SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: MPs and the worlds of work

Cartoon of Sir Peter Bottomley
Cartoon of Sir Peter Bottomley
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Forty years ago the Industry and Parliament Trust (IPT) was created as a charity to promote mutual understanding between Parliament and the worlds of business, industry and commerce for public benefit.

The quiet founder was Sir Frank Rogers, elder statesman of the British newspaper industry.

He came to prominence as production and personnel director of the Daily Mirror; he led the coup that ousted Cecil King, the autocratic chairman of IPC; he went from directing the National Publishers Association’s attempts for sane print industrial relations to leading East Midland Allied Press as one of Britain’s most dynamic publishing groups; his last major post was as deputy chairman of The Telegraph Group.

He and I knew that few other MPs had direct experience in industry and commerce.

With the support of Speaker George Thomas, the first IPT parliamentarians started 25-day placements.

Together with a Labour MP, I was with the electronics firm Plessey.

We saw their work which included early optical fibre applications, equipping airfields around the world, the development of electronic telephone exchanges, digital radio for Special Forces and clever road management equipment.

I learned about controlling capital investment and about central knowledge of headcount.

When I graduated first, the scheme cheerfully asked a Commons police officer to start the tradition of presenting a cartoon to each of us.

In the 40 years, over 500 have completed their Fellowships.

It helps to have a balance of talent, experience and potential amongst the 600 to 650 members of the House of Commons.

That in growing number includes females and people who are black or Asian by background.

I feared losing the talented who had served in the military and the civil service.

Now I worry that the cadre of good trade union officials may not be renewed.

We have gained many with current experience of parenthood. There were myths that babies are unwelcome in Parliament and that family life is incompatible with serving a constituency.

The truth is that many more MPs are also caring for elderly parents. I attended the impressive Women’s Day debate in the Commons to listen rather than to speak.

This came 100 years after the Common’s Speaker’s Commission recommended that at least eight million women should eligible to vote after the end of the 1914-18 Great War.

International Women’s Day (March 8) recognised women across the world for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, cultural, economic or political.

WASPI campaigners chose the day to petition Parliament about State Pension Inequality.

Changes that came in a number of years ago have a severe impact on some women born in the 1950s as their pensionable ages rise from 60 to 66.

It is estimated that up to one million women will be affected by these changes.

With Tim Loughton MP, I continue to support their campaign.

Curiously, the recommendation to bring women into voting, some years before they could vote at the same age as men, was associated with voting registration for servicemen under the age of 21.

That oddity was forgotten when it took decades to lower the age of eligibility to 18.

The average age of participation in a general election is now around 20.

There is more thinking and work to be done, though we can note progress.

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