Monthly Archives: April 2012

Rory Speaks on the Union


It seems a little dry to focus on Lords amendment 18 with reference to clause 37, but it is a central issue. It is not a dry issue at all. As my hon. Friends the Members for Carlisle (John Stevenson) and for Milton Keynes South (Iain Stewart) pointed out, this is central to two issues that define the Union. The first is the issue of borrowing and finance, and the second is that of what my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle called the issue of transparency. These two principles of borrowing and transparency—borrowing defined in clause 37 and transparency in Lords amendment 18—show why the Union matters. Transparency matters because an enormous amount of the pressure for separation from Scots, and from some English people, comes from suspicion—suspicion about money. Borrowing matters because borrowing shows why the Union can operate well.

The shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Glasgow North East (Mr Bain), pointed out three things which the clause delivers. It delivers, first, decentralisation. An important part of decentralisation is fiscal responsibility. It delivers, secondly, a lever for growth, but the third and most important thing that it delivers is macroeconomic stability within the context of the United Kingdom. This is central because the biggest argument for the Union, the thing that underlies the dry language of the Bill, is why being part of a bigger country matters—why, to put it in the most brutal terms, we do not want to be Denmark.

Why is it that our ancestors got on their Viking boats, left Denmark and came here? The answer is, of course, that there are benefits in size. There are benefits to having an economy 12 times the size of Denmark’s. There are benefits to having a population 12 times the size of Denmark’s, with the corresponding borrowing and fiscal responsibility. That perfect balance enshrined in clause 37 and revealed in amendment 18 is the balance that comes from the benefits of autonomy combined with the benefits of size.

Stewart Hosie (Dundee East) (SNP): I am desperately looking forward to the hon. Gentleman explaining when a Viking decided to leave Denmark to come and be part of the British state. I like the hon. Gentleman, but I think his history is rather askew.

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. Actually, I would not like the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) to explain that in the context of these amendments, and I am sure he is coming back to what is relevant to them.

Rory Stewart: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am happy for us to discuss Scottish history later.

We are discussing transparency, which is exactly what Lords amendment 18 relates to—explaining to this Parliament, to the Scottish Parliament, to the British people and to the Scottish people what we are doing with their money. Transparency is crucial because money is at the heart of this. On the one hand, the Scottish National party uses money to fight for separation through fantasies about oil. On the other hand, English nationalists, who are equally to blame for what is happening to the United Kingdom, focus on money to attack Scotland. This is the wrong thing to do.

Lords amendment 18 matters because it should, we hope, put those arguments aside. There are those who imagine that we are going to wreck the United Kingdom because we are worried about free eye tests, prescription charges or tuition fees. For goodness’ sake, let us, in line with Lords amendment 18, see the money. What we will see is that we are spending every year in transfer payments to Scotland half of what we are spending on the war in Afghanistan, if we include the debt and veterans costs. The reason why we need to move beyond this is that the kind of borrowing enshrined in the clause and amended in Lords amendment 18 is the borrowing that made us great together.

The very economics that underlie that notion of borrowing came south from Edinburgh with Adam Smith and the enlightenment. The very same borrowing on the basis of the United Kingdom meant that Scots and English were able to fight together at Waterloo and win. The very borrowing enshrined in clause 37 is what allowed us to create the national health service together. The very borrowing enshrined in clause 37 and amended and made transparent in Lords amendment 18 is what allows us to flourish today. I urge the House to vote for Lords amendment 18 because it enshrines the principle of togetherness.

Mr Frank Roy (Motherwell and Wishaw) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman spoke of a possible history debate with the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie). We invite the hon. Member for Penrith and The Border (Rory Stewart) to come to the Floor of the House, because I am sure that the debate is one that the whole House would like to hear, and no doubt we know who the winner would be.

Rory Stewart: I thank the hon. Gentleman very much indeed.
Having been a little rhetorical, I will return to the measures set out in the new clause proposed in Lords amendment 18. I congratulate the example set by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Milton Keynes South in the moderation of his tone. The conduct of the Ministers in this regard, which has been praised by the hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie)—he is now leaving the Chamber to research in his history books—shows exemplary co-operation and is an example of why the United Kingdom Parliament works so well. The moderate voices of the hon. Member for Milton Keynes South and the shadow Minister show that separation is unnecessary. The correct praise for the Scottish National party for its successes shows the successes of autonomy, not of separation and independence. If we can get the principles of transparency correct and the exact details of Lords amendment 18, the sinews of the Union, the point-by-point, sometimes dry legislative amendments that allow us to work together and avoid what the Scottish National party wishes to push us into—a black-and-white solution of either fatal inertness or still more terrible activity—we will instead, through a voice of passionate moderation and amendments of this sort, keep together the Union that made us great and will make us greater still.


