Local MP asks question on tackling child abuse images online

Mr Speaker: Order. I was going to give the hon. Lady an opportunity on this question if she wants, because child abuse images online are an extremely antisocial form of behaviour.

17. [900757] Victoria Prentis: They are extremely antisocial, Mr Speaker; in fact, I can think of few more antisocial kinds of behaviour than videoing children and posting their images online. Does my right hon. Friend agree that social media and other communications companies have a responsibility to work with Government and the police to reduce access to indecent images such as these?

Mr Hayes: I do agree with that. Everyone has a role to play in combating this problem, and I welcome the groundbreaking pledges by 20 leading companies at the #WeProtect summit on global action to remove child sexual abuse images from the internet and develop new tools and techniques to tackle this crime. The Government will continue to work with companies, organisations and civil society to make it much more difficult for perpetrators of this heinous, hideous crime.

MP joins cooking classes with Brita and Kings Meadow School

Photo Credit: Ben Smith

Victoria visited Kings Meadow School in Bicester to take part in the Kids’ Cookery School session with Reception, run by Fiona Hamilton-Fairley. Fiona, a food writer and cookery teacher, set up the Kids’ Cookery School in 2000 in order to give young people the practical skills and knowledge needed to make healthy food choices.

 

Victoria commented: “I had a really good time with the reception class, who were very good cooks. I used to teach cookery in school as a volunteer, so this is very much my thing. It’s really important that children learn to cook real food and get the chance to try different things.”

 

Photo: Ben Smith

Victoria intervenes in Westminster Hall debate on the Human Rights Act

Victoria Prentis (Banbury) (Con): I am glad my right hon. and learned Friend is a optimist—he may need to be in the present circumstances. One subject we may be able to address in making any changes is extraterritoriality, under article 1, particularly with regard to the military. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr Grieve) may have touched on that when he talked about the possibility of other legislation being the way forward.

Robert Neill: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that promotion, which is unexpected and undeserved on both counts. I always look forward to the future with optimism as far as those two matters are concerned. Extraterritoriality is an important issue. It has exercised those involved in a number of recent Court judgments, and it is precisely the sort of area where we might find a proportionate and sensible way forward.

I hope we will engage with the profession on these issues, because there is a great deal of knowledge and understanding about this issue. We tend to regard what happens in the Strasbourg Court as a bit of a sideshow, and that would be a mistake, whatever side of the argument we are on.

MP encourages people to make views known on bus service

Local MP Victoria Prentis is encouraging members of the public to take part in an Oxfordshire County Council consultation on subsidised bus and Dial-a-Ride services.

 

The MP is keen that as many people as possible make their views known. The council’s public consultation can be found at www.oxfordshire.gov.uk/stconsultation, or in local libraries.

 

Victoria comments: “I am encouraging everyone to let the council know their views on the proposals. Decisions are made taking into account public comments, so it is important that we all take time to explain what these services mean to us locally.”

Victoria says “Love Food, Hate Waste” after visit to local charity WRAP

Victoria with CEO Dr Liz Goodwin OBE and Richard Swannell, Director of Sustainable Food Systems

Victoria Prentis MP spent time with the team at WRAP on Friday 26th June, to learn more about the charity’s current and longer term projects.

 

The visit, coinciding with National Recycling Week, allowed Victoria to hear more from CEO Dr Liz Goodwin OBE; Richard Swannell, Director of Sustainable Food Systems; Patrick Mahon, Strategic Assistant to CEO; and Paul Saville, Corporate PR Manager.

 

The charity, based at Blenheim Court in Banbury, works on many well-known projects across the UK and EU. One of these is Love Food Hate Waste (www.lovefoodhatewaste.com), which aims to raise awareness of the need to reduce food waste – benefitting our purses and the environment! They also work in fields including packaging recycling, waste reduction in businesses, clothing recycling, and efficiencies whilst creating consumer products.

