Monthly Archives: April 2013


Broadband-activist Rory continues his long-standing campaign to bring the best broadband in Europe to his constituents and to Cumbria, recently holding meetings with the office of the Secretary of State at DCMS, Maria Miller, with a view to organising a parliamentary event for colleagues; with Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter, to discuss telehealth improvements for local GPs’ surgeries; and with BT to discuss the ongoing engineering survey of the county ahead of BT’s roll-out. Rory continues also to gather data from constituents concerned that any county-wide rollout might neglect their local area, and is monitoring developments closely.

Rory said: “Our hard work here in Penrith and the Border is paying off. Parliamentary colleagues continue to ask me how to replicate our results in their own regions, and to this end I will be organising a parliamentary event with the Secretary of State, Maria Miller. I am encouraging BT to ‘package’ a business-case based on the Fell End ‘build-and-benefit’ model, which could be replicated not only across Cumbria, but in other rural areas. I hope to launch this community broadband vision at my colleague Harriet Baldwin MP’s constituency in the coming weeks.”

“Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter’s recent visit was extremely helpful in highlighting how government can help improve broadband and mobile communications in our GPs’ surgeries, many of which use the EMIS-web system for recording patient data. The Minister was able to visit a housebound patient in Morland to see how EMIS-mobile could help GPs improve efficiency, enabling them to get to more rural patients, and improving access to telemeds. I have been pressing BT to make necessary improvements to some of our surgeries’ broadband links, but in addition I am going to be working closely with our surgeries – and with Dr Poulter’s support – to try to pilot EMIS-mobile applications with improved 4G coverage. In short, we are at the beginning of several exciting new developments that will grow from our obtaining for Cumbria the highest per-capita funding for the purposes of broadband, and this is an unprecedented time of innovation for Cumbria.”

Rory’s latest efforts echo the report published this week by the Carnegie UK Trust which again highlights the increasing importance of fast and reliable broadband access, as more and more services are delivered digitally. Nearly 25% of UK households still do not yet have access to the internet at home.

Rory said: “As this latest report highlights, the digital divide between those online and those who are not remains a real concern – especially here in Cumbria – and I remain absolutely committed to ensuring everyone who wants access to good broadband can get it as soon as possible.”

Rory can be contacted on 01768 758 772.


Rory, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Local Democracy, led a national campaign for parish council financing in a packed – standing room only – meeting of the APPG for Local Democracy. In a meeting attended by over twenty MPs from all parties, Rory challenged the Local Government minister, Brandon Lewis MP, to make sure that local government reforms do not leave Parish Councils out in the cold.

The main purpose of the meeting was to discuss the concerns of town and parish councils about the impact of the localisation of Council Tax benefit on their financial independence. Under the new regime, principle authorities will be given grant funding to cover the costs of providing support for those on benefits, but there is no legal requirement for councils to pass on this funding to cover the council tax precepts for those on benefits to town and parish councils. Although most council’s this year have said they will pass the funding on this year, two have said that they will not and there is concern about the implications this will have on what other councils may do in the future.

Rory raised these issues with the Local Government Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, and pushed for him to look at the issue again, highlighting the need for clarity.

Rory said: ‘This is an incredibly important issue. There is real concern across the country that parish council’s financial independence could be seriously undermined by these new reforms. If the government expects parish and town councils to step up and take more control over local services, they need to ensure that there is a clear and workable financial system in place. It was great to see so many MPs in attendance at the meeting with Brandon Lewis. The APPG for Local Democracy will now continue to work with NALC to ensure the minister looks carefully at this issue again.’

Cllr Ken Browse, Chairman of NALC, said: “We hope that the meeting of the All Party Local Democracy Group made the strength of feeling clear to the minister and we welcome his promise to look at the issue again. Ensuring the funding system works to enhance the independence of parish councils is essential for the future of localism.”


Rory raised the exceptional and devastating circumstances facing Cumbrian sheep farmers in a debate in parliament on Tuesday, 23 April. He drew attention not just to the recent heavy snowfall, but the many months of terrible weather conditions that preceded this. He particularly drew attention to the problems in the Bailey and Bewcastle valleys in the North of his constituency. Speaking at the debate Rory Stewart said:

“We need to put the recent snowfall into a much broader context of the very difficult time sheep farmers have been having in general. In the Bailey and Bewcastle valleys, it has been nearly two years of horror – with poached soil, and fluke. Now there is the heavy snow that fell in Cumbria in March. If we are to retain the fabric of small farms, we need to think hard about what measures can be put in place over the next two to three years to preserve our small farms for the future.”

The minister for farming, David Heath, thanked Rory and the other MPs who had taken the time to highlight to him the scale and extent of the problems facing farmers within their own constituencies. He stated that Government would continue to do all it could to support sheep-farming. The Minister added:

“When I visited Cumbria recently there was still a lot of snow and we still cannot quantify the full scale of the damage. I am grateful to NFU Cumbria and Cumbrian farmers themselves for helping me understand what they are up against, and I was really struck by the way in which the farming and rural communities have still managed to respond in a positive way, lending support to their neighbours wherever possible. There is a real sense of devastation in the farming community, with many now extremely worried about the future. It is important therefore we do everything we can to support this very vulnerable group of people at this time.”