Rory launches new broadband technology application for Cumbria’s farmers


As part of his campaign to give Cumbria the best broadband and mobile coverage in rural Europe Rory  in association with cloud-computing company FarmWizard and their on-farm partner Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC UK), on Friday 20 April 2012 launched FarmWizard’s new Smartphone/tablet web application for livestock farm management at an event held at Cumbrian dairy producer Robert Craig’s Ainstable dairy farm. This is the latest in a series of pilots that Rory is hosting in Penrith and the Border, to showcase the best international technology opportunities to Cumbrians.


The brand new app for Android, i-Phone, Blackberry and a range of tablet computers will allow livestock farmers to access animal information directly onto their phones without the need to access a computer. Events such as medical treatments, calvings and other breeding events can be recorded using a handset and then synchronised with the main FarmWizard website, automatically updating a livestock movement book, BCMS and if needed Holstein UK and either NMR or CIS milk records. The new web app’s offline accessibility allows for information to be accessed and recorded without a data connection, which can then be synchronised when within 3G or wi-fi coverage.


Commenting at the launch Rory said: “Given our major investments in broadband and mobile infrastructure, we need now to illustrate why this is so important, and how constituents can best make use of these advances. In the case of our farming community – where farmers are already required to tag and trace their stock – we can see directly how better broadband and mobile infrastructure can improve farm management techniques, thanks to applications such as this one. This, in turn, can only be a boon to our rural economy, and helps make farming more attractive to younger and perhaps more tech-savvy farmers, too. I’m delighted that FarmWizard and LIC chose to pilot this in my constituency. Now that most livestock farmers have smartphones this new web app from FarmWizard means that they can access vital livestock information wherever and whenever they need it. In real terms this means that livestock farmers will save time maintaining records and be able to use the data on the smartphone to make instant business decisions ‘on farm’.”


Terry Canning, FarmWizard founder, said: “FarmWizard are proud to be the first management solution available in Europe that can allow a livestock farmer to completely manage their herd using Smartphone technology on a cloud computing platform. We were impressed with Rory’s pro-active approach in helping his farming constituents and thought that Penrith would be a great location to launch this new technology.”


Get involved with Village SOS and bid for funds, says Rory

Ahead of a second round of funding becoming available, Rory is calling on Penrith and the Border’s constituents to get involved with the Village SOS initiative, a joint programme between the BBC and the Big Lottery Fund, which is funding rural villages and small towns to start community businesses that have the potential to breathe new life into their areas and create jobs.

Village SOS is looking to award grants of between £10,000-£50,000 for enterprising community projects, and any community with less than 3,000 residents is invited to apply. Applications from voluntary and community groups or organisations such as charities, village committees, associations, trusts, co-operatives or social enterprises are welcome, as well as from parish, town or community councils, where it can be evidenced that local residents have clearly shaped the project. This second round of funding precedes the Village SOS Roadshow that will provide information, inspiration and advice to rural communities. Starting in Dunfermline, Scotland the roadshow will then visit 10 other locations in England and Wales. Experts will be on hand to help people in rural areas to start their community enterprises.

Rory said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for any village or small town in the constituency to bid for a tranche of very welcome funding. It’s an initiative that is extremely relevant to our constituency. If your village has an interesting idea for a community enterprise, and has fewer than 3,000 people living in it, please do consider applying to become a member village. Let’s continue to put Cumbria on the map for its extraordinary volunteers and community enterprise. I will of course be happy to personally support any community initiative that is eligible for the Village SOS Competition.”

For more information about the Village SOS application process please visit

Rural areas are vanguards for society



In a parliamentary debate on 17 April, Rory Stewart MP called on the government to recognise rural communities as drivers of economic growth and vanguards for a high quality of life in the 21st century.


Rory pressed the government to give rural communities freedom not money. He said that First Responders should be given discretion to treat children. He called for a VAT rebate for the Air Ambulance. And he urged government to understand what communities can do for themselves.


