Author Archive

Victory church, again

November 5, 2013

5 November 2013 Victory church

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble there is a spy in their midst and Pertwees are going down like flies. Priceless.
Quiet day get a fridge man on Wednesday for free, more books from Victory church
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins but gets under 400, perhaps I’ll win tomorrow.


Professor John Cloudsley-Thompson – obituary
Professor John Cloudsley-Thompson was a desert naturalist who toured the Sahara after an eventful war in which he faced an SS panzer ace

John Cloudsley-Thompson in the Sudan, 1964 
6:22PM GMT 04 Nov 2013
Professor John Cloudsley-Thompson, the tank commander turned desert naturalist, who has died aged 92, survived a confrontation with a Tiger in wartime, and with countless scorpions in peace.
The Tiger in question was all the more intimidating in that it was the German war machine commanded by Michael Wittman, regarded as one of the most formidable tank combatants of the war.

SS-Hauptsturmfuhrer Michael Wittmann on the barrel of his Tiger tank
Wittman is thought to have accounted for 138 tanks during the conflict, and it was Cloudsley-Thompson’s misfortune to find himself facing the panzer ace in a considerably outpunched Cromwell tank on June 13 1944 at Villers Bocage, 15 miles south-west of Caen.

Villers Bocage was considered a crucial battleground for control of Caen. Yet as Wittmann guided his Tiger down the main road it proved something of a rout as he knocked out tank after Allied tank. “Through the smoke loomed the gigantic form of a Tiger tank – it cannot have been more than 35 yards away,” noted Cloudsley-Thompson later, in his memoir, Sharpshooter (2006). “I fired the 2in bomb-thrower. The smoke bomb passed clean over the Tiger which very slightly traversed its gun. Wham! We were hit. A sheet of flame licked over the turret. ‘Bail out!’ I yelled and leapt clear. Then a machine gun fired at me. The Tiger rumbled past… then I heard my name called softly and looked round. There were my crew, hiding under a currant bush. Miraculously they were all safe.”

Cloudsley-Thompson’s Cromwell tank after his encounter with panzer ace Michael Wittman
It was Cloudsley-Thompson’s second narrow escape. The first had come in the Libyan Desert when, in May 1942, he took part in the battle for the Allied defensive region known as Knightsbridge. He had just turned 21, when he had been presented with a “magnificent birthday cake made from ground up biscuits and sugar”. He had also been promoted to Tank Commander. It was a tempestuous battle, with smoke and dust drastically reducing visibility. “The shelling was prodigious. [Suddenly] There was a tremendous crash.”
It turned out that Cloudsley-Thompson’s Crusader A15 Mark VI had been hit by a high explosive shell fired from a mile away. Despite a wound to his leg he managed to scramble out and jump on another tank which took him clear. Evacuated to Tobruk, he drifted in and out of consciousness. The rest of his crew, however, were either dead or fighting for their lives. Heavily sedated, Cloudsley-Thompson awoke to find a man he took to be his father by his bedside. Once his mind had cleared he realised that it was his uncle, Brigadier LF Thompson, who secured a place for Cloudsley-Thompson on a train to Cairo, where doctors managed to save his leg.

John Leonard Cloudsley-Thompson was born on May 23 1921 in Murree, in pre-partition India, now Pakistan. He was educated at Marlborough and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of war. In September 1939 he helped his father, who was health officer for Lambeth, organise the borough’s casualty clearing stations, before volunteering for the Royal Tank Regiment. “I would rather drive than march in the infantry, and also I would like to see what I was shooting at and therefore not serve in the RA,” he explained later.
While waiting to be called up he joined the Local Defence Volunteers and the Home Guard before further training at Sandhurst, from which he was commissioned into the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars. He then transferred to the 4th County of London Yeomanry (4 CLY “Sharpshooters”), sailing immediately to join the 7th Armoured Division (Desert Rats). Despite a bout of dysentery, he took part in Operation Crusader in November 1941.
After hospital in Cairo, Cloudsley-Thompson recuperated in England, where he became an instructor at Sandhurst. He convinced his superiors to allow him to rejoin 4 CLY in time for D-Day, and took part in the Normandy landings. A week later he was confronted by Wittman’s Tiger.
In July 1944, however, he scored a remarkable success during Operation Goodwood, the attempt to storm the Bourguébus Ridge and enable a total encirclement of the German army in the Falaise Gap. Three British Armoured Divisions were sent across the open plains south of Caen under the sights of well-hidden guns. Hundreds of Allied tanks were knocked out, and Cloudsley-Thompson’s four poorly-armoured Cromwells were ordered through the thick of the battle to establish a foothold on the ridge itself. Emerging through the burnt-out wreckage of seven tanks, Cloudsley-Thompson managed to reached his objective. But as the artillery barrage intensified, his troop was withdrawn. It took another three weeks of high Canadian casualties to reach the top of the ridge. “What a pity we were not reinforced rather than being withdrawn on July 20,” he noted.
After the war he completed his studies at Cambridge and in 1950 was appointed a lecturer in ­Zoology at King’s College London. His interest in the natural world had endured through his fighting career; in the desert he had defused the tension of waiting to take on the Afrika Korps by directing his crew to hunt for spider and scorpion specimens. He even acquired a desert fox from a local which his crew tamed and nicknamed “Noball”. At one point the fox got lost inside the tank’s engine, forcing the entire squadron to wait before moving off.

Noball, the Desert Fox that Cloudsley-Thompson adopted
Immediately after the war Cloudsley-Thompson began writing for Nature and the journal of the British Naturalists’ Association (BNA). Then, after a decade at King’s, he was appointed, in 1960, Professor of Zoology at the University of Khartoum and Keeper of the Sudan Natural History Museum.
He was fascinated by creatures that were able to survive desert conditions and heat. Scorpions, centi­pedes, spiders and woodlice were his speciality, but he was not averse to crocodiles or tortoises. When one crocodile escaped its enclosure he found that the locals did not share his enthusiasm; the police shot the reptile.
With his wife, Anne, who worked as a nurse and physiotherapist in the hospital in Omdurman, he would also embark in his Land Rover on lengthy off-road expeditions, including one trans-Saharan trip. On one occasion he ventured to Jebel Marra, a huge extinct volcano in Darfur. Interesting specimens might be brought back for study in the little laboratory he kept next door to his office, which was usually filled with animals.
He was passionate about Sudan, and collected many Sudanese artefacts, including silver bowls, knives and sculptures. When he eventually returned to Britain to take up, in 1972, the position of Professor of Zoology at Birkbeck College, London, they festooned his house.
A determined, energetic man, Cloudsley-Thompson lectured around the world and was a prolific writer of books and papers. Many of these were produced in retirement (some 45, with Wilson Lourenco, on scorpion biology alone). But they were not limited to the desert and its creatures, and addressed subjects ranging from seals to bees. For the BNA, of which he was chairman from 1974 to 1983, he wrote for the Guide to Woodlands (1985).
Cloudsley-Thompson was also president of the British Arachnological Society, the British Society for Chronobiology and the British Herpetological Society. In 1993 he won the Peter Scott Memorial Award for outstanding services to our understanding of natural history.
John Cloudsley-Thompson’s wife predeceased him. He is survived by their three sons.
Professor John Cloudsley-Thompson, born May 23 1921, died October 4 2013


Simon Jenkins (Comment, 2 November) suggests the International Committee of the Red Cross has become an inadvertent tool of western powers who disguise adventurism as humanitarian action. It is not a reality we in the ICRC recognise, particularly not in places like Syria, where our independence from political sponsorship by any state or faction is key to our being able to deliver assistance in both government- and opposition-controlled areas.
Throughout the 150 years of the ICRC response to the needs of the victims of conflict, our organisation has weathered numerous attempts to cast us a lackey of interest groups, power blocs or belief systems. Every day in Syria we reassert our neutrality, in order to feed the hungry, provide water or get medicine to the sick. It is not easy to counter negative perceptions, whether they come from the misuse of the language of humanitarianism or allegations that we have a hidden ideological agenda. And notwithstanding setbacks – kidnappings and attacks on staff – we have found that constant dialogue with all sides and a demonstrably impartial response to people’s needs are the most effective arguments. In Syria it works.
This year, we have conducted 120 missions across the country, through dozens of checkpoints and across frontlines. With volunteers from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent we feed 450,000 people every month. However, our efforts to provide medical care are sadly impeded by those who do not accept the principle that all sick and wounded are entitled to treatment. Neutrality must be demonstrated, not declared. That’s the difference between an intervention that helps those in need impartially, and deserves the name humanitarian, and one that does not.
Robert Mardini
Head of operations, Middle East, ICRC, Geneva

It is difficult to see how the Co-op Bank can remain a “world leader in ethical investment” (Letters, 4 November) when it is to be significantly owned by vulture fund Aurelius Capital. Aurelius is trying to force Argentina to default on its debts in a legal case in New York. The vulture fund bought up Argentinian debt cheaply when the country was in crisis. Unlike other creditors, it refused to renegotiate the amount of debt owed, and is now seeking huge profits out of the South American country. Along with fellow vulture fund NML Capital, it has bizarrely got a US court to rule that if the vultures don’t get their huge profit, no one should get anything.
Vulture funds show most starkly the moral failures of our out-of-control financial system, from seeking vast profits out of crises in Argentina, Liberia or Greece, to demutualising the Co-op Bank through their aggressive strategy. A bank owned by vulture funds cannot be considered ethical.
Tim Jones
Policy officer, Jubilee Debt Campaign
• The Co-op Bank’s hedge-fund owners might well be prepared to keep its ethical stance in the short term, for branding reasons. But any bank constitution won’t be worth the paper it’s written on once it appears to stand in the way of profit. Rather than fighting an unwinnable war, a better strategy for disgusted members might be to switch, if they can, to an ethically tolerable alternative. Meanwhile, the wider labour, co-operative, green and social investment movements should get to work on founding a new bank, perhaps in association with Triodos Bank (which, I understand, plans to introduce a current account in 2016). The Co-operative Bank is lost; start afresh.
Richard Middleton
Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway
• If there was a word to label the amalgamation of an ethical bank and hedge-fund backing, it would undoubtedly be an oxymoron.
Craig Alexander
Ashwell, Rutland

Italian prime minister Enrico Letta’s jitters about Eurosceptic parties becoming more powerful after next May’s European elections overlooked the far more ominous fact that most of these parties are on the extreme right (Europe must unite to counter sceptics, 1 November). They are gaining in influence and support because economic insecurity is rife across the continent and is easily channelled into blaming immigrants for domestic problems.
Free-market, pro-European governments have introduced austerity and weakened domestic businesses and employment through the economic warfare inherent in the free movement of goods, money and people. As such, they have nothing to offer the unemployed and the insecure, except more of the same. People will only return to supporting “Europe” if it changes its end goal such that it is able to protect and rebuild national and local economies.
The present open market obsession of the treaty of Rome must be replaced by a treaty of Home, giving priority to the diversification of national economies, rather than endless austerity and ruthless competition. It is the only way to reduce insecurity and people’s readiness to vote for extremist parties.
Colin Hines
Author, Progressive Protectionism (forthcoming), East Twickenham, Middlesex
• Enrico Letta says the EU must unite against sceptics, but I fear the moment has passed. Nationalism appeals to human nature because it offers us all a recognisable home among our fellows. Europhiles have had more than 60 years to express their project in terms that offer the same thing bigger and better, but have failed to find a formula that speaks to the heart. Rather than embodying the promise of a shared European homeland, the EU haunts the public consciousness as part pipedream, part nuisance. Against the warm familiarity of a more restricted view of kinship and geography, there is no contest.
Roger Woodhouse
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
• Enrico Letta calling for a great battle between “the Europe of the people and the Europe of populism” would have made Bertolt Brecht proud. The best he could do was “Would it not be easier to dissolve the people, and elect another in their place?” The EU’s democratic deficit is no accident but a deliberate policy to ignore the actual people of Europe and act in the name of an abstract concept, “the people”, which just happens to want what the elites think they should want.
Roger Mortimer-Smith
Hampton, Middlesex
• I’m pleased the CBI admits the benefits of being in the EU “significantly outweigh” the costs. Half of our exports go to the EU and, according to the CBI, EU membership is worth £3,000 a year to UK families. Yet rightwing Tories and Ukip are pushing for an exit. I hope the fact our main business group is wholeheartedly in favour of staying in the EU will be recognised in Downing Street.
Derek Vaughan MEP
Lab, Wales
• Can the Vince Cable who says the EU is a good deal for Britain (Comment, 4 November) be the same one who catastrophically underestimated the value of Royal Mail in its privatisation, leading to a huge financial loss to the Treasury?
Mabel Taylor
Knutsford, Cheshire
In a piece of disinformation often used by the government to justify the privatisation of 70% of the probation service, the Ministry of Justice mentions plans for supervision of 50,000 prisoners currently “released with no statutory support” (Delay probation shakeup or risk deaths, Grayling is told, 29 October). In fact, the probation service does not and never has worked with these problematic offenders sentenced to less than 12 months, though the probation minister, Jeremy Wright, and the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, trot out the statistic to suggest that this high rate is a failure of the service. The probation service was awarded a BQS gold award for excellence in 2011, but a more important measure of its success is that the public are often so oblivious of it.
However, based on past experience of G4S and Serco (both currently under investigation for defrauding the public), one has a firm basis for fearing that probation work will be far more visible if the privatisation goes ahead.
Joanna Hughes
Campaigning committee, National Association of Probation Officers (Napo)
•  It’s disingenuous of the MoJ to justify rushing ahead with privatising probation on the basis that it consulted widely and that experiments at Doncaster and Peterborough prisons were successful. It has failed to allay the plethora of concerns expressed during the consultation, and the experiments were brief and far from conclusive. Another experiment in the West Midlands and Staffordshire that involved the probation service was stopped without securing an evaluation.
Grayling’s refusal to pilot his proposals underlines the fact that the approach to the probation service, unlike the commendable objective to reduce reoffending, owes more to ideology than criminology.
Jeremy Beecham
Shadow justice spokesman, House of Lords
•  When I heard of proposals to privatise the probation service I wrote to the Ministry of Justice to say I assumed that such a move would not go ahead without good evidence from pilot studies about the effectiveness of such a transfer. After protracted correspondence, I was directed to two pilot studies. It turned out that these were in the very earliest stages of recruitment and in no way provided such evidence (as confirmed by the researchers themselves) but also the studies were not addressing the proposals I had questioned. I was not sure whether to be insulted that I was being palmed off with this information, or distressed that people in the MoJ could conceivably have imagined that they had provided an answer. The only evidence I now have is that the move is based on dogma rather than evidence. There’s a surprise.
Dr David Griffith
•  Any experienced probation officer could tell the government and any organisation that believes it will make money from the supervision of low- and medium-risk offenders (How to make recidivism and costs rise? Privatise probation, 31 October) that high-risk and sex offenders are the easiest to manage because they are usually either in prison or, in the case of sex offenders, turn up for all appointments. The low- to medium-risk offenders who will be farmed out on a payment-by-results basis, are in the main the sofa surfers, the homeless, the drug and alcohol misusers, who are not known for their reliability or co-operation. Payments by results? I can’t wait for the realisation that they have shot themselves in the foot.
Patricia Fagg
Retired probation officer, Bristol
•  As a member of the public, I read with increasing concern that the government appears to be proposing placing 70% of probation work in the hands of untrained companies, some of whom are under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.
The quality of supervision is crucial in reducing reoffending. The probation service is rated ” good to exceptional” by the National Offender Management Service, with reoffending rates down by 5%. It deals with the police, the courts, CPS, mental health, social services and other key agencies. The proposed changes would lead to a fragmented service unable to co-ordinate responses to a situation in which 80% of further serious offences are committed by people deemed to be medium- to low-risk.
Payment by results has been seen to fail. The Work Programme has cost £5bn with little to show for it. If some of our lawmakers were quantified in such a unitary way, there probably would be few A*s or value for money.
Mildred Williams
Brewood, Staffordshire
• I have to wonder how “grounded” in probation practice Sarah Billiald (Interview, Society, 23 October) actually was, given her short time at Kent probation trust. The privatisation of probation trusts, which she seems happy to profit from, is predicated on the high reoffending rates of those sentenced to less than 12 months imprisonment – exactly the group of people who have no contact with probation. A simple solution to this would be to extend supervision of these to the current probation trusts, which have a proven track record in reducing offending rates, rather than to give this important work to unproven organisations driven by a profit motive.
Gregory Moreland
•  The supervision of offenders requires skills acquired through rigorous training, and through experience. The ability to assess risk is paramount, but along with this is a need to understand and work with people to enable them to lead law-abiding lives.
I cannot believe that the likes of G4S and Serco could possibly deliver a service to offenders and to the public. How are they going to make a profit from supervising offenders, other than by employing unqualified people on lower salaries and poorer conditions?
Our probation service is respected throughout the world, but not apparently by this government.
Kate Willan
Retired probation officer, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear

Many readers may have missed Paul Brown’s short account in Weatherwatch (4 November) about the wonderfully timely production of electricity from renewables. The maximum output from PV panels meets a peak demand round about lunchtime, and wind turbines have a maximum output that matches a similar high demand in the late afternoon or early evening. A powerful counter-argument when government support for renewables seems to be faltering.
Anne Hall
• Why would anyone allow their energy supplier to estimate their bill and keep the surplus (Report, 4 November)? It takes me five minutes each month to read my meters and send the readings to my supplier via my online account. I pay for what I use, not a penny more.
Ralph Jones
Rochester, Kent
• I have considerable sympathy with Ian Jack (I remember Scotland’s killer storm of 1968, 2 November). On 2 January 1976 hurricane winds swept England and 22 people lost their lives; my father was one of them. Yet this storm seems to have been wiped from history – all the talk this week has been of 1987, which resulted in five fewer deaths.
Wal Callaby
• The ongoing destruction of the legal aid system was brought home to me by the closure of Michael Mansfield’s chambers (Interview, 2 November). Last week I also learnt of the closure of Joan Ferguson’s legal-aid firm in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, because the effect of the continued cuts in legal aid is to make such firms unviable.
Guy Otten
• You say “squash is the only racket sport where the players share the same playing space” (Sport, 2 November). Have you not heard of rackets (18th century) or racquetball (1950s), both still going strong?
Nick Clayton
Alderley Edge, Cheshire
• You know the polythene bag you sell us containing your Saturday glossies? Well, why not make it reusable?
Dr Ian MacIntyre
Barmouth, Gwynedd

Even the most optimistic person could not claim that the UK electricity generation and supply arrangements inspire confidence. The private utilities have not served either the consumer or the UK well. The consumer has not seen the promised reduction in tariffs and the UK has not seen strategic investment for the long term.
This is not a criticism of the private utilities. They are obliged to act in the interests of their shareholders, to maximise return and minimise risk. They will, therefore, only invest in the lowest-cost, lowest-risk form of generation, which today is gas. They can only invest in alternative forms of generation such as wind, solar or nuclear if eye-watering subsidies or guarantees are provided by the taxpayer.
It is time to put aside dogmas such as “private good; public bad” and carry out an objective review of how best to provide a sustainable, secure electricity supply for the UK long term.
Although memory is fading, the Central Electricity Generating Board and the Scottish electricity boards did an excellent job for the UK. A mixture of generation technologies ensured that no single energy supplier could hold the country to ransom and the lights stayed on with a reliability that had not previously been experienced. They operated with truly impressive safety and reliability a somewhat disparate fleet of nuclear generating stations that were not that much better than prototypes.
No doubt there was inefficiency and bureaucracy, but a significant part of the cost was associated with research and development to identify technologies for the future, and to keep safe and efficient existing facilities. This R&D expenditure was dramatically reduced (or passed to BNFL with the Magnox stations) on privatisation.
There is clearly no simple answer, but a non-partisan, objective review is surely called for. Options might include a separation of high cost base-load capacity from smaller more flexible generation. The highly strategic base-load might be better centrally owned and operated.
David Horsley, Wigton, Cumbria
Smaller energy companies, with fewer than 250,000 customers, are exempt from green and social levies and don’t have large corporate shareholders to satisfy, so their prices are lower. By doubling the exemption limit, the Government could start applying real market pressure to the Big Six.
David Crawford, Bickley, Kent
Public Health England claims that fracking poses a low risk to public health (report, 1 November). Really? Fracking generates gas. Gas, when burnt, generates CO2. CO2 contributes to global warming. Global warming is a profound threat to human health. Who do they think they are kidding?
Keith O’Neill, Shrewsbury
Why some have mixed feelings about migration
As Yasmin Alibhai-Brown rightly reminds us (“Why does our compassion for the unfortunate stop at Calais?”, 4 November), many of those willing to cross continents and oceans to come under British rule are from places that were until recently our colonies. However, at that time our rule was deemed to confer no benefits, but rather to be vicious, exploitative and racist – and those peoples and places couldn’t see the back of us quickly enough.
So we left, often with sorrow and great loss after generations of what we thought of as honest service but which we were assured was actually systematic wickedness.
Perhaps if Ms Alibhai-Brown – or somebody – could explain to us why, if we were so awful then, coming to live amongst us now is so obviously desirable, we might be a bit less ambiguous about the whole question of migration.
R S Foster, Sheffield
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown complains about British compassion stopping at Calais but seems herself to discriminate between those who “manage” to find “sanctuary” here and those who cannot.
There are many “homeless, pregnant women”, “rape victims of war” and “economic refugees fleeing destitution” not only in Africa but in “failed states” elsewhere. Millions across the globe are “displaced, disabled and unemployed”, and millions more would rather live in England or Scotland for reasons of politics, religion, health, sexual rights, climate change or just poverty.
What about them, Yasmin? Does your own heart and imagination end at the cliffs of Dover? Shouldn’t we welcome everyone seeking better “life chances”?
David Ashton, Sheringham, Norfolk
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s column which, as with others she has written on migrant rights, she finds “draining and hopeless”’, comes to me like the beams from a lighthouse in a dark and merciless sea. Her bright voice is a beacon. Long may she shine. And long may you enable that.
Charles Becker, Plymouth
Calls of ‘Paedo!’, then a murder
The implications of the murder of Bijan Ebrahimi should fill us all with disquiet.
With shouts of “Paedo!” his neighbours provided psychological protection for those of their number who first vandalised his property, then beat him up for photographing them and finally murdered him. The police had arrested him for photographing the youths concerned and then released him on bail.
Four years ago I was working on a seaside campsite. Through an oversight a single-sex group of 10 boys in their teens and twenties was booked in. Their conduct was such that the police had to be fetched to compel them to leave by the end of the day.
As they were on their way out I photographed them with a view to preventing their return to the site or their booking in elsewhere in the area. Cries of “Paedo!” rose from them and they reached for their mobiles.
The police returned – and confiscated my camera. I might not have got it back if I had not written to the police requesting its return as the roll contained photos of the local MP at a dinner which I had attended. How fortunate that I was not a disabled foreigner with no contacts.
There have been too many cases of police sluggishness in protecting the vulnerable. I sincerely hope that there is a full investigation into the Ebrahimi episode and that its lessons are taken to heart.
Margaret Brown, Burslem, Stoke
In this case, the EU is not guilty
Oh dear!  Even Terence Blacker has fallen for it. In making some perfectly sensible comments about prisoners, voting and the internet, he refers to “the perfectly sensible EU directive that prisoners should be allowed to vote in elections” (“Prison reform should start with internet access”, 29 October).
There is no directive and it has got nothing to do with the EU. What he has in mind is a verdict of the European Court of Human Rights, which is overseen by the Council of Europe. That is not the European Union, which has no say in penal policy or the electoral franchise.
It’s confusing, perhaps, but the confusion is sometimes deliberately sown by anti-Europeans. What a pity that someone as discerning as Mr Blacker should fall prey to it.
Tom Lines, Brighton
Good bank, bad bank
Chancellor George Osborne says RBS’s new focus will see it being a “boost to the British economy instead of a burden” (“RBS avoids being split into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ banks”, 1 November).
Well that’s one way of looking at it: another is that once again the banks, even ones we own, get the opportunity to eventually revert to their greedy, reckless ways.
Eddie Dougall, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
I wish to apply for the vacant post of boss of the RBS “bad bank”. My credentials are impeccable.
I am thoroughly bad; I have a wealth of bad debts; I have a strong track record as a very bad manager; and I have even taken a course in bad. I would promise to bring to the post some truly bad ideas, thus consolidating the essential reputation of a bad bank. Please send application form (preferably a bad copy).
David Punter, Bristol
Clash of cats and dogs
I have encouraged my dogs to chase cats that enter my garden (letter, 4 November), one of the few legal ways of keeping them out. My dogs were not bred for fighting but were effective deterrents in their younger days. Now they are old or gone, the cats are back.
My suburban garden has a pond, bushes, lawn and table to attract birds. The cats’ attempts to capture, torture and kill wildlife have driven all the birds away. Until cat owners keep them under control, I think owners of surrounding gardens are entitled to deploy whatever legal deterrents they have to curb this menace.
Dr Clive Mowforth, Dursley, Gloucestershire
Poppy spooks
Just like Dr Buckingham (letter, 1 November), who wrote about his experience after ordering white poppies from the Stop the War Coalition, I too sensed a presence breathing down my neck. I didn’t actually complete the purchase (of one poppy) before the phone rang from Lloyds fraud investigations wanting me to confirm recent transactions. At the time I thought this must be a coincidence, because I have had fraudulent charges on a debit card. But now? Very creepy and infuriating.
Dianne Frank, Oxford
Portrait of evil
Please, please stop publishing photos of Jimmy Savile. Today’s (4 November) is even more gratuitous than usual. I, like many others, always thought he was very creepy when my children were watching Jim’ll Fix It years ago. Now we know just how evil he really was. We really don’t need to keep seeing photos of him.
P Allsopp, Bramley, Surrey
Poirot mystery
I was fascinated to read (2 November) that the wrap party for the cast of Poirot was held in a marquis in the grounds of Agatha Christie’s house. I imagine the noble lord was much surprised. I suspect predictive text: a mystery worthy of Poirot himself.
Chris Bratt, Arnside, Cumbria
Brand’s model
Chancing to watch an episode of The Young Ones last night I realised who Russell Brand reminds me of: Rick, a middle-class boy trying to convince others that he’s an anarchist, because he fears that otherwise they will hate him.
Dan Dennis, Reading


‘The wearer of a veil may give rise to those very prejudices by wearing it, but whether to take that risk is one that the witness should be permitted’
Sir, The latest contribution from Kenneth Clarke ( Nov 4 ) on the wearing of the veil in court adds nothing to the debate which is being clouded because it is being driven by motives such as prejudice, ignorance, Islamophobia, seeking popularity or simply jumping on the bandwagon, rather than a genuine desire to understand and find a workable solution.
In recent reports, the justification for banning the niqab has been based on the inability of jurors and judges to assess whether a witness is telling the truth, as “body language plays a vital part” in that process. Has anyone considered the regular situation where evidence is given through an interpreter? Whose “body language” is the jury or judge assessing in that case: the witness or the interpreter?
I have been a practising criminal barrister for nearly 40 years. T he same arguments were peddled before the introduction of evidence by video link by victims and other witnesses. How wrong we were. Do we want to make the same mistake? If there is a genuine desire shorn of prejudices, I am sure we can find an acceptable solution.
Mukhtar Hussain, QC
Lincoln House Chambers, Manchester
Sir, The logical conclusion of Ken Clarke’s argument is that blind people should be banned from being jurors or judges. He did not impose such a ban when he was Secretary of State for Justice because blind people do not lack the ability to make a judgment on whether someone is being truthful. The belief that one can tell from someone’s face whether they are telling the truth is deeply held, but unreliable. Not only are facial expressions often misinterpreted, but appearance gives full rein to racial and other prejudices. The wearer of a veil may give rise to those very prejudices by wearing it, but whether to take that risk is one that the witness should be permitted.
Jonathan Haydn-Williams
Richmond, Surrey
Sir, The decision to allow a woman charged with witness intimidation to wear a full-face veil throughout her trial represents a fundamental breach with the long-held principle that all suspects should be treated equally before the law. Members of juries hearing criminal cases have always considered their ability to see the facial responses of the accused to evidence given by witnesses against them as a vital part of the process of arriving at a verdict. To remove this discriminates against all those accused persons who would not be allowed by the courts to cover their faces during their trial. Furthermore, since the wearing of the niqab is not an inherent part of the Muslim faith, in the way, for instance, that the wearing of the turban has been for devout Sikh men, this present concession is likely to be seen as divisive and discriminatory.
Stephen Porter
London NW6
Sir, It may indeed be “peculiar” to wear a veil in court, as Ken Clarke says; almost as peculiar as wearing a curly horsehair wig. Looking at people’s faces, however, is a risky way to determine if they are telling the truth. Might it not be better for jurors to rely on the evidence instead?
Andrew Taylor
Barton on Avon, Warks

The progressive commercialisation of universities makes it increasingly difficult for people to be released for other important roles
Sir, In the recent discussion of the balance between research and teaching (letters, Oct 29 ), there has been no mention of the responsibility of universities to serve their communities. Major redbrick universities were rooted in their cities, often sponsored by local business and worked at a grass-roots level through the establishment of, for example, social work and educational establishments, as well as through local medical schools.
While institutes and faculties have traditionally carried out pro bono work, the progressive commercialisation of universities makes it increasingly difficult for people to be released for important roles — even, for example, those on the boards of medical royal colleges.
The tension between blue skies, potentially commercially rewarding research and work for local communities is becoming unsustainable. The public health community has striven to maintain this link between academia and practical research through the establishment of public health observatories. Maybe the time has come for standalone research institutions and for citizens to reclaim the practical functions of their universities.
Professor John R. Ashton
President, Faculty of Public Health
London NW1

There are still so many conspiracy theories surrounding the death of President Kennedy, partly because of his extremely complicated love life
Sir, The details of President Kennedy’s energetic love life which emerged after his death must surely contribute to the multiple conspiracy theories that still surround his assassination 50 years after the event (“Why did JFK die?”, Nov 1).
The most notorious case was his affair with Judith Campbell Exner, girlfriend of Frank Sinatra and mistress of the Chicago Mafia boss Sam Giancana. At the same time Giancana had been approached by the CIA to help to plot the assassination of Fidel Castro.
Another of Kennedy’s mistresses at the time was Mary Meyer, the wife of Cord Meyer, a senior CIA agent and one-time agency station chief in London. The end of the affair came when Mrs Meyer was shot and killed in 1964 while walking along the towpath of a canal in Washington. As soon as her death was discovered James Jesus Angleton, the CIA counter-intelligence chief, went straight to her house and removed all evidence of her affair with the President.
Another sexual adventure by the President was said to have been with an East German woman spy.
There was certainly much in Kennedy’s life for the conspiracy theorists to work on.
Richard Beeston
London W6

‘Closures and c uts mean that it will take longer for firefighters to arrive at emergencies. That is not what the public wants’
Sir, Matt Ridley’s article “London isn’t burning. Don’t fetch the engines” (Opinion, Nov 4) was misleading. It is both true and welcome that there are fewer fires than ten years ago. T hese improvements, however, are largely a result of preventative work undertaken by firefighters themselves. Cut back on firefighters and you will cut back on prevention.
In addition, as well as tackling burning buildings and undertaking prevention work, firefighters attend road traffic accidents, civil disturbances, terrorist incidents and floods. And although fire incidents are down, this does not mean that large-scale fires do not happen, sometimes simultaneously, or that the need to have a properly resourced fire service to deal with them has decreased. Closures and c uts mean that it will take longer for firefighters to arrive at emergencies. That is not what the public wants and cannot be in anybody’s interest. Politicians are often quick to credit the fire service for its response, but firefighters are sick of being praised one minute and having their service cut to shreds the next.
Matt Wrack
General Secretary, The Fire Brigades Union

If cross-Thames tunnels and bridges are essential to the lifeblood of the nation, why are there virtually no crossings east of Tower Bridge?
Sir, I hope the exciting proposal for a “garden bridge” across the Thames (report, Nov 2 ) will be encouragement for planners at every level to get a strategic grip on transport links across the Thames to the east of Tower Bridge.
There are at least 15 bridges to the west of London as far as Kew and just two tunnels and one bridge to the east. If good communications are essential to the lifeblood of a nation then cross-Thames links, tunnels and bridges are crucial to the wellbeing and prosperity of all that lies to the east of Central London.
It will be a delight to have a “garden bridge” in Central London, but when will we see strategic green shoots appearing in the East? And some tarmac?
The Ven Patrick Evans
Saltash, Cornwall


SIR – Teaching is not like plumbing, which requires technical skill. Good teaching requires close and constructive social interaction between teacher and student. This is a skill that comes from within and depends on an attitude of mind. If teachers don’t have that innate ability to interact sensitively with those in their charge, paper qualifications will count for nothing.
D L Stewart
London N2
SIR – The 17 signatories who wrote in to support compulsory teaching qualifications belong to a cohort – including education academics, teaching unions, Whitehall public servants and quangos – which for the past 20 years has presided over Britain’s catastrophic slide in the educational league tables.
Their opinions should not be given credence by those struggling against vested interests to improve our state education.
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04 Nov 2013
John Wilson
Hill Head, Hampshire
SIR – I am surprised that every mention of falling standards of literacy and numeracy is followed by an inquest into the quality of our comprehensive schools.
When I was a child in the Fifties, primary schools taught little beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. Most of the learning was by rote and by the age of 11 the majority of pupils had a firm grounding in the basics and were unlikely to leave secondary school without being sufficiently literate and numerate to obtain a job.
The early years are the most formative and it is very important that these aims still exist. I cannot understand the suggestion that children commence schooling at the age of seven, thus depriving them of two or three of their most valuable years.
Trevor Miles
Highnam, Gloucestershire
SIR – Perhaps the biggest problem with our education system is that we keep playing politics with it.
Chris Dixon
Hambledon, Hampshire
The great train gamble
SIR – Despite the deceptively large vote for HS2 in the Commons last week, it is clear that enthusiasm for this huge gamble is fading fast. The principal remaining champion is neither the Prime Minister nor Patrick McLoughlin, the hapless Transport secretary, but George Osborne, the Chancellor. He at least is keen to gamble £50 billion or, more likely, £70 billion of taxpayers’ money on a financial maybe.
Years ago a bleeding heart approached New York banker Bernard Baruch with the appeal: “There has been a terrible earthquake in Peru. Thousands are homeless – are you not sorry for them?” The shrewd banker’s response was: “Most certainly, I am $10,000 sorry. How sorry are you?” He was referring to his donation to the relief fund.
One might ask of Mr Osborne: how much of your personal fortune are you prepared to invest in this mercantile long shot?
Frederick Forsyth
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Here in the Gulf there is a proposed rail link to connect all six Gulf states. It will be 1,352 miles long and cost £125 billion. According to last Wednesday’s Gulf News, the designs “will be completed by the end of this year or in the first quarter of next year. Construction on the network is to start in 2014-2015 and it will be fully operational by 2018”.
HS2 is for 351 miles, costing £42 billion (before any rolling stock is accounted for) and won’t be ready until 2032. This mad project would be laughable if it weren’t so frightening.
John Lloyd Morgan
Dubai, UAE
Holding the phone
SIR – My struggle to switch gas and electricity supplier is facing stiff resistance – from the suppliers. In the past week, I’ve had to wait to speak to British Gas for 20 minutes, 30 minutes and 25 minutes. I simply cannot spare this much of my time to sit on the end of a phone!
Clive Peacock
Kenilworth, Warwickshire
Clear as a bell
SIR – I am lucky to have two daughters who attended an all-girls school, where each in turn was head of the chapel and senior choirs.
My wife and I have therefore enjoyed countless magnificent performances led by a brilliant director of music, but their sound, however beautiful, is not the same as that of a boy’s choir. There are subtle physical differences dictated by nature that give boys a certain clarity of sound, akin to that of a well-founded bell on a clear, frosty morning, that is impossible for girls to achieve.
Lance Warrington
Northleach, Gloucestershire
Next question
SIR – Might I save a lot of expensive Electoral Commission time and suggest that the proposed question for the referendum (“Do you think that the United Kingdom should be a member of the European Union?”) could be modified for those unaware that the United Kingdom is a member of the European Union to read: “Do you think that the United Kingdom should continue to be a member of the European Union?”
Sadly this may need further reworking for those who are unaware that they live in the United Kingdom.
Jeremy Burton
Shurlock Row, Berkshire
Let’s celebrate Bonfire Night not Hallowe’en
SIR – I was dismayed to see those who disagree with “trick or treating” described as “Scrooge”.
Trick or treating is an excuse for blackmail and hooliganism. People have a right to hold Hallowe’en parties, but allowing children out to knock on strangers’ doors and teenagers to roam the streets and threaten residents is unacceptable. Bonfire Night is already under threat from health and safety and local councils’ red tape. I would have expected a more robust defence of our traditional and much-loved celebration.
Jacqueline Mitchell
Smarden, Kent
A welcome landing
SIR – First impressions count. If Hugo Swire, the minister for the Commonwealth, really wants to strengthen Commonwealth ties, he could begin at British airports, where there is no Commonwealth channel at passport control, while there is one for the EU.
Alan Croxford
Lower Beeding, West Sussex
Tying one on
SIR – I was glad to read Damian Thompson promoting the wearing of cravats.
Last winter, as the temperatures dropped viciously, I decided I had had enough of going tieless, as fashion dictates, and found two or three of my old cravats in the bottom of my wardrobe drawers. What a transformation in the warmth, look and feel of the scraggy neck.
Denis Ling
Woodham, Surrey
Putting cramp to bed
SIR – For many years my wife suffered from severe night-time cramp in her feet. Homeopathic pills which provided a degree of relief were found to contain copper. A two-inch length of copper pipe has been taped to the mattress on her bed, and cramp is now a thing of the past.
Les Devenish
Emsworth, Hampshire
SIR – Nick Boles, the planning minister, wants more bungalows built in order to encourage older people to move out of bigger homes to make way for young families.
There used to be many bungalows around where we live but they are rapidly being sold and turned into large houses. A four-bedroom, two-bathroom house might cost £500,000, plus stamp duty of 3 per cent. You could buy a Fifties two-bed bungalow on a nice plot for under £250,000 with stamp duty of only 1 per cent. Build on two bedrooms and a bathroom and you have a large family house without incurring the cost of stamp duty: the money left over will lay a great many bricks.
Peter Colson
Chelmsford, Essex
SIR – I have difficulty driving around local roads because of builders’ lorries and skips all engaged in converting the many bungalows in the area into houses. What is the point of the Government’s scheme other than to supply additional work to the conversion companies?
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Ian Thomas
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
SIR – If Mr Boles is serious about increasing the number of bungalows, a simple expedient would be to ban local authorities immediately from giving planning consent to convert single-storey dwellings into two- or even three-storey properties.
Brian Follett
Chandlers Ford, Hampshire
SIR – My work involved helping people prepare for their retirement. Bungalows were the worst option for keeping fit – more stairs do just that. Bungalows are useful for those who are already restricted.
Del Pasterfield
Colchester, Essex
SIR – Building more bungalows is not the solution to the shortage of housing for older people. Bungalows waste land and eat up the green belt. Because it is virtually impossible to build bungalows near town centres, they often mean old people are abandoned in remote and inaccessible locations far from friends and family.
Older people need housing that is reasonably priced, close to shops, with excellent security and good facilities.
Spencer J McCarthy
Churchill Retirement Living
Ringwood, Hampshire
SIR – Many of us do, indeed, want to end our days in a comfortable bungalow. And yes, the convenience of town-centre living is well suited to the over-sixties.
I must rush now: I have to get my planning application in to Cambridge City Council in order to build my retirement home on the grass in Trinity Great Court (there should be enough room to grow a few vegetables, ticking the “green” boxes).
If that is refused, there is the Market Square, although I shall make a fuss until the bells of Great St Mary’s are silenced.
We oldies like our peace and quiet.
Liz Wicken
Orwell, Cambridgeshire
SIR – I moved into a bungalow at a relatively young age and, despite a little sneering from my children, I have never been happier. I am surrounded by a lovely garden, save on scaffolding when the roof leaks and, when I forget what I have gone to fetch from the bedroom, I do not have to trudge back upstairs again when I have remembered.
Sally de Sancha
Bridgnorth, Shropshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Most of the outrage about the Local Property Tax payments for 2014 has focused on the issue of payment being required in November 2013 for those who wish to pay by cheque or credit card, and also on the general lack of clarity in the Revenue’s communications on this issue.
However, a more fundamental point has been obscured by all of this. The payment date for those who opt for a single debit is March 21st, 2014. For those who opt for deduction from salary or pension in monthly instalments, the “average” payment is mid-year. So there is a financial penalty and a perhaps a significant cash-flow problem for those who wish to make a single payment.
The only really just and reasonable solution is to make mid-year (June 30th) the deadline for single debit authority payments, and a somewhat earlier date (say end-April or May) for those using cheques or credit cards to allow time for clearance and processing. Of course changing things would be inconvenient for the Revenue: it might even be impossible at this late stage. But a firm direction should be given to the Revenue about 2015 and, if necessary, legislation should be introduced regarding payment dates in the future, to make sure that this debacle never happens again.
The only need for the Revenue hearing from anyone this month should be in cases where people wish to change payments from monthly to annual or vice versa. – Yours, etc,
Willbrook Lawn, Dublin 14.
Sir, – Michelle Carroll from the Revenue Commissioners is completely missing the point (November 1st). The issue is that those of us who wish to pay by credit/debit card, and select this option on the Revenue website, are charged immediately and this is made clear.
I do not wish to pay monthly, nor do I wish to select a single debit option. I want to pay by Mastercard as I paid last year and also paid the household charge by this method. However, I have no intention of paying in November!
Revenue has slipped up here and would be better to correct the error and let people select an option to pay by card and then come back and pay in January. Revenue is usually the most efficient and easy to deal with of all the government departments but everyone can make a mistake. Correct it and stop confusing everyone. – Yours, etc,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Maybe the Revenue Commissioners would be better advised to stick to the time-honoured KISS principle when advising the Irish taxpayer on how to pay. It appears that giving us seven options has proved more controversial than the tax itself. – Yours, etc,
Bullock Park,
Sir, – Only seven ways to pay the centrally collected property tax? Why are we not allowed to pay in cash? Is it too inconvenient for the Revenue?

Would somebody please check the Constitution – are the government departments serving the people or are we working for them, making things so very convenient for them all? What’s wrong with having cash? Unfashionable as it may seem, if we had a good few bags of it, sure the country wouldn’t be broke! – Yours, etc,
Braemor Grove,
Dublin 14.
Sir, – The mandarins in the Department of Finance have certainly got it wrong this time. Whatever is paid in property tax at the end of the month will be deducted from the Christmas spend, 23 per cent of which goes back to the Government in VAT. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. – Yours, etc,
Pope’s Quay,
Sir, – It took less than two minutes for me to file my return for 2014, and print off the Revenue receipt, confirming that the charge will be debited to my current account on March 21st.
Simple, efficient, no confusion. – Yours, etc,
Clontarf Road,
Dublin 3.
Sir, – I wish to wholeheartedly back the brave Cabinet ministers tackling our wayward revenue officials (who could possibly have authorised them to collect a property tax?).
I also hope they will turn their attention to another appalling rip-off many of us face week in, week out. I have for a long time been confused and dismayed at having to use a device called a “credit card” on this thing called “the Internet” only to be sent complex numbers in some sort of booking code for a variety of goods and services. Indeed, just like the property tax, I am expected sometimes to pay upfront for things such as flights and hotels. A terrible state of affairs!
I can also exclusively reveal that one prominent such firm in the air transport area imposing these dastardly practices has the State as a major shareholder! I call on our brave Cabinet ministers to compel Aer Lingus to return to quills, semaphore and used banknotes, otherwise none of us will ever make it off this island haven of hi-tech cloud computing. – Yours, etc,
Riverwood Heath,
Dublin 15.
Sir, – The impression given (Michelle Carroll, Revenue Commissioners, November 1st) is one of payment being accepted by the Revenue under any normal method of payment. But only today I learned that it doesn’t accept payment by credit card in instalments. Direct debit instalment payments are accepted, but not credit card instalments “The Revenue haven’t set it up like that” I was told when I inquired.
Maybe somebody should tell Revenue to set things up to help people pay this tax which only came about because of hubris and over confidence on the part of the civil service and the government letting the country’s financial system slide into the abyss and thereby providing an opening for the troika to order the introduction of the property tax. – Yours, etc,
Greencastle Avenue,
Dublin 17.
Sir, – To solve the capital’s water shortages, could the Government not come up with a Myles na gCopaleen’s de Selby type solution like dilute existing supplies? – Yours, etc,
Rue de Normandie,
Plaisance du Touch, France.
Sir, – Met Éireann tells us that about 1.2 metres of rainfall is average for a year across Ireland. Ireland’s area is a little over 84,000 square kilometres. If you do the arithmetic, this means that roughly 100 trillion (one followed by 14 zeros) litres of water lands each year. We use around 160 litres per day and there are around four million of us, so a total of around 0.23 trillion litres per year. In other words we use less than 0.25 pe r cent of the water that falls from the sky. And yet we have shortages.
We speak jokingly of people who couldn’t organise a drinks party in a brewery. Our wonderful politicians are so incompetent they can’t collect a quarter of a per cent of rain water. And they claim to spend €86 per head per year failing to do it. That’s over €3,000,000,000 in the past 10 years. In private industry that level of incompetence results in companies failing and jobs going. With politicians it results in higher taxes and bigger pensions. – Yours, etc,
Glounthaune ,
Co Cork.
Sir, – It is suggested that we drain water from the Shannon; while the Dublin rivers, the Swan River, and the Poddle, are culverted and flow via our drains straight into the sea, as does the Dodder, unculverted, when it doesn’t overflow its banks with its excess?
There must be a good reason, mustn’t there? – Yours, etc,
Milltown Road,
Dublin 6.
Sir, – Gearóid Ó Loingsigh (November 1st) shares his experience of a high quality water supply in Bogotá, Colombia. He indicates that to suggest Ireland’s water supplies are “third world”, as many are doing, would in fact be an uneducated insult to so-called “third world” countries like Colombia, since he contends that Ireland’s water service “isn’t up to such a high standard”.
Information available on the World Bank’s Spanish website ( states that in Latin America and the Caribbean 33 per cent of the rural population do not have access to basic sanitation services, including a safe water supply. I believe this to be more appropriate for loaded labels such as “third world”, and not a situation which will last “until at least Thursday” .
Ireland has faced, is facing, and will face many more, negative situations. But when we get ahead of ourselves and use highly sensationalised and inaccurate language for events which are not worthy, it only serves to cheapen the effect of the language needed for a situation when it is worthy, making its audience indifferent to a serious matter just when our attention is most needed. – Yours, etc,
Ulverton Close,

Sir, – At the constitutional convention’s consultative Galway meeting aimed at broadening its agenda (Lorna Siggins, Home News, October 31st) John Hughes of the Second Republic group pointed out that the convention must address the constraints of Article 46.2 whereby constitutional amendments can only be formally proposed by way of Bills submitted by Cabinet to Dáil Éireann. This is a crucial point.
Under the convention’s terms of reference there is no obligation on the Cabinet to put any of the convention’s recommendations to a referendum. It is essential that the constitutional convention examines the implications of article 46.2 for any future deliberative democracy initiatives such as constitutional conventions or citizens’ assemblies. – Yours, etc,
Ardee Street,
Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Many of the measures announced recently regarding the misuse of alcohol are to be welcomed. However, the support for some of the alcohol consumption claims by the Department of Health appear to be exaggerated. The quoted consumption of 11.63 litres of alcohol per year for “everyone over the age of 15” appears to mistakenly include the consumption by some three million or so foreign tourists that visit the State’s hostelries and consume beers, spirits and wines during their stay. It also mistakenly includes the considerable duty-paid spirits, wines and beers that are exported from our airports and ferrie .
So it appears to be somewhat of an exaggeration to suggest that the average Irish adult consumes “roughly” a bottle of vodka per week.
This is not to undermine the issue of alcohol misuse and the good intentions of the Department of Health. But everything in moderation. – Yours, etc,
The Dalcassian Wines and
Spirits Company Ltd,
Beacon Court,

Sir, – My compliments to Peter Murtagh on his interesting article (Weekend Review, November 2nd). However, the largest number of executions at one time during the Civil War was not seven. Eight irregulars were executed at Ballyseedy Cross in March 1923. – Yours, etc,
Law Library,

Sir, – Bethany survivors twice met with Archbishop Michael Jackson, twice more than his predecessor managed. On both occasions we discussed the church’s responsibility for the Protestant evangelical Bethany Home and its legacy. We challenged a mistaken view that what happened there – death, neglect, starvation – was not really a Church of Ireland issue. Most of the residents were Church of Ireland and many were referred by clergy, some of whom sat on the home’s managing committee. The church and its people were part of a conservative mindset in Irish society. Unwed pregnant women were shut off in religious institutions. The church at large closed its eyes to the resultant “unwanted” children. We are those children.
Archbishop Jackson listened but it seems from reaction to your report of his recent speech many are not in listening mode.
If there are stand-offish attitudes toward “polyester Protestants”, previously part of other religious traditions, or “new Irish” Protestants from abroad, than what hope for us, quintessentially illegitimate Protestants? Our experience is largely ignored in the life of the church. For example, one Bethany survivor who works voluntarily in her local church was televised at a gathering around unmarked Bethany graves. She was pleased that many local people afterwards wished her well, but “not one parishioner”. That was hurtful.
Currently, we are raising money for a memorial to 220 dead Bethany children (that we know of), to be placed over the unmarked graves in Mount Jerome cemetery. When we unveil it, we hope that clergy from the Church of Ireland and other denominations will be present. It would be nice if other church members turned up too. They would be more than welcome. If they did, we might feel legitimised.
Archbishop Jackson has not opted for the quiet life and has his work cut out. We wish him well. – Yours, etc,
Chairperson, Bethany Survivors,

Sir, – Your Editorial (October 21st) on Iran’s new horizons trusts in the good faith of the new Iranian government regarding its nuclear programme and general relations with the West.
The Editorial refers to the “honesty” of Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, says that he set a “positive agenda” at the recent Geneva talks, and claims there is “no proof that Iran has a military programme” regarding nuclear power.
While it is nice to be optimistic, one first and foremost needs to be realistic. Why does Iran need nuclear power when it is sitting on one of the largest oil fields in the world, with more than enough natural energy to power its economy and society for decades? Countries which have peaceful nuclear energy such as Canada or Japan do not have plutonium and centrifuges which are necessary components of nuclear weaponisation; Iran does. Nor are they trying to build intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) which are expressly designed to deliver nuclear warheads over thousands of miles; Iran is doing so.
Your Editorial does not mention that in the regime of the Islamic Republic, the presidency is merely a front; the real power lies with the clerical elite, and, despite President Rouhani’s charm offensive, which has beguiled many in the West, the regime has not really changed its spots.
Iran has not ceased its support for international terrorism, it has not cut its ties with Hizbullah in Lebanon, it still denies Israel’s right to exist and, as recently brought to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Oireachtas, it has not ceased its persecution of Bahais.
How can your Editorial believe so easily a country that has no respect for human rights? We all want to be optimistic about the Middle East, especially in the wake of the failure of the Arab Spring to create a brighter future for the region. However, this should not produce a mood of naivety where the West agrees to relax the sanctions on Iran in return for cosmetic gestures by the Iranians, when it is precisely the harsh sanctions that have brought the Iranians reluctantly to the negotiating table in the first place. – Yours, etc,
Ambassador of Israel,
Pembroke Road,

Sir, – Roy Keane to be assistant manager of the Irish soccer team? Will part of his brief be to instruct the players in how to desert their country in its hour of need? – Yours, etc,
Dunshaughlin, Co Meath.
A chara, – I have my fingers crossed that the rumour turns out to be true, that Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane are becoming the next management team of the Republic of Ireland.
O’Neill will bring motivation, belief and enthusiasm, Roy Keane will bring determination, leadership and perfectionism: both will bring brutal honesty.
Even though we are guaranteed box office entertainment it is inevitable that this story will eventually evolve into either Saipan 2, Titanic or optimistically Roy of the Rovers.
So let’s leave Saipan 1 back in 2002 where it belongs and support this idealistic rollercoaster adventure we are all set to embark on but before it truly kicks off let’s ensure that each of our seat belts is fastened, securely. – Is mise,
Maxwell Road,
Rathgar, Dublin 6.
A chara, – So the King is to be replaced by a man who has turned down a job at the Palace rather than a man who wore a black armband after the death of a princess; a man from the north of Ireland with an assistant from the city that cheered the queen rather than a man from the north of England who was captain under the Jack; a man who will embrace the prince from the deep south rather than sending him home from the Far East. They don’t need to turn water into wine; at present just water will do. – Is mise,
Kiltipper Road, Dublin 24.
Sir, – “Keano!” or “Keane? No!”? Never in the history of Irish soccer has the mere mention of one man’s name engendered so much heated discussion and caused so much division among genuine football fans, fair- weather Ireland supporters, soccer pundits and soi-disant “experts”.We live in interesting times; bring on the “prawn sandwiches”! – Yours, etc,
Beacon Hill,
Dalkey, Co Dublin.

Sir, – As a subscriber to your newspaper for more than 50 years, I was shocked and disappointed by your publication (Sports Weekend, November 2nd), with expletives undeleted, of the extract from Ronan O’Gara’s book. Much of the language used may be regarded as appropriate to the relative privacy of the changing room, or playing field, but surely not in the pages of a family newspaper?
As a former rugby player, none of the language is new to me, but surely we haven’t lost all discretion – or have the real Barbarians taken over? – Yours, etc,
Glanmire, Cork.

Irish Independent:
* I was struck by the energy, enthusiasm and innovation that characterised the hosting of the Web Summit. For a brief period, people lifted their heads to the blue sky and light that comes with untrammelled possibility and ingenuity.
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Imaginations were ignited and people engaged with each other creatively. This little country has spent the past five years with its head in its hands as big finance rained anvils down upon the heads of the hard-pressed man and woman. We have done all that we can to clean up the mess but the anvils keep falling.
The Government says: “Just keep head-butting them away, all will be fine; we appreciate that these are crushing burdens that you did nothing to visit upon yourself, but the Chancellor in Germany and the great men in Europe say otherwise.”
These blinkered bureaucrats will lead us to our doom if we do not free ourselves from the bogus enchantments of Brussels.
Those who attended the Web Summit were encouraged to be inspired by failure; certainly not to be seduced, and ultimately defeated by it.
But our deluded Government is beguiled by empty promises.
It returns from summit after summit saying that it has achieved “peace in our time”, in our financial wars.
But now that the time has come for Europe to make good on its word, the goal-posts are moved again.
I would entreat those who brought the hope and positivity of the Web Summit to our shores, to get on to our Taoiseach and explain to him that we cannot continue to be the galley-slaves of Europe as we sink under a weight of toxic debt.
Mr Noonan told us that too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart, even as he blithely unveiled a Budget that would take medical cards off pensioners, and meted out another dose of austerity.
Again, may I beseech one of those bright boys and girls, who ambled off the super-information highway for a short spell to be with us in Dublin, to get on to Enda and Company, and inform him that it is time to reboot and log off from this cycle of self-defeat.
We need new ideas, new light, and new thinking to come to bear on our fatal relationship between the banks, Brussels and the troika.
TG O’Brien
Killiney, Co Dublin
* It seems that everyone is worried about banks leaving Ireland, because it will reduce the competition. I think a lack of competition in banking will be good for Ireland.
It was the competition between banks that caused the ‘bubble”, which brought the loss of our sovereignty to the troika. If there were fewer banks, 10 to 15 years ago, they would not have had to make such bad lending decisions to get a piece of the action. They made foolish investments, which the State (all of us) ended up paying for.
Kevin Devitte
Westport, Co Mayo
* I see Tom Brazil (Letters, November 1) thinks I am overstepping the mark by asking that Warren Gatland answer fully the question – Why did he drop Brian O’Driscoll from the Lions squad for the third and final test against Australia?
What I am interested in is the rugby reasons why O’Driscoll was dropped. Was it because he was not big or strong enough for the way Gatland wanted to play?
Was it because Gatland felt he was injured and had him replaced? Or did Gatland feel that his Welsh players were better for the task than the relevant Irish players? He also replaced Jamie Heaslip at number 8 with another Welsh player.
So I ask again – when are the media going to insist that Gatland fully answer the main question – why was O’Driscoll dropped?
Liam Cooke
Dublin 17
* I agree with reader Tom Gilsenan about the world’s tallest man marrying a woman who barely reaches up to his waist (Letters, November 1).
How could he stoop so low?!
Fergus O’Reilly
Mealisheen, Leap, Co Cork
* As a second-level teacher I read with interest ‘How to make the most of your guidance counsellor’ (Irish Independent, October 23). Discussing “individual needs”, “one-to-one career appointments” and “returning for as many more appointments” as students feel they require, all play an important role in helping young people to navigate successfully through the secondary school system. It is exactly these services, however, that have been systematically stripped from our schools by a series of short-sighted Budget cuts.
Since September 2012, one-to-one counselling time has been cut by more than half and there has been a 21pc reduction in the overall provision of guidance services. The ability of schools to identify and help students with anxiety, stress or depression has been severely reduced.
Reducing the already meagre resources available to young people at a time when they most need them makes no educational or economic sense and will most likely prove far more costly in the long term.
Kevin P McCarthy
Killarney, Co Kerry
* James Gleeson reflects much of current public commentary when he complains that, in the recent Budget, we had the “old guard” making decisions and “we had the wealthy and upper crust, as ever, heaving and weaving the balance of power” (Letters, October 30).
Such public commentary on the actions of our most important decision-makers in Government seems to miss the important point that this country was bankrupted mainly by the decisions of its democratically elected government during the Celtic Tiger time. In addition to public policy, media and academia tolerated the recklessness of financial institutions and the property bubble at that time.
As a result, even after some very severe Budgets, the Government is still spending a billion or so a month more than it is collecting in taxes and is borrowing the balance from foreigners.
It was not just the “old guard” and “the wealthy and upper crust” who were to blame. They also seem to have had the uncritical support of the principal opinion formers right throughout the Celtic Tiger era.
So any new guard or any different upper crust will need to be held to account by media and academia if what James Gleeson calls “the middle class and vulnerable sectors” are not going to continue to suffer.
A Leavy
Sutton, Dublin 13
* Viewers to yesterday’s ‘The Week in Politics’, including myself, were gobsmacked to hear the Social Protection Minister impute that only accountants could understand the contents of a recent letter from Revenue regarding the property tax.
The message in it was clear to all. Joan Burton, we are not thick, and fully comprehend the issues raised in the vastly increasing number of letters emanating from the Revenue in latter times.
Furthermore, if her government colleague Pat Rabbitte has his way, duties hitherto performed by An Post on collection of TV Licence revenue will be in the domain of Revenue.
So, the message to Ms Burton is simply not to regard the so-called ordinary Joe as a thickhawk and to dismount from the collective high-horse sadly so endemic in many of her governmental colleagues in these austerity-driven times.
The electorate, at least, deserves that much respect.
Sean Guinan
Ferbane, Co Offaly
Irish Independent

Wine and leaves

November 4, 2013

4 November 2013 Wine and leaves

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they Pertwee and Fatso are sent on an initiative test they have to get to Malta on sixpence.
Quiet day relaxing post books , sweep leave and make wine
We watch Hancock its not too bad
No Scrabble today ipad collapses half way through


Gérard de Villiers
Gérard de Villiers, who has died aged 83, was a prolific spy novelist and created the bestselling SAS series, which became a French publishing phenomenon.

