SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Cross-party working and the future

Rustington Museum
Rustington Museum

The charming museum in Rustington and the museum and art gallery by Worthing’s town hall are matched elsewhere. The G F Watts gallery halfway to London includes famous portraits though the greater inspiration come from his depictions of the sorrows of poverty, the loneliness of destitution.

In London my parliamentary service centres at the Palace of Westminster, to visitors a museum, to me a set of working committee rooms and the Chamber where I can helpfully raise issues that matter locally and nationally. Some are picked up by the national press and broadcasters. I decline many requests though in this week I have been interviewed on fire protection in tower blocks and on issues raised in amendments to the Queen’s Speech.

Last week the government pledged to fund terminations for Northern Irish women who seek abortion care via NHS England. The cause garnered cross-party support.

Abortion is defined as ‘unlawful’ in Northern Ireland. This year the UK Supreme Court ruled that Northern Irish women were not entitled to access free NHS abortion care in England.

Listening over fifty years ago to my aunt Janet, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology at the Cambridge Addenbrooke’s hospital, I heard about the plight of women needing abortion. Some patients might say they already had five children, others could say that they and their conceiving partner may live together but they could not face pregnancy or birth.

Until British women can, subject to the law, have an abortion in their part of the UK, it is our responsibility in England to meet their needs.

There is a monthly Communion for MPs and members of the House of Lords. This week the breakfast speaker was Lord Eames, for over twenty years formerly the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, including the time I served as minister for agriculture and for environment in the Province.

He spoke about the power of the memory for the future. He said we remember people above all; in his experience prayer can move mountains, including helping the transition of those involved in atrocities to positive community building in later years.

One of his most dramatic stories was about the antipathy to so-called mixed marriages, the household that combined Christians who happened to come from the Roman Catholic and the Protestant traditions.

This Friday I shall be joining the staff of Northbrook College for the day of reflection on how best to serve their students. Additionally, I will have discussions with the local police commander. Every police officer holds the Royal warrant; they are not government police.

We are lucky to have the Queen as the focus of our civil and military services and our voluntary groups. She is the custodian of the Royal Collection. Do visit the gallery at Buckingham Palace when you can. It is accessible.

The charitable foundation founded after the death of my American cousin has contributed to two access projects, making possible step free entrance to St. Margaret’s Church in Parliament Square and also helping the new Gothic lift to the Diamond Jubilee museum and gallery in the triforium of Westminster Abbey.

The Abbey choir had sung in the Buckingham Palace ballroom where the Queen had knighted me. Their repertoire included a song by Hubert Parry, one of Rustington’s famous residents.

I hope succeeding generations will know that Parry had composed the music to make William Blake’s famous poem into the great national song Jerusalem, itself an inspiration to build a better Britain.

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