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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, 30 July 2015


Shekinah mission first opened its doors in Bath Street Plymouth in 1992, the same year as I was first elected. In those days their focus was to care for local rough sleepers and to ensure they had basic shelter and food. In the 23 years since then this charity has grown in a dynamic way and deserves much praise for the work they do.

These days their emphasis is on helping people who have had a tough start in life to get going again. They specialise in equipping people who have hit rock bottom get into work and stay into work. They currently have a 75% success rate of training placing and sustaining people in work – am amazing record that knocks the spots of similar organisations. 

When this charity first started, on a wing and a prayer, it was an overtly Christian work. This is the case with most of our well-known charities like Oxfam or BarnardosNowadays, although many of their staff and their ethos are still shaped by that faith, it welcomes everyone and employs people of all faiths and none.

The important thing is that what it does works, and thousands of local people have benefitted from their support and compassion over two decades.   

When I visited it recently to receive an update I was impressed as always by the sheer dedication of the people working at Shekinah. In these times of austerity, direct support from government and local authorities has been reduced, so they are dependant now more than ever on support from the public to keep delivering their life changing services

Some people take the view that the hard-to-reach folks this charity helps have largely brought their difficult circumstances upon themselves and, of course, sometimes people make poor life choices. The harsh reality is however,as I have learned over many years, that a sizeable minority of our fellow citizens grow up in households of chaos in which they never have a chance to make the kind of sensible life choices that most of us have made. They never had a chance then, so they deserve a second chance now and Shekinah helps deliver this. In a robust and practical way. 
I believe that Shekinah deserves to be up there in local public esteem with St. Luke's and Dame Hannahs as charities worthy of respect and assistance. It is an astonishing Plymouth success story, does vital work and should be celebrated and supported.

posted by Gary @ 09:34  



Thursday, 23 July 2015


The House of Commons rose for the summer on Wednesday and I am looking forward to a break. It has been a long slog.

The week started unusually. On Monday I was part of a large group, including the Lord Mayor of Plymouth who were there to wave good bye to two special people. Steve Dodd and Elizabeth Hayward are off to Los Angeles to represent us at the Special Olympics.
As it happens I have spent time with both of them at Westminster and they are fine young people and will do us and themselves proud. They were supported by an enthusiastic team of volunteers, family and friends.

It got me thinking about all of the people I regularly meet who give up their time voluntarily to help others. The Scout and Guide leaders who do so much to bring timeless values and fun to the next age group. The sports coaches who pour so much time and effort into raising the next generation of budding Beckhams and Wilkinsons, girls and boys. The volunteers who work with the severely disabled and the hospitals; the people who run committees that oversee community projects, the countless number of men and women who just quietly get on with things behind the scenes. I am fortunate in my job to get a ring side seat at many acts of kindness and self-sacrifice.

I have come to the conclusion that our society breaks down as follows: most of us in the middle are fairly decent and sensible (though we have our moments) and although we focus primarily on ourselves and our families we try not to do others down and are always happy to lend a hand when necessary. This is the majority.

Then there are the others. At one end of the scale there are the saints, whether motivated by faith or not, who give themselves constantly in the service of others. We have more than our fair share locally. Sirs and madams I salute you.

At the other end we find another minority of selfish and unreasonable people who are only out for themselves. We will not dwell on this group. It was ever thus.

After having dealt with the public for several years I remain optimistic. As I have said many times I see a new generation of youngsters rising in whom we can have confidence and hope. The good old British values of decency and kindness flourish still.

posted by Gary @ 09:25  



Thursday, 16 July 2015


I have been reflecting on the importance of listening to the silent majority. This is obviously a contradiction in terms, as by definition, the silent majority does not say anything, thus rendering it hard to listen to them.

What am I talking about? To judge from my e-mail inbox the fact that my party won the last election was a democratic outrage and that the new government is now setting about destroying our nation, brick by brick. Just after the election some of the communications received were so full of bile that they could easily have been X-rated. If I listened to them I would conclude that the country is on the verge of revolution.

But as I potter around the constituency doing this and that, I find a general contentment at the election victory, a recognition that the PM is doing his best to get the country back on track and support for the attempt to get the deficit under control and reduce the size of welfare. The silent majority is grazing peacefully it seems.

