Monthly Archives: December 2015


Rory PR 2Rory Stewart MP for Penrith and The Border, and the Floods Minister, showed Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin around some of the county’s worst-hit infrastructure following the recent devastating flooding, in a day-long visit that took in Braithwaite, the A591 at Thirlmere, Pooley Bridge and Eamont Bridge, with the Secretary of State stopping off along the way to see some of the damage in Keswick also.

As a result, Rory Stewart has stated that: “The Lake District must be open for business as soon as possible, and this means mending and reopening the A591, and fixing Pooley Bridge and Eamont Bridge as quickly as possible. These are crucial links for our communities, our businesses, and of course our tourists, and tourism is the income on which our entire Cumbrian economy depends. I was delighted to be able to show the Secretary of State in person this utterly horrendous damage, and I want to reassure communities that we in government are doing all we possibly can to ensure that the roads and bridges are repaired as quickly as possible.”

Yesterday’s visit follows the Department for Transport’s announcement that it is releasing emergency funding of £40m for the Cumbrian infrastructure projects, in an announcement that has been widely welcomed.

The Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said: “As far as the machinery of government goes, we are here to assist. I’ve got the Chief Executive of Highways England here today with us to look at things and see what can be done. Cumbria County Council has a huge amount of work to do in the rest of the county, so if we can relieve some of the work from them, then we can speed up the recovery process. Nobody could have predicted the seriousness of this. But we need to ensure that any repair works withstand the sorts of natural forces we saw this month. I can’t put a date on it, but certainly I want to see this done as quickly after Easter as possible. We are concerned about flooding all over the country, not just in Cumbria, so we are looking very much at the way in which government can assist and help, and we need to look again at flood defences – are they adequate, why did they fail, and what can we do about this? These things are, of course going to be looked at. We will look at everything.”


rory_stormdesmondRory Stewart, Floods Minister and MP for one of the areas worst hit by Storm Desmond’s torrential floods, will welcome the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, to Penrith and The Border tomorrow morning, Monday 28th December, for a tour of the worst affected roads and bridges.

The visit will coincide with a formal announcement confirming the release by central government of a funding package worth £40m for repairs to flood-damaged roads and bridges. Work to mend the A591 and investigate restoring Pooley Bridge and Eamont Bridge is due to begin in the new year; the Floods Minister will tomorrow discuss with the Secretary of State giving responsibility for these infrastructure projects to Highways England.

Rory Stewart, who has spent the Christmas period helping to coordinate prevention efforts across Cumbria ahead of Storm Eva – which saw huge amounts of rainfall over Christmas and Boxing Day – has welcomed the news, which will impact on many of his affected constituents: “It is vital that we get our bridges and the A591 up and running as quickly as possible, but not at the risk to people’s safety. Yet these roads and bridges are crucial links in our network. That is why we desperately need this emergency investment from government, which acknowledges that these are exceptional circumstances. I am delighted that I will be showing the Secretary of State for Transport around some of the most badly affected areas in Cumbria tomorrow, and I encourage locals to please come and see us. We will be visiting the A591 at 1230pm, Pooley Bridge at 1445pm and Eamont Bridge at 1530pm.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the local transport system was “the lifeblood” of the region. “We are determined to help families and businesses in Cumbria and Lancashire get back on their feet as soon as possible.”

The government has been supporting the efforts of the local authorities ever since the extreme weather hit, as they have begun repairing the region’s transport network. This important announcement builds on the government’s provision of up to £2 million in the initial aftermath of the severe wet weather to enable Cumbria and Lancashire authorities to carry out an initial assessment of what repairs were required to roads and bridges. The Department for Transport will continue to work closely with the local authorities in Cumbria and Lancashire in recovery efforts.


My decision on the Syria vote was strongly influenced by my personal experiences and work in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Balkans showed me how important an international intervention can be in protecting civilians. Iraq and Afghanistan showed how much uncertainty and ignorance and risk we face in intervention. There are risks of being misunderstood by the local population; risks of simply not understanding the dynamics of power at a local level; and great risks of irrationality from the intervening powers.

