Previous Posts



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.


Thursday, 28 May 2009


We are still in the grip of a brutal recession. I had meetings over the weekend with two local industrialists both of whom, independently, told me that they expected to have to make more of their Plymouth workforce redundant in the next few days. The business world has suffered a collapse of between 10 and 20 per cent of its turnover since the end of last year, and so they have little choice but to reduce their overheads. If they did not do this then the prospect of moving manufacturing to the cheaper parts of Eastern Europe would look an increasingly attractive option. Although we can hope that the reduction in global activity may well have bottomed out, there is absolutely no sign of any upturn. This can only mean that unemployment will continue to blight us for some time. So, although the national media no longer focus on the state of our economy, sadly we are not out of the tunnel yet.

The TV and press tell us what is important. They tell us what to think and what to talk about. A couple of months ago it was all about the recession – maybe depression. You could not avoid the BBC’s Robert Peston bouncing up and down in front of dramatic graphs screaming wall to wall gloom. Then we were all given an excruciating ringside seat at Jade Goody’s last days, before we were treated to the Home Secretary’s husband’s viewing habits, only to be knocked off top spot by the news that swine flu was about to kill us off in a giant Mexican wave. Then of course the Daily Telegraph unleashed its perfect storm upon the political establishment with consequences that will be far reaching for all of us, both positive and negative.

All the time the recession was still out there, lurking in the shadows, but you would not have known that from national media coverage. Despite the scorching we have all had in the past few weeks, I am glad we have a free press. I have been to plenty of countries where they do not and the people would willingly swap with us. But I am beginning to wonder if our media has become too all-controlling. In the end, with all of our imperfections, politicians are accountable to the electorate. But to whom is the media accountable? A little more balance please; but then, since when did being fair sell newspapers?

posted by Gary @ 14:47  



Thursday, 21 May 2009


It started with a stolen disc ruthlessly exploited by skilful journalism and has now developed into a full blown constitutional crisis involving the first motion of no confidences in a Speaker of the House of Commons for over 300 years.

The system of MP’s expenses was far too lax; we all knew it and did nothing about it. Some have clearly abused it and a few may well face criminal charges. Others have over-claimed and may well face de-selection. The public, I know, are in the mood for heads to roll. We have now gone onto an interim system with no more claims for furniture or refurbishment, no flipping of second homes and all of our new expense claims will go online the day they are made in a week’s time.

But the damage to our reputation has been colossal and we have to somehow start the long road back to public trust. We must not waste this crisis and focus only on expenses. The furore over MP’s expenses must serve as a catalyst for wider Parliamentary reform. I suggest three things

First, we need the new system of remuneration (including expenses) to be imposed upon us by some sensible independent body, hopefully the Kelly Committee that is currently reviewing this matter. We should never again vote on our own pay and allowances. The most important safeguard, it seems to me, is immediate public scrutiny and publishing our claims online the same day should become compulsory for the long term. Then constituents – to whom we are ultimately accountable - can e-mail us to ask: why do you need to spend that? It sounds terrifying but necessary.

Second, we need a new reforming and radical Speaker who can better connect not just with the House but also the public at large. Why shouldn’t the Speaker appear on television to discuss the work of the house from time to time in a non-partisan way to help people better connect with their democracy?

Third, the whips must become less powerful and more MPs should feel free to speak and act independently, rather than cow-towing to the party line. This would help hold the executive to account and improve legislation – the proper job of the elected House.

It is not all broken. We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater; we still have a democracy that we can be proud of. But minor tweaking will no longer do.

posted by Gary @ 08:07  



Thursday, 14 May 2009


The other day I bumped into someone I had not seen for ages, an old friend called Common Sense. He told me that he had been overseas, but that he now missed the United Kingdom and wanted to come home. He said he had been amazed at the changes in our country since he had gone, and then recounted the following shocking tale:

I went back to the place I used to live only to find that three squatters had moved in, shifty looking characters. I rang the door bell and a man called Political Correctness answered. I used to live here, I said, can I come in?

No, he said, because you have a silver cross around your neck and to allow you admission might cause offence to the Muslim family who live opposite. The door closed in my face. I went across the road and spoke to the family concerned, a lovely couple whose grandparents came to Britain from Pakistan. Over a cup of tea they assured me that they were not in any way offended by my cross and were delighted to meet another person of faith.

