Monthly Archives: June 2016



Rory Stewart has visited the ‘inspirational’ Ast Signs on Gilwilly Industrial Estate in Penrith, which the local MP recently nominated as Penrith and The Border’s Responsible Business Champion 2016. He met with Managing Director Mark Aston, and was given a guided tour of the company’s state-of-the-art premises, meeting and chatting with staff and seeing the wide array of corporate branding that the company undertakes.

Rory nominated the group because of its commitment to apprenticeships and to environmental standards, and for its visionary approach to employing young people from the area.

The nomination has been endorsed by the All Party Parliamentary Corporate ResponsibilityGroup (APCRG) which set up the Responsible Business Champions Scheme for MPs in 2015.
A Parliamentary judging panel considers all MPs’ nominations against national criteria announced each year by the APCRG and selects one company as the overall APCRG National Responsible Business Champion. The overall winner this year will be announced at a reception in Parliament on 13 July 2016.  In choosing the National Responsible Business Champion 2016, the judging panel are looking for companies which support the local community, invest in healthy workplaces, offer apprenticeships and training to all age groups, promote equality and diversity in the workplace and monitor suppliers’ actions on these issues.

Rory said: “Ast Signs is an inspirational business, and it is really does show what the future of businesses in Penrith and The Border can be. Mark and his staff have managed to create a workplace that is attractive to young people in Penrith and The Border, and is also architecturally stunning and modern. With more businesses like this, which see an investment in people as important as an investment in technology or equipment, we really can look to a future where young Cumbrians can be finding jobs in some of the most cutting edge industries, right here in our county. I am pleased that I was able to nominate Ast Signs for this award, and look forward to seeing the business continue to go from strength to strength.

Ast Signs MD Mark Aston said: “We were delighted to be nominated by Rory, and really enjoyed showing him around our premises. We do maintain a strong set of core values based on customer service, attention to detail and investment in new technology. In terms of technology, we are at the cutting edge. We invest heavily in capital equipment throughout our graphic design, manufacturing and fitting operations and very little of our equipment is more than three years old. Our people are critical to our success; we have a highly experienced team and we are always planning for opportunities to learn and train, which is why we see apprenticeships as so important.”



Rory Stewart MP has visited Wigton Hospital, where he met with nursing staff, Eveline Dugdale of the League of Friends, and Cumbria Partnership staff to reassure of his support for the Hospital, part of his ongoing campaign to push back against the Success Regime’s consultation into the future of Cumbria’s Community Hospitals.

The visit coincides with today’s announcement from the Success Regime that it is to extend is consultation period, from the proposed July date to the ‘end of the summer holidays’. Rory, who has held numerous discussions and meetings with Ministers, Success Regime officials, and League of Friends representatives of all four community hospitals in his constituency, stressed in the meeting at Wigton that there was a strong case to be made for community hospitals in north Cumbria to have an enhanced, rather than a diminished, role.

Speaking at the meeting he said: “Wigton Hospital must have a vision, similar to the excellent case made for Alston, and I will back it all the way in the campaign to not only retain our community hospitals, but to win them a greater role in the way that healthcare delivery is undertaken in this part of rural Cumbria. Our community hospitals, as I have always said, are essential services with a vital role to play. I think we could be looking towards a situation when our community hospitals continue not only in their clinical remit, but also as a social-care environment, given our ageing demographics and changing patient needs. I feel confident that we can put this case to the Success Regime successfully, and I will continue to fight for our community hospitals.”




The meeting, which the local MP arranged, was attended by Andy Brown of Cumbria Highways, local county councillor Duncan Fairbairn, and parish councillors including Alan Rule and Michael Stockdale. The damage to the bridge was inspected, and technical aspects explained to the community. Andy Brown, Senior Director of Strategic Asset Management in the Highways department, confirmed that some design options would be put toward the community imminently, and that work should begin as soon as practicable. It was stressed that any new structure be designed to accommodate the flow of river water, and that a resilient long-term choice be made.

