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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, 29 August 2013


The situation in Syria is dire. But we have to ask ourselves the question: should we intervene militarily?

This is a nasty and complex civil war, effectively between two sections of Islam, seeking to overthrow an oppressive regime. There is no appetite in the West either here in the UK or in the USA for us to intervene. Whatever enthusiasm existed in the past has been more than sated by the forays into Iraq and Afghanistan. In any event, it is not obvious how we could intervene successfully in such a messy situation. Who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? It is also hard to find strategic objectives to protect.

I can think of two, and they are far from compelling. The first is that it is not in our interests if a fanatical Islamist group were to take control of a country like Syria and start to spread their toxic beliefs and actions in the region and the wider world.

The second possible strategic issue involves Israel. If Syria were to become radicalised then Israel would be even more likely to be sucked into outright conflict with its neighbours. The USA would quickly become embroiled in such a conflict which could easily spiral out of hand.

But I would certainly not advocate the UK sending troops or planes on the strength of either of the above arguments.  My instincts are to do all we can to support the refugees and casualties through our aid effort but not to intervene militarily. I have received many e-mails from constituents all agreeing with this.

However, since clear evidence has now emerged of a significant chemical attack by Assad's regime against his own people, I can see the case for a limited response. These dreadful weapons have long been banned by the international law and for good reason since they are so indiscriminate and their effects are long lasting.

I would now, albeit reluctantly, support a swift and telling response from the international community by way of a missile attack on Assad's chemical capability. This could be done without putting our people in harm's way and discourage Assad from repeating the ghastly use of such weapons and deter other tin-pot dictators from following suit in the future.

But I am not prepared to support any other form of military intervention.

Once again the United Nations has shown itself to be ineffectual. If one of the Permanent Five on the Security Council does not support action, in this case Russia, then the organisation stumbles.

We are living in dangerous times.

posted by Gary @ 16:39  



Thursday, 22 August 2013


What do MPs do in August, when Parliament is not sitting? The national press will often write that whenever we are not in Westminster we are on holiday, often under lurid headlines like: Lazy MPs Ate My Hamster.

The truth is somewhat different. It is certainly important that we recharge our batteries after months of intensity. Westminster is an intellectual and emotional hothouse and by July we are all exhausted. Tired people make bad laws, so no apologies for taking things more easily in the summer. For me, the great prize is not having to catch the train to London every Monday morning. The e-mails and letters still need answering, and there are visits to be done, but it is all a more gentle pace.

The summer is also crucially a time of reflection. Like many jobs, it is easy to be driven by the workload: to spend each day chasing your tail, doing the e-mails and letters, rushing around the constituency at the weekend and bobbing up and down in the Commons and on committee when the House is sitting. Doing the urgent, rather than the important.

But if we are to do our job excellently, it is important not just to be driven by the volume of work, but to make time to step back and consider priorities. It is sometimes important to sit under a tree and have a think and come up with a plan.

So this summer, between the e-mails and the occasional visit to constituency groups, I am asking myself two questions. What more could I be doing to specifically help the people who live in South West Devon? Secondly, what national issues should I champion over the next twelve months?

Based on recent local events, I certainly want to campaign in the autumn to tighten up the law on trespass and travellers. I also remain concerned about the number of children in local authority care.

I would very much appreciate your own thoughts on what my priorities should be, either locally or nationally. The economy seems to be going forward at last and the housing market may well be recovering. We are gradually getting immigration under control after years of an open door policy. The budget deficit is slowly coming down. Welfare is being reformed.

Yet many challenges remain. There is eighteen months before the next general election. What would you like to see your elected representative campaigning on during that period?

posted by Gary @ 09:14  



Thursday, 15 August 2013


We've certainly had the bust, now where is the boom?

Answer: just around the corner. The announcement from the Bank of England last week that interest rates would stay where they are until unemployment reaches 7% (in other words an extra 750,000 new jobs have been created) was significant. Although couched in caveats, it has sent a clear signal that rates will remain at 0.5% until 2016. This may not be true, but it will give people confidence to  borrow once again.

Building society and banks have dropped their lending rates to new house buyers. News this week that first time buyers are now entering the market in record numbers and that house prices are beginning to rise again, all points us in the same direction. The return to a buoyant housing market is not very far away. This is hugely important for the economy as people moving home usually means new carpets and kitchens etc.

House builders are sensing this uplift too. I had a briefing on the proposed new town at Sherford yesterday. It is all progressing, with work to begin next year. The Plymstock Quarry site is also pressing forward and new planning applications for other parts of the urban fringe of Plymouth are pulsating down the pipeline.

