SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Science matters

Sir Peter Bottomley with other West Sussex MPs, head teachers and students at 10 Downing Street

Sir Peter Bottomley with other West Sussex MPs, head teachers and students at 10 Downing Street

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West Sussex MPs have been campaigning with parents and school heads for fairer funding. No one defends the existing system.

There are pupils with high needs; there are special needs; most of all, there is need for a realistic basic provision of teachers so all forms or classes can have a competent committed teacher.

This week I have been with county head teachers, their students and fellow MPs at 10 Downing Street and with the MPs at the Department for Education.

Let us hope the Chancellor’s autumn spending statement brings transitional relief.

One of Britain’s greatest mathematicians and scientists is the cosmologist Martin Rees, who this week gave a lecture I arranged. Lord Rees is the Astronomer Royal.

We overlapped at Cambridge in the 1960s: he was distinguished; I was not.

His work on cosmic radiation settled the argument about the state of the universe in favour of Big Bang rather than Steady State.

My equivalent contribution was national, learning how to cut road deaths.

Martin’s parents were teachers. When he was six, they created a school for him and other pupils in a ‘calendar’ house, built about 60 years before for an MP.

Bedstone Court had 365 windows, 52 rooms, 12 chimneys and seven external doors.

Is that how Lord Rees developed interest and skills in mathematics?

Now he works with other great scientists on how the world can have electricity from carbon free sources at a lower cost than coal within ten years.One challenge is storage. The Parliamentary Group on Energy Storage heard on Tuesday about a range of methods between large-scale pumped hydro to household ‘behind the meter’ batteries.

The possibilities include mechanical methods, electrochemical energy, chemical storage, high temperature thermal energy and electromechanical storage.

We have become used to change, just as our ancestors did. They switched from home coal and coke to town and natural gas, from candles and gas lighting to electricity and from horse and cart to bicycle and motor car.

We can speculate what may be discovered by the scientists and mathematicians now at Worthing College and in local sixth forms.

Some scientists come into medicine and some aim for the civil service. Chris Martin, a physicist, was one. Sadly he died early from sarcoma, a rare condition. He served in the Treasury and at 10 Downing Street.

This week, David Cameron spoke at his memorial service in St Margaret’s, Parliament Square. It is known as ‘the parish church of the House of Commons’ where I serve as Parliamentary Warden.

Of Chris it could truly be said that ‘a life of public service is an honourable calling’.

He had written those words for Her Majesty The Queen’s visit to government departments.

The description applies to many I have been with during the week.

At Worthing Hospital last Friday, I talked with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt about the benefits of the dedicated competent continuity given by the chairman Mike Viggers and the chief executive Marianne Griffiths.

I also acknowledge the leadership and responsibility of Colm Donaghy at the NHS Partnership Trust.

We can admire the frank open way he is facing up to the report on lessons to learn.

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