Category Archives: Victoria in Parliament

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP CALLS ON NORTH OXFORDSHIRE TO SUPPORT EQUALITY WITH A CUP OF TEA

180328 EqualiTeas Cropped

To mark the centenary of some women getting the vote, and 90 years since men and women over 21 gained the right to vote, Victoria Prentis MP is inviting everyone in North Oxfordshire to sign-up to EqualiTeas to share, debate, and celebrate what equality means to them over a cup of tea.

 

2018 marks 100 years since The Representation of the People Act 1918 extended the right to vote to all men over 21 and the first women, making this one of the most important centenaries in British democratic history. Ten years later The Representation of the People Act 1928, gave all men and women over 21 the right to vote. These acts followed years of campaigning, with the first petition to Parliament asking for votes for women was presented to the House of Commons on 3 August 1832.

 

As part of programme of events from UK Parliament to mark these important milestones for democracy, EqualiTeas will take place between 18 June and 2 July.

Historically, tea parties were hotbeds of political activism. It was one of the few ways women could meet without men to discuss and plan. The leading suffrage organisations used tea parties and tea shops as central elements in their campaigning, to increase awareness, discuss tactics and raise money. But, events do not have to be a tea party, just an event or activity that brings people together to discuss equality, and anyone can hold an EqualiTeas tea party, whether it is big or small, private or public, inside or out.

 

Victoria Prentis MP said: “The Representation of the People Act 1928 was a vital step towards the rights women and men have today, and these anniversaries are an incredibly important opportunity for us to reflect on how far we have come.

 

“We all know that there is still more to do when it comes to equality in Britain, and EqualiTeas is an excellent opportunity to reach out to others in our community and share our ideas for an even more equal society, while celebrating the strides we have already made. I hope that groups across North Oxfordshire will get behind this exciting initiative.”

 

David Clark, Head of Education and Engagement at UK Parliament, said “Whether it’s chatting about the issues over a cup of tea, or engaging with one of the many exciting events as part of this year’s UK Parliament Week, there are many opportunities for schools, workplaces and community groups across North Oxfordshire to get involved in these key anniversaries.

 

“We can only work towards a more equal society by communicating with each other and building stronger communities, so please sign up for EqualiTeas to share the things we have in common and debate the changes we would like to see.”

 

Everyone who registers an event on the EqualiTeas website (equaliteas.org.uk) will receive a free pack of resources, including an EqualiTeas board game. Visit Parliament’s resource page for help with ideas, planning and publicising your event.

 

The Vote 100 programme includes a wide range of events and activities commemorating the women and men who fought to achieve electoral equality. Parliament has also released a series of hard-hitting films to highlight how four key acts changed the lives of women as part of its Your Story, Our History series.

 

There will be a major exhibition in Parliament – “Voice and Vote” – as well as an exciting programme of talks and tours in Parliament, and a number of UK-wide events, such as UK Parliament Week 2018.

HOOKY ON TAP IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS

Hooky sign in Strangers Bar Cropped

On Wednesday 28 February, Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, welcomed Hook Norton brewery to the House of Commons.

Strangers Bar in Parliament regularly plays host to ‘guest beers’ from constituencies across the UK and Victoria invited her own constituency favourite, Hook Norton Brewery to feature this week. The beer is one of Hook Norton’s finest ales, and will be available for MPs and Peers to try for a limited period.

James Clarke and Mark Graham from the brewery travelled down to Westminster to pull a pint and celebrate the occasion.

Victoria commented: “I was thrilled to welcome Hook Norton brewery to Parliament this week and showcase one of my constituency’s finest products. Hooky is one of my favourite beers so I was really pleased to have the opportunity for my colleagues to enjoy it at Westminster too.”

James Clarke, Managing Director of Hook Norton Brewery added: “It was a great opportunity for us to bring along our beer and talk about the brewing process here at Hook Norton Brewery. It is an increasingly tough market and we work very hard to produce a honest, quality beer so to have the opportunity to showcase it here was fantastic.  We have been handcrafting our beers in Oxfordshire for 169 years and hope to continue for many years to come.”

Victoria with James Clarke in Strangers Bar, House of Commons.

Victoria with James Clarke in Strangers Bar, House of Commons.

