Category Archives: Victoria in Parliament

VICTORIA SPEAKS IN DEBATE ON THE INVESTIGATORY POWERS BILL

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On Tuesday 15 March, Victoria Prentis MP spoke in the Commons debate at the Second Reading of the government’s Investigatory Powers Bill. The Bill, introduced by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, aims to reform the powers afforded to the UK’s crime, security and intelligence agencies. Victoria, who led the Justice and Security team in the Treasury Solicitor’s Department before her election to Parliament, called on her experience while speaking in favour of the Bill.

The House of Commons voted by 281 votes to 15 to proceed with the Bill. The Bill will now be considered by a Public Bill Committee, which is expected to hold oral evidence sessions on Thursday 24 March.

The text of Victoria’s speech can be seen below.

The below account is taken from the House of Commons Hansard for 15 March 2016:

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): Frankly, I struggled with the intricacies of RIPA and the other relevant legislation in my many years as a Government lawyer. I was, therefore, pleased and, indeed, excited to hear that previously almost impenetrable legislation was going to be consolidated into a new, easy to understand Bill, fit for the modern age.

When I read the draft Bill, I had concerns. I felt that greater judicial oversight was needed and that specialist groups, such as lawyers, journalists and, indeed, Members of this House, needed further protection. I read the Committee reports with interest and I was very much heartened to read the new Bill, which was produced following a large amount of scrutiny.

I feel that the double lock is a safe one. Assessing applications does and will undoubtedly take up a great deal of the Home Secretary’s time, but it is time well spent. It means that she is up to date with the details of real investigations in a way that few of her counterparts abroad can ever hope to be. It keeps her finger on the pulse. These are both political and judicial decisions; the fact that bulk warrants will come into force only once they have been authorised by the Secretary of State and approved by the Judicial Commissioner seems to be the very best of both worlds. Effectively, we are talking about judicial review with bells and whistles on, as Lord Judge informed the Committee, in every single case.

I was also pleased to read about the new protections afforded to those who provide information to sensitive persons—I hesitate to call lawyers and politicians sensitive, but perhaps those who provide us with information may be so described. The exemption is specially related to journalist sources.

I have been surprised by the openness of the Department in publishing the supporting material for this Bill. It is brave—I use that word as a long-term civil servant—of the Government to have published codes of practice complete with examples, and indeed the operational case for assessing internet connection records. It means that we can have a really informed debate today. I have presented cases where the security services, the police and the Ministry of Defence have analysed very large quantities of data. Although not very technically able myself, I did have to learn a certain amount about the search engines, which were designed to interrogate this material. I was reassured and, in turn, was able to reassure judges and Queen’s Bench Masters that the material on which important decisions were made was as complete as possible. The ability to collect bulk data is essential. The new Bill will help to ensure that there is no credibility gap in the balance between keeping us safe and protecting our rights to privacy. As important as pinpointing what information Government can obtain is deciding what can be done with it once it is gathered. This is where the important ethical debate should focus.

Last week the Justice Committee was fortunate to interview the President of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City. He told us about new techniques to reduce crime by interrogating openly available material. Discussions now need to focus on whether we should

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interrogate social media to decide on a person’s propensity to commit crime or have drug addiction problems in the future.

I hope that the new IP commissioner will be a strong voice in the debates that lie ahead, and that he will be able to add a sensible and independent viewpoint to both the media and this House. Getting the balance right will always be a challenge, but I welcome the transparent approach of the Home Secretary and her team in presenting us with the Bill in its current form.

MP ENCOURAGES PEOPLE TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE REGISTERED TO VOTE

Victoria Prentis MP is encouraging constituents to check that they are registered to vote in elections.

In 2014 the government introduced Individual Electoral Registration (IER) to replace the outdated whole household registration system. This means each individual is given control over their own registration, which can be done online.

In July 2015, it was reported that over 10 million people had registered with IER, and 77% of those registrations were done online.

Victoria commented, “Voting is our democratic right and everyone who is entitled to vote should be able to. This year is a very important year in terms of democracy, locally and nationally. Cherwell District Council has all-out local elections following boundary changes, and Parish and Town Council elections will take place in some locations across the constituency, including Banbury. On 23rd June we will have the opportunity to vote on whether or not we remain a member of the European Union.

