Monthly Archives: March 2014

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown holds his bri


Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart has welcomed the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget Statement delivered today, commending in particular measures that will benefit Penrith and The Border and Cumbria such as the compensating of energy-intensive industries with compensation for green levies, and doubling the annual investment allowance to £500,000 until the end of 2015.

Rory Stewart said: “This is an immensely positive budget for Cumbria. In Penrith and The Border, where SMEs employ 92 per cent of private sector employees, the Chancellor’s announcement on investment relief is an especially welcome one, allowing smaller enterprises such as Bells of Lazonby to invest in the human resources that will allow them to increase production and bring in more workers, creating employment and generating wealth in our communities. I also welcome the news that energy-intensive companies – and an excellent example is the manufacturer Innovia in Wigton – will be compensated for green levies, significantly reducing the burden of escalating energy bills which has the potential to seriously hamper efficiency.”

David Beeby of Innovia said: “It is very encouraging to see that the government is listening to the concerns of energy-intensive companies. As a country we cannot afford to damage the competitiveness of our industry through very uncompetitive energy prices.”

Michael Bell of Bells of Lazonby said: “This is great news.”

Especially positive for Penrith and The Border, and following an almost four-year campaign by Rory Stewart to waive VAT on fuel for rural emergency services, is the announcement that air ambulances will receive VAT exemption on fuel costs, and that inland search and rescue charities such as Mountain Rescue, and inshore boat rescue services, will benefit from the redistribution of accumulated LIBOR fines.

Rory welcomed the Chancellor’s pledge to provide more support for hard-working families, freezing fuel duty yet again and extending Help to Buy to 2020. For earners living in a constituency that has a low average wage, many will also benefit from the increase in the personal tax-free allowance to £10,500. There is good news also for savers with an increased ISA saving limit, and a new pensioner bond to be introduced in January, which will offer an income of 4% on a three-year bond. For Penrith and The Border’s pub-goers, there will be a penny off the pint, with beer duty cut next week by 1p.

Rory said:  “Whilst the Budget paints a national picture, I continue to believe that local schemes adapted to local needs are the vehicles through which we can truly make a difference and improve the lives of constituents on the ground. We are seeing that in Eden with the launch of the Eden Mortgage Boost Scheme, which will assist people wishing to purchase a property up to the value of £150,000, and who require help in getting onto the property ladder; and with the Small Business Boost Scheme that I have recently launched, which aims to address the cash-flow needs of smaller and start-up enterprises by matching local borrowers to local lenders through a crowd-funding platform.”

Job Centre


Rory Stewart MP has welcomed today’s news that the number of Penrith and The Border’s unemployed claimants continued to drop to under 600 claimants, representing a rate of 1.4% unemployment and showing that the constituency is 605th lowest in terms of unemployment out of 650 constituencies in the UK.

Rory Stewart said: “This is excellent news. But we should never rest on this issue. I will continue to press relentlessly for continuing support for apprenticeships, and for small businesses and employers, to bring the figure even lower. More investment in broadband should also allow us to continue to develop these jobs, and improve their range, and quality. We also have more work to do to really get the most from our outdoor industries. Every individual without work is a real issue – and often a personal tragedy. But to have reduced to less than 600 unemployed out of an adult population of 63,000 is a real achievement.”

Air Ambulance


Rory has today celebrated the success of the campaign, in which he has been involved to get the Treasury to waive VAT on fuel for air ambulance services. This is the result of an almost four-year campaign to recognise the incredible work that the air ambulance services and their staff provide not only in Rory’s constituency, but across Cumbria and beyond.

By recognising this in today’s Budget statement, the Chancellor has responded to the long-standing campaign. Rory has been involved in the direct lobbying of Ministers in writing and in meetings, numerous meetings with volunteers and executives of the air ambulance services, and the raising of the issue in Parliamentary debates and in written questions. In 2012 Rory pressed a parliamentary motion with colleagues calling for national recognition of our air ambulances and a rebate on VAT on fuel.  The government did not challenge the motion. Instead, it undertook to review the policy and consider a rebate on VAT, culminating in today’s announcement.

