Monthly Archives: March 2016

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RORY JOINS ROYAL CUMBRIAN VISIT TO PENRITH AND THE BORDER

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Rory Stewart MP welcomed His Royal Highness Prince Charles to Penrith and The Border yesterday, on a day-long tour that included visits to Ullswater Community College, Pooley Bridge, and Theatre on the Lake in Keswick.

Rory and Prince Charles spent 75 minutes touring Ullswater Community College in Penrith, in particular its applied learning centre, which runs a range of vocational courses for its pupils including hair and beauty, motor vehicle engineering and construction. Both Rory and the Prince chatted with staff and students in the training salon before visiting the on-site garage and workshop. All of the school’s 1,400 pupils filled the yard to greet the Royal visit.

The group then moved on to visit the temporary bridge installed over the River Eamont at Pooley Bridge, where they met and chatted with business owners, residents and tourists to the village, celebrating the reopening of the bridge last week. Members of Penrith’s Town Band, pupils from Yanwath School, and civic dignitaries welcomed the visit.

Later, Rory joined the private meeting on upland flood mitigation organised by the Foundation for Common Land.

​He said: “Today​ was a wonderful, positive celebration of all that is great about Penrith and The Border and indeed Cumbria, and it was a truly memorable visit, for which we are all immensely grateful.”

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RORY PRAISES DRAUGHT PROOFING SCHEME

Rory Stewart meets Penrith resident benefiting from energy advice and draught proofing Penrith and Border MP, Rory Stewart visited Penrith householder, Vida Scott to see how she has benefited from free draught proofing and tariff advice arranged by local charity Cumbria Action for Sustainability (CAfS).

Andrew Northcott of CAfS demonstrated the professionally fitted energy saving improvements and how they help reduce heat loss and can save over £100 on bills, as well as reduce carbon emissions. Mrs Scott’s home is one of over 180 homes that have benefited across Eden District as part of a Big Lottery Funded project called ‘Sustain Eden’.

Front and back doors had seals fitted and a special letter box cover was installed to keep out cold draughts. An electricity monitor was also included. Mrs Scott was very pleased with the service from CAfS and said the draught proofing had “…made a big difference in keeping my home warm”. Rory Stewart commented “We’re fortunate having local charity CAfS here doing so much to help vulnerable people improve their living conditions and reduce costs.”

During the visit the team at CAfS also helped Mrs Scott by checking her energy tariff and found a massive saving by switching from a standard tariff with Eon to one of the smaller suppliers. Andrew said “Mrs Scott spends a large proportion of her income on fuel and as she heats her home with electricity the savings by switching are significant. For many people heating with electricity the yearly savings can exceed £500 and can be sorted by telephone to a comparison company.”

Rory Stewart said: “I have wanted to see an example of CAFS’ draught proofing programme for some time, and was glad to be able to visit Mrs Scott on King Street to see the technology in action. It’s great that such a relatively straightforward and simple measure can have such positive effects, and without impacting on the extraordinary built heritage of a house like this. CAfS are doing brilliant work at making a tangible difference to households in the area, as well as advocating for sustainable, environmentally solutions that work.”

CAfS are now setting up a network of Energy Champions who can help vulnerable people to get warmer and bring environmental benefits and reduces fuel bills. Energy Champions would spend about two hours a month to talk with people locally, including helping individuals on a one to one basis. No specific skills or knowledge of household energy is required, though experience dealing with household energy bills would certainly help. This opportunity would ideally suit someone who is already, or would like to be, active in their community. Anyone wanting more information can call CAfS on 01768 210276 or e-mail [email protected] cafs.org.uk.

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NEW PLAN FOR NATIONAL PARKS GIVES EVERY SCHOOLCHILD A CHANCE TO VISIT

Every schoolchild in England will have the chance to visit our inspiring National Parks at each stage of their education under plans announced today by Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss—as new figures reveal only 10% of schoolchildren currently have access to outdoor learning.

