Peter Bottomley

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Sir Peter Bottomley
Peter Bottomley, May 2009 cropped.jpg
Member of Parliament
for Worthing West
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by Constituency created
Majority 16,855 (33.2%)
Member of Parliament
for Eltham
Woolwich West (1975–1983)
In office
26 June 1975 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by William Hamling
Succeeded by Clive Efford
Personal details
Born (1944-07-30) 30 July 1944 (age 71)
Newport, Shropshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Virginia Garnett
Children 3
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Religion Church of England
Website Official website

Sir Peter James Bottomley (born 30 July 1944) is a British Conservative Party politician who has served as a Member of Parliament since 1975. He has represented Worthing West constituency since 1997.

Early life[edit]

Westminster School
from the BBC programme Front Row, 25 April 2013[1]

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Bottomley was born in Newport, Shropshire, the son of Sir James Bottomley, a wartime British Army officer who later made his career in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and of Barbara, née Vardon, a social worker. He was baptized at St Swithun's parish church at Cheswardine where his parents had married.[2] After seven school changes before the age of eleven, he was educated at a junior high school in Washington, D.C. and then Westminster School before reading economics at Trinity College, Cambridge, following his father, grandfather, father-in-law and father-in-law's father to the College. His supervisor was James Mirrlees, who later gained the Nobel prize for Economics. Before university he worked around Australia including three weeks teaching at Geelong Grammar School and unloading trucks in Melbourne docks. In between, he spent a week in Mt. Field with Tenzing Norgay and Jenny Smithies of Launceston Methodist Ladies College. After university, he became a lorry driver and joined the Transport and General Workers Union before moving on to industrial sales and industrial relations.[3] In the early 1970s he co-founded the Neighbourhood Council in South Lambeth, resulting in the creation of football pitches and other facilities at Larkhall Park. His last job before entering Parliament was putting lights outside theatres and cinemas in London's West End.

Member of Parliament[edit]

On the backbenches[edit]

Bottomley contested the Woolwich West parliamentary seat in the February and October general elections of 1974, failing to defeat the sitting Labour MP William Hamling. Hamling died on 20 March 1975, and in the space of 18 months, Bottomley faced the electors of Woolwich West for the third time at the by-election on 26 June 1975, the last year Harold Wilson led the Labour government. Bottomley was elected as the Conservative MP for Woolwich West with a majority of 2,382, and held this marginal seat and its successor, Eltham, in Parliament for the next 22 years.

In 1978 he became the President of the Conservative Trade Unionists, a position he held for two years. Before the 1979 general election, Bottomley became a trustee with Christian Aid in 1978 until 1984. In 1978 as a member of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, he campaigned to help delay the anticipated assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero and represented the British Council of Churches at the funeral in El Salvador in 1980 when 14 people died around him.[citation needed] In 1979, days before the fall of the Labour Government, he made a visit to Washington DC to indicate that Margaret Thatcher, if she became Prime Minister, would not lift sanctions on Southern Rhodesia nor recognise the government of Bishop Abel Muzorewa.[citation needed] He was for some years a member of the Conservative Monday Club despite disagreeing with their policies on immigration, race relations, Rhodesia and South Africa. He has been chairman of the Church of England's Children's Society, a trustee of Mind and of Nacro and on the policy committee of One Parent Families. He served on the successor committee to the Archbishop of Canterbury's commission Faith in the City and chaired the churches' review group on the Churches Main Committee. He is a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee and has been appointed the Parliamentary Warden at St. Margaret's Church, Westminster. He has led the United Kingdom delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). He is vice chair of WATCH, Women and the Church, supporting full equal acceptance of females.

In 1982, he became the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Cranley Onslow. Peter Bottomley's seat of Woolwich West had minor boundary changes and a name change. Bottomley fought the new constituency of Eltham at the 1983 general election winning the seat by over 7,500 votes. Following the election, Peter Bottomley became the PPS to the Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Security, Norman Fowler.