The debate on upland farms follows on from Rory’s successful initiatives with Cumbria NFU, which persuaded the government to show flexibility to farmers, who have been struggling with the harsh weather. Two weeks ago, Rory convinced the government to allow farmers to use red diesel vehicles to clear snow, and to allow feed trucks to work extra hours to deliver feed to livestock. Last week he was part of a campaign to provide support for livestock disposal. In a second intervention in the parliamentary debate, Rory put on the record his thanks for the government’s support over the last few weeks and added:

“It was important not just to get derogations on livestock disposal, but also on red diesel, and on the working time directive, and I am extremely grateful for the flexibility Government has shown in this respect.”

Upland farmer from the Bewcastle area, Steve Pattinson, said:

“Rory has stayed on my farm before and seen firsthand how tough things have been over the last 24 months, and how much more pronounced problems are in the uplands area. As the local MP he has been a real champion of  local farming concerns, raising them at the highest levels, and the latest support he helped secure from Government is very welcome. There are still many traditional family farms really struggling at the moment though, and further support is still needed to meet the challenges upland farmers are facing.”



Rory is encouraging constituents to meet with him this coming Saturday, April 27th, when he will be holding a street surgery in Longtown on the corner of English and Swan Streets (10-11am); in Brampton outside the Moot Hall (11:30-12:30pm); and an open meeting at the Duke of Cumberland pub at Castle Carrock (1-2pm).

Rory said: “Please come along and see me if there are any issues you would like to raise, both local and national. I look forward to meeting with constituents, and there will be a chance to come along to an open meeting at the Duke of Cumberland pub in Castle Carrock to have a more general, open discussion about the topics of the day. I look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible.”
Rory continues his series of Spring surgeries across the constituency, which have been welcomed by local residents as a great chance to have some time to talk to their local MP and make sure their messages reach Westminster.


Rory paid a visit to Shap on Monday, where he met with locals and discussed concerns with residents at his street surgery outside the Shap Co-op store.

He also took the opportunity to meet with Georgina Perkins, new proprietor of the Shap Chippy, at the premises – currently being refurbished in advance of its imminent opening this week. The local MP was able to meet with local contractors and take a tour of the chip-shop, which will reinvigorate Shap’s main street by providing fish and chips to hungry locals.

Rory said: “Shap’s main street has bags of potential, and so I’m incredibly pleased to see the chip shop reopening, after a lull in business. I know that Shap has missed having access to good fish and chips, and I certainly look forward to being a customer. I wish Georgina and her team every success with the opening, encourage everyone to come and sample their fare, and look forward to visiting the chip shop myself as soon as I can.”

Georgina Perkins said: “We took possession of the shop at the end of February, since when we have had great service from our local tradesmen. Dealing with the national companies has been very trying but our electricians, joiner, plumber, decorators and roofers have been on hand – often at the drop of a hat – to help out with the next problem and to lift our spirits when required. We are nearing the end of the building work now and are buoyed by the interest and enthusiasm we have had from so many people as they walk by and wish us luck. We have a great team of young people lined up to work with us and we are all looking forward to serving – and eating! – fish and chips starting later this week. In due course we will be opening Tuesdays to Sundays for lunch and dinner. The story can be found on our website. with some of the aforementioned workers tucking into fish, chips, mushy peas and fish cakes!”

“Shap has taken a few knocks recently with the chip shop and two pubs being closed. We hope that The Greyhound can be leased for a sensible amount to someone who cares about Shap and hospitality soon – other businesses, ours included, needs it.”

Rory was delighted to learn that local tradesmen were involved in the project: he joins Georgina Perkins in thanking the team, including electricians Simon Bentley and Steve Benson; joiner Dave Law; plumbing by Sandy Carr; decorator Kevin Bush; and Mark Tooke roofers.


In response to recent media reports regarding concerns about the state of roads in Cumbria, Rory spent time this weekend looking at roads in and around Penrith and assessing the reality on the ground.

With Eden Local Committee vice-chair and county councillor Helen Fearon – who has a special interest in highway matters – the local MP visited improved road surfaces around the New Squares area, and across residential areas of Penrith. Reactive maintenance works are carried out at a local level under devolved powers to the six local committees, and they are responsible for ensuring that Cumbria’s roads are well-maintained and that issues – such as pot-holes – are dealt with effectively.

Rory said: “The county council’s Highways budget for this sort of maintenance work is shared amongst the six local committees, who naturally are best-placed to guide on essential maintenance works to our roads. Here in Eden, the reactive maintenance budget is £1.3 million, and this is a budget that varies dramatically across the county – South Lakeland’s share, for example, is almost double at £2.1 million. Funds are allocated according to the length of road network, and population: of course, here in Eden we yet again fall down on low population, and this is something that we must lobby the council on. That said, central government provided Cumbria with an extra £6 million in funds in recognition of the extra repairs carried out during the severe winter weather. We need to work hard to prioritise roads, prioritise our maintenance needs, and communicate effectively with our local committees. I am satisfied that Eden’s local committee are doing an excellent job with the means at their disposal, and am pleased to have seen today some of their good work, on which I congratulate them.”


