Category Archives: Victoria in North Oxfordshire


heyfordpark Cropped

On Saturday 9 December, Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, kicked off Christmas festivities in Heyford Park, opening the community’s new Youth Centre.

Heyford Park Youth Group (now a registered charity) was established in April 2017 by local residents, including Tom Beckett and Dave Beesley. It was felt that the area needed more activities for young people, particularly while it undergoes significant redevelopment. Starting out from a room in the Community Centre, it now occupies a building provided by developers Dorchester Living. The Group will eventually move into its own permanent, purpose-built facility. Activities are currently aimed at 13-18 year olds, but it is hoped that those as young as ten will soon be catered for.

Residents have come together to raise money, donate items and help the group renovate the building.  In addition, Upper Heyford Parish Council has provided funds to refurbish the site and run it for the first year, with additional support available if required in the future.

After the opening, Victoria said: “It was an honour to be invited to open the new youth centre in Heyford Park. With a growing community, it is important that all age groups are provided with the necessary facilities. It’s lovely to see the community spirit that has turned this vision into a reality.”

Tom Beckett, a founder of the Youth Group and resident commented: “Dave Beesley and I are very proud of this project, not just because we are providing a new youth facility, but because the whole community has contributed in some way to get us from our initial vision to a fully funded and furnished youth facility.”


171201 Kevin Kay-Bradley

On Friday 1 December, commuters returning to their North Oxfordshire homes were surprised by a Hallelujah Chorus flash mob at London Marylebone station. Forty professional singers broke out into song during the evening rush hour in aid of Singing for Syrians, the charity initiative set up in 2015 by Member of Parliament, Victoria Prentis with the Hands Up Foundation.

Conducted by musical director, Nicholas Cleobury, and accompanied by trumpeter, Kevin Kay-Bradley, the choral flash mob followed Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus with carols on the station concourse.

Singing for Syrians is a nationwide campaign which raises money for the Hands Up Foundation who support a number of projects helping the most vulnerable who remain in Syria. They pay the medical salaries of doctors in rural southern Aleppo, run a kindergarten in Idleb and fund two prosthetic limb clinics. It is estimated that over 30,000 Syrians are amputees in need of urgent treatment.

North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis, who was at the station to watch the flash mob unfold, said afterwards: “When the first singer broke into song everyone around her was completely taken aback, particularly as she was dressed in Chiltern Railways uniform. As others joined in across the station, it was an extraordinary sound and sight which really did raise the roof.

“The whole point of Singing for Syrians is to show that we all have the power to do something. By coming together in a positive and uplifting way, and singing at the tops of our voices, we can all make a difference. The flash mob could not have made that clearer. Hopefully people will be inspired to hold their own event or come along to the flagship concert at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster Abbey on Tuesday 12 December. I would encourage everyone to look at

“My thanks to Chiltern Railways, BNP Paribas and Redshift Media Production for making the flash mob possible.”



2017 Christmas card

This autumn, Victoria Prentis MP ran a competition for local schoolchildren to design her Christmas card. It has proved a popular initiative since she was first elected in 2015, and this year’s theme was shepherds.

There were some high quality entries, but the eventual winner was Ethan Osborne from Bure Park Primary School for his silhouette design. The card will now be sent out to the over 250 people on Victoria’s Christmas card list. She visited Ethan at school on Monday 27 November to present him with copies of his cards and some gifts from the House of Commons. He will be visiting the Houses of Parliament early next year with his family.

Victoria commented: ‘I love running my Christmas card competition every year, and we always have some brilliant entries. Ethan’s really stood out for his clever use of the silhouette design. It’s a lovely piece of artwork and the cards look fantastic this year – I am sure everyone on my list will be very impressed!’

Ethan said: ‘I really enjoyed meeting Victoria at school and am looking forward to visiting the Houses of Parliament. I liked designing my card and was very excited that I won. I would recommend everyone to take part next year!’


Victoria Prentis MP was in the Commons Chamber on Wednesday 29 November to hear the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, announce a new safety strategy for NHS maternity services. New measures include the more effective sharing of best practice, independent investigations into the loss of a baby, and more accessible training for staff.

As Vice-Chair of the APPG on Baby Loss, Victoria takes a keen interest in maternity services. She welcomed the Secretary of State’s announcement and took the opportunity to ask about special training for coroners dealing with baby loss cases.


The following account is taken from the Official Report (Hansard) from Wednesday 29 November 2017.

