Monthly Archives: July 2016

International Affairs in a Post-Brexit World

In the four days since I was made the Minister for International Development, I must have been asked a dozen times whether International Affairs isn’t simply a waste of time. It’s not a bad question. It’s right to be suspicious of governments who exaggerate their international importance; and there are too many recent examples of money wasted, and lives lost, in foreign adventures, with little benefit for people abroad, let alone at home. But the solution isn’t to retreat. As we have learnt again and again, through terrorism, World Wars, and economic crises, what happens abroad can have a devastating impact on our lives at home. And our international reputation is particularly important, a month after we have chosen to leave the European Union. So, what should our foreign policy be? The answer is two-fold: we should reassure the world, and we should surprise it.

Reassurance comes first. We cannot allow ourselves to be perceived by others as though we are the victims of a Brexit-error. One of the most informed electorates in the most mature democracy on earth chose to leave the European Union. The government must embrace that decision: act as though we meant what we did, and remind the world that our nation is still what it was a month – or indeed a century – ago: a wealthy state, with a great central bank, and an exceptional legal system, predictable and reliable in an unreliable world.

This is why we needed to play a key role in the NATO conference two weeks ago; and why it was essential that our new Prime Minister made the visit to Germany and to France this week. That is why our Embassies have to push British business harder than ever, focusing on new initiatives, for example, with the two billion people of the commonwealth – a third of the world’s population – from water engineering expertise in Nigeria, to air quality experts in Delhi. And that is why we must continue to play a diligent and responsible role in international organisations, proving even in more specialised places (the forthcoming negotiations on endangered species in September and the UN conference on bio-diversity in December, for example) our value as a permanent member of the Security Council.

But reassurance is not enough, we also need to show that Britain can reinvent itself. Brussels took responsibility for many things which we now need to do for ourselves. It controlled our environmental and agricultural policy, it removed our capacity to conduct trade negotiations, and took us out of the habit of justifying our laws and actions on first principles. We need to rebuild those skills and principles, and the confidence that goes with them.

If we can get our structures right, we can recapture the initiative. We can deepen our relationship with the US (how about increasing the number of UK officers in US staff colleges, or pairing each of our National Parks with a US park, or backing the new joint venture between the Smithsonian and the Victoria and Albert museum in London?) We could lead the fight against human trafficking and wildlife poaching. We should use the opportunity provided by a new British, Commonwealth Secretary-General and a forthcoming summit in London to strengthen our relations with the Commonwealth. We could consider bringing other countries behind a new major environment project (something like finally tackling the third of the Brazilian rainforest that has been felled, and abandoned – a project that has the potential to be the most cost effective way of protecting species and addressing climate change). There is enormous untapped potential in the BBC World Service. And we can continue to support the world’s poorest people: providing nutrition, immunisation and education to millions of children; supporting victims of war and natural disasters; and helping develop the political, trade and economic structures to prevent future catastrophes.

All this can feel a very long way from Cumbria and the arguments around Europe. But our last seventy years of prosperity were only possible because of a context of international peace. As one of the most open, international economies in the world, Britain is very dependent on our international ‘brand’. Showing the world that we are active overseas helps to foster the confidence, on which our economy depends. Which is why this is exactly the time to lean outwards, not inwards – to show that Brexit was a vote to expand, not retreat. And to remind ourselves that playing a responsible international role, is not just a moral obligation, it is also in our own long-term interest. The route to peace at home lies in seriousness and energy abroad.


I am very, very honoured to have been given a Minister of State role at the Department for International Development, which I am very excited about. I’ll be working with the Secretary of State, Priti Patel, and colleagues Baroness Anelay and James Wharton MP to deliver the government’s vision for the developing world, looking very carefully at where and how our foreign aid budget is spent. Of course, we need to balance the administrative tasks of reducing red tape and rigorously assessing which programmes offer value for money, with working closely with our colleagues in Defence and the Foreign Office to use our aid programme as a means to create a prosperous and more stable world. In the current world climate this is going to be a huge challenge, but one I relish; and I will do my best to continue in the tradition of those who believe that meeting our responsibilities to the world’s poorest, is in the interests of our own standing and security in the world.

Recent crises show why aid is so important to us all. Whether it is helping to prevent deadly diseases like Ebola from coming to the UK from West Africa, or enabling Syrian refugees and other would-be migrants to stay in their home region, our aid tackles the root causes of global problems that affect all of us. Over the last five years UK aid has been life-saving and life-changing for millions of the poorest people around the world. It has supported 11 million children through school and helped more than 60 million people get access to clean water, better sanitation and improved hygiene conditions. DFID is also leading the global effort to save millions of girls from child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation.

It really is an enormous honour to be serving in the department and I would like to thank you all for your wonderful messages of support and encouragement.




