Monday Start the week in Canary Wharf where I join the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. This brings together MPs from both countries as well as members of Northern Irish Assembly, Welsh Assembly and Scottish Government. It’s a good thing there is a big meeting room! Unsurprisingly, the conversation is mostly about Brexit and finding a solution to the border questions. We are all given a “Shamrock Poppy” to commemorate those from Ireland who served alongside British soldiers, especially in 1914-18.
Noon and off to Westminster where the PM is updating MPs on Brexit. Then the Foreign Secretary gives an update on Saudi Arabia and Khashoggi. The situation is very serious. MPs ask many questions until late in the evening. Unfortunately this means voting on the Offensive Weapons Bill is delayed until another week.
Tuesday In the Science and Tech Select Committee to approve a report we are publishing on clinical trials. Taking part in clinical trials is vital for medical research but unfortunately many trials don’t publish all their results. We are hoping to change that!
Very moving moment with British and Irish politicians laying joint wreaths of remembrance for those who died in World War I. This is very special as the Irish soldiers who fought alongside the British have not been commemorated together.
In the House of Commons for questions with health ministers. I raise the issue of postnatal depression which affects one in ten mums. Many of my Chelmsford constituents have asked me to get support for the NCT campaign to improve 6 week checks for mums, I'm delighted to get the Minister’s backing. Pop into a meeting about work of the British Council (they do some great projects encouraging language teaching and school twinning with some Chelmsford schools). Over to House of Lords to meet the King of the Netherlands, and his wonderful queen who leads global campaigns for access to banking for those in poverty. Meet with the Speaker of the Belize Parliament who wants to discuss plans to encourage more women’s representation.
We vote on the Civil Liabilities Bill to crack down on “ambulance chasers” who encourage false whiplash claims and push up insurance prices. I catch the Policing Minister and ask him for more resources for Essex MPs.
Over to Finals of the National Pubwatch competition. Chelmsford are the winners! It is a huge team effort by pubs and clubs, police, council, street pastors and the Open Road night bus. All helping to keep the City centre safe at night. Massive Congratulations!
Wednesday Start the day catching up on foreign policy issues, interview with BBC Look East on Brexit negotiations and a sneaky slice of cake at the Macmillan Coffee Morning. PMQs followed by long and complex debate on Northern Ireland, which I have been asked to speak in. The Prime Minister comes to speak to colleagues at the “1922” Committee. It is packed. MPs are sitting on the floor and standing on benches at the back. There is huge speculation that some MPs are going to demand the Prime Minister steps down. But actually there is huge support for her with many many colleagues speaking in support. Long discussion on education policy followed by voting on Northern Ireland Bill. Migraine. Home.
Thursday Up early, back into Westminster again! Coffee with the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University who wants to discuss science and research, Brexit and visas for top scientists. I’m happy to help him. Foreign Office Ministers are called to the House of Commons for an urgent question about the discussions between USA and Russia on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. My team race to get a briefing to colleagues and make sure that those who follow foreign policy are aware.
In Westminster Hall for a debate on International Freedom of Religion and Belief Day and UK’s role in championing Human Rights across the world.
Friday Back into Westminster again! This time for three Private Members Bills. The first will allow tenants to take action against rogue landlords, the second corrects an aged inequality and means a mother’s name as well as that of the father can be on a marriage certificate and the third introduces an “opt-out” system for organ donation. This will save many lives. Back for a busy constituency surgery and then to Chelmsford Community Radio for an interview with a great group of Girl Guides.
Saturday Join the excellent Cllr Gill Smith for her monthly surgery in Great Baddow Library (v good collection of books there!). Off to the High Street for the launch of the Poppy Appeal and a lovely couple of hours selling poppies. Over to the Essex Records Office for a conference they have been running about women’s empowerment across the world. This has been inspired by the story of Sophia Duleep Singh who was a leading voice during the suffragette movement. Wow. What a week