Secretary of State for Health (Jeremy Hunt): With permission, I will make a statement about the Government’s new strategy to improve safety in NHS maternity services.

Giving birth is the most common reason for admission to hospital in England. Thanks to the dedication and skill of NHS maternity teams, the vast majority of the roughly 700,000 babies born each year are delivered safely, with high levels of satisfaction from parents. However, there is still too much avoidable harm and death. Every child lost is a heart-rending tragedy for families that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. It is also deeply traumatic for the NHS staff involved. Stillbirth rates are falling but still lag behind those in many developed countries in Europe. When it comes to injury, brain damage sustained at birth can often last a lifetime, with about two multi-million pound claims settled against the NHS every single week. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said this year that 76% of the 1,000 cases of birth-related deaths or serious brain injuries that occurred in 2015 might have had a different outcome with different care. So, in 2015, I announced a plan to halve the rate of maternal deaths, neonatal deaths, brain injuries and stillbirths, and last October I set out a detailed strategy to support that ambition.

Since then, local maternity systems have formed across England to work with the users of NHS maternity services to make them safer and more personal; more than 80% of trusts now have a named board-level maternity champion; 136 NHS trusts have received a share of an £8.1 million training fund; we are six months into a year-long training programme and, as of June, more than 12,000 additional staff have been trained; the maternal and neonatal health safety collaborative was launched on 28 February; 44 wave 1 trusts have attended intensive training on quality improvement science and are working on implementing local quality improvement projects with regular visits from a dedicated quality improvement manager; and 25 trusts were successful in their bids for a share of the £250,000 maternity safety innovation fund and have been progressing with their projects to drive improvements in safety.

However, the Government’s ambition is for the health service to give the safest, highest-quality care available anywhere in the world, so there is much more work that needs to be done. Today, I am therefore announcing a series of additional measures. First, we are still not good enough at sharing best practice. When someone flies to New York, their friends do not tell them to make sure that they get a good pilot. But if someone gets cancer, that is exactly what friends say about their doctor. We need to standardise best practice so that every NHS patient can be confident that they are getting the highest standards of care.

When it comes to maternity safety, we are going to try a completely different approach. From next year, every case of a stillbirth, neonatal death, suspected brain injury or maternal death that is notified to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists’ “Each Baby Counts” programme—that is about 1,000 incidents annually—will be investigated not by the trust at which the incident happened, but independently, with a thorough, learning-focused investigation conducted by the healthcare safety investigation branch. That new body started up this year, drawing on the approach taken to investigations in the airline industry, and it has successfully reduced fatalities with thorough, independent investigations, the lessons of which are rapidly disseminated around the whole system.

The new independent maternity safety investigations will involve families from the outset, and they will have an explicit remit not just to get to the bottom of what happened in an individual instance, but to spread knowledge around the system so that mistakes are not repeated. The first investigations will happen in April next year and they will be rolled out nationally throughout the year, meaning that we will have complied with recommendation 23 of the Kirkup report into Morecambe Bay.

Secondly, following concerns that some neonatal deaths are being wrongly classified as stillbirths, which means that a coroner’s inquest cannot take place, I will work with the Ministry of Justice to look closely into enabling, for the first time, full-term stillbirths to be covered by coronial law, giving due consideration to the impact on the devolved Administration in Wales. I would like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton) for his campaigning on this issue.

Next, we will to do more to improve the training of maternity staff in best practice. Today, we are launching the Atain e-learning programme for healthcare professionals involved in the care of newborns to improve care for babies, mothers and families. The Atain programme works to reduce avoidable causes of harm that can lead to infants born at term being admitted to a neonatal unit. We will also increase training for consultants on the care of pregnant women with significant health conditions such as cardiovascular disease.

We know that smoking during pregnancy is closely correlated with neonatal harm. Our tobacco control plan commits the Government to reducing the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy from 10.7% to 6% or less by 2022. Today, we will provide new funding to train health practitioners, such as maternity support workers, to deliver evidence-based smoking cessation according to appropriate national standards.

The 1,000 new investigations into “Each Baby Counts” cases will help us to transform what can be a blame culture into the learning culture that is required, but one of the current barriers to learning is litigation. Earlier this year, I consulted on the rapid resolution and redress scheme, which offers families with brain-damaged children better access to support and compensation as an alternative to the court system. My intention is that in incidents of possibly avoidable serious brain injury at birth, successfully establishing the new independent HSIB investigations will be an important step on the road to introducing a full rapid resolution and redress scheme in order to reduce delays in delivering support and compensation for families. Today, I am publishing a summary of responses to the consultation, which reflect strong support for the key aims of the scheme: to improve safety, to improve patients’ experience, and to improve cost-effectiveness. I will look to launch the scheme, ideally, from 2019.

