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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 March 2014


There are not many things I would be prepared to die in a ditch for, but, preserving one common legal system in our country (by which I mean for these purposes England and Wales) is a principle for which I would be prepared to take one for the team.

I completely accept that Britain is multi-racial and I can see that has brought huge benefits, not least to our cuisine, music and sporting culture. I believe strongly that everybody should have the right to pursue their own religion in every country.

But I draw the line completely at separate legal systems for different communities – in the same country.

I was therefore troubled last weekend to read reports of the "Law Chiefs" making way for Sharia law in the UK. Sharia law is of course Islamic law, which some Muslims (a tiny minority) would like to introduce into the UK.

 On further investigation, the law chiefs turned out to be the Law Society, the timid and frequently disappointing body that regulates solicitors. They had issued guidance to some of their practitioners who advise people on Sharia law in this country.  I decided to investigate further:

Sharia law in the UK does not form part of the justice system. The Islamic community in some cities have set up Sharia Councils which operate on a private basis, but they do not have powers to enforce their decisions.  People may voluntary choose to live by Sharia principles and to use Sharia councils to settle civil and family disputes. They may not be used to settle criminal cases. The decisions made by Sharia Councils are only binding if both parties consent to the arbitration, and they cannot overrule the legal decisions of UK courts.

People may only adhere to the judgements of Sharia councils where their rulings do not contravene
English laws. If any of their decisions or recommendations are illegal or contrary to national law,
national law prevails. This is all very satisfactory and must be maintained.

In a diverse and pluralistic society, it is crucial that we maintain this framework. A common legal system is perhaps the single most important way to underpin coherence in any country. In a free country, it remains open to any person to campaign for the introduction of their own law. But it is not going to happen, and those who feel belligerent about this still have the precious right to live elsewhere.

posted by Gary @ 08:02  



Thursday, 20 March 2014


Corporate Social Responsibility. Bit boring? It basically means big companies doing good things in their local communities, not just making profits. I saw a great example of it on Monday when I broke my journey to Westminster with a visit to the Tesco store at Lee Mill.

I witnessed a group of children from Stowford Primary School in Ivybridge being educated by Tesco staff in how the food we eat on our plates at home gets there from the farm, whether in this country or abroad. In a riveting set of exercises and demonstrations the young people were taught about how dairy products were made, how the bakery worked, how food got from the farms into the store on large lorries and on large pallet/racks and how it was then distributed to the shelves and what happens to the waste. (The fruit waste goes to Dartmoor Zoo)

Then we were treated to some juicy fruit from different parts of the world which made a strong point about eating healthily. My only disappointment was that I did not personally manage to secure a jam donut.
The children obviously enjoyed it, the staff made it very interesting and it was a huge success. I hardly need mention that the pupils from Stowford were extremely well behaved and asked some great questions. They were a credit to their school and their parents. 

Talking to the superstore management it is clear they have invested a great deal of money and effort into this project. They will be having two groups of school children each week looking around and learning in this way and no doubt the project will evolve over time. 

I strongly support the current focus on academic excellence, but I also believe that the coming generation should be equipped to understand the world in which they are growing up and be therefore better prepared to flourish in it. We have all heard of kids who do not know that milk comes from cows or that cheese comes from milk etc and this is a very good way of covering off some of these basics.

Our large supermarkets get a lot of stick for their impact on the high street, and sometimes we forget that it is we the consumer who make the choice where to shop, not them. We should give credit where credit is due and I thought this excellent Tesco educational scheme warranted a wider audience.

posted by Gary @ 09:02  



Thursday, 13 March 2014


It has become fashionable for politicians to list the things we love about our country. Perhaps this is in response to the myriad of e-mails we all receive telling us all the things that are wrong about the UK. Only this week I have had a constituent telling me she is ashamed to be British and one gentleman saying he despairs about our country.

I recognise that there are challenges, but where would people rather live? I suppose that many would cite Australia and Canada as preferences, but it interests me that the majority of people who emigrate to even those wonderful Commonwealth countries eventually return.

So rather than list the negatives, I have decided to list the top 5 things I love about Britain:

1.    The fact we have an independent and fair judicial system. Our judges do not take bribes, they do not do what the government tells them, they strive to be impartial and produce the right outcome. This is not the case in many countries.

2.    The way that we are steeped in history – and have changed slowly over the years; maintaining many of our traditions. We have gone for evolution rather than revolution and it has produced an enviable stability. This is not the case in most countries.

3.    The fact that we have invented many of the world's most important sports, including God's own sport: cricket. Not only that, but that we are pretty good at most of them still, as we saw at Twickenham last weekend. In all my years of watching rugby I have never seen passion like that displayed in the last two home matches by England fans. Long may this continue.

4.    That we are pretty good at laughing at ourselves – even though the humour can sometimes spill over into cynicism. That's OK. The 2012 Olympics showed us as a nation at ease with ourselves and that is in no small measure due to the unique sense of humour we Brits tend to enjoy. The Queen jumping out of a helicopter!

5.    Finally, that as part of our confident, tolerant nature, we have been able to welcome other people groups into our country without losing our Britishness. London may look very multicultural to our West Country eyes, but it is one of the world's great cities. It works.

So what do you love about our country? Maybe the NHS or perhaps the unpredictable weather.

Let me know.

posted by Gary @ 11:28  



Thursday, 6 March 2014


Si vis pacem, para bellum – if you seek peace, prepare for war – is a wise maxim first coined by a Roman called Vegetius about 1500 years ago. And has not history underpinned this truth time and time again? When we appease, (Hitler in 1930's) it is a disaster. When we stand up to would-be tyrants (cold war) it has a greater chance of ending well.

That is the prism through which I am viewing the unfolding events in Ukraine. I am not suggesting for a moment that we should send in troops, but rather that we (i.e. NATO and the UN) should make a very tough response to the effective annexation of the Crimea by Russia. This might include suspending Russia from G8 and all kinds of economic sanctions.

Former President Yanukovych of Ukraine was ousted by his own people because he and his family were utterly corrupt, lined their own pockets and refused to sign a trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine. Doubtless the people who have taken over in Ukraine are far from perfect, but they appear well-intentioned, have already called for fresh elections and look to embrace the west and the values that underpin democracy.

Russia is now scarcely recognisable as a democratic state, being run by a handful of very rich gangster-types who have turned their backs on the rule of law and human rights. The old Bear is flexing its muscles once again. If we meekly allow them to annex part of another country simply because it has many Russian speakers in it, where will it turn next? Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are all in the same boat. What about growing Russian influence in Syria or Iran should they grow in confidence as a result in our acquiescence in Ukraine.

I recognise there is no appetite for military action in the USA or the UK, and I repeat that I am not calling for it. But history tells us that if we do not stand up to the playground bully right away he will only grow in ambition and confidence. Because this is Europe and impacts greatly upon our stability and economic prosperity, it is certainly something to do with us.

Other world powers are doubtless watching the west's reaction carefully. China is itching to give Japan a bloody nose over the disputed islands in the South China Sea. This is not a time for faint-hearted leadership from the White House or Brussels.

posted by Gary @ 09:41