Monthly Archives: January 2018


IMG-1830Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart, together with his parliamentary colleagues, co-hosted the third ‘Cumbria Day’ in the Houses of Parliament this week, showcasing the very best of Cumbrian produce and ingenuity in London, and setting the scene for one of a high-profile business networking opportunity in the heart of Westminster.

A total of 15 exhibitors from across the county were invited to make the most of the opportunity to network and show off their products to representatives from across the whole country; from Penrith and The Border, these included Cranston’s Quality Butchers and The Toffee Shop. The event was also supported by the University of Cumbria, Cumbria Tourism, CN Group and the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and sponsored by Sellafield.

Speaking at the event, Rory said: “Everything about this is Cumbrian – Cumbrian livestock, fed on Cumbrian grass, watered with Cumbrian rain, and made by Cumbrians into great Cumbrian food. For me the future of Cumbria, particularly east Cumbria, is about really embracing our landscape, our soil and our produce.

“We should be proud of the engineering in West Cumbria but that’s not the whole story and I sometimes worry that when we talk about economic development in Cumbria that is all we talk about.

“What will really make us unique, white different to anywhere else in the country, in the next 20 to 30 years is going to be our landscape and food because, frankly, so much of the rest of the world is getting wrecked. It’s getting over developed, it’s getting destroyed and we’ve been lucky to keep one of the most beautiful environments in the world.” unnamed (1)



Penrith and The Border MP ​Rory Stewart ​has met with Cumbria County Council’s new Chief Executive, Katherine Fairclough​.​Rory Stewart MP said: “It was great to finally meet with Katherine​​ and discuss the challenges we need to overcome in Penrith and The Border​ – ​​particularly ​around ​the lack of reliable ​broadband​ – ​and our ​ideas and ambitions for the region​ and its economy​​. I was incredibly impressed by Katherine’s positive but pragmatic approach. I believe she is a real asset to the Council, and I look forward to working together for the benefit of Cumbrian people and Cumbrian business.”


Rory appears before the Justice Committee in his capacity as Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice on 24 January 2018 to answer questions on HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on HMP Liverpool. Pia Sinha, Governor, HMP Liverpool, Michael Spurrr, Chief Executive, HM Prisons and Probation Service, Kevin Miller, Director of Facilities Management, Amey, Kate Davies, Director of Health and Justice, Armed Forces and Sexual Assault Services Commissioning, and Jule Dhuny, Head of Commissioning, Health and Justice, North Region, NHS England, also appear.


Rory, David Gauke, Lucy Frazer and Dr Phillip Lee spoke in the House of Commons on 23 January 2018 to answer Justice Questions. Watch it here:




Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart has commended local pub chef Stephen Tierney, from The Cross Keys Inn, Penrith, as part of the Parliamentary Pub Chef of the Year award. Although Stephen was not selected as one of the national finalists, he was selected by the local MP as a superb chef offering great food in the local area. The award, sponsored by Nestlé Professional, is run by the British Beer & Pub Association and the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group.  

Pubs serve almost a billion meals a year, with more and more pubs recognising that great food will attract more customers. Pubs are also vital to the local economy in every part of the country, offering valuable and flexible employment. With a national shortage of pub chefs, the BBPA, in conjunction with the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) launched the Pub Chef Passion initiative, aimed at promoting the pub chef as a career option. The Pub Chef of the Year award seeks to build on that work, and encourage young chefs towards a career in the pub trade.

Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “I am delighted that Rory Stewart MP nominated a local pub for this award. We received so many brilliant entries and while not everyone could be a winner, we were extremely impressed by the quality of food on offer.

“A career as a pub chef is exciting and demanding, and it offers young people development, rewards and a great working environment. Pubs are increasingly serving very high quality food, and for ambitious chefs, it’s a great chance to quickly take control of your own kitchen. I think it is time that we recognise the efforts of superb chefs up and down the country.”

Rory Stewart MP ​said: “Pubs, as an industry, are of huge importance to our communities, and both the local, and national economy, and we are lucky enough in Penrith and The Border to have so many of such great quality. It was very hard to choose who to nominate, but I am delighted to be able to present Stephen with this certificate in recognition of his superb talent and hard work.”



