Monthly Archives: March 2018


Dear Friend,

Very happy Easter. And a particularly happy Easter to all of those who suffered from some of the horrifying winter weather.

The conditions that we all witnessed through Storm Emma were unbelievably difficult. Farmers I met disagreed about when the snows had last been so heavy, but there’s certainly no doubt that we haven’t seen anything like it for decades. Every one of the dozens of farms that I visited seemed to have experienced different extreme conditions. In some the problem was the depth of snow, in others the temperatures, and in others the Helm Wind. And it was, of course, not only farmers who suffered. I was deeply moved by the resilience of elderly people, in Nenthead, Stainmore, on East Fellside, and in Bewcastle. I was very proud to be able to meet and hear some of the stories from the district nurses at Kirby Stephen and Penrith, to be in the Gold and Silver Command Centres with police, fire and rescue, and all the other emergency services. And we owe a special debt of gratitude to the Mountain Rescue teams who, as always, went above and beyond.

district nurses

There has been some good news amongst the dreadful weather. In particular I am really pleased that we’ve made progress on pushing for a Borderlands Growth Deal. This is something I began pushing before the Scottish Referendum, as a way of acknowledging how much we have in common across the English-Scottish border. I was pleased to be able to take forwards some initiatives when I was DEFRA Minister on the Environment, Farming and Forestry. But the Chancellor’s announcement of a new deal in the Budget should provide the resources needed to take this all to a new level. I’ll be working very closely with councils on both sides of the border and with John Stevenson, the Carlisle MP, who will be playing a leading role in this project, and I will keep you updated.


Cumbria’s reputation continues to grow. We have had one of the strongest economic growth rates in the country in recent years. Last year was a good year for tourism and it’s been fantastic to see this recognised, whether on ‘Cumbria Day’ in Westminster or through the Lake District achieving its UNESCO World Heritage status. I was particularly pleased to see Cranstons and The Toffee Shop at Westminster.

I have now been made the Prisons Minister and am really focused on getting out and seeing as many prisons as possible and tackling some of the basic challenges. My first priority is to clean up the prisons and reduce the flow of drugs. Decent, safe prisons are vital for protecting prison officers, prisoners and, ultimately, the public. I hope to make serious progress in the next twelve months and be judged on my ability to do this.

As ever, please do get in touch if you have a problem to discuss or if there is anything with which I can help you.

With best wishes,



Rory Stewart:

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for the work that she has done on this important issue. Upskirting is a disgusting and horrifying offence. There is a great deal more that we can do to educate the police and prosecuting authorities about their current ability to prosecute offenders under the outraging public decency legislation, but we are also looking very actively at the private Member’s Bill tabled by the hon. Lady.

Wera Hobhouse:

I thank the Minister for agreeing to meet me in May to discuss the issue, but may I ask why he believes that the law is currently adequate? A 10-year-old girl was a victim of this crime not far from my constituency, but nothing could be done under the current law.

Rory Stewart:

The formal answer to that question is that, as the hon. Lady knows, the decision was made independently by the Crown Prosecution Service, but there are a number of laws under which we can currently secure successful criminal convictions. There is the outraging public decency legislation of 2015, and, in the case of a child, indecent images legislation. However, we clearly need think more about digital images in the current age, and we are happy to sit down and continue to discuss the hon. Lady’s Bill.


On Monday 26 March Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and The Border, welcomed HRH The Prince of Wales and Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, to Low Beckside Farm, Newton Rigg College’s own working farm. This educational facility safeguards the future of uplands farming by equipping young people with the skills essential to its preservation.

The guests toured both the College’s state-of-the-art Sheep Husbandry Centre and its hill farm, meeting both staff and students along the way. The Prince and Mr Gove were particularly impressed by the technological skills and innovations demonstrated by Newton Rigg students

Michael Gove said that “seeing work undertaken in the countryside first-hand is an immensely important part of my job and today is a great opportunity to join the Prince of Wales to visit charity and community led projects in Cumbria and speak to those people who are driving them.

Commenting on the visit Rory said “It was a very great privilege to welcome our two distinguished guests to Low Beckside Farm, to showcase the school and Cumbrian farming more generally. On the day on which the Lake District finally received recognition from UNESCO it was fitting that HRH The Prince of Wales and Michael Gove visited our college, which in so many ways is the custodian of the Cumbrian countryside. Upland farms are fantastically important, both for our countryside and for our rural communities and this was a truly historic occasion”.