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Gerard de Villiers Photo: AFP/GETTY
6:39PM GMT 03 Nov 2013
A former journalist, whose mastery of political intrigue made him France’s most widely-read author, de Villiers claimed that his thrillers sold up to 150 million copies worldwide. His novels featured an aristocratic Austrian hero called Malko Linge, sometimes described as France’s answer to James Bond, and who works as a freelance agent for the CIA to finance the restoration of his family chateau.
The books followed the same formula — fast-moving plots, exotic settings and generous doses of graphic sex. Instantly recognisable by their lurid covers invariably featuring a femme fatale brandishing a handgun or assault rifle, they were ignored by the French literary establishment.
But outside literary circles, de Villiers was often congratulated on his geopolitical insights, and was known for cultivating a vast network of intelligence officials, diplomats and journalists who fed him information. His books were often ahead of the news and contained information about terrorist plots, espionage and wars before they appeared elsewhere.
“I never had any pretensions of being a literary writer,” de Villiers explained. “I consider myself a storyteller who writes to amuse people.”
He was also considered uncannily prophetic, outlining a plot to kill the Egyptian president Anwar Sadat a year before his actual assassination in 1981, and foreshadowing the arrest of the terror suspect Carlos the Jackal in 1994. Last year he published a novel about the threat of Islamist groups in post-revolutionary Libya that focused on jihadis in Benghazi and on the CIA’s role in fighting them, six months before the raid in which the American ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was killed.
Gérard de Villiers was born in Paris on December 8 1929 and during his early career as a journalist worked as a correspondent for France-Soir in the United States and reported on the Vietnam War.
Following the death of Ian Fleming in 1964, he was prompted by the success of the James Bond series to write his first novel, SAS in Istanbul (1965).
He went on to publish an average of four SAS novels a year, rattling each them out in a month flat on an elderly electric typewriter. The SAS tag derived from Linge’s codename “Son Altesse Sérénissime” (His Most Serene Highness).
Although de Villiers was often deprecated for his right-wing views and his overtly sexual portrayals of women, he remained unapologetic. “Some women are sexual objects in my books but others are beautiful, intelligent and brave,” he insisted.
The 200th book in the series — SAS: The Kremlin’s Revenge — was published last month. Before his death de Villiers appeared to be on the verge of realising his ambition to break into the English-language market, with reports he was working on a deal with the American publisher Random House.
Married four times, Gérard de Villiers was estranged from his wife, Christine. A son and a daughter survive him.
Gérard de Villiers, born December 8 1929, died October 31 2013


Judy Marsh is right about the Jane Austen portrait of course (Letters, 2 November). The only one we have from life is her sister Cassandra’s sketch, which shows a formidable person with dark curls cut short, intelligent eyes and a hint of a caustic smile. Perhaps she is thinking of how Pride and Prejudice was pronounced by a literary gentleman in London much too clever to have been written by a woman. Cassandra loved Jane and knew her better than anyone else. It seems absurd to use a watered-down copy of a copy when we have this genuine portrait.
Claire Tomalin
Richmond, Surrey
• Amusing as it is to be described by Nicholas de Jongh as having composed an obituary of Lou Reed in the language of “a homophobic 1950s judge” (Letters, November 2), I feel he has missed the point. Behind the use of a phrase such as “transgressive sex” and the reference to “electroconvulsive therapy intended to cure him of… homosexual instincts” lay the intention to reflect the prevailing moral climate during the period of Reed’s adolescence and subsequent emergence into public view. It was a climate he did much to change, as I hoped the obituary would make clear – though not, regrettably, to Mr de Jongh.
Richard Williams
East Twickenham, Middlesex
• I was disgusted by the Newsnight Halloween stunt (Report, 2 November). None of the zombies was wearing a poppy.
Chris Parkins
Stanmore, Middlesex
• So Ed Davey is going to shine a light on energy companies (Report, 1 November). That’ll cost him.
Gwyneth Pendry
Holyhead, Anglesey

It would be hard to find a pithier summation of the GM lobby’s misinformation and self-righteousness than the letter from Professor Dale Sanders on golden rice (29 October). There is currently no scientific or socioeconomic evidence on the practical efficacy of golden rice because it has not yet been released, for reasons that have almost nothing to do with disruptions of field trials in the Philippines. Free licences for it are indeed available for small-scale farmers, but not for anyone else – how the money will flow with golden rice and other GM golden geese is currently anybody’s guess.
And Professor Sanders’ sarcasm at the suggestion that the target populations might get their vitamin A from green vegetables speaks volumes.
He may be happy with a world in which many are too poor to eat any thing but rice, but nobody else should be.
Chris Smaje
Land Workers’ Alliance
• Has Professor Sanders ever heard of brown rice? Over 40 years ago, in parts of the Philippines, people were dying of beriberi. Their basic diet was white rice, whereas in other areas, where brown rice was still consumed, this problem did not exist. Free licences for golden rice may be available. It is still probably a covert entry into a very lucrative market supplying GM seeds. It has taken a long time to get poor farmers in certain parts of the world Fair Trade conditions. They do not need a future of premium-priced GM seed. It is insanity to strip natural foods of nutrients and then put them back artificially.
Hazel Downey
Ware, Hertfordshire

Polly Toynbee (Welfare dependency isn’t the problem. Pitiful pay is, 1 November) is undoubtedly right to point to widespread passivity against the background of “pitiful pay” for many and eroding real wages for many more. Some of the most drastic restrictions on trade union activity in the western world are part of the explanation. But when I scoured the pages of the same edition of the Guardian, I could not find a single mention of the 31 October strike by tens of thousands of members of three unions – Unison, Unite and the UCU – taking co-ordinated action for the first time across Britain’s universities over the issue of endemically low pay.
For the majority of direct employees the real value of pay has shrunk by nearly 15% in the past five years, while thousands in the higher education sector work on hourly rates well below the current standards for the “living wage”, not to mention thousands more on outsourced contracts on the £6.31 an hour national minimum. And as in the FTSE boardrooms, the salaries of university chancellors and other executives continues to balloon, with more than half now on remuneration packages exceeding £250,000 a year. The fact that thousands were and remain prepared to take a stand over pay in a sector hardly renowned for union militancy surely warranted coverage in Britain’s foremost liberal daily.
George Binette
Unison, Camden branch secretary
• Polly is right on one thing in particular: we do need to learn the real lessons of Grangemouth. We have ruthless employers prepared to sacrifice the livelihoods of their entire workforce to maximise their already obscene profits, and we have politicians who will support them in doing so all the way to the bank. In such a situation, our union leaders need to do a lot better than capitulate under such intense media and political pressure. They need to lead from the front and call upon their members nationally to stand up in solidarity with their targeted colleagues, and they need to go beyond the rhetoric of resistance and actually resist. In the specific case of Grangemouth, they should have learnt the lessons of the Upper Clyde shipbuilders (UCS) and occupied the plant against closure and put real political pressure on the SNP, as the independence referendum looms closer, to do the genuinely popular thing and nationalise the plant. The lesson for the union movement is simple: when the going gets tough, we have to get tougher.
Mark Campbell
UCU national executive committee, London Metropolitan University
• Polly Toynbee points out that the Treasury spends billions subsidising workers paid less than a living wage. A similar situation existed in southern England after the Napoleonic wars, when agricultural workers received extra money from poor rates to supplement inadequate wages. When the burden of rates was deemed too onerous, the system was replaced by the New Poor Law. Instead of subsidy, the poor were threatened with incarceration in the workhouse, where conditions were meant to be worse than for those living outside. This least-eligibility principle is echoed by Iain Duncan Smith’s mantra that the universal credit should ensure that benefits are always less than wages. Should we be worried that, rather than consider laws to enforce the living wage, IDS will reinvent the workhouse?
Malcolm Thick
Didcot, Oxfordshire
• “I’ll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man (sic) a living wage” – so sang Billy Bragg in Between the Wars in 1985. Yet here we are, a generation later in 2013, with a government robustly denying anything approaching what should be a fundamental right. Part of the problem, though, especially in the light of zero-hours beck-and-call-contracts, part-time work and chronic underemployment, is expressing the living wage as an hourly rate. The weekly and annual figures of £342 and £17,784 or £298 and £15,496 for London and elsewhere respectively give a clearer picture of the incomes needed to maintain a decent standard of living, while at the same time allowing an easier comparison with those nearer the top on living-it-up salaries whose incomes may be expressed in multiples of the living wage.
Austen Lynch
Garstang, Lancashire

Knowing our neighbours is vital, no matter what your age, where you live or your personal circumstances – as, pleasingly, Guardian writers have just discovered (How well do you know your neighbours?, G2, 31 October). Ten years ago I founded Australia’s annual celebration of community, Neighbour Day, after an elderly woman was discovered dead in her home two years after she had died. The circumstances were eerily similar to that of Joyce Vincent of north London, who became the subject of the film Dreams of a Life. On the last Sunday in March every year, Australians get together for everything from a cup of tea and slice of cake, to a BBQ, street party or fair to celebrate each other and why where they choose to call home is such a great place to live.
There’s no doubt that, around the world, our suburbs and towns have changed dramatically in the past 40 years. Both parents need to work to pay the mortgage and put food on the table; our careers and family responsibilities, such as children’s sport, keep us away from home longer and there is a creeping paranoia to make our homes maximum security fortresses. What hasn’t changed is that we still have neighbours and whether we choose to interact, or not, we are part of a community. As Guardian staff discovered, knowing the people next door and across the street promotes social inclusion, builds social capital and creates places which are safe, connected and sustainable. Communities are only as strong as the people who live in them, which has been proven yet again this week by the massive storms which battered the UK and the bushfires which have destroyed over 200 homes in Australia.
Andrew Heslop
Founder, Neighbour Day, Sydney, Australia

Dear Prime Minister,
We have joined together as an international coalition of free speech, media freedom and human rights organisations because we believe that the United Kingdom government’s response to the revelations of mass surveillance of digital communications is eroding fundamental human rights in the country. The government’s response has been to condemn, rather than celebrate, investigative journalism, which plays a crucial role in a healthy democratic society.
We are alarmed at the way in which the UK government has reacted, using national security legislation against those who have helped bring this public interest information to global attention. We are concerned about:
• The use of Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to detain the Brazilian media worker, David Miranda on 18 August 2013 at London Heathrow Airport. Miranda was carrying journalistic material on behalf of the UK’s Guardian newspaper and is the partner of the journalist, Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story of mass surveillance of digital communications by the UK and USA
• The sustained pressure against the UK’s Guardian newspaper for reporting the disclosures of whistleblower, Edward Snowden, including sending officials to force the Guardian to destroy hard drives allegedly containing information from Snowden
• Your call on 16 October 2013 for a House of Commons Select Committee to review whether the Guardian has damaged national security by publishing material provided by Edward Snowden, and a subsequent announcement that the review will be conducted by the Home Affairs Select Committee as part of their inquiry into anti-terrorism.
We believe these actions clearly violate the right to freedom of expression, which is protected under British, European and international law. Under such laws, the right to freedom of expression includes the protection of both journalists, and those that assist them in the course of their vital work.
The right to freedom of expression and media freedom enable the free flow of information in order for the public to hold their governments to account. While the protection of national security can be a legitimate ground for restricting the right under international law, such restrictions are narrowly defined. Governments must show that a restriction is necessary to achieve a legitimate purpose and must be proportionate to the aim pursued. The presumption in favour of freedom of expression requires governments to demonstrate that the expression will actually harm national security; it is not sufficient to simply say that it will.
National security should never be used to justify preventing disclosures of illegalities or wrongdoing, no matter how embarrassing such disclosures may be to the UK or other governments. In the case of Snowden and the Guardian, the disclosures have facilitated a much-needed public debate about mass surveillance in a democracy, and exposed the possible violation of the fundamental human rights of millions of people worldwide. As such, no liability should be incurred as the benefit to the public outweighs the demonstrable harm to national security.
We also believe that this use of national security will have dangerous consequences for the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in the UK and beyond, creating a hostile and intimidating environment and discouraging those who could reveal uncomfortable truths and hold those in power to account. We are concerned that this will further create negative consequences for the reputation of the UK as an advocate for the protection and realisation of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom worldwide. States with little regard for the human rights of their people will seek to use the UK’s example to legitimise their own repressive practices.
The UK has a strong history of democracy, and while targeted surveillance may play an important role in protecting national security, in doing so it should not erode the very values it seeks to protect. We call on you to honour the UK’s international obligations to defend and protect the right to freedom of expression and media freedom, and to end the UK government’s pressure on the Guardian and those who assist them.
Yours Sincerely,
Gergana Jouleva, Access to Information Programme, Bulgaria
Mircea Toma, ActiveWatch, Romania
Ahmad Quraishi, Afghanistan Journalists Center
Remzi Lani, Albanian Media Institute
Thomas Hughes, ARTICLE 19, international
Zuliana Lainez, Asociacion Nacional de Periodistas del Peru (ANP)
Khaled Amami, Association of Citizenship and Digital Culture (ACCUN), Tunisia
Jasna Milanovic, Association of Independent Electronic Media, Serbia
Hans de Zwart, Bits for Freedom, Netherlands
Guilherme Alpendre, Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism
Yuri Dzhibladze, Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights, Russia
Ramana Sorn, Cambodian Center for Human Rights
Laura Tribe, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression
Olexandra Matviichuk, Center for Civil Liberties, Ukraine
Ioana Avadani, Center for Independent Journalism, Romania
Masjaliza Hamzah, Centre for Independent Journalism, Malaysia
Paul Dawnson Formaran, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Philippines
Dr Leila Alieva, Center for National and International Studies, Azerbaijan
Edison Lanza, Centro de Archivos y Acceso a la Información Pública (CAinfo), Uruguay
Cristian Horchert, Chaos Computer Club, Germany
Kate Watters, Crude Accountability, USA
Jillian York, Electronic Frontier Foundation, international
Jo Glanville, English PEN
Shiva Gaunle, Federation of Nepali Journalists
Karim Lahidji, FIDH / International Federation for Human Rights
Andres D’Alessandro, Foro de Periodismo Argentino, Argentina
Chiranuch Jiew, Foundation for Community Educational Media (Prachatai), Thailand
Trevor Timm, Freedom of the Press Foundation, USA
Ayushjav Tumurbaatar, Globe International Center, Mongolia
Eka Popkhadze, GYLA, Georgia
Artus Sakunts, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly, Armenia
Avetik Ishkhanyan, Helsinki Committee of Armenia
Danuta Przywara, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland
Eldar Zeynalov, Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
Rasul Jafarov, Human Rights Club, Azerbaijan
Robert Ssempala, Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda
Sanar Yurdatapan, Initiative for Freedom of Expression, Turkey
Emin Huseynov, Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Azerbaijan
Mayumi Ortecho, Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, Latin America
Elizabeth Ballantine, Inter American Press Association
Ann-Sofie Nyman, International Partnership for Human Rights, Belgium
Alison Bethel McKenzie, International Press Institute
Yevgeniy Zhovtis, Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
Mariya Yasenovska, Kharkiv Regional Foundation ‘Public Alternative’, Ukraine
Alban Muriqi, Kosova Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims
Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty, UK
Prof. Amal Jamal, Media Center for Arab Palestinians, Israel
Meri Bekeshova, Media Workers’ Trade Union of Kyrgyz Republic
Nani Jansen, Media Legal Defence Initiative, UK
Soe Myint, Mizzima, Myanmar
Ludmilla Alexeeva, Moscow Helsinki Group
Omar Faruk Osman, National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ)
Andre Loconte, Net Users’ Rights Protection Association (NURPA), Belgium
Gunnar M. Ekelove-Slydal, Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Alberto Cerda, ONG Derechos Digitales, Chile
Makereta Komai, Pacific Islands News Association
Owais Aslam Ali, Pakistan Press Foundation
Mousa Rimawi, Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
Larry Siems, PEN American Center
Tasleem Thawar, PEN Canada
Laura McVeigh and Anders Heger, PEN International
Gus Hosein, Privacy International
Natalia Taubina, Public Verdict, Russia
Christophe Deloire, Reporters Without Borders, international
Oleksandra Sverdlova, No Borders Project, Social Action Center, Ukraine
Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Southeast Asian Press Alliance
Nalini Elumalai, Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
Alison Meston, WAN-IFRA, international
Maria Pia Matta Cerna, World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC)
Arthur Gwagwa, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum


I attended an outpatient clinic at one of the large London hospitals. I arrived 10 minutes before the appointment time and was depressed to see about 40 people already waiting.
After about 10 minutes I was called in by a nurse who asked me various questions, some of which were answered by the referral letter she had on her clipboard and others of which seemed irrelevant to my condition. She then told me to go out and wait for the doctor to call me. He called me four and a quarter hours later.
Coincidentally we were having supper that evening with a doctor friend who works at the hospital. When I told him of my experience he grinned and said that, if the Government plays games with the hospital over waiting times, the hospital reciprocates. He said my waiting time will have been recorded as 10 minutes, as that’s how long I waited before seeing the nurse. The fact that I waited another four and a quarter hours before seeing the doctor was irrelevant (“Revealed, how targets make the A&E crisis far worse”, 31 October).
I asked him if all outpatient clinics at the hospital had a nurse whose role was to call people in and tick them off in order to fix their waiting time and he said yes, as it enabled the hospital to achieve its waiting time target.
Martin Richards
London SW12
Stick to the  ethics of the  Co-op bank
Over the past two decades many charities and campaigning groups have moved their accounts to the Co-operative Bank and urged others to do so. A major reason for this was the bank’s ethical policy – which sets out clearly and uniquely how monies will and will not be invested.
As customers, we call those involved in setting out the bank’s future to do their utmost to set in stone the continuance of the Co-operative Bank ethical policy and the underlying commitments to customer consultation, well-resourced implementation, third-party independent audit and warts-and-all reporting. The establishment of these commitments in the Articles of Association of a new entity would provide serious reassurance that the Co-operative Bank can continue to be a world leader in ethical investment.
Jenny Ricks
Head of Campaigns, Action Aid
Mary Shephard
General Manager, Animal Aid
Mark Farmaner
Director, Burma Campaign UK
Tim Hunt
Director, Ethical Consumer
Craig Bennett
Director of Policy and Campaigns, Friends of the Earth
John Sauven
Executive Director, Greenpeace UK
Sally Copley
 Head of UK Campaigns, Oxfam
Phoebe Cullingworth
Ents Officer, People & Planet
Keith Tyrell
Director, Pesticide Action Network
Catherine Haworth
Chief Executive Officer, ShareAction
Jeanette Longfield
 Co-ordinator, Sustain
Paul Monaghan
 Director, Up the Ethics
John Hilary
Executive Director, War On Want
Nick Dearden
Director, World Development Movement
Food banks see depth of need
Your recent pieces giving details of vastly increasing numbers of people having recourse to food banks, and highlighting the work of the excellent Trussell Trust, gave a considerable underestimate of the number of people in need.
There are many food banks operating independently, including the one in my home town, which has within it areas of the worst deprivation in the country, and many other organisations working in this area of need.
Additionally, there is a huge network of soup kitchens, most of which have experienced not only an increased demand, but a changing one. For the past 20 years the kitchen with which I am involved had an attendance of an average of 35, mainly single men; this has now risen to an average of 95 and sadly includes families.
It has become apparent that a significant proportion of the increased need is directly attributable to the imposition of draconian benefit sanctions; for example, being late for an interview means two weeks of benefit being halved.
One wonders too what effect the operation of this draconian system has on the front-line workers in offices paying benefits who are prevented from using any professional discretion.
Diane Parker
War’s forgotten casualties
On Remembrance Day, please spare a thought for all the many munitions workers, mostly young women, who were killed and injured by their work producing munitions. They are just as  much casualties of war as front-line troops.
Many of these forgotten casualties of war were not only killed and injured by accidents and explosions in munitions factories but by their exposure to very toxic chemicals, with many dying of toxic liver overload and conditions such as aplastic anaemia which can be precursor conditions to cancers. There are lists with names and addresses of some of these casualties now posted on the internet.
The legacy of the exposure to toxic chemicals can be passed in the form of cell mutations to future generations.
Edward Priestley
Brighouse, West Yorkshire
HS2 will be  no good to us
I live about a third of the way from Birmingham to London and am interested to know what use HS2 will be to the many travellers like me who would have to travel nearly 40 miles either by road or current rail north-west into Birmingham in order to access the line. This would be pointless and both time- and energy-consuming.
Assuming that the majority of rail users travelling between Birmingham and London will use HS2, what will become of the current regular services on the existing track? It would appear inevitable that with loss of revenue on these services they will be reduced, leaving those of us not in the major conurbations much worse off.
Graham Ruff
Lutterworth, Leicestershire
We are being told much about the ability of HS2 to reduce travelling times and to increase capacity for passengers. But I have seen nothing about its use as a means of transporting goods. The high-speed rail through the tunnel between Folkestone and Calais takes a substantial amount of goods traffic, particularly at night.
Surely there should be an opportunity to use HS2 to carry a substantial proportion of goods, particularly at night, between the North, the Midlands and London rather than have it clogging up the roads.
AB Crews
Beckenham, Kent
Peter Kampman  (letter, 2 November) writes from Edinburgh: ”I have yet to read about [HS2’s] connectivity to Europe”. I can advise him not to hold his breath. Seven years after Eurostar services started from St Pancras, the East Coast train company website still tells us Paris is “not a valid destination”. Eurostar and HS2 are for Londoners. The rest of the country can go hang.
Chris Bond
Newcastle upon Tyne
Etiquette for a lover’s letter
Keith Flett (letter, 2 November) says he is reassured by Rebekah Brooks choosing to communicate with Andy Coulson, during their affair, by sending a letter. It would, perhaps, have been more reassuring to Andy Coulson if the letter had been handwritten and not typed and saved on a computer.
Letters from lovers, close friends and family should be hand-written and personal. I have a large box full of hand-written letters from my late husband which is one of my most valued possessions. I wonder if Andy Coulson kept this particular letter from Rebekah Brooks, or was it shredded instantly?
Gillian Munrow
Amersham, Buckinghamshire
Written out  of history
I look forward to making a judgement on your new front cover on Thursday, as someone who bought the original Watford-printed issue and has stuck with the paper since.
I am puzzled, however, that you  mention in your Letter from the Editor (2 November) three of the founders of The Independent, but omit that giant of Fleet Street, Brett Straub. Has he done something to upset you, or was his role in the Leveson Report just one PR stunt too many?
Colin Standfield
London W7
Nothing cancels Guantanamo
Your paean for President Obama (leading article, 2 November) is misjudged. Whatever good he does, you must never forget the abomination that is Guantanamo Bay. Innocent men have been “disappeared”.
 Whatever comment you may make on behalf of the USA or its President, you must never end  without qualifying it by mentioning Guantanamo Bay. To do otherwise is to be complicit in this crime.
Finlay Fraser
Cottingham, East Yorkshire
Brand’s revolt
Howard Jacobson (2 November) has completely missed the point about the Paxman-Brand encounter. Democracy is meaningless when, once in power, all our politicians are the same, whatever their previous rhetoric. Corporate greed is ever channelling wealth into the hands of the very few and creating a disenfranchised generation – who will revolt.
Hove, East Sussex


The professional bodies should not only be providing confidential support for whistleblowers, but also the tools and training to investigate complaints
Sir, Sir Richard Thompson’s letter (Nov 2), as president of the Royal College of Physicians, will be welcomed by those with experience of NHS procedures with patients’ complaints producing less than satisfactory results. However, his contention that “concerns” is a better term than “complaints” is, I believe, misplaced. While patients’ concerns should indeed be dealt with at the lowest level for resolution, particularly after handovers of shifts, complaints can result from concerns which have not been resolved, even if elevated to the levels Sir Richard suggests.
What the NHS lacks is the ability to investigate complaints properly. There appears to be no national regulations or guidance for investigations, and those conducting them are too often ill-suited and unprepared for the task. The professional bodies should not only be providing confidential support for whistleblowers who fail to get satisfaction, but also the tools and training to get to the bottom of complaints by patients and their advocates.
Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berks

Sir, As a manager in a GP practice I have to deal with complaints about clinicians (“Quiz all hospital users, urges leading doctor”, Nov 2). This gives me a perspective overlooked by those who portray the NHS as a wasteland of care.
The current complaints process, which is onerous to administer, is described as defensive and delaying. NHS complaints span a huge range, from “I didn’t like the nurse’s attitude” to “I think your doctor was to blame for my husband’s death”.
Sadly, the preferred public perception in any complaint is that the patient is entirely right and clinician is entirely wrong. This is rarely the case and is, in my opinion, the root cause of the defensiveness of defendants. Doctors are deeply hurt when people complain about them. Most patients are astonished when I tell them this.
If there is to be a change in the NHS Complaints Proceedure, it must include at an early stage a statement from both sides answering the following question: “To what extent, if any, did the attitude or actions of the patient or their relatives diminish the ability of clinicians to carry out their duties to the best of their ability?”
Aggrieved and emotional relatives are rarely reliable witnesses. Exaggeration and comments taken out of context are routine. And don’t get me started on the phrase “I have been on the internet and it says …..”
Philip Horsfield
Chester-le-Street, Co Durham
Sir, I share Sir Richard Thompson’s fears about the NHS’s handling of complaints, despite repeated reassurances that such matters are being taken seriously.
My attempts at raising concerns about my own and my family’s care in public and private healthcare are nearly always met with a mixture of defensiveness, hostility, indifference, and economy with the truth.
Few people wish to spend weeks going through their own or their loved ones’ notes, as I have had to do, to prove that they were not treated safely or effectively. Yet this appears essential in getting a proper investigation, acknowledgment of failings, and measures to prevent recurrence.
I hope Sir Richard’s suggestions will be swiftly implemented, so that patients may be returned to their rightful place at the centre of care.
Alison Blenkinsop
Retired midwife, Aldershot, Hants

The Prawer Bill that enables the internal deportation of Bedouin from their villages contravenes international human rights law
Sir, We write as Jews, appalled by the “Prawer Bill”, now before Israel’s parliament, which will enable the internal deportation of 30,000-40,000 Bedouin from their villages into designated townships.
The Bedouin are Israeli citizens. They have been living in the Negev region for generations, from long before Israel existed. Their villages will be demolished and their lands given for new, racially exclusive, Jewish settlements and farms.
The Jewish National Fund will take control of the land as the owners are evicted. Its “Blueprint Negev” aims to move 250,000 Jewish residents into the area. Expansionist settlers call it “the next frontier”. One village, Al Arakib, has already been demolished over 50 times, and rebuilt in dogged resistance.
Many Jews are disgusted by what Israel is doing to its own citizens. The European Parliament and UN say the Prawer Bill contravenes international human rights law. In Israel it has been met with strikes and demonstrations.
We call on Israel’s Government to abandon this cruelty and injustice against defenceless, law-abiding citizens. We call on the British Government to take up the Bedouin case with Israel and to demand that Israel complies with international human rights law.
Sir Geoffrey Bindman, QC; Professor David Epstein; Morris Farhi; Dr Julian Huppert, MP; Professor Francesca Klug; Professor Sir Harry Kroto; Peter Kosminsky; Mike Leigh; Miriam Margolyes; Professor Susie Orbach; Professor Laurence Pearl; Michael Rosen; Professor Jonathan Rosenhead; Alexei Sayle; Dame Janet Suzman; Zoë Wanamaker

“Forum shopping” also goes on with insolvency: the period of bankruptcy is longer in some jurisdictions than in England and Wales
Sir, Aspiring Italian divorcees (Report, Oct 31) are not the only group to seek to exploit our justice system. “Forum shopping” also goes on with insolvency. The period of bankruptcy is longer in some jurisdictions, such as Germany and Ireland, than in England and Wales. This attracts some debtors to claim that their centre of main interests (COMI, the relevant jurisdictional threshold) is in the UK.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with this because the motive in acquiring an English COMI does not invalidate the resulting bankruptcy process, provided the English COMI is a genuine one. Nevertheless, the potential for abuse does mean that the English courts scrutinise claims from European nationals to have acquired an England COMI with considerable care.
His Honour Judge David Hodge, QC
Specialist Chancery Judge
Manchester Civil Justice Centre

While some people believe that statue to Mary Seacole would be a disgrace, others see no competition between her and Florence Nightingale
Sir, Further to Richard Morrison’s piece on Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole (“Nursing our rival heroines”, Times2, Nov 1), Seacole wasn’t a nurse, never made any contribution to the development of public health in this country, and never worked in a British hospital. Nightingale founded professional nursing, reformed the Army Medical Services, pioneered the use of statistics and the visual presentation of health data — and much more.
A statue to Mary Seacole in the grounds of the hospital most closely associated with Florence Nightingale would be nothing less than a national disgrace.
Mark Bostridge
London NW3

Sir, Can I assure your readers that the trustees of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal see no competition between Mary Seacole and Florence Nightingale.
Nightingale created the modern nursing profession for everyone and brought her organisational and campaigning genius to the service of our forces; Seacole was a battlefield nurse who used her skills, care and compassion to treat our troops in the Crimea and the Caribbean. Both deserve celebration and are part of our world history.
Lord Soley of Hammersmith
Chairman of the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue Appeal
House of Lords

Argentine claims that the UK is increasing its military presence in the Falklands are false: this is the minimum necessary to defend the Islands
Sir, The Argentine Ambassador’s suggestions (letter, Oct 31) that the UK is militarising the South Atlantic and that Argentina would like to ­
co-operate on issues of mutual interest on the Falklands do not stand up to scrutiny.
Argentine claims that we are increasing our military presence in the Falklands are false. UK forces are deployed to defend the freedom of the Falkland Islanders following the Argentine invasion of 1982. The numbers are not increasing. They represent the minimum necessary to defend the Islands.
Ambassador Castro makes a plea for peaceful dialogue, yet her Government refuses to acknowledge the right of the Falkland Islanders to determine their own future. Earlier this year, 99.8 per cent of Falkland Islanders voted to retain their status as a British Overseas Territory.
Although we and the Falkland Islands Government wish for a friendly relationship with Argentina, over the past decade Argentina has refused to discuss issues of mutual ­co-operation, including on flights and fisheries. Argentine calls for a dialogue ring hollow when their Foreign Minister refuses an invitation to meet the Foreign Secretary and representatives of the Falkland Islands Government, as happened in February this year.
However, if the Argentine Government is genuinely keen to promote air links between the continent and the Islands as Ambassador Castro says, reconsidering its ban on Falklands-bound charter flights through its airspace would be a welcome indication of this change of heart.
Andrew Rosindell, MP
Secretary of the Falklands All-Party Parliamentary Group

Sir, The Falkland Islands Government wishes to clarify that we are open to a neighbourly relationship with Argentina, and in recent times have extended several invitations to the Government of Argentina to enter into discussions on matters of mutual interest, such as co-operation in the fishing industry and hydrocarbons exploration. These invitations have, unfortunately, gone unanswered.
Regarding economic activity with the wider South American continent, we are pleased to report healthy working relationships with several countries in the Southern Cone and hope that these continue to develop.
Sukey Cameron
Representative, Falkland Islands Government

In the view of one reader at least, the time has come to abandon the editorial practice of replacing letters in swearwords with asterisks
Sir, The use of asterisks for “naughty” words is ridiculous. These can be heard on the radio and TV and read in books. And asterisks on the printed page automatically draw the readers attention to the word in question.
C. Brougham
London NW1


SIR – Madhur Jaffrey says that parents must teach their children to cook. But since both parents these days are often working to pay the mortgage, this might be a more suitable role for grandparents.
My 13-year old grandson spent some time with us this summer and took up my offer of cookery lessons. He chose some of his favourites and I added some of my basic staples.
Jars and tins were forbidden, with the exception of tinned tomatoes and pulses, and we planned the menus, shopped, prepared and cooked together. He even cooked a paella for our friends with his grandfather on the barbecue.
He started a recipe book of his own and has since cooked for his parents and his class at school. We had fun together and his parents are delighted.
Chris Beardshaw
Wickham, Hampshire

SIR – For almost two generations, children have not been taught no cookery at school. Madhur Jaffrey’s suggestion is not possible when many of the parents in question are themselves unable to cook.
Freda Schaffer
Highcliffe, Dorset
SIR – I agree with Madhur Jaffrey but it does depend on parents’ ability. Early in my education I had the choice between Latin or domestic science. I chose the former because I could learn cooking from my mother.
Television soaps are the way to spread the word about healthy eating and cooking at home. No one in them seems to cook – instead they go to the café or pub and spend money. Storylines in the past have dealt with a variety of public messages, so why not buying and cooking food?
Erica Lund
Moira, Co. Down

SIR – The purpose of the BBC Trust is to “set new standards of openness and transparency and do more to serve all audiences”.
Given the BBC’s clear Left-wing bias, the Trust is failing to achieve this. The licence fee should be scrapped and the BBC should earn its money through advertising. That would level the playing field for all broadcasters.
Lesley Hovington
SIR – The BBC’s tendency to make up its mind on certain issues and then cut off all debate is beginning to antagonise more and more sections of licence-fee payers.
Related Articles
How children with busy parents can learn to cook
03 Nov 2013
The idea of a public broadcaster is a fine one, but the BBC no longer broadcasts on behalf of the public – it broadcasts at the public.
Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex
SIR – The gulf in understanding between the BBC and the rest of the world over its biased news coverage is deeper than we on the outside can comprehend.
Whereas those with open minds can allow for diverse opinions, the BBC perceives only “truth” and “lies”. It is the self-appointed arbiter of the truth – everything else is lies and Right-wing propaganda (never Left-wing propaganda).
David Gilchrist
Johnstone, Renfrewshire
SIR – When quizzed by MPs on the culture, media and sport committee about Left-wing bias, Tony Hall, the BBC’s new Director General, said that the BBC was “bound” to get some things wrong. But were he to check, Lord Hall would discover that, over its 90 years of broadcasting, the BBC has never made an error of impartiality.
In all matters of bias and balance, complaints can be directed to nobody but the BBC itself. By “marking its own homework”, the BBC finds there has never once been a case to answer, and judges that its output has never wavered from being “fair, balanced and impartial”.
Martin Burgess
Beckenham, Kent
SIR – Although Auntie is not without fault, she is not the pariah described by Grant Shapps.
Many of the scandals involving Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall and others occurred on the watches of managers now long gone.
I have found the old dear to be biased against the government of the day throughout my adult life. If you tread a middle road this is inevitable. It means she is doing her job and annoying all her relatives with equal aplomb.
Long may she continue.
Charlie Bloom
SIR – In today’s digital, multi-media age, the days of the licence-fee funded BBC may be numbered. However, from natural history to religious programming, classical music to extensive coverage of royal events, how much of the BBC’s current output would survive as free-to-air broadcasting without a licence fee, is questionable.
We may complain about the BBC, often justifiably, but I think we will miss it when it’s gone.
William Cook
Blandford Forum, Dorset
SIR – It is some 17 years since I discontinued my subscription to the TV licence. Having witnessed the BBC’s largesse since, I’m delighted to know I haven’t been paying towards it. Jonathan Ross was paid £16 million, staff kept their London weighting when they moved to Salford, Television Centre was sold for too little (so soon after millions were spent on it); £300,000 was handed over as “compensation for forgoing a promotion”, and a large severance package went to someone who found another job and then resigned.
Geoff Dees
Alford, Lincolnshire
SIR – If Grant Shapps really thinks £145.50 per year is “quite a lot to pay” for the remarkable range of channels, stations and other services (such as the Proms) provided by the BBC, he knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.
David Woodhead
Leatherhead, Surrey
Great Central Railway proposal beats HS2
SIR – Andrew Gilligan’s persuasive argument for the resurrection of the Great Central line to the Midlands and North at modest cost frankly demolishes the HS2 case for additional rail capacity.
As a student in the Sixties, I commuted daily on the Great Central, and its closure in 1969 was a disgrace. Rail experts concede today that at least a third of Dr Beeching’s cuts were unjustified.
David Clegg
Shrewsbury, Shropshire
SIR – Reopening the Great Central Railway would enable completion very much sooner than 2026. Thirteen years is too long to wait to tackle the congestion problem.
Owen Edis
Chorleywood, Hertfordshire
SIR – Unlike HS2, the Great Central Railway would connect with HS1 and the rest of Europe.
The plan to revive it has been devised by people who understand railways. It is not just a vanity project, which HS2 in its present form clearly is.
Peter Coton
Pitsea, Essex
SIR – A mixed-use railway such as the West Coast Main Line cannot run to its full theoretical capacity, whereas HS2, to be used only by high-speed trains, can. A newly built railway can also be designed for longer trains than the current network could conceivably accommodate, and thus carry many more passengers on each train than a conventional solution.
The double-track line from Rugby to Birmingham carries a mix of expresses, stopping trains and freight trains. Even if a re-opened Great Central were to carry trains to Rugby, they could not reach Birmingham unless this stretch were to be quadrupled, or local and freight services reduced.
William Barter
Towcester, Northamptonshire
SIR – In his consideration of the proposal by Kelvin Hopkins, the Labour MP, to reopen the Great Central Railway, Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, might wish to consider the amount of compensation due to Tony and Cherie Blair, whose country home at Wotton lies within a few hundred yards of the line.
Chris Pullin
Ashendon, Buckinghamshire
Narrow Home defeat
SIR – Alec Douglas-Home should have won the 1964 general election. Unfortunately, two of the most influential Conservatives, Iain Macleod and Enoch Powell, disagreed with the method by which Sir Alec had been chosen to succeed Harold Macmillan and refused to serve in his government. So they were not at the forefront of his election bid. Meanwhile, the BBC ran a vicious campaign satirising Sir Alec’s appearance and style of speech.
Keith Ferris
Coxheath, Kent
SIR – Dr Martin Smith’s letter setting out the deficiencies of former prime ministers and defending Sir Alec Douglas-Home omitted Sir John Major and the free movement of labour within the EU – one of the biggest own goals in our history.
Colin Laverick
London WC2
Scottish poppies
SIR – Visiting my youngest son and his family in Scotland last weekend, I saw a box of poppies in a local garage with the legend “Buy a poppy for Scottish poppy day”. Has Mr Salmond pulled off another trick?
J S Hayhoe
Shenstone, Staffordshire
Falklands command
SIR – Much as I admire Lord Bramall, he was not “in command of British Forces during the Falklands conflict”.
The campaign was commanded by Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse from his headquarters at Northwood.
As Chief of General Staff, General Bramall was responsible for providing supporting army assets such as 22 SAS, 5 Brigade and other units such as artillery.
While his support was hugely welcome and appreciated, at no time was he part of the operational command.
Captain Michael Clapp RN (retd)
Broadhempston, Devon
The hull story
SIR – The French had copper-bottomed ships at Trafalgar as well as the British. They used 310 tons of copper sheets and nails.
The hulls of the French ships were not built of Corsican pine; the masts and spars may have been, although Scots pine and spruce from the Baltic was the norm.
A French hull was built of 90 per cent oak. The rest would have been elm and some beech.
They were relatively lightly built above the waterline, so could not stand hard pounding in battle or severe weather, as the British ships could.
R T Harrison
Alnwick, Northumberland
Sir Richard’s a foolish Virgin on Europe
SIR – Sir Richard Branson trots out the old canard that if we were to leave the EU this country would suddenly “have to start paying taxes for exporting goods into Europe”. Given that the EU sells so much more to us than we sell to the EU, that seems an unlikely prospect. Would Sir Richard treat his best customer in such a cavalier fashion?
Sir Richard also ignores the fact that the rules of the World Trade Organisation effectively prevent such a course of action. Sir Richard avers that “we’ve already made up our mind to be part of Europe”, to which anyone under the age of 56 might reasonably retort that they’ve never been asked.
Christopher Gill
Bridgnorth, Shropshire
SIR – Richard Branson’s love for the EU evidently blinds him to the harsh realities of belonging to this anti-democratic and seriously mismanaged organisation.
His opposition to a referendum ignores what the EU has become since 1975, and those European countries that are thriving outside the EU.
David Rammell
Lymington, Hampshire
SIR – Since all EU countries that host immigrants complain about benefit tourism to some degree, they should deal with it.
Set benefits for, say, Bulgarian citizens in Germany at Bulgarian levels and recover the cost from the EU. The country of origin would lose that amount from its EU funding. The same would apply to the French in Britain or the British in Spain.
Bill Wilson
Ushering out noise
SIR – At the cinema recently the advertisements were so loud that everyone around us had their fingers in their ears. I found an usherette in the foyer and explained the problem. She went at once into the projection room and the volume level was immediately reduced. We then went on to enjoy the film.
Patricia Carter
Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire
Unalloyed joy
SIR – Not only are 1p and 2p coins magnetic, but also 5p and possibly some 10p coins. They are not made of cheap alloys, which would not be magnetic, but of steel, plated with copper (1 and 2p coins) and nickel (5p). My door key, which is magnetised, comes out of my pocket with a 5p coin attached.
Eric Crook
Writtle, Essex

Irish Times:

Sir, – The issue of apprentices facing exorbitant registration fees as a result of the recent Budget (Paul Gorey, October 31st) is all too familiar to the Technical, Engineering & Electrical Union, which successfully challenged the Department of Education over the very same issue in 2004.
The attempt by the Department of Education to impose a similar charge met with a nationwide apprentices’ protest and a High Court challenge before an agreement was reached. Now in 2013, workers once more appear to be the forgotten group in terms of the Government’s considerations. Eamon Devoy, general secretary of the TEEU, said: “Apprentices are employees not students and the proposed imposition of this stealth tax against young people who are working for less than the minimum wage, in many instances, flies in the face of the Government statement that youth employment is one of their key strategies”.
As mentioned the TEEU reached an agreement with the Department of Education on this matter in 2004 and would still expect that such an agreement would be “honoured”. With that in mind one would have to ask has the Minister and his Department lost site of this concept of honouring agreements along with losing site of the commitment the Government made to Youth employment? If this is the case then it may well be time to remind them once again. – Yours, etc,
TEEU , (National

Sir, – In most matters of tribulation a point is inevitably reached when one ends up saying that enough really is enough. The latest announcement by Revenue in relation to the payment of the controversial property tax reached this point for me personally and it showed clearly that this Government’s brass neck has neither dulled nor softened.
Revenue’s statement that those opting to pay this tax, in respect of year 2014, by either cheque or debit card can expect to have the monies deducted instantly after a November 27th deadline of its designation left even a hardened cynic like me aghast. Not alone has it committed daylight robbery upon the property-owning populace – whom will receive absolutely nothing in return for this cash grab – but it has the gall to demand the money be given to it ahead of the year concerned.
But please remember, none of this is its fault. It’s those nasty banks yet again. Because Revenue’s website has the temerity to blame the fact that monies will be instantly deducted, over five weeks ahead of the year of the tax itself, on account of “the nature of the banking and credit card systems”! Obviously the simple expedient of allotting a deadline in January or February of 2014 escaped the Revenue.
Never mind that this course of action will be monumentally unpopular and massively unfair (it has long since abandoned any considerations with regard to these matters) but has it even half considered the gross economic stupidity of sucking millions of euro out of a half-dead economy at precisely the time of year when the hard-pressed citizen might be prepared to part with at least some of their dwindling cash? – Yours, etc,
Stillorgan Road,
Stillorgan, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The NUI Maynooth report summarised by Frank McDonald (Home News, October 25th) on the economic impact of climate change on the agriculture sector has many flaws and ignores the significant action of farmers in addressing the climate challenge.
The reported economic losses to agriculture are unrealistic. For example, the reported economic cost to the arable sector is €530 million per year, despite the value of the output of the sector being only €264 million at the moment. How can the cost to a sector be twice the value of the sector?
There are 20 references in the report, only two of which are peer-reviewed, one of which discusses the role of genetically modified crops in addressing the economic losses associated with climate change. This adaption measure is ignored in the report.
Irish agriculture is a serious business, supporting more than 300,000 jobs in all parts of the country and contributing in excess of €9 billion in exports last year. This is being done sustainably, as will be the extra output as part of our expansion plans. Emissions per kilo of beef and milk produced are among the lowest in the world.
Farmers continue to build on this. Several thousand farmers participate each year in carbon auditing programmes to verify the low carbon count, in schemes operated by Bord Bia, Glanbia and others.
IFA will not accept pot-shots from environmental groups or NUI Maynooth which are inaccurate and potentially damaging to the sector.
The association highlighted the flaws in the report directly with the groups concerned and sought retractions. However, these have not being forthcoming. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – An article “Row about electricity pylons turns into insults about dogs and cows in Dáil row” (Dáil Report, October 24th) made light of a row over the Eirgrid Link project, Eirgrid’s scheme to link Leinster and Munster with a €500 million extension to the national grid. The proposed project would march a network of 45 metre and 60 metre pylons through some of the most beautiful parts of Co Waterford – so residents in the area are not amused.
Waterford residents were shocked by reports in September that a major upgrade to the national grid could involve a route from Cork through the Blackwater Valley and Comeraghs to Co Wexford. We now know why the project caught so many unaware.
Eirgrid’s Stage 1 Report contains a long list of newspapers in which the company had advertised as part of its first and second periods of public consultation. Neither the Dungarvan Leader nor the Dungarvan Observer – the local papers of Waterford’s largest town – appear on that list. In a letter to members of this committee, Eirgrid confirmed no such advertisement had been placed during the first two periods of public consultation.
Eirgrid has previously stressed the importance public consultation would have on the selection of GridLink’s final route: “During this first stage of public consultation we would urge people to come in and talk to us about the study area. Local knowledge is invaluable and all information received will inform preparations and plans for proposed route corridors . . . Eirgrid will identify, with the help of the public, constraints within the proposed study area . . . Constraints can be anything from natural features in the landscape to cultural or archaeological structures. They are mapped in the study area and taken into account when corridors are identified.”
While advertisements were placed in numerous papers outside the region – some as far afield as Limerick – the failure to advertise locally puts Waterford residents at a disadvantage. This is especially so because 75 per cent of the routes between Cork and Wexford revealed by Eirgrid last month would pass within three miles of Dungarvan.
The project is in its third public consultation phase – which ends on November 26th. In its letter, Eirgrid claimed it did not rely on advertising to spread the word about this project; but why then did it advertise in 30 other papers? How is it that it received more than 800 submissions from individuals living in areas covered by advertising, and few from the people of Waterford where no such advertising took place?
Only now, when the shortlist of routes has been made, has this project been properly advertised locally. This makes a mockery of Eirgrid’s commitment to public accountability.
An ex-post facto consultation is no real kind of consultation at all. We call on Eirgrid and the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte TD to immediately halt this flawed consultation process. We request that Eirgrid investigate these failures, identify how the process erred, and publicise its findings. The Eirgrid Link project team, meanwhile, must start again at square one. Eirgird’s plan to despoil Waterford is no laughing matter. – Yours, etc,
PRO Comeraghs Against

Sir, – The frequently mentioned instances of the callous way in which the entitlements of various health and social welfare recipients are being investigated caused me to remember an event that occurred about 50 years ago.
At the time, officials directly involved with the management of welfare were obliged to live in the areas they served. They were often attached to the local dispensary. One of these officials was a neighbour and friend of my own parents. Indeed, he was a friend to all his neighbours. To everybody’s shock he died suddenly some time in the late 1950s. Of course I accompanied my parents to his funeral. The church was filled with many of his former clients, who were the poorest of the poor. After the service, some of them approached the official’s widow and told her of the great kindness her late husband had shown to them. Many of them were in tears.
If anyone can suggest a more noble memorial to a life than the love and respect of the poor, I would like to know about it. I would also suggest that we may need to review the manner and underlying attitudes with which we now concern ourselves with their needs. – Yours, etc,
Hillside Drive, Dublin 14.

Sir, – The Flood Relief Works along the River Dodder from Ballsbridge to Ringsend in Dublin 4 have almost been completed. Walls and banks have been raised, and no less than six mighty flood gates, that could hold back a Niagara in spate, have been installed. This should all allow the residents of the area to sleep more soundly in their beds.
These flood gates are held in the open position by impressive padlocks and bolts. Keys and other tools are needed to allow the heavy gates to be manhandled into position in the event of threatened high water. It would be reassuring to know that a Dublin City Council crew, trained and practiced in the operating of these gates, and with a knowledge of where the keys are kept, was standing by.
This was not the case two years ago, when the first new flood gate at Londonbridge Road was called into service during a November storm. Nobody knew where its key was, and eventually fire brigade personnel had to jemmy open the padlock. A pathetic debut. Fortunately St Jude spared us on this island the worst of his wind and rain on Bank Holiday Monday. But if he had not been so considerate, I wonder if our much vaunted flood gates would have been able to save the day? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I was saddened to read the comments of Dr John Bosco Conama (October 29th) regarding bilateral cochlear implantation for profoundly deaf children. He clearly shows a misunderstanding of the technology, of advances in medicine, the results of research, and of the pathos and significance of Deputy O’Brien’s gesture in the Dáil two minutes’ silence.
My son, who is 20 months-old was diagnosed as being profoundly deaf at birth. Hearing aids were fitted, but he showed no response to any sounds despite the aids being at their maximum setting. We never heard his voice until six weeks after his cochlear implant was switched on at 13 months of age. He now has about 30 words, is responding to and understanding many more, and dances when he hears music.
However, he has no idea where sound comes from. This is a constant worry as he grows and gets more independent. He can’t tell if a lorry is coming down the street from his left, or right, or if it’s behind him. Similarly, when he goes to school, he will have difficulty locating people’s voices, and discerning the teacher’s voice if there is background noise in the classroom.
There is a large body of peer-reviewed research to support not only cochlear implantation for profoundly deaf children, but also evidence is emerging of significantly improved results for children who have bilateral implants, in hearing voices amid noise, the localisation of sounds, and in their quality of speech. More research is needed, but so it is with every new development in medicine.
I have the highest regard for members of the deaf community who have opted for their profoundly deaf children not to have implants. That is their decision, and if they feel their children would be happier and more fulfilled in that community, then hats off to them.
However, I and my husband, as well as many other parents, are abundantly thankful to medical science for the invention of the cochlear implant, and to Prof Laura Viani and her wonderful team in Beaumont, who simply want to provide a world-class service and are hindered because of Government short-sightedness and lack of funding. – Yours, etc,

MB BCh BAO Sir, – I see Colm Kelly (November 1st) is indulging in that love, peculiar to the Free State mindset, of attempting to define away the northern nationalists abandoned in 1922. As a proud Armagh man born and bred I have no problem informing Mr Kelly that my entitlement to describe myself as Irish is not a mere function of my postal address. – Yours, etc,
The Mullans,
Co Donegal.

Sir, – Apropos of Frank McNally’s Irishman’s Diary (October 24th) regarding nuances of certain Hiberno-English words, he refers to a nursery child who had not been collected from school. An American friend recently corrected me for using a similar expression, pointing out that children are “picked up” from school but garbage is “collected”! – Yours, etc,
Beechwood Lawn,
Dún Laoghaire,

Sir, – Msgr Dermot Lane, president of the Mater Dei Institute, suggests the Catholic Church should reinvent itself as Fianna Fáil has done in recent years (Patsy McGarry, Front page, November 1st). If the monsignor ever decides to leave the institute, perhaps he might consider a new career as a stand-up comedian. – Yours, etc,
Albert Park,

Sir, – Well said, Vincent Hibbert (October 29th), in relation to the logic-defying increase in public transport fares, and the inane attempts at justification by the NTA spokesperson.
We will soon have no public transport system if this logic persists; a spiral of unaffordability driving further fare increases which drives further drop in usage due to unaffordability, etc, etc. – Yours, etc,
Shanliss Avenue,

Irish Independent:

Madam – November brings timely reminders of the lives that were lost during various world wars – none more so than former alumni of Trinity College who paid the ultimate price on the various battlefields of the Second World War. And yet there is no extant memorial to their sacrifice. It would appear that they have been written out of the story.
Also in this section
Bright minds can help bring a dose of reality
Sinn Fein hypocrisy
Tackle ‘fat tax’ head on
Consequently, the Trinity College Dublin War Memorial Project has been inaugurated to support a campaign to erect a memorial within the college to remember their heroic dead of the Second World War.
Peter Mulvany, Co-ordinator,
Trinity College War Dublin Memorial Project, Dublin 3.
Madam –Yippee, the recession is over! Oh, didn’t you know?
Well, it must be over because, while flicking through your Life magazine, I was pleased to see that winter coats are “only” from about €500 to €2,000. And the ‘Masterchef’ Marco Pierre White is giving a jolly good lunch at his new Donnybrook premises for outrageous prices. And this, when cuts are being made right, left and centre in “ordinary” people’s incomes. And while your paper is continually berating the present Government for its profligacy. Shame on you!
Kitty Carroll,
Kilmallock, Co Limerick
Madam – All the media coverage on the state of the health service is forgetting to mention the fate of older people in our hospitals. They are waiting for increases in their home care packages or for nursing homes. On average, this process is taking two to three months for each person. This is leaving our older people open to increasing risks of re-infection and depression as they wait for these services to be set up.
It is very difficult and frustrating for the hospital staff to see this situation continue. This process is inefficient and financially wasteful to taxpayers. This is causing major delays in hospital discharges and increasing A&E waiting times.
It would be wonderful if the Sunday Independent would start the discussion on people preparing for their old age. In particular, who is going to fund the nursing care?
Johann Doohan,
Ballymote, Co Sligo
Sunday Independent

Madam – Well done, Emer O’Kelly, but we should not be surprised at various Sinn Fein events and actions which are offensive to ordinary decent people given that they have been led to believe that anything they do or say will not lead to serious questioning, challenge or outcry at their hypocrisies by most media commentators.

Let’s look, for instance, at their approach and contrasting stances to child abuse; towards Cardinal Brady on the one hand and towards Gerry Adams on the other; in the matter of failure to report incidents of child abuse.
Likewise their high moral stance on recent incidents involving Roma children contrasts with their involvement in what was described in an article by Prof Liam Kennedy (Sunday Independent, October 24), as the worst form of child abuse in western Europe. This was in reference to their practice of blowing the knees or ankles off children as young as 12 or 13.
They must find comfort in the fact that those atrocities raised less controversy than hare coursing or fox hunting.
Pat O’Mahony
Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin
Sunday Independent

Madam – I refer to articles written by Niamh Horan: ‘No running away from it – you are what you eat’ (Sunday Independent, October 27) and ‘Reilly chews the fat as nation gets more obese’ (Sunday Independent, October 20). First of all, I would like to congratulate Ms Horan for having the courage to broach the subject of the ‘Minister for Health James Reilly’s waistline’, which has indeed been ‘the elephant in the room’ for far too long.
There is no doubt that her article was not a personal attack on Dr Reilly, but rather an opportunity to put important information out into the public arena – information that was badly required in an effort to highlight the increase in obesity and the danger to health that it causes.
I was, however, disappointed to learn that the government spin-doctors’ response was to ignore what I believe were some of the most poignant points that Ms Horan was alluding to in her first article. For example, the fact that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan ignored the representation made by Dr Reilly prior to the 2014 Budget? Ms Horan also mentioned that the Department of Health had previously admitted that obesity was ‘a ticking timebomb’. She also said, and I quote: ‘Junk food is far more addictive than cocaine.’ It was clear that Ms Horan had every right to question why a so-called ‘fat tax’ – a levy on fattening food and beverages – was ignored in the Budget?
Surely the most important thing regarding obesity is not about trying to make the Minister for Health look good by having him pose for a photograph with a large bowl of fruit – but all about tackling the matter head on and for Dr Reilly and the Government to take the risk to rattle the cage of the all-powerful food companies by introducing the proposed ‘fat tax’.
Derry-Ann Morgan,
Naul, Co Dublin
Sunday Independent
Madam – Over the years I have threatened to go on diets, write to a paper, all the usual stuff. I’ve stopped buying your paper on a number of occasions because of some of the anti-Northern nationalist tripe spewed out with glee by some of your regular contributors.
I am a card-carrying GAA member in my 40s. I had the luck to meet some Northern Irish people on holidays over 25 years ago; we became firm friends. Over the years, myself and my family have had the pleasure of meeting people from all persuasions in the ‘black wee north’. I used to sing Wolfe Tones songs in full voice but no more. If I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that we should be slow to judge those who’ve lived through the conflict in Ulster.
Emer O’Kelly’s article (Sunday Independent, October 27) sums up the type of attitude we need to move away from in the Republic if we are to ever understand the conflict and the people on all sides with whom we share this island.
Over the years, the reason I continued to buy your newspaper was for the sports section. For a time, I would insert the sports section into my changed choice of Sunday weekly. Eamon Sweeney’s article on the back page last week relating to Northern GAA clubs saved me from resorting to my old habits.
John O’Brien,
Sandyford, Dublin 18

Madam – Congratulations on your article about Christy Moore (Sunday Independent, October 27). When the diaspora was on its knees, Christy gave us the confidence to stand up.
Bobby Gilmore, SSC,
Dalgan Park, Navan
Sunday Independent

Madam – Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, October 27, 2013) rightly drew attention to the racism which is prevalent throughout Irish society; be it a throw-away comment or something more insidious, it is something we encounter far too often. I believe this stems from post-colonial insecurities we have yet to rid ourselves of.
Also in this section
Bright minds can help bring a dose of reality
Sinn Fein hypocrisy
Tackle ‘fat tax’ head on
After nearly 100 years of independence, it is apparent we are still not comfortable with our identity. This can be seen in the innocuous (but often deluded) chant on the football terraces, “You’ll never beat the Irish”, or by the seemingly harmless desire to be loved by everyone. This betrays a lack of confidence in ourselves as a people and shows we have yet to assert ourselves as a confident nation.
Still, we have much to be proud of: we are one of the leading nations when it comes to private charity donations, and a recent report showed we are one of Europe’s least developed nations (building/ land ratio). Let us keep it that way and enjoy it together with whoever chooses to make this beautiful island their home.
John Bellew,
Dunleer, Co Louth
Madam – I would like to thank councillor Malcolm Byrne for bringing to our attention the unbelievable waste of money handed out to gangsters’ molls so they can visit their men in prison. For the crimes they have committed the guilty should be severely punished. They should be deprived of getting to see their loved ones for the duration of their sentence. The money saved could then be used as a pension for a deserving 70-year-old justice mandarin or politician for one year. Thank you again, Mr Byrne.
Danny Conroy,
Ballymoe, Co Galway
Madam – I write regarding Gene Kerrigan’s article about police accountability. (Sunday Independent, October 27, 2013).
I don’t wish to make any judgement on the case of the Roma child in Tallaght. However, I wish to pose the following scenario to Mr Kerrigan. If the gardai simply made inquiries and left the house, and if the family left the address and could not later be found, I am sure Mr Kerrigan would be outraged that the gardai were negligent in the execution of their duty. Gardai have to make a judgement call at the scene, and sometimes this can be very difficult.
He seems to think that gardai should not be allowed to investigate other gardai. I can assure him that complaints against gardai are thoroughly investigated. I am aware of a number of gardai who have received prison sentences over the years. All of those cases were investigated by their fellow officers. As a retired garda, I can assure Mr Kerrigan that wrongdoing by any garda is frowned on by colleagues.
M Fitzpatrick,
Madam – Seymour Hersh recently addressed a packed audience at City University, in London’s summer school on investigative journalism, and described how he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize because of his exposition of the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, and how he was the first reporter to uncover the pictures of the American soldiers brutalising Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib.
He said that investigative journalism in the US is being killed by the crisis of confidence, lack of resources and a misguided notion of what the job entails. “Too much of it seems to me is looking for prizes. It’s journalism looking for the Pulitzer Prize – it’s a packaged journalism – looking for easy stories without any real investigative journalism present. When he was asked what the solution is, he responded: “I’ll tell you the solution – get rid of 90 per cent of the editors that now exist and start promoting editors that you can’t control.”
Needless to remark, none of Mr Seymour’s speech was covered by the Irish mass media.
Vincent J Lavery,
Dalkey, Co Dublin
Madam – Michael McDowell wrote re- the encyclical Humanae Vitae: “Confession of the error of that encyclical would not weaken the church; it would strengthen it. It could do wonders for the revival of the church as a community of the people of God.” (Sunday Independent, October 27, 2013).
This is an erroneous opinion. The opposite is the truth. Jesus told Pilate that he was born and came into the world to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37). Down through the centuries, he has continued to bear witness to the truth, especially through the Magisterium of the church.
Pope Paul VI told priests that they should accept Humanae Vitae because what is written in it is the truth (H.V. n.28). Some people do not appreciate the fact that the strongest argument in theology is that from authority, whereas the strongest in philosophy is that from reason.
Fr Peter O’Grady, OFM,
The Abbey, Galway
Madam – As one having respect for the large intellect of Michael McDowell, I was very puzzled when he stitched together Humanae Vitae and celibate priesthood.
As everybody knows, Humanae Vitae is concerned with the sacredness of potential and unborn life.
Celibate priesthood is simply a commitment to living celibate.
I am still very puzzled.
John Smyth,
Malahide, Co Dublin
Madam – Michael McDowell makes a big mistake comparing Lucinda Creighton’s situation to Derek Keating’s (Sunday Independent, October 27, 2013). Lucinda’s party reneged on their pre-election pro-life promise, and she stood up to that and did what she was voted in to do, while Derek Keating knows that the Catholic Church is pro-life, voted anti-life and suffered the consequences.
Eamon Reilly,
Mullingar, Co Westmeath
Madam – I welcome the interest shown by a politician of the standing of Michael McDowell in the need to reform politics and the church.
However, typical of politicians, his understanding of church reform is superficial. The obsession with sexuality is a trait of the modern world more than it was of the church. For example, celibacy was introduced to protect the church from family dynasties. It had little to do with sex as such. It is a church regulation only and could be dropped at any time, just like the Friday fast. But is it not strange that the church’s moral teaching on questions of justice, charity and peace does not seem to catch the world’s attention in the same way as its teaching on sexual morality?
We must, of course, recognise that the two most powerful instincts in man are the instinct for self-preservation and the preservation of the human species. These instincts are god-given and must be respected; respected, yes, but not exploited. The discipline of reason, which is also a god-given gift, needs to regulate these instincts. Very often it does not. Why? Because we live in a hedonistic society which resents anything which limits its enjoyment and pleasures. It has adopted a relativistic morality which gives it its maximum freedom. This, anyhow, is the age of relativism. Objective reality is old hat. The objective morality of the church is particularly odious to modern society, the spokespersons for which, with few exceptions, are usually the media.
But this wave of hedonism will break, as in the past, on the cold grey stones of reality.
In the meantime, we need the institution that gives witness to objective morality. It is “the truth that makes us free”, not the changing trends of society. These trends may determine the policy of the politician, though one always hopes for the statesman who can rise above the trends of the day.
James Neville,
Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick
Madam – Dr Ruairi Hanley’s criticism of the HSE makes some legitimate points (Sunday Independent, October 27, 2013).
I am aware of the weaknesses, but what Dr Hanley fails to acknowledge is the progress that has been made. The HSE now sees more patients, and many of its new buildings are fit for purpose. Dr Hanley’s suggestions of reform, removing administrators, ending team meetings and paying new consultants the high salaries others have do not inspire my confidence, as administrators are the ones the public deal with first as reception staff.
Team meetings often focus on the most complex cases and getting all involved to work together, and I would rather offer junior doctors decent working hours and career structures than necessarily treating them badly on the promise of a future higher salary.
F Browne,
Dublin 16
Sunday Independent

Dewsbury road

November 3, 2013

3 November 2013 Dewsbury road

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble they have to take the Todd-Hunters to Shanghai but there has been a coup.
Quiet day relaxing after the funeral yesterday get some books from Victory Church Dewsbury road from two South Africans.
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins just under 400, perhaps I’ll win tomorrow


Jonathan Minns
Jonathan Minns was an engineer who showcased the British age of steam at his museum in Sussex

Jonathan Minns at the British Engineerium in Hove Photo: PA
6:12PM GMT 01 Nov 2013
Jonathan Minns , who has died the day after his 75th birthday, was an engineer infused with the spirit of Stephenson and Brunel; entranced by steam and the marvels of mechanical antiquities, he restored a derelict Victorian water pumping station at Hove, Sussex, and transformed it into the “British Engineerium”.
A world-renowned expert in his field, Minns, a maestro of groaning gears, heaving pistons and spinning flywheels, spent more than 40 years researching, conserving and collecting engineering artefacts. With a showman’s flourish, he would often present them using dry ice and video projections, at the same time enthusing about “the rabid sexuality of steam”.
At the Engineerium, the unlikely crowning jewel of his collection was a battered 22in model built by George Stephenson of his famous Locomotion No1, the first engine built by the world’s first locomotive builder. In 1825 the full-size version, originally known as “the Iron Horse”, with Stephenson himself at the controls, took two hours to haul 38 wagons of coal, flour, passengers and engineers from Darlington to Stockton in Co Durham.
As well as steam engines and locomotives Minns collected road, rail, marine and stationary steam engines, traction engines, manufacturers’ nameplates and working tools, hot air and internal combustion engines, domestic tools and assorted memorabilia. Another prize at the Engineerium was the superb 10 metre-high Easton and Anderson beam engine which had been installed in the pumping station in 1875.

