Monthly Archives: January 2015

Bringing to life better minds

Yesterday, I was asked to explain to school-children what I liked about reading. I found it very difficult to do, without describing particular books. Recently, for example, I came across a book by the British monk Gildas. It caught my eye, on a shelf, when I should have been doing something else. I opened it, and was suddenly in the presence of a man from the sixth century. He was speaking, directly to me, in the exact words that he had chosen more than a millennium ago, about the state of Britain after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Here it is:

I shall not follow the writings and records of my own country, which (if there were any of them) have been consumed by the fires of the enemy, or have accompanied my exiled countrymen into distant lands, but be guided by the relations of foreign writers, which being broken and interrupted in many place are therefore by no means clear.

He wrote as someone living at the very edge of the known world, one of the last literate men on a distant frontier, conscious of his limitations, and blindness, in a world that had slipped its moorings. He spoke in bewilderment, in distress. He seemed to be writing his history, as though putting it into a glass bottle, to be thrown from his sinking ship, unsure if anyone would ever read it. And then – fourteen hundred years later – I could.

Later, I found, on a shelf about Cumbria, an Anglo-Saxon poem about the collapse of a Roman wall (The ruins fell, perished/shattered into mounds of stone, where formerly many a warrior/joyous and bright with gold, with splendour adorned/proud and flushed with wine, in war trappings shone). Next, I discovered a Cumbrian lullaby, written in the seventh century, about hunting in the Lake District. Then, I came across Egil’s saga, in which the tenth century Norse hero, aged seven, kills a ten-year-old friend with an axe, because of a disagreement at a ball game. I was finding voices still entirely fresh, despite the gap of centuries – apparently undiluted by time. They were originally written in four separate languages. And they revealed a period when each valley in the Lake District had once been almost a separate nation: when Britain had contained more ethnic, linguistic and religious divisions than Yugoslavia. And yet, without “reading” these rare texts (Gildas was the first British text, and the last for two hundred years), all such cultures would be almost irretrievable.

I began to understand why reading mattered, in part, because for twenty-one months I was functionally illiterate. Walking, twenty miles or so a day from Turkey to Bangladesh, I rarely carried a book, and when I learned Farsi, Urdu or Nepali, I did not learn the scripts, so I could not read. Neon advertisements in towns, calligraphy on ancient tiles, and police documents were equally mute to me. The majority of villagers with whom I stayed were also illiterate. In Afghanistan being besawad – illiterate – was an insult, used often by city-dwellers against rural people, and it implied stupidity; but in fact I found these illiterate people to be courteous, shrewd, and eloquent. But I also realised that I and they – being illiterate – could not engage in the same way with the languages and voices of the dead. Only reading can fully resurrect the minds of others.

Once you have taken possession of a book, you can establish a relationship with a writer, which would be intolerable to a living individual: you can wake the writer at three in the morning, switch her off in mid-sentence, insist she continues for six hours unbroken, skip, go back, repeat the same paragraph again and again, impertinently second-guessing her vocabulary, and metaphors, scrutinising her structure and tricks. But the writer remains always autonomous. When I try to follow a good writer into her most inaccessible passages, press my mind into hers, burrow into her brain, I find I can never quite keep up.

The writer has from the start the advantage over the reader. Their minds are more perfected, and clarified over five hundred pages, than could ever be possible in a real encounter. If I were to meet a writer I love, I might be frustrated by his conversation – aware that he is not focused, in that moment, on the things that seem most interesting, is perhaps repeating an anecdote, rather than thinking. But reading, I can spend three days, with the most perfected version of his mind, where every sentence, is an exact, considered choice. And often, I sense that the writer is capable of things, beyond anything I could imagine or attempt.  I think I should have said to the school-children that the reason, to read, is to bring to life better minds.


