SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Giving and receiving

During the weeks coming up to Christmas, we will be receiving greetings and presents from friends and family. Royal Mail delivery offices will be busy.

Sir Peter Bottomley
Sir Peter Bottomley

Parcels and cards will flow through in an amazing system of cooperative working.

On Friday I expect to join the early morning staff in Goring-by-Sea’s postal sorting office before going on to the Durrington Tesco Neighbourhood Food Collection. Recognising the efforts of other and their good works is important.

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The last Tuesday in November (and rarely the first in December) has become established as the big Giving day. The amazing Charities Aid Foundation CAF is the British organiser. After signing my support, I quietly passed on my winter fuel payment to those who need it.

The television programme about MPs’ advice services this week has demonstrated the help we each try to give throughout the year. With experienced caring colleagues, each constituent can be given attention, advice and often help. In memory of the late Jo Cox MP, three parliamentarians gave of their best. We are not put off by the past, remembering that in Northern Ireland another MP was murdered; in England, an assistant lost his life too.

CAF has a great system for gaining the boost of tax relief without the bother of filling a gift aid form each time. For forty years it has promoted general donations to charities and it provides services to donors and to the UK and international charities that we choose to support.

Tim Loughton MP and I gained by a recent meeting with Worthing Churches Homelessness Projects and with Worthing Homes. Their trustees and directors, their leaders and staff with the willing volunteers achieve welcome successes, giving the opportunity of better lives to many each year.

At Westminster, there are regular meeting(s) for good causes. One this week was for children living with heart disease conditions. Their families face difficulties because there is no relevant guidance to assessors for the disability living allowance. There is guidance for rarer conditions.

The Dentists held a meeting in the next room. Sensibly, they were concentrating on sugar free offerings for Christmas. In the past few days, the respected Labour MP Alan Johnson has argued for making up the fluoride to water for reducing tooth decay amongst the children in his Hull constituency.

The House of Commons Chamber has given attention to a number of interesting issues. After speaking on the problems facing victims of contaminated blood transfusions, I raised the concerns of leaseholders before speaking on the importance of the BBC. Its new Charter agreement includes transferring the cost and the policy on licence concessions for people over 75 from government to the Corporation. My view is that it would be better left with parliament and ministers.

Additionally, I spoke about the need to protect journalists and the media who publish private information when it is justified in the public interest. When the minister said that a criminal prosecution would need (to) meet the public interest test, I pointed to the difference of that from public interest being an effective defence if proved.

One of the advantages to having some MPs with lasting experience is our knowledge of cases from the past. New ministers, new civil servants and new parliamentary lawyers will, I trust, be prepared to rethink their proposals. Parliament is here to test proposed legislation: is it right, is it necessary and will it work? Give and take works as well in the House of Commons and the House of Lords as with charities and good causes.


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