Monthly Archives: June 2015


Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border, is encouraging young people in need to be aware of the important services provided by Carlisle Key, a local charity whose work Rory supports. Rory met with Trustee Peter Ryan, Project Manager Julie Spence and apprentice Sophie Edwards, who introduced Rory to young Penrith resident Catherine Harper who has benefited from the charity’s work, which provides assistance and support to 16-25 year olds who are offered accommodation and vocational support if they find themselves in distress due to homelessness, housing troubles, financial difficulties or other problems. Rory was able to spend time chatting with Catherine about how Carlisle Key has helped her to find accommodation and work, and to support her as she raises her twin
daughters alone.

Rory said: “We should all applaud Carlisle Key, its Trustees and its very hard-working staff, for all they are doing to support young people who for one reason or another find themselves in severe difficulties. It is a safety net which catches young people who need a hand, temporarily, when times are tough; and, speaking to Catherine today, I can see how very, very crucial this sort of intervention is. It is of course a source of real sadness that some young people need to use such services, and of course we need to address the root causes of why young people find themselves without a home or income, but meanwhile Carlisle Key and charities like it fulfil a hugely important function, and I am very grateful indeed for all the work they do. If you know of anyone in need, who might be able to use the services of Carlisle Key, please do get in touch with them.”

Trustee Peter Ryan said: “The representatives of Carlisle Key were pleased to have the opportunity, to put before Rory the work of Carlisle Key, and the need of this work for an increasing number of young people. To this end I feel it was a very satisfactory meeting.”

Anyone wishing to get in touch with Carlisle Key should call 01228 595566 or visit their website:

Tackling Food Waste

I am the Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs. The job includes rural communities, wildlife, national parks, forestry, rivers (fish, irrigation, drinking water, and flooding), air quality, and more. And although I have to travel around the country, a lot of this brings me back to Cumbria. Two weeks ago, for example, I began by visiting the Environment Agency in Bristol, Natural England in York, and the Yorkshire Dales National Park, but ended with the Forestry Commission in Cumbria. The show which I was asked to attend as a Minister last week was the Cumberland Show. But stuck among the visits, are hundreds of specialised meetings in London – in the last week for example, the Thames Tideway Tunnel, the next EU council meeting, upland farming in Exmoor, flood insurance, air quality in London, the trade in elephant ivory, and the ever-present greater crested newts.

How do you sum up a job like this? Take this afternoon, when I had to lead the government’s response to parliament on Food Waste. Humans are currently using 70 per cent of the fresh water in the world to grow food, and destroying rain-forests and emitting vast amount of greenhouse gases in the process. Many are still going hungry, and the world population is set to just keep growing, and eating more. Meanwhile, we still waste about a third of the food that is produced. There is waste in farming when supermarkets refuse to take fruits or vegetables which are slightly the wrong shape or colour. There is waste in transport, particularly in the developing world (Afghanistan, for example, grows great apricots but they are damaged on the trucks and by the lack of good refrigeration and packing facilities).
There is waste in shops – look at the perfectly edible food thrown into bins by shops up and down the country. There is waste in disposal – food sent to land-fills instead of being fed to animals. But above all there is waste in each one of our homes. Most of the food waste in Britain comes just from families throwing away food they could have eaten. The average family wastes sixty pounds of food a month. We desperately need to reduce food waste – environmentally, economically, and morally. Our nature, and our very population depend on it. Yet as recently as ten years ago, very little was done about any of this.

But things are changing fast. I remember meeting someone called Tris about ten years ago, and was surprised when he said that he regularly ate out of supermarket dustbins. I was even more surprised today to realise that since then he has written a best-selling book on food waste, led crowds of ‘gleaners’ to save vegetables from fields to redistribute them to charities, challenged European and British laws, taken on big supermarkets, and become an expert, who now works as a consultant, reducing food waste around the world.

And government has played its part too. We’ve helped to push through a new code with supermarkets and food businesses. This has led to a dramatic drop in the amount of food in supermarket dustbins; and to new ways of helping families not to throw away food before they need to (getting rid of ‘display-by’ dates, for example, and introducing individual packaging). The government land-fill tax has massively reduced the amount of food which isn’t recycled. We’ve backed a ‘whole crop’ campaign which means that instead of a chain buying only the ‘perfect’ tomatoes, it can use the top grade for loose sale, the next for processing, and the final grade for sauces and soups. Packaging has been reduced in volume but has also been improved – new re-sealable cheese packets for example allow cheese to last much longer. And there has been a surge in public education – explaining to the over sixty per cent of people who still believe that products last longer outside their packaging, that the reality is the reverse; or that products don’t need always to be frozen on the day of purchase.