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Amid the sweet smell of coal smoke, hot steel, Brasso and machine lubricant, visitors could marvel at an 1802 model engine signed by Richard Trevithick; a scarlet Victorian horse-drawn steam powered fire engine; and (at 14.5 tonnes, the largest exhibit) a gold medal-winning Corliss engine built by Crepelle and Garland of Lille in 1889, for which Minns had outbid a scrap dealer.
Although it was regarded as the most important private collection of its kind, funding was always a problem. Neither government nor the local authority offered financial support; a bid for lottery money failed; and visitors covered only a fraction of the costs. Minns subsidised it by undertaking contract engineering in Britain and abroad, and by designing and building other industrial museums. In 2002 he suffered four heart attacks, an experience he described as “absolutely fascinating”.
Tall and elegant, Minns was at various times an underwater archaeologist, an actor in Paris, a rancher in Mexico, a London plumber, a television presenter, the proprietor of a marriage guidance agency and, for nearly 20 years, a judge for the BBC’s Tomorrow’s World Award for Invention, presented annually by the Prince of Wales.
When his Engineerium closed down in 2006, it was put up for auction — only to be saved at the last minute with a £3 million offer from a local businessman. Currently closed for restoration, it is due to reopen in 2016. Minns marked the closure with some bitterness. “In every other profession, in art, in law, in medicine, in architecture, students are taught the history of the discipline. They understand that the past informs the present,” he said, “but not in engineering, where the past is seen as irrelevant stuff… And yet the world has never had more need of engineers.”
The second of three brothers, Jonathan Ellis Minns was born on October 12 1938 into a family steeped in engineering. His father, the engineer Anthony Minns, kept a shed in the garden and taught his sons about wheels, cogs and rigging; an uncle was the hovercraft inventor Sir Christopher Cockerell; and his maternal grandfather, Sir Sidney Cockerell, was director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (his other grandfather, Sir Ellis Minns, was Dean of Pembroke College).
While the Cockerell pioneering spirit inspired him, his father’s interest in steam strongly influenced Jonathan’s childhood in a house crammed with working steam models. Through the family shipping company, he enjoyed clambering aboard Thames tugs, treacle barges from the West Indies, a steam pinnace at St Katharine Docks, and visits to many steam pumping stations and watermills all over England.
Educated at Haileybury, at 17 Jonathan enrolled on an engineering apprenticeship with WH Allen in Bedford. A two-year placement with Gulf Oil took him to the United States, working in Boston, Texas, New Orleans and on the oil rigs of the Gulf of Mexico; but when he eventually returned to Gulf Oil in Britain he soon wearied of office life.
While working on restorations for the wealthy antiques dealer and nightclub owner Horace (Hod) Dibben, he remodelled (with his younger brother Patrick) his mother’s beautiful 11th-century house at Ramatuelle, in the South of France, before launching Jonathan Minns Steam in Hollywood Road, Fulham. There he stocked a profusion of Pre-Raphaelite nude images alongside oily engines, all restored to perfection. As well as the steam variety, he surrounded himself with live fashion models and other “beautiful people” of the 1960s London scene, while in the basement amateur engineers learned the intricacies of the lathe.

Jonathan Minns as a man about town in London
At the same time Minns was a consultant on steam engines to Christie’s and ran the firm’s Steam Model and Mechanical Antiquities sales, first in London and eventually at the Engineerium.
In 1971, with a few friends and £350 capital, he saved the Goldstone pumping station in Hove a fortnight before it was due to be demolished. Having managed to persuade the authorities to list it grade II*, Minns started restoring it three years later. It was opened as a Steam Museum in 1976 and subsequently as the British Engineerium.
Among its most popular exhibits were an 18-ton flywheel and “Chain Reaction”, a history of the lavatory illustrated with working examples.
As he assembled his collection, Minns had to recast missing flywheels, melted down for armaments during two World Wars, and cleanse steam engine parts of centuries of oily grime. One engine was found in a mouldering barn, another in a long-forgotten hospital.
Minns’s personal steam artefacts included The Little Gem — a traction engine on which he travelled all over southern England with his restored 1895 showman’s wagon. He also ran Firebird, a steam launch, which he kept at Hurley on the Thames. He restored the Dutch tug Liberty and sailed one of the Dunkirk “little ships”, Providence, a gaff cutter built in Cornwall in 1936.
Minns was concerned that in a post-industrial age people should keep in touch with moving objects. “Pure interpretation is not enough. Someone has to get their hands dirty,” he declared. He deplored the tendency of centres like the Science Museum to put real mechanical objects in storage and instead offer multimedia interactive displays.
“Our fate is a microcosm of the country’s attitude to value-added manufacturing,” Minns reflected. “We make nothing, and we don’t care. We’re not even a nation of shopkeepers, we’re a nation of shelf-stackers — Napoleon must be screaming with laughter.”
With his wife, Vanessa, Jonathan Minns lived at Hellingly in East Sussex in a beautiful watermill that he restored. She and their two daughters survive him.
Jonathan Minns, born October 12 1938, died October 13 2013


Rachel Cooke’s article (“The open spaces where we played are cruelly lost to today’s children”, Comment), rightly draws attention to the diminishing amount of time children spend outdoors.
A National Children’s Bureau report this year showed that 50 years ago there was no difference between the access to, and use of, open spaces and leisure facilities between advantaged and disadvantaged children. Today, there is a ninefold difference.
This huge increase in inequality cannot be reduced by individual parents, however hard they “strive”.
As the social philosopher RH Tawney pointed out 80 years ago: “No individual can create by his isolated action a healthy environment… or eliminate the causes of accidents in factories or streets. Yet these are all differences between happiness and misery and sometimes, indeed between life and death.” 
The current generation of young citizens is paying a very heavy price for the erosion of social income and the hollowing-out of the meaning and content of citizenship, which started in the 1980s. It will take more than vitamin pills to secure the wellbeing of all our children.
Hilary Land Emeritus professor of family policy, University of Bristol
As a GP and the clinical lead for Vitamin D in Liverpool, I was pleased to see an article emphasising the importance of getting outside. Rachel Cooke reminds us that we need to maintain and improve urban environments so people can enjoy the outdoors. This is particularly true in the inner city. I am not surprised at the upsurge in rickets.
I was all the more shocked to read her comments about Liverpool One. This development has dramatically improved a grotty part of Liverpool, previously featuring grim streets and a piece of mostly unused and unloved waste ground.
I have just returned from there on a sunny afternoon, where the green space, fountain area, extensive walkway and wide steps were full of people enjoying the sun, splashing in the fountains, sitting on the steps and on the grass.
I am passionate about Liverpool and we are fortunate in having many green spaces, including in some of our very deprived areas. As for private funding: would someone tell me what other means there may be, as this government is busy removing money from the city in an unprecedented way?
Dr Katy Gardner Liverpool
Rachel Cooke is correct in bemoaning the loss of open spaces where children can play and the effects of this on physical health Equally important, though, is the decline in street play and the potential effects of this on children’s social health.
Growing up in Newcastle upon Tyne, we all “played out”, feeling very fed up when a car spoiled a game of rounders. My sons were lucky enough to have the same experience in Edinburgh, rushing to call out friends to play in the street after school and at weekends.
Now, I see the parents of kids in my street supervising them as they scooter along the pavement or taking them to cycle with them on the roads.
What happened? Parking charges moved relentlessly further out; our street is on the periphery, becoming effectively a park-and-ride street, congested and unsafe for the free and easy play and social life right outside our children’s homes. Did the decision-makers never come and see those children having fun and developing unfettered friendships 20 years ago?
Professor Kathryn Milburn Edinburgh

The reference in your editorial to “low-skill sectors such as social care” exemplifies so many problems (“Time to learn from post-crash economics”, Comment). Caring is not low skill. It is hugely demanding and needs a broad skill set – empathy, basic pharmacology, low gag reflex. I have a PhD and years of academic experience but faced with the task of nursing my elderly mother I floundered.
The problem is presumably that the skills needed for caring are the traditional “womanly” skills and these have always been belittled and devalued by the job market. This is why the people who perform this most crucial (and skilled) of functions are paid miserable wages, have to cope with zero-hours contracts and are being laid off because politicians think anyone can do their job. And should. For no money.
Maddy Gray
Feminists, face the ugly facts
If we really want to challenge the sexism in our culture, then there are two uncomfortable truths for feminists to confront (“Maybe we can develop an app for gender equality”, News). The first is that the prediction that ubiquitous sexually explicit material in the mass media would be hugely socially harmful was right. It is difficult to uphold female dignity in an ultra-permissive society. The second is that female repression is so persistent because women are complicit in it.
History is full of women spurring each other on to damage their bodies out of sexual competitiveness: foot-binding, corsets, plastic surgery, high heels, excessive slimming. Tell it straight and teach our daughters that women who place physical beauty above character, intelligence and wellbeing are mugs, morally wrong, or both.
Helen Jackson
Saffron Walden, Essex
School sums don’t add up
Innumerate politicians are squabbling over “facts” about the relative performance of a handful of free schools (“‘False’ data on free schools attacked”, News) when neither party realises these numbers are not statistically significant. Compared with the other 21,162 state schools in England, they would not be meaningful even on a longer timescale, unless there were a really marked difference.
When New Labour introduced “value added” measures, the Department of Education didn’t understand that individual Sats results for each child at primary school, and not their levels of attainment, had to be compared with GCSE results to have any semblance of validity. Silliest of all are the new tables for “GCSE and equivalent results” for pupils in each council ward. The results are for schools and not the local population, leaving some very odd blanks and distortions in the data, while A-level results are only given at the local education authority level. If the Ucas system can access university applicants’ full postcodes, then why can’t exam boards and the Department of Education get their act together?
David Nowell
New Barnet, Herts
Take the long view on the UK
Your articles on housing and energy reinforced the general point that we should be planning for posterity, not austerity. The UK has been living off capital for decades when it should have been investing. As a consequence, social divides have widened. We should learn from countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden, which all have state investment banks and local authorities that take a much longer and wider perspective. A short-term freeze on energy or any other prices is not enough.
Nicholas Falk
Director, London Office
URBED (Urbanism Environment Design)
London WC1
The fathers who suffer still
Yvonne Roberts’s article about adoption (“I lost my son for 29 years”, Magazine) captured the pain of birth mothers but unfairly dismissed the grief of birth fathers in one sentence: “The men, at worst, had to endure shotgun marriages.” Celia Witney’s research, published in 2004, showed that nearly 80% of birth fathers saw the emotional impact of the adoption as deeper and more lasting than anything else in their lives. I am one of the 1960s’ generation of birth fathers who have found it difficult to deal with the loss. Many of us felt we had let down the mother as well as the baby.
Andrew Ward
Author of The Birth Father’s Tale
Stroud, Glos
Railroaded by the railway
While it is right that any profits from a publicly subsidised service should be returned to the public purse (“Profitable and publicly owned – so why sell it?”, News), the state-owned Directly Operated Railways appear to have adopted Ryanair as their business model: ruthlessly enforcing the conditions of carriage in circumstances where a bit of humanity, common sense, or simply understanding that running the trains is not an end in itself, would suggest some flexibility is in order. While passengers should pay for the service they are using, it is equally important for a company to ensure that clients should get the service they have paid for.
T Lidbetter
Kingston upon Thames

Sifting through an envelope labelled family, I found this photo. I was immediately struck by the man on the left – he reminded me of Captain Birdseye in the old TV adverts. On the back, my father has written, Ayr circa 1918/1920? Frederick (?) Timbury at 90+, Henry Thomas Timbury.
Henry was my great-grandpa and I have a vague recollection that Frederick was my great-great-grandpa. Looking at this photo, though, brings back many happy memories of my own Grandpa Timbury of whom I was particularly fond; Montague Charles Timbury, known as Mont, son of Henry.
I still smile to myself remembering, as a wee girl, how I thought it was very clever to call Grandpa “Polo Mont” and giggled and squealed with delight as he laughed along with me. My father, Gerald, told me that Grandpa’s love of making model ships was a result of his disappointment at not being accepted for the Royal Navy, like most of his predecessors, because of his childhood asthma or “weak chest”. The model ships became his way of maintaining a connection with the navy. A man who was very neat, tidy and hyper-organised (rather like me!), making models – including a replica of the Cutty Sark in a bottle – played to his strengths of exactitude and attention to detail.
Starting out as a boy apprentice in the Glasgow optical engineering firm Barr and Stroud, Grandpa eventually became managing director. One of the greatest prides of his career was that one of his radar designs was stationed in Singapore in the second world war to detect enemy ships for the Royal Navy. My own father broke with the nautical tradition and became a consultant psychiatrist, but he too loved boats. Together we went fishing and sailing while he, upholding Timbury tradition, puffed on his pipe.
Along with the naval heritage, there is a long history of only children through the Timbury generations, and I feel sad that, having no other Timbury relatives nor children of my own, this family of seamen will end after my passing. How special, therefore, to have this old photograph and mark its significance with this story.
Judy McCulloch
Playlist: Dad doing the funny voices
New York Telephone Conversation by Lou Reed
“I was sleeping, gently napping / when I heard the phone / Who is on the other end talking / am I even home”
New York Telephone Conversation from Lou Reed’s Transformer album.
My mother’s side of the family is the creative half. The eldest sister is (still) a hippie, the second was so deeply immersed in Berlin’s art scene in the 70s and 80s that she told me to call David Bowie “uncle” – they had an affair – the third is a singer and musician and my mother is a theatre and TV actress. My father is a professor of immunology.
But it was he who introduced me to the records that first shaped me. I was five when my parents separated, after which my father moved into flatshares with a handful of other twenty and thirtysomethings. It was incredibly fun – I was allowed to ride a bicycle in the hallway. Play Sim City on his boxy Macintosh. Hang self-made anti-George Bush Sr posters in the hallway.
I also got to run my fingers through his record collection. If I washed and dried my hands first and was supervised, that is. Lou Reed’s Transformer and the Beatles’ White Album both got me, immediately. Nothing made me giggle as much as my father replying to my early morning requests with a rendition of I’m So Tired.
The lyrics of Transformer were too mature for me, but I learned that Holly went from a he to a she and someone was bold with Harry, Mark and John.
New York Telephone Conversation was the track my dad found particularly funny. He’d sing it to me – he doesn’t sing often – in a nursery-rhyme manner. It was funny because he would act out the voices (“Did you see what she did to him / did you hear what they said?”) and it was poignant because I only saw him every second weekend (“I am calling, yes I am calling just to speak to you / For I know this night will kill me if I can’t be with you”).
Johanna Kamradt
We love to eat: Auntie’s Yorkshire parkin
Auntie Kath’s Yorkshire parkin.
2 cups medium oatmeal
1 ½ cups plain flour
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
6oz (170g) margarine
12oz (340g) golden syrup
2 eggs, plus a drop of milk
Mix the dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl. Spoon the syrup into a small pan. (Be generous: the stickier the parkin, the better.) Add the margarine, heat until melted, then pour on to the dry ingredients, along with the beaten eggs and milk. Combine to a sloppy mixture, turn into a greased and lined 9in square tin and bake at gas mark 3/160C for 1-1¼ hours. Time to lick the spoon! The parkin is ready when the top is firm to the touch and a glorious golden brown – see my photograph.
Every bonfire night, when I was a child, we used to fatten ourselves up with layers of clothes, pull on our wellies and stomp to the end of the cul-de-sac where our friends lived. They had a sprawling back garden on two tiers and with a steep bank down to the main road below; this was where the big bonfire used to burn.
We’d gather on the top tier for the fireworks display, watching catherine wheels spitting and fizzling out on the tree trunks, sparklers dancing in our hands. Then it was time for the food: the crisped, blackened shells of jacket potatoes full of fallen fluff and melting butter; the brittle, dark bonfire toffee and my mum’s sticky, grainy parkin.
This was Auntie Kath’s recipe – my children love it and we don’t wait for bonfire night to bake it!
Lisa Fisher


Thank you for exposing the scandal of power giants using a loophole to drive down their tax bills (“The other energy scandal: tax avoidance”, 27 October). As a recent pensioner, I am happy to pay tax on my income, just as when I was employed. But it is reasonable to expect that everyone else, including huge companies who make large profits from their UK operations, also pay tax. Please sort out this scandalous state of affairs, Mr Osborne.
Linda Menzies
Joan Smith rightly dismisses Russell Brand’s political posturing (“Spare us the vacuous talk “, 27 October). Proudly declaring that he doesn’t vote, and encouraging others to do likewise, is profoundly irresponsible. Celebrating cynicism benefits no one and insults those who died to preserve our precious right to peacefully change society through the ballot box. The young deserve better leadership.
Stan Labovitch
Windsor, Berkshire
In the aftermath of all this revolution will you, Mr Brand, hang about the decimated streets of our towns and cities to help sweep up the destruction of homes and livelihoods? Or will you be jetting home to your Hollywood Hills mansion?
Angela Jenner
Macclesfield, Cheshire
Jane Merrick is correct in highlighting the apathy that exists in young voters (“Young voters are bolder than Brand”, 27 October). However, the way we cast our votes is archaic. It is time to introduce internet voting. Yes there would be security issues but there would, I think, be a surge in voting. Times have changed – simple as that.
Tony Webb
I live part-time in a small Andalucian village in Spain where quite a few of my neighbours are “gypsies”, (“Grim history of the Roma is no fairy tale”, 27 October) who work, worship, and live in houses alongside the other inhabitants. As in the rest of Spain, the Roma have integrated. There are some in the cities who operate in the drugs and crime world, just as the non-Roma do. And their traditions, particularly their love of Flamenco music and dancing, are celebrated worldwide. What is happening elsewhere in Europe is the obvious result of marginalisation and exclusion, and the shameful scapegoating by individuals and governments for their own interests.
Mo McIntyre
Hove, East Sussex
Sue Lewis criticises the “middle class value judgments” of those who campaign against payday loan companies.(“Payday loans defended by new consumer champion”, 27 October).
She says that bank charges on overdrafts and unpaid credit card bills are a bigger problem.
In a recent study, we found that many very low-income households tended not to have credit cards or bank accounts. They used high-cost credit providers – doorstep lenders, rent-to-own companies, catalogues and payday loans. To tackle the problems faced by people on very low incomes, as well as wealthier people who take on too much credit, it is vital that there is much tighter regulation of all high-cost credit.
Professor Sarah Banks
School of Applied Social Sciences Durham University, Durham
We don’t have to buy “two for one” just because they’re offered to us (“Let’s check out of this supermarket swizz”, 27 October). I don’t like wasting food so I don’t buy more than I need. It isn’t rocket science! (Pun intended.)
Sara Neill,
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
According to my 2013 Whitaker’s Almanack, Birmingham has a population of 1,073,000, compared to Glasgow’s 592,800. So it is not being anti-Scottish to call Birmingham Britain’s second city (Letters, 27 October).
Tim Mickleburgh,
Grimsby, Lincolnshire
Stephen Brenkley lists 12 English captains to have won the Ashes in Australia (“Cook faces toughest test”, 27 October). Surely he forgets one of the best: Raymond Illingworth. He is still alive and well and has not been subject to any of the unusual ends of other captains listed.
Peter Brookes


English lit must stay a core subject
UNDER the government’s reforms, the English GCSE, which covers language and literature, will no longer be available to pupils. The proposed content of the new language GCSE narrows the field of study, while the new literature exam contains more challenging texts than the existing syllabuses. English language has a designated “core” status, while English literature will become an optional GCSE subject.
There is great concern among teachers and academics — and beyond — that the reduction of English literature to an optional status will result in a drop in the number of pupils taking it at GCSE and in the take-up of the subject at A-level and at university. We are also concerned that because those students who are not being entered for GCSE English literature will be assessed only on unseen texts in the English language exam, they will have limited opportunity to read and study whole novels and plays. We believe that both English language and literature are worthy of study and public assessment; in fact, an integrated approach to the subjects is the most fruitful for students and teachers. Both aspects of English should be given core status at GCSE.
Michael Morpurgo, Author, poet and playwright, Robert Harris, Novelist, John Carey, Professor of English literature, Oxford University, Professor AC Grayling, Master of New College of the Humanities, John Sutherland, Professor of English literature, University College London, David Crystal, Professor of linguistics, Bangor, Professor Robert Eaglestone, Royal Holloway, University of London, Professor Philip Davis, Liverpool University, Dr Jennifer Wallace, Cambridge University, Dr Bethan Marshall, King’s College London, chairwoman of National Association for the Teaching of English, Professor Christine Hall, Nottingham University, Roger Scruton, Visiting professor, Oxford and St Andrews, Dr Andrew Green, Brunel University, Miriam Margolyes, Actress, Sheila Hancock, Actress, Susanna Jones, Award-winning novelist, Tom Healy, professor of Renaissance Studies, Sussex University, Michael Rosen, writer and former Children’s Laureate, Morlette Lindsay, lecturer, Institute of Education, London, Sarah Butler, lecturer, Sheffield Hallam University, Jane Coles, lecturer, Institute of Education, John Gordon, lecturer, University of East Anglia, Prof Philip Davis, head of the Centre for Research into Reading, Information and Linguistic Systems, Liverpool University, Dr Jennifer Wallace, directs English studies at Peterhouse, Cambridge University, Professor Christine Hall, head of education, Nottingham University, Dr Andrew Green, senior lecturer, Brunel University, Mick Connell, lecturer, Sheffield University, Simon Gibbs, former chair of NATE, John Hodgson, Lecturer, University of the West of England and chair of NATE post-16 and higher education committee, Moyra Beverton, teacher and education consultant, Jane Bluett, teacher, Susan Cockcroft, teacher, Jean Dourneen, senior teaching fellow, Bristol University, Marcello Giovanelli, lecturer, Nottingham University, Ann Harris, teacher, Marcella McCarthy, vice principal, Gary Snapper, teacher

Taking the gene out of genius for pupil IQ tests
ROBERT PLOMIN claims that genetics is “the biggest factor by far” in predicting academic success, and that IQ is the “best predictor we have of success in later life” (“Genes test may find top pupils”, News, last week).
But Professor Plomin’s own data implies that genetic differences between pupils account for less than 60% of the variation in GCSE exam results, and although IQ scores certainly do predict educational success, there is only a limited correlation between IQ and GCSE results. So environmental differences and factors other than IQ are also very significant.
As for the idea that genetic screening will identify children with lower abilities — and presumably also those with higher ones — the pursuit of the genes “for” intelligence has so far proved singularly unsuccessful.
A recent report by the US academic Christopher Chabris and his colleagues, based on three studies that tested nearly 10,000 people, failed to replicate any previously reported claim to have identified a gene associated with variation in IQ. Its title was Most Reported Genetic Associations with General Intelligence Are Probably False Positives — that is to say untrue.
Nicholas Mackintosh, Department of Psychology, University of Cambridge
Healthy environment
Your article on genes and IQ frightened me. My fear is that my grandchildren’s education may suffer if politicians are guided by people such as Plomin. Charles Darwin observed that species changed in shape and size to suit the environment in different parts of the world.
Our children are also influenced by environmental factors such as wealth, ambitious parents, good teachers and numerous other things. For example, I have seen children who were below average gain A and A* grades after numerous expensive private lessons.
Denzil Morgan, Swansea
Flair for the dramatic
The desire to learn is perhaps the best gift we can bestow on our children. Youngsters need a broad, balanced curriculum to find out how best to find and live this passion. Your report of GCSEs being sorted into “hard” and “soft” disciplines (“Axeing of soft GCSEs to hit PE and drama”, News, last week) shows that examination boards are not just simply wrong — so actors aren’t “intelligent”? — but are also condemning many to live their lives without their passion being justly recognised.
Mark Featherstone-Witty, The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
Physical development
Subjects such as PE are misunderstood: there is a lot more to it than running round a field. A large percentage of PE is theory and includes a significant amount of biology. All this talk also goes against the grain, especially after recent initiatives to drive the interest in sport, including the Olympics.
Pindi Sandhu (16) Studying for a career in sport

Clear-sighted MPs show vision on Heathrow hub
THE article by Nick Raynsford and Bernard Jenkin (“A Thames airport to end the nightmare”, Comment, last week) on the need to replace Heathrow with a new terminal restores my faith that we have MPs who can throw off the myopic focus on the next election and do what is right.
If we can only get a few more with vision to see HS2 for the obsolete project it is and replace it with a Maglev project, similar to the magnetic levitation train in Shanghai, or look at the Hyperloop proposed between Los Angeles and San Francisco that will make HS2 look like a horse and cart. If money is an issue we could scrap Trident, which should be named HMS Good Money After Bad.
Russell Sage, By email
Third way
Raynsford and Jenkin make a spirited case for a new London airport. However, the total cost will not be £24bn but about £70bn. An estuary hub would not be in the right place. The bulk of Heathrow traffic comes from the north and west of Britain, not the south and east. Stansted is half empty. An estuary airport will be like Canada’s Montreal-Mirabel terminal, a white elephant, especially if the airlines decide to decamp to Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris or Madrid. Most importantly, a new estuary airport could take decades to come on line yet the crisis in London airport capacity is here and now.
More than 2m UK passengers travel via Schiphol in Amsterdam to pick up connections to the global air service network. Amsterdam is connected to 22 UK airports; Heathrow currently seven.
Whatever option is proposed by the Davies commission, a third runway at Heathrow is going to have to be built if we are to be a major aviation hub.
Andrew Brookes, Director, The Air League
Plane crazy
Making a first visit to Kew Gardens we were appalled at the sight of planes descending into Heathrow every few minutes at what appeared to be chimney-pot height. How anybody in their right mind could consider continuing subjecting human beings to this cacophony and danger is beyond comprehension.
Gerald Edmonds, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Flying doctor
In all the NHS debates, newly qualified doctors are hardly mentioned. My son recently qualified as a GP and has been offered £50,000 a year, the average salary of workers at the Grangemouth oil refinery in Falkirk. He is 29, and in the past 10 years he has never been on holiday without a pile of books to study. He is going to Australia or Canada along with 12 of his year group because there is no respect or a decent salary here. I’m devastated — not so much as a mum, but for the loss to the NHS.
Name and address withheld

Crying foul over selfish dog owners
I HAVE little sympathy for the dog owners (“Dog bans get pet lovers hot under collar”, News, October 20). All too often lanes, parks and country walks are turned into dog lavatories that make them no-go areas.
The clampdown has reduced the amount of dog mess on our streets but has left us with another problem — bags of canine waste dropped on the ground, or left hanging from hedges, trees and fences.
My husband and I were walking around a beautiful Jacobean property in Norfolk and despite notices pleading with dog owners not to deposit the bags, the perimeter fence was festooned with them. Many people with dogs are responsible but there are still plenty who are not.
Joanna Holding, Cambridge
Play dirty
Dog owners have been marginalised for good reason — a large number of them promenade with a supercilious air while little Rover defecates at will. During the summer while I was watching a cricket match I saw an elderly gentleman allow his dog to run on to the outfield and foul the pitch, after which this individual carried on without the slightest sign of remorse.
It is not just young thugs who are antisocial where dogs are concerned. I am glad there are playgrounds and gardens to which I can take my children without fear of them being bitten by dogs or blinded by their waste.
Vincent Coster, Dorset
Tail end
Clean, safe beaches are a priority as the Environment Agency works to raise standards before the introduction of the 2015 bathing water directive. Like smoking regulations, this is a matter of public health, not a punishment. The Kennel Club should end its campaign against restrictions on dogs.
Mark Noall, St Ives, Cornwall

Must do better
Your editorial “Mr Cameron snatches defeat from victory” (last week) contends that “the government should be doing well [in the opinion polls]” mainly on the basis of three periods of growth averaging 0.6%. Really? It is not doing well because 2.5m are unemployed, many in work either earn a pittance or do not receive wage increases, inflation is running well above the government’s target, those with hard-earned savings see them eroded, energy prices are soaring — and so on.
David Middlemiss, Beverley, East Yorkshire
Independent thinking
Sir Ian Kennedy, head of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), is rightly concerned about his independence (“Threat to quit by battered overlord of MPs’ salaries”, News, last week). But is he representative of the people of the country? Is there a healthcare worker, teacher or police officer on Ipsa? I doubt they would recommend an 11% pay rise for MPs in 2015.
Vernon Muller, Chelmsford, Essex
Christian soldiers
Dan Snow says religion has co-opted rituals for marriage and death (“God dismissed as atheists honour fallen”, News, last week) but if he studied prehistoric archeology he would know they have always been intertwined. If you talk to many Second World War servicemen they will tell you that they went to church as children, and often to Sunday school. They remember hymns from childhood and a surprising number sang in the choir. It is not possible to say what impact this had on their later lives but they are a more disciplined generation than those that have followed them.
Ann Ferguson, By email
Beyond belief
Well done to Dan Snow et al for providing an alternative to the usual religious service of remembrance. This kind of event would let non-believers such as myself pay their respects and honour the fallen without the religious trappings we find impossible to buy into.
Gill Morse, Southampton
Age of enlightenment
Your report that older audiences are saving the film business is borne out by my two recent visits to the cinema (“Hollywood veterans coax grown-ups back to cinema”, World News, last week). At a senior citizens’ screening of Beyond the Candelabra in Rochdale, a 400-seat venue was almost full. A Bolton cinema was two-thirds full for Captain Phillips and most attending were as snowy-haired as me.
Martin Henfield, Bury, Greater Manchester
Back of the class
The case of the teacher who wrote “you could of” on a child’s work (“Writing wrongs”, Letters, October 20) is not an isolated one. It does seem strange that while pupils are regularly tested and they and their parents are lumbered with hours of homework, prospective teachers are not expected to have acquired the same grasp of English.
Vera Lustig, Walton-on-Thames, Surrey

Corrections and clarifications
Remarks by two former nurses, Richard Harrison and Bob Allen, in the article “Savile’s power as secret king of Broadmoor” (News, last week) should have been attributed to Channel 4 News. The attribution was removed in editing. We apologise for the error.
The article “Prisoners gloat over medical records of sex assault victims” (News, last week) referred to “recent research commissioned by Dominic Grieve, the attorney-general” on medical records of sex assault victims. The information, in fact, came from a report by Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate, which is an independent body.
■ Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission ( or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)

Adam Ant, singer, 59; Roseanne Barr, comedian and actress, 61; Ben Fogle, television presenter, 40; Viscount Linley, 52; Lulu, singer, 65; Dolph Lundgren, actor, 56; Marilyn, singer, 51; Dylan Moran, comedian and actor, 42; Jacqui Smith, former Labour home secretary, 51; Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, 64; Ian Wright, footballer, 50; Dwight Yorke, footballer, 42

1534 Act of Supremacy makes Henry VIII head of the Church of England; 1843 the first half of Nelson’s statue is sited on top of the column in Trafalgar Square — it was completed the following day; 1903 Panama declares independence from Colombia; 1954 death of Henri Matisse; 1957 the Soviet Union launches Sputnik II, carrying Laika, the first dog in space; 1978 Dominica gains independence from the UK


SIR – I have been trying to make voice contact with Scottish Power for three days without success.
First, I have to dial an expensive 0800 number. Then, I’m told that, due to the high density of calls requesting information about its products, there will be a half-hour wait.
When I finally press five to talk to someone, I’m told that, to save holding on, I can leave my number and they will call back. “You won’t lose your place in the queue” – but the wait will be between four and six hours.
Having been told there is a 30-minute delay at the start, it looks as though the company does not want to talk to me, and that I most certainly will lose my place in the queue.
In desperation I have sent two emails and have been told I will receive a reply in five days. What sort of business is this?
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I have just done as David Cameron suggested and bought two electric radiators to heat my bedroom and drawing room to save heating the whole house with gas central heating.
All I want to know is how much extra I have spent on electricity since I have been using them.
The Scottish Power bills are too complicated to work this out myself.
Belinda Brocklehurst
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Helping possible immigrants to stay at home
SIR – David Cameron is right to focus on education, welfare and immigration policy as a means of helping young British people compete for jobs with immigrants from Eastern Europe.
This, however, is only one element of what his Government can do to level the playing field. It is equally important that Britain and its EU allies encourage the immigrants’ home countries to pursue sound economic policies that would lessen the likelihood of their workers seeking employment in Britain in the first place.
Two of the poorest countries in the EU, Bulgaria and Romania, will have worker travel restrictions removed in January 2014. Our study of Romania’s economy found that Victor Ponta, the prime minister, and his parliament are at a crucial point for decision-making, where their policy choices could either set the country on a course to Western-style prosperity or relegate it to the status of an impoverished backwater.
It is up to Mr Cameron and other Western leaders to encourage countries such as Romania to make the kind of choices that give the best chance of economic success. The alternative would be disastrous for domestic prosperity and have profound consequences for the job market in Britain and elsewhere.
Patrick Basham
Director, Democracy Institute
Washington DC
SIR – Graeme Archer’s article on immigration was highly thought-provoking. No other country has an open-door policy like Britain’s. If politicians in Austria promoted this “to keep wage levels down”, their capacities would be seriously questioned.
A far more simple and orderly way of controlling wage levels is by negotiation between workers’ and employers’ representatives. In Austria and Germany, this is called the “social partnership” and it works quite well. Youth unemployment in both countries is among the lowest in the EU.
Janet Muehlbacher
Ulrichskirchen, Austria

SIR – Overseas investors in British property should not be exempt from capital gains tax. But the Government should think carefully before slapping capital gains tax on everybody just to hit short-term speculators.
France has a system that makes speculators pay without penalising long-term investment in property. As in Britain, the main residence is exempt. On second homes or investment properties, capital gains tax is payable at the full rate for the first five years. Each subsequent year sees a reduction of 10 per cent, until after about 20 years there is no tax to pay.
France also allows for the erosion of money so gains are adjusted each year for inflation. This means that any investor who acquired property 20-30 years ago will not pay any tax on the increase in values.
Peter Fieldman
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Care pathway evidence
SIR – It is ironic that Margaret Kendall, a leading nurse, should make anecdotal claims of patient suffering now following condemnation by the Neuberger Report of the similarly evidence-free Liverpool Care Pathway.
Many in palliative care seem to remain as unwilling now to accept Lady Neuberger’s findings as they were to investigate earlier reports of severe suffering and harm caused by the Liverpool Care Pathway.
It is profoundly disturbing that the Liverpool Care Pathway should continue in use at all, whether under its own name, or, increasingly, in derivative or “rebadged” forms.
Dr R J Clearkin
Harborough, Leicestershire
Two-poppy lapel
SIR – My father was a pacifist and a conscientious objector during the war. I have always admired him for the strength of his beliefs and worn the white “peace” poppy at this time of year for him.
I often explain that it is also in memory of those who fought and gave their lives for whom I have a similar great respect. But should I wear both a red and a white poppy to avoid any misunderstanding?
Ann Hewitt
Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire
Notable likeness
SIR – The Bank of England has made a brave attempt at conveying what Jane Austen could have looked like. There was never the remotest possibility that this would be a close likeness.
Since the only known lifetime image of Jane Austen is a feebly drawn amateur effort by her sister, which only replicates the conventionally fashionable idiom of the period, it affords no more reliable evidence of her appearance than the banknote.
Michael Liversidge
Emeritus Dean, Faculty of Arts
University of Bristol
Mystery remedies
SIR – I am intrigued. How do readers discover these wackadoodle remedies? Was the unwrapped bar of soap that prevents night cramps put in the bed by accident? Was someone else dissecting the broad beans that cure warts?
Rosie Harden-Vane
Holywell, Northumberland
Colombo bound
SIR – Peter Oborne’s claims that ministers are treating the Commonwealth with “contempt” could not be further from the truth. In our Coalition Agreement, we promised we would “strengthen the Commonwealth as a focus for promoting democratic values and development”. That is what we have done.
We worked with Australia to ensure that in 2011 the Commonwealth adopted the most significant reforms in its recent history, including the adoption of a historic Commonwealth charter. We have increased the number of FCO staff working with the Commonwealth on trade, development and good governance, in London and in Sierra Leone, South Africa, Ghana and Mozambique.
We are its largest financial contributor – providing approximately a third of funding. The Department for International Development is now spending more in Commonwealth countries because we want to support its members’ development. We ministers take pride in the Commonwealth as a legacy of our great history and a unique diplomatic asset for the future, underpinned by common values.
Because we attach such importance to its future, we are attending the Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo shortly – in the teeth of opposition in some quarters. We want the Commonwealth to take action on the things that matter to Britain, so we need to be at the table – and we will be, now and in the future.
Hugo Swire MP (Con)
Minister for the Commonwealth
London SW1
Grade 9 returns
SIR – After 50 years of shame I can finally display my grade 9 certificate for O-level biology with pride.
Adrian Buck
Wantage, Oxfordshire

SIR – Further to comments by Tessa Munt, the parliamentary private secretary to Vince Cable, the real problem would be that the jam at 50 per cent sugar solids would no longer be microbiologically stable.
In the Fifties, sugar solids of jams were 67 per cent, making them microbiologically stable. At lower solids, the only people to benefit would be jam producers, who could sell more jam (and water), as more jam is thrown away because it has gone mouldy.
Peter Hull
Hoo, Kent
SIR – Tampering with the amount of sugar means British companies will not be delivering “delicious British jam” to the world as the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs imagines. If too little sugar is used, jam decays sooner, particularly in warm climates, and will not reflect the quality for which Britain is renowned.
Instead, British jam, if it is fully made in the United Kingdom to the traditional fruit-sugar ratio, should be given Protected Geographical Indication by the EU.
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Congresbury, Somerset
SIR – Shop-bought jams may be heading for a transformation into coloured gloop but I won’t be reducing the sugar in my home-made Seville orange marmalade. I occasionally end up with a “soft-set” batch, but storing it in the fridge will solve that.
The correct amount of sugar is essential to give Seville marmalade that wonderful bitter-sweet “kick”. Roll on January.
Michele Platman
SIR – The normal ratio of sugar to fruit for home jam-making is 50-50. Only sour fruit (such as citrus, for marmalades) may need more sugar. Using jam sugar for low-pectin fruit or combining high and low types (pear with damson) avoids runniness. Preserving-sugar enhances the beautiful colour of jellies. Otherwise, granulated does the job.
Penny Ann McKeon
Henfield, West Sussex
SIR – Surplus pumpkin can become angel’s hair (cabello de ángel). Cover 4lb pumpkin chunks with water. Simmer 20 minutes. Drain, cool and shred. Put 2lb sugar in a pan with ½ tsp ground saffron, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp ground ginger and juice of 2 lemons. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved, add the pumpkin strings, boil for an hour until setting point is reached, cool, put into warm jars and seal. Ideal with ice-cream.
Rev David Johnson
SIR – Mrs Munt believes British preserves keep for a year. We are enjoying my mother’s 1968 quince and crab-apple jelly.
Nick Cowley
Nuthurst, West Sussex

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:
In most matters of tribulation, a point is inevitably reached when you end up saying enough is enough.
Also in this section
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Tackle ‘fat tax’ head on
We must change Northern attitude
The latest announcement by Revenue about the payment of the controversial property tax reached this point for me, and it showed clearly that this Government’s brass neck has not dulled.
Revenue’s statement that those opting to pay this tax for 2014 by either cheque or debit card can expect to have the money deducted instantly after the November 27 deadline left even a hardened cynic like me aghast.
Not only have they swooped upon the property-owning populace – who will receive absolutely nothing in return for this cash grab – but they have the gall to demand that the money be given to them ahead of the year in question.
But please remember, none of this is their fault. It’s those nasty banks yet again.
Revenue’s website has the temerity to blame the fact that the money will be instantly deducted more than five weeks before the year of the tax itself on “the nature of the banking and credit card systems”!
Obviously, the simple expedient of allotting a deadline in January or February 2014 just did not occur to them.
Never mind that this course of action will be monumentally unpopular and massively unfair (the Government has long since abandoned any such considerations with regard to these matters) but have our leaders even half-considered the gross economic stupidity of sucking millions of euro out of a half-dead economy at precisely the time of year when the hard-pressed citizen might be prepared to part with at least some of their dwindling cash?
JD Mangan
Stillorgan, Co Dublin
* The State spent €100m on the Ballymore Eustace water plant when it had the money to burn.
Now that the country is bankrupt, there is not an earthly chance that we can do the necessary repairs to address our water needs.
I dread to think what the infrastructure around the country will look like about 10 years from now. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that parts of the country will resemble scenes from Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic thriller ‘The Road’.
Sean Mc Phillips
College Point, New York
* Those reading your Motoring section’s review of the new S-Class Mercedes (Irish Independent, October 30) will either be salivating with anticipation at getting one or seething with rage at the injustice of the road tax regime.
Isn’t there some irony that in a bankrupt country, a person who can afford a €100,000 car will only pay some €200 or less in road tax, whereas the vast majority of the downtrodden, taxed-into-oblivion masses pay over €700 for an old, two-litre family car?
Of course, the mantra is trotted out again and again that the older cars are contributing more to climate change than the newer models. The dogs in the street know that the politicians don’t lose sleep over global warming but the excuse is a nice little earner for the Exchequer.
History will record these times as a period of great unfairness and injustice by the Government towards its people.
John Hughes
Clonbur, Co Galway
* “Innovative and interesting” – that’s the phrase that best describes Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s decision to engage Willie Walsh, current head of International Airlines Group (IAG), British Airways and Iberia’s parent company, as chairman of the advisory committee of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) (Irish Independent October 29).
It is a real breath of fresh air when one realises that this vast wealth of knowledge and experience is being tapped free of charge. The former Aer Lingus boss had a salary of £1.08m (€1.3m) from his day job last year, but won’t earn a cent from the NTMA.
Come to think of it, hasn’t the boss of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary – another world leader – been advising the Government where to “get on and get off” for years, and has charged them nothing for it?
It would be another real coup for Mr Noonan if he succeeded in roping him into the NTMA on an official basis, similar to Mr Walsh’s role. Mr O’Leary’s vast experience would be a mighty asset.
Incidentally, I would like to compliment Mr Noonan on his foresight in selecting Mr Walsh and in realising that those of “sky-high ambitions” are undoubtedly a cloud above the rest of the posse.
James Gleeson
Thurles, Co Tipperary
* I refer to an article by David McWilliams (Irish Independent, October 30).
I always get depressed when some economic expert writes, “it is just like the 1980s”. The time we live in is unlike any other in history.
The great economic ambitions of past centuries have been spectacularly achieved – the world can produce everything in great abundance and as a consequence “growth” is no longer necessary or possible.
But an endless frenzy to promote growth continues and as long as it does, economics will lurch from boom to bust, with each collapse leaving greater debt and human casualties in its wake. The economics of “growth” have been replaced by the economics of sufficiency or “enough”.
The economics of work have been replaced by the economics of “automation”, which, without policies to create more jobs from less work, will lead to unsustainable unemployment.
That is why the 21st Century is totally unlike any other period in history.
It is a remarkable time with great potential, but we will realise this potential only if we can adapt an out-of-date, ineffective economic philosophy to manage an entirely new and wonderful technological age, unlike anything ever experienced before.
Padraic Neary
Co Sligo
* The fluid situation regarding water supplies at the moment reminds me of the advice given to consumers in Britain during a long, hot summer by Ken Dodd: “When having a bath, just fill the water to a depth of six inches . . . that should cover it.”
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont, Dublin 9
* Your letters page on October 31 showed an interesting and contrasting view on the quality of the programmes on radio and television these days.
Using phrases such as “enthralled”, “top-notch drama” and “excellent narrative”, Aaron McCormack asked whether we have “reached the pinnacle of television”.
Gary Cummins, on the other hand, came to the conclusion that we are “being insulted with the general lack of quality in the programmes being screened” to the extent that they are “an affront to people’s intelligence”.
The fact that such programmes mirror a decadent and violent society raises questions as to the effect these shows have on the mentality of the the millions who watch them each week.
It also raises questions as to how displaying arrogance and contempt for fellow human beings week after week could be declared the pinnacle of television.
A Leavy
Dublin 13
Irish Independent


November 2, 2013

2 November 2013 Funeral

No jogging around the park today no Leslie No Pertwee no Heather, no Troutbridge for we are off early to pick up Michael and Shanti. Its at Nine am not a bad turn out old friends cares June, and of course us not a bad service well done and the off home
We watch Hancock its not too bad
No Scrabble today


Anca Petrescu
Anca Petrescu was the architect who designed the People’s Palace – Nicolae Ceausescu’s monstrous monument to totalitarian kitsch

Anca Petrescu inside the People’s Palace Photo: AP
6:02PM GMT 01 Nov 2013
Anca Petrescu, who has died following a road accident aged 64, was an architect known as the “Albert Speer of Communism”, responsible for the Romanian dictator Nicolai Ceausescu’s “Palace of the People” in Bucharest — the world’s greatest monument to totalitarian kitsch.
Ceausescu conceived the idea of building the palace in 1977, when an earthquake struck Bucharest leaving more than 1,500 dead and large areas devastated. He saw the disaster as an opportunity to build a new “civic centre”, and in the summer of 1977 two competitions were launched — one for the overall master plan; the other for the “House of the People”, as the Palace was then called, to house Ceausescu and his entourage, along with key government departments.
Anca Petrescu, a junior employee at the state design institute, had only just qualified as an architect, so at first she did not enter the competition. But because Ceausescu took so long to decide what he wanted it was still going in 1981, by which time she had finished second in one of the aborted heats and had met the dictator. “He was a good listener, a very patient man,” she recalled. “He wasn’t a vampire!”
Although Anca Petrescu failed to make the final shortlist in 1981, she refused to give in and, resigning her job, she spent three months building a scale model of her design — bombastic, ornate and smothered in gilt. She then wrote Ceausescu a letter saying that she would like to present it to him. At first she was fobbed off, but her persistence paid off, and in the end her model was presented alongside those of the other finalists.

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The Palace of the People, Bucharest
Legend has it that Ceausescu walked into the room and was bowled over by the glitzy interloper — but there were also rumours that he may have taken a shine to its creator. In February 1982, at the age of 32, Anca Petrescu was appointed chief architect of a project whose raison d’être, in Ceausescu’s tautological phrase, was to be “a grandiose edifice that reflects the epoch of the time”.
The construction, which began in June 1984, was a project akin to the pyramids. During the five years leading up to Ceaucescu’s execution one million Romanians, including military conscripts, political prisoners and a team of 700 architects, worked round the clock to put it up, painstakingly carving huge oak, elm and cherry doors and sculpting giant crystal chandeliers for marble rooms almost as big as athletics fields. Even nuns were forced to work, weaving acres of carpets and embroidering gold-threaded curtains. There were never fewer than 20,000 workers on site at any one time; deaths were common.
The project had a huge impact on the Romanian capital. Three historic districts in the centre of Bucharest — four square miles of the city — were demolished, along with 27 churches and synagogues. Around 40,000 people were given only two days to leave their homes, and some had no alternative but to leave behind their possessions for the bulldozers.

A reception hall inside the Palace of the People
Elsewhere, two mountains were hacked down for the one million cubic metres of white and pink Transylvanian marble required, while entire forests were destroyed for panelling, floors, furniture and doors (Ceausescu insisted that all materials used should be native to the motherland). The cascading chandeliers alone accounted for 3,500 tonnes of crystal; the largest, measuring nine metres in diameter and weighing five tonnes, had 1,000 light bulbs.
By the time the palace was completed, it could burn more electricity in three hours than all of Bucharest’s two million inhabitants consumed in 24. Between 1984 and 1989, while the Romanian people were struggling to survive with limited heating and meagre rations, the building consumed 30 per cent of Romania’s national budget.
Ceausescu took a close interest in its construction, terrifying the workforce with impromptu visits to the site and frequent changes of mind which resulted in the building featuring a mishmash of styles. Anca Petrescu recalled how, on one visit, he claimed to notice that some carved flowers decorating columns inside the building were not equal: “I never noticed that,” she recalled. “I was exhausted and the others were petrified… We all swore that it was OK.” But he ordered someone to climb a ladder and measure them, and determined that one flower was one centimetre shorter than the others. The columns had to be made all over again.

