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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, 28 April 2016


You have work to be done next week to keep our democracy alive. Turn-outs can be low for council and Police and Crime Commissioner elections but, please do your best to place an X on the ballot paper. As Winston Churchill once said: democracy is the worst system of government in the world, apart from all the others.

250 years ago our country was full of corruption and nepotism: ministers and judges took bribes, government contracts were awarded to friends and families and large sums of public money lined private pockets. Those things don't happen now in the UK. Democracy has cleaned all of this up. How people living in two thirds of the world wish they had our systems of government.

But democracy needs to be used to keep it alive. On June 23rd I hope that 75% at least of people will turn out to vote about EU membership. Before we get to that: there is a chance next Thursday (5th May) to vote (in Plympton and Plymstock) on who you want your councillors to be and in the whole of the constituency who you wish the next Police and Crime Commissioner to be.

Naturally I would like everyone to vote for the strong Conservative candidates, but that is not the point of this article; the main thing is please get out and vote.

Local council elections this year are crucial. There is a real chance of a change of control of Plymouth Council. That is another aspect of democracy – it is important that there is a change in those in power every few years to keep new ideas and new energy being poured into the system. The new Council will make important decisions shortly about developing the green spaces in your area. Make sure you don't waste this opportunity to vote for candidates who will reflect your views on these important issues. I hope that the next Council will agree with me that the new town at Sherford is the place for the vast majority of new building over the next two decades, leaving the remaining greenspaces in our suburbs as public amenities.

On crime, whether we like it or not the Police and Crime Commissioners are here to stay. Make sure you look through the list of candidates and back a person who agrees with your priorities for local policing.

Elections matter. Democracy is not a right. We use it or lose it.

posted by Gary @ 09:38  



Thursday, 21 April 2016


In two weeks time I am going back to my old Devon school (1966 -74) to address the 200 ex-pupils who will gather to hear my reminiscences.

I almost never think about my school days, but in preparing for this unusual exercise I have taken a trip down memory lane.

I write these words in the same week as a major Parliamentary enquiry is launched into the growing problem of sexual harassment in our schools. I am trying to work out whether things have got worse, or whether we are now simply less tolerant (rightly) of these practices.

I conclude that kids are the same now as ever: potentially kind and potentially cruel, naturally fascinated by the awakening going on inside them and increasingly interested in the opposite sex.

But two things are very different. Since I sat my O-Levels in 1972 our society has become overly sexualised. Films, TV and music now promote flagrantly things which were once more discreet. I can remember my mother hiding our copy of the Daily Mirror one day because there was a picture of a naked statue in it!

Secondly, the internet has arrived giving young people almost unlimited access to all forms of expression and information, whether healthy or not. It is also a tool to communicate both kindness and cruelty into the lives of fellow pupils long after the school bell has rung.

In the sixties we said daft things in love-letters. Now it is all online.

At least in the old days at 4pm the school bus would come and each child would go home to whatever shelter that home provided. Now, the internet follows you wherever you go. You may say that they do not have to look at it – but that is to miss the point. Today's youngsters live online. That is where they get most of their information and entertainment, it is where and they make and break friendships. Cyber-bullying is now a major issue, as is the bizarre practice, known as sexting, of taking a picture of parts of your body and texting it to your boy or girl-friend.

We should not be so surprised. We have over-sexualised our society, no wonder then that this is reflected in teenage behaviour.

We must get better at policing this online activity to help protect children as their maturity catches up with their desires, and a move towards greater societal modesty would be no bad thing.

posted by Gary @ 09:40  



Friday, 15 April 2016


A week is a long time in politics. For David Cameron, last week might have felt like an eternity. Following the illegal hacking of a law firm's computer and the release of the 'Panama Papers', Cameron became the first Prime Minister to publish detailed records of his own tax payments. A move followed at the time of writing by George Osborne, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon. No doubt, I'll be nailing my bank statements to my front door by the end of next week!

The argument for doing this is that if you are managing and voting on your country's finances then it is important the electorate know you are complying with the rules you set for others. If you have nothing to hide then you have nothing to fear. It is a strong argument for transparency. Whilst I agree that transparency in politics is paramount, it seems to me that a move towards the public disclosure of tax returns is a dangerous step.

We need to tighten the law to further outlaw tax evasion but I also agree with the Prime Minister that we must be careful not to make aspiration and wealth creation 'dirty words'. They are the key drivers of growth and prosperity in our country that enable us to live independent lives and support our families, the bedrock of society. We must not drive wealth-creators overseas.