Rory Stewart MP has offered his support for the charity Tax Help for Older People, which gives free, impartial, professional tax help and advocacy for older people on lower annual incomes. Help is available to those approaching 60 or older on annual incomes of less than £20,000. The service, which is provided by the national charity Tax Volunteers, offers caring and friendly advice on personal tax matters by expert advisers which is jargon-free and individual to your needs.

Rory said: ” This is the time of year when some people have to file their annual return. For older people this can be a confusing and stressful experience, and I’m delighted to help raise awareness of this important service, which offers free and impartial advice in plain English to older people who require support on their tax affairs.”

Jude Anderson, Tax Help’s Development Manager for the North said: “Tax can become more, not less complicated after retirement or semi-retirement.  We urge anyone over the age of sixty, and on a lower income, to contact us on any aspect of their income tax liability they do not understand.  A simple tax health check can set your mind at rest and more complex problems can be sorted out.”

The service can be contacted on its Helpline which is available from 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. every weekday:  Ring 0845 601 3321 (local rate) or 01308 488066 or email [email protected].  For tax queries that cannot be resolved by phone, Tax Help will arrange a face-to-face meeting, or home visit if required, with one of its team of volunteer tax advisers who deliver tax surgeries in Cumbria.  Or check out Tax Help’s website


With Debt Awareness Week taking place this week, Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border has today called on constituents to ensure they are taking advantage of free help and support available for anyone struggling with winter energy bills.

Rory said: “Nobody should suffer in silence and there’s a range of help and advice for any constituents who are having problems paying their energy or other household bills. I encourage anyone currently in financial straits to spend some time looking at the free advice which is available to them, at what is always a difficult time of year.”

British Gas does a great deal to help those who are struggling with their debt. In 2013, British Gas spent more than £380 million helping 1.8m vulnerable households with discounts, free insulation and benefits advice. The company has a successful partnership with StepChange Debt Charity – organisers of Debt Awareness Week – which helps customers by offering manageable payment plans for their energy and other household debts. It also funds The British Gas Energy Trust – an independent charitable trust set up 10 years ago. British Gas has provided the Trust with £75million to help people living in fuel poverty. The Trust provides grants to help with energy arrears as well as a wide range of advice and is open to everyone, not just British Gas customers.

Other support that British Gas provides includes flexible payment plans, referral to the Warm Home Discount scheme which gives eligible customers a £140 discount on their electricity bill, and identifying if customers are eligible for free insulation or boiler replacements.To register for extra help, customers or someone acting on their behalf should call 0800 072 8625 (or 0800 294 8604 if they have a Pay As You Go meter).

Rory said: “I want all my constituents to understand what help is available for them. Keeping on top of winter bills and managing debt is so important and I’d urge anyone in Penrith and The Border to get in touch with their energy supplier to find out what support is on offer.”


Rory, MP and Chair of the Defence Select Committee, has –  on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau – laid out a vision of how the international community can intervene to prevent future genocides. He argues that the international community still has the skills, and the resources, to protect civilians around the world, and it needs to find the willpower and the understanding to do so.

Speaking at the signing of the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, Rory paid tribute to those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as praising the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people. Tuesday 27th January marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp at Auschwitz, the site of the largest mass murder in history.

After signing the Book of Commitment, Rory Stewart – the Chair of the Defence Committee, and ‎ a former member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee – argued that “despite the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan, intervention can still work, and we have the capacity to prevent genocide – and we must never lose the determination to act.”

He has published his conclusions in a book, with Amnesty International, entitled “Can Intervention Work?” He said: “Having personally witnessed the pain and suffering caused by atrocities across the world – I served as a diplomat in Bosnia in the late 1990s, and in Iraq and Afghanistan subsequently – the act of signing this book today carries deep significance. We must pledge to use every political and indeed military tool to ensure that these horrors can never happen again. I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to join in the fight against prejudice and intolerance, wherever and whenever it may manifest.”

Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “We are proud that Rory Stewart is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day. As we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust and the liberation of the concentration camps in 2015, it is vitally important that we both continue to remember and learn from the appalling events of the Holocaust – as well as ensuring that we continue to challenge anti-semitism and all forms of bigotry.”


Rory backs United Utilities Winter Wise Warmth campaign for elderly Cumbrians

Rory Stewart, a long-time supporter of campaigns across Cumbria which aid the elderly during periods of extreme cold, is now supporting United Utilities, who have launched their Winter Wise Warmth campaign to help isolated older people in the county as temperatures start to fall. The local MP aims to raise awareness of the help that United Utilities are offering; as well as helping householders to fight the freeze in their own homes, the water company is urging people to support Contact the Elderly, a national charity tackling isolation among older people, by organising regular Sunday afternoon tea parties.

Contact the Elderly is recruiting volunteer hosts and seeking guests in an attempt to set up its first group in Cumbria for which United Utilities has donated £3,000 in DIY store vouchers to the charity which will be used by volunteers from the water company to help Contact the Elderly guests buy pipe lagging materials and other items to prepare their homes for winter. The partnership is part of the United Utilities Winter Wise campaign to spread practical advice on preventing the misery of a burst frozen pipe.

Rory said: “Our traditional build housing and low average wages make us very vulnerable to the threat of burst waterpipes here in Cumbria. These obstacles are, for the elderly, compounded, and I would hate to think of older people facing expensive and unaffordable plumbing bills this winter, which is proving to be a very fierce one. This is a really important awareness-raising campaign, and I would urge everyone to take the time to make sure their water pipes at home are ready for this winter’s cold weather.”

John Suddes, United Utilities water network manager, encouraged people to help themselves and others protect their own homes and avoid the misery of burst pipes. He said: “It’s great that Rory is backing our campaign. It will help us spread the word to even more people about the importance of lagging their water pipes and what to do if they have a freeze or burst in their own homes this winter. Hopefully it will be a boost to our partner Contact the Elderly’s great work in Cumbria as well.”

Supported by a network of volunteers, Contact the Elderly organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people, aged 75 and over, who live alone.

Gwen Lightfoot, North West regional development officer for Contact the Elderly, said: “Winter is a particularly difficult time for isolated older people. By partnering with United Utilities, we hope to raise awareness and encourage people to come forward and help make a difference. All we ask from our volunteers  is a little of their spare time to either host a tea party in their own home, or drive and accompany guests to a tea party and then deliver them home safely afterwards. It is fantastic to know that the United Utilities volunteers will also be helping older people prepare their homes for winter.”

United Utilities recommends that householders:

·         Lag pipes so they are much less likely to freeze

·         Find and label your stop tap – the tap which controls water supply to your house, so you know where to turn the water off if you do get a burst.

·         Keep the number of a good plumber handy, just in case

·         Find out more about becoming a Contact The Elderly volunteer by visiting or getting in touch with North West Development Officer Gwen Lightfoot on 01925 728969 or email:


Following further support from local MP Rory Stewart, the South Tynedale Railway Preservation Society have received written confirmation from the Secretary of State for Defra that state-aid rules will not apply to the STR project, ensuring the group can again raise funds from public sector grant-awarding organisations. Rory Stewart MP and patron of the STRPS group, Lord Inglewood, had previously met with the Secretary of State, to press for Defra to revise its stance on the matter. The written confirmation STRPS have now received will enable them to overcome bureaucratic hurdles that have been stalling progress for a number of months.

The STRPS group has already successfully raised over £5 million to fund a self-supporting community railway that will eventually serve Haltwhistle, South Tynedale, Alston Moor and the wider North Pennines region. According to the group’s latest financial and feasibility report, the creation of a seasonal heritage steam railway will attract over 100,000 visitors to the area, generating between £2.2M and £4.1M of benefits to the local economy every year. It would also serve as an important form of public transport for one of the most isolated and rural areas in Britain. Following the closure of the old railway line to Alston in 1976, Alston now lacks any rail connections, and the recent removal of bus subsidies by Cumbria County Council has exacerbated local public transport problems further.

