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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, 26 February 2009


When the light was turned on, we did not like what we saw. Too many people we thought we could trust behaving badly. A whole generation of financiers lending irresponsibly. They have bet the farm, our farm, and lost it. Traditional banking used to measure two key components: the value of the security and the ability of the borrower to repay. In the past 10 years this changed to treasuring one thing above all others: how much could they sell that security package on for, their bonuses linked to the volume of transactions.

But it is worse than that. As the light has been switched on, we can see that several top people, more than we yet know, have not just been incompetent, but have been indulging in outright fraud with investors’ money; Madoff and Stanford to name but two. There will be more.

It is easy to ask why these circumstances, which with the benefit of hindsight were so obviously doomed to fail, were not picked up by national and international regulators at an earlier stage. Certainly we must learn the lessons of this abject failure to predict and prevent the banking catastrophe now unfolding.

But it is all too easy to point the finger at the lack of regulation. Those of us who re-mortgaged again and again, who took out 100% mortgages, who maxed out on our credit card and then went onto the next one, who enjoyed the stunning interest rates that foreign banks offered – we knew, didn’t we, that things could not go on like this? Why didn’t we call a halt? Where were the protest marches against easy lending policies, where the letters to the press decrying such largesse?

The truth is that most of us enjoyed the good years even though deep down inside we knew it could not last.

The onus on policy makers is to move swiftly to redress the excesses of recent years and demonstrate that top people behaving badly in any walk of life will not be tolerated, before the gap with the electorate becomes a chasm.

The onus on the rest of us is to recognise that the worlds financial and policy leaders got away with it for so long because we wanted them to; because we were benefiting from the fantasy world they were creating. It will help us recover from this mess if we recognise we are all in this together.

posted by Gary @ 10:20  



Thursday, 19 February 2009


Last week was not our best week. First, the announcement that the brand new Marine Management Organisation – the body that is to watch over our maritime environment – is to go to Newcastle and not Plymouth was a bitter blow. It was not so much the 200 direct jobs it would have created, welcome though those might be; it was more that this agency would have given us focal point for the future of our city: combining our maritime heritage, our green credentials with the world class research facilities that we have in our back yard. Alas, the power of the north east lobby proved too strong and the second best bid (in my opinion) prevailed.

Next the defence minister came down to the naval base, to tell us precisely nothing. We were looking for answers to two questions. Now that the new aircraft carrier work has been delayed by two years and Devonport dockyard was supposed to pick up the slack that Rosyth (heavily involved in the carrier work) could not manage, what work will be found to replace that work in the short to medium term? We still do not know. Also, when will a decision be made about the base-porting of our frigates? We all sense that they will be moved to Portsmouth, but the MOD will not make a decision and the uncertainty rumbles on. The impact on the local economy of those servicemen and women and their families leaving us would be considerable. Positive news on either front would have lightened our gloom; it was not to be.

The trouble is, surrounded by all of this bad news and uncertainty, the natural reaction is to retrench - tighten our belts, spend as little as possible, look to pay off debt and survive. The shops in Drake Circus shopping mall are thirty per cent down since Christmas on this time last year. We are spending less. That may well be the right thing to do for ourselves and our families, but it is the worst thing to do for the economy! So we seem trapped in this vicious circle: with every piece of gloomy news, we cut another hole in our belts which means the economy contracts a little more.

So we look to external decisions to help us, to boost confidence. Judging by decisions this week, it looks like Plymouth and its surrounds will have to face these challenges alone.

posted by Gary @ 10:08  



Thursday, 12 February 2009


Stop the world, I want to get off! Still reeling from the BBC’s decision to sack Carol Thatcher for uttering the world golliwog in a private conversation, I have been sent into hyper-spasm by the tale of the nurse who was suspended for daring to offer to pray for an elderly patient after having changed her bandages. The patient mentioned this in passing to a different nurse the next day and all hell broke loose. She was suspended while the thought police went into overdrive and only now, months later, has been allowed back to work. We live in a country where you can swear like a trooper, or do your job badly and get away with it; but don’t you dare try and say a little prayer for a vulnerable person. Even if there was a problem, surely, just a gentle word in the ear of the nurse, starting “Oh by the way…”

Management has been rendered ineffectual by a host of politically correct, risk-averse rules that paralyse those in authority. At the slightest hint of a problem, managers now reach for the rule book, suspend for a pastime and consult lawyers.

The politically correct brigade has had a good year. I have seen recent reports of a care home in which the residents have to be asked every three months to confirm their sexual orientation to enable the home to maintain local authority support. Who on earth dreamed up that little beauty?  Last weekend’s newspapers carry reports of a child removed from foster carers because she has become a Christian. How awful for that young person to have found a living faith, the backbone on which this country was founded; no wonder the state had to intervene and remove her from her loving environment.

Never mind economic recovery or banking stability, this country needs an outbreak of common sense again. Why should the BBC decide what people can say? Why shouldn’t a nurse who is good at her job offer to say a prayer for an elderly patient? Where is the harm in it? Why can’t management have a quiet word in the ear anymore rather than launching investigations into petty matters?

I cannot decide whether the cultural bully-boys are gaining ground or these examples are just the death throes of a reducing minority who are being squeezed out by the silent majority, but who will not go quietly. What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 10:42  



Friday, 6 February 2009


Our hearts may be with the British workers who have thrown wildcat strikes this week in response to contracts being won by Italian companies, but our heads should tell us a different story. For many years now there has been free movement of goods and services throughout Europe, the very essence of a single market. Even the most Euro sceptic amongst us has to admit that this market place has created many jobs and served us well for thee decades.

Besides, it works both ways. For every contract won in this country by firms in other member states, British companies are winning deals overseas. In most of those cases the company would take with them their core British workforce. On every flight I have ever taken around Europe, the plane seems full of British accents as home grown engineer types zoom off to their contracts abroad.

We may also have tremendous sympathy at the news that 200 jobs may be lost at Plymouth City Council to enable the council to get within its budget. But there is another side to this story too. Every week, we hear of firms in the private sector having to lay off staff in response to a fall in their order book. This is likely to continue for the rest of the year as unemployment rises towards 3 million. It is now commonplace to hear of wage freezes and even 10 per cent pay cuts in some firms to avoid redundancies. As the private sector contracts and suffers pain, it is important that the public sector does not just keep sailing on merrily as before, bloated in comparison. All government services, both local and national, must cut their cloth in these difficult days and that will mean tough decisions if we are to maintain good quality services in the future. In the end, the cost of public sector salaries can only come from tax income and every organisation in the state sector should be looking long and hard at their overheads.

This includes Parliament. Now would be a very good time for us to pronounce plans to down-size our numbers from 640 to 450 over the next few years and announce a freeze in MPs’ pay and other budgets for the next 12 months. It is going to be a tough few years and the country must pull together, including the public and private sectors sharing the burden in equal measure.




posted by Gary @ 09:19