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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, 25 February 2016


Many professional people routinely work at weekends. When I was a lawyer if you had a big transaction on, you just worked whatever hours were necessary to get the deal done, including weekends or through the night. There is no expectation of overtime payments. Accountants similarly, even those in small practices as the financial year end approaches – work around the clock. Vets have to put up with anti-social hours. Farmers obviously work at weekends with no extra charge, struggling to make a living. Even MPs routinely work at weekends holding meetings, visiting fayres, opening fetes and holding surgeries.

Now we all love and respect our doctors. It is a massive worry when your loved one is ill and to be able to hand he or she over to a highly skilled professional person who will do their utmost to make them better is a great relief. Doctors can do things that the rest of us cannot do and they are deserving of respect and honour. They should also be rewarded for their skill as well as all of their many years of study and graft. I studied law at King's College London in the Seventies constantly surrounded by medical students and I can remember vividly how hard they worked to qualify.

But given that the age of deference is dead, respect has to be earned these days, even by doctors.

So it was a shock to witness some doctors going on strike recently, not something that we expect to see. They were locked in dispute with government about new working arrangements as the government try to introduce better 7 day-a-week cover and care at our hospitals. The dispute became heated with claim and counter-claim being flung around.

But when you scraped through all of the rhetoric, doctors went on strike because they want to continue to be paid overtime for working on Saturdays. The problem with that is, it is a massive disincentive for cash-strapped hospitals to roster in sufficient weekend cover if it is too expensive. And patient care suffers as a result.

The BMA for several months refused point blank to even meet with the secretary of state for health to negotiate. They informed their members that their pay was being cut and they were being asked to work longer hours, none of which was true.

This was all unnecessary and disruptive of patients. It is disappointing to learn that further damaging strikes are now planned.

posted by Gary @ 09:34  



Thursday, 18 February 2016


At a recent gathering in the House, the conversation turned to the state of the world. One senior colleague expressed the view that the world is currently more dangerous than at any time since the end of the Second World War in 1945.

At least in the Cold War there were only two sides, the west and the communists, principally Soviet Russia. There was fear and the threat of destruction, but there was control of sorts.

Now there is no sense of any one being in control.

The war in Syria might end soon if the ceasefire holds. But more likely it will not. It is rapidly becoming a proxy war for other world players rolling out their agendas and ambitions.

Russia seems intent on keeping Assad in power and increasing its influence in the Middle East. Iran and Saudi Arabia look like getting involved in the complex and historic web of Sunni/ Shia conflict.

Islamic state are intent on building their bloody Caliphate.  All the while the long-running conflict between Israel and its neighbours continues to rumble on, sadly full of potential to spill over into military action.

Further afield tensions between China and Taiwan and China and Japan continue to simmer over disputed islands in the South China Sea. I have no doubt that Chinese generals are itching to test their rapidly increasing military capability. North Korea continues to develop and test nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.

Nor should we assume that the Ukraine uprising is over, far from it. Russia is building up its forces in that hotly disputed territory right on our doorstep.

This is the challenging picture that confronts us.  We will be fortunate not to witness and/or be involved in some major conflagration over the next decade. A very sobering thought.

It is the backdrop against which two crucial decision must be made. One is whether we renew our independent nuclear deterrent or not. To me this is clear cut. Now is most certainly not the time to give up our ultimate insurance policy.

The second, less easy to fit into this gloomy context, is the decision on EU membership. Of course NATO is our strategic defence alliance and it is vital that we play a full part in this.

However, our security is also interwoven with other European powers. The uncertain state of the world is something that we have to factor in as we approach this big decision.

posted by Gary @ 09:29  



Thursday, 11 February 2016


Whisper it gently but good things are happening at Plymstock Broadway. For most of the 23 years I have been in post this shopping area has been on the decline.

On a recent visit, I noticed the much improved appearance of the shopping area – better play areas for children, nicely planted out landscaping areas; a much tidier appearance generally. It was also great to notice some new shops, not all of the budget or charity variety. I am aware of the plans for Costa to open a coffee house in the centre of the Broadway, and this will only add momentum to the sense of incremental improvement.

How has this happened? In conversations with the new (ish) centre manager, it is all part of a deliberate strategy on the part of Praxis, the company which now owns the Broadway. They have ambitious plans to take this centre in a positive direction and make it more reflective of the vibrant catchment area that it serves. I understand that one or two more well-known stores are about to plant their flag in the Broadway quite soon, adding impetus to this project. Hopefully this will attract more local shoppers to the Broadway, benefitting all. An upward spiral.

At the same time the spacious first floor apartments that surround the retail area have received a face lift and several new tenants have been attracted. With onsite security this is now becoming an attractive place to live. I congratulate the centre manager and her team on this bold effort to upgrade the Broadway. If the large space (previously the supermarket) at the end of the complex (which does not belong to the centre owners) can be resolved this year, as is planned, we will have an increasingly attractive and dynamic centre on our hands, one which it will be a pleasure to visit for all ages. If you have not been to the Broadway recently, give it a fresh look.

In this constituency we have three similar shopping areas: the Broadway, the Ridgeway in Plympton and Iybridge town centre. The Ridgeway received a boost when Wetherspoons opened and attracted a younger age group. This has made a real difference.

Ivybridge continues to battle in the face of competition from Endsleigh and Tesco, but, backed by the town council, the fight to find a positive way forward continues.

All of us who value these secondary shopping centres should do our utmost to support them.

posted by Gary @ 09:00  



Thursday, 4 February 2016


It is not just the country (and every developed country) that is riddled with debt. Household debt is also high, an average of £54,000 per household, including mortgages.

Many are spending more than we have coming in and from time to time the chickens come home to roost. When that happens we need somebody we can trust to turn to for advice.

In the debt management sector there are several "fairshare" operators who offer debt management support free of charge. PayPlan, Christians Against Poverty and StepChange are examples of this kind of organisation.  Typically they would sit down with the person who is in trouble, go through everything and make a recovery plan. They would then contact all creditors and offer a monthly payment, to help the debtor slog their way through the plan and get back on their feet.

These services are free to the debtor, as the creditors pay the debt management companies a percentage of the debt recovered. It is worth it for them to have somebody helping to bring order to the debtor's life, rather than dealing with chaos. However, some creditors currently refuse to pay in this way.

Not all debt management companies are free. Some charge the debtor, so they might end up paying (say) £70 per month to creditors and £35 per month to the debt management company. This obviously means that it takes a lot longer for the debtor to be free from their debts.

People asking for help from such a company are often at desperation point. They do not spend hours researching the industry to find out who is best placed to help them. If they contact a company that charges them, they probably do not know that there are other companies who will do it free. There are also wide variations in the quality of advice on offer

In a debate in the House of Commons earlier this week, I called for the government to try and bring greater coherence to this shadowy world of debt management advice. I believe that people would be helped if all debt management companies charged the creditor not the consumer. This would help them get back on their feet more quickly and make a fresh start. The government is looking at this.

Debt is part of our modern life. We should all act responsibly, but when we get into trouble, it is important that the best possible help is freely available.

posted by Gary @ 09:44