Rory Stewart said:

“Alston Moor has an incredible history, a stunning landscape and a vibrant local community. It holds huge potential for the development of its tourism industry, and the South Tynedale Railway project is central to this. I am pleased we have now secured the support of the Secretary of State in writing for the future of the project, and I hope it will allow South Tynedale Railway’s fantastic volunteers to turn their time and energy back towards making this incredible project a reality.”


Today Rory Stewart MP met with Secretary of State Liz Truss for intensive discussions about the problems facing Cumbria’s dairy farmers. During a 45-minute meeting in the House of Commons, Rory explained the crisis of collapsing milk prices, the reduction in the number of dairy farms, and in particular the problems facing First Milk. He pushed hard to ensure immediate action on labelling of British products on supermarket shelves, to make sure that supermarkets extended their ‘cost-plus payments’ (in which they pay over the cost of production) from liquid milk to other milk products.  He also pushed for the immediate introduction of higher fines on supermarkets that did not follow the rules. Rory demanded assurances that all dairy farmers would receive their farm payments on time and that HMRC showed understanding and flexibility this tax year.

The Secretary of State said that she was focussed hard on all these issues, would work closely with BIS on the issue of fines, and would be pushing the labelling issue with the EU in Brussels. She also explained new opportunities for British milk producers to export to markets such as China, where demand was growing fast.

Rory Stewart said: “This is a very difficult time for the dairy industry. Global production is up by 6% and prices have plummeted around the world. But dairy farmers are a very important part of our society, particularly in Cumbria. We need to do all we can to support them through these difficult times and make sure that when the prices recover, they are in a position to take advantage of these new opportunities.

Rory Stewart is holding a surgery for dairy farmers this Saturday 31st January at the farm classroom of Sewborwens Farm, Newton Rigg, from 1200-1330h. He thanks Newton Rigg for their support.rory_dairy1

Trident Renewal


Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border, Conservative)

It is a great privilege to follow John Woodcock, who gave an extremely eloquent, entertaining and serious speech.

I will try to speak briefly. The great challenge here is to try to work out, after nearly 60 or 70 years of this debate, what new there is to say. The huge ethical issues that have been raised by Opposition members and the huge strategic issues that have been raised on this side of the House have been gone through again and again.

The one thing we should perhaps say is that, at the beginning of the 21st century, certain kinds of argument should no longer be relevant. The first argument that I do not believe we should be having is fundamentally an argument about economics. This is a large question. As was pointed out by Opposition Members, it is a question of Armageddon. It is question of deep, deep strategy. This is the fifth-largest economy in the world and we should not be making the decision on whether to keep nuclear weapons on the basis of either the belief that we could save some money by cutting them or alternatively the belief that we should retain them in order to keep some jobs in a marginal constituency. It is much more important than that.

What can we say? The first thing that we notice is that the nature of deterrence and the threats that we face have changed. The threats that we are facing now, particularly posed by Russia in Ukraine, which has been raised again and again, are not exactly the same as the kind of threats raised by the Soviet Union. I say absolutely straight out that I will be voting in favour of the retention of the Trident nuclear deterrent. It is a very important thing for us to do. But I have enormous respect for the people on the Opposition Benches who have anxieties about it, and it is to them that I want to address a few short remarks.

The history of the last 30 years, unfortunately, has shown that the kind of arguments made by people in favour of nuclear disarmament were, in the end—although well intentioned and frequently led by impressive intellectuals, bishops and scholars—proved wrong. In the end, it turned out that the people who were characterised as Dr Strangelove—the people written off as irrational and macho—had a better understanding of the mentality of Stalin and a better idea of how to protect western Europe. They should be thanked for the work they did, which contributed in no small way to ensuring that, today, we have had 70 years of the greatest and most productive and prosperous period of peace in Europe conceivable. We should also thank the Labour party for its contribution to the setting up of NATO and the commitment it has made to the nuclear deterrent since the second world war. We should continue to work together on this.

