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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, 29 September 2016


The party conference season is in full swing again. In this age of internet connectivity how much longer will we have them? They rarely make decisions and there are plenty of other ways of communicating new policy ideas to members. Is it time to ask the question: why do we do this anymore?

Conferences are useful in raising money for the parties from the businesses that hire exhibition space in the conference centre to lobby party members and activists. That is all perfectly legitimate. It is also a good time for party members together to have a good knees up.
Fair enough. Finally, each party leader will get a generous slot on the terrestrial TV news to promote their programme for the ensuing 12 months. That is worthwhile.

On the other hand, most people – we are told that the average person thinks about politics for 4 minutes a week – are completely oblivious to the fact that parties are holding conferences and do not notice or receive any messages being broadcast from them. I have been in more halls than I care to remember where a barn-storming platform performance has electrified the party faithful, and inspired the hope that the whole country will now fall on its knees and vote for us, only to get home to find that (a) most people did not know we had gathered and (b) had no idea that our leader had made a speech and (c) were ignorant as to its contents.

I have for several years considered the conference season to be an expensive anomaly that should now be consigned to history. My main concern is that it disrupts the Parliamentary calendar. We come back from the summer recess – very necessary to re-charge batteries- for two weeks at Westminster and then rise again for the three week conference season. Madness. I would rather we had an extra week for the summer, packed the kids or grandchildren off back to school and then returned to Westminster to sit through uninterrupted until Christmas.

This year has been slightly different because of the drama of the Labour party conference and the re-election with an increased mandate of Jeremy Corbyn. It will be interesting to observe what moderate Labour MPs now do.

There should be no complacency on our side. It is clear that obtaining a Brexit deal that satisfies the majority will be no easy matter. Conferences or not, there are storm clouds ahead.

posted by Gary @ 09:28  



Thursday, 22 September 2016


"What is truth?" Pontius Pilate is reported to have asked in the trial of Jesus 2,000 years ago. It seems like a pertinent question even today. I hear from lots of constituents who have all kinds of ideas that I consider to be untrue – ranging from a secret Tory plan to privatise the NHS, to conspiracy theories about the 2001 twin tower atrocities, passing through MI5 trying to control their minds through electronic harassment on the way. You get the picture. 

If you look online at some of the conspiracy theories about say the moon landing and the death if JFK, there seem to be a lot of people who believe things many of us consider to be absurd. But for them it is truth. 

The left-wingers who support Jeremy Corbyn with such a passion believe they have the truth and that even Labour MPs who do not embrace their pure version of socialism are class traitors. Those on the right who pushed so hard for Brexit and now are insisting that we have a hard Brexit rather than a soft Brexit (whatever those phrases mean) see only one version of truth. Nothing less will ever satisfy them.

We all carry around with us our own versions of truth. There is no shortage of information coming at us 24/7 through modern media. There is no shortage of comment and opinion constantly bombarding us. 

It begs the question as to whether or not there is such a thing as empirical truth, objective reality. Even in the scientific realm there are experts on each side of arguments you would hope could be settled by cold hard facts: the safety of nuclear power or fracking, the causes of climate change and whether or not eating fat is bad for you. Sadly that is not the case and arguments rage on.

The assault on our senses these days of so much information and opinion adds to the widespread sense of insecurity in our modern age. Young people are told that they can be whatever they want to be – patently untrue unless they have the talent to pursue their chosen dream. 

So where does this leave us? Each of us must decide for ourselves our own version of truth. For me, that means embracing a Christian world view. For others something different. 

Some wit once said that the only thing certain in life is death and taxes. Perhaps that has still not changed. 

Gary Streeter
Please note email address for replies .

posted by Gary @ 09:32  



Thursday, 15 September 2016


In the turbulent times through which we are living, it is important not to take our eyes off the key issues facing our region and delivering on the solutions to them. Connectivity remains for most of us in the far south west our greatest challenge.

The advent of superfast broadband is changing our region. It means that we can do almost anything from almost anywhere and our young people do not have to move to London to set up their internet based business, but can do so from their bedroom. We have made great strides in recent years in installing the infrastructure for superfast broadband, but there remain for too many Not-Spots – places where the magic of rapid connectivity has yet to arrive. One of the priorities for the government and local MPs in the next 2 years is to complete this roll out to 95% of our area and then start work on the rest, usually the more remote areas, for which the solution is likely to be air borne, rather than fibre.