Rory launched his Spring series of street surgeries this weekend, declaring them a great success and bringing him into close contact with many constituents in both Penrith and Shap. Forthcoming street surgeries will be held across the constituency, allowing the local MP to meet more constituents in an informal street setting, and allowing passers-by the chance to meet and chat with their Member of Parliament, and discuss concerns both local and national.

Rory was joined by local councillors to assist him, and covered a wide range of issues.

He said: “Street surgeries are a great way of meeting constituents in a slightly less formal setting, and I was pleased that so many stopped and chatted to me about national policy issues, as well as local community-based concerns. It is so important, as a MP, to be able to hear what the electorate are thinking about the topics of the day and it keeps me better informed, and better able to represent the views of constituents in Parliament. I do hope that as many as possible who want to speak to me will consider coming along to the future street surgeries I am holding this and next month.”

The forthcoming street surgeries are:

Saturday 27th April 1000-1100, Longtown ‘street surgery’, corner of English/Swan Streets 1130-1230, Brampton ‘street surgery’, outside Moot Hall 1500-1600, Kirkby Stephen ‘street surgery’, outside the Co-op 1800-1900, Appleby drop-in surgery, The Tufton Arms Hotel

Monday 29th April 1000-1100, Wigton ‘street surgery’, outside The Library, High Street

Wednesday 1st May 1330-1430, Penrith ‘street surgery’, outside Devonshire Arcade

Friday 10th May 1800-1900 Penrith drop-in surgery, the Cafe, Booths Supermarket





Rory  and Conservative County Council candidates Helen Fearon (Penrith West) and Scott Jackson (Penrith East), welcomed Foreign Minister the Right Honourable William Hague to Penrith, to camapign ahead of local elections on 2nd May.

The Foreign Minister had the opportunity to tour the town centre, engaging with local shop owners and the general public, before delivering a speech to supporters and passers-by in the Corn Market on the importance of the County Council elections, and the strength of Helen Fearon and Scott Jackson as local candidates.
Rory said: “It’s great that the Minister found time in his incredibly busy schedule to visit Penrith, speak with local residents and shopkeepers, and get a sense of the issues that matter most to local people. This has been a huge boost to our local candidates, who are strong on local issues – such as maintaining frontline services at affordable costs; keeping our recycling centres open; consistently fighting for our community hospitals; and maintaining our highways.”
“We have some really fantastic prospective councillors, and I will be working hard over the next few weeks to do all I can to support them in their campaign.”


Rory has welcomed news that Defra Ministers are to find emergency funding to help support livestock farmers to meet the costs of disposal of dead animals, particularly those affected by the recent unprecedented snowfall in areas of Cumbria; the worst-hit farmers were largely concentrated in the constituencies of Rory Stewart, Tim Farron, and Jamie Reed, however the news comes as a direct result of the cross-party Cumbrian MP ‘committee’, which lobbied the Secretary of State Owen Paterson directly, and led to the visit to Cumbria last week by Minister David Heath.

Rory has also lobbied Ministers personally for financial support on the back of an especially harsh and protracted winter, itself following eighteen uninterrupted months of wet weather, causing extreme difficulties for Penrith and the Border’s upland farms. Recent storm conditions carried on for in excess of 72 hours, causing white-out conditions. Farmers are yet to assess the full extent of the disaster.

Rory said today: “This is wonderful news, and is the second time in under a month that Ministers have responded to Cumbria’s farming needs – the first was when they suspended EU regulations to allow farmers to get feed trucks to isolated farms in a temporary derogation of the Working Time Directive, and now we can see them respond quickly, again, to pressure from all Cumbrian MPs. I was delighted to play a small personal role in this, and am extremely pleased to hear also that Ministers will be putting measures in place to ensure such emergency situations are better dealt with in the future.”


Rory is encouraging Cumbrian farmers to take advantage of the financial package recently announced by Barclays, which will provide farmers with increased working capital to help meet the additional costs brought about by the extreme snowfall during March.

The adverse weather conditions have had a severe impact on many Cumbrian farms, who are now struggling with significant losses to livestock. Rory has to date worked closely with farmers over the past few weeks to help secure the derogation necessary for feed trucks and is working with other Cumbrian MPs to ask for Government support to help farmers meet the costs of fallen stock collections.

This latest financial package by Barclays will offer farmers Capital Repayment Holidays of up to 12 months on mortgages and loans, in order to ease cash flow problems over the coming months, as well as extending and increasing overdrafts to increase the working capital available to help cover costs for items, such as the increased costs of concentrate feeds or purchased forage.

Rory said:

“I am sure the additional cash flow provided by this Barclays package will be sorely needed by many Cumbrian farmers at this incredibly difficult time, and I am encouraging those in the farming community to investigate further to see if it could be of value to their business.

Of course this can only be part of the solution, and it is vital we continue to pursue all possible avenues to ensure our farmers have the support they need and deserve following disastrous weather conditions here in Cumbria over the past 20 months, culminating in the exceptional March snow storms.”