But the threat that we now face is a different one. We do not know what Putin is doing and before we decide how to deter him, we need to work out what the threat is. Is he intending to use nuclear weapons? We have noticed, for example, that he has been investing heavily in his tactical nuclear arsenal. He has also committed a great deal of money towards modernising his nuclear arsenal. He has been running exercises recently, including the deployment of a nuclear bomber to Venezuela. At the same time, the activities in which he is engaged, and which have been laid out by his chief of staff Gerasimov, are all arranged around the idea of ambiguous warfare, almost at the very opposite end of the spectrum from nuclear war; the use of special forces, intelligence operatives and cyber warfare to create a situation such as in Donetsk where he continues to be able to try to claim deniability while putting Russian special forces and Russian weapons in on the ground. The question for us in coming up with a deterrent is how we deal with that threat.

What does the United States do to protect NATO? What is the United Kingdom prepared to do to protect NATO? Listening to the debate, I am not clear—I would be interested to hear what the shadow Spokesman says on this—as to what Britain is proposing to do with our nuclear weapons if Russia were to attack a Baltic state. We knew what we were proposing to do in the 1980s. The basic concept of the tripwire was that we had forces on the ground and were the Soviet Union to attack those forces, nuclear weapons would be fired at Moscow. In this debate there now seems to be some ambiguity. Are British nuclear weapons used only to defend British soil, or would they be used to defend the Baltic?

Paul Flynn (Newport West, Labour)

Is not the question: what will America do if there is an attack on the Baltic states from Russia? Our involvement in this is peripheral. We do not provide a deterrent; America does. We are clinging to this virility symbol as a gesture of our old national pride when it is not relevant. The whole point of multilateral disarmament is to reduce the number of nations with nuclear weapons down to two. By possessing them we are encouraging other nations to acquire them.

Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border, Conservative)

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point, but I think the fundamental nature of our disagreement is going to be about our whole relationship

to the NATO structure and the kind of role we wish to play within it. Although the hon. Gentleman is speaking very eloquently about nuclear weapons, I suspect he would also disagree with many Government Members about conventional weapons, and the role we generally play in protecting countries like the Baltic states against attacks from Russia.

If the hon. Gentleman wishes to intervene again, I would be very interested to hear what he proposes Britain should do to defend the Baltic states against such an attack.

Paul Flynn (Newport West, Labour)

I know the Baltic states very well: I visited them four times in the ’80s and ’90s. I am not suggesting that we pretend some fantasy nuclear war is going to take place with us as the main participant. Where we have been successful is in humanitarian interventions in places like East Timor and Sierra Leone. Where we have failed is where we have gone into Iraq and Afghanistan with all guns blazing. We are good at humanitarian intervention and that is where our money should be invested.

Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border, Conservative)

With respect, as I suspected, the hon. Gentleman is focused on issues like East Timor and humanitarian intervention which have very little to do with the question of NATO. This whole idea of an attack on one being an attack on all is fundamentally predicated on the idea of deterrence. It is fundamentally predicated on the idea that we in the UK, as a major member of NATO, would protect these states if they were attacked, and my suspicion is that the hon. Gentleman has no strategy whatsoever on how to defend them. Giving up on the nuclear weapon is simply a symbol from the hon. Gentleman—a virility symbol, perhaps—of actually giving up in general on our obligations to protect NATO states. If I have misunderstood, I am very happy to take another intervention.

Paul Flynn (Newport West, Labour)

The hon. Gentleman is being very generous. If he went to Tallinn or Vilnius and asked the people there who they would look to to defend them if Russia attacked, they would say they look to America, not us.

Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border, Conservative)

We can, of course, agree with the hon. Gentleman on that. That is true. One of the questions is working out what Britain is going to do, but of course the biggest question for Vladimir Putin is what the United States is going to do. But the reason why these questions, and the uncertainty around them, are relevant is that Vladimir Putin’s decisions on whether to use ambiguous warfare, conventional troops or nuclear weapons will be guided by his perception of what we—the United States or Britain—are likely to do in response.

Julian Lewis (New Forest East, Conservative)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the whole point of article 5 of the NATO treaty is not the question of which of the members of NATO an attacked country will look to to get most military help; rather, it is to take any uncertainty out of the question of who will declare war if a NATO country is attacked? Therefore, if a NATO country is attacked, our existing obligations are to declare war on the attacker. Does that not mean that we must be very careful how widely we extend NATO membership?

Rory Stewart (Penrith and The Border, Conservative)

I agree absolutely, and that is a very important point. This NATO obligation is an unbelievably serious and important obligation. We have stretched it absolutely to its breaking point. If we are going to be serious about it, we have to follow through and that absolutely means we should not be giving guarantees to people we have no intention of protecting. We should not be writing cheques we are not prepared to have cashed.

The nub of this issue is, of course, that deterrence depends not on whether Britain would use a nuclear weapon, but on whether the other side believes that we would use it. Therefore, the most important support for our nuclear warheads lies not in the Trident missiles or even the submarines; it lies in the character of our nation, which is why there is absolutely no point in our having a discussion about a nuclear deterrent without looking at our defence strategy and posture in general. Deterrence cannot make sense if we get ourselves into a situation, which I sometimes worry my hon. Friend Sir Nick Harvey is getting himself into, where we believe that simply investing in fancy bits of kit is going to keep us safe. If people do not believe we are going to use them—that we are serious about using them—they will be entirely meaningless.

We can see the problems already, so let us just run through the various justifications that have been laid out here for nuclear weapons. The first was P5 membership. The big question for Britain on P5 membership is whether we are serious about our role in the United Nations at all. Why are we not contributing more to UN peacekeeping?

The subject of Iraq has been raised. The big question on Iraq is not our posturing about caring about terrorism or saying it is a tier 1 threat, but what we are actually doing? At present on the ground outside Kurdistan, while Australia has 300 soldiers, and Italy and Spain are deploying 300, we have exactly three. That means that Britain is not displaying and consistently demonstrating seriousness. This is not about combat troops; it is about being able to analyse the mission, have an intelligent conversation with the Iraqi Government, engage with our coalition allies and play the global role that our enormous defence budget is supposed to provide us with.

On Ukraine and Russia, again, we cannot simply rely on kit; we need to be doing things. The big question for us in Britain is how are we responding to the ambiguous warfare that we can see being propagated in Ukraine? What kind of investments are we making in military intelligence? What kind of investments are we making in cyber and in special forces? How much do we understand the situation on the ground in Ukraine and Russia?

On NATO, it is fine to talk about how important it is for us to be in NATO and to have nuclear weapons, and indeed it is. But it is meaningless if we are not going to stick to the commitments that we made in Wales of 2% of GDP. The most important thing we can do to deter Russia now is to ensure that Russia believes that NATO is serious about defending itself. If we say in a Wales summit that we will spend 2% of GDP, and if we go around telling other countries to spend 2% of GDP—and we should be telling other countries to spend 2% of GDP—we must retain our own promise and commitment, otherwise the nuclear deterrent will not be taken seriously.

Putin will look at us and ultimately conclude that there is a minimal chance of our doing anything if he were to intervene in the Baltic, because in respect of the rapid reaction force commitments, the framework nations—Germany, France and Britain—appear to be struggling to commit in 2016 to maintaining a deployable brigade. It seems to be very difficult to get the countries to work out how that will be funded in 2016. Whereas Russia can deploy 40,000 troops at 72 hours’ notice, the NATO deployment rates are running at about six months.

If we do not reach out to the public, which is why this debate is important, if we do not talk about why Britain is a global power, why we care about the Baltic, why we care about the global order, why we set up NATO, why we have nuclear weapons in the first place, all this will be lost.