Rory Stewart said: “It is hugely important to get feedback from the parish on this decision, since it is their bridge, and they and their ancestors have been using this bridge and farming along these riverbanks for centuries. At the same time, we must acknowledge that any structure must be resilient to withstand any future flooding events. I would like to thank Highways for their work – they have worked immensely hard since December last year, surveying a huge number of infrastructure repairs, and I also want to pay tribute to the communities around Sebergham, who have been patient and understanding. Councillor Duncan Fairbairn has also done a fantastic job, tirelessly lobbying for a solution.”

Rory also inspected the eroded road further along from Bell Bridge at Sebergham, and congratulated the Highways workforce on the work they are doing to strengthen the tarmac to make is safer for local drivers.




Please note that Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border, will be holding drop-in surgeries.

Friday 1st July, 16.30 – 18.00, Booths Cafe, Penrith
Saturday 2nd July, 13.00 – 14.00, Conservative Association Tent
No appointment is necessary, and all constituents are welcome. More information can be found at For more information please call 01768 484 114.



Rory Stewart MP has met with Wigton’s Nelson Thomlinson School’s Young Enterprise team of Year 12 students, who presented to him their Eduvation product. The group has been selected as National Finalists and will be visiting the Houses of Parliament next month to present their product, an economics study aid which they have developed and marketed, accumulating over £1,000 in sales already.

Rory met and chat with Managing Director Amy Renyard and her staff, who explained the hard copy economics study aid and app to him. Rory personally congratulated the group, and coached them in the sorts of questions that the panel might ask.

Rory said: “The Education team are very inspiring, and continue Nelson Thomlinson’s great tradition of producing really fantastic teams of students who are extremely proficient in the different aspects of running a business. The fact that they are national finalists is a real source of pride, and I wish Amy and the team very well with their project, and with the study aid, which I believe has a very promising future.”

Amy Renyard said: “We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to meet Rory and discuss our project with him, creating an insightful and engaging conversation. For Rory to come to Wigton to visit was an exciting experience for us and has really inspired us to continue with our business endeavour. He gave us some really good advice and helpful coaching ahead of the finals.”

Rory’s visit once again focused on the importance of giving young people a platform to engage in business. The programme values hands-on employability and runs financial education programmes, resources, and teacher training in a bid to support the government’s eradication of youth unemployment, seeing young people realising their potential beyond education and empowering a generation to discover and develop their skills and business potential.



Rory Stewart MP was delighted to visit the new Screwfix Store in Penrith on Friday, which opened in January​, and applauded the work it is doing to encourage Cumbrian tradespeople to take on apprentices​. It is one of more than 40 new Screwfix stores to have opened in 2016 already, and is one of the fastest growing retail businesses in the UK​, employing 9,000 people across the country​.

Rory met with Area Manager Melissa Dutton, S​tore Manager, Pete Winwood, and members of the eleven-strong team ​at the East Lakes Business Park on Gilwilly, and learned about the Screwfix model of business as the UK’s largest multi-channel supplier of ​t​rade ​t​ools, p​lumbing, ​e​lectrical, b​athrooms and k​itchens.

​Every week it dispatch​es​ tens of thousands of parcels every week for next day and weekend delivery to tradesmen, handymen and serious DIY enthusiasts all over the UK​, and has received numerous awards in recognition of its workplace culture, including Gallup ‘​Great Workplace​’​ Award winner ​(2105), ‘Supply Chain Team of the Year’ ​(​2015), Verdict’s ‘Best DIY & Gardening Retailer’ (2015) and, earlier this year, Retail Week’s ‘Multi-channel Retailer of the Year​’​ and ​’​Employer of the Year​’​.

​Rory was especially impressed with the company’s ​Tradesman Manifesto launched in 2015, which highlighted the desire of UK tradespeople to hire their own apprentices, and called upon Government to support this increase in the trades. Many of the plumbers, electricians, builders, carpenters and other tradespeople questioned had little or no experience of taking on apprentices with only a small percentage taking on an apprentice in the last year. In response to this Screwfix, alongside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, launched a handy guide for tradespeople to pick up in store offering guidance and funding advice on how to go about hiring an apprentice.