So, I completely understand why many people were reluctant to act in Syria. There are very good reasons to be worried by the current positions of neighbouring states – Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran in particular; and to be doubtful whether it will ever be possible to create genuinely inclusive governments in Baghdad or Damascus, able to appeal to both Sunni and Shia communities. And there are reasons to doubt the capacity and skills of the international community in the Middle East. And above all reasons to be very concerned about the potential casualties of any war.

But I believe that in this case air-strikes are the correct decision. I was convinced of this on two visits to Iraq twice last year. Six days before I reached the frontline on my first visit, Islamic State/ISIL fighters had exploded into the minority areas, and swarmed across the river, driving armoured Humvees into Kurdish territory. The peshmerga had shot at the armoured vehicles, and then, finding their bullets useless, retreated. Within a day, the Islamic State, was only twenty miles from the Kurdish capital of Erbil, and the city-residents were beginning to flee. Beyond were almost four hundred thousand refugees.

But then the US air force responded. The US air-strikes immediately destroyed their artillery and armoured vehicles, and ISIL – who were mounting a full-frontal assault, across miles of open desert – were forced to abandon their attack and retreat. The US action showed, therefore, that air-strikes can prevent the Islamic State from expanding further. And I believe this to be as true in Syria as it was in Iraq. They can help protect the refugees, whom I saw living in half-completed buildings, under bridges, in schools, and on patches of dirt. The Royal Air Force can join these strikes legally, in a broad coalition, without endangering the lives of our troops, and in a way that protects some of the most vulnerable refugees in the world. This is worthwhile.

But as everyone has emphasised, air-strikes on their own, cannot achieve much more than containment – and preventing further expansion. Ultimately, the only people able to create and sustain a viable alternative to the Islamic State are the local population. That will only be possible if they can create a durable government, and if other states in the region stop providing financial support, and safe-haven to Islamic state fighters. That in turn will only be possible when Sunni states cease to believe that the Islamist fighters are their allies against Iran.

The key questions, therefore, for the future are not military but political. How do you bring Turkey actively to support the fight against the Islamic State? How do you convince people in the Gulf to cease financing them? How do you stop Iraq and Syria being simply pawns in a much bigger fight between Iran and its Sunni opponents? What support can you provide for the people living under the Islamic state to allow them to escape this circle of horror?

Britain and its allies can play a role in resolving some of these issues. It could do so through large teams of diplomats and political officers, equipped with relevant languages, working in all those countries to try to find the seeds of a resolution. We need to use our diplomatic, political, and intelligence capacity in the Middle East. And we need patience, humility, understanding, self-knowledge, and seriousness. Because the leading role must be taken not by us but by regional players.

Meanwhile, our current policy must be to prevent ISIL from expanding any further. For more than a decade they have maintained a reputation for brutality, exploited Sunni anger and alienation from the Baghdad government, have created local governance structures, and attracted a varied group of 30,000 foreign fighters from half the countries in the world. This abhorrent group has survived the onslaught of the wealthiest countries on earth, erased the borders of established nations, improvised a new territory, held it, taken the second largest city in Iraq, and enforced horrors – such as slavery and rape – which not even the Taliban have done. And their focus is now increasingly on mounting attacks outside – in Libya, in Egypt, and in Northern Europe. It represents the most significant challenge to global security for decades. In the absence of air-strikes it is very likely that they will be able to expand their territory very significantly – recapture Sinjar, and Baiji, take Erbil, or even Aleppo. It is both practical and morally correct to contain them. That is why I believe – despite all the very valid concerns expressed by opponents – parliament’s decision was the correct response.


Rory Stewart MP was delighted to award runners-up and winners of the
Country Watch Eden official logo competition at Appleby Grammar School
last week, where he handed out certificates to overall winners Hamish
Donnelly and Sasha Parkin from the school’s Year 7. The pupils’ two
logos have been amalgamated to create the image which will be used on
all Country Watch Eden merchandise.

