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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, 19 December 2013


Christmas is like an onion: it is good on a number of different levels, as each layer is stripped away.

First of all, this festive season is beneficial for the economy. Some retail businesses do half of their annual turnover in one month. The car parks at our out of town stores have been overflowing for weeks and the centre of Plymouth has been crowded. This is not to be sniffed at, as a buoyant economy produces jobs and pays for our public services. It is a delight to watch families shopping together, especially mothers and grown up daughters picking out new decorations while dads skulk around the corner muttering that the ones in the attic are perfectly fine, only to be ignored.

More importantly, this time of year is a wonderful family time and even if it is just once a year, it is good that we all get together with the ones we love to make merry. At a recent event for families of servicemen away on deployment, the wives I chatted to spoke of their disappointment that their men were away at Christmas. It is a time that families instinctively feel we should be together, and that impulse is very strong. We should remember especially this year the brave men and women who are away from their families on active military service. We owe them a debt of gratitude. 

But there is another level of celebration yet to be experienced and we are unwise to disregard it. This is the time of year in which we celebrate the birth of a special man. Watching toddlers act out the familiar nativities and singing well-known carols runs the risks of diluting the essence of the message, which is this: it actually happened. Historians record the fact of his birth and life and death and the impact he made. Eye witness accounts captured in the Bible hand down to us the things he actually said and did.

2,000 years later and he has just been determined as the most important figure in history.  He had no army and came in humble circumstances. Yet he turned individual lives and the world upside down and still does.

In the midst of the turkey and the tinsel and the joy of loved ones home, the deepest meaning of Christmas is to be found in reflecting upon the significance of the birth of Jesus.

Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year!

posted by Gary @ 11:36  



Thursday, 12 December 2013


It was clearly wrong for the Royal Marine Sergeant to take the life of an Afghan prisoner in cold blood. It was inevitable once this was drawn to the attention of the authorities that he would and should be the subject of a court martial. This has happened throughout military history and in days gone by an offender of this kind would be hung or shot.

He had to be found guilty given the incriminating evidence. But from thereon I part company with the decisions of the court.

First of all, I do not believe that he should have been named. We know how dangerous some of these extremists we are fighting are and there must now be very real concerns about the safety of his family. Unfortunately that genie is out of the bottle and cannot be put back.

Second, I do not believe that the sentence handed down was a just sentence. Sentences are designed to have different components to them including deterrence, punishment and public protection; they are supposed to reflect the seriousness of the crime and be proportionate. Holding up that template to the decision of the court in this instance, can it really be argued that a life sentence with a minimum of ten years served is just?

Deterrence is served by a dishonourable discharge – it is unlikely that any young soldier looking in on all of this is likely to be tempted to repeat the same mistake.

This Royal Marine will have lost his job and his pension. Proportionality must surely take into account the battlefield conditions and the fact that just a few minutes earlier this victim was trying to kill him and his comrades. I have no doubt that this sergeant had witnessed some of his mates blown up and killed during this treacherous conflict.

This does not mean he should have been found not guilty, but should have been a substantial argument in mitigation. I would never dream to sit in judgement on someone who has experienced such traumatic circumstances.

Part of the point of imprisonment is to protect the public. Are any of us in danger from this man who had previously served his country so well, but had made a terrible instant decision that will blight the rest of his life?

The sentence was far too long and it does not surprise me that so many people have protested against it. I hope he wins on appeal.

posted by Gary @ 11:11  



Thursday, 5 December 2013


Last Friday the EU referendum bill passed through the Commons and is now headed for the Lords.

This is significant because, if their Lordships eventually agree, it will become the law of the land that we will have a referendum before 31st December 2017. I chaired this bill in committee so know it well. The question to be put to the people is very simple and will invite a clear yes/no answer.

This bill has been taken through the Commons as a private member's bill, because our coalition partners would not agree to it being a government bill, but nonetheless if passed by the Lords, it will become every bit as binding on us all as any law introduced into parliament by government.

The significance is that once this becomes the law of the land it means it will happen, unless a future government passes a new law to stop it. This tackles the concern that some people have that promises cannot be believed. If you don't believe us, you cannot really argue with the law.

Some people think we should have a referendum now. This is not possible because (a) our coalition partners oppose it and (b) we are about to renegotiate our country's relationship within the EU so it would be wise to wait until this process is complete before asking the people to pass judgement upon it. There is every hope that these negotiations will create real change as there must be a new settlement in any event to tackle the problems of the euro zone. Also, all of the main countries including Germany and France are looking to resolve the problems caused by mass migration from within the EU of much poorer people. We clearly cannot go on like this and there is more than a whiff of change in the air.

If we have a referendum, what is the outcome likely to be? This is hard to call. I would venture a guess that most of my constituents over 60 will vote to come out of the EU, largely because of concerns over immigration and sovereignty.

However, whenever I speak to sixth formers who will all have a vote in 2017, I always conduct a straw poll. Every time, they vote by a vast majority to stay in (last Friday by 148 to 2). I guess the issue will be settled by the age groups in between.

Sharpen your pencils, the referendum is coming.

Westminster Office Manager to Gary Streeter MP

Tel 0207 219 5033 | Mobile 07718 349853
Room 484, Portcullis House, House of Commons, London SW1A 2LW

posted by Gary @ 12:39