Member of the Thatcher Government[edit]

After nine years on the backbenches, Bottomley became a member of Margaret Thatcher's government when he was appointed as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Employment in 1984, moving sideways to the Department of Transport in 1986 to become the Minister of Roads and Traffic. In 1989 he moved sideways again to the Northern Ireland Office. He was dropped by Thatcher in 1990, when he briefly became PPS to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Brooke. He has been a captain of the Parliamentary football team, participated in the parliamentary swimming competition and organised the annual dinghy sailing against the House of Lords. He was captain of the Commons eight, winning the first Thames rowing race in gigs against the Lords in 2007.[citation needed]

Return to the backbenches[edit]

Since 1990 he has been a backbencher, described as a maverick, 'supporting a range of seemingly perverse causes' .[4][5] Bottomley decided not to re-contest Eltham after major boundary changes, but sought nomination elsewhere. Following the retirement of the Conservative MP Terence Higgins, Bottomley contested the newly formed constituency of Worthing West at the 1997 general election, gaining the seat with a majority of 7,700.

Bottomley is in more parliamentary groups than any other MP.[6] He was Chairman of the All-Party United Nations Group, is co-Chairman of PACTS the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety and vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Flag Group [7] Through the Human Rights and CAFOD Groups he became and remained involved with the life, work and legacy of Oscar Romero since 1978. Through the Mental Health Groups he helped Charles Walker MP gain the first major debate on conditions lumped together as mental illness.

Bottomley has been a supporter of the British pensioners living overseas, living in mainly Commonwealth countries (47 out of 54) who have had their British state pension frozen at the rate at which it is first paid or as at the date of migration. British pensioners living in seven Commonwealth countries and those living in a number of non-Commonwealth countries have their British state pensions uprated each year, just as if they were living in the UK.[8]

Personal life[edit]

In 1967 he married Virginia Garnett who later became a social scientist, an MP, a Cabinet Minister, and a life peer as Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone. They have a son and two daughters. The couple have homes in Worthing, West Sussex, Milford, Surrey and Westminster.[citation needed]

His brother was his Lambeth councillor; his brother-in-law was Mayor of Cambridge. His niece is Kitty Ussher, the economist, former Labour MP and Minister. His great-grandfather Sir Richard Robinson led the Municipal Reformers to victory in the 1907 London County Council election. In 2002-2003 he was Master of the Worshipful Company of Drapers.

Bottomley was knighted in the 2011 New Year Honours for public service.[9][10]

In 1989 he successfully sued The Mail on Sunday, the Daily Express and News of the World for allegations connected with his support of the union membership of a union social worker in his constituency accused of misbehaviour in a children's home. In 1995 he was awarded £40,000 against the Sunday Express for an article that depicted him as having behaved in treacherously disloyal and disreputable manner. [11]


  1. ^ "Peter Bottomley". Front Row. 25 April 2013. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 18 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Devoted pair buried side by side. Village link went back for 70 years.". Shropshire Star. 12 July 2013. p. 43. Report of burial of parents' ashes.
  3. ^ Brown, Colin (15 June 1993). "Maverick Tory goes his own way: Former minister retains active role in transport workers' union". The Independent. 
  4. ^ The Independent 1993
  5. ^ Jewish Chronicle 2011
  6. ^ Ball, James (24 February 2011). "Coalition urged to act over lobbyists who use party groups 'to buy influence'". The Guardian. 
  7. ^ UK Parliament - Register of All Party Groups
  8. ^ Peter Bottomley on Expat state pension unfairness
  9. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59647. p. 1. 31 December 2010.
  10. ^ Tory veteran Peter Bottomley awarded knighthood 31 December 2010, BBC News
  11. ^ 'Reputations Under Fire', David Hooper, Little Brown 2000

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Hamling
Member of Parliament for Woolwich West
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Eltham
Succeeded by
Clive Efford
New constituency Member of Parliament for Worthing West