“Everyone should be able to use their democratic right to vote for who they would like to represent them. I would encourage everyone to check that they are registered, and to get in touch with Cherwell District Council if they have any concerns on 01295 227005. I understand that some addresses on new build estates in particular are experiencing difficulties registering to vote.”

VICTORIA WELCOMES SCHOOLS TO PARLIAMENT

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Since her election, Victoria Prentis MP has welcomed pupils and students from many of North Oxfordshire’s schools to Parliament.

Engaging young people in politics has been a priority of Victoria’s since her election. So far as is possible, she spends time with every group of young people that visits Westminster. Pupils have the opportunity to ask Victoria questions about her work and opinions, and hear first-hand about her experiences.

Visiting students spend time at the Palace’s new Parliamentary Education Centre, which contains a wide range of resources to help educate young people about the work of the UK Parliament. Experts from Parliament’s Education Service lead discussions about the machinery of modern British politics, and help pupils to understand the evolution of the relationship between the Sovereign, Lords and Commons. Visiting groups also receive a tour of Parliament, and have the opportunity to watch live debates if one of the houses is sitting at the time.

Recent schools to visit include The Cooper School, North Oxfordshire Academy and Bloxham Primary School. Many secondary schools arrange annual visits to Parliament for their Politics, Law and History students.

Schools that wish to organise a visit to Parliament should contact Parliament’s Education Service by visiting their website.

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Victoria Prentis MP speaks to visiting students from North Oxfordshire Academy, Banbury, in Parliament’s Education Centre.

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Victoria takes questions from students of The Cooper School, Bicester, at the Education Centre.

VICTORIA CALLS ON THE PRIME MINISTER TO ENSURE VOTES FOR TROOPS

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Conservative MPs Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Tom Tugendhat MBE, James Cleverly and Victoria Prentis have joined forces to ask the Prime Minister to ensure Armed Forces personnel get a say in the EU referendum on 23 June.

The letter followed Anne-Marie Trevelyan’s intervention during the Prime Minister’s EU statement to the House on Monday. The MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed – who is also Chairman of the APPG Armed Forces Covenant – sought assurances from the Prime Minister that service personnel would be entitled to a vote and receive ballot papers in good time. In his response, the Rt. Hon. David Cameron MP said that “there is plenty of time to put in place the arrangements that she seeks”.

In their subsequent letter, the MPs emphasised that the Armed Forces, particularly those posted overseas, should be able to participate in a referendum that will significantly shape the future of the country they serve. They reiterated that Armed Forces and their families should not be disadvantaged for their service

While the MPs asked for a commitment from the Government that resources would be invested in exploring available options, they suggested that a one-off electoral mechanism could be administered by the chain of command. They reminded the Prime Minister of the Government’s ongoing commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant, and took the opportunity to ask for a commitment to investigate the ability of military personnel to vote in future elections. A copy of the letter was sent to the Secretary of State for Defence and the Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission. Victoria also raised the issue with the Defence Secretary during oral questions in the House of Commons on Monday 29 February.

Victoria commented, “I was delighted to put my name to this letter and to raise this on the floor of the House during Defence Questions on Monday afternoon. The EU referendum will be a defining moment in our country’s history, and it is vital that as many people as possible cast a vote on 23 June. I believe it is especially important that those who are serving our country away from home are given the opportunity to participate in the democratic system that they defend.

“I am aware that Armed Forces personnel serving abroad have sometimes been unable to cast a vote in previous elections. I very much hope that any new system introduced for the EU referendum can be used in future elections as well.” 

MP PLAYS KEY ROLE APPROVING REFERENDUM DATE STATUTORY INSTRUMENT

 

Victoria Prentis MP hails “historic moment”.

Yesterday afternoon, North Oxfordshire MP, Victoria Prentis helped approve a statutory instrument setting the date of the EU referendum for Thursday 23 June 2016.

