Category Archives: Victoria in Parliament

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

VICTORIA CONFIRMS SUPPORT FOR ‘CONSERVATIVES FOR REFORM IN EUROPE’

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Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, writes about her support for ‘Conservatives for Reform in Europe’ ahead of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

As some of my constituents may already know, two weeks ago I signed a letter in the The Telegraph as a founding supporter of Conservatives for Reform in Europe (CRE). This group believes that it is in Britain’s national interest to remain a member of a reformed European Union. It is clear that there is a strong appetite for reforming our relationship with Europe, and I fully support the Prime Minister’s ongoing renegotiation efforts.

Yesterday the Prime Minister unveiled a draft of his proposed reforms to Britain’s membership of the EU. The proposals include exempting Britain from ever-closer union, protecting the UK from discrimination outside the Eurozone, returning power to national parliaments, and applying an immediate brake to benefit payments for EU migrants. These proposals address my key concerns about the EU.

The reforms are substantial and would redefine the UK’s relationship with Europe. I believe that a strong Britain in a reformed Europe would give us the best of both worlds. We would be outside the Euro and protected from deeper integration, but able to access the Single Market. We would remain in the world’s greatest trading bloc, but still be outside the Schengen area, and so able to maintain our borders.

It is for these reasons that I will be campaigning for Britain to remain a member of the EU in the upcoming referendum. I want to make it absolutely clear from the outset that I respect everyone’s views, on all sides of this debate.

It is important that the country engages in a thorough and courteous discussion about Britain’s relationship with Europe before the referendum. Once the date of the vote has been set, I will have the same right as every member of the electorate to decide the United Kingdom’s future. I sincerely hope that all of my constituents will engage in this process.

You can read the letter I signed in The Telegraph here.

Victoria Prentis MP (3 February 2016)

MP SPEAKS IN DEBATE ABOUT THE IRAQ HISTORICAL ALLEGATIONS TEAM

On Wednesday 27 January 2016, Victoria Prentis MP spoke in a Westminster Hall debate about the Iraq Historical Allegations Team (IHAT), which has recently come under considerable scrutiny. IHAT is an organisation set up to review and investigate allegations of abuse by UK armed forces personnel against Iraqi civilians during the period of 2003 to July 2009. The debate was secured by Richard Benyon MP, who served as an officer in the British Army for four years.

Contributing to the proceedings, Victoria called on her experience as head of the Ministry of Defence’s litigation team in the Treasury Solicitor’s Department. As a senior civil service lawyer, Victoria dealt with many of the IHAT cases during her career, and was closely involved in the planning and preparation of the Government’s response.

Victoria’s contribution was welcomed by several other speakers, including Tom Tugendhat MBE MP, and the Minister for the Armed Forces, Penny Mordaunt MP.

The full text of Victoria’s speech can be found below:

“I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Richard Benyon) for his kind words and for calling for the debate. I will try to reduce my speech in so far as I can, but these matters did concern me in my working life for many years. I was in charge of the MOD’s litigation team in Treasury Solicitor’s Department when the claims started flooding in in 2010. We faced a tsunami of litigation. I am not going to talk about individual cases, but I will give some recommendations from my experience.

First, IHAT was the least bad option available. The civil courts are not the place for criminal investigations to take place. Some of the claims made were very serious and needed to be investigated. IHAT is independent but secure. It is staffed by excellent officers who can investigate criminal allegations. Unlike the Baha Mousa inquiry, for example, they can refer cases to the Service Prosecuting Authority. Given where we are at the moment, IHAT should be encouraged to press on, but we should find new ways to deal with such issues in any future conflict.

Secondly, lawyers should not act without real clients with whom they are in touch and from whom they can take instructions. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!] If, for example, offers of settlement are made, it is essential that a lawyer can get in touch with their client immediately; anything less makes litigation impossible.

Thirdly, access by IHAT officers to the Iraqi complainant should have been provided with speed, but it was not. I can see no explanation for that at all. There is no need, nor is it usual in police investigations, for those who complain of a crime to be represented by a lawyer from the other side of the world.