Penrith and The Border MP Rory Stewart has selected two local food producers to attend the annual ‘Cumbria Day’ event in The Houses of Parliament on 24th January 2018. The event is now in its third year and aims to provide an opportunity for high-profile business networking in the heart of Westminster.

Cumbria’s six MPs will be co-hosting the even​t​, and each has been asked to invite two foodie businesses from their constituency to represent the County and show off their products.

With such a huge number of high quality producers to choose from, Rory ran an online poll, asking constituents to nominate two of their favourite businesses. A total of 18 businesses from across Penrith and The Border received votes, but when the poll closed, Cranston’s and The Toffee Shop had received the most nominations and were asked to attend the event in London.

Neil Boustead of The Toffee Shop, Penrith said:  ”I am thrilled to have been invited by Rory Stewart to represent Cumbria’s vibrant food and drink industry at Westminster on Cumbria day, particularly as Rory asked his constituents to nominate their favourite Cumbrian businesses to attend. Cumbria’s food and drink scene is thriving at the moment with both traditional brands like my own and exciting new start-ups. Getting the chance to promote our counties great produce at Westminster is a real privilege.”

Peter Potts of Cranstons Quality Butchers said: ‘’I am excited to have been asked to represent Cranstons and indeed the wider Cumbrian food industry on Westminster’s Cumbria Day. It will be great to showcase Cranstons produce and to talk to MP’s and civil servants about Cumbria’s strong food offer.  In my role as Cranstons Retail Manager I am lucky to work with over 50 Cumbrian food and drink businesses all passionately producing great tasting products from traditional products like our own Cumberland sausage, Country Pudding’s sticky toffee pudding and Paddigill Farm’s rum butter to more innovative products like Gingerbread Vodka, Mr Vikki’s fusion pickles and Hawksheads Black Garlic Ketchup. Any event which highlights the strength of Cumbria as a foodie destination is to be applauded’.”

Rory Stewart MP said: “Small business and food production both play a crucial part in the Cumbrian economy, and that is why I am so pleased that the Cumbria Day initiative has been such an incredible success. This opportunity to network on a national stage helps Cumbria, and Cumbrian businesses, to connect and grow, and I am thrilled to be taking Neil and Peter to London to be part of that.”

​Peter Potts of Cranstons, Rory Stewart MP, Neil Boustead of The Toffee Shop)

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Following the success of his long-running campaign for better access at Penrith Railway Station, Rory Stewart MP is lending his support to a local campaign to improve access for disabled people at Kirkby Stephen Railway Station.

The MP for Penrith and The Border has visited the station with local disability campaigners Debbie and Andy North, Upper Eden Community Plan steering group member Libby Bateman, and Glenys Lumley, Director of Upper Eden CIC to see for himself the current problems around accessing the northbound platform, which involves a dangerous gravel slope down to a busy road, with no parking facilities or safety measures for the disabled, the elderly, or those with children.

Rory said: ” I am committed to obtaining for Kirkby Stephen station the sorts of upgrades that we received for Penrith Station, which has made a huge difference to locals, travellers, and tourists. These are the sort of important improvements that the people of my constituency deserve. We must make this station an accessible, modern, comfortable place to spend time, and I will be contacting all relevant parties to convene a meeting to make this happen.”

Upper Eden Community Plan steering group member, Libby Bateman said: “Kirkby Stephen Station is a vital transport link for communities across the Upper Eden Valley.  It is absurd that the Northbound platform is inaccessible to wheelchair users and I’m pleased that Rory is helping us to tackle this issue as a matter of urgency.  With the extension of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, more and more people are visiting the area and it isn’t acceptable that some are excluded from travelling on the iconic Settle to Carlisle line simply because they have limited mobility.”

Campaigner Debbie North said: “It’s brilliant to have Rory’s support. It is unfortunate that at a station as lovely as Kirkby Stephen the path on the northbound platform is at best in very poor condition and at worst fraught with danger for wheelchair users and parents with prams.”