The new Plan for National Parks kickstarts a programme of activity to safeguard the future of these iconic landscapes, including by engaging young people throughout their education:

•from primary school, bringing more than 80,000 young people to visit National Parks and putting National Parks in the curriculum;
•at secondary school, doubling the number of youth volunteers in National Parks as part of the National Citizen Service;
•in their first steps to employment, developing a new apprenticeship standard and doubling apprenticeships in National Parks by 2020.

With over half of the population in England living within an hour of a National Park, the plan aims to increase the diversity of visitors from the UK—as well as promoting these world-class cultural attractions to a global audience through the GREAT campaign to drive international tourism. The Environment Secretary aims to build annual visitor numbers to 100 million, bringing around £440 million more to local businesses, adding to the £4 billion already generated by National Parks.

Speaking as she launched the new plan in the South Downs National Park, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:

“National Parks already welcome over 90 million visitors every year and make a major contribution to our vibrant rural economy—but too many children in our country are not aware of these natural wonders. I want to celebrate our inspiring natural environment so more visitors than ever before can enjoy the majestic Lakes, tranquil Northumberland, and the wide open spaces of the South Downs.

“Just as Yellowstone is known worldwide as one of America’s national treasures, our beautiful lakes and dales, moors and fells are a symbol of this country, part of our British identity—they are also huge public assets that should benefit as many people as possible.

“By instilling a love of nature in our young people and building thriving communities in every National Park, our plan will allow these unique spaces to flourish for generations to come.”

The Government protected National Parks’ budgets in the last spending review, committing over £350 million for English National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and forests. The new plan will further secure the future of these iconic protected landscapes, ensuring effective environmental management and growing a strong rural economy.

Along with work already underway to give schools in England one million native British trees to plant in their communities, National Parks will be a key part of a new Government campaign later this year to connect children with nature and the environment.

The plan also aims to harness the power of the natural environment to improve national wellbeing, after research published last month by Natural England showed taking part in nature-based activities can contribute to a reduction in anxiety, stress, and depression. It recommended greater use of ‘green care’ to help people suffering from mental ill health, including taking part in environmental conservation—for example, through innovative schemes in National Parks.

Jim Bailey, Chair of National Parks England said:

“Our National Parks are the jewels in the crown of our beautiful countryside and something to be very proud of. They are living, working landscapes that need careful stewardship, for the benefit and enjoyment by all. I look forward to working with the Government on delivering this exciting Plan for England’s National Parks.”

Margaret Paren, Chair of South Downs National Park, where the Environment Secretary launched the plan this morning, said:

“The South Downs National Park shows the wealth of resources on offer from our national parks—available for free to everyone—for teaching, local food and drink, and visiting and enjoying the great outdoors. We sit right on the doorstep of more than 800 schools across Sussex and Hampshire and are already supporting teachers to use the landscapes and past and current thriving communities of the South Downs National Park to inspire and help 74,000 pupils across the entire curriculum to reconnect with nature.”

The Government recently committed a package of support for the Lake District National Park after it was hit by recent floods, including £2m to repair rights of way and a new £1m campaign to show that the North of England is open for business and entice tourists back to the area. Tourism is the biggest sector in the UK’s rural economy, supporting three million jobs and generating £11bn every year for local communities.

As well as dramatic scenery and stunning views, visitors to the National Parks can enjoy the best of British food, with over a third of England’s diverse range of protected foods produced within National Parks—including Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese and Lakeland Herdwick Lamb. Promoting these foods and encouraging more producers to apply for this coveted status also forms part of the strategy to ensure our National Parks continue to thrive in the future.

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RORY PRAISES DEDICATION OF EDEN FLOOD VOLUNTEERS

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Rory Stewart MP has visited Eden Flood Volunteers’ temporary base at Skirsgill, near Penrith, to meet with volunteers and to see first-hand the work that Kerryanne Wilde and her team have been doing since Storm Desmond first devastated local households in December 2015.

Rory spent time talking to Kerryanne and her team of volunteers, hearing about the extent of their work, and the number of households reached by the group in the aftermath of the floods, coordinating large numbers of donated items which were then distributed to needy households. Thousands of pounds’ worth of items have been distributed by the group, including sofas, food, furniture items and household goods.

