Category Archives: Victoria in Parliament

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP CONTRIBUTES TO DEBATE ON THE PRISONS AND COURTS BILL

On 20 March, Victoria Prentis MP spoke in the Second Reading debate on the Prisons and Courts Bill. The legislation introduces a range of measures aimed at enhancing prison safety, improving access to justice, and protecting victims and the vulnerable. Victoria’s speech focused on the clauses relating to prisons, given her role on the Justice Committee and their ongoing inquiry into prison reform. She emphasised that the Bill was ‘a note of hope in the fairly dark places that are our prisons’ and found proposals to make prisons places of rehabilitation encouraging.

Turning her attention to specific clauses of the Bill, Victoria welcomed increased autonomy for prison governors; measures to crack down on illegal mobile telephone use, and enhanced powers for prison officers to test for new drugs.

During the course of the debate, Victoria said: “Truthfully, much good work has been done by those in the sector for many years to stop prisons simply warehousing offenders. It is still welcome, however, that the provisions included in clause 1 establish for the first time a much broader statutory purpose. It emphasises reforming and rehabilitating offenders, preparing prisoners for life outside prison, and maintaining an environment that is safe and secure. It is clear and unequivocal in its purpose, and provides a point of focus for all who work in the prison community. The Minister will have noted the considerable pressure from Members on both sides of the House during the course of the debate to incorporate mental health on the face of the Bill.”

Victoria also managed to make some interventions during the debate, one of which focused on the families of offenders. She pointed out that a staggering 63 per cent of children of prisoners grow up to offend and asked the Secretary of State for Justice for reassurances that she will do all that she can to reduce this number. In her response, the Rt Hon Liz Truss MP confirmed that she would protect schemes that create the right culture and atmosphere in prison, and help maintain positive links between imprisoned parents and their children.

Speaking afterwards, Victoria commented: “This is a long overdue piece of legislation that is welcome in both its scope and content. Ensuring our prisons are places of rehabilitation to reduce offending rates is really important. We must also do all that we can to make our prisons safer, particularly given recent disturbances. I look forward to following the Bill’s progress through Parliament, and hope to see its measures implemented soon.”

You can find the full transcript of the debate here. You can find more information about the Prisons and Courts Bill here.

VICTORIA PRENTIS JOINS FELLOW FEMALE MPS TO MARK INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

170308 Women in Parliament

Victoria Prentis MP was delighted to join her parliamentary colleagues for a special photo on International Women’s Day to mark the first time the total number of female MPs ever elected has exceeded the number of male MPs currently sitting in the House of Commons.

Victoria commented: ‘I was so pleased to join fellow female MPs to mark this important milestone; seeing so many inspirational women come together on International Women’s Day was a very special moment. My thanks go to Jo Churchill MP for organising the photo in Parliament. I hope that one day we will get the opportunity to mark equal numbers of men and women in the Commons.’

LOCAL MP VICTORIA PRENTIS CALLS FOR INCREASED AWARENESS OF RISK OF SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME

North Oxfordshire MP and Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss, Victoria Prentis, has joined The Lullaby Trust in urging local authorities to ensure health professionals in the South East receive the training and support they need to deliver safer sleep messages to all families. The call comes as part of Safer Sleep Week, the charity’s national campaign to raise awareness of SIDS (often referred to as cot death) and the lifesaving advice that parents can follow to reduce the risk of it occurring.

The national survey commissioned by charity The Lullaby Trust, found that 61% of parents in the South East are unsure of one of the most fundamental steps to reduce the risk of SIDS: ensuring a baby sleeps on its back. Evidence shows that babies who are on their back for every sleep are 6 times less likely to die from SIDS than those who sleep on their front or side.

The survey shows 36% of South Eastern parents are unsure whether they can sleep a baby on their front and a staggering 61% are unsure whether to sleep a baby on their side.

According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, while the overall SIDS rates in 2014 for England and Wales showed a 17% decline since 2013 and a 39% overall decline since 2004, the rate in the South East has fallen by an impressive 45% since 2004 and is lower than the national average.

