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

Stephen McPartland MP has been given figures by Gingerbread that show a child maintenance debt mountain of £7,180,000 owed to single parents in Stevenage.

Stephen said, “Stevenage single parents received a raw deal from the last Government, as they completely failed to deal with this debt. This is a huge figure and if collected would have a big impact on the quality of life of local children. I think it is disgusting that the child support system has been allowed to fail in this way”.

Commenting on the figures, Gingerbread’s Chief Executive Fiona Weir said: “Child maintenance is vital for children in separated families. We know from single parents that this is much-needed money which pays for items such as children’s clothes, school meals, trips and activities and childcare. Ultimately the responsibility for paying child maintenance rests with the non-resident parent, but the Child Support Agency has to do its job too in collecting debts and enforcing payment. We want to help single parents caring for children take action to ensure their arrears are paid.”

Stephen McPartland hosted the launch of Asthma UK’s Fighting for Breath report at a reception at the House of Lords, as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on asthma. Stephen pledged his support to improve the lives of people with severe asthma in Stevenage and across the UK.

Stephen said “Asthma has a huge impact on the quality of people’s lives, preventing many from being able to work, study or do normal day to day activities like caring for children, doing the shopping or managing a full night’s sleep. Severe asthma also places a huge burden on the lives of carers, who often struggle to access financial and emotional support”.

Stephen has pledged to support Asthma UK’s calls on the Government to:

  • Ensure that people with severe asthma can access the benefits they are entitled to and are assessed fairly when claiming. Better training should also be provided for assessors so that people with severe asthma are not discriminated against.
  • Protect specialist asthma nurse posts from cutbacks, as they are a lifeline for many people with severe asthma. Evidence also shows that they can help to reduce costly emergency hospital admissions.
  • Ensure consistent, national standards on asthma care are implemented across the UK

Neil Churchill, Chief Executive of Asthma UK, says: ‘We’re calling on everyone who can make a difference to the lives of people with severe asthma to take action. Our report shows that people with severe asthma are some of the most marginalised in society, living hidden lives, facing discrimination from many areas of society and missing out on vital life opportunities.’

There are a quarter of a million people in the UK who suffer with severe asthma. Many have difficulty breathing almost all of the time, suffer frequent, serious asthma attacks, have endless trips to hospital for emergency treatment and live with the constant fear that their asthma will one day kill them. They also take high doses of a long list of medicines, which have harmful and debilitating side effects such as osteoporosis, growth problems, weight gain, diabetes, depression and hair loss. The Fighting for Breath report summarises the findings of focus groups across the UK and makes a number of recommendations.

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.

Local MP Stephen McPartland joined local families at a local store in Stevenage to learn about car seat safety as part of Child Safety Week. Professionals are visiting Mothercare stores up and down the country, giving advice to parents on how to best keep their kids safe.

Stephen said, “Child safety is an important issue for families in Stevenage and I am pleased so many are ‘making time for safety’ during Child Safety Week. It’s an important message, and I am glad that that this initiative is working to prevent accidents and help keep children happy and safe.”

Julie Woods, Store Manager at Mothercare Stevenage said: “Mothercare is proud to be a part of Child Safety Week, helping parents to keep their children safe both at home and on the road. We put child safety first and our trained and helpful staff are always on hand to give advice and support.”

Stephen McPartland has been pressing Ministers for clarification on the reconfiguration of health services in Hertfordshire. He has been working hard behind the scenes and earlier today, Stephen secured a high-level meeting with Simon Burns, the Minister of State for Health, and also in attendance were Nick Carver, Chief Executive of East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, Sir Neil Mackay, Chief Executive of East of England Health Authority and Jane Halpin, Acting Chief Executive of NHS Hertfordshire (PCT).

Stephen McPartland said “I wanted to get reassurance from the Minister that the first three phases of the developments would proceed at the Lister hospital and I was delighted that everyone around the table was supportive. This means the new surgicentre, the maternity unit and the car park will continue as planned and should all open sometime next year.

The second aspect of the meeting was to discuss phase 4 which is the consolidation of Acute services at the Lister to ensure it is a centre of clinical excellence. I explained that we needed to disentangle this decision from the QEII, where there should be a new local general hospital with a range of services that need to be negotiated locally. What happens at the Lister is a separate issue and we hope to get a green light to proceed with the business case in July. This means no time will have been lost”.

Stephen added “Protecting and improving our local NHS is a key priority and I will continue working with Unions, managers, Staff, clinicians and patients to deliver the best healthcare possible for local people. This is just the start and we need to campaign hard to make sure we deliver real results. There has been too much talk over the last thirteen years, it is time for action”.

Stephen McPartland met with John Dickinson-Lilley, RNIB's Parliamentary Officer, and Claire Kay, RNIB's Regional Campaigns Officer for the East of England RNIB, to gain first-hand experience of the everyday challenges faced by blind and partially sighted people.

