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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, 23 February 2012


The canal system in our country used to be the main way of transporting freight. Along came the railways and the waterways fell into disuse, until they were re-invented for leisure purposes. Telegraph poles carrying phone lines to every house was a distinctive feature of our countryside, now gradually falling into disuse, to be replaced by ugly phone masts supporting the mobile phone system. Many young people no longer have landlines. Times change, technology moves us on and the physical and social infrastructure of the country reflects that.

Similarly, our high streets used to be the retail lifeblood of our communities, with a shop of every kind catering to our every need. Then along came out of town supermarkets and pulled the rug from underneath our town centres and high streets. These hyper-stores offered much wider choice, lower prices and free parking. Before anybody gets on their high horse about how policy makers should have stopped this from happening, the reason they were so successful was that we the consumers, almost universally, chose to shop there.

Now another threat looms large on the horizon: internet shopping. You may have never have tried this yet and may have no intention of so doing, but internet sales are rising exponentially. The younger generation are increasing surfing the net and buying most of their products; books, clothes and food online. And it all arrives on your doorstep the next day. What could be easier?

There are strong community reasons why we should not let our high streets die. They are the heartbeat of most communities and provide many social as well as retail functions. And yet, as someone famously once said: you cannot buck the market.

The government has commissioned a report into what we can do to keep our town centres alive and is now considering the report that Mary Portas has produced. This is of huge relevance to our communities in Ivybridge, Plympton and Plymstock. These secondary shopping centres will not compete any longer if they focus only on retail. They must become places you go to for an experience, a day out. They must offer leisure and social amenities if they are to survive. Reasonably cheap (or free) parking is essential.

In these days of restricted budgets we cannot expect government to drive this significant change. Town centre businesses, town councils, landlords and residents themselves must take the lead if these vital hubs are to survive and flourish.

posted by Gary @ 00:01  



Thursday, 16 February 2012


Have you seen Warhorse at the cinema yet? Jan refuses to go because, on top of the terrible human misery, she could not bear to think of the agony all those 1 million horses went through in WW1, hardly any of them returning.

As part of loafing around the house in recent days recuperating I did watch Birdsong on BBC iplayer. What a powerful and poignant reminder of the horrors of war. Over the years, in discussions with the many military types in this constituency I have been impressed by their professional readiness to do their duty, but also, almost to a person, their deep insight into the barbaric pointlessness of war, especially veterans.

The older I get the more I see that we politicians should be peace makers wherever possible and conflict must always be the last resort. I recognise this sometimes mean you have to be strong to avoid war.

A good friend of mine, Michael Bates has this week completed a 3000+ mile walk from Mount Olympus in Greece to London, to raise awareness of the Olympic Truce. Please visit to find out more. In essence the idea of a truce was how the Olympics started thousands of years ago. The games provided a forum for men from the warring Adriatic City States to meet in friendly rivalry instead of warfare. Only once in 1200 years was the sacred truce ever broken. The truce is now also a part of the modern Olympics and accompanied by a resolution of the United Nations calling upon all members to honour the truce for the period of the games. This year, for the first time, all 193 UN members have backed the resolution. Now we have to get them to implement what they have signed.

The good thing about a truce is that it gives a chance both for humanitarian relief and for talks to take place about resolving the conflict. The government is taking the truce seriously for the 2012 games and many initiatives around the world will be happening to encourage a real truce in the clashes that sadly still exist.

Human nature is still prone to conflict. The world is heading towards all kinds of flashpoints just around the corner. War is a terrible, devastating, wasteful monster. Whatever initiatives, large or small, local or global, can be taken to make peace rather than war seem to me to be worthy of support. 

posted by Gary @ 09:32  



Wednesday, 8 February 2012


Last Thursday I had a total replacement of my left hip at Derriford Hospital. I was in Stannon ward for 4 days and am now recuperating at home for a little while, but will still be doing e-mails, post and phone calls.

I had been struggling with a lot of hip pain for over three years, and in recent months walking up hill and tackling steps was getting harder.  I claim the original cause was a rugby injury, but that may just be some macho male self-justification thing. All I knew was that I was in pain, had to sort it out and the x-rays showed I was down to bone on bone.

At 56, it was the first proper operation I have ever had (since having my tonsils out as a child) and gave me first-hand experience of how the NHS and our hospital are doing.

Early on the morning of the operation there were several checks to make sure I was who I said I was, that it was the left hip, that I had given my consent in writing, until the final surreal meeting with the surgeon before he scrubbed up. "Are you up for this?" he asked. "I am", I replied, "are you?"He said he was, we shook hands and wished each other luck. It was bizarre to think that in a few minutes time he would be hacking me to pieces!

From the consultant and his team, to the nurses and health care professionals who looked after me hour by hour, I could not have received better care. The ward teams are divided into three shifts and they are remarkably jolly considering they had grumpy and demanding patients like me to put up with. They deserve special thanks. The one thing that would drive me mad was the bell going all day and night as we demanded the presence of our professional carers (some patients more than others). Then in came the physiotherapists inflicting their painful remedies from the very next morning, as well as the team from Occupational Therapy. They were all skilled and professional and the co-ordination between each service seemed to work well.

The food and cleaning are delivered these days by Serco. Hospital food is hospital food, but there was a good choice and the ward was kept very clean.

Derriford Hospital sometimes gets a bad press, and of course sometimes mistakes happen. But I could not fault it.

posted by Gary @ 11:48  



Thursday, 2 February 2012


One of the advantages of being an MP is that we get to feel the heat that certain decisions generate: by post, by e-mail, by conversation, by vibration as I walk down the street.

And nothing gets your backs up like bankers' bonuses. I completely share the anger at the kinds of figures being bandied around for senior bankers who have presided over a system of irresponsible lending that triggered the credit crunch in 2007/8. People should not be rewarded for failure and the actual figures have got way out of control.

The prospect of Stephen Hester's £1 million bonus caused major shock waves last weekend and if he had not agreed to waive it, I suspect the inbox would have been full to overflowing by now. Why can't government stamp out this kind of practice? How is this allowed to happen in a business of which we all own 83%?

RBS is in a mess, but it is in our interests that it trades its way out of loss-making and back into profit and strengthens its balance sheet and share price so that we get our money back and make a substantial profit as well to help keep taxes down.  Not many people could do this successfully. This is a vast organisation with a balance sheet larger than the turnover of the UK. If Hester does a good job over the next few years we could all benefit to the tune of billions. For that he should surely be incentivised and rewarded, at the right time.

If Hester turns RBS around and we make a profit of billions I don't care if he is well rewarded. The key issue for me is when? It must surely be at the end of the job when the bank has been sold back into the market and we have made our profit, not at the moment when the job is less than half done and the bank is still struggling.

I do not want the government to run the bank, as historically the state does not do this well. But as major shareholder we should have made sure the profit arrangement for the CEO was better linked to the end value of RBS. Owning banks is a relatively new experience and we have taken too long to adjust and get the balance right between pressure and intervention.

It is time to now get this right, before you all explode.

posted by Gary @ 09:41