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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, 27 June 2013


When Jan and I (aged 24) bought our first home in Mutley in 1979 it cost £13,250, roughly two and a half times my salary as a newly qualified solicitor in Plymouth. That same house would sell today for £170,000, over five times the salary of a modern day legal eagle just starting out.

That is why it is so hard for youngsters to get on the housing ladder. House prices are simply unaffordable for most young couples. Jan and I saved up for our 10% deposit in under two years. The deposit on that same house today would be over £20,000. How long will it take a young starry-eyed couple to save that amount? A recent report suggests over 20 years! Even during the last five credit crunch years house prices have stagnated rather than fallen, and there are now signs that they are starting to increase once more. As any economist will tell you – greater demand than supply will always drive prices up.

The desire to own our own home remains a deep-seated ambition, with over 80% of young people citing it as a major life goal. And why not? Isn't it great to own a little bit of the earth's surface for those few fleeting moments that we inhabit this world and to enjoy that sense of security and belonging that comes with the title deeds? I remember the first night sleeping in our own place all those years ago. I felt that at last my life was up and running.

The trouble is that we do not have enough houses to go around. Partly due to excessive immigration (which we are now getting under control), but largely due to people living so much longer and more families sadly splitting up. These are trends that are unlikely to disappear any time soon.

So we have to face that unpalatable truth that we need to build more houses. There is space to do this. 93% of our island remains rural. We should certainly prioritise so called brown-field sites (where there has previously been development) and it is crucial to protect greenbelt and areas of outstanding natural beauty, but there is no escaping the fact that we will have to build on some green-field sites, like Sherford, on the edges of our towns and cities to meet the demands of a rising generation that wishes to own their own home just like we did.

No more Nimby-ism!

posted by Gary @ 13:47  



Thursday, 20 June 2013


Last week I rehearsed some of the arguments for staying in the EU. This week we explore some reasons to leave.

The cost. In 2011/12, our net contribution to the EU – the amount we give minus the amount we get back – stood at £7.4bn. This is expected to rise to £9.4bn in 2014/15, an increase of 27% in just three years. Compare this to the much criticised international development budget, which totalled just £6.1bn last year. When we are making tough decisions at home to get our national finances in order, it is important to not throw away savings to Brussels. The cost to business is considerable too. EU regulation is estimated to cost the UK in the region of £9bn-£19bn, and Open Europe calculated that it makes up 71% of the total regulatory burden on British business. If we can get rid of this red tape, we would enjoy a much needed boost to the economy.

We can go it alone. Supporters of the EU often point to the benefits of its free trade area. But Norway proves that you don't have to be a member of the EU to enjoy free trade in Europe. Joining Norway in the European Economic Area and handing in our EU membership card would maintain our trade opportunities at a tiny fraction of the cost. Further, as members of the EU we have to impose trade barriers on other countries – including emerging markets in South America, India, and China. As the EU's fraction of world GDP steadily falls, making sure we have free trade with these fast growing economies will become increasingly important.

Sovereignty. The EU suffers from a substantial democratic deficit. Since its birth as the European Economic Community in 1957, the EU has been acting more and more like a government, making and changing laws across a wide spectrum of issues. However, it is not a government that the British electorate can remove. Its power lies in the European Commission, which functions as the EU's executive and is the only body that can initiate legislation. But its 27 commissioners have never been elected, instead just being directly selected by national governments. The reason that democracy works is that voters can throw out governments they don't like; with the European Union, we lack that power.

There you have it – the last 2 weeks the main arguments for and against.  All being well, you will get to decide this in 2017. 

posted by Gary @ 10:19  



Thursday, 13 June 2013


Many people say to me: just give us the truth – should we remain in the EU or not? Could we survive on our own? What are the advantages of leaving?

Unfortunately in this debate, as in so many others, there is no truth. Nobody knows for sure. There are only arguments. I thought it might be helpful to set out the argument for and against membership over the next two weeks. Today the arguments for staying in the EU.

The EU is the world's largest trading bloc. EU membership gives the UK unparalleled access to European markets. In 2011, 47% of the UK's exports went to other EU countries. Trade with the EU is responsible for creating around 3.5 million UK jobs either directly or indirectly.

Membership of the EU has opened the UK up to non-European markets too. The EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, which came into force in 2011, was worth an estimated £500 million to UK businesses, and the EU-US trade deal, which is being negotiated, could be worth £10 billion per year. Outside the EU, it is unlikely the UK could make such favourable deals.

Those who wish us to leave the EU suggest that we would save vast sums of money.  But would we?

Like Switzerland, we would have to negotiate an unknown number of UK-EU bilateral agreements. Switzerland currently has around 100 agreements, and pays £53 per head to European programmes each year. Like Norway, we would pay to be part of the single market, but would have no say in how the rules were set. In 2011, Norway contributed approximately £110 per person to European programmes. On that basis, the UK would currently pay around £6 billion to be part of the free trade club, slightly less than our current annual net contribution of £7 billion.

The centuries before the first European settlement saw continuous conflict on the continent, but the EU has provided a framework for peaceful interaction in Europe. It has helped Western Europe attain 50 years of unparalleled concord and prosperity. 

Today, the UK is the sixth largest economy in the world, and its position in an expanding EU helps to gives us weight amongst global players. Over the coming decades, the rising economies of countries like Brazil and India will overtake us and the UK will need to reposition. Outside of the EU, we risk losing our seat at the top table.

Next week – reasons for leaving!

posted by Gary @ 09:37  



Thursday, 6 June 2013


Badgers are beautiful creatures. But they are carriers of Bovine Tuberculosis which they regularly pass on to cattle over large chunks of the country, including in South Devon.

Which is why after years of shilly-shallying, the government has instigated a limited cull of contaminated badgers in two pilot areas of the country to see if, finally, we can rid ourselves of this terrible disease.

Among my most difficult duties has been to visit farmers who have just tested positive for bovine TB, or have just had the people from Defra in to carry out the slaughter. Apart from the economic devastation this causes, the personal and emotional agony to the farming family cannot be under-stated.  Several of them simply do not recover.

The science-led badger cull is a response to their plight. It is hugely controversial. We will see footage of protests and sabotage on our TV sets and online over the coming months. I will nonetheless be urging the government to stand firm and see this through.

We should also not forget, as was exposed in the press over the weekend, that genuine animal lovers distressed by the proposed cull who are legitimately campaigning against it, have been infiltrated by extremists who look to hi-jack this issue for their own warped motives.

I imagine that the original problem dates back to the decision in 1973 to make badgers a protected species. The protection meant that badgers no longer had any natural predators. Nature will not be thwarted. It is evident that badger numbers have grown so high that they cannot live free from disease any longer. In the same way as we cull wild deer and other creatures in part for their own protection, so badger numbers should have been controlled years ago.

There are arguments against the cull and I respect them. The scientific evidence can be interpreted in different ways. The government is at the same time working on a vaccine for both cattle badgers, but this is realistically still ten years away. Farmers need action now.
It is not altogether obvious how individual badgers would be trapped, injected and then released to make any vaccine operation practicable. It is no good if you leave a few to spread the disease once again. 

It is a painful business. But then it is equally excruciating to see magnificent herds of cattle put down in their prime and to witness the impact on farming families.

posted by Gary @ 09:32