Speaking after the visit, Rory said: “I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Screwfix Penrith, and enjoyed meeting the store team very much. The workplace ethos was extremely impressive, and I was particularly interested in the great work Screwfix has done in making it easier, within the industry, to take on an apprentice. Their “Your guide to hiring an apprentice” which was produced with government support, is a brilliant tool for local tradespeople in the constituency, who see cost as the biggest barrier to taking on apprentices. In fact, it’s easier and cheaper than many think to take on an apprentice in the current climate.”

“From builders and bricklayers to plumbers and electricians, tradespeople are part of the fabric of our economy and communities; they build our schools, hospitals, homes and businesses, and that is why I and colleagues in Parliament want to support the industry, and companies like Screwfix, who are really vital to our prosperity.”

Melissa Dutton, Area Manager of the new store shared with Rory some of the feedback from its trade customers and some of the key issues, opportunities and challenges facing people in the trades in the local area.

​S​he said: “As a key supplier to the trade, we have a great relationship with our trade customers and can really help amplify their voice by getting their message across on visits like today​’​s.

Many of our customers are busier than ever right now so it’s important we work closely with the wider industry and the Government to consider ways to help them and to encourage growth in their businesses.”

For more information on Screwfix visit or pop down to the new store which is located on East Lakes Business Park, Gilwilly Industrial Estate, Penrith, CA11 9BB





Rory Stewart MP last week visited the site of a major landslide, caused by the December 2015 storms, which closed part of the historic ‘Carlisle to Settle’ line between Carlisle and Appleby.

The landslide, which occurred at Eden Brows, Armathwaite, was caused by the swelling of the River Eden during Storm Desmond, and Network Rail, along with their contractor, Story, are in the process of designing a complex engineering solution to protect this section of the Settle to Carlisle line for the long-term. Access roads and compounds have been built at the site to allow access for workmen and heavy machinery to carry out the repairs as soon as the plans are finalised.

The area of land affected by the landslip is more than 130m long and 70m wide and an estimated 500,000 tonnes of earth has already been moved – 10 times the weight of the QE2 ocean liner when it is fully loaded – and the embankment is still moving.

Following the visit Rory said: “Repairing the extensive damage caused by this landslide is a massive challenge and I am impressed by the ingenuity with which Network Rail and Story have approached the problem. This is an immense project and it is important to find an effective and sustainable solution which takes into account the complex geology of the area and which will protect this iconic railway line for many years to come.”


Cumbria’s representatives in Parliament have today joined forces to pen an open letter setting out the positive case for Britain to remain in the European Union.

The letter, signed by the six MPs from three different political parties, explains that EU membership supports Cumbrian economic prosperity, and allows the UK to work collectively with other European countries to tackle borderless issues such as terrorism and climate change.

The Cumbrian MPs explain that they have “…set aside our differences to join forces on this one issue, with the simple message: without doubt, Cumbria’s best interests are served by Britain remaining within the European Union”.

Rory Stewart MP said:

“I have decided to vote to stay. I will do so because of things I care about it in this constituency such as financial support for small farmers and the environment (90 per cent of our lamb exports, go to Europe). I will also do so because of things I care about nationally, such as keeping Scotland in the Union. And I will do so because of things I care about outside Britain, such as European security. I find it better instinctively, as a rule of thumb, to build things together, rather than break them apart”.

The EU Open Letter is as follows:

Dear Sir/Madam,

As we approach the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union, as Cumbria’s representatives in Parliament, we are united in our belief that both Cumbria and the United Kingdom are better off in the EU.

Our membership of the EU supports our economic prosperity, allows us to work collectively and effectively with other EU nations to tackle issues such as terrorism and climate change, and it gives us a much stronger voice on the world stage. By remaining in a reformed EU, we will set the future European agenda, lead on plans to tackle the causes of terrorism, continue to enjoy significant economic advantages that we would not have outside the EU and remain one of the world’s leading nations.

