Monday 13th January – 10,295 steps Start the week meeting with the Back in Time restaurant in Chelmsford. This is a very popular local venue. Many customers and the restaurant owner have written to me concerned by the property owner’s planning application to develop the building into flats. I believe we should support local businesses and have a helpful discussion with the manger.
Off to Westminster and into the Foreign Office. It’s the beginning of a week of debate on the Queens Speech. Today’s discussion will be focused on international affairs. The minister Andrew Stephenson will be making the closing speech. As the Parliamentary Private Secretary my role is to support him in the Chamber, predict what MPs are likely to ask and ensure he has up to date briefings. Given the UK’s leading role on global affairs any comment the Minister makes in the chamber is always scrutinised overseas.
On the way into the House of Commons Chamber I stop to meet the Ukrainian Ambassador and sign a book of condolences for those who died in the recent air crash. Before the full debate starts the Foreign Secretary is called to answer questions about Iran. I ask about progress on negotiations to halt the Iranian nuclear weapons program. During the six hour debate, I work with colleagues and officials. As new points are raised about different parts of the world the updates are passed on to the minister for his speech. It’s well after 10 pm when we finish.
Tuesday 14th January – 11,531 steps “All Party Groups” bring together MPs from different political parties on topics of shared interest. They can be a useful forum for raising issues in depth and make policy suggestions for the future. At the beginning of a new Parliament they need to be “re-constituted” by holding official AGMs. If not enough MPs attend these meetings the groups fall. Whist popping in and out of the Chamber to listen to maiden speeches, I join the AGMs for manufacturing, Net Zero and Energy. These will all be important for developing environmental and industrial policy. I host a “drop in” meeting for the Conservative Environment Network, over 60 MPs have now joined this group which I helped found – it’s a powerful voice. I host a dinner debate on dealing with plastic waste before heading back to Chelmsford.
Wednesday 15th January – 8,061 steps Before heading to Westminster, I meet my election agent who has finalised the expenses return for the General Election. There are very strict rules about what one can spend in an election and it’s important that every item is disclosed.
The Queens Speech has lots of good news for Chelmsford including increased investment in the NHS, Schools, Police and Infrastructure. But MPs are only permitted to speak on one day, the main topic of today’s debate is focused on the environment and Green Industrial Policy. Given that protecting the planet from climate change emissions is the biggest threat we all face, I’ve put in to speak today.
The debate starts after PMQs, and as I know I will be one of the later speakers I settle down to listen to other colleagues and update my speech as it goes along. Having worked on energy and environmental policies and research for over a decade there is so much I want to say! Lots is being done. The UK is the first major economy to commit to Net Zero, so this now needs to be embedded in all policy decisions. 2020 will be a vital year as Britain is hosting the next Global Conference on Climate Change this December.
I pop out of the Chamber to attend events for the Holocaust Memorial Trust, and the Open Doors charity which works to support Christians suffering persecution across the globe. Only a few years ago hardly any MPs took part in debates about the environment, so it is uplifting that today’s debate is well attended. When my time comes to speak as well as mentioning some Chelmsford issues such as the Army and Navy, I focus on some of the innovations that can help address emissions including electric vehicles, hydrogen power, energy efficiency and carbon off-setting. At the end of the debate, I join a reception for women MPs which is full of optimism.
Thursday 16th January – 9,038 steps Day starts with a cross departmental meeting of all the Parliamentary Private Secretaries and questions to the Northern Ireland Minister following the excellent news that the Stormont Assembly has restarted. I listen to the Health Secretary open the debate on the NHS. This is a top priority and I am pleased by his focus on expanding the NHS and investing in new treatments and research. I join a lunch with the Dutch minister for Universities, Science and Research. The Netherlands has often been one of the UK’s closest partners on this. After four days of debates on the Queens speech we vote on amendments tabled by Labour. The vote on the full speech will happen next week.
Friday 17th January – 2,660 steps My first constituency surgery of the new year. It is very busy with a number of different topics to discuss. Thank you to everyone who writes to me about issues that affect them. I spend the afternoon drafting letters and following up on local matters.