Category Archives: Victoria in Parliament

#HERstory: Zoe McLernon

From a young age, I was interested in politics and my parents were always astounded by my opinions of politicians at the age of 8.

Having grown up and attended school in Bicester, I wanted to give something back to the Town so sought public office in 2015.

At 20 years old, my main concern was how I would be perceived by the electorate, given my age. Being female never really crossed my mind but it certainly made a difference on the doorstep.

I was not elected but was grateful for the opportunity to stand as a young female and put myself forward to represent a younger generation in the town.

Now working for Victoria Prentis MP, I have learnt from her that women in politics can be strong and resilient. The generation of women above me have overcome many barriers and it is great to see the respect for Victoria and other female MPs in the House. 

Women have come so far over the years and I am sure that my own generation will be able to build upon this. I only hope that other countries follow in our footsteps.

#HERstory: Councillor Melanie Magee

As someone who has a passion for my local community, I wanted to get more involved, but thought I wasn’t the ‘right sort of person’ to do it, having not followed the typical academic route, and having been a young single mum. However, as a qualified full time HR professional, I realised my skills were valuable to the community, so I started volunteering with my local job club providing practical advice to job seekers, specifically the young unemployed and was inspired to stand as a local Councillor, subsequently being elected as a Town and District Councillor in 2011. In my Councillor roles I’ve led a number of apprenticeship initiatives to support employment and skills opportunities.

In 2013, I was elected Mayor of Bicester, and was then honoured to be elected Chairman of Cherwell District Council for 2015, being the youngest female to hold either of these offices in the locality.

As my political career developed, I was selected as the parliamentary candidate for the Oxford East constituency seat in December 2014, for the 2015 general election. In a male dominated political environment, I’d like to think that I am proof that by having a passion, determination and getting involved, you really can make a difference!

#HERstory: Lucinda Wing

I first got involved in politics whilst studying at the University of St. Andrews. A friend encouraged me to accompany her to the Scottish Conservative Conference in 2009 where I first saw David Cameron speak – the atmosphere was electric and it made me feel optimistic for the future. After that, I knew I wanted to be involved in politics in some way but never imagined that I would be elected as a local councillor. Fast forward to 2015, and after running a number of local campaigns, I was lucky enough to be elected onto a borough council at only 25 years of age, making me one of the youngest councillors in the country.
 
Women are still under-represented at every level of governance, but we are moving in the right direction. Truly representative democracies need a variety of people with different backgrounds and strengths, and from all walks of life. I hope that other women look at me and see that age and gender are no barrier to representing your community.
 
In May of this year, I’ll be asking residents in Bicester South and Ambrosden to for a chance to represent them on Cherwell District Council.

#HerStory – Anita Higham OBE

Born near Wolverhampton, I was three as World War II began. I remember hearing bomber planes and the noise of heavy guns and seeing the red night skies, reflecting the burning cities of Coventry and Birmingham, going into our neighbour’s air-raid shelter, and carrying a gas-mask to my Convent school. My mother was 21 in 1928 and had the vote. In 1918, she had been selected for the newly established mixed grammar school in Wolverhampton. My father had left school in London when he was 14. They were both strongly committed to their children’s education.   

With a degree in French from Nottingham University, a degree in French from a French university and a teacher’s Diploma from London University, I was appointed to my first teaching post in 1961 – only to discover that I was earning considerably less than a less well-qualified man, because I was a woman. Parity for teachers’ pay took a graduated 7 years to arrive; the NUT (National Union of Teachers) lost many men who left in disgust to form the NAS (National Association of Schoolmasters). In 1966 I was promoted; having carefully saved my full deposit for a mortgage with a building society, I planned to purchase my first home. I applied to the building society, to be informed that they did not give mortgages to single women. I discovered that this was true of almost all building societies. Eventually I found one which, in view of my ‘secure job’, was prepared to take the risk!

In my subsequent promotions in mixed secondary schools, for the Deputy Headship of a mixed school of 700, then for the Deputy Headship of a mixed school of 2200, and for both my subsequent Headships, I was always, between 1968 and 1984, the only shortlisted female.

I was the first Head of a mixed non-selective school in Wiltshire, where the Senior Master was astonished that I was not prepared to cane the students! I was subsequently the first woman Chair of the Wiltshire Association of Head Teachers. I was the first female Head of a mixed non-selective school in Oxfordshire, when appointed in June 1984.

How often have I corrected the many writers of  letters beginning: “Dear Sir..”, with – “you must not assume that this ‘Head’ is a man; I am certainly a woman”; and how often have I interjected in meetings and public gatherings when the “Headmasters” were referred to, with: “and the Headmistresses…”!!

