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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, 28 August 2014


Who and what can we trust in modern society? The sorry saga of the recent action against Sir Cliff Richard has been very much a tale of our times. The police and the BBC (and Sir Cliff) are all great British institutions. We should be able to trust them to conduct themselves with proprietary. At least two of them have not done so.

It is not right that when the police are about to arrest a celebrity or carry out a raid that they should tip off the media as clearly happened in this case.

It was not right that the BBC should then lead their evening news with dramatic aerial shots of five unmarked police cars arriving chez Cliff as though he has already been found guilty of some terrorist offence. I do not have any problem with historic crimes being investigated and prosecuted if the evidence is sufficient, but I do deprecate the police and BBC trashing a person's reputation in this sordid way.

If Cliff is found to be innocent from this one accusation and/or no charges are ever brought there should be resignations of senior police officers and BBC officials. Officials from both organisations have been summoned before the Home Affairs select committee shortly to explain themselves. I anticipate several red faces.

Of course the police had to investigate any accusations brought by a credible person, but they should have done so quietly and with integrity without broadcasting it all over the media. A truly shocking saga.

I represent an institution that has its own trust issues. The 2009 expenses scandal deeply damaged confidence in Parliament and the scars have not yet healed.  Although politics will always attract more than its fair share of chancers and risk-takers most people involved in it are genuinely trying to do the right thing and make a constructive difference and we need to ensure that we demonstrate this once again.

If we lose a sense of integrity in public life, every aspect of our conduct will simply be replaced by more and more regulation. Once this happens the only rule will be: what can I get away with?

We can do better than that. It is time for people in leadership in every sphere of society to recognise once again that there is a right and a wrong and we should strive to reflect that in every decision that is taken. Only then might old-fashioned trust be re-established.

posted by Gary @ 10:12  



Sunday, 24 August 2014


The family is the building block of our society and although government cannot legislate to make people love each other, it is important that it should do all it can to underpin stability in family life, particularly where there are children.

The shape of family has changed drastically since the 1950's and we could debate until the cows come home whether things are better or worse now. When I was at primary school it was almost unheard of for a child not to live with both of its natural parents, although this probably masked a lot of hidden unhappiness. I suspect that the majority of children in theprimary school classes of my grandchildren no longer live with both mum and dad. That is a staggering change in one lifetime.

But blood is still thicker than water and even in the most chaotic of situations, you still find wider family members trying to hold things together. Family delivers the kind of support and care that the state can never do, and we should promote and celebrate that fact. 

It was therefore good to see the Prime Minister make an important speech earlier this week about more support for families. It has always been difficult to spell out precise policies to support this most personal and diverse institution, but this week's speech was a step in the right direction. More help for those who need relationship advice when things get tough, marriage recognised in the tax system again, more help with child-care and so on. We also intend to focus even more robustly on the most neglectful and irresponsible parents.

Crucially, all new laws will from now on have to be tested to make sure they will have a positive impact on family life. All of this will help policy-makers have stable families at the forefront of their minds. 

When I was first elected my aspiration was to see a revival in traditional family - the classic two married parents with their natural children, staying together til death do them part. That has not happened and shows little sign of happening in the near future.  Nonetheless, it remains most people's aspiration, and when achieved a wonderful, fulfilling accomplishment. 

Twenty-first century family has taken a different path and government is right to support it, whatever its shape, as best we can. Not least because children growing up in stable, loving environments tend to do better than those from chaotic homes

posted by Gary @ 16:41  



Thursday, 14 August 2014


It is that time of year when a number of people variously described as gypsies or travellers descend upon us and create havoc.  Over the past two weeks we have had incursions into several sites in Plymstock and Plympton and many constituents have contacted me and local councillors. We are doing all we can.

Nothing winds me up more than the illogical and inadequate way we currently deal with this group of trouble makers. Some local authorities consider them to be vulnerable communities and treat them with kid gloves. As we know, some also provide permanent sites for them at tax payer's expense, something I have always opposed.

These "vulnerable people" descend with their large and expensive vehicles on private or publicly owned land which they then aggressively occupy for as long as they can get away with.

This is bad enough, but sadly during most periods of encampment, the local neighbourhood experiences trouble. The shameful mess these unlawful occupants leave behind is obvious for all to see, which is then cleared up at tax payer's expense. Police officers frequently report a spike in minor crime during these periods, although this is rarely confirmed officially. Many constituents have experienced aggression first hand.

