Stephen McPartland MP
Working hard for you
in Stevenage, Knebworth, Codicote, Datchworth and Aston

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, was the guest of honour at charity Abbeyfield’s regional launch of their annual Christmas campaign, Companionship At Christmas last Friday at a supported house in Stevenage for older people.   The visit was to find out more about Abbeyfield and its attempt to help combat the increasing trend in festive isolation. Abbeyfield is inviting members of local communities with elderly neighbours living alone, family members in need of respite support and those who plan to spend the Christmas period alone to contact them.

Stephen said, "Christmas is a wonderful time of year with many families getting together to share the celebrations, but we must take a moment to remember those who will be alone this Christmas. I launched the local Companionship at Christmas campaign at Abbeyfields in Stevenage and had thge opportunity to meet many of the residents and volunteers who share their time. Let us all have a great Christmas and take a moment or two for a neighbour that may be having Christmas alone."

Companionship At Christmas was created to provide an alternative to spending the celebratory period alone. They will be offering free overnight stays and delicious Christmas lunches over the festive season (24th December – 4th January) in over 100 Abbeyfield sheltered houses and care homes across the country.

The Charity will take enquiries via their website www.abbeyfield.com or via their dedicated telephone number 0845 052 3553 up until the 18th December.

Around 1 in a 100 people suffers from autism and Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, is supporting a nationwide charity challenge to help raise awareness of issues affecting pupils with autism.

Stephen said, “I am delighted to be supporting the Anderson Schools Challenge and help raise awareness of autism. School can be a real struggle for many children with the condition, but better understanding can make a real difference. This is a fun and easy way to improve awareness of autism and I am happy to attend any of the events in schools."

The Anderson Schools Challenge is a joint campaign between The National Autistic Society (NAS) and the Anderson Foundation, which asks schools to complete 50 fun and easy tasks. The tasks, which range from fitting 50 items into a Smarties tube to holding an autism-awareness assembly. To sign up to the Anderson Schools Challenge visit www.autism.org.uk/schoolschallenge

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, is pictured here with the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health, on the announcment of the latest phase of development for the Lister hospital.

Stephen said, "I am delighted to have worked with Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, to secure the £72 million funding for phase four of the Lister hospital. We are now approaching a massive investment of £150 million from the government which is transforming the Lister into one of the most modern and advanced hospital's in the UK. This latest tranche of money will pay for another eleven projects including a new ward block, extended emergency facilities and purpose built theatres.

Stephen added, "I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the staff who are saving lives on a day to day basis and putting patients at the heart of our hospital. I am proud the Lister is becoming a centre of clinical excellence and I am proud of our local NHS - this is a fantastic day for Stevenage."

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, is supporting the Dogs Trust campaign to encourage people to think carefully before taking on a dog, especially during the festive season.

Stephen said “A Dog is for Life, Not Just for Christmas" and we need people to think twice to stop the problem of dogs being given as gifts at Christmas only to be later abandoned in January. The online sale of pets means that impulse buying of animals has become an appealing option and the lure of a quick sale attracts many unscrupulous breeders particularly during the Christmas period"."

Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity,caring for over 16,000 abandoned and unwanted dogs a year.

Residents of Lonsdale Court in the Pin Green area of Stevenage are suffering the effects of poor quality maintenance work which is carried out inefficiently.  Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, was called in to hear how Stevenage Borough Council forces leaseholders to pay for work that is sub-standard or has not been carried out. Stephen was shocked to discover that a recent example included Stevenage Borough Council losing the padlock to a purpose-built access door, so a whole series of scaffolding was erected instead.

Stephen commented, "Access to the roof is easy through the door, but for whatever reason, no-one could be bothered to unlock the padlock to use the door and were happy to put up two levels of scaffolding and charge the leaseholders.  I have been shown many other examples of poor quality maintenance which is reducing the quality of living for all residents. Stevenage Borough Council should be ensuring work is carried out to a proper standard and in a way that is efficient and does not burn through leaseholders' money. I will be seeking answers to the situation with maintenance work at Lonsdale Court, and would urge leaseholders with similar concerns to come forward with examples I can take up on their behalf. Leaseholders paying massive charges is ridiculous and cannot be allowed to continue."