Victoria Prentis said: “While considerable progress has been made over recent years, more can and should be done. Health professionals and family workers play an important role in providing advice to new parents on how their baby should sleep safely. It is essential that they receive the training and support to continue this vital work.”

Francine Bates Chief Executive of The Lullaby Trust, whose aim is to halve the number of babies who die from SIDS to below 150 said: “The results of this survey suggest that although we’ve come a long way in reducing SIDS rates, more needs to be done to ensure that all parents and carers in the South East know the basics of safer sleep. The Lullaby Trust provides training for around 3,500 health care professionals each year and calls on local authorities to ensure that safer sleep messages consistently reach all families, helping  to prevent avoidable deaths now and in the future.”

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP ASKS PRIME MINISTER TO CARRY OUT SAFETY REVIEW INTO MATERNITY SERVICES

PMQ 1 March 2017 Cropped (1)

During Prime Minister’s Questions on 1 March 2017, Victoria Prentis, the Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, asked the Prime Minister to carry out a review into NHS maternity services to ensure that they are safe, kind and close to home.

Victoria asked: “When I was canvassing in Copeland recently, people there wanted to talk about the future of their local maternity unit; it was just like being at home in Banbury. Rather than politicise the NHS, would the Prime Minister agree to a review of maternity services, encouraging care that is not just safe but kind and close to home?”

In her response, the Prime Minister said: “A professionally led review [into recruitment issues surrounding maternity units] seems very sensible, and I know that the Health Minister is looking into it.”

Many have raised concerns about the safety of maternity services in Oxfordshire, particularly for mothers and babies in and around Banbury. Following the temporary downgrade of maternity at the Horton General Hospital, expectant mothers whose pregnancies are considered high-risk are having to make the long journey into Oxford for their maternity care. The decision temporarily to withdraw consultant-led services was taken following issues with the recruitment of middle-grade obstetric doctors.

After her question, Victoria commented: “Unless mothers are able and willing to deliver in a Midwife Led Unit, those in and around Banbury are having to drive around thirty miles, often in heavy traffic, to reach their nearest obstetric unit. It is simply not acceptable and more needs to be done to recruit the doctors we need.

I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Department for Health and local organisations to ensure that we are working to tackle both national and local recruitment issues.”

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP CALLS FOR CCG TO HALT CONSULTATION PROCESS

Consultation meeting 26 Jan 17 Cropped

On 27 February 2017, Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, spoke in a Health and Social Care debate in the House of Commons.

Victoria has been in discussion with a number of her Westminster colleagues to express concerns about the quality of the current consultation in Oxfordshire. She has raised particular worries about the impact of the proposals on the Horton General Hospital, and the content of the consultation documents.

Leading the debate, Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, outlined concerns about the financial position of health and social care matters, and the impact of the current financial situation on patient care.

During the debate, Victoria was able to express her concerns surrounding the Horton General Hospital and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) ongoing consultation process and stated: I thank my hon. Friend for listening to me on a number of occasions when I have been worried about the situation in Horton General Hospital. She has been kind enough to talk me through some options. One of the difficulties with the consultation process is that lay people—of whom I am one—are not given sufficient evidence to enable them fully to engage with the system and to have trust in the trusts that are seeking to engage them.”

In response, Dr Wollaston commented that: “It is important that this evidence is available not just to us, but to the local community. There should also be a sense that consultations are a genuine process.”

Victoria is now calling on the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to halt Phase One of the consultation, in order to give the people of Oxfordshire a true say on the future of local NHS Services. She commented: “It is clear from my own research, and the discussions that I have had with colleagues, that the current consultation process, commissioned by our CCG is not good enough. We are not being provided will the full picture, and I am deeply concerned about the future of the Horton and other vital health services.

This consultation is, in my view, fatally flawed. True consultation involves offering options on which the consultees can comment having seen the evidence they need to make informed choices. This is not the case here. The Oxfordshire CCG must pause their consultation until they are ready to consult on all health services, together. Safety of patients should be paramount. Splitting the consultation, does not give us a sense that it is a genuine process, and it must be stopped.”

