open letter to cumberland and westmorland herald
I have undertaken to steer clear of party politics in my column but you have invited me through Joe Ravetz’s letter last week to explain my national positions. Anyone wanting to know my views in detail please write to [email protected]. In brief, I am strongly in favour of the academy schools because I believe in giving more freedom and responsibility to teachers (we have gone too far towards central control in most of life). I will support any schools interested in converting: three have already approached me, and I have helped to convince the Secretary of State to make an exception for one. I also support GP commissioning: Cumbria has taken the national lead on this issue, with good results. But since this is a hefty, complex piece of legislation, (which is now being scrutinised by a House of Commons committee) I would welcome input from constituents to feed into the final Bill. I definitely do not agree that the BMA and the King’s fund are “simply…people with vested interests”. I agree there was an inherent unfairness in withdrawing child benefit where one parent was above the 40% tax bracket; but the existing PAYE and Self-Assessment structures are the best way to ensure that Child Benefit continues to be paid to families who need it most, while avoiding the complexity and expense of means-tests.
I voted on February 2 t reject an opposition amendment and support consultation on forestry (you can see the full-text of the amendment, for which I voted at here ). I am pressing for the full protection of Cumbrian heritage forests, and the full protection of access, and biodiversity in all our woodland. I have insisted on this with ministers and in a joint letter signed by me and all Cumbrian MPs. Following meetings with Save Lakelands Forests, the Forestry Commission and the National Trust, I am now bringing together a detailed submission for the government on forests in our constituency, on the basis of hundreds of constituents’ contributions.
Finally, Mr Ravetz comments on my focus on local issues. I have three foci: first, to give more freedom and power to local communities and parishes (because they generally know more, care more and have more commonsense than distant officials); second to defend our facilities (such as Newton Rigg and the cinema), our services, our farms and our economy through difficult times; and third to make the investments – in particular in superfast broadband and affordable housing – which can help our services and drive our economy in the future. These will continue to be my priorities. I am proud to be a local constituency MP. That is where I believe I can currently be most useful.
Rory Stewart MP