Monthly Archives: July 2011


high hesket ce primary school

Rory  last week welcomed children from High Hesket CE Primary School to Parliament where they won a prestigious parliamentary prize for their work on the internet. The five pupils received the £1,200 prize, on the behalf of their class, having been the Regional Winners in the North-West section of the Make IT Happy competition. Make IT Happy celebrates the excellent and inspirational work that the UK’s primary schools are doing to promote and teach children and their families about using the internet. The £1,200 winnings from the competition will be used to benefit the school’s future use of technology.

Last autumn pupils from High Hesket school started a new club in their school called Radio Waves in which the pupils make video reports, broadcasts and interviews on subjects of interest in school and put them on the internet for all to watch. The budding reporters have access to a flip camera and so are able to film their reports. One young student, Jasper, tried his hand at filming Rory whilst they were standing in the Victoria Tower Garden yesterday for a picnic as part of their day in Parliament. Rory also introduced the children to a Rodin statue (of the Burghers of Calais) that was in the garden and explained that there had once been 2 MPs from Calais in the Houses of Parliament. The children promptly lived up to their prize winning nature by videoing the statue and the MP for a new report for Radio Waves.

High Hesket Head Teacher, Margaret Taylor, said: “It was such a fun packed experience that the children might not otherwise have had. It was wonderful to be in the Members dining room for the awards ceremony and the children were very excited to see Lord Sugar! We are so pleased to have won the Regional award and will spend the money on IT equipment for the children. The support Rory Stewart has given us has been phenomenal and is so much appreciated. We will certainly be entering again next year!”

Rory said: “The pupils of High Hesket are an inspiration to others in the constituency. They are full of ideas and enthusiasm for the better use of technology. They told me that in addition to Radio Waves they are also currently having weekly online discussions about the lives of Native Indians with pupils from schools in Texas, including dressing up in Native Indian clothes. This innovative use of technology is an incredible opportunity to broaden the minds of young people and their work re-emphasises the importance that broadband has in our constituency and for education in our schools. I very much hope to see even more primary schools from Penrith and the Border entering this competition next year.”

Photo: Rory with the High Hesket CE Pupils in the Victoria Tower Gardens outside Parliament



innovia, wigton

In a Parliamentary debate on packaging, Rory called on Ministers to recognise the positive contribution of companies such as Innovia of Wigton in the field of apprenticeships and community engagement.

Rory said: “We must recognise that the packaging industry is not just important as an industry in itself, but provides a lot of model companies for Britain. Innovia in Wigton, for example, is investing a great deal in the local secondary school, Nelson Thomlinson. It provides excellent apprenticeships, spends more than £8 million a year on research and development, and has achieved a 92% export rate from northwest Cumbria. It is important to remember the good company practices that businesses such as Innovia are involved in.”

Rory was speaking at a Westminster Hall debate on the Packaging Industry, attended by a number of MPs who called upon Ministers to recognise the stature of this sector of manufacturing, responsible for £11 billion of sales and 85,000 employees alone. Mr Stewart joined his colleagues in calling for a level playing field with overseas competitors – in particular in terms of cost, supply and energy taxation – and warned that the pursuit of a ‘low-carbon economy’ should not be at the expense of the UK’s manufacturing industries.


£16.8 million pounds for broadband in cumbria

Rory has welcomed news of the government’s confirmation of £16.8 million pounds for broadband improvements in Cumbria. The news comes just hours before Rory will chair a Broadband Industry Day, where representatives of the world’s major telecom companies – including BT, Fujitsu, Cable & Wireless and Cisco – will visit Penrith to meet with local communities and discuss ways in which they can together solve the problem of poor broadband in rural areas. The local MP has declared it “a triumphant week for Cumbria’s broadband campaigners” and has paid tribute to the many supporters who have backed his year-long campaign to improve broadband in Cumbria.

Rory has been working since election in May 2010 to secure government money and industry support to improve broadband in rural Cumbria. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, described Rory Stewart in October as “instrumental’ in winning the broadband money for Cumbria”. He added: “I am delighted to be able to announce the support for Cumbria. I was particularly impressed by Rory Stewart’s approach and advocacy of broadband for Cumbria. He and the Cumbrian communities should be very proud of what they have achieved.”

