Monthly Archives: January 2013

rory advocates greater outdoors education in penrith and the borders


Rory on Saturday attended the launch event at Penrith’s Go Outdoors centre for a new adventure learning organisation which will help young people complete their Duke of Edinburgh awards.

ACActive, in conjunction with Cumbria Youth Alliance, has set up an open award centre which aims to ensure that any young person who would like the opportunity to complete their DofE awards – bronze, silver and gold – can do so without the need to first join an affiliated school or organisation. It is the first time that this has been made possible in the north-west. ACActive will also provide young people with the support and guidance they need to successfully complete all aspects of the course.

Speaking at the launch event at Penrith’s Go Outdoors centre, Rory said: “Duke of Edinburgh awards are highly-valued by education establishments and employers alike, as well as offering a fantastic opportunity for young people in Cumbria to connect with our incredible outdoor landscape and our communities. It’s great to see an organisation like ACActive encouraging more young people to take an interest in these awards and providing the platform and support they need to see the course through. Given the energy and dynamism I find time and again throughout Cumbria, I have no doubt it will do very well.”

The launch event coincides with Rory Stewart’s recent efforts to investigate the possibility of setting up a  satellite centre for the National Mountain Centre in Newton Rigg. Currently, certain advanced outdoor activities qualifications are only obtainable in Plas Y Brenin, North Wales, and the local
MP – keen to strengthen Cumbria as a focal point for the outdoor activities industry – has already tabled a question in Parliament asking for Government support on the proposition.

Rory said: “The outdoor activities industry will continue to form an increasingly large proportion of the Cumbrian economy. It is absolutely essential that we are doing all we can to ensure Cumbria is as well equipped as possible to profit from an ever-growing interest in pastimes like mountain biking, kayaking and rock climbing. There is no reason why Cumbria cannot be a world leader in this industry and I intend to continue fighting for that.”

For anyone keen to learn more about ACActive, details can be found on

rory congratulates lazonby pool on £5,000 health trust grant

Rory has welcomed news that Lazonby and District Swimming Pool will receive a £5,000 grant from the People’s Health Trust to encourage currently under-represented groups to make better use of the pool’s facilities.

The Lazonby village pool is one of a number of community outdoor pools throughout Eden, alongside pools at Askham, Greystoke, Hunsonby and Shap. The £5,000 grant will help the Lazonby pool to fund improved opportunities to swim, take lessons, play water polo and train to be a ifeguard.  Particular focus will be put on encouraging 12-18 years old and the over 65s to use the pool during the Summer months.

Rory said: “I’m a huge supporter of our community pools, which add to our villages’ many attractions, and this is great news for a well-loved local amenity. At a time when many of our rural communities are struggling to keep local services open, grants like this can provide a lifeline, ensuring these communities remain vibrant and attractive places to live and visit for future generations. Lazonby pool is a fantastic place, and it would be great if this funding allowed it to
attract even more swimmers.”

Strength in Unity

On Tuesday, the chamber was a quarter-full. The journalists were in the coffee-shops, gathering gossip on the Prime Minister’s forthcoming speech on Europe. And the television was investigating horsemeat in hamburgers. No-one it seems was listening to the debate in the main chamber. But the subject –a referendum for Scottish independence – was the most important political decision of our generation. The reason, I think, why no-one was listening is that they either believed independence was inconceivable, or that it was irrelevant. They were complacent or indifferent. And this suits the Scottish Nationalists. They like the fact that they are hungry and determined, and the other side is not. And they want the public to feel that it doesn’t really matter –  that nothing would really change –  that Scotland would get an independent parliament, but Scotland and England would remain just as close as they were before. The idea that nothing will change can be attractive in Cumbria where 10,000 people in the census said they were Scots, and where more than half the calls from Carlisle go North of the border.

But in fact, there is a good chance that Scotland will go independent in 2014. And if it does, our world will change profoundly. Borders – as we in Cumbria know more than anyone – are random and artificial lines, drawn along half-filled ditches, through forestry plantations, and rivers. But when they represent political divisions – two entirely separate parliaments and states – borders are stark and even dangerous.

