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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, 30 May 2013


The tragic and despicable killing of drummer Lee Rigby has focused the mind once again on religious extremism in the UK and our proper response.

I have had several angry e-mails expressing outrage demanding a strong response. There has been violence in parts of the UK against the Muslim community. The Prime Minister has set up a taskforce to explore what more we can do to crack down on hate preachers in our midst.

I share the outrage, and recognise the need to respond.  But first, we must be absolutely clear that Islam is not in itself the problem, it is the corruption of that religion by some fanatics that is the problem. A proper response in the UK is not to attack Islam. We must focus on the extremists.

As a Christian, I consider Islam to be a false religion. Others will doubtless take a similar view to my own conviction that Jesus is the only way to God. Fine. We do not have to agree with each other, we only have to respect one another's right to religious freedom.

Our response to the atrocity must be to draw close to the UK Muslim community, and not to alienate it. They have rightly condemned the killing and are as appalled as anybody. With their support we must crackdown on the extremists.

I hope the task force comes up with some robust proposals. Surely we must stop hate preachers radicalising young British Muslims at British Universities. Muslim clerics with a track record of sedition should be monitored more closely. If they are stirring up hatred against our country or armed forces, they should be prosecuted. When our secret services have suspicions they should act.

Some worry that Muslims want to take over our country. This is nonsense. With the exception of a few hotheads, third generation Muslims are becoming westernised and British. They are becoming more integrated and we must encourage this process to continue. The main gripe of their religious leaders is that their young people are becoming too westernised and have turned their backs on the faith.

We have several Muslim MPs at Westminster. One of our 2010 intake and already a minister could well be our first Muslim Prime Minister this country has. Great. He is as British as I am.

So respect the religion and deal with the extremists. But don't imagine that the sky is falling in our heads. It is not.

posted by Gary @ 09:39  



Thursday, 23 May 2013


I have not been in the Commons this week. We were only sitting for two days before a short Whit recess, and the only business was the same sex marriage bill. As I had chaired this through its committee stages, I am precluded by very strict rules from speaking or voting on it at any stage. So I chose to stay and work in the constituency.

The difference between the work in the constituency and Commons could hardly be starker. At Westminster most meetings are with fellow MPs and there is an energy-sapping intensity about the day. It is a hot-house of political passions and nuance, full of twists and turns. You are never quite sure what is going to happen next, especially at the moment.

In Devon, it feels much more like the real world. Meetings are with constituents, real people, and the challenges to be tackled are somehow grittier. I enjoy Westminster but I love the constituency work even more. Who would not choose Devon over London?

Last week also saw the magnificent spectacle that is Devon County Show. We go to the show every year as Jan competes with her main competition horse, and this year she won the part-bred Arab class, to great rejoicing. Unfortunately, I was involved in Parliamentary business in the House that day so was unable to be there, but I gather that this year's show was a great success, with the weather being kind most of the time. It is a time when the countryside can put on its best dress and bonnet and people living in towns can come and taste and see just how wonderful the rural way of life can be. Tens of thousands came.

I have learnt from representing a seat that is both urban and rural just how different life can be in those two worlds. Farming is a matter of life and death, my farming father used to say. It can be raw and uncomfortable. Living on a farm or in a remote village can often mean the complete absence of amenities that people in towns take for granted: shops, community facilities and access to transport among them. But there is often an impressive solidarity in the countryside that those of us with pavements and street lights outside our doors can sometimes lack.

The countryside can still put on a magnificent spectacle. Devon County Show next year is not to be missed.

posted by Gary @ 08:56  



Saturday, 18 May 2013


If we don't learn from history we are doomed to make the same mistakes. History is important. It is also fascinating. We are privileged to live in an area where there is plenty of history to go around.

Which brings me to the point: Historical Plympton Week begins on 20th May with an exhibition in Plympton St. Maurice Guildhall, until 22nd May and thereafter at the slightly more modern Plympton library. It is well worth a visit. There will be many photographs and paintings of ancient buildings and streets that are still remarkably recognisable, as well as information about the characters of each generation and detail about the way our ancestors used to live. There will also be organised walks, a slide show from the revered John Boulden, a treasure hunt and even a play on the Friday night. More information can be obtained from

Community organisations like the Plympton civic society are very important in creating cohesion. The band of keen volunteers who run this group have invested so much over many years in making Plympton such a successful and close knit community. They deserve our support!

