MP meets St Mary’s School to learn about alternative travelling

North Oxfordshire’s MP Victoria Prentis visited St Mary’s School in Banbury on Friday 26th June. Children at the school wanted to show her their plans to travel to school without driving, led by the School Travel and Road Safety team (STARS).

 

26.06.15 With STARS team at St Mary's, Banbury USE

 

Victoria was shown around the school by Acting Head Teacher Tracy Ostler, parent governor Sarah Wallis, and the STARS team. The team is a group of students who encourage parents and staff to try and lessen how often they drive to school.

 

The children produced a PowerPoint presentation to show Victoria some of their work. They explained how they were travelling to school on foot, by bike, and on scooters as an alternative to their parents’ driving. Not only did this lessen congestion, but encouraged the children to consider healthier travel options.

 

After her visit, Victoria said “I was very impressed with the work the STARS team has undertaken. The children are working hard to encourage environmentally friendly travel. I was glad to see that safety was a key factor too.”

 

“I was grateful to the girls from STARS for their time, and thank all staff and students for welcoming me to their school.”

Victoria makes her Maiden Speech in the Commons

VP Maiden Speech 2

On Thursday 25th June North Oxfordshire MP, Victoria Prentis, made her first speech in the Commons.

Victoria was able to make her maiden speech during a debate on investigatory powers. The full text of her speech is below:

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): I am honoured to be called, after such distinguished speakers and in such an important debate, to give my maiden speech.

For me, paying tribute to my predecessor is more than a convention; it is something I do with real affection. Sir Tony Baldry has served our area since I was a little girl. In the 32 years he spent in this place, he helped, as a Minister, to privatise the energy industry, served as Chairman of the Select Committee on International Development, and, more recently, sat on the Government Benches as Second Church Estates Commissioner. He acted as the voice of God in this place and was responsible for everything from bats and bishops to blasphemy. Sir Tony believes in God, but he also believed in Mrs Thatcher. In his first political job as a young man, he was proud to act as keeper of the hairspray. He is loved locally as our very own “Sir Cumference”, but it is his loyalty, decency and sheer hard work that will make him so hard to follow.

There is another former Member, now in another place, to whom I must pay tribute. I owe to my father my lifelong knowledge of, and love for, our area and its people. I am one of the very fortunate band of Members able to represent their home-town.

North Oxfordshire is a beautiful place to live. I am sure many Members can picture our river valley, rolling hills and medieval churches encircled by villages. It is true that at home I make cider and keep ferrets.

Four generations of my family have the soil of north Oxfordshire under our fingernails, yet this is only partially a rural constituency. The vast majority of my constituents live in one of our two major thriving and substantial market towns: Banbury and Bicester.

Business is booming. Thanks to the long-term economic plan and the impressive industry of my constituents, we have almost no unemployment. That is not something my predecessor was able to say until the very end of his term here. We excel at food production and engineering, often with agricultural roots; town and country balanced to provide the perfect setting. The Bicester hunt meets in a factory that produces engines for lawnmowers. The diversity of commerce found in converted barns is extraordinary. We have high-end technical businesses, hospitality and national charities where once we had cowsheds.

Many of those businesses now operate internationally. Whatever the result of the referendum, our businesses need an easily accessible market for trade in Europe and strong global trading connections. Bicester village is the most visited attraction outside London for Chinese tourists and is known to many well-dressed Members of this House. All this is, in part, down to our very fortunate geographical position. We benefit from superb road and rail links, with which I am, as a commuter who lives in the middle of the constituency, very familiar. We also have the excellent Horton general hospital, where I was born, which now boasts more consultants than ever before.

It does not surprise me that so many people want to move to our area and join us. The challenge facing us over the next few years is how to manage unprecedented expansion across the area and to ensure that Bicester can blossom into a garden town. We must provide new infrastructure and work hard to ensure that we preserve what matters to us while building for the future.

Although I love my home, I am not blind to its problems. I am proud that this summer, for the first time, students in all our secondary schools will finally be able to take A-levels, but we must raise aspirations much higher. Child sexual exploitation has been a problem for us, but it is being recognised and tackled at all levels, not least by the changes I hope we will make following today’s debate.

As the mother of two girls, I am acutely aware of the pressures now heaped on our children in the social media age. Creative measures to build their self-worth and to protect them must be a priority for us all this Parliament. Only by tackling these difficult issues can we create the one nation we have pledged to deliver. Compassionate Conservatives, such as my predecessor and my father, know that the marginalised and vulnerable must be protected for society to thrive.

As a Conservative, I am committed to standing up for the rights of the individual. I am fortunate to have had a front seat in courts for the development of human rights law over the last 20 years. When I started out as a young Government lawyer, protecting issues of national security, we used to joke that we represented “the powers of darkness”. Since then, battle-hardened by so many inquests into the deaths of servicemen killed fighting for us, those who died in the 7/7 bombings and, more recently, Alexander Litvinenko, it has become ever clearer to me that our Security Services are nothing of the sort. They have been proved repeatedly to be both efficient and decent, and a great example of the values we hold so dear in this country. They, and others in our civil service, get on with the business of protecting us for modest salaries and little public recognition. We are lucky to have them.

