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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.


Friday, 25 April 2014


I try very hard not to get involved in planning issues, as there is a whole raft of excellent elected councillors in place for that very purpose, but sometimes it is inevitable that I must express a view.

One such case is the proposal to place a large wind turbine at Boringdon Golf Park. I gather that the application has been withdrawn for technical reasons, but I suspect it will come back again at some stage.

I am not against all wind turbines, but they have to be in the right place. I am not yet persuaded by the arguments on man-made climate change, but it that it makes little difference: we are consuming finite resources at an increasing rate and obviously we need to move to renewable energy sources. This has to be done at a pace and at a cost we can afford, and it is important that we do not do this in isolation, but work for global agreement on this. I would like to see much more investment in the production of energy from wave and tidal power and I hope that the maritime research facility to be established under the City Deal will help us lead the way on this.

In the meantime solar panel farms and wind turbines will have a part to play although I have a hunch that many of these will be torn down in a few years time and regarded as modern day follies.

But wind turbines cannot be allowed to dominate and change existing and settled landscapes. The proposals for Boringdon Golf Club would certainly damage the landscape for most people living in Plympton and this renders it totally unacceptable. It cannot be right to blight the outlook for so many people.  I know that many of you have already objected and should be ready to do so again if it is brought back.

One of the complications is that the land in question appears to be just in the South Hams and it will be South Hams District Council that will determine this, yet the impact will be felt by the people living in Plymouth Council. These cross border planning issues are never very satisfactory, and it is vital to ensure that both councils are talking to each other. 

Boringdon Golf Club is an excellent local facility and I hope that its owners will see the writing on the wall and withdraw this application permanently.

posted by Gary @ 11:37  



Thursday, 17 April 2014


Last week I was in China, a country I have long wanted to visit. Its population is now 1.25 billion; by far the most populated country in the world and its economy has risen from nowhere in the last 30 years to be the second largest and rising.

Many experts believe that this century will largely belong to them.  I offer three immediate observations on my time over there.

First, the size and effectiveness of their infrastructure is breathtaking. Both Shanghai and Beijing airports are modern masterpieces of design and engineering, but if anything their modern railway stations are even more impressive.  They appear to build everything on a scale that allows for growth and room to move even though these busy places already accommodate a vast number of people.

Travelling at 305 Kilometres per hour on the railway system that links their major cities felt as though we were hardly moving. If we can achieve anything approaching that when we build HS2 we should be very proud.

As we know for many years the Chinese government has pursued a one child policy. There is some softening of that policy today, but most families will still have to restrict themselves to one child. This policy appears to have led to a real focus on that child doing well, especially through the education system, and they are achieving tremendous results and turning out brilliant scholars. This is why our own government is so keen to improve standards over here, as our brightest young people are now in competition with Chinese (and other Asian) students for the top jobs in law, finance, engineering and so on.

It is hardly appropriate to describe China as a Communist country any longer as their recent success has been built upon western style capitalism. The Communist party has kept a grip on power and renews itself by inviting the brightest and best from each generation to join its ranks. You cannot apply to join the party, you have to be invited. This is a very clever way of retaining control for the ruling elite which makes up about 5% of the population. I am sure that the system is sprinkled with a fair measure of nepotism but even allowing for that, it preserves power to the most able.

China used to be an inward looking mystery to the rest of the world. She is now beginning to take her place at the top table.

posted by Gary @ 09:51  



Thursday, 10 April 2014


When you read this, I should be in China, the country that looks set to dominate the world of our children and grandchildren. I will report on my visit next week. (It is not at tax payer's expense!)

To get to Heathrow last weekend I travelled up on the re-opened rail link. As we passed through Dawlish it was possible to see firsthand the massive feat of engineering that has reconnected us to London in just 8 weeks. Network rail have done a truly amazing job and it is not possible to praise them highly enough. 300 men working 24/7 for 8 weeks, initially in some very tasty weather have achieved a virtual miracle. It is a timely reminder that when we put our mind to it in this country (the Olympics comes to mind) we are capable of world class delivery.

The repair work has not just replaced the sea wall and infrastructure as it was, but strengthened it significantly to make it much more robust.

In July Network rail will report to the Transport secretary on how the rail link to the far south west can be made much more resilient.

This will look at upgrading the infrastructure from Bristol to Penzance and, crucially, considering how to provide an additional or alternative in-land route to avoid the potential vulnerability of the Dawlish section. 

There will doubtless be a healthy debate about where this line should go; indeed, regional MPs are already sparring over this. My own preference is for a fast straight track from Newton Abbott to Exeter which is either the main line or can be used as the main line in extremis. But let us see what the report says.

If there is to be a new line there will presumably be a huge planning battle and endless enquiries, appeals and claims for compensation, so it is naive to imagine that there will be a track on the ground any time soon. But we must see a commitment to it and a steady drive towards it.

To do that the government and Network Rail have to commit the necessary funds to construct it. Naturally, as we do not yet know where it will be or how much it will cost the funds for this do not appear in the current five year plan. So that will be the next big battle.

In the meantime, well done again Network Rail and your orange army.

posted by Gary @ 09:29  



Thursday, 3 April 2014

Apprenticeships - a better future.

Some news to cheer you up: despite all the challenges of modern society, in many crucial areas we are making progress.

Between 2005 and 2008, a staggering 90% of all jobs created in this country went to foreign workers. In the past 12 months, 87% of all new jobs have been taken by indigenous Brits. What a transformation! It is encouraging to be reminded (as the late and great Bill Shankly used to say) if you do the right things you usually get the right results.

Which brings me onto my main subject: apprenticeships. It has long been recognised that university is not right for everyone and that what we need are many more apprenticeships. But in these tough times, this does not happen by accident – you have to make it happen. In the past 4 years the government has been funding the creation of new apprenticeships the length and breadth of the country. In 2012/13 the total budget to support new apprenticeships was £1.4 billion. As a result of this, over 510,200 apprenticeships were started in that academic year, an 82% increase on the number of apprentices in 2009/10.

In the autumn statement last year the government allocated another £40 million to fund another 20,000 new places for the next two years. The target is 2 million apprenticeships in this Parliament.

This is one reason why employment is falling, including youth unemployment. The statistics suggest that a vast proportion of those who are taken on as apprenticeships either stay on with the same business or move to another job within the same industry – in other words their training remains relevant.  Very few of them fall onto the dole. Each apprentice receives a nationally recognised qualification which will help them with a future career.
Very often these hidden success stories get overlooked or missed in all the talk of austerity and gloom. But this story is not really about statistics, it is about hope. It is about giving young people at 16, or 18, who are just starting out in life the relevant skills to fulfil their potential. Gone are the old days of leaving school on a Friday and starting your job on the Monday knowing that you would stay in that line of work all of your life.

Today, we all have to be prepared to be mobile and flexible.

This massive investment in apprenticeships is helping to equip the next generation for that challenge.

posted by Gary @ 09:54