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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.


Thursday, 25 November 2010

What can we learn from the crisis now unfolding across the Irish Sea?
Firstly, that we live in an inter-dependant world. Even if we were not in the EU with the Republic, we could not wash our hands as their banks and economy crash. We have billions of pounds worth of trade with our Irish cousins and if their economy turns turtle, it would impact our businesses severely. Irish banks owe billions of pounds to UK banks and if they were allowed to fail, it might drag ours down again too. This gives the lie to those who call for splendid isolation. The world is not like that anymore. Technology and open borders have made us economically dependent upon one another, like it or not. That is why co-ordinated action by the G20 has become so significant.
Second, it is a mistake to allow banks to grow too big to fail. Ireland, a country of only 6 million, has massive banks but a relatively small state. They do not have the scale or infrastructure to bail out their banks as we did in the UK and USA. Even here, there is an obvious limit to the extent to which the tax payer can support failing banks. We should seriously consider separating high street banks from their large investment arms that have caused the problems of the past 3 years by reckless lending and trading in security packages that even they did not understand. We should maintain vigilance even here in the UK because this is not over yet.
Third, thank heaven we are not in the euro, and if I have anything to do with it, never will be. The Irish problem is not just about the insolvency of their banks, it is about their inability in these past few years to implement policies to correct their economy from plunging into a colossal recession. Property prices have collapsed by 60% over there in the past few years. When the global downturn came, the Irish government needed to drastically slash interest rates and depreciate their currency to stave off economic disaster. Because they were locked into the straitjacket of the euro-zone, they were unable to do either of these things.
So we must learn lessons from this crisis over the water, and not walk by on the other side. In the twenty-first century, one thing is for sure: everybody is our neighbour. E-mail me on with your thoughts.

posted by Gary @ 09:20  



Thursday, 18 November 2010

The most common reaction I am receiving from constituents to the benefit changes that the coalition has recently announced is: it's about time!
A few years ago the prevailing mood was that more needed to be done for all benefit claimants. How things change. The mood is much more discerning these days. We all want to support – generously – people who need our help whether for a short period of unemployment or sickness, or in same sad cases a prolonged run in with serious disability. We want to go the extra mile for such people .That will never change.
But most of us are sick and tired of: people who could work but who are claiming incapacity benefit and/or people who have never worked and have no intention of working and feel the world owes them a living.
We are determined to tackle this and in doing so I am confident we have captured the mood of the nation. A life on benefit should never be more lucrative than a life of work. People who live on benefits should have to face the same stark choices as the rest of us. That is why we are changing the housing benefit rules to put a cap on the amount you can claim. This will mean that in some cases new claimants will not be able to live in the poshest places. I remember when Jan and I first moved to Plymouth. We fell in love with Yealmpton and wanted to move there. We could not afford it, so Peverell it was. We have since clawed our way out to Plympton and there it seems we will stay.
It is human nature to play to a system. There will always be a hardcore minority who will abuse a comprehensive system. This creates two main problems.  First, it costs hard working tax payers a lot more than it should to run such a scheme. Second, welfare dependency delivers a life that falls well short of the potential that we have as human beings. It is bad for the country and the individuals concerned.
Everything vacillates in politics. There is a problem (poverty) to which there is a solution (welfare state) which in turn leads to a further problem (welfare dependency) which in turn must be tackled. That is our now mission. No doubt it will create unintended consequences that future generations must resolve. But for now, the force is with us.

posted by Gary @ 09:22  



Friday, 12 November 2010

Last Friday Jan and I thoroughly enjoyed the Festival of Remembrance at the Plymouth Pavilions which as usual combined respectful tributes to local veterans with pride in the impressive cadets on display, all peppered with appropriate British pomp and ceremony. Congratulations to the team, no longer spring chickens, who put this event on each year – it is a real highlight. Next Sunday we will be braving the elements on the Hoe to further remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Some people suggest it is time to move on; to let these memories fade into history. I could not disagree more.
First, we who have been born since 1945 should face up to the harsh realities of the two great wars of the last century and the sacrifice a whole generation made fighting for our freedoms. Whenever confronted with the true horrors of twentieth century warfare: the death and mutilation of such young people, the fear of listening to bombs whistling down from the sky never knowing if one had your name on it, the terror and deprivations in prisoner of war camps, the despair of being trapped on a torpedoed ship slipping beneath icy waves; I try and imagine what people of a certain generation have had to suffer. The rest of us, post-war civilians, have never experienced anything remotely like it. We have benefited from these sacrifices. How dare we forget?
Second, if we remind ourselves of the true horrors of war, we might avoid the same mistakes. The history of mankind is not encouraging. We have inflicted suffering upon each other for countless generations, often for reasons that bear little scrutiny. Sadly I do not believe that human nature is evolving in a way that will render war one day obsolete. Evidence to the contrary. But through democratic political systems we can take steps to reduce the likelihood of nation taking up arms against others. As we remember the implications of conflict we are motivated to seek ways of building bridges and setting in place structures to resolve conflict through peaceful means.  Learning from the past can help us shape a better future
Last year on the Hoe we got soaked. We said to each other in the car on the way home – compared to what those we were commemorating had suffered, it was a walk in the park.
They gave their todays for our tomorrows. We will remember them.

posted by Gary @ 10:12  



Thursday, 4 November 2010

Last week I spent 3 days in Nigerian capital, Abuja. As you do. I was there with a Labour colleague to discuss with Nigerian Parliamentarians a whole range of issues including integrity in public life. Some of you get upset, I know, at the mere thought of me jetting around to such places, so I thought I would try and explain why British MPs (and MPs from all western nations) do this stuff.
It is about good governance. The main challenge in any African country is not poverty, but corruption. If Zimbabwe had a half decent government its people would not be hungry. If the Congo had honest politicians, there would not be civil war. You cannot have a good government without a vibrant democracy, and democracy takes generations, centuries perhaps, to become embedded. We have been at this since 1215, and heaven knows we still are far from perfect. So at the invitation of developing nations, we travel to discuss and grapple with how we can learn from one another.
Britain, as the oldest democracy, has a special part to play in this. In addition to our hard power (armed forces) we have much to offer in terms of soft power – diplomacy, civil service, judiciary, Parliamentary Democracy and so on. Passing on this Know-How, when invited, in a non- "colonial" way is part of our contribution to a fairer more stable world.  We should engage in these activities, even though we have problems at home and our own political system is due an overhaul.
Nigeria is a strategic African nation. It has a population of over 150 million people. One in four black Africans is a Nigerian. Tensions between Christian and Muslim threaten their stability. They are new to their own home grown democracy and they know they have not made a flying start. Corruption is rife and until 10 years or so ago, elections ended up with the army taking over. There are signs of progress
It is right to help people less fortunate than ourselves. It is also in our own national interest. The only real long term answer to the mass migration of people is to see living standards rise in the developing world.
I am always glad to come home to a country where things tend to work and where (despite the dramas of 2009) we do not have political corruption.
It is Guy Fawkes Night. Light blue touch paper and retire.

posted by Gary @ 09:11