Fourthly, our disclosure rules should not be used to pervert the course of litigation and push the Ministry of Defence into a position where it feels it cannot defend itself or its soldiers. Fifthly, I support scrutiny of whether legal aid should be available to non-UK nationals bringing action against the Government. That money, in my view, would be much better spent on rebuilding Iraq than on lawyers based in the UK.

Sixthly, I think the UK should derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights—I am certainly no anti-European—whenever we deploy soldiers abroad. The authors of the convention, who were writing at a time when the horror of the holocaust and the battlefield was still fresh, intended international humanitarian law to apply to soldiers. International humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict is robust law, designed for that very purpose; the ECHR is not.

In conclusion, we are not dealing in the main with the fog of the battlefield, but rather with the confusion of detention and interrogation. In Iraq, soldiers were detaining men who minutes before might have been shooting at them or killing their friends or who were believed to have had information that might have helped us to prevent further attacks on our troops. They were usually not in custody suites, offices or cells, and time for gathering information was perilously short. It was hot, everyone was armed, prisoners might have to be moved swiftly off a battlefield, and tempers sometimes frayed. 

It is of course never acceptable to breach International Humanitarian law, but minor mistreatment can and should be dealt with quickly and on site, via the chain of command.  More major and systemic breaches do need to be tackled at a higher level, but again as quickly as possible, so that lessons can be learnt.   Most importantly, we do not want our soldiers to feel they are in a position where they should take no prisoners.” (Victoria Prentis MP, 27 January 2016)

VICTORIA PRENTIS CONTRIBUTES TO COMMONS DEBATE ABOUT CENTRAL AND EAST AFRICA

 

The below account is taken from the House of Commons Hansard for 25 January 2016:

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow so many interesting and wide-ranging speeches and to take part in this debate secured by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sleaford and North Hykeham (Stephen Phillips), who ranged widely both geographically and over the issues in central and east Africa. I look forward to other opportunities for him to tell us about the countries he was not able to reach in his speech this evening.

Westminster Group, a British-based but internationally focused security group, has its headquarters in my constituency. The company is active in many parts of east Africa in providing security and safety services and solutions: its aim is to protect people, assets and infrastructure. It tells me that east Africa is a paradox. It is a region that has experienced impressive economic growth over the past decade, and yet one of the most high-conflict areas in the world. There is fighting across the region, with no-go areas for travellers, particularly westerners, in large areas of Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Piracy is a major worry in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian ocean. Widespread corruption and poor governance hold these countries and their people in a state of poverty, and, as we have heard, this fuels insurgency.

I would like, if I may, to focus on just one country in the region that nobody has yet touched on—South Sudan. It is a country with which Britain has old connections, but is also one of the very newest countries on our maps. It faces some of the oldest problems that have afflicted

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Africa. Since independence from Sudan, which it was given on 9 July 2011, South Sudan has struggled with enormous developmental challenges. Decades of war have left a legacy of chronic poverty, inequality, and limited capacity in infrastructure.

The first part of 2013 saw some initial progress, but this was soon reversed by the outbreak of yet more conflict. Since the start of the violence, thousands of people have been killed. Over 1 million have fled their homes, including to neighbouring countries. Despite the signing of a ceasefire, fighting has continued, and by April 2014, 4.9 million people were in urgent need of humanitarian aid. Despite the internationally mediated peace deal signed by President Salva Kiir in August last year, under which another rebel leader was returned as his vice-president, there have been continued delays in the formation of the transitional Government of national unity. My predecessor as Member for Banbury, who knows the area very well, spoke at length about this almost two years ago. It is very sad that so little progress has been made in the intervening period. There continue to be breaches of the ceasefire in the states of Unity and Upper Nile.

Just before I came into the Chamber to speak, I was told that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (James Duddridge), has today landed in Juba where, we hope, he will assist in the production of a new peace deal. I am sure that all Members of this House join me in wishing him and the people he is working with all the best in the next few days. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

One issue for humanitarian relief is that access is poor in many areas of South Sudan. As a result, almost 4 million people are facing severe food shortages—an 80% increase on this time last year. South Sudan is one area of the world where, because of instability, food production has actually fallen in the past 50 years. Starvation is endemic across the country, especially in the beleaguered Unity state. Like many Members, I am proud that the United Kingdom is playing a leading role in the humanitarian response to the current instability in South Sudan. We are the second largest bilateral donor. In 2014, we were one of the largest donors to the UN humanitarian appeal, which helped to avert famine and ensured that 3.5 million of the South Sudanese people were reached with life-saving assistance. We are obviously determined to do our bit to meet the challenge, but limited access for humanitarian workers, particularly in Unity state, has increased the problem of famine.

