Monthly Archives: October 2018


Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown holds his bri

Rory has welcomed the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget Statement, which was delivered in the House of Commons this afternoon. Containing pledges on broadband, schools, health and the High Street, this Budget is the expression of Mr Hammond’s ‘balanced approach’, which seeks to combine steady economic stewardship with disciplined investment. It is, Mr Stewart said, “a great Budget for Cumbria”.

Rory said: “This is a very welcome Budget which makes clear the good news for the nation’s economy: employment is at a record high, unemployment is at a record low, economic growth predictions have been upgraded, wages are growing at their fastest rate in a decade, income inequality is at a lower rate than at any time under the last Labour Government, the deficit is rapidly shrinking and the hard work of the British people is paying off.

“This Budget contains measures that will be welcomed across Cumbria and I would like to pay the Chancellor of the Exchequer a huge tribute for this. His announcement of a 33% cut in business rates for 90% of small businesses, alongside the establishment of a £675 million Future High Streets Fund, will have a significant effect in Cumbria – allowing investment in the regeneration of market towns such as Penrith, Wigton, Appleby, Kirkby Stephen, Longtown and Brampton. By contrast, the Labour Party wants to increase corporation tax by 25% for small businesses and 50% for large businesses, which would seriously damage our high streets and, ultimately, our communities.

“This Budget has provisions that will be welcome to all Cumbrians. Fuel duty has been frozen – for the ninth consecutive year – as has the duty on beer, cider and spirits. While the cost of driving is kept low, our roads will receive the biggest ever single cash investment with a 40% increase to Highways England’s Budget – making £420 million available to repair potholes, bridges and motorways. Broadband funding will also receive a real boost. The Chancellor has earmarked £200 million for the piloting of innovative approaches to the deployment of full fibre internet in rural locations, which includes the Borderlands. And I was delighted that he also confirmed the continuation of discussions on the Borderlands Growth Deal. In view of the disastrous floods that have struck Cumbria over the past few years, I was also very pleased to see that an additional £13 million will be invested in the flood warning system.

“In short – massive investment in our NHS, manifesto tax commitments delivered a year ahead of schedule, increased funding for social care, a historic pledge on mental health provision and £400m to schools as an ‘in-year bonus’ will all make a real difference to our towns and our communities. I have always fought hard for Penrith and The Border and I am delighted with this Budget, which I believe balances prudence with investment to deliver for Britain and for the communities and people of Cumbria.”



“If all else goes wrong, get a dog,” – that was Rory’s advice to students as he gave the key note speech at Kirkby Stephen Grammar School’s prize giving.

Rory was invited to speak to students, parents and teachers about ‘resilience’ as the school celebrated a year of achievements.

He said that he didn’t have any great wisdom or insight to share on the subject of resilience but rather his experience in life has taught him that it every human is capable of the most astonishing resilience.

Using his experiences of commanding a compound under attack in Iraq, handling prison strikes and setting up the charity Turquoise Mountain in Afghanistan, Rory shared  four small insights into resilience:

1. Change your socks and open the door.
2. Jump into the middle of them.
3. Never be afraid to walk away.
4. If all else fails, get a dog.

The last part of advice was based on Rory’s walk in Afghanistan when his dog, Babur, saved his life.

After the ceremony, Rory said: “It was brilliant to visit Kirkby Stephen Grammar School and I’m very honoured that they invited me to give out the prizes. I very much enjoyed meeting the students and staff and hearing about the school’s achievements in the past year.

“As I said in my speech, there is no great wisdom or insight that I could share on the subject of resilience. My experience in life is that resilience is not rare, but in fact universal – and every Cumbrian, every human shows resilience throughout our complicated human lives.”


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Rory, David Gauke, Lucy Frazer and Edward Argar, spoke in the House of Commons to answer Justice Questions on 9 October. Watch it here:



The levels of violence and drug use in some of our prisons is shockingly high. Violent prisons are dangerous for our hard-working, dedicated prison officers, and they are a danger for our whole society.

Therefore, my first priority, as prisons’ minister, is to make our prisons safe. How? First, by recruiting extra prison officers – there are now 3,500 additional officer working in our prisons than there were two years ago.

Second, we have passed a law, only last month, which doubles the maximum sentence for anyone assaulting a prison officer. And we are investing in giving our officers the training, and the support on the wings, to deal with violence.

Our best officers can often defuse almost any situation with a few sensible words, often quiet ones.

But sometimes words are not enough – particularly when prisoners have smuggled in and taken aggressive new drugs like Spice. Too often, prisoners are assaulting not only other prisoners, but also prison officers – brave public servants who work every day to protect us.

We must protect them. Which is why we are also issuing them with new equipment. We have recently issued body-worn cameras so that any violence is immediately recorded for prosecution. We have rolled out CCTV cameras across our prisons.

We are issuing “police-style” fixed handcuffs. And we are investing in intelligence to break criminal gangs, as well as new scanners to detect anyone smuggling drugs.

