SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Keep making progress together

Sir Peter with Tom Wye at the Rotary Carnival
Sir Peter with Tom Wye at the Rotary Carnival

A collection of stories for my family could have the title Good, Fun and Failures.

Good comes from my service as a trustee of Christian Aid where the slogan one year was the declaration that Good Works.

Fun recognises there are enjoyable elements in our lives, locally in the constituency, nationally at Westminster or around the United Kingdom, and on occasional visits overseas. My bank holiday fun with Virginia included the Rotary Carnival in Steyne Gardens after the procession’s progress from Grand Avenue.

Failure is frequent; at times, success is delayed while on other issues it is elusive, possibly forever?

One truth is that just about nothing is achieved alone, particularly as a Member of Parliament has no resources other than a voice and the ability to speak with just about anyone when an issue justifies it.

Another truth was told to me by a distinguished civil servant Sir Toby Weaver at the Department of Education (coincidentally a reproduction of his signature was on my public examination certificates). He said that what we know we do not yet know is at the boundary of our present knowledge. That means that as we learn more, there is still more to discover, more insights to use, more progress to make. The example in my mind this week is the reduction of serious injury and deaths on our roads.

On Wednesday, The Times newspaper kindly published my letter about the possibility of updating the law on cycling offences, following the case of the cycle without brakes colliding with a young mother.

Anybody who rides or uses any vehicle without brakes on our roads or pavements or on private land is a dangerous fool.

For our sake and your own sake, get brakes. After the recent tragic death, the cyclist was cleared of manslaughter so the expected creation of new defined offences might not have led to a greater penalty.

The question that parliament, with government and all concerned to reduce the deaths on our roads, should consider is how to restore the continuous and possible reduction of serious injury and the killing of wives, husbands, partners and other loved people. The law and the courts have a part; it may not be the largest part. More than 1,700 deaths a year are each the result of the law being broken. The law can make something an offence but it does not stop it happening.

Together, we have reduced the annual death toll over 30 years from 5,600. Little of that came from significant change on law, policing or penalty. It has come by a change in understanding, in expectation and in behaviour.

Twenty years ago, three of the four occupants died in a car that crashed at high speed in a Paris tunnel.

The survivor was wearing a seat belt and the driver was way over the legal limit. The additional tragedy was that those facts were not made public on the first day or in the first week of coverage.

If they had, the annual road mortality in the European Union could have come down from 50,000 to perhaps 25,000 if we all had been reminded of the real value of law and of abiding by it.

We all know that we have a part to play in making our shared use of roads and pavements less risky year by year.


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