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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, 30 June 2011

This is the letter I have written this week to every member of the committee that will shortly be making the planning decision on New England Quarry. I have sought to focus on planning issues which is the basis on which the decision must be made.
Dear Councillor,
I appreciate you have a tough decision to make on the Viridor application for an incinerator and land fill at New England Quarry. Before you do so, may I respectfully underline 3 key points on behalf of people living in the vicinity.
1.    The Devon waste partnership has chosen Devonport as the site for its Energy from Waste facility to tackle municipal waste and I have no doubt this will receive planning permission in the next 12 months. Accordingly, if the NEQ proposal is passed we would have two incinerators within a few miles of each other. Once other micro projects have taken their share of the non-municipal waste available, there is no doubt that Viridor will be bussing waste into NEQ from all over the region and possibly even further afield. I respectfully suggest that this is not an appropriate use of land in the South Hams.
2.    Viridor has not solved the traffic problem through Lee Mill. The additional burden of heavy vehicles full of rubbish passing through the village will make lives intolerable for its residents. In particular, most traffic passing through Lee Mill from the west currently proceeds to Tesco or the Industrial Estate beyond. The Viridor lorries containing waste whether for incineration or landfill will be turning right at the bottom of the hill, completely throwing existing traffic patterns into confusion. I respectfully submit that the highways issues have not been resolved by this application.
3.    No matter how much clever engineering goes into a site, it is impossible to guarantee that unforeseen events will not arise (as in Japan recently). I respectfully submit that NEQ is far too close to the eco-sensitive site of the river Yealm (and Dartmoor) to be considered safe.
If one was to scour Devon looking for a more unsuitable site, it would be hard to find, given the acute environmental sensitivities and significant highways issues. Opposition to this proposal from the local community is absolute. I very much hope these points will assist you in reaching a positive decision for local people.
Yours sincerely
Gary Streeter MP
The decision is due to be made in July. Fingers crossed.

posted by Gary @ 12:49  



Thursday, 23 June 2011

I promised to report back on your response to my article on House of Lords reform. Over 70 replied (thank you) of which 5 wanted me to support the reforms and the rest authorised me to stand against it.  There was a widespread recognition that the upper house is too large and that perhaps a retirement age is necessary. One gentleman lambasted me for even considering voting against the commitment in our national party manifesto. I asked him if he voted for me because of this policy, and I have not yet heard back. I suspect not.
So I now feel liberated to vote against the proposed reforms and will follow the debate carefully and intervene at the right time.
It got me thinking about the proper role of MPs and the way in which we can be held accountable. In theory we are accountable every five years at a general election, but that is quite a long time if we mess up. We are introducing a right of recall to enable you to vote us out in mid-term if we misbehave, which I support. But accountability needs to be much more subtle than that.
Modern technology makes this possible. There are plenty of websites that attempt to keep an eye on us, for example where everything we utter at Westminster can be followed. Through that website you can receive a text alert (should you be so sad) every time I say something in the Commons, enabling you to rush to your computer to find out what priceless wisdom flowed. You can go to my website, which I ought to update more regularly, or contact me by e-mail and many do.
But here I put in a plug for traditional media. Had I placed my House of Lords article on my website I might have received a dozen responses at most.  I know how many people read my column in the Plympton, Plymstock and Ivybridge News because many of you tell me so.  At the last election one of my opponents was a brilliant whizz at using the Internet to publicise himself, but his vote went south because very few people actually followed it. 
A combination of old and new seems to work better. I intend to take soundings more often in the future and to use this column to do so. That way you can keep me under control between now and the next election.