Plympton is steeped in history as is clear from the quote used at the Stannator's evening every year: Plympton was a thriving town when Plymouth was a fuzzy down (or words to that effect). Stannary is an old term for a tin mining town and the Stannator is effectively Plympton's Lord Mayor.

I am fortunate to live in part of a very old house which was once owned by a predecessor Member of Parliament for the area. Richard Strode, the MP for Newnham, was a well known member in the early sixteenth century and it was his arrest by local tin-miners for promoting an act of parliament preventing them from mining the Plym that prompted Parliament to introduce the Act of Privileges.
This enables us to speak on your behalf at Westminster without fear of being arrested.

Strode's  grandson, also an MP for the area, was a close lieutenant of Oliver Cromwell and doubtless saw action and intrigue during the build up to the civil war.  Jan and I often wonder what secrets those old walls contain. He had the slight advantage of representing only 85 voters in those days, compared to my 70,000!

Our history and our traditions are part of our democratic stability. We should treasure them. Next week gives us a chance to do just that. 

posted by Gary @ 08:00  



Thursday, 9 May 2013


So here we go again, another session of legislation kicked off by the glorious pomp and pageantry that is the State Opening of Parliament.

With our five year fixed term Parliaments now written into concrete, with general elections scheduled for May each time, the political calendar is shifting. Our year used to begin in the autumn, but now it is firmly anchored into the beginning of May. The new session began this week with the Queen's Speech, a programme for the year written and prepared by the government, but set out in public by our much-loved Monarch.

I would have been very happy if Her Majesty had opened the speech and simply announce: my government is not going to pass any new laws this year, but concentrate on implementing well the measures it has already introduced.

It would have caused Fleet Street to splutter, but might well have been in the national interest. The last three years have been surprisingly radical for a coalition government, with major reforms in health, education and welfare. But there is a limit to the amount of turmoil people can take. What we need is a period of calm to bed these changes in and make sure that they work fairly and effectively on the ground.

We also need ministers to focus on making existing policy work rather that guiding new measures through the House. By far the most important challenge for government is to guide the country out of the appalling financial mess in which we still find ourselves.

After three years of austerity we are still borrowing £110 billion this year just to pay our bills. We are spending £46 billion a year just in interest payments on our growing pile of debt. Even if everything goes very well, it will not be until 2018 that we reduce our annual deficit to nil. Then we will have racked up a debt mountain of £1.7 trillion and whoever is in government at the time will have to tackle it.

Naturally, there are measures in the programme that I support. Anything that helps create private sector jobs is worthwhile and the changes we are now proposing to make in pensions and social care are important.

But perhaps we have missed an opportunity to do less and do it better. Parliament is not just there to pass new laws but to hold the executive to account on the ones we have already passed.

posted by Gary @ 09:35  



Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Democracy - use it or lose it?

Anything less than 150 years in this country is not really very old. It was only in 1918 that the ability to vote for all men in the United Kingdom became a reality, and only in 1928 that women got the right to vote. Our democracy in its current form is therefore quite young.

Churchill famously said that democracy was the worst system of government in the world, apart from all the others, and it is very difficult to argue with that.

And yet well within 100 years of universal suffrage being introduced here, voter fatigue appears to have set in. I am writing this before the turnout for Thursday's county council elections are known, but if we get a 35% turnout we will have done well. In elections which decide who runs our social services, education, highway maintenance and many more services, two thirds will not bother to vote! At a general election the turnout is higher, but we have had recent lows of 65%, meaning over a third did not cast a vote on who should run Britain.

Some of you will blame politicians for this, that: we are all the same, all in it for the money, all a bunch of crooks, why bother to vote.  It is true that we are human beings, which means we make mistakes and there will always be the odd bad apple, as in any sector of society, but most people in all parties at local and national level are in it to serve, working hard and doing their best.

The real problem is that in less than a hundred years we have taken our democracy for granted. We assume that it will always be there and we can get on with our busy lives. But that is very dangerous. We are already seeing the rise of extremist parties in European countries that are struggling with financial calamity.  Let's not forget that this is exactly how Hitler started.

Some of my colleagues think that democracy in its current form has run its course and that with technology, people do not need elected representatives; that we are heading for an era where all decisions on a daily basis will be made by pushing the red button on our computer.

I am not so sure. But I am certain that if more of us do not exercise the hard-won right to vote in elections, our children will live to regret it.

posted by Gary @ 09:07