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.


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