Category Archives: Victoria in Parliament

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.”

NORTH OXFORDSHIRE MP GETS COLLEAGUES SINGING FOR SYRIANS

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On 13 December, over eight hundred people joined Victoria Prentis MP and fellow Parliamentarians at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, for the flagship carol service for Victoria’s Singing for Syrians initiative.

Now in its second year, Singing for Syrians raises money for the Hands Up Foundation, a charity which pays the salaries of doctors and funds prosthetic limb clinics in the region. People all over the country have been taking part in events, singing together in an expression of solidarity with the Syrian people and a rejection of extremism and hatred.

The choir at the concert was made up of a group of cross-party MPs, including Phil Boswell MP, Robert Buckland MP, Fiona MacTaggart MP and Dr Eilidh Whiteford MP. Fellow Oxfordshire MP Nicola Blackwood, together with Andrea Jenkyns MP, Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP and Will Quince MP all performed solos. They were joined by performances from celebrities Simon Callow, Alexander Armstrong, Tom Hollander, Brigid Keenan and Michael Morpurgo.

Victoria said: ‘It was brilliant to see St Margaret’s full to the brim with people showing their support for those living through the ongoing horrors of civil war. We want the people of Syria to know that they are not forgotten and we are doing all we can to alleviate their suffering. The concert alone raised £37,000 and over 20 more events are planned across the country in the days leading up to Christmas. All the money will go directly to where it is needed most. It will make such a difference. I am so grateful to all those who supported us at the concert, including my Parliamentary colleagues, as well as our big supporters including local companies: Brita Ltd, Dorchester Living and Bicester Village.’

The following day, Victoria spoke in Prime Minister’s Questions. She raised the Singing for Syrians concert and asked what is being done to make sure that UK aid is reaching the most vulnerable people. The Prime Minister responded: ‘First of all, I absolutely join my hon. Friend in congratulating everyone who took part in Singing for Syrians. I am sure the whole House welcomes the work that that group is doing and the money that it is raising and putting to extremely good use. The House was struck when she mentioned the number of people who are on the waiting list for prosthetic limbs. Our humanitarian aid support for Syria is the biggest such effort that the UK has made. Of course we are giving money to the refugees who have fled from Syria. We are also working diplomatically to try to reduce the suffering and to ensure that the sort of aid and medical support that she is talking gets through to the citizens of Aleppo. We will continue to ensure that our humanitarian aid is being put to good use—helping those who are vulnerable and also helping those who need the education and support to be able, in due course, to rebuild Syria when it is stable and secure.’

For more information on Singing for Syrians, please visit www.singingforsyrians.com.

Victoria Prentis MP gives The Address.

Victoria Prentis MP gives The Address.

A Christmas Carol Service, Singing for Syrians, was held at St Margaret's Church, Westminster Abbey, London. The service was led by Thew Reverend Jane Sinclair Canon of Westminster and Rector of St Margaret's.

VICTORIA COMMENTS ON CONSULTATION INTO PENALTIES FOR DEATH BY DANGEROUS DRIVING

A consultation into the potential strengthening of penalties for those convicted of death by dangerous driving has been announced this week by the Government.

Following the announcement, Victoria commented:

“I welcome the Government’s consultation on possible changes to the offences and penalties for those who kill or cause serious injury on the roads. While the vast majority of people drive safely, an error of judgment or loss of  attention can have devastating consequences. We have seen that very clearly in Oxfordshire on the A34. The proposals would be a proportionate response to these horrendous crimes.

Improving safety on our roads is essential; motorists should face justifiably serious consequences when they do not drive responsibly. I would encourage people to respond to this consultation, and was pleased to support measures to increase the penalty for those using their mobile phones while driving when they were considered by a Delegated Legislation Committee earlier this week.”

If you would like to participate in the consultation, a link to the consultation survey can be found here: www.consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/driving-offences-causing-death-or-serious-injury/.

