VICTORIA SPEAKS AT BLISS EVENT TO LAUNCH 2015 BABY REPORT

VP @ Bliss Cropped

Victoria Prentis MP attended Bliss’ parliamentary event on Tuesday 20 October 2015 and spoke about the importance of support for parents. The reception was organised by Bliss, the special care baby charity, to launch Bliss baby report 2015: hanging in the balance. The report covers a range of topics including the supply of neonatal nurses and doctors and availability of psychological and emotional support for parents.

In particular, the report found that at 41 per cent of units parents do not have access to a trained mental health worker, despite parents of premature and sick babies being at far greater risk of postnatal depression. Moreover, one third of units were not able to provide overnight accommodation for parents of critically ill babies or those living many miles from the hospital. It is vital that parents are able to stay close to their baby as research shows that when parents are involved in their baby’s care, it improves their development and recovery, and eases the pressure on health professionals.

Bliss is now calling for urgent action from the Government, the NHS and health education bodies to address these issues and ensure neonatal units have the resources they need to meet national standards for quality and safety.

Speaking after the event, Victoria said: “An estimated 168 vulnerable babies are born premature or sick to parents in Banbury every year, and many more women with difficult pregnancies and births are transferred to the Radcliffe. Bliss has put together an interesting report which highlights some very important issues. Personally, I am very concerned about psychological support for parents.  Approximately 40 percent of mothers with a premature baby suffer from post-natal depression, compared to 5 to 10 percent of those who have a healthy baby. It is vital that all babies have the best possible chance in life, and that their families get all the support they need during what is an extremely difficult time.

 

MP CHAMPIONS BICESTER IN FIRST QUESTION TO THE PRIME MINISTER

Bicester

Victoria Prentis asked a question during Prime Minister’s Questions today, focussing on Bicester and highlighting her desire to ensure sustainable infrastructure alongside new development as the Garden Town continues to grow.

Victoria used her first PMQ to bring her thoughts on growth and strategic development directly to the Prime Minister’s attention. She asked “Bicester is blossoming into a Garden Town, which welcomes sustainable growth. Would my Right Honourable Friend, who knows our area well, agree that the promised funding for infrastructure must be provided in step with development?”

Victoria commented: “It was great to be able to speak directly about Bicester, which is setting a strong example as a growing town. I was really excited to be able to use my first question to raise such an important local issue. The Prime Minister agrees that infrastructure and investment need to go together.

It was fantastic to hear the Prime Minister speak so highly of my predecessor, Sir Tony Baldry, who’s impressive and long-standing efforts have given me a great foundation on which to build.

I was so proud to hear the Prime Minister commend Cherwell District Council. He said if people think councils in the South shy away from positive development and growth, they should look to Bicester. He continued “Bicester shows that we can build, build sensibly, and provide the homes that we want to live in.” I am pleased we have received that recognition.

Victoria speaks in superfast broadband debate

The below account is taken from the House of Commons Hansard for 12 October 2015:

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): I add my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Matt Warman) for securing the debate, and to the Minister for listening to our tales of woe today.

I can start on a slightly happier note than some did. It was not in the first week of May this year that my family’s lives were changed significantly, but in the first week of March. Previously, the internet in our small village had not been at all reliable at peak times, or when it rained, as it occasionally does in north Oxfordshire. Then, overnight, my husband stopped commuting and joined the army of those who work at home, I found that I could answer emails in seconds, and the children found to their amazement that they could watch reruns of “Top Gear”, on a variety of devices, in every room of the house. For me, the advent of superfast broadband will for ever be associated with Jeremy Clarkson. Quite simply, reliable fast internet changed all our lives.

I am sure that the Minister is as proud as I am of our local branch of Broadband Delivery UK. I was able to meet representatives of the branch during the recent recess. Better Broadband for Oxfordshire is committed to doing just what its name implies. To date, it has delivered on target, on time and under budget for the two years it has been in existence, and it is ranked fourth in the country for delivery. It can surely be no coincidence that the Minister represents the neighbouring constituency to my own. Better Broadband for Oxfordshire is funded from a variety of interested groups, including our local enterprise partnership, BDUK and our district councils. Despite all this excellent work, however, much of my casework still concerns the lack of broadband.

One issue is that commercial providers of broadband declare an interest in providing services for a particular area. If they are successful, those declarations remain valid for three years, and the service might not be provided until the end of that period. That is a long time for a village or an industrial estate to wait. Better Broadband for Oxfordshire has in some cases needed to challenge those delays, and has on occasion needed to take over the delivery of the service. However, a better solution could be to shorten the period allowed for delivery, and to insist that the service is provided in a timely fashion.