Rory said: “Kerryanne and her team have done a great job in the wake of Storm Desmond and the devastation wreaked by the bad weather at the end of last year. Eden Flood Volunteers are clearly a dedicated group of people who made a real difference to people’s lives after the terrible floods. I congratulate them on their energy and dedication.”

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RORY WELCOMES OPENING OF NEW TEMPORARY BRIDGE

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Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart visited Pooley Bridge on Friday ahead of the official opening of the temporary bailey bridge installed by Story Construction. The original bridge was washed away by Storm Desmond in December and both residents and businesses have been badly affected by the road closure.

During his visit Rory met with representatives from the local community, as well as members of the Story team working on the construction of the temporary bridge to see and hear about how the project had been delivered. Speaking afterwards he said: “I am delighted that the bridge will now be open in time for the Easter bank holiday, reconnecting the village to the vital A592, and reopening the gates for the hundreds of visitors who come to this exceptional part of Cumbria each year.  It’s been quite a battle to get the bridge open in time. I’d like to pay particular tribute to the parish council and people of Pooley Bridge for their energy and focus, and their determination to reopen the bridge and road.

Tourism is the income on which our entire Cumbrian economy depends and I am pleased with the Governments pledge of £1 million for a PR campaign to encourage people to visit the region, as well as the additional £700 million for flood defences which was announced in last week’s budget. I’d like to thank all those who have been involved in this project for the long hours and very hard work that has gone into making this happen.”

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RESPONSE TO CHANCELLOR’S 2016 BUDGET STATEMENT

Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart has responded to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget Statement, delivered this afternoon. In it, George Osborne set out details of further action the Government will take to keep Britain on the road to economic recovery.

The Chancellor unveiled a number of key measures to sustain growth. Measures that will be of particular benefit to Cumbrians include; a rise in the tax free personal allowance to £11,500 and the higher rate threshold increased to £45,000, a freeze on fuel duty for the sixth year running, as well as a freeze on beer and cider duty to back British pubs, £20 million a year of new funding for schools in the Northern Powerhouse to improve performance and retain the best teachers, and the introduction of a new Lifetime ISA with a limit of £20,000 – with which for every £4 saved, the government will contribute £1. In addition, he also pledged to support small businesses by creating a more simple, fair and competitive business tax system, with an increased small business rate relief threshold of £15,000, and £51,000 for those paying the higher rate. There will also be a cut in capital gains tax, corporation tax and stamp duty, and Class 2 National Insurance Contributions for the self-employed will be abolished.

There was yet more good news for Cumbria with the announcement of further investment in UK flood defences. The standard rate of Insurance Premium Tax will be increased by 0.5%, and the £700 million raised from this will be used to improve flood resilience and defences in areas affected by the recent storms. An urgent review is already underway by Environment Secretary Liz Truss and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to determine how the money will be best spent. It was also revealed that the vital A66 and A69 routes will be upgraded to improve Cumbria’s infrastructure as part of the Northen Powerhouse project.

Speaking on the budget, Rory Stewart said: “The Chancellor has again shown that this government’s policy of greater fiscal responsibility is the right one, and we are now seeing a growth in our economy and a reduction in the budget deficit. I am absolutely delighted at the announcement of an extra £700 million for flood defences. And particularly delighted at the commitment of extra money for Carlisle and Cumbria. Communities have performed heroically during the recent floods, and it is only right that we do all we can to improve flood defences further across the County. I am also pleased to see further help pledged for small businesses, which will contribute to Cumbria’s own economic recovery – helping those affected by the floods to get back on their feet. As always, more needs to be done, but overall I believe that this budget has recognised the key issues we are currently facing in Cumbria and I feel positive about our economic future.”

Rory Stewart MP is encouraging sole traders to take advantage of the Small Business Rate Relief available from Eden District Council. For more details, please visit the Business Rates section of the Council’s website at www.eden.gov.uk.

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RORY SPEAKS ON RECYCLING

Barry Sheerman:

What steps she is taking to meet the recycling targets in the EU circular economy package.