At the same time the banks (apart from RBS) and the City of London seem to be recovering and poised to stride forward once more. Financial services are also an important factor in the UK's economy.

To temper this, global conditions remain uncertain. The Euro zone problems have not gone away. The Spanish are sabre rattling over Gilbraltar simply to distract their own people from their disastrous economic woes – youth unemployment over 50%! And in the UK public finances remain bleak so expect no new government spending for many years to come. These factors will act as a partial brake on growth.

Time to dust off your crystal ball. We know that there is a lot of slack in the economy and that in some areas unemployment is high. It will take some time for the economic energy unleashed by new activity in the housing market to feed its way through, but most of us could pencil in a few dates in the calendar.

Interest rates to rise, possibly sharply, in 2016/17 to slow down the economic boom?

There have always been economic cycles since mankind invented trade. There is nothing new under the sun.

posted by Gary @ 10:27  



Thursday, 8 August 2013


To frack or not to frack, that is the question. This is becoming one of the big debates of our generation.

What is fracking? Hydraulic fracturing (to give it it's real name) is the fracturing of rock by a pressurised liquid that creates a pathway through rock that enables oil and gas which would previously have been inaccessible to come to the surface to be exploited. This could almost overnight provide substantial new sources of home-produced energy.

There are genuine concerns about the environmental impact of this process, especially the risk of contaminating below ground water systems.  Naturally, we cannot afford to get this one wrong and create an environmental disaster that spirals out of control.  If we ruin this planet, it is unlikely we will be given another.

But the potential benefits of fracking are substantial. As we all know, after 30+ years the reserves of oil and gas from the North Sea are dwindling fast.  We now import much of our fossil fuel energy from abroad, typically from unstable countries like Nigeria and Russia meaning that concerns over consistency of supply are very real. Energy security is now an urgent priority for the UK.
It would be unacceptable for the citizens of our country to turn on the light switch and for nothing to happen. It is not just our homes and workplaces, but also hospitals and nursing homes.

We have been slow to replace our tired bank of nuclear energy generators although this is now in hand. Renewable energy, no matter how admirable, will not fill the gap between supply and demand for decades. Besides, not many of us want to plaster the countryside with wind turbines if there are better options available. Whether we like it or not, we will have to rely upon energy from fossil fuel for many years to come and fracking might be one of the ways to exploit gas and oil reserves that previously eluded us.

Currently, the government in the UK is permitting the use of fracking under very strict environmental regulations. Exploration is beginning to take place throughout the UK. It is controversial and there will be understandable protests wherever such activity is proposed.

There is a serious debate to be had. Can we allow a future generation to run short of power? Is fracking too environmentally hazardous? What are the realistic alternatives to keep the lights on?

This contentious debate is going to run and run.

posted by Gary @ 13:50  



Tuesday, 6 August 2013

and now for something completely different. . .?

You can tell its summer because it has started to rain again. Westminster has now risen until September and it is a time to recharge batteries and get enjoy a quieter pace of life in Devon, doing the things that the normal hurly-burly does not permit.

I keep discovering hidden worlds. Most people have their private interests and hobbies in which whenever time permits, they indulge themselves. You would be amazed at the number of people engaging in dog shows, or surfing, or scouting, or their allotment, or Christian festivals, or car rallies or cricket or film clubs....the list goes on. For us, the summer is very much about Jan's love of all things equestrian as we potter along the motorway at 53 MPH in our old lorry, often staying overnight like geriatric teenagers, as she puts her horse(s) through their paces. Literally.

So I am typing this from a massive field in West Sussex at 6 a.m. awaiting Jan's first class alongside the international arena here at Hickstead. Little sleep was had last night, as we have parked on a steep incline and I had to grip the side of the Luton bed to stop rolling out in the early hours. Why she could not be into ferrets instead, I do not know.

Work is important, family is crucial, but it is good to have a passion or interest that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning.

We return to Westminster in September for just two weeks (madness) and then begins the party conference season.  I suspect that it will signal the longest election campaign in human history. Now that we have five year fixed term Parliaments, and already know the date of the next election: the first Thursday in May 2015, there will be a temptation to start the electoral firing gun at an early stage. I consider this to be counter-productive and risks alienating people. I can remember the election campaign of 1992, my first, when there seemed to be a massive number of "don't knows" until the final week when knocking on the door became a more comfortable experience. The people had spent the weekend thinking about it and by Monday they had decided.

But enough of politics for now – for a few weeks at least, I will focus on mucking out and driving around in circles. Come to think of it, much the same as my day job really!

posted by Gary @ 08:30