The tyrant visited the palace for the last time in November 1989, to witness the first completed room — a month before he and his hated wife Elena were executed on live television by firing squad.
The end of communism brought work to a halt as Romania’s new leaders pondered what to do with the building. Suddenly Anca Petrescu found herself being treated as a pariah, and in 1990 a group of architects led a campaign to see her stand trial for misuse of national assets; she was even accused of genocide. She denied all charges, and the cases against her fell apart. But she was ostracised from her profession, received death threats and her house was set on fire. Later that year she left for Paris (at the invitation of President Mitterrand, she claimed), where she won commissions to build hotels for Club Med.
In the early 1990s the debate over the future of the unfinished palace, now open to the public, became heated. Some wanted it demolished; others suggested it could be turned into a museum of communism, a Dracula theme park, or even the biggest casino in Europe. Meanwhile, looters set to work, removing bags of cement, marble, doors, and furniture.
Four years after Ceausescu’s execution the government decided to act. They rebaptised it the “Parliament Palace” and, in 1994, resumed work. In subsequent years an international conference centre was opened inside; the lower and upper houses of parliament moved in, along with a new museum of contemporary art, the Romanian Constitutional Court and the South-east European Law Enforcement Centre.
Although one travel book described the palace as “one of the world’s worst eyesores”, over time public aversion waned. Indeed, many Romanians began to claim that they liked the building; and even those who did not took pride in the exquisite workmanship involved.
In 2002, when the decision was taken to add a Reichstag-style glass cupola in the centre of the building, Anca Petrescu was brought back in from the cold and asked to supervise the job.
At 84 metres in height, 270m long, 245m wide, and stretching 92m underground, with 13 floors, 7,000 rooms, three kilometres of passages and a total floor area of 450,000 square metres, the “People’s Palace” occupies seven times the cubic volume of the Palace of Versailles, and is the second-largest public administration building on earth after the Pentagon. But it still has problems: among other things, Ceausescu vetoed the installation of air conditioning, fearing chemical attacks through the ventilation system, while the monstrous staircases, cut to fit the dictator’s tiny feet, are notoriously difficult to walk up and down.
The daughter of a surgeon, Mira Anca Victoria Marculet Petrescu was born on March 20 1949, a year after the communists came to power in Romania. She was brought up in Sighisoara, a Transylvanian fortress town north-west of Bucharest. After graduating in 1973 from the Ion Mincu Institute of Architecture in Bucharest, she joined the state design institute.
After her return to Romania Anca Petrescu became involved in politics, and in 2004 entered parliament on the lists of Romania’s opposition nationalist Greater Romania Party. The following year she stood for election as mayor of Bucharest but won less than four per cent of the vote.
When interviewed about her role in building the People’s Palace, Anca Petrescu tended to lapse into evasive, Soviet-style doublespeak, cutting off interviewers brusquely if they enquired about her relationship with Ceausescu. When asked by one western journalist how she justified the suffering Romanians went through as a result of her work, she retorted: “That is a question originating from someone who can only understand a system based on profit as motivation.” Her favourite novels, she revealed, were the “sick works of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, because they fit my soul”.
Anca Petrescu, born March 20 1949, died October 30 2013

I see Jane Austin’s sister Cassandra’s drawing of her as a feisty, determined, thoughtful and observant portrait (Comment, 1 November); her mouth expressing a steely intolerance of bullshit; in her eyes a certain exasperation with the world. It’s characterful, a real person, completely without artifice or pretension. A brave and stalwart person, who, it is easy to imagine, could have patiently engaged herself in writing those books. Tanya Gold falls into the trap she complains of, describing Cassandra’s portrayal of Jane as “a wonky cross patch, staring with mild malevolence out of the past”. Look closer, Tanya. You are perpetuating the confusion over what is and isn’t an acceptable image of women, thus contributing to the reason why we are going to have on our £10 notes, via the airbrushed watercolour of Jane, a mindless, doe-eyed, dim-witted, fearful girl who could never in a million years have had the depth of thought and feeling, the sparkling integrity, to write those books.
Judy Marsh
• Tanya Gold bemoans the prettification of Jane Austen on the English tenner as further evidence of the malign influence of deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes. But she should take note of a more enlightened approach north of the border. For years the back of Clydesdale Bank’s £10 note has been graced by a less than flattering portrait of the 19th-century Scottish missionary, Mary Slessor. She’s the only non-royal female to appear on a banknote, I gather. And a female recognised for her achievements – not her looks. I’ll send one down Tanya. But be warned, due to another form of discrimination, you may have some trouble using it in London.
Colin Montgomery

There has been a surprisingly low level of comment about the takeover of the Co-op Bank by two US hedge funds, leaving the Co-op with a mere 30% stake (Co-operative Bank sale leaves ethical savers with a dilemma, 24 October). The Co-op movement has deep roots in mutualism, ethical and collective principles which are ostensibly at odds with the capitalist principles upon which the takeover is based.
Illustration by Gary Neill
This suggests that there are three options: 1) a name change for the currently named Co-operative Bank if the bank no longer operates as a mutual; 2) the possibility of switching members from the currently named Co-op Bank to a newly structured entity (perhaps based on credit unions) and residing within the Co-op structure (should that be permitted); 3) the 30% Co-op members acting alone to switch or remain in a bank that no longer is based on the principles which had drawn them to it in the first place.
We therefore call on Vince Cable, the secretary of state for business, to exercise his powers under section 76 of the Companies Act and require the Co-operative plc board to: (1) outline a plan to return the bank to democratic member-control within a fixed time frame; 2) give notice to the bank that it must change its name if it fails to return the bank to democratic member-control within a fixed time frame, so that members of the public are not misled regarding its structures, operating values and guiding principles; 3) work with the Financial Conduct Authority and Co-operative Group to ensure compliance with the Co-operative Group’s own rules.
Those people who recognise the importance of the Co-operative Bank can sign our petition, organised by the Fair Shares Association which, as above, calls on the secretary of state to exercise his powers  ( We also support the Save Our Bank – Co-op campaign (see We as a nation should have a variety of banking institutions and in this regard the mutualised financial institutions are a crucially important variant.
While there will be further developments on Monday, it is important to maintain pressure on those people with the power to do the right thing.
Professor Elizabeth Chell Kingston University, Rory Ridley-Duff Fairshares Association, Cliff Southcombe Social Enterprise Europe, Ian Snaith Consultant solicitor, DWF LLP, Ashley Simpson National Youth Committee
• Over the last two decades many charities and campaigning groups have moved their accounts to the Co-operative Bank and urged others to do so. A major reason for this was the bank’s ethical policy – which sets out clearly and uniquely how monies will and will not be invested. As customers, we call on those involved in setting out the bank’s future to do their utmost to set in stone the continuance of the Co-op Bank ethical policy and the underlying commitments to customer consultation, well-resourced implementation, third-party independent audit and warts-and-all reporting. The establishment of these commitments in the articles of association of a new entity would provide serious reassurance that the bank can continue to be a world leader in ethical investment.
Jenny Ricks, Head of campaigns, Action Aid, Mary Shephard, General manager, Animal Aid, Mark Farmaner, Director, Burma Campaign UK, Tim Hunt, Director, Ethical Consumer, Craig Bennett, Director of policy and campaigns, Friends of the Earth, John Sauven, Executive director, Greenpeace UK, Sally Copley, Head of UK campaigns, Oxfam, Phoebe Cullingworth, Activism & events Manager, People & Planet, Keith Tyrell, Director, Pesticide Action Network, Catherine Howorth, Chief executive officer, ShareAction, Jeanette Longfield, Co-ordinator, Sustain, Paul Monaghan , Director, Up the Ethics, John Hilary, Executive director, War On Want, Nick Dearden, Director, World Development Movement
• Now that a decision appears to have been taken on the structure of RBS (Bad-bank verdict may upstage RBS chief, 1 November) surely it’s time for a proper debate about its future. The loss of the Co-op Bank to hedge funds means that the option of retaining RBS in the public sector makes sense. It could be positioned as an ethical bank, supporting strategic industrial and business investment. That would offer real choice and people would flock to it. We might call it the People’s Bank.
Neil Blackshaw
Little Easton, Essex

The magnetic levitation railway technology, which David Hurry says has been “proven in Japan and China” (Letters, 31 October) was pioneered at Birmingham airport, coincidentally on the HS2 route.
Dr Ian West
Telford, Shropshire
• Any party that will renationalise the railways, energy companies and water will have the greatest win in any election ever. Just have the courage.
Elizabeth Bakhurst
Barnet, Hertfordhire
• Our trick or treaters included a girl in a cloak and pointed hat, one in a brown animal costume, and a small boy wearing a Tony Blair mask: the lion, the witch and the warmonger.
Dave Headey
Faringdon, Oxfordshire
• Can I nominate Jane Wade (Letters, 30 October) for a Guardian award for “best letter”? The beautifully written description of her encounter with a destitute young man on her way to a concert, so tellingly and imaginatively compared with another young man, the concert pianist, conveyed the utter depravity of aspects of this government’s social security programme with truly poetic concentration and insight. Please send copies to all coalition cabinet members, their aides and abetters.
Keith Hearnden
Loughborough, Leicestershire
• My parents, in 1944, both said “love, honour and equal pay” during their wedding (Letters, 30 October). I am still waiting for equal pay for all women.
Mari Booker
• Here on the edge of the Peak District (Letters, 31 October), I’ve just made six pots of own-brand crabapple jelly, harvested a basketful of fine yellow quinces, and picked a supper’s worth of pot-grown courgettes and the final four fat figs (the last of at least 20). Well, this is Yorkshire.
Kirsten Cubitt Thorley
• We have heads of purple sprouting broccoli and primroses in flower. They’re both either six months early or six months late. I’ve no idea which.
Peter Hanson

Your obituary of Lou Reed (29 October) refers to Lou Reed’s sexuality, character and environment in the diction of a homophobic 1950s judge poised to pass sentence: “aberrant sexual behaviour”, “sexually ambiguous underworld”, “transgressive sex”, “electroconvulsive therapy intended to cure him of … homosexual instincts”, “lived openly for several years with a transvestite”. While sheltering behind outdated cliches and failing to consider what impact it might have had on Reed’s adolescent character to be given electroconvulsive therapy to “cure” him of homosexuality – or rather bisexuality – it betrays no awareness of how far this extraordinary singer-musician-poet’s creativity was surely shaped and spurred by his sexual nature and his affinity, when adult, with the sexually unconventional and stigmatised to whom the obituary merely alludes
Nicholas de Jongh

With the rejection of the Press Standards Board of Finance’s application for an injunction to prevent the government’s royal charter being accepted by the privy council (Report, 29 October), there is just a possibility that reality will begin to dawn in the war of words waged by the press on one side and the victims of press intrusion on the other.
To suggest that 300 years of press freedom have suddenly been consigned to the rubbish bin is pure tabloid nonsense. Again, to talk about the new Independent Press Standards Organisation (Report, 31 October) as about to dole out £1m fines to newspapers which breach a new code of conduct is pure cloud cuckoo land stuff. It just won’t happen.
Interestingly, it may be the judges who can now unlock the stand-off in the fighting between politicians and the press. The judges are independent of the executive and there is nothing to stop them making it clear that hopeless or vexatious cases brought against the press under a “free” arbitration system paid for by the press will simply not be allowed. Access to justice is wholly laudable but any attempt to abuse either a “free” arbitration system or the judicial process needs to be deterred with indemnity costs orders.
The judges draft the civil procedure rules. They could and should make it clear that they will play their part in making sure a “free” arbitration system is not abused and that it should be a mandatory precursor to expensive high court litigation. While newspapers must shoulder the cost of resolving ambiguities or inaccuracies in what they print, those bringing bad or frivolous claims must know that they will be penalised if they try to abuse a “free” arbitration system.
The high court rules committee must act now and make it clear that it will stay libel or privacy claims and send them off to fasttrack arbitration under the defamation pre-action protocol – like 28-day adjudication in the construction industry – if there are key issues in dispute, such as the “meaning” of the words complained of, which could and should be determined quickly and easily outside our hugely expensive high court system.
Alastair Brett
Managing director of Early Resolution and former legal manager at Times Newspapers Ltd
• The Guardian’s own stance on the rival royal charter proposals has been judicious, diplomatic and fair; but I very much hope that now a charter has been sealed, the Guardian will initiate or join in vigorous efforts to set up a regulator under it.
Dick Nowell
Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire


‘In even the best of independent schools, there are many teachers of maths and physics who do not hold a degree in those subjects’
Sir, Richard Cairns may well have 39 teachers in his school without formal teaching qualifications (letter, Oct 31) and, as head of an independent school, that is his prerogative. Many independent schools, however, encourage such teachers to obtain a teaching qualification while in employment, thereby increasing the supply of qualified teachers, some of whom may later wish to find employment in state schools. Such an enlightened approach is a benefit to the nation and to the teachers themselves.
Mr Cairns’s comment concerning “the great army of state teachers who are genuinely unqualified” is an unworthy swipe at schools working in circumstances more difficult than his own. In even the best of independent schools, there are many teachers of maths and physics who do not hold a degree in those subjects, but in a related discipline — and the point is that this really doesn’t matter. Most teaching takes place at GCSE level and below, and is not rocket science, so to speak. An enthusiasm for the subject being taught and an interest in how young people learn make these teachers more than adequately qualified, and a formal teaching qualification demonstrates their commitment to the profession.
Graham Cramp
Malvern, Worcs

Sir, The Head Master of Brighton College, relying on his experience of teaching the children of comparatively prosperous and supportive parents, does not think that teachers in publicly funded schools need to be qualified. As any of us who have been educated and then taught in schools of the kind he runs knows, teaching in such schools is one thing, teaching in schools with a high proportion of children lacking those advantages is very different. The opinions of headmasters without substantial experience of teaching in such schools on the need for the teachers in them to be trained is worth rather less than they may suppose.
Sir Peter Newsam
Pickering, N Yorks

Sir, In an age which values research and expects universities to convey the knowledge gained to their students, why should intending teachers be deprived of advances in knowledge about such things as children’s behaviour, cognition, creativity, learning and learning difficulties, problem solving, etc? I would have some respect for Mr Cairns and his colleagues if I thought that they were conversant with that body of knowledge and had judged it objectively.
The English continually fail to learn from the past. They lost out in the second half of the Industrial Revolution because they valued “sitting by Nellie” as the preferred means of learning. In contrast, the continentals, especially Germany, developed their education and training systems and leapt ahead. The standards of teaching cannot be raised if governments persist in the de-professionalisation of teaching. There are many other constraints that prevent good teaching, notably overloaded curriculums and badly designed assessment and examination procedures.
In Ireland, where teacher training is compulsory, many adults who had been teaching without qualifications elsewhere, including England, found the training to be of benefit.
John Heywood
Professor of Teacher Education (1977-1996),
University of Dublin, Trinity College


More changes are needed to ensure an effective complaints system within the NHS, and this reader gives some practical suggestions
Sir, It is good that Ann Clwyd and Tricia Hart have taken a hard look at the failing complaints system (report, Oct 29), but I fear that, in spite of the reports from Robert Francis and Don Berwick, we shall need stronger action to achieve change in the culture in the NHS.
I proposed to the working party that the raising of concerns (a better term than complaints) by all NHS staff should be discussed within annual appraisals, and appraisers should bring these concerns to the attention of management.
There should be a doctor elected from the medical staff co-opted on to the Trust Board responsible for overseeing concerns, plus two patients with the same remit.
Patients should be asked by nursing or other staff when leaving a ward or clinic whether they have any concerns, which would be collated by the ward/clinic nursing sister. Any concerns would initially be handled by the responsible named consultant and the ward/clinic sister face to face with the complainant or in writing, and then when it is necessary they should be responsible for following any escalation of the concern through the Trust management system. Whenever possible the consultant should sign off the reply to the concern, and not the chief executive.
Professional groups within hospitals, such as the committees of doctors or nurses, should discuss concerns and suggestions of their group and take them to management.
More attention should be given to the views and experience of trainee doctors, who are “the eyes and ears of the hospital”. The professional bodies (Royal Colleges, etc) should provide confidential support for whistleblowers who fail to get satisfaction.
These measures would be a start in encouraging an open exchange of concerns and suggestions throughout hospitals and eliminating bullying.
Sir Richard Thompson
President, Royal College of Physicians
London NW1

The press’s own substantially Leveson-compliant, independent organisation for self-regulation will be up and running long before the government equivalent
Sir, “A recognition body that nobody recognises. A system of voluntary regulation without volunteers.” Your leading article of Oct 31 aptly summed up the messy pizza cooked up by politicians and the Hacked Off lobbyists to regulate the British press.
We’ll never know what the Queen thought of the Royal Charter she was obliged to ratify by the Privy Council. But Her Majesty could be forgiven for privately wondering why she’d been cast in the starring role of an off-Westminster farce with Buck House turned into the Palace Theatre. With most of Britain’s national and local press at the Appeal Court arguing that 300 years of press freedom was being undermined, this was a Royal Charter like no other. Royal Charters (or Letters Patent) are all about the royal imprimatur being granted to organisations which voluntarily seek it, not imposed on a steadfastly opposed key player.
If the following morning the Queen listened to the BBC radio programme on which Hacked Off’s Dr Evan Harris, the Culture Secretary Maria Miller and I variously appeared, she would have been entitled to feel somewhat confused. Harris declared that newspapers could “unsign” from the regulatory system laid out in the Royal Charter. Miller insisted that it was “entirely voluntary” for the press while returning to the sinister old line that the Royal Charter was “the best way to resist full statutory regulation”.
She now admits it will probably take a year to set up the body responsible for overseeing the new press regulator created by the Royal Charter, begging the question of who would volunteer for the role of overseeing a “voluntary” body to which the newspaper and magazine industry en masse was refusing to “volunteer”. Long before then the press’s own substantially Leveson-compliant, Independent Press Standards Organisation plan for self-regulation will be up and running. The public — simultaneously favourable to tougher press regulation but hostile to politicians’ fingers all over it — are likely to be satisfied.
Paul Connew
Former editor of the Sunday Mirror

Sir, Without the support of the press many government failings and public health scandals would never be exposed. For example, in the case of pesticides, rural residents whose health has been put at risk from pesticide spraying near homes, schools and playgrounds have been failed at every turn by the State, parts of the judiciary, even certain NGOs. The only sector prepared to help expose this scandal is the media, predominantly the print press.
There have been many victims of establishment cover-ups, corruption and collusion who have only had their voices heard because we have a free press. There is much that can be said in favour of a strong independent media that exposes disgraceful injustices, and is able to shine a light in places which, no doubt the State, along with many politicians, would prefer remained in darkness.
Georgina Downs
UK Pesticides Campaign
Runcton, West Sussex

The Falkland Islands have been under British governance from 1765. Argentina did not come into existence until 1816
Sir, Alicia Castro, Argentina’s Ambassador, stated that “the Malvinas’ inhabitants are British, but the territory in which they live is not” (letter, Oct 31). That is a lie.
Having been first landed on by the English in 1690, when the Falkland Islands were so named, they have been under British governance from 1765. Argentina did not come into existence until 1816, when it claimed its independence from Spain.
In 1982 the Galtieri junta attempted to take by force land that has never belonged to Argentina, and been inhabited for generations by English-speaking people of British descent.
Anthony H. Ratcliffe
London W1

‘The largely incompetent trustees of the British Museum fell under the influence of Joe Duveen, the world’s most unscrupulous and successful art dealer’
Sir, The Elgin Marbles could have done with a safe refuge such as the Museum of the Acropolis, commended by Oliver Kamm (Notebook, Oct 29) during the inter-war period. The largely incompetent trustees of the British Museum fell under the influence of Joe Duveen, the world’s most unscrupulous and successful art dealer, who in effect bought his position by lavish benefactions which included a large sum to rehouse the Marbles. He insisted that they “should be thoroughly cleaned — so thoroughly that he would dip them into acid”, as the chairman of the trustees, Lord Crawford, recorded in his diary on May 8, 1931. A terrible disaster was only narrowly averted.
Lord Lexden
House of Lords


SIR – Train companies and Network Rail ran amended timetables on Monday to ensure the safety of passengers and staff. The severity of the storm indicates this was the right decision; more than 400 trees fell on to tracks. Operators will be giving full refunds to passengers who could not travel.
Network Rail separately compensates operators for the impact of disruption on long-term revenue. It is wrong to suggest that this money is meant to be “passed on” to passengers. This system, overseen by the rail regulator, ensures the millions paid to government by train companies are not jeopardised by events beyond their control.
Michael Roberts
Director, General Rail Delivery Group
London EC1
SIR – “Trackside growth” provides an invaluable habitat for wildlife that is being driven out by our burgeoning human population. I hope Network Rail does not resort to the destruction of these havens by over-reaction to the rare chance of a hurricane.
Gary Spring
Swansea, Glamorgan
SIR – Ian Robertson asks how well our wind turbines performed during the storm. From 6pm on Sunday to 4am on Monday their output fell from 5 gigawatts (GW) to about 1.5 GW, presumably as they were turned off. During the week, wind turbine output fluctuated between 0.5 GW and 5  GW. This large variation is the real problem with wind power.
G H Williams
Nailsworth, Gloucestershire

SIR – David Kynaston seems ill-informed about independent schools’ contribution to social mobility. Far from being full of Tim Nice-But-Dims, many are in the vanguard of widening educational opportunity.
My school’s access scheme, the Arnold Foundation, has admitted dozens of underprivileged pupils in the past decade, being praised by the National Foundation for Educational Research for lifting educational ambition in deprived parts of Britain. With other members of the sector, we are expanding this work through the Springboard bursary foundation.
Patrick Derham
Head Master, Rugby School
Rugby, Warwickshire
SIR – Northern Ireland never relinquished grammar schools and has the highest social mobility in the British Isles.
Brian J Singleton
Baslow, Derbyshire
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01 Nov 2013
SIR – David Kynaston is right to argue that the grammar school did not serve poorer pupils as well as it might. Its demise is surely a red herring when it comes to assessing the cause of a stalling of social mobility in the United Kingdom.
A more likely factor is its replacement: comprehensive schools. Middle-class parents like me were more than happy to move house in return for places at the better ones. This process, over decades, has left us with one class of state schools serving the disadvantaged poor, and one serving the better off. Ask any estate agent.
Dr Andy Dyson
Southwell, Nottinghamshire
SIR – Lack of social mobility is due to the chronic under-performance of state schools that politicians have allowed to be run for the benefit of the teachers, not the pupils, for generations.
The debate about unqualified teachers is part of this failure: a triumph of flawed social engineering over true results. David Kynaston is a fine historian but he needs to spend more time with Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, who will reverse the rot in the state system, and allow the many who are nice but neither indolent nor dim to become upwardly mobile.
Giles Vardey
Donhead St Mary, Dorset
SIR – I read with incredulity the letter from Toni Fazaeli of the Institute for Learning and others. The qualified teachers that they trained have presided over a disastrous decline in the basic skills of primary-school leavers over 60 years. Michael Gove is now trying to reverse this.
Despite smaller classes and better resources, they have done much worse in imparting basic skills than the largely unqualified teachers of earlier generations. No lack of personal commitment by our teachers is responsible; it is the wrong-headed training they have received.
David Paul
Bromley, Kent
Criminal destruction
SIR – Waste no time pitying barristers at the criminal bar. That their fees are about to be reduced by a further 15-20 per cent (having already suffered in real terms a 35 per cent cut since 2007) is not something for which many will feel inclined to shed tears. They are generally able people who will find something else to do.
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, has made a no-doubt astute political calculation that pleas from barristers as to their own plight, as opposed to that of their clients, will always fall on deaf ears. The ministry hopes to justify the cuts by relying on public misconceptions about what criminal barristers earn and broadcasting the gross fees of a select few at the very top of the profession. In fact, Mr Grayling knows full well that net earnings of the vast majority of the state-funded criminal bar are about £35-£40 an hour – lower than most doctors.
Criminal justice in the Crown Court is still delivered mainly by the independent self-employed bar. Employed Crown Prosecution Service and defence solicitor advocates have made inroads. But it is still independent barristers, by and large, who provide the service many take for granted. Most important cases (all are important for those, including victims, directly involved) are still handled by the bar.
This brings to the criminal justice system the ethos of fairness and excellence of the chambers system, where senior people give their time freely to junior barristers who are taught that independence counts and winning is not all.
The new cuts are so savage that the chambers system will not survive. Barristers will do other things or become employees of one side or the other. Once the chambers system is gone, replacing it with something as fine – and unashamedly British – will be impossible.
Mr Grayling, who is also our Lord Chancellor, does not appreciate the value of what he is so casually about to destroy.
So do not weep for barristers. But feel unease at the irreparable harm about to be done to a system which for a very long time has produced independent, free-spirited men and women whose quality ensured that the standard of British criminal justice was something to be proud of.
Andrew Langdon QC
Leader of the Western Circuit
Rick Pratt QC
Leader of the Northern Circuit
Alistair MacDonald QC
Leader of the North Eastern Circuit
Gregory Bull QC
Leader of the Wales and Chester Circuit
Mark Wall QC
Leader of the Midlands Circuit
Sarah Forshaw QC
Leader of the South Eastern Circuit
Cry freedom
SIR – Goodbye freedom of the press.
Next, freedom of speech? Coming soon, freedom itself?
Ron Mason
East Grinstead, West Sussex
Stuck in a jam
SIR – Britain is being forced to accept pointless legislation from the EU, reducing the sugar in jam and marmalade (report, October 31). Sugar is an essential setting and preserving aid when making jam.
This directive serves only to bring us
“in-line” with European manufacturers who, unlike Britain’s commercial and domestic jam-makers, produce jam lacking in taste and with limited shelf life.
If this legislation goes through, people should, as I do, make jam themselves. They will not be disappointed.
Bill Hollowell
Undercover liaisons
SIR – As a former detective with the Regional Crime Squad in the Seventies, I often went “undercover” with women: wives and girlfriends of suspected offenders mainly.
It was clear to me at the time that in many cases they enjoyed our secret liaisons, and that sex would have been available had I sought it. However, I believed (without having to be told) that undercover sex was taboo and I would never have dreamt of indulging in something that could have cost me my job (so I thought) if I was discovered.
And now, many years later, I learn that undercover sex might have been OK. Had I taken advantage, it would surely have led to more arrests. If only somebody had told me.
Paul Heslop
Keswick, Cumberland
SIR – Undercover police are to be banned from having intimate relations with those they are investigating. Now the unlikely suggestion by Jenny Jones, a Green member of the London Assembly, is to legislate them out of existence.
One suspects that our security services may be a little more reluctant to surrender the honey trap than the Met. And in the spirit of the level playing field, who would tell Russia’s FSB (veteran honey-trappers par excellence) to keep espionage out of the bedroom?
Jules Wright
Hallaton, Leicestershire
Ring of truth
SIR – Gold is a “noble metal” and does not react with dilute hydrochloric acid. So a gold ring would not produce gold chloride if held to the eye. Copper does react with dilute hydrochloric acid, and copper salts have antibacterial and antiviral properties. Hence the former practice of making hospital door-handles of copper or brass.
However, it is theoretically possible that a low-purity gold ring, containing a large proportion of copper, zinc or silver, might show some degree of reaction.
Dr Chris Alabaster
SIR – Many years ago I suffered from sties and the gold ring remedy just did not work for me.
Mind you, neither did brushing a sty with a cat’s tail (another old wives’ remedy). I don’t think our cat was too happy about it, either.
J E Dixon
Ilkley, West Yorkshire
No return to Liverpool Care Pathway barbarism
SIR – It is astonishing to read that medical staff now claim that “patients are dying in agony” because halting the Liverpool Care Pathway leaves them too frightened to discuss end-of-life treatment. The way that the pathway was working meant that, too often, neither patients nor their relatives were given any information about it, or even asked whether they wanted to be put on it.
It was not that relatives simply did not understand why their loved ones could not have the drink they begged for, since when those relatives gave them water, they often recovered. It is to be devoutly hoped that we never return to such barbaric practices.
Baroness Knight
London SW1
SIR – If all good things were scrapped simply because some people handled them badly, we should be in a sorry state. The care of my late wife in Derby, when put on the pathway, was handled sensitively. It was a great comfort to her and to us, her family, in her last 48 hours.
Rev John D Bland
Littleover, Derbyshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Could there be any more stark contrast between the success of the Web Summit and the failure of our capital city’s water supply over the past few days?
On one hand we have a hugely successful event, bringing key decision-makers and investors to Ireland to look at our burgeoning internet and digital industry, investing, creating employment and wealth. On the other hand we have a water supply system that fails to meet the basic needs of the population.
Imagine a group of investors, after meeting young Irish entrepreneurs at the summit and considering investing in their young company. They arrive in town for a meal to mull over the deal to find a restaurant unable to brew coffee, flush toilets and function normally because of a water shortage. What a wonderful advertisement that is for Ireland.
Clearly reform of our public services needs fresh impetus! – Yours, etc,
Caragh Green,
Naas, Co Kildare.
Sir, – Might the creation of a national infrastructure authority, into which the National Roads Authority could be subsumed, be an appropriate response to the present and projected water supply problems in Dublin? Such an authority would handle project planning for all major infrastructure projects in the State, including those connected with the supply of energy and water; and the processing of waste, as well as interconnections with other states. – Yours, etc,
Glencree Road,
Enniskerry, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Is the Government’s water policy a washout?
Fremont Drive,
Melbourn Estate,
Sir, – Ballymore useless water treatment plant? – Yours, etc,
Shandon Crescent,
Dublin 7.
Sir, – We are told water is turned back on at 7am but it may take two hours to get to some people.
Then we are assured that if the fire brigade needs water in a location where there is none that it will be turned on for them. Could this also take up to two hours to get to them? – Yours, etc,
Birchfield Park,
Goatstown, Dublin 14.
Sir, – At a time when a great deal of attention is focused on the water supply problems of our capital city and environs, a case in the High Court (Home News, October 22nd) draws attention to another significant environmental challenge facing Dublin – the proposal to extend the Ringsend treatment plant and build a 9km tunnel to discharge treated effluent into Dublin Bay.
The bay is, of course, a treasured amenity used by thousands of people on a daily basis. Moreover, Ireland rightly aspires to being a “green” location – for tourism, for clean industries and the like. Dublin Bay is a magnificent gateway to this island for visitors by air and, especially, by sea.
Surely, discharging sewage in the vicinity of an area designated as a Special Area of Conservation is wrong on every level? In the 21st century, we can do better than the traditional “Irish solution to an Irish problem”. – Yours, etc,
Prospect Terrace,
Dublin 4.
A chara, – We’ve had a week of mind-blowing high-tech in Dublin.
The authorities want to pipe 600 million litres of water per day from the Shannon.
Is there not one low-tech entrepreneur out there who will show me how to pipe some of the 35,000 litres of rainwater that falls on my roof each year into the house for those tasks which do not need treated water? – Is mise,
Blackthorn Court,
Dublin 16.

Sir, – You assert there is “scant evidence of a significant reduction in the State’s pharmaceutical bill that the bailout programme prescribed” (Editorial, October 31st). I can understand how this perception prevails, but it misrepresents the efforts made by the research-based pharmaceutical industry (represented by the IPHA) to play its part in reducing the healthcare bill. Furthermore, it should be noted that medicines account for only 12.5 per cent of the total healthcare bill.
From 2008 to 2013 the number of medical cards issued to patients rose by a staggering 520,000, and these additional card-holders would have been prescribed about 15 million items of medicine over the period. Following a series of price reductions by the research-based pharmaceutical industry, the cost to the State per item was reduced by more than 20 per cent, generating savings for the Exchequer in the GMS scheme alone of circa €266 million. The total savings to the Exchequer across all community-based schemes over the same period was in the region of €554 million.
Currently, the prices of original brand medicines (both on- and off-patent) supplied by members of the IPHA are now at or below the European average. Significant further savings are on the way in the off-patent sector via the new system of reference pricing and generic substitution that is being rolled out.
Put simply, the significant savings made in the State’s pharmaceutical bill have been masked by the huge growth in the numbers of medicines dispensed to patients. However, it should be acknowledged that through the provision of deep cuts in the price of medicines, the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland has played its part in assisting the Government in its efforts to bring us through these very difficult times. – Yours, etc,
Chief Executive,
Irish Pharmaceutical
Healthcare Association Ltd,
Pembroke Road,

Sir, – Paul Cullen’s analysis (Home News, October 31st) of the current HSE medical card PR campaign and Muiris Houston’s article (Opinion, October 30th) on the same topic are very welcome.
The farcical publicity drive underway from the HSE, to inform and reassure people about the current “discretionary” medical card fiasco, is fooling no-one. Reassurances about “eligibility” are being tossed around as if eligibility is not something upon which a deliberate decision is made, by civil servants on our behalf.
Means-tested income is one basis for eligibility, but so is need. Parents’ and carers’ heartfelt efforts on behalf of their children and family members with serious enduring conditions and health needs are being swept aside as “political” manoeuvring. How distasteful!
The only political thuggery is keeping the masses who have children without serious medical conditions apparently happy by offering their children free GP care, while at the same time taking away medical cards from those who need them most. Universal access to primary care for all is a policy I support, but not as a meaningless token while slashing services with the other hand.
The universal five-and-under GP access was dressed up on Budget night as representing that we “cherish all our children equally”.
This smug nonsense hides the fact children have different needs. They require different levels of support and resources. This “capabilities approach” to human development, from economist Amartya Sen, and philosopher Martha Nussbaum is internationally recognised and used to enhance and measure human development, including within the UN Development Programme.
Real opportunities for all require different sets of resources for some, and it is a shame that those left to fight day-in, day-out for services for their loved ones are patronised and undermined. As an Irish citizen I am ashamed to stand over and participate in this. – Yours, etc,
Elm Mount Road,

Sir, – Joe Coy writes that he will not tolerate any geographical reference to describe the state that lies predominantly to the south of Northern Ireland, including the term “Southern Ireland” (October 29th). He insists that the 26 counties will instead be simply referred to as “Ireland”.
This monopoly on the use of Ireland is both ugly and divisive. It tries to reduce Ireland and an Irish identity to an adherence to a state that is made up of only one part of the country. The former unionist leader, Terence O’Neill, was always offended by the idea that he did not live in Ireland. He saw state and country as not enjoying absolute equivalence. One could be loyal to the United Kingdom and still be a proud Irishman. Ironically it is the attitude of people like Mr Coy, who evidently dislikes Ireland’s political division, that digs a trench across this island, making it easier for some in Northern Ireland today to deny any trace of a common Irish identity with those living south of the border.
Perhaps it is better to use “Southern Ireland” than continuing to make the preposterous claims that a 26-county state constitutes “Ireland”. The country is far greater than that. – Yours, etc,
The Centre for the Study of
Terrorism and
Political Violence,
St Andrews University,
Fife, Scotland.
Sir, – We are back to the perennial difficulty that gets an airing in your columns: the respective names of the two jurisdictions that between them rule what can unequivocally and without contradiction be called Ireland.
I agree with Joe Coy (October 29th) that there is no country called “Southern Ireland”. I automatically think of Cork and Kerry whenever I hear these words being voiced. Neither are there countries called “The North”, “The South”, or “The Republic”. Yet in everyday conversation these terms are commonly used and understood as referring to either of the two political regimes that hold sway over us.
To add to the confusion, both our postage stamps and our money declare our name as being Éire. – Yours, etc,
Ballymany, Newbridge,
Co Kildare.
Sir, – While Colm Kelly’s response (November 1st) to Paul O’Neill (October 31st) regarding the status of the two states in Ireland is no doubt accurate from a technical point of view, it does demonstrate a rather disappointing attitude regarding what “Ireland” actually is. He seems indifferent and lacking in knowledge that northern nationalists would refer to Ireland to include all 32 counties, which of course in our complex history should not come as a surprise to him or anyone.
While he quotes articles within the Irish Constitution, it is also worthy of note that in sporting terms the 26-county soccer team is referred to as the Republic of Ireland and the six-county team as Northern Ireland. In rugby terms the team comprising all 32 counties is simply referred to as Ireland, perhaps a term I would suggest everyone is comfortable with.
I also noted that in his reference to “our state” as Ireland he too displays an equally confusing version of geography as the last time I looked Cambridge, where Mr Kelly resides, was in England, United Kingdom! – Yours, etc,
Sharman Road,
Belfast 9.

Sir, – There has been an awful lot written about “Polyester Protestants” in your Letters page of late. Spare a thought for other groups who haven’t had a look in: Bombazine Buddhists, Calico Catholics, Jaconet Jews, Muslin Muslims and Nylon Non-believers, to name a few. – Yours, etc,
Meadow Copse,
Dublin 15.
Sir, – Dr Desmond Fennell (October 31st) faults the multi-party system as an impediment to democracy. Political parties are the natural outcome of like-minded individuals combining their efforts to achieve a shared goal. The obvious faults in our political system, which Dr Fennell points out, are more the results of manipulations generated by successive leadership cohorts which dominated the parties, rather than any inherent flaw in political associations. Greater levels of participation by the general public in the political process and greater control of the process at grassroots levels, are steps which can help ameliorate the existing flaws.
Candidates for local and national offices should be selected by members of cumanns in secret ballot, primary-style elections; officials at party headquarters should be barred from interfering/influencing this nomination process. At local and national levels the party-whip rule and the guillotine procedure should be banned. Elected members of a political party will agree with the party’s general views the vast majority of times; when an elected member feels the need to disagree it should be remembered the individual was elected to represent the people and not the organisation. The guillotine procedure is an affront to the principle of freedom of speech. Use of the procedure implicates its practitioners as those who prefer to control rather than confer.
Democracy is the form, and political parties the function, of representing the aspirations of the people. – Yours, etc,
Shandon Street,
Co Waterford.

Sir, – With all the talk and worry about binge drinking, I wonder why Tesco has included gin and vodka in its Every Day range. Strange! – Yours, etc,
Brighton Avenue,

Sir, – Hill walking is increasingly being promoted for natives and tourists alike. So why can’t we make life a little bit easier and safer for the hill walker by discreetly marking the tops of our mountains and hills, with a stake and sign denoting the name and height of the mountain?
It is done in other jurisdictions and in no way defaces the mountaintop. I recently wandered in a south-westerly direction off Scarr, Co Wicklow, instead of in a north westerly direction towards Kanturk, by not realising I had reached the top of Scarr, as it was enveloped in dense fog. I have done the Tour of Mont Blanc, walked in the Tyrolean Alps and the English Lake District and have found all mountain-tops and paths well marked and signposted, I never felt the markers were an intrusion on the landscape. And of course I never got lost! There are some great markers on our way-marked ways. Why can’t we continue the practice on our mountain tops? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I wholeheartedly support Mary O’Rourke’s plea to Ruairí Quinn (Education, October 29th) to keep history as a core subject at Junior Cert level. I think it should also be a core subject at Leaving Cert level.
How can we understand the state of the world today if we don’t know about the events and processes which brought us here? Indeed, if we learn about the events, failures and successes of the past we not only more fully understand the world we live in, but we are in a better position to plan the future. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Has Dublin City Council checked for bugged water? Perhaps our mobile phones have not been tapped, but the water services have! – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:
In most matters of tribulation, a point is inevitably reached when you end up saying enough is enough.
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The latest announcement by Revenue about the payment of the controversial property tax reached this point for me, and it showed clearly that this Government’s brass neck has not dulled.
Revenue’s statement that those opting to pay this tax for 2014 by either cheque or debit card can expect to have the money deducted instantly after the November 27 deadline left even a hardened cynic like me aghast.
Not only have they swooped upon the property-owning populace – who will receive absolutely nothing in return for this cash grab – but they have the gall to demand that the money be given to them ahead of the year in question.
But please remember, none of this is their fault. It’s those nasty banks yet again.
Revenue’s website has the temerity to blame the fact that the money will be instantly deducted more than five weeks before the year of the tax itself on “the nature of the banking and credit card systems”!
Obviously, the simple expedient of allotting a deadline in January or February 2014 just did not occur to them.
Never mind that this course of action will be monumentally unpopular and massively unfair (the Government has long since abandoned any such considerations with regard to these matters) but have our leaders even half-considered the gross economic stupidity of sucking millions of euro out of a half-dead economy at precisely the time of year when the hard-pressed citizen might be prepared to part with at least some of their dwindling cash?
JD Mangan
Stillorgan, Co Dublin
* The State spent €100m on the Ballymore Eustace water plant when it had the money to burn.
Now that the country is bankrupt, there is not an earthly chance that we can do the necessary repairs to address our water needs.
I dread to think what the infrastructure around the country will look like about 10 years from now. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that parts of the country will resemble scenes from Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic thriller ‘The Road’.
Sean Mc Phillips
College Point, New York
* Those reading your Motoring section’s review of the new S-Class Mercedes (Irish Independent, October 30) will either be salivating with anticipation at getting one or seething with rage at the injustice of the road tax regime.
Isn’t there some irony that in a bankrupt country, a person who can afford a €100,000 car will only pay some €200 or less in road tax, whereas the vast majority of the downtrodden, taxed-into-oblivion masses pay over €700 for an old, two-litre family car?
Of course, the mantra is trotted out again and again that the older cars are contributing more to climate change than the newer models. The dogs in the street know that the politicians don’t lose sleep over global warming but the excuse is a nice little earner for the Exchequer.
History will record these times as a period of great unfairness and injustice by the Government towards its people.
John Hughes
Clonbur, Co Galway
* “Innovative and interesting” – that’s the phrase that best describes Finance Minister Michael Noonan’s decision to engage Willie Walsh, current head of International Airlines Group (IAG), British Airways and Iberia’s parent company, as chairman of the advisory committee of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) (Irish Independent October 29).
It is a real breath of fresh air when one realises that this vast wealth of knowledge and experience is being tapped free of charge. The former Aer Lingus boss had a salary of £1.08m (€1.3m) from his day job last year, but won’t earn a cent from the NTMA.
Come to think of it, hasn’t the boss of Ryanair, Michael O’Leary – another world leader – been advising the Government where to “get on and get off” for years, and has charged them nothing for it?
It would be another real coup for Mr Noonan if he succeeded in roping him into the NTMA on an official basis, similar to Mr Walsh’s role. Mr O’Leary’s vast experience would be a mighty asset.
Incidentally, I would like to compliment Mr Noonan on his foresight in selecting Mr Walsh and in realising that those of “sky-high ambitions” are undoubtedly a cloud above the rest of the posse.
James Gleeson
Thurles, Co Tipperary
* I refer to an article by David McWilliams (Irish Independent, October 30).
I always get depressed when some economic expert writes, “it is just like the 1980s”. The time we live in is unlike any other in history.
The great economic ambitions of past centuries have been spectacularly achieved – the world can produce everything in great abundance and as a consequence “growth” is no longer necessary or possible.
But an endless frenzy to promote growth continues and as long as it does, economics will lurch from boom to bust, with each collapse leaving greater debt and human casualties in its wake. The economics of “growth” have been replaced by the economics of sufficiency or “enough”.
The economics of work have been replaced by the economics of “automation”, which, without policies to create more jobs from less work, will lead to unsustainable unemployment.
That is why the 21st Century is totally unlike any other period in history.
It is a remarkable time with great potential, but we will realise this potential only if we can adapt an out-of-date, ineffective economic philosophy to manage an entirely new and wonderful technological age, unlike anything ever experienced before.
Padraic Neary
Co Sligo
* The fluid situation regarding water supplies at the moment reminds me of the advice given to consumers in Britain during a long, hot summer by Ken Dodd: “When having a bath, just fill the water to a depth of six inches . . . that should cover it.”
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont, Dublin 9
* Your letters page on October 31 showed an interesting and contrasting view on the quality of the programmes on radio and television these days.
Using phrases such as “enthralled”, “top-notch drama” and “excellent narrative”, Aaron McCormack asked whether we have “reached the pinnacle of television”.
Gary Cummins, on the other hand, came to the conclusion that we are “being insulted with the general lack of quality in the programmes being screened” to the extent that they are “an affront to people’s intelligence”.
The fact that such programmes mirror a decadent and violent society raises questions as to the effect these shows have on the mentality of the the millions who watch them each week.
It also raises questions as to how displaying arrogance and contempt for fellow human beings week after week could be declared the pinnacle of television.
A Leavy
Dublin 13
Irish Independent


November 1, 2013

1 November 2013 Hospital

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble the have to find a lost missile and disarm it!
Take Mary to the GP and hospital lonh wait for blood tests 5 hours home fish and chips
We watch Hancock its not too bad
No Scrabble today


Graham Stark
Graham Stark was an actor alongside Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther films and provided voices for The Goon Show

Graham Stark (right) with Peter Sellers in ‘A Shot in the Dark’ Photo: REX
6:41PM GMT 31 Oct 2013
Graham Stark , the actor, who has died aged 91, was frequently cast in supporting roles in comedy films starring his close friend Peter Sellers.
Never quite achieving stardom himself, Stark moved on the periphery, appearing in nearly 80 films, often as the fall-guy or put-upon sidekick.
Stark’s links with Sellers dated from the post-war heyday of The Goon Show on BBC Radio, where his natural talent for creating funny voices shone through. The pair went on to appear in the popular Pink Panther films, Sellers starring as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau while Stark took various subservient roles. He was particularly notable as Hercule LaJoy in A Shot in the Dark (1964).

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Off screen, Stark and Sellers not only became good friends, but — as single men in the 1950s — shared many amorous adventures together, often taking girlfriends back to Sellers’s flat in Finchley Road where the machinery of seduction included one of the first automatic record-players in London. Stark would later stand as best man at all of Sellers’s four weddings.
Although best known as a comedy actor, Stark turned in a touching performance in the film Alfie (1966) as Humphrey, the bus conductor who marries the pregnant girlfriend of Michael Caine’s title character.
The son of a purser on transatlantic liners, Graham William Stark was born at Wallasey, Merseyside, on January 20 1922, and educated at Wallasey Grammar School, where he acted in school plays. He was only 12 when he appeared with the Liverpool Repertory Company as Macduff’s son in a production of Macbeth.
Dancing lessons led to his professional debut the following year in a West End pantomime, Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves (Lyceum, 1935). Moving to London in 1937, he took elocution lessons to lose his Merseyside accent and made his first, fleeting, film appearance as a bellboy in the thriller A Spy in Black (1939).
At 17 Stark enrolled at Rada, but volunteered for the RAF when war intervened, joining Ralph Reader’s gang shows and entertaining troops in North Africa, the Far East and Germany.
After the war Stark joined the bohemian coterie frequenting the ornate Grafton Arms pub in Victoria where up-and-coming entertainers like Terry-Thomas, Jimmy Edwards, Tony Hancock, Dick Emery and Alfred Marks held court. It was in the Grafton’s back bar that Stark renewed an RAF friendship with Peter Sellers while Sellers and Spike Milligan experimented with material that, in 1951, would metamorphose into The Goon Show.

Graham Stark in ITV’s ‘Tiger Bastable’ (ITV/REX)
As well as providing madcap voices for The Goons, Stark also appeared in other popular radio shows of the day, notably Educating Archie, with the ventriloquist Peter Brough, and Ray’s A Laugh, starring the Liverpool comedian Ted Ray.
Stark had a complex relationship with Spike Milligan, who suffered from manic depression . Whenever Milligan failed to turn up for a Goon Show recording, Stark would stand in for him; and when Milligan and Sellers moved into television with A Show Called Fred in 1956, Stark joined the cast.
In 1963 he appeared as a psychiatrist in Milligan’s bleak satirical comedy The Bed Sitting Room, set in the aftermath of World War III. But when Stark’s stage performance attracted critical acclaim, Milligan flew into a jealous rage and threatened to shoot him. Since Milligan was known to keep a revolver, Stark took the threat seriously — but the two were later reconciled.
In 1964 Stark starred in his television comedy sketch series, The Graham Stark Show, which — although written by Johnny Speight, later to create Till Death Us Do Part — proved a flop.
Stark was also an accomplished photographer, and often took pictures of stars, including Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor , whom he encountered on film sets.
He published Remembering Peter Sellers in 1999 and an autobiography, Stark Naked, in 2003.
Graham Stark married, in 1959, the actress Audrey Nicholson, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.
Graham Stark, born January 20 1922, died October 29 2013


In September, a group of activists (mainly women) took action to stop the DSEi arms fair at the Excel centre in London. They are being taken to court and charged for peaceful actions such as blocking military equipment from entering the arms fair. But where is the wrong? Inside the arms fair, governments, military and private delegates were encouraged to spend on the latest military wares. Those who attended are fuelling murder, torture, and conflict across the world. They were not questioned, searched or arrested during their time in London, even though many of the attendees were from countries our own government identifies as having “the most serious wide-ranging human rights concerns”. We support the activists who have stood up for peace and human rights and we support the right to strongly oppose and challenge the arms trade. The activists being charged, and taken to court on 4 November, for trying to stop this illegitimate trade should be congratulated, not convicted.
Caroline Lucas MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, Linda Riordan MP, Mark Thomas, Michael Mansfield QC, Owen Jones, Peter Kennard, Peter Tatchell, Will Self, Emily Johns co-editor, Peace News, John Hilary director of War on Want, Dr Stuart White Jesus College, Oxford, Sam Hollick Oxford city councillor, Glyn Robbins chair of United East End, Shelley Sacks professor of social sculpture, Oxford Brookes University, Dr Rebecca E Johnson executive director, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, Angie Zelter, Julia Oyster, Deborah Glass-Woodin, Bethan Tichborne, Helen Swanston, Rupert Eris, Tiggy Sagar, Valerie Cochrane, Philippa Cochrane, Kevin Meany, Jo Rowlands

Felicity Lawrence (Where did the 29% horse in your Tesco burger come from?, 22 October) misleadingly puts ABP Food Group at the heart of a story of alleged malpractice by Dutch meat trader Willy Selten. While ABP Silvercrest received a small amount of his meat, this was via a third-party supplier, Norwest. ABP was not one of the 502 customers in 16 different countries who purchased meat directly from Selten – meat that was later recalled by Dutch food authorities due to concern that it may have contained equine DNA. The meat that Norwest delivered to ABP Silvercrest was less than 0.1% of this total product recall.
In a second article (24 October), Ms Lawrence asserts “it is still not clear that anyone will be found responsible” for the horsemeat incident. ABP is taking every step possible to establish the source of contaminated product and reached a legal settlement in September with Norwest, which apologised for inadvertently supplying our company with contaminated product. We have also started legal proceedings in the Irish high court against a second supplier in Poland.
Among other misapprehensions, the second article gives the impression of an axis of corporate and personal relationships between Eamon Mackle of Freeza Meats and ABP’s chairman Larry Goodman. Mr Goodman was never friends with Mr Mackle and has not spoken to or met him in over 20 years, making the article’s characterisation of him being an “old friend” difficult to sustain. It is clear that the horsemeat issue was the result of an EU-wide fraud, and that many leading food producers – including Nestlé, Birdseye, and Findus – were independently and inadvertently affected by it. ABP is as keen as anyone to see that those responsible are prosecuted. We believe the industry in general, and ABP in particular, have made more progress than these two articles recognise.
Paul Finnerty
Group chief executive, ABP Food Group

Your call for a review of all intelligence surveillance programmes in Britain (Learning the Feinstein lesson, 29 October) is well made but makes one error. Those responsible for oversight here did know what was going on; they just failed to tell the rest of us. The interception of communications commissioner’s annual reports detail the process by which warrants for targeted interception are authorised but not those for mass surveillance.
The intelligence and security committee reported on the government’s communications data bill last February and must have been aware of the breadth of GCHQ surveillance programmes, but just did not tell us. Intelligence oversight institutions can never make public everything they read in their work, but those here must move beyond seeing their role in narrow legal and managerial terms, to inform the public as to the complexities of intelligence, while acting as real protectors of citizens’ rights.
Peter Gill
Research fellow, University of Liverpool
• Congratulations to the Guardian and its brave editor and staff for publishing the latest revelations on the US spying programme. I have been an editor and journalist for 40 years (now retired), and I am aware of the constant pressure from vested interests. Now David Cameron is threatening to use regulation to rein in the scope of the Guardian’s investigations. It’s outrageous; shooting the messenger because you don’t like the message. We must have newspapers such as the Guardian which, unlike other major newspaper groups, cannot be bought off or intimidated by powerful interests. Full support to the Guardian.
Darrel Cake
Spearwood, Western Australia
• Re the phone hacking trial (Report, 29 October): it would be helpful to we lay people if Judge Saunders could summarise when the hacking of innocent people’s phones ceases to be a criminal offence and becomes vital to national security. Is it a matter of scale?
Kevin Bell
I know I am a lone dissenting voice, but the truth is that Lou Reed was a poor musician (Obituary, 29 October). He could hardly sing or play. He also had an appalling effect on music, especially in Britain, being one of the main influences on the disastrous and unmusical punk movement, which flooded the scene with DIY players and destroyed the skill base here for years. He furthermore promoted heroin openly, leading to more horror. I can’t help feeling anger at the way he is revered. And a blow to his “alternative” status: it was revealed this week on BBC TV News’ that after the disintegration of the execrable Velvet Underground, he went back to working for his father’s accountancy firm. Hip!
Pete Brown

• Is it a symptom of an ageing society that even the man who sang “Heroin, be the death of me” in 1967 lived on to the age of 71?
Martin Hillary
Ipswich, Suffolk
• So I too must commit a crime and be sent to prison in order to become more of a “complete person” (Prison clearly does not work, G2, 30 October)? Overweening, arrogant and narcissistic crap.
Pete Lavender
• The Guardian, 30 October: front page – photo of model when she was 14; page 19 – article on the joining of Europe and Asia by the Istanbul tunnel. Are you chasing a tabloid readership?
Mike Clarke
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire
• Forget about strawberries and peas. Is it a record that one letter writer has two letters published on the same day (David Craig, Bromsgrove, Worcestershire: Letters, 31 October)? I never get one published.
Anne Abbott
• Regarding Patricia Lowe’s query about when the word “electric” became a noun (Letters, 31 October), I’m 84 years old and clearly remember standing in shops, aged nine or 10, and hearing women saying how hard it was to put by enough money for “the gas”, or (more rarely) “the electric”.
Beryl Jackman
Bognor Regis, West Sussex

Colin Leys (Private hospitals fail too, 28 October) is misleading on the transparency and availability of data about independent sector providers of NHS care. They are subject to the same regulatory scrutiny as the NHS and provide the same information so as to allow transparency and comparison. The Care Quality Commission includes independent providers in its annual audit. Independent hospitals are regularly inspected by the same CQC inspectors as the NHS, using the same inspection standards. The new friends and family test also includes independent providers and allows patients to rate independent hospitals using the same criteria as they use for NHS hospitals.
For elective procedures such as hip and knee replacements, independent providers submit the same comprehensive performance data including Patient Reported Outcome Measures, National Joint Registry statistics and NHS Hospital Episode Statistics. All these are available online and are collated by the Private Health Information Network and published by the NHS Partners Network. Like NHS hospitals, most independent sector hospitals provide outstanding care and the data show that, overall, the sector consistently achieves outcomes at least as good and sometimes better than those of the NHS providers.
When rare lapses do occur, in the past, as with NHS hospitals, these have usually only become apparent after the event. The CQC’s new approach to regulation and inspection will hopefully make it easier for risk to be identified in advance, for all types of provider, before patients suffer, and has our full support.
David Worskett
Chief executive, NHS Partners Network
• Colin Leys claims “private hospitals have successfully resisted publishing information which would allow them to be compared with NHS hospitals”. In fact, data soon to be published by the Private Healthcare Information Network directly equates and compares the performance of NHS hospitals against their independent counterparts. His article takes no account of the CQC’s inspections that found the independent sector is on average 93.1% compliant with standards, or that the clinical governance structures required across the whole service are in place. All hospitals, independent and public, are regulated and inspected by the CQC – and are held to the same standards.
In the wake of Mid Staffordshire and the Francis report, the emphasis is rightly on ensuring quality and transparency. All hospitals need to learn from these mistakes and contrary to Mr Leys’ claims, the independent sector is not immune from this rigour. Furthermore, the independent sector supports the NHS in covering a range of general and acute services, and provides complex and challenging treatment pathways. Given the significant economic and medical challenges facing our health service, the independent sector would welcome the opportunity to provide more services to complement and support the NHS.
The failings at Mid-Staffordshire do not reflect the excellence within the NHS. Similarly, it is wrong to write off the high-quality, patient-focused provision the independent sector offers based on one case.
Fiona Booth
Chief executive, Association of Independent Healthcare Organisations
• While politicians and officials call for greater transparency by health service providers, they look the other way so far as it might be applied to their responsibilities (Drive for transparency on NHS treatment to be extended, 31 October). We’re still waiting for the health secretary to comply with the information commissioner’s longstanding ruling that the risk register, prepared in the process of driving through the flawed legislation that became the Health and Social Care Act 2012, should be put into the public domain. So long as the register remains hidden, it is likely that many of us will continue believing that it is a damning indictment of changes, predicting problems that could be prevented.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon

The affordable energy crisis (Energy firms ‘overcharge by £3.7 bn a year’, 30 October) is an inevitable consequence of three essential planks of coalition policy: engineered inflation through QE; further pressure on employment rights; and a farcically corrupt CPI measure of inflation – all highly regressive policies which have resulted in five years of falling real incomes. We seem to be living in a consumer society without the means to consume, a paradox of austerity which is entirely analogous with the paradox of thrift, being permanent, perplexing and palpable. The regional recession will not end until incomes start to rise, though it is quite unclear how that will happen. A significant rise in the nationally established minimum wage might be a good start.
Bill Goodall
Bewdley, Worcestershire
• Little attention has been focused on changes to be introduced by British Gas of a standing charge of 26p per day (£94.9 a year), removal of the prompt payment discount (about 1.7% 0f the cost of gas used), and also the continuing penalty of about 7% for those paying by cash or cheque rather than direct debit. Although the standard gas charge for those paying by cash or cheque has been reduced from 8.072p to 5.05p for users of less than 2,680kWh a year, the percentage increase in the annual bill for a small user (eg less than 1,000kWh) is close to 95%. Is there potential here for easing the burden of energy costs?
Alan Haines
• If the larger energy companies are indeed set to increase residential fuel prices (unnecessarily) by £3.7bn, it is worth noting that the consequent increase in VAT revenues will ensure the Treasury will also be receiving a windfall of an additional £180m next year. Equally, if the energy companies were to succeed in their disingenuous campaign to cease collecting funds for social welfare and environmental improvements (have they forgotten the polluter pays principle?), an additional consequence would be that the Treasury would be forced to forgo annual VAT revenue of well over £230m.
Andrew Warren
Association for the Conservation of Energy
• The government’s concern for consumers securing the best deal regarding energy supplies is surely disingenuous (Government set to make it easier to switch energy suppliers, 31 October). We all know that working through tariffs and comparisons is far from easy and leads many of us to despair and paralysis. As it is an objective fact which supplier is best for which circumstances at any given time, there is a simple answer: insist that the companies – or the regulators – automatically perform the switch for us. After all, they have all the relevant information and presumably are not baffled by the comparisons. Mind you, maybe that would bring to light how capitalist success partially relies on consumer ignorance, apathy or bewilderment in the face of marketing ploys, advertisements and temptations. After all, how many of us can work out the best deal, be it regarding energy, pensions, mortgages – or even wine sold as three for the price of two?
Peter Cave
• The argument by the energy companies that they do not make as much profit as, for example, Vodafone, is specious and irrelevant. Consumers have a choice as to their use of their mobile phones – including none at all if they fall on hard times: this option is not available to consumers of energy. These companies must remember that they are national utilities that have a duty to serve the community, not to screw customers for as much as the market can stand, as unfettered capitalism demands.
Frank Fahy
King’s Somborne, Hampshire
• My latest Scottish Power bill says that electricity costs make up 39% of their costs. So if their latest 9% rise is to be justified, that means wholesale electricity costs must have risen by 23%, not the 1.7% actual increase stated by Ofgem. Who’s telling porkies?
Peter Hanson
• I don’t see much written about the consistently rotten job that the toothless poodle Ofgem has done for the past decade. Compared to the rather good Ofcom, Ofgem has been a joke in particularly bad taste.
Stewart Taylor


Having been a head at a school where over 80 per cent of the young pupils had families living abroad, I am familiar with the problem of term-time holidays (“The easyJet generation revolts over holiday ban”, 31 October).
Then, as now, the guidance was that these were to be taken in exceptional circumstances only, and, then as now, families took the cheaper option. It was common for pupils to be absent for six weeks or more and, although the contact with their families was enriching, there was no doubt that their academic education, particularly their language skills, suffered. This is more serious than the short holiday with cultural trimmings, and has to be addressed by the travel companies with government regulation, as will certainly be necessary.
In the case of short holidays, there is room for negotiation, with attendance and attainment taken into account. But school is not something to do until a better offer turns up. Parents should ask whether a simpler holiday, in the UK during the school holidays, would give their child a better signal as to value.
Schools are not blameless. Of course, they want to minimise the disruption to children, but they are also target-driven. Successive governments have imposed arbitrary attendance and attainment targets on schools. These are turned into published data which is interpreted negatively by the same parents who contribute to the problem. If leave is refused, the family invariably take it anyway and the school is caught on the other horn of high unauthorised absence.
As an Ofsted inspector once memorably put it to me: “I know there isn’t anything you can do, but you’ve got to find something.” Instead of petitions, parents and schools would be better occupied in fighting this cockeyed attitude.
Jean Gallafent
London NW1
Council acted too late in Shoesmith case
The news that Sharon Shoesmith is to receive a large settlement following her dismissal by Haringey Council in the wake of the Baby P tragedy comes as no surprise, but this outcome could have been averted. 
Rumours of the death of another child were circulating in Haringey months before the court case that precipitated Shoesmith’s demise. The Labour administration employed specialist public relations advisers to assist in dealing with the anticipated negative fall-out when the verdict was announced.
This attempted spin failed because Shoesmith and the politicians in charge were not deemed to be sufficiently contrite, so Ed Balls said they had to go.
A more sensible approach for Haringey would have been to instigate a confidential in-house review into the circumstances that led to the death in advance of the trial, so that the council could have demonstrated that lessons had already been learned and acted on, rather than simply issue another lame apology.
There was no good reason to delay this process for a year until after the trial, and every reason to get on with it. Positive action could have saved Shoesmith’s career and the taxpayer a lot of money.   
Nigel Scott
Liberal Democrat Councillor for Alexandra Ward, Haringey
London N22
Peace poppies? Very suspicious
Early last night I ordered 10 white poppies from the Stop the War Coalition website, using my credit card online.
Within five minutes, I received a text from Tesco Bank asking me to ring them urgently. In case this was a phishing exercise, rather than replying directly, I looked up their number and rang from my landline.
They said they were making a security check because of recent suspicious activity on my account. They asked me to verify some recent transactions, including this last one, which I did. They said everything was fine and I hung up, but as soon as I put the receiver down, I felt a shudder.
Am I being paranoid or had the covert eyes of the State just turned in my direction? Have any other readers had a similar experience?
Dr John Buckingham
Hounslow, Middlesex
Nigel Cubbage is brave to not wear the remembrance poppy this November (letter, 31 October). It is perhaps worn too widely with too little thought – it seems odd a pop star would have to wear it on Saturday night television.
Neither world war was fought for Britain to become unthinkingly conformist in public. I might make a donation to the British Legion, but I should not have to feel I must broadcast the fact by wearing a poppy.
Ian McKenzie
Paying the bill for a waste of gas
The concern about the increase in gas prices exposes the ill-founded thinking underlying the “dash for gas” for electricity generation.
Modern combined-cycle gas-fuelled electricity generation plant results in a net energy conversion  efficiency of some 50 per cent,  allowing for production and transmission losses. When gas is piped and used as a prime  energy source its overall energy conversion efficiency is about 90 per cent, allowing for the storage and transmission losses.
When there are energy uses which can be satisfied from either of these routes, such as space and process heating, it would suggest that we require almost twice as much gas for the “electricity route”. Surely this extra, and perhaps unnecessary, demand for a finite resource tends to increase its price.
Until we have developed  sustainable energy resources and an effective national energy policy, we can at least educate domestic users to operate energy management strategies, such as the installation of efficient house insulation, which will serve to reduce both the demand for and the cost of fuel.
Dr David Bartlett
Ilkley, West Yorkshire
I do not understand why so many people are complaining about energy bills to heat their homes.
My 93-year-old grandmother wears two jumpers in the winter, sits in front of the gogglebox, a hot water bottle on her lap, and, armed with a flask of warm tea, regales her carers with stories of Winston Churchill, doodlebugs, the bygone days when there was no television or central heating, and, indeed, refuses to turn on the gas fire in her own front room.
At night, fortified with a cup of warm milk and another hot water bottle, it’s off to bed. No problem, fuss or complaint.
Her secret? Good home insulation to keep out the draughts.
Dominic Shelmerdine
London W8
Utility companies currently seem to regard it as their right to rip us off, especially the poor. Several of your correspondents recently have expressed understandable surprise and horror at this.
However, if we accept that the purpose of society is now to serve the economy, it all makes perfect sense.
Susan Alexander
Frampton Cotterell, South Gloucestershire
It’s those crazy Froggies again
Another day, another French-bashing piece in the British media (“The French malady”, 31 October), replete with the usual, tired, old – and inaccurate – stereotypes. Allow me to counter them with some facts of daily life in France.
You describe a “way of life, a culture, a language and cuisine that critics describe as xenophobic”.  My local cinema in a small town is showing 13 films this week, of which five are in their original language with subtitles: three American films plus one Belgian and one Palestinian. English words pepper French daily discourse. I’m going to see a French Top 14 rugby match on Saturday in which both teams will have a mix of national and international players.
You highlight “the resistance to supermarket bread and McDonald’s”.  Supermarkets have sold sliced bread for ages: ours even have a machine for slicing up more traditional bread (French compromise: they’re as adept at it as we are). France is McDo’s largest European market, we even have one here. As to the “sclerotic labour market”, another old favourite, French labour productivity is higher than Britain’s.
Hollande is vastly unpopular, but little more so than Sarkozy was latterly. But the predominantly right-wing media on both sides of the Channel are becoming hysterical in their criticism of him, while pandering to the agenda of the extreme right.
Rod Chapman
Sarlat, France
How many more drone strikes?
In 2006 a US drone killed 85 teenage boys in Bajaur close to the Pakistan/Afghan border. My students in Peshawar told me this at the time, and the strike has  been independently confirmed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. And yet this has still not been admitted by the USA. So how many more drone strikes have there been in these borderlands than the ones you list in your poignant article of 30 October?
Dr David L Gosling
(Former principal of Edwardes College, Peshawar)
North star
Rather than HS2 bringing London’s “prosperity” to Yorkshire (Jane Merrick, 30 October), we might debate what Yorkshire offers to London (apart from myself!). Yorkshire has a natural boom – dales, wolds, rivers, coast, hills – which feels completely different to the hectic economic well-being of the South-east. There is also still a mutuality which is beyond price.  Let’s appreciate the differences, and accept London might learn from Yorkshire. That’s not to classify either as bad or good.
Chris Payne
London NW1
Avoiding the issue
At last a letter about tax avoidance that hits the mark (John Seymour, 30 October). Tax avoidance is perfectly legal, whether it be by individuals, small companies or multinational concerns. If the politicians don’t like what is happening, then they should stop the posturing and change the laws. Put up or shut up.
David Edmondson
Bacup, Lancashire
Today’s eagles
I see that the magnificent Roman eagle unearthed in the City of London (report, 30 October) belonged to a prosperous and important early Londoner. I wonder what sculptures future archaeologists would find that represented the power of the present wealthy City elite? Perhaps a statue of a fat cat smoking a cigar?
Ivor Yeloff
No error
Peter Whitehead (letter, 28 October) quotes a newspaper letters editor who does his best “to keep errors of fact off the letters page”. Please don’t say you will be adopting this policy. I would miss the Independent letters page.
Julian Gall