MP JOINS COLLEAGUES TO SPEAK IN OXFORDSHIRE NHS STAFF RECRUITMENT & RETENTION DEBATE

180220 Oxon MPs NHS Recruitment & Retention debate Cropped

On Tuesday 20 February, Banbury MP Victoria Prentis spoke in a debate on the recruitment and retention of NHS staff in Oxfordshire. During the course of the debate, which was secured by Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran, Victoria emphasised the need to be creative with recruitment ideas, have greater clarity when considering the domino effect of staffing shortages, and communicate more openly and transparently.

Speaking after the debate, Victoria said: “I was delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this important debate. Recruiting and retaining NHS staff in Oxfordshire has been an ongoing issue for many years now. The current situation at the Horton’s maternity unit is a daily reminder for us all. We need to think outside the box and tackle the problems together, particularly in light of the Care Quality Commission’s recent full system review of the local health system. We are in urgent need of a vision for our health service and must keep up the pressure.”

 

Full text of Victoria’s speech:

Thank you, Mr Hollobone, and it is a pleasure to take part in the debate. I thank the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon (Layla Moran) for securing it.

It is great to see all my fellow Oxfordshire colleagues present today. If I may say so, they have all been great allies in my fight to save acute services at the Horton General Hospital. Talking about recruitment in some detail is particularly useful, because that is our greatest local challenge with regard to good healthcare.

It is also good to see the Minister in his place. Since he took up his role, he and I have spoken many times about the issues faced at the Horton. We in Banbury are waiting patiently to hear the outcome of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s initial assessment of the permanent downgrade of our maternity services. Our hopes are pinned on a full review, and we were due to find out 10 days ago whether that would take place. We have heard nothing yet, but I am watching the post with interest.

The Independent Reconfiguration Panel is familiar with our situation, having looked at similar proposals to downgrade maternity at the Horton back in 2008. Just as recruitment was the contributing factor almost 10 years ago, the failure to fill middle-grade vacancies at the Horton’s obstetric unit was the straw that broke the camel’s back in 2016. However, failures in recruitment are not, as we have heard, unique to maternity services at the Horton. We have spoken briefly about chemotherapy services at the Churchill, and at a meeting in January with local GPs, many expressed concerns about the sustainability of their practices in the current recruitment climate. Last week, the Care Quality Commission observed the following in its full and, if I may say so, quite critical review of the local system, which the hon. Member for Oxford West and Abingdon has quoted and which I will carry on a little:

“The system in Oxfordshire was particularly challenged by the issues of workforce retention and recruitment across all professions and staff grades, especially acute hospital staff…and in the domiciliary…market. This resulted in staff shortages, heavy workloads and impacted upon seamless care delivery and integration of services.”

I am reassured that the Department takes recruitment seriously and has invested significant time and resources in addressing current workforce challenges across the nation. Attracting more people to the profession and training them takes many years. The cost of living in our area is high and London weighting is a significant pull factor out of our area, particularly given our very reliable transport links to the capital. We may be a wealthy county but we must think creatively to overcome the current challenges. The future of our services depends on that.

When I called for help, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of local schools and businesses in my area, which offered discounted school fees, free shirts from Charles Tyrwhitt, and free beer from Hook Norton—that made the headlines—to any prospective obstetricians who wanted to apply for a job at the Horton General. As a leading house building authority, Cherwell District Council has been exemplary in its support for the Horton, exploring the possibility of golden handshakes and providing key worker housing. A local developer came forward to offer one of its new build properties to any obstetrician looking to relocate to our area. Yet all of these offers remain completely unexplored by the local hospital trust, which has refused repeatedly to engage with me on this issue.

Last September, the Secretary of State announced plans to offer salary supplements to GPs in rural and coastal regions, which was a really welcome development. Market towns such as Banbury, Bicester, Abingdon and the many others represented in this Chamber desperately need similar incentives to attract newly trained professionals, whether through an Oxfordshire weighting or a ring-fenced housing allowance. I have no particular view about which would be the more effective incentive—I am happy to explore both. More money is always welcome, but it does not have to be the only answer. Just yesterday, I heard from a Banbury GP who has not been able to recruit a fully qualified international GP who is a resident outside the EU, because of problems with the tier 2 visa requirements. The person is an Australian who trained in Banbury and is very familiar with the local system, and we would really value having her back.

It is important that we consider specialties such as general practice and obstetrics when looking at the shortage occupation list that needs to be filled, because there are gaps in those areas too. We must think outside the box and talk across Departments to find the solutions that we desperately need. We must also have some clarity. When obstetric services at the Horton were suspended in August 2016, we were told that the rota needed six obstetricians to operate safely. But the goalposts were moved; the trust now tells us that nine are needed before the unit can reopen. Those decisions have real consequences. We must know the potential domino effect that shortages can have on other medical rotas. Since maternity services at the Horton were downgraded, the hospital has, in turn, lost one of its anaesthetic rotas. Difficulties attracting professionals to CT1 and CT2 posts pose a very real risk to the future sustainability of the one remaining rota. Until that can be full resolved, the threat to all acute services at the Horton cannot be fully ruled out.