The reason that the old Cumbria and Northumbria – in the middleland which stretched from Glasgow to the Tees – are no longer independent nations, is that we no longer have political borders, separate kings or parliament. The reason that the French and French-Swiss are separate people is because they have separate states. Britain has grown very quickly apart from the Commonwealth since we ceased to have common political institutions. And we see it in Scotland itself. The reason that the Norse, Irish Gaels, Picts, Cumbrian-Britons, and Angles, who occupied Scotland, became Scots, is precisely because they had no internal borders: they had one King, one state, one parliament. They called it the Community of the Realm. So why do the press and public so far seem unmoved? In the past, the stakes were more obvious: the border was the source of the worst horror that Britain has experienced. And Cumbria was the epicentre. The Border Reivers for three hundred years dominated a land of murder. Cumbria lacks a single unfortified house built before 1603 – because it was not safe. The Border then created a proxy war of exactly the sort we see in Afghanistan or the Congo, where tribes were simply paid by the English and the Scots to loot and destabilise the neighbouring Kingdom. The conflict vanished overnight, when James VI unified the two kingdoms, and abolished the border. But those times have passed: creating a modern border will not now lead to war.

Nor will it lead to state collapse. Both Scotland and England are well-established, stable nations with an educated population and world-class businesses. There would be economic costs – from readjustment, and uncertainty in the markets. But thereafter the long-term future would depend on the energy and the confidence of the individual citizens, their businesses, and governments. Each could find new terms, on which to flourish. Each would, of course, adjust and survive.  It wouldn’t mean war, or anarchy. But it would be a tragedy; it would break our common – British – civilization, and tear a hole in our identity. Our common parliament is the glue: it is a formal process to compel consideration. Of course, the SNP are right, there is no logical reason why English parliamentarians representing English constituencies in an independent English parliament could not think carefully about the implications for Scotland before pushing for the abolition of agricultural subsidies; no logical reason why an independent Scottish parliament could not take very seriously English nuclear interests before banning their submarines. But it would rely simply on the generosity of unconnected individuals. A parliament forces consideration – it forces England and Scotland to learn about each other, negotiate with each other, adjust to each other and thrive alongside each other, day in and day out. MPs from both sides of the border debate and vote on legislation together, there are Scots and English on every parliamentary committee, they consider weekly how a particular department effects their nation, and both nationals serve as Ministers.

This brings Britain a broader range of talent. Gladstone was a Scot. Macmillan was a crofter’s grandson. It brings us ideas: the Scots did not just give us modern economics, they also shaped the NHS. It brings richness of culture: our strengths move round the island over time  – in 1810 Scottish novels were better than English, in 1910 it was the other way round. In the 18th century, English art was better, today the Glasgow School of Art is the best on the island. But all this excellence remains within a single country. We have a hundred shared institutions, underpinned by a common state and parliament. And without these things, mutual consideration would depend only on the whim of individuals: we would begin to drift very rapidly apart.

The English or Scottish on our own can be pretty unbearable – but together we not only compensate for each others flaws, we in fact make each other better. We are a magical, mesmerising combination. Which is why, as I managed to squeeze in before the deputy speaker made me sit down, if an Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishmen are a joke, then an Englishman and a Scotsman on their own would be a tragedy.

broadband activist rory welcomes breakthrough in landowner wayleave agreement

Broadband campaigning Rory has this week welcomed a package
of wayleave agreements which will help to make the roll-out of rural
broadband infrastructure both easier and more cost effective.

The deal, brokered by the National Farmers Union and the Country Land
and Business Association, will reduce the cost and time taken in
negotiating individual land access agreements between local landowners
and telecommunication companies installing infrastructure for
community rural broadband networks. The CLA and NFU proposal suggests
payment rates or agreements that landowners can enter into with
companies, which could include the decision to waive payment in return
for their own high-speed broadband connection to the network. It is
hoped that this agreement will provide certainty to communications
providers while still ensuring landowners receive an appropriate level
of compensation.