We face a grave combination of threats. We must not allow those who mean to harm us to exploit any credibility gap in our regulation of investigatory powers. Checks and balances are welcome, but the process must not become so burdensome as to result in delays that mean we cannot respond to threats as quickly as we need to. As a lawyer, married to another lawyer, I am of course very comfortable with the idea of judicial oversight! This is precisely what judges are trained for and able to provide and they are very good at it, but the system must retain sufficient flexibility to enable us to act at great speed when necessary.

I am indebted to my pupil master, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve), for his support throughout my legal career. I was amused to note that he, and several of the initiates on the Opposition Benches, were happy to admit that they find the existing regulatory framework somewhat difficult to understand. I share their concerns, but at this stage of my parliamentary career, I am not going to make any such admissions! Going forward, I would add that we must make sure that the language used is wide enough to encompass threats that have not yet materialised—whether or not they be at a school sports day. Technology is moving faster than regulatory drafting.

Our regulation of investigatory powers should be seen in the wider context of protections that we are fortunate to enjoy in the United Kingdom. As a nation, we should be proud of our record on human rights. In the 800 years since the signing of the Magna Carta, our perceptions have quite rightly evolved. The greatness of the common law is that it has evolved with them. The European convention on human rights is a masterful document, and we must remain a signatory to it, but it is very much a product of the cataclysmic events that it was designed to prevent from re-occurring. In this country, the courts are unable to quash an Act of Parliament. It seems we need to re-state that, while our courts should have regard to the decisions of the ECHR, these are on the same footing, and Parliament is sovereign. I am pleased that the Government are consulting wide legal minds in a variety of venues on how to take this forward.

We can now, if we wish, formulate rights for today—including, for example, parental rights and those of children—and we can discuss sexuality and disability rights in a way that would have been unthinkable 65 years ago. I hope that, in so doing, we can deal with some of the more unwieldy aspects of the Human Rights Act. I have seen how the principle of extra-territoriality adds to the burdens on the soldiers whom I was so proud to represent, and how the interpretation of the investigative obligation under article 2 has benefited lawyers rather than bereaved families. I have seen those who face the enemy with bravery quail at the idea of a significant disclosure exercise. We must not allow excessive requests for paperwork and over-burdensome oversight to become themselves deadly weapons.

I am, as I said, battle-hardened, but not battle-weary, and I look forward to fighting hard to represent the people of north Oxfordshire in the years to come.

Victoria is appointed to Justice Select Committee

New MP for North Oxfordshire, Victoria Prentis, has been appointed to the Justice Select Committee.

Victoria said: “I am delighted to have been chosen to sit on the Justice Select Committee. During the last Parliament, the Committee examined a diverse range of issues from sentencing guidelines to the role of the probation service.I look forward to our first meeting and getting to work.”

Further information about the committee can be found here.

Victoria sets out her position on Tuesday’s High Speed Rail motion

Victoria made some enquiries ahead of the HS2 debate on Tuesday 23rd June in the House of Commons.

The motion related to the following amendments which are relevant to her constituency:

  1. Additional land for the temporary diversion of Featherbed Lane and relocation of Featherbed Lane overbridge satellite compound
  2. Realignment of Footpath 303/7
  3. Additional land for the reconfiguration of environmental mitigation at Mossycorner Spinney
  4. Additional land for the widening of bridleways CHW/24/1 and 225/4
  5. Additional land for the reconfiguration of wetland habitat at Moat Farm, Godington

Victoria said:

“These are clearly improvements which have been made following requests by petitioners. In the end, there wasn’t a vote this afternoon; I can assure my constituents that my views on the HS2 project as a whole remain the same.”

Fritwell School welcomes Victoria

Victoria with Fritwell students

Victoria with Fritwell students

Fritwell School welcomed local MP Victoria Prentis for a tour of the school on Friday 19th June. Victoria was also delighted to open the school’s Reflection area.

Victoria was able to see many fantastic examples of artwork completed by the children, as Friday marked the end of Art Week at the school.

The new Reflection area, formally opened by Victoria, now offers the school a dedicated area for pupils to consider questions or issues that are important to them.

After the visit, Victoria said: “Thank you very much to everyone for taking the time to show me around the school. I saw some very impressive artwork from the children to mark the end of Art Week. I was also thrilled to open the Reflection space at the school, which will offer a perfect spot for students to take a moment out to think.

I look forward to seeing everyone again soon, and wish the year six students luck in their new secondary schools from September”

Dementia activity cafe reminds MP of importance of support

VP Age UK Dementia Day

Member of Parliament for Banbury Victoria Prentis visited a dementia activity café in Banbury on Friday 19th June, as part of Dementia Day.

The singing session at the café, organised by AgeUK Oxfordshire, allowed Victoria to see directly the benefits the café can deliver to those in the community suffering from dementia.