To conclude, the fundamental rationale for all this depends on something on which Paul Flynn and I disagree. This is the nub of the disagreement: do we believe in a world order? Do we believe in NATO? Do we believe Britain is a global power? Do we wish to play a role in the world? If we do, I will vote in favour of those weapons, but the deterrent will not make sense unless the character of the nation is in place, otherwise what we will be doing is creating something a little like the gold inkstand on the Table—a golden pinnacle on top of a cathedral, when the foundations and the structure of that cathedral are lacking and the faith of the nation has been lost.


Local MP Rory Stewart is to hold a constituency ‘dairy surgery’ – the first of its kind – to address current concerns about the dairy industry, and to continue responding to constituency farmers who are affected by what is being described by many as a dairy crisis. The event, to which any constituent dairy farmer is invited to come along to, will be held in the farm classroom of Newton Rigg’s Serborwens dairy unit outside of Penrith, at 1200h on Saturday 31st January 2015.

Rory said: “In response to what I see as both a national and a local crisis, I have decided to hold a ‘dairy surgery’ in the constituency, which is my way of being able to chat to as many dairy farmers from the constituency as possible and to hear first-hand of their experiences of the current situation, which is clearly untenable. Something needs to be done and the best way of pushing government to help is to gather first-hand accounts of farmers’ experiences and to illustrate in the most detailed way possible, how this situation is affecting us. We cannot afford to continue in a situation where a litre of milk can be worth less than a bottle of water. Penrith and The Border has one of the largest milk fields in England and my first duty is in supporting our dairy farmers as much as I possibly can.”

For more information about Rory’s forthcoming dairy farmers’ surgery, please visit


Rory Stewart ‎was able to bring his campaign for Cumbrian broadband – on which he has been working closely alongside Cumbria County Council – to the floor of Parliament again on Thursday. The Secretary of State for Culture Sajid Javid confirmed that they extension for which Cumbria has been campaigning will be granted.

The Secretary of State was speaking after months of behind-the-scenes cross-departmental lobbying, meetings, and phone discussions involving many government agencies (DCMS, DCLG, Broadband UK, BT and Connecting Cumbria (Cumbria County Council)), during which Rory Stewart has been trying to broker a significant extension to the broadband rollout period. The Secretary of State’s decision will be very positive for the continued delivery of Cumbria’s superfast broadband network, meaning that a potential loss of EU funds has been averted and ensuring that Connecting Cumbria and BT have time to meet their targets.

Speaking in DCMS Questions in the House yesterday, Sajid Javid said: “Rory Stewart has been working very hard on this issue, and I commend him for the work he has done on behalf of his constituents and for bringing this matter to my attention again and again. My Department is working closely with the Department for Communities and Local Government, Cumbria County Council and BT to ensure that the problem is resolved. I can also report that, following initial discussions, I am confident that the project can be fully delivered to give a great result for residents and businesses in Cumbria.”

‎Rory Stewart, whose broadband campaign began before his election to Member of Parliament in 2010, has been consistently challenging Ministers and officials for several weeks in an attempt to guarantee future funding for Cumbrian broadband and to resolve a stand-off between government departments, which would have prevented Cumbria getting additional EU funds.

Following a further milestone meeting with DCLG Minister Lord Ahmad this week, Rory said: “Cumbria’s broadband rollout can now continue throughout the year – rather than having to be wrapped up in the Spring in order to satisfy inflexible delivery and accounting deadlines – which is absoutely fantastic news. I don’t think people were quite aware of what we stood to lose, but thanks to the hard work of officials from various departments and the focus of BT and Connecting Cumbria, we have managed to supply the necessary detail to obtain this very, very crucial extension which will ultimately benefit all of Cumbria’s rural communities. We also have to thank our Secretary of State for grasping the serious importance of fixing this problem, and for acting in the best interests of Cumbria.”