Rory Stewart

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Rory Stewart

Rory Stewart MP.jpg
Minister of State for Prisons
Assumed office
9 January 2018
Prime Minister Theresa May
Sec. of State David Gauke
Preceded by Dominic Raab &
Sam Gyimah
Minister of State for Africa
In office
15 June 2017 – 9 January 2018
Prime Minister Theresa May
Sec. of State Boris Johnson
Preceded by Position Established
Succeeded by Harriett Baldwin
Minister of State for International Development
In office
17 July 2016 – 9 January 2018
Prime Minister Theresa May
Sec. of State Priti Patel
Penny Mordaunt
Preceded by Desmond Swayne
Succeeded by Harriett Baldwin
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
In office
12 May 2015 – 17 July 2016
Prime Minister David Cameron
Sec. of State Elizabeth Truss
Preceded by Dan Rogerson
Succeeded by Thérèse Coffey
Chair of the Defence Select Committee
In office
14 May 2014 – 12 May 2015
Preceded by James Arbuthnot
Succeeded by Julian Lewis
Member of Parliament
for Penrith and The Border
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded by David Maclean
Majority 15,910 (34.2%)
Personal details
Roderick James Nugent Stewart

(1973-01-03) 3 January 1973 (age 46)
British Hong Kong
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Shoshana Clark
Children 2
Father Brian Stewart
Education Eton College
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Military career
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1991-1992
Rank Second lieutenant
Service number 539088
Unit Black Watch

Roderick James Nugent "Rory" Stewart, OBE, FRSL FRSGS (born 3 January 1973) is a British politician, diplomat, and writer. Since May 2010, he has been the Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border,[1][2] in the county of Cumbria, North West England. He is currently the Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice with responsibility for prisons, probation and sentencing. A member of the Conservative Party, he previously served as Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, as Minister of State at the Department for International Development, and as Minister of the Environment at DEFRA. From May 2014 to May 2015 he was Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee.[3]

Stewart was a senior coalition official in Iraq in 2003–04.[4] He is known for his book about this experience, Occupational Hazards or The Prince of the Marshes, and for his 2002 walk across Afghanistan (part of a larger walk across Asia), which served as the basis for his bestseller, The Places in Between, as well as his later cultural development work in Afghanistan as the founder and executive chairman of the British charity Turquoise Mountain Foundation.[5]

Early life

Stewart was born in Hong Kong, the son of the diplomat Brian Stewart and his wife Sally Elizabeth Acland Nugent. His family live in the listed[6] Broich House near Crieff in Perthshire, Scotland. He was brought up in Malaysia and Scotland and was educated at the Dragon School in Oxford and Eton College.[4] During his gap year in 1991, he was commissioned ("short service limited commission") in the Black Watch for five months as second lieutenant (on probation).[7][8] He then attended Balliol College, Oxford University, where he read modern history, before switching to philosophy, politics and economics.[4] While a student at Oxford, Stewart was a private tutor to Prince William and Prince Harry during the summer.[9] As a teenager, he was a member of the Labour Party.[10]

Foreign Office

After graduating, Stewart joined the Foreign Office.[11] He served in the British Embassy in Indonesia from 1997 to 1999, working on issues related to East Timor independence, and was appointed at the age of 26 as the British Representative to Montenegro in the wake of the Kosovo campaign.[9]

Iraq War

After the coalition invasion of Iraq, he became the Coalition Provisional Authority Deputy Governorate Co-Ordinator in Maysan and Deputy Governorate Co-ordinator/Senior Advisor in Dhi Qar in 2003, both of which are provinces in southern Iraq.[9] He was posted initially to the KOSB Battlegroup then to the Light Infantry.[12] His responsibilities included holding elections, resolving tribal disputes, and implementing development projects.[12] He faced growing unrest and an incipient civil war from his base in a Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC) compound in Al Amarah, and in May 2004 was in command of his compound in Nasiriyah when it was besieged by Sadrist militia.[9] He was awarded an OBE for his services during this period.[13]

