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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, 28 August 2009


It is fashionable to play Fantasy football and place yourself in the shoes of well known football managers. What about fantasy politics. What would you have done, if you had been either Jack Straw, our Lord Chancellor, or the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill? Would you have granted the convicted criminals their freedom on compassionate grounds?

We do not necessarily have all of the facts, as the real decision makers did. Just because something appears in a newspaper sadly does not make it true. But one of the great things about modern communications is that we get bombarded with information enabling us to stand at least partially in the place of those who must decide. If there was other information which helped shape these decisions, it would almost certainly have emerged by now.

From what I have seen and read I would have let Biggs go home to die with his family. He committed a serious crime but has served many years in prison, many more than some who commit far worse crimes, and is clearly now not a threat to anybody. He may not have shown much remorse, but he did not take the life of another person, although arguably he may have inflicted damage on the train driver that did shorten his life.

But I would never have let Mr al-Megrahi go, not in a month of Sundays. I understand the need occasionally to show compassion, but this has to be tempered with Justice. The crime in question was one of the most heinous and cowardly acts of the age, responsibly for killing 291 innocent people.

There seemed to be a feeling around that perhaps this particular prisoner was not necessarily guilty, but that should have played no part in this decision. You cannot be half guilty. If there were circumstances suggesting he was innocent, that was a matter for an appeal and should have been separated from this decision taken on compassionate grounds, because of his prostrate cancer.

I still cannot for the life of me see how this decision was reached. It has made us look soft in the eyes of the world, upset our closest allies and handed a propaganda coup to those who wish us ill. Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi went home to a hero’s welcome. As he has now dropped his appeal against the conviction we are never likely to know if he was truly innocent.

What would you have done?


posted by Gary @ 15:54  



Thursday, 13 August 2009


It’s all my fault of course. As soon as Parliament rose I zoomed down from sticky horrible London and leapt into my shorts to go into my local office; the heavens looked down and laughed, the skies opened and the deluge began. I should apologise in person to all of the tent dwellers, the caravaners, the would-be surfers and the hikers. I am sorry to all of the holiday-makers I have since seen driving past me, three children in the back seat bored and irritating each other, windows steamed up, Dad looking cross, temperatures rising inside the car if not outside.

The weather has shown itself once again, in our traditional English summer, to be outside of our control. Indeed, it seems that it is becoming increasingly difficult even to predict it, let alone control it. I have lost count of the times in recent weeks where the forecast has said one thing but the elements disagreed the very next day. Some will argue that this increasing unpredictability is due to global warming, but I blame the Met Office for re-locating to Exeter. They should have come to Plymouth.

We think we should be able to control everything, but we never will. If something goes wrong in our life, we look for someone to blame, somewhere to get redress. That is why in recent years we have spawned so many layers of appeal and the burgeoning Ombudsman industry. The impression is given that no matter how trivial the claim, there is always another level of appeal; I know my rights.

Injustices occur and I encounter them often in my surgery. It is important that public decision makers should be held to account when things go wrong. But do we need more and more quangoes to tackle all this? But I would prefer to put our trust in two ancient traditions: the legal system and Members of Parliament. There is a strong argument for scrapping the Ombudsman labyrinth, saving millions and plough it back into legal aid so people have access to proper justice once again in a modernised judicial system. That way frivolous and vexatious claims get screened out early on and genuine victims get real compensation.

Alongside that we should not forget the role of elected representatives to fight on behalf of constituents when things go wrong. The purists may not like it, but it has the advantage of working very well. Unlike our summer weather.

posted by Gary @ 15:46  



Thursday, 6 August 2009


Sometimes the most boring aspects of political life can be the most important. Take this one: cross border co-operation between Plymouth and South Hams councils. Yawn!

In fact it is crucial. Traditionally local government officers act strictly within their own boundaries, but in this area almost all of the strategic issues arise on the border between two authorities, the new town at Sherford and the future development of the job-creating business park at Langage to name but two. So it has been good to witness very strong co-operation between the two councils over the past two years for the benefit of all of us.

As you read these words you will have heard whether the plans for Sherford have been approved by the relevant planning committees, although as I write them this crucial outcome remains up in the air. The original plans, painstakingly put together over many years, have been blown to smithereens by the recession. The commitments to put the high street and much of the infrastructure in first have evaporated due to economic necessity. I commend councillors for taking their time over this, working across borders and not being railroaded into these vital long term decisions.

Both councils are now also consulting on what they call their Urban Fringe Development Strategy – which basically means how much building to allow on the perimeter of Plymouth (all of which is in this constituency) over the next 15 years. The spotlight falls on potential sites at Staddiscombe, Newnham, Woolwell and Roborough. How much building should be permitted? How will it fit into the existing infrastructure and what impact this will have on existing communities? Should these houses all be built within the city perimeter or at Sherford and leave these green field sites alone? These are all decisions that fall to be made and co-operation between councillors and officers across the divide is crucial. It is also an opportunity for you to have your say and I hope that you will.

This collaboration is important for another reason: the future of the frontier itself. Many senior residents can remember when Plymouth’s tanks rolled onto the lawns of Plympton and Plymstock in the early 1970’s. The strategic development sites mentioned above are obvious targets for further boundary extensions in the future. But the more the two councils can co-operate together and produce joint strategies and services that benefit all local citizens, the weaker the argument for boundary changes.

posted by Gary @ 07:02