Country Watch Eden is an NFU and Cumbria Constabulary-led rural crime
prevention initiative which primarily aims to tackle the increasing
problem of sheep theft in eastern Cumbria – a crime Appleby NFU group
secretary Amanda Wallbank says devastates her farming members both
financially and emotionally. Sharing intelligence about rural crime is
integral to the success of the scheme, with farmers and police
officers already communicating with each other regularly on social
media sites such as Facebook via the Country Watch Eden page. A
network of sheep farmers including Alan Alderson of Barras Farm in
Kirkby Stephen and Will Patterson of Coupland Beck Farm in Appleby
also regularly invite police officers onto their farms to learn about
the livestock industry, the yearly cycle of sheep production and the
language and terminology used by the county’s sheep farmers.

Rory Stewart said: “Country Watch Eden is a fantastic programme, and I
am so pleased to see the Appleby Grammar School students so involved
in the initiative which brings together the school, the NFU and
Cumbria’s police. It’s also a great way to educate the local community
about the livestock industry to a point where they’d notice if
something criminal or suspicious was taking place. Rural crime is such
a serious issue and we are only going to address it thoroughly through
a community approach. Initiatives like this are the cornerstone of our
countryside and what makes us proud of rural Britain. I thought Hamish
and Sasha’s winning designs were brilliant, and I think they deserve
this great accolade for their creative talents.”

NFU Appleby Group Secretary Amanda Wallbank helped set up the scheme.
She said: “With 400 Facebook users and the scheme’s profile really
taking off locally we decided it was time to have a logo. As the
initiative is there for everyone in the local community, we thought it
would be a great idea to allow the children of Appleby Grammar School
to create a logo we hope will become a recognisable image in their

Twelve pupils who had designed logos out of core school time were
confirmed as finalists – winning a trip to Will Patterson’s farm, a
fleece with the winning logo on and a certificate. The two winners
also received £25 Amazon vouchers.

Head of Appleby Grammar School’s Year 7, Sam Rowan, added: “This
project has really grabbed the imagination of the children. Using the
NFU logo we spent some time with the pupils discussing the importance
and significance of branding. In total we had 35 entries to the
competition which is a great response. Some of the children have had
personal experience of rural crime or have farming backgrounds, so I
think this project is very close to their hearts.”


Parliament Week, coordinated by the House of Commons with support from the House of Lords, was celebrated by MP Rory Stewart in an informal discussion about local and national politics with a group of sixth form students at Appleby Grammar School last week, part of a programme of events and activities designed to connect people with Parliament and democracy in the UK.

Students joined Rory after school to ask him a range of questions. Rory chose to mark the week by meeting the sixth formers for a relaxed chat about their views on politics, which included talking about the government’s policy on reducing the deficit, the difficulties of balancing competing policy objectives, the challenges of a rural community, and a debate on the merits of Jeremy Corbyn.

Rory said “I​ always really enjoy hearing from young people about their views on national policies. It gives me a real feel for the issues that concern young people. Appleby Grammar School’s sixth-formers are clearly a bright, engaged and politicised group, which is wonderful to see. It made me feel positive about the future of politics. I enjoyed getting involved in Parliament Week​ in this way, helping to ​r​aise awareness about the value of engaging with democracy and Parliament and, more importantly, the ways people can do this. Politics is not just about Westminster, and Parliament Week ​is ​one way of highlighting ​why politics matters ​to each and every one of us.”


Rory Stewart MP and DEFRA Minister for the Environment and Rural
Affairs has officially opened an innovative treatment works which uses
the natural environment to clean metal-rich water from an abandoned
metal mine, located at Force Crag near Keswick. The scheme will clean
up a 10km stretch of river, preventing three tonnes of metals,
including zinc, cadmium and lead, from entering Bassenthwaite Lake
each year. The scheme will bring up to £4.9 million in environmental
benefits to Keswick’s water and wildlife while boosting tourism and
the local economy.

Funded by Defra, the scheme is part of the Government’s £8.5 million
investment in low-cost solutions to tackle water pollution caused by
abandoned metal mines that pollute over 1000 miles of rivers in
England. The concept was developed by Adam Jarvis and his team at
Newcastle University and delivered by the Coal Authority in
partnership with the Environment Agency, the National Trust , the Lake
District National Park Authority and others.

