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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, 31 January 2013


On the journey to London on Monday, I looked out upon mile after mile of flooded fields in Devon  and Somerset. And that was before the further lashing we had this week. I have never seen water like it. But then we have never had rain like it. I visited homes in Yealmbridge on Friday to see properties which had three to six feet of water from the river Yealm bursting in upon them.

Anecdotally I have heard that 1864 was a similar year. The trouble was it was then followed by six more years of rain! Most of us are hoping that nature will do what she does best and compensate for all of this rain with a dry summer. We shall see.

The floods coincide with the met Office confirming that the planet has not experienced global warming in the past fifteen years and none is expected in the next five years! This is contrary to all the man-made climate change propaganda (almost a new religion) heaped upon us for the past two decades. I am now convinced that what we are seeing is simply part of the great sweep of natural climate changes – cycles and seasons – that our planet has always experienced. Of course we should still be good stewards of our precious world.

It is important to have the correct diagnosis so that the proper treatment can be prescribed. If these are natural cycles then we must protect ourselves during the trough as best we can. We must adapt and build better defences. That is what we should be spending our precious resources upon, not pursuing remedies based on false science.

Part of our adaptation must be never to build on or near floodplains ever again.  At the moment it is too easy for developers to persuade planning committees that floodplain development should be permitted if the right engineering solutions are put in place. The problem with these is that they often do not work.

Flood plains are nature's way of dealing with periods of excessive rainfall. Fields full of water are not problems, but part of the solution. Houses and businesses full of water are the problem!

So a proper diagnosis of why this is happening; no more flood plain development and more money on flood prevention schemes is the way to tackle the immediate flooding challenges. By the time we have mastered that, we will doubtless have to invest in anti-drought measures.

posted by Gary @ 10:09  



Thursday, 24 January 2013


What can anything happening in Mali possibly have to do with any of us here? Sadly, a great deal.

First of all it is important to separate the recent hostage taking and murders in the oil refinery in Algeria with the growing conflicts in Mali, even though these two vast desert states border one another.

Mali is a North African country which enjoyed a fragile democracy since their French colonial masters departed in 1960. Unfortunately it has been the subject of a military insurgency in recent years, culminating with a military takeover of the north of the country in 2012. The people involved have links to Al-Qaeda and plan to set up a radical Islamic State from which to launch attacks upon the West. That is why the French government have recently sent in troops to try and oust this pernicious regime and the UK is offering them logistical support.

It is suggested that the slaughter in Algeria was an Al-Qaeda reprisal at French troops being put on the ground in Mali, although all the evidence is that it was being planned for some time. The Algerian atrocity is now over, but the situation in Mali, most likely, is only just beginning.

I realise that there is no appetite, none, for our country to become involved militarily in North Africa, especially after all of the pain of Afghanistan. I share the horror of more military intervention and none is planned by us in the short term. But looking to the future, what are we to do?  There is a growing group of radicalised Islamists who seek to set up an Islamic caliphate in the sands of Northern Africa from where they will seek to launch all manner of attacks to destabilise and overthrow Western governments. They can draw upon almost unlimited numbers and have ready access to weapons. They are fanatics who wish to bring down our way of life.

So if we ignore it, the monster will only grow in strength.

This is happening at a time when the USA (which is still the only military super-power on the planet) is clearly stepping back from its role as the world's policeman. Some of this have seen this coming and fear that it will usher in the most dangerous global period that we have ever lived through.

Of course nobody wants more military interventions. Nobody did in 1935 when Adolf Hitler started to flex his muscles. Oh dear.

posted by Gary @ 09:10  



Thursday, 17 January 2013


I am reading a book at the moment called The Girl who played with Fire by Stieg Larsson. Brilliant. Some would say that our Prime Minister is playing with fire in opening up the prospect of an in/out referendum on the EU. But I am not one of them.

If I had a choice of staying in the existing EU or coming out, I would vote to come out. Like many of you I am tired of the centrally-controlled bureaucratic inward-looking suffocating juggernaut trying to tell us how life in Britain should be run. It was not what we signed up to back in the 1970's.

But life is not quite as simple as that. There is a third option that we must explore and this is what the PM is seeking to do. In response to the euro -zone crisis there will doubtless be closer integration of some (or all) of the euro-zone countries. The closer integration of a few inner core member states opens up the prospect of a different settlement for the other non-euro EU members, like us: something much closer to the common market we originally envisioned. This is the great prize that needs to be explored over the next two years with the outcome put to the British people, say, in 2016.

If such a prize were on offer - the UK staying within the outer tier of the EU in something resembling a single market only- I would vote for that. To me that is a win/win and we don't get many of those. Despite the tut-tutting of the Americans and the haughty disdain of the French at Mr Cameron's approach, I support him fully on this venture, messy though it might seem.

What if it can't be done, what if we end up with a simple choice: stay or go? Can we survive outside the EU? Of course we can. We are the sixth largest economy in the world with historic trade and diplomatic links in every corner. The economic growth on this planet is now happening well away from European borders and a focus on these new markets would be timely. Plus, it is almost inconceivable that our ex-EU buddies would not allow the UK to trade with them tariff-free as Norway and Switzerland do, because to exclude us from that club would cut of their own noses.

I wish David Cameron well in playing with fire. In the national interest.

posted by Gary @ 12:50  



Thursday, 10 January 2013


I must start with an apology to all constituents who tried to call my office between Christmas and the New Year. We set up an answer-phone system but unfortunately in the melee that followed my office being flooded for the second time in two months, the phone has disappeared along with the system we set up! We are now back on track but if you rang and have not received a call back, please call again.

There is a very specific reason why my office has been flooded, relating to the new road for the Tungsten mine that has been put in place just up the valley. Discussions are in hand to make technical changes to the attenuation pond that was supposed to catch and hold the excess rainfall, but decided to burst its banks instead.  We hope soon to see this resolved.

But this will not alter the basic fact that 2012 was an astonishingly wet year, the ground is saturated, weather patterns are becoming more severe, many of our drainage systems cannot cope and the West Country is copping more than our fair share. It was distressing to visit many homes in Colebrook on Saturday before Christmas to see the extent of the devastation. Similar dramas unfolded in Ivybridge, Modbury and Yealmpton on the same fateful weekend. The Fire Service did a magnificent job in helping out.

A number of issues must now be pursued. It is simply not tolerable that our region should effectively be cut off from the rest of the country apart from the M5 (itself prone to flooding.) twice in two months. I have already spoken to the Secretary of State for Transport and meetings are being arranged urgently to put in place the right level of protection for our vital rail link.

Secondly the Colebrook flood defence scheme which is pencilled in for April 2014 must now be brought forward. At the moment, residents of this long established community must quake with trepidation every time heavy rainfall is forecast.  I have already spoken to South West Water and Plymouth Council to urge this to be brought forward as an absolute priority.

Finally, there is the issue of insurance. Already insurance companies are beginning to indicate that they will not insure certain homes against flooding. It is vital that the discussions between government and the insurance industry are now successfully concluded to ensure that every home can still get affordable flood insurance.

posted by Gary @ 09:27