading scientist Lord Rees on technological and environmental changes post 2050. More late votes this time on the Withdrawal Bill. It’s clear that there is support for taking a short amount more time if needed.
Thursday Long morning meeting with the Science and Technology Select Committee looking at how research funding is allocated – very technical but fascinating to listen to views from all over the UK. Busy lunch with five of my women MP colleagues and a group of women journalists. Meet the planning Minister to discuss my letter box bill (looks like I may be winning this!). Delighted to check my email to see that the Minister for Early Years has written to me about Nursery Schools – the Government has confirmed another full years funding. This is excellent news for Tanglewood and Woodlands Nurseries in Chelmsford.
I join colleagues for a debate on Climate Change. This is a really important issue. I’m very glad that the UK has been leading the world on reducing emissions but there is still much more to be done. I talk about some of the different technologies that are becoming available and which could really help make a difference. We need to get to Net Zero emissions in order to stop warming becoming critical and it’s good to hear MPs from all across the political spectrum join in to support action. Evening ends with a very sad discussion on the war in Yemen, but with good news that the peace deal is holding.
Friday Lovely morning with the Essex Women’s Institute who are campaigning for more action on climate change and the environment. They have done wonderful work bringing attention to issues of plastic pollution as well. I tell them my plan to get over 40 MPs to take on an environmental pledge this lent.
I joined a science class at Chelmsford College where students are investigating the scene of a cybercrime, studying enzymes & maggots! I chat with healthcare & childcare students. They are all very enthusiastic and clearly hard working. The college are really keen to hear from local companies who might be interested to take on apprentices. Do contact them if you want to know more.
Very busy constituency surgery. Very helpful meeting with Healthwatch Essex who have helped make some big improvements to local NHS care. Excellent evening knocking on doors in Great Baddow, meeting local residents.
Saturday Very good morning meeting residents around Moulsham Street. A local Neighbourhood Watch is being set up and people sound very pleased about this. Long chats about Brexit with many people. Finish my working week with a late brunch meeting with a group of young professionals from all across Essex who get together to talk politics.
Excellent news – MPs have risen to my request to take on an environmental challenge this Lent. A large group of MPs will again “Give up Plastic for Lent” and cut down single use plastic, others will be doing a “Shop Local for Lent” supporting local businesses and focusing on reducing their food miles, there is also a group of MPs becoming “Litter Pickers for Lent”, organising community litter picks. Two MPs are going to get on their bikes and try out Zero Carbon Commutes for the 40 days, one is going to be planting hedgerows and doing a “Green Lanes for Lent”. One Minister has suggested a “Less for Lent”, she will be cutting down waste and using up leftovers. A group of us are going to cut down our meat and eat more “Lentils for Lent”.