Statutory instruments are a form of legislation which allow the provision of an Act of Parliament to be brought into effect or altered, without an entirely new Act of Parliament. Victoria sits on the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, which considers statutory instruments before the House every sitting Wednesday.

Speaking after the meeting, Victoria said, “I was really pleased to have the opportunity to scrutinise and approve this statutory instrument. We consider a variety of statutory instruments every week and have made some important decisions over recent months. None have been quite as significant as the decision we had in front of us today. It was a historic moment. As an affirmative statutory instrument, it must now go before both Houses of Parliament for approval. Those debates will take place shortly.

MP WELCOMES “POSITIVE STEPS” AFTER RELEASE OF HS2 SELECT COMMITTEE REPORT

North Oxfordshire MP, Victoria Prentis, has welcomed the report from the HS2 Select Committee, published yesterday, which made a number of recommendations following her petition.

Victoria appeared before the HS2 Select Committee on 19 January and highlighted issues across her constituency. She drew specific attention to traffic concerns for Banbury, and other problems for villages including Wardington, Mixbury, Newton Purcell, and Finmere.

The report recommends that HS2 Ltd work closely with the village of Wardington to help address lorry movements and traffic. In particular, it says that Wardington “would struggle to cope with the currently proposed HGV movements” and urges “the Promoter [HS2 Ltd] to assist in finding ways to address matters.”

When referring to Mixbury, the Committee acknowledge how quiet the village is, and how HS2 would affect the use of bridleways in the area. The report said HS2 Ltd needed to work with those in the local area “for provision of greater barrier protection in the vicinity of the bridleway crossing.”

After reading the report, Victoria commented: “I think positive steps have been taken to address the points I raised with the Committee. I am very pleased that the Select Committee has listened to those concerns.

“What is crucial now is to ensure these are fully actioned by HS2 Ltd. I will carefully monitor the progress of HS2 Ltd’s plans, and will do my best to ensure that the Committee’s report is adhered to.”

 

The full report from the HS2 Select Committee can be found here (information regarding North Oxfordshire can be found on page 30).

MP COMMENTS ON ADDITIONAL FUNDING FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENT

North Oxfordshire MP, Victoria Prentis has welcomed additional transitional grant funding from central government as part of the Local Government Financial Settlement.

On 8 February, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government announced extra funding to help ease the pace of reductions during the first two years of the settlement. As a result, Oxfordshire will receive an additional £4.45 million in 2016/17 and £4.46 million in 2017/18.

Alongside the additional funding, the Rt. Hon. Greg Clark MP announced a Fair Funding Review. The review will consider the appropriate funding needs of different types of areas, particularly in light of demographic pressures and the associated costs of providing services.

The Report on Local Government Finance 2016/17 was approved by the House of Commons in a vote on Wednesday evening.

Speaking afterwards, Victoria Prentis said, “I was pleased that the Secretary of State listened to representations made by MPs, including myself, over recent months. My colleagues and I have made it clear to him that the funding formula, as it stands, disadvantages local authorities, including Oxfordshire County Council. It is not fair. A thorough review of what the needs assessment formula should include is a step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the additional funding over the next two years is welcome news for Oxfordshire. I know that the County Council is looking closely at how they will use the extra money. I will continue to make it clear to them that everything must be done to protect frontline services. I look forward to hearing about their plans when they are set out shortly.”

LOCAL MP WELCOMES WRAP TO WESTMINSTER

North Oxfordshire MP, Victoria Prentis, welcomed Banbury-based Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to Westminster last week.

Alongside an exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall of the Houses of Parliament, WRAP UK held a reception in a function room by the River Thames to give MPs and peers the opportunity to find out more about their work.

In particular, the exhibition focused on what businesses and individuals could be doing to move away from the old-style ‘design, make, use and discard’ model of the linear economy towards a more resource efficient, circular economy. In 2014, 525 people were employed in jobs relating to the circular economy in North Oxfordshire. Based on forecasts, WRAP predicts this to increase to 716 jobs by 2030.

Victoria Prentis said, “I was really pleased to welcome WRAP UK to Westminster this week, particularly as we have been hearing so much about wonky vegetables and misshapen fruit recently. Food waste and what we can do to prevent it, is a very important issue. It is also essential that we do all we can to improve resource efficiency and move towards a more circular economy, where products are kept in use for longer, and less material is wasted.

