Stephen made his maiden speech in the House of Commons on Thursday July 1st, speaking as part of the debate on Global Poverty, first, as is customary, outlining the Stevenage constituency which includes the villages of Knebworth, Datchworth, Codicote and Aston.
Stephen emphasised that we must move away from a culture where spending money is seen to be the answer to all the problems in our society, as well as the need to remember that behind the statistics are real people - real families and real lives - who have to live day-to-day with the decisions that taken in the House of Commons.
Stephen highlighted that currently globally one child dies every 15 seconds from pneumonia, which is the leading killer of children under the age of five. Increasing evidence shows that pneumonia is linked to global poverty, yet it is a disease that can be managed relatively simply if the resources are available. The millennium development goal is to reduce by two-thirds the mortality rate among children under the age of five. Stephen said "I am proud of the leading role that GlaxoSmithKline, a major employer in my constituency, has taken to try to save the lives of millions of children in the world's poorest countries. GSK is one of the first manufacturers to sign an advanced market commitment, which, by guaranteeing an affordable long-term price, will support the sustained use of vaccines. GSK has worked closely with GAVI and IVAC-the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation, and the International Vaccine Access Centre-the leading NGOs in trying to sort the problem out, and whose work I commend."
Here in the UK, Stephen commented that it is possible to help a child out of poverty and improve their chances in life if they receive a good education, but stressed that we are not doing enough and are not lifting enough people out of poverty. There are children who have tried hard in school, with a cadre of dedicated and professional staff who have helped them try to improve their life chances, but the system does not seem to work. Those children are being forced through an education system that pushes them out the other end with little chance of getting a job, as they do not have the skills that local employers want.
Stephen said, "We need to encourage employers to work with local schools and colleges, to get fully involved in education, to highlight the skills that are missing and even perhaps to take preventive action, possibly by designing some of the more vocational courses. Perhaps the prize at the end of the course should be a job or an apprenticeship with the employer. We need to be innovative and flexible, so that courses can reflect the skills gap locally and more local people can get local jobs."
You can read the full text of his speech in the People section of this web site, or via Theyworkforyou web site at this link . The Theyworkforyou site also has a video of the debate which you can watch below - Stephen starts speaking at around 3hrs 4min 30secs.