Monthly Archives: December 2014

Education for National Service

For some time I have read and heard about shortages in key skill area such as medicine; care for the elderly; education; emergency services and other areas of the community.

To rebalance this could the government not look at the following;

Offer students free university tuition or other equivalent education on condition they repay society by doing a required number of years work for any level of government in their chosen profession.

For instance a doctor after five years of education would be required to work for the NHS for say 8 years at whatever job / location was required. Likewise police, if education is three years, then five years’ work.

· Of course they would receive the relevant salary

· Opt out would be expensive

The policy could be phased in, for instance a fifth year medical student could have their tuition fees reimbursed and be on the scheme, this would mean quick implementation of the process.

It would be a national service of sorts and presented as such with those participating seen as helping the community. If successful it would keep topping up the most important services with skilled people.


Rory Stewart MP held a meeting with the Prime-Minister through the House of Commons Liaison Committee last Tuesday, in which the Prime-Minister confirmed a promise to remove all subsidies to new onshore wind turbines after the general election. The Prime-Minister said that now that ten per cent of the UK’s energy needs were provided by wind turbines it was no long necessary to subsidise future turbines. The Penrith and The Border MP said, ‘This is a great result for Cumbria. Penrith and the Border has fought hard now for years to keep the consituency turbine-free. This is essential for our economy which is based on the beauty of our landscape. We are still fighting three further applications and will fight them tooth and nail. But it is a great relief to know that after May, there may be no further applications for wind-turbines in the constituency. This is a real result after years of campaigning.” The local MP’s comments come just days after he joined locals and representatives of a number of North Cumbrian anti-wind turbine groups at a public meeting in Armathwaite, to reinforce his support in fighting commercial wind turbine developments in the Eden Valley, and his on-going campaign to see minimum distance legislation adopted by all planning authorities in Cumbria.

Speaking in the Commons Liaison Committee, the Prime Minister said: “People are frankly fed up with so many wind farms being built that won’t be necessary…. Enough is enough and I am very clear about that.”

There are now enough taxpayer funded onshore wind farms in the pipeline for the UK to meet its’ renewable energy commitments. In addition to their commitment to end any additional bill payer subsidy for onshore wind, the Conservative Party have also committed to a pledge that would see large windfarm applications handled by local planning authorities rather than the nationally significant infrastructure regime.

Rory Stewart MP said: “I have campaigned alongside thousands of local people fighting turbine proposals on their doorstep since coming to office. Cumbrian communities understand the real value of their landscape, and I have represented their concerns repeatedly with this government, to see more planning powers and control invested at the local level when it comes to wind turbine development. The Conservative Party have now made pledges to do just that, and the proposals we are advocating have the power to halt the threat of turbines in Cumbria, and allow local communities to decide for themselves the future and nature of their own locality.”


Local MP, Rory Stewart, has called for Cumbria’s most remote and rural communities to be prioritised in the second stage of Connecting Cumbria’s broadband rollout. Rory Stewart was instrumental in securing more broadband funding per capita for Cumbria than any other county in the UK. But he is now concerned that the roll-out is not focusing on those rural residents and businesses that most struggle with limited services and access to market, Rory Stewart has insisted in the consultation that Cumbria’s most isolated communities should not be overlooked as the county council considers the next phase of the rollout. He has formally submitted his own views in the current public consultation that is open for comments until 9th January 2015 and has encouraged all other Cumbrians to contribute to the consultation.

The first phase, a collaboration between Cumbria County Council and BT, will see superfast broadband delivered to 93% of homes and businesses in the county by the end of 2015. This included a commitment to deliver a minimum of 2mbps broadband service to the remaining 7%. It is this minimum universal service delivery that Rory Stewart is particularly keen to see honoured. He states it has been a point of frustration and concern for many of his constituents, who have seen improvements in areas of good broadband coverage made ahead of improvements in areas with no provision.

Rory Stewart has championed numerous technology trials in the most remote parts of Cumbria, ranging from a fibre-to-the-premise project in Fellend, a femto cell trial in Caldbeck, to a 4G mobile trial in Threlkeld and Sebergham.

Rory Stewart said:

“Cumbria has a right to feel proud of the broadband service it will have delivered by the end of 2015, and many Cumbrians have fought hard to secure the best possible deal for our rural communities. But up to 7 per cent of houses are still missing out. And it is these – our most rural and isolated communities –  that will benefit the most from broadband technology. That is why this second phase of Connecting Cumbria’s broadband rollout absolutely must focus on these communities, to ensure no one is left behind. We have some incredible technologies being trialled in Cumbria – from Fellend to the Northern Fells – that could transform the way in which we provide broadband and mobile service to our sparsely-populated communities. We have run five very successful pilots up and down the constituency. The county council should look very closely at how we can replicate these projects.”