When the CBI constituted its Business-Education leadership programmes, I was the only female board member and was invited to address the CBI annual conference of 1997. In 1991 I was invited to be the Education Trustee of the National Museum of Science and Industry, albeit a woman.

As we move further into the 21st century, at last I find that in the various aspects of my post-professional community commitments, I am never the only woman!

Victoria Prentis MP speaks in support of Tim Loughton’s Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration) Bill

On 2 February 2018, Victoria Prentis MP spoke in a debate on the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths (Registration) Bill, a Private Member’s Bill brought forward by Tim Loughton MP.

 

The following record is taken from the Official Report from Friday 2 February 2018.

 

Victoria Prentis MP (Banbury) (Con): It is an honour to take part in this debate, but I must confess that I was slightly confused by the remarks made by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Karen Lee), because as I see it, this is not a matter to politicise; these are complicated moral issues that we are finding our way through together, consensually. Some of the best things I have done since I have been in this House have been done on a cross-party basis and on these very difficult issues.

I thoroughly support, in its entirety, this Bill put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), but, unusually for an MP, I am going to confine my remarks to the three areas of it of which I have personal experience. I will therefore leave the issue of civil partnerships to others whom I know want to talk about that.

The inequality of marriage certificates was one of the first issues I came across as a constituency MP when I entered the House back in 2015. We had an excellent debate in Westminster Hall, at which many hon. Members here today were present, where I spoke about a terrible story of my constituent, whose father subjected her and her siblings to sexual abuse over a number of years. She has not seen him since she was 10. Were she to get married now—I believe that the current law is one of the reasons why she has not got married—she would very much want to leave the “father” field blank, while her mother, who, as a heroine, brought her up and helped her and her siblings cope with the legacy of this awful abuse, would get no mention. That is simply wrong.

This Bill will ensure that the Secretary of State undertakes a full review of the system. I accept the need to look for efficiencies and to find ways to create a more secure system for the maintenance of marriage records. We must also consider what terminology we use to recognise all forms of parental relationship. Inevitably, that will take time. As a former church warden, I am familiar with the current register system, and I see no reason why we cannot give celebrants and registrars the ability to cross out “father” and amend at their own discretion, or simply to add to it, at least until that review has concluded. Next week, we mark the centenary of women’s suffrage, and I am afraid that it all feels rather archaic standing here discussing such a glaring yet rectifiable inequality.

Although I accept that, on all sides, we have been slow to deal with marriage certificates, in the three years I have been here the Government have been ambitious in their approach to stillbirths. I am really pleased with the progress we have made, although it does not go nearly far enough, towards halving the number of stillbirths by 2025. The all-party group on baby loss is a force of nature, and I pay great tribute to my hon. Friends the Members for Colchester (Will Quince) and for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach), the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) and indeed the former Member for Ipswich. We were all there in the middle of the night starting this group, determined to make things better. We were soon joined by the passion of the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) and then that fabulous speech by the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Vicky Foxcroft) did so much to help our cause. I am proud that we must take some credit for the fact that the way we talk about miscarriages, stillbirths and neonatal loss is changing. As a group, we know there are strong views on the way in which stillbirths are registered and investigated. For me at least, it seems that much should depend on the wishes of the parents. Fear of touching on painful subjects—although, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham made clear, there is no need to upset the abortion laws over this—and talking about them must not render us incapable of reflecting a situation where babies born younger and younger are, happily, now living. Real people are suffering by our failure to address these difficult issues. A mother who has been through labour and is going through lactation, often for a significant number of weeks, for a baby who is stillborn before 24 weeks will of course feel that his or her life should be properly recognised and recorded. I am hopeful that our group will have a great deal of input into the report the Secretary of State will undertake should this Bill progress today.

I was in the House in November for the Secretary of State’s statement on the Government’s new strategy to improve safety in NHS maternity services. Worrying about maternal safety, particularly of those who use the Horton General Hospital in my constituency, keeps me awake at night. Unfortunately, we all know that things can and do go wrong. Bereaved families deserve answers, and are often motivated by a burning desire to ensure that what happened to them will never happen to another family. At the moment, as we know, coroners in England do not have the power to investigate a stillbirth, yet in Northern Ireland, in 2013, the Court of Appeal held that coroners do have such a jurisdiction. I know, through talking to members of MBRRACE-UK—Mothers and Babies: Reducing Risk through Audits and Confidential Enquiries across the UK—that in the vast majority of cases it will not be appropriate for a coroner to investigate a stillbirth. However, in the cases where relations with a hospital have broken down, where there is no faith in internal investigations or where there are wider learning points from a death, this may in a very small number of cases be appropriate.