Rory said: “Any decision which will ease the provision of
high-speed broadband to our most remote and rural communities is very
welcome news. Broadband remains the single greatest contribution to
our economy, growth, or services we can make. Cumbrian communities
regularly find themselves ahead of the curve, and the Fell End
community has already shown that community engagement in the roll out
of local broadband infrastructure can encourage local landowners to
waive charges where there is a clear community benefit at stake. I’m
delighted with this work of the NFU and CLA, which should make it much
easier to replicate the Fell End model in other rural communities,
allowing for broadband roll out in circumstances where communication
companies may otherwise have concluded it was an unaffordable

rory takes his case for small cumbrian charities to westminster

Rory raised the need to support contracts for small Cumbrian charities yesterday in a Westminster Hall debate on Local Government Procurement. He was emphasising the difficulties which small local charities face in competing with larger national providers in complex tendering processes at a County Council level.

The debate built on Rory’s ongoing work with Carolyn Otley and her colleagues at Cumbria CVS and the Cumbria Third Sector Network in pressing Cumbria County Council to make its tendering procedures for charities more equitable and conscious of the great value of local knowledge and experience. It follows a meeting that Rory convened with a range of smaller Cumbrian charities and housing organisations to discuss their experiences, attended by Cumbria County Council. The meeting was instrumental in opening up debate about this important issue, and has led to a contracting review. Rory took the opportunity yesterday in parliament to ask the Minister responsible, what local authorities can do to help county councils recognise the value of local expertise. He cited Eden Mencap, and Eden Carers as examples of smaller charities, which could be disadvantaged by large national charities.

Rory said: “It was great to have an opportunity to raise this issue with the Minister in parliament. For some time now Cumbria CVS, following on from our original meeting in 2011, have been working hard with Cumbria County Council to improve the tendering environment for our charities, ensuring that smaller organisations are not squeezed out of the process by larger anonymous charities who, critically, have no local knowledge, connections, or expertise. How can we best serve those in need in our communities when we don’t understand their unique needs? The process currently needs to be simplified, whilst providing longer timescales for smaller groups to be able to work on applications, and for local knowledge and expertise to be rewarded in the process and recognised as an incredibly important criteria.”

rory convenes housing event for constituency parish

Rory has this week extended an invitation to all parish councils within his constituency to attend an event to be held in Crosby Ravensworth next month showcasing the community’s successful affordable housing scheme, offering other Cumbrian parish councils and community groups the chance to learn about the process through which Crosby Ravensworth’s residents developed an affordable housing solution that was in keeping with the village’s aims.

It is hoped that the event will encourage other local communities to consider their own affordable housing projects, replicating the Crosby Ravensworth model. Drawing on the extensive knowledge and experience of individuals like David Graham, Chair of the Lyvennet Community Trust, and Andy Lloyd , the CLT officer for Cumbria Rural Housing Trust, local community representatives will have access to the expert advice and guidance needed to make any new project as manageable and attainable as possible.

Rory said: “With so many individuals and families unable to afford the cost of housing in the area in which they live, work and have grown up, providing sufficient affordable housing that is proportionate with the size and nature of our communities, is perhaps one of the biggest challenges we face. What is so brilliant about the Crosby Ravensworth model is that it shows how our rural communities can address and resolve the problem themselves.

Embarking on an affordable housing project is an understandably daunting experience. An event like this offers the perfect opportunity to learn from individuals who are already familiar with the process; who know the pitfalls to avoid and the shortcuts to take to create a successful, community-led and community inspired affordable housing scheme.”

If you are keen to get involved in local, affordable housing projects within your community or you would like to attend the Crosby Ravensworth event on February 8th, please get in touch with Rory, either by emailing him at [email protected], or by contacting his constituency office on 01768 484 114.

Rory Speaks on the Scottish Independence Referndum


I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and my colleagues for allowing me to contribute to the debate. I feel that it is very difficult for someone who represents an English constituency to speak about this subject.

I want briefly to discuss three questions. First, should there be a referendum at all? Secondly, what are the criteria on which we should determine whether there should be a referendum? Thirdly—this takes up a point raised in the powerful speech of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West (Mr Darling)—why do we need more investment in information, and, in particular, the spending of more money on media debates?