I rang again and this time a lady called Human Rights Excesses answered. I want my house back please, I said politely. No way, she replied, I have a right to occupy this house, together with a right not to be harassed by you. In fact, she said, even to mention that I wanted my house back contravened her rights not to be disappointed. She swung the door shut, saying that she had a human right not to get cold and that I would be hearing from her lawyers.

My heart sank and I stood for a while wondering what had happened to my old place.

I rang for a final time and there was no answer. I called through the letter box and a man called Risk Aversion responded from a distance. I cannot come to the door, he cried, because I am still covering the walls with cotton wool and I have made no formal risk assessment of opening the door to a stranger and to do so risks invalidating our household insurance and breaching health and safety guidelines. I walked away.

What will you do now I asked? I intend to march on Downing Street, he replied, I should arrive by next spring. I will not give up. Common Sense is coming home.

posted by Gary @ 10:56  



Thursday, 7 May 2009


Our naval base has been making the news again this week. I managed to secure a debate at Westminster to try and wrench some more clarity from the government about their plans for its future. It was as long ago as July 2007 that they announced the outcome of the naval base review – all three bases would remain open, but each would have to suffer cuts - and since then we have been kept hanging on wondering what that means for us. We are still waiting.

It matters because one in ten jobs locally is directly or indirectly generated by the dockyard and naval base. It matters because there are 4000 people currently employed in the naval base (and 3500 in the yard). It matters because each ship and submarine base-ported here represents millions of pounds in income and spending in our city by those mariners and their families and if the ships are moved elsewhere that spending will disappear.

A minister saying that “Devonport has a secure future” is utterly meaningless. It does not distinguish between the yard and the base and it gives no specifics on jobs or future scale.

Of course the government – any government – must think first about the right thing for the country. But the magnificent years of service since 1588 must count for something.

What outcome do we want? We want the frigates to stay and to be part of Plymouth’s future. We want the submarines to stay. With a Scottish Nationalist government in Scotland, how sensible is it to place all of our nuclear submarine fleet – including our deterrent - at Faslane?

If these decisions go against us we want proper compensation for the local economy including help in utilising the redundant parts of the naval base for commercial purposes, which will require substantial investment to be of any use at all.

Above all we need certainty so the city can plan. In the summer of 2007 we were told that the MOD was working out the specific impact for each of the three naval bases. Since then the defence budget has come under even greater pressure and the government has run out of money. But we are still waiting for the details of the review. The uncertainty is crippling for city leaders and the business community.

Many of us fear that behind the scenes the decisions are already taken, but there is (as ever) raw politics at work.

posted by Gary @ 08:19  



Friday, 1 May 2009


For the past two weeks I have been on Jury Service in Southwark Crown Court, London. The whole process has been fascinating even though it has cost me two Fridays in the constituency, a significant loss for me, if nobody else.

Until a few years ago judges and MPs were excluded from jury service but the law was changed. I cannot now remember whether I voted for or against that change, but at the beginning of last week as I shuffled into the giant holding pen with another 150 potential jurors from all kinds of backgrounds, I was cursing the change of law.

They had warned us that there would be a lot of hanging around and they did not disappoint!

I was one of several who were put forward for a 16 week trial and we were warned that only a substantial reason would enable us to escape that ballot. Panic! I suggested that as I represent 70,000 people at Westminster it would be unfair on them to be without representation for four months and happily this seemed to be readily accepted. Back to the holding pen to await further developments.

At 4pm last Monday I was sworn in with 11 others to try a fascinating assault case which ran until Friday afternoon. At the end of two hours hot debate we had managed to agree on a verdict and delivered it in court. This week another stabbing case. London was obviously not a good place to be last autumn.

Apart from the frustrating delays and down times, and the bumbling performance of the prosecution, I have enjoyed the whole experience and recommend it should the envelope drop onto your letterbox summonsing you to attend the court. A lively sense of camaraderie was developed between the twelve of us.

It was a satisfying feeling at the end of the case to know that we the jury, we the people, we the common-folk selected at random, not the experts, or the bureaucrats or even the lawyers, exclusively made the decision. Each one of us took the responsibility seriously and we did our utmost to get to the truth and do the right thing.

Some people want to scrap juries altogether claiming them to be anarchic. I have been reinforced in my view that they are important and should remain a crucial part of our justice system. Trust the people and they will rarely let you down.

posted by Gary @ 08:41