Category Archives: Victoria in Parliament


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)



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

25 Jan 2016 : Column 105

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

25 Jan 2016 : Column 106

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

HS2_classic_network Cropped

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.”


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.

MP highlights Syrian refugee plight, and Singing for Syrians support

Victoria Prentis has praised the Government and its commitment to support Syrian refugees in countries neighbouring Syria.

Victoria spoke during the Foreign and Commonwealth Office questions in Westminster on Tuesday morning. She asked the Secretary of State: “What diplomatic support the Government is providing to the countries surrounding Syria to help displaced people.”

Secretary of State, Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, explained that the UK was the second largest donor supporting Syrian refugees in the region.

As part of her supplementary question, Victoria praised those who had found ways to support refugees who had been displaced to countries surrounding Syria, including through the Singing for Syrians campaign that she led. She asked: “Does my Rt Hon Friend agree that the UK can be proud of this response to the UN appeal for aid for those suffering in Syria. Including, if I may say so with you in the chair Mr Speaker, the response of many members of this house – including yourself – to my own Singing for Syrians initiative. Does he agree that other countries should follow our lead?”

The Secretary of State responded, “I very much welcome my Honourable friend’s Singing for Syrians initiative. That, and initiatives like it, show an extraordinary solidarity with Syrian refugees.”

Speaking later than day, Victoria commented, “I was blown away by the level of support shown for the Singing for Syrians campaign, and know it will be an even stronger campaign this year. I loved being able to attend the Banbury Choral Society concert in Banbury, and hear about the five events organised in Steeple Aston! Many villages organised their own events. Local businesses including Brita, Bicester Village, and Dorchester Group, have all made substantial donations. North Oxfordshire really has been very generous with its time and donations, and I am very much hoping that we hit the £100,000 mark.”

“It is right that we do what we can to support those in need. The money I have raised goes directly to pay for the medical teams in Aleppo. I am proud of the government’s record in getting aid to those who need it most.”


On Monday evening, North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis spoke in a debate on Local Government funding. The debate, which was initiated by Conservative MP Graham Stuart, aimed to highlight disparities in local government funding for rural areas compared to urban areas.

Intervening during Graham Stuart’s opening speech, Victoria said:

I do not represent some rural idyll. I represent two large and growing towns, Banbury and Bicester. I feel particularly strongly about the fact that because of the shortfall in local Government funding my council is having to make some very difficult funding decisions that will affect areas of real deprivation. They will affect, for instance, children’s centres and health and wellbeing centres…that is a worry”.

Speaking after the debate, Victoria added:

Local Government funding is an extremely important issue for North Oxfordshire at the moment. I have visited a number of Children’s Centres and taken representatives from the County Council with me. It is important to see first-hand how valuable these places are to our communities.

I was pleased to have the opportunity to raise this in the Commons, particularly given the obvious differences in rural and urban funding. I have more visits planned in North Oxfordshire, including a Health and Wellbeing Centre on Friday. I intend to continue discussions with colleagues in Westminster too. It is absolutely vital that we do everything we can to protect frontline services.”


On the morning of 16 December, Victoria Prentis MP participated in a Westminster Hall debate, organised by Maggie Throup MP, about the provision of community transport.

Victoria highlighted the excellent work of volunteer drivers in North Oxfordshire, who ensure that the vulnerable, elderly and disabled are able to get to and from hospital. She also spoke of the importance of public transport in helping young people to access work, and the reliance of rural communities on good transport connections.

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): “I am grateful for the marvellous volunteers who operate from the town of Banbury. They provide a good service for those who, sadly, have to travel to hospital, particularly early in the morning, when other forms of transport are not available. Does my hon. Friend agree, however, that other parts of the community also need services that are not provided by public buses, such as young people who have finished their education and who need to travel to work? People such as young apprentices also need to be able to take some form of public transport in rural constituencies.”


4291431_9b517e48 Cropped

On Tuesday 15 December, almost 300 people came to St Margaret’s Church, Westminster to sing carols to raise money for the Hands Up Foundation and Christian Aid. The Singing for Syrians flagship concert was organised by Victoria Prentis MP who has spent the past few months encouraging people to organise their own event, or to pass around a bucket at a pre-planned carol concert.