The question of whether there should be a referendum is a very big issue. Traditionally, we have not had proper procedures for constitutional change in Britain. The reason this question is so important is that it matters not just in relation to Scotland, but in relation to every constitutional change introduced in this country. Britain is the only advanced democracy left in the world—in fact, almost the only country left in the world—that does not formally distinguish between constitutional law and normal law, and tries to introduce constitutional change by means of simple majorities in Parliament. That cannot be right. Every other country recognises that the constitution exists to protect the people from the Parliament: to protect them from us. We cannot, with shifting single majorities, set about changing the thing that protects the people, which is why every country from America to Italy to Greece to Spain demands super-majorities, constitutional assemblies or referenda.

The answer to the second question—why should we have a referendum about this issue?—is also extremely important, and it too relates to what was said by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West. It involves the very difficult issue of how political institutions such as this Parliament—this building—can define an entire identity. A serious problem with some of the arguments advanced by supporters of the Scottish National party is the way in which they have tried to trivialise the issue. They have tried to suggest that it does not really matter, and that it is possible to get rid of a single Parliament without anything really changing. My constituents are often told that nothing will change, although 12,000 of them registered as Scots in the census and more than 50% of telephone calls made from Carlisle are made to people in Scotland.

In fact, everything we know from every country in the world suggests that the fundamental, defining feature of identity is a political institution. Much more than ethnicity, much more than culture, political institutions keep people together, which is why we must have a referendum.

How do we know that? Well, I know it from my own constituency, because Cumbria was itself a nation. It was a kingdom. For 700 years, Cumbria and Northumbria ruled the kingdom that stretched from Edinburgh in the north to Sheffield in the south. Why does Cumbria not have an identity that crosses the border today? Because it is no longer a political entity. It no longer has a Parliament, and it no longer has a king. Why are French people in France different from French people in Switzerland? For one reason only: their Parliaments split. Why has Britain grown apart from the Commonwealth countries to which it was so close 50 or 60 years ago? Because the political institutions split.

Scotland itself is another example. Why is it a nation? That is a difficult question to answer. Scotland has had Norwegians in the north, Welsh Celts around Strathclyde, Irish sea raiders, and Anglians coming into Lothian. The one thing that holds it together is the community of the realm. It is the political institution that creates the nation. We in Cumbria know why that matters in Britain. Cumbria was a centre point of horror because two Parliaments and two kingdoms split apart. That border created the monstrosity.

That leads me to the question of why more money needs to be invested in the campaign, and why we need more media investigation. The answer is that the issue of political institutions and Parliaments is difficult, and perhaps even boring. It is not stuff that gets people excited. People voting in a referendum will find it hard to follow all the issues without an enormous amount of information. The Scottish National party is, of course, right to say that some of the prophets of doom who suggest that independence will lead to the end of the world are wrong. Independence will not lead to the end of the world, and that is why information matters.

Independence will not cause the war between England and Scotland to start again. Those days of savagery, murder, pillage and rape—what we saw in Cumbria for 400 years—will not return, because the world has changed. Nor will Scotland or England become a failed state. Scotland and England are extremely advanced, educated countries, each with its world-class businesses, and although both may undergo a process of difficulty and insecurity, they will subsequently be able to adjust and thrive. That is not the problem; the problem is something much more difficult and much more elusive, which anyone voting in a Scottish referendum needs to understand but will not be able to understand unless we invest money in enabling the subject to be discussed as openly as possible. That is the importance of political institutions. It is a question of understanding, as we understand in this House, why this place matters. Why does it matter that Scottish and English MPs sit together in a single Parliament? It matters because it provides the formal process for mutual consideration.

The SNP is again absolutely correct that, theoretically, there is nothing to stop Scotland being friendly to England or England being friendly to Scotland in the absence of a joint Parliament. There is no reason, theoretically, why an English MP could not take into account Scotland’s interests when thinking about their constituency in relation to common agricultural reform or agricultural subsidies, for instance. There is no reason, theoretically, why a Scottish MP in an independent Scotland could not think about England’s nuclear interests when considering the positioning of submarine bases. In practice, however, it is the formal elements of this Chamber and our Committees and Government that force us to think about each other.

I sit on the Foreign Affairs Committee. It matters that the hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Mr Roy) attends that Committee day in and day out, forcing the Foreign Office to answer questions that relate to Scotland. Instead of having to rely on good will, we have created institutions. Those institutions bring together much better people, too.