Ed Vaizey, the Minister for Broadband also added his praise for Mr Stewart’s efforts on behalf of Cumbria during the recent debate in Oarliament on mobile coverage in rural areas. The Minister joked that Mr Stewart’s “relentless focus on mobile broadband is also severely disrupting my life.”

Rory said: “I’m incredibly pleased that the government finally confirmed, on 10th June, that it will put £16.8 million towards improving Cumbria’s broadband. When I went to see the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, in July last year to ask him for money for a broadband pilot in Cumbria, he told me that we were very unlikely to get any. But in October, the Chancellor announced that Cumbria would be a fourth national broadband pilot and promised us between £5 and £10 million. I’ve put in a year of work and held more than a hundred meetings to secure this money for Cumbria. I’m really delighted that the final sum is even more than we were originally promised. Our lobbying has paid off and it’s a real testament to the skill of Cumbria County Council and its excellent work in preparing the local broadband plan. Cumbria can now lead the way nationally in solving rural broadband problems. We will be taking the first steps in this direction on Friday July 8th when I’ll host an Industry Day at the Stoneybeck Inn near Penrith where the telecom companies, Cumbria CCC and local communities will meet to thrash out community broadband solutions. The spotlight continues to shine on our communities.”

Rory Speaks on Afghanistan


We are leaving, and that is a very difficult and painful fact. We are not leaving entirely, but we are leaving combat operations, as the Prime Minister has made clear. It is the correct decision, but it has troubling implications, because the underlying logic is that we will cease combat operations by the end of 2014 even if human rights are not established, even if al-Qaeda is not defeated and even if the Taliban are not defeated. Why is this difficult? It is difficult because the military, both in the United States and in the United Kingdom, fundamentally do not agree.

I have calculated that I have been in and out of Afghanistan 57 times since 2001, and consistently every general has said, “It’s been a tough situation but we have a new strategic plan requiring new resources, and this year will be the decisive year.” It was said in 2003 by General McNeill; General Barno said in 2004 said that that would be the decisive year; General Abizaid also said 2004 would be the decisive year; 2005 was described by General Richards, now Chief of the Defence Staff, as the crunch year for the Taliban; 2006 was described by General McNeill, returning, as the decisive year; 2007 was described by General McKiernan as the decisive year; at the end of 2008, General Stanley McChrystal said that they were knee-deep into the decisive year, and this was echoed by General Petraeus in 2009; our former Foreign Secretary described 2010 as the decisive year; and 2011 was described by Guido Westerwelle, the German Foreign Minister, as the decisive year.

Why is it difficult to challenge the military orthodoxy? It is difficult for real and moving reasons. It is difficult because we have lost a lot of people—we have lost a lot of lives and spent a lot of money; it is difficult because we have made promises to the Afghan people; and it is difficult because we have developed great fears about Afghanistan, fears about our own national security, fears about Pakistan and fears about our credibility and reputation in the world.

Therefore, when a politician meets a general with a row of medals on his chest, coming in and saying, “Just give me another two years”—exactly what General Petraeus is saying at the moment—“don’t drop the troop levels, and we can guarantee that we will reach a situation where the Taliban will never be able to come back,” it is very difficult to disagree.

Withdrawing is the most difficult thing. In Vietnam, and in Afghanistan for the Soviet Union, more troops were lost after the decision to withdraw than in the entire period leading up to the decision. By 1968, the United States had come out of an election determined to withdraw from Vietnam, and Henry Kissinger was obsessed, as we are now, with a political settlement with the enemy. He begged the North Vietnamese to give him the political terms that would allow him to withdraw with honour.

After Gorbachev made the decision to leave Afghanistan in 1986, more Soviet troops were committed to a surge and more Soviet troops were killed, because of the real problems of fear, credibility and loss. So the Prime Minister is absolutely right to set a firm date for withdrawal.