Penrith and The Border MP and DEFRA Minister Rory Stewart has set out an optimistic vision for the future of environmental legislation outside of the EU, in a debate in the main chamber of the House of Commons on the implications of the EU Referendum result on energy and environmental legislation.

The Minister for Rural Affairs, whose own constituency is one of the most sparsely-populated in Britain, spoke of the “the importance of being deeply optimistic about Britain’s future outside of the EU” about the sovereignty of parliament, and of legislation that will impact on rural communities and industries across the country.

​Without discounting the importance of EU funding over the course of the past forty-two years, he reminded the House of the UK’s long and proud history of environmentalism, citing the ancient protections of forests, the founding of the Forestry Commission in 1919, the formation of our national parks in 1947 and the passing of the Clean Air Act of 1956 as examples of Britain’s traditions of environmental protection outside of the EU.

His encouraging words highlighted the importance of grasping opportunities, in particular ways of addressing flood management, tree planting, and agricultural support through de-regulation and more flexible and imaginative budgeting. ​

“We need to think intelligently about about how the payments we make to agriculture, the environment and flooding can work together, rather than against each other. We need to ensure we remain flexible with regard to the best of modern science; there are ways in which rigid legal structures brought in by EU member states have in the past made it difficult to respond to the most recent evidence. Inspections, fines and rigid legal structures have also, at times, discredited the very environmental regulations we wished to protect.”

“The principles on which we now need to move forward are of realism, humility, honesty about conflict, of being honest with the public, and of confidence and identity.  Leaving the EU does not mean leaving government behind. We will continue to have to respond to procurement regulations, to operate in an international environment, and we will have to compromise. On the principle of humility, we need to be realistic about our power and about our capacity as a government to respond. On the principle of honesty about conflict, land remains a deeply conflicted issue. There are conflicts between different land uses, between people’s desires to build housing and create renewable energy, to produce productive food and to protect the species and habitats we value so much. But the principles of confidence and identity are perhaps the most important of all. The decision on the referendum was made by one of the most well-educated, well-travelled populations in the most mature democracy on earth. We need to ensure we recognise the legitimacy of that democratic choice, and put our full energy and optimism behind it. And we need to understand, that in responding to this, that the British Identity is based fundamentally on our land.”


Bluetongue (BTV-8) vaccines for sheep and cattle arenow available across Britain, with supplies approved for use in vet practices from this week.

There is a high risk of an outbreak of Bluetongue towards the end of the summer as a result of infected midges being blown across the English Channel from France, where the disease is present. The disease affects all ruminants, but particularly cattle and sheep. It poses no threat to human health and does not affect meat, milk or other animal products.

Vaccination is the best way to protect Britain’s livestock, and farmers are being encouraged to talk to their vets to decide if the vaccine could help their businesses.

The Government’s Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Simon Hall, said:

“It’s fantastic news that the vaccine is now available. This is the perfect time to talk to your vet as the vaccine is the only effective tool to prevent illness.

“I am urging our livestock farmers to keep an eye out for any signs of the disease and report any suspicions to their vet and the Animal and Plant Health Agency immediately, so we can work together to reduce the possible spread of Bluetongue this summer.”

The vaccination has to be given by injection twice (three weeks apart) in cattle and sheep, so it can take up to six weeks for the animal to be fully immune. Two companies, Zoetis and MSD, have announced that they are making a vaccine available in the UK. Zoetis’s  Zulvac 8 Bovis and Ovis vaccines are available from this week, with MSD Animal Health set to deliver its Bluevac BTV8, a single vaccine for both sheep and cattle, in the coming days. Both suppliers are confident there is enough vaccine to meet demand so that all farmers who wish to are able to vaccinate their animals now in GB.

The Government has robust disease surveillance procedures in place and is working closely with the Devolved Administrations and the livestock industry. Restriction zones are already in place in France, to control the spread of the disease. If BTV was found in GB, similar measures such as movement restrictions would be put in place in line with the disease control strategies.

Farmers and vets who suspect bluetongue must report it immediately to the Animal and Plant Health Agency on 03000 200 301.

For more information on Bluetongue visit the Joint Campaign Against Bluetongue (JAB) pages of the National Farmers Union’s website:


Following Cumbria County Council’s announcement that Appleby’s Edenside care home is at risk of future flooding, local MP Rory Stewart, who is also Minister for Flooding, is urging locals to get involved in the consultation on the care home’s future and have their say in what they believe to be the best outcome for the care home.

Rory has been deeply involved in the campaign to reopen Edenside Care Home for some time, and believes that with the appropriate flood resilience measures in place for the town, Edenside’s safety issues would be addressed. He said:

“I fully welcome the Council’s decision to open this consultation so that the locals of Appleby can have their say. All the messages I am hearing are that Appleby desperately wants its care home to be reopened. I have raised this with the Environment Agency, to ensure that issues that contributed to the flooding of Edenside, are addressed in any local flood resilience plan.”