Fortunately Plymouth and Devon councils are both skilled at triggering the court process to remove these interlopers and it usually takes about 3 weeks. In almost every case I have known, the travellers leave the day before the court orders their eviction, which the police can then impose, with force if necessary. They know the law better than we do and exploit it mercilessly.

The law has been tightened up a few years ago, but in my opinion still remains unsatisfactory. I and several other MPs have tried to persuade parliament to introduce even more robust laws, notably that trespass itself should be a criminal offence, which it currently is not. Part of the problem is that the blight of traveller nuisance affects only certain parts of the country. Very few MPs representing City or northern constituencies are ever troubled by these incidents and cannot relate to the experience of those of us who do.

Until the law is changed, it is vital we do all we can to defend ourselves locally. I urge both councils to serve and process the legal documents in every case at the earliest opportunity and minimise the disruption and pain to local hard working or retired tax-paying law abiding families. 

posted by Gary @ 09:37  



Thursday, 7 August 2014


The situation in Gaza is truly appalling, with young children being caught up in the conflict that is not of their making. I have had many e-mails on this subject in the past few weeks and have tried to explain how hard it is for the British government to do or say anything meaningful. Of course, we all want to see a lasting cease fire and then momentum towards a lasting peace.

 I have been to Israel/Palestine four times throughout my parliamentary career and each time come away with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. None of us who have hopefully entered politics for the right reasons like to think that there are political problems in the world which are utterly unsolvable, but I suspect that this is where we are on the Middle East. I have taken part in countless discussions with Palestinian politicians who always (in one sense understandably) want to recite the history of this conflict (right back to the Balfour declaration) but it gets us nowhere. 

We cannot undo the past when the State of Israel was created in this land. When asked about how this might be solved, looking forward, there is never any answer. 

Israeli politicians are impressive but hard-nosed. They act as though they are fighting for the very survival of their State, which in a very real sense they are. The USA continues to support Israel through thick and thin and their leaders, whether we like it or not, do not listen to the views from any other nation. 

On my last visit, we experienced the difficult circumstances in which people in Gaza are having to live, hemmed in on all sides. It must have been exhilarating when the people of this troubled land elected a terrorist organisation to lead them some years ago, but it has proved to be a disaster. Our delegation was subjected to a Hamas rocket attack while there and had to sit under the table for a while until we received the all-clear. I understand why after 2,000 missiles sent over this year alone, Israel felt it had to act. 

But as ever, they do not do things by halves and it has been distressing to see some of the consequences. 

We need the United Nations to carry on working for a ceasefire. We need the United States to re-engage in trying to find a long term settlement. Short of this, this situation will fester on.

posted by Gary @ 09:53  



Friday, 1 August 2014


Just before the House rose for the summer, the Lords debated a private members bill on assisted dying. It is currently a criminal offence to help someone end their own life. Lord Falconer has brought forward a bill to provide that in very limited circumstances and with safeguards it would be lawful to do so if someone was terminally ill and requested it.

The bill was given a second reading without a vote in the Lords, which is their tradition. If ever you wanted to reassure yourself about the format of our Parliament and in particular whether an unelected chamber is appropriate, take a look at the Hansard recording of this debate. It was the House of Lords at its best, full of wise and experienced people articulating their views in thoughtful manner. The debate was evenly decided with strong opinions being expressed on either side of the argument.

It is possible that this matter will come to the Commons before our general election next May, but highly unlikely that it will be anything other than a debate. It certainly will not have the time to become law in the few months that remain even if it were to gather enough support which I doubt. 

I recognise that there are arguments in favour of changing the law. It must be heart-breaking to see loved ones in great painbegging to be allowed to die, and frustrating that people have to take their loved ones to countries that allow this procedure in order to alleviate their suffering. Of course, there is an unwritten understanding that in circumstances of genuine compassion, the prosecuting authorities would probably turn a blind eye if someone's painful passing was eased.

Despite all of this, I am not in favour of changing the law. I would be concerned that if this important principle was breached, it would quickly descend down a slippery slope. In 1967 the Abortion Act was passed, full of good intention and safeguards to stamp out back street abortions. For many years now we have had abortion on demand in this country,effectively another form of contraception. A very rapid slippery slope indeed. I believe that assisted dying, once approved, would go the same way. Come on granny, time to go. 

I am not usually in favour of messy compromises, but sometimes they are the least worst option. I would continue to allow the authorities to exercise common sense in individual cases. 


posted by Gary @ 14:26