Rory Stewart MP said: “This is incredible news, which will make a significant difference to the running of air ambulance operations across the country. We often underestimate the enormously important work that our air ambulances do, and the funding difficulties they face in running operations that make such a difference to we who live here and those who visit our beautiful county. I couldn’t be more pleased that our campaigning and lobbying of the Treasury and other Ministers has paid off in this way, and as ever I congratulate our air ambulances on the fantastic work they do, which is so appreciated.”

hadrian's wall

Hadrian’s Wall – 1800 years of Immigration

The central section of Hadrian’s Wall is one of the most remote landscapes in Britain. It is a place of scattered, isolated farms, held by the same families, sometimes perhaps since the time of the Vikings. There is no mobile signal, and few buses, let alone super-fast broadband. The ‘global world’ feels very far away. There is almost no immigration. And it is easy to imagine that the area was even more isolated and traditional in the past: an ancient, subsistence farming economy, with little movement, little sign of man or government.

But 1800 years ago central Cumbria and Northumbria was densely populated, filled with immigrants, drawn from 2 million square miles of Europe and Asia. The land was marked by a succession of vast, contemporary structures, built to a standard specification developed in the Mediterranean. It was powered by a continual flow of manufactured goods from factories in what is now France and Germany. The population fed on food imported from as far away as North Africa. A ceaseless circulation of bureaucrats, generated hundreds of thousands of documents, that moved back and forth along the very latest communication systems. All this is buried within the landscape that we live in today.

When I walked from Newcastle along Hadrian’s Wall, I passed the intersection of the two main Roman roads – now a large roundabout with a pub and gas station – and entered land which was  rougher and apparently more sour. Crops vanished, replaced first with dairy cows, then with suckler cows, and sheep. I followed a section of the wall that ran three stones high over the wet green fellside, across becks, and through gullies. At one point, dozens of horned Swaledale ewes charged past me, scrabbling over the parapet of the wall, pursued by a furious sheep-dog. The collie drove the flock back out of the barbarian lands again into Roman territory, and the sheep leapt, shoved – one somersaulted – panicking over the stone borderline. An old farmer, stood at a distance on a ridge, controlling the dog. He did not pull his crook out of the soil. The wall ran straight through the middle of his pasture, and was no longer even a field boundary. He looked as though he had been in the landscape forever.

The low line of stones, at Birdoswald, on the other side of the gorge from Gilsland, now housed only a single caretaker at night. But eighteen hundred years ago, what was now an open field, containing a dozen Simmental cows, had been occupied by the barrack lines of a vast military camp, occupied by a thousand Dacians. These men were immigrants who came to Birdoswald from a land, three thousand miles away. They were long-limbed redheads with startlingly blue eyes, whose leaders had once worn baggy trousers, and floppy felt hats. Their homeland stretched from modern Romania to the Black Sea: a place for growing fine figs, and olives. Their great capital at home included a sundial twenty feet long, capable of advanced chronological calculations. At home their annual rainfall was 10 inches. They would have struggled to make their sundial work in the Cumbrian rain.

Just as Highland regiments carried bagpipes, so the Dacians carried their ethnic dragon standard – the Draco – which howled when the wind passed through. Just as Highland regiments in the eighteenth century were allowed to wear kilts, after the kilt was banned in Scotland, so the Dacian regiments were allowed to carry their curved weapon in Britain, after it had been banned in Dacia.   They would have brought their own cuisine (just as an African regiment in Roman Scotland carried a casserole dish). They venerated their King Decibalus who killed himself with his fighting sickle, rather than submit to Rome. (You can see a portrait of him, doing it today on Trajan’s column). In the fort of Birdoswald, carved in the Cumbrian sandstone, is a perfect image of the Dacian fighting sickle, to commemorate their building of the granary between 205 and 208 AD; and a tomb of a child, named Decibalus. He had been given the name, at least a century after the last Dacian King Decibalus had killed himself. These were apparently people who believed in tradition.

Later, I clambered over a fence to inspect a deep, broad ditch, with high grass mounds on either side, running straight across a field. A farmer raced up on his quad bike. His family had owned the land on either side of the wall from more generations than he knew. “Hundreds of years, I’d say’. His cows were moving up and down the slopes of the ditch, searching for fresher pasture among rushes and thistles.

