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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, 29 October 2015


The mass migration of people from North Africa and the Middle East is fast becoming the greatest challenge to European nations in our lifetime. It asks many difficult questions to which there seem so few answers. Let me rehearse just three of them.

If the main cause of the migration is the civil war in Syria and the barbarism of ISIS in Iraq, why can't we simply stop the civil war? The only way to stop the war is to intervene militarily and there is no appetite in the West for more military intervention. Our recent record in Iraq does not encourage policy makers to put boots on the ground here.

Some look to the United Nations for intervention, but that would require a vote of the Security Council which two members would never support, namely Russia and China. Russia because it supports the existing Assad regime and China because it does not support international intervention in sovereign states (for obvious reasons.)

Any major diplomatic offensive to stop the killing suffers from the same fatal flaws: there are major powers lined up behind different sides in the conflict and the presence of ISIS confuses everything.

So the war will rumble on and ISIS will keep on butchering.

If we cannot stop the war, what are we going to do about all the refugees? There are no easy answers. Those coming to Europe are a tiny percentage of displaced people, millions remain in refugee camps all around the region. The UK is spending a billion pounds a year supporting them. In the name of humanity we must continue to do so.

It is estimated that of those reaching Europe only about 20% are from Syria. Others are economic migrants. So far it has proved beyond the capacity of European Nations to put in place better systems, to sift and to save.
Which takes us to another question: the impact of all this on the future of the EU. This crisis has once again demonstrated the EU's inability to act collectively and decisively in the face of major challenges. It has also stoked up once more strong nationalistic feelings in many member states. It has placed under the spotlight the viability of countries without border controls.

I attended an MOD briefing fifteen years ago looking at future threats. It predicted not climate change or war as being the primary threat to Western Europe but mass migration. How right they were.

posted by Gary @ 13:25  



Thursday, 22 October 2015


After years of a "phoney war," development on the new town at Sherford is now well and truly underway. Nobody travelling between Plympton and Plymstock in recent weeks can be under any doubt about that. I am assured that once the road connections into the building site are complete, disruption to existing roads will be reduced to a more manageable level. Just as well as the build time is likely to exceed fifteen years.

The highway network between our two eastern suburbs of Plymouth will never be the same again. Haye Road, Vinery Lane, the Plympton/Brixton road (always busy) will all be changed for ever. Three massive lorries have recently got stuck in Fore Street Plympton St. Maurice, despite signs telling them not to go that way. This is being urgently addressed. There will be other disruptive challenges yet for the local community to face.

We have to keep reminding ourselves why this new town is so vital. The average age of a first time buyer is now 38. Many of us bought our first home in our early twenties, almost unimaginable now. The percentage of young Brits who aspire to home ownership has not changed - about 85% of us do. I constantly meet young couples and single people who want to live in Plympton/Plymstock or the South Hams who would love to stay where they were brought up but simply cannot afford to do so. And they want to buy, not rent.

The real problem is supply and demand is out of kilter. Fuelled by all of us living longer, more families sadly splitting up and to a lesser extent in our region, immigration, we simply do not have enough houses to meet demand. As a consequence prices rise. It is basic economics.

The only long term solution is more supply. But can we do this without wrecking our wonderful environment? We can and we must.
When complete, Sherford will be a very attractive place to live and will complement our existing suburbs. Many of our children and grandchildren will live there. It will have a substantial community park on its eastern boundary, a green barrier between the edge of the city and the rolling beauty of the South Hams.

In addition to more supply, the government's targeted Help to Buy and other schemes will open up the benefits of home ownership for hundreds of local youngsters.

Disruption, yes, but we are doing the right thing.

posted by Gary @ 09:21  



Thursday, 15 October 2015


At Ivybridge Community College on Friday talking to part of their sixth form about democracy, I asked the question I have been asking young people for over 5 years: if there was a vote tomorrow on whether the UK should leave or remain in the EU, how would you vote. 

There were about 200 young people present. About ten voted to leave – the rest of them voted to stay in. I have never in over five years in five different secondary schools in this constituency extracted an answer that had less than 90% voting to stay. 

Of course there will not be a vote on this tomorrow. But there will be a vote on this before the end of 2017, and probably the autumn of next year. So it is time to start thinking about it. Both the Leave and the Remain campaign are up and running with some big names signing up. We will all be hearing a great deal about this matter in the next twelve months – and rightly so because it is a huge decision. 

It will be close with two recent polls suggesting a small majority in favour of leaving. 

