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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 March 2013


Easter heralds the start of spring, at least in theory. Last year Jan's horses were staying out at night by now. This year they are reluctant to emerge, shivering, from their stables even during the day.

Isn't that the wonder of our island: we have seasons, but our changeable weather makes it impossible to predict precisely what we are going to receive and when.

Politics also has a seasons and ours has shifted significantly. The recent move to five year fixed term Parliaments means that short of unforeseen events, our elections will be on the first Thursday in May every five years. This helps the powers that be to plan the cycle more effectively. The State Opening of Parliament will now become a regular feature in May rather than the autumn. We are due to have this year's Queen's Speech on 8th May, not long after Easter.

As you know, this great pageant kicks off the Parliamentary calendar and should set the agenda for the ensuing twelve months. At the moment, that agenda is already set. It is all about slogging through necessary spending reductions and trying to get our annual deficit under control at the same time as stimulating growth in the economy. Our deficit has already come down by a third since 2010, but there is a long way to go. The focus on finances will be punctuated by toughening up our immigration and welfare systems which most people will support. In truth, many of us feel that we do not need much new legislation; we just have to implement well the things we have already introduced.

The new cycle has one downside however: it means that election campaigns will get longer. Once we get within two years of the due date, all of the emphasis will be on polling day. This is not the best news you will ever receive, but at least we can encourage ourselves with the thought that very few (if any) countries in the world are better run.

Easter is not just about the start of a new season. It is the celebration of an historic event.  Roughly 2000 years ago Jesus hung on a cross and died for us. Thankfully it did not end there or we would only be celebrating Good Friday. Three days later the tomb was empty and he appeared to his followers.

Easter is the triumph of life over death. It is a time of hope.

posted by Gary @ 13:41  



Thursday, 21 March 2013


It was very impressive that mired as we are in the economic doldrums the people of this country gave a record breaking £75 million to help people in Africa (and the UK) last weekend. It is very much to the credit of the organisers of Comic Relief, who make it so easy to give, but also shows the wonderful warm-heartedness of the British people.

Despite all of the problems facing this country, our problems are not those of absolute poverty, but more the consequences of societal breakdown, tragedy or illness. This is not the same oversees, where still so many children die of very preventable diseases every day.

Which takes us onto a topic that many of you contact me about: overseas aid. You cannot understand why we are spending so much on people in other countries. Let me try and set out the arguments to try and convince you.

First of all, our party made a political commitment in the last election campaign to increase the aid budget to 0.7% of GDP, which many governments had promised but never achieved. This year we will achieve it. Generally speaking, politicians keeping their promises is a good thing.

Even when we reach this figure, our government will be spending less than 1% of everything it spends on overseas aid. That means we will be spending over 99% on ourselves. That's fine.

I still maintain it is morally right to try and lift people out of abject poverty, but the argument does not end there.

It is also in the national interest. Two of the greatest challenges facing our children are mass migration and the fallout from poverty-induced conflict. Our aid, properly targeted, can help to tackle both. It is helping to bring stability and raise living standards in several African countries whose economies are now beginning to motor and whose governance is improving. Lenny Henry talked up some of these achievements on Comic Relief last Friday. It is working.

It is therefore helping to create new markets for British businesses, so it represents a smart investment.

Of course our aid has to be directed in the right way and we have made great progress in recent years in tackling abuse. We strictly measure what works and rarely fund governments direct. Much of our funding goes through much-loved British NGOs who have become expert at making sure it reaches its intended targets.

To me, all these arguments are compelling. Convinced?

posted by Gary @ 09:08  



Thursday, 14 March 2013


This is my final update on the proposed new town at Sherford. Why? Because next week I fully expect an announcement that the government has struck a deal with the developers to provide the finance necessary to kick-start this development of ultimately 4500 houses. There will be no need for further updates; we will be able to see a town rising from the ground.

This will obviously be a major boost for our local economy. Many much-needed jobs will be created in the construction sector and the spin offs for other trades will be significant. There is no doubt that we need these additional houses to provide homes for our children and grandchildren. The development will include a good number of affordable housing which will help to ease the plight of those seeking decent accommodation. Very importantly I am assured that the quality of the town building design will be maintained to the highest level. Unlike the amenity-light way that much of Plympton and Plymstock have been developed, this new town will have all of its own facilities: schools, shops, business premises, parks, sports facilities and community amenities that other areas will come to covet. It will have easy access to the major road networks and also to the countryside. I predict that it will quickly become the "in" place to live.

Of course these major construction projects are never without challenge. The development will certainly have an impact on our roads and the construction phase will clearly bring much disruption. There is supposed to be a high quality bus link to the centre of Plymouth, but we all know that the A379 and the A38 will both be under pressure from additional car movements once people start moving in.
Existing communities need to be protected.

But there are advantages too. We really do need more houses for the next generation to set up home and Sherford will meet the needs of many local families in the South Hams and Plymouth over the next two decades. Although I write frequently about a long slog out of the financial mess we are in, we know that the stagnation of the housing market will not last forever.

This development getting the green light should also enable South Hams District Council to defend its strategic planning framework against more casual development around Plymouth's urban fringe. It brings an end to the planning insecurity that has hung over us for many years.

posted by Gary @ 09:00