The flagship concert featured readings from ITV Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks, Dickensian actor Sir Timothy Ackroyd and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson MP. There were also solo performances from MPs including Andrea Jenkyns, Bernard Jenkin, Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Will Quince. Oxford East and Abingdon MP, Nicola Blackwood impressed the audience with her rendition of popular Christmas carol, “Silent Night”. The St Margaret’s choir also performed a variety of pieces including John Rutter’s Sans Day Carol. Robert Buckland QC MP, Ben Gummer MP, Rt. Hon. Cheryl Gillan MP and Rt. Hon. Caroline Spelman MP also sang in the choir.

Earlier on in the day, Mr Speaker kindly hosted a reception in his State Rooms at Westminster Palace to thank all those involved with getting Singing for Syrians off the ground.

Victoria said: “Both the lunch and concert on Tuesday were fantastic. I am very lucky to have had so much support from colleagues, and am so grateful to all those who performed so brilliantly. Singing for Syrians crystallised as an idea after I attended the Westminster Hall vigil for the refugees in September and I started thinking about all those who are unable to even contemplate leaving the country. Often they are too old, too young or too unwell to leave. Our two charities are doing some really important work in the country and the surrounding region. Hands Up Foundation pay the salaries of the medical team in Aleppo. The money goes directly to the three doctors, two nurses and two porters who are providing vital assistance to those in need in Syria’s largest city. I felt quite overwhelmed, and exhausted, at the end of the day. Sadly, I think the need will be even greater next year. I hope people will continue to organise their own Singing for Syrians concerts in the coming months.

Everything raised through Singing for Syrians will be match funded by the Department for International Development. So far Victoria’s initiative has raised almost £60,000.

VP SfS Speaker's House reception Cropped


I am fully aware of the feelings of discontent in the village of Hook Norton (and further afield) after a decision was made by the Secretary of State to approve an application for 54 houses. I share the frustration that villagers feel. Unfortunately, planning falls outside the jurisdiction of a Member of Parliament, and is a quasi-judicial matter devolved to local authorities.

However, I am very keen to do what I can to help. I have spoken to Councillor Barry Wood as Leader of Cherwell District Council to discuss what options might be open to us to challenge this. Councillor Wood and Cherwell District Council are seeking some legal advice. If they decide to take any action, I will of course offer my full support.

I visited Hook Norton on Saturday 12th December. The variety of Christmas trees in the church was astounding – I particularly liked the History Society one. While my husband took the opportunity to stock up on Hooky for Christmas, and my daughters were trying to win on the tombola, I spoke at length with a number of constituents to ensure I understood the particular concerns of the village clearly.

Today I asked a question in the Department for Communities and Local Government session in the House of Commons.

The transcript is below:

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): “The interpretation of neighbourhood plans appears to be causing difficulties, in particular in the beautiful village of Hook Norton in my constituency. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how villages can ensure that the neighbourhood plan is adhered to?”

Marcus Jones (Nuneaton) (Gov. Minister): “A great village that Hook Norton is and is the home to a fantastic brewery. But I do hear what the Honourable Lady says and I will certainly undertake to meet her, or I am sure my honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Planning will.”

I am glad the Minister recognises my concerns and has agreed to meet me. I was delighted to hear of his support for the brewery (echoed by many sitting in the House).

I will ensure residents are kept updated as I continue to have meetings and discussions on this issue.

Victoria Prentis MP (14 December 2015)


The below account is taken from the House of Commons Hansard for 8 December 2015:

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady, and to speak in this debate, which we are all grateful to the Second Church Estates Commissioner, my right hon. Friend the Member for Meriden (Mrs Spelman) for securing. I should probably declare an interest, given that two members of my staff intend to get married—not to each other—in the next year, so I was under a certain amount of pressure to attend this debate. We talk of nothing but wedding dresses in the office.