Cumbria County Council are allowing people to have their say via drop-in sessions at Appleby Library and response forms online at Rory is encouraging all locals to make their voice heard and make a difference in the future of Edenside. The public consultation will remain open until 30th August before a decision is made by the County Council’s cabinet on 22nd September.





img_2499Marking the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, ‘Penrith Remembers 1914-1918’ President and local MP Rory Stewart on Friday paid his respects to Cumbrian heroes who fell in battle.

In the morning Rory attended a small but moving service at Appleby’s Moot Hall, and in the afternoon visited St Andrews Church in Penrith, where he visited the ‘Penrith Remembers 1914-1918’ Somme exhibition, and signed the Book of Memories which has been on display in the Church since the ‘Penrith Remembers 1914-1918’ initiative was launched in 2014 to celebrate Cumbria’s role in the Great War. The group have organised a series of events to commemorate the Somme, and Rory commended founder Ann Risman on her hard work over the course of the last two years:

“Penrith Remembers are doing a wonderful job at reminding us of the horrors of the Great War, the great sacrifices made by so many, and the impact on Cumbria and Cumbrians. It was an honour to sign the Book of Memories, in which I paid tribute to my grandfather, who served in the war and survived it, only to lose his eldest son in the Second World War. For many, the Somme was the battle that above all symbolised the war, and I am extremely proud to be able to stand here today, in both Appleby and Penrith, and pay personal tribute to their sacrifice.”



Rory Stewart attended a high-level meeting convened by Barton Parish Council’s Chairman Miles MacInnes, and attended by representatives from The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community, Cumbria County Council, the Lake District National Park Authority, Eden District Council, the Parish Council, the Ullswater Association and Lake District Estates, to discuss the future of Pooley Bridge following Storm Desmond. The meeting was designed to bring these various bodies together to discuss the potential for a number of development ideas for the village and parish following the devastation of last December’s floods, and to take the village’s recovery as an opportunity to look in detail at the amenities and their potential.

A number of ideas were discussed, including the design and siting of a permanent replacement foot and road bridge; the urgent need for enhanced car and coach parking capacity; flood defences; and interesting thoughts around the potential for a jetty or pontoon for visiting boats, a community play and picnic area, and sustainable energy projects utilising hydropower.

Rory Stewart MP thanked Barton Parish Council for inviting him, and co-introduced the meeting alongside Miles MacInnes, saying:

“Pooley Bridge deserves a compelling vision, and I am fully behind the idea of a vision for Pooley Bridge that sets realistic expectations about what can be achieved. Obviously the priority has to be to make it flood resilient, and then to look at issues around congestion and infrastructure, but the key thing is that it must be affordable, and that the community has a say in any plans for the village. But I am fully supportive, and stand by to help in any way I can. In particular, I congratulate Miles and the Parish Council on their obvious commitment to the people of Pooley Bridge, and to ensuring that the village can develop in a sustainable way.”

Speaking after the meeting Miles MacInnes said: “We are grateful to Rory for his time, and help in kicking off a very positive and constructive meeting, with an undoubted degree of consensus. We very much hope that the Prince’s Foundation will support us, and we agreed some immediate priorities, which were the permanent bridge and designated footpath; the flood defence scheme; and the need for dedicated place for coach parking. We very much welcome Rory’s continuing support.”img_2482



Rory Stewart MP has officially opened the newly-constructed ‘Hobbit Holes’ cabins at Ullswater camping venue The Quiet Site, cutting the ribbon at a ceremony attended by dozens of supporters on Friday.

Winner of numerous awards – including from ​Cumbria Tourism, The AA, Mumsnet and Green Tourism – The Quiet Site is one of the UK’s premier camping destinations, and the number one Cumbrian camping destination on Tripadvisor. The Hobbit Holes, which have been constructed using local suppliers and a local workforce, are ​spacious underground living spaces with ​spectacular views over the Ullswater valley,​ and​ are the first of their kind in the UK​.

They​ have already proved very popular ​with walkers and travellers to the Lake District​. ​A recent Facebook competition to win two nights in a Hobbit Hole, raised over 40,000 shares. ​

Rory ​praised the craftsmanship of the build​,​ and congratulated owner Daniel Holder on his enterprising vision for Lake District tourism, incorporating sustainable business aims with energy efficiency and a respect for the local landscape.