Let us hope that by the end of 2014 we have achieved the things that we are looking for. Let us hope—I, too, join in this hope—that the Taliban have been defeated, that al-Qaeda can never again come back, that human rights have been established, that the Afghan Government are credible, effective and legitimate, that the Afghan national army and police are able to look after themselves, and that there is no risk from Pakistan.

Let us hope. I fear that those things may not be achievable, but we need to have the courage to go ahead regardless at the end of 2014. We need to have the courage to say that we must leave at the end of 2014 regardless because—this is the very difficult thing to say—we no longer believe that we are likely to achieve those objectives. If we have not achieved those objectives by the end of 2014 and the general comes back, as the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) suggests, and says, “Just give me another two weeks,” or, “Just give me another two months, it’s all going to be fine,” in the end we have to say no.

Why do we not say no? We do not say no because it is horrible—because if I were to stand up in this House, for example, and say, “Afghanistan matters, but there are other countries that matter more,” that, “If we are worried about terrorism, Pakistan is more important,” and that, “If we are worried about regional stability, Egypt is more important,” there would immediately be a headline, perhaps in The Sun, declaring “MP says Afghanistan doesn’t matter.” A flag-draped coffin would be produced, and the mother of a veteran would step forward and say, “The suggestion is that they died in vain.”

I met the same situation last week, talking to Afghanistan veterans. A man sitting in the front row was missing both his legs, and somebody in the audience said, “Are you suggesting that we have made no progress? Have you not acknowledged what we have done in Helmand? Have you not seen that the bazaar is now open? Are you suggesting that people died in vain?” We have to learn to say that no single soldier dies in vain, regardless. The courage, commitment and honour of our soldiers is connected to their unit and their regiment, not to the fantasies of politicians. We must pay them every form of honour and respect, but we do not honour dead soldiers by piling more corpses on top of them.

To conclude, it is difficult for Britain to lead a withdrawal from Afghanistan. We need to make it something that acknowledges that Britain’s pride and reputation has never been connected with extreme ideological projects.

We are not a nation of crusades or great ideological wars, but a nation characterised by scepticism, pragmatism and deep country knowledge. If we get the withdrawal right, it will not go down in history as a symbol of ignorance or cowardice, but will represent our wisdom and our courage in sticking to the decision. There should be a realisation that our motto should be and must remain, “Passionate moderation”.

appleby heritage centre

Rory visited the Appleby Heritage Centre on Friday 1st July, where he met with staff and students at Eden’s sole provider of vocational education. Rory was impressed by the dedication of the staff and the centre’s various facilities, and chatted with students from local Appleby and Kirkby Stephen Grammar Schools who spoke of their satisfaction with the centre’s courses and training. He met with engineering, hair and beauty, and childcare students during his tour of the site.

Appleby Heritage Centre provides education and training courses for all ages, and runs a Young Engineer Programme aimed at young people with ambitions to enter the engineering industry. Its courses lead to NVQ, GNVQ and AVCS qualifications in a variety of subjects, including business, photography, welding and modern languages, and it also completes restoration contracts for external customers. The centre was established in 1996 to convert an old Midland Railways goods shed into a workshop for restoring heritage vehicles, providing local employment and training in traditional skills.

Rory said: “Appleby Heritage Centre is a truly unique project, a learning centre that has utilized the most extraordinary heritage space in a way that educates, employs and conserves: it is yet another local success story, and I know of no other similar place that exists. It has responded with flexibility, imagination and innovation to a changing world of education, and made sure that hands-on vocational training continues to feature strongly in young peoples’ lives – ensuring that ’non-viable’ courses that one can’t access at school continue to be accessible to those who need them. Once again I have been enormously impressed by the vision and dedication of all involved in this amazing place.“

co-operative pubs

Helping communities to set up and run co-operative pubs is key to saving rural pubs in Cumbria. This was the message from Rory at an event at the Old Crown co-operative pub in Hesket Newmarket on Saturday 2nd July, where the local MP met with publicans, community members, councillors and representatives of the Plunkett Foundation to discuss the issues facing rural pubs today.