VICTORIA SPEAKS IN DWP QUESTIONS

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): “What steps the Government are taking to support the self-employed.”

The Minister for Employment (Damian Hinds): “We are building on the success of the new enterprise allowance. From April 2017, eligibility will be extended to include universal credit claimants who are already self-employed.”

Victoria Prentis: “There are 40 new businesses in Banbury currently supported by the new enterprise allowance, with about 100 more going through the developmental stage. Can the Minister reassure us that the programme is not just there to set up new businesses, but to enable them to grow?”

Damian Hinds: “Absolutely. The 40 new businesses in Banbury are a great example of what the NEA can do. In phase 2, we are introducing additional features to continue to promote sustained success in self-employment, including extending the mentoring period and ensuring there is a pre-workshop to outline the responsibilities and realities of being self-employed.”

The above account has been taken from the office House of Commons Hansard for 20 February 2017. 

MP ENCOURAGES COMMUNITIES TO GET BEHIND “THE GREAT BRITISH SPRING CLEAN”

Victoria Prentis and Allison Ogden-Newton Cropped

Local MP, Victoria Prentis, organised the campaign’s Parliamentary launch and is calling on schools, businesses and community groups to get outdoors, get active and help clear up North Oxfordshire.

“The Great British Spring Clean” follows on from last year’s very successful “Clean for The Queen” campaign and brings together many of the anti-litter organisations in the UK. Costa Coffee, McDonald’s and LIDL are just a few of the companies also supporting the initiative.

Community groups including parish councils, residents’ associations, Girl Guides and brownies and Scout and Cub troops are encouraged to organise their own litter pick or event in the coming weeks or over the campaign’s big clean weekend over 3-5 March.

Victoria said, “Since coordinating the Parliamentary campaign for Clean for The Queen last year, litter has become something of an obsession. I was therefore really keen to help Keep Britain Tidy with this year’s initiative “The Great British Spring Clean”. We should do all we can to encourage people to go out and clean up their communities. The initiative also provides a useful opportunity to raise awareness of the problems litter causes. I am really hoping people in North Oxfordshire will get behind the campaign and was delighted to see so many of my colleagues at the launch. If you are planning your own event locally, please do get in touch. You can also register a clean-up on the campaign’s website where there are also a lot of useful downloadable resources.

Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive, Allison Ogden-Newton, commented, “It was fantastic to see Victoria support our campaign. The Great British Spring Clean is about getting all Britons who care about their environment to take action and I’m looking forward to seeing lots of people out and about, contributing to cleaning up their communities on 3rd 4th and 5th of March.”

Victoria Prentis (2)

Victoria at the Parliamentary launch of “The Great British Spring Clean” on 31 January 2017.

MP SAYS SHE WILL VOTE TO TRIGGER ARTICLE 50

Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, has said that she will support the ‘Withdrawal from the European Union (Article 50) Bill 2016-17’ and vote to trigger Article 50 tonight.

While I voted Remain at the referendum, I think it is important that we now respect both electorate’s vote and the Supreme Court’s ruling. My constituency voted to leave the EU, with an above average turnout at 75.7 per cent. In the nation as a whole, 1,269,501 more people voted to leave than voted to remain. Even if a small minority of those who voted to leave regret doing so now – and I have seen little evidence of this locally – we cannot ignore the wishes of the majority. Moreover, I believe in our democracy, and not just when it accords with my own views. Brexit will happen, and I will vote today in support of Article 50.

Once the Prime Minister has invoked Article 50, we will begin our formal negotiations to leave the European Union. Nobody should believe that the negotiation process will be brief or straightforward – I certainly don’t. It is going to require significant expertise and a consistent approach. Regaining more control of the number of people who come here from Europe, while also allowing British companies to trade with the single market in goods and services, must be a priority. The ability to trade with EU member states is also vital to our prosperity. The Prime Minister made this clear in her recent speech at Lancaster House, during which she outlined twelve objectives that will guide the Government through the negotiations. A white paper will also be published shortly, which I will look at closely. It is essential that we get the best deal possible, and make the most of this opportunity. We must get it right.