‘Britain’s place in world business and politics is due to the enterprise of the Industrial Revolution when vision was the driving force’
Sir, Your editorial “Right Track” (Oct 30) was indeed apt in questioning the reasons why HS2 should not be built by various siren groups that crop up whenever anything new is mooted. The same arguments were made by landowners and businesses, such as the canal companies, at the construction of the first railway between Liverpool and Manchester in the days of “the Rocket” and the Rainhill trials. The Luddite movement still flourishes.
The campaign against HS2 seems to be one of thinking of the cost and doubling it, or the even bigger lie that money “saved” will be spent on improving the current system. I have as much confidence in that as travelling on a flying pig. It will just be reassigned to something else.
I still recall the promise, when billions of pounds were thrown at the Channel Tunnel, that we would get a high-speed link to the North West. I urge the Government and the vacillating Labour Party (as a local councillor and secretary) to get a grip and support the project, otherwise there will be a lot of Labour voters and councillors very upset up t’North.
Bill Bradbury
Billinge, Lancs

Sir, You are right to highlight the peculiarly British symphony of opposition to major infrastructure improvements. It is tiresome, and drowns out the far more rational worry that HS2 will just turn Birmingham into a suburb of London (which a 49-minute journey could well do). Already we are being told that the Tube would not be able to cope with the huge increase of passengers at Euston, which would necessitate the construction of Crossrail 2 — another £12 billion. This will do nothing for the Midlands and the North.
HS2 emulates the French TGV model, which makes some sense where cities are generally 80 to 100 miles apart, but not in crowded Britain. Germany — which, like us, has closely spaced cities — has steadily and successfully improved its railways and the economic balance of the regions by upgrades and some shortish new lines. Most of these have not been exorbitantly expensive because in most cases very high speed was not needed. Surely that is a better model for us?
Dr Dominic White

Sir, Sluggish enthusiasm for HS2, together with the National Trust backing away from fracking, takes us back to the 19th-century days of the Luddites. Britain’s place in world business and politics is due to the enterprise of the Industrial Revolution when vision was the driving force behind cotton, coal, steel, railways and worldwide trade.
The National Trust should look at its stately piles; I would bet that most were built by men and women with backbone and foresight, creating industry and business.
David Sugden
Worsley, Manchester

Sir Our granddaughter recently won a temporary student job in Germany. The interview was done on Skype. Another family member was involved with a conference in Manchester where the lecturer was unable to attend, but appeared on a screen, not only talking but answering questions. It will not be long before such procedures are commonplace and the need for a second, overpriced and destructive railway system will be gone.
Pam Braithwaite
Ilkley, W Yorks

If our sense of morality diminishes during the course of the day, shouldn’t PMQs be moved to an earlier slot?
Sir, I noted with interest the claim by Harvard researchers that people are more likely to be dishonest in the afternoon than in the morning (report, Oct 31). As a chartered psychologist, I am moved to suggest that we bring Prime Minister’s Questions forward by an hour from its traditional noon start. I’m sure all sides of the House would benefit.
Professor Patrick Mcghee
Chorley, Lancs

Drama schools have decades of experience in helping people to overcome their fear of speaking in public places
Sir, The news that for most people public speaking is more terrifying than death (report, Oct 30), will come as no surprise to the many performers who have “died” in front of an audience. Drama schools have decades of experience in helping young people overcome this anxiety and in recent years RADA has had to develop ever more courses to meet the demand from those in public and private service who periodically have to emerge from behind their keyboard to speak to other human beings.
The results can so often transform people’s lives that one of our teachers wondered recently whether drama training should be available on the National Health, or at least the national curriculum.
Edward Kemp
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art

The armour-plated species of insect, designed to withstand massive shocks, are probably the form of life that will survive a nuclear blast
Sir, Reading Matthew Parris’s entertaining account of his battle with the beetles occupying his African drum (Oct 30), I was reminded of a paperweight given to my father and which I now own. An entomologist, he studied and admired most things that crawled and waved their legs in the air. The paperweight contains a small locust and is accompanied by a quote from The Rival World. It reads, “Who shall inherit the earth? Shall it be the rival world of the insects, striking us down in pain and death, destroying our possessions, devouring the food we now so sorely need?”
I hate to break it to Mr Parris but the answer is probably yes. The armour-plated ones, designed to withstand shocks up to nuclear attacks, will probably win the day.
Jane Hardy

The number of pupillage places available is decreasing steadily year on year and those aiming for the Bar deserve to know that
Sir, You suggest that there are 900 pupillages available (Student Law, Oct 31). I doubt the number will even be 400 this year, based upon the steady decline from more than 500 in 2005 to fewer than than 450 in 2010 alone. While I’m sure your article was not intentionally misleading, those considering a career at the Bar deserve to know the harsh reality.
Edward Ross
Pupil barrister, 3PB Barristers

SIR – Joe Shute is correct to point out that there is plenty of life yet in the Mark III coaches that make up the royal train.
He, and the Royal family, should look no further than Chiltern Railways and First Great Western to see what contemporary designers and operators can achieve with older rolling stock of the Mark III design.
Chiltern have set new standards in comfort for standard-class passengers, and First Great Western have got it spot on with their first-class seating and fine dining.
Anyone thinking of sending the royal train to the scrapyard should see and enjoy what is possible with the existing kit before making a rash decision.
Andrew Castledine
Petersfield, Hampshire

SIR – At last the penny seems to have dropped in Westminster as to the real problem with the British energy market: the lack of competition.
Last week Jeremy Warner defended the power companies, arguing that “since costs are largely the same… genuine price competition is at best marginal”. The inference is that there is little to be done.
While there is not much scope for large differentials in pricing, there is room for variation in operational efficiency and profit margins. The fact that all energy companies are showing increases in profits proves that there is no real competition. The companies have decided that there is more to be gained by following the herd on price and not going for market share. Whether this is by agreement, or by a common recognition of an exploitable oligopoly, is not important.
Now that the Government recognises the inherent competitive weakness in the energy sector (and similarly in the fuel, banking and water sectors) and the ineffectiveness of the regulatory bodies, it must actively foster new competitors. Until that happens there must be a constraint on profits, either by capping or taxation.
Peter Jackson
Poole, Dorset
Related Articles
The royal train has plenty of mileage in her yet
31 Oct 2013
SIR – I am confused. All our main political parties have announced loudly, at one stage or another, that they will pursue policies – encouraged or required by EU directives – designed to increase energy costs, in order to reduce usage of fossil fuels. Energy prices are now duly increasing and our political parties are falling over themselves to try to stop this. Have I missed something?
Charles Pugh
London SW10
SIR – What a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. The MPs were totally out of their depth while questioning the energy representatives. We need MPs who have worked in the world of business and commerce, not schoolboys who have gone straight into politics from university.
John Millar
Hemingford Grey, Huntingdonshire
SIR – Iain Martin is right to draw attention to the unedifying interviews by House of Commons committees. MPs need reminding that they are public servants, and that their interviewees should be treated with courtesy and respect.
Peter Wills
Long Melford, Suffolk
SIR – When I asked my energy provider why they had not put me on their preferential 60-plus rate when I first joined them months ago, their answer was: “You didn’t ask”.
Gerald Puttock
Children and tablets
SIR – How worrying that children as young as two typically spend an hour a day in front of a screen.
Yesterday, while I was travelling by train, I sat next to a father and his young sons. Not a single word was uttered between them all for the entire two-hour trip. During this time the boys remained glued to their tablets, pausing only to grab a sweet from a packet without their eyes ever leaving the screen, while their father was absorbed in his work.
Were they just perfectly behaved young boys or products of a generation who may have lost – or never gained – the ability to have a family conversation?
Dr Jennifer Pendleton
Metal hip replacements
SIR – In 2004 and 2009, I had metal-on- metal hip replacements. Everything was fine until 2011, when I started experiencing physical symptoms. Following media coverage about metal toxicity, I contacted my GP who arranged for blood tests. Results for chromium and cobalt were high: over twice the normal levels, but not at danger levels.
My orthopaedic consultant said these levels were not serious, but I am concerned about the health risks associated with constant high levels of metal in my blood.
Julie Luscombe
Harberton, Devon
SIR – I have had two metal-on-metal hip replacements, both inserted by Ronan Treacy, the co-designer of the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing. As a result, I now play tennis, walk and garden.
I remember my grandmother crippled because of arthritic hips, before any replacement was available. Every day, I am grateful to my surgeon for giving me a normal existence.
Celia Foulkes
Hambleton, Rutland
Gadgets galore
SIR – One of Aldi’s attractions for men is a regularly changing selection of non-food items. My garage is filled with items bought from the supermarket, including a garden trolley, tarpaulins, torches, tools and paint.
I try to visit their store once a fortnight, preferably when my wife is not around, as, if she knows I have been there, she greets me with: “What have you bought now?”
Sid Davies
Bramhall, Cheshire
Saving state schools
SIR – David Kynaston argues against private schools but ignores the underlying truth: for the vast majority of parents, making the huge financial sacrifice of paying twice for their children’s education is a necessity, given the evident failures within state schools.
Politicians should stop using education as a political football and start serious investment in a consistent curriculum, teacher numbers and basic infrastructure. They should also instil in staff a renewed appreciation of non-academic arts and sporting activities. If that happened, within a single generation, hard-pressed middle-class parents would desert the increasingly unaffordable private schools in droves.
It is time the Left embraced policies that improve state-funded education instead of fighting an outdated class war.
Anthony Fry
London W11
Undercover police
SIR – I greet the news that undercover police are to be banned from having sex with individuals they are investigating with a great deal of scepticism. Just last week I was told by the Met Commissioner that the police have “always” had such a policy – yet we know that the Met authorised Mark Kennedy to have sex with the people he was targeting.
What is there to stop this new guidance being ignored, just like the Met’s own policy? Other countries legislate to make clear this practice is unacceptable, and it’s time for Britain to do the same.
Jenny Jones
London Assembly Member (Green)
London SE1
Charity expenditure
SIR – For years, we have been receiving mail from the British Red Cross. This contains cards, coasters and sometimes pens. I wrote to the Red Cross complaining about this, but, as yet, I have not received a reply.
Trying to return these unwanted goods is not possible as on the envelope, in small print, it states: “Please do not return.” I do not want our small donations to go towards these unwanted “gifts”.
Valerie Hampton
Tettenhall, Staffordshire
Profitable litter
SIR – Roger Marlow’s letter about the 25 cent deposit on beer cans in Germany reminded me of a British soldier in the early Eighties who bought beer in East Berlin.
After legally exchanging his currency in marks at 5:1, he drank it in West Berlin and, after floating the labels off the bottles in a bath, reclaimed his deposits in the West, making a handsome profit on them.
He was eventually found out and court-martialled.
Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire
SIR – Forty years ago, as children on a camping holiday, we would go out each morning to collect discarded bottles from the site and return them to the camp shop.
We received many francs in return.
Sara Dickinson
Tadworth, Surrey
Return to sender
SIR – I have received a letter from my bank thanking me for informing them of my change of address. It was sent to my old address.
Margaret Nicolson
Ranish, Ross-shire
Take one broad bean, a gold ring and some soap
SIR – The best home remedy for nasty warts is to use the inside membrane of a broad bean skin.
I can assure you that it removes them every time.
Sue Burtsell
Ash Vale, Surrey
SIR – In answer to Barbara Loryman, touching a sty with a gold ring works because the tear gland of the eye produces trace hydrochloric acid, which reacts to create gold chloride and effect the cure.
Geoff Smith
Grantown-on-Spey, Morayshire
SIR – A bar of soap (unwrapped) between the sheets near your feet will prevent night leg cramps.
Faye Morris
SIR – My mother claimed that she cured her night-time cramp by getting out of bed and standing on a magnet. She said that it was the magnetic field that cured the problem.
I sceptically used to suggest that it was the getting out of bed and standing on a cold object that stopped the cramp.
William Petch
London SW20

Irish Times:

Sir, – Once again we find ourselves faced with a spectacular failure of an essential public service. It appears that the Ballymore Eustace water treatment plant has been overwhelmed by a change in feed water character. Professionals are paid to anticipate and plan for such events.
Those who plan to meter and charge for water need to be aware of the resulting contractual obligations. Once a commodity is charged for, it is required to be of “merchandisable quality”. I write as one whose water supply has tested positive for Cryptosporidium within living memory. Continuity and reliability of service are also issues.
We appear to be moving to an economic model of Scandinavian levels of tax (for the PAYE sector, pension fund contributors and health insurance holders at least) coupled with third-world standards of public service. This is not sustainable. Troika please copy.
The situation is clearly serious, they have called in the chemists! – Yours, etc,
Shanganagh Road,
Killiney, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I am amazed at how Dublin City Council and The Irish Times present the tapping of the Shannon as a done deal: it is not, and the proposal would likely breach, inter alia, the European Habitats Directive and the EU Water Framework Directive. The Greater Dublin Area proposes to tap the Shannon for 600 million litres per day, while 300 million litres of water leak away daily due to Victorian pipelines. What an Irish solution to an Irish problem!
Several consultation papers have identified 60 adverse effects on the Shannon and its lakes, and Dublin City Council has made no provision for alternatives such as exploring ground water aquifers, which supply 90 per cent of demand in Cork city. Nor has it done a relative costing on the option of desalination versus the enormous costs involved in pumping water right across the country. The madness of having the Greater Dublin Area paying the ESB compensation for the loss of generation capacity from the Shannon hydro-electric scheme speaks for itself: it’s a double environmental disaster. We’re obliged by the EU to boost our energy production in renewables, not reduce it.
I’m afraid this is the reaping of poor spatial planning in Ireland. Our regional cities are falling into economic slump while Dublin continues to grow and grow and grow. Ireland is a tiny island – people in New York State travel greater distances to work daily than the relative distances between Limerick/ Cork/Galway to Dublin, and they do so on an efficient public transport network. The solution to this problem is clearly regional development and investment in high- speed transport nodes. – Yours, etc,
Tulla, Co Clare.
Sir, – Adrian J English (October 31st) bemoans the introduction of a “water tax” even as the Dublin area suffers another set of water restrictions. I take the opposite view – the current shortage shows the need to better fund our water treatment system, and encourage people not to waste a precious resource in times of scarcity. – Yours, etc,
St Alphonsus Road Upper,
Drumcondra, Dublin 9.
Sir, – I wonder how much water is wasted by people filling up every utensil and bin they have in their homes with water that probably will never be used just because of the water being turned off for a time? – Yours, etc,
Glenageary Woods,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – One’s heart sinks when reading headlines such as “Dublin area ‘faces 10 more years of water shortages’ ” (Front page, October 31st)
The attitude that allows such an unreasoned and unsophisticated approach to communicating the true nature of the problem and possible solution in relation to issues such as these brings about a degree of despair among people observing from the outside.
While people leave the country for many different reasons, a key factor encouraging them to stay away is unquestionably Ireland’s tolerance for this “can’t do” attitude.
Why should it take 10 years to solve this issue? It shouldn’t and it needn’t.
I hope all future stories about why Ireland can’t, also include the question “Why not?” – Yours, etc,
Strathmore Avenue,
Sir, – It’s autumn in Dublin, the leaves are falling from the trees, the evenings are shorter & with the changeable weather in the last few weeks, there has been at times water, water everywhere, but now at night, there is not a drop to drink (or wash, or clean). It is a national disgrace. – Yours, etc,
Beaumont Road,
Dublin 9.
Sir, – Everyone is calling Ireland’s water supply “third world”. Please stop, it is insulting. I have never had my water supply cut for anything more than one day for repairs on local pipes – and even that is not very frequent. Sometimes this is due to leaks being repaired (the Government might want to take note that this is what you do with a water service). Ongoing restrictions for an indefinite time period? Never! So whatever you want to call it, don’t call it “third world”: it isn’t up to such a high standard. – Yours, etc,
Calle 12D,
Bogotá, Colombia.

Sir, – The successful Bord Bia trade mission to the Middle East is to be welcomed. This is, indeed, evidence of a robust green shoot breaking hard economic ground. Quality food is to Ireland what engineering excellence is to Germany.
All concerned with the Bord’s export drive are to be congratulated. – Yours, etc,
Montrose Crescent,
Artane, Dublin 5.

Sir, – In Derek Scally’s article about NSA spying (World News, October 31st), he cites a Washington Post article that stated the “Muscular” programme was “illegal in the US but was permitted . . . overseas on the assumption that anyone using a foreign data link is a non-US citizen”.
As a US expat living in Ireland, I have always used my e-mail address when corresponding via the Internet. This is also the case with other US citizens living in Ireland: I know this as fact. As past vice chair of the US Democratic Party Committee Abroad, Ireland chapter, I know that many of our members have non-US data link e-mail addresses which would have made them and me targets for data gathering by Muscular. This would have been illegal had we remained in the United States. – Yours, etc,
Crana View
Buncrana, Co Donegal.
Sir, – Politicians in the US are fond of saying that Ireland is a good friend, but surely actions speak louder than words? If we are such a good friend, then how come our leaders’ mobile phones haven’t been bugged by the NSA? – Yours, etc,
Seafield Crescent,
Booterstown, Co Dublin.
Sir, – To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: surely, for the democratically-elected leader of a western nation, the only thing worse than the annoyance at learning that your mobile phone was being tapped (presumably by the state security apparatus of a large powerful ally) would be the dismay at realising that your mobile phone was not being tapped. – Yours, etc,
Orlagh Park,
Knocklyon, Dublin 16.
Sir, – I am beginning to (nearly) feel sorry for the US president and Jay Carney and their specific troubles. They are discovering that there are deniable deniables, but there are also undeniable deniables. Should Mr Carney and other spokespersons attend a course in Jesuistic semantics? – Yours, etc,
Brookside Terrace,
Dublin 14.

Sir, – Paul O’Neill (October 31st) is making the unfortunate mistake of confusing geography and law.
Undoubtedly, all 32 counties compose the island of Ireland as a matter of geography.
However,when it comes to statehood, matters are well-defined. Article 4 of our Constitution clearly states that the name of our state is Ireland. The constitutional aspiration to a unified Ireland in Article 3 also acknowledges the different jurisdictions north and south.
Regarding our status as a republic; this is a description of the kind of democracy that we are and not part of the State’s name.
Mr O’Neill undoubtedly lives on the island of Ireland but he resides in the state of Northern Ireland, which is of course part of the UK. – Yours, etc,
Christ’s College, Cambridge,
First published: Fri, Nov 1, 2013, 01:06

Sir, – Cork hurler Conor Cusack’s incredibly brave public stand on dealing with depression was inspiring to read online (October 30th), and to listen to on Prime Time. In his blog entry that went viral this week and last, he specifically mentions bullying at school as a factor that contributed to his condition. He talks about an improbable stroke of luck in his mother breaking a habit of going to Mass, on a particular Saturday, for saving his life, as he was just hours away from taking his own life.
In 2009 his elder brother Donal Óg Cusack publicly came out as gay while at the top of his game, as Cork senior hurling captain, and has been an inspiration to young gay Irish people who feel trapped and isolated, particularly in rural Ireland as they struggle with bullying and prejudice, both real and perceived. Indeed rates of suicide among young gay Irish people are multiples of their peers.
While not taking away from either Conor or Donal Óg’s bravery and integrity, I think someone should interview Mammy Cusack and find out how she managed to raise two boys that grew into such stalwart and inspirational men.  – Yours, etc,
Vevay Road,

Sir, – Andy Pollak (Weekend Review, October 26th) writes, “The Government of the Republic should stay out of thorny issues such as ‘dealing with the past’,” and that any “compromise” was merely for the satisfaction of “tribal leaders in the North”.
In doing so, Mr Pollak ignores the fact that Dáil Eireann passed an all-party motion in 2006 calling on the British government to establish an independent public inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane and collusion between Britain and loyalist paramilitaries in the killing. To date, this remains Irish Government policy. It is affirmed at every opportunity by the Taoiseach and Tánaiste to their British counterparts and rightly so.
The failure to hold an inquiry is a broken promise by the British government and it is right that Ireland should involve itself and hold it to account. Britain would like nothing more than to be rid of its responsibilities. It behoves the Irish Government to ensure they fulfil them.
What is evident here is the extent to which efforts made to address other all-island issues such as energy, health, tourism and investment contrast sharply with the absence of imagination and industry when it comes to the legacy of the past conflict. Despite the position of the British government on the Finucane Inquiry and recent comments by Theresa Villiers MP, the past is unresolved and must be dealt with; and unlawful British state involvement was a significant contributor.
In the era of external management consultancy, it is unsurprising that Britain chooses the option of bringing in Richard Haass from the US to find a solution to this problem. However, this risks abandoning the issue of the past to a process internalised to Northern Ireland and its “tribal leaders”, letting both governments off the hook.
Ignoring the past and simply giving it to an outsider who can be readily blamed for any shortcomings is worse than failure. It is cowardice. It is an abdication of responsibility by all of those involved in and affected by what is undoubtedly the most important issue of the peace process that remains unresolved.
Matters cannot be left as they are; more ingenuity must be shown in how this problem is tackled. The potential consequences of failure are simply too monstrous to calculate. – Yours, etc,
Arran Quay,
Dublin 7.

Sir, – Further to letters (David O’Brien, October 24th & Dr John Bosco Conama, October 29th) relating to my request for a two-minute silence in the Dáil to highlight the experiences of deaf children seeking second bilateral cochlear implants, I wish to outline the reasoning behind my action.
This act was merely an attempt to make my Dáil colleagues aware of the experiences of parents and children who are seeking bilateral cochlear implants. I am not a spokesperson for the groups campaigning for this, nor am I a spokesperson for the deaf community, but I am an elected representative and have a role in advocating causes at the request of members of the public, and this is one of them.
I am fully aware of the debates surrounding the construction of deafness as a pathology and its subsequent medicalisation, and surgical treatment with bilateral cochlear implants, and the opposing view of deafness as a cultural minority to be emancipated – but my request for two minutes silence in the Dáil was certainly not to pitch one against the other, nor to define those who are deaf as either a linguistic community or a group of persons with a disability.
Sinn Féin has long supported the campaign by the Irish Deaf Society for official recognition for Irish Sign Language as a third official language and has called on this, and previous governments, to address this as a matter of priority. We are committed to the positive promotion of equality for the deaf community and have called for a bilateral cochlear implant programme in the HSE national service plan due to be published next month.
Equality is an integral part of a democratic society and this includes upholding the rights of those who use Irish Sign Language. However, equality should mean that people also have access to medical and surgical treatments should they wish to avail of them. – Is mise,
Sinn Féin Spokesperson
on Education, Skills,

Sir, – In response to Edel McMahon’s letter (October 30th), there are a number of payment options which allow you to pay local property tax by phased payments. Revenue is asking you to decide now on your payment method for 2014 so that we can set these up in good time to spread the payments evenly throughout 2014, beginning in January.
In fact, Tim O’Brien’s article “What’s the best way to pay my property tax in 2014?” (Home News, October 30th) is very clear on the range of options available and the relevant payments dates. – Yours, etc,
Media Relations Manager,
Revenue Commissioners,
Dublin Castle,
A chara, – It was great to read about “One Voice”, various language teaching professionals co-operating toward the vision of a multilingual Irish population (Education, October 29th).
The strategy of an integrated language curriculum with Irish and English at its core and involving teaching through the medium of second and third languages as a matter of course has long been championed by Prof David Little of TCD and is certainly an idea whose time has come.
The Finnish education system is often held out as an ideal by Irish commentators and rightly so. The Finnish system has multilingualism at its core, rooted in early acquisition of the country’s two national languages: Finnish and Swedish.
Teacher training is key. High standards must be expected in order to be achieved. Investment is needed but even more important is the understanding that the acquisition of languages to a very high standard by teachers of those languages is a condition precedent.
We are the most gregarious people in the world. We are natural linguists, we just don’t know it yet. – Is mise,

Sir, – There has been some criticism in the media of the gender imbalance of those involved in the Web Summit at the RDS. Will the same criticism be brought to bear in respect of the upcoming Knitting and Stitching Show at the same venue? – Vive la différence. – Yours, etc,
Seafield Road,
Killiney, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

31 October 2013
* I always fear what I see as a ministerial PR stunt, especially when it goes unchallenged. Education Minister Ruairi Quinn’s project runs roughshod over the reservations of teachers, particularly in the area of assessment.
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In a radio interview, he went totally unchallenged as he promoted his Framework for Junior Cycle. Does it not appear strange that he failed to consult teachers, the experts in education? Did he fear that the changes in assessment might be exposed as a money-saving rather than educationally sound exercise?
The proposed statement of achievement, at the end of Junior Cycle, will not be state-certified. So let’s call a spade a spade. It will be a school report, nothing more and nothing less. Why would he not want students to have state certification, considering he expects them to achieve so much under his new proposals?
If Mr Quinn’s proposals go ahead, the first time students will be assessed by the State will be at the Leaving Certificate Examination. If we think senior cycle students are currently under pressure, what will it be like for them in the future facing a state examination for the first time after six years at second level?
He speaks about project work as if it is the answer to all our woes. Mr Quinn should talk to teachers, whose subjects currently have a second component such as a project. He might then understand the difficulties of this approach.
Unfortunately, in my opinion, this minister does not listen. He stated that there are sufficient resources to deal with the implementation of the Framework for Junior Cycle.
We in the profession know that there is a total lack of resources and that schools depend hugely on the goodwill of teachers.
Perhaps if the teachers gave up the teaching part of their job, they might have time to make out exams, assess, moderate and deal with appeals – all in the name of progress at Junior Cycle.
Mr Quinn would be well advised to consider the excellent ASTI publication ‘Teachers’ Voice’. Talking to and consulting with the experts would be a very worth-while experience for him.
Maire G Ni Chiarba
Muinteoir meanscoile, Priomhoide chunta & ball de Bhuanchoiste Chumann na Meanmhuinteoiri
* With the recent controversies over the parentage of non-stereotypical Roma children, we have to wonder whether there is now such a thing as being illegally blonde?
Killian Foley-Walsh
Kilkenny City
* The EU had one of its many euro summits last week and there were many serious issues to consider: the ongoing debt issue, the massive unemployment problems across the EU especially among the youth, to name but two of them.
Yet what was discussed was the minor problem concerning German Chancellor Angela Merkel when it was found that the NSA had been listening to her mobile phone calls.
There was not a problem some weeks ago when it was found that most of the German population’s phone calls were being listened to. One wonders – does it suit the EU that the major issues are not dealt with and put on the back-burner?
Frankly, I cannot understand the problem of spying as the only revelation that happened was that someone got caught.
Paul Doran
Dublin 22
* Your wonderful picture, of the crow sitting on the deer’s head, reminded me of a song from ‘The Sound of Music’ . . . All together now: Crow, a deer, a female deer . . .
Fergus O’Reilly
Mealisheen, Leap, Co Cork
* I’d like to complement former Cork hurler Conor Cusack, younger brother of legendary Cork goalkeeper Donal Og, for his honesty in writing about his battle with depression and how he was able to move on with his life in ‘Depression is a friend, not my enemy’, (Irish Independent, October 29).
It is very brave for a young man like himself to speak as openly as he does and his wisdom shines clearly through his writing, a wisdom gained from facing his demons and being prepared to be vulnerable. He writes about therapy as a “challenging experience” and “it can be quite scary”.
I myself suffered depression in my late teens and early 20s and like Conor benefitted from psychotherapy, having originally been diagnosed as suffering from manic depression at the age of 20. Last July I celebrated 20 years free from all psychiatric medication.
Thomas Roddy
* In relation to the much-discussed contretemps between Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane inter alia, let us not get our underwear into a proverbial tangle. It is an argument of two halves. To be fair, both Roy and Alex gave 110pc for their club Manchester United. We cannot ask any more of the lads than that.
Some egos have been bruised in the current spat but nobody has died.
Tony Wallace
Longwood Co Meath
* Have we reached the pinnacle of television?
A few weeks back we saw the eagerly awaited finale of the TV show, ‘Breaking Bad’. After five years of top-notch drama, more than 10 million viewers were treated to an epic conclusion. It took the internet and social media sites by storm. The show that encapsulated and enthralled so many, finally came to a gratifying conclusion. Vince Gilligan’s writing is genius.
In recent years other shows have been aired displaying a tremendously excellent narrative. ‘The Walking Dead’ and the Irish hit ‘Love/Hate’, are examples of such shows. It is the expertise of these narratives that allow them to garner so much attention. Show writers have really come a long way.
Television is evidently at its best right now. With TV services now shifting online, it is no surprise ratings for shows rocket into the millions each week.
Aaron McCormack (15)
Kilcormac, Co Offaly
* Your editorial ‘Emigration is a poor substitute for real choice’, (Irish Independent, October 26) raises some interesting points.
However, in line with the majority of Irish media coverage of emigration, the melancholic tone betrays the reality for many of the people who leave this country in search of work.
Yes, for some emigration is a terrible thing, yet for a vast number of young, well-educated and ambitious people – a group I include myself in – having the option to go overseas and find decent, fulfilling employment in line with our skills is something to celebrate, as well as being a privilege.
The grass is not always greener; but it can be worth a look.
Brendan Corrigan
Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon
* There are a number of irritating advertisements on radio and television these days and the one which insists that it is the law to have a television licence is among the most infuriating.
Yet for the €160 fee, purchasers of licences are still being insulted with the general lack of quality in the programmes being screened. Saturday night should be a prime viewing time but the offering on RTE 1 these weeks is an affront to people’s intelligence.
Surely RTE could do better?
Gary Cummins
Dunshaughlin, Co Meath
Irish Independent

Doctor and dishwasher

October 31, 2013

31 October 2013 Doctor and Dishwasher

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Heather wants Leslie to name the date of their marriage. Priceless
See the doctors not too bad dish washer repair man comes
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins get just under 400, though perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Jean Weston
Jean Weston was a House of Worth model whose tall, slim figure suited the postwar fashion revolution launched by Dior

Jean Weston modelling a Worth evening dress for Queen Mary 
5:50PM GMT 30 Oct 2013
Jean Weston, who has died aged 83, was better known, in the immediate post-war years, as “Rowlande”, one of the leading models at the House of Worth.
She was 17 when, in 1947, she joined the famous fashion house at £3.8s per week. Earlier the same year Christian Dior had taken the fashion world by storm with a collection of glamorous designs characterised by small, nipped-in waists and full skirts falling below mid-calf length, which became known as the “New Look”.
At 5ft 9in tall, weighing 7½ stone and with an 18in waist, Jean had the ideal figure for the new style and, as one of Worth’s six permanent models working in London, was quickly propelled into the limelight, appearing at both catwalk shows and in private showings to Worth’s regular clients.
For every season each of Worth’s models had her own collection of outfits, each individually named. At any one time “Rowlande” had 14 different outfits, which would take between four and six weeks to make and were divided into three groups: Day, Evening and Cocktail. She had three pairs of shoes (supplied by Rayne of London), one to suit each group.

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Jean Weston in a Worth ballgown
Many of Jean’s private clients were titled or famous, and there was great competition between them to ensure that they were dressed in the latest Worth outfit. One of her outfits — a chiffon dress called “Damask Rose” — caused a buying frenzy after the actress Valerie Hobson wore it in public. A three-quarter-length dress with a ruched design and no seams, it became one of Worth’s best sellers.
Jean Weston recalled that managing the day’s appointment book was a job that required diplomatic skills of the highest order. Worth’s London premises in Grosvenor Street featured private cubicles for the girls to model for their regular clients; and sales assistants were expected to ensure that clients were assigned cubicles away from each other to ensure their privacy and avoid embarrassment. On one occasion Margaret, Duchess of Argyll, visited on the same day as her husband’s (the 11th Duke’s) previous wife and his current mistress. Jean’s other clients included Raine McCorquodale (later Countess Spencer) and Lady Mountbatten.
Many of the Worth models were themselves members of the aristocracy, and some were quite put out when Jean was invited to St James’s Palace to model for the then Queen Elizabeth, her mother-in-law Queen Mary, and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret.

Jean Weston modelling a Worth suit for Queen Mary
Three months after starting work at Worth, Jean was approached by Hardy Amies, who offered her a salary rise. When the financial director at Worth heard about it he immediately put up her salary to £5 a week. Although she continued to work for Worth until 1951, at larger events she would often model creations by other designers, such as Norman Hartnell, Molyneaux, Amies and Paquin.
The daughter of a commercial property landlord and manager, she was born Jean Roland Farrant on January 11 1930 and grew up in Ealing, west London. She was educated locally at Haberdasher’s School, Ealing, and at St Augustines Priory, where she was captain of the tennis and netball teams.
After leaving school she enrolled, aged 17, at the Lucy Clayton finishing school, where the principal suggested she should pursue a career in modelling and sent her to see Victor Stieble of Jacqmar. While Stieble acknowledged her potential, he felt that she was too young for his designs. Instead he introduced her to Madame Elspeth Champcommunal, the head designer at Worth, who happened to be looking for a young model to replace one who had just left.
In 1951 Jean married Major Hugh Bruce, a Royal Marines officer who had spent most of the war in Colditz after being captured while defending Calais in 1940. Shortly after their wedding, Jean was invited to model at the Cannes Film Festival, but her husband felt that it would not be appropriate for the wife of an officer.
She never modelled again, though she kept her figure and good looks throughout her life. She continued to insist on being glamorously dressed for every occasion, whether it be a ball, the gardening or the housework — which she performed to the accompaniment of Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass. A perennial flirt, she enjoyed competing with her daughters at social events and was delighted when, aged 80 and attending a funeral of an old family friend with two of her daughters, she was mistaken for their sister.
After her husband’s death in 2003, in 2005 Jean married, secondly, John Weston MC, an old friend and comrade-in-arms of her first husband who had supported her after he suffered a stroke.
He survives her with the son and three daughters of her first marriage.
Jean Weston, born January 11 1930, died October 13 2013


Families should not need to move to gain excellent autism teaching and ABA is not the only or necessarily the best approach (Report, 29 October). All children should be able to get the kind of education and services they need to develop and thrive wherever they live in the UK. Enabling our children and young people to be happy and to learn, and supporting families to manage in their communities, is what matters. It does cost money, though, and the focus should be on what we are losing in the current climate as local supports are destroyed and good state schools are starved of cash.
Liza Dresner
Director, Resources for Autism
• As anyone lucky enough to be born in Yorkshire will proudly tell you (What’s so chuffing great about Yorkshire? G2, 30 October), there are only three types of people in this world: Yorkshire people; those who wish to be Yorkshire people; and those with no ambition at all.
Duncan Lister
Dewsbury, West Yorkshire
• When did the word “electric” change from being an adjective to being a noun, as in “gas and electric are becoming more expensive”?
Patricia Lowe
Lymm, Cheshire
• Every elderly person should be introduced to Facebook. Confined as I am, I get much pleasure in following the lives of young relatives – and enjoying cosy chats with old friends. Laptops on the NHS, I say!
Ann Tate (aged 82)
• Having just returned from that country, I note one curious fact you missed about Uruguay (Shortcuts, G2, 23 October): duelling is allowed provided that both parties are registered blood donors.
David Craig
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
• I’m surprised no one has replied to the query asking if still picking strawberries and sweet peas now was a record (Letters, 28 October). Despite last night’s frost, and St Jude’s storm, I just picked sweet peas, a courgette and a generous handful of raspberries – that’s why they’re called “autumn bliss”. Any advance on this?
Jill Bennett
St Albans, Hertfordshire

We are gravely concerned at the possibility that annual data on child mortality rates in the UK, including the number of stillbirths, neonatal deaths, unexplained infant deaths and deaths from injuries and suicide, will no longer be published. This poses a real threat to improving the health of our children, particularly given that the UK has one of the worst child-mortality rates in Europe. Without this data we won’t know why children in the UK are dying. If we don’t know that, we can’t develop interventions to prevent these deaths. And without annual data, we won’t know whether any steps that are being taken are having a positive effect. The cost of producing each data set is said to be between £10,000 and £50,000 a year; a small price to pay for an invaluable measure of child health.
Dr Hilary Cass, President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Francine Bates, Chief executive, The Lullaby Trust, Peter Wanless, Chief executive, NSPCC, Dr Hilary Emery, Chief executive, National Children’s Bureau, Jane van Zyl, Deputy chief executive, Sands, Andy Cole, Chief executive, Bliss, Katrina Phillips, Chief executive, Child Accident Prevention Trust

Simon Jenkins (Comment, 30 October) is spot on in identifying London as the soft underbelly of the HS2 case. Given the housing bubble, how much more than the £5bn estimated for Camden will compensation cost? This alone could drive a coach and horses through the supposed £42bn maximum. Why has nobody suggested longer trains as a way of increasing capacity? The cost of extending platforms would be negligible. Another way is to run slower (not faster) trains. They need less braking distance and hence more can be slotted into a given length of track.
Stan Zetie
• If HS2 is so important to connect Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham, might it not be more appropriate to link these cities first? London doesn’t need more trains or lines. The original HS2 was to be centred on linking to a hub at Heathrow, which still makes more sense.
Derek Wyatt
• I note that one arm of the government has stopped the repeat entry of candidates for GCSE exams to “increase rigour”. The proponents of HS2 have just submitted their fifth submission to correct earlier errors in calculation. Should the government accept this?
Geoff Fagence
Oakham, Rutland
• Many would agree with Simon Jenkins that there are more urgent priorities for the HS2 billions. First and foremost, all our major cities need light rail or metro systems. Then, most or all of the rail network should be electrified and passenger and freight capacity expanded. Unfortunately, that money diverted from HS2 would simply go to something unsustainable, like our fast-expanding road-building programme – utter madness in a world which very urgently needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80%.
Jon Reeds
• If HS2 is such a good way of increasing capacity, should we ease congestion on the M1 and M6 by building a new “super motorway” with no upper speed limit, few access points and access restricted to cars capable of cruising at 120mph?
Jon Bell
Machynlleth, Powys
• I detect a bit of nimby, plus a hangover from a previous anti-public transport bias. I would like an expert to calculate what it would cost to build a six-lane motorway from London to Manchester/Leeds, compared to HS2. I don’t think motorways were rejected because they would drain prosperity from the north.
Tim Baynes
Kendal , Cumbria
• Using 150-year-old technology can never be justified: steel wheels on steel tracks. The only way to go is with magnetic levitation (maglev), a technology that has already been proven in Japan and China.
David Hurry
Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex
• Why will the construction of HS2 take so very long? The construction of TGV routes in France took a fraction of the time estimated for HS2.
David Craig
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire
• HS2? More like H2S.
Dr George Duckworth
Burley-in-Wharfedale, West Yorkshire

We are all Sussex University professors who wish to signal our support for the industrial action being taken by UCU, Unite and Unison today. We support industrial action over a 13% real-terms pay cut since 2008, with staff having been offered just 1% this year by the university employers’ association. The squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when pay and benefits for university leaders increased, on average, by more than £5,000 in 2011-12, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors hitting almost £250,000; at Sussex, that figure hits £280,000. As higher-paid members of the university, we support the claims of our lower-paid colleagues.
We support the strike because universities have acquired over £1bn in surpluses as their staff’s salaries have fallen. At Sussex, the university had a financial surplus of £13.7m in 2012. Students now face greatly increased fees and staff work harder to provide more contact time and a better student experience. But none of this increased revenue is passed on to staff, despite the evidence that rewarding staff appropriately increases the quality of education for students.
We support the strike on behalf of all university workers from the lowest-paid upwards – our porters, cleaners and low-paid clerical, technical and administrative staff – and on behalf of women colleagues for whom the gender pay gap means unequal pay for equal work. We support the strike in protest at greatly increasing inequality across the UK. Company shareholders, investors and the highest-paid members of staff see their salaries grow significantly, while those of lower-paid staff fall to the point where people struggle to pay utility bills and afford food, whose prices are rising far faster than pay. There is a trend of increasing inequality in the UK since the 1970s, so the gap between rich and poor is as great as at any time since the 1930s.
Jane Cowan Professor of Anthropology
Rupert Brown Professor of Social Psychology
Ben Rogaly Professor of Geography
Filippo Osella Professor of Anthropology and South Asian Studies
Mick Dunford Professor of Economic Geography
Pete Newell Professor of International Relations
Dai Stephens Research Professor in Psychology
Mario Novelli Professor in the Political Economy of Education
Dominic Kniveton Professor of Climate Science and Society
Cynthia Weber Professor of International Relations
Jenny Rusted Professor of Experimental Psychology
Zoltan Dienes Professor in Experimental Psychology
JoAnn McGregor Professor of Geography
Justin Rosenberg Professor of International Relations
Andrea Cornwall Professor of Anthropology and Development
Luke Martell Professor of Sociology
Mark Hindmarsh Professor of Theoretical Physics
Máiréad Dunne Professor of International Education
Maya Unnithan Professor of Anthropology
Beate Jahn Professor of International Relations
Nick Royle Professor of English
Raminder Kaur Professor of Anthropology
Jenny Bourne Taylor Professor of English
Sally Munt Professor of Gender and Cultural Studies
Sally Jane Norman Professor of Performance Technologies
Valerie Hey Professor of Education

The transport minister’s constant repetition – to boost the HS2 project – that the Olympics and HS1 were delivered within budget is disingenuous to say the least (Report, 20 October), since it deliberately fails to distinguish between the original and final budgets. All projects throughout history have always been delivered within the final budget – that is a truism. But the real question is, how many of them were delivered within the original budget? Almost none. The original Olympics budget was £2bn, the final budget was £10bn. The HS1 project has left a public debt of £4.8bn (according to the public accounts committee), and its predictions of passenger numbers were woefully over-optimistic. From past history we can therefore be supremely confident that the final budget for HS2 will be at least £100bn. Its supporters are no doubt relying on the certainty that once the project is under way and costs are soaring, there is no way that any government can pull the plug on the project when countless billions have already been spent.
One hundred billion pounds to save a few minutes on the journey to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Leeds? A monumental folly. If the people of those cities want so badly to save those few minutes, why don’t they pay for HS2 out of their own coffers, not out of ours? It would only cost them about £25,000 per household, which could easily be spread over many years or decades.
Charles Rowe
Wantage, Oxfordshire
• Instead of rubbishing HS2, John Harris should promote extra connections to the proposed high-speed network (Comment, 28 October). Even with just the first section open, there will be train journeys that use both the new track and the current network, for instance from London to Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. But an extra connection near the new Birmingham Curzon Street station would allow his West Country train to call at Birmingham New Street, then join the high-speed network to Manchester airport and Manchester Piccadilly, both of which connect to his Stockport destination. This is called modernising the network.
At some stage a second high-speed line to London, from Nottingham via Leicester, will probably be needed. We should also plan a fast cross-Pennine line, to join the northern city centres, and high-speed lines from Cardiff and Bristol merging, and then splitting again towards Birmingham and west London. There needs to be passive provision in the HS2 plans to allow, at modest cost, this wider high-speed network to develop in the decades ahead. Any short-termist Labour party amendment to the HS2 bill should not be allowed to screw that up.
John Cox
• No doubt we should be grateful that, despite its callous disregard of the need for jobs and public spending in the north, the government is deeply protective of our leisure time. Suddenly, when it comes to making a “business case” for HS2, weekend disruption on the existing north-south lines is more important than the destruction of farmland and historic landscapes, new noise pollution and a £42bn bill. The government should stop worrying about us – we’re used to weekend line closures already, for “essential maintenance” ie the struggle to keep an ageing infrastructure going during years of underinvestment
Taking 4½ hours to get from London to Newcastle via Sleaford, or being tipped out of the train at Doncaster to get on a replacement bus pounding up the A1, are not ideal ways to spend one’s Sunday evenings, but if the result is three fully functioning and modernised north-south lines, rather than one hugely expensive white elephant, I’d choose the weekend disruption.
Sue Ward
Newcastle upon Tyne
• HS2 is about much more than speedy links between UK cities, important though these are. I am disappointed that Guardian commentators ignore wider debates concerning the triple bottom line. HS2’s direct economic impacts are critical, but so are potential social and environmental impacts – aspects of critical importance in progressive thought. We’ve lost the plot if the HS2 debate reduces to whingeing about London’s overcrowded stations. The point is that HS2, managed well, becomes an opportunity for other cities to benefit from some of the high-level employment and capacity currently causing problems in London. And surely those cities’ hinter-regions have enough warning now to manoeuvre advantageously too.
What about the reductions in road casualties, better air quality and carbon savings if more people use trains? The claim that HS2 is only for the rich is also ridiculous; I use the north-west intercity route several times a month and am not remotely wealthy – I buy my tickets online cheaply in good time. Why are we confusing silly ticketing and pricing now with potential for positive change in years to come?
Maybe more data is required before a final decision is made, but I am surprised Guardian writers have glossed over an ideal chance to explore the cost benefits of things that, in the direct in-your-pocket sense, money cannot buy. Where’s the vision?
Hilary Burrage
• I don’t remember anything like the campaign against HS2 taking place when HS1 was planned. There was, I recall, some opposition from people along the proposed route, on cost and environmental grounds, and a TV programme about the blight and uncertainty caused to those whose homes were close to it, but nothing to approach this vilification. Perhaps John Harris has never had the pleasure of sitting on a Virgin train which, because it had set off a little late from Euston, had to wait for every slow local train using the same overcrowded line. On what evidence does he say HS2 would provide “services for which there is no obvious demand”? If HS2 is used as an excuse for not investing in local services, should we not be doing both?
Moreover, your front page (Weekend rail closures for up to 14 years if HS2 is scrapped, 28 October) illustrates the difficulties of the alternatives. I can only conclude that many regard the saving of the odd 15 minutes on a journey to Paris, as being of greater importance than saving an hour on a journey to Manchester. Perhaps they should, in all conscience, eschew catching Eurostar on their next trip and use the older slower services all the way to Paris/Brussels/wherever.
Bill Sharrod
Coniston, Cumbria

Did you hear the joke about the African kids living in grinding poverty? Ok, so comedy and global development may not seem like the most obvious companions, but humour can be the best way to engage people with difficult, and sometimes controversial, social issues.
A video produced by a group of Indian stand-up comics satirising people who blame women for sexual assault recently went viral. The rapes in Delhi and Mumbai has meant that many Indians are starting to protest their outrage about the way women are treated in India.
Women have been blamed for dressing ‘provocatively’, for travelling at night alone, for working late, for being seen in the company of men – for pretty much anything really – and this is the point of the video, in which women talking directly to camera admonish those who blame men, saying instead “It’s my fault”.
G Khamba, one of the Indian comedians behind the video, said that comedy “provides an easy way in” to difficult subjects. “People tend to get put off when you’re talking about a social issue in a preachy or a top-down way.”
Whatever social message a comedian intends to send though, it must obey the first rule of comedy: be funny.
This year, a Bill and Melinda Gates initiative called Stand up planet: the revolution will be hilarious, has been filming comedians from around the world who give a better insight into their lives than any policy document could hope to do.
Though the documentary is yet to premiere, in a Youtube video, one South African comedian says: “I hate my teeth. Even though they are white minority of my body, they still get the best treatment,” hitting home about racial tensions in 10 seconds.
Watching comedy from non-Western countries humanises the subjects of development in a way that nothing else does. It makes people in the West realise that problems like sexual assault, hunger, and disease don’t just happen to some unknown face in South Africa or India. And empathy really is the first step in engaging with any issue on global development.
Priya Shetty in Brighton
Global health journalist
Comedy in development isn’t just appropriate, it’s vital
Comedy and satire are incredibly powerful tools. They allow us to deal with issues sometimes too hard to think about face on. We ask ourselves: is this true? Is this the reality? Can something this ridiculous or bad really be happening? That is the true power of comedy.
The satirical video about rape in India ‘It’s your fault’ probably caused more people to rethink their values and this situation than any amount of campaigning would do. It has been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube – do you think any organisational campaign video could achieve that much?
Comedy like this makes us face our fears, we break through taboos, we say and hear things that people try to hide. Using humour gives people back control, it gives them a place to speak about issues and talk about problems in a way that feels comfortable. And as such, comedy is not only an appropriate tool to use in development, it is a vital one – one that can help break down those barriers we dare not talk about. One that gives a voice back to those who can’t talk. One that helps us deal with situations too hard to believe.
Emily Barker in Brussels


I was disappointed, and rather shocked, to find that the responses to the hideous death of the innocent Bijan Ebrahimi (letter, and article by Frank Furedi, 30 October) were in terms of hysteria about paedophilia.
That was, of course, a major factor, but so must have been the constant vilification of immigrants and disabled people touted by the Government and screamed out from some tabloids. We are not encouraged to learn about or understand our disabled neighbours, but are repeatedly urged to view them as layabouts and frauds.
There is even a surprising difference between being falsely accused of being a paedophile and being falsely accused of being a benefit cheat. The former may be preferable, because in the latter case, regardless of your innocence, the DWP have decreed you must lose your benefits immediately and cannot get them back until you have been reassessed, possibly under more stringent rules and after a lengthy wait.
Many disabled people, just like Mr Ebrahimi, do not have visible impairments and are extremely vulnerable to false accusations. Our culture is encouraging every kind of vigilante and lynch-mob mentality and we will all be the worse for it.
Merry Cross
As your report said (29 October), a typical British murder driven by ignorance, stupidity, misinformation, prejudice and thuggery. Pity the oddball or quiet person living in one of these unforgiving, rapacious and violent alpha-male estates that exist all over this sad, heartless country. Pity us all.
Ronan Breslin
Strange logic  of the energy markets
I could not believe one of the answers from one of the power company executives appearing before MPs on Tuesday: “The mobile phone companies are making far larger profits than we are.”
You can buy mobile phones at stupid inflated prices, but you can also buy cheap versions at low cost. You do not have to buy a mobile phone, but you have to have energy supplies or you freeze to death. What kind of ivory towers are these executives living in? 
I am afraid Government can no longer sit back. When the cost of living is dropping prices must be held to protect British citizens.
Robin G Howard
Margate, Kent
I fail to understand how utility companies can compete other than by price and service differences – 240 volts at my plug is the same product whoever provides it; similarly with pure water and gas.
Product differentiation is the only real basis for competition. Hence, these services should be run as a national operation with managers judged on private industry performance levels and not the less demanding standards of the Civil Service.
Eric V Evans
Dorchester, Dorset
In Holland, my mother-in-law tells me that her gas and electric bills have been reduced. Perhaps they have their own supply there that’s not dependent on the same market as ours.
How is it that other countries’ governments can invest in and run their own and our gas, electric, water and train services at a profit, whereas our government can’t even run ours? Maybe I’m too stupid to understand it all….
Kate aan de Wiel
London SE21
Having received from British Gas their letter advising of the latest gas price increase, I calculated what my last quarterly bill would have been at the new terms. To check my calculation, I rang the 0800 number. At the outset I was told the wait was 15 minutes, it turned out to be 35.
Eventually, with some help from me, the assistant confirmed my calculation. Her initial effort, from her chart, was to say my bill would have been almost 150 per cent more than I paid. In actual fact the increase is 17.6 per cent, bad enough and some way above the 8.6 per cent mentioned as typical in BG’s letter.
During the conversation, I was told the tariff shown in the letter was the only one available to all British Gas customers. The one way I could save anything would be to pay by direct debit. Apparently, prompt payment and dual fuel discounts are now banned by the regulator. Incidentally, the assistant who provided this information was in Cape Town.
Is this the competitive, efficient, privatised energy industry we were promised by Thatcher?
Tony Smith
Woking, Surrey
Anyone who believes we all have some right to shirt-sleeve warmth through the winter hasn’t grasped that the age of cheap fossil fuels is over. The debate about keeping fuel bills down underscores the tension between sustainability (long-term) and democracy (short-term). It takes grown-up leadership to reconcile these, by spelling out tough truths.
I am 72 and do not heat my house, except for guests. The appropriate technology for staying warm is to heat only that air actually in contact with one’s skin, by means of thermal clothing.
If astronauts can stay comfortable in the near absolute zero of space by wearing hi-tech clothes, we could easily put up with cold weather if we applied our technology to the challenge, rather than dismiss it all as “putting on a jumper”.
The winter fuel allowance is misapplied. It should be a winter clothing allowance.
Roger Martin
Upper Coxley, Somerset
Remembrance hijacked
How sickening to see David Cameron using the launch of this year’s Poppy Appeal as a photo opportunity – one shudders at the thought of what next year’s First World War “commemorations” might hold for us.
My grandfathers both fought in the First World War trenches. I wear a poppy each year on behalf of them for the comrades they knew who suffered and died. I do not do it because I support British troops fighting wars overseas – and that is a distinction the idea of the beautiful blonde “Poppy Girls” fails to make. It is about commemorating the sufferings on all sides.
In the last few years one has sensed a desire by politicians to take over the national remembrance for their own political purposes, to establish a subtle link to ongoing conflicts in an attempt to somehow legitimise them.
This year I shall not be buying a poppy in protest – I am certain it is what my grandfathers would wish.
Nigel Cubbage
Merstham, Surrey
All responsible for quality care
Your editorial “Social care: The continuing disgrace of our care homes” (18 October) is right to ask questions about the role of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) through successive scandals (Winterbourne View, Mid-Staffordshire, Orchid View).
As you noted, CQC has not had sufficient resources to do the job expected of it; I am not convinced, however, that an “aggressive culture” is what we want. Don’t we want knowledgeable inspectors who can support well-motivated services to do better, as well as challenge poor practice?
However, regulation and inspection can never be completely relied upon to keep people safe. While regulatory failings surely played a part in these scandals, pointing the finger at CQC allows us to take our eyes off the responsibilities we all have – as friends, relatives and employees – to question poor practice when we see it. Having people who know and care about you involved in your life is the best safeguard.
Alison Giraud-Saunders
Brill, Buckinghamshire
Scapegoat for death of Baby P
It was interesting to read about Ed Balls’s “outrage” at the pay-off to Sharon Shoesmith, Haringey Council’s former Head of Children’s Services. Had Ed Balls not authorised Ms Shoesmith’s unlawful dismissal, one suspects such a pay out would not have been made.
At the time, it seemed clear that Ms Shoesmith was being made the scapegoat for the systemic failures that led to Baby P’s tragic death. I am keen to learn more about what lessons have been learnt by Haringey Council and other local authorities since then.
The Court of Appeal’s decision confirms that Ms Shoesmith was unfairly dismissed. Instead of looking for a scapegoat, the Government and Haringey should have initiated a proper, transparent investigation that would have led to the appropriate disciplinary sanctions for the relevant people.
Shah Qureshi
Head of Employment Law, Bindmans LLP, London WC1
Charming side  of Lou Reed
Like many others, Sir Tom Stoppard felt intimidated by Lou Reed’s brittle persona (“Anti-hero of the Czech underground”, 30 October). My experience was different.
In 2007 and again the next year, I was one of a small group of young singers from the New London Children’s Choir who toured Europe with Reed when he revived his controversial Berlin album to widespread acclaim. He was the very model of charm and politeness. It must have been the yoga, which he often had us perform with him on airport transfer buses, much to the surprise of our fellow travellers.
Elly Brindle
London SW6
Bullying press must be curbed
I am bitterly disappointed to see The Independent’s vociferous objections to the negotiated compromise proposals for press “regulation” (leading article, 29 October). As I understand it, the proposals as they stand will not prevent the press investigating wrongdoing or speaking on issues of importance.  What it should do is provide some sort of redress for those innocents bullied and libelled in the name of “public interest”.
I read The Independent because I respect it, but its whingeing over this issue is fast eroding that respect.
Sara Neill
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Dogs that attack other animals
While Blue Cross supports an increase in penalties for irresponsible dog owners (“Owners of dogs that kill to face longer prison sentences”, 30 October), more action is needed on out-of-control dogs. This includes dealing with dog attacks on other animals.
A dog that injures or kills another pet should be a cause for concern. Allowing or encouraging such behaviour towards a cat, a horse, or another dog is antisocial behaviour and should be considered in this legislation.
Rachel Cunningham
Blue Cross pet charity
Burford, Oxfordshire
Blair’s legacy
In the interview on pages 12 and 13 of Tuesday’s Independent we read that Tony Blair is now advising 20 countries. On page 17 the headline for Patrick Cockburn’s piece is “As Syria disintegrates, so too does Iraq”. Enough said?
Brian Mitchell


It is not justice when a judge abstains from praising men’s virtues — and abstains from condemning men’s vices
Sir, In response to Sir James Munby (“Our courts are no longer Christian, says top judge”, Oct 30), while I agree that faith should not be the foundation of morality, it is obvious who profits and who loses by the precept of moral agnosticism (the idea that one must never pass moral judgments on others). To pronounce moral judgment is an enormous objective and responsibility. A judge should possess an unimpeachable character and unbreached integrity. It is not justice or equal treatment that is granted to men when a judge abstains from praising men’s virtues and abstains from condemning men’s vices.
D. S. A. Murray
Dorking, Surrey

Sir, You suggest that the President of the Family Division’s remark that judges should not “weigh one religion against another” is a recent development. As long ago as 1862, in the case of Thornton v Howe, the Master of the Rolls, Lord Romilly, remarked that, “I am of the opinion that the Court of Chancery makes no distinction between one sort of religion and another . . . Neither does the Court, in this respect, make any distinction between one sect and another.” This principle was subsequently applied in other cases, notably those concerning Scientology.
Howard Self
Macclesfield, Cheshire

Sir, The British judicial system, enshrined in Magna Carta, upholds the rule of law, property ownership and trial by jury as statutes mandated by the sovereign and the Bible. With our society becoming increasingly secular and pluralistic, it is imperative that we firmly adhere to our millennia-old Christian values and norms which underpin our social and moral structures and constitute the basic elements of social conservatism.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in Truth and Tolerance (2004) about cultural relativism which sanctions degeneration, decadence and disintegration of reason and asked whether one should reject the conception of pluralism which reflects moral relativism.
Sam Banik
London N10

Sir, Sir James Munby is mistaken in saying, “Happily for us the days are past when the business of judges was the enforcement of morals . . . we sit as secular judges”. He contradicts himself when he goes on to say that all tenets are entitled to respect provided they are . . . “not immoral”.
At her coronation the Queen swore an oath that she would to the utmost of her power maintain in the United Kingdom “the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law . . . the settlement of the Church of England, and the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government thereof, as by law established in England”.
In the 2011 census 59 per cent gave the Christian religion as their affiliation. Parliament has not seen fit to disestablish the Church of England. It is for the legislature, not the judicature, to make fundamental changes in our country’s legal policy if it thinks it right to do so.
Francis Bennion
Retired Parliamentary Counsel
Budleigh Salterton, Devon

Even though rail services are nearly back to normal after the recent storm, passengers may still advised not to travel
Sir, Andrew Dow (letter, Oct 29) ought to be aware that the failures of rail privatisation are not unknown to the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC). Yesterday morning’s National Rail Enquiries website (part of ATOC) proclaimed “First Capital Connect are expecting to run a near normal service. Passengers are advised not to travel”.
Stephen Briggs
Litlington, Herts

Two outstanding people, both natives of Bradford, have been omitted from the list of Yorkshire’s cultural icons
Sir, The writer of your third leader (“The Majesty of Bridlington”, Oct 29) omitted two outstanding names from the list of Yorkshire’s cultural icons, Fred and Jack, both native Bradfordians. I refer to Delius and J. B. Priestley.
Just rubbing it in.
Keith Copland
Baildon, W Yorks

Does Oliver Kamm believes the works in the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut should be sent home?
Sir, I very much enjoyed a visit to the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, and was impressed by the size and quality of the collection. However, as Oliver Kamm believes “the Marbles should go back home to Athens” (Oct 29)’ he would presumably argue that this whole collection should be shipped back to Britain. The return this year of the Walpole paintings to Houghton (though temporary) shows what a dramatic impact this would have on many houses open to the public and galleries the length and breadth of the country. Though perhaps Mr Kamm would have wanted the Walpole collection to have gone straight back to Italy and other countries in which the works were created.
Alan Toop
London SW3

The proposal that Royal Collection of Art should permanently be sent on tour around the country is foolish and dangerous
Sir, It would be hard to imagine a more misguided and potentially destructive proposal than urging that the Royal Collection of Art should permanently be sent on tour around the country (letter, Oct 30).
Moving works of art is risky and is frequently found (if not always admitted) to have been injurious. Renoir’s large masterpiece The Umbrellas is, for legal reasons, shuttled between the national galleries of London and Dublin. Its conservation records show that the first cracking of paint was suffered along the line of a horizontal supporting bar on the stretcher frame, against which the canvas vibrated during travels.
Because of the increased risks (estimated by insurers to be six times as great) when moving works of art around, pictures are often “conserved” prior to their travels. These treatments themselves can constitute a hazard. When The Umbrellas received its first cleaning the paint suffered further massive cracking and actual losses.
Since the National Portrait Gallery began sending Laura Knight’s Self-portrait with Model on tours of provincial galleries the picture has undergone frequent conservation treatments for cracking and flaking paint. Viscount Dunluce, when head of conservation at the Tate Gallery (1975-1995), wisely noted that pictures are made to hang on walls and not to be shuttled around on lorries.
Michael Daley
Director, ArtWatch UK

Ed Balls said the payment to Sharon Shoesmith “leaves a bad taste in the mouth”. But it is partly his fault
Sir, Ed Balls yesterday told BBC radio that the reported £600,000 compensation payment to Sharon Shoesmith “leaves a bad taste in the mouth”. Many would agree that Ms Shoesmith might honourably have taken responsibility and resigned over the Baby P scandal, and that if she had not resigned she ought to have been dismissed, after due process had been observed. H er dismissal, though, was so badly botched by Haringey Council and the then Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families that the Court of Appeal awarded her compensation.
The figure of £600,000 is shockingly high, but what really “leaves a bad taste in the mouth” is that the Secretary of State was Mr Balls himself. Ms Shoesmith is getting this payment because Mr Balls failed to follow the law. Is he now seeking to question the authority of the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, who held that Ms Shoesmith was entitled to compensation precisely because Mr Balls and Haringey dismissed her without the natural justice that exists for the protection of all employees? If fair procedure had been used, and employment law observed, Ms Shoesmith could and should have been dismissed without this new cost to the public purse.
Jonathan Morgan
Fellow in Law, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge


SIR – As you report in your leading article, a fox has broken into the Tower of London and killed two of the ravens, bringing the country perilously close to disaster. As legend has it, any fewer than six ravens and the Tower will fall, and the kingdom with it.
However, a yeoman warder told us last week on a guided tour that there are in fact “usually nine held in the Tower; the six required by Charles II and three spare – not that we’re superstitious or anything”.
Thus, despite having sadly lost two, we still have one spare. We can breathe a little more easily for now. That is, until Mr Fox gets in again.
David R Stearne
Eythorne, Kent

Irish Times:

Sir, – Recovering our economic independence has become a bit of a mantra from the Government. It is also a myth.
Reaching the magical 3 per cent deficit is not the end of our obligations under Lisbon and the Fiscal Compact. We are obliged to bring our debt to GDP ratio down to 60 per cent and to work towards a balanced budget.
Either a buoyant international economy will allow us grow our way towards those goals, or we will be stuck in the rut of further cuts and tax increases.
The precautionary line of credit from the troika is a sensible insurance policy in the event the world economy doesn’t come to our rescue. I can’t see that any conditions attached will be much different from what we will have to do in any case to meet our targets. We will have to have our budget reviewed and approved in either case.
It would be better if Minister for Finance Michael Noonan would stop the macho rhetoric about regaining our economic sovereignty and opt for the insurance of a precautionary line of credit. He has no right to gamble on international recovery at our expense. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Buried in the Department of Education and Skills website there is a statement in relation to apprenticeships. Essentially, from 2014 onwards, the onus is placed on apprentices to directly pay the institutes of technology for their tuition.
Previously this fee was paid by the government.
Some of these fees could run as high as €1,890 per student.
Apprentices already pay “part registration fees” for their time on campus and this will add to the economic burden on some of these young people. In addition, given that apprentices will now be paying registration and tuition fees to the institutes while the CAO first-time applicant pays only registration fees this is grossly unfair.
This type of action shows the Minister’s lack of regard for vocational training in the State.
Moreover, the covert manner of its publication leaves me with a worrying feeling in respect of the future of apprenticeships in the State. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – “Blueprint for a smarter society” is a great article by Fintan O’Toole (Weekend Review, October 26th). It has always struck me as a huge paradox that we use a top-down centralised hierarchical system of government, when we have a community-based culture most European countries must envy.
Our politicians seek power, when what they really should be doing is seeking to leave a legacy for the generations to come. Instead, they use the resources of the State to retain power, all the time claiming to be “looking after” their constituents.
If it is any consolation, the same complaints can be heard by people across the western world. This short-term power craving over long-term planning is failing people now, and storing up huge problems for the future.
Real change will never come from the top down, but rather from the still-strong grass roots. Perhaps The Irish Times might like to take the next step and help organise/sponsor a conference for a community-centred Ireland. – Yours, etc,
Orwell Gardens,

Sir, – Irene Crawley, director of the Hope project, based in Dublin, states long-term methadone use is a form of State-sponsored social control (Home News, October 21st). Presumably the same could be said about any form of public health service, as well as welfare payments, governmental support of education, etc.  However, the specific criticism of methadone treatment attributed Ms Crawley is difficult to reconcile with the evidence – or with pragmatism.
To start with the latter, one can only wonder what alternative hope (or Hope!) she would offer to the almost 9,000 current recipients of methadone maintenance in Ireland, and the thousands more who want it, need it, and may well die without it. As for evidence, it’s unequivocal:  opiate addiction is a chronic condition which, to date, we can treat but simply do not know how to cure (the same is true of alcoholism). It’s also a condition where relapse is the rule rather than the exception when treatment – any treatment – ends. 
It is not dissimilar from illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. And yet few would criticise the management of these diseases because the vast majority of patients are unwilling or unable to become “drug-free” through behavioral change, such as rigid adherence to a prescribed diet and exercise regimen. For sure, supporters should express their pride and admiration of Hope, and applaud its contribution to the well-being of its successful clients. Denigrating other types of care, however, discredits their advocacy. – Yours, etc,

First published: Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 01:09

Sir, – The explorer, Henry Morton Stanley, once cut off his dog’s tail, cooked it and fed it to him. A suitable metaphor to describe the most recent Budget. – Yours, etc,
Chemin du Gaz,

Sir, – Brian O’Reilly (October 28th) would probably find that his personal tax liability would increase hugely if he moved from the US to almost anywhere else.
Interestingly, if I was a resident of Ireland last year, my take home pay would have been slightly higher than it was here in Australia (assuming the same income). On the other hand, it would have been lower if I lived in the UK.
In my opinion, these comparisons are more useful than Mr O’Reilly’s, as Australia, Ireland and the UK all have relatively similar healthcare, education and social welfare systems.
Those with low incomes are unquestionably better off almost anywhere in the developed world other than the US. In fact, even middle-class families would probably be better paying more tax rather than having to save upwards of $100,000 for each child’s college fees. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – “Dubliners face water cuts due to problems at treatment plant” (Front page, October 30th). How ironical! Just as we face the imposition of a water tax, masquerading as payment for the treatment of water, the authorities responsible for the provision of treated water in the greater Dublin area are shown to be incapable of providing such a service! – Yours, etc,
Kilcolman Court,
Glenageary, Co Dublin.
Sir, – An excess of raw material causing a shortage of product. Well done, Dublin City Council (Home News, October 30th). – Yours, etc,
Pococke Lower, Kilkenny.