While Stewart initially supported the Iraq War, the International Coalition's inability to achieve a more humane, prosperous state led him in retrospect to believe the invasion had been a mistake.[14]

Turquoise Mountain

In late 2005, at the request of the Prince of Wales and Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan,[15] he established, as Executive Chairman, the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, a human development NGO, in Afghanistan, and relocated to Kabul where he lived for the next three years restoring historic buildings in the old city of Kabul, managing its finances, installing water supply, electricity, and establishing a clinic, a school and an institute for traditional crafts.[4] Stewart was awarded the Royal Scottish Geographical Society's Livingstone medal in 2009 "in recognition of his work in Afghanistan and his travel writing, and for his distinguished contribution to geography".[16] Stewart stepped down as Executive Chairman of the Turquoise Mountain Foundation in May 2010.[17]

Harvard University

In late 2004, Stewart became a Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, and in July 2008, he was appointed Ryan Family Professor of Human Rights at Harvard University and Director of the John F. Kennedy School of Government Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.[4] He taught classes on Intervention and on Human Rights to Masters Students at The Harvard Kennedy School. His lectures formed the basis of his book Can Intervention Work?[18] He has frequently been called on to provide advice on Afghanistan and Iraq to policy-makers, particularly in the US, UK and Canada.[4] In an article in The Daily Telegraph he was described as 'a regular consultant on Afghanistan to Hillary Clinton and the US special envoy Richard Holbrooke'.[19] He combined his policy positions with his charitable work in Afghanistan and served on a number of boards, including the International Development Research Centre of Canada. Stewart left his position at Harvard in March 2010.

While at Harvard, in August 2008, the UK media widely reported that Studio Canal and Brad Pitt's production company Plan B had bought the rights to a biopic of Stewart's life. The actor Orlando Bloom was apparently scheduled to play Stewart.[20] That Brad Pitt had bought the rights was confirmed on Lateline, on Australia's ABC on 29 July.


Member of Parliament for Penrith and The Border

Following David Cameron's decision, in the aftermath of the expenses scandal, to "reopen the Conservative candidates' list to anybody who wants to apply", Stewart tried for selection for the Bracknell constituency in the 2010 General Election,[21] but the place went to Dr Phillip Lee.[22] Stewart was then shortlisted for the Penrith and the Border constituency and, at an open caucus, selected as the Conservative Party Candidate on 25 October 2009.[23] He was returned as the MP for the constituency on 6 May 2010.[24] At the 2015 general election, Stewart almost doubled his majority in Penrith and the Border from 11,241 to 19,894, the highest majority since the seat was created.[25] In the 2017 General Election, he received 60.4% of the vote.

Upon joining the House of Commons, Stewart was elected a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, serving until 2014. In this capacity, he made a notable contribution to the committee's report on Afghanistan.[26] Stewart also served as the chairman of the APPG for Mountain Rescue[27][28] and the APPG for Local Democracy[29][30] and was an officer of the APPG for Rural Services.[31] He was elected Chairman of the Defence Select Committee in May 2014. He left these positions upon his appointment as Minister for the Environment.

Within his constituency, Stewart's policy focus has been on broadband, mobile coverage, rural services and agriculture. He has led successful campaigns to save Lazonby Fire Station, Penrith Cinema and Alston Ambulance, and to oppose the introduction of Wind Farms.[32]

On 25 July 2010, Stewart apologised to his constituents after blogging about the relative poverty of rural areas and need for more public services.[33] He was quoted in the Scottish Sun as saying that "Some areas around here are pretty primitive, people holding up their trousers with bits of twine."[33] A light-hearted Guardian article, "In praise of ... binder twine", whilst acknowledging the "serious effort" Stewart had made "walking hundreds of miles" to get to know his constituency believed he had simply underestimated the importance of the "ubiquitous and indispensable" twine to the rural community.[34]

