Tuesday, 7th January - steps 8,920 On the train to London for the first day of the new parliament term thinking about the year ahead. I know it’s going to be a busy time and I think about how to stay focused on big picture issues. I re-read the statement on One Nation Conservative Values which I helped draft with colleagues last year. There was lots of mention of One Nation in the election, but it’s important to remember that our values cover a wide range of issue. As well as holding the Union together and working for all parts of the UK there are strong commitments to public services, caring for the environment, international policy on trade, aid and foreign affairs, human rights and freedom of speech as well as making sure everyone has an equal opportunity wherever they come from. I write my thoughts into an article on my phone and decide to send it to The Times.
Arriving in Westminster where the Chancellor is due to take questions from MPs. I've been drawn in the ballot to ask a question and its number eight on the order paper. I want to ask him about funding for the new Army and Navy junction, so I sit waiting my turn. But the session is running late. The new speaker is very calm in the chair and he’s also promised to stick more closely to time. Frustratingly I don’t get called.
Next the Defence Secretary comes to make a statement on Iran. It is extremely worrying, but I’m pleased to hear him calling on all sides to de-escalate. Clearly this would all be even more concerning if Iran does achieve ownership of nuclear weapons. The UK is working with France and Germany to try to reboot the Iran nuclear deal. I ask him about the chances of this succeeding and what is plan B? I’m thinking about standing for membership of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and listen carefully to the debate.
The rest of the day is taken up with debate on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. Lots of opposition MPs have tabled amendments which don’t really fit within this bill, for example, laws to protect migrant children will be better placed in the Immigration Bill later this year. The ministers explain they want this bill to be a simple as possible and remain committed to all the other issues but will manage them in other legislation. This seems reasonable. Whilst the debate continued, I join an upbeat meeting of the One Nation group before late, late votes on various amendments. Unsurprisingly the Government wins all the votes. What a change from last year.
Wednesday, 8 January - steps 14,488 Into the House of Commons at 8am to pop my prayer card in for Prime Minister’s Questions. This is the way to “hold” one’s seat in the Chamber for a day and the new MPs are very keen early birds. I’m over the moon to hear that The Times will run my article. In PMQs I “bob” to see if I can ask my question on the Army and Navy, but again I don’t get called. I will keep trying! I join a meeting of MPs with the Chancellor and an all-party group of MPs who are interested in supporting the people of Hong Kong.
My email box is full of messages from Chelmsford residents concerned about the future of the Back-Inn Time restaurant as the landlord has put in a planning application to build flats. I ask the House of Commons Library for advice and arrange to meet the restaurant owners next week.
MPs are electing deputy speakers and I have been helping Essex MP, Eleanor Laing with her campaign.
I head over to Downing Street for a reception in No 10 with women MPs. Having campaigned for over a decade to support more women in politics its excellent to have 87 women colleagues on our benches. There is a great spirit. Back to the House of Commons for the result of the Deputy Speaker election. Eleanor is elected, and in first place. This means she is the first ever woman “Chairman of Ways and Means”. A historic moment.
More votes on the Withdrawal Agreement. The Bill passes its committee stage and we will be voting on Third Reading tomorrow. Again, its very late when we finish but I manage to catch the 10.38pm train back to Chelmsford. There have been lots of problems with the trains recently and I’ve asked for a meeting with Greater Anglia asap.
Thursday, 9 January - steps 9,007 Early morning back into Westminster. In the Chamber I join MPs quizzing ministers about the situation with online betting on football games. I am very concerned that our betting laws aren’t fit for purpose in a digital age and it appears that many MPs have the same view. The good news is that the Government has announced it will review the Gambling Act.
I listen to the Foreign Office Minister making a statement on the dreadful Australian bush fires and am glad to hear that the UK has offered assistance.
I spend most of the afternoon helping one of our new MPs sort through her email box. It is very difficult for some of the new colleagues as they don’t have any staff yet and the constant inflow of messages can be overwhelming, but we get it sorted.
At 5pm we vote again, this time on the Third Reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. It passes. After the past three years of uncertainty it does feel good to move on. I notice that the Northern Ireland Secretary is not around, he’s been working flat out on trying to get agreement on re-starting the Stormont Assembly. This is so important for holding our United Kingdom together. Before catching the train back home I spend some time with my own email box and get the news that Essex County Council have now appointed contractors to take down the flyover. This will allow everyone to keep working at full pace on plans for a new junction.
Friday, 10 January – steps 6,612 I’m setting up a series of Friday meetings with organisations in Chelmsford over coming weeks but today is meeting free.
I draft an advert for a new case worker as one of my staff members is moving on to new ventures and another is going to work for the new MP from his home town.
I pick up excellent news that agreement is being reached in Northern Ireland and a new business survey showing that investment across the UK is predicted to rise significantly. I work on helping MPs prepare for Monday’s debate on the Queen’s Speech as the theme will be on “Britain’s Role in the World”. I’m the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Department for International Development, so it will be a busy day.