The best bit, however, is that most of this is driven not by government but from the ground up, and quickly. In the last few weeks alone, in Brighton, the Real Junk Food café has opened which cooks meals made entirely from food waste (you ‘pay as you feel’ – and that seems to make for generous donations), and what they don’t cook they distribute to charities. In Barnsley, a community shop combines cheap good food with employment advice. In Scotland waste food used to make compost is reducing the use of rare peat-bogs. And Fare Share has worked with an Irish partner and Tescos to develop an I-phone app which allows charities to get free food directly from Tescos.

There is much much more to do. But if I was looking for a way of explaining why I like my new job so much, I’d start with this. It has been less than a decade since energetic people began to really tackle food waste. Government backed them with some laws, funding and policy. But the best ideas have come from the public, and almost half the reduction in food waste is because the public has chosen voluntarily to change their approach to food. And somehow the combined approach is working. Food waste in Britain has reduced by 21 per cent since 2007. It’s easy to be gloomy about improving the world, but the story of food waste is one reason that I’m ending my first month feeling quite optimistic.


Rory Stewart, local MP and former Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, has paid personal tribute to some of the veterans in his constituency, in celebration of Armed Forces Day on Friday 27th June. The MP met and chatted with veterans, and helped to sell badges in aid of the Day. Armed Forces Day is an annual nationwide event which gives people the chance to show their support for the men and women who make up the Armed Forces community: from currently serving troops to Service families, veterans and cadets.

Rory Stewart MP, who began his career as an officer in the Black Watch, and was awarded an OBE for his actions in Iraq, declared himself “enormously proud and privileged” to meet with Wigton’s eldest veteran Tommy McAvoy of the (Black Watch), and fellow veterans Derek Williamson (Scots Guards) and James Smith (Border Regiment).

Rory’s own father, D-Day veteran Brian Stewart, has also this year been recognised for his part in the Normandy Landings, the 71st anniversary of which is celebrated this year with Brian Stewart’s portrait included in an exhibition of D-Day portraits at Buckingham Palace’s Queen’s Gallery until the end of this month.

Rory said: “Both personally, and as a citizen, I am inspired again and again by our Armed Forces. As these veterans in Wigton show, they are such an extraordinary part of our country, and we should be all deeply proud of their service and sacrifice.”

Portraits of Brian Stewart, 2015 and 1944.

Portraits of Brian Stewart, 2015 and 1944.

Rory and veterans in Wigton - Left to Right: Derek Williamson, Tommy McAvoy, Rory Stewart and James Smith.

Rory and veterans in Wigton – Left to Right: Derek Williamson, Tommy McAvoy, Rory Stewart and James Smith.


This week the government has announced that approximately 250 onshore wind projects already in development are likely to be cancelled because the Government is ending subsidies. Rory Stewart MP is pressing to ensure that one of these is the amended wind turbine application at Beckburn Peatworks near Longtown. This is part of his continuing campaign to keep his constituency turbine-free.

Rory said: “The Beckburn application has been going on for some time, causing a good deal of anxiety amongst the local community, who are vehemently opposed to the application. Even though the local Council turned down an application for the nine-turbine farm in 2011, and the Ministry of Defence submitted their own particular objections, the Planning Inspector nevertheless recommended approval. This is absolutely wrong: distant bodies should not be allowed to ride roughshod over local communities, and I am extremely saddened to learn that the application has been resubmitted, and encourage anyone who is opposed to make their views known to Carlisle City Council’s planning department.”

Rory was keen to remind constituents of the good news that was coming out of parliament, echoing Energy Secretary Amber Rudd’s pledge that consumer bills will not rise and insisted the move would save taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidies that would otherwise have been paid out to energy projects.

Speaking yesterday Amber Rudd said a grace period was put in place, allowing projects which had planning consent, a grid connection and land rights by June 18 to continue to be supported under the RO. But the 250 projects delivering 2,500 turbines do not meet this criteria and are now “unlikely to be built”, she said.


