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, 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