Monday Start the week in Maldon at the Council offices where the team from the Job Centre have invited representatives from local housing associations, charities and council staff to brief them on Universal Credit. Universal Centre will be coming to Chelmsford next month when the first 500 people will start using the new system. Changes made in the Budget will give additional support to families, the self-employed and those with disabilities, as well as removing payment delays. Anyone with questions should contact the Job Centre as soon as possible as they can help.
Off to Westminster to meet the Singapore High Commissioner and then into the Commons to question the Immigration Minister on impact of Brexit for EU citizens living here. She confirms that the Government wants to make sure all EU citizens living here can stay.
I join a challenging debate on the Dame Laura Cox Report on harassment in Parliament. This is shocking and must be addressed. I also take part in the debate about road safety, especially for the many Chelmsford cyclists who have written to me - and horse riders too. It is after 10 pm when we have the “Adjournment Debate” led by Harlow’s MP Robert Halfon on Healthcare in Essex. I’m happy to support his campaign for a new hospital in Harlow.
Tuesday I join colleagues for a debate in Westminster Hall calling for reclassification of synthetic cannabinoids to be a class A drug. I call for stronger sentences for those supplying drugs.
MPs call an urgent question to the police minister on funding police pensions. Our 150 additional police in Essex are doing a super job, we need to make sure any new pension costs doesn’t hit front line policing. Meet with Head of Government affairs from Aon, a large employer in Chelmsford with particular concerns about how the insurance sector will operate post Brexit.
In St Margaret’s Church for a very beautiful service to commemorate 100 years of the end of World War I. Then over to the Royal Society of Chemistry where I have been invited to give a keynote speech at the launch of their report into ‘Women’s Retention and Progression in the Chemical Sciences’. Student classes start out nearly 50:50 men to women but by the time it comes to getting to the top, just 9% of chemistry professors in the UK are female.
I go back to House of Commons where MPs are discussing the Centenary of the Armistice. I tell colleagues about the Essex Regiment Museum which is so well worth a visit. Some 9,000 members of the regiment died in the 1914-1918 War in Gallipoli, Egypt, Palestine, The Somme, Ypres, Arras, and Cambrai and other battles. I also tell them about the history of the Quaker movement in Chelmsford. At the beginning of the First World War, a group of young Quakers created the Friends Ambulance Unit. They were all civilians and they worked closely with the fighting soldiers. They cared for anyone they found wounded, including Germans. By November 1918, 21 members of the unit had given their own lives. In 1947, the Quakers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It is important that we remember all those who died.
Wednesday Join local councillors Jon de Vries and Mike Holloway with the Mayor, Yvonne Spence and Deputy Mayor Christine Garrett for a mini tour of Melbourne in Chelmsford. We go to the community Church in Trent Road where they are holding a super coffee morning, they tell me they have different activities every day. Then to St Andrews church to the ancient scout hut. The pack leader Corine and councillors tells me of plans to upgrade the building. Then on, to meet two wonderful nuns and Melbourne residents the Sisters Moira and Margaret who talk about their work in the local community especially supporting children and families. They have so very much experience and it is very helpful to hear their views.
Train to London to visit to the British Library at the request of a Chelmsford resident who is working on public policy there. I learn how the British Library helps others across the country and many in other countries too. It is a real national treasure.
To Downing Street for a reception at No. 10. One hundred women MPs from across the world have come to the UK. The place is buzzing with energy. WOW.
Thursday Phenomenal day at the Women MPs of the World Conference in the House of Commons. This is the first ever conference of its kind. Many of the MPs have made huge changes in their own countries in areas such as support for entrepreneurs, championing girl’s education, and addressing domestic violence and harassment. Others tell of the huge challenges that they still face. One delegate from Afghanistan had lost her father and brothers to war, she told us that in her country “we cannot even talk of equal rights, we cannot even dream of equal rights”. She called upon the women MPs from across the world to come together to fight terrorism. One hundred years from the end of the war that was meant to end all wars there is still much to do. We launch a campaign calling on social media companies to stop the online abuse of women.
Train back to Chelmsford to present awards to Chelmsford’s pubs and clubs. They have just won the national prize for the best “PubWatch” scheme in the country. This has helped reduce night time violence in the city centre by 45 percent. Outstanding work!
Friday Start the morning at the Civic Centre at the One Chelmsford Strategic Partnership Board Meeting. Our local police have been extremely busy on a successful campaign against drugs and gangs, it’s making a real difference. We discuss how to improve sharing information with the public and new plans to help address serious violence and helping those who are homeless.
I get a very friendly greeting when I arrive at the Jobcentre to follow up from Monday’s meeting about Universal Credit. Please do encourage others to pop along if they have any questions about benefits and the new system.
Over to Broomfield to Farleigh Hospice. What a truly lovely place and great people. We discus changes that are needed to the lottery system that helps fund the hospice and I promise to raise this with Essex colleagues in Westminster.
Saturday Wonderful concert by the Chelmsford Singers and Chelmsford Sinfonietta in the Cathedral. They perform a new piece composed specially for the centenary which has never been performed in the UK before. The whole performance is stunning. Thank you, especially to the outstanding trumpet player.
Off to the High Street where I meet with the Essex Police Licencing officer. He has arranged to take me to meet some of the door staff and security teams in our pubs and clubs. I am very struck by how much they are doing to keep people safe at night. On the SOS night bus, I meet a first-time volunteer, Pat, who is also one of the students at our new medical school.
Sunday Remembrance Sunday, 6am, outside the Cathedral with a lone bagpiper playing from the top of the tower to mark exactly 100 years to the moment when the Armistice agreement itself was signed. Beautiful.
Mid-morning as I walk from the High Street to the Civic Centre it is clear that a very large crowd is gathering. The Remembrance service is deeply powerful with readings, prayers and hymns. The sun comes out as we stand outside Shire Hall for the words of the war poets. Looking down the High Street, to the right and the left all one can see are ranks of people supporting each other and supporting our service men and women. Such a proud moment. Thank you so very much to all those who took part in the service and the parade, and to those who played in the band.
I finish the day of Remembrance as the sun is going down in Beaulieu Park, at Chelmsford’s newest place of worship. Many of the streets are named after individuals who gave their lives in 1914-1918. Together we read their names, how they served and how they died. The children place a poppy painted stone at the foot of a cross. Beautiful.