SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Security at home and abroad

Sir Peter Bottomley
Sir Peter Bottomley

At this week’s regular cross-party defence briefing, the British Air Marshall spoke about the threats faced by NATO nations.

One of the purposes of politics is to reduce the chances of unnecessary international war and fighting – there are few examples of military hostilities between countries that are reasonably democratic.

In January 1948, the Labour Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin spoke in the Commons about the ambition of Russia/USSR to dominate Europe.

It is a foundation for understanding the past 70 years.

He said: “The solution arrived at Yalta was looked upon by His Majesty’s Government at that time as a sensible compromise between conflicting elements, but there is no doubt that, as it has evolved, it has revealed a policy on the part of the Soviet Union to use every means in their power to get Communist control in Eastern Europe, and, as it now appears, in the West as well.

“It therefore matters little how we temporise, and maybe appease, or try to make arrangements.

“It has been quite clear, I think, that the Communist process goes ruthlessly on in each country.

“We have seen the game played out in Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, more recently in Rumania, and, from information in our possession, other attempts may be made elsewhere.

“Thus, the issue is not simply the organisation of Poland or any other country, but the control of Eastern Europe by Soviet Russia.”

He prepared the speech while staying at the Workers’ Holiday Association property at Priory Bay, across the Solent from West Sussex.

He proposed the Western Union, later the Western European Union (WEU) to which I was once a parliamentary representative.

The WEU quickly led to the creation of NATO, an alliance that a democratic Russia might have applied to join.

NATO is for defence, for mutual protection.

I want Labour, Liberal Democrats and Conservatives, with the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, to be as united now as they were on January 22, 1948, when only the elected Communists disputed Ernest Bevin’s words by interruptions which look as odd now as they did then.

On security at home, this week I have twice spoken for the Windrush generation (one MP kindly said my contribution had the greatest impact) and I also helped the new minister of housing to make clear that tenants and leaseholders should not be asked to pay the capital costs of replacing Grenfell type cladding.

Wednesday’s contribution in Westminster Hall was on the need for HPV protection for young males in addition to young females.

Our health policy must start with disease protection, before turning to cure and care.

Tim Loughton MP and I congratulate mayor Alex Harman and his wife Fran for running the great town hall debate for students at four of our leading schools.

We were impressed by the good points and the good nature of the debates.

Winning or losing is less important than developing the confidence to contribute.

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