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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, 28 July 2011

It is important not to overreact to the horrific shootings in Norway, but it is important not to under react also. In the name of tolerance we have all accommodated too many fringe groups, extremists, anarchists and other dangerous people over the past few years, nowhere more so than in Britain. This has got to stop.
We read that Anders Behring Breivik had links with the English Defence League. We know that London is the home to many people with links to some of the nastiest terrorist groups in the world. We allow fanatical Islamists to preach hatred on our streets, jeer our soldiers and burn our flag. We allow judges to decide under so-called human rights legislation that foreign nationals who have committed appalling crimes here cannot be sent back to their countries of origin because they might be ill-treated. All of this offends decency and common sense.
And yet we are selectively intolerant. Respectable people wanting to wear a modest insignia around their neck at work, or offer a respectful prayer to a patient in pain have sometimes been hounded by their employers, just for demonstrating commitment to the faith that has shaped the heritage of this nation and upon which rock our greatness was built.
It is time for a rethink. Of course we must underpin free speech in this country, but we must be less tolerant of those who want to tear our nation down. Whether they are white or black, of ethnic origin or indigenous, left or right, religious or secular, fascist or anarchist, we should now take a much tougher line on these extremists. The Human Rights Act must be repealed and our judges free to act in accordance with the wishes of the vast majority of our citizens.
Have you ever watched sparks flying off a grindstone onto grass? Mainly they land harmlessly into the ground and are extinguished. But occasionally when the conditions are right, when the grass is tinder-box dry, they will smoulder and catch fire. Forest fires are often started that way. It is not the sparks that are different, but the condition of the terrain into which they fall.
I sense that the British people have had enough of our timid over-tolerance and want the authorities to take a much tougher line with extremists who threaten our way of life. We may not get too many false alarms before some future spark sets of a raging inferno.

posted by Gary @ 19:17  



Friday, 22 July 2011

On Friday I visited a successful manufacturing business that has recently relocated into my constituency. They are expanding rapidly and looking to recruit more staff than the well-paid thirty something they currently employ. We discussed a range of issues but one in particular is worth developing: the importance to British companies of our markets in Europe.
The company exports a high proportion of its products into European markets. The same could be said of many businesses in the UK employing millions of people. Because of the historically low value of the pound, many of them are thriving with full order books and rising demand. This is one of the reasons why our economy is experiencing growth, albeit very modest growth.
So it is firmly in the British interest that the euro zone countries on our doorstep do not slide into chaos. The CEO of the company I visited on Friday made that abundantly clear. That is not the same as saying that we should bail them out. But it is not in our interests that Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy should enter into sovereign debt (ie bankruptcy). Although these concerns have been in the papers for many months now, and this all seems to be happening in slow motion, the threats have not gone away.
So although I receive e-mails saying the UK should not contribute to the International Monetary Fund (which leads the process of support for these debt crippled countries), the consequences of no support being available would have immediate and direct consequences here, right on our doorstep. British jobs would be lost. Although we are not part of the euro zone (thank goodness) and we should not stump up our cash to bail out profligate governments, nonetheless we should at the very least be sitting around the table to try and secure a soft landing. 
But while it is crucial to play our part in making the European single market successful, for the reasons given, I must confess that I have recently been entertaining heretic thoughts. Perhaps it is time to reflect on whether it is necessary for the UK to remain in the EU. Free Trade area – essential, but do we really need the bureaucratic straitjacket that comes with it? Once the immediate turmoil is behind us, is it time to put the issue of our EU membership to the British people once again?
I intend to spend the summer pondering these things. 

posted by Gary @ 17:04  



Thursday, 14 July 2011

Give them enough rope and they will hang themselves, the old maxim goes. It happened two years ago with MP's expenses when a lax system, once exposed, threw up some corrupt practices (thankfully) now resolved. It is happening again with the conduct of the press. Who out there believes anything other than that the enquiries will reveal that phone tapping and paying the police for stories was widespread, not just in News International,  and that this was well known at the highest levels within that industry.
We in Westminster have allowed the national press to bully us all in this country for far too long for fear of reprisals. We gave them too much rope. This was widely recognised by the general public. I have lost count of the conversations I have had with constituents over the years asking why we don't crack down on the "out of control press". Well now we will.
The Press Complaints Commission has long been the only real way that members of the public can complain about unfair treatment by the press. It is a system of self-regulation, funded by the press, operating under rules made by the press and the majority of its board are Fleet Street editors. It looked into the phone hacking scandal a few years ago and decided it was just one isolated individual. It treats complaints by the general public whose lives have been unfairly traduced casually. Sometimes a huge front page splash would be corrected, six months later, by a tiny paragraph on page 27. Not good enough. Whatever else comes out of this sorry saga, it is certain that this huge powerful industry will no longer be able to regulate itself.
It is important that we do not overreact. A free press is vital. Although often deeply inconvenient a press that digs deep and exposes scandal is a healthy part of a modern democracy. But it has to be accountable and that is the missing ingredient we now have to put in place. It will have to be done through robust external regulation.
Why do we always hang ourselves when given enough rope? The short answer is: human nature. We seem to be incapable of keeping ourselves on the straight and narrow. That's why we need laws. That's why we need external regulation. In the end we will get a more balanced press out of all this...until the next time.
What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 08:59  



Thursday, 7 July 2011

Most years, a pair of swallows build a nest in our front porch, perched precariously on a door we never close. It makes one heck of a mess, but it is worth it to have nature interacting with us so closely. The eggs have been hatched for about 3 weeks now and mum and dad spend their time swooping for insects which they bring home to a chattering brood of four. On Monday morning, just before I zoomed off to the station, we noticed that the parents (and friends) were trying to coax the bewildered offspring out of the nest with much squawking and flapping. The time had come to spread their wings. Some of the fledglings were keener than others, but the parents never gave up. Now they are all flying and fending for themselves. These two birds have shown themselves to be great parents once again.
It is a healthy reminder of the importance of parents. There are 60,000 children in this country that are brought up in local authority care. They have not had the vital input from parents that our swallow chicks have enjoyed. These kids have experienced years of turbulence followed by an artificial state/family life that is starved of the close rough and tumble of family life that most of us have had. At age 16 or 18 they enter the big wide world with the name and telephone number of a busy social worker their only guaranteed source of help.
I am very pleased that the government has just appointed ex-Barnado boss Martin Narey as the new ministerial adviser on this subject. We simply have to do better at encouraging fostering and adoption, especially adoption. In recent years too many hurdles whether politically correct or bureaucratic have been raised. We need to demolish them.
The statistics on life outcomes of children looked after by the state make grim reading with crime, drugs and rough sleeping just around the corner for too many. After all, it is in the bosom of the family, warts and all, that we learn so many skills that equip us from life, and hopefully glean a positive self image along the way. I realise that this is not universal, but I hope applies to the majority.
This autumn Jan and I will be researching this subject in depth to see if we can contribute to better outcomes in our region. We can still learn from the swallows.

posted by Gary @ 12:56