Environment Minister Rory Stewart is urging all would-be walkers and have-a-go-hikers to visit their nearest National Park or public woodland this Bank Holiday weekend and throughout the summer.
Treading a path for others to follow, the Minister will be visiting some of our most iconic green spaces over the three-day weekend, including the New Forest, South Downs, Heart of England Forest and the National Forest.
Encouraging others to get out and discover their local landscapes, Environment Minister Rory Stewart said:
“The UK’s National Parks, forests and woodlands are right at the heart of our national identity. These spaces belong to each and every one of us, and I’d challenge anyone visiting to enjoy them without feeling a pang of pride about that sense of ownership.
“I’m delighted our outdoor spaces and National Parks are driving economic growth through international tourism, but there’s no reason we shouldn’t be enjoying them for ourselves as well – getting out and enjoying the great outdoors is a brilliant way to feel healthier and properly unwind over the long weekend.”
In March, the government announced a new Plan for National Parks to further secure the future of our iconic protected landscapes, ensuring they are effectively managed and contribute to the growth of our strong rural economy.
With over half of the population in England living within an hour of a National Park, the plan aims to increase the diversity of visitors from the UK – as well as promoting these world-class cultural attractions to a global audience through the GREAT campaign to drive international tourism.
The government aims to grow annual visitor numbers to 100 million, giving local businesses a £440 million boost and adding to the £4 billion already generated by National Parks.
The budget for outdoor spaces was protected in the last Spending Review, committing over £350 million for English National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and forests.
Rory Stewart MP joined Eden Arts Director Adrian Lochhead, EDC Economic Development Portfolio-holder David Hymers, and Commercial Director of Ast Signs Adam Wellings at an informal networking lunch on Friday, which was designed to bring local business and the arts together to discuss a common visit for the arts in the Penrith area. Adrian Lochhead explained how much of a local economic driver the successful Winter Droving event is, and Rory spoke about the importance of creating new traditions.
Speaking at the event Rory described Eden Arts as a national gem, saying:
“Eden Arts brings an amazing energy to Penrith. I spend a lot of time going to events where people talk about the way you can get an economy going and connect it to culture, society, ideas, and beauty; but few people are as articulate or effective at this than Eden Arts. We are really lucky to have Adrian and his team delivering inspiring ideas and making them reality, and I would love to see more local businesses engaging with Eden Arts on their projects. Eden Arts is a national gem, right here in Penrith, and they have a fantastic ability – with events like the Winter Droving – to create new traditions, to keep young people connected, to encourage visitors, and to show the rest of the country what rural Britain can be.”
Rory Stewart MP has celebrated the work of National Apprenticeships at an Interserve reception at the Houses of Parliament, which celebrated the importance of UK apprenticeships across all industries.
It coincided with Rory’s nomination to the APPG for Corporate Responsibility’s ‘2016 Responsible Business Awards’ of Penrith-based business Ast Signs, for its dedication to young people through its apprenticeship scheme.
Speaking at the event Rory said: “Responsible business and apprenticeships go hand in hand, and it is great to see so many employers creating so many apprenticeships for young people; last month, employers across the country pledged to create 30,000 new apprenticeships, which is wonderful for all communities. In Cumbria, I see local dedication to providing apprenticeships as key not just to our economy, but more importantly to the hopes and aspirations of young Cumbrians – enhancing their job prospects, giving them the chance to learn a wide range of skills, and helping them gain experience in different environments. I think the work at Ast Signs does just that, and that is also why I am choosing them as my nominated business for this year’s”
The annual Responsible Business Awards is a parliamentary scheme whereby MPs are given a chance to nominate businesses who, among other criteria, show a dedication to apprenticeships and training. Rory has already highlighted the excellent work of other companies in the constituency working hard in this field, including Cranstons and Innovia. Nominees will be invited to attend a parliamentary reception, and the national winner will be awarded by Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid MP.
The Minister of State responsible for fisheries unfortunately cannot be here, but it is a great privilege for me to be here to hear those speeches, which revealed just how much care, affection and thought my hon. Friends the Members for Waveney (Peter Aldous) and for Newbury (Richard Benyon) have put into the issues of complex fisheries. I will reply quite briefly, as this is the Minister of State’s subject rather than mine, but I will make a couple of observations on DEFRA’s behalf.
