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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, 26 February 2015


It is time for an update on the most pressing issue facing our region – connectivity, especially an improved rail link. I am pleased to say that the news is positive.

You might recall that before Christmas I took the Peninsula Rail Task Force – the group representing all councils and business community in Devon Cornwall and Somerset to see the Prime Minister. The task force had by then worked up a three point plan. The simple ask of the PM was: will you help us persuade the Department of Transport (DofT) and Network Rail to adopt this plan and deliver it over the next 5 to 20 years. The answer was a resounding yes.

Since then the task force have had 2 meetings with the DofT and more monthly meetings are planned. The idea is to work up the plan into bite-size chunks and put some timings on it. By the summer a detailed plan with approximate costings and timings should be in place. This will then give a clear signal to the business community, the travelling public and potential investors in our region that a world class train service is on the way. It also affords an opportunity for local government to bring forward any particular part of the plan if necessary.

The plan contains designs for a 2¼ hour train journey from Paddington to Plymouth. This will transform our prospects. It calls for the current line via Dawlish to be maintained. It recognises that future capacity demands will require four tracks in the future and because another two tracks could not be run along the sea coast, this will have to be built inland from Newton Abbot to Exeter. We will in effect get a Dawlish-avoiding-line at that stage. Points and signalling and rolling stock will be upgraded. There is likely to be the reconstruction of the Okehampton line – not to replace the existing line, but as part of the economic opening up of North Cornwall and North Devon.

All of this has been accepted by officials in principle and I believe we will see it all over time. Don't forget that whilst the government is spending £40 billion on HS2 over 20 years, it is spending more than that on non-HS2 infrastructure every 5 years from now on. We are only asking for our fair share of that spending.

It has taken a while, but it looks as though it will happen. At last.

posted by Gary @ 10:04  



Thursday, 19 February 2015


At the last general election the Scottish National Party received 19% of the Scottish vote which delivered 6 Westminster MPs. For the past few months the SNP have been on 50% of the Scottish vote in all opinion polls which could put them on course to send a record breaking number of MPs to London, perhaps as many as 30 or 40. Pollsters tell us their support is rock solid and unlikely to slip much come the day.

This is a game changer in three ways.

First of all, most of the extra seats the SNP win north of the border will be from Labour. They cannot take many from the blue team as we have only one seat up there to start with! On current polling they will take out most sitting LibDem MPs, which is a shame because Danny Alexander has played a very skilful hand in the Treasury. But the main impact will be on Labour – perhaps taking as many as 20 or 30 seats from them. This clearly impacts the ability of the red team to form a majority at Westminster. They currently have 258 seats and need 326 for an overall majority. To go backwards in Scotland means more rapid advance south of the border is required, not currently indicated by the polls.

The second impact is the price the SNP might demand to support a minority Labour government. They have already indicated that they would never sup with the Devil – i.e. enter a coalition with the Tories! But politics is about the power game and the keys to number ten are a great temptation. SNP support to lever Mr Miliband into Downing Street is a very real likelihood. What might they demand in return?  The removal of Trident? Yet more powers for Scotland? These price tags have wider repercussions, both nationally and locally.

The third leg of the game-changer is the impact that a vast horde of SNP MPs might have at Westminster. Their leader has already indicated they intend to vote on non-Scottish laws which they have not traditionally done. This runs the risk of stirring up resentment and worse in England and place the Union under further strain. That is one reason why we have put forward plans for English votes for English laws. There is no appetite in these parts for us to live under Scottish domination.

The next election looks set to have dramatic implications for our constitution.

posted by Gary @ 11:33  



Thursday, 12 February 2015


One of my grandchildren asked me recently what kind of computer games I used to play when I was a child. Where to begin? No computers, no internet, no smart phones, no colour TV, no Sky. I told him about the plastic soldiers we played with and the tank that fired a matchstick from its gun – that all seemed very high-tech to us at the time.

It started me thinking about the dramatic changes we have seen in technology and communications during my lifetime. 1965 when I was 10, we had a black and white TV and watched the world cup on it in the following year. We did not get a colour TV until the early seventies, just in time for the Ashes test matches that summer. If we wanted to know something we read a book (remember Encyclopaedia Britannica?) or asked my parents who pretended to know the answer.

In 1990 when my daughter was 10, there were still no mobile phones or e-mails. In my office we thought we were cutting edge because we had replaced the telex with the fax machine. About that time the Ping-Pong game on television came around, the one where you moved the handles up and down to return the moving ball. It was the start of an electronic revolution.

What a spurt there has been since then, in just 25 years. Now, at a meeting with the Tax Payer's Alliance last week, I learnt for the first time that there is now something called phone poverty – if you do not have a smart phone you might be deemed to be living in poverty. I did not know whether to laugh or cry.

Our grandchildren are growing up in a world where connectivity is all. They have instant access to the internet for all knowledge. The computer based games they play are vivid and all-consuming. Such a different world.

Yet in many ways the old maxim: "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose" rings true. The technology has changed but the coming generation still want the same things out of life: to be loved, to do well, , travel a bit, get a job, to meet the right person, settle down, work hard, get a house, have kids… Human nature has not changed. One of the joys of my job is to interact with school children a lot. I always come away from such sessions optimistic about the future.

posted by Gary @ 10:37  



Thursday, 5 February 2015


One of the options for this country is to leave the EU and join the European Free Trade Area (EFTA). Like Switzerland and Norway. Some people feel passionately about this – I know because I get many e-mails a week telling me.

Hopefully after the next election there will be a chance to put this burning issue to the test in a referendum and settle in one way or the other. There are good reasons to leave the EU – loss of sovereignty being one of them.
Some people also claim that if the UK left the EU we would have billions of pounds a year to spend on our health service.

I recently asked the House of Commons library (famously impartial and learned) to compare and contrast the contributions that Norway make per head of population to be in EFTA, compared to our payments to the EU. This is their response:

"Since 1994 the EFTA states have made financial contributions to the EU in two ways. Norway, which by virtue of its relative size provides the vast majority of EFTA contributions, provided £524m in 2011, or £106 per capita. This compares to the UK's net budget contribution that year of £8.1bn, or £128 per capita. If the UK left the EU and instead contributed to the EU budget on the same basis as Norway, its contributions would fall by around 17%."

Basically, Norway pays £106 per capita to be in EFTA and we pay £128 per head to be in the EU. A difference of £22 per head. In other words, if we come out of the EU and go into the Free Trade Area instead, we would save £22 per head. I accept that this would have to be negotiated and we might be able to secure a better deal. Or worse.

So there would not be billions to spend on other things if we hop from EU to EFTA, far from it. And we would still have to comply with all of the rules of the free market, as Norway does, but without anyway of influencing what those rules are as we can today.

I have no doubt that if we left the EU we would be welcomed into EFTA. The Germans would still want to sell us their cars and the French their wine, tariff free. That is not the point. The issue is, would we be any better off?

A modest saving at best.

posted by Gary @ 09:17