Stewart attended the Bilderberg Conference in June 2011,[35] along with leading world politicians and bankers including UK Conservative Chancellor George Osborne.[36] Columnist Charlie Skelton commented in The Guardian that this made it likely that Stewart would receive a "forthcoming promotion", based on the history of other politicians invited to the exclusive Bilderberg group.[36] Stewart won the election for Chairman of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee on 14 May 2014 following a vote of all MPs.[37] Within his constituency, Stewart's policy focus has been on broadband, mobile coverage, rural services and agriculture.[38]

His speech about hedgehogs in Parliament in 2015[39] was named by The Times and The Telegraph as the best parliamentary speech of 2015 and described by the Deputy Speaker as "one of the best speeches she had ever heard in Parliament".[40][41]

Stewart supported Remain in the 2016 referendum on the UK's continued membership of the European Union[42] and fully accepted the result, writing that "the decision is made, and we should be energetic and optimistic [about it]".[43] Since the publication of the Withdrawal Agreement, Stewart has emerged as a prominent supporter of the Prime Minister's Deal, arguing that "we must acknowledge the referendum happened and that people voted by a margin of over a million for Brexit. We should respect that democractic result by leaving EU political institutions...and by taking back control over immigration. But we must also reach out to and address the concerns of the more than 16 million who voted Remain. We should do that through a deal which protects our economy".[44] He has repeated this argument on programmes including Question Time, Politics Live and the James O'Brien Show on LBC.

Broadband and rural mobile campaign

Stewart led the first backbench motion for expanding broadband and mobile coverage, securing what was then the largest number of cross-party endorsements for a backbench motion.[45] In a report published in 2011, Stewart won support from the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee in calling for mobile phone companies to be forced to provide coverage to 98% of the population,[46] and in 2012, his campaign achieved its goal when regulator Ofcom announced its plans for the auction of fourth generation (4G) bandwidth for mobile phone services.[47] In March 2018, Ofcom announced that the 98% target had been met.[48]

Stewart was successful in securing the Cumbrian broadband pilot in 2011,[49] and in November 2013, broadband provider EE cited the support of Government and regulatory policy in announcing that over 2,000 residents and businesses in rural Cumbria were to have access to superfast home and office broadband for the first time.[50] In February 2015 Stewart secured more funding in order to continue the broadband roll-out in Cumbria.[51]

Hands across the Border

In July 2014 Stewart launched Hands Across The Border, a project to construct a cairn called 'The Auld Acquaintance' as "a testament to the Union".[52] Built by members of the public it is close to the Scotland–England border near Gretna. During the run up to the Scottish independence referendum.[53] Stewart said of the project: "We wanted to come up with a lasting marker of our union, something that future generations will look back at and remember, with deep gratitude, the moment we chose to stay together."[54] The campaign received support from several notable public figures in the UK, including actress Joanna Lumley, explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, mountaineers Alan Hinkes and Doug Scott, and historians Simon Schama and David Starkey.[55] Approximately 100,000 stones were laid on the cairn, many with personal messages.

At the same time, Stewart hosted a two-part documentary on BBC Two about the cross-border history of what he called "Britain's lost middleland",[56] covering the kingdoms of Northumbria and Strathclyde and the Debatable Lands of the Scottish Marches on the Anglo-Scottish border.[56]

Veterans in the justice system

In January 2014, Stewart was asked by Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Justice, to lead a Government review into the reasons why a number of British veterans become criminal offenders after returning to civilian life.[57] The review looked at ways in which support and prevention for veterans in the justice system can be improved.[58] Following his election to Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, Stewart handed over the lead for the review to Stephen Phillips QC MP.[59]

Defence Select Committee

In May 2014, Stewart was elected by MPs from all parties as Chairman of the Defence Select Committee. He was the youngest Chair of a select committee in parliamentary history, as well as the first MP of the 2010 intake to be elected to chair a committee. [60] [61] In this capacity, Stewart argued strongly for a more vigorous response to Russian aggression in Ukraine.[62] The committee also argued that Britain's commitments to Iraq and Syria were "strikingly modest" and that more should be done.[63] Under Stewart's chairmanship, the committee produced a report in favour of the proposals for a Services Complaint Ombudsman and also secured an amendment extending the powers of the Ombudsman.[64]