Some of my constituents have raised their concerns about the advisory nature of last June’s referendum. While the vote was, legally-speaking, advisory, the Government made it very clear before 23 June that it would respect the result. The leaders of both campaigns also made this point. On 25 February 2016, the former Foreign Secretary (now Chancellor of the Exchequer) stated to the House of Commons:

“Leave means leave, and a vote to leave will trigger a notice under Article 50. To do otherwise in the event of a vote to leave would represent a complete disregard of the will of the people. No individual, no matter how charismatic or prominent, has the right or the power to redefine unilaterally the meaning of the question on the ballot paper. The Government’s position is that the referendum is an advisory one, but the Government will regard themselves as being bound by the decision of the referendum and will proceed with serving an Article 50 notice.”

I know that a significant minority of my constituents will find my stance disappointing. There will be a great deal of debating in the next few weeks, so if you have any specific points you would like me to make, do let me know by email and I will pass them on to the Government for their consideration.

Victoria Prentis MP (1 February 2017)

Victoria welcomes progress of Homelessness Reduction Bill

Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, has welcomed the progress of the Homelessness Reduction Bill, which passed its Third Reading in the House of Commons on Friday 27 January. The Bill, which seeks to reduce and prevent homelessness, can now proceed to the House of Lords after receiving cross-party backing in the Commons.

The Homelessness Reduction Bill aims to reduce homelessness by placing extra duties on councils to intervene at an earlier stage with households at risk of homelessness. It also provides for more detailed advice on housing options for those facing problems, and makes it easier for homeless applicants to appeal a decision against them.

Speaking in the debate on Friday, Victoria made reference to the successful steps taken by Cherwell District Council and local charities like Banbury Young Homelessness Project (BYHP) and the Beacon Centre to reduce rough sleeping in North Oxfordshire by 20%. Victoria, who sits on the Justice Select Committee, also spoke about the importance of dealing with the link between imprisonment and homelessness.

Commenting after the Commons’ vote on Friday, Victoria said, “The cross-party support from MPs makes it clear that there is a real commitment to change how we deal with homelessness in this country. This Bill does not have all the answers, but if it becomes law it will go a long way to ensuring fewer people in Oxfordshire and elsewhere become homeless. I pay tribute to my colleague Bob Blackman MP, as well as all those on the Bill’s Committee who have worked so hard to get the legislation to where it is now”.

I welcome the Bill’s provisions to end the post code lottery service for those facing homelessness. A change in the law will also enable brilliant local charities like Banbury Young Homelessness Project (BYHP) to have more time to help people, rather than fight the system.”

The Homelessness Reduction Bill has received the backing of the Government, which has committed funding so that the law’s provisions can be implemented. It will now go to the House of Lords for consideration.

The full text of Victoria’s speech in the Commons can be found here.

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP WELCOMES INCREASED SENTENCES FOR STALKING OFFENCES

North Oxfordshire MP, Victoria Prentis, has welcomed an announcement by the Ministry of Justice which will see the doubling of maximum prison sentences for stalking offences. The move follows a long campaign led by fellow Conservative MP, Alex Chalk, which Victoria had also lent her support to by signing an amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill.

Those convicted of stalking offences will now face a maximum prison sentence of between seven and fourteen years. Ministers are planning to implement the change through the amendment to the Policing and Crime Bill tabled by Alex Chalk MP, which will also make it possible for the courts to impose longer sentences in the most serious cases. Alongside these measures, the Ministry of Justice has recently implemented Stalker Protection Orders to help keep victims safe.

The Government hopes the plans will ensure the punishment reflects the severity of the crime and its damaging consequences on victims. It is expected that the changes will protect victims for a longer period of time.

Following the announcement, Victoria commented: “I very much welcome an increase in prison sentences for stalking offences. Stalking can have devastating consequences on the lives of victims. I have heard of numerous accounts of terrifying campaigns of abuse that can last years, leaving sufferers too afraid to leave the security of their home.

I do hope that, through these changes, victims can feel protected by our justice system, enabling them to rebuild their lives.”

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