It is almost 19 years since I married my husband on a cold and frosty December day. Since then, the idea of marriage has evolved considerably, but it remains important to many of us. It is noticeable that the mothers in this debate—I hesitate to call it “the audience”—go particularly shiny-eyed when we talk about our daughters getting married. As the mother of a 14-year-old and a 12-year-old, I am already thinking of those happy days that I hope will happen one day—but not too soon.

We should recognise that families today look very different to how they looked even 20 years ago, when I thought about getting married, and extremely different to how they looked two centuries ago, so I will focus on how we adapt to that change.

Dr Huq: I did not declare my interest as a mother before; I do so now.

The hon. Lady makes an excellent point that the constitution of families has changed dramatically. Is she aware that, according to Gingerbread, there are now 2 million single parent households, which is 25% of all families with children, and 90% of those single parents are women. Given those figures, this erasing of women from history, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) has called it, seems even more anomalous.

Victoria Prentis: The hon. Lady makes a point that I will come on to shortly.

First, however, I will again quote the Prime Minister, from his speech to the Relationships Alliance summit, which I referred to earlier. He said:

“We all know that a strong family begins with a strong relationship between two loving people who make a deep and lasting commitment to each other…in Britain we recognise and value the commitment that people make to each other. And that’s just as vital whether the commitment is between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and another woman.”

As we have heard from other Members this afternoon, it was in that same speech that the Prime Minister announced plans to address the “inequality in marriage”, to enable mothers’ names to be included on marriage certificates as well as fathers’ names.

8 Dec 2015 : Column 295WH

I have discussed this issue at length with one of my constituents, who has been in a relationship for a considerable time; in fact, we are all eagerly awaiting her engagement as well. She pointed out that she is estranged from her father, who subjected her and her siblings to sexual abuse over a number of years, and has not seen him since she was 10. As a result, she would not want his name to be included on her own marriage certificate.

I looked into this matter and I understand from guidance from the General Register Office and from my own diocese in Oxford that:

“If either party does not wish to put their father’s details in the Register or they do not know who their father is, you should not put ‘unknown’ or leave the column blank. You should put a horizontal line through both columns to show that no information was given.”

Although that would reflect in some ways my constituent’s wishes, it would also mean that there would be no mention of her mother, who understandably had to act as both mother and father to her during the very difficult circumstances of her upbringing. I feel strongly that a marriage certificate should recognise such a scenario.

Christina Rees: There is a rare exception by which a mother’s details can be included; it is if she has been authorised by a court as the sole adopter. Then a couple can make a special request to have her details put on the register and in the certificate. The other way that it can be done is via a loophole, whereby the mothers’ names can be included if the mothers are witnesses, but that is the only other way I can see round this problem.

Victoria Prentis: I thank the hon. Lady for that intervention. Sadly, this matter involving my constituent never came before a court, so it is not possible to resolve it in that way. It is now important that we move forward to reflect the fact that families do not look how we once thought they always would.

Julian Knight: My hon. Friend is making a very powerful speech and I was greatly interested in her significant point about survivors of abuse and their involvement in this situation. In that regard, is it not, frankly, just a bit of a farce that we have to look for loopholes in order to recognise women on a marriage certificate? Would she like to reflect on that?

Victoria Prentis: I could not agree more. Personally, however, I am not sure whether including the mother’s name on a certificate goes far enough. In the speech that I referred to earlier, the Prime Minister also set out his plans to make adoption by same-sex couples more straightforward. That is important because increasingly we are seeing same-sex couples with children who will eventually want to get married themselves. In such circumstances, they will not have a “father’s name” and a “mother’s name” to note on the certificate, but might have two fathers or two mothers.

I wonder whether this is the moment to go one step further and provide two fields on certificates for “Parent 1” and “Parent 2”, or whatever terminology we see fit to use, after consultation. It seems to me that that would cover most scenarios. I would be interested to hear from the Minister what consideration has been given to such a suggestion.

8 Dec 2015 : Column 296WH

Of course, any change is a step in the right direction. It must be possible, given that the mother’s name, surname and occupation are already included on a civil partnership schedule, to include those details in wedding certificates. I simply add that, given it has taken us this long to get this far, I hope that we will not have to wait a similar length of time before we recognise different forms of parental relationship.


1 10 11 12 13 14 15