“What is it?” he asked. “I heard someone say, it’s an Iron age fortification – built long before the Romans.”

I said that it was the ‘vallum’ defence, built by the Romans at the same time as the wall.

His farmhouse was built from stone, quarried by Roman soldiers. You could still see the marks of their chisels, cutting diagonally across the square stones. Between 120 AD and 410 AD, when the farmer’s ancestors may have been Vikings in Scandinavia, perhaps twelve thousand Romanians lived, worked and worshipped in this now empty field. And their long-limbs lay in the soil around.

22-10-2013 11-13-24


Rory Stewart is issuing a call for evidence on Veterans within the Criminal Justice System.

The Review of Veterans within the Criminal Justice System (CJS) is an independent review and we are seeking evidence from interested parties – on their experience of veterans in the CJS and in particular the ways in which we can improve services, if needed.

Details of the call for evidence and how to contribute can be found at

There will also be a formal launch of the Review on the 27 March. For further information please contact:

[email protected]



Through the Cumbria Business Finance Network we are hoping to accumulate the feedback of local borrowers and investors in the area of small business finance. This feedback will be used to inform the design of a financial mechanism, the Cumbria Business Investment Fund, which it is hoped will provide a practical and focused conduit for local small business finance – something which will both complement and expand existing provision.

In order to streamline the process of information consolidation, we have provided two standard web forms, one for borrowers and one for investors, which can be accessed by following the links below.

In each case, please feel free to provide as much or as little information as you are comfortable with at this stage.

Thank you very much for taking the time to contribute to the network – we hope that your feedback will help us to return with a proposal which addresses some of the real needs and desires of the local business community.

Please click on links to the relevant survey form:

Borrower Survey

Investor Survey

To find out more about the Community Business Investment Fund (CBIF), please follow the link below:

What is the CBIF?


EdenMortageBoostScheme_BannerPicture copy


As the next step in his campaign to improve the availability of finance – and day-to-day cashflow – for small local businesses, Rory is arranging a cross-party meeting in Penrith later this month to discuss the potential for a Business Boost Scheme that will encourage larger local businesses to invest in smaller enterprises and start-ups, investing into the local community and economy.

The seminar on Friday March 14th aims to bring together representatives of the County Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership, local businesses, the financial services sector and the charity sector, to discuss the current environment for small business finance and some potential approaches for the future. Rory will present an outline of the work undertaken to date, including further details of the proposed Cumbria Business Boost scheme, with the aim of initiating what will hopefully be a wide-ranging discussion of the topic. The seminar is intended to provide a starting point for a broader local consultation on small business finance, to which both local borrowers and local investors will be encouraged to contribute.

Rory said : “Boosting cash-flow, and access to finance, is an issue consistently raised with me by the small and medium sized enterprises that characterise the economy of north Cumbria. I am very pleased to take this next step in our efforts to encourage a genuine focus on the difficult financial situation still faced by many businesses, with an innovative local peer-to-business lending model that would be flexible, intuitive and genuinely local. I am hopeful that by initiating a wide-ranging and non-partisan discussion there will be scope for a pooling of experience and for progress towards some practical and achievable outcomes. It is very encouraging to be seeing initial support for these ideas from across the spectrum.”



Rory’s office will be hosting a drop-in session for members of the Longtown community interested in contributing their thoughts, ideas and suggestions to the future development of the town and the conservation of its unique border architecture.

The meeting is part of Rory’s Seven Market Towns Study, a project looking closely at Penrith and The Border’s seven market towns and, in particular, focussing on their traditional vernacular architecture and the role that the preservation of these unique built values will play in the future of each town’s social, cultural and economic vitality.

The drop-in event will take place at Longtown’s Memorial Hall Community Centre on Tuesday March 11th between 4 and 7pm, and will be led by urban sustainability expert with the PFBC, Khrystyna McPeake. All residents with an interest in Longtown’s future development are encouraged to attend.

For more information about the event please contact Nigel Walker at Longtown Community Centre on 01228 791876.