Rory:

There are two separate questions here. The EU circular economy package is still under negotiation, but on recycling rates we are doing well, as the hon. Gentleman knows. We have gone from 12.5% recycling in 2001 to nearly 44% recycling. That is one of the real success stories in the United Kingdom.

Barry Sheerman:

The hon. Gentleman will know that the aim of the package is to have a sustainable, low-carbon, resource-efficient, competitive economy. Does he accept that had it not been for European Union regulation, we would be nowhere in terms of dealing with waste? If it had not been for the stimulation from the EU and the EU package, we in this country would still be throwing all our waste in holes in the ground.

Rory:

The hon. Gentleman tempts me into a much bigger political conversation, but it is true that the European Union has played a constructive role in this. It has shown real leadership on recycling, and there are certainly things we can learn from other European countries—particularly from Denmark and the success it has had on landfill.

Caroline Spelman

I was litter-picking over the Clean for the Queen weekend outside a local primary school, and I was dismayed to find that most items were recyclable. What could the Government do to encourage the next generation to recycle and not to miss the opportunity to forge a circular economy?

Rory:

I join you, Mr Speaker, in paying tribute to the virtue of my right hon. Friend. The answer is, of course, that we need to work on educating people—this is the German model—right the way from school upwards on the importance of protecting resources and of recycling. However, we could also do more to harmonise the system so that it is more straightforward, wherever people live in the country, to know exactly what needs to be recycled and where to put recycling.

Tim Loughton:

Is my hon. Friend aware of the problems that some of these EU quotas cause local authorities such as Adur and Worthing in my constituency? The quotas are based on weight, and if the county council, which is the lead authority, collects more through municipal recycling sites, other local authorities have less to collect, so they cannot meet their targets and are penalised.

Rory:

There certainly are issues there, and I am very happy to look at this specific one. However, we should say that most councils still have some way to go, so I pay tribute to South Oxfordshire, for example, which has hit a 67% recycling rate, when the national average is about 44%.

Rob Marris:

Could the Government look at the problem of the number of wretched plastic-lined paper takeaway coffee cups, the overwhelming majority of which never get recycled because of the difficulties of ripping out the plastic lining? It is a huge problem.

Rory:

I absolutely agree: it is a huge problem—there are tens of millions of these things being produced and thrown away. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, many cannot be recycled because of the way they are disposed of or because of their composition. The Government have tackled plastic bags—I hope everybody in the House would agree that the plastic bag tax has been a success—and coffee cups seem to be a very good thing to look at next.

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RORY VOWS TO SUPPORT COMMUNITY HOSPITALS

Rory Stewart MP has written to both Sir Neil McKay of the NHS Success Regime for Cumbria and to Department of Health Minister Ben Gummer, to request an urgent meeting to discuss his unequivocal backing of his constituency’s community hospitals. His involvement follows the release of documents relating to the Success Regime, and wording relating to the future of Cumbria’s community hospitals.

Today Rory said: “Many of the suggested recommendations relating to addressing remote healthcare, and ageing demographics, are very welcome. However I am deeply concerned about the perceived threat to our cottage hospitals, which I shall be supporting in the strongest possible terms. Our so-called ‘cottage’ hospitals are treasured, locally, as an absolutely critical pillar of community healthcare. And I believe very strongly that these hospitals have a greater role to play in delivering healthcare in this part of Cumbria, rather than a reduced role, and I can see no advantage in reducing their scope or centralising services elsewhere. We have shown, in the past years, that local services can be retained even in a challenging financial context. We have preserved services from community ambulances, to snowploughs, to cinemas, to fire-engines. Arguably none of these are as precious as our community hospitals, though, and I resolve to fight any threat to our beloved community hospitals, in no uncertain terms.”

