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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.


Wednesday, 30 December 2009

What does 2010 hold for us all? The mystery of life is that we have no way of knowing. We make our plans and resolutions, but events can make mockery of them.
One thing we do know for sure is that we will have a general election. My message on this is simple: please vote. As I constantly tell sixth-formers in regular meetings with them, we must not take our democracy, however imperfect, for granted. We should not assume that because this is Britain, our freedoms will always be with us. If voter turnout continues to dwindle, if we give in to cynicism, we create a vacuum, but it will not stay a vacuum for long. Something unpleasant will fill it.
I accept that 2009 was not a great year for our Parliament. The long running expose of MP's expenses has undermined trust and confidence. But it is sorted now. It was a horrible wake up call and we have responded. We have a new expenses system which is simple and transparent. We have a new independent regulator. A record number of MPs are leaving the House of Commons, some will be prosecuted. Most of us have stayed within the spirit and letter of the rules and are even paying back sums that an independent investigator, applying a different set of rules, has applied retrospectively.
So this dreadful scandal is no longer a reason not to vote. Nor is the argument that all parties are the same. Even if that were true, which it most firmly is not, people still have to select a local MP and I am pleased to say that candidates still come in all shapes and sizes to suit all tastes! There is no excuse not to vote.
Let us all hope that in 2010 the economy starts to recover. But there is an elephant in the room. The size of the budget deficit (we are currently spending £175 billion a year more than we are getting in) and record public debt (racing on towards a trillion pounds) will dominate the economic landscape. Whoever wins the next election, hard choices will have to be made on tax and public spending which will put the dampers on economic recovery. Get ready for a few years of slog.
But even against a gloomy backdrop we can all make positive decisions in our relationships and families. May I wish all of you a potential-achieving New Year!

posted by Gary @ 10:12  



Thursday, 17 December 2009

50% of us are not yet sure about climate change, according to opinion polls. We can all see that the climate is changing, but we also know that it has done this periodically throughout the history of this planet, hence the Ice Age. The key issue is: are we causing it?
I have to make a confession, which will disappoint some. I have tried really hard to buy into the hard core green agenda over the past few years but something inside prevents me from going the whole way. I realise that pumping all of this carbon into our atmosphere can hardly be a good thing, but is it really causing a change in weather patterns of this awesome globe on which we live? I want to believe and yet…
Is it truly possible, I hear you ask, that all of these international scientists could be wrong? Well, yes actually. The people who built the Titanic branded her as the ship that could not be sunk. Many economists over the past 15 years have been telling us there would never be another recession. Experts can be wrong. They can also have their own agenda, as we have seen recently. This new-found focus on climate change must not become another religion. It is not heresy simply to raise a question or two.
The nation is divided on this. You can tell that because at the same time as world leaders are grappling with emergency measures in Copenhagen, our streets are still full of twinkling Christmas lights!
But perhaps it doesn't matter. Because we know that gas and oil – the great carbon producers – are running out anyway and energy security is going to become the hottest issue of the next 50 years, both viewpoints lead in the same direction. We will have to conserve energy anyway (reducing carbon), we will have to place greater reliance on renewables and other forms of energy production anyway (reducing carbon) so we may as well crack on with it.
Here is what I think:
1. We should all try and reduce our carbon footprints.
2. Government policy should encourage the creation and use of alternative energy sources and gradually disincentivise heavy carbon production
3. Continual efforts must be made to reach international consensus
We are stewards of this planet and must take better care of it. But all of this must happen at a rate and at a pace we can afford.

posted by Gary @ 13:38  



Thursday, 10 December 2009

This is not over. The news of 1700 job losses at Corus in Tyneside last week sent shock waves rippling through the British economy. Many small businesses are hanging on by their finger tips. Over one million Brits agreed to a pay freeze or cut in wages last year. Confidence remains low. The banks are still behaving badly, clawing back wherever they can. Public spending cuts – whoever wins the next election - are bound to take their toll on the economy, as the new government tries to attack the massive debt mountain.
For all of these reasons we cannot assume that we are set fair to recover even if the figures for the current quarter show that we are technically out of recession. There remain, sadly, a number of pent up problems in our financial system that could turn around and devour us. Some predict a double dip, others the gentle floating free from the rocks. In truth, nobody knows. There are as many scenarios as there are economists. We will just have to wait and see.
The banks must start lending again – not irresponsibly for that triggered the problem - but sensibly without wanting belt, braces body and soul in return. The government have poured in billions on our behalf to rescue them and the Bank of England have printed £200 billion and handed it over to banks to help them lend again. It is not working. I understand the strong feeling towards bankers and their excessive bonuses, but it would help us more if we could solve the lending logjam rather than take our revenge.
There is positive news. There has been so much capacity stripped out of some industries that they are starting to recruit again to cope with demand. The car scrappage scheme has been a success – such that there is now a waiting list for new cars and the price of second hand cars has risen. Value for Money businesses have enjoyed great success. Those on tracker mortgages still in work have found that disposable income has gone up not down, although this will not last forever.
But if ever there was an age of insecurity, surely this is it. Banking system shaken, Parliament shaken, climate change fears reverberating in the background.
As we approach Christmas 2009 perhaps has there ever been a better time to seek our hope, not in politicians or experts or material things but in more timeless truths.

posted by Gary @ 10:08  



Thursday, 3 December 2009

Battle is joined! Viridor, the large waste company, are pushing ahead to apply for planning permission to build an Energy from Waste facility (otherwise known as an incinerator) at New England Quarry just to the south of Lee Mill. Local opinion is firmly against this project, and having seen the detailed plans in my office at Westminster last week, so am I.
There are 4 ways of dealing with waste: stick it in the ground (landfill), recycle it, decompose it (anaerobic digester) or burn it (incinerator.) Of course we all support recycling and must do more, but that will not come close to disposing of all of our waste. Our landfill options are limited now that Chelson Meadow is full, we could not possibly decompose all of our waste in south Devon and so 3 local councils acting in partnership have concluded that an incinerator is the least worst solution. It is hard to argue with that, so the issue is – where should it go?
Viridor will argue that as their site is an old quarry and is designated in the local plan for waste disposal, it is the obvious place.
There are at least three reasons why I disagree. First, to get all of the waste there would mean 100 extra lorries laden with waste storming through Lee Mill every day. Already 7000 vehicles pour through this village, and it is unacceptable to burden them further. Viridor have tried hard to find an alternative traffic solution but have failed. Second, I have now seen the impressions of what this facility would look like from several locations around the constituency. The visual impact would be horrendous. Third, although the experts tell us these things are safe, the proximity to the Yealm and attractive farmland makes it environmentally contentious.
There are two processes running at the same time. The planning decision which will be made by Devon County Council and the decision on whether the Viridor bid is chosen by the South West Waste Partnership. We must focus our energies on persuading these decision-makers to reject this proposal in 2010. I believe there are better sites available, notably the dockyard/naval base.
There is a public exhibition at the Smithaleigh Hotel on 10th December to view the plans. I have called a public meeting for 7pm on Monday 14th December at the Watermark Ivybridge to discuss these proposals and agree on an action plan. Please be there if you can.

posted by Gary @ 10:46