Minister for the Environment

Stewart pictured with Nikos Xydakis in September 2016

Following the Conservatives' return with an outright majority at the 2015 UK General Election, Stewart was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), with responsibilities including the natural environment, national parks, floods and water, resource and environmental management, rural affairs, lead responsibility for the Environment Agency, Natural England and the Forestry Commission, and acting as the Secretary of State's deputy on the Environment Council.[65]

In July 2015, in his capacity as Resource Minister, he announced a review into the regulatory and enforcement barriers to growth and innovation in the waste sector.[66] Stewart as 'Floods Minister' joined the National Flood Resilience Review, formed in 2016 and chaired by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Oliver Letwin.[67] Stewart initiated the Cumbria Floods Partnership in response to Storm Desmond, with a focus on long-term flood defence.[68] UK House of Commons cross-party Environment Audit Committee criticised Floods Minister Stewart "that the extra £700m [newly allocated flood defence monies] was the result of a "political calculation" and that it might not be spent according to the strict value-for-money criteria currently used."[69]

As Environment Minister he introduced the plastic bag tax which dropped use of personal bags by 85% in 6 months;[70] and he was responsible for bringing the first draft of the 25 year environment plan in which he emphasised alongside biodiversity and ecosystems, the importance of human cultural features in the landscape, and particularly the conservation of small family sheep farms.[71] As Minister responsible for the National Parks, Stewart secured five years of increased funding for National Parks and AOBs.[72] He also ensured the extension of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Park and supported the Unesco World Heritage bid for the Lake District.[73]

Floods and water companies

As Floods Minister Stewart commissioned a Brigadier from the Royal Marines to conduct an immediate review of government responses to flooding.[74] This identified the potential gaps between different agencies, and the challenges in coordinating resilience measures, emergency response and recovery.[74] In 2014 the new system was tested by Storm Desmond in which areas of Cumbria experienced the highest rainfall ever recorded. Over the next few days more than 9000 houses were flooded in Cumbria, Yorkshire and Lancashire.[75] Stewart arrived on the ground as the flood water was rising and remained there over the following weeks, helping to coordinate the government response.[76]

His approach to the floods put a particular emphasis on rapid military deployment, close analysis of the detailed situation in outlying villages and the reopening of key bridges such as Appleby.[77] He then represented his department on the cross-ministerial group that oversaw financial compensation and grants to flooded households.[78] His role was further reinforced when he was made the prime ministerial flood envoy for Cumbria and Lancashire.[79] While he was the Flood Envoy the government committed an additional 74 million pounds of funding, and over 100 million for the repair of basic infrastructure in Cumbria.[80] He was particularly involved in driving the reopening of the A591 and the bridge at Pooley Bridge.[81] He then established the Cumbria Flood Partnership and competitions in river modelling to ensure that all stages of flood risk had been measured from the source to the sea.[82]

Stewart took through Parliament the legislation for the introduction of retail competition into the water sector.[83] He brought together water companies to reach a joint proposal on long term British investment in the water industry.

Minister of State for International Development – Asia and the Middle East

After Theresa May replaced David Cameron as Prime Minister, Stewart was promoted to Minister of State for International Development on 17 July 2016.[3][84]

Minister of State for Africa at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Stewart at the London Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference 2018

Stewart was promoted to become joint Minister for Africa, taking over responsibility for the Foreign Office and its embassies in Africa, as well as DfID in Africa. In this capacity he has visited Nigeria,[85] Uganda,[86] Botswana,[87] Zambia,[88] Tanzania,[89] Ethiopia,[90] Somalia,[91] Rwanda,[92] DRC,[93] South Sudan,[94] Kenya,[95] Zimbabwe[96] and to the United National General Assembly in New York (UNGA).[97] During these trips he held personal meetings with President Kagame of Rwanda,[98] President Kabila of DRC,[99] President Lungu of Zambia,[88]President Magufuli of Tanzania,[89] and President Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe.[100] In this role Stewart was the driving force behind the British Government's new Africa Strategy and pushed for more resources to go into the Foreign Office network in Africa. His most notable trip was to Zimbabwe where he was the first foreign dignitary to be received by President Mnangagwa.[101] His Zimbabwe policy pressed for political reform, and free and fair elections.[96]

Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice - Minister for Prisons

Stewart was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for prisons and probation in England and Wales in January 2018.[102] He was appointed in the aftermath of a highly critical leaked report on the state of HMP Liverpool, in which the inspector described it as the "worst prison he had ever seen" with piles of rubbish, rats, soaring violence and drug use and poor health provision.[103] Stewart immediately visited the prison and, testifying before the Justice Select Committee, announced his determination to clean up prisons in England and Wales.[104] He told the Committee that "we need to get back to basics. We need to absolutely insist that we're going to run clean, decent prisons and there has been too much, from my point of view, over the last few years, of very, very abstract conversations about grand bits of prison policy, which are important, but we cannot lose the basics".[105] This approach has involved the proposed introduction of scanners at prison gates, the fixing of windows, the cleaning of facilities and increases in the number of sniffer dogs and searches of cells.[106]

This advocacy of a "back to basics" approach was recorded in numerous newspapers, including the Daily Mail and The Guardian, with Stewart writing an opinion piece in the latter publication, entitled "I strongly believe we can improve our prisons and make progress".[107] He has written further articles on the situation in prisons, in which he has described the challenges that a prisons minister faces and the problems inherent to micromanaging.

Since starting at the Ministry of Justice, Stewart has visited numerous prisons and has been vocal in his praise for HM Prison Service and HMPPS. On 6 March 2018 Stewart told the House of Commons that the target of recruiting 2,500 extra prison officers had been achieved nine months ahead of schedule and he delivered a speech paying tribute to HMPS on 27 April 2018.[108] He told MPs that "prison officers operate out of sight of society. They have the most extraordinarily challenging profession. It requires unbelievable takes astonishing courage...[and] it also takes great moral authority to act as a mentor, a teacher and in some ways a friend to help prisoners on the path to reformation".[109]

In April 2018 Stewart took the Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Private Member's Bill through the House of Commons, on behalf of the government, which doubled the maximum sentences for those who attack emergency services personnel and introduced sexual assault as an aggravating factor in sentencing.[110]

In August 2018, during an interview with BBC Breakfast, Stewart announced the launch of the Ten Prisons Project. He argued that, despite five years of continuous rise in violence in prisons, it was possible to turn it around. Stewart argued that it could be done through improving perimeter gate security (to catch drugs) and by improving training and support of staff. The key, he said, was to get the basics right. He undertook to create a new Prison Officer handbook and a new course at the training college for prison officers. Stewart pledged, in the same interview, that he would resign if this project was not successful.[111]

Walking and travels

Stewart speaking at Google in March 2008

From 2000 to 2002 he travelled on foot through rural districts of Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, India and Nepal, a journey totalling around 6000 miles, during which time he stayed in five hundred different village houses.[112][113][114] He had previously walked across West Papua in 1998,[115] and has since made a number of long walks through Cumbria and Britain.[116][117]

He also travelled into Libya a day after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi.[118]



His first book, The Places in Between, was an account of his 32-day solo walk across Afghanistan in early 2002.[119] It was a New York Times best-seller, with the newspaper also naming it one of its 10 notable books of 2006 and hailing it as a "flat-out masterpiece".[4] It won the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize,[120] a Scottish Arts Council prize,[121] the Spirit of Scotland award,[122] and the Premio de Literatura de Viaje Caminos del Cid.[122] It was short-listed for a Scottish Arts Council prize,[123] the Guardian First Book Award[124] and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.[124] The book was adapted into a radio play by Benjamin Yeoh and was broadcast in 2007 on BBC Radio 4.[125]

Stewart's second book, The Prince of the Marshes: and other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq, also published as Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq, describes his experiences as a Deputy Governorate Co-ordinator in Iraq.[4] The New York Times critic William Grimes commented that Stewart "seems to be living one of the more extraordinary lives on record", but for him the "real value of the new book is Mr. Stewart's sobering picture of the difficulties involved in creating a coherent Iraqi state based on the rule of law".[126] Stewart's books have been translated into multiple languages.