Rory Stewart said: “I’m delighted to be here today in this incredible
landscape to open Europe’s first treatment scheme, using the natural
environment to clean metal-rich water from the Force Crag abandoned
mine. This will improve local water quality while still maintaining
the beauty of this truly unique site. It’s also an unbelievably
impressive example of partnership working, bringing together Defra,
the Coal Authority, the Environment Agency, the National Trust, Lake
District National Park Authority and others to bring this world
leading scheme to life. I very much hope that we can see more of these

Stephen Dingle, Chair, Coal Authority, said: “Our experts prevent and
treat water pollution from Britain’s abandoned coal and metal mines,
managing over 70 mine water treatment schemes to protect and improve
over 350km of rivers and preventing important sources of drinking
water from being polluted. Working with our partners we’ve now built
and are managing our first ever passive metal mine water treatment
scheme to address the pollution which comes from Force Crag Mine in
the Lake District National Park.”

Environmental Engineer Dr Adam Jarvis, Newcastle University, said:
“Newcastle University’s design of the water treatment process at Force
Crag followed more than 10 years’ research and development, starting
in the laboratory and culminating in this unique large-scale treatment
system. Working in partnership, it’s a great example of undertaking
research to resolve a real world problem – pollution from abandoned

Keith Ashcroft, of the Environment Agency said: “We were delighted to
be involved in the Force Crag treatment system. Our rivers are the
healthiest for 20 years, and we are working hard to maintain what we
have achieved so far and to further improve water quality and

The Force Crag Mine worked for zinc, lead and barytes from 1835 until
1991 and was the last working mine in the Lake District. Now
abandoned, it is a Special Scientific Interest site, a Special Area of
Conservation and a scheduled monument.


Rory Stewart MP pledged his support to Matterdale Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Plan at a wide-ranging ‘Q&A’ session at Watermillock Village Hall on Friday, where he participated in a panel discussion with planning consultant Tom Woof and Stephen Ratcliffe of the Lake District National Park Authority.

Speaking to the packed hall local residents learnt directly from Rory about his thoughts on rural issues in addition to the Neighbourhood Plan, including rural broadband, World Heritage Status, and the rural economy. However the main focus was on planning issues within the National Park, an issue in which the community is clearly very invested.

Speaking on the proposed Matterdale Parish Neighbourhood Plan Rory paid tribute to his fellow panellist, Tom Woof, who led the first national Neighbourhood Plan Referendum in the Upper Eden area, which garnered praise from government and industry alike. He said: “The pendulum has swung to the local. Government recognises that we need to give communities more democratic control. There will always be national checks and balances, but the Secretary of State Greg Clark is a big believer in local control on planning issues, and strongly supports. It is very exciting that Matterdale are considering this, and in Eden as a whole we are pushing these plans through at a rapid rate and are a real national leader. Local people know more about what they want to happen in their area, but it is important to understand that a Neighbourhood Plan is a statutory document. Many things will frustrate you, but hopefully they will make life a little better.”

Rory also pledged to support any ‘build-and-benefit’ broadband model, reinforcing that many technological solutions could be looked at to reach the hardest to reach properties in the Parish. He empathised with the frustrations of many at not yet being able to access superfast broadband, but painted a positive picture about the potential for rolling out community projects with BT such as the Fell End model in Ravenstonedale, a similarly remote and challenging landscape. He said: “We have invested a lot of money into broadband, and the Prime Minister is now pushing for a Universal Service Obligation, which he wants to try and impose on BT. BT would be compelled to provide broadband to houses where the cost was estimated to be less than £3,500 per house. In a challenging landscapes like this, the costs are going to be massive. Therefore build-and-benefit models, like Fell End, have to be the answer. I would certainly love to work with Matterdale Parish Council on this.”

Matterdale Parish Council Clerk David Brown said: “The opportunity to hear the panel on the issues raised was much appreciated and I hope others will follow the Neighbourhood Plan route Matterdale Parish Council took​.​”