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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, 24 September 2015


In a few weeks time the Mediterranean will be too rough for even the hardiest would-be migrant into Europe to make that perilous crossing. It gives the EU and wider international community a breathing space of several months to put in place a plan to ensure that this years chaotic scenes are never repeated.

It seems that about 850,000 people have made it to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East this summer. About 5000 have perished in the attempt, a truly tragic number.

It is now estimated that only about 20% of migrants have come from the civil war in Syria. The balance have come from a variety of African and Middle Eastern countries. Many have also come from the Balkans, seizing the opportunity for a better life in Germany on the coat tails of genuine refugees.

I do not blame anybody who genuinely seeks a better life. But we cannot accept them all. In the bleak months of winter when our shores are quiet, EU leaders must put in place an effective plan to combat next years mass migration. One thing we know for sure: this problem is not going away. Mass migration into Western Europe will be our biggest challenge for a generation. We need a plan and a system.

What should it be? Here are my thoughts. First, adequate new reception centres in the hotspots in Greece, Italy, Hungary etc and a rule that all in-comers are directed towards them.. No exceptions should be allowed. This will be funded by the EU.

Second, a firm decision that people will be processed in these centres and only genuine refugees allowed in.

Third, agreement that we will share genuine refugees around the EU, with each country playing its part, including the UK. If any country wishes take an equivalent number direct from refugee camps direct that will count against their quota. If  any EU country (say Germany) wants to takes economic migrants as well that is up to them.

All of this needs to be policed and enforced by combined EU resources and forces. We have a few months. At the same time we must redouble our collective efforts to sow and nurture stability and prosperity in the troubled areas. We need to tackle the human traffickers. We need the talent of these countries to stay put and make their countries stronger over time. We need to invest at source.
We have to act now.

posted by Gary @ 09:42  



Thursday, 17 September 2015


Sometimes it just goes like that. A lull and then a storm. And then some.

In the past few days the following have happened both nationally and locally: The UK government has made its response to the migrant crisis threatening to overwhelm Europe and some member states have closed their borders; the Labour Party has chosen a radical new leader once again offering the British public some raw socialism; the construction work at the new town of Sherford has now started in earnest after years of delay; in an often emotion-charged debate the House of Commons voted decisively to reject the assisted Dying Bill by a ratio of 3 to 1.

This week alone we had the official opening of the Hemerdon Tungsten Mine and the launch of the first draft of the all-important twenty year plan to upgrade our railways. Oh and the Rugby World Cup starts tonight. It has just been one of those periods where there has been no time to catch breath.

I am especially pleased with the interim report of the Peninsula Rail Task Force as we look to put in place a strong and comprehensive plan to upgrade our railways over the next 20 years. I hope you will be seeing more about this in the local and regional media in the next few days. It is not about maintaining Dawlish versus the re-opening of the Okehampton line – it is about working on every aspect: signalling, track improvements, rolling stock, opening new lines, shortening journey times and improving resilience as we look to make our south west railways fit for the twenty first century.

Over the next few months the Task Force, Government and Network rail will be working together to produce a final plan which will then form part of the funding arrangements for the spending period from 2019 onwards. Many improvements are already taking place and in hand but this plan will weave them into an overall strategic context.

It is also very welcome to see bulldozers on the Sherford site at long last. Nobody ever wants to see new housing being built in their area, and of course the disruption to us all as construction takes place will be considerable.
The reality is we desperately need these houses for our children and grandchildren to live in. We have produced "generation rent" – a whole generation that cannot afford to buy. Sherford will help solve that problem for local people.

posted by Gary @ 12:32  



Thursday, 10 September 2015


The outpouring of support across Europe for refugees from the appalling civil war in Syria is heart-warming. As is often the case, a general, growing, underlying feeling can be turned into an eruption of passion by a single image as was the case with the pictures of the tragically drowned Syrian boy washed up on the Turkish coastline.

It is good that people are responding with their hearts. I welcome the leadership given by the church, with pope and other denominational leaders calling for a humanitarian response. The command to love your neighbour means whoever we come across in need. These people are in need and we are coming across them. 

But governments must respond with both hearts and head. Here are some of the gritty questions that policy makers must consider:

1)    Should we treat refugees from a civil war zone the same as refugees from poverty or corruption? The majority of the people we have seen on our TV screens recently are from Syria, but many are from Eritrea, Nigeria and Libya.

2)    Should we treat genuine asylum seekers in the same way as people who (very understandably) want a better life, namely economic migrants? Should they all be allowed into European countries also? The combined populations of the four countries mentioned above exceeds 200 million. Who is sifting the current wave of refugees to determine their status? How do we know that ISIS are not sending would-be terrorists to European capitals disguised as refugees?

3)    Should we abandon the international convention that refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country they come to? Does this not at least provide some kind of framework enabling resources to be invested in those hotspot countries?

4)    When the cameras have moved on and the outburst of public emotion has waned, what impact on social cohesion will be caused by a large influx of refugees? Will the entry of so many from different cultures further stoke the nationalistic fervour that decimated Europe in the last century?

5)    Can the EU and the International Community act in a more and co-ordinated and urgent manner to tackle these problems at source?

I welcome the decision this week to take more refugees from Syria. I welcome the decision to use the Aid budget to assist. People are attracted to Western Europe because of our hard won, democratic framework of values. We must not to let our hearts rule our heads.

posted by Gary @ 09:26  



Thursday, 3 September 2015


I have always favoured the month of September. It heralds the start of the new school year and for those of us who loved school that was always a positive. All over the constituency our young people are returning to their lessons with various degrees of enthusiasm.

Our little granddaughter came in at the weekend to proudly display her new green and grey uniform, going to "big school" (infants) for the first time.

I have said it before and will keep on saying it: our teachers work hard and do a great job. It is a profession that has got harder over the years as the public behaviour of children has tended to decline and the back-up from parents has also lessened. Add to this social change a new tidal wave of pressure and scrutiny from league tables and Ofsted and we have served up a challenging cocktail.
It is not a job for the faint hearted and a true sense of vocation is about the only thing that can sustain teachers through the minefield. Thank you to all our teachers.

September is also the start of the rugby season and this year this anticipation from us supporters of the oval ball is heightened by the mouth-watering prospect of the Rugby World Cup just around the corner. Great news that Plymouth lad and Exeter player Henry Slade looks set to play a significant role. I have got my place in front of the TV booked for the England games.

It has been a wet second half to the summer, which usually means that autumn might compensate. We could do with an Indian summer this year.

But September is also the start of the new Parliamentary term. Initially we go back for two weeks and then break for the traditional conference season. This has added spice this autumn as we await the unveiling of the new leader of the opposition. After that we plough on until Christmas. We have a packed legislative agenda and it now has to be crunched through the Houses of Parliament at every stage.

For the first four weeks of the term I will be chairing the highly contentious Welfare Reform Bill during its stormy committee stages and very much look forward to that. The run into Christmas is always busy anyway and this year looks like it will be no exception. With our clearly defined seasons, there is always something to look forward to.

posted by Gary @ 09:34