The response of sixth formers could be critical. The vast majority of them will be over 18 by then and will therefore have a vote in the forthcoming referendum. It is an age group that is under represented at general elections with perhaps only thirty per cent voting. The reaction I have observed from them is not just a taken-for-granted commitment to stay in the EU but also a deep dislike of those playing the "foreigner" card to whip up opposition against it. 

My guess is that this age group will be motivated to take a full part in the forthcoming referendum and will vote overwhelmingly to stay in. They might also impact the votes of their grandparents who might be more inclined to vote to leave. Many people who are over sixty with grandchildren often say to me: "this is about their future, not mine."

When we have a debate for the referendum I will ensure that there are many public meetings locally so that the debate might be joined, with both sides of the argument being put fairly and openly. An informed debate is crucial.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the younger generation might, for once, settle the outcome of this future-shaping referendum. In many ways that would be appropriate. 



posted by Gary @ 10:08  



Thursday, 8 October 2015


The election of a leader of HM Opposition who is against Trident has put the whole issue of our independent nuclear deterrent back on the agenda. Within the next 18 months the government must decide whether to renew Trident with the next generation of nuclear weapons. So it is once again a live issue and there will be a vote on this at Westminster in this Parliament.

There are credible arguments against having a nuclear deterrent which I respect, but do not share. It is expensive. It consumes roughly 6% of the defence budget, about £2.5 billion pa. The cost of the upgrade would be considerable. It is a horrible weapon of mass destruction which would kill millions if unleashed. It is hard to envisage a set of circumstances in which a British Prime Minister would press the red button. Some argue we should scrap it and focus more on promoting multilateral disarmament.

The problem is that nuclear weapons cannot be un-invented. We are edging into a world which is more unstable than at any time since the Berlin wall came down. The Middle East is in near melt-down, made more dangerous with Iran on the brink of acquiring nuclear power. Israel already has that capacity, India and Pakistan, also. Russia is obviously flexing its muscles once more including territorial ambitions in Europe. China has recently decided to invest heavily in defence spending over the next few years. The heavyweight boxing match between the USA and China still lies ahead of us.

It is difficult in that environment to make the case for the UK to voluntarily give up our fire-power.

The whole point of a nuclear deterrent is that its very existence deters your enemy from launching missiles against you for fear of a devastating counter-strike. Its presence helps keep the country and the people living in it safe. An insurance policy, expensive, but in this troubled world, sadly necessary. France and the USA are the only other NATO countries with nuclear capability. Some argue we should leave our protection to them, but it does not seem right that the UK, the sixth largest economy in the world, should subcontract out our defence in that way.

We do not have to envisage a scenario in which a British PM would push the button. It is only necessary that our enemy should believe that he or she might. Deterrent.

I will be voting to renew Trident in 2016.

posted by Gary @ 09:25  



Thursday, 1 October 2015


A big week for me as I turn sixty. I now qualify for a rail card and look forward to my travel pass and heating allowance!

As the autumn leaves start swirling and the nights start drawing in, it is a good time to consider those who will find the dark winter months so challenging. In particular I think of the many senior citizens I have visited over the years who suffer dreadfully from the cold and yet refuse to heat their houses sufficiently. Often when I have gently enquired into financial circumstances they certainly could afford to spend more on fuel, but come from a generation where the fear of debt is very real. That has certainly changed! Government has a responsibility to keep this stoic generation firmly in mind in developing a sustainable energy policy.

First we must ensure the cost of fuel is as low as possible. This means real competition in the energy market, ensuring that everyone is on the lowest tariff, especially the vulnerable, and making it easier to switch suppliers. We  are working on this. This is also an incentive for developing shale gas which in the USA has brought fuel prices right down. As we march steadily towards more and more renewable energy we must ensure a balanced supply of energy, making the best of the natural resources that we have been given. By 2050 I would hope our energy will be largely if not exclusively renewable but we have to keep people warm in the meantime.

Next we must maintain our support for heating costs for the elderly. It is a nonsense in one sense that all pensioners get the heating allowance irrespective of means, but it is cheaper and less intrusive than means testing it. The vital thing is to get the help to those who need it the most. Those who don't need it can give the £300 away to charity as I know many do. Finally we all have an obligation to look out for those in our community who might be struggling with the winter months. This is something that we are good at as a nation, especially in rural communities where bonds tend to be closer. Taking someone to the shops or checking they are warm enough does not take a degree in sociology, just a good old-fashioned drop of human kindness. I am confident that this winter will see plenty all over the constituency.

posted by Gary @ 09:38