Today I am taking a further step and announcing that we will be giving PAVA spray (the equivalent of the pepper spray used by police) to all officers who deal with adult male prisoners.

We have done this only after serious thought. If pepper spray is used inappropriately, it can simply provoke more violence. So we have trialled it carefully in four challenging prisons. We have developed a detailed training course to make sure every officer understands how and when to use the spray – and when not to.

But the trials are already showing that pepper spray can reduce serious harm– and often as I found in Hull prison – without the officer needing to use the spray. The mere fact that an officer is wearing the cannister on their belt acts as a deterrent and can prevent incidents getting out of hand.

Of course prisons must remain an effective deterrent. But violent individuals are as much danger to other prisoners as they are to prison officers. The disorder they create prevents other prisoners from receiving the education, training and support they need to land a meaningful job, on release, and turn away from crime.

Safer prisons are vital for all of us: they will mean you, me – all of us – are less likely to become a victim of crime in the future. And our prison officers are doing one of the most important and heroic jobs in our society. We must give them the means to do their job.


Rory Stewart MP at Troutbeck Head Caravan and Motorhome Club Site

Rory has visited the Troutbeck Head Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, to learn more about the contribution of caravanning to the local economy.

Troutbeck Head Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, nestled under Great Mell Fell and looking up to Blencathra, has welcomed visitors to the Lake District for decades. Mr Stewart was met by Phil Monkman, the Caravan and Motorhome Club’s Regional Manager, Site Wardens Tracy and Steve Worbey, and Assistants Annora and Den Hoole, and Debbie and Gerry Wallbank. The Site has recently benefitted from a £1.2 million redevelopment, and reopened in August. It regularly attracts caravaners from across the country, and it is estimated to bring some £1.6 million in ‘off site’ spending to the local economy. Rory toured the site with a great deal of interest, and was given further details on visitor numbers and the success of caravanning both locally and nationally.

Commenting on his visit, Rory said “It was a very great pleasure to visit the Troutbeck Head Caravan and Motorhome Club Site, to hear more about its contribution to the local economy and to admire its new features. Sites like this are vital to the local economy, encouraging caravaners from across the country and, indeed, the world to come to the Lake District and see what makes Cumbria so truly special. I would like to pay a huge tribute to all of those who welcomed me and work on so successful a site”.


Rory Stewart MP at Mountain Rescue

Rory, a longstanding supporter of the Penrith Mountain Rescue Team, has backed its plan to build a new base following a recent visit.

The Penrith Mountain Rescue Team is based in Tynefield Drive in Penrith but has grown too big for its buildings. As a result, it is planning to build a new base for the long term, capable of accommodating future expansion. Plans have been drawn up by a local architect and the Team is preparing to submit their planning application. Prior to its submission, its leaders requested a meeting with Rory to discuss the plans and he was delighted to comply. Rory has been a committed supporter of the Team since his election in 2010, and has served as the Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Mountain Rescue in Westminster, championing the service nationally and supporting its efforts locally. Consequently, Rory was delighted to offer his support to the Penrith Mountain Rescue Team in its bid for bigger headquarters.

On his recent visit, he was shown the limitations of the current base and received an update on the Team’s work and functions from Kaz Graham, who made the case for the new headquarters, which they would like to build at Kemplay Roundabout. This site has the advantage of being closely placed to the Fire Station and the Police Station, which will facilitate cooperation between the services. A funding drive will be necessary in due course but, for the time being, Kaz explained, the focus is getting Cumbria County Council, who own the land, onside. Rory, thanking Kaz and the team for all their work, pledged his support for their move.

Rory said, “It was a very great pleasure to visit Penrith Mountain Rescue, to thank them for all that they do, to hear once again about their amazing work and to back their bid for a new HQ. The Mountain Rescue is an inspirational and incredible example of public service, performing acts of heroism day in and day out and I will do all that I can to support them. I am behind them in their plans to relocate and I look forward to seeing them in their new home in due course”.


rory reathh

Cumbria’s excellent Museum of Military Life at Carlisle Castle has a new Exhibition, ‘Lest We Forget’. I went expecting to focus on the victims of war, I left reflecting on how we fail to remember them. The First World War is less visible in Cumbria than in other parts of Britain. While the centre of every village in Oxfordshire or the Highlands seems to be dominated by a statue of a soldier or a cenotaph, there is no equivalent in Penrith, or Brampton, or Longtown.

But the museum was filled with beautiful Cumbrian memorials to the First World War in marble, and bronze, silk and silver. The problem is that they were no longer in the towns or villages for which that had been made. Many – perhaps most – of the Museum’s exhibits came from public buildings or squares that have since been demolished, from tanks reduced to scrap, and even, disturbingly, from finds on rubbish tips. While some of these losses are understandable – it is not easy to maintain an Edwardian drill hall – some of the losses were driven not by necessity but by something that felt more like indifference. To take just one example, the exhibit includes a great, engraved silver award for the best runner in a Carlisle school, made at great expense in memory of one of the war dead – with sixty names around the rim and space for many more – that, for some reason, the school just stopped awarding in the 1980s.

