Monday, 02 September I spent the last day of recess doing a supermarket surgery at Morrison’s. The store is doing a super job. They have cut their plastic waste by half and are supporting many local charities. Thank you to everyone who stopped to talk. In the evening I head off to No 10 for a briefing from the Prime Minister before the parliament term starts. Steps: 7,342
Tuesday, 03 September Early start today speaking at a breakfast meeting about online bullying and how to make the internet safer, especially for children. Then to Westminster to meet East of England MPs and our ambulance service. The Inspector’s report was not good so we go through the steps that are being taken to put in place stronger leadership and a new board, we discuss the front-line improvements being introduced and plans to shorten turn-around time so that more ambulances can be out helping patients. I meet representatives from the Institute of Civil Engineers about infrastructure funding and Action Aid, a key partner of the UK in developing countries.
Parliament starts with a statement from the Prime Minister on his meetings with other world leaders. I’m pleased to hear him mention some progress in discussions with Ireland about the border post Brexit. This is key to finding a solution and the PM says he wants to agree a deal with Europe. But the mood in the House is very angry. A motion to take control of the order paper for Wednesday is tabled because Labour, the Lib Dems and others want to extend the Brexit talks. I talk to many colleagues who have been close to the negotiations. I am concerned that adding another extension to the negotiations may make it harder to secure a deal.
Whilst the debate continues, I join Essex County Councillor Kevin Bentley to meet the Transport Secretary Rt Hon. Grant Shapps MP about the Army and Navy. We are front of the queue when the meetings with MPs start. The junction is now being considered an urgent priority at national level and the ministers agree to help the Council to develop plans for a new junction as quickly as possible.
It’s late when the vote comes, I vote against the motion, but it passes, we will now debate the extension tomorrow. Very late at night 21 Conservative colleagues lose the whip, extremely sad. Steps: 11,362
Wednesday, 04 September In the House of Commons, the Chancellor gives a long statement on spending plans. Schools are to get an additional £14 billion investment over the next three years. 16 Chelmsford primary and 6 secondary schools will benefit. There is more funding for policing and the NHS too. I’m particularly pleased with announcements for an “Infrastructure Revolution” and that the Chancellor particularly singles out the All-Party Group for Infrastructure for praise. This is appreciated as I took over the chair of this group earlier this year and have been working hard to promote the need for more investment in Britain’s infrastructure.
Feisty meeting of the 1922 Committee of backbench conservative MPs, many colleagues from all sides of the party are cross that the whip has been removed from colleagues.
The debate on the extension to Brexit runs late into the evening again. I still think this extension will lead to more problems and not solutions. I vote against it, but it passes. I go down to the House of Lords where they are planning to work through the night on the extension bill.
The Prime Minister offers the opposition a vote for an early election, which I support as it would be another way to resolve the impasse. But Labour and the Lib Dems refuse to vote for this too, so it falls. It is rather ironic as they have been calling for an election ever since day one of this parliament. Challenging times and another late night. Steps: 12,300
Thursday, 05 September In the House of Commons for statements from the Housing Minister announcing new fire safety regulations post the Grenfell disaster. This is very welcome news. I ask him to also keep focusing on my low-level letter boxes campaign; health and safety of workers is important too and many posties are still struggling with back injuries. My first day in the job as the Parliamentary Private Secretary for the Department for International Development as the Secretary of State gives a statement of the UK’s work to champion education for girls. This is so crucial to help build a way out of poverty. Our Science and Technology Select Committee report on how to hit the zero-carbon environment target is presented. It’s a huge piece of work with over 70 recommendations that will help combat climate change. I answer hundreds of emails from constituents and write to many more with an update on the Army and Navy and Transport infrastructure. Another late night. Steps: 8,643
Friday 06, Saturday 07, Sunday 08 September Head off to Cambridge for a meeting of the British-Irish Assembly which brings together politicians, business leaders, universities, community groups and many others from across the UK, including Northern Ireland and Ireland. This group has worked for peace and reconciliation between the UK and Ireland for many decades. We hear from the Irish Foreign Minister and leading UK politicians. The Assembly takes place under Chatham House Rules so I can’t disclose what was said. Suffice to say that I do believe it is possible to achieve a new deal around solving the Irish backstop. It is challenging but talks are definitely taking place.