Another big issue in Oxfordshire is attenuation. Much of our network is still reliant on old copper lines, and copper replacement will need to take place if we are truly to realise the potential of broadband, but that will require enormous investment. The older lines are a particular problem in rural areas, especially for farmers. As much farming is conducted online as it is in the cowshed these days. Those of us who have tried to download Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs manuals, or even to fill in a tax return, over a less-than-perfect connection know how frustrating that can be. If a provider can be found to install fibre-optic cables to remote farms, that has to be paid for. There is some confusion over whether an EU subsidy of, I believe, about £3,000 is available to assist farmers in paying for that installation. The National Farmers Union and the Country Land and Business Association take slightly different views on whether the subsidy can be claimed by those who also claim the single farm payment. I would be grateful for clarification on that point. It is important that the Government do not assume that all Government business can be conducted online before we have achieved more universality of service. I hope that, following the “not spot” summit, I shall be able to go back to my constituents in north Oxfordshire with concrete ideas and timetables for the future.

MP VISITS CHILDREN’S CENTRE IN BLOXHAM

On Monday 5 October, Victoria Prentis visited the Butterfly Meadows Children’s Centre in Bloxham. Victoria was given a tour of the facility and met some of the many mothers and children who use the centre. She saw first-hand how the centre is used by families as both a venue for socialising, and as an important source of information and support.

Since Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) announced plans to close many of the county’s Children’s Centres, Victoria has worked to ensure that vital frontline services are maintained in areas of deprivation, where they are so desperately needed. She has already met with representatives of OCC on several occasions. Last month she took members of the Children, Education and Families team to listen to the views of staff and parents at a Children’s Centre in the constituency. She will soon be having a further meeting with Cllr Ian Hudspeth, the leader of OCC, to discuss options for the Council, which is required to make considerable savings in its budget. Later this week, Victoria will be visiting a centre in Banbury.

Victoria said, “I have seen for myself how our Children’s Centres deliver far more than a space for children to meet and play – they offer professional advice and expertise, guidance to troubled families, and generally a supportive face and attitude for all who enter their doors. I have seen many examples of how the centres have been a vital resource to parents and children across the constituency.

I am pleased that Oxfordshire County Council will consult extensively on this issue before making any decisions. I understand the public consultation is in progress, and I encourage my constituents to take part in it. I will continue to monitor the matter closely.

VICTORIA VISITS ARMY RESERVE SQUADRON IN BANBURY

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On the evening of Tuesday 29 September, Victoria Prentis MP visited 142 (Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars) Vehicle Squadron, Royal Logistics Corps, at their base in Banbury.

Victoria was given a tour of the facility by the Squadron’s commanding officer, Major Jeremy Burnan, and met soldiers as they participated in training. She was given a comprehensive briefing about the history and role of the Squadron, and spoke to officers about local recruitment and the enhanced role of the Army Reserve following recent restructuring. Alongside Banbury Town Mayor, Cllr Tony Mepham, Victoria then presented service medals to two serving members of the Squadron, before addressing the assembled soldiers to thank them for their work.

The Squadron is the only Army Reserve unit based in North Oxfordshire, but currently has soldiers drawn from across the region. It was previously based at Grantham in Lincolnshire, before relocating and re-forming in Banbury as part of the Army 2020 restructuring. Upon moving to Banbury, 142 Vehicle Squadron inherited the Colour and traditions of the Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars, the regiment in which Sir Winston Churchill served for thirteen years.

Victoria said, “I was extremely honoured to be invited to spend time with 142 Vehicle Squadron. It was apparent that the unit is a tight-knit and supportive group, who take great pride in their work. I was very impressed with the range of skills I saw demonstrated, and it is clear that the Squadron fulfils a vital role within the British Army. Our Reservists serve with dedication and professionalism, and I know that the people of Banbury are extremely proud of 142 Vehicle Squadron.”

During the visit, Victoria also met Lieutenant Colonel Simon Stevenson, the Commanding Officer of 1 Regiment Royal Logistics Corps. The regiment has recently moved to St David’s Barracks in Bicester following their withdrawal from Germany.

MP BUSY IN NORTH OXFORDSHIRE OVER CONFERENCE RECESS

For the last two weeks Parliament has been in recess for the party conferences, and Victoria has been busy with a variety of engagements throughout North Oxfordshire.

On 18th September, Victoria spoke at the Low Carbon Maintenance & Buildings green breakfast event. The event, held at Bloxham Mill, was attended by numerous local businesses. They discussed and exchanged ideas regarding green policies, and future development and growth in the area. As the guest speaker, Victoria spoke about a range of subjects, including the Government’s current green policies, the economy and the constituency’s green strategies, such as the Bicester eco-town.

On Tuesday 22nd September, Victoria held a surgery in Banbury where she spoke to several constituents about a variety of cases. The following day, she enjoyed a visit to Brookside Primary School in Bicester, where she met pupils and had a tour of the remarkable school. She admired the school’s various initiatives to promote reading, and particularly appreciated the success of their updated library. The following Thursday, Victoria had a very productive meeting with local GPs, during which they discussed the pressures faced by the NHS and plans for expanding medical services in North Oxfordshire.

