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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, 22 December 2016


Christmas Day is always frenetic in our household. I tell people that over Christmas I am going to light my fire and sit beside it but it has never happened yet. More likely to be found sprawled on the floor helping to build a complicated self-assembly game that some thoughtless person has bought one of the grandchildren. This year my main duty will be to stop the 8 month old from crawling anywhere near the fire. I will have to be quick, because he is turbo-charged.

One highlight of the day however, one moment when all is (relatively) calm, is when we gather to watch the Queen's Christmas broadcast. I have nothing but the deepest respect and admiration for this woman. In recent years she has been very open about her personal faith and what Christmas means to her, which we have appreciated.

Her faith in Jesus has not protected her from all the vicissitudes of life. We will never forget her "annus horribilis" when her family was beset with problems culminating in the premature death of the much-loved Princess Diana, mother of our future king. Being a follower of Christ does not insulate us from problems, but it does give us the platform from which we can put those challenges into a longer term perspective. "In this life you will have troubles" Jesus said, and we all do, whether believers or not. But Christians look forward to an eternal life free from sickness, death or disappointment.

Her majesty has found in her personal faith the motivation to serve her country in a most magnificent way. Her speech to the Commonwealth when her father died was memorable: "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong." It has been a long life and she has kept her promise.

Our faith, if authentic, will always be a motivator to do good, to love our neighbour, to do our duty and to serve. But in that calling we also find joy and freedom. I am so glad that amongst all of the duty and service Her Majesty has found great joy in her relationship with her husband and her love of horses.

Thank you Your Majesty for your Spectacular Service.

Thank you Jesus that this Christmas we celebrate your birth.

Merry Christmas to all.

posted by Gary @ 10:56  



Thursday, 15 December 2016


I am glad that the government is revisiting its financial support for social care. Social care is the shorthand description of how we look after people in residential and nursing homes and (increasingly importantly) how we care for those who need domiciliary help remaining in their own house. As our population ages (there will be 1 million more of us over 75 at the end of this Parliament than at the beginning) the challenge of how to care for our elderly has become a major concern.

Responsibility for social care lies firmly at the door of local government. In these times of austerity, all councils have had their budgets cut and social care budgets have not been unaffected. Right now the system is in danger of bursting at the seams.

The national living wage is a good policy. We have to start paying people properly so people in work do not have to rely on benefits. But the costs of paying extra wages is having an additional impact on providers of care homes and domiciliary care workers. The quality of care in most residential homes is now better than when I first started visiting them in 1992 but funding pressures have multiplied.

For several decades the budgets for hospitals and social care have been run by different organisations, but the two are inextricably inter-linked. At any one time there are many people in hospital unnecessarily because a place in a care home or support for them to return to their own home cannot be found. I have witnessed several unseemly battles over the years of different professionals arguing about whose budget should pick up the tab, while the patient languishes.

In Plymouth there is now much greater co-ordination between the two healthcare systems and I am watching closely to discern the tangible benefits.

What the role of the wider family is in all this is a moot point. Are we in danger of expecting the state to do things that family used to do voluntarily? Perhaps in these fractured days where family is more scattered, there is no alternative.

Allowing councils to raise more in council tax precepts to meet some of these challenges is welcome, building on decisions previously made. But one way or another, one day soon, our government is going to have to bite the bullet on this problem and put in place a properly funded affordable comprehensive scheme. It cannot come too soon.

posted by Gary @ 08:53  



Thursday, 8 December 2016


Traffic congestion in Plympton has become unacceptable. It can now take 20-30 minutes to get from St. Mary's Bridge roundabout to Marsh Mills. Whether this is a result of displacement caused by the endlessly ongoing Deep Lane reconfiguration, the recent opening of Lidl's on Plymouth Road, the onset of Christmas shopping or a combination of all three, I know not, but we cannot go on like this. I also have suspicions that the new lights at the junction between Plymouth Road and Cott Hill have not been properly calibrated post-Lidl and this appears to be contributing to the snarl up.

I am writing to the Chief executive of Plymouth City Council, raising my concerns and asking for action. I will be taking this forward with Plympton's hardworking councillors. What can be done? It would be unrealistic for a definitive strategic overview to be made until the Deep Lane improvements have been put in place early next year and are operating smoothly, but after that a through appraisal of traffic issues in Plympton needs to be undertaken. Coming through St. Mary's bridge has been painfully slow for some years at peak times, but now the pain has been spread further afield.

At the very least we should not grant planning permission for any further significant residential development until this problem has been thoroughly investigated and solutions found. Pressure on existing highways infrastructure can be a legitimate planning reason for refusal.

Traffic congestion is partly a reflection of prosperity and necessity. Despite an extensive bus network in Plymouth, many of us have chosen the car. Most young people are keen to get a car, or access to mum and dad's car as soon as they learn to drive. Driving brings independence and mobility which is critical for all ages. We have to suffer the consequences of these choices, but it is the task of the highways authority to minimise impact.

Many of these problems can be solved by technology and engineering. Most agree that the new junction at Stanborough Cross/Haye road is working well. It remains to be seen whether it can cope with the extra volume of traffic that Sherford will eventually produce. I understand that the developers are planning to complete the new road through the new town sooner rather than later so that the Deep Lane junction and A38 can take the strain, which is welcome.

We are entitled to expect a road system that flows well.

posted by Gary @ 09:27  



Thursday, 1 December 2016


On Friday I took part in a fascinating panel discussion on the future of the NHS at an event well organised by the University of the 3rd Age. If you are of that vintage and would like to take part in interesting discussions why not join – they have branches everywhere.

The panel comprised the chief executive of Derriford Hospital, the boss of social care throughout Devon, a GP from inner city Plymouth who is also on the Clinical Commissioning Group, plus me.

Three of the conclusions from two hours of earnest debate are worth reporting.

We all agreed that having a national health service free at the point of use was an amazing feat that we should not lightly throw overboard. Because many of us are living so much longer, with all of the health needs that accompany old age, the pressures on the NHS are record breaking, despite more money being pumped in every year. Accordingly, it is wise to consider whether our current model has run its course.  Other countries have other systems which involve insurance in small or large measure. But our NHS is much cherished by our nation and part of our identity. We should defend it and overcome current challenges.

Secondly, the panel agreed that we all have to take much more responsibility for our own health and bodies. The GP, perhaps reflecting his career as an inner city doctor was particularly hot on this, giving illustrations of how many of his patients depend entirely on him rather than taking the most simple of measures themselves. Although this attitude might be partly a consequence of deprivation, and therefore hard to correct, we need to educate our society to do a better job in taking personal responsibility for how we live. Apparently the 4 key lifestyle issues: eating, drinking, smoking and exercise account for 54% of the draw upon the NHS. In other words, if people ate and drank more sensibly, took more exercise and did not smoke, we would not need half of our NHS!

Finally, we all agreed on the need for much better use of technology, not least in enabling us to access and carry around with us our own medical records which could then be shared with medical professionals when encountering the system.

So keep the current model, hammer home personal responsibility and dramatically improve technology.  I return to Westminster to share these conclusions with the Health Secretary. 

posted by Gary @ 13:15