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, 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