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

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.”

The last few weeks have created a shock wave in corporate Britain as companies tax payments in the UK have come under scrutiny. There is a growing anger and concern that some large companies are hiding behind complex accounting rules that may be strictly legal, but are considered to be unethical by the public. The problem of missing billions in tax is not just a problem in the UK, it is worldwide and does the greatest damage to poor and developing countries who cannot stand up to massive corporations.

I recently met with Christian Aid supporters when the Tax Justice Bus tour came to my constituency of Stevenage.  The tax justice campaigners believe that tax dodging by international companies costs the UK around £35 billion and developing countries an estimated $160 billion per year. Just imagine the dramatic difference such a huge sum of money would make if it was available to invest in public services, infrastructure and other vital services essential for economic growth.

An effective tax system plays a vital part in promoting wealth creation in developing countries. The lost revenue is much larger than our international aid budget and as the British public give money to help with one hand, some large companies are taking much more away with the other.

It is time for a concerted international effort to tackle corporate tax avoidance and for multinational companies to actually commit to tax transparency.  I know governments from all around the world will agree with the sentiments of greater tax transparency, but they will struggle to introduce it as every nation competes in the global race. Therefore, it will be up to the companies themselves to lead the way and they will only do that if their customers, the British public in many cases, drag them kicking and screaming towards tax transparency and a fairer tax system for us all.

We can start that journey today by asking the FTSE 100 to lead the way and commit to corporate tax transparency. Today, I have written to the Chief Executives of all the FTSE 100 companies to ask them individually if they are willing to pledge their support for corporate tax transparency and if they will support a new international accountancy standard for country-by-country reporting.

The current international accounting standards only require multinational companies to report accounts on a global consolidated basis, which makes it incredibly difficult to know where taxable economic activities are occurring and where profits are declared. Companies, particularly multinational corporations move billions of pounds of profit between jurisdictions to reduce their tax bill. Large companies are allegedly manipulating their company’s centre of interest by using holding companies, offshore accounts and  intellectual property rights.

A recent parliamentary enquiry by the International Development Select Committee recommended 'requiring each UK-based multinational corporation to report its financial information on a country-by-country basis including the names of all companies belonging to it and trading in each country, its financial performance in each country, its tax liability in each country, the cost and net book value of its fixed assets in each country, and details of its gross and net assets in each country'.

Transparency is vital, so I will be publishing a list of all the company responses I receive so that the general public know which FTSE 100 companies are willing to sign up to tax transparency and which are not. Everyone of us can then decide individually whether the biggest companies in Britain really do care about the poorest in our society at home and abroad.

Around 1,700 adults and children in Stevenage are receiving warfarin, which prevents clotting of blood.  Self-monitoring can help patients in many ways and Stephen McPartland MP is supporting a new campaign to give long-term warfarin patients greater choice in the management of their condition.

Stephen said, “I am delighted to be supporting this important campaign to help people in Stevenage and the rest of England who are receiving warfarin treatment.  Allowing patients the option to self-monitor could make a huge difference with better control and greater freedom over their lives.”

David Lloyd, Conservative candidate to be Hertfordshire's first Police Commissioner is pictured along with local MP Stephen McPartland during a recent visit to Stevenage.

Voting for the Police Commissioner elections is being held today, Thursday, November 15th.

Join Stevenage MP, Stephen McPartland in voting for Isabel Bauckham as Digital Hero of the year. The Digital Heroes Awards recognises people who harness digital technology to bring about positive social change in their communities.

Stephen said, “Here in Stevenage we have a great new project led by Isabel Bauckham of Crossroads Care which focuses on getting carers connected. The project provides carers with the skills to use the internet confidently, helping them to alleviate their social isolation and stress and enabling them to be more independent. The training, provided by volunteers, takes place in carers' homes or within workshops.”

Many volunteers have been recruited from local businesses, schools and colleges, and groups working to improve relationships between the generations. Isabel Bauckham said, "Many of the carers we support are elderly, and while they do not have any internet skills they are eager to learn."

Vote for Isabel Bauckham here

Local MP Stephen McPartland and the Rt. Rev Paul Bayes, Bishop of Hertford, welcomed the Christian Aid Tax Justice bus as it stopped at Stevenage town square as part of a tour to highlight the injustice of global tax dodging.

Stephen said, “I am very happy to be here supporting the campaign for tax justice. Tax dodging hurts everybody and I fully support more transparency.”

Global tax dodging robs countries of the taxes owed to them: money that could be spent on essential services such as health, education and welfare; and costs the UK an estimated £35 billion a year at a time of austerity and Government cuts. The campaign is pushing for a series of measures to requirecompanies to report on the profits that they make and the taxes that they pay in every country in which they operate and for tax havens to share information automatically with other countries about the money flowing through them.

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