Finally, we must learn, as I say repeatedly, to communicate openly and transparently. Extracting recruitment information from the trust is painfully slow. Rather than offer updates, it leaves us to ask for meetings. We are still waiting for the meeting that my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Robert Courts) requested for us to discuss recruitment at the Churchill. Yet when I made remarks on local radio about a perceived culture of secrecy, the trust chairman was very quick to summon me to meet her. I was told by the trust that all Oxfordshire MPs would be sent a detailed briefing on recruitment and retention challenges by 1 February. I have not had such a briefing and I do not know whether other hon. Members have.

Time and again I have offered assistance with tackling recruitment. Schools and businesses made generous offers to attract obstetricians, and I am furious that the trust continues to fail to engage. I am hopeful that the CQC report provides a long overdue reality check and that we start to see a real step change in its approach. I have made clear numerous times that we MPs are ready and waiting to help. I am really hopeful that under the new excellent interim head of the clinical commissioning group, we will start to develop a vision for our future healthcare, which we have so desperately lacked for so long.

This year we mark 70 years of the NHS. I am hopeful that many of the hard-working staff in Oxfordshire will be recognised at the upcoming parliamentary awards. I am particularly grateful to the dedicated Horton midwives who now face an almost three-hour round commute to and from the John Radcliffe, following the downgrade of our unit. Experience has taught us that we need to keep up the pressure.

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP OPTS TO #PASSONPLASTIC WITH SKY OCEAN RESCUE

Image licensed to i-Images Picture Agency. 06/02/2018. London, United Kingdom. Sky Ocean Rescue-Portcullis House - Picture by Stephen Lock / i-Images

This month, Victoria Prentis MP has made two commitments to reduce her consumption of single-use plastics. She has signed Sky Ocean Rescue’s #PassOnPlastic pledge, and joined fellow MPs in giving up plastic for lent. In particular, Victoria will focus on reducing her use of disposable plastic bottles.

Launched in January 2017, Sky Ocean Rescue aims to shine a spotlight on the issues of ocean health, particularly single-use plastic, and inspire people to make small changes. The #PassOnPlastic pledge was signed by 113 MPs in total, all making a public commitment to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics. Victoria also visited, Plasticus, Sky Ocean Rescue’s whale, which is made up of a quarter of a ton of plastic – the amount that enters our oceans every second.

Victoria commented: ‘My own awareness of the devastation plastic causes to our oceans has really grown over the last few months, as has that of the general public. Seeing the sheer size of Plasticus, and knowing that it reflects the amount of plastic entering our oceans every second, was shocking.

I look forward to seeing how I get on over the next month – I am sure there will be some challenges but I am determined to do what I can to reduce my own contribution to this problem. I launched the Refill scheme in Banbury and Bicester last year, and I am sure it will help me stick to my pledge by telling me where I can fill up my water bottle when out and about – I would strongly encourage everyone in the constituency to download the app!’

#HERstory: Councillor Lucy Donaldson

I was elected a Banbury Town Councillor in May 2016 at the age of 19. When I found out that I was successful I was a mixture of emotions. Elated, proud and shocked to name a few. In a male dominated council, I had more votes than some of my highly experienced colleagues.

I was not expecting to be the youngest town councillor Banbury had ever had, but I am utterly honoured to represent women inside and outside of politics.

#HERstory: Zoe McLernon

From a young age, I was interested in politics and my parents were always astounded by my opinions of politicians at the age of 8.

Having grown up and attended school in Bicester, I wanted to give something back to the Town so sought public office in 2015.

At 20 years old, my main concern was how I would be perceived by the electorate, given my age. Being female never really crossed my mind but it certainly made a difference on the doorstep.

I was not elected but was grateful for the opportunity to stand as a young female and put myself forward to represent a younger generation in the town.

Now working for Victoria Prentis MP, I have learnt from her that women in politics can be strong and resilient. The generation of women above me have overcome many barriers and it is great to see the respect for Victoria and other female MPs in the House. 

Women have come so far over the years and I am sure that my own generation will be able to build upon this. I only hope that other countries follow in our footsteps.

