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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, 27 September 2012


There are over 1 million young people (aged 16-24) in this country not in education employment or training. They are known by the unattractive acronym of NEETS. Their numbers have been climbing for years. We oldies know that it is difficult to build a successful life without you (or your partner) having a decent job. So this large number of drifting youngsters with no stake in our society is a cause for concern both now and for the future. What can we do about it?

The answer is carrot and stick.

Carrot first. The government (to be fair building on good work by the previous government) is massively expanding the number of apprenticeships for young people. All over the country there are dedicated teams of civil servants whose job it is to promote apprenticeships among young people and employers alike. The numbers are climbing rapidly and there are now many hundreds of apprenticeships in Plymouth alone.

Usually the apprentice will work four days a week for the employer and have one day a week at college learning relevant vocational skills. They will come out at the end of the programme with useful qualifications as well as their priceless on-the-job experience. The employer must pay the minimum wage, which for this age group is £2.60 per hour - much better than clicking your heels on welfare.
For 16-18 year olds the government will pay all of the costs of the training, for 19-24 year olds half of the costs. There is also a small grant to help the employer engage with the scheme.

This is a practical government programme which we hear little about but which is already reaping good rewards.

The stick is less pleasant. Most commentators accept that it has until now been far too easy for young people to sit in on the benefit system with no real incentive to get out and get moving. Recent reforms are making this much harder.

If you run a business and need help and would like to invest in someone who could become an invaluable employee, with the tax-payer picking up much of the training bill, please consider taking on an apprentice. Much guidance is available.

If you are a young person who has not yet found the right way forward, please have a look at the opportunities that becoming an apprentice will open up for you. 

Have a look at – it might just change your life forever.

posted by Gary @ 08:47  



Thursday, 20 September 2012


I have come up with a new invention. I intend to patent it. I am hoping it might catch on.

It is a new organisation designed for raising children in a secure and stable manner. Its focus will be on ensuring that they grow up with good self-esteem, do well at school, learn right from wrong, respect their elders and others, make sound decisions about their own futures and make a useful contribution to society as responsible citizens. It is not perfect and there will be no ultimate guarantees, but the evidence suggests that it has a far greater chance of turning out secure children than kids raised in any other way.

I am going to call my new invention: marriage. What do you think?

I have been reading fresh empirical evidence from the USA that by far the most important indicator of a child avoiding poverty is if he or she is raised in a stable married family.

Consider just a fraction of recent US findings: Only about 7% of married couples with children in New York were poor in 2009, compared with over one-third of the single-parent families (36%). In New York, marriage drops the probability of a child's living in poverty by 81%.

The conclusions are clear: children raised outside marriage are much more likely to end in poverty, whether financial or in the widest sense of the word. It is not rocket science. Ask any sensible teacher and they will confirm the impact on a pupil's well-being of home life. Less stress, shared responsibilities, input from a mum and a dad, all of these things are helpful in raising children.

So is this just another attack on single mums? Of course not. Many of the single mums I meet in my surgery week in, week out are doing a fantastic job in difficult circumstances. We all know that any relationship, no matter how well it starts out, can hit troubled water. If anything it is a commentary on the inability of too many men to commit, or the ease with which, when there are children, people walk away from their responsibilities.

This is where my invention could come in handy. If it were to catch on and people were as confident as possible about their life partner before having a child, many more future children would live rewarding lives. All we then need is coherent government policies to promote it. Crazy notion, I know.

posted by Gary @ 09:19  



Thursday, 13 September 2012


The year should start on 1st September when there is a clearer demarcation between the seasons, the academic year begins and Parliament sort of returns. We go back for two weeks, an absolute farce because just when you have managed to crank up the machine again it is time to pull the plug for the conference season. We only do this to avoid the media onslaught if we did not return in September, never a good reason to do anything.  The fact that most of us throughout the summer we are working in our constituencies, attending meetings, visiting people, having surgeries, dealing with mail and e-mails, chairing public meetings is still billed by the press as "Lazy MPs take x weeks holiday!" It will never change I know. 