The Rwandan Genocide

It is twenty years now since the Rwandan genocide, and I have been reading two books about it – one by the BBC correspondent Fergal Keane, and one by the American writer, Philip Gourevitch. In the spring of 1994, hundreds of thousands of Rwandans with machetes and clubs murdered a million people, including seventy per cent of the entire Tutsi population, in just six weeks. Fergal Keane insists that no description could be appropriate or adequate for such horror, and that genocide is something inexpressible, and incomprehensible:

In writing about Rwanda, I am conscious that my words will always be unequal to the task…what I encountered was evil in a form that frequently rendered me inarticulate….

But Gourevitch’s book insists on always being articulate. In the hardest situations, his reactions remain uncannily precise. Even while claiming to be baffled, for example, he pinpoints six, exact, separate reactions: ‘revulsion, alarm, sorrow, grief, shame, incomprehension.”

Both of them were writing soon after the events. Essential facts about the genocide were new and disputed. And the heart of the genocide was repetition, which resisted understanding. In every hamlet, in every province, the machete or club rose and fell, again and again – not once or twice, but a million separate times. Writing the forenames and family names of the victims down, with no other detail of age, or place, would fill twenty books. To begin to study the individual deaths would consume a hundred life-times. Which is why one of our deepest instincts can be simply to record names – individual lives, equally specific, equally valuable – never emphasising one for fear of disrespecting another: listing them, as it were on a single stone wall – and steering away from blame or analysis.

The New York Times tried to avoid moral judgements at the time, saying in articles, ‘no-one’s hands are clean’ or ‘it’s not a story of good guys and bad guys.” But Keane and Gourevitch are clear that there were very bad guys. There were many contributing factors – resentments from the colonial period, massacres in the 1960s, a civil war/invasion – but none of them led inevitably to genocide. The genocide was an entirely gratuitous crime, planned by the Hutu government, and executed through the channels of the state. Rwanda was often presented as “a failed state”. But in fact “the genocide was the product of order, authoritarianism, decades of modern political theorizing and indoctrination and one of the most meticulously administered states in history.”
Gourevitch’s book draws on nine months of travel over three years, in dangerous, and very disturbing places. He traces witnesses, who live thousands of miles apart. He carefully records and reconciles contradictory accounts, and patiently reconstructs the most unpleasant incidents.

Gourevitch is able to describe, for example, every hour of a single family’s experience on a single day: the father deciding, against his better judgement, to put on pyjamas and delay an extra night, his attempt to bribe the police with traveller’s checks, the sudden pre-dawn flight from the capital, the confusion in the papyrus reeds by the river bank, the cry of their hidden child, their sister-in-law ripped from their group and hacked to death, the terrible decision to retrace their steps back to their home, despite all that it had cost them to try to leave.

His description of the hotel manager Paul Rusesebagina, who protected his guests, illustrates his eye for incongruous heroism (‘a mild-mannered man, sturdily-built and rather ordinary looking – a bourgeois hotel manager after all – and that is how he seemed to regard himself as well, as an ordinary person, who did nothing extraordinary in refusing to cave in to the insanity that swirled around him.’). But he also gives full form to the small cadre of people who directed the killing, their use of radios, their reliance on poorly armed villagers, and the role France played in backing the genocidal regime.

At a moment when intervention has never seemed so unpopular – and is reserved for disrupting terrorist networks – it is worth remembering that the West might have stopped the Rwandan genocide. If France had backed off, if the UN had agreed to the proposal of its commander General Dallaire for simple acts such as shutting down the radio station, or seizing weapons in town, if the US and the UK had deploying troops to protect displaced people – hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved, and at relatively little risk or cost to the West.

Fergal Keane concludes after seeing the massacre at Nyarabue:

I do not know what else to say about the bodies because I have already seen too much. I cannot imagine it because my powers of visualisation cannot possibly encompass the magnitude of the terror.

But Gourevitch is never lost for words. He gazes very steadily, and write clearly about this unimagineable horror, charting his every reaction, even to a dead body. This precision and prose – though more challenging, even disturbing – ultimately suggests more about humanity and the West. He has brought all his education, irony, ‘civilisation’, analytical power, and tough-mindedness to the task of unlocking the incomprehensible. And suggests that nothing – even the Rwandan genocide – need be alien to human understanding.


Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart this weekend attended the official launch of the More Than The Lakes tourism initiative, an umbrella group of eight local north Cumbrian businesses formed to promote the many attractions of the Solway to Gilsland region in Rory’s constituency. The aim behind the More Than the Lakes project is to harness the cumulative potential of all the many varied businesses that exist serving the tourism industry, from cottages and guest-houses, to museums and farm attractions, to promote the region as a place worth visiting. Businesses represented include Tranquil Otter lodges, Lanercost tea-rooms, Eden Golf Club, and Tullie House Museum.

Speaking at the event Rory said: “I am a staunch supporter of the tourism industry in Cumbria and, in particular, of the largely unsung gems that await visitors in the northern part of Penrith and The Border. The Border region is especially beautiful and remote, and offers tourists an incredibly unique experience. I am already convinced of the economic arguments of preserving our landscape, and enabling local businesses to thrive, and am very supportive of More Than The Lakes and pleased to be actively promoting all the wonderful businesses and attractions that await visitors here.”

Spokesperson for More Than The Lakes Tazeem Abbas, said: “We are looking for support wherever we can especially from Cumbria County Council through Cumbria Tourism, as the county-wide tourism marketing organisation. We’re very grateful for Rory’s support.”

Richard Greenwood of Cumbria Tourism commented: “More Than The Lakes is a collection of some of the best and most enterprising tourism businesses in the North of the county. Cumbria Tourism is delighted to be working alongside them in their new 2015 marketing campaign which will capture attention and deliver more visitors to their doorstep.”

For more information on More than the Lakes please visit


Local MP and anti-wind turbine activist Rory Stewart on Saturday joined locals and representatives of a number of North Cumbrian anti-wind turbine groups at a public meeting in Armathwaite, to reinforce his support in fighting commercial wind turbine developments in the Eden Valley and along the A6/M6 corridor and to propose that minimum distance legislation be adopted by all planning authorities in Cumbria. The event was part of the MP’s ongoing campaign to ensure that Cumbria remains free of inappropriate wind-turbine developments, and follows his recent lobbying of local authorities to adopt the essential features of the Wind Turbines (Minimum Distance from Residential Premises) Bill which was formerly being carried through the House of Lords by sponsor Lord Reay until his death in 2013.

Rory joined other activists as he spoke at the packed meeting, largely centred around the local campaign of the NO2AWT group which is opposing the siting of a 250ft commercial wind turbine on the side of local landmark Barrock Fell. Groups from across Eden, Allerdale and the Carlisle region joined the meeting, attended by dozens of campaigners.

Speaking at the event Rory said: “We are all here because we form the heart of a groundswell of public opposition to this application, and so many like it. People don’t visit Cumbria for the weather, or the food; they visit for our landscape. The main pillar of our economy is tourism, and the Eden Valley is one of the most spectacular and unspoilt regions in the country. The Aiketgate area would be ruined by a large industrial structure seen by every single tourist approaching the Eden Valley as they travel north up the M6 and A6. Today we can clearly see how strongly local communities feel about protecting their local landscape, and not only for their own benefit: but for the benefit of all who visit Cumbria precisely to see and enjoy our beautiful countryside. Such wind farms affect us all, and I am so pleased that so many people gave up time on their Saturday to show how very concerned they are.”

The campaign, run from the small hamlet of Aiketgate, already has over 100 supporters, all with serious concerns about the proposal, which threatens a towering turbine over the village, visible for miles in every direction. The local community fears that were it approved, not only would the visual intrusion, flicker effect and noise ruin life in the village, but it could also lead to the construction of many more turbines in the area.

The Group Chairman of NO2AWT Alan Daltrey said: “Today has been a great opportunity for everyone to pull together to stop the significant detrimental impact that turbines will have on our landscape, villages, homes, health and economy. We are small rural communities that greedy developers see as easy targets. If we support each other, we can gain the numbers we need to oppose these scatter-gun planning applications that are purely about profit, not sustainable renewable energy.”

NO2AWT’s Secretary and Aiketgate resident Jan Whitfield said: “We were thrilled that Rory attended our event, and give our full backing to his campaign for minimum setback distances. If Rory’s bill is passed, developments in such close proximity to homes, like that planned for Aiketgate, would not even be allowed to reach the planning stage. This is much needed protection for families and homes.”

“More and more of us know of friends or family members whose homes and villages are under threat from turbine development, or, like us, are finding their own property and wellbeing at risk. Local residents have to act, and now is the time. If we do nothing, we can’t complain when these monstrous structures disrupt our lives and ruin our local landscape.”



Today, in response to campaigning for the Hospice movement by Rory Stewart MP and other MPs the Chancellor has agreed to provide financial support for Hospices by refunding their VAT. ‎ Rory Stewart committed in his manifesto to ensuring that community and voluntary organisations are fully supported in Cumbrian health-care; and he has particular focus on the Cumbrian hospice movement, in engagement with Ministers and parliament.