#HERstory: Councillor Melanie Magee

As someone who has a passion for my local community, I wanted to get more involved, but thought I wasn’t the ‘right sort of person’ to do it, having not followed the typical academic route, and having been a young single mum. However, as a qualified full time HR professional, I realised my skills were valuable to the community, so I started volunteering with my local job club providing practical advice to job seekers, specifically the young unemployed and was inspired to stand as a local Councillor, subsequently being elected as a Town and District Councillor in 2011. In my Councillor roles I’ve led a number of apprenticeship initiatives to support employment and skills opportunities.

In 2013, I was elected Mayor of Bicester, and was then honoured to be elected Chairman of Cherwell District Council for 2015, being the youngest female to hold either of these offices in the locality.

As my political career developed, I was selected as the parliamentary candidate for the Oxford East constituency seat in December 2014, for the 2015 general election. In a male dominated political environment, I’d like to think that I am proof that by having a passion, determination and getting involved, you really can make a difference!

#HERstory: Lucinda Wing

I first got involved in politics whilst studying at the University of St. Andrews. A friend encouraged me to accompany her to the Scottish Conservative Conference in 2009 where I first saw David Cameron speak – the atmosphere was electric and it made me feel optimistic for the future. After that, I knew I wanted to be involved in politics in some way but never imagined that I would be elected as a local councillor. Fast forward to 2015, and after running a number of local campaigns, I was lucky enough to be elected onto a borough council at only 25 years of age, making me one of the youngest councillors in the country.
 
Women are still under-represented at every level of governance, but we are moving in the right direction. Truly representative democracies need a variety of people with different backgrounds and strengths, and from all walks of life. I hope that other women look at me and see that age and gender are no barrier to representing your community.
 
In May of this year, I’ll be asking residents in Bicester South and Ambrosden to for a chance to represent them on Cherwell District Council.

#HerStory – Anita Higham OBE

Born near Wolverhampton, I was three as World War II began. I remember hearing bomber planes and the noise of heavy guns and seeing the red night skies, reflecting the burning cities of Coventry and Birmingham, going into our neighbour’s air-raid shelter, and carrying a gas-mask to my Convent school. My mother was 21 in 1928 and had the vote. In 1918, she had been selected for the newly established mixed grammar school in Wolverhampton. My father had left school in London when he was 14. They were both strongly committed to their children’s education.   

With a degree in French from Nottingham University, a degree in French from a French university and a teacher’s Diploma from London University, I was appointed to my first teaching post in 1961 – only to discover that I was earning considerably less than a less well-qualified man, because I was a woman. Parity for teachers’ pay took a graduated 7 years to arrive; the NUT (National Union of Teachers) lost many men who left in disgust to form the NAS (National Association of Schoolmasters). In 1966 I was promoted; having carefully saved my full deposit for a mortgage with a building society, I planned to purchase my first home. I applied to the building society, to be informed that they did not give mortgages to single women. I discovered that this was true of almost all building societies. Eventually I found one which, in view of my ‘secure job’, was prepared to take the risk!

In my subsequent promotions in mixed secondary schools, for the Deputy Headship of a mixed school of 700, then for the Deputy Headship of a mixed school of 2200, and for both my subsequent Headships, I was always, between 1968 and 1984, the only shortlisted female.

I was the first Head of a mixed non-selective school in Wiltshire, where the Senior Master was astonished that I was not prepared to cane the students! I was subsequently the first woman Chair of the Wiltshire Association of Head Teachers. I was the first female Head of a mixed non-selective school in Oxfordshire, when appointed in June 1984.

How often have I corrected the many writers of  letters beginning: “Dear Sir..”, with – “you must not assume that this ‘Head’ is a man; I am certainly a woman”; and how often have I interjected in meetings and public gatherings when the “Headmasters” were referred to, with: “and the Headmistresses…”!!

When the CBI constituted its Business-Education leadership programmes, I was the only female board member and was invited to address the CBI annual conference of 1997. In 1991 I was invited to be the Education Trustee of the National Museum of Science and Industry, albeit a woman.

As we move further into the 21st century, at last I find that in the various aspects of my post-professional community commitments, I am never the only woman!

Victoria Prentis MP speaks in support of Tim Loughton’s Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration) Bill

On 2 February 2018, Victoria Prentis MP spoke in a debate on the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration) Bill, a Private Member’s Bill brought forward by Tim Loughton MP.

 

The following record is taken from the Official Report from Friday 2 February 2018.