Above all, Rory called for more infrastructure investment in rural communities, in particular on broadband and mobile provision.


Richard Benyon, Minister for the Natural Environment, responded with praise for the “wonderful work” of rural communities in Penrith and the Border to roll out broadband.


Rory said: “We should see rural communities not as victims but as the vanguards of Britain; as miraculous places that produce things that other parts of the country do not. We can provide an image for the 21st century on how to live in rural areas, and we no longer need to present ourselves as victims.”


He added: “We have real needs in rural communities but we cannot simply demand more and more money for fear that we begin to be seen as a charity case, dividing the countryside from the towns and the cities. We need broadband and mobile infrastructure and we need the community to be given freedom and responsibility. Then we can be an example for the 21st century.”



Rory with young people at Penrith's Devonshire Arcade

Rory welcomes national charity ‘Somewhereto_’ to Penrith’s Devonshire Arcade

Rory paid a visit to Penrith’s Devonshire Arcade, where national organisation ‘somewhereto_’ – a youth charity launched in association with the London 2012 Games and Channel 4 Education – had taken over the historic retail space in order to provide an environment for young people aged 16 – 25 to fulfil their creative ambitions doing the things they love within the fields of arts, culture and sports. Rory joined a group of young constituents involved in the performing arts, and chatted with them as they rehearsed in the town centre space.

‘somewhereto_’ has been opening up spaces within busy town centres nationally following their first successful venture in Blackburn Town Centre last year, and has been working closely with local organisations, partners and agencies within the Carlisle and Penrith area prior to taking over the empty retail units in the Devonshire Arcade.

Rory said: “It was a real pleasure to visit this project and welcome somewhereto_ to Penrith. It is such a simple yet effective idea to occupy an unused town centre hub as a space for young people to express themselves creatively, bringing them into the heart of their local community and giving them space and freedom. I would love to see more projects like this in our town centres, and hope that this is a precursor to other, similar, initiatives that open up much needed resources and inspire young people at the same time.”

Rob Howell of somewhereto_ said: “We’ve worked in partnership with Eden Arts and the management company for the Devonshire Arcade on this event. The Carlisle Youth Zone have been really active as has CLIP.  We’ve also been working Sound Bites Music Store in Penrith. We are delighted to have Rory’s support, and to know that he is committed to improving opportunities for his young constituents in an imaginative way.”


Rory at Carlisle Youth Zone

Rory visits Carlisle Youth Zone’s new improved site


Rory paid a visit to the Carlisle Youth Zone on Saturday 14 April to meet some of the young people involved in the Youth Zone’s Inclusion Project, and for a quick tour of the facilities the Zone provides for young people aged between 8 and 21, and up to the age of 25 for those with physical and/or learning disabilities.


The visit was the first by the local MP, and involved a tour of the centre’s new state-of-the-art facilities following its £5 million pound refurbishment. Following his tour, he participated in a lively question-and-answer session with some of young people attending. Bradley Lewis from Carlisle asked him a number of questions, including whether Rory wanted to become Prime Minister one day.


Rory Stewart said: “Carlisle Youth Zone are doing a fantastic job redefining our traditional views of the youth club as a place for young people to congregate, interact, and develop, and are clearly making the most of their new and improved facilities. However, as another Cumbrian charity entirely supported by voluntary donations and support, they continue to rely on the goodwill of others, and I am grateful for the opportunity to help raise awareness of the excellent work they do for young people, and encourage anyone with an interest to get involved and do their bit to keep this project going and help it go from strength to strength.“


Colin Powell, Carlisle Youth Zone’s Business Development Manager said: “Rory was enormously interested in the work the Youth Zone does with Young People.  He asked lots of questions and was very impressed with our mentoring programme which starts later this month. He was also concerned about how we overcame the fundraising challenge and asked if people appreciated that the Zone was a charity and entirely dependent on their support. We’re grateful for the support he has shown, and look forward to his next visit.”


 Rory at Carlisle Youth Zone

Rory Stewart with Adrian Quine and broadband activists

Rory launches British Online Retailing Association

A committed broadband activist, Rory on Saturday 14 April launched the UK’s first national trade association specifically for online businesses – BritORA (British Online Retailing Association) – alongside local business owners, Cumbria’s High Sheriff Iona Frost-Pennington, Graham Jeal of the NFU, East Cumbria Community Broadband Forum (ECCBF) representative Libby Bateman, and Bill Murphy of national telecomms company BT.

