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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, 27 August 2015


The Internet is a wonderful invention and has opened up so many possibilities to all who can click and tap and enter the world-wide-web. E-mails and twitter are part of this brave new world. But like the invention of the internal combustion engine before it, it is a real curate's egg – partly good; partly bad. The ability to jump in your car and drive anywhere you want represents genuine freedom. The fact that over 3,000 people a year die on British roads, a less desirable consequence.

How wonderful to be able to skype your family member in Australia, e-mail your friend in Peru or research that tricky subject instantly on Wikipedia. But how many dangers lurk beneath the surface for web users: rampant pornography, identity fraud and cyber-bullying.

Two weeks ago I made a decision to close down my twitter account. I had written in this column previously the reasons why I had opened it in the first place – a useful device to communicate with followers and the media. But in the run up to the postponed vote on hunting I was bombarded with hundreds of identical (nonsensical) messages about the alleged evils of fox-hunting from people all over the country. I am happy when constituents express their views to me, however forcibly, but why put up with a barrage from people I do not represent?

I happily ignored them until I dug deeper. Some of the messages were on the surface about hunting, but from unknown and possibly fictitious persons whose twitter account content both written and pictorial suggested a different kind of activity altogether, not something you would want your granny to see!

Twitter is a great way of communicating but obviously is being used by the massive and powerful porn industry to recruit new adherents. For me it was the final straw and I immediately closed the account. I have managed without it for 23 years and hopefully can continue tweet-free to represent my constituents for however long they will put up with me.

I set this out in some detail to warn others that dangers lurk beneath the surface, especially for our children. It is great to see ten year old boys like our grandson playing such vivid games online, far better than the toy soldiers we had. But how careful we must be when children enter adolescence that they are not captured by the darker side of the net. Parents and grandparents beware.

posted by Gary @ 08:48  



Thursday, 20 August 2015


On 12th September the Labour party unveil their new leader. If it is Jeremy Corbyn MP, my prediction is that David Miliband will lead them into the next election. But they will have consigned themselves to two years of chaos.

My own party did a similar thing in 2001 in selecting IDS as our leader – not quite such a forlorn hope perhaps - but nonetheless never going to win a general election. It coincided with two years when the Labour government did some daft things including dragging us into a war in Iraq on a false premise; something that might not have happened if the opposition had asked the right questions. I well remember voting to change our leader while on a visit to North Korea in 2003, perhaps one of the few people ever to have voted in a free and fair election in that country.

It is very important in a mature democracy for the party of government to feel under close scrutiny from a credible and active opposition party. I know many constituents would prefer for us to all get around the table and agree on everything, but that is when we produce our worst decisions – when there is no opposition. Our system is adversarial and it requires an effective opposition to make it work. The government brings forward proposals and it is the job of all backbenchers, but especially Her Majesty's loyal opposition, to test those policies to destruction.

That is why although part of me would rejoice if the Labour party were daft enough to select Mr Corbyn, the wiser part of me would regret it. It would give us a free hand for two years until they reversed their big mistake and summonsed the only potential Prime Minister they have got back from the USA to sort it out. It would be two years of intense navel-gazing on the left and we can do without it.

The other problem with a distracted opposition is that it tends to result in the party of government becoming its own opposition. We are likely to have enough fun and games next year (probably) during the great EU referendum debate and vote without inflicting more torture upon ourselves with a series of rebellions made necessary by distracted turbulence across the chamber.

The Labour party has a proud history and made a massive contribution to our country. I hope they can somehow avoid a moment of madness.

posted by Gary @ 09:05  



Thursday, 13 August 2015


It is against the law in the UK to help somebody to commit suicide, which is why some opt to go to countries, like Switzerland, where such action is lawful.

A private members bill is being introduced in the Commons in September to propose a change in our law which would allow, under strict conditions, people in the UK to help their loved-ones depart. The debate and vote will be on Friday 11th September.

I have received many e-mails and letter about this, on both sides of the argument. (As an aside, people sometimes ask why not just vote as constituents demand – answer: they are nearly always completely divided, as on this.)

This is a very difficult and complex issue. I have great sympathy with those who have seen a loved one suffer and been powerless to bring that suffering to a dignified end under the law. This has happened in my own family.

Yet I will be voting against this bill on for 2 reasons. First, I believe we do not have the right to decide when and how anybody else dies. That is a matter for higher powers.

Secondly, I fear a slippery slope as has happened in Holland and in the UK regarding abortion.

The 1967 Abortion Act provides that an abortion shall be legal if "the continuance of the pregnancy would involve risk, greater than if the pregnancy were terminated, of injury to the physical or mental health of the pregnant woman or any existing children of her family."
Two doctors have to certify this risk. Doubtless, it seemed water-tight at the time.

As everybody knows we have abortion on demand in this country and the issue of risk has effectively been abandoned even though the law has not changed. Some doctors sign their consent in advance, without assessing risk. We even have abortions because the child-to-be was the wrong sex.

Once we breach the legal line on assisted dying, I am certain that exactly the same would happen. The law might relate strictly to terminal illness, two doctors would need to give consent – but how long before anybody who wishes to die would be assisted down this path, no matter how temporary that wish might be. How much family pressure might be applied to the elderly frail who have "had a good innings"?

It is safer by far to keep the law as it is and accept that we cannot control everything.

posted by Gary @ 09:36  



Thursday, 6 August 2015


In 2020 we will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers setting sail from Plymouth to start a new life in the Americas.  They left loved ones behind, took as many of their possessions as they could carry and plunged across the Atlantic Ocean into the unknown. They were fleeing persecution and oppression. They faced great danger and risked all for freedom.

We now see our illustrious predecessors as pioneers and heroes, people whose courage and exploits we celebrate.

We do not feel the same about the people throwing themselves at the fencing at Calais. Yet in a very real sense they are cut from the same cloth. Most of them are leaving behind persecution, tyranny and conflict and seek a better life for themselves and their families and they are prepared to risk all to get it.

Before the e-mails start pouring in, let me make it very clear that I recognise that these desperate people cannot come here and I favour a very robust response to this crisis. But let us acknowledge that they are human beings who are fleeing poverty and persecution, just as our forefathers did. They should be treated with respect, even as we make it clear they must return.

They cannot stay here for three reasons:

First, the United Kingdom is a relatively small already-crowded island, with many of our support systems creaking at the seams.

Second, the vast majority of people in the world do not enjoy the living standards and freedoms that we take for granted over here and if we were to send a signal that it is open season, they would come not in their hundreds, but by the millions.

Third, most of the people making these perilous journeys have paid for the privilege. They are not the poorest from their countries but those who have managed to squirrel away some savings. If their countries are ever to become attractive, aspirational people like these risk-takers must stay and help make their own countries strong. There is no other way.

But whilst we cannot welcome them here, we can do our utmost to help them make their own countries better. That is why I believe so strongly in British soft power and our international aid programme.  If we do not want the world and his wife to come and live here, it makes sense to help them build a better future for their children where they are.

posted by Gary @ 09:41