With the publication of the report following the Leveson Inquiry it is clear that the central issue will be whether the press should, for the first time, be subjected to statutory regulation or have the opportunity to put in place a new system of binding self-regulation.

I believe in free speech and no form of statutory regulation of the press would be possible without the imposition of state licensing – abolished in Britain in 1695. State licensing contradicts the idea of press freedom and would radically alter the balance of our unwritten constitution. If a government did not like the criticism from a media outlet, it could just revoke their licence and they would no longer be able to operate. This is the type of behaviour you see in dictatorships and is a terrible signal to send to emerging democracies around the world.

I believe that any state regulation of the media is the first step towards censorship of the media.There are also serious concerns that statutory regulation of the print media may shift the balance to the digital platforms which, as recent events have shown through the fiasco of Newsnight-Twitter, would further undermine the position of properly moderated and edited print  journalism.

The press abuse chronicled at Leveson was almost wholly about actions which were against the law. It demonstrated not a sole failure of regulation but rather of law enforcement. However the status quo is not an option.  We cannot allow newspapers to behave as some have in the past. If they get a story wrong and have published it on the front page, then they should apologise on the front page instead of burying it on page 75. The media should take a lot more care in ensuring their sources are substantiated and most journalists up and down the country do a great job on a day to day basis keeping their local communities informed.

We do need some change, but we do not need state regulation of the press. We need to protect free speech and we need to keep the press free.

Local MP Stephen McPartland launched the start of an anti-bullying campaign as part of anti-Bullying Week. Inline Orthodontics, based in Stevenage town centre, hosted an anti-bullying event involving members of the local community, head teachers, sports club leaders and young people.  The discussion was moderated by Tom Mclanewebb, Director of Social Action at Beat Bullying.

Stephen said, "Bullying in any form is a disgrace and destroys lives, especially among young people. Stopping bullying is critical and giving young people confidence back through a great smile can be a big part in helping them to rebuild their self-esteem. I will keep up the campaign to stamp out bullying and helping people to get on with their lives."

Jonathan Alexander-Abt, Principal Orthodontist at Inline Orthodontics, commented “Bullying for whatever reason is deplorable and should never be tolerated. This research shows that a significant number of children are being bullied because of the position and appearance of their teeth. As a Specialist Orthodontist I feel that it is important to raise awareness of this and reassure young people that there is something we can do to help them”.

A young patient contributed to the debate by describing her experiences of bullying whilst her mother explained how this affected her daughter.

Stephen McPartland MP had his seasonal flu vaccination last week. He is one of many people living in Stevenage who are in the "at risk" groups and doctors recommend get this season’s flu vaccine.

Stephen said, “The seasonal flu vaccination is important to help protect those people who are more susceptible to serious complications or even death from flu.  I would urge all those that are over the age of 65 or are in one of the ‘at risk’ groups to visit their surgeries and get vaccinated. Flu can be a pretty nasty and debilitating illness and remains a serious threat, particularly for those aged over 65 or those of any age with medical conditions that put them at risk of developing serious complications from influenza infection."

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, welcomed the Government’s new Growth and Infrastructure Bill, which backs local business and cuts excessive red tape, as well as giving a further boost to infrastructure.

Commenting, Stephen said, “We have already delivered new infrastructure investment for the Stevenage area of more than £280 million and these new measures will give businesses greater certainty, which will create even more local jobs. I welcome any effort to reduce red tape which is exactly the action local businesses have been asking for. We will also deliver tax stability for local firms and shops by delaying an unpredictable business rates revaluation which will help keep Stevenage leading the way on fixing our economy.”

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