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP CONTRIBUTES TO DEBATES ON SEASONAL WORKERS AND THE CHILCOT INQUIRY

On 30 November 2016, Victoria Prentis MP made interventions in two debates in the House of Commons, the first on seasonal workers and the second in an Opposition Day debate on the Chilcot Inquiry and Parliamentary Accountability.

On the subject of seasonal workers, Victoria said:

Victoria Prentis (Con) (Banbury): “I am reluctant to interrupt my hon. Friend’s fabulous speech, which we are all enjoying, but as a fruit farmer’s daughter and a fruit farmer myself, I feel it is imperative to ask whether he agrees that these agricultural workers are a fairly unique breed. They must be both skilled technologically and strong physically. The type of work we ask them to do is unusual, skilled and often back-breaking. As such, they are a group of people who need to be able to move around—perhaps even more than other migrant workforces.”

Speaking in the debate on the Chilcot Inquiry, Victoria commented:

Victoria Prentis (Con) (Banbury): “I was not in the House at the time of the vote, but I was a civil servant, and I wonder whether my hon. Friend would comment on the fact that the proper involvement of officials, rather than sofa government, could have prevented some of the excesses in 2003.”

Both the above accounts are taken from the office House of Commons Hansard for 30 November 2016.

 

VICTORIA PRENTIS WELCOMES HELP FOR ORDINARY WORKING FAMILIES IN NORTH OXFORDSHIRE

Victoria has welcomed the Government’s Autumn Statement, which will help working families in North Oxfordshire, continue to address the deficit, and tackle the long-term challenges facing our economy.

The Autumn Statement sets out the steps the Chancellor will take to put ordinary working families first:

  • Helping ordinary working families who are struggling by increasing the National Living Wage from £7.20 to £7.50 in April 2017. This will mean a further pay rise for 1.3 million people, worth over £500 a year to a full-time worker.
  • Bringing down the deficit to get the country back to living within its means by balancing public finances and tackling tax evasion.
  • Addressing Britain’s low productivity by introducing a National Productivity Investment Fund, worth £23 billion.

The Chanellor has committed to investing an additional £27m to the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway project. A link between the two cities will boost the country’s economy as well as provide further infrastructure for those living in and around Bicester and Banbury.

Welcoming these measures, Victoria said: “The action announced in this Autumn Statement will help local people who are just about managing, and ensure that our economy is fighting fit as we begin the process to leave the European Union. Increasing the National Living Wage, building more homes that local people can afford, ending tenants’ fees and continuing the fuel duty freeze for the seventh successive year will help families across North Oxfordshire make ends meet.                               

I am very pleased that funding for the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway has been confirmed and I hope my constituents will soon be able to benefit from the investment, widening job opportunities and significantly improving travel times.”

MP HOLDS POP UP SINGING FOR SYRIANS CONCERT ON COLLEGE GREEN FOR GIVING TUESDAY

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On Tuesday 29 November, North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis organised an impromptu Singing for Syrians concert on College Green, Westminster in support of Giving Tuesday.

Victoria was joined by colleagues including Attorney General Robert Buckland MP, Fiona MacTaggart MP and fellow Oxfordshire MP, Nicola Blackwood as well as Year 6 pupils from St Matthew’s School, Westminster. The pop-up event aimed to raise awareness of Giving Tuesday and Victoria’s “Singing for Syrians” fundraising initiative. Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving which encourages people to “do good stuff” for charity by giving their time, money or voice to a worthy cause. Together, everyone sang carols including “Away in a Manger”, “The 12 Days of Christmas” and “O Come All Ye Faithful”. Will Quince MP also performed a solo of the first verse of “O Holy Night”.

Passers-by stopped to listen and joined in with many of the carols. Many of the MPs who participated will be joining the choir for the flagship “Singing for Syrians” concert at St Margaret’s Westminster on 13 December. Simon Callow, Robert Peston and Michael Morpurgo will also be performing on the 13th. Tickets have now sold out.

