Monday 21 Oct STEPS 10,397 Into Westminster, where we all are expecting to work very late nights this week on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill and get the deal that has been agreed with the EU through Parliament. The Prime Minister has had to ask for an extension to exit day. He is legally bound to do this under the “Benn Act” which was forced through by opposition parties earlier this autumn. However, it’s now up to the EU to decide whether to grant an extension and on what terms.
Before the House of Commons starts its day, I meet with representatives from the Ada Lovelace Institute to discuss their work on use of facial recognition technology, which has been highly controversial in some countries. I discuss cyber flashing with experts. Four in ten young women have been affected by this. I’m considering leading a new Bill to give online victims the same protections as are given to victims of flashing. I meet a delegation from Women’s Aid to discuss the Domestic Abuse Bill and a Chelmsford resident who is leading a campaign for improved safety for those working at heights.
In the Chamber, MPs question Defence Ministers. It is Trafalgar Day and I ask for support for Chelmsford’s Sea Cadets who are trying to raise funds for a new centre.
MEPs are meeting in Strasbourg to discuss the Brexit extension. I speak to former colleagues across Europe and feed back their views to UK negotiators. The Speaker decides to block Parliament from discussing the Withdrawal Agreement today, great disappointment from those of us who want to work on this. Time is short. We will try again tomorrow.
Tuesday, 22 Oct. STEPS 8,891 At the Science and Technology Select Committee we question the minister on the latest discussions with the EU on their next 7 year science programme. This is a massive funding programme and it is extremely important for UK based scientists and researchers that they can continue to collaborate easily with their neighbours across Europe. In the Chamber, the ministers for business take questions from MPs and I ask about the latest steps in helping parents with delivering flexible working.
We move onto debate the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. The Prime Minister opens the debate and the Chamber is packed. It’s clear to me that if we do not pass this Bill today then there will be even greater uncertainty. The debate runs late into the evening with MPs from many different parts of the country and parties asking for reassurance on different details. Each are given precise answers; every vote is going to be vital. Tensions are extremely high.
The vote on whether the Bill can pass into second reading is considered by all MPs as the meaningful vote on whether to support the PM’s deal. When the vote finally comes late in the evening there is huge relief when it wins by a large majority. However, this is swiftly followed by disappointment - the vote to pass the timetable for discussing the next stages is blocked. The deal is held in limbo.
Wednesday, 23 Oct. STEPS 9,923 Instead of being able to make progress with the Withdrawal Agreement, after a feisty session of Prime Minister’s Questions we move back to debating the Queen’s Speech. The House stops to take an update from the Home Secretary about the tragedy of the 39 migrants who have died in a lorry container at Grays. My thoughts are with the victims and their families, the Essex Police and our Coroner. The Queen’s Speech debate today focuses on health. I mention some of the improvements we have seen in Chelmsford, our new A&E at Broomfield, the new ward for dementia patients and our new medical school. I ask for more work on making sure children with rare diseases can access the drugs they need. There is record investment going into the NHS under the Queen’s Speech, so I am pleased when MPs vote to support this.
I attend long meetings with MPs who want to try to get the debate on the EU deal back into the House of Commons. We have a deal, it got a majority in the House of Commons and I believe people expect us to be working night and day to complete this. I agree to go on BBC’s Newsnight to discuss this. Get back to Chelmsford very late.
Thursday, 24 Oct. STEPS 11,700 Train problems! A huge thank you to the two Chelmsford residents who let me jump into their taxi to pick up a train at Shenfield. At Transport Questions I raise the issue of the Army and Navy. It is a transport emergency for Chelmsford and Mid Essex. I will continue fighting for the funding to deliver a long term solution as rapidly as possible.
I meet an excellent group of politics students from KEGs who are visiting Westminster. The onto a committee vote and then more debates on the Queen’s Speech. Behind the scenes, MPs are doing all they can to try to get the debate on the EU deal restarted, but the Government is concerned that it will continue to be blocked and delayed. Late in the evening we vote on the Queen’s Speech - it passes.
The Leader of the House of Commons comes to make a statement about next week’s business. On Monday, the Government will ask again for a General Election, but no more discussion is tabled for the withdrawal deal. We need to wait to hear back from EU leaders about an extension. Very frustrating.
Friday, 25 Oct. STEPS 2,231 Uplifting start to the day in Chelmsford at Little Chums Nursery. The children are in high spirits and have been voting all week on issues that matter to them. Today they are deciding what toys to get out - should it be the box of fairies and dragons or the box of StickleBricks. The Bricks win. I talk to the Nursery leader about how they support children with special needs and their plans for extending the nursery. In Great Baddow, I meet the Essex Respite and Care Association who give individual support to those with Dementia and severe mental health conditions and their carers.
Fabulous lunch time discussion on our new Environment Bill with an excellent group of environment campaigners at Chelmsford County High School for Girls. This landmark bill will set a totally new legal framework for improving air and water quality, protect habitats for wildlife and biodiversity, and introduce a huge new range of measures to tackle single use plastic waste.
After a busy constituency surgery I join representatives of Chelmsford’s Hindu community. They are celebrating the important festival of Diwali this weekend and have been very concerned about safety following violent protests in London against Hindus this summer. I am honoured to light the Diwali lamp and we discuss plans to make sure celebrations are safe.
Saturday, 26 Oct. STEPS 12,046 Into the Plough in Duke Street for a super breakfast whilst watching the World Cup semi final. A brilliant performance by England takes us into the finals. Horray! Then off to knock on doors, talking to residents in Marconi ward, thank you everyone who stopped to chat.
In the High Street, I join Poppy sellers for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal. I have been helping to sell poppies ever since I was ten years old. They do such an important job helping veterans in the UK and all those who have supported our armed forces. At Boots in The Meadows I have a flu jab. I am extremely impressed by how easy this is to organise and how pain free a process it is. If you are entitled to a free flu jab you can pop into any pharmacy and have it there. If you are not entitled to a free jab but would like protection from flu then there is a fee of around £13 which covers the cost. You can also contact your local GP surgery, who can help.
Sunday, 27 Oct Wake up to find I’ve made a stupid diary mistake and muddled my dates. As a result, I have missed the Chelmsford Canoe Club presentation last night. They are an excellent club and we are hugely lucky to have such talent and dedication in Chelmsford. I am so very sorry to have let people down.