posted by Gary @ 14:15  



Thursday, 16 June 2011

It may well get worse before it gets better. Prices are going up and for most of us incomes are staying static. The result is a squeeze on disposable income that we have not seen for many years. And this is before interest rates start to rise as they will probably, albeit only gently, sometime this autumn to try and dampen inflation.
Not a very pretty story. I cannot see any alternative but to grit our teeth, live wisely and get through it. Almost all western nations are experiencing something similar (I am not aware of any who are not). Whoever was in government the result would be the same, because most of the forces at work to bring about this unpleasant pattern are global and outside our control.
Why are prices going up, especially of food, energy and fuel? The underlying reality is that in one third of the world, namely India and China, their economies are steaming ahead, demanding more and more food and oil and power. This means that finite resources are in ever greater demand pushing prices up. Is this trend likely to come to an end anytime soon? No.
In addition, we have had to raise taxes to try and tackle the yawning deficit that threatened to engulf our public finances. As it is, we will spend more on interest on our debt this year than we spend on defence, the foreign office and overseas aid put together. The coalition government has put in place a plan to chisel our deficit down to zero by 2016 by reducing spending and raising taxes.
For the next 3 years at least times are going to be hard for all of us. Older people who can remember rationing will cope better than younger people who have had less experience, if any, of making do and mending. Those of us raised in a want-it, get-it and throw-it away age may struggle to cut our cloth accordingly. Maybe we need a way of past generations sharing their wisdom with younger people. One teacher told me recently of a home she visited where the mum had complained of struggling to pay her bills. The central heating was on full blast and the kids were in tee-shirts. Why not turn the heating off and wear jumpers, the teacher suggested and got a frosty reception.  
There is no cavalry waiting in the next valley to come charging over the hill.

posted by Gary @ 09:21  



Thursday, 9 June 2011

On Sunday I dropped in on an open day held jointly by Plympton Fire Station and the Plymouth branch of Families Need Fathers. The sky was trying to remember how to rain at the time but there were a steady trickle of dads and lads pressing buttons and pulling levers on fire engines.
Only the most ardent feminist would deny that children need a father and a mother. Of course there are cases where tragedy intervenes early to deprive a family of one or sometimes both parents and when that happens we are pretty good at rallying around. But what about the vast majority of cases where the family is rent asunder by two adults, married or not, splitting up and leaving the kids in uncertainty? Is the current system biased towards the parent with care (usually but not always the mother) and too harsh on the absent parent/father? That is the primary argument trumpeted by the support groups for fathers, sometimes from the rooftops.
Over the years I must have dealt with over 500 Child Support Agency cases and no advice surgery is complete without a smattering of mums or dads complaining bitterly about the conduct of his or her former partner and the alleged injustice of the system that is being too lenient or too brutal in seeking correction.
Since Sunday I have reflected on whether there is an inbuilt bias by the CSA or the Family Courts against men. I cannot honestly say that there is. I have seen both mums genuinely hard done by and dads hard done by. I have sometimes seen some dads treated badly, but also many cases where they seem to deserve it.
My conclusion is that when parents split up no agency can intervene in a perfect way to compensate. There is bound to be a measure of rough justice in any decision that is made by any third party. The CSA has been a huge disappointment, but nobody knows how to significantly improve it.
Some relationships will fail, but I have seen many cases where the children have been, as far as one can tell, protected from most of the strife. But this only happens, not where the state intervenes, but where mum and dad bend over backwards to make their new living arrangements work for the children.
The state can only achieve so much. The key responsibility for the welfare of children has to remain with parents. 

posted by Gary @ 20:23  



Thursday, 2 June 2011

I have a dilemma and I seek your help. All 3 parties went into the last election pledging support for a wholly or mainly elected House of Lords. Now the government has brought forward a proposal for radical change: an upper house of 300 elected senators. This will now be debated in detail before legislation is brought forward.
My dilemma is simply this: the existing system works, primarily because people appointed to the upper chamber have done something worthwhile with their lives, are not politicians, and have expertise to share. I willingly accept that if we were starting from scratch to shape a democracy (as some countries in the Middle East are now doing) you would not advocate an unelected second chamber. But in the UK we are building upon centuries of tradition and experience. And it works. It works because the House of Lords knows precisely what its role is: it is a revising chamber. The power vests in the elected Commons, and the Lords exists to look over our shoulder and from time to time to ask us to think again.
My problem with an elected upper house is twofold: first of all it will be made up of politicians, and it would not make room for the sage old birds who currently adorn the red benches. Not many wise people would put themselves through the stresses and strains of party based elections.
Secondly if we have an elected upper house it will want more power and we would have to go through a massive exercise of rebalancing the respective rights and duties of each house.
There is another point too. Trying to get any constitutional reforms through Parliament would take a long time and would be a distraction from our focus on getting the deficit down, the economy moving and public services reformed.
So although it was in the party manifesto upon which I stood, I am thinking about voting against the forthcoming proposals for an elected upper house. Therefore I seek your views. I know not many of you are interested in this subject because in 19 years I can count on one hand the number of e-mails or letters I have received on this subject. But I seek your advice: am I free to stick with what works? Please let me have your views at the House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA or
Don't say you haven't been consulted!

posted by Gary @ 15:23