The event, held at Low House near Armathwaite, aimed also to raise awareness of the importance of online retailing to Cumbrian businesses; the organisation, which will have its headquarters in Lazonby in the Eden Valley, aims to look after the specific interests of small to medium sized enterprises who have, or wish to develop, an online presence. BritORA’s vision is to build the most influential community of successful online businesses in the UK – engaging with local enterprise, helping them to grow, developing best practices and providing a network  of support for each other. Members of BritORA will have access to free legal advice, full business and legal, tax and VAT insurance protection.  Membership will be priced at an introductory rate of £89.

Local MP Rory Stewart said: “Online business is booming, and BritORA’s aim – to meet the needs of online retailers who would benefit from a better support structure – is an admirable one. This is an excellent initiative, which will champion the growth of online business in Cumbria and indeed other rural areas just like it. This is good for the local economy, the wider rural economy, and indeed the national economy. Micro-businesses are the future of our economic revival, and here in Cumbria we continually break records that highlight our success at running small enterprises.”

BritORA’s co-founding Director Adrian Quine said: “Online sales grew 14% in 2011 against 3.65% growth in the retail sector as a whole.  Research shows that internet businesses are set to see double digit growth in 2012. The internet plays an increasingly important part in all our lives and is now an essential business tool. This is why BritORA is calling upon political and civic leaders to publicly pledge their support for better broadband not just here in Cumbria but across the whole of the UK.”


Rory Stewart with Adrian Quine and broadband activists


Rory Stewart MP with (left to right): Graham Jeal (NFU), Maria Whitehead MBE (Hawkshead Relish), Libby Bateman, Rory Stewart MP, Adrian Quine (BritORA) and Bill Murphy (BT)



Rory backs Cain campaign to reopen How Mill Station

Rory showed his support for the local Conservative candidate for Carlisle City Council’s Hayton ward, Harry Cain, on Saturday at a campaigning event to reopen the How Mill station near Brampton on the Newcastle – Carlisle mainline.

The station, which has been closed since 1959 (just four years prior to the ‘Beeching Axe’ scheme, the informal name given to the Government’s attempts to reduce national railway running costs in the ‘60s) is located south-west of Brampton, and locals are keen to see the station re-open as a means of accessing Carlisle more cost-effectively – the workplace for many of Brampton’s residents. Local district election candidate Harry Cain is pledging to voters that he will actively pursue its reopening – with the direct support of Rory Stewart – as a central pillar of his election campaign.

During the course of its life the historic railway station has, variously, housed a livestock auction, a coal merchant, a Post Office (in the ticket office), and was the supplier of local mail and newspapers.

Rory joined local residents for the campaign event, commenting: “How Mill station was – and has the potential to be again – a great example of a rural service that fulfilled many roles: not only was it of major importance as a rural transport hub, it doubled as a livestock mart and transportation point, and was a focal point for the village. I absolutely back Harry Cain’s campaign to re-open the station, and see this as a great opportunity for communities in helping them to overcome the challenges of fluctuating fuel costs and a rise in the cost of living rurally.“

Carlisle City Council candidate for the Hayton ward, Harry Cain said: “Rory’s visit was positive and went very well. He impressed all those who turned out to see him. We have now formally launched a petition to support the re-opening of How Mill Station, and our MP’s support is invaluable.”

Picture attached.



Local MP welcomes launch of National Careers Service


Rory has welcomed news of the Government’s launch of the National Careers Service, a major new service that will ensure accurate information and professional advice is available to all interested in learning and subsequent employment. The service will be accessible online, by telephone, and via webchat, and for adults aged over 19 there will be face-to-face sessions available in local community locations such as village halls, community centres, libraries and FE colleges. It is estimated that the service will be able to handle 1 million helpline calls from adults and 370,000 from young people, and 20 million hits on its website. It will also be able to give 700,000 people face-to-face advice each year. Information will be available on apprenticeships, and the Government’s flagship training programme allowing you to earn whilst you train; courses offered by Further Education colleges; Higher Education programmes of study; funding for learning, including grants, loans and other awards; and learning available with private training providers.

