SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: New year, familiar issues

Sir Peter Bottomley. Picture: Derek Martin
Sir Peter Bottomley. Picture: Derek Martin

Happy New Year.

For more than 20 years our local home has been by Christ Church in central Worthing. The last boundary changes created constituencies since served by Tim Loughton and by me.

Over the years, we stand by people, we tackle issues together and whenever proper and possible we reconcile differences and with my dedicated team I try to bring positive results from often apparently negative situations. It is good to have been on friendly terms with supporters of the other major political parties. During these productive decades, I have enjoyed being with cousins in the Arun wards, visiting friends throughout the constituency and making home calls to constituents.

The local problems caused by the rail dispute are awful. I do understand and frequently raise the consequences for travellers. I do not believe the so-called industrial action is justified, proportionate or that it should be continued for another day.

If there are genuine issues, let us hear them. We respect train drivers and we understand their constant responsibility. There is no reason to believe they should strike because they are now to control 12 rather than ten or eight carriages in modern trains.

The rail operators are recruiting more people to be on-board supervisors, assisting passengers. The talks at ACAS about remaining differences on small changes to working practices have included commitment to rostering as many, probably more, on-train staff, with guaranteed jobs and with guaranteed pay.

My wish is that the wider TUC membership politely and firmly make plain that the disproportionate impact of closing the railway day after day damages the working lives of others and threatens the jobs of others, in addition to having a hideous impact on family life.

Are guards and drivers earning £40,000 to 60,000 a year thinking about the teacher on £22,000 or the patient needing reliable transport to regular therapy in a hospital along the coast or in a London specialist unit?

In 2017 we face the consequences of the referendum result that leads to our country leaving the European Union. Let us cooperate within the United Kingdom and with everyone else to create helpful arrangements with agreements that bring benefits to all.

The problems of the EU system had been known from the outset. During the previous 1975 referendum, the most effective advocate for IN, sharing some sovereignty, was the then new leader of the Conservative opposition, Margaret Thatcher.

One of the best advocates for ‘out’ was Douglas Jay, former Labour minister. In essence, even in 1968 after General de Gaulle had decisively vetoed Britain’s second application to join the EEC, he wrote that the European Economic Community was too narrow and inward-looking a group for us, a world trading nation with vital economic and political links in all continents.

Rather than re-run the recent referendum, let us do all that we can together to fulfil sensible objectives: international law and order, a peaceful world, a high standard of living for ourselves and for others. By trade, by technical and scientific skill, by overseas investment and by the spread of British political, social and cultural ideas, we can succeed with economic vitality and distinctive political independence. Peace and trade are our two greatest interests.

These thoughts and words I share with the former Labour MP, though we did not agree on the Common Market. By chance he had been the first person in the Commons to welcome my maiden speech. At least, he said he preferred it to Margaret Thatcher’s.

Adaptation, including the development and acceptance of new ways of working, is key to prosperity abroad and at home. With fervour, I ask the rail staff and their union representatives to join all of us in the journey to a better future. They have nothing to lose; we all have much to gain.

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