It has not always been thus. I remember the day that interest rates zoomed up to 20% (or similar) in my first Parliament. Jan and I had gone shopping together we were so hounded at every turn in every street we made a hasty retreat back home. I remember the 300 plus angry letters I received about the closure of the coal mines even though the nearest one was in Wales. There have been several times over the years when I cannot get from the Iceland car park to Boots on the Ridgeway in Plympton without being strongly accosted.

Why are the majority not consistently more vocal? Because they are just getting on with their lives: working hard or enjoying their well-earned retirement, recognising that life has its ups and downs, realising that accidents happen and it is not always possible to pin blame or be compensated, taking the rough with the smooth and giving the other guy a break.

I have learned that we must find ways of listening to the majority and tune out the worst excesses of the noisy minority whether from left or right. There are people who are borderline xenophobic; others who dream of a Trotskyite state. They have the right to their views but they must never drown out the quiet wisdom of the vast majority of people who are just getting on with it.

posted by Gary @ 10:03  



Thursday, 9 July 2015


The UK has 1% of the world's population, 4% of its GDP and 7% of its welfare. Something is out of kilter. At a time where the global centre of gravity moves inexorably eastwards, in a competitive world that owes us no favours, we have to put in place a more sustainable welfare system that we can afford in the long term. We have to get our nation's finances into a healthy shape to negotiate whatever shocks lie around the corner.

So the new mantra - and you will hear it many times in the days to come - is that we must move from a median wage, high tax, high welfare system to a high wage, low tax, low welfare system. It is about time. Every week in my surgery and every day through attitudes expressed in e-mails and letters I see evidence of the corrosive welfare dependency that has dogged us for so long.

This does not mean turning our back on the most vulnerable.  My long term view is that we do not do enough for them. We should do more not less for those who really need our help, especially the genuinely disabled. But we should now make it clear that everybody else must do more to stand on their own two feet.

Our welfare system has never been skilful at determining who is deserving and who is taking us for a ride. That must now improve.
And we must phase out the nonsense of collecting tax from people and then giving it back to some in tax credits.

All of the elements of a high wage, low tax low benefit system are important. We cannot focus on one at the expense of the other. We have to move towards a living wage. To do this we have to keep on growing our economy, investing in education, skills, research and infrastructure. We have to work hard to reduce government spending on things government does not need to do, so we can reduce taxes. We have to skilfully design a welfare system that supports those in need and identifies those who are leaning on us unnecessarily.

All of this will take time and cannot be done without some pain. Our bloated welfare state needs to get off the sofa, turn off daytime TV, put down the popcorn and get moving again. This week's budget was an important first step on in the right direction.

posted by Gary @ 09:32  



Thursday, 2 July 2015


An insolvency lawyer once said to me that if you can see 7 cranes at any one time on the London skyline, a recession is just around the corner.  On Monday standing on the terrace of the House of Commons I counted 14. The amount of building going on in London, especially building residential flats overlooking the Thames is extraordinary.

I do not for one moment think that a recession is just around the corner. The old maxim related to a time when the domestic economy was self-contained and too much construction would reflect an economy over-heating before crashing. The remarkable construction drive in London is undoubtedly fuelled by foreign money looking for a safe capital investment.

We know that many business people have taken their money out of the basket case that is the Middle East in recent years, many Russians also, all of them fleeing political instability and conflict. French entrepreneurs have moved wealth across the channel to escape the punitive taxes of a socialist government.

Several Greek magnates will also have moved money from their country long since as the slow motion car crash looks likely to finally hit the buffers in the next few days or weeks. I imagine the Greek people will reject the EU settlement terms in their referendum next week whereupon, they will crash out of the Euro. Ironically this gives them the best chance of recovery, as they can then go back to the Drachma, devalue their currency, and we will all pile over there for cheap holidays.

But back to London. As I walk into the Commons each morning at 7.20 a.m. a vast number of construction workers are clocking in for their day's toil in the two massive building sites I have to walk past. Almost all of them are speaking in an eastern European language, many of them on the phones to their families as they wait to clock in.

This is in large measure an explanation of why the EU migration figures are currently so dramatic. Our economy has created more jobs than all other EU countries put together in the past 2 years. Our capital is experiencing a building boom. We simply could not manage this without workers from overseas. They will all be paying tax here and boosting our economy. Once the work is over the vast majority will simply go home.

This kind of immigration is a positive thing. It was ever thus.

posted by Gary @ 08:50