First, we absolutely accept the importance of the inshore fleet. Its economic value is not just the amount of fish it catches but its contribution to ports and to fleets in general. The selective fishing done by inshore fleets—the under-10 metre vessels—is often more environmentally friendly and sustainable. It is less likely to have by-catch or disrupt spawning stocks. It is also much less likely to have issues with carbon emissions. Generally, it ticks almost every box for a sustainable fishery.
As my hon. Friends both pointed out very well, it is also true that this is not simply an issue of economics or the environment. Fishing is the lifeblood of the ports. We love to go to coastal communities and see fishing boats. Those boats simply will not be there if we do not protect the under-10 metre fleet. There is also a connection with our maritime heritage as a nation. It inspires us as a country to know that those vessels can continue to operate. It connects to tourism, the wider economy and the environment. For all those reasons, we need to pay attention to those fleets.
We must balance that, of course, with the interests of the offshore fleets. They catch far more of the fish we eat—about 666,000 tonnes are caught by the offshore fleets compared with about 42,000 tonnes caught by the inshore fleets. Of the 42,000 tonnes caught by inshore fleets, only about 5,000 are within the quota stock range.
About 5,500 people are supported by the offshore fleets. We know more and more about the benefit and fantastic nutrition that we get from fish, and about how good it is for our health and what a fantastically delicious and healthy food it is, and that depends on the offshore fleet as well as the inshore fleet. We need to consider how to get the balance right and swing the pendulum back.
The Government’s gut instinct is probably that the pendulum has swung too far in favour of offshore fleets, and we have now begun to push it back. As my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney acknowledged, we have recently allocated another 1,000 tonnes to inshore fleets. We have begun to use the opportunities provided by getting rid of discards to allocate more, and 10% of that quota goes to inshore fleets.
The challenge is to have a good strategic study to consider the 25 or 30-year future. Rather than my pontificating from the Dispatch Box on a subject about which I do not know a great deal, I would like my hon. Friends the Members for Waveney and for Newbury to sit down with our officials and talk in great detail through the issues that have been raised, and particularly the fantastic work that the hon. Member for Waveney has done on comparative studies, such as Swedish fishing methods, and the French, German and Canadian approaches.
Our current process is fantastic, and it is not only processing people but retailers, the industry, fish salesman, and coastal communities who are discussing what more we can do for the inshore fleet. To do that, we need from my hon. Friends details of how much more of the quota it makes sense to give that fleet, how much more it feels that it can catch, and how that will deliver economic benefit.
I have two small pieces of reassurance. First, it is true that we are already incentivising more sustainable ways of catching fish, and European Union grants are available to upgrade the type of nets that are used to get more sustainable catches. Secondly, we are already emphasising the economic links with people who possess those quotas in terms of providing jobs for coastal communities.
In conclusion, let me pay tribute to what was a serious and impressive piece of research that contained stimulating ideas. We must take up the challenge of thinking forward over a 25-year environment plan, and we must consider how to integrate fish and coastal communities into that. In addition to protecting this precious piece of maritime heritage, we must think about the fish themselves, because they are a finite and precious resource.
Rory Stewart MP has pledged his support for residents of Edenside care home in Appleby, who were evacuated to the former Greengarth care home in Penrith, when Appleby was hit by the devastating Storm Desmond in December. Repair work to the care home has not yet started and there are fears in the community that this might take some time, or that the home may be closed permanently.
Mr Stewart has immediately initiated talks with Cumbria County Council this week to establish when work to repair the property will be undertaken and to gain assurances that the facility will be up and running in a reasonable timescale. Mr Stewart has also requested a visit to Greengarth on Friday 22nd April to meet with staff and residents and hear their concerns first-hand.
Rory Stewart said: “With an ageing population and increasing pressures on local resources, we must ensure that these well established homes and their knowledgeable staff can continue to care for residents in their own communities, close to family and friends. And I am committed to doing everything I can to help get the residents of Edenside back home.”