Monday One of those days when everything changes at the last minute. I plan to be in Chelmsford for the first meeting of the Army and Navy Task Force when I get a message that the Prime Minister is to give an update to MPs on the EU negotiations and I need to be in Westminster. So, I hop on the train to Parliament and my assistant heads back to Chelmsford to the Task Force meeting. I call into the Chelmsford meeting from my phone before racing into the House of Commons to listen to the PM.
The Task Force will bring together the County, City and Parish Councils to develop a long-term strategy for the flyover and the junction. On the phone call I hear the engineer go through the type of options that should be considered. We agree that all options for improvements will be considered, including finding best solutions for access from the Baddow Road.
The PM takes questions on the EU negotiations for hours. She is very calm and very focused. MPs were meant to be voting on the Offensive Weapons Bill but its decided that more time is needed to discuss the final changes so the votes get delayed until next week. Spend the evening working late in the House of Commons Library.
Tuesday The Science and Technology Committee is questioning social media companies about their policies to remove illegal or inappropriate content. It’s a very frustrating session as the representatives from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube don’t give clear answers to many of the questions. I join MPs questioning ministers about Universal Credit and then a feisty discussion about the report that’s come out on harassment in the House of Commons. There are lots of concerns.
I pop into a meeting of MPs from different parties on reducing homelessness. It is very helpful to hear what actions are being taken in other parts of the country.
It is “Green GB” week so there’s lots of focus on energy and the environment. I am impressed to hear that we in the UK have already reduced emissions by over 40%.
I spend the evening in the library again before going to the BBC studios. I have been asked to do an interview on Newsnight. I have never been on the programme before and the interviewers have a reputation for being particularly tough. I am terrified, but manage to get my points across. Big thank you to everyone who sends messages afterwards. Well after midnight by the time I get home.
Wednesday Good catch up with the Foreign Office team before heading into the House of Commons for Women and Equalities Committee and then PMQs. I have been asked to sit in the seats right behind the PM this week... it is even noisier than usual.
We have a long and heated debate about Universal Credit. It is important that we get this right as it affects so many people. Labour MPs want to stop the roll-out of the new system, but I’m not convinced by this as there are many flaws with the existing system, which means 700,000 households are not claiming the benefits they are entitled to. The new UC payment will make this simpler as it brings many different benefits into one. However, it is also clear that improvements are needed to the new system too. I listen carefully to the debate, I’m pleased to hear ministers have already made some improvements and are planning more.
Fascinating dinner discussion with experts on energy improvements in buildings. Late train home. I get the very good news from Chelmsford that the Army and Navy flyover is going to re-open on Monday. Thank you to the engineers!
Thursday Off to Westminster to ask Environment Secretary for update on fighting plastic pollution. It is good to hear we are working with countries across the globe and that big companies like PepsiCo and Unilever are taking action.
I write letters to First Bus, the bus licencing authority and the County Council about recent complaints about Chelmsford bus services. Too many delays. I meet a delegation of Chinese politicians (interesting) before heading off to Ipswich on train. I join other MPs interested in Science at BT’s global research headquarters. They show us new technologies to fight cybercrime including using quantum encryption (v clever and a Chelmsford link too).
Back to Chelmsford where I drop into Heart FM to record an interview about the Army and Navy Task Force before heading over to Aon insurance. They’ve invited businesses and charities from across the City to a networking event. It’s good to catch up with the folk from Chelmsford College and Anglia Ruskin University about skills and work experience for students. I end the day over a cup of tea with the head of Chelmsford police. He tells me about some of the work they have done recently, especially on targeting drugs and drug-related gangs. They have made a number of arrests. Very good news.
Friday I have booked some time off to catch up on paperwork, visit the GP and see my student daughter. I finally get close to the bottom of my inbox. Have a fascinating evening our neighbouring MP, Alex Burghart, who has gathered together a group of residents to discuss politics. It is always interesting to hear different views, and the Shepherd’s Pie is yummy too.