Sir, – The reported death of Australian runner Albie Thomas (Sport, October 30th) brought back memories of that wonderful evening in August 1958. With hundreds of others, I queued outside the Carlton Cinema for the special buses to Santry Stadium. The buzz of excitement was added to by Billy Morton who exhorted us by loudhailer to “Kindly infiltrate up to the back of the terrace”. We did and soon 20,000 sardines roared home the five athletes who magically broke the four-minute mile barrier. What a privilege it was to be there on such a historic occasion.
By the end of the evening Billy was out again with his loudhailer appealing to us not to damage his beloved track by bringing home matchboxes full of souvenir cinders. I was too busy chasing the “Famous Five” for their autographs – and was successful on all counts. I was 16 years old and it was, to quote Lou Reed, “a perfect day”. God rest you, Albie. – Yours, etc,
Stradbally North,
First published: Thu, Oct 31, 2013, 01:05

A chara,  – Last Sunday, I left Ireland after a two-week holiday to return to Denmark, my home for the last four years. Saying goodbye to my family is inevitably always a tearful affair, but when going though the security check, one of the airport personnel took one look at my face, looked me in the eye and asked a very simple question, “Did you just say goodbye?”. This prompted a fresh flood of tears while she very gently and calmly helped me sort out my bags, buggy and young daughter, talking to me all the while until she could see I’d managed to get myself a little more together. Then she wished me well on my journey home and sent one emigrant on her way with a lighter tread. 
The security check at Dublin Airport can be the most pitifully lonely place as an emigrant; you’re surrounded by people excited to be leaving the country on holiday, looking forward to leaving those shores and yet you stand there, absurdly queuing with laptops and liquids in hand while your heart is breaking, and all you want to do is turn around and run back to the family you’ve just said goodbye to. Those few moments grace that she bestowed on me reminded me that I wasn’t alone. 
Don’t ever underestimate the impact a gesture or a word can have on someone’s day – I don’t even know her name but I’ll always remember what she did for me that day. – Is mise,
Ladby Longvej,

Sir, – In the ongoing search for a reform of Irish democracy, a key element which has not been questioned is the multi-party system. It injures democracy in three ways. It allows party managers to dictate the voting decisions of TDs and, in cases of disobedience, to limit the nonconformists’ contributions to the Dáil.
In general elections, political parties, interested only in winning Dáil seats, induce the electors to choose representatives on grounds of party affiliation rather than personal qualities. At the same time, in Ireland, as indeed in other European countries, the parties have lost the role and utility which they originally possessed by representing ideological differences that were substantially present in the electorate. All the parties now claim to hold in varying degrees more or less the same values and to be pursuing more or less the same objectives. Political parties are not mentioned in the Constitution.
Getting rid of them would not require a referendum; it could be done by enacting a law defining Dáil and Seanad as unitary bodies undivided by formal party affiliation. Imagine the parties replaced by the entire adult citizen body acting as a single “party” to elect the Dáil. The Dáil, as hitherto, would elect the taoiseach who would appoint the government. That, combined with devolution of substantial powers and functions to local authorities, would constitute for our democracy a clean break and an invigorating fresh start. – Yours, etc,
Sydney Parade Avenue,

Sir, – Roman Catholic ascendancy and in particular the Ne Temere marriage decree were largely responsible for the narrow parochialism of the Church of Ireland in Dublin and elsewhere during most of the last century. There was the constant fear that the loss of children to the Roman Catholic faith as the result of a mixed marriage would eventually lead to the annihilation of Protestantism in the South of Ireland. Therefore “circle the wagons”, avoid any social or political involvement which might lead to a mixed marriage or branded as an enemy of Holy Catholic Ireland, Irish and Catholic being synonymous.
I well remember my mother’s warning: “Keep off religion and politics or you’ll get us all burnt out”. Thankfully things have now changed and we should welcome and seize the opportunity to have done with religious segregation and participate fully in public and political life, North and South, as Archbishop Jackson rightly emphasised at the Dublin Synod. – Yours, etc,
Very Revd VICTOR G
(Dean of St Patrick’s

Sir, – The figure of St Patrick has been interpreted and reinterpreted throughout Irish history. Your recent article (Sarah McDonald, Opinion, October 29th) concerning Revd Marcus Losack’s theory on the saint’s Breton origins is one more. Far from being the man of mystery, described by Marcus Losack, Patrick’s context is broadly understood by the many scholars who have worked on the saint, his writings and his missionary activities.
These allow us to identify Patrick as a Romano-Briton (a person of British origin who was culturally influenced by Roman society) from western Britain; he is not Breton.
The place-name evidence, adduced by Marcus Losack, does not carry any historical weight. Patrick’s own writings clearly identify him as British and his earliest biographers, writing in the seventh century, follow this lead.
The idea of a Breton Patrick is nothing new, however. It features in non-Irish works from the ninth or tenth-century, at which point the cult of the saint had spread beyond Ireland leading to renewed speculation. This was facilitated by the linguistic confusion whereby Britannia could refer to Britain or Brittany, similar to the confusion which existed between Scotia as either Ireland or Scotland. However, this speculation, written several hundred years after Patrick’s writings, should not supercede the saint’s own testimony. After all, he was in the best position to know where his home was located!
Fortunately, Patrick’s work is now more accessible than ever. I would urge readers to visit the excellent Confessio website, hosted by the Royal Irish Academy. It can be found at There, Patrick can be read in his own words; it is worth taking him at them. – Yours, etc,
School of History and
UCD, Belfield,
Dublin 4.
A chara, – As a proud Irishman I was disconcerted to hear my five-year-old son recently tell me that we didn’t live in Ireland, we lived in Northern Ireland. A fact gleaned from his (rationed) Playstation football activities. Joe Coy’s letter (October 29th) reinforced this obsession with terminology.
Recent events in Belfast reinforce the value of symbols and terminology in Irish life. I perceive the current state in Southern Ireland (including the island’s most northern part) as the Republic of Ireland. The Ireland referred to in the Constitution is the island which we as an Irish nation wish to see (peacefully and with consent) politically reunited.
I am not a legal expert, but I do not believe the will of the Irish people is for the people of the north east six counties to be refused the privilege of describing themselves as Irish or saying they are from “Ireland”. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:

* I was sitting at a table in Ionad Cois Locha Dun Luiche, sipping a cup of sugarless coffee. A friendly greeting by a tourist who sat down beside me got me in the mood for talking. Your man began telling me how he had come up from Dublin to have a look at the scenery.
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This fellow was a proper Yank – from Montana or Minnesota. He told me he was a farmer who owned eight quarters. I hadn’t a clue what he was on about until he saw the blank expression on my face. “You guys over here have farms,” he says, “but we have what’s called quarters, and each one of my quarters has 150 acres”. Well Byjasus, that put me firmly in my quarter. How could you argue with a man who had a farm the size of Donegal? And, to make it that bit more insane to me, it was only a sideline as he had many more fish in the pan. He bends down, and takes out three different iPads from a briefcase and opens one up.
I was mesmerised as he went on to show me his “quarters”, zooming in to show me a massive tractor ploughing land that would take all day to walk from one end of the furrow to the next.
He gave me a grand tour of the inside of his houses via the iPad. He showed me some of the pictures he had taken in his travels around Donegal. One of a crow taking off with a sausage discarded from some litter lout’s takeaway that was almost too big to allow take-off.
But my ears really pricked up when he said that his main reason for coming to Ireland was to attend a meeting in Dublin with a government estate agency! I was beginning to form the opinion that he was a real crackpot until it dawned on me that what he was referring to in actual fact, was NAMA. He advised me that if I had a few million dollars, I should start buying as there were real bargains to be had . “I don’t understand your Government,” he says. “If they had any business acumen, they would buy all this property cheaply as a future investment with taxpayers’ money and make it work for the benefit of the people, instead of giving money away to financial speculating bailout programmes.” I was really beginning to warm to this crazy man because of the simplicity he attached to the invest-and-return policy.
He looks at his watch, then takes out a fat wallet and extracts a business card from it and hands it to me, saying: “If you want to see a really big tractor, come and visit.”
J Woods
Dun na nGall
* I love the irony of the new water advertisement. We are told that water is our most precious resource, naturally of course, after our people, the Irish people.
And by God are the Irish people some resource. The common or garden ‘mark one’ version pays off debts not incurred by them after developers, bankers and politicians went on an orgy.
In addition, they are also now compelled to pay a house tax to sate the greed of the unsecured bondholders.
Naturally enough, they take one on the chin so that the various gas, oil and electricity moguls make a healthy profit.
They also pay for the removal of their own refuse and upkeep of their own estates because the county councils who operate at the pace of a frozen glacier haven’t taken them into their charge yet.
Now if you are unfortunate enough to have to call the fire brigade, they also charge. Why? Maybe to pay the lump sum and pension of the various county managers who earn more than the leader of the free world.
Worse, as happened in Galway where some unfortunates went into a church to pray to St Anthony. On coming out, they found their cars clamped and had to pay cash to get them released. My, my . . . don’t think St Anthony would approve of that.
I now await the next miracle of this Government and that is doing what has, up to now, been impossible. The best brains in the world have failed to extract blood from a stone or a turnip.
I predict that before the next Budget, this Government will have achieved what everyone else has failed to do – and that is to extract blood from those two soulless objects. Mother Angela will be impressed indeed.
John Cuffe
* ‘Every person to their own job’ was the old criteria – provided, of course, they had the professional qualifications or necessary skills. When it comes to top people in government, ‘merely running a country’, there are many contradictions.
To explain, in a nutshell, it is irresistible not to quote Deputy Stephen Donnelly’s recent statistics on the four members of the Economic Management Council – Kenny, Gilmore, Noonan and Howlin.
“Four men, average age: 62; average income: €180,000; accumulated time in Dail: 120 years; and accumulated time in the private sector: zero. Professional training for all four: ‘teacher’. When I look at that group, I see an old guard and an old way of thinking.” And there wasn’t a female in sight!
I simply say: “God help them and us.” Is it any wonder our country is lopsided?
After the Budget, we had the wealthy and upper crust, as ever, heaving and weaving the balance of power; while the middle class and vulnerable sectors were treated like a pack of schoolchildren.
James Gleeson
Thurles, Co Tipperary
* With the passing of the new Social Welfare Bill, Ireland has reached a new juncture. We now have a situation where an 18 year old can have the full weight of the law thrown at them, but when it comes to social support, we, as a nation, only throw little more than half of that which is deemed acceptably necessary for more mature adults.We have created, in my opinion, a second-class fiscal citizen. Are we saying to families that, now more ever, you are going to keep paying for your children?
Yes, Michael Noonan may have lost his medical card in the Budget, but his grandchildren, or indeed, given his age, his greatgrandchildren (if he has any), be they under the age of five, will be entitled to one, regardless of circumstance. So some children win and some lose.
Isn’t it somehow ironic that the kids that lose now are the very ones that do so because they have just turned an age when they are meant to stop being children and start being an adult part of our bright new post-bailout future? One-way ticket to Canada anyone?
Dermot Ryan
Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway
* The Friday night appearance of Warren Gatland, British and Irish Lions rugby coach, on the Late Late Show, only serves to show the vacuity of press and media questioning on any topic. It’s amazing what people can get away with using a bit of charm on the media who only seem interested in filling paper space or air time.
Gatland’s most controversial decision during the Australian rugby tour was the dropping of Brian O’Driscoll for the deciding third and final test.
Though Gatland was apparently vindicated by the victory of the Lions in the third and final test, he has never explained exactly why O’Driscoll got the chop. Such soft soap as “Brian was disappointed” and “it was the toughest thing I’ve had to do in my coaching career” are all he’s come up with when asked.
It’s now a couple of months since the last Australian test and in all that time no press or media person has put Gatland under real pressure to properly answer the question.
Isn’t it about time somebody did?
Liam Cooke
Dublin 17
Irish Independent


October 30, 2013

30 October 2013 Tired

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Troutbridge has been fitted with an electronic navigator. Leslie has been automated. Priceless
Sort the books, tird potter around not doing much
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins get just under 400, though perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Nigel Davenport
Nigel Davenport was a magnetic actor in theatre, TV and film and had roles in A Man for All Seasons, Howard’s Way and Chariots of Fire

Nigel Davenport with Vanessa Redgrave in ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ Photo: GETTY
6:06PM GMT 29 Oct 2013
Nigel Davenport, the actor, who has died aged 85, will be best remembered for playing dark, strong, rakish toffs, aggressive heroes, scowling villains – and for what he himself called his “dodgy” eyes.
Whether in films, plays or on television, Davenport’s power largely derived, some thought, from his expressive gaze. It could be even more striking in close-up. Amiable or disturbing, it caused tough guys to wilt and pretty girls to sigh.
Whether he glanced, or glared, grinned or grimaced, Davenport had an unusual magnetism. He also had a kind of rasp in his voice which some called gravelly and others abrasive, and altogether added to his authority.
One of the most versatile and busy of British character actors, after a strong theatrical start Davenport alternated between films and plays for nearly five decades. On the small screen he might be a red-hot titled lover in Howard’s Way; an aggressive boss on a North Sea oil-rig; a moody Yorkshire squire in pre-war England (South Riding); an interfering working-class racehorse owner (Trainer); or King George III in Prince Regent.
He appeared in more than 40 feature films, ranging from a detective in Peeping Tom, via a tough guy among conscripts in The Virgin Soldiers, to a resourceful psychopath who (in Play Dirty) wipes out a whole army encampment on the grounds that “I didn’t like the tea”. He was also the game warden in Living Free who resigns in order to capture lion cubs and transport them to a distant game reserve, and Lord Birkenhead in Chariots of Fire.
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Nigel Davenport (right) with Paul Scofield in ‘A Man for All Seasons’ (GETTY)
Something of a political magpie, Davenport started out on the Left before becoming an early supporter of Margaret Thatcher. He switched allegiance to the SDP (Shirley Williams had been a bridesmaid at his wedding) before returning to Labour and then declaring himself a “Radical”, declining to vote at all.
He was always, however, a staunch believer in the rights of his fellow workers, and for six years from 1986 was president of British Actors’ Equity Association, the actors’ trade union. It was a role in which he did not mince his words.
At the TUC Congress in 1988, for example, he was cheered when he described Rupert Murdoch as a “toxic waste dispenser with his global collection of refuse tips in the media and television”. Deregulation would lead, he said (to further applause), to “tabloid television” and “pathetic drivel”.
Arthur Nigel Davenport was born at Shelford, Cambridge, on May 5 1928, the son of a Cambridge bursar awarded an MC after serving for four years in the Royal Engineers during the Great War. Nigel’s great-uncle, Major Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn, won a VC during the Second Boer War.
Davenport was educated at Cheltenham College before reading English at Trinity College, Oxford, where he acted with the OUDS. It was there that he decided he would make acting his life.
While on military service with the RASC he worked as an Army radio disc jockey in Hamburg. His first professional acting job was as an understudy in a Noël Coward play, Relative Values (Savoy, 1952) .

Nigel Davenport in the 1963 ITV drama ‘Espionage’ (ITV/REX)
His supposedly “dodgy” eyes derived from a strong squint caused by a lazy eye, of which he was always conscious. From his right eye, he saw little but a blur. “I’ve a great left eye — that’s my secret,” he would say. When he heard a director remarking “That young man will never get anywhere unless he does something about his eyes”, Davenport had an operation to straighten them in 1953. It was impossible to correct the condition fully, but Davenport was not discouraged. He went on to act with the Shakespeare Memorial Company at Stratford, Chesterfield Civic Theatre and Ipswich rep before becoming one of the first members of the English Stage Company at the Royal Court .
He was John Osborne’s choice for Cliff in Look Back in Anger (1956), but the director Tony Richardson protested: “Nigel’s just like an old horse.” He appeared, however, in 15 other Royal Court productions, notably as Bro Paradock in A Resounding Tinkle (1957-58), a performance which Kenneth Tynan described as “a splendidly sour creation, drab, leather-elbowed, and disgruntled, comic because he reacts with no surprise to circumstances of absolute fantasy”.

In Joan Littlewood’s original Theatre Workshop production of A Taste of Honey (Theatre Royal, Stratford, 1959) Davenport played Peter, a used-car salesman and lover of the heroine’s indifferent mother, transferring with the play to the West End, and to Los Angeles and New York in 1960.
By then Davenport had appeared in his first feature films, Look Back in Anger and Peeping Tom, and from 1961 on television. His first major feature film was A High Wind in Jamaica. In A Man For All Seasons he played the Duke of Norfolk and, between films, took various roles on television in series such as South Riding, Oil Strike North, The Prince Regent, Howard’s Way, The Treasure Seekers and The Opium Wars.

Meanwhile, he returned from time to time to the stage. In the West End his parts ranged from Odilon in Félicien Marçeau’s Bonne Soupe (Comedy and Wyndham’s, 1961-2); Moncau in Arthur Miller’s Incident at Vichy (Phoenix, 1966); Irene Worth’s ex-husband Jim North in Frank Marcus’s Notes On A Love Affair (Globe, 1972); and Vershinin in Jonathan Miller’s revival of Chekhov’s Three Sisters (Cambridge, 1976).
Other feature films at this time were Sebastian, Sinful Davey; The Royal Hunt of the Sun; No Blade of Grass; The Mind of Mr Soames; Villain; Mary, Queen of Scots; and The Island of Dr Moreau. His many television credits included The Bika Inquest, which in the 1980s was followed by a return to the stage as King Lear in a countrywide tour.
Davenport also toured as Andrew Wyke in Sleuth; Canon Chasuble in The Importance of Being Earnest; Duff in Alan Bennett’s The Old Country; Mortimer Durham in Maugham’s The Constant Wife; and as Arthur Fenwick in Maugham’s Our Betters at Chichester Festival. His extravagant conception of Lord Whitfield (with a direct line to God) reached the West End in Murder Is Easy (Duke of York’s, 1993), adapted from Agatha Christie.
Though steeped in the values of his family’s military tradition, Davenport was also fascinated by true-life villains, and when in London was known to drop by at the Turk’s Head, a pub frequented by both actors and the criminal fraternity. Blessed with a fine sense of humour, he was often to be found at the centre of a conversation about the day’s horse racing – a lifelong passion.
Having moved to a farmhouse in Suffolk in the 1970s, he spent the last years of his life in Gloucestershire. Though happy in his own company, he delighted in taking on guests in fiercely competitive games of backgammon, Scrabble or Monopoly.
Nigel Davenport married, in 1951, Helena White, who died in 1979; and secondly, in 1972, the actress Maria Aitken; that marriage was dissolved. By his first marriage he had a son, the journalist Hugo Davenport, and a daughter, Laura. With Maria Aitken he had another son, the actor Jack Davenport.
Nigel Davenport, born May 23 1928, died October 25 2013


You report that many people have to decide to “heat or eat” (26 October). Some people do not even have that choice. The Canterbury Festival is in full swing and last Thursday evening on my way to a concert, I saw in a side street a seated figure silhouetted against a bright shop window. A small cardboard notice on his lap said NO FOOD. I was carrying a bag of goodies from M&S so crossed the road, thinking it meant “no food, but cash”. I looked again and it read NO FOOD FOR 9 DAYS. The young man told me the hostel knew about him, but they had no room. He had no social benefit because he had no address. “And so it has come to this,” he said quietly. He was well spoken with curling hair and a neat beard. He clutched a small rucksack, but his fingers trembled involuntarily. At the concert hall a brilliant young Russian man had chosen pieces by composers at the height of their careers. But as his fingers swept the keyboard, I could not concentrate.
Jane Wade
Faversham, Kent

The alleged abuse at the G4S-run prison in South Africa (Report, 28 October) is just the latest in a string of damaging claims. War on Want conducted an intensive fact-finding mission to South Africa, Mozambique and Malawi, finding that low wages, long hours and cost-cutting exploit G4S workers and create conditions ripe for abuse. Corporations like G4S must not be handed taxpayers’ money to profit from imprisonment and misery.
Rafeef Ziadah
Senior campaigns officer, War on Want
• It’s not only political power that has been sucked out of cities (Editorial, 29 October) for generations but also the personal wealth of millions, by the rapaciousness of London financial institutions which have flogged us poorly performing financial products, as well as raking in billions each year through hidden and excessive charges.
Alistair Gregory
Burton in Lonsdale, North Yorkshire
• It is noted, from your archives (26 October 1931, reprinted 26 October 2013) that Lady May Cambridge broke a tradition of centuries by omitting the word ‘obey’ from her marriage vows. However, 19 years earlier, on 13 January 1912, when the suffragette Una Dugdale married Victor Duval at the Savoy Chapel, the couple also insisted that obey be deleted. That year Una Duval published a pamphlet, Love and Honour – But not Obey.
June Purvis
University of Portsmouth
• A great heading for Polly Toynbee’s article on Iain Duncan Smith’s assault on people with disabilities claiming benefits (These brutal disability cuts fuse ideology and idiocy, 29 October). May I add “ignorance” and “inhumanity” to “ideology and idiocy”?
Stuart Weir
• Since their release from prison, Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce seem to have taken up permanent residencies in the Guardian and on Radio 4. Any chance of passing on the names of their agents?
Alastair Gilmour
Newcastle upon Tyne
• Why should poor St Jude take all the blame? He shares his day with St Simon (Report, 29 October).
Canon Peter Hearn
Burton upon Stather, North Lincolnshire

David Cameron’s proposals to roll back green taxes (Report, 28 October), which account for around 4% of an average energy bill, rather than tackling the underlying causes of rising prices and increasing fuel poverty, are symptomatic of the government’s chaotic energy policy. At the moment gas prices in the UK are lower than in most European countries, but UK households use more energy and so pay more due to lack of sufficient home insulation. Yet the government is investing next to nothing in insulation and failing to support serious investment in renewables. The National Grid Future Energy Scenario in 2012 predicted that with proper investment in renewables, the UK could become free of energy imports by 2020.
Instead of pouring billions of pounds into additional subsidies for dangerous and polluting new nuclear power stations, which will only come online too late (if ever) to address our energy gap, the government should switch to a proper programme of investment in insulation and proven, clean and safe renewables. This would provide Britain with energy security, tackle fuel poverty and create lasting jobs.
Denise Craghill
• George Monbiot advocates using as much renewable energy as possible, but then downplays its potential in favour of nuclear power. When it comes to solar, as the Royal Society says, “no other sustainable energy source comes close”. Contrary to Monbiot’s claims, solar across all the UK’s roofs would exceed current fossil power supply. Solar’s full potential can be increasingly realised as storage systems commercialise. Cost reductions in solar have been so exceptional that by 2018 we anticipate large-scale solar will need lower public support than nuclear is due to receive in 2023 – and for 15 years, not nuclear’s 35 years. Furthermore, solar puts power directly in the hands of millions of people, not a single utility or overseas state. Nearly half a million homes have now gone solar in the UK. Whatever the controversies over nuclear power, credit to the government for backing this winning technology.
Leonie Greene
Solar Trade Association

Your editorial (28 October) called on victims of hacking to sit down with the politicians and the press to “find a compromise” on press regulation. As a victim of computer hacking, I find your suggestion ironic. Victims have done nothing but compromise in our quest for effective, independent regulation. We accepted the mechanism of a royal charter, which you rightly describe as an “obscure device”, but wrongly blame for the apparent impasse in which we now find ourselves. And would that the press and the politicians had sat down with us in the last few weeks, as they continue to court one another just as they did before the Leveson Inquiry.
The real cause of the “enormous damage” you identify is the deliberate and mendacious fiction, constantly repeated by almost all the press and even many broadcasters, that setting up a new self-regulatory body to replace the toothless Press Complaints Commission is state regulation by another name. The reason is obvious: they want the public to forget the gross abuses perpetrated on families like the Dowlers, the McCanns and the Watsons by certain sections of the press.
What they really want is the “right” to carry on intruding on private misery and marking their own homework when anyone has the temerity to complain. Despite having been hacked, I support freedom of expression. I know many wonderful journalists who risk their lives to tell us the truth and to hold governments, including our own, to account. It is precisely because I want them to be able to carry on performing those vital roles that I want to see them regulate themselves properly, instead of bringing themselves into disrepute by defending the indefensible and resisting the reasonable, light-touch self-regulation that Leveson recommended and which both houses of Parliament and the overwhelming majority of the public support.
Jane Winter
• You suggest that everything would be fine if only everybody got together and talked. For 11 months politicians have been talking to all parties, and they have repeatedly compromised on the recommendations of the Leveson inquiry in the hope of winning over the Murdoch, Mail and Telegraph papers. Unfortunately those papers listen to no one. Instead they use every conceivable means to block change while engaging in hysterical scaremongering. Brian Leveson foresaw this. His carefully structured scheme, embodied in the royal charter, provides victims of press bullying with meaningful redress for the first time – without posing any threat to freedom of expression. It also provides substantial benefits for participating publishers, both financially and in terms of journalistic freedom. These arrangements should be given a chance to work and newspaper groups that refuse to listen to reason or to the voices of their own readers should not be allowed a veto.
You mock as medieval the use of royal charter, but again this is ill-judged. Whatever its trappings, this charter has legitimacy. It was fully endorsed by all parties in the commons on 18 March and the polls show it has overwhelming public backing. All leading victims of press abuses, whose views the party leaders said were important, endorse it. Further, it implements the recommendations of a senior judge following a year-long public inquiry in which every relevant view was heard. That it requires royal assent may indeed be medieval, but so does ordinary parliamentary legislation; I take it you do not question the legitimacy of all our laws.
Brian Cathcart
Executive director, Hacked Off
• If I had any hope that the aggressively unrepentant editors were really interested in co-operating and setting up a truly independent regulator, then perhaps more discussion would be constructive. The problem is that there has been a chorus of protest and resistance to meaningful negotiation alongside campaigns of misinformation, all designed to block the reforms recommended by Leveson. The public wants and deserves better. The royal charter was a compromise back in March – why would a new initiative be any better? Let’s sit down together to discuss how to make the royal charter do its work rather than delaying yet again.
Professor Sheila Hollins
House of Lords

Much recent commentary about the poor and declining pay and conditions of care workers (Cuts forcing care firms to break minimum wage laws, 23 October) has rightly drawn attention to the contributory role of cuts in local authority budgets. What has received much less comment has been the role of the marketisation of social care services.
Since the 1980s, governments – Conservative, Labour and coalition – have pursued policies intended to increase competition in social care provision. One upshot of this is that the majority of care is outsourced to often non-unionised charities and, increasingly, private companies. Another is that the resulting price-based competition has acted to increase workloads while driving down pay levels and a host of other staff conditions, such as pensions, sick pay entitlements, overtime payments, and allowances for callouts and night work. Recent revelations that providers have struggled to provide services at the price local authorities have been prepared to pay, or that they are refusing to bid for unsustainable contracts, come as no surprise to those of us who have been researching the impact of social care marketisation.
Action is clearly needed to counter the adverse consequences of these developments for both staff and the clients they serve. The introduction of a requirement on contractors to pay a living wage would be a clear step in the right direction. More positive still would be the imposition of duties on local authorities to only contract out services on the basis of nationally negotiated terms and conditions.
Is it too much to hope that the Labour party will commit itself to act in this way?
Professor Ian Cunningham University of Strathclyde, Professor Phil James Oxford Brookes University
• Your headline is wrong to suggest that owners of social care companies are forced to further underpay their workers – they choose to do so. They could take a reduction in their profits; they could acknowledge that their current difficulties are to an extent a consequence of low bid strategies designed to force competitors out of the market and then rack up charges; they could acknowledge that boards meeting hundreds or thousands of miles away from where the services are delivered have no concern about the conditions of their workers and users.
Before a charity I chair was driven from the market, complaints against our provision were board agenda items. For the hedge funds and other interests that own many of the providers, complaints, even if serious, are simply a business expense.
The value of companies providing social care has been one of ups and downs. The trick to success has been to buy low and sell high. It has had little to do with the quality of provision and consistency of service. There are people working in the care and nursing home sector who are trying to do a good and decent job. But too much of it is now a world of franchises. financial engineering, leasebacks and property deals.
Leon Kreitzman
• Many of these problems in caring are directly attributable to the policy of outsourcing care provision, so that what the government in its recent white paper calls “for profit” organisations bid for care contracts and the needs of the sick and elderly are subject to auction. What no one in government seems to want to admit is that a significant amount of money is being diverted into the pockets of shareholders in companies which provide little more than office support in the organisation of care visits, together with recruitment of care workers and a limited amount of training.
What the Equality and Human Rights Commission calls “the quiet revolution” in home care provision resulting from the 1990 act needs to be gradually reversed, so that social services authorities would take over the organisational role once again. In the long run, social care needs to the integrated with the NHS service, and funding must ultimately come from national insurance contributions.
Peter Dyson
Cawood, North Yorkshire
• I was able to hear first hand about the striking workers of Future Directions, the care company that Rochdale council contracts with, when one of the Unison stewards attended a Save Bolton Health Services campaign meeting this month. It was distressing to hear how many of the workers have seen pay cuts upwards of 30% and even 43%, including cuts in sick pay, unsocial hours pay and holiday entitlement. This company, Future Directions, is being run by a number of current board members of an NHS foundation trust based in the region. I would urge a thorough appraisal of these management issues by Monitor and the Department of Health.
Susan Haworth
Save Bolton Health Services campaign
• There is another side to councils underfunding care providers, and that is the amount charged to those who have to pay their own costs through having savings above the maximum level for subsidy. I am disabled and, through wanting to lead as normal a life as possible, have little choice in the care worker I use in the evening. This is being charged out at £28.60 an hour – and with an increase now being demanded on the pretext that more time is needed. At least this company pays travelling time – but I know not whether there is some cross-subsidy of local authority work going on here.
Keith Potter
Gunnislake, Cornwall
• It is not just care homes that are under pressure to cut wages. The voluntary sector is under the same pressure. Our staff are paid well above the minimum wage for a job that demands immense skill, so are also offered continuous and often costly training. In return I expect and get the highest standards of professionalism, and our users the best possible care. It now seems that rather than being a rate people should be slightly ashamed of paying, the minimum wage is becoming the benchmark figure for those working in the frontline of caring.
Liza Dresner
Director, Resources for Autism


I thoroughly applaud the article by Michael Williams on an alternative to HS2 (28 October). The Great Central (which incidentally did not go to Birmingham as he stated – only in the present Chiltern Railways era have trains gone there from Marylebone) was built to the Continental loading gauge with a view to its becoming part of a through route from Manchester to Paris via the Channel Tunnel, a project which was also started at the same time.
It is a tragedy that the Government allowed it to be closed in the 1960s, at a time when the possibility of a Channel Tunnel was once again on the radar. It was closed because it duplicated the parallel Midland Railway route from St Pancras to the Midlands, yet now the Midland Railway route lacks capacity and we need the Great Central once more. What lack of foresight!
I would therefore urge that, before the Government goes further with the present exorbitant HS2 proposals (which involve the reuse of only some 15 miles of the former Great Central route in north Buckinghamshire), a very careful study is made of the relative costs of reopening as much as possible of the Great Central.
It is probably too late to save the trackbed in urban areas of the cities of Leicester, Nottingham and Sheffield through which it went on its way to Manchester, but with some relatively short stretches of new track around those places the majority of the remainder of the old line could potentially be reused, with enormous benefits to the costs of the project.
Peter Nixon, Richmond, Surrey
Michael Williams’ suggestion that the route of the old Great Central railway from London to Sheffield should be reopened instead of HS2 has rather garbled the facts.
Yes, it was impressively engineered and designed for speed (as were other late Victorian main lines), but it is sadly a myth that it can take today’s European-sized trains. The line went no nearer to Birmingham than Rugby, and its route to Manchester via Sheffield is very roundabout.
Among the obstacles in the way of reopening it are the need to bypass Leicester and Nottingham and to provide additional tracks alongside the existing route for the first 40 miles or so out of London.
Reopening it as a conventional commuter railway like the Borders line in Scotland might be relatively easy, but that is very different from the HS2 proposals. From a North-western (or indeed a Yorkshire) perspective it has little to recommend it. 
Colin Penfold, Great Harwood, Lancashire
There was no fuss at all at Railtrack spending nearly £10bn on the West Coast Main Line, with years and years of disruption, yet the money was still insufficient to allow speeds higher than 125mph. And now £15bn is being spent on Crossrail and yet more vast sums on Thameslink, yet HS2 is getting inordinate attention for its cost of £32bn plus the vast Treasury contingency sum of £12bn. Up-to-date cost parameters are available from the HS1 project meaning the original £32bn estimate is credible. 
So  who is Michael Williams speaking up for? London, or the poor citizens in the rest of this country who pay vast sums in taxes and get almost nothing related to transport in return.
F F Mitchell, Haslington, Crewe
I can quite understand that an alternative to HS2 may cause considerable disruption, but that is not a reason for continuing with HS2. 
At home, we are now in the third week of disruption as the result of replacing a kitchen not fit for purpose with one that is. We could have avoided the disruption by having, say, an ornamental water feature built in the garden, but the end result would not have been as beneficial, despite the saving in disruption.
Gordon Whitehead, Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Don’t forget, the fares on HS2 are expected to be double the standard fares. As with the private motorway, I suspect most people would prefer to take the cheaper option and grumble.
David Ridge, London N19
Believe it or not, the NHS does quite well
Since the Care Quality Commission report finding almost a quarter of NHS hospitals are “at risk” of giving poor care, readers might have noticed the upsurge in adverts for private medicine. Yet comparing NHS hospitals ignores the financial context of the NHS compared with the other 20 Western countries.
The main medical objective is to reduce feasible mortality, and our studies contrasting the NHS with other nations provide a more accurate picture of NHS efficiency. Between 1980 and 2006, 18 countries spent more GDP on health than the UK, yet UK adult all cause mortality had the fourth highest reduction, and for cancers deaths the UK had the second biggest. Soon-to-be-published research shows the NHS has achieved even more up to 2010.
The evidence is available in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Pritchard & Wallace, 2011, and in the British Journal of Cancer, Pritchard & Hickish, 2011.
Health Secretary Hunt calls for “openness” about the shortcoming of the NHS but ignores the fact that the NHS is chronically under-funded but achieves more with less.
Colin Pritchard, Research Professor in Psychiatric Social Work, Bournemouth University
Back to conflict in the workplace
Owen Jones’s article about the Grangemouth dispute (28 October) took me right back to when I was an undergraduate at Liverpool University in the 1950s. At that time the management and unions in the shipbuilding industry were having so much fun knocking the spots off one another that they quite forgot to build any ships that any customer would want, with the inevitable result that shipbuilding on Merseyside has virtually disappeared. 
It is clear from what Owen says that something similar was happening at Grangemouth. The agenda of the union leaders appears to have been to bring down the company so the plant would be nationalised, and they used the workers as their weapon. The management also seem willing to play on the same playing field, and apparently made no attempt to engage the workers.
The workers, caught in the middle, didn’t know whether they owed their loyalty to the company or the union, but Owen rightly points to the relief of the workers when the plant was “saved”. 
Unless the management of Grangemouth really learns from this near-disaster, and treats its workers as the fantastic resource they are, the union bosses will be back and the whole thing will start again.
David Pollard, Salen, Isle of Mull
Being a lifelong Tory, I can’t totally agree with Owen Jones’s implied call for a revolution. But I find myself increasingly sympathetic to his views, as our infrastructure gradually falls into the hands of foreign shareholders, whose interests and objectives may differ from ours in the UK. I find this very frightening.
James Dunlop, Whaley bridge, Derbyshire
Look to the  tax laws
While  we applaud the good work of Margaret Hodge MP and her committee, together with some of the more responsible press, including The Independent, is it not time for her, and her committee, to focus on the cause, not the results, of these vast corporate tax mitigation activities?
There can be little doubt that the majority of these major UK trading concerns have the tax law on their side – and if they don’t, it will be the tax advisers’ professional indemnity insurers picking up the costs. The cause has to be the inept, outdated, UK corporate tax laws. 
The corrections have to come from within Mrs Hodge’s own House. Until these laws are rewritten this public breast-beating will remain the hollow sound it currently is, and HM Treasury will continue losing many hundreds of millions of tax revenue through the activities of the super-bright tax-mitigation experts.
John Seymour, Ashington, Sussex
No chance  to be lonely
I had to smile when I heard that two leading charities have said more than a third of older people are suffering from loneliness. 
You see, at the age of 87 I am the sole carer for my 60-year-old autistic, insulin diabetic, asthmatic son, who lives with me. I love him to bits, but the continuous years of strain and the fact that more and more cutbacks mean that there is even less help available than ever, makes me wish I could have the opportunity at times to be lonely!
Barbara MacArthur, Cardiff
Not too clever
Steve Richards (29 October) claims that “Balls has displayed astute judgement on the big issues in recent decades.” How astute was he with regard to his support for tearing up regulatory controls on the big banks, keeping interest rates very low throughout an unsustainable boom, and allowing government debt to increase during the years of strong economic growth? If his views on all these issues are astute, then perhaps we need less astuteness from Ed Balls.
Professor Michael W Eysenck, London SW20
Parking time
The Government is to allow drivers who overstay their allocated parking time a period of five minutes’ grace before a fine is imposed. I guarantee that within a week of this becoming law we will hear of somebody complaining that they were only in their sparking bay for one minute over this new time limit and it was just an overzealous traffic warden coupled with an obsessive desire for local authorities to bleed the poor motorist dry that caused them to be stung.
Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex
Power of protest
Will all those busily campaigning against wind and solar farms (“Most treasured landscapes ‘can be vandalised by developers’ ”, 28 October) be the first to volunteer for the inevitable power cuts if their efforts prove successful?
Anthony Batchelor, Bromyard, Herefordshire
A suspicion of paedophilia is today’s trigger for witch-hunts.  When you have witch-hunts, innocent people get killed (“A modern British murder”, 29 October). Many of us are not as civilised as we like to believe.
Nigel Scott, London N22


Sir, Professor Norman Williams is right that patients will have to accept closure of hospital facilities if the NHS is to achieve “super-deluxe” round-the-clock care (“Seven-day NHS ‘means hospitals must close’,” Oct 28). In a publicly funded healthcare system that needs to improve quality with virtually zero real-term funding increases, an ageing population and an ever-increasing cost base it is simply impossible for the NHS to provide a higher quality service across all its existing hospitals.
The only way the NHS can deliver services seven days a week is through significant, clinically-led reconfiguration of care. This means delivering more services closer to home and fewer — but appropriate — services in larger acute hospitals. This will result in smaller, local hospitals becoming community hubs for primary and social care and greater centralisation of emergency and acute services on to fewer larger hospital sites. While these changes are often understandably opposed by local people, they are absolutely necessary to drive up quality and save lives, so it is time for local political leaders to show courageous leadership and become advocates for the changes which they know provide the only mechanism to improve care standards for patients.
sam burrows and matt hannant
PA Consulting Group, London SW1
Sir, A seven-day NHS would be ideal for patients and their employers but it could only be achieved by initially unpopular hospital mergers. This would allow critical levels of need to be met with the possibility of consultant-led services at most, if not all, times. These benefits would only be achieved if professional staffing levels were to be maintained but the savings in maintenance of buildings would be considerable. The more economic use of equipment which may now be used at less than optimum levels is also a consideration.
The introduction of shift work is already taking place in support areas such as laboratories. T he prospect of a rolling four or five-day week may create problems for those with dependent children or elderly parents, but these difficulties have been met in the private sector and should be faced in the public sector too.
Dr Robert J. Leeming, frcpath
Sir, Of course simple treatments can be carried out by GPs, and complex procedures requiring sophisticated expertise and expensive equipment need to be centralised.
The difficulty lies with the mass of work which falls into neither category — hip replacements, hernia repairs, maternity services and medical conditions such as pneumonia, strokes and diabetes.
There are downsides to centralisation. If a smaller hospital is closed, replacing the beds required in the closest major hospital will be near impossible, as these are invariably in conurbations with no free land. So waiting times go up and increased travelling for relatives can cause major problems and expense, particularly in rural areas.
Dr Alastair Lack
Coombe Bissett, Wilts
Sir, If local hospitals are to be closed and GPs’ offices expanded (leading article, Oct 28), why not rehouse the GPs in the hospitals and retain simple diagnostic and treatment services?
Dr Robert Lefever
London SW7

The Heathrow Hub concept suggests extending both runways at Heathrow to the west and making a link to the mainline national railway system
Sir, We have put forward a pragmatic, sensible and affordable scheme to increase the capacity at Heathrow sufficient to cater for expansion for decades to come. It will allow noise mitigation in addition to the very considerable reduction in noise which new aircraft can and will generate.
So the claim by Boris Johnson (letter, Oct 28) that Willie Walsh will not meet with the Mayor to discuss the plan for a new East London airport is the pot calling the kettle black. Mr Johnson does not appear to be willing to listen to proposals other than his very expensive idea.
We will be very happy to meet with him to outline our far more practical and affordable submission.
Our Heathrow Hub concept suggests simply extending both runways at Heathrow to the west and making the obvious but sadly missing link to the mainline national railway system. Available capacity would be doubled, although a significant percentage of the slots could remain unused for noise alternation protocols. Also, early morning flights can land much farther down the extended runway so reducing noise to a large area of west London.
Our estimate of total cost including road diversions and a station is approximately £12.5bn, which is much lower than all other suggestions and would be funded from private capital. What is more, Heathrow is already one of the safest airports in the world and this scheme will make it even safer.
Our proposals meet all the criteria laid down by the Davies Commission. We have written to Mr Johnson to ask for a meeting but to date have heard nothing. Perhaps he already realises that our scheme has great merit but it would be beneficial if we could discuss the topic face to face.
Jock Lowe
Heathrow Hub

There are issues that are nothing to do with privatisation that now make pre-emptive responses to emergencies on the railways difficult
Sir, As a former engineer on the railways in the BR days, I do have some sympathy for Mr Dow’s point of view (letter, Oct 29).
However, there are issues that are nothing to do with privatisation that now make pre-emptive responses to emergencies difficult. Much of the routine maintenance has been mechanised so there are fewer gangs that can respond. Gone are the railway cottages for key staff. When major 24/7 planned engineering works have been undertaken at key stations recently, Network Rail booked local hotels to ensure that its teams of contractors could be fed, watered and rested. To undertake almost any trackside task or use any machine, operatives will now have had to attend the necessary health and safety training course and thus it is no longer possible to adopt an “all hands to the pumps” approach. The systems are now far more complex than in the BR days and to ensure that the track and signalling are safe for 125mph traffic after any damage, the technicians need to be alert and concentrating on the task in hand.
Richard Philips
Ham, Surrey

‘The public deserve not to be sold down the river by disgruntled MPs and image-preening celebrities over press regulation proposals’
Sir, Not only was the Institute of Journalists incorporated by a Royal Charter in 1890 (letter, Oct 28) but it has a duty under that charter to uphold ethical and professional standards in journalism. As the current president of the Institute recently pointed out: “The public deserve not to be sold down the river by disgruntled MPs and image-preening celebrities over press regulation proposals. It is time these individuals come clean and admit that, when the police do their job, there are perfectly acceptable laws that already exist to keep law-breakers, including those in journalism, in check”.
Roger Bush
President of the Chartered Institute of Journalists 1995-96

It would be wonderful if sections of the Royal Collection of Art could be sent around the country visiting galleries across the nation
Sir, Andrew Adonis is right (Thunderer, Oct 28): a permanent place to view the treasures of the Royal Collection of Art would be a wonderful attraction. Better still would be travelling sections of the collection visiting galleries across the nation: Leonardos in York, Van Dykes in Manchester, stamps and prints in Cardiff, silver in Scotland, the scope is endless. Look what the Walpole/Catherine the Great visiting collection has done for Norfolk’s visitor numbers, and consider the amazing regeneration of Margate which has followed the Turner Gallery’s establishment there.
If Her Majesty were to approve such a venture her legacy to this nation would be accompanied by ringing cash tills for generations.
Mark Dunn
Stoughton, W Sussex


SIR – The great storm of 2013 was a bit of a damp squib. While I fully appreciate the need for preparation and warning, especially given what happened in 1987, I can’t help wondering how much absenteeism as a result of this widespread panic has cost Britain’s businesses and the economy.
I rent office space for my PR company which I can reach easily enough, no matter what the weather. But for the small and medium-sized enterprises that almost had to write yesterday off, for lack of employees, this is going to be a significant hit.
By 9am yesterday morning, many must have been wondering what all the fuss was about.
National broadcasters completely over-dramatised their live reports from locations such as Brighton beach and Lyme Regis. They won’t be compensating small businesses for the consequence of having scared away employees.
Craig Peters
Worthing, West Sussex
Related Articles
Pumpkins are wasted on a Hallowe’en lantern
29 Oct 2013
SIR – I don’t agree that it was “overkill” to think that extreme care might have been needed for those considering getting to work yesterday.
I too well remember the 1987 hurricane, the loss of life and the years it took to right the damage done.
So warnings were necessary: these weather systems cannot ever be foreseen exactly.
Rica Hare
St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex
SIR – I suppose it was commendable for the train-operating companies to postpone commencing services on a day when severe gales were forecast, in order to avoid stranded trains full of passengers and, worse, accidents.
But the problems of fallen trees on the line would have been almost non-existent had Network Rail kept trackside growth in check.
Peter Maynard
Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Would anyone care to report how our “essential” wind farms performed on Monday (apart from the one that fell over)?
Ian Robertson
Hook, Hampshire
SIR – Were these power cuts actually an attempt by the energy companies to help us reduce our energy bills? (Sent from my smartphone, as I have no power at home.)
John Rowlands
Harpenden, Hertfordshire
SIR – Despite the dire weather warnings, our Telegraph was delivered yesterday as usual at 6.30am.
Ken Jones
Hambledon, Hampshire
SIR – A hurricane haiku.
Hurricane forecast.
Trees down, roads flood, some winds come.
Met Office over blow.
Ian Pearson
Nether Stowey, Somerset
Foreign patients
SIR – In discussing the health tourism issue and associated costs, doctors’ representatives maintain that it should be no part of their members’ duties to act as Border Agency surrogates or to check on the legitimacy of foreign nationals’ entitlement to NHS services. In effect, the cost factor is not part of their remit.
I wonder if they would take the same attitude in respect of foreign nationals presenting themselves for treatment by private medical practitioners?
Alan Rayner
Godalming, Surrey
SIR – Here, in France, the system is simple: if you are a French resident you present your health identity card, which entitles you to treatment. Everyone else, even those who have the European health insurance card, pays for everything. They are then given a form detailing what they have paid for and can submit this for a possible refund. The only exception is, if involved in an accident, you will not be left at the roadside.
Harvey Schneiderman
Narbonne, Aude, France
SIR – My cousin, recently visiting Britain from Australia, developed an ear infection. My wife phoned our GP and got an appointment the same day, appropriate treatment was administered and £40 charged. The process worked well.
So what is the difficulty in recovering costs from foreign visitors?
Alex Taylor
Thame, Oxfordshire
Police dress sense
SIR – I was in the supermarket at the weekend, where there were two policemen, buying cigarettes and crisps. They were laden down by heavy equipment round their waists, with more hanging from loops on their open-necked shirts. They had bulging pockets and loose fitting trousers tucked into boots.
Not that long ago the police wore white, collared shirts and ties, smart jackets and trousers and shining shoes. At least then they looked helpful, and not as if they were about to drag you off to prison.
Terry Duncan
Bridlington, East Yorkshire
Leaving a paper trail
SIR – I have now received four letters from my bank thanking me for registering for their paperless service.
Pene Cook
London E18
Hip replacements
SIR – The problems with some metal-on-metal implants have been widely publicised for years. In collaboration with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, the British Hip Society and British Orthopaedic Association produced guidance for patients several years ago, which was updated recently.
There has been a significant reduction in the use of metal-on-metal devices over the past few years. The worst-performing implant (the ASR) was recalled three years ago and other poorly performing devices have been withdrawn since.
Some devices, such as the Birmingham Hip Resurfacing, have had good results and a low revision rate in certain population groups. In resurfacing 55-year-old males, with a 54mm head has a revision rate of 3 per cent at seven years.
John Timperley FRCS (Ed)
President, British Hip Society
John Skinner FRCS (Orth)
President Elect, British Hip Society
London WC2
SIR – Metal-on-metal hip replacement has not been “banned”; it is the subject of ongoing deliberation by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, and others. More than a million metal-on-metal devices have been implanted in patients in the past 25 years, but true toxicity has only been published in a handful of case reports – one of which, ironically, was a result of a shattered ceramic bearing.
Your article does not mention the success of Birmingham Hip Resurfacing – the most widely used procedure, and therefore the most relevant to patients.
Ronan Treacy FRCS Orth
Derek McMinn FRCS
Co-designers, Birmingham Hip Resurfacing
Beating parking fines
SIR – Peter Sissons is to be congratulated on fighting and beating his incorrectly issued private parking ticket. However, Mr Sissons says: “If you throw the ticket in the bin and refuse to pay the fine, it can affect your credit rating.” Fortunately this is not correct.
The only time a motorist’s credit rating would be affected is if the parking company took him or her to court, obtained judgment and the motorist failed to pay this judgment. Only a very tiny percentage of these cases go to court. Recently, a district judge threw out a claim for the high penalty requested by a parking company because the penalty was illegal and did not represent the loss to the parking company.
Barrie Segal
London SW1
SIR – I was interested to read that it was not the £90 fine that worried Peter Sissons, but the deception of the fine. Mr Sissons should worry about the fine.
I was fined £90 for parking in a disabled bay with a disabled badge on show because it was a private pay-and-display car park. Why are parking companies allowed to post disabled signs and charge that amount?
B E Tuppen
Pulborough, West Sussex
Cherie as martyr
SIR – I was surprised to learn that Cherie Booth was thought to have had special vocal lessons to deepen her voice. When I first encountered her I was a new teacher at her school and she was starring in the school’s production of Murder in the Cathedral. She was a Lower VI student. Her voice was deep and resonant, and she absolutely convinced me that she was a 12th-century archbishop.
Anne Crew
Wigton, Cumberland
Were our bags dangerous before the plastic era?
SIR – What do the scientists think we did before the advent of single-use carrier bags? Baskets and bags were made of a variety of materials, and foodstuffs were not wrapped in plastic, yet somehow we survived.
Keith Kenworthy
Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
SIR – My mother used the same basket to carry her meat, eggs and cheese every week for many years. After she died at the age of 88, I took over her basket and have used it now for seven years to no ill effect.
Sarah Allen
Bridgwater, Somerset
SIR – Colour-coding re-usable bags, to show what they have been used for, might help to prevent illness from bacteria.
Sarah Gall
Rochdale, Lancashire

SIR – I, too, share the concerns of John Alcock (Letters, October 26) about pumpkins being hacked up for Hallowe’en, and then left to rot. My love of eating pumpkin arose during my visits to Uganda, where it was used to supplement the rice or sweet potatoes that accompanied the bean, fish or occasional goat stews prepared for a household of seven.
Sadly, even the smallest pumpkins are too big for a person like me, living alone, to use without wasting a large proportion. However, I understand our local guide leader is planning to show her members how to make pumpkin soup from the edible parts that are left over, once Hallowe’en pumpkin lanterns have been made. A commendable task, which will be exciting, nourishing and useful.
Alan Mabey
Hook, Hampshire
SIR – When I lived next door to neighbours who had children, I helped to prepare their pumpkin for Hallowe’en. They kept the shell; I kept the insides for soup. On November 1, I buy pumpkin for practically nothing; the Americanisation of Hallowe’en has resulted in the pumpkin losing its culinary value.
Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset
SIR – John Alcock writes that Hallowe’en is a mindless celebration. Pagans who celebrate Samhain as being the end of summer and the start of a new year would not agree with him.
Marysia Pudlo-Debef
Colchester, Essex
SIR – I really do think there are more important things to get offended by than pumpkins being carved up for decoration.
Alastair Cannon
Bridport, Dorset

Irish Times:

Sir, – Noel Whelan’s incisive analysis of the pervasive practice of the bugging of the telephones of world leaders is topical, but it is not a recent phenomenon (Opinion, October 26th). The attitude of the Taoiseach that presumes all his telephone calls are monitored is sound reasoning; and similar to the attitude of Lloyd George during the first World War. He always assumed agents of the kaiser would be eavesdropping on his conversations, and whenever possible he would speak in Welsh. In the 1960s, I read of a British academic making a call from his hotel in Bolivia, only to be castigated over the phone by an unknown third person for speaking too fast.
The Orwellian environment in which we now live is concerning and a disturbing feature of the landscape in which we operate. It’s not just world leaders and high-powered politicians who are susceptible to this practice, it affects us all. – Yours, etc,
Lonsdale Road,
Liverpool, England.
Sir, – All over Europe media sources are clamouring to reveal details of US monitoring of millions of phone calls, including the phones of national leaders. Such spying on one’s friends is more akin to the role of a peeping Tom than pursuing genuine national security aims.
The Irish media by contrast seems to adopting a deafening silence on the likelihood that the US embassy in Ballsbridge and the US ambassador’s resident in the Phoenix Park may have been involved in similar widespread communications monitoring. – Yours, etc,
Castletroy, Limerick.
Sir, – When President Obama came to Europe shortly after election, he promised his administration had come to Europe to listen and listen carefully.
Nice to see a government keeping its word. – Yours, etc,
Dundela Park,
Sandycove, Co Dublin.
Sir, – The Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s recent comment that he always operates on the basis that his calls are monitored (Miriam Lord, October 26th) echoes that of Dr Garret FitzGerald almost 30 years ago. The then taoiseach said, “Any Irish government that was simple-minded enough to assume that the intelligence services of the Soviet Union or the United States or Great Britain did not have the power to intercept messages would be taking risks with our national security.”
Dr FitzGerald was reacting to evidence that British Government Communications Headquarters at Cheltenham had intercepted a coded message to him from an Irish diplomat in London in the run-up to the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement and passed it on to the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher. In the message, the diplomat advised the taoiseach that a junior British minister had confided to him that a critical speech by a British cabinet member on Ireland was for domestic consumption and not to worry about it. Within hours the junior minister was carpeted by a senior Whitehall official and told Mrs Thatcher was rather cross to learn the Irish were being given such privileged information. The Irish were tipped off about this encounter as well. Aware that their Swiss code machine was compromised, Irish diplomats resorted to sending sensitive despatches by hand. An embassy official would fly to Ireland, or hand the message to an Aer Lingus pilot at Heathrow for delivery to an Army despatch rider in Dublin to take to the taoiseach’s office. These were typed on an old mechanical typewriter, as the diplomats were also tipped off that a listening device could translate the sound patterns of the embassy electric typewriter.  The lesson, then and now, is that the only way to beat new technology is with old technology. – Yours, etc,
Former Irish Times London Editor,
Stepaside, Co Dublin.
Sir, – I have read reports of Chancellor Merkel’s phone being tapped by the Americans. Can the Taoiseach confirm that the NSA has never bothered to tap his phone, preferring, rather, to monitor the communications of the troika? – ours, et,
Tweed Street,
Highett, Victoria,
Sir, – Just as the effects of an earthquake can be quantified on the Mercalli scale, will future monitoring of communication devices be measured on the Merkeli scale? – Yours, etc.
Brendan Treacy,
Drumree, Co Meath.
Sir, – We still await expressions of gratitude to Edward Snowden and statements of concern for his safety, from Angela Merkel and other European leaders including Enda Kenny. Don’t hold your breath. – Yours, etc,
Dún Chaoin, Co Chiarraí.­
Sir, – Would our Government now consider granting Edward Snowden political asylum for his sterling service to the European community? – Yours, etc,
Mountjoy Street, Dublin 7. 