I hope that despite these challenges the Department for International Development, along with other parts of Government, will continue to look for ways in which we can help this area. If we do not, I fear that radicalisation and terrorism will grow, increasing the threat to the entire region and ultimately to us all. To secure long-term stability, it is important that South Sudan develops its infrastructure. Last year, the Prime Minister offered military engineering expertise to the South Sudanese Government to help with building bridges, roads and other key pieces of infrastructure.

This is also an opportunity for British businesses to link trade to aid to help stabilise the country. I would welcome assurances from the Minister that he will encourage UK Trade & Investment, our trade Ministers

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and our diplomatic teams to pay a great deal of attention to South Sudan. I wonder whether there might be some benefit to liaising closely with Africa House in London to see how British employers can better do business in the region. My hon. Friend the Member for Tewkesbury (Mr Robertson) runs Westminster Africa Business Group, which looks at how closer links could be forged. Let us hope that the new chapter in the history of South Sudan is a more productive one.

VICTORIA speaks for constituents in HS2 Select Committee

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Victoria Prentis, MP for North Oxfordshire, addressed the HS2 Select Committee today and asked that HS2 Ltd pay attention to the important concerns of constituents.

Victoria was able to present the petition submitted by previous MP, Sir Tony Baldry, and to add to it considerably. She told the Committee that she was concerned by a lack of communication from HS2 Ltd; and disappointed that accurate data to enable planning is not always provided in a timely fashion.

She raised considerable concerns over traffic in Banbury, and how there were no real figures available to understand the impact on Junction 11 of the M40 and roads such as Hennef Way.

Victoria highlighted issues in Wardington, explaining that the village would suffer from the regular HGV traffic through its centre. Local people would then use roads through Williamscot, Cropredy, Great Bourton and Little Bourton, to avoid the additional traffic on the A361.  Specifically, she asked that the large amount of spoil which HS2 Ltd are planning to drive through the area, instead be taken up the line itself on a specially constructed road.

Finally, Victoria took the opportunity to highlight the concerns of Mixbury.  She said how important the countryside is to all of us, and asked for a noise barrier along the Mossy Bank bridleway.

Speaking after her presentation, Victoria said “I was very grateful for the opportunity to stand up for North Oxfordshire. I made very clear to those present that transport was already a problem – and showed them last week’s Banbury Guardian in order to confirm it.

I was very pleased that the HS2 Ltd’s Counsel advised that they would be producing illustrative plans for Mixbury with greater detail of the proposed mitigation.  I pushed for changes to HGV movements around junction 11 and on the A361 too, and hope that HS2 vehicle numbers will be severely restricted, and stopped on Saturdays.

I have stressed the need for open and regular communication between HS2 Ltd and the constituency, and will continue to represent constituents’ views.”

NORTH OXFORDSHIRE MP WRITES TO SECRETARY OF STATE REGARDING JUNIOR DOCTORS’ CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS

Local MP, Victoria Prentis, has written to Rt. Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP, the Secretary of State for Health, to flag up concerns expressed by a number of junior doctors in her constituency about their contract negotiations.

In particular, Victoria emphasised that there appeared to be three specific areas of contention: the expansion of standard working hours, pay proposals, and arrangements post-2019 when the Pay Protection Bonus expires.

Victoria said: “I was very pleased to hear negotiations over junior doctors’ contracts had re-started. Last week, I sought to get in touch with some of those junior doctors who had previously contacted me about this issue. I was keen to understand directly from them what they perceive to be the outstanding issues.

I received a number of considered responses. All of them made it very clear that their principle concern is for their patients; the doctors would not be considering industrial action unless it was absolutely necessary. I was grateful for an insight into the outstanding issues and found the real life examples very helpful in explaining what is an extremely complex issue.

I am convinced that progress needs to be made. I know that the Secretary of State shares my concerns; I hope the comments of my constituents will be helpful and have asked that they are fed into further discussions.

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