In my previous career, I used to represent the Government in military inquests, and it strikes me that there is considerable potential for us to provide specialist training to a cadre of coroners brought in to deal with this extremely sensitive area, in much the way that we did having learnt from the introduction of inquests in military situations. I hope we can rely on our Ministers for joined-up, cross-departmental thinking as the work progresses. My hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham has kindly met me and Bliss in advance of today’s debate to scope out views. If this Bill progresses, I look forward to engaging with the review that will follow.

This is a sensible and humane Bill, which we, as a cross-party group of Members, should all unite behind. It merely aims to right long-standing anomalies in the law, and it is a real pleasure to support it.

MP SPEAKS IN Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill DEBATE

The following account is taken from Hansard on Wednesday 31 January 2018. 

Given that this is the first opportunity I have had to speak, I pray your indulgence, Mr Gray, as, like other Members, I thank people for the enormous work that has gone into the Bill. I thank the Government for their support. I also thank the Treasury in the form of a former Minister who is sitting here. Some of my happiest moments during my time as an MP have been when I see “money resolution” attached to a Bill and think, “This is really going to happen.”

The Bill is very exciting for those of us who started the all-party parliamentary group on baby loss in the middle of the night in the Tea Room during our first months in this place, along with the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), who is not here. It was lovely to be joined later on in our journey by the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran. We were glad to have her on board. The Bill is an exhibition of what we have been trying to achieve. In some cases, that has gone on for many years outside this place. It is exciting to be here and to have got this far.

The amendments are simple. They merely seek to identify a parent. One might have thought that was obvious, Mr Gray. I do not need to explain it further. I had a brief conversation with the hon. Members for Swansea East and for Gower earlier. It is nice to see Swansea so well represented on this Committee. My grandmother, like Mrs Griffiths, is an avid follower of parliamentary proceedings. She and the Gower will be very proud that we are all here. She feels very strongly about this issue, too.

The hon. Ladies from Swansea make a powerful point that foster parents should possibly be included in the definition of a parent. I am happy to leave that to the Government. This is a framework Bill, and I am happy for the definitions in it to mirror those in other such Bills. I say that as the very proud Member for Banbury, who has Adoption UK in her constituency. I am particularly live to the issues faced by adoptive and foster parents, and it is important that we include those who should be properly included in the Bill. I, too, am sorry that we did not have the discussion far enough in advance to ensure that we had one amendment on the amendment paper. With that in mind, I ask that you consider the amendments together, Mr Gray.

 

 

North Oxfordshire MP raises awareness of child health in Parliament

As the new ‘State of Child Health: One year on’ report shows child health in England lagging behind Scotland and Wales, Victoria Prentis MP has committed to prioritising child health and wellbeing by pledging to work with the Government to bring children’s health policies in England in line with the rest of the UK.

At the launch of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s (RCPCH) ‘State of Child Health: One year on’ scorecard on 24 January in Westminster, the North Oxfordshire MP commented: “Child health is important to everyone, and I want to make it a real priority going forward. Children in my constituency deserve to receive the same high quality healthcare as those in neighbouring parts of the UK.”

The scorecards, which have been published for England, Scotland and Wales describe progress against the series of recommendations made a year ago in the RCPCH’s landmark State of Child Health report.

The England scorecard reveals progress in some areas, including the launch of a Digital Child Health Strategy, the publication of a new Tobacco Control Plan, the initiation of some specialist service reviews in paediatrics, and the implementation of the sugar tax.

 

Victoria at the launch of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s (RCPCH) ‘State of Child Health: One year on’ scorecard

Victoria at the launch of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s (RCPCH) ‘State of Child Health: One year on’ scorecard

VICTORIA PRENTIS MP SUPPORTS CAMPAIGN TO INSPIRE THE NEXT GENERATION OF ENGINEERS

171206 Year of Engineering launch

This year, Victoria Prentis, MP for North Oxfordshire is supporting a national campaign to get more young people into engineering, joining government and industry in a united effort to tackle a major skills gap.

The Year of Engineering, which launched on Monday 15 January, will see the Government and MPs work with industry partners to raise the profile of engineering among young people aged 7-16, their parents and teachers. The initiative will include offering direct experiences of engineering to young people from all backgrounds – from behind the scenes tours and family days out, to school visits and the chance to meet engineering role models.

Victoria will be supporting the campaign in North Oxfordshire by reaching out to schools in her constituency, including the Bicester Technology Studio and Banbury Space Studio, who both specialise in a new approach to learning including engineering and technology.

Before Christmas, she joined more than 30 MPs at a Parliamentary reception. The event marked the publication of the Institution for Engineering and Technology’s annual Skills Survey report – which looks at the skills challenges faced by engineering and technology employers in the UK.