Speaking after the event, Victoria said: “When I met the Charities Aid Foundation – who coordinate Giving Tuesday – they asked me what I might be able to do to lend my support to the day. I thought it would be a lot of fun to try and get some of my Parliamentary colleagues to come along and sing outside Westminster. It was all rather last minute,  but it just shows how easy it is to organise a Singing for Syrians event. I was really grateful to all my colleagues and the school children who sang their hearts out.

“Like last year, local support for Singing for Syrians has been brilliant. In the coming weeks, I know that concerts will be taking place in Adderbury, Somerton and Banbury. I am really looking forward to all of them. I would encourage people to look at www.singingforsyrians.com to discover more or to find an event taking place near them.”

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Victoria with fellow Members of Parliament outside Westminster in support of Singing for Syrians.

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP SPEAKS IN DEBATE ON CHILCOT INQUIRY

On 30 November 2016, Victoria Prentis MP spoke in a debate on the Chilcot Inquiry and Parliamentary Accountability.

The below account is taken from the official House of Commons Hansard from Tuesday 15 November 2016:

On 13 July, there was an exchange between my right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr Davis) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rushcliffe. My right hon. Friend said:

“It seems from the Chilcot report that, at some point between December 2001 and possibly March 2002 but certainly by July 2002, Mr Blair effectively signed Britain up to the American military effort… Under American law, to go to war on the basis of regime change is entirely legal. They do not recognise the international laws that render it otherwise, so for them regime change is a perfectly legitimate casus belli.”—[Official Report, 13 July 2016; Vol. 613, c. 360.]

My right hon. and learned Friend intervened and said that

“with hindsight…given that Hans Blix was perfectly willing to carry on with inspections, if the Americans could have been persuaded to delay for another month, all this could have been avoided… The Americans dismissed Blix, however, and regarded him as a waste of time; they were trying to get him out of the way.”

My right hon. Friend replied:

“That is exactly right. That should have been the stance that Mr Blair took, but he did not. He chose instead to come to Parliament to misrepresent the case… Finally, Mr Blair was asked by Tam Dalyell”—

a great parliamentarian—

“about the risks of terrorism arising from the war, but the Prime Minister did not give him an answer—despite having been told by the JIC and by MI5 that it would increase both the international and domestic risk of terrorism and would destabilise the states in the area.”—[Official Report, 13 July 2016; Vol. 613, c. 362.]

I am grateful that my hon. Friend the Member for Harwich and North Essex has said that whatever the result of today’s debate his Committee will look at this issue again. In six years, the former Prime Minister involved us in wars in Iraq, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan. I am very concerned about that record. With hindsight, I should not have been partisan. Instead, I should have listened more carefully to the wise words of Robin Cook and Clare Short. We owe this to all those British servicemen and women who lost their lives as a result of the Iraq war. The world has been completely destabilised by the disastrous decision that Parliament took, and the general public will not understand if, after spending all that time and money on the Chilcot report, we did not put in place a mechanism by which lessons can be learned. I also think that the former Prime Minister should be brought before a Select Committee.

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP SPEAKS IN DEBATE ON PROTEST ACTION BY THE PRISON OFFICERS ASSOCIATION

On 15 November 2016, Victoria Prentis MP spoke in a debate on protest action taken by the Prison Officers Association (POA). As a member of the Justice Committee and a former civil service lawyer, Victoria takes a keen interest in the safety of prisoners and officers.

The below account is taken from the official House of Commons Hansard from Tuesday 15 November 2016:

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): When I was a very junior civil servant under a Labour Government, one of my first tasks was to get an injunction to stop the POA going on strike—we did that many years ago. Will the Secretary of State tell us the effects of the current unlawful industrial action, both on those who work in our prisons and on those detained in them?

The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Elizabeth Truss): We have implemented our contingency plans across the prison estate, at local, regional and national levels, but clearly we will not be able to run full regimes and that puts people at more risk. We are managing as safely as we can, but I strongly urge the POA to come back to the table to start negotiations again, so that we can reach a solution that helps make our prisons safer.

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