Commenting on the new scheme Rory said:  “High quality careers advice services should be readily available to all: often there is much confusion surrounding what is available, especially in the field of training and apprenticeships, and so I very much welcome this move from the Minister, and in particular applaud his understanding of the obstacles to accessing information that are common in rural areas. This will be recognised by the locating of information services in pre-existing local venues, such as town halls and community centres, which will also benefit our local communities by increasing traffic through these important meeting places.”

Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Training, John Hayes, commented: “I want the new service to take advice and guidance out across the country, so that it is visible and available in as many places as possible – from inner cities, to rural villages.”

For more information about the National Careers Service, go to


The Acquisition of Knowledge

Things are becoming slicker and more professional, but also, at times, more second-rate. Businesses and governments boast of their new professional management. But poor documentaries are coming from good TV companies, dangerous drilling decisions from major oil companies, idiotic investments from leading development agencies. There are bad planning decisions in market towns, bad environmental policies for farms, counter-productive decisions in public health. And it is difficult not to feel that these positives and negatives are related.

In the BBC, the NHS, the police and the Foreign Office, the number of managers has ballooned over the last fifteen years. This happened because, often with good reason, we lost confidence in the old way of running things. The old system included elitism, waste, inflexibility, and terrible policies. Many old directors were poor colleagues, bad administrators, and intimidating for clients or staff. Accountancy and personnel processes have now become tighter. And we have (to express it in the new jargon) more consistency in policies, more diversity in staffing, more transparency, clearer benchmarks, more staff satisfaction, more accessible public-facing programs.

Yet, all of us still witness the shoddiest policies and projects. And this is, I suspect, because the new idea of management, despite all its merit, has displaced a respect for a certain kind of knowledge. The things for which people are now selected, the qualities for which they are praised, the criteria on which they are promoted, are not related to deep or long experience. They are instead almost exclusively about “core competencies” in management. Boards in the civil service, for example, are now prohibited from taking anything except “core competencies” into account when making a promotion decision.

All the institutions continue – often sincerely – to believe that none of this is at the expense of knowledge. They point out that there is no logical reason why one shouldn’t be a good manager and deeply knowledgeable. And indeed in theory that is true. But in practice the new emphasis is changing an entire culture, very quickly. Younger entrants take the hint from the promotion boards, steer away from jobs on the ground, and push to get into management as soon as possible. They have less time, opportunity, and incentive to develop deep knowledge. And when they are promoted they have less understanding of its importance, or respect for those that do.

Within living memory, you could find many curators in the Tate gallery, who knew everything about Stubbs; people who knew each storm-drain and river bank in their part of Cumbria; diplomats who spoke fluent classical Arabic; BBC sound crews, who had worked in fifty countries; BP engineers, who understood the dangers of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico; and foreign correspondents, who had spent years reporting abroad. These people had learnt through concrete examples. They had discovered through direct experience, that that the world is difficult to describe, and easily misunderstood. They had become wary of abstract theories, and of reality reduced to numbers. But all these people now sense that their skills were no longer rewarded. As they lose power and status, so they lose the chance to defend, or justify the importance of their knowledge. Under our new management culture, there are fewer old Tate curators, traditional Cumbrian road-crews, Arabists, soundmen, engineers, or foreign correspondents. Those that survive are often treated as ‘dead wood’. And the institutions of knowledge connected with them, have also withered: libraries, and archives sold off, training and research establishments closed, older staff replaced with consultants and contractors.

Today, instead of deferring to long practical experience, and deep knowledge of a particular place, managers prefer to implement ‘best practice’ from somewhere else; they impose theoretical models with less and less understanding of what does not work on the ground; and they justify decisions with abstract metrics, and obscure concepts. And as more and more positions are filled with people with this mentality, there are fewer people, with the confidence, or seniority, to expose the shallowness of this approach. Our culture is beginning to forget what deep knowledge and contact with the ground looked like, or why it mattered.

The solution must be to give power back to people with deep knowledge. But it won’t happen through running training courses. You need to force institutions to change their promotion criteria, and put those with knowledge, judgement and experience back at the very top. Some of them might not be ideal managers: they might be less popular with staff, unappealing to stake-holders, more difficult to work with. But they can offer things we have forgotten how to measure: not just long experience, but rigour, a sense of vocation, and unexpected frames of reference. They might have prevented some of our recent mistakes. They could certainly bring more flexible and inventive ways of engaging with the world. And we cannot afford to continue to ignore them.