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, 30 July 2009

The run up to the school holidays is always an enjoyable time as I get asked to attend prize givings and sometimes present prizes and say a few words.
It is a timely reminder that despite a negative press the current crop of youngsters is just as talented as previous generations and contains the same mixture as every cohort that any of us can remember. Each school year seems to comprise a tiny minority of truly gifted and exceptional people, who will go on to break records and invent new technologies or lead communities. Each group contains a larger but still small minority of those who have less intelligence who seem to be programmed to self-destruct and create mayhem. The majority are somewhere in the middle and most of these will go on to live responsible lives even if they may have the odd stormy incident upon the journey of their teenage years. Think back to your own school days. I doubt very much if the proportions of these three groupings has changed much over the years. Language and dress codes change (and how) but the same principles seem to be in play.
We should not resent the talented few who will fly high, but should inspire them to fly higher still. We should be proud of young people like Tom Daley who is such a great ambassador for his generation. Just think about the relentless regime of daily discipline that this teenager puts himself through - it is not just about natural talent. I saw this summer a handful of remarkable children receive countless prizes and was inspired by their achievements. We should not be levelling down, but lifting up.
The minority of real trouble makers have always been there. We must identify and crack down on the real ring leaders but do our best not to criminalise those on the fringes of this group who could be "saved" (from themselves) and live decent lives.
The main focus of our schools should be to inspire the vast majority of students to reach their utmost potential. We are very fortunate in this constituency to have five excellent secondary schools that serve our young people well. I have seen first hand the unstinting effort of so many of our teachers, and they deserve our thanks.

posted by Gary @ 10:58  



Wednesday, 22 July 2009


The cry goes up: we have to get the banks lending again. But they are lending again. The point is they are now lending more cautiously than they did before. Isn’t that exactly what we want them to be doing? What some commentators are really calling for is a return to the irresponsible lending of the recent past, the very thing that triggered this recession.

For several years there will be very few 100% mortgages on offer and businesses can expect to have to back up every pound they want to borrow with substantial capital and security. This is one reason why the economy will only grow slowly once we come out of this recession, because whilst the banks retain a corporate memory of the recent blood bath, prudence and caution will be their constant guides. This is to be welcomed, but it does mean that the growth spurts of the past ten years are a thing of the past.

But that is not the end of the story. We have to take into account the stark reality about government finances. Our public debt is spiralling out of control, with borrowing this year alone – just to pay the bills - of £175 billion, more than five times the defence budget. Commentators including the IMF are warning Britain that we have to get our debt levels under control and fast.  Whoever wins the next election will have to take action to cut back public spending and reduce some of this accumulated debt. That is bound to impact public sector jobs over the next few years.

Add all of this together. Unemployment is currently 2.4 million and still rising. Most of these jobs have been lost in the private sector and it is unlikely that our economy, for the reasons given above, will be creating masses of new jobs in the next few years. Factor in the likely job losses in the public sector over the same period and you do not need to be a genius to work out that employment prospects in the medium term are bleak, especially for younger people.

This is one reason why it is time for any government to now take a much tougher line on non-EU immigration. We need to cap the numbers coming to live and work here, especially at times like these. Let us equip our own workforce to take up whatever new jobs there are, before looking overseas.


posted by Gary @ 11:15  



Friday, 17 July 2009


It has been painful to hear the news of the increasing death toll of our troops in Afghanistan. It begs the question why are we out there.

I strongly support the mission of taking the fight to the Taliban and Al Qaeda to prevent that part of the world becoming a crucible of terrorist training and planning once again. We must not forget that it was from Taliban-run Afghanistan that the attack on the twin towers was planned and put into practice back in 2001. It was there that training camps were set up to fire up young radicals to bring their terror to our streets in the USA and UK, including the attacks in London on 7th July. It could be Plymouth next.

I entirely accept the argument that if we don’t challenge them in their bleak homelands, we will have to challenge them ever more frequently on our own streets.

So this crucial campaign has a clear mission. The current surge by US and UK troops under the NATO banner will result in more casualties but hopefully drive the Taliban back and destroy their capacity to reap mayhem and incubate terrorist activity around the world.