Sir, – Una Mullally (Opinion, October 28th) brilliantly criticises the use of drones, stating “killing remotely from a computer is constructing a new wireless axis of evil”. Referring to Barack Obama, she states, “He won the Nobel Peace Prize after all”.
The Nobel Peace Prize is normally awarded on the basis of an outstanding record of accomplishment in working for peace. In the case of Obama it was more in the nature of an anticipatory award based on the expectation the he would fulfil the promises he had made so convincingly during his pre-election campaign. It is now fairly obvious that the Nobel awarding committee should have waited for results rather than banking on expectations. – Yours, etc,
Bishopscourt Road,

A chara, – “The Minister [Michael Noonan] said that a decision on an exit strategy for Ireland would not be made until a new Government is formed in Germany” (Suzanne Lynch, Front page, October 29th). Could Mr Noonan explain if it was the Seanad or the Bundestag that the Irish electorate voted to retain? – is mise,
Sir, – Senator David Norris (October 23rd) rightly indicates the problematic dilemma regarding preparation of an accurate register for university panel Seanad seats, once updated to include graduates from all third-level institutions.
As he mentions, the current combined register entails approximately 200,000 registered details, while there are a great number of graduates who are not registered, or registered for example at an outdated address (not untypically a residence at time of graduation; a costly discrepancy as State-funded postage is sent to such addresses).
In particular, it is disconcerting that the number of younger registered graduates is relatively low.
The registration problem with the university panel Seanad seats has severely impinged on the entire credibility of this mode of election, and this issue must be seriously tackled before the next election takes place.
Essentially, on this basis, a new registration mechanism involving automatic registration and updating using PPS numbers should be introduced in tandem with the extension of the Seanad voting franchise to all third-level graduates.

Sir, – While I enjoyed Frank McNally’s article (An Irishman’s Diary, October 25th) on the potential for confusion in the complexities of timekeeping in Ireland and England circa 1920, I fear he over-simplified matters by saying Dublin Mean Time or Dunsink Time was “apparent time”. Apparent solar time is based on the successive passages of the sun across the meridian and these intervals are not uniform. It is the time displayed by a sundial. Most clocks advance at a constant rate and instead keep a “mean” time, where these differences are averaged over the solar year. – Yours, etc,
Science Museum,

First published: Wed, Oct 30, 2013, 01:08

Sir, – I think Joan Burton and Eamon Gilmore meant they were cutting pensions “To the core” (Phil Sheridan, October 26th)! – Yours, etc,

Sir, – And where would you leave “a moxy”, “a gansey-load”, “a clatter”, “a dose” or “ a lock” (Irishman’s Diary, October 24th & Letters, October 28th)? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Thank heavens for Peter McNamara (October 26th) whose letter consoled me that I wasn’t the only one bamboozled by the letter from Revenue regarding Local Property Tax.
Notwithstanding an honours degree in English, I found the correspondence utterly confusing. Why is one being asked to “commit to your payment option” by November 27th, 2013, for a tax payable on March 21st, 2014? And if one should choose to pay online by credit card, will that payment be deducted then and there, ie before November 27th next (therefore clashing with Christmas bills and expenses!)? Anyway, what if we don’t “commit” before the November 27th deadline? Will we then be barred from using an online payment option later? Is it that those of us who are fully tax compliant are now also considered a soft touch to be tapped early?
Perhaps the Collector General could simplify the process by allowing us to choose a payment option in the days and weeks before the March 2014 deadline, instead of writing to us with a deadline some four months before the actual due date. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Hugh Gibney (October 28th) makes a valid point when he writes that the content of what the speakers at this week’s Web Summit in Dublin say should matter more than their gender.
It should, of course, be the case in every industry that the content of what people say matters more than their gender and, indeed, that the best qualified person is always chosen for the job. Academically, women have consistently outperformed men over the past number of years, so it cannot be the case that they do not have the relevant knowledge or expertise, regardless of the industry. The problem is not that they have nothing to say, merely that they are not invited to say it.
Women account for 82 per cent of graduates in health and welfare, 74 per cent of graduates in education and 63 per cent of graduates in arts and humanities. Yet a mere 15 per cent of our TDs are women, a little over one third of the members of State boards are women and less than a fifth of the members of local authorities are women.
It is a matter of concern that men do not appear to think primary school teaching is a viable career opportunity. Nevertheless, although 85 per cent of primary school teachers are indeed women, only 53 per cent of them are managers. In secondary education 63 per cent of teachers are women but only 41 per cent of them are managers.
Mr Gibney is concerned about future imbalances in law and medicine. Clearly, with the academic results above, there should already be a massive imbalance. The fact that it hasn’t happened leads me to believe that although we have equipped ourselves with the intellectual ability to compete at the highest level, women still haven’t learned to edge their male counterparts off the podium. – Yours, etc,
Copeland Grove,

Sir, – So now we have it. The ructions caused by Archbishop Michael Jackson’s “Polyester Protestants” address is the fault of The Irish Times (Letters, October 25th). Keep digging, your Grace – the South Pole is only a shovelful away. – Yours, etc,
Dean of Leighlin,
Old Leighlin,
Co Carlow.
Sir, – Archbishop Michael Jackson’s letter (October 25th) demonstrates that he has not opted for the quiet life. Clearly from the feedback published in the Letters page in recent days, he has his work cut out.
At least some of his flock is not afraid to “wash their linen”, or polyester, in public! I wish him well. – Yours, etc,
Grange Crescent,
Dún Laoghaire,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – My maternal ancestors were Protestant Palatines who settled in Ireland centuries ago while escaping from religious persecution. For my own part I chose to be a member of the Church of Ireland more than 40 years ago and, although I now form part of the Irish diaspora, I am very much still a practising member of the Anglican Church.
Although in the past there were divisions in Irish society, including some very sad ones affecting members of my own family, for the most part attitudes have changed with the times. There are bound to be vestiges of ancient suspicions. How could there not be given the ecclesiatical history of these islands? We should not, however, be afraid to discuss these matter openly in our Diocesan Synods if we perceive that they are affecting the well-being of the church. Certainly unhelpful remarks about members of our hierarchy serve no positive purpose in our mission.
When attending a main Sunday service in a rural cathedral of the Church of Ireland last summer, there were seven of us plus the dean and the organist. I would say that polyester is the least of our problems. – Yours, etc,
Admiralty Way,
Sir, – Enough of this divisive debate. Let us acknowledge our differences, celebrate our similarities and move forward together.
As someone who worships in both Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, I do not see myself as a polyester Protestant or a woolly Anglican – but more as a cotton-rich Christian. – Yours, etc,
Mulgrave Terrace,
Dún Laoghaire,

Sir, – It’s very obvious from the Government’s different responses to the alcohol and smoking issues,which of these two industries (tobacco and alcohol) exerts the greatest clout in this country.
Tobacco can’t advertise or offer sponsorship and now its having its shiny packaging taken away – all good news. Alcohol can advertise, offer sponsorship, hold an annual “let’s all drink as much as we can day” and keep its shiny packaging!
If the Government and Minister for Health James Reilly are so convinced that plain pack cigarettes will reduce cigarette smoking, then by logic, what works for cigarettes should also work to reduce alcohol consumption: introduce plain bottle alcohol. And while they’re at it, ban alcohol sponsorship and advertising. – Yours,etc,
Deerpark Court,

Sir, – So our Minister for Education is happy for teachers to get involved in student assessment because such methods show “satisfactory results” in other countries (Breaking News, October 29th). Ruairí Quinn obviously has never been involved in any form of assessment, or else he would realise that “satisfactory” comes after Excellent and Very Good, with Poor following Satisfactory. I thought he was aiming for an “excellent” education system, not a satisfactory one! – Yours, etc,
Shelton Gardens,

A chara, – Robin Heather (October 28th) is being somewhat overcautious in insisting that mobile phones should not be used around petrol pumps.
Such a device is simply not capable of generating sufficient power to create a spark with enough energy to cause ignition. This is why there has never been a proven incident of this kind anywhere in the world.
In fact, your correspondent would be more likely to cause an explosion by wearing nylon stockings while refuelling. Unfortunately his/her androgynous Christian name prevents me from surmising the relevance of this last piece of advice. – Is mise,
Department of Interface
Chemistry & Surface
Engineering, Max Planck
Institute for Iron Research,

Sir, – Shouldn’t the Vatican check if anything is hidden behind the Bishop of Limburg’s €15,000 bath? – Yours, etc,
Cherryfield Avenue Lower,
Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Irish Independent:

The reduction in the dole payment is an act of blatant unfairness. Yet again the poor and the unemployed will be disproportionately hit and have no redress. This is justified by the convenient myth that these people are mostly feckless and undeserving.
Also in this section
If you want to see a really big tractor, call me
Outrage at US spy scandal is just plain naive
Stout reason to cut price of pint
The notion of fairness is close to the heart of even very young children. It seems to come with them at birth. Embedded in our dealings with one another is an abiding sense of what is fair.
The identification of justice with the administration of law and not with fairness tends to weaken our moral sensibilities.
Political, banking and business miscreants, and we have had many, when suggesting that they have done no wrong, appeal to the law but not to the mutual moral expectations, particularly that of honesty and fairness, that are at the heart of our way of life.
The fact that the legal system administers the law, but not necessarily fairness, drove Mr Bumble in ‘Oliver Twist’ to proclaim “The law is an ass” when informed that he was legally responsible for his wife’s theft of jewellery.
In the case of the findings of the Mahon Tribunal, there was a wave of national outrage as neither the law nor the principle of fairness were well served. There seemed to be one law for errant politicians and another for the rest of us.
Whatever policies and practices we invoke in the governance of our country, their value resides in the extent to which they improve the lot of the most disadvantaged, not the rich. This is not some Marxist proclamation, but a reminder of what holds a people together, namely a deeply rooted, intuitive sense of fairness.
Philip O’Neill
* I am 23 and from Cavan. I have been living in New York for the past nine months with no plans to move back home. After I did my masters in English I qualified as an ESL teacher. After applying to numerous ESL schools and having no luck I decided to move to New York to seek out better opportunities as opposed to applying for the dole.
My brother is a civil engineer. He had a similar experience after completing his honours degree. He applied for many jobs and found himself settling for positions for which he was over-qualified, both in England and Northern Ireland. He has been living in Perth, Australia for the past few years, where he found better opportunities. He too has no plans to move home.
My sister is at home with a first-class honours degree in social care. The only work she can find is unpaid voluntary work and even that was difficult to find. The only reason she is still at home is because she is waiting to do her master’s degree. After that, she plans to join me in New York.
My mother is an accountant in Cavan town and my father is a principal in Killenkere NS. I follow the news of my beloved country very closely. I am disappointed more every day. The 2014 Budget really got to me, as it forcefully hit my generation and my friends.
Laura Rahill
Douglaston, NY
* It is more urgent than ever to have an EU fingerprint ID card, especially given what has happened with the Roma children and the 14-year-old Eastern European child found in a distressed state at the GPO who still remains unidentified. This card could also contain medical data. Ireland could lead the way, as we did with the smoking ban.
It would help in the fight against child trafficking. It would make the gardai and HSE’s jobs much easier. If we all had these cards, no one group would feel discriminated against and it would only take minutes to identify a person or child. Surely no one would object.
Kathleen Ryan
Tallaght, Dublin
* Yesterday, my wife and I – a pair of 70+-year-olds from the country – having visited a few days with friends, got on the DART at Glasthule with a view to getting to Heuston Station via Connolly and Luas. The first three trains were terminating at Pearse, so we took the first, hoping to find some form of connection there. There were no announcements on the train about anything – as we walked along the platform at Pearse, there were still quite a few people sitting on the train.
At Pearse, we sought information to be told that line works this weekend meant no trains to Connolly (a bank holiday weekend, with matches both north and south of the Liffey?). Was there a replacement bus? Not to Connolly! How do we get there? It’s only a 10-minute walk! Are there scheduled buses from here to either Connolly or Heuston? I don’t know! Leaving the “information” office, we went to the ticket barrier to find the same level of knowledge.
I know that the Irish management module is the ‘mushroom system’ (smother them in manure and keep them in the dark), but is that the way to operate a railroad?
Cal Hyland
West Cork
* The opening seconds of ‘Love/Hate’ on Sunday night had another scene involving cruelty to animals. This time it was a dog-fight, which the gangsters found edifying and most viewers (I imagine) repulsive. It was a true-to-life depiction of this appalling blood sport in which dogs are pitted against each other while fans gather to watch, cheer, and bet huge amounts of money on the outcome.
The dogs suffer horrific injuries, and are goaded to fight on until one of them has been severely mauled or killed. By the end of a fight, both animals will be bleeding all over, have bits of their faces missing or maybe their eyes ripped out, and be covered in cuts and bite marks.
There have been precious few convictions for this illegal activity over the decades, but the new Animal Health and Welfare Act (despite its many shortcomings) has additional measures aimed at stamping it out. Now, anyone present at a dog fight, in addition to those organising it, can be prosecuted and subjected to heavy fines or imprisonment.
Anyone with information on dog fighting should pass it to the gardai or nearest SPCA branch.
John Fitzgerald
Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports Callan, Co Kilkenny
The thing is, if Enda Kenny hasn’t had his phone bugged by the US, he’ll embarrass the hell out of us by complaining to Obama for having been left out.
Robert Sullivan
Bantry, Co Cork
Irish Independent


October 29, 2013

29 October 2013 Hospital

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Pertwee is wanting to be come an officer. Cue faux posh accents. Priceless
Sort the books, Hospital hurrah go back in four weeks. Sandy comes.
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins get just under 400, though perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Annette Kerr
Annette Kerr was an actress and confidante of Kenneth Williams, who even proposed to her

Annette Kerr as Dora Grimes in 2point4 children Photo: BBC
7:09PM GMT 28 Oct 2013
After their first meeting in repertory at Newquay in 1949 she was among Williams’s closest confidantes, whether in London as they shared theatrical aspirations, or in rep, where they kept up a regular correspondence. In between eviscerating colleagues and repeatedly proclaiming any situation to be “the end”, he shared with Annette Kerr his tastes in literature, history, philosophy and humour. He addressed her as “My dearest Mentor”, including such endearments as “O many sounding congratulations on your attractive dark head”.
One diary entry, from December 1952, attests to Williams and Annette Kerr having enacted the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet into his tape recorder. Perhaps emboldened by that, Williams proposed to her in September 1961, and suggested living together just over a year later. Sensibly, recognising his need for solitude as well as his sexuality, she turned him down, pointing out that the sight of her smalls would be anathema to him, having already told him in 1953: “You know how you loathe people when you see them often.”
Catherine Annette Kerr Peacock was born at Elderslie, Renfrewshire, on July 2 1920, later abbreviating her name. A move from Scotland came after her father, David, who had been blinded during the Great War, trained as a physiotherapist under the auspices of St Dunstan’s Charitable Trust (now Blind Veterans UK) and took up a post at Watford General Hospital. While still at school his daughter made her stage debut at the Watford Palace Theatre, a venue she would return to in repertory seasons in 1953 and 1955.
Her training at the Central School of Speech and Drama was interrupted by the Blitz, which forced the school to evacuate to Exeter; she would later return to that city too, playing at the Northcott Theatre for a season in 1980.
On three occasions – a tour of Anastasia in 1954; a thriller at Bournemouth later that year, Poison Unsuspect; and repertory at the New Theatre, Bromley, in 1955-56 – she worked with another of Williams’s friends, Sheila Hancock. Often wearing a look of concern, Annette Kerr appeared alongside Sean Connery in Scotty Brown’s Bridge (Strand, 1956), and a young Gary Oldman in a revival of Ben Travers’s Thark (Theatre Royal, York, 1979).
A thriller starring Dame Flora Robson, The House By The Lake (Duke Of York’s, 1956-57), ran for more than a year. Annette Kerr played a nurse, as she did in several screen appearances, beginning with Home Tonight (ITV, 1961), a daily, 15-minute soap cut short by a technicians’ strike.

Annette Kerr, Helen Weir, Richard Felgate, David Purcell and Alan White in Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’ at the Saint Martin’s Theatre
She enjoyed travelling the country for regional productions, calling on an array of colleagues who became friends. A favourite venue was the Redgrave, Farnham, where she appeared with Irene Handl and Alfred Marks in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus in 1975, and in seasons from 1979 to 1982.
Nonetheless, she was happy to join the takeover cast of The Mousetrap for a year from November 1976 as it was a convenient commute from her west London home. Later she played Fairy Blackstick in Thackeray’s The Rose and the Ring (Sutton Centre, Nottinghamshire, 1983), an early production of Gregory Doran (now artistic director at the RSC).
Her last parts were in a new play, Acts Of Kindness (Everyman, Cheltenham, 1988) and in episodes of 2point4 children (1992-96) and One Foot in The Grave (1995). In later life she became a resident at the actors’ retirement home, Denville Hall, where she died.
She is survived by a brother, three nephews and three nieces.
Annette Kerr, born July 2 1920, died September 23 2013


Your report of Paula Milne’s aspiration to remake Borgen for UK viewers (Political drama gets ready for a comeback, 26 October) neatly encapsulates the problem facing Scotland’s independent programme producers. The obvious context would be the Scottish parliament – a small country with PR and the possibility of a maverick politician becoming “first” or indeed prime minister. But no UK broadcaster would dream of commissioning a political drama set north of the border for fear of alienating the audience and/or being seen to take a stance on the independence question. Reduced to relocating, however implausibly, shows like Waterloo Road to Glasgow in order to meet quota requirements, the BBC and other broadcasters have failed to commission serious drama from or set in Scotland. Shows like Case Histories or Hope Springs are about as close to “intelligent drama” as metrocentric commissioning editors and schedulers are prepared to go, maintaining Scotland’s function in UK TV drama as occasional setting for urban crime scenes or quirky rural idylls. With control over their own broadcasting, there’s a much higher chance that Scots would get their own Borgen, The Bridge or even Yes, First Minister.
Professor Robin MacPherson
Edinburgh Napier University

I was interested to read Shirley Williams’ concerns about the “mass surveillance practised by GCHQ” (Letters, 28 October). When my American colleague Mark Hosenball sought to bring the existence of this agency to the public’s attention in a 1976 Time Out article, he was deported from the UK on grounds of publishing “information harmful to the security of the UK” and “prejudicial to the safety of the servants of the crown”. The government then in power was Labour, in whose cabinet served … Shirley Williams.
Mandy Merck
•  If I were Angela Merkel, I would be offering permanent political asylum to Edward Snowden: and possibly a German government job for life. They do say revenge is a dish best served cold.
Charlie Marks
Cork, Ireland
• Theresa May seems to have missed the point (May admits ‘go home’ vans were a failure, 23 October). Surely these mobile posters were not targeted at illegal immigrants; the prime audience for which they were intended was those disaffected Tories contemplating a move to Ukip. Their success, or otherwise, will be apparent come the next general election.
David Collins
Kidderminster, Worcestershire
•  I am delighted to see that Sunder Katwala has joined the campaign to get St George’s Day accepted as the English national holiday (Response, 28 October). It largely already is on the street; it is just British establishment/elite obstruction that needs to be overcome.
Robin Tilbrook
Chairman, The English Democrats
• Steve Coogan thinks “agnosticism is for cowards” (Knowing me? No way, Weekend, 26 October). Religion and atheism both depend on unprovable belief. Believers stand firmly on the rocks of their own certainties. We agnostics are cast adrift in a sea of unknowability. It takes courage to face up to that.
Andrew Haig
• If Grant Shapps has a problem with the BBC’s journalism (Editorial, 28 October) he should write to Points of View like everyone else.
Jonathon Palmer

The government’s education reforms do not “carry the risk” of huge centralisation of power (Clegg calls for ‘middle tier’ of authority to run free schools, 25 October). That centralisation has already occurred. Michael Gove can now open, close or fund schools in England at any level he chooses and site them wherever he thinks fit. He can also tinker with the examinations system or the national curriculum and with just about anything else that he puts his mind to. Authoritarian government of education in England is already here, and Nick Clegg and his MPs have been an unprotesting party to it.
Second, local authorities do not “control” schools and never have done. They “maintain” them. Since 1944, individual schools have had forms of governance that made it clear that the internal management of schools, including oversight of the curriculum, was for its governing or managing body. The role of the local authority was to hold schools accountable for providing “efficient education” without unreasonable public expense. So neither the secretary of state nor any local authority should “run” any form of publicly funded school. Schools are and should remain self-governing entities.
Third, Kenneth Baker has recently referred to the inability of successive prime ministers to develop any serious understanding of education. But surely one of them must soon recognise that these 50-plus-page academy contracts between the secretary of state and individual schools are expensive, ludicrously prolix and entirely unnecessary? That is why England is the only country in Europe that has been foolish enough to try to administer its schools in this way.
Finally, with rare good sense, Michael Gove has recognised that schools may have good reason to depart from the national curriculum when the needs of their pupils make that desirable; so why on earth does Nick Clegg now want to prevent schools, “free” or other, from doing that?
Peter Newsam
Thornton Dale, North Yorkshire
•  How refreshing that at last someone has put this nonsensical marketisation of our education into its proper historical context (Stephen Ball: Not free, but free-for-all, 24 October). The great landmarks of our education history were not the property of any one political party. Forster 1870 (Liberal), Balfour 1902 (Conservative) and Butler 1944 (National) represented a consensus that schools should not be at the whim of commercial, philanthropic or religious interests, but maintained by, and answerable to, the electorate through their councils. This is true democracy in action. Do we really wish to return to a pre-1870 Britain where any Tom, Dick or Harry can set up a school?
John Wilson
Goffs Oak, Hertfordshire
• What Stephen Ball doesn’t mention is that education policy has become macho politics. When political reputations seem to be flagging, Gove regularly spices things up with his latest take on making things difficult for everyone. Meanwhile Clegg decides on the creation of a new tier of highly paid – no doubt mainly male – superheads who will solve all the problems of education. So we have policy made on the hoof. Where are the sensible people in this debate, women in particular? Nowhere to be seen, which is why education is now such a political football, metaphor entirely appropriate.
Professor Gaby Weiner
Labour Women in Education

In her interview re the government’s controversial plans to privatise 70% of the probation service, Sarah Billiald says: “If you’re my offender and I just say, ‘Come in, do this, do that, go away’, you may or may not do it. Unlike if I sit down with you and try to find out why you may do something and basically get you to do it for yourself” (‘Our probation bid is all about self-help’, 23 October).
In 33 years as a probation officer I was not aware of the approach she initially describes ever being adopted. We did (do) work with people in the way she describes in her second sentence. Namely, to motivate the person to desist from further offending by exploring underlying reasons for their behaviour (not always that evident), plus the use of any personal skills, supported by additional professional help.
She claims that probation staff have never had the flexibility to deliver in a more creative way, because they have been part of the public sector. I do not recognise this at all. Any restriction on flexibility was more likely to be related to increased workloads running alongside reduced resources.
Michael Spurr, chief executive of the national offender management service, recently said that in the past five years the probation service has cut costs and reduced reoffending.
Even considering delegating the important work of supervision of offenders in the community to the private (non-qualified) sector beggars belief. Particularly when the poor track record of two of the main bidders, G4S and Serco, is well documented. Could profit, plus an ideological opposition to the public sector, have something to do with this decision?
David Johnson
Retired probation officer, Sheffield

Zac Goldsmith concludes that a potential solution to vitamin A deficiency, childhood blindness and infant death should not be pursued simply because it relies on GM technology, and GM “is and has always been about control of the global food economy by a tiny handful of giant corporations” (The minister for GM hype, 25 October). The truth is that free licences for “golden rice” are available in the developing world where this health concern is prominent. There is, therefore, no giant corporate conspiracy – merely a desire by motivated scientists to address global health issues within a framework of subsistence farming.
Mr Goldsmith also fails to mention one of the reasons the rice is not yet ready for planting: environmental activists destroyed a field trial in the Philippines last August. In dismissing it as a solution to a global health problem, he suggests that victims be supplied with “green vegetables and cheap supplements”. Will these essentials be obtained at the local Waitrose?
He is trying to resurrect a debate that might have had currency 15 years ago but which is no longer relevant in scientific or socioeconomic terms. Were he to look at the evidence, he might embrace technology for the contribution it can make to producing food that is healthier for humans and for the environment.
Professor Dale Sanders FRS
Director, John Innes Centre, Norwich
•  Zac Goldsmith makes a very valuable intervention on GM crops. While Owen Paterson claims to welcome scientific debate, government advisory committees lack expertise in evolutionary biology, and this knowledge is vital to forecasting wide-ranging effects of the technology. We should be taking very seriously the trial results that GM crops grown in other countries are providing for us. Opposition to GM crops is not based on possible damage to human health, which will be taken into consideration, but on much wider concerns for the general environment.
Joan Green

Yes, as Polly Toynbee points out, the NHS has its problems (Pity the new NHS chief. He is in for a rude awakening, 25 October). But these should not be laid at the door of the Blair reforms to the service, in which the “new chief” Simon Stevens (and I) were closely involved. An independent review led by Professor Nicholas Mays found that “the evidence … shows broadly that the market-related changes introduced from 2002 by New Labour tended to have the effects predicted by the proponents and that most of the feared undesirable impacts had not materialised to any extent” – though it added that the improvements were not as great as those induced by the targets and performance management regime (with which, incidentally, Stevens was also deeply involved). The beneficial effects of patient choice and hospital competition in improving quality and saving lives in the NHS were confirmed in peer-reviewed studies by Professors Carol Propper (Bristol University and Imperial College) and Zack Cooper (then LSE, now Yale) published in top journals in the UK and the US.
The current difficulties faced by the NHS do not result from those reforms but are the product of a spending freeze and, in the words of your editorial (25 October) “the ambiguities that characterise the ramshackle Health and Social Care Act”. Simon Stevens has a unique blend of experience, skill and ability; there is nobody better able to resolve any ambiguities and to promote a high-quality, high-performing NHS.
Julian Le Grand
Professor of social policy, London School of Economics
•  Many prominent political and health commentators have welcomed Simon Stevens’ appointment to this crucial role in our NHS. We must remember that he was the architect of New Labour’s love-in with the private sector, when Alan Milburn signed a deal for the City corporates to move in on the NHS back in 2000. Mr Stevens was promoted to be Blair’s health policy adviser and then joined the private healthcare firm United Health. His former employer must be pleased – especially as it has been keen to move in on the many NHS contracts put out to tender by this privatising coalition government.
We must be very worried by this appointment. The sale of the NHS to the private sector skews motives away from patients and towards share prices. It is time for Labour to call time on the profiteers, and take our public services back into true public ownership.
Dr David Wrigley, GP
Carnforth, Lancashire
•  Polly Toynbee mentions the new NHS of Lansley and Cameron as espousing the idea of “no decision will be made about me without me”. Laudable but not original, and a direct copy of an article published 12 years ago on Health Care in a Land Called PeoplePower (Health Expectations 2001; 4: 144-50). Utopian, yes, but not impossible to achieve with some imagination, innovation and less political meddling. What we really need in the NHS is a service that is accountable to an all-party select committee – ie parliament and the people – and not to individual ministers whose affiliations might not be in the best interest of the patients.
Professor Peter Hindmarsh
University College London
• Nice touch that Simon Stevens has taken a pay cut before starting his job running the NHS – diluted somewhat by his work over the past decade with a US global health business. Widely credited with working up the NHS plan that injected billions into the service, he is arriving back in the UK when the process of reversing the earlier gains is firmly under way and with a wholly different set of feelings enveloping professionals, patients and the public at large. If the NHS is “the closest thing to a national religion”, perhaps he’s been brought back to read the last rites?
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon
•  For her perspicacious and comprehensive analysis of all the difficulties Simon Stevens will face as the chief of NHS England, Polly Toynbee should be raised to the peerage. This would give her another platform from where she could drum common sense into the political system about the future of the NHS suffering under Lansley’s “creative destruction”.
Richard T Taylor FRCP
Former independent MP for Wyre Forest


Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (28 October) is mistaken: the public doesn’t truly want press regulation. The stark truth is that the public lapped up all the sensationalist nonsense and shock-horror headlines that they were fed for years.
No, what the public wants is to be absolved of the guilt they feel, that every sin committed by the gutter press was committed in their name, that the immoral and invasive digging only happened because the journalists involved understood the insatiable, lascivious appetite of their market.
Scandal sells newspapers merely because of the voracious, voyeuristic desires of the gossip-addicted public. Privacy invasion is the new pornography, and our society’s level of dependence on this puerile addiction is evidenced by the seemingly unstoppable rise of soap operas and “reality” television.
If we are now willing to surrender the freedom of investigative journalism merely in order to stave off our own psycho-masturbatory predilections, then the tragic irony is that our efforts to appear less sleazy will have been in vain, for we will truly have revealed ourselves to be wankers.
Julian Self, Milton Keynes
Grant Shapps is the most recent politician to question the impartiality of the BBC. He has climbed aboard the bandwagon which the right-wing section of the media has been promoting since Adam was a boy.
Our press is predominately right-wing. It is almost inevitable then that reporting from a different perspective should be interpreted as having a leftish feel, when all it is, is the reporting of the same story without the right-wing slant.
Mr Shapps’ real concern is that he cannot influence the political agenda at the BBC. Lest we forget, the BBC is independent. Is that what really  bugs them?
Robert Stewart, Wilmslow, Cheshire
New regulation needed for  care homes
The lack of care, dignity and respect that was provided to the elderly living at the Orchid View care home in Copthorne is totally unacceptable.
The Health and Care Professions Council believes that the existing regulatory regime in England, which relies primarily on the Care Quality Commission’s system of inspection of care homes, does not deliver the required level of personal accountability among those caring for the most vulnerable in our society.
As a statutory regulator of 315,000 individual health, psychological and social work professionals from 16 professions, we believe that statutory regulation should be introduced for care home managers and care workers.
Backed by enforceable training standards and a code of conduct, performance and ethics, such regulation would bring proper accountability to this vital part of the health and care system.
The regulators working with other key organisations and individuals are well placed to facilitate this change, to raise standards and to prevent those who are unsuitable to work in the care sector from moving from one employer to another with impunity.
The Care Bill is currently before Parliament and the Law Commission’s work in this area is due to be published in the spring. Both aim to simplify and streamline the legislative regime for the regulation of health and social care professionals. This is the moment to reform regulation in this critical area.
Anna Van der Gaag, Chair, Marc Seale, Chief Executive, Health and Care Professions Council,  London SE11
Your correspondents (Letters, 22 October) are correct to recognise, in Jeremy Hunt’s plea for families to care for their elderly, part of the Government’s general policy of promoting “the Big Society”. This is particularly evident in Hunt’s use of the phrase “the social contract” to refer to the obligations of the young towards the old.
For several hundred years, since the time of Thomas Hobbes, the expression “the social contract” has usually referred to the relation between the government and the governed. We give up some of our freedoms and agree to obey laws, in exchange for the protection provided by the government.
In the new world proposed by Cameron and Hunt, the Government will provide no such protection, and the only social contracts will be between individuals or private charities.
This leaves it unclear what justification remains (apart from the threat of force) for our obedience to law. For the poor in this new society, life will revert to being, in Hobbes’ famous phrase, “nasty, brutish and short”.
Peter Benson, London NW2
NHS patients from abroad
Your article “Revealed: the truth about health tourism”, 25 October) is very misleading. It is wrong to conflate the separate issues of people who come from abroad and pay for private treatment in NHS hospitals with the cost to our NHS of providing free NHS treatment to overseas visitors. 
Our world-leading NHS hospitals have a long history of being entitled to generate income from foreign private patients. This income is then reinvested back into our NHS to look after local patients.
But in line with the approach adopted by many other countries when overseas visitors use their health services, it is only fair that in England, we also seek a fair contribution from students and other visitors from overseas when they wish to use our NHS. Hard-working people will not understand why some groups continue to be opposed to this.
That is why the Government has set out plans to better recover healthcare costs from overseas visitors; for example by introducing a surcharge for temporary visitors such as students and establishing a central cost recovery unit.
Dr Dan Poulter, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, London SW1
Climate denial  is not a ‘view’
In his letter about the presentation of climate science in the media (22 October), John Wiseman refers to people who have “views” on climate “orthodoxy”. Neither of these words relates to scientific issues.
Recently, Associated Press contacted scientists about the level of certainty of the current climate science paradigm. The president of the US National Academy of Sciences, Ralph Cicerone, and more than a dozen other scientists said the 95 per cent certainty regarding climate change is most similar to the confidence scientists have in the decades’ worth of evidence that cigarettes are deadly.
The letters editor of the Los Angeles Times, Paul Thornton, has taken the decision not to publish letters from “climate science deniers”.  He says: “Simply put, I do my best to keep errors of fact off the letters page. Saying ‘There’s no sign humans have caused climate change’ is not stating an opinion, it’s asserting a factual inaccuracy.”
Peter Whitehead, Willenhall,  West Midlands, Crisis looms in teacher supply
Dr Mary Bousted and her distinguished colleagues (Letter, 21 October) call on the Government to take steps to resolve the impending crisis in teacher supply.
In the 1980s, such was the dire state of recruitment, a group representing independent and maintained secondary heads drew a graph showing the last day upon which a class in this country would be taught mathematics or physics by a qualified teacher.
Fortunately, that date receded in the early 1990s with the recession, which prompted many excellent young people to take teacher qualifications, some of whom are still teaching successfully today.
I imagine that neither Dr Bousted nor the Government envisage such a drastic move now, though the urgency of rectifying the current position cannot be over-emphasised. In one respect, however, nothing has changed. Only by enhancing teacher status can numbers of applicants to the profession be increased, and this requires a radically new approach to teacher salaries.
Christopher Martin, London W2
Storm hits a  bit of Britain
Your headline read “Britain in lockdown as worst storm in a decade blows in” (28 October). It should have read “Southern part of Britain in lockdown…”.  Every sympathy must go to people affected by the storm but reporting by the media would indicate that the whole country stopped working, when it didn’t.
Sue Thomas, Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria
Having just experienced widespread disruption due to a hurricane is surely a large pointer to indicate that now is not the time to cut green taxes, when climate change is the greatest threat to the world.
Valerie Crews, Beckenham, Kent
Still going  to the dogs
Like Francis Kirkham (letter, 23 October), William Langland (born circa 1332) was also exercised about falling standards.
“What is more, even Grammar, the basis of all education, baffles the brains of the younger generation today. For if you take note, there is not a single modern schoolboy who can compose verses or write a decent letter. I doubt too whether one in a hundred can read a Latin author, or decipher a word of a foreign language. – And no wonder, for at every level of our educational system you’ll find Humbug in charge, and his colleague Flattery tagging along behind him.” (Piers the Ploughman xv, translated by JF Goodman, 1959: Penguin Classics).
Plus ça change!
Jenny Willan, Uffculme, Devon
The lesson from Grangemouth
Own Jones’s rant (28 October) follows the usual theme, all unions are wonderful and all bosses are bad. The question must be asked: why do not the Scottish unions buy the Grangemouth refinery and chemical plant and show Britain how it should be run.
If they put their money where their mouths are, they would soon find that government taxation of power is destroying business in Britain. Two aluminium smelters have already been forced to close.
T C Bell, Penrith. Cumbria
Avoiding blame
Further to John Hade’s letter (28 October), it should be understood that there are no such things as companies; just people hiding.
Neville Skelding, Solihull, West Midlands


There are academics who would prefer to do more research and less teaching, but with higher fees being paid, don’t students deserve the best?
Sir, Professor Millar (letter, Oct 26) it right about research being pushed by universities at the expense of teaching, but leaves a lot unsaid. First, many academics seem to want to do more research and less (or even no) teaching, irrespective of funding incentives. Second, if academics do less teaching a reserve army of surrogates must presumably do it instead. Third, students have been compelled to pay higher fees and expect to be taught for the privilege, not to fund remission from teaching in pursuit of research.
Notwithstanding this unsatisfactory situation, it is worth considering that teaching quality might actually be higher than it was 25 or more years ago, if only because those who were then not competent to teach (or engage in research, for that matter) were nevertheless maintained in tenure on full salary at the expense of the taxpayer.
Clifford Webb
Sir, The principal purpose of research ought to be the betterment of society and the benefit to students who are being taught the cutting edge research which their parents, as taxpayers, are subsidising. The current demotion of teaching has at least two negative consequences. First, students are not being taught by many of those conducting ground-breaking research, thus losing the potential of learning not only the knowledge but also how such knowledge was discovered. Second, it has reinforced gender discrimination, as the majority of those carrying the responsibility for teaching are women, many of whose prospects for promotion and equal pay are diminished as a result of shouldering the much-needed but undervalued teaching work.
If the government is taking university teaching seriously, it ought to appoint a commission selected from past and present students and from scholars who teach, to report on how university teaching can be improved.
Geraldine Van Bueren, QC
Professor of International Human Rights Law, Queen Mary, University of London
Sir, T he problem of academic life is not just research. T eaching has largely become a matter of box-ticking. A cademics spend a large proportion of time on data entry. Analysis of survey results leads to yet more box-ticking. Academic schools have by necessity fallen for rhetoric over content. There is little sense that what we do is done because it is pedagogically desirable: more because it looks right. Above all, the creative friction between personalities which is essential to teaching is largely absent from academic practice. We are discouraged from spending a lot of time reading the material we are going to teach and thinking of quirky ways to present it. We have very little or no social contact with colleagues. This is a systemic, more than an institutional, failing.
Dr Emma Gee
Cupar, Fife
Sir, Professor Millar does not acknowledge one benefit of the current system — that researchers who would not expect to obtain a tenured position under the old dispensation are able to carry out useful work under the new.
And possibly Einstein is not the best exemplar — he did his Nobel Prize winning work before obtaining an academic post, while employed as a patent clerk.
Dr Edward Bentley
Northumbria University

‘The reality is that magistrates are volunteers and the time they give to the magistracy is their own’
Sir, My letter (Oct 23) pointing out the extremely good value of magistrates has prompted a couple of indignant responses (letters, Oct 25 and 26), but their views merely serve to highlight the difference between perception and reality.
The statistics I quoted in my letter were the result of careful analysis of the Court Service’s figures in an entire county for a whole year. It revealed that, in reality, the direct cost of a district judge per court day was nearly eight times that of a bench of magistrates.
As for the claims made by Anna Webster about the productivity of district judges, studies commissioned by the Ministry of Justice or its predecessor have found that the judges achieve as little as 22 per cent and up to 30 per cent greater throughput than magistrates.
Dr Bakshi’s notions on costs are somewhat abstract. The reality is that magistrates are volunteers and the time they give to the magistracy is their own (a tiny proportion are in a position to claim for loss of earnings, which is capped). In my own case as a private health professional, I would sit during court hours and then catch up on my professional commitments across several evenings, thus costing the Court Service and the economy next to nothing. There are many more like me. It would be a very unusual bench indeed which contained more than one of Dr Bakshi’s “professionals” and his description of cost is not, in any case, a cost to the justice system.
Robert Howe, JP
Rochester, Kent

The are better and less cumbersome ways of dealing with behaviour that is proving an annoyance to others than going to court
Sir, The Association of Chief Police Officers has called for more tolerance and respect towards childish high spirits. As Libby Purves pointed out (Opinion, Oct 28), however, the Government is changing the law so that the definition of antisocial behaviour becomes “capable of causing nuisance or annoyance”. This is likely to open the floodgates to intolerance. The police will be besieged with calls from people annoyed by teenagers playing in the street. The ACPO says that judges will prevent injunctions being imposed unnecessarily, but should these cases even get to court? There are far cheaper and more effective remedies than a cumbersome and bureaucratic court case.
Penelope Gibbs
Chair, The Standing Committee for Youth Justice

‘Despite best efforts, wrong decisions will always be made, and the cost of inaction, rather than a quick but imperfect decision, can be more deaths’
Sir, Jocelyn Cockburn (letter, Oct 24) ignores characteristics of war which fundamentally alter the responsibility of the State compared with other areas. War is adversarial and thus unpredictable. Despite best efforts, wrong decisions will always be made, and the cost of inaction, rather than a quick but imperfect decision, can be more deaths. I t can be dangerous to transpose domestic planning methodology to the battlefield. A military commander, as proxy for the State, can legitimately send subordinates to their deaths to achieve victory or to prevent greater losses elsewhere. Therefore service personnel cannot have an inviolate right to life. This is the explicit oath taken voluntarily by all who serve. Those who command are acutely aware of the responsibility it incurs.
It is right to hold the State to account, and legal judgment is the appropriate tool in many areas, but legal obligation writ too broadly will gum the machinery of defence and encourage corrosive risk-aversion. I would not instruct a lawyer to win my case using only arguments I selected. Military commanders must be accorded the same freedoms.
Sean Ryan
Changing Character of War Programme, University of Oxford

Red kite, marsh harrier and osprey are now surviving, rather than thriving, due to a huge investment over a long period by conservationists
Sir, Your report about the state of British wildlife (Oct 25) is a dismal story which those of us involved with conservation know only too well. However, the list of species that are “thriving” is misleading. Red kite, marsh harrier and osprey are now surviving, rather than thriving, due to a huge investment over a long period by conservationists, because they were in danger of becoming extinct in the UK due to persecution. Sadly, the hen harrier is currently on the verge of extinction in England for the same reason. Whooper swans do not normally breed in the UK, although some winter here.
What these figures really tell us is that virtually all our “common” native wildlife is struggling — non-wildlife-friendly land management and the intensification of agriculture has wiped out so much of what wildlife needs to survive. The human footprint on the country has become too heavy.
Stella Woodman
Hindringham, Norfolk


SIR – Allison Pearson’s article “Confessions of a choir mother” strikes a chord, as it were.
As parents of a girl probationer at Bristol cathedral, where the girl and boy choristers share the choral commitments entirely 50/50, we have been thrilled to see the girls treated with equal respect and given equal opportunities.
The point that boys have enjoyed a 1,000-year monopoly of singing rights is well made; surely even diehards might concede that that’s not a bad run.
Perhaps it’s now time for the great privilege and fun of participating in this country’s fine choral tradition increasingly to be shared a little more fairly in our cathedrals, churches and chapels.
Anna and Stephen Brooke
SIR – How many customers know that Ofgem has capitulated to the utility companies in agreeing that they need read domestic customer meters only every two years? Even then, it is only an adjunct to inspecting them for damage or vandalism.
So, an important part of any householder’s main spending can be based, for as long as two years, on estimates made by the supplier. True, customers can read their own meters and telephone or email the reading, but how many know they should?
In what other contractual situation would this be accepted? Ofgem claims that this exceedingly lax approach was introduced after “public consultation”, but they wouldn’t tell me when, how or with what public input such consultation took place.
Importantly, with price increases coming, people should read their meters on tariff increase day, to ensure the increase is not applied to what they have already used.
Dr Harold Hughes
Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey
SIR – It may well be that the Government can do little to curtail domestic fuel prices as a whole (“Heat only your living room, elderly advised”, report, October 25).
However, it could push for fixed-price (or capped) annual fuel bills for the elderly, so they can heat their homes without worry.
There is scope to negotiate such a deal across the energy suppliers, targeted (say) on homes where all occupants are 70 and over, without great burden on the taxpayer.
Mark Campbell-Roddis
Dunblane, Perthshire
SIR – Why is there more than one tariff for electricity? A loaf of bread from a shop costs the same to everyone, no matter who they are and what time of day they buy it.
Steve Cattell
Grantham, Lincolnshire
SIR – One of the best answers to staying warm is a four letter word: vest.
Jennifer Reynolds
Okehampton, Devon
SIR – There is no need to heat the whole bedroom, just the bed will do. Having no wife, I use a hot water bottle.
Sam Kelly
Oldham, Lancashire
SIR – The first few minutes in bed can be chilly, but a surefire way to warm up is to lie still and hold one’s breath until it hurts, then hold it a bit longer until something like panic sets in. The body goes into overdrive and a great flood of warmth courses through, feet and all. It requires discipline and I would not recommend it if you have a dodgy heart, but it works.
Robin Ekblom
Doddinghurst, Essex
SIR – At my husband’s school, dormitories were unheated. In the evening the boys folded their flannels into dart shapes. They froze in the night and made wonderful weapons when it was time to get up.
Margaret Higgs
Shillingstone, Dorset
Mrs Merkel spied upon
SIR – Angela Merkel might remember the words of Karla himself: “You must spy on your friends today, as tomorrow they will be your enemies.”
Piers Smethurst
Brampton, Cumbria
SIR – Charles Efford (Letters, October 26) quoted General de Gaulle saying: “States do not have friends only interests.” I believe he took that from Lord Palmerston: “It is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” Henry Kissinger also had a go: “America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.”
Dr Paul Williams
Helston, Cornwall
SIR – David Cameron does himself no favours in justifying the Government’s increasing invasions of our privacy (report, October 26) by trotting out the well-worn phrase that it is done to protect us from terrorism. I am surprised that he didn’t tell Angela Merkel that “if she had done nothing wrong, then she had nothing to fear”.
Gerald Payman
Auckland, New Zealand
SIR – You report David Cameron saying that “the first priority of a prime minister is to keep your country safe”. This appears a valid dictum – but could this be the same Prime Minister whose policy of swingeing cuts to our Armed Forces has reduced military morale to an all-time low?
Nikolai Tolstoy
Southmoor, Berkshire
A girl taken away
SIR – Greek police removed the blonde, blue-eyed Maria from her supposed parents because she bore no resemblance to them. Yet we now see that her biological parents are no more pale-skinned than they.
I cannot see her being returned to anyone involved. A couple chose to give their daughter away, and the couple from whom she was recently taken have been arrested. Social workers will presumably make the decision “that is best for her”, but it’s hard to imagine what Maria herself must be going through.
Emilie Lamplough
Trowbridge, Wiltshire
Mass poppy flowering
SIR – The annual instruction from the BBC that all presenters will don a poppy apparently took effect on Saturday.
This diminishes the impact of an individual’s personal, voluntary respect.
Cameron Morice
Woodley, Berkshire
SIR – Marks & Spencer sells poppy brooches in-store for £15. Of this amount they return to the Royal British Legion 30 per cent (£4.50).
As a declared supporter of charity, the retention of 70 per cent (£10.50) does not seem charitable.
Lieutenant Colonel R J Tilston (retd)
Camberley, Surrey
Getting the wind up
SIR – With the arrival of another great storm, should Britain also expect a stock market crash three days later? Anyone for black Thursday?
Robert Dobson
Sandys, Bermuda
Widows with children
SIR – This week, MPs can reconsider plans to reform Widowed Parent’s Allowance – a lifeline to those bringing up children alone after the death of a partner. Proposals in the Pensions Bill will make bereaved families worse off and hamper children’s adjustment to loss of a mother or father.
As children develop their understanding of what a parent’s death means, they revisit their grief and experience it in new ways. Their needs can be much greater in the second and third year after the death, and the surviving parent needs to be available, responsive and able to continue familiar routines. This could mean working fewer hours, or taking on a job that fits better with caring for the children alone.
The current Widowed Parent’s Allowance gives parents flexibility to provide support. Government plans will undermine parents’ capacity to meet children’s needs, reducing drastically the time over which payments are made, pressuring widows and widowers to work longer, sooner. Some 75 per cent of families will be worse off.
Families affected by a parent’s death, struggling to help rebuild children’s lives, need all the support we can afford them.
Alison Penny
Coordinator, Childhood Bereavement Network
Debbie Kerslake
Chief Executive, Cruse Bereavement Care
Ann Chalmers
Chief Executive, Child Bereavement UK
Anthony Thomas
Chairman, Low Incomes Tax Reform Group
Georgia Elms
Chairman, WAY Widowed and Young
Catherine Ind
Chief Executive, Winston’s Wish
Simon Chapman
Director of Public Engagement, National Council for Palliative Care
Dr Hilary Emery
Chief Executive, National Children’s Bureau
Uncoached Cherie Blair
SIR – I was surprised to read your report (“Deep-voiced Cherie has massively shifted her tone”, October 25), which claimed I have had voice coaching and even singing lessons.
I’m not sure whether the “expert” quoted thought this marked an improvement in my voice or not, but I am afraid it’s not true. I have not had voice coaching of any kind and, while my family might think I need them, I’ve not had a single singing lesson either.
Cherie Blair
London W2
Plebgate reflects distrust of politicians and police
SIR – Charles Moore asks: “Why do we treat those we have chosen [to govern us] as the very last people to be believed?”
Expenses claims perhaps?
George Herrick
Pendleton, Lancashire
SIR – This controversy would never have arisen if the police had opened the gates for a Minister of State in the first place. He was right to say: “I thought you lot were supposed to help us,” albeit punctuated with an item of colourful language.
Cyril Mann
Rodmell, East Sussex
SIR – In view of developments, I suggest that, in fairness to Andrew Mitchell, this incident should be renamed Policegate.
David Miller
Maidenhead, Berkshire
SIR – The problems faced by the police service do not need to be addressed by yet another document, such as the proposed code of ethics (report, October 25), to be pinned to a notice board. The failings of the police today and yesterday can be traced back to poor leadership and the lack of intrusive supervision at all levels.
In my experience, the vast majority of bad apples were clearly identified, but were never tackled consistently. Among reasons that bad apples continue to harm the police service are that officers are moved without poor behaviour being tackled, and that frequent changes in line management prevent consistent strong supervision.
Reducing the bad apples to the absolute minimum will only be achieved by tackling bad behaviour, irrespective of rank, not by another document.
Ian Southcott
Chief Superintendent, Professional Standards Met Police (rtd)
Widdington, Essex

Irish Times:

A chara, – The financial roadblocks discouraging Irish people who want to return home and pursue an academic course leading to a degree were highlighted by Feargal Quinn (Ind) (Seanad Report, October 18th). As well as paying registration fees, emigrants returning from non-EU countries have to pay high fees depending on the institution and the faculty.
Most of our people have immigrated to Anglophone countries outside the EU. If the potential student is returning to the land of their birth, having worked a short number of years in North America or Australia, they will be treated as a foreigner from outside the EU and accordingly charged very high fees.
A correspondent Gillian Marron (Letters, October 5th) told us her son would be treated as an international student if he returned to Ireland – and he would not be able to afford that level of fees.
Furthermore, returnees are not entitled to any support from SUS1, the student grant aid body, irrespective of their financial circumstances. This is a very unfair situation that could be rectified without huge cost to the exchequer.
Politicians like to make speeches about welcoming home our young people, in particular those who had to leave when the Celtic tiger expired. So why not remove the roadblocks and create gateways instead for our people who want to come home to further their education and contribute to the quality of Irish society?
A big fanfare was made about “The Gathering” welcoming visitors with Irish connections and, in fairness, it was largely a very successful venture. However, I cannot help but recall Gabriel Byrne’s comments at the time when he said we the Irish at home could not care less about our emigrants and he referred to “The Gathering” as “The Shakedown”. Maybe our politicians will prove him wrong on this issue. I hope to be surprised! – Is mise,
(Lecturer in teacher
education GMIT),

Sir, – As a newly-qualified nurse, with a first class honours degree in general nursing, I find it hard to take any satisfaction or even be proud of my hard-earned achievement due to the nursing graduate scheme that the HSE is introducing.
For many newly qualified nurses/midwives, employment within HSE-run institutions will now only be possible if we agree to undertake an additional two-year educational programme, on top of the four-year degree we have just completed. This will mean that we will be employed at 85 per cent in year one, and 90 per cent in year two, of the first salary point of the January 2011 staff nurse scale. After several months, the HSE has finally announced the educational component that it will encompass: three educational modules run in conjunction with NUI/Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. The modules entail three specific themes: quality and safety; communication and team-work; and patient-centred care, all of which we have already covered extensively as part of our four- year degree and which we will have to take while working a 39-hour week. On completion of the programme we will be awarded a professional certificate in nursing/midwifery (applied professional and clinical development NQF level 9).
The equivalent of this certificate does not appear to exist in other countries, as most graduate certificates are directly linked to specialised areas of health care.
I and my fellow newly qualified nurses/midwives are struggling to understand how this will benefit our nursing careers, or patients within the Irish health system. After four years of studying for an honours degree that includes both academic and clinical learning, we now want to work on the wards, provide a high standard of care to the patients and gain valuable clinical experience, before we decide on pursuing further academic learning and the specialisation we want to take in our careers. The sole objective of this wholly unnecessary qualification is to drive down wages by suppressing newly qualified nurses’/midwives’ salaries for the first two years of their careers. But how much is this scheme really going to save, given the HSE will have to pay institutions to deliver this new qualification?
The healthcare system is already overstretched and overrun and Irish nurses are choosing to emigrate and work in health systems as fully qualified staff nurses where their existing qualifications are valued and respected.
Indeed in England many newly qualified Irish nurses receive a first month’s accommodation and a postgraduate course of their choice paid for. The reality is that once again we have more than 1,600 nurses/midwives, graduating with an honours degree, none of whom are being offered permanent full-time posts in our public health service.
This new scheme will only serve to heighten this trend, one that the Irish health system can ill afford. – Yours, etc,
Tara, Co Meath.

