Monday 24th Oct. Shake good soil of Wiltshire from my boots (after feeding pet pigs Chubby P and Lilly P, and my old horse Mr Kipling) in time to meet Commandant of Royal College of Defence Studies in Belgrave Square. A year’s tuition there is the pinnacle of service on the Armed Forces Parliamentary Scheme, which I chair. Ask a question of the Housing Minister about homeless ex-servicemen in Wiltshire, then it’s upstairs for a meeting of the Commons Administration Committee where I am outraged by their attempt (by 4 votes to 2 – well done David Amess) to overturn the will of the House by stopping the use of vellum for recording Acts of Parliament. I hope to preserve the tradition by persuading the Lords to allow a vellum outer cover with calligraphy long title. Try to resign from Administration Committee in protest, but am told that rules of the House prevent it!
Tuesday 25th Oct. Escape early from Defence Committee’s meeting to visit Trinity House who (inter alia) look after our lighthouses. I come from the shipping industry so hope to maintain close links with them. Johnny Mercer’s Adjournment Debate on the military covenant is one of the best attended I have seen. He has passion and conviction and is ‘kicking some ass’ on the subject. Dinner in the Guards Museum.
Wednesday 26th Oct. Try to link up with Hercule Poirot, or David Suchet as he should be known, to protest outside Department of Health about Tuberous Sclerosis, but fail to find him. Another missed opportunity for Mr Corbyn at PMQs, a lecture about transatlantic relations in the Speaker’s House, a meeting with Scott Polar Research Institute (as Chair of the APPG for Polar Regions – one of my great interests in life); and dinner with the Chief of the Air Staff (APPG for Armed Forces which I also chair).
Thursday 27th Oct. Very unhappy about local NHS decision not to allow GPs’ surgery in Lyneham. Table a load of Parliamentary Questions about it, which will put the cat amongst the civil servants’ pigeons. Speak in Westminster Hall debate on the 2% defence spending commitment, drinks on the Terrace for our excellent (but departing) HCDC adviser, Megan Edwards, and dinner at Royal Hospital Chelsea with generals to talk about the proposed Royal Artillery Museum on Salisbury Plain rounds off rather a bibulous and military week in town.
Weekend. A political Supper Club, two packed surgeries and a visit to a charity coffee morning marks a pretty light weekend. I’d better get some exercise to work off all those dinners.
Monday 31st Oct. A tour of Parliament for some constituents, a reception for young engineers, Home Office Questions, a chat with a (LibDem) peer about her new book, a look into the County Council Reception, the debate in Westminster Hall on driven grouse, and the Japanese and Conservative Middle East Council Receptions makes a busy enough Monday.
Tuesday 1st Nov. David Black Pig Awards Breakfast (‘A cat looks down at you, dogs look up to you, but the great thing about a pig is that you can look it square in the eye as an equal,” Churchill); Chair Westminster Hall, which I greatly enjoy (as member of Speaker’s Panel of Chairmen), grill Michael Fallon in HCDC about the army – now the smallest since Waterloo, albeit brilliantly well equipped. See a group from a local school, attend a Conservative Friends of Israel defence related lunch, meet with the Monaco Ambassador, attend a briefing by the British Veterinary Association (of which I am an honorary member), and a defence dinner at Cinnamon Club with Minister Mark Lancaster rounds off a busy Parliamentary week.