What does the next parliamentary year hold? Well, for a start it has a huge hole in it where House of Lords reform was due to be. As you know, I was one of the members on the naughty step who voted against this bill, so I am not complaining about the sudden void that has appeared in our programme.  We are intending, quite rightly, to focus ruthlessly on getting the economy moving and although there are some supply side reforms (deregulation and the like) that might require legislation, most changes can be done by ministerial diktat. I suspect therefore that the next few months will involve a lot of talking and not much new law being created. This is not necessarily a bad thing.  There are plenty of important things we never seem to find the time to discuss and our debates do usually flush out some significant issues for future attention.

We have also just had a reshuffle of course. The days when I used to sit by my phone are long gone and I am grateful for the years of ministerial service that I can look back on with affection. Reshuffle day always reminds me of the dreaded moment when Jan or I are asked to judge the children's fancy dress at a local fete. She usually cops out and brings a prize for everyone, while I take the unforgiving glares of losing parents stoically on the chin. For every new friend the Prime Minister makes when the red box is handed out, a mystified new adversary is also made.

Expect a measure of relationship turbulence in the good ship Westminster over the coming months!

posted by Gary @ 09:23  



Thursday, 6 September 2012


Can you name the chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority, the body that oversees our local police force? Thought not. This is one of the reasons why the government is introducing elected Police and Crime Commissioners for every police force – to have somebody elected by the people of the area who helps set the priorities and strategic direction for the police and who is accountable to the public. He or she will work closely with the Chief Constable in helping to deliver the kind of policing we want, and if we don't get it, will doubtless be voted out of office. The current Police Authorities will be dismantled.

In November this year you will be asked to pop into your local polling station to vote for one of the candidates standing for this new position in Devon and Cornwall. By then you should have received leaflets from all candidates setting out their stall and there will be a website that will tell you all you need to know about them. Some of them are experienced individuals of the highest quality. We all expect turnout to be low, as this will be a new stand alone election in the foothills of winter, but it is important to make the effort to vote. The successful person will have a lot of say in how our area is policed.

We are fortunate to live in a relatively low crime area, but there are still hotspots and incidents which cast a shadow over an otherwise peaceful location. The sporadic spurt of burglaries, neighbours from hell pushing drugs, anti-social behaviour of a pack of youngsters roaming the streets at the weekends, all these unacceptable events bring pain to our communities and need to be tackled.

All of this comes against the backdrop of a reducing budget because of the dire financial state of public finances.  It is also a time when the police force is facing significant internal change following recommendations from an independent expert who has recently completed a far-reaching report into structures and working practices. I broadly support these reforms because although we all love and respect our boys in blue, a healthy dose of modernisation would improve performance.

Elected commissioners will not solve every policing problem we face, but they should improve the accountability to the public of our law enforcers. This can only be a good thing. Once November comes along, please don't forget to vote.

posted by Gary @ 09:26  



Saturday, 1 September 2012


Was there a public interest in the Sun publishing the pictures of a naked Prince Harry frolicking in a private party? No. Does Prince Harry have to accept that in his position he should be more careful? Yes.

Harry is still relatively young, only 28, single and without his own kids. He lost his mother at the age of 12 and has had to grow up in the glare of the media. He insists on serving in the armed forces, active duty and all, against the wishes of his father. He has just completed a highly successful year in representing the Queen in the Caribbean where they fell in love with him. He also played his part well during the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics. 

He deserves time and space to let his hair down occasionally in private. The person or people who sold their phone recordings of him to the media deserve condemnation. He was not taking illegal drugs or paying for sex. No crimes were committed.

But he is third in line to the throne.

I understand the argument that newspaper editors make. If an item of news is already freely available on the Internet why should they not have the right to publish it also? Answer: they agreed to respect the privacy of the princes unless there was activity that was in the public interest. How are pictures of a young man letting off steam with his mates in the public interest?

I imagine that after the immediate furore has died down, several things will happen. Harry will receive advice from his Army superiors and his family which he will do well to heed. He will get away with this incident because the public are fond of him and his rather spontaneous nature, although I suspect we will not want to see too many similar incidents in the future especially as he enters his thirties.

But we also need to see a clearer understanding of public interest thrashed out in the British media. I hope that the Leveson Enquiry will produce a hard-hitting report with firm recommendations to help put our irresponsible national media back in its box, without of course damaging essential press freedom. At the moment the balance is not right. I hope when the time comes that Parliament has the guts to legislate to put in place clearer parameters.

Prince Harry is a breath of fresh air. Give the lad a break!

posted by Gary @ 12:04