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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 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 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.”

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 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 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.

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.”

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