Fiona O’Donnell (East Lothian) (Lab): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that that good will is under threat, as well as the institutions? What would be the effect on his constituents of an independent Scotland having a substantially lower corporation tax rate than England?

Rory Stewart: That is a good question, and there are many other similar questions we might ask. It is easy to come up with hypothetical examples—such as that corporation tax point—of ways in which people could grow apart, but the key point is that, without a United Kingdom, there will be no formal processes and incentives to think through such matters. At present, however, we create the forums.

I am only three months married, so I hesitate to say this as I do not know what on earth I am talking about, but it strikes me that formal institutions such as marriage force people to discuss things, to compromise and to think in ways that we might not if that formal institution were not in place. [Interruption.] Perhaps I am wrong about that, however. It was foolish of me to hold forth on the importance of that institution on the basis of just three months of married life.

The institution of the United Kingdom and its Parliament has four key benefits. The first of them is that it brings people together. Over more than 400 years it has brought together incredibly talented people, including people we barely recognise as being Scots or English, who would not have come together if we had not had a United Kingdom. It has brought together leaders of all our parties. We often forget that Scotland produced not just the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), but also William Gladstone and, indeed, the crofter’s grandson, Harold Macmillan. Scotland produced the ideas, the culture and the nation that challenges England and makes the United Kingdom better. Scotland played an important part in creating not just our modern economic theory, but the ideas behind the national health service, and also all the richness of the culture of Britain. Because we have this United Kingdom and this shared institution of Parliament, as our different strengths alter over time, we contain that within a single unity. There was a time when Scottish novels were better than English novels. There was a time when—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Dawn Primarolo): Order. I absolutely understand that the hon. Gentleman is setting his major argument in context, and I was following what he was saying, but he is going on a little too long about the context. Please will he return to the subject of the order itself?

Rory Stewart: Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I will accelerate towards my conclusion, which involves returning to a very good point made by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh South West.

All the issues I have raised are extremely complicated. They are issues of history, of culture and of identity. They are issues of the ways in which borders work and parliamentary institutions function. In order for people to be able to vote properly in a referendum and make that simple yes or no choice for which the SNP is pushing, the debate needs to be widened much further. More money needs to be spent, and the media need to get involved. At present the media are far too worried about not being political on one side or the other and are therefore not setting out the arguments and creating the debate powerfully enough. We need to have a proper debate because if an Englishman, a Scotsman and a Welshman together is a joke, an Englishman or a Scotsman on their own is a tragedy.

rory hosts planning minister visit to pioneering eden valley


(Left to right): Rory Stewart MP, residents of Stoneworks Garth, Minister for Planning Nick Boles MP

(Left to right): Rory Stewart MP, residents of Stoneworks Garth, Minister for Planning Nick Boles MP

Rory was delighted to welcome to his constituency this week the government Minister for Planning – Nick Boles MP – who visited both the Upper Eden Neighbourhood Development Plan (UENDP) area and the Lyvennet Community Trust’s affordable housing project Stoneworks Garth at Crosby Ravensworth. The Ministerial visit included a trip to Brough where Nick Boles met with a local family struggling to find an affordable house, an issue which it is hoped the UENDP will address. He discussed the plan with its Chairman, Tom Woof, who explained the history of the Upper Eden community’s decision to create a neighbourhood plan and why they had chosen to focus on aspects of local planning and affordability.

The Minister also visited Crosby Ravensworth where David Graham – Chairman of the Lyvennet Community Trust – had the chance to showcase the 12 affordable homes built for and owned by the local community. Residents, Councillors and other interested parties met at the village hall to discuss the significance of both local projects and address any concerns surrounding government policy on housing and planning. The Minister used the visit to announce proposals by the Department for Communities and Local Government regarding the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), highlighting that funds raised through the CIL would be used to support local infrastructure needs determined by the community.