Finally, a word about the costs involved. NHS Resolution spent almost £500 million settling obstetric claims in 2016-17. For every £1 the NHS spends on delivering a baby, another 60p is spent by another part of the NHS on settling claims related to previous births. Trusts that improve their maternity safety are also saving the NHS money, allowing more funding to be made available for frontline care. In order to create a strong financial incentive to improve maternity safety, we will increase by 10% the maternity premium paid by every trust under the clinical negligence scheme for trusts, but we will refund the increase, possibly with an even greater discount, if a trust can demonstrate compliance with 10 criteria identified as best practice on maternity safety.

Taken together, these measures give me confidence that we can bring forward the date by which we achieve a halving of neonatal deaths, maternal deaths, injuries and stillbirths from 2030—the original planned date—to 2025. I am today setting that as the new target date for the “halve it” ambition. Our commitment to reduce the rate by 20% by 2020 remains and, following powerful representations made by voluntary sector organisations, I will also include in that ambition a reduction in the national rate of pre-term births from 8% to 6%. In particular, we need to build on the good evidence that women who have “continuity of carer” throughout their pregnancy are less likely to experience a pre-term delivery, with safer outcomes for themselves and their babies.

I would not be standing here today making this statement were it not for the campaigning of numerous parents who have been through the agony of losing a treasured child. Instead of moving on and trying to draw a line under their tragedy, they have chosen to relive it over and over again. I have often mentioned members of the public such as James Titcombe and Carl Hendrickson, to whom I again pay tribute. But I also want to mention members of this House who have bravely spoken out about their own experiences, including my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester (Will Quince), for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) and for Banbury (Victoria Prentis), as well as the hon. Members for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft), for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) and for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson). Their passionate hope—and ours, as we stand shoulder to shoulder with them—is that drawing attention to what may have gone wrong in their own case will help to ensure that mistakes are not repeated and others are spared the terrible heartache that they and their families endured. We owe it to each and every one of them to make this new strategy work. I commend this statement to the House.

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): As a bereaved parent, but also as a lawyer who has conducted many inquests, I ask the Secretary of State to consider two points. The first is the fact that not many families will need an inquest to determine what went wrong during the birth of their child. Secondly, will he commit to the training of special coroners, just as we have in military inquests, to ensure that those who deal with these very sad cases are the best equipped people to do so? Finally, on behalf of the all-party group on baby loss, may I thank him for today’s announcement and encourage him in his work to make maternity care kinder, safer and closer to home—and may I encourage him to save Horton General Hospital?

Mr Hunt: First, may I apologise to my hon. Friend, because I should have mentioned her in my statement as someone who has spoken very passionately and movingly on this topic in the House? I will take away her point about specialist coroners, because we are now going to have specialist investigators, which we have never had before. I would make one other point. I hope she does not think I am doing down her former profession, but really when people go to the law, we have failed. If we get this right—if we can be more open, honest and transparent with families earlier on—it will, I hope, mean many fewer legal cases, although I am sure that the lawyers will always find work elsewhere.



171117 Winners Warriner and Runner Up Sibford

On 17 November, Victoria Prentis, MP for North Oxfordshire, held her third annual Democracy Challenge, a debating competition for local secondary school pupils. Kindly hosted by Cherwell District Council at their offices in Bodicote, teams participated in two initial rounds debating social media abuse and the role of private providers in the NHS. The two highest scoring teams then battled it out in a final debate on tuition fees.  

The winners for the second year running were the impressive team from The Warriner School of Emily Thompson, Lucy Dunlop, Alfie Bullus and Daniel O’Toole, although they faced stiff competition from Sibford School in the final.

Victoria was joined on the judging panel by other local elected officials and members of the community, including councillors, journalists and a Thames Valley Police inspector. While the finalists were preparing for their debate, other students participated in a Q&A session with the judges, which involved a lively discussion about student loans.

Speaking after the event, Victoria commented: ‘The Democracy Challenge is fast becoming one of the highlights of my calendar. I continue to be impressed by the high standard of debating, which improves year on year. The Warriner were a formidable team, but everyone who participated made some really excellent and thought-provoking contributions. Cherwell District Council  are always so supportive in hosting us; it makes such a difference for the students to experience the atmosphere in the Chamber. Democracy has a bright future in North Oxfordshire.”


s300_bee-DP-P1000707 Cropped

Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, has welcomed plans for further restrictions on the use of pesticides harmful to bees and other pollinators.