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NEW CATTLE MEASURES TO HELP DELIVER TB FREEDOM IN ENGLAND

Further measures to protect England from bovine TB are being introduced as part of the government’s comprehensive strategy which is on track to deliver TB-free status for over half of the country by 2019.
From 6 April 2016, new legislation will require farmers in the Low Risk Area of England to arrange for post-movement testing of cattle coming from the rest of England and from Wales.
With more than half of new bovine TB infections in the Low Risk Area clearly linked to cattle purchased from higher risk areas, introduction of compulsory post-movement testing will provide greater confidence that the Low Risk Area can become and remain officially TB-free.
Following consultation last year, three additional measures will also be introduced at the same time:
  • Tighter movement restrictions. All herds in the High Risk Area of England affected by a new TB breakdown will need to pass two strict tests before movement restrictions are lifted. This will increase the chances of finding all infected animals in those herds, helping to reduce recurrent breakdowns and to protect other herds.
  • Government-funded pre-sale testing. Free pre-sale TB tests will be available to many herd owners in the Low Risk Area selling twenty or more cattle in a single purchase. This will enable sellers to provide additional assurance for buyers and mitigate the low risk of undetected TB spreading to new herds.
  • The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will start offering the option of private Interferon Gamma blood tests to diagnose TB under certain conditions and subject to prior approval from APHA.
Commenting on the new measures Farming Minister George Eustice said:
“We are presiding over a huge collective effort to eradicate bovine TB in England.
“Our comprehensive strategy is clear: the disease can only be defeated by taking coordinated action on cattle movements, cattle testing and badger control.
“The cattle measures we are introducing in April will help protect against cattle-to-cattle transmission and bring the Low Risk Area closer to achieving TB freedom.”
The introduction of new measures takes place as the Government eradication strategy enters its third year of full implementation. This includes tighter cattle measures, improved biosecurity and badger control in areas where the disease is rife.
The approach of dealing with the disease in cattle and wildlife has worked overseas and is supported by the Government and Defra chief scientists, the Chief Veterinary Officer and leading vets.
Earlier this year, Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss announced £1 million of funding will be made available for a new bovine TB advisory service which will provide high quality and tailored advice on improving biosecurity for farmers in the High Risk and Edge Areas.
Defra continues to work with the AHDB, the NFU, BCVA, Landex and the Welsh Government to encourage livestock keepers to take precautions to protect their herds on farm and in the cattle trade. Detailed advice to farmers and vets is available from www.tbhub.co.uk
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RORY HAILS FAIR-FUNDING BREAKTHROUGH FOR CUMBRIA’S SCHOOLS

Following a long-running campaign in which he has lobbied government to adopt a fairer funding formula for rural schools, Rory Stewart MP – who is also Minister for Rural Affairs in DEFRA, and a champion for rural-proofing of government policy – has hailed today’s news of a consultation into fairer school-funding as a “significant breakthrough”.

Proposals outlined today by Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State for Education, aim to provide a basic amount of cash per pupil, additional money for extra needs, including deprivation, low prior attainment and English as an additional language. Importantly, funding will also be allocated based on school costs, including schools serving rural communities. The present system can see a school in one part of the country receive much more money than another elsewhere, despite having the same number of pupils.

Rory Stewart said: “This is a significant breakthrough, recognised today by the Prime Minister himself as a great result. The argument for fair funding has been an incredibly important one in Penrith and The Border, and indeed in Cumbria, where we have seen schools right across the county making sensible and justifiable cases for a formula that recognises our unique needs. This is not simply about what happens in the classroom. Our rural schools are cores of our community: children and young families bring life to our villages. We have lost far too many rural schools over the last decades. And schools with very few students are always in a tight financial situation. I feel the government’s move shows flexibility and imagination, and is a good sign that they are listening to rural communities.”

In addition, it is proposed that all schools are set to receive their money directly, rather than via the local authority.

Commenting on the proposals, Secretary of State Nicky Morgan said: “We want every school in England to get the funding it deserves, so that all children – whatever their background and wherever they live in the country – get a great education. The introduction of a national funding formula from 2017-18 will see the biggest step towards fairer funding in over a decade – ensuring that pupils get funding that genuinely matches their need. It will also ensure that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds continue to receive significant additional funding to overcome entrenched barriers to their success. This is a key part of our core mission to extend opportunity to all children and provide educational excellence in all parts of the country: rural and urban, shire and metropolitan, north and south.”