The commitment comes as the UK faces an estimated shortfall of 20,000 engineering graduates a year. Half of companies in the sector say the shortage is having a significant impact on productivity and growth. By bringing young people from all backgrounds face to face with engineering experiences and role models, the campaign aims to showcase the creativity and innovation of engineering careers and widen the pool of young people considering the profession.

More than 1000 partners have signed up to support the Year of Engineering, including Siemens, the Science Museum Group, Ocado, Usborne, BAE Systems and Crossrail. Teaming up with partners from many different sectors, the Government will deliver a year of UK-wide school visits, exhibitions and open doors events – all aimed at encouraging young people and their parents to take a closer look at engineering.

Victoria commented: “In North Oxfordshire we are particularly lucky to have two schools dedicated to engineering and technology. They provide a unique opportunity for young people in the area. I am looking forward to doing what I can to work with both pupils and businesses over the coming months as part of the Year of Engineering. It is important that we encourage and inspire young people to turn to the engineering sector as we move forward and continue to grow as a country.”

To find out more, visit the Year of Engineering partner website or follow the campaign on Twitter.

BANBURY MP, VICTORIA PRENTIS, WELCOMES HORTON REFERRAL

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Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, Victoria Prentis, has welcomed today the Secretary of State’s decision to refer the permanent downgrade of Banbury’s maternity unit to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP).

On 10 August 2017, the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) resolved to make permanent the temporary suspension of consultant-led maternity at the Horton General Hospital. As a result, the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC), chaired by Cllr Arash Fatemian, referred the matter to Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.

Following on from the outcome of the recent Judicial Review hearing, which found in favour of the CCG, Victoria pressed upon the Department of Health the importance of moving forward, given widespread uncertainty about the future of the unit.

Today, the Secretary of State wrote to Victoria to let her know that he would be passing the matter onto the IRP to undertake an initial assessment before deciding whether it conducts a full review. In his referral, he drew upon the opposition of local councils and their responsibility to scrutinise decisions.

Victoria commented: “I am pleased that the Secretary of State has agreed to pass the decision to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel for consideration. It is with regret that we find ourselves in a similar position to 2008, when the IRP were last asked to look at maternity provision at the Horton General Hospital. The IRP is the independent expert on NHS service change; it takes into account all available evidence in order to advise the Secretary of State on contested proposals. I have no doubt that they will look at this matter properly, and am hopeful that they will agree to undertake a full investigation.”

Cllr Kieron Mallon, a longstanding Banbury Councillor and campaigner for the Horton also commented: “For those of us who were involved in 2008 we think it is right and proper for the Secretary of State to refer this on. We are all hopeful that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel will investigate this fully as they did the previous referral.”

A NEW YEAR MESSAGE FROM VICTORIA PRENTIS MP

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2017 has been marked by its unpredictability. Navigating the uncharted waters of Brexit has dominated national headlines. At Westminster, the final few weeks of the year were spent analysing the EU Withdrawal Bill line-by-line. With 405 amendments and 85 new clauses, it meant a lot of late nights but was an extremely thorough process. I spent as much time as possible in the Chamber, listening to colleagues make often impassioned contributions. My own approach was to try to improve the Bill, particularly as I represent a constituency which voted narrowly to leave. We must respect the result and seek to secure a deal that guarantees a deep and special partnership with the EU.

 

While Brexit may have taken centre stage nationally, our fight to keep acute services at the Horton General Hospital has, quite rightly, been our main focus locally. We remain unhappy about the decision to remove obstetric services at the hospital but the sheer grit and determination of campaigners has been extraordinary. The judicial review may not have been successful, but Mr Justice Mostyn’s judgment only served to reinforce my profound discomfort about the way in which the Clinical Commissioning Group ran the Phase One consultation. The Secretary of State can be in no doubt about how I feel. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel must have the opportunity to conduct an investigation into the downgrade of maternity services.

 

A fully functioning hospital is more important than ever as we build houses at a rate three times the national average. I am not blind to the challenges of such unprecedented growth. My new Residents’ Roadshow has made it very clear that, from potholes to post boxes, a joined up approach between local authorities and developers is essential as we continue to grow. Ensuring both old and new residents feel part of the same community is paramount to the success of our new housing estates. When we work together, we really can achieve results. Nowhere is that more obvious than the Great British Spring Clean, Singing for Syrians and Refill – three campaigns I have been closely involved with in 2017.

 

I am hopeful that these initiatives will grow from strength to strength in the coming year. I accept that 2018 will not be easy as we continue to negotiate our departure from the EU. While I may have to spend the majority of my week at Westminster, my focus will remain on working hard for all those who live in North Oxfordshire. I may not have the solution to every problem but I could not be more committed to ensuring that all my constituents have a prosperous and peaceful New Year.

 

Victoria Prentis MP

1 January 2018

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