Following advice from the UK’s pesticides advisory body, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the Rt Hon Michael Gove, has announced restrictions on neonicotinoid pesticides as part of his commitment to maintain environmental standards across the UK.

Victoria commented: “Bees have been a big issue since I was first elected. Nearly 200 constituents have taken the time to contact me to express concerns about the impact of pesticides on bees. As the proud owner of three hives, I understand the importance of ensuring the safety of pollinators across the UK and the positive environmental impact that they have. I know many of my constituents will join me in welcoming this announcement.”



On 7 November, Victoria Prentis’ cat, Midnight, was named the winner of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home’s annual ‘Purr Minister’ competition. Each candidate submitted a ‘Manifursto’, and the final winner was decided by public vote. Midnight’s pledges included a compulsory cat-related Purr Minister’s Question every Wednesday, a new Feline Select Committee, and a promise to monitor Buttons the office mouse.

Victoria said: “I am thrilled that Midnight’s dedication to the campaign has paid off. I know that he will be getting to work on implementing his manifursto commitments straightaway. Finding good homes for all the rescue cats currently living in temporary accommodation is a top priority. No doubt Midnight’s first Purr Minister’s Question Time will be a lively affair.”


171102 Kingsmere Postbox with Viki Cropped

Over five years since the first residents moved into the Kingsmere estate in Bicester, a post box has finally been installed following pressure from Bicester’s Member of Parliament, Victoria Prentis, and the Residents’ Association.

The Post Box, situated outside newly built St. Edburg’s Primary School, will serve locals and those using the community facilities expected to open in March 2018, including the Community Centre and shops.

Victoria Prentis has been petitioning Royal Mail for post boxes on all new estates across her constituency, including Elmsbrook and Graven Hill in Bicester, and areas such as Longford Park in Banbury, raising it during a recent exchange with the Prime Minister during questions in October. With North Oxfordshire experiencing some of the highest levels of growth in the country, it is important that community facilities such as post boxes are provided in conjunction with house building.

Yesterday (2 November 2017) marked the opening of the post box in Kingsmere, and Victoria along with Viki, Co-Chair of the Residents’ Association went along to mark the occasion. Victoria commented: “While some people may think that the issue of post boxes is a trivial matter, they really are vital for residents’ continuing their normal day to day lives after moving to a new area. I understand that a lot of correspondence is dealt with online, but my constituents still regularly send letters, particularly the elderly.

North Oxfordshire is experiencing unprecedented levels of growth and I will continue to push for services such as post boxes, adequate health care and sustainable road infrastructure. I look forward to meeting Royal Mail later this month to discuss this further with them.”



On Friday 13 October, Victoria Prentis MP was joined by ninety schoolchildren from across North Oxfordshire for a Shakespeare Workshop led by actors and directors from the Royal Shakespeare Company. The workshop, funded by Cherwell District Council, was hosted at Broughton Castle, an historic and atmospheric venue that helped scenes from this year’s featured play, Julius Caesar, come to life.

The children were taken through a number of extracts from the play, with the RSC explaining the choices they made when interpreting the text. There was the opportunity to get stuck in to some acting in smaller breakout groups, before all coming back together at the end to go through what they had learnt.

Speaking after the event, Victoria said: ‘This is the second year I have worked with the RSC to bring Shakespeare to the children of North Oxfordshire, and it is fast becoming an annual fixture. The actors and directors are so brilliant at bringing the characters and storylines to life, and it was fantastic to see every child fully immersed in the work of Shakespeare.

I am very grateful to the Fiennes family for hosting us at Broughton Castle again. It is an amazing venue, and I can’t think of a better place to hold an event like this. The generous support from Cherwell District Council is also very much appreciated.’


On Friday 6 October, Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, visited the Heyford and Bicester Veterans Group.

The Group aims to provide vital support for veterans and their families. It has joined forces with advocacy group SEAP, the Royal British Legion, Veterans UK, mental health charity Rethink, Help for Heroes and a housing specialist to make sure that all those involved in the military have access to essential help and support, both during and after service.

Victoria commented: ‘I thought it was a brilliant service, and it was great to meet everyone involved. I was particularly glad to see such a joined-up approach, providing excellent all-round support. It was heartening to see people from all around the county coming together to deal with issues, offer help and advice, and to share their experiences.’



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