It is always a pleasure to welcome HRH the Prince of Wales to Cumbria, particularly to mark so important an occasion for our communities. UNESCO’s recognition of the Lake District, unquestionably one of the most beautiful parts of the world, is fantastic news for our businesses, tourism and our heritage. It has been a truly memorable, historic visit and one for which we are all very grateful.

Rory welcomes HRH the Prince of Wales


On Friday 23 March, Rory welcomed HRH the Prince of Wales to HMP Dartmoor in his capacity as Ministers for Prisons. Rory and The Prince toured the prison before watching a special performance by the Prison Choir Project, which performed songs from popular musicals, including Les Misérables. This musical initiative has engaged with over 400 prisoners and prison staff, and has even staged an opera in Dartmoor.

On their tour of the prison, Rory and The Prince of Wales also spoke to staff and inmates, including some involved in the prison’s garden project.

Commenting on the Prince’s visit, Rory said “It was a great privilege to have HRH The Prince of Wales visit HMP Dartmoor and to have him spend so much time listening to the staff and prisoners who all immensely enjoyed the experience. I was really pleased to meet the inspirational leadership team that runs the prison and I was privileged to see the deeply moving contribution of the HMP Dartmoor choir. I hope to return again in due course”.



The recent vote was not to remove food entitlement from the most disadvantaged. Still less was it “taking free school meals from a million people.” The vote, instead, removed entitlement from the better off, in order to focus free lunches on those children whose parents cannot afford them. As a result, by 2022, 50,000 more children will be eligible for free school meals than under the previous system. I would also like to reassure those concerned by misleading reports that no child will lose their meals during the rollout of Universal Credit as a result of these changes.


Today the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond MP, announced the investment of £67 million in faster broadband.

Vouchers worth up to £3000 and £500 will be provided to small or medium sized business and residents, respectively, by the Nationwide Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme to help cover the costs of connecting to full fibre broadband. This comes as part of the Government’s commitment to making full fibre broadband available to at least 10 million homes and businesses by 2022. Full fibre broadband will be of particular use to rural communities, such as Penrith and The Border.

Rory commented:

“I welcome this fantastic news, which will increase connectivity and improve the lives of people across Penrith & The Border. The Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme demonstrates the Government’s commitment to getting more homes and businesses connected to full fibre broadband. This generous investment by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which will help prepare the ground for 5G rollout, will be fantastic for Cumbrian businesses, homes and communities. I would like to urge people to take advantage of these vouchers and I very much look forward to seeing the results”.



Rory Stewart MP has paid a visit to the community on Stainmore to hear about their experiences, after they were completely cut off by Storm Emma.

Residents in the small, remote community found themselves isolated when deep snow and huge drifts blocked the roads and almost entirely submerged the ground floor of some properties. After five days Cumbria County Council called in the military to assist, and a Chinook helicopter was brought in to drop supplies, including food, coal and logs for heating and electrical heating appliances.

Local farmers and Mountain Rescue worked hard to assist local residents, by clearing roads and snow drifts, and digging people out of their properties, but residents told their MP that the response from Cumbria County Council could have been better.

Rory Stewart said: “These communities are incredibly self-sufficient and resilient. They have emerged positive after a very difficult time, but they would like to see a more organised emergency response plan in place, so I will be asking Cumbria County Council to set up a meeting with key stakeholders from affected communities to identify lessons learned and ensure that should this happen again, they are better prepared to support remote communities such as Stainmore.”

“My thanks goes out to all those individuals who stepped up to help their neighbours, particularly the local farming community and Kirkby Stephen Mountain Rescue. Without them, many people may have been stranded for much longer, and I am incredibly grateful for their efforts.”



This was a balanced Statement that offered sensible solutions to the problems faced by businesses and households in my constituency and across the country. The Chancellor’s pledges on broadband are of particular importance to Cumbria. Investing £25 million in the first 5G test beds, allocated from the Local Full Fibre Challenge Fund, is a great step towards boosting connectivity across Penrith and The Border.

Cumbrians will welcome the Spring Statement, which has underlined the success of the government’s economic stewardship. Debt is down, while growth is up; inflation is forecast to fall, and employment is up. A strong economy enables the changes announced, particularly the increase in the National Living Wage, which is great news for people across Penrith and The Border.

As Britain faces challenges and changes resulting from Brexit, the Chancellor is following a steady fiscal path and there is a great deal to be positive about. Our economy is growing – it is almost 17% bigger than it was in 2010 – and the deficit is declining. Debt is falling, growth is exceeding estimates, and I would like to congratulate the Chancellor for continuing to strive to build a Britain fit for the future.​

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