Over the weekend Victoria was honoured to celebrate Eid with a family in Bretch Hill. The family welcomed Victoria to their celebrations with open arms, and she enjoyed learning more about this important religious festival from them.

On 28th September, Victoria held the most recent of her ‘Pub Tour’ visits, spending the evening at the Black Boy Inn in Milton. While there, she met Bruce Duncan, the author of The Lone Soldier. The book chronicles Duncan’s time and experiences in the military. She was amazed when she heard the details of some of his adventures!

During the day she had spent time at the Thames Water treatment plant in Banbury, where she was told about the water cleaning process on-site. Victoria found the staff to be delightful and particularly enjoyed riding in one of the treatment lorries. Following this visit, Victoria headed to Banbury Academy where she thoroughly enjoyed teaching an A level English class on Othello. She was blown away by the students’ enthusiasm to learn and participate in class and found the discussion to be insightful and developed.

Victoria will continue to have engagements in the constituency before attending the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester next week.

MP SPEAKS AT BICESTER’S WEDNESDAY BUSINESS CLUB

Victoria addresses the WBC in Bicester.

Victoria Prentis addressed the Wednesday Business Club (WBC) in Bicester on 23rd September. The WBC is a not-for-profit business networking group that meets every week over breakfast to exchange ideas and information of interest to local businesses.

The meeting, at the Littlebury Hotel, was attended by a great variety of local businesses and entrepreneurs. Mrs Prentis spoke to the Club about a range of subjects, including local development and growth, the national economy, mental health and engaging with social media.

After the event, Victoria said, “It was a great pleasure to speak to so many local businesspeople, and to learn more about the fantastic variety of businesses operating in and around Bicester. Our small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of the local economy, and the WBC is a great forum for them.”

MP WELCOMES MINISTER TO HEYFORD PARK FREE SCHOOL

o	Victoria Prentis MP with Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Childcare and Education Sam Gyimah MP, and Heyford Park Free School Principal Mr David Castles.

Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, welcomed Sam Gyimah MP to Upper Heyford on 2nd September, to meet students and tour the school. Mr Gyimah, as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State responsible for Childcare and Education, was visiting the Free School as part of the government’s commitment to building more schools across the country.

Heyford Park Free School, which opened in 2014, has grown to welcome students from across the local area. Victoria and the Under-Secretary were greeted by Principal Mr David Castles. They met with pupils, and the Under-Secretary was invited to participate in a science lesson burning carbon dioxide from ceramic on Bunsen burners.

They visited the school’s impressive campus and facilities, which continue to grow in the area. Heyford Park Free School will soon be opening a new state-of the-art Sports Centre, which will include a sprung-floor basketball court, squash courts, football pitches, an athletics track, baseball diamonds, tennis courts and a fitness gym. The Under-Secretary was given a 3D whistle, printed on one of the school’s 3D printers, as well as a textile bird; both made by pupils at the school.

Victoria said “I am extremely impressed by this school, which is a great example of the success of the Government’s Free School program. I am looking forward to seeing Heyford Park Free School flourish in the future.”

“I took the opportunity to invite the Under-Secretary for lunch in my office, which is just next door. We were then treated to a brief tour of the former RAF base at Upper Heyford, a site which has seen extensive investment for its redevelopment since it was decommissioned in 1994.”

MP welcomes work experience students to new local office

VP with Work Experience students

Victoria Prentis, MP for North Oxfordshire, has welcomed two young people from schools in her constituency to complete a week of work experience in her offices.

Luca Filippi (18) and Will Thompson (17) both completed a week in Victoria’s constituency office in Upper Heyford, and also spent a day in Westminster in her parliamentary office. Over the week, they were given the opportunity to prepare briefings for Victoria, draft correspondence, and prepare materials for online and internal office use. At Westminster, they had the chance to attend Select Committee hearings with speakers including Theresa May and George Osborne. They also observed a parliamentary debate in the main House of Commons chamber.

Luca, who has recently finished his A Levels at Blessed George Napier School, commented “The main reason I applied for this work experience was to gain a deeper insight into British politics, but I finished having also developed many useful office skills, which I know will be of great use in future employment. I would definitely encourage all young people to try and arrange work experience with their local MP.”

Will, who is set to continue his A Level study at The Warriner School, said “I really appreciated the more challenging and important nature of the work I was being set, as it meant I could genuinely learn and benefit from it, unlike many work experience opportunities for people my age.”

Victoria was extremely pleased with the first two students to complete work experience with her, since her election in May. “I was delighted to be able to welcome Luca and Will to my new office in Upper Heyford, to see first-hand the sheer variety of things that go on in an MP’s office over a week. I was very impressed with their dedication, and the quality of work they produced.

There will only be a few spaces available throughout the year, but I hope to welcome students from across North Oxfordshire to my offices for work experience on a regular basis. You will be able to find more information on my website.”

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