​Speaking at the event Rory said: “Many congratulations on this really exciting project, which really goes to the heart of what is special about Cumbria. I am hugely impressed at the speed at which these have been constructed, created beautifully using local suppliers, and fantastic in terms of energy efficiency and the visual impact on the landscape. This is the sort of project we talk about, when we talk about what the future of Cumbria is: relatively small scale to begin with, but putting us on the map. A real national leader and inspiration, and with a fantastic connection to the whole idea of hobbits. They are quite understated, quiet things; but they are a symbol of courage and ingenuity, a real symbol of what is great about Cumbria and Britain.”​

​Site owner Daniel Holder said: “I was delighted that our local MP Rory Stewart could officially open our latest development at The Quiet Site, a ‘Hobbit Hole village. These new earth-covered holiday accommodations tick many boxes for us and are hugely sustainable on many levels. They have much lower running costs than traditional tents and caravans (500W per unit max); they fit nearly invisibly into our spectacular landscape; they are completely weather independent so very suitable for our year-round operation; they have allowed us to invest securely in our business and provide more full time jobs; they provide a top-end accommodation experience at an affordable price; and they provide secure year round visitor spend in our area which is crucial to the local economy.”

“They follow on well from other major sustainable investments here at The Quiet Site over the last decade which include reed bed water treatment technology, solar thermal and PV panels, biomass heating, electric cars and water recycling. Investment in sustainable technologies over the last decade is now over £1 million. We are the only holiday park in Cumbria to have a Green Tourism Gold award.

Keeping ahead of national trends has allowed us to compete nationally with the top parks in the country and we are currently number one on Tripadvisor in Cumbria and, in the top ten nationally.”




Local MP Rory Stewart on Friday visited The Outward Bound Trust’s Watermillock campus to meet with some of theteam from Penrith-based business Atkinson Building Contractors​ who are currently working on a £2.7million refurbishment build at the site​ – including the building of a new biomass boiler and pellet store, extensions to the Grade II listed main house, refurbishments to the exiting coach house, and a huge variety of associated drainage and external works.

Rory met with Managing Director Steve Atkinson and Neil McKaskie, Operations Director, and discussed the business, its ​apprenticeship policy, and their many community outreach projects. Rory ​and Steve in particular discussed the company’s excellent record of taking on apprentices- it has supported in excess of 70 apprenticeships since it was launched, and now has a record number of apprentices on its books. Rory also praised ​its approach to being a building contractor at the very heart of the local community​, raising funds and supporting a number of local charities including Hospice at Home, Penrith Colour Run, Penrith Football Club, Penrith Cricket Club, and many many more.

The apprenticeship scheme in particular​ has​ been fundamental to the success of Atkinsons’ growth in recent years, with the flourishing relationships in local schools and colleges securing a constant supply of ambitious apprentices. A range of courses from plumbing to surveying technology allow apprentices to gain valuable on-the-job experience whilst earning a wage. Coming at a time when there is a national push for more apprenticeships, Rory says Atkinsons ​’sets the standards for the local construction economy, and is a driving force in ​promoting the power of apprenticeships​ and boosting​ the local ​economy​’​.

Rory said: “​Steve’s company is doing brilliant work, and I think it is great to see a Penrith-based company that has grown and taken the community with it as it has expanded, never forgetting its roots and investing back into our economy by supporting a​pprenticeships and local charities. It is keyto get lo​cal​ youngsters​ who want to go straight into work, to do so in a local company like this, and immediately begin​ contributing to​our economy. I ​am extremely impressed with the ​eagerness of the apprentices to learn new skills, and also the opportunit​ies​ Atkinsons are ​providing. I congratulate them on the amazing work they are going, and ​I wish th​em every success and​ hope that ​more ​local ​businesses ​will ​take inspiration from Atkinsons.”

​Steve Atkinson said: “It’s great that our achievement has attracted such attention in the local area, we’re proud to have apprenticeships at the centre of our success as a company and hope our current apprentices can follow in the footsteps of many before them into management positions at Atkinson’s. We’d like to thank Rory Stewart for coming out to see us and we hope we can continue to be an asset in his constituency.


Statement on Brexit

Britain must now make the best of Brexit. The decision is made, and we
should be energetic and optimistic. ‎We need to remind people that
this is still the same Britain, that the things about Britain that we
fundamentally enjoy, remain the same. I personally believe that we
need to invest now more than ever in rebuilding Britain’s
international position. More than ever, we need nimble and intelligent
ways of thinking about Britain in the world. I would love to have the
opportunity now to try and frame for the next fifty years what this
country is and what our values are, and reassure people that we can
make a success of this.

We need now to make commitments: to increase the foreign office
budget; to strike new and interesting deals with Commonwealth
countries; to work on new military cooperation agreements. But the
first priority of the government has to be to spend a lot of time in
Europe. Our cabinet needs to go to Europe again, and again, and again
until the Commission and European leaders are totally familiar with
who we are and what we are trying to do. I don’t accept the Commission
saying ‘there is no deal’; there is always a deal. It needs to be a
deal that is good for Britain and good for Europe; a win-win deal.
These will be difficult negotiations, but we should start by being as
open and honest as we can with our European partners.