Rory Stewart MP at St Cuthberts school

Rory Stewart MP at St Cuthberts school

Local MP Rory Stewart on Friday joined Wigton Mayor Joe Cowell and County Councillor and former education portfolio-holder Duncan Fairbairn on a visit to St Cuthbert’s Catholic Primary School in Wigton, where he joined afternoon hymn practice and then led a political question-and-answer session with curious students.

Rory was especially pleased to visit a local primary with such a long and rich history, having been founded in 1857 by the Sisters of Mercy who had settled in Wigton from London. Then, as now, children of all religions – and none – are welcomed to the school, according to head-teacher Paula Holden, who welcomed Rory and his colleagues on the visit. She said: “From an early age our children enjoy school and feel happy. They learn to share and make friends and become aware of the feelings of others. They learn right from wrong and learn how to play together and socialise quickly, establishing a politeness and courtesy that leads to purposeful relationships with adults and other children. We are so pleased that Rory came to visit today.”

The MP fielded a range of questions from the children of all ages, who asked if he visited London often, where the Houses of Parliament were, and whether he got homesick for Cumbria.

Rory said: “I absolutely loved visiting St Cuthberts. The school has such a warm, happy atmosphere and I thought that its pupils asked some wonderfully perceptive questions. Our schools are such a pillar of our communities, and St Cuthberts seems to embody all the values that we wish from our local education system: fairness, inclusiveness, and a can-do attitude that I really admire. I would like to thank the staff and pupils of St Cuthberts for welcoming me so warmly.”


Elizabeth Truss, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and Rory, in his capacity as Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, answered Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Questions in the House of Commons today. Watch it here:


Rory, himself a former school cadet, on Friday enjoyed visiting the Penrith Squadron of the RAF’s cadet force, one of more than 900 squadrons and 34 Wings in the UK. The local MP, joined by newly-appointed Leader of Eden District Council Councillor Kevin Beaty, met with cadets who were preparing for their evening activities, and learned more about their values of leadership and good citizenship, and the work they do in the local community. He congratulated them on their “great spirit of adventure, and drive to uphold the standards of public service in the heart of Penrith.”

The local squadron – a member of the Cumbria and Lancashire wing – talked to their MP about the work that they have undertaken in the past year alone, including building a large scale  model aeroplane; participating in the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme; First Aid training; powered flying at RAF Leeming; hill-walking excursions; supporting on poppy collections; and helping out at many local shows, to name just a few of their achievements.

Rory Stewart said: “Penrith’s Air Cadets are an absolute credit to their communities, their families, and their schools. It is wonderful to see so many dedicated and enthused young people on a Friday evening right in the heart of Penrith, coming out on cadet practice and showing how much they value public service. I hope very much that others will think about joining the cadets, who do such an enormous amount in our local community, and I would like to congratulate them on their great spirit of adventure and thank them for welcoming me so warmly to their HQ.”

Corporal Charlie Johnson, in charge of media and who arranged the visit said: “The Air Cadet organisation has given me the opportunities that have set me up for the rest of my life! Many of the activities that we undertake on a weekly basis are working towards awards such as BTEC’s, D of E and other noteworthy items that will most certainly help me and many other cadets in later life. We would like to thank Rory Stewart and Kevin Beaty for coming along and supporting the Squadron.”

The squadron can be followed on Twitter @1247Sqn and on Facebook at 1247 Penrith Sqn, RAF Air Cadets.rory_aircadets_june15



Rory Stewart MP at Kirkby Stephen Primary School

Local MP Rory Stewart on Friday visited Kirkby Stephen Primary School, where he enjoyed a tour of the school, meetings with staff, and introductions to pupils both in the classroom and in assembly, where he led an energetic debate on the role of politicians and politics, the process of passing laws, and the needs of a rural constituency. The group covered topics as diverse as taxation, party politics, and community engagement. The local MP also enjoyed seeing the Eden Rivers Trust leading a Year 4 class on river management (picture attached.)

Rory was invited to the school by Year 5 teacher Hannah Cleasby and her class, who are preparing for British Values and Multicultural Week at the end of this month, and who are studying issues such as the rule of law and the meaning of democracy.

