01 Apr 2013 An unusually enlightened politician and why the UK needs to up its game on e-invoicing
There are a few things that make Stephen McPartland unusual. He’s a scouse Tory (trust me – it’s unusual) who writes for the Morning Star campaigning about corporate tax avoidance (and you thought a scouse Tory was unusual) and, on top of that, he gets e-business. That’s right – a politician that understand e-business. Now that is unusual!
I went to the House of Parliament in London to speak with Stephen about why he believes now is the time for the UK to act on e-invoicing.
There is a stark contrast in London. Standing in Whitehall, the 21st century rushes by in the guise of black cabs and red buses, all in the shadow of one of the oldest functioning work places in the world – the Palace of Westminster. And so it is in the back office of business. Despite the computing power at our disposal today, we still cling to paper as a means of transacting business. In 2013, sophisticated software still powers processes that would have felt traditional in Dicken’s day. It’s seemed appropriate then that I talked to Stephen McPartland, one of Britain’s more enlightened politicians, about a 21st century approach to business within the darkened recesses of the Mother of Parliaments, Westminster.
There’s a palpable sense of history in the Palace of Westminster. Political deals are done daily within the corridors of power today as they have been done for literally hundreds of years. There’s a great deal of respect for tradition, some of it quite antiquated, indeed, there is some resistance to modernization.
It’s all well and good preserving the ways of working that work well but, to paraphrase one of Ian Burdens’s phrases, we must not let archaic assumptions constrain modern thinking and while Britain may rightly take pride in its historic traditions it is due for a wake up call about it’s retention of some traditional ways of doing business. Britain is beginning to look backward in its approach to e-business and the use of electronic invoicing – a mature technology that reduces the cost of doing business – has seen slow growth. While other countries’ governments encourage and even mandate the use of e-invoicing, the UK government remains oddly detached. At a time of austerity, to encourage modern practices that would reduce costs to the public sector and thus avoid cuts in public services and at the same time, help to stimulate a recovery by reducing costs in the private sector, would seem to be a no brainer.
As Stephen points out, other countries that many in the UK would see as emerging economies are streets ahead and it’s high time the UK upped its game.
Pete Loughlin can be found on twitter @peteloughlin