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Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 30 January 2009


I was in Uganda last week on a small cross party delegation (not funded by the tax payer!) examining water and sanitation projects partly supported by a British charity, Tearfund. We were hosted by a Ugandan MP who told us that 40% of his constituents do not have access to clean water, not in their homes, but not even in their village. So the women and the girls have to walk several miles twice a day to bring back water to their households. Uganda has made good progress since the devastating regime of Idi Amin, but they still cannot fund all that they need to do to provide basic living standards for their people.

We were able to inspect very basic rainwater collection projects partly funded by the charity which meant that fresh water was available in the community for the first time. $350 buys you a gutter, a pipe a 16,000 litre collection tank and a tap; a simple system which can transform lives, requires next to no maintenance and supplies a dozen families. I asked one man what difference having water in his back yard had made to his life and he danced on the spot and broke into a song, indicating approval! So much can be achieved for relatively little if there is an active partnership between honest community institutions like the church and outside donors and we were very impressed. There is a long way to go: our MP host also told us that 25% of his constituents do not own shoes, something which was very evident and he spoke openly of the corruption that blights his continent. .

Why should we bother with overseas aid when we have enough problems of our own? I know some will claim, especially in a recession, that charity begins at home. However, the great British public have repeatedly shown that they understand the moral imperative to do what we can for those who are less fortunate than ourselves and that principle holds good even when we enter tough times, largely self-induced. Besides, the world is now inter-dependant and poverty is a compelling recruiting sergeant for extremism. In the longer term, we will never tackle the pressures of migration unless we see the developing world acquire some of the basic standards of living and stability that we take for granted.

I always come back from these trips hugely grateful for all that we have in the UK.

posted by Gary @ 10:05  



Friday, 23 January 2009


After the wall to wall hype about President Obama this week we are entitled to ask a question: in this complex world of 6 billion people, can one person really make a difference?

The answer is a resounding yes.

It has always been the case that leadership is crucial. The person at the top can make or break any organisation. I think of the difference that Geoff Rees has made as principal of Ivybridge Community College, an outstanding leader who has transformed that school. Would we have won the Second World War without the grit and character of Winston Churchill? Where would this country be now without the sensible shoes of Margaret Thatcher? What would New Labour have been without the charismatic Tony Blair? Yes, the person at the top makes a difference.

How much more so when he sits in the Oval Office? For all of its faults, the USA is still the only world superpower and its influence, for good or ill, extends into every nook and cranny. It has the by far the largest economy; as we know only too well when America sneezes, we catch the flu. Its firepower is still the equivalent to every other one of the next top 20 military nations combined, an awesome superiority. For all of the growth on China and India in recent years, it will be sometime before they can rival the might and muscle of the USA. Only the White House can bring sufficient pressure to bear on Israel and its neighbours to provide any hope of a solution in the Middle East. It is inconceivable that the United Nations would ever act militarily without American involvement.

America’s reputation around the globe has suffered in recent years because of clumsy diplomacy and ill-judged military intervention. President Obama has a chance to put that right immediately. He is far better placed to reach out to the non-white world than any of his predecessors. The impact of his election amongst the black community in every country cannot be overstated. His focus will be on saving the US economy, understandably so, and even that is crucial for all of the rest of the world. But his administration must also try and build bridges and mend fences wherever they can. This too is vital for our children in this increasingly inter-dependent world. He faces many obstacles, but the decisions he makes will affect us all, so God bless him.

posted by Gary @ 11:59  



Thursday, 15 January 2009


Plymouth City Council has unveiled plans for 3 travellers’ sites across the city, one of them on the western edge of my constituency at Coypool. This has gone down like a led balloon for obvious reasons with the people who currently live there and who can blame them.

First of all no fault can be attached to the council. It has become a government requirement – the law of the land – that local authorities should make provision for a combination of permanent and temporary travellers’ sites where demand is shown. In Plymouth it seems we need up to 60 sites. If the council refuses to act, which must have been very tempting, the government will intervene and select the sites themselves and we don’t want that. One of the arguments for providing permanent sites is to prevent travellers from gate-crashing anywhere they like, causing mayhem, as they currently do. I am not sure I agree with this. Why should tax payers fund sites for those who make no contribution?

The three possible sites on which the city are consulting are spread throughout the three constituencies so they have been as even-handed as possible. Coypool is what’s known as a brown field site, meaning it has had economic activity on it before (Royal Marines). It is a vast site and I can see why it has been ear-marked, but we still don’t want it in this area. Yes I am being a nimby.  I take a robust view on travellers. I am all for people wanting to be free and to drop out of the rat race, but my experience over the years is that these modern day gypsies take a lot and give little back. Great mounds of rubbish tend to follow from their temporary encampments and anecdotal evidence suggests petty crime increases whilst they are in our midst.

But we must not simply wail in protest. We need to articulate genuine reasons for concern. The Coypool site is very close to quiet residential areas and has significant access issues for large vehicles. I have been assured by the leader of the council that this is far from a done deal and our arguments will be listened too.

2009 starts as many other years have started – with the need for an energetic campaign. Looking back over 16 years, we have won some battles and lost some. Here is one I would like to win. What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 16:53  



Friday, 9 January 2009


Happy New Year to one and all! The year opens with some tough realities about the world we live in. The conflict in the Middle East shows no sign of abating and could escalate. The challenges of the global economic turndown have to be tackled and nobody is really sure what to do for the best. The in-tray of incoming President Obama is full of near impossible decisions.

Thoughts about the coming year facing the UK are dominated by economic considerations. Ploughing into a recession is no big deal in one sense; part of the normal cycle. But the fact that we are heading for recession when there was a prevailing assumption that there will never be another one makes it more brutal. Because the good times rolled for so many years and so many people, businesses councils and even government have racked up so much debt on the back of the no more boom and bust fallacy, the shock of sudden austerity is greater. It will have a particular impact on the young generation who have not experienced this before.

But like the general surrounded on all sides by enemy forces declaring it is a good time to attack, it is time to be positive.

The victims will be those who lose their jobs and we should throw a safety net beneath their feet, and help them all we can. For many people who remain in work monthly mortgage payments should be coming down, which provides an opportunity to strengthen their position until rates rise once more. For those with savings, the season of great deals is clearly over for a while, but so is inflation which eats away at the value of cash savings. Government help needs to be better directed at this army of people who have been prudent. We still do too much for the feckless and not enough for those who act responsibly.

But for most of us, as we navigate the next turbulent year, perhaps we might use these circumstances to slowly shift our habits. We could rediscover the wisdom of saving up for things and relegate our credit cards to play a walk on part only. We could teach our children to save and not to depend so much on credit. We could combine this with seeking a simpler lifestyle and try to live in a more sustainable, planet friendly way. The benefits of so doing will outlast this recession.

posted by Gary @ 10:45