 

Victoria commented “I have regularly mentioned the very impressive work WRAP does – all based from their offices opposite Matalan. I am proud that they are based in Banbury and work with the UN, governments and businesses across the world. They are currently researching the fundamental issue of ensuring food for a growing global population.

 

“I have taken on board the advice from WRAP – and we didn’t get time to discuss all of the exciting projects they work on. I have consciously ensured all of the furniture for my new Upper Heyford office is second hand. I know how hard WRAP is working on food waste too, and I try very hard to freeze food and use our fridge leftovers for meals. We can all make small changes which have a real impact on global sustainability. WRAP is leading the way.”

 

Dr Liz Goodwin OBE, Chief Executive at WRAP, said “I’m delighted that Victoria Prentis MP, recognises WRAP’s work and commitment to the important area of resource management and food waste specifically. Food waste is a global issue, but we all have a part to play in tackling it, whether that be in Banbury, Oxfordshire, the UK, or the rest of the world. By wasting less food, everyone can contribute to helping the environment, but what’s more, families could save around £60 per month. Our website, lovefoodhatewaste.com is full of helpful information on how to reduce food waste.”

St Joseph’s Catholic School welcomes MP during ‘Send My Friend To School’ campaign

Victoria with Years 3 and 6 discussing Send My Friend To School

Victoria Prentis MP was welcomed to St Joseph’s Catholic School on Friday 26th June 2015. Victoria was given a full tour of the school by Deputy Head Teacher Mary-Claire Hardie.

Victoria was taken into each classroom at the school, on Fiennes Road, to meet with students. She met first with the Year 1 class, and was read to by students during literacy time, and visited the Nursery and Reception classes at playtime.

 

On meeting Year 2s and Mrs Thompson, Victoria gave a quick ‘parliamentary pop quiz’ to see how much the class knew about her work as MP. As part of the ‘Send my Friend to School’ campaign, Victoria and the children spoke about how fortunate they were to attend school and receive a good education. She spent time with Year 4 as they discussed what they would do to help children into education if they were world leaders.

Discussing aspirations with Year 2

Discussing aspirations with Year 2

 

On entering the main school hall, the Year 6 class and Mr Lewis were coordinating a variety of quizzes and tasks to explain what many children around the world would do on a daily basis, instead of attend school. The Year 6 class were explaining to Victoria, staff, and Year 3s that 89 million children around the world could not attend school. Instead children would need to do chores including washing clothes, preparing food, and fetching water.

 

 

Victoria commented “I was very proud to listen to the students. They had many impressive ideas which I have promised to take to the Prime Minister. It was a pleasure to watch the variety of projects the Year 6 had pulled together themselves, and I was excited to sit with Year 3 and take part in the quizzes! I was very grateful to receive the models of world leaders the students had made, and will be displaying them in my constituency office.

 

“I must thank the staff and students for making me feel so welcome. I’m looking forward to visiting again soon.”

Victoria meets Keep The Horton General to discuss hospital services

Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire, spent time with the Keep the Horton General group on Friday morning (26th June), to keep up to date with the hospital’s progress.

 

Victoria with Keith Strangwood (l) and Dr Peter Fisher (r)

Victoria with Keith Strangwood (l) and Dr Peter Fisher (r)

Victoria met with Dr Peter Fisher and Keith Strangwood, of the local action group Keep the Horton General to ensure both sides could talk about the current and future plans for the hospital. Meeting at the Terence Mortimer Postgraduate Centre, Victoria spoke at length with Dr Fisher and Mr Strangwood on how services are performing at the much-loved local hospital.

 

Victoria commented “My love for the Horton General Hospital is no secret, and those living in Banbury and surrounding villages are very fortunate to have it. What is important now is ensuring we all work together to deliver the best possible care and services at the Horton – myself, the Keep the Horton General group, and the Oxford University Hospital Trust.

 

“I meet regularly with the Hospital Trust, and plan to do so with the Keep the Horton General group too. There are some fantastic facilities at the Horton and I am committed to ensuring they continue.”

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.

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