Rory has attended numerous meetings with Cumbrian hospice charities, as well as bringing the former Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, to visit Eden Valley Hospice on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. He has supported Hospice at Home on a number of fundraising initiatives since his election in 2010, regularly giving talks and promoting the charity whenever possible. Cumbria is arguably the home of some of the most pioneering developments in national hospice care, with the Hospice at Home concept originating here in the county, whilst the Hospice movement was a British innovation started by Dame Cicely Saunders.

Speaking after today’s statement Rory said: “Cumbria’s very special relationship with the hospice movement is recognised today, and in the Autumn Statement we have delivered a tangible measure that will help our hospices to operate and to do their amazing work delivering palliative care not only to the patient, but care to the families whose loved ones are nearing the end of their lives.”

“Cumbria’s hospice tradition is legendary: in both Eden Valley Hospice and Hospice at Home we have two enormously impressive home-grown charities that provide the most crucial of support at what is the most difficult and challenging time in a person’s – and their family’s – life.”

“With over one third of constituents about to be over 65, and the number over 85 doubling, what we often need is not necessarily the technical expertise of the acute hospitals, but the preventative care led from community hospitals. This recognition in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement is absolutely amazing news – reducing fiscal burden on the NHS whilst improving the dying days of a great many citizens – and I am thrilled to have been able to support our hospices over the past almost five years.”


Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart has described this week’s Autumn Statement as an ‘Autumn Statement for Cumbria’, delivering to the county and to Penrith and The Border many key pledges that have been integral to Rory’s longest-standing campaigns: from greater investment into Cumbria’s road and rail infrastructure, to the refunding of VAT on hospices and hospice charities, to the exemption of employers from national insurance contributions when they hire apprentices under 25 – one of Rory’s main arguments for the boosting of the local Cumbrian economy and something which he has consistently lobbied the Chancellor on since election – the local MP has welcomed announcements that will directly benefit Cumbrian businesses, charities and families.

Central to this was the commitment from Government to invest substantially in transport infrastructure, science and technology industries, and in broadband provision in the North of England to create a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ for the UK economy. Following Rory’s strong involvement over the past four years in promoting the case of both the A69 and the A66 for dualling, Cumbria’s roads and rail infrastructure in particular are set for significant investment. Over £6bn has been set aside for improving northern roads, and follows on from recent successes in Rory’s campaigns to see major upgrades in Penrith and The Border. Having secured a full feasibility study for the roads, he has promised to help secure the necessary funding from these latest resources, to ensure the upgrade projects are made a reality.

Cumbrian rail infrastructure will benefit and, following repeated calls from Rory and Cumbrian colleagues, the Government has announced that it will tender for new franchises for Northern Rail and the Trans-Pennine Express, replacing unpopular pacer carriages with modern trains. This will deliver 20% more capacity to relieve overcrowding, and reduce journey times for train journeys in the north.

The confirmation that VAT will be refunded for Mountain Rescue, Search and Rescue and Air Ambulance teams is especially welcome, coming as a direct result of sustained lobbying from mountain rescue teams working alongside Rory, who served as the chair of the APPG on Mountain Rescue for four years. The Chancellor confirmed that search and rescue team and air ambulance charities will be eligible for VAT refunds from next April, and will replace the previous mechanism which saw government provide grants to UK teams to partially offset the tax they had to pay on equipment and fuel.

Speaking on the budget, Rory Stewart said:

“This Autumn Statement will be of real benefit to Cumbria and the north-west. Our local charities are set to benefit especially – which is a true credit to the amazing work they do, and a recognition of the role our community organisations play in strengthening economies – and our roads and railways should receive continued investment, something to boost our already growing tourism economy. I’m especially gratified that businesses hiring apprentices under 25 will be exempt from National Insurance contributions, something I have long argued is vital to Cumbria’s prosperity.”

“The VAT refund for Mountain Rescue teams is of course something I feel immensely proud to have campaigned for. Cumbrian Mountain and Cave Rescue teams deal with nearly half of all rescues carried out across the whole of England and Wales, and our teams of highly-trained, unpaid volunteers, represent voluntary service at its very best. We have fought hard for these VAT changes, and it will now help ensure that the unbelievably generous charitable donations from Cumbrian people, goes even further in supporting our Mountain Rescue teams.”

At a national level, the UK continues to be the fastest growing economy in the G7, with 3% growth forecast in 2014, up from 2.7% predicted in March, and 2.4% growth forecast in 2015. An estimated 500,000 new jobs will be created this year, 85% of of which will be full-time, and unemployment is set to fall to 5.4% in 2015.