What I am less certain about is the lofty ambition to turn this region into some kind of 21st century paragon of democracy. Or rather I would support it, if it were realistic. I fear that Afghanistan is still very much in the pre-democratic phase – mainly run by gangsters and warlords. The best we can hope for is to destroy the Taliban’s potential for a generation and then withdraw our forces to allow the Afghan people to run the country as best they can, with no doubt much aid being poured in from the developed world.

And while our troops are doing such heroic work in such inhospitable conditions, they should have the very best kit to protect and equip them for the job. We should never send our soldiers and marines into conflict with second class equipment. People ask in a recession where the extra money would come from. I approach this differently. If defending our nation is any government’s first priority, the defence budget, an adequate one to meet our commitments, should be the first claim on the Exchequer. Once that amount is sorted, we can turn to the other spending commitments that have to be made. In a dangerous world, our armed forces should always come first.

posted by Gary @ 10:05  



Thursday, 9 July 2009


I had my first visit to the intended Langage Energy Park on Friday. You had to behold it with the eye of faith.  It is a currently just a series of areas of grassy sites flanking the new power station on which buildings will (hopefully) be built one day.

When the idea of the power station was first touted, we were promised an Energy Park alongside which would attract businesses from all over the country, creating thousands of jobs for local people. I was keen to find out where these jobs had got to.

Plymouth is pursuing a growth strategy. The city is intended to grow by 30,000 people over the next 20 years. For the one new town that is being built in the South Hams the city is building 3 such settlements within its own boundaries over a similar period. This is fine, but where will these people work? The answer is in large measure: Langage. It is the chosen site for the employment needed to support the growth strategy for the entire sub-region.

Huge sums of money are necessary to convert the massive chunks of land from green spaces into thriving places of employment. There is little sign of it at the moment. The Regional Development Agency has a few millions that may be headed this way to kick start it and I urge them to act swiftly. Planning issues also remain, notably highways. The road system in this area is already over-loaded. There is talk of a southern route into Langage and significant upgrading of the Deep Lane intersection, but much of that depends upon Sherford being built and/or government grants being pumped in and I am beginning to wonder whether there is any money left for such projects.

It is now clear that there is no queue of high energy-using companies wanting to relocate to this corner of the country for cheap electricity. On that issue we were sold a pup and even after the recession this is unlikely to change. The energy park will effectively be an extension of the existing business parks at Langage with mixed uses from warehouses to offices.

Few of us wanted the power station or the energy park, but we do need work for the next generation. It is now time for all of us to work together to make the very attractive plans for job-creating buildings leap off the page and became a reality.


posted by Gary @ 17:32  



Thursday, 2 July 2009


At a recent meeting with primary head teachers in Plymouth the conversation turned to the state of our nation as seen from the primary school. Amidst some positives and recognising a rapidly swirling world, the report swiftly became gloomy: disruptive behaviour on the increase, capacity for social interaction on the decrease and parental abdication of responsibilities off the scale. In the same week, news reached me that a pack of young people (aged 10 to 14) is running amok in parts of Plymstock once more, despite the best efforts of the police.

It is not the children’s fault, it is we the parents.

Let’s get one thing straight: teachers are not responsible for bringing up our children, we the parents are. The police are not there to discipline our kids. We are. I saw a 10 year old girl in a shop on Friday fling a huge packet of sweets into the trolley. Her mother said no, but after a major strop, the delightful child won the day. What chance for her future?

Some are trying to be their child’s best friend. That is not our role. We are to love, provide shelter, encourage, discipline, teach and do our best, but above all to be a parent. This means drawing boundaries and saying no and meaning it and enforcing it with sanctions if necessary. Of course the task is easier with two, although some single parents are managing heroically, whilst some households with two adults just can’t be bothered. It is not about one or two; it is about responsibility and commitment. 

There are many challenges that any incoming government will face: the recession, balancing the books once again and recapturing lost confidence in Parliament to name but a few. But something must be done to sort out the state of family structures in the UK, and the behavioural consequences which flow from it. We will never have enough teachers or police officers or social workers for the state to do the job that the family is designed to do.

The more provision we put in place, the more some parents will simply back off and expect the rest of us to raise their children. Fining parents who can’t be bothered has not proven successful. Parenting classes don’t seem to attract the ones who really need it.

Irresponsible parents are still a minority, but a growing one. We need a change of direction. All ideas gratefully received.

posted by Gary @ 11:42