Victoria Prentis MP contributes to Budget debate

On Tuesday 28 November, Victoria Prentis MP spoke in a debate on the Autumn Budget. The focus of her speech was on house building, and the infrastructure that needs to be in place for people living on new developments.

The following account is taken from the Official Record from Tuesday 28 November 2017.

Victoria Prentis (Con) (Banbury): It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell) when she speaks so passionately about education. I must confess that her remarks about the Prime Minister have encouraged me to focus my speech on house building, which the Prime Minister and her Chancellor quite rightly view as the most important issue facing us.

For my constituency, the biggest excitement from the Budget is, of course, the funding to support Oxfordshire’s statutory spatial plan, which commits to 100,000 new homes by 2031. Cherwell District Council is the national leader in house building—an achievement only made possible by strong local leadership and the sheer hard work of the many volunteers who got our local plan adopted. I see a new finished house almost every day when I return home from Bicester North station, and three houses a day are currently finished locally. I built my own house; it is what we do in our area.

I hope that £30 million a year for five years will help to alleviate the pressure on our infrastructure by enabling us to move forward with larger projects such as the London Road crossing. When we talk about infrastructure, we so often mean roads and railways, but locally we are learning on the job that infrastructure means so much more than that. Those on the Treasury Bench will be pleased to learn that vast products and expenditure are not the only way forward when we look to build new communities. It is noticeable that the residents of well-built houses are happy, and more effort needs to be put into ensuring high standards in building across the board. This is a no-cost measure that the Government are working on.

Where we do need to invest for growth, it does not need to be in enormous, prestige products, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr Clarke) outlined. House builders need to deliver on time. Even when they do, councils must be prepared to spend relatively small sums to alleviate the difficulties caused by enormous growth—for example, for around five years of stretched budgets while new schools are created. Children do not arrive in neatly packaged classes of 30 four or 11-year-olds, and existing schools also suffer while numbers are in flux.

I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) that GP services in high-growth areas need small amounts of additional funding to tide them over in times of enormous growth. My hon. Friend the Member for Bracknell (Dr Lee), who is on the Front Bench, will appreciate that people seem to need their GP more when they move to a new area in order to sort out their existing medication and to deal with difficulties in changing specialists. We need to ensure that the infrastructure spending on such issues is readily available.

Mapping needs to be done before the build. Post boxes and street lamps should be provided without the intervention of an MP. Development can only be a positive experience if we bring hearts and minds along with us. I am afraid that closing maternity services at our local Horton General hospital at the same time as building 23,000 new houses does not sit well with us locally. Many new houses in our area have three or more bedrooms, and it would not come as a surprise to learn that some couples want to have babies to fill those new rooms.

Finally, and quite separately, a high point of the Budget for me was the announcement of a consultation into the horror of single use plastics. I encourage everybody in the Chamber to get out their phone, look at the App Store and add the Refill app; it tells users what to do and helps to get rid of single use plastics.