Wearing a blindfold, Stephen McPartland tried to carry out some everyday tasks, like making a cup of tea and using a cash machine, within the kitchen and bank areas that had been set up in the House of Commons.

Stephen said "It was a real challenge to carry out these simple everyday tasks without the use of sight. It made me aware of the need for support to be in place when someone loses their sight and is struggling to adjust, trying to remain independent in their own local area and home."

Stephen McPartland MP was asked to speak at the launch of the YuriGagarin50 launch event in Westminster on behalf of the Parliamentary Space Committee, after which he was interviewed by Russian TV. Below is text on which his speech was based:

“It is my pleasure to be asked to speak, and to represent Stevenage, which can reasonably claim the title of being the home of Britain’s space industry.  I’m delighted to learn that the sector aims to create a further 100,000 new jobs in the UK over the next twenty years, many of which will be in my constituency. This is a sunrise sector that is set to keep growing; it already supports 70,000 jobs across the UK, adding over £6 billion to the UK economy each year, and growth in the UK’s space economy has consistently outstripped the rest of the economy for a decade.

Space is a vital part of the economy in the constituency I represent.  We are very proud to be home to Astrium, Britain’s largest space technology company.  Astrium alone employs more than 1,500 people in my constituency, and these are quality jobs, too.  Space employs the most highly skilled workforce in UK manufacturing – in Stevenage more than two thirds of Astrium’s workforce have at least one degree, many two – this is twice the national average.  Space is big business here in Britain, and it is driven by innovation.  Today’s satellites can broadcast 500 digital channels, 200 HD channels or 4000 radio stations.  Ten years ago a satellite could broadcast 30 channels.

As part of my most recent visit to Astrium, I toured the main offices to talk to my constituents about what working in the space sector is like. I was impressed by their enthusiasm and by the sheer variety of their work.  Engineers in Stevenage are designing Britain’s Mars Rover, they are designing a new satellite, Aeolus, that could transform weather forecasting by measuring wind speed and direction at 25 different altitudes using high-powered laser; I spoke to young engineers working on a science mission called LISA Pathfinder that will test Einstein’s Theory of Relativity by trying to measure the gravity waves emanating from the Big Bang.

When I first visited Astrium, I asked the question, how can you help raise aspiration amongst young people locally?  It is through events such as this and around the UK, and building the vital relationship between business and education space in Stevenage. Astrium currently relies heavily on a team of about 50 STEM Ambassadors, as they are now known, in Stevenage. They work closely with the local Setpoint or Stemnet organisations and visit two or three schools or colleges each week during term time and run many visits on site.  They also help out with UK Space School visits, Science and Careers fairs and supervise Engineering Education Scheme teams and Nuffield students. In all it is estimated that they 'see' more than 5,000 students a year.

The STEM Ambassadors work with many local schools in Stevenage and the surrounding area.  John Henry Newman, Heathcote, Marriott and Barnwell participate in the RAEng's Engineering Education Scheme with Astrium Engineers setting teams of 4 or 5 students the task of designing and building a specialist piece of hardware for a new space mission while many other schools, visit the site to learn about the UK's leading role in the International Space Industry and speak to the young engineers and scientists who are designing our satellite systems for TV broadcast satellites or missions to Mercury and beyond!

Students see many of the spacecraft being built and also get the chance to touch and feel the lightweight materials used.  They can also join in team working exercises to either build a 'Balloon Rocket' which has to carry 'diamonds' on a cable over a ravine or design and build an 'Eggsat' satellite with an egg as the payload.  In doing this they have to work out the lightest weight structure and lowest cost systems that will complete the mission, but also survive the harsh vibration testing require to launch into space.  Many eggs do not survive!

So it is my pleasure to be here, to thank you all for your vital work in Britain’s schools, including the many in my constituency that have been touched by space, and to congratulate the many young faces here today for choosing a sector that is one of the most exciting in Britain today. I wish you all good luck!”

Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, is backing a new campaign by the National Autistic Society (NAS), You Need to Know, which aims to tackle an unfit mental health system that fails two thirds of children with autism and often makes their mental health worse.

Stephen said; “We all need to know that by giving children with autism the understanding and support they need, we help promote their health and happiness. Too many are currently developing preventable mental health problems and find themselves up against a broken system that doesn’t understand them or their needs. It is a tragic waste of their potential.”

Stephen said: “There are many individuals who are making a tremendous difference to the life of a child with autism, and this is being recognized by the Happiness Hero award. I call on local children and families affected by autism to nominate their Happiness Hero, an individual who has gone the extra mile - it could be a mental health professional, teacher, youth group worker or another individual who has made a positive difference.”

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