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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.


Friday, 31 August 2012


On Monday I spent four hours attending a speed awareness course at the Holiday Inn Plymouth, my punishment for doing 36mph down the new Gdynia Way a few weeks ago. (Half the room seemed to have been caught by the average speed cameras in the same location – so please beware). Naturally, it was not how I would have chosen to spend an entire Monday morning, but it seemed better than taking the points on my driving licence.

In fact it was a very useful session. The ex-driving instructor and an ex-police officer Rob ad Tim did a good job in underling the dangers of speed but then went on to give very helpful tips about road awareness and safety.

Most of us it we pass our driving test at a young age and then spend decade after decade behind the wheel of what is effectively a lethal weapon without ever upgrading or refreshing our skills. This is particularly bizarre as the technology of our vehicles is constantly evolving. Apparently we are all under a legal obligation to keep up to date with the Highway Code, but I must confess I was blissfully unaware of that!

A staggering 7500 people were killed on British roads in 1970, a figure coming down steadily year on year. But there are still nearly 2,000 fatalities on our roads and over 20,000 seriously injured - many of them with life-changing injuries.  Improvements in vehicular and road design and technology account for some of that reduction, but safety awareness campaigns have also made major inroads, not least the successful drink and drive campaign.

95% of the time the collision is not caused by the vehicle or the road condition but by the driver. This is both bad and good news, the good news being that we can therefore choose to do something about it. I have known for many years that the key to road safety is keeping a safe distance from the car in front, but the statistics we heard on Monday about reaction times and braking times reinforced the message in a very stark way. These kinds of courses targeting people caught for speeding is a very sensible way of continuing the work of driving standards up. I hope you never get caught on camera, but if you do, take the course, it is useful.

Jan is researching whether there are other courses I could be sent on to improve behaviour.

posted by Gary @ 08:41  



Thursday, 16 August 2012


I write these words sitting in a wind-rippled gazebo partly attached to our P Reg horse lorry in the East of England Showground near Peterborough. With the wonders of modern technology, I am able to send them through the wi-fi. I have also got my shorts on.

Seb Coe came to stay with us a few years ago at the time we had a Siamese cat called Sebastian. He started clawing the carpet and Jan yelled in her best North Devon voice "Sebastian!" I have never seen a man move as fast as Seb did that moment.

A story that has got little to do with this week's theme, which is cometh the hour cometh the man. Sometimes the right person steps forward for the right job at the right time, and perhaps nobody else will do. I suppose the best example is Winston Churchill. His political career would have been described as a failure if the Second World War had not intervened. It was his bulldog spirit, his absolute refusal to contemplate defeat, the confidence he inspired through his resolute speeches that saw us through even though at the beginning it did not look too good.

The Olympics was not a matter of life or death. But it has been probably the best thing this country has put on during my lifetime and for 16 fabulous days we could forget our troubles and celebrate all that is good about modern Britain and honest human endeavour.

Lord Coe chaired the London Organising Committee Olympic Games (LOCOG) which put the entire spectacular together. He certainly would have been hammered if it had all gone wrong, so he deserves the praise for such an outstanding success. He was elected at the same time as me in 1992 as the MP for Falmouth and Camborne. On his own admission he was not very good at it and lost his seat in 1997. After a few more years in politics he drifted back to his first love: athletics and helped to mastermind the bid for London 2012. His knowledge of the worlds of international athletics and British politics made him the right man at the right time.

He oversaw every decision that made it such a success.

Apart from a well-trumpeted ticketing and security concerns, it could not have gone any better. Well done Team GB. Well done all the volunteers. Well done Seb. Sorry my wife shouted at you.

posted by Gary @ 09:31  



Thursday, 9 August 2012


I have not yet met anybody who is not loving the Olympics. I write these words on Tuesday morning, so there is still time for things to go wrong, but it is not looking that way. Team GB have made us all proud and the roar of support at all of the Olympic venues has been truly inspiring.

What lessons can we draw even at these early stages? First, we are more than capable as a country of putting on spectacular events.
The opening ceremony was breath taking. I still chuckle ten days later at the James Bond sequence and the thought of Her Majesty parachuting in. The ceremony showed the best of Britain, our heritage, our international prowess, our humour, our music as well as the diversity of modern Britain.

Second, these things don't happen by accident. This success story has been seven years in the making. The investment in infrastructure and the people competing has been massive and when well directed it will make a difference. You could also look even further back to the National Lottery which has pumped £1.5 billion into sport in this country.

Third, and here I become controversial and I can picture the e-mails winging their way to me, the games have demonstrated the wonderful diversity of modern Britain. On Super Saturday our three gold medals in the athletics stadium were won by a man born in war-torn Somalia, a lady whose mum was from Jamaica and a white gentleman whose ginger hair suggested his folks have been around for a few generations. They all cloaked themselves in the union flag (even Andy Murray did that!) and as far as the vast majority of us are concerned are all equally British. That is the cosmopolitan country we have always been.

I know some people hark back to the good old days, maybe before the Romans arrived, or the Angles or the Saxons, or the Vikings or the Normans (French!) or the Huguenots. The reality is there is no such thing as pure "English" and never has been. We are an island race that has developed out of different people groups. Of course unchecked immigration is unhealthy and we have closed that door.  There are also issues of timing and degree and social cohesion and integration we are alive to those and making progress.

But let us celebrate modern Britain. As we have just witnessed, there is a lot right with it.

posted by Gary @ 11:43  



Thursday, 2 August 2012


Out of the dark clouds of economic gloom comes a bright light.  Apprenticeships are back in fashion big time. On Friday I met the government's senior civil servant charged with promoting apprenticeship schemes amongst employers in this region.

For young people aged 16-18 the government will pick up the bill for training and the employer just has to pay the minimum wage for that age group (less than £3 per hour). For the 19 to 24 year olds the training costs are shared 50/50. The drive on apprenticeships has been in play for three years now (it has cross party support) and is beginning to show results. It might be one of the reasons why even in the teeth of a nasty recession unemployment continues to fall. In this constituency unemployment is 2%.

The benefits of this drive on apprenticeships are manifold. First it helps to correct the over-emphasis on university degrees, some of them less than rigorous, at the expense of more vocational skills. Second, employers can get hold of employees early and train them up in the way that best suits their industry. Young people who are not ready to start an apprenticeship are sifted out, so employers can have confidence that applicants have a minimum level of aptitude. For those who are filtered out, there is an intensive attempt to try and upgrade their skills and attitude until they are ready to start their working life.

Unemployment amongst young people is stubbornly high, but this scheme is starting to make inroads. There are over 700 new apprentices starting this year in Plymouth alone.

You do not have to be a large employer like Babcock to take on an apprentice. (They take over 50 a year in the dockyard). Even tiny businesses can benefit from the presence of a young, enthusiast trainee, especially when the government is paying for training and helping to oversee the whole relationship. At the same time government is looking to lift some of the red tape involved in taking on an employee.

As you all know I have consistently predicted a long hard slog out of this recession. With a solution to the Euro Zone crisis probably two years away and growth in India and China slowing down, there is no cavalry to come over the hill. We have to grind our way back to economic stability by pursuing the right policies relentlessly.

The renewed focus on apprenticeships is very welcome.

posted by Gary @ 09:27