Side by side with broadband is the desperate need to upgrade our rail network, in terms of capacity, resilience, journey times and on-board facilities. The 20 year plan is still being worked on by the Peninsula Rail Task Force (PRTF) although we had hoped to submit this vital plan to government ministers in September. The PRTF is still waiting for the final conclusions of the Network rail/GWR study into journey times. Once complete the plan will be presented to ministers in November and then we will continue the pressure on government to deliver.

Interestingly, a recent survey of South West business leaders revealed that over 65% of them are far more interested in improving on-board facilities, especially Wi-Fi, so they can work without interruption on the train, rather than clipping a few minutes off journey times. This might mean a revision to the priorities set out in the 20 year plan. It is also more practical to deliver in the short term, although the PTRF plan will also address the longer term need for a new inland route, increasing capacity and re-opening the northern route.

I am hoping we will hear a renewed commitment to spend on infrastructure in the autumn statement. Following Brexit, there might be less money to spend, but I sense that infrastructure spending is moving up the agenda. We will fight for our fair share in the south west.

posted by Gary @ 12:54  



Thursday, 8 September 2016


What are we going to do about our NHS? To say that it is creaking at the seams is an understatement. All over the country GP services and acute hospitals are under pressure, nowhere more than locally. This is despite us having more doctors and carrying out more operations than ever before in our history.

We are already spending record amounts on the NHS - £143 billion this year (compared to about £85 billion on schools and education) which is roughly 10% or our GDP. Massive sums. On top of all this, the government has promised an extra £10 billion over the lifetime of this Parliament. And yet…the pressure is not diminishing, queues in some services are lengthening and some hospitals have closed their lists while they catch up with a back log. It clearly needs another large injection of cash, but where is that money coming from?

I have been trotting up to Derriford for 25 years receiving briefings about the challenges that hospital faces. It has always been under pressure, but this is as challenging as I have ever known it.

There are arguments about structures and policy but the heart of the problem appears to be our dramatic demographic changes – where so many of us are living longer and therefore making more demands on our health system. We are the victim of our own success. At the other end of the scale, we have made little inroads into some public health issues like smoking and obesity, which trigger so much disease.

Some people talk absurdly about creeping privatisation, but the facts simply do not support this. At the end of 13 years of Labour government 5 % of NHS services were delivered by private companies. Six years into a Conservative led government this has crept up to 6.5%. Wow!

The model we have is now 70 years old and constructed in very different times just after the Second World War. We Brits love our NHS and rightly so. It is a liberating thing to hand over your sick child or mother to a doctor, knowing that unlike the USA, he or she will be treated, usually excellently, irrespective of cost.

Politicians of all parties are committed to an NHS free at the point of use, publically funded. But is this sustainable any longer? Has the time come to examine other models?

Is it time for a grown up debate about the future of our NHS.

posted by Gary @ 08:59  



Thursday, 1 September 2016


When barristers examine witnesses in court they sometimes use the phrase: "did there come a time?" In the run up to the 1987 general election the SDP ran the campaign slogan in the run up to: the time has come. It hadn't but it was a good slogan.

Perhaps the time has come to reform the House of Lords. I voted against reform in the previous Parliament, mainly because the proposals brought forward by the then Deputy Prime Minister were confused. The problem, he declared, is that the House of Lords is unaccountable.
The solution was to introduce elected peers for one term only of 11 years. The very next day after they were elected, knowing that they could not be re-elected and were there for 11 years, they would become the most unaccountable group of people on the planet!

Most of us at Westminster have recognised the need for change. The House of Lords is too big, old and unwieldly, and hardly ever reflects the current political disposition of the country or the lower House. This is both a strength and a weakness. It does have some very wise people in it and that has always been my justification for supporting it. I do not want just politicians in the Upper House, but people from all walks of life who have something to offer based on their life experience.

But few can agree on the specific change necessary. Elected or not? What powers should it have? If we have a fully elected chamber it will start to claim more power and challenge our long held constitutional position of the supremacy of the Commons. There has been some tinkering in recent years – most of the hereditary peers are now gone and there is a system of voluntary retirement.

And yet. Somehow our current legislative arrangements do not fit the modern age.

The United Kingdom is facing major constitutional change over the next few years: leaving the EU, scrapping the Human Rights Act and introducing our own Charter, not to mention the pressing need to reach a lasting settlement with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Although it is a massive job, all of this cries out for a fresh over-arching constitutional settlement. Why not use this opportunity to deal also with the future of the House of Lords: perhaps a small largely elected Senate with clearly defined powers.

For their Lordships, perhaps the time has finally come.

posted by Gary @ 13:41