With over 477,005 jobs in the North West linked to exports to the EU, it is undeniable that trade with Europe plays an important role in the prosperity of Cumbrian business. Our membership makes us attractive to international investors looking to create opportunities and jobs here in Cumbria, because in doing so they are set to benefit from trade opportunities with 500 million consumers in Europe. In fact, future trade with the EU could create 790,000 more UK jobs by 2030 by opening up markets in digital services, tourism and energy, all sectors of critical importance to communities like ours. We believe that Europe is of vital support to farming and the rural economy. Furthermore, it supports the environment and landscape, on which our rural economy depends.

European investments in our region are also substantial, and Cumbria will benefit from rural and agricultural development funding of £9.3 million between 2015 and 2020. Cumbria is also soon to see the biggest ever private sector investment that we have ever seen in the shape of the £20billion NuGen project at Moorside. NuGen is a consortium made up of French, American and Japanese companies. Every single one of these countries has made it clear that they believe that Britain’s future – and their investments – are best served inside the EU.

However, the benefits of our continued EU membership are not economic alone. Peace in Europe was hard won and since it was established, the EU has ensured that peace has prevailed on our continent. The preservation of this peace remains one of its guiding principles. Our shared resources and collective voice place us in a stronger position with which to deal with global threats than we would be alone. We are in no doubt that our EU membership strengthens our national security.

As Cumbria’s representatives in Parliament, we respect every viewpoint in this debate and we look forward to conversations with many of you about these issues as we approach June 23rd, when together we will make the most important decision facing our country in a generation.

Whatever the outcome of this referendum, the result will shape the future of our country and our county. As Members of Parliament from three different political parties, we have set aside our differences to join forces on this one issue, with one simple message: without doubt, Cumbria’s best interests are served by Britain remaining within the European Union.

Jamie Reed, Member of Parliament for Copeland

John Stevenson, Member of Parliament for Carlisle

John Woodcock, Member of Parliament for Barrow and Furness

Rory Stewart, Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border

Sue Hayman, Member of Parliament for Workington

Tim Farron, Member of Parliament for Westmorland and Lonsdale



The campaign by Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart to halt the NHS Success Regime’s plans to reduce community hospital beds in his constituency continues, with Rory pressing the Programme Chair Sir Neil McKay on a number of fronts, and lobbying government Minister Ben Gummer for support. In an intervention this week, and following continued meetings with representatives from the Leagues of Friends for Alston, Wigton, Penrith and Brampton hospitals in his constituency, Rory has directly pressed Sir Neil McKay on a number of issues, in particular requesting clarification on the lack of options for Eden and Wigton in the Options Evaluation document, and encouraging the Success Regime to look at blueprint plans created by the League of Friends to use the opportunity of the Success Regime to increase the role of community hospitals, rather than reduce it.

Rory has in particular raised the economic case that community hospitals play in alleviating the pressures on the acute hospitals in terms of step-down and step-up care, respite, palliative and end-of-life care, and has drawn attention to the publication of the National Audit Office’s report into the cost of elderly patients’ delayed discharge, arguing that  community hospitals have a role to play in preventing admissions into acute hospitals, acting again as an interim site and saving the costs of in-patient admissions.

Rory said:  “I am worried that the Success Regime see the role of our community hospitals in purely economic terms, which is why it is important to be as detailed as possible in our arguments regarding the cost savings impact that community beds can have. If we can work to strengthen the economic arguments on a hospital by hospital basis, then I think that would serve us well. The Alston LOF have produced a fantastic document, which I believe can act as an exemplar care for community hospitals across the country, showing that rather than being redundant, they actually have a much more important role to play in remote healthcare delivery.”

Rory also called a meeting with the Chair of the Health Select Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, herself a representative of a rural constituency. Rory said the meeting was very helpful: “There are many parallels between Cumbria and North Devon.  One idea would be to designate the beds as ‘social care beds’, thereby avoiding some of the structural issues around NHS beds and minimum units of 16. Another would be to look at how we re-design our community hospitals so that they continue to function both as clinical outposts for certain services, and also increasing the numbers of beds and perhaps consolidating  GP and care services. These are all ideas, but they all need to be considered very carefully.”

Rory has also signed the petition to save Alston Hospital, and will be visiting Wigton Hospital​soon ​to talk to staff and patients. He is hoping to meet again with Sir Neil McKay and Minister Ben Gummer in the coming days.