 

Victoria Prentis MP (Banbury) (Con): It is an honour to take part in this debate, but I must confess that I was slightly confused by the remarks made by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Karen Lee), because as I see it, this is not a matter to politicise; these are complicated moral issues that we are finding our way through together, consensually. Some of the best things I have done since I have been in this House have been done on a cross-party basis and on these very difficult issues.

I thoroughly support, in its entirety, this Bill put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), but, unusually for an MP, I am going to confine my remarks to the three areas of it of which I have personal experience. I will therefore leave the issue of civil partnerships to others whom I know want to talk about that.

The inequality of marriage certificates was one of the first issues I came across as a constituency MP when I entered the House back in 2015. We had an excellent debate in Westminster Hall, at which many hon. Members here today were present, where I spoke about a terrible story of my constituent, whose father subjected her and her siblings to sexual abuse over a number of years. She has not seen him since she was 10. Were she to get married now—I believe that the current law is one of the reasons why she has not got married—she would very much want to leave the “father” field blank, while her mother, who, as a heroine, brought her up and helped her and her siblings cope with the legacy of this awful abuse, would get no mention. That is simply wrong.

This Bill will ensure that the Secretary of State undertakes a full review of the system. I accept the need to look for efficiencies and to find ways to create a more secure system for the maintenance of marriage records. We must also consider what terminology we use to recognise all forms of parental relationship. Inevitably, that will take time. As a former church warden, I am familiar with the current register system, and I see no reason why we cannot give celebrants and registrars the ability to cross out “father” and amend at their own discretion, or simply to add to it, at least until that review has concluded. Next week, we mark the centenary of women’s suffrage, and I am afraid that it all feels rather archaic standing here discussing such a glaring yet rectifiable inequality.

Although I accept that, on all sides, we have been slow to deal with marriage certificates, in the three years I have been here the Government have been ambitious in their approach to stillbirths. I am really pleased with the progress we have made, although it does not go nearly far enough, towards halving the number of stillbirths by 2025. The all-party group on baby loss is a force of nature, and I pay great tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester (Will Quince) and for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach), the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) and indeed the former Member for Ipswich. We were all there in the middle of the night starting this group, determined to make things better. We were soon joined by the passion of the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) and then that fabulous speech by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft) did so much to help our cause. I am proud that we must take some credit for the fact that the way we talk about miscarriages, stillbirths and neonatal loss is changing. As a group, we know there are strong views on the way in which stillbirths are registered and investigated. For me at least, it seems that much should depend on the wishes of the parents. Fear of touching on painful subjects—although, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham made clear, there is no need to upset the abortion laws over this—and talking about them must not render us incapable of reflecting a situation where babies born younger and younger are, happily, now living. Real people are suffering by our failure to address these difficult issues. A mother who has been through labour and is going through lactation, often for a significant number of weeks, for a baby who is stillborn before 24 weeks will of course feel that his or her life should be properly recognised and recorded. I am hopeful that our group will have a great deal of input into the report the Secretary of State will undertake should this Bill progress today.

I was in the House in November for the Secretary of State’s statement on the Government’s new strategy to improve safety in NHS maternity services. Worrying about maternal safety, particularly of those who use the Horton General Hospital in my constituency, keeps me awake at night. Unfortunately, we all know that things can and do go wrong. Bereaved families deserve answers, and are often motivated by a burning desire to ensure that what happened to them will never happen to another family. At the moment, as we know, coroners in England do not have the power to investigate a stillbirth, yet in Northern Ireland, in 2013, the Court of Appeal held that coroners do have such a jurisdiction. I know, through talking to members of MBRRACE-UK—Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK—that in the vast majority of cases it will not be appropriate for a coroner to investigate a stillbirth. However, in the cases where relations with a hospital have broken down, where there is no faith in internal investigations or where there are wider learning points from a death, this may in a very small number of cases be appropriate.

In my previous career, I used to represent the Government in military inquests, and it strikes me that there is considerable potential for us to provide specialist training to a cadre of coroners brought in to deal with this extremely sensitive area, in much the way that we did having learnt from the introduction of inquests in military situations. I hope we can rely on our Ministers for joined-up, cross-departmental thinking as the work progresses. My hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham has kindly met me and Bliss in advance of today’s debate to scope out views. If this Bill progresses, I look forward to engaging with the review that will follow.

This is a sensible and humane Bill, which we, as a cross-party group of Members, should all unite behind. It merely aims to right long-standing anomalies in the law, and it is a real pleasure to support it.

1 2 3 15