WRAP used the Upper Waiting Hall exhibition space so creatively. I know many of my colleagues appreciated the opportunity to find out more about the circular economy in their own constituencies and what they could be doing to prevent food waste and encourage recycling.

Dr Liz Goodwin, CEO of WRAP UK said, “I was delighted to have the opportunity to have an exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall. It allowed us to talk to MPs, peers and others in Westminster about important areas of our work – reducing food waste, getting greater consistency in household collections and the potential for job creation from the UK economy becoming more circular.

“Victoria gave us great support throughout the week, despite her busy schedule, and we look forward to continuing to work with her in future to push the agenda forward.”

Victoria supports Homes for Heroes Foundation launch in Parliament

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On Tuesday 10 February 2016, Victoria Prentis MP attended the launch of the Homes for Heroes Foundation at the Houses of Parliament. The new cross-party body aims to help tackle housing problems faced by ex-service personnel. In the presence of dozens of Members of Parliament, the Homes for Heroes Foundation was launched by former Housing Minister Grant Shapps MP, Jake Berry MP and General Lord Richards, the former Chief of the Defence Staff.

Today, many soldiers leave the armed forces after years of serving their country around the world and face an uphill battle to find a home for themselves and their families. There may be several reasons for this: some veterans suffer permanent physical injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder; others are healthy in body and spirit but have sacrificed the ability to put down roots, whilst serving abroad.

The inspiration for this foundation is the upcoming centenary of the Housing Act 1919 where Prime Minister David Lloyd George promised ‘homes fit for heroes’ for soldiers who had returned from the battlefield of Europe.

The goal of the Foundation is to update Lloyd George’s vision for the 21st Century so that Britain has the finest housing package for returning armed forces of any country in the world. Over the course of this Parliament, the Homes for Heroes Foundation plans a programme of research to guide the housing policy objectives and to get a better deal for veterans.

At the well attended launch there were representatives from armed forces charities, housebuilders, housing associations, local authorities and also parliamentary colleagues.

Victoria Prentis MP said, “I was so glad to be able to be at the launch of this brilliant new organisation. After their selfless service to our country, making sure that veterans have a home to come back to is the least we can do.

 

VICTORIA PRENTIS ORGANISES PARLIAMENTARY LAUNCH OF ‘CLEAN FOR THE QUEEN’

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On the evening of Tuesday 9 February 2016, Victoria Prentis MP attended the Parliamentary launch of Clean for The Queen – a national campaign to tidy up the UK in time for Her Majesty The Queen’s 90th birthday in April.

The event was arranged and led by Victoria, who has been promoting the campaign among her colleagues at Westminster. It was attended by over 70 Members of Parliament, including Government ministers such as Michael Gove, Amber Rudd, Rory Stewart OBE (the ‘Litter Tsar’), and Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

Those attending had the opportunity to meet the initiative’s organisers, including the Campaign Director, Adrian Evans, and Allison Ogden-Newton, the Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy.

Many MPs are already busy organising events in their constituencies, and Victoria is encouraging groups and individuals in North Oxfordshire to come together to help tidy up their community. On Friday 22 January, Victoria launched ‘Clean for The Queen’ in North Oxfordshire at Spiceball Park in Banbury, alongside Councillor Kieron Mallon. She has also written to every school in the constituency to encourage them to take part.

Speaking after the event at Westminster, Victoria said, “It was brilliant to see so many of my colleagues coming together to launch this campaign at Parliament. It was also great fun, and everyone looked fantastic in their t-shirts and high-vis jackets!

“I’m thrilled that so many events are being organised across Britain, including in North Oxfordshire. Although the big litter pick will take place over 4, 5 and 6 March, people can get involved whenever they like. It is the support and action people are taking, and not the dates, which are important. I really hope more people in my constituency will consider getting involved so together we can help mark the Queen’s 90th birthday.”

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Victoria Prentis MP with Adrian Evans, Campaign Director of Clean for The Queen

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