For many decades, Cumbrian planners have tried to create economic growth by backing large Cumbrian industries. This is understandable because our industrial revolution was a miracle. The slow growth of our traditional rural economy, celebrated by Wordsworth, was blown apart in the second half of the nineteenth century, as we tore into the land, extracting slate and iron ore, and above all coal. In the fifty years leading up to the First World War, coal production quadrupled. Pits, and then factories, provided employment for tens of thousands. Cumbrian farmers poured from the fellsides to the West Coast, ribbons of brick nineteenth-century terraces emerged on bare moorland, grand municipal buildings dominated new towns – and the owners, at least, became very wealthy.

But our Cumbrian industry was far more fragile than the industry of the Midlands or indeed the American mid-West. And this reflected fundamental facts of geography. Cumbrian factories were too far from major population centres. They were neither able to access the quantity of labour, nor were they close enough to a mass customer base. So Cumbria was already in trouble before German and US manufacturing began to outcompete Britain in the 1890s, and long before coal production and employment began its decline in 1914. By 1930 most of the population of West Cumbria was unemployed. And it was already clear that it was going to find it very difficult to sustain any industries into the future.

Cumbria chose to resist the flow of this economic history. The champion of the policy was Jack Adams, who drove Cumbrian investments from 1920 to 1960. First as a Labour councillor and then as the Chief of the “Cumberland Development Council” and the “West Cumberland Industrial Development Co. Ltd”, he brought government loans and guarantees to reintroduce industries ranging from silk-weaving and soap, to the manufacture of fissile material for nuclear bombs. Great energy – and often a great deal of government money – was devoted to persuading businessmen such as the Hungarians Mike Sekers and Tomi de Gara in 1938, and the Austrian Frank Schon in 1940, to locate their factories in Cumbria. The Wigton factory, which prints the five pound note, is a survivor of this period. But the fundamental barriers of our remote location, and low population remained. And most of these enterprises ultimately collapsed – in some cases, it was a change in global markets; in others, the owners left when the subsidies dried up, and sold the equipment to India.

Some of the attempts to bring industry back were more tragic. The Williams coal mine at Whitehaven – famous for its poor ventilation and working methods – had become unprofitable by the 1920s, and went bankrupt in 1933, by which time it had, according to the Chief inspector ‘probably the blackest record in the annals of coal mining” with four major explosions in the previous twenty years (in one of which 136 people had been killed). But undeterred, Jack Adams – whose own father had been killed in a mining accident when he was four – persuaded the charity, the Nuffield Trust to issue a substantial loan to reopen the pit in 1937. The new owners embarked on a highly expensive program of improvements, at the end of which, there was another explosion at the mine killing 104 men. Shortly after Adams had been made a hereditary peer by the Atlee government – in recognition of his attempts to sustain such industries – the National Coal Board finally closed the mine.

None of the valiant efforts of development corporations, politicians and the treasury over eighty years were able to create enduring industrial prosperity in West Cumbria. It remains one of the most deprived areas in Britain. And only the special government cases of the nuclear and the defence industry – still backed by Billions of pounds from tax-payers – were able in the long-term to escape the pressures of the global markets.

Meanwhile, East Cumbria, which received very little attention, almost no industrial subsidy, and has never matched traditional models for economic growth – took off. Its very lack of factories – once decried – proved increasingly to be the secret of its success, because it preserved an unspoilt landscape, which attracted talented people to work, and millions of tourists to visit. Its growth and employment did not come from large employers, but from tens of thousands of micro-businesses, which remain to this day largely unstudied, and unrecorded. Their sheer diversity – from guitar design, to drone mapping, from UV water purification, to chocolate pudding manufacture – is the key to the area’s resilience. It is not vulnerable to the sudden collapse of sectors employing thousands.

Which leaves me with a thought. When planners talk about growth in Cumbria they still seem to think in terms of factories, and subsidising large employers. But what would have happened if over the last century, instead of trying to re-industrialise Cumbria, the same energy and resources had been invested in sensitively preserving and developing the skills and environment which could support our rural heritage and micro-businesses. Adams would answer that it was neither realistic nor just to expect ex-industrial workers to flourish in small (and to his mind insecure and low wage) rural businesses. But I still feel we could have done much more to follow the path of rural development of Switzerland or the Austrian Alps – developing an economy based on an upland landscape, on small farms, on high quality food, on small business and on high-end tourism. What, in short, if, Cumbria had pursued an industrial policy which embraced our remote location, and sparse population, our unique landscape and history, instead of trying to fight our identity?