Rory, speaking at the event, said: “Pubs are vital to rural communities; they are real community hubs – places where people can meet and interact. They really do provide the lifeblood of our rural towns and villages, and worryingly increasing numbers of communities across Cumbria are faced with losing their local pub. This event not only showed that existing co-operative pubs in Cumbria like the Old Crown and the Fox and Hounds at Ennerdale Bridge are incredibly successful, but that there is real demand within rural communities in Cumbria for help to set up co-operative pubs. The Butcher’s Arms in Crosby Ravensworth has successfully organised a community buy-out, with the help of those who have already done it. This exchange of information is vital. It’s important to let communities know that there is legitimacy and leverage in a local group owning and running their local pub. I wholeheartedly support any community wishing to do this.”

The event was organised by the Plunkett Foundation, an organisation that helps rural communities set up community-owned enterprises. Peter Couchman, Chief Executive of the Plunkett Foundation, said: “This event, held on International Co-operatives Day demonstrated that not only can communities forming co-operatives save local pubs, it can also be applied to a range of other challenges like saving village shops, broadband access and developing renewable energy. The Old Crown, the original co-operative pub was the perfect place to get discussions started and we look forward to seeing more communities set up co-operative pubs in the near future.”

Any community who would like to know more about setting up a co-operative can contact the Plunkett Foundation on 01993 810730 and [email protected] and it can provide help and advice and help find a specialist advisor in your local area.


how town and parish councils are delivering innovation

Rory last week hosted a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Local Democracy – of which he is the Chairman – on “How town and parish councils are delivering innovation”. He was joined by two Cumbrian representatives of the Eden Big Society vanguard, Libby Bateman of the Upper Eden Community and Barry Thompson of the Heart of Eden group, who both gave very well-received presentations to the assembled MPs on the Eden vanguard’s brilliant and innovative renewable energy, broadband and planning projects.

The meeting brought together participants from town and parish councils across England. The event was designed to give the groups the chance to showcase their work, exchange ideas, and plan for the future. The government is increasingly looking to parish and town councils to take on greater responsibilities. The Localism Bill will give local councils many new powers, including the right to take control of planning in their local area. The assembled parliamentarians heard how the work of Eden’s councils as part of the Big Society vanguard had inspired the government to act.

Rory said: “This was an important meeting that focussed on the work of town and parish councils in driving innovation in local service provision, bringing together a range of town and parish councils from around the county to explain how they have delivered innovation to serve the needs of their local communities. I was very proud to welcome some of our representatives from Eden, who discussed with members of the group how the powers that will be granted to local communities though the Localism Bill will affect the ways in which parish and town councils can meet the needs of their local area.”


eden youth

In the latest of a series of events involving Eden schools’ students, Rory  joined twenty students from schools across the constituency at the Eden Student Conference last Friday at the North Lakes Hotel. Rory chatted with students from Kirkby Stephen Grammar School, Appleby Grammar School, Samuel Kings School, Ullswater Community College and Queen Elizabeth Grammar School during the day-long event designed to encourage young people to think about how their views are represented, and how to make a difference in society.

Rory answered questions on the Big Society, the education system, cuts in public services, and Afghanistan, and commented: “Clearly these are students with real insight into current affairs, and a real interest in the world around them. I was enormously impressed by their insights, and felt that they were taking the event very seriously. Across all sectors of our society – from business, to local government – we need to be doing more to encourage young people to engage in politics and to have a say. This was a really worthwhile event that I was glad to support.”

The conference follows a meeting last month at which Rory introduced acclaimed journalist Simon Jenkins – a columnist at the Guardian newspaper and Chairman of the National Trust – to Eden journalism students, and participated in a conversation with students on writing. Rory Stewart has also been instrumental in backing a youth-run website in collaboration with Eden Youth Work Partnership, which will be working with local schools to create an online platform for young journalists, writers and performers.