Stewart's reflections on the circumstances under which outside military and political intervention in countries' internal affairs may or may not hope to achieve positive results were distilled in a 2011 book, Can Intervention Work?, co-authored with Gerald Knaus and part of the Amnesty International Global Ethics Series. He has also written about theory and practice of travel writings in prefaces to Wilfred Thesiger's Arabian Sands,[127] Charles Doughty's Arabia Deserta[128] and Robert Byron's The Road to Oxiana.[129]

In 2016, he published The Marches, a travelogue about a 1,000-mile walk in the borderlands separating England and Scotland, known as the Scottish Marches, and an extended essay on his Father, Brian Stewart.[130] The Marches was long listed for the Orwell Prize, won the Hunter Davies Lakeland Book of the Year,[131] was a Waterstones Book of the Month,[132] and became a Sunday Times top ten bestseller.[133]


His 2008 cover article in Time magazine, where he debated presidential candidates Obama and McCain, arguing against a troop surge in Afghanistan, has been shortlisted for an American Journalism Association Award.

He is a columnist for the Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, contributing a fortnightly column,[134] and has been a columnist for The New York Times,[135] in addition to a contributor to the New York Review of Books,[136] and the London Review of Books.[137]


Stewart has written and presented three critically acclaimed BBC documentaries:

  • The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia (2010).[138]
  • Afghanistan: The Great Game – A Personal View by Rory Stewart, a documentary in two parts that tells the story of foreign intervention by Britain, Russia and the United States in Afghanistan from the 19th century to the present day,which aired on BBC2 and which won a Scottish BAFTA (2012).[139]
  • Border Country: The Story of Britain's Lost Middleland, which investigates the rift created by Hadrian's Wall, and the issues of identity and culture in a region divided by the fabricated border, which was singled out for praise by David Attenborough.[140]



Personal life

Stewart lives at Dufton in Cumbria,[156][not in citation given] and is a member of The Athenaeum Club. In 2012, he married an American NGO executive, Shoshana Clark,[157] with whom he had his first child in November 2014, which he delivered himself in the absence of medical assistance.[158] His second child was born in April 2017.


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  126. ^ Stewart, Rory (1 February 2007). The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq. HMH. ISBN 9780156033008.
  127. ^ Thesiger, Wilfred; Stewart, Rory (25 October 2007). Arabian Sands (Reissue ed.). London: Penguin Classics. ISBN 9780141442075.
  128. ^ "Travels In Arabia Deserta | Folio Illustrated Book". Retrieved 7 March 2018.
  129. ^ Byron, Robert; Stewart, Rory; Fussell, Paul (18 May 2007). The Road to Oxiana. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195325607.
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  140. ^ "BBC Two - Border Country: The Story of Britain's Lost Middleland, Episode 1". BBC.
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  142. ^ Graduating Stirling students reap their rewards University of Stirling, 23 November 2009
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  148. ^ "Noticias Ruta Camino del CID |El escocés Rory Stewart gana el Premio de Literatura de Viajes Camino del Cid con su libro La huella de Babur". (in Spanish). Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  149. ^ "The American University of Paris Graduation Ceremony - Rory Stewart". Rory Stewart. 2 June 2011. Archived from the original on 5 March 2018. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
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  154. ^[permanent dead link]
  155. ^ "OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS". Hampstead Theatre. Retrieved 5 March 2018.
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  157. ^ "Conservative MP Rory Stewart to marry American volunteer at his Afghan charity". Archived from the original on 22 April 2013.
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External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
David Maclean
Member of Parliament
for Penrith and The Border

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