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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, 25 June 2015

​ADOPTION - a long term view​

I made a speech this week in the Commons about adoption. I did so because of the many constituents I have met over the years who have adopted a child only to find that challenges gradually emerge with which they need support which is simply not there. 

Programmes about people in their fifties and older trying to reconnect with the babies they were forced to give up in the 1960's we can give us a false impression about modern day adoption. In those days societal stigma and parental pressure combined to force many young women to give up their much loved new-born babies who had been carefully nurtured in the womb and during its first few days.

These days that can still happen but it is unusual. 

Normally, a child is removed from its natural mother after a series of incidents which might be abandonment, abuse, whether physical or mental, or violence. All of these tragic episodes involve some kind of trauma to the child and, as we are beginning to understand, that repressed pain is likely to reveal itself in later life in one form or another. Adopted parents do not ever completely know the background of a child or its DNA or full medical record. Despite all of the preparation, adoption remains a leap in the dark.

Yet it is a wonderful thing to do and the vast majority of adoptions result in a fulfilling life for all concerned. I spoke to a woman recently whose teenage daughter says to her frequently: thank you for giving me a life! 

Over the years I have seen another side when parents are at their wits end trying to cope with a child who displays mental health and behavioural problems, probably as a result of early trauma. They look for help from the system, whether social services or mental health teams and struggle to find it.

There is a case for priority treatment for families where a child has been adopted – simply because of the likelihood of problems after the impact of the early abuse. We already give looked-after children priority in accessing the school of their choice and we need to go further. 

It is a relatively small number of people and the impact on the rest of us would be minimal. But for the good-hearted people who have opened up their homes and their lives to embrace a child from outside it could make all the difference.

posted by Gary @ 09:10  



Thursday, 18 June 2015


Politics is largely about managing the collision between the unstoppable force and the immoveable object. It cannot always be done without shockwaves.

There is no doubt that we need to build more homes. Because we are living longer, separating from our spouses more and incurring inward migration, we have more people than decent homes for them to live in. The biggest demonstration of this is that the average age of buying your first home is now 38. It has risen sharply in recent years. I bought mine at 24, as did many of my generation.

Supply and demand being out of kilter pushes prices up, which mean that many young people cannot afford to buy in this constituency.

Yet many existing home owners react negatively to any suggestion of new houses in our vicinity. The biggest public meetings I have attended in my years in this job all relate to residential planning applications. I completely understand this: we all get used to our view, our dog walking area, our peace and quiet.

So how to manage this collision on the eastern edge of Plymouth? There is no easy answer, but there is a credible way forward. The new town at Sherford will provide 5500 new homes over the next 15-20 years. It will have its own facilities and should be an example of how to build a new town. Many of our children and grandchildren will live there, many of them taking advantage of "affordable schemes for local people."

Although there will be an impact on all of us both during the construction phase and in terms of volume of traffic once built,  significant improvement in our transport infrastructure will help. When complete, there are many acres of land west of the new town stretching back towards Plymouth that could be the obvious next building phase.

My point is this: it is perfectly credible for us in Plympton and Plymstock to argue that we accept the Sherford development, but we do not want extensive building elsewhere in our neck of the woods.  We do not want every tiny scrap of green built upon, unless it was previously designated for development in earlier plans. We have to retain a vibrant green lung in our already built-up area.

This is the line I and your councillors are taking with the planning authority. We may not always succeed, but we will persevere to preserve as much green open space as possible.

posted by Gary @ 11:13  



Thursday, 11 June 2015


In the week that the EU Referendum Bill received its second reading, how could I not discuss the thorny issue of Britain's relationship with the EU?

It now looks like we could have a referendum as soon as May 2016 – yes next year! The commitment is to hold it by the end of 2017 at the very latest, but as it is such a divisive issue, as the uncertainty is bad for business and as the broad arguments about the improvements we seek in the way the EU works are already circulating among EU leaders, why not get the matter settled sooner rather than later. It is quite possible that the Prime Minister will have concluded a deal to get whatever changes he can extract from EU partners by Christmas this year and then a full scale debate about whether to go or stay can begin.

There are concerns about linking the referendum to other elections, for example local and London Mayoral elections, but the government believes the British people have the nous to sort out one issue from another.

There are those MPs at Westminster who wake up each morning and think of little else but the UK leaving the EU. I am not one of them. I recognise that there are arguments on both sides and I want to see a grown up debate about the issues for at least 6 months before we go to the polls and then let the British people decide. I already know which way I will vote (barring unforeseen sensational changes), but will keep my powder dry until nearer the time.

I hope the debate will be an honest one. I hope those in favour of staying in will not try to frighten the electorate about the financial consequences of leaving. As the sixth largest economy in the world, we can probably stand on our own two feet, even if there remains an element of uncertainty about what that would look like.

I hope those wanting out will not pretend that if we leave the EU and join a free trade area there will be billions of extra to spend on our NHS. Not so, as we will have to pay handsomely to be part of any free trade area, as Norway does. We will also have to comply with all the rules of the free trade area.

Let the debate begin, let the people decide, "though the heavens fall."

posted by Gary @ 09:08  



Thursday, 4 June 2015


I have had a few e-mails since the election suggesting that the outcome makes a compelling case for the reform of our voting system.

They cite the fact that the SNP got 4.7% of the UK national vote but ended up with 56 seats at Westminster, nearly 10%. UKIP with a 12.6% vote share only got one seat. They claim that this means it is time for us to move to a proportional representation system. This would mean if you get 5% of the national vote share you get 5% of the seats in parliament, 10% of the vote, you get 10% and so on.

On the face of it this is an attractive argument – it does seem fairer, and plenty of people will be pressing the case for PR over the next 5 years.  However, there are strong arguments against it.

Our first-past-the-post system tends to produce one party with a majority of seats leading to a strong government that can implement its manifesto promises. Not so with PR where no one party would ever win outright and would have to form a coalition government every time and negotiate with the other party or parties as to its programme. If the 2015 election had produced a second stalemate in a row, the voice for change would be almost unstoppable. But it did not. The British people looked over the edge of the abyss and drew back and knew exactly what to do to get the result the majority of them wanted. It worked.

Secondly, and this is something I would die in a ditch for, all PR systems necessarily disrupt the vital link between the MP and the constituency. I think this relationship is the greatest strength of our system. Most of us live in and love our constituency and will do whatever it takes to represent it well. Most people know who their MP is and how to make contact when help is needed. Compare that to the PR system for the European Parliament where people simply vote for a party and most do not even know the names of the candidates.

Finally, you may recall that the great British public had a chance to move to a more proportional voting system (AV) early in the last Parliament. The turnout for the referendum was low and the proposal was defeated.

Our system is not perfect, but it works well. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

posted by Gary @ 09:27