Rory said: “I am very glad that the Minister chose to visit Cumbria and see for himself the way in which our communities are taking the initiative and bringing about the changes that matter to them most. Affordable housing is one of the biggest issues facing our local communities and the Upper Eden Neighbourhood Plan and the Lyvennet Community Trust are two prime examples of how we can now meet the challenges of providing more local, affordable housing. The Minister has rightly recognised the value and significance of these projects, and it is important we build on this momentum to encourage many more local communities to get involved.”

rory campaigns for a fairer deal for cumbria’s councils

Rory, Chair of the APPG on Local Democracy, attended an emergency meeting of rural MPs this  evening, organised by the Rural Fair Share Campaign. The meeting was convened to highlight the  urgent need for government to recognise the potentially disastrous impact of the 2013/14 Local Government Finance Settlement, whereby rural councils could see their budgets diminish significantly – in spite of recent assurances that the cost of delivering services in rural areas would be recognised in the legislation. Under current proposals, rural residents stand to get approximately 65% of the grant that their urban equivalents will receive. For significantly rural areas  – like Eden – authorities will see cuts of closer to 5% as opposed to an average cut of 2% to  urban councils.

Speaking at the event, Rory said: “Rural areas are being treated unfairly. This is not about trying to  take money from urban areas, but about recognising that services cost much, much more to deliver in rural areas. Our taxpayers have higher-than-average council tax bills, and yet their pound  is expected to stretch further and further. At the moment, we simply aren’t getting a good  enough return in terms of the services our councils can afford to deliver. We need, urgently, to  make this fairer and more equitable, recognising that life in somewhere like Eden or Allerdale is  costly. Any funding mechanism needs to work to our advantage, recognising our unique issues of  sparsity.”

The Rural Services Network’s chief executive Graham Biggs said: “This is a body blow for rural  councils already struggling to provide services to countryside communities. Even before these reductions urban areas received about half as much more funding per head than rural areas. This  settlement further widens the gap. Rural residents already pay more council tax for fewer services  because of historic government underfunding, so the settlement is very bad news for the countryside.”

There is a widening gap in rural areas between the average wage, and the average council tax bill.  For 2012/ 2013, the average council tax bill in Eden is £1530 per house. As a striking comparison,  the London area average over the same period is only £1304. In addition to this, the current  formula grant equates to a spend of approximately £330 per head in Eden as compared to £525 in  Newcastle, or £565 Greenwich.

rory to promote market town vision with the prince’s foundation for building community

Rory will be hosting a visit to Penrith and the Border by design and planning experts from The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community (PFBC), who will be attending the Eden Community Housing Advisory Board’s “Growth and Opportunity” Conference at the Roundthorn Hotel, Penrith on January 18th.

The PFBC has accepted an invitation from Rory to come and talk to conference delegates – drawn from Cumbrian construction industries, housing associations, planning bodies, and local community groups – on the subject of “Penrith and the Border’s Market Towns: a New Approach to Design and Sustainability”, which the local MP hopes will serve to educate and inform attendees about the ways in which urban development can be respectful of traditional architecture and vernacular heritage, particularly that of the unique market towns in his constituency.

The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community – founded by HRH The Prince of Wales in 1987 – is a charity that teaches and demonstrates good practice in issues of sustainable urban and rural development, placing community engagement at the heart of their work. This important presentation will address potential alternative approaches to urban growth and regeneration, and will detail the principles of sustainable urban development espoused by the Prince’s Foundation, looking at built exemplars such as Knockroon in Ayrshire, the Natural House at BRE Innovation Park Watford, and mixed-use sustainable settlements at Poundbury, Coed Darcy and Upton.

Rory  said: “PFBC’s philosophy is one that chimes with the many community-led projects that thrive in Penrith and the Border, and I am delighted that they have accepted my invitation to come and present their unique view on Penrith and the Border’s market towns in a specially prepared presentation. This comes at a time when we are literally guiding national policy on housing and planning issues – with the success of Crosby Ravensworth’s affordable housing scheme and Upper Eden’s pioneering Neighbourhood Development Plan – but even so, Penrith and the Border’s rural market towns continue to be vulnerable to a set of unique challenges, such as misplaced urban growth models and housing targets, and a drive towards ‘contemporary’ design that is often totally at odds and incompatible with our beautiful old streets and buildings. I am fascinated to learn how PFBC’s vision and practices of promoting traditional and sustainable principles of design might benefit us here, and look forward to a thought-provoking presentation.”