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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 February 2014


Exeter may have the posh bits, including John Lewis and IKEA, but Plymouth is the indisputable economic engine room for the whole sub-region (Devon and Cornwall) and of that engine room, Devonport Dockyard remains the undoubted dynamo. It did not look this way some years ago when the existence of the yard itself was under threat. However, it has now received a new lease of life and is once again a very busy and successful place. This is in no small measure due to the commercial expertise and clout that Babcock has added since it acquired the yard some years ago.

Every year MPs with a Babcock connection are entertained at a very pleasant dinner just outside the Houses of Parliament at which the group performance for the year is revealed and discussed. Two weeks ago this took place. As well as winning good defence contracts in Canada and Australia in the past 12 months, the highly successful UK based company now maintains all of the physical fabric of the school buildings throughout Devon. They are also bidding for massive UK wide contracts in the nuclear industry.

There was a time when the number of employees in the dockyard fell below 4,000. This is now up to 5016 full time well paid jobs. I cannot think of another private sector business in Plymouth that even employs 1,000 people, so you can see that the dockyard is very much still our number one employer. To this impressive number must be added several thousands of jobs of local suppliers and contractors to the yard which also boost our economy.

Investment in the next generation is reflected in the fact that there are now over 200 apprentices working in the yard and more are added to their number every year. All of this is encouraging and perhaps partly explains why unemployment locally is well below national average and falling.

I have in the past criticised Babcock for not engaging more fully in the local community as some of the previous owners of the dockyard have done. It does not seem to come easy to their current crop of hard-nosed bosses to do some of the fancy community-based niceties. I have decided not to criticise them for this in the future. Their primary task is to make a go of the yard and to employ local people, which they are doing in droves.

Our entire region shares in the success they have achieved. 

posted by Gary @ 09:10  



Thursday, 20 February 2014


These days Parliament is trying to be family friendly (long way to go) so we are having a half term break and I have been down in Devon all week. It is a good time to catch up with paperwork. I have also been doing some baby minding. I took our 3 year old granddaughter to Endsleigh Garden Centre on my own on Monday for an hour and had to lie down in a darkened room for the rest of the day when I got back. There is no doubt that being a parent is both the hardest and most important job in the world.

Which brings me back to non-family friendly Westminster. We have had a spate of announcements from women MPs recently announcing their intention to stand down, some of them after just one Parliament. Why?

When I was first elected it was not uncommon to sit through the night and midnight seemed like an early night. Now we finish at 10.30 pm on Mondays and 7.30 pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 6pm on Thursdays. Most of us are in our offices by 8 am. We used to sit virtually every Friday, but now more often than not we do not. Naturally Fridays and Saturdays remain very busy constituency days with most of us rattling off about eight meetings a weekend plus surgeries. So it is long hours and hard work, but so are many jobs.

There are reasons why it is particularly tough for woman MPs. No matter how modern a family may be – the burden of childcare falls primarily upon mum. This brings extra challenges for the working MP mum. There is a crèche at Westminster but even if we finish at 7.30pm it is plenty late enough for a little one to be taken home to bed etc.

The second difference is that we do our work in two places and both are equally important. Either the children are in London during the week with the MP and then hauled down to the constituency every weekend. Alternatively, the family stay in the constituency and mum or dad works away four days a week. Not ideal with a young family, especially as the weekends are so busy.

So the nature of the job is unusually demanding on young mums even more than dads. This is not special pleading, just trying to get to the bottom of the problem. Anyone got any answers? 

posted by Gary @ 16:30  



Thursday, 13 February 2014


Since the storm washed away the rail track and seawall at Dawlish, life has not quite been the same. Endless meetings to try and get the right response and the right level of focus on both the immediate problem and longer term solutions.

It is obviously unacceptable that the Far South West should be cut off by rail from the rest of the country. I am pleased that the government is taking this very seriously and is committed to sorting it out. Network Rail has responded very quickly to get some heavy muscle in place in Dawlish and have a clear timetable to complete that complex operation. I always felt six weeks is optimistic, but time will tell.

The Transport Secretary and the Prime Minister have sanctioned a rigorous review thereafter to explore what can be done in the medium and long term to underpin rail resilience in and to our region. This will include the possibility of alternative routes.

That might be where the fun begins. I have spoken to most of my MP colleagues about this matter and there are, shall we say, a variety of views, flowing largely from the fact that we are elected to do the best for our constituency first and foremost. So: some favour sticking with the existing route but protecting the sea wall more forcibly, some favour resurrecting the old Tavistock line, others wish us to explore the prospect of tunnelling under Halden Hill to make a direct and fast link between Newton Abbot and Exeter. Many constituents have also e-mailed me with their suggestions for which I am grateful. All of them will be fed into the review when it begins.

I am increasingly drawn to the Halden Hill option. Apparently British Rail (as was) had just started look at this seriously, including some exploratory tunnelling, when the War broke out in 1939. Tunnelling is much easier these days with modern equipment and once in place such a rapid link would increase resilience dramatically. It would also mean that the railway towns of Totnes and Newton Abbot do not get by-passed (which is one major problem with the Okehampton suggestion)

We will see what the review brings. Whatever the solution, it will clearly cost a fortune. I have made it clear to ministers that my support for HS2 can no longer be guaranteed, unless we have a positive outcome to this, the most pressing issue facing our region.

posted by Gary @ 07:37  



Thursday, 6 February 2014


During the past three weeks I have driven to Westminster and back while the railway tunnel between Exeter and Taunton is being repaired. I just could not face 5 to 6 hour journeys and am already fed up with the sight of tarmac. Hopefully next week I can get back to my routine of thumping out the e-mails and this article whilst enjoying the delights of First Great Western.

Anyway, before I zoomed off last Monday I attended the Plymstock launch of a banking service that has been going for 14 successful years, Hope Credit Union. There are lots of credit unions in this country, but Hope CU is a community based not for profit financial co-operative run by trained volunteers.  Anyone living in Post Code areas PL1 to PL21 can sign up and become a member. Before you can borrow from the union you have to have become a saver first for a number of weeks and the amount you can ultimately borrow is linked to the amount saved.

It is an excellent way of accessing loans when you need to and learning the discipline of saving along the journey.
HOPE CU has a loan failure rate of less than 2%, which demonstrates the success of a financial co-operative based on relationship. I warmly recommend them and anybody wishing to know more simply has to visit the bustling Plymstock library between 10am and 12.30 pm every Monday.

This kind of credit union is not an immediate replacement for the scourge of payday loans, because you do have to be able to save before you borrow, but if more people routinely were members of such a scheme, the need for payday loans would fall away.

We surely miss a trick in the extent of financial information we drum into young people at school. There should be far greater emphasis on managing personal and household finances. Maybe credit unions should also be part of the curriculum. Wouldn't it be a huge step forward if it became the norm for school leavers to sign up with a credit union on getting their first job and saved, say 10% of their starting salary and built up a bit of capital and then had access to reasonable loans when required?

I will certainly be doing all I can to promote credit unions at Westminster. In the meantime why not pop into Plymstock library one Monday for a cuppa and sign up?

posted by Gary @ 08:05