A week in the life of Vicky Ford MP

Monday   Before parliament starts I meet the British Retail Consortium about reducing wasteful plastic packaging, and with Renewables UK to discuss Green Energy options.

In the  House of Commons there are questions to the Ministers for Work and Pensions. I was recently visited by a disabled constituent who was very distressed during his benefits assessment because he felt that the assessor had not understood his case properly.  I urge the government minister to introduce video recordings for these assessments.  I’m pleased that the minster says this is being piloted and will be rolled out nationally soon.   

The Speaker comes to give a statement on Brexit votes.  He says we will not be able to have another “Meaningful Vote” on the Prime Minister’s deal unless it is changed.  This brings huge confusion as it is very clear that the circumstances surrounding the vote have changed, since we last voted on the PMs deal many other options have been ruled out.

Following the awful killings in New Zealand mosques the Security Minister comes to answer questions about countering far right extremism.  I am pleased to hear him offer more support and funding for security in mosques.   I go to meet the Schools Minister to discuss education funding in Essex.  There is more money going into Essex schools, but there is also a significant increase in the number of pupils with Special Education Needs.  This is putting extra pressure on budgets.  The minister promises to have a meeting with all Essex MPs.

Lots of discussions with colleagues about whether the PM will ask for an extension to Article 50.  It is clear that if we leave with no deal there will be many negative impacts.  Steps 8,818

Tuesday  Early start in a “Statutory Instrument” Committee to change the laws for train drivers – at the moment train drivers with EU licenses can drive trains in the UK, but if we don’t change the law then they won’t be able to if we leave with “no deal”.   We change the law.  I join two colleagues who are doing a review into long term economic policy for a roundtable with entrepreneurs, investors and economists.   Very interesting.

In the House of Commons I ask the Energy Minister to look at “repowering” old windfarms.  Many of these are reaching the end of their lives and replacing them with more efficient modern turbines would generate huge amounts of clean energy.  I also ask the business minsters about plans to invest in new technologies such as quantum computing and genomics.   Join Essex MPs to learn more amount Dementia from local experts.  Interview on Sky TV.  In the Women and Equalities Committee taking evidence on use of Non-Disclosure Agreements to cover up sexual harassment cases, some very shocking stories.

Head back to Chelmsford for an excellent round table with some of our leading science and technology companies.  It is great to hear them talk about plans to work together.   Steps 12,358

Wednesday  Very helpful meeting with Foreign Office team, catching up on developments all around the world including the awful cyclone that has devastated swathes of Southern Africa.  UK Aid is being sent in to help. 

First time I have ever been picked in the ballot for a Prime Minister’s Questions. Glad to be able to ask Theresa May to support the our campaign for the second railway station.   I explain that Essex County Council are submitting the bids for and rail projects to support new housing. The £218 million bid for Chelmsford would fund the second railway station and North East Bypass. I’m pleased to hear the Prime Minster welcome the Essex bids and promise it will be looked at closely.  Brilliant

Meet the Essex Chief Constable and our Police and Crime Commissioner, Roger Hirst to discuss Knife Crime.  It’s good news that Essex Police is set to have the largest increase in officer numbers of any force in the country.

An emergency debate is called on plans to extend the Brexit timetable.  I cancel plans to attend an event in 10 Downing Street and stay to talk in the debate.   I think if we need a few more weeks we should take it, but I really would rather not have to be bumped into a long extension and holding European elections.

I join MEPs and former MEPs at an event to thank them for their work.  Prime Minster goes on TV and gives a speech that upsets many MPs as she appears to blame them for delaying Brexit.  Very late evening.  Steps 10,645

Thursday   Into the House of Commons again!  I ask the Leader of the House about the latest employment numbers – they are really very positive with over 400,000 more jobs for young people than in 2010.  Long meeting with the Chief Whip about plans for Brexit votes next week.

Back to Chelmsford for the Conservative Association Annual General meeting.  I tell them about the 14,382 emails I’ve had from constituents this year and take them through my list of some of  Chelmsford successes; the new medical school, the award winning police team, getting “outstanding” for children’s services, the improvements at the prison, starting the Army and Navy Task Force, completing our infrastructure bid, meeting outstanding apprentices, more affordable housing, getting Delay/Repay 15 for our trains and the record NHS investment to.   There is always much more to do though. We discuss the campaigns to support our libraries and the work for our schools and the hospital.    And yes we discuss Brexit too.

It’s late when I get home and we hear the news about the European Council giving a conditional extension to the Brexit process.

Steps 7,200

Friday  Speak to Head of Chelmsford College, I’m very concerned to hear a student has been involved in a knife attack. Back into London again, I ask the minister about whether votes next week will be “free” or “whipped”.  It is important that people outside Westminster see that we are really trying to find a consensus on the best way forward.   I take the train to Bournemouth for the BBC Radio 4 “Any Questions” panel.  My first time on the programme.  Very nervous. Home midnight. Exhausted.

Steps 6,690

Saturday  Lovely to join over 100 litter picking volunteers at the Riverside Spring Clean-up.  Thank you so much to the team at Chelmsford City Council for organising this.   My husband and I enjoyed a quiet walk along the river and collected a heavy bag of bottles, sweet papers and some more sinister looking items.  In the Indoor Market I treat myself to some yummy pasta from the Italian stall and have a super time shopping for food and spices – buy a new hat to keep the rain off too!  The market is being refurbished at the moment but it is still very much open for business.  Do pop along and visit.  It is really excellent and every time I go there is something new to enjoy.   Steps 4,928