Victoria commented “I was happy to spend time at the café, and the environment was so welcoming. I had the chance to meet people who suffer from dementia, but also their family, friends and carers who support them on a daily basis.

“I am proud that the Prime Minister and this government is clear in its view that dementia needs greater attention – to identify, diagnose, and support patients. We must do all we can. Our GPs are working hard on identifying the signs of dementia so we can diagnose sooner. I am grateful too to Oxfordshire social care and NHS services, as well as private homes and carers, who are offering vital support in our communities. With everyone working together I am sure we will make great strides to ensure we provide the best support to those who are diagnosed, and their families.”

MP joins service of celebration at Ambrosden church

Victoria Prentis MP joined the congregation of the Church of St Mary the Virgin’s for their Service of Celebration on 18th June in Ambrosden.

The church held a celebratory service to thank the community for supporting their renovation efforts. The ‘West End’ project was recently completed, bringing together the conclusion of a number of major works at the church. Recent works have included electrical rewiring, redecoration, and the replacement of the chancel roof.

“What a fantastic evening” noted Victoria, “I was grateful for the invitation from the churchwardens and Reverend Canon Charles Masheder. The service led by Bishop Colin Fletcher was full of life. The bishop flushed the new lavatory to prove it worked, before the final hymn!

I always enjoy the chance to see first-hand the results of a strong community-led project. The church is now a fantastic venue for a variety of community events, and I look forward to attending more of them!”

Victoria responds to Cllr Woodcock’s letter in the Banbury Guardian

Response to Cllr Sean Woodcock, sent to Banbury Guardian 16.06.15 and not printed

As he has before, Cllr Woodcock has declared that he will vote to remain a member of the EU regardless of the outcome of the negotiations proposed by the Prime Minister.

I do not share this view. Our current relationship is not what was signed up for when the 1975 referendum on membership of the EEC took place. Reform is necessary.

When we have the final options in front of us we will be able to decide whether membership of the EU remains in this country’s best interests. In my view no informed decision can be made until we know the lay of the land; unless like Cllr Woodcock you think nothing needs to change.

A referendum on Europe is long overdue. The majority of people in this country have never had the opportunity to cast their vote on this issue. My vote will help decide the outcome, but it will be equal to that of any other elector in the country. When the votes have been counted and the result is declared, the people of Britain will have decided what path we shall take.

MP says Style Acre Banbury resource offers “fantastic opportunities”

VP Style Acre

Victoria Prentis MP attended the formal opening of Style Acre Banbury Resource (SABRe) on Butchers Row, Banbury, on Friday 12th June.

Along with many other local people and businesses, Victoria attended the ribbon cutting ceremony. SABRe was opened by Vice Patron John Craven OBE, and attendees were well fed with sandwiches, chicken, pizza and cake from local charity Banbury Youth Homeless Project (BYHP).

The centre offers a variety of resources for young adults with mild and moderate learning difficulties to meet, learn, and be supported to increase their skills. There are computers available, a sensory room, and places to meet. Above the centre are four apartments, supporting young adults with mild to moderate learning difficulties to live as independently as possible.

After the event, Victoria commented “what a fantastic facility to have, right in the middle of Banbury. This will offer so many opportunities to young people. I know the centre is working closing with local specialist schools and the council to offer ongoing support for young people, many of whom will have just left school. You can get work experience at the centre too, which is brilliant!

“The apartments upstairs were amazing. They offered a combination of high specification good quality accommodation, and appropriate design to meet the needs of those who might use a wheelchair or require that extra bit of support around the home.

“I am excited to see what SABRe will deliver in future. Of course as the young people learn new skills and gain confidence, they’ll move on to work or other things. The centre has the potential to help many many more people in the coming years.”

Local MP visits Banbury Citizens Advice Bureau

VP Banbury CAB

Victoria Prentis, MP for North Oxfordshire, visited the Citizens Advice offices on Friday 5th June to discuss local issues with staff, and have a full tour of the building and services on offer.

Victoria was greeted by Sharon Graham, Operations Manager for Banbury, and Barbara Shaw, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Banbury, South Northants and West Oxfordshire. Victoria met with Barbara and Sharon to look in detail at issues effecting those living the constituency. They also spoke about ways in which the Citizens Advice team and MP can work together for the benefit of the constituency.

Victoria was given a full tour of the building, meeting staff who volunteer advice in fields such as transport, housing, debt and benefits.

Victoria commented “I was delighted to visit the CAB. I know the team celebrated their 50th birthday the night before, and have been going from strength to strength locally – winning awards including the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and supporting our community. It was perfectly timed to coincide with National Volunteering Week, allowing me an opportunity to extend my thanks to every staff member for their hard work. I am sure we’ll be in touch regularly in future.”

Barbara commented “Working closely with our local MP is an important part of the service we offer to clients. We are looking forward to working with Victoria and her team to find workable solutions to some of the problems faced by local residents.”

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