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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 June 2012


People are starting to talk about the Olympics and Para-Olympics. Suddenly it is just around the corner and the atmosphere is building. Some are continuing to moan at the cost and the London-centric nature of it all, but most people are beginning to get excited about the fabulous sporting spectacle that our country will shortly host.

It is expensive, it will be mainly in London, and we are in a recession. Get over it. Imagine what life would be like without special events. The slog to get ourselves out of the debt-ridden crisis that afflicts all European countries will take years of grim austerity; I think we deserve a few parties along the way and most people seem to agree. Look at the fabulous response to the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic torch being carried around the country. My two grandchildren went up onto the Hoe to witness this and they came back bubbling over about it. They have tickets to see the fencing in London when the games actually start. They will no doubt come away full of potential memories. Surely that will be the lasting legacy of the games: many memories. How many young people will be inspired by London 2012 to become future sporting stars?

Think of the boost to our economy the games will bring. Billions worldwide watching the TV shots of iconic buildings in our capital city - how many will subsequently choose to visit and spend their dollars here? Even during the games themselves our hotels and bars and restaurants will do a roaring trade, a much needed fillip. Pubs all over the country will do well as people gather to watch the big finals over a lemonade or two.

It is very important that we continue to be ambitious as a country in every area of life, rather than just shut up shop and grind our teeth. I love rugby and cricket and get a real buzz when our teams do well. So do millions of us. I can't stand watching England play football because we play like donkeys, but I always watch when I can to support the team. Patriotism is a good thing. National events to allow people to express their support for the country and revel in the sense of corporate identity that this brings.

Just a few weeks to go now and Britain will be seen by the whole world at its very best. Bring it on.

posted by Gary @ 09:39  



Thursday, 21 June 2012


On 30th June Plymouth will be the centre for National Armed Forces Day. There will be a host of local activities to celebrate the wonderful service that our Armed Forces provide. There will be much saluting and marching, ships on the sea and planes in the air, glistening boots and medals and VIPs and dignitaries, with a few real heroes sprinkled in between. I am looking forward to it. We cannot do too much to acknowledge our debt to our service men and women, past and present.

Some take the view that as a post-imperial country in the twenty first century Britain should now reduce still further the size of our armed forces and trust to diplomacy and others to keep us safe. I view this as dangerous nonsense. Some want us to scrap Trident and spend the money on yet more welfare. I view this as close to treason. The world is just about as dangerous as it has ever been and if we do not maintain the capability to defend ourselves at home and overseas, we will be failing the next generation who would rightly hold us to account.

Let's review a few potential threats. In the immediate years following the collapse of communism, Russia looked as though it would stumble into a European-style democracy. In fact it has lurched towards a dictatorship under Vladimir Putin who presides over an aggressive gangster state which contains almost limitless gas and oil and nuclear weapons aplenty.

China is on the rise and rise and within a decade or two will overtake the USA on military spending and global supremacy. America has made plenty of mistakes but generally speaking has been a benevolent superpower. Will China be as benign?

Pakistan owns nuclear weapons but is one of the most lawless states on the planet. What happens if its government falls completely into the hands of Islamic extremists who wish to destroy the west?

Iran is developing nuclear capability, not just to create energy. They are pledged to remove Israel from the map. What happens if they acquire nuclear weapons and strike first?

The Arctic Circle is full of minerals that will become increasingly valuable. Nobody is clear who owns them. What happens if Russia and the USA and European powers and Canada all make a bid for them?

On National Armed Forces day let us celebrate the freedoms wrought by our armed forces, past present and future!

posted by Gary @ 09:24  



Friday, 15 June 2012


There has been a recent addition to Plymouth train station through which I pass frequently. When you get to the steps which take you to the platforms a recorded voice says: "please hold the handrail and take care."  The hand rails are bright yellow and obvious to all, and very few people choose to hold them, with or without the message. How much did it cost to install this voice of pointless advice and why was it done?

I tried to take my two grandchildren swimming in Plympton pool some time ago, to be told that there had to be one adult per child. I pointed out that I could take them to Mothecombe beach on my own where there were far more dangers and no lifeguards, whereas the municipal pool had at least one lifeguard on duty at all times. It was clear that the one adult per child rule was not to protect children, but to protect the council.

Recently I contacted Plymouth Highways to ask why they are making it harder for community groups to hold events that involve closing the highway for a short period or hanging up bunting or banners above the highway. They burbled on about risk assessment. Before you undertake almost any activity these days you have to carry out a risk assessment in writing and submit it to the relevant authorities.

At Westminster we have firmly resolved to roll back the molly-coddled risk-averse health and safety culture that afflicts our country. Ministerial speeches have been made, signals have been sent, the Prime Minister himself has spoken forcibly on this subject.  The Chairman of the Health and Safety Executive has spoken out to say that many people are following imaginary HSE rules. Even he wants us to lighten up a bit!

But I would be the first to admit that it is not going well. Too many intermediate bodies are still watching their own backs rather than imposing a sensible safety regime, too many civil servants and local government officers gold-plating and trying to ensure that all risk is eradicated, as though that were possible.

I was hoping if successful in the ballot this year to introduce a private members bill on the subject, but my number did not come up. Besides, it is difficult to address this with legislation. We simply need our old friend Common Sense, who seems to have been on vacation, to make a comeback.

posted by Gary @ 09:22  



Thursday, 7 June 2012


Every major invention has a downside. The motor car is an amazing testament to mankind's ingenuity, but 3500 people die on our roads every year. Complex computer technology save countless lives every day but also guides weapons of mass destruction.

So to with the internet and its offshoots. What a fabulous way to connect to each other, skyping family living abroad, researching every known fact, tapping into leisure activities of all kinds and enabling and equipping businesses and homes up across the globe. It is an amazing world changing invention. It will in the end bring freedom to the people of Iran and North Korea and elsewhere as the truth about their own regimes filters through the web.

But with all this advantage comes ready access to pornography and inappropriate material even for young children. The statistics about this are now alarming. Online bullying is also becoming a real problem for the coming generation.

Social networking and twitter are becoming essential tools of twenty-first century life, especially for people under 50. But beware. I have followed with interest the complaints of celebrities in recent weeks about the sheer brutality of attacks on twitter. Alan Davies (Jonathan Creek) relates how he was bullied and besieged by negative comments after something he had said online.

One aspect of this concerns me: namely the power people now have to sit in their front room and anonymously send their venom out through the airwaves with complete impunity.  You only have to look at the comments on a national or local newspaper website to see vivid examples of this in action. Triggered by almost anything, the nameless mob takes off in full flight, lashing, whipping and beating their subjects with inane and cruel comments. These interactive pages are allegedly monitored and the worst comments removed, but what remains is bad enough.

We have given a voice to people who may not deserve it. If you organised a public meeting and an unknown person stood up and raged incoherently you would ask them to leave. But on the web and twitter all voices have equal weight.

Throughout history the mob has been feared by leaders. Roman leaders kept the mob happy with beer and circuses. It was the mob in France that stormed the Bastille and drove the post revolution blood bath.

Now we have a new mob: a faceless, nameless, shameless Internet and twitter mob. We would be wise to ignore them.

posted by Gary @ 10:22