I am also concerned by this move because it undermines the principle of trust. Without trust, people will not engage in the political process. It was the eighteenth century MP Edmund Burke who argued that people with any degree of political power ought to be 'strongly and awefully impressed with an idea that they act in trust'.

Social trust exists between members of our community and our nation. When trust is broken the outcomes damage the integrity of families, communities and political institutions. The expenses scandal of 2009 was a devastating example of the effects of broken trust. Rightly, robust rules now exist to prevent such abuses of power.

We politicians have much to do in winning back the trust of the electorate but the solution is not to force all in positions of authority to publish their tax returns. This would only serve to further remove the responsibility to act in trust. We must count others worthy of trust and so engender social trust. We must work to build trust rather than further erode it.

posted by Gary @ 09:57  



Thursday, 7 April 2016


This Thursday I have been an elected Member of Parliament for 24 years. Ironically, I suspect my finest hour was in my very first year when David Jamieson (the then Devonport MP) and I, with many others, worked around the clock to bring the Trident re-fit work to Devonport rather than Rosyth. This has been worth millions and produced work for thousands.

I thoroughly enjoyed being a whip and minister under John Major in those highly pressurised years at the end of a long period of Conservative rule. Governing with a majority of one every day was a cliff-hanger.

I enjoyed the years as shadow secretary of state under William Hague, sitting around the shadow cabinet table and dreaming of the real thing. But I do not regret for a second stepping back from the front bench in 2004, to focus on other priorities.

One possible highlight since then was seeking to pilot through a private members bill in 2007 to place a statutory duty on local authorities to provide more respite care for families with profoundly disabled children. We nearly succeeded but the then Labour government could not quite support it, but I was able to do a deal with then education minister Ed Balls for councils to receive an extra £300 million each year to help provide it.

Another interesting memory is voting from North Korea to remove Iain Duncan-Smith as party leader in 2003, one of the few people ever to have voted in that challenged country!

I have enjoyed most of all the constituency work to see this beautiful region flourish. Getting the rail network upgraded remains my current priority and as recently reported we are making good progress.

During those 24 years I have conducted roughly 864 surgeries and seen approximately 12 new people each time equalling 10,368 constituents.

One reflection I have is that some people do not get enough help – especially where there is profound disability involved. We could fund this if we could only encourage more people who are capable of standing on their own feet to do so. Getting the system right remains a challenge.

You might think this patter down memory lane is building up to a retirement announcement. Sorry to disappoint you. I am still enjoying it, am still only 60, and have learned that there are a few times when a tad of experience is actually quite useful.

Maybe I am only half way through!

posted by Gary @ 12:52  



Friday, 1 April 2016


During my years at Westminster I have fought many campaigns with varying degrees of success: Trident refitted in Devonport rather than Rosyth, more respite care for families with profoundly disabled children, and our vital rail link upgrade.

I feel another one coming on. The amount of Highways litter in our area is now becoming utterly unacceptable. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 places an obligation on relevant "public bodies" to pick up litter as often as reasonably practicable. For our purposes this includes Plymouth and Devon Councils and Highway England which owns and manages the A38. 

Unfortunately this obligation has been watered down in the code of conduct the Department of Environment Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have produced and is not mentioned in recent regulations produced by the Department for Transport. It has become common practice for councils to pick up the litter when they are carrying out other functions, such as grass cutting or tree maintenance, which might be once in a blue moon.

Which is why our hedges, verges and highways look so disgusting.

Given all the other problems we are facing, does it matter?Yes. Apart from the health hazard, if we let our area become covered in litter, other standards of behaviour will deteriorate. Also this is a prime tourism area. How disappointing it must be for people to descend upon our beautiful region for a break to be confronted with so much litter.
What is to be done? You do not often see people throw things out of cars but it must happen and we must stop doing itKeep Britain Tidy. Much of the rubbish seems to be the left overs of takeaway meals and the burdens we place on McDonalds and KFC to tackle this need to increase.
Much of the litter appears to be rubbish from skip lorries and rubbish clearance, for example the long strips of plastic-bag-type material. We need to look at the regulations covering such activity.
I have tabled some questions to DEFRA about the code of conduct and when I get answers will start to work on this campaign. We know that local authorities do not have the budgets they once had, and never will have again, but they must do better. There is scope for volunteer activity here also, and for those organising community service to be more creative.
But government must get the regulatory regime right and that is where I will begin.


posted by Gary @ 16:47