Humans in the Landscape

Shortly before my father died, he was reading “The Road to Wigan Pier”. He had been struck by Orwell’s description of the industrial scars and the poisonous detritus in Northern England in the 1930s. I had been walking a great deal, and my father wanted to know whether I too had found a landscape “wrecked by too many centuries of industry; too many people in too small an island.” But in fact our environment is, in many ways, in a much healthier place than when Orwell was alive and my father was young.

Acid rain has been removed from the air, and chemicals from the rivers. Our beaches have never been so clean. Our engines have never been less polluting. Mile after mile of new rowan, birch, oak and ash have been planted by highways, on old rail tracks, and along the sides of deep gills. The increase in woodland cover is staggering. When my father was born, only two per cent of England had been covered with woodland. The figure today is closer to ten per cent. Part of this is due to economic change. The lead, iron and bauxite mines of the Lake District, and the coal mines of the Cumbrian West coast – which employed thousands in my father’s youth – are all gone. So too are the military munitions sites, airfields, nuclear plants, and secret test sites which were scattered across the border valleys forty years ago.

Part of it is about different approaches to agriculture. Over-stocking has largely disappeared with the old headage payments. And we are getting much better at agri-environmental schemes. Walking through Peppering Farm in Sussex, for example, three weeks ago, I saw how by moving to smaller fields, wider hedgerow margins, more crop rotations, and more feed for birds, the Arundel Estate has combined profitable crops, with an explosion of birds: skylark numbers have tripled, lapwings doubled, and grey partridge have increased almost one hundred-fold since 2003. Sometimes, as in Knepp in mid-Sussex, the transformation has come through ceasing arable agriculture (I have never heard bird-song so loud and beautiful, or been more moved by the sight of Tamworth pigs, and long-horn, and red deer moving through a primeval savannah of unruly flowering hawthorn and thick willow).

In the National Forest, the secret has been a DEFRA-funded scheme of tree-planting which, over twenty-five years, has turned the industrial landscape of the West Midlands – bare mines and potteries – into a paradise of glades and copses. And last weekend I saw how the Peak District National Park has restored bare black peat, poisoned by two centuries of acid rain, back into native grassland, heather, and sphagnum moss. But where does this leave the Cumbrian landscape? These other projects have easy champions in ‘environmental’ or ‘farming’ camps. They are able to count things like farmland birds, tonnes of carbon, or cost of production. The landscape of much of England today – in which we are able to see far more birds of prey in the sky, more badger setts and more otter holts, but fewer farmland birds, probably fewer hedgehogs or water-voles, and certainly fewer salmon – reflects the ability of these different interests to bend subsidies, regulations and land-use in order to back their different agendas. And our small traditional sheep farms, often represent exactly what such interests think they want to eradicate.

The environmental movement is tempted to argue that the sheep are damaging to bio-diversity or water quality, and agricultural economists are tempted to argue that small farming is inefficient and lacks ‘economies of scale.’ They rarely acknowledge that here in Cumbria, we have inherited a landscape of small farms, where every wall, and barn, and flock carries the trace of a thousand years of human cultivation, and management – which is unique in Europe, and uniquely beautiful. So, how do you promote projects such as the farms at Peppering, the rewilding at Knepp, the reseeding of the Dark Peak, while still maintaining Lake District hill farms? The answer, I believe, is to emphasise something which is not easy to measure or justify in a government document: beauty. But hard-headed types need not be so worried.

It is beauty that ensures that millions of people pay to visit our landscape, it is beauty that will guarantee that future generations care about our land and defend it. And what has struck me in my recent walks is that these environmental and agricultural projects, which I have visited are in fact obviously and profoundly beautiful. But beauty is a more generous, open idea than ‘food production’ or the ‘environment’ because it leaves room for the human, the historical; for a dry-stone wall or a medieval bank-barn, as much as a productive crop; for a Herdwick lamb as much a lapwing.

What I should have said to my father, is that if his generation’s problem was too much human interference in the landscape, ours is the reverse – we are losing our belief in a positive role for humans in our landscape – and the way to restore it is to be less embarrassed about admitting what we love.