Chris Grimes – Eden Area Secondary Headteachers’ Support Office – declared the event on Friday a success, saying: “The general agreement was that Rory’s contribution was one of the best parts of the day, with most students rating the section excellent.”





celebrating volunteers in eden

Rory was guest of honour at Cumbria CVS’ “Recognising and Celebrating Volunteers in Eden” event at St Andrew’s Parish Centre in Penrith on Friday 18th June. The celebration, sponsored by Eden District Council, marked Volunteers’ Week, part of a national campaign to raise the profile of the millions of volunteers who regularly contribute to society, often inspiring others to get involved. Charities and their volunteers from across Eden participated in the event, where they were presented with thank-you certificates and ‘Excellent Volunteers in Eden’ Star Awards by Rory and Leader of Eden District Council, Gordon Nicolson.

Attendees included Eden Rural Foyer, Eden Community Alarms, Eden Voluntary Society for the Blind, East Cumbria Family Support, Hospice at Home, Neighbourhood Watch, Eden Carers, and Wetheriggs Animal Rescue, amongst many others.

In his opening speech, the local MP thanked the many volunteers of Penrith and the Border for their hard work and dedication, and spoke about their impressive professionalism.

He said: “All the volunteers present here today – and the many, many more who are not, but who are out there working hard and supporting our community in a variety of ways – are true professionals. Their dedication, care and kindness are unparalleled, and the attention they bring to their work is an amazing thing. In Cumbria alone we have over 50,000 volunteers supporting registered charities, clocking up around 46,000 hours of volunteer work each week. These are extraordinary figures. Volunteering is beneficial on so many levels – of course to the volunteer themselves, and those they are supporting, but also to the very fabric of our society. We need to continue publicising their hard work, and encourage as many new volunteers as possible.”

Picture: Rory Stewart MP  and Gordon Nicolson, Leader of Eden District Council, celebrating with Eden volunteers.


carers week

Rory has been pressing for support for Carers in Westminster and Cumbria, and more investment in care technology to mark National Carers’ week. Last week he visited local care organisation Eden Country Care at Great Asby during the UK’s National Carers’ Week, to highlight the importance of carers. The local MP was joined by Miles Mandelson of Great Asby Broadband. Rory pressed in the meeting to make more use of Cumbria’s new broadband project to help carers in Eden.

He said: “Carers are such a vital, important part of our communities. There is so much potential to use new technology to improve care at home. I am hoping to encourage government and companies to make Cumbria the cutting edge in care.”

Rory also met with Eden Community Alarms to raise the issue of more broadband related telemedicine and telehealth.

Heather Tarney of Eden Country Care said: “We were very pleased to discuss these exciting possibilities with Rory Stewart.  We are enthusiastic about the idea of our carers assisting with this new technology that we feel could reduce the problems of rural isolation for people in need of medical attention.  This would be a natural extension to the role of our care workers and could provide vital information to medical staff at the same time saving time and money and possibly even saving lives in the future”.

Earlier in the week Rory also attended a speed networking event with unpaid carers at the House of Commons to discuss the challenges they face in other parts of Britain. At the event Rory had just minutes to discuss the differing experiences of a number of unpaid carers and to ask them what their lives were truly like. The discussion included ways in which carers’ lives could be improved, through better support, recognition, and advice. The local MP is especially keen to trial initiatives in tele-health that will overcome issues of sparsity and distance in the constituency.

He said: “Addressing issues of care provision in remote communities is a very important element of my campaign to improve broadband infrastructure in the community. Eden Country Care are very keen to embrace innovations in remote care, and I would love to support them. Carers, as well as doing such a wonderful job, save our public services a great deal of money; by using tele-care we can improve on these savings and create a service that is more efficient and effective in a rural area such as ours. I’m incredibly excited to be discussing these possibilities with both Eden Country Care and Great Asby Broadband, and hope to launch a mini-pilot in the area to see how this might work on the ground. It’s very fitting that we should celebrate Carers’ Week today with an organisation that is actively pursuing these opportunities.

Paul Matz, Carers Week Manager, said: “We were delighted to welcome Rory to this event, and thank him for his support for those in a caring role. The difficulties and challenges that carers often face need to be understood by everyone in Parliament. The enthusiasm and commitment of so many MPs is heartening – they can make the difference and be responsible for policies that can change the lives of carers and those they look after.”