The students were so excited about Rory’s visit that they immediately wrote him a letter of thanks, saying:  “Thank you so much for coming to Kirkby Stephen Primary School. We really enjoyed your visit and how you explained to us about your very important job and what it is like being an MP. We are grateful that you have shown us that being an MP is hard work and not as easy as it looks. We learnt that it is a complicated process passing a law that will benefit us. We also realised that being an MP could be an extremely scary and risky experience because you might not always be popular. Additionally, we found out that it can be difficult to make decisions as people may disagree with your choices. Finally, we discovered that you cannot just tax the people of Britain whenever you want. To sum up, we would like to say a HUGE thank you for giving up your precious time to come and visit our school, we really appreciate it. We have learnt a massive amount from your talk. We hope you will come and visit us again soon.Thank you so much for coming to Kirkby Stephen Primary School. We really enjoyed your visit and how you explained to us about your very important job and what it is like being an MP.”Rory said: “I was enormously impressed by all that the staff and students of KSPS are achieving. Small schools like these perform such a very important role in Cumbrian education. There was a great atmosphere in the school, and I felt that it was a wonderful space for children to learn, play and interact. I’d like to congratulate all the staff on creating such a great environment where children can strive and succeed to fulfil their goals.”rory_ksps_2


Rory Stewart MP at Kirkby Stephen Primary School


From Left to Right: Sheila Gregory (Carlisle Mencap), Rory Stewart MP, Team Leader Stuart Cowper, and beneficiaries Georgia and Erin

From Left to Right: Sheila Gregory (Carlisle Mencap), Rory Stewart MP, Team Leader Stuart Cowper, and beneficiaries Georgia and Erin

Rory Stewart MP for Penrith and The Border last week praised staff during a visit to the Grace Little Centre at Kingmoor Park – Carlisle Mencap’s respite care centre, which provides overnight care and support for those with learning disabilities living in the locality. The MP was given a tour by senior manager Sheila Gregory, where he met beneficiaries and chatted to staff about the important work they do in providing a wide range of services and support for people of any age and with different types of disabilities. Locally managed and funded, Carlisle Mencap is a membership organisation with over 150 members made up of people with learning disabilities, carers and other interested parties.

Rory said: “Sheila and the team at the Grace Little Centre are extremely impressive people, who use their local knowledge and passion to best serve their members, and tailor their support in only a way that small, local charities can do. I have consistently tried to highlight the importance of local charities such as these, and to encourage the wider local community to support and raise awareness of such a vital local resource. Everyone I met today is clearly incredibly dedicated, placing every emphasis on the people they support. As the brother of someone with Downs Syndrome, I understand well that respite care is something that is so important to carers, whose hard work we often overlook. I’m so pleased to be able to have visited today.”Sheila Gregory said: “We were delighted to see Rory today. There are 1.4 million people with a learning disability in the UK. People with a learning disability need a friend in government. Why?Because every year 1,200 people with a learning disability are dying avoidably in the NHS. Because tens of thousands of people with a learning disability want to work but are struggling to find the right support. Because eight out of ten families supporting someone with a learning disability will reach an emotional or financial breaking point. I’m really pleased that Rory has shown he is listening to people with learning disabilities.”



Rory Stewart MP at the Cumberland Show

Penrith and The Border MP and Defra Minister Rory Stewart has congratulated and thanked all those involved in the annual Cumberland Show, which he attended this year both as a local rural MP and as representative of the government department. He visited with his family – wife Shoshana and son Alexander – and spent several hours at the show, first spending time with exhibitors in the Taste Cumbria food village where he sampled local cheeses, meat and coffee; then to the Members’ Marquee where he spoke alongside Chairman Robert Wharton and met guests; following this, he visited the Walby Park Farm model farm, which his son particularly enjoyed; and ended with a round-table lunch in the NFU tent, discussing a wide range of agricultural issues.

Rory said: “It’s always a pleasure to attend and show my support for such a fantastic event, and this year it is a particular to be here as a Minister, to represent the government, and to listen to our farmers and farming associated businesses, to take their concerns directly back to the department.This show is the most incredible display of all that makes Cumbria best: its traditions, its farming communuities, its livestock, its produce. Many thanks to everyone who worked so hard to make the show a success, and it is really great to see so many friends and neighbours coming out to enjoy themselves and support our rural economy.”


Rory Stewart MP at the Cumberland Show