This indifference was particularly striking because almost every case in the main museum re-emphasised how tight the connection had once been between Cumbrian society and the military. There are good photographs of many of the Cumbrian soldiers – taken before their departures for the Western Front – in which the Officers look like matinee idols: tall, beautifully dressed, with bristling moustaches, while the men look often like awkward underfed school boys. Some of this may literally have been down to different diets – and a great deal must have been down to having the wealth for a good uniform, and a good haircut. But the photographs also record how class distinctions were eroding. The photographs of both officers and men are the same size, in the same frames, by the same photographers. This is the first period in history in which the names of soldiers are honoured at the same time as officers’ on the same memorials in identical font, in alphabetical not rank order.

The hundred who contributed so enthusiastically to the giant silver shield for shooting must have expected that it would continue to be treasured and awarded for many generations. And the officer’s mess of the Border Regiment, which was persuaded by an entrepreneurial London silversmith (his advertising brochure survives) to buy a centre-piece for their table – it would cost today perhaps twenty thousand pounds – would have expected not just their regiment, but their officer’s mess to admire the piece for centuries to come as part of an unbroken military tradition stretching eight centuries back in time as well as forward. The piece they chose represents, in shining armour, lances and rearing horseflesh, the capture of the Earl of Gloucester in 1141.

This removal of monuments from communities and associations and public space – and their relegation to exhibitions in museums – has happened very quickly. Here in Cumbria the most dramatic surviving memorials are now the First World War memorial hospitals in Brampton and Wigton, which somehow survived when their equivalents were closed up and down the country – many at the start of the NHS – only twenty years after they had been finished. But they too are squeezed by the modern world – by funding pressures in public health, by new fashions in medicine, by the idea that such heritage ‘is no longer fit for purpose’.

But even in the museum, these memorials still carry a powerful message. It is too easy to remember only the waste, the hypocrisy, the suffering and the failures of the trenches: to regard the class traditions as a scandal, and the pride of these soldiers and their families as a delusion. But the sense of pride and honour and duty cannot be overlooked. Particularly in the photographs of men from a very complex, confident and self-aware society: very brave men, in a very understated Edwardian mould.

Take the picture of the Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy (there is a book about him in the museum). A schoolmaster turned vicar of Hutton Roof, who enlisted at the age of 52. Repeatedly, he walked across the wire into no man’s land – sometimes wounded, invariably under heavy shell fire – ministering to the dying and leading the stretcher parties back – refusing to leave his post. He did this night after night for two years until he was finally killed. You can see why the people of Cumberland commemorated him in memorials in Hutton Roof and Carlisle – and you can see why they would have expected us to remember him still. Look again at the picture of him. Think what you like of him in his riding britches, and epaulettes, medals and peaked hat, but wonder also what he might think of you.


Rory Stewart MP with John Stokes

Rory has praised the role of the arts in Cumbria on a visit to the Rheged Centre’s latest exhibition, which is staged in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Woman’s Hour Craft Prize, which runs from 14 September – 28 October, showcases the shortlist of the inaugural Woman’s Hour Craft Prize, launched to celebrate the UK’s craft makers and to mark the 70th anniversary of ‘Woman’s Hour’ on BBC4. Featuring products made by the twelve finalists, ranging from bicycles to restored items of clothing, jewellery boxes to woven willow, it offers an insight into the quality of the nation’s arts, design and crafts.

Rory was taken around the exhibition by John Stokes, the arts manager at Rheged, who explained the background to the exhibition, and how the Centre had organised it. Mr Stewart expressed his admiration for the Centre’s work, and thanked John and the staff for bringing the exhibition to Cumbria. Mr Stokes also took Rory round a companion exhibition of northern makers, which features woodwork made from South Cumbrian oak by local Lorna Singleton.

Inviting Mr Stewart to visit the exhibition, Tristram Hunt, the Director of the V&A, said: “All museums, and especially those embedded in their local communities, are an essential part of the fabric of our society. They transform lives through active public participation, engaging with diverse communities, and sharing collections and knowledge. As a national museum, the V&A supports and engages with museum partners across the UK in many ways including touring exhibitions wherever and whenever possible. It is a vital way of ensuring that our collections and expertise reach diverse audiences across the country”.

Commenting on his visit Rory said, “It was a very great privilege to visit the Rheged Centre and see this fantastic exhibition. The arts play a vital role in the life of our communities and our thriving arts scene is an increasing attraction to tourists. The Woman’s Hour Craft Prize, made possible by the generosity of the V&A and the reputation of the Rheged Centre, is wonderful and well worth a visit. I would like to pay a huge tribute to all of those who brought it to Penrith”.