Sir, – Given the State of our society, is it not time that we aired Animal Farm and 1984 again, with a commentary about how the Orwellian society mirrors or own?
We have Big Brother, the Perennial Enemy, the “more equal” bankers and politicians, the brain washing through the monopoly of the education system and state regulation of all aspects of society. And when there are state failures, we want more state control.
The steps to ending the nightmare will only start after we have identified that we are living in one. – Yours, etc,
Glenabo Heights,
Sir, – It is with sheer amazement that I read the head of the National Transport Authority (NTA), Gerry Murphy’s justification for the 5-10 per cent increase in fares for buses, trains and Luas from November 1st. According to him, fare increases were needed as passenger numbers dropped and fuel costs grew. Now, I’m no Nobel laureate economist, but my basic understanding of the demand / supply curve suggests he should be lowering prices, dramatically if need be, to get people back onto public transport; not hiking them up even further. If nothing else, the proposed hikes fuel further resentment between service users and service providers.
I look forward to reading further about the longer-term sustainability of this approach to pricing by the NTA. – Yours, etc,
Camac Close,

Sir, – Possession of a medical card is clearly a valuable social welfare benefit. Would in not, therefore, be logical for medical cards to be a function of the Department of Social Protection rather than Health?
There should be ample time to transfer the responsibility, with associated support staff and budgets, for 2014 onwards. Such a move would also free up some extra capacity for Minister for Health James Reilly to pursue his goal “to turn Angola into East Anglia”. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Last week a number of civil society organisations and individuals were invited to discuss the Scheme of the Gender Recognition Bill 2013 with the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection. While we welcome the development of the Gender Recognition Bill, and the opportunity to discuss these and other concerns with the Oireachtas Committee, we also want to be clear there are key areas where the human rights of transgender and intersex people are not sufficiently protected.
These areas must be addressed if this long overdue legislation is to adequately support transgender and intersex people. We are particularly concerned that the current draft of the Bill excludes under-18s. Transgender young people have reported they feel devalued and vulnerable in their schools and we are concerned the situation will be made even worse by the blanket exclusion of under-18s from the Bill.
We are also very concerned that applicants are not allowed to be married or in a civil partnership and that a doctor’s certificate is needed. A person’s right to self-determine their own identity must be at the heart of this legislation. Discrimination against transgender and intersex people is a very serious issue and this legislation must lead the way in challenging that. We hope both the Oireachtas Committee and the Government will take on board our recommendations and ensure we have new law that protects the human rights of transgender and intersex people. – Yours, etc,
COLM O’GORMAN, executive director, Amnesty International Ireland; Dr CAROL-ANNE O’BRIEN, avocacy co-ordinator, BeLonG To Youth Services; KIERAN ROSE, chairperson, GLEN; MAX KRZYZANOWSKI, director, LGBT Noise; BRODEN GIAMBRONE, director, TENI; LAURA HARMON, vice-president for Equality and Citizenship, Union of Students in Ireland,
C/o Fleet Street, Dublin 2.
Sir, – Sinn Féin TD Jonathan O’Brien recently requested a two-minute silence in the Dáil to highlight the experiences of deaf children who are without a second bilateral cochlear implant.
I have no doubt about Deputy O’Brien’s genuine concern for these children but I must question the usefulness of such an exercise. I do not to intend to argue in great detail about the pros and cons of bilateral cochlear implantation for young deaf children, other than to highlight that the research is arguably inconclusive. Indeed, the UK health policy group, NICE, calls for more research into this issue. A recent lecture by an academic in Trinity College affirmed that one third of deaf children received no benefit from cochlear implantation.
Deputy O’Brien’s decision to use “silence” to highlight this issue, is baffling to us in many ways. Silence should be regarded as a virtue, not a vice. To spring the oft-misquoted phrase: “Speech is silvern, silence is golden”. Of course, silence on disturbing issues such as sexual abuse must not be encouraged anytime but what I refer here to is the projection of one’s own imaginings on to how others feel. In this case, it is an image of how these children feel in their world, based on another’s assumptions and projections, and this is a risky business.
To attempt to understand the ontological outlook (the essence of being) of others in a two-minute exercise does not do justice to these children, nor to us as deaf people. Silence is genuinely practised in many cultures and religions and is even celebrated in a number of festivals. Gandhi held a weekly practice of staying silent for a full day to purify his soul and mind. For many of us in the deaf community, the exercise in the Dáil was somewhat amusing, while for others it was insulting. We do not see ourselves as suffering from “silence”. In fact, despite living in this phono-centric society, where sound and hearing are given far greater value than other senses including vision, hindering our ability to participate, many of us go on to achieve much in our lives – things that many would only dream of.
Some of us have residual hearing and are able to use the telephone and enjoy music with hearing aids, while others do not. Finally, cochlear implantation is itself part of a massive bio-medical industry and is regulated chiefly by stock markets. The three main manufacturers have made tens of millions of dollars in profits. Sinn Féin has preached against the evils of big business capitalism in the past, yet the exercise of using “silence” in the Dáil for something that is associated with big business interests is all the more bizarre as a result. – Yours, etc,
Oldcourt Road,

Sir, – I was delighted by the return of Charlie Fell to your Business pages (October 22nd). It was like seeing an old friend after too long an absence – or perhaps more correctly, an old enemy. I do not share his pessimism. My attitude towards the risks posed by the profligacy of the monetary authorities on both sides of the Atlantic is similar to Abraham Lincoln’s towards the risk that General McClelland would set himself up as a dictator: only a victorious general poses a real threat. If they give us a recovery – if the money they are pumping into the system begins actually to be spent – then we must find a way to deal with the resulting inflation, but that would be a welcome problem compared to the non-recovery in which we find ourselves.
I would have said that I have made a fair amount of money by ignoring Mr Fell’s warnings, but I had been paying close enough attention to his logical and carefully researched columns to understand that the horses are still running and all I hold are betting slips. He prevents hope from transforming itself into optimism.
I look forward to seeing him again soon in your pages. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – In my travels around this country, I am horrified by the amount of people who use their mobile phones at petrol pumps while refuelling. Despite warning signs which clearly state “No mobile phones”, these people feel their conversation is so important that they have a total disregard for the safety of others.
The use of any transmission device, mobile phone, two-way radio etc.. is highly dangerous in the presence of flammable liquids – all it takes is one spark to cause an explosion. Please, please switch off mobile phones in petrol stations and reduce the risk of serious injury or death. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I wonder what odds I would get for the newly- planned children’s hospital for Northern Ireland being completed (Home News, October 21st) before a sod is turned for the national children’s hospital here in the Republic. Given that the HSE is going to be preoccupied sorting out the medical card fiasco and eventually becoming an organisation that employs health care workers (only) while offering nothing in the way of universal, quality healthcare, I’d say pretty good. – Yours, etc,
Dollymount Park, Clontarf,

Sir, – One of your letter-writers refers to Southern Ireland (October 23rd). There is no such place as Southern Ireland nor did such a place ever exist. Yet it frequently appears in your paper.
There are two states on this island: Northern Ireland and Ireland, the latter being the name of the State in both the Constitution and on the passport. It has taken us a long time down here to accept that the six north-eastern counties were called Northern Ireland, so perhaps it’s equally time that the State I live in was called by its correct title – Ireland. The addition of its added status as a Republic is optional in the same way that our neighbouring island state could be called the Monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:

The reduction in the dole payment is an act of blatant unfairness. Yet again the poor and the unemployed will be disproportionately hit and have no redress. This is justified by the convenient myth that these people are mostly feckless and undeserving.
Also in this section
Outrage at US spy scandal is just plain naive
Stout reason to cut price of pint
Thank you for the truth on suicide
The notion of fairness is close to the heart of even very young children. It seems to come with them at birth. Embedded in our dealings with one another is an abiding sense of what is fair.
The identification of justice with the administration of law and not with fairness tends to weaken our moral sensibilities.
Political, banking and business miscreants, and we have had many, when suggesting that they have done no wrong, appeal to the law but not to the mutual moral expectations, particularly that of honesty and fairness, that are at the heart of our way of life.
The fact that the legal system administers the law, but not necessarily fairness, drove Mr Bumble in ‘Oliver Twist’ to proclaim “The law is an ass” when informed that he was legally responsible for his wife’s theft of jewellery.
In the case of the findings of the Mahon Tribunal, there was a wave of national outrage as neither the law nor the principle of fairness were well served. There seemed to be one law for errant politicians and another for the rest of us.
Whatever policies and practices we invoke in the governance of our country, their value resides in the extent to which they improve the lot of the most disadvantaged, not the rich. This is not some Marxist proclamation, but a reminder of what holds a people together, namely a deeply rooted, intuitive sense of fairness.
Philip O’Neill
* I am 23 and from Cavan. I have been living in New York for the past nine months with no plans to move back home. After I did my masters in English I qualified as an ESL teacher. After applying to numerous ESL schools and having no luck I decided to move to New York to seek out better opportunities as opposed to applying for the dole.
My brother is a civil engineer. He had a similar experience after completing his honours degree. He applied for many jobs and found himself settling for positions for which he was over-qualified, both in England and Northern Ireland. He has been living in Perth, Australia for the past few years, where he found better opportunities. He too has no plans to move home.
My sister is at home with a first-class honours degree in social care. The only work she can find is unpaid voluntary work and even that was difficult to find. The only reason she is still at home is because she is waiting to do her master’s degree. After that, she plans to join me in New York.
My mother is an accountant in Cavan town and my father is a principal in Killenkere NS. I follow the news of my beloved country very closely. I am disappointed more every day. The 2014 Budget really got to me, as it forcefully hit my generation and my friends.
Laura Rahill
Douglaston, NY
* It is more urgent than ever to have an EU fingerprint ID card, especially given what has happened with the Roma children and the 14-year-old Eastern European child found in a distressed state at the GPO who still remains unidentified. This card could also contain medical data. Ireland could lead the way, as we did with the smoking ban.
It would help in the fight against child trafficking. It would make the gardai and HSE’s jobs much easier. If we all had these cards, no one group would feel discriminated against and it would only take minutes to identify a person or child. Surely no one would object.
Kathleen Ryan
Tallaght, Dublin
* Yesterday, my wife and I – a pair of 70+-year-olds from the country – having visited a few days with friends, got on the DART at Glasthule with a view to getting to Heuston Station via Connolly and Luas. The first three trains were terminating at Pearse, so we took the first, hoping to find some form of connection there. There were no announcements on the train about anything – as we walked along the platform at Pearse, there were still quite a few people sitting on the train.
At Pearse, we sought information to be told that line works this weekend meant no trains to Connolly (a bank holiday weekend, with matches both north and south of the Liffey?). Was there a replacement bus? Not to Connolly! How do we get there? It’s only a 10-minute walk! Are there scheduled buses from here to either Connolly or Heuston? I don’t know! Leaving the “information” office, we went to the ticket barrier to find the same level of knowledge.
I know that the Irish management module is the ‘mushroom system’ (smother them in manure and keep them in the dark), but is that the way to operate a railroad?
Cal Hyland
West Cork
* The opening seconds of ‘Love/Hate’ on Sunday night had another scene involving cruelty to animals. This time it was a dog-fight, which the gangsters found edifying and most viewers (I imagine) repulsive. It was a true-to-life depiction of this appalling blood sport in which dogs are pitted against each other while fans gather to watch, cheer, and bet huge amounts of money on the outcome.
The dogs suffer horrific injuries, and are goaded to fight on until one of them has been severely mauled or killed. By the end of a fight, both animals will be bleeding all over, have bits of their faces missing or maybe their eyes ripped out, and be covered in cuts and bite marks.
There have been precious few convictions for this illegal activity over the decades, but the new Animal Health and Welfare Act (despite its many shortcomings) has additional measures aimed at stamping it out. Now, anyone present at a dog fight, in addition to those organising it, can be prosecuted and subjected to heavy fines or imprisonment.
Anyone with information on dog fighting should pass it to the gardai or nearest SPCA branch.
John Fitzgerald
Campaign for the Abolition Of Cruel Sports Callan, Co Kilkenny
The thing is, if Enda Kenny hasn’t had his phone bugged by the US, he’ll embarrass the hell out of us by complaining to Obama for having been left out.
Robert Sullivan
Bantry, Co Cork
Irish Independent


October 28, 2013

28 October 2013 Sharland

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Captian Staunton is thought to be unfit and has to run a marathon Priceless
Sort the books, Sharland visits sweep leaves
We watch Hancock its not too bad
No Scrabble today Mary wins get just under 400, though perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Antonia Bird
Film and television director who worked with Jimmy McGovern, Robert Carlyle and Linus Roache

Antonia Bird Photo: REX
5:30PM GMT 27 Oct 2013
Antonia Bird , who has died aged 62, was a leading British television and film director, and was particularly noted for dramas that explored difficult social issues.
She first came to prominence in 1993 with Safe, a drama for BBC Two about homeless teenagers in the West End of London; Care (2000), also for the BBC, addressed sexual abuse in children’s homes.
On the big screen, Priest (1994) — written by Jimmy Mcgovern and starring Linus Roache — features a young Roman Catholic priest in Liverpool who struggles with his homosexuality. Priest was voted best film at the Berlin International Film Festival and won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Antonia Bird’s most recent television series, screened earlier this year, was The Village, with Maxine Peake, John Simm and Juliet Stevenson. She directed the first four episodes of the drama about grim existence in a Derbyshire village from the eve of the First World War to its immediate aftermath in 1920.
During her early career in television Antonia Bird made 15 episodes for the first series of EastEnders (1985-86) before moving on to Casualty (1986-87), The Bill (1989) and The Men’s Room (1991), a miniseries adapted from Ann Oakley’s feminist novel. In the early Nineties she also directed an episode for Inspector Morse and two for the medical drama Peak Practice.
Born in London on May 27 1951, Antonia Bird began her career in regional theatre in 1968, when she was 17, as a stage manager. At the Phoenix Theatre in Leicester she progressed to direction, including a production of Joe Orton’s What The Butler Saw, and she later took plays to the Young Vic and the ICA theatre. In 1978 she became a resident director at the Royal Court, but a few years later decided that her future lay in television.
Antonia Bird won many awards, including Baftas for Safe and Care; she also won a Bafta Children’s Award in 2009 for Off By Heart, a documentary about a national poetry competition for schoolchildren. With Irvine Welsh (the author of Trainspotting), the actor Robert Carlyle and the film-maker Mark Cousins, she formed a production company, 4Way Pictures, and her other feature films included Face (1997) — a gangster movie which starred Carlyle alongside Ray Winstone and Blur’s Damon Albarn — and Ravenous (1999), in which a small band of American soldiers at a snowbound outpost in California in the 1840s is confronted by a cannibalistic Carlyle.
In 2004 Antonia Bird made The Hamburg Cell, a television film which is a fictionalised account of the 9/11 hijackers’ recruitment and training in an al-Qaeda camp to prepare for their suicide mission — which they call “the big wedding”.
She also worked in America, and in 1995 directed Mad Love, starring Drew Barrymore and Chris O’Donnell as high school sweethearts who go on the run after the girl is committed by her parents to a mental hospital.
Antonia Bird, who was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, had been suffering from anaplastic thyroid cancer.
Antonia Bird, born May 27 1951, died October 25 2013


In the opening sentence of his review of the Frieze Masters art fair (You’ve got Brueghels? I’ll take two, G2, 17 October), Jonathan Jones states that he spots “fakes” at the fair. Only later in the article does he qualify his argument to refer to paintings that have been restored. There is a huge difference between a restored painting and a fake. The best museums in the world restore their paintings all the time and have conservation departments to keep their collections in the best possible condition.
What Jonathan Jones does not acknowledge is that every work shown at Frieze Masters has been through a strict vetting process in which it is viewed and discussed by a panel of experts whose role is to ensure that the work is what it says on the label. The vetting committee is composed of seasoned and respected curators including Richard Calvocoressi, director of the Henry Moore Foundation; Scott Schaefer, senior curator of old paintings at the J Paul Getty Museum; Sir Norman Rosenthal, previously head of exhibitions at the Royal Academy; Susan Davidson, senior curator at the Guggenheim; and David Ekserdjian, curator of last year’s Bronze show at the Royal Academy, to name a few. They perform an extremely important service and I hope their opinion is not being drawn into question.
The article goes on to acknowledge that there is “beauty in bucketloads” at Frieze Masters. I am pleased that many museums agreed on this point and deemed the works at the fair worthy to enter their collections, so they will soon be on view for everyone to enjoy.
Victoria Siddall
Director, Frieze MastersThe Guardian has served us all well by drawing attention day after day to the excesses of spying on individuals and of mass surveillance practised by GCHQ and the US National Security Agency, revealed in the secret material made available by Edward Snowden (GCHQ fears challenge over mass spying, leak reveals, 26 October).
In a world of sophisticated global organised crime, terrorism both imported and home-grown, and trafficking of children and modern slaves, I recognise the need for intelligence agencies. Undoubtedly their work has unearthed criminal gangs and terrorist plots, and we have reason to be grateful for that.
But Snowden’s revelations show a deeply troubling imbalance between their operations and the respect for individual liberty and personal privacy that citizens of a democracy are entitled to enjoy. I congratulate the government on the new powers it has given to the intelligence and security committee of parliament, which has one of the most thoughtful and impressive MPs as its chairman. But it needs to exercise detailed oversight of an intelligence structure that is running out of control, and badly needs a dose of political common sense.
Let me offer one current example. I became an active member of the Anglo-German (Königswinter) Association many years ago. Over the course of those years, Germany has become the most transformed country in Europe in terms of its values and its behaviour. It is our most important partner in the European Union, and a significant ally in Nato. Its chancellor, Angela Merkel, was brought up in a country, East Germany, racked by suspicion and distrust, in which there were thousands of Stasi, fellow citizens engaged in spying on one another and reporting everything to a ruthless totalitarian state. It is impossible to imagine any leader more likely to be infuriated by being the object of espionage by her supposedly closest allies.
I hope the usually courteous prime minister and US president have already offered personal apologies, and a rock-solid commitment to rein in their respective agencies from such offensive and ill-judged actions. What starts with our closest allies must go on to include our innocent citizens as well.
Shirley Williams
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords
• David Cameron’s response to the scandal of Angela Merkel’s phone being tapped was to tell us that “there are lots of people … who want to blow up our families” (Cameron ‘agrees’ with EU over US spying, 26 October). Is he suggesting that bugging European political leaders’ phones will save us from terrorists?
Snooping on the entire UK population has nothing to do with democracy, it is the conduct of a totalitarian regime. The coalition government rightly abandoned the previous Labour government’s plans for biometric passports. Such schemes simply erode the liberties of the innocent.
Most of the British public understand that there are bad guys out there. Cameron needs to represent the public and defend our democracy, and avoid being an apologist for those who are happy to trample over the human rights of the entire population.
Christian Vassie
Wheldrake, North Yorkshire
• Oliver Cromwell once posed himself the question: can it ever be lawful to resist the lawful authority of parliament? To which he answered that no authority has the right to do anything it pleases regardless of the consequences – that “all agree there are cases in which it is lawful to resist”. It seems pretty clear, from some of the pronouncements made by establishment figures, that they, by apparent dint of divine right, see no such limit to their actions, or powers. Furthermore, very soon, mass surveillance will make it impossible for the public, who should be the ultimate arbiters of these matters, to lawfully resist.
Kevin Bell
Tyldesley, Greater Manchester
• GCHQ is deemed to be our jewel in the crown that enables Britain to punch above its weight. But worship of the Cheltenham-based panopticon is too high a price to pay given the attendant loss of liberty. Better to trade our place at the top negotiating table for an informed open society.
Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Lord McNally’s female prison reform fails to address women leaving prison who have no home to go to (Female prisoners to be moved to jails nearest family home, 25 October). We know 38% of women prisoners are expected to be homeless upon release. Finding suitable housing and having access to support is vital but rarely available. Without it, the 18,000 children separated from their mothers due to imprisonment each year will often remain in care. This leads to the women being much more likely to reoffend. Housing for Women’s Re-Unite project provides family accommodation that brings mothers and their children together on release, cutting reoffending to just 2.9% from the national average of over 50%. Without suitable accommodation and support post-release, many of these women will return to prison.
Jakki Moxham
Chief executive, Housing for Women
• It is to be commended that 4,000 women prisoners will be moved to establishments nearer to their families. However, past experience of the fragility of government targets suggests that they may be conveniently removed or “forgotten” to suit political expediency. There are currently around 1,700 children in custody in England and Wales for whom proximity to their homes and families is just as important, but the Youth Justice Board target that children should be placed no further than 50 miles from their home no longer features. This has been exacerbated by the decommissioning of secure places for children, particularly in local authority secure children’s homes, resulting in many troubled (as well as troublesome) children being placed hundreds of miles away from their families and other local support crucial to effective rehabilitation.
Pam Hibbert
National Association for Youth Justice

There already exists a “middle tier” which could provide accountability for academies and free schools as belatedly advocated by Nick Clegg (Report, 25 October). It’s called democratically elected local government.
Jeremy Beecham
Labour, House of Lords
• Anne Liddon (Letters, 24 October) is right to deplore the loss of university-supported adult education. But Tyneside need not despair: when our lifelong programme lost its funding this summer, we formed a community interest company, and launched our new programme two weeks ago. Anyone wanting to know more, contact
Joy Rutter
Joseph Cowen Lifelong Learning Centre
• Is Jonathan Harris’s comment (Letters , 26 October) that university staff are “writing long letters to the Guardian in work time” an evidence-based argument? Maybe the editor can enlighten us as to when academic staff submit their letters, or perhaps GCHQ could tell us?
Martin Smith
Guildford, Surrey
• Here I am, a university lecturer, at 10.45pm on a Saturday during term-time writing a letter. However, I’ll keep it short as I still have marking (55,000 words in total) to complete by Monday morning.
Laura Jacobus
• Still picking strawberries and sweet peas from outside hanging baskets on 26 October. Is this a record?
Paul Wetherby


If the Coalition Government wishes to indulge the energy suppliers by allowing over-inflation rises in the cost of our fuel supplies, then they must find a way to help those who cannot afford to heat or eat. It might be a good start to put the Cabinet in a room without heating when the temperature outside was freezing.
The alternative is a British Spring. We cannot go on taking these rising costs of living  while others rake in the cash. This is not to do with politics but  has a great deal to do with human decency. Perhaps the concept of the workhouse has never left us.
Dorothy Brown, London NW11
As Fukushima continues to turn into an ever more serious catastrophe, and as the Germans confirm that they are turning their back on nuclear, Britain decides it will be expanding nuclear power generation, with the Chinese as the driving force.
It is not clear to what extent the Chinese or the French will design and build the new units, but the whole thing reminded me of a conversation that I had in Frankfurt. It was the time of the Textile Fair and I had fallen into conversation with a Pakastani businessman. I asked him whether he bought European or Chinese/Asian machinery for his factory, and he replied that he only ever bought from the Germans, despite their equipment being four times the price. He said it was simply too expensive for him to have plant standing idle while he waited for repairs to unreliable Chinese equipment.
So, regarding reliability, it’s one thing to have to wait while a knitting machine is repaired but its quite another thing to have half the UK irradiated because of a hiccup at Hinkley Point.
Alan Mitcham, Cologne, Germany
One of the virtues of public ownership of utilities was that the minister responsible could be questioned in Parliament. Ministers hate being embarrassed and can therefore be goaded into action.
The only thing that embarrasses the people who run our privatised utilities is if they can’t increase their prices and profits at several times the rate of inflation every year. Isn’t it time the people responsible be made answerable to the people who pay the bills, not just to their shareholders?
John Naylor, Ascot
Nimbys must make a choice: a substantial increase in electricity costs, power cuts or accepting a nuclear power station, a gas/coal power station, a wind farm or a fracking site to be built adjacent to you.
Alternatively, a 15 to 20 per cent cull of the population.
Clive A Marshall-Purves, Cenesson-sur-Orb, France
Coping with elders can  be dreadful
I agree with Linda Dickens and Alan Pearson (letters 22 October). We are being made to feel guilty by those who clearly have no idea that it may be quite impossible for a family to provide the care needed for an infirm and senile relative. I have experience of how the “powers-that-be” do everything they can to shift that burden, and how the consequences may be dreadful.
My elderly mother-in-law lived in her own home with my unmarried brother-in-law, in his late sixties and not in the best of health. She had dementia. She was a very strong-willed, determined lady who behaved irrationally. We live 100 miles away but, like Linda Dickens, we did all we could.
My brother-in-law coped with soaking bed-linen every morning, refusals to get dressed, or eat what he had cooked, wandering off and dramas too numerous to mention. We coped with phone calls at all hours, usually telling us that her cat or her son were missing (they were always elsewhere in the house), or that she wasn’t at home (she’d lived there for over 60 years), or that she was frightened.
A fall took her to hospital; to recover from the (successful) hip operation she went into a care home, where she settled well. However, she had no assets beside her house, also her son’s home, and those “powers-that-be” soon decided that she should go home. Against our advice, my brother-in-law took on the burden again, with some help with intimate care. After a short time, she contracted pneumonia and went into hospital again.
There she spent three agonising months, being pumped with antibiotics for one infection after another, before she died. The NHS “powers-that-be” insisted that this had to be done; two years on, it still horrifies me that, articulate as we are, we were unable to prevent this. My brother-in-law is still affected by his long ordeal.
This experience has led me to make an Advance Decision, with the help of my GP (who wishes more people would do so), I have detailed what kind of treatment I want in the future. I have no intention of suffering pointless pain and indignities myself, or of inflicting suffering on my family.
Christina Jones, Retford, Nottinghamshire
I am so glad Jeremy Hunt understands how Asian families value their elders. Hopefully he will now make it slightly easier for us to get permanent stay visas for our frail and lonely parents.
Many of us have no intention of  claiming any benefits for our relatives once they arrive here. The cost of their care would be much less than making several trips a year to visit them. And the British economy would benefit if we did not have to take so much time off work.
Saraswati Narayan, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire
Caro’s debt to the ‘geometry of fear’
As in life so in death. Like much lifetime art criticism on his work the plethora of recent obituaries on the internationally significant British sculptor Anthony Caro largely fail to adequately locate him within Britain’s burgeoning expressionistic sculpture “school” of the 1950s.
We are told tutelage under Moore led seamlessly at the turn of the 1960s to the sudden Americanisation that saw him adopt and develop the abstract welded steel manner of David Smith and Richard Serra.
 Influenced also by Picasso and Gonzalez, Caro was, at his best, a great and innovative sculptor who invested prosaic industrial materials and means with an airy poetry, lyricism and an unprecedented openness to space, architecture and the environment. But British contemporaries Lynn Chadwick, Reg Butler, Brian Wall, Bryan Kneale and Robert Adams beat him to welding and construction. And older artists like Armitage, Butler and Chadwick had, at the 1952 Venice Biennale, first put postwar British sculpture on the international map a decade before Caro’s breakthrough.
The lack of any critical comparison between Caro’s new kind of streamlined abstraction and the earlier surreality of the groundbreaking Venice Biennale “geometry of fear” group leads to what at times seems an unthinking Caro cult. The result is surely an over simplistic and ideologically bloated reputation.
Peter Davies, Bath
There is no doubt that Anthony Caro was a very important sculptor. From the example of David Smith he was able to use construction to open up a new world, freeing sculpture from stuffy academicism.
Isn’t it, therefore, rather a pity that we shall never see his like again? Thanks to the stuffy new academicism of the conceptual and anti-art it is now impossible for talents such as his – or Moore’s – either to be nurtured or to flourish.
Progress indeed! Any comments Mr Serota? 
Martin Murray, London SW2
This is just how companies are
There seems to be a misconception about the behaviour of large companies.
In a capitalist society their sole purpose is to provide products and maximise profits. That’s how it works. Companies are not people, they are aggressive and finely tuned profit machines and it is naive to expect them to have humanitarian feelings, environmental concerns or qualms about minimising their tax liabilities.
Moderation of their behaviour is the responsibility of government, and all excesses that they manifest are due to the failure of the Government to legislate effectively to contain them.
This is made worse when the Conservatives are in power because Tories don’t like constraining companies, for reasons of both ideology and vested interest.
John Hade, Totnes, Devon
Snooping on  the world
Should Germany now give refuge to Edward Snowden (a true American patriot) who revealed the weird extent of US phone-tapping?
Collin Rossini, Dovercourt, Essex
Does GCHQ answer all the cold calls from India or have the cryptographic geniuses discovered how to block them?
Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon
Pity the country whose leaders the US does not consider important enough to be bugged.
Peter Forster, London N4
The case of the  3D printer ‘gun’
On the matter of the alleged 3D-printed gun found in Manchester, I note that Elementary, the US Sherlock Holmes reboot, has restarted on British television. The first episode involved a 3D-printed gun as murder weapon.
Perhaps some over-enthusiastic policeman in Manchester had seen the show and jumped to the wrong conclusion.
Paul Dormer, Guildford, Surrey
Foreign masters
Unite overplayed a weak hand but the real lesson of Grangemouth is that if we sell off our public services to foreign investors then we must accept our colonial role. We must accept that the continuance of these services is at risk to the whims and profitability of our foreign masters.
Clive Georgeson, Dronfield, Derbyshire
Wrong message
Surely it is as tasteless for a woman in a highly paid professional job to reveal too much cleavage as it would be for a man to wear a cod-piece (“The Clifford Chance guide to women speaking in public”, 26 October). Both distract from the message they are paid to convey.
Betty Davies
Eye of a needle
Your newspaper continues to be filled by correspondents and columnists who see the solution to the present austerity in increased taxation of the hated “rich”. Fortunately the tricky question of who the rich are for these purposes is easily answered: they are anyone who earns more than I do.
Richard Harvey, Frating, Essex


Sir, Electricity is our most vital utility. Before privatisation, the CEGB was responsible for meeting all demand in both short and long term. It devised and implemented long-term strategy and would not be gainsaid by politicians with, at most, a five-year horizon. That all changed in 1990 when the industry was privatised, the new owners being motivated by short-term profits and government subsidies. Since then ownership has changed repeatedly and is now dominated by foreign governments. An economist will argue that this does not matter because the law of supply and demand will always ensure that we have electricity — as long as we are prepared to pay for it. However, it matters because foreign owners will always put their interests before ours.
Now, at the eleventh hour, the government has worked out that we must have replacement nuclear power stations and the formula just announced for Hinkley C relies on the French and Chinese governments. We no longer have the industrial capacity to build our own power stations and in any case we cannot afford them, it seems. Even this is short-sighted because the design of Hinkley C goes back 60 years and is obsolete.
I look forward to the day when governments agree to fund the development programme needed to derive an inherently safe reactor system which is, relatively, both quick and cheap to build. In anticipation we should be rebuilding UK skills and industry through government sponsorship.
The country that markets this new design first will earn a fortune. Why can it not be the UK? Or have we lost all ambition?
Dr John C. Bishton
Oxenton, Glos
Sir, We welcome the news of the Hinkley C nuclear deal. Nuclear energy has an important role in our low-carbon economy. Hinkley C will help create thousands of new jobs and will encourage investors to support the considerable capital investment needed to bring our energy infrastructure into the 21st century. Investment in Hinkley C will come from a mix of UK and international investors, including substantial support from France and China; this is testimony to the positive environment for investment in UK nuclear energy. This in turn is good news for nuclear businesses, R&D collaboration and skills development, in which the UK industrial and academic sectors can play a leading role.
Professor Panagiota Angeli, Professor in Chemical Engineering,
University College London
Sir, An effective way of lowering the price of energy bills would be to remove the 5 per cent VAT levied. This could be done quickly with little real impact and would not affect the government’s “green” credentials.
Adrian Burt
Sherfield-on-Loddon, Hants

Sir, Although David Cameron’s intention to reduce energy prices is superficially laudable (report, Oct 25), he is simply shifting some of the burden from consumers to taxpayers. This does nothing to put our electricity supply on a more rational foundation. The next step should be the elimination of subsidies for renewable energy generation. If solar farms and wind turbines make economic sense, suppliers will invest in them. Until then, the government should focus on ensuring we have secure, affordable energy.
Martin Livermore

The biggest contribution by far to demand for housing since the Second World War has been the growth of young single people living alone
Sir, The assertion by the Planning Minister, Nick Boles, that the elderly are to blame for the housing crisis serves only to fuel a generational war with false facts (report, Oct 25).
A large proportion of the elderly have downsized to efficient small homes that have released family houses onto the market. The move generates stamp duty for the government, churns the housing market and creates jobs in support. At the end of their lives they move to single rooms in care homes which achieve the very highest level of housing density at 80 people per acre. This also generates jobs: a double land-use for the same land-take.
The biggest contribution by far to demand for housing since the Second World War has been the growth of young single people living alone, and of single-parent families. If Mr Boles wants to make housing more efficient, rather than singling out the elderly, who have accepted condensed living and communality, he should examine how such examples could be applied to these other less efficient elements of the population.
Martin Habell
Richmond, Surrey

Among those taking part in 100 Women were eminent contributors from scientific and technological fields such as Claire Bertschinger
Sir, We agree with Professor Gibson (letter, Oct 25) that science should play a role in the BBC’s 100 Women season, which shines a spotlight on the lives of women around the world. This is why the presenter Lucy Hockings hosted a discussion about women in science and technology as part of last Friday’s 100 Women conference and why we have chaired discussions and interviews around innovation in education, with a focus on girls and sciences.
We cannot agree, however, that the world of science was unrepresented at the conference. Among the women taking part were eminent contributors from scientific and technological fields such as Claire Bertschinger, director of Tropical Nursing Studies at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Russian-Finnish-Indian engineer Irina Chakraborty and the technology entrepreneur Martha Lane-Fox.
Fiona Crack
Editor, 100 Women

Fur seals can be dangerous: a reader remembers routinely carrying a stout wooden pole for defence against their sharp teeth
Sir, Covered in feathers he may be, but the seal is a fur seal and not an elephant seal (photo, Oct 24). And anything but a softy. When I was a Deck Officer on RRS John Biscoe, and involved in landing scientific parties on remote beaches, we would routinely carry a stout wooden pole for defence against their sharp teeth.
Ian Hotchin
Fishguard, Pembrokeshire

Why are male prisoners not being given the same consideration as women? Doesn’t the Government believe in fathers’ rights too?
Sir, The Government has announced that, henceforth, women prisoners will be imprisoned as close to their homes as possible, so that they will not be too far from their children, and can enjoy family visits. So why are men not being given the same consideration? Do they not love their children too, or is this simply par for the Government’s course, where fathers are considered to be somehow less important than mothers in the lives of their children?
Will Richards
Malvern, Worcestershire


SIR – Gareth Malone is correct to condemn the decibel level at concerts.
Some time ago my wife and I attended a concert in Salisbury Cathedral by the choral group Blake. They claim to be classically trained but they still resort to microphones and the attendant amplification that is par for the course.
Our granddaughter was in the accompanying choir, but it was mainly redundant. We were sitting three metres from a vast speaker emitting a volume that was almost painful.
Ian Bateman
Wedmore, Somerset
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27 Oct 2013
SIR – We often go to shows at the fabulous Snape Maltings concert hall but have to leave early because the music is amplified too much. It’s unnecessary because the hall has brilliant natural acoustics.
Linda Rush
Saxmundham, Suffolk
SIR – Gareth Malone is right. Live and “unplugged” is a good test of music and musicians. This is not a case of classical versus pop; amplification has long been used to make music of all genres more marketable.
William Cook
Blandford Forum, Dorset
SIR – I took my grandchildren to the cinema recently. The volume was so high that I feared for the children’s welfare. According to the Academy of Paediatrics, “85dB is the threshold for dangerous levels of noise”.
I brought this to the attention of the cinema company, who said: “Our speakers are only able to produce a maximum of 80dB, reached infrequently…trailers are often louder, as this helps to focus attention on the products or films being advertised”.
Perhaps Gareth Malone could lobby the cinema industry?
Eric Marsh
Bakewell, Derbyshire

SIR – Well done The Sunday Telegraph for exposing the BBC bias in its recent news report on EU immigration (report, October 20). This must be embarrassing for the Corporation, given its present appeal for comments from the public about its coverage of news and current affairs programmes.
The BBC seems blind to the reasons why the EU is not working. Programmes investigating its mismanagement and undemocratic nature are conspicuous by their absence.
This raises questions about the BBC’s relationship with Brussels. What is particularly worrying is the effect this bias will have on the electorate if a referendum on the EU is called. I fear the appointment of Tony Hall as Director-General will make little difference.
D R Taylor
Everton, Hampshire
Related Articles
Over-amplified concerts are now a painful ordeal
27 Oct 2013
SIR – The BBC’s news coverage is biased against the Coalition Government, not only in the words it uses but in the body language of its newsreaders.
George Alagiah announced the fall in unemployment on the 6pm news on October 16 with a facial expression of the utmost gloom and a voice to match.
Nobody who has the good of the nation at heart could be so miserable at such good news; but it could mean that the economy is improving, which lessens the chance of Labour getting back into power.
A C B Lamport
Folkestone, Kent
SIR – Just when you think the BBC’s Left-wing bias could not get any worse, up pops Russell Brand on Newsnight.
Interviewed by Jeremy Paxman, this ridiculous nonentity is allowed to broadcast his extreme Marxist views, calling for a “massive redistribution of wealth”.
While Mr Brand is entitled to hold whatever views he likes, can somebody please tell me why the BBC thinks it appropriate to give him any airtime at all?
Paul Homewood
Stocksbridge, West Yorkshire
SIR – Roger Daniel could do what I did, when I discovered some years ago how the BBC was using licence payers’ money: stop watching or recording television. He would need to inform TV Licensing of his intentions and cancel his licence.
Raymond Cox
Halesowen, Worcestershire
SIR – It is hard for some BBC broadcasters to hide the sneer in their voice towards the Conservative side. When it comes to interviewing Labour representatives they do so with a different tone.
Dorothy Roberts
Wellington, Shropshire
SIR – I listen to Radio 5 Live but am more and more frustrated by the attitude of its presenters. Anyone who is against Government policy in any way is given large amounts of air time while representatives of the Government are quickly dismissed. As far as I can see, the only way is to privatise the BBC.
Elisabeth Boon
Bournemouth, Dorset
SIR – Dismissing ITN as “no longer” a “worthy competitor” to the BBC doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and does a disservice to our talented journalists who break exclusives and make high-quality programmes for ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and others. Our news programmes reach 43 per cent of the public every week, trust levels are higher than all media other than BBC, and our journalists match and often beat their BBC counterparts.
Look at Channel 4 News’s International Emmy for its Homs reporting, how ITV News and ITV’s Exposure led the way in unmasking Jimmy Savile, or the acclaim our production division received for its Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields documentaries.
Quality news programming is enjoying a purple patch at a time when ITN is showing financial stability and record revenues, and the commercial broadcasters are demonstrating a commitment to news and new current affairs formats.
John Hardie
Chief Executive Officer, ITN
London WC1
Hinkley Point delay has cost us billions
SIR – If Labour had not wasted its 13 years in power, Hinkley Point would already be up and running by now and at a much lower cost. Labour’s dithering has cost the country billions, so it is a bit rich for Ed Miliband to come out with price-freeze proposals in an attempt to buy votes. Labour has a lot to answer for: ruining our pensions, selling our gold too cheaply, allowing unfettered immigration and transferring so much sovereignty to the EU.
B J Colby
Portishead, Somerset
SIR – It’s hardly surprising that energy suppliers want to increase prices while they can.
Didn’t a certain party leader recently promise to freeze energy prices if his party wins the next general election? Given that scenario what would any supplier do?
Timothy Desmond
SIR – For those worried about electricity and water bills, I suggest they look towards what is tax-free to us all: sunlight, wind and rainfall. My home uses these for 30 per cent of its energy needs. I threw the electric kettle away and switched to a gas hob type, as another way to cut power costs. Now I have to change my boiler pump to a DC battery-operated pump for when the power cuts begin.
Eric R Hawkins
Wimborne, Dorset
Home truths
SIR – Sir Alec Douglas-Home may, sadly, be regarded as “one of the worst prime ministers of the century” (From the Archive, October 20). However, he has been undervalued.
Had there been a general election just before he became prime minister, the Conservatives would have been soundly defeated. When the election did take place, after a year of Sir Alec’s leadership, Labour’s majority was only four. Sir Alec almost pulled it off.
Were he a 21st century prime minister, he’d probably be considered the best so far.
Derek James
London E16
SIR – Twelve months in office is insufficient for such a judgment of a prime minister to be possible.
He was a man of immense integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of duty to his country. I can’t say that about some of his successors.
John Frankland
Churt, Surrey
SIR – Was Lord Home really worse than Salisbury (Boer War bungling); Asquith (poor Great War leadership); Lloyd George (corruption); MacDonald (mass unemployment); Baldwin (loath to rearm); Chamberlain (appeasement); Eden (Suez); Wilson (devaluation); Heath (industrial unrest); Callaghan (winter of discontent); Blair (Iraq war); Brown (debt bubble)?
Dr Martin Smith
High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Drawing the lino
SIR – I was astonished to read that the Royal Ballet was “mystified” as to why linoleum was proving problematic as a dancing surface. My great-grandfather developed linoleum in the late 19th century. It was manufactured in Europe and America and sold all over the world. It was intended for parts of the house that needed easy cleaning, such as kitchens, bathrooms and corridors, and never intended to replace wooden stage flooring. No one in their right mind would expect ballet dancers to feel safe on it, particularly on pointe.
Francis M Newton
Saffron Walden, Essex
The edge at Trafalgar
SIR – I was interested to read about the vulnerability of the respective fleets’ ships’ timbers at the Battle of Trafalgar. Another advantage that the British held over the French was below the waterline.
Plates made of copper (mined in Llandudno and smelted in Swansea) were nailed to the underside of these ships. The result was that no algae or barnacles would grow on them, making them much more manoeuvrable and speedy.
Hence, I have often been told, the origin of the phrase “copper-bottomed”.
David Crawford
Llandudno, Caernarfonshire
SIR – Nelson understood his opponent, Admiral Villeneuve, well, and also knew the professional limitations of the combined Franco-Spanish fleet before him that day. Napoleon cared little for his Navy, and did not understand warfare at sea.
David Lyon
Whitwell, Derbyshire
SIR – Nelson’s ships’ cannon were fitted with a flint sparking mechanism that ensured the cannon fired immediately when the “trigger” was pulled – so the shot went in the direction in which it was intended.
The French fleet still operated with fuses to fire their cannon. This meant that, with a rolling sea or swell, the delayed firing meant that some shots went over the enemy decks or into the sea.
Michael Cattell
Mollington, Cheshire
Dishonest police are in a small minority
SIR – Last weekend, the policing minister, Damian Green, disingenuously expressed surprise that 66 per cent of people still trust the police. Perhaps he wished that figure were lower to make it easier to push through his ill-thought-out policing reforms.
He should not be surprised, because most members of the public are not stupid. They realise from experience that almost all of their police are honest, hard working and dedicated. Breaches of trust by a very small minority of police officers are rare but invariably attract great attention. The time to worry is when dishonesty in the police is so commonplace it ceases to be newsworthy.
Clifford Baxter
Wareham, Dorset
War pilgrimage
SIR – I write to congratulate you on your “Lest we Forget” campaign to commemorate the anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War. The supplements have encouraged me to research the service of my grandfather, Ernest Lee, a private in the Worcestershire Regiment, who was killed in the Salonika campaign, aged 21.
This has inspired my son and me to honour my grandfather’s sacrifice by journeying, in the New Year, from Sussex to the Doiran Memorial on the Greek-Macedonian border to pay tribute to him and the 2,000 comrades of his who were lost in the Petit-Couronne assault.
Tony Lee
Bexhill on Sea, East Sussex
Roadkill stew
SIR – Jasper Copping’s report on the increasing consumption of roadkill came only a few days after my husband picked up a pheasant from the side of the road and served roadkill stew for dinner.
I prefer the aisles of the supermarket to the roadside, but if roadkill encourages my husband into the kitchen, I won’t complain.
Susie Buchanan
Grantham, Lincolnshire
Cheaper coppers
SIR – It is not just 10 pence and 50 pence pieces that exhibit magnetism. If you try it with copper coinage, you will find it is a date-related phenomenon.
In my pocket a 2p piece from 1994 is magnetic whereas one from 1981 is not. It must be a further sign of the devaluation of sterling, now they make our coinage from cheaper alloys.
Ian Duncan
Amersham, Buckinghamshire

Irish Times:
A chara, – I would like to draw attention to a Budget cut that has so far attracted little attention. The €20 training allowance previously paid to Fás trainees (a payment to long-term unemployed participants) has been abolished.
The Government has been urging the country’s unemployed to retrain and upskill, but in its wisdom has cut the small incentive to do so. €20 may not seem a substantial amount, but when a person’s total weekly income is €188 or in the case of someone under 25 €100, then it is suddenly a substantial sum.
Surely in these times it would have made more sense to retain this allowance and ever so slightly alleviate the plight of those citizens who wish to better their chances of gaining employment? – Is mise,
Mount Sion Avenue,

Sir, – We would like to express our continued concern with the system of direct provision. Direct provision debases the inherent dignity, worth and value of human beings. As well as the concerns expressed in The Irish Times about direct provision recently (October 7th, 8th, 21st & 23rd), a High Court judge in Northern Ireland refused to send asylum seekers back to this jurisdiction, as the direct provision system was not in the best interests of children.
The effects on the physical and mental health of asylum- seekers in direct provision have been documented by non-governmental organisations over many years. Inadequately regulated private contractors have control over intimate aspects of living, such as when to eat, what to eat and who to share a room with. This raises serious concerns regarding the impact of direct provision on asylum-seekers. Legislatively prohibited from working, some asylum seekers have no option other than to rely on direct provision accommodation centres for years on end. Generally barred from having access to the welfare system, asylum- seekers are provided with a pittance in order to live their daily lives with some semblance of dignity.
Inadequacies with the system for determining whether a person qualifies for refugee or other protection status cannot absolve the Departments of Justice and Social Protection from blame for the creation, maintenance and support of the direct provision system. Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton and Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, need to act now so as to bring this dehumanising system of direct provision to an end and restore dignity to those people exercising their internationally recognised right to seek asylum. – Yours, etc,
SAMANTHA ARNOLD, Irish Refugee Council; BERNADINE BRADY, Child & Family Research Centre, NUIG; SAOIRSE BRADY; DECLAN BRASSIL, Galway City Partnership; SUZY BYRNE; ALLAN CAVANAGH, Artist; MARK COEN, Durham Law School, Durham University; VICKY CONWAY, Kent Law School, University of Kent; AOIFE DALY, School of Law, University of Essex; YVONNE DALY, School of Law & Government, DCU; SHANE DARCY, Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUIG; FERGAL DAVIS, UNSW Law School, Sydney; SONYA DONNELLY, Clinical Lecturer, University of Hong Kong, FIONA de LONDRAS, Durham Law School, Durham University; FIONA DONSON, Faculty of Law, UCC; SUZANNE EGAN, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; MÁIRÉAD ENRIGHT, Kent Law School, University of Kent; BRYAN FANNING, School of Applied Social Science, UCD; MAEVE FOREMAN, School of Social Work and Social Policy, TCD; PIARAS Mac ÉINRÍ, Department of Geography, UCC; FIONA FINN, Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre, Cork; BREDA GRAY, UL; ALAN GREENE, Durham Law School, Durham University; ROBBIE GILLIGAN, School of Social Work and Social Policy, TCD; LIAM HERRICK, Irish Penal Reform Trust, Dublin; DEIRDRE HORGAN, UCC; NIAMH HOWLIN, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; JENNIFER KAVANAGH, Law Lecturer, WIT; PATRICIA KENNEDY, School of Applied Social Science, UCD; DANIELLE KENNAN, NUIG; URSULA KILKELLY, Faculty of Law, UCC; FERGAL LANDY, Child and Family Research Centre, NUIG; LOUISE KINLEN, Researcher; SIOBHÁN MULLALLY, Faculty of Law, UCC; RAY MURPHY. Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUIG; CLAIRE MURRAY, Faculty of Law, UCC; MUIREANN Ní RAGHALLAIGH, School of Applied Social Science, UCD 38. ÉIDÍN Ní SHÉ, University of Southern Queensland; TREVOR Ó CLOCHARTAIGH, Leinster House; AOIFE O’ DONOGHUE, Durham Law School, Durham University; CONOR O’MAHONY, Faculty of Law, UCC; JACQUI O’RIORDAN, UCC; CATHERINE O’SULLIVAN, Faculty of Law, UCC; Charles O’Sullivan, Cork; HELEN UCHECHUKWU OGBU, Galway; FERGUS RYAN, Department of Law, DIT; JENNIFER SCHOLTZ, Children’s Research Centre, TCD; JENNIFER SCHWEPPE, School of Law, University of Limerick; EIMEAR SPAIN, School of Law, UL; LIAM THORNTON, Sutherland School of Law, UCD; JUDY WALSH, School of Social Justice, UCD; ROISIN WEBB BL; NESSA WINSTON, School of Applied Social Science, UCD; GERRY WHYTE, School of Law, TCD
C/o Liam Thornton,
UCD Sutherland
School of Law,

Sir, – After 31 years abroad, I have recently calculated what it would cost me to return to the land of my birth.
After the recent Irish Budget, my annual tax liability would almost triple if I were resident in Ireland rather than New York. Furthermore, I could pass on only €240,000 to my son upon my death and would pay more than half of any wealth beyond that to the Irish Revenue.
In the US, the federal government allows me to pass on up to $10 million tax-free (there are further taxes in some states).
While corporate tax rates in Ireland seem attractive, where is the incentive for the individual to open a business there in the face of such a confiscatory tax regime? Then I listen to the Dáil debates and see that your political opposition feels this tax burden on wealth creators is still not high enough and they are now the largest party in Dublin.
Sadly, if I were graduating from university in Ireland again, I would make the same wise decision to leave the country. Plus ça change . . . – Yours, etc,
Harborview Drive,

Sir, – It is somewhat unedifying a spectacle to us Catholics to see Irish Anglicans beating the lard out of each other in public. I understand that this type of literate bar fight was quite common in previous centuries.
That said, I have to confess to a degree of sympathy for those of our separate brethern who object to “polyester Protestants”. The objectors could be described as “Basil Fawlty” Anglicans. Fawlty clearly didn’t much like those chappies from Calais and beyond. Not all, but most of the “polyester Protestants” are lapsed Catholics. These lapsed Catholics may be subdivided into à la carte Catholics, and cart-before-the-horse Catholics.
Before the emergence of “polyester Protestants”, an old Church of Ireland lady confided to me that there was a sort of apartheid between Church of Ireland members whose ancestors have been in Ireland since before the Reformation, and those who came in after the Reformation, especially those of Cromwellian origin. Interestingly, the Irish-language poet, Dáibhidh Ó Bruadair (1625-1694), a Catholic, had a deep regard for the former, but couldn’t stand the latter.
I blame Fr Tony Flannery and the Association of Catholic Priests for causing much of the problem around “polyester Protestants” with which the more stake-in-the-country Anglicans have been plagued. If Fr Flannery would only hurry up and set up a Protestant denomination for the à la carte Catholics, and cart-before-the-horse Catholics, the problem would be largely solved. These dissenting Catholics are Protestants basically, but the more “Basil Fawlty” Anglicans of Ireland want nothing to do with them, obviously, as they lower the tone of the communion preferred by the stake-in-the-country Anglicans. If Fr Flannery could do the needful, the Olivia O’Learys of Ireland would have somewhere more welcoming to go on Sunday between Sunday Miscellany and The Marian Finucane Show. That would be a “win win” outcome.
Have the warring Anglicans thought of doing an anger-management course in Maynooth? Alternatively these crypto-Catholic Anglicans could petition Rome to set up an Anglican Ordinariate in Ireland – that is, a body that caters for cradle Anglicans who have come to realise that they now have more in common with Rome than with the cold house that the Anglican Communion has become for them. Home sweet Rome! Pax vobis. – Yours, etc,
Beaufort Downs,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – In my travels around this country, I am horrified by the amount of people who use their mobile phones at petrol pumps whilst re-fuelling. Despite warning signs which clearly state: No mobile phones, these people feel their conversation is so important that they have a total disregard for the safety of others.
The use of any transmission device, mobile phone, two-way radio etc.. is highly dangerous in the presence of flammable liquids – all it takes is one spark to cause an explosion. Please, please switch off mobile phones in petrol stations and reduce the risk of serious injury or death. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Is it not ironic that people like Hugh Treacy (October 25th), who supported and canvassed for the retention of the Seanad, should now have to write to the papers castigating one of the leaders of the campaign for reneging on the reforms promised?
I thought myself that the retention of the expensive and privileged elite in the Seanad was indefensible given that the country is bankrupt and that we have more public representatives relative to population than comparable countries.
How could we have been so gullible to have fallen for such a dishonest campaign? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – If Frank McNally’s mystery e-mailer (Irishman’s Diary, October 24th) has a problem with the Hiberno interpretation of “a couple”, imagine how his Anglo brain must be frazzled by “a feed”. And as for a rake – well he’d definitely be in the ditch after that! – Yours,e tc,
South Circular Road,
Sir, – With reference to Fiona McCann’s article (Weekend Review, October 19th) on the relative numbers of male and female speakers at the forthcoming Web Summit in Dublin, surely the content of what speakers at such conferences say should matter more than their gender?
Regarding gender imbalances generally, why is it so often the case that when men are in the majority in a particular field this is perceived as an issue, with calls for gender quotas and the like to redress the imbalance, whereas no corresponding perception seems to exist when the reverse is the case – as is the case in areas such as primary school teaching, and is likely to be in the future in fields such as law and medicine?
Lastly, I have always understood equality of opportunity, a concept with which I entirely agree, to mean giving priority to merit irrespective of factors such as gender, etc, but this is not the same as pursuing gender balance as an end in itself which, in some circumstances at least, may end up doing more harm than good. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Patrick Corkery’s statement (Letters, October 8th) that Neville Chamberlain, as a Unitarian, “would not have been overly familiar with” the “peace in our time” prayer from the Book of Common Prayer is absurd. And his anti-Unitarian barb spoils an otherwise good letter.
When William Robertson, Rector of Rathvilley, Co Carlow, left the Anglican fold in the 1760s because of his Unitarian leanings, he favoured a prayer book shorn, as he put it, of all “controverted points”. And his friend Theophilus Lindsey’s Unitarian Book of Common Prayer was published in 1774 thus continued to include the “peace in our time” prayer because in no sense was it a “controversial point”.
For the same reason both Dublin Unitarian Church’s Service Book of 1915, edited by Ernest Savell Hicks, and the 1932 Unitarian Orders of Worship, the use of which would have been widespread in Britain in Chamberlains’s time, include similar prayers. It is clear, therefore, that a 1930s Unitarian would have known the imagery involved perfectly well.
But in any case, for the record, and for Mr Corkery’s enlightenment, Chamberlain was not so much quoting from the Book of Common Prayer as echoing a remark made by Benjamin Disraeli upon returning from the Congress of Berlin in 1878. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I was interested to note in your News in Numbers (October 24th) that the HSE deficit up to August of this year was €94 million with projected deficit for the entire year of €105 million. I presage that I may be against public perception in this matter, but I believe these figures are a good result for the HSE operating in a demand-led service environment.
To put it in context, the HSE budget for 2013 is approximately €13 billion, in layman’s terms €13,000 million. A projected deficit of €105 million for the year represents a .8 per cent budget overrun, or in further clearer terms an 80 cent overrun in a budget of €100. I would imagine that there are many large businesses in Ireland who would not be unhappy with an equivalent result for their financial year. I am not an avid HSE supporter but this result must also be viewed in the context of the demand-led business that the HSE is in. As opposed to some Government departments the HSE, at the commencement of any fiscal year, do not know in advance how many people will require, use or be entitled to their services.
In conclusion, maybe media commentators should instead of beating their breasts over a €105 million HSE budget overrun, put the overrun in the perspective of a demand-led service in financially challenging times. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – On a recent Saturday I had the misfortune to stand on O’Connell Bridge, Dublin, in the company of at least 30 others, waiting for a bus, when a kindly passerby informed us that there were no buses coming through our main thoroughfare due to a protest somewhere. In the 20 minutes I stood there, no one in authority appeared to inform the long-suffering public.
I then proceeded to Tara Street to get on the southbound Dart. When the train arrived the announcement informed us that the train was going to Howth. On the train, the announcement continued in this vein, at the same time stating that the next stop would be Dalkey. For those who knew where we were going this did not present a problem, but the poor tourists who were trying to navigate the system were totally dependant on the kindness of fellow passengers. Is this the best service that can be provided in our capital city? – Yours, etc,
Sorrento Court,

Sir, – “Former owner lists defects before €4m auction” (Front page, October 24th).
A case of gaudeat emptor! – Yours, etc,
Marley Avenue,
Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Irish Independent:

* In my opinion, the world of international relations took a turn for the truly surreal in the past week with the extensive coverage of the US’s National Security Agency’s ‘Prism’ spying scandal.
Also in this section
Stout reason to cut price of pint
Thank you for the truth on suicide
Duped by ‘historical porn’
The protestations by France, Germany and other states that their leaders’ phones were “tapped” and their private conversations were listened to surreptitiously has dominated the news in Europe, the Americas and around the world. The US’s international standing is now very much under attack, reeling as it was already from Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic one-two over the Syria debacle.
The allegations being made are that the US listened in on the private telephone conversations of national leaders around the globe in addition to millions of communications being sent by ordinary people, as well as financial and industrial leaders. However, I do take issue with the level of “shock” and “horror” being expressed by some critics of the ‘Prism’ programme.
First off, the idea that spying on friends was “never acceptable, no matter in what situation”, as the German chancellor put it, is naive in the extreme. As long as there has been diplomatic relations between states, there has been spying, especially among allies. Allies always want to make sure that the people they sign treaties with won’t stab them in the back in some way.
Secondly, don’t we, the people, condone a simpler form of surveillance in the form CCTV in our towns and cities to curb criminality, and in the form of reality television like ‘Big Brother’, where, in the early years at least, sane people’s privacy was invaded on a daily basis for the sake of ratings and entertainment? With the rise of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and the kind of uninhibited gossip on them, people practically throw their privacy away.
Thirdly, more than a few government leaders, like our own Enda Kenny, have the good sense to assume that their communications are being monitored by others.
A rare dose of common sense in a world going mad.
Colin Smith
Clara, Co Offaly
* The national debate has swung to the Council of State and the notion of members having to make an oath in front of God. The question seems to be whether someone who does not believe in God should have to swear an oath on His or Her name. This opens an interesting debate on the subject of the existence of God.
So, what does science say about God? It proves His existence, of course, but in order to understand this, one must remember that terminology has changed greatly since the time that God got His name from our ancestors.
The proof? Newton’s Law on the conservation of energy proves “God’s” existence. It states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed, it merely changes from one form to another.
Death is the changing of one form of energy to another. The lifeforce leaves our mortal coil. But it cannot be destroyed, according to Newton.
Dermot Ryan
Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway
* Christopher Snowden suggests that Ireland’s high ranking on the European tobacco-control scale hides low rates of smoking reduction here in his piece ‘Why our efforts to cut smoking have been a failure’ (Irish Independent, October 23).
However, contrary to Mr Snowden’s claims, the prevalence of smoking in Ireland has fallen from 33pc in 1998 to 22pc today – a drop that directly correlates to measures such as the workplace smoking ban and increased duty on tobacco.
Numerous studies point to the influence that branded packaging has on young people’s decisions to start smoking and highlight the positive effect that plain packaging has on smoking prevalence.
The Asthma Society of Ireland strongly supports the Government’s commitment to introducing plain packaging, yet this is only one of a suite of measures contained in its Tobacco Free Ireland 2025 policy. The banning of smoking in cars where children are present; tobacco-free environments at schools, playgrounds and other public places; and smoking cessation support services are just some of the measures put forward.
Over 5,000 Irish people each year die prematurely from tobacco-related illness, and smoking affects the quality of life of many thousands more.
Niamh Kelly
Advocacy Co-ordinator,
The Asthma Society of Ireland
* I read Marian Finucane’s interview (Irish Independent, October 26) with interest. She said that a friend of a friend who was a retired professional led too quiet a life for her to contemplate retirement herself.
I have a friend who has a friend who is retired on basic pension. She gets up in the morning, goes for a long walk, goes to Mass, and then does not have time to read the paper until lunchtime because she volunteers at a local charity.
After that, she is off to deliver meals-on-wheels and then, if she has any time left, she campaigns for those on the state pension who have suffered several cuts in benefits during the recession.
I am a retired journalist (who worked abroad) and when I gave it up I was asked if I would miss my name in print every day. I replied that I would enjoy the anonymity of just being an ordinary person again, even though I enjoyed my job. Sometimes it is good for the soul to move out and let others take over and take the credit for a change. You would be surprised what fills the time!
Moira Cameron-Lunny
Castletownbere, Co Cork
* Rachel Wyse has described Roy Keane as an unsuccessful manager.
He brought Sunderland to the Premiership and saved Ipswich from relegation. He was an outstanding footballer with a great work ethic and a credit to himself and his country.
He is also probably the best TV pundit in the UK at present.
He is not perfect – who is – but he is living a full life and is not afraid to speak his mind. He is who he is.
Sean Harte
Vernon Avenue, Dublin 3
* As a lifelong supporter of Dundalk FC, I was saddened by the recent death of Tommy McConville. Always good humoured and available for a “footie” chat on Oriel match nights, Tommy was one of the best players ever to lace a boot for the club.
May he rest in peace.
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont, Dublin 9
* What’s the difference between Ryanair and the Government? Ryanair is trying to be nice.
Kevin Devitte
Westport, Co Mayo
* I read that some members of the family of the late former Taoiseach Charlie Haughey are concerned that the forthcoming TV series about him will turn out to be “a hatchet job” on his reputation (Irish Independent, October 25).
If only. I think Mr Haughey did the hatchet job himself as, in his lust for riches, he sold himself to big business. If the Haughey family were cute, they’d keep their heads down at this time and let the hurricane pass.
To many, though, Mr Haughey’s reputation will remain where it rests now – in the gutter.
Paddy O’Brien
Co Dublin
Irish Independent

More books

October 27, 2013

27 October 2013 Books

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Pertwee has been fiddling the stores and has sold everything off. Priceless
Sort the books, Shanti rings
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins get just under 400, though perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Jamalul Kiram III
Jamalul Kiram III was the dispossessed Sultan of Sulu who struggled to reclaim the riches his predecessors lost to the British Empire

Jamalul Kiram III sent militants to attempt to retake Sabah this year  
6:18PM BST 25 Oct 2013
Jamalul Kiram III , who has died aged 75, was descended from an ancient, majestic line of sultans in the tiny Philippine island province of Sulu; earlier this year, as its self-proclaimed Muslim head of state and to reclaim his ancestral birthright, he dispatched a puny seaborne force of armed militants to seize part of Borneo, the third largest island in the world.
Borneo is divided between Indonesia in the south, and Brunei and the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah to the north. In February it was to Sabah, on Borneo’s north-eastern tip, that Kiram ordered his followers to take up arms in a bizarre territorial dispute dating from the days of the British Empire.

From his ramshackle command post in the Philippine capital Manila, Kiram ordered his younger brother to lead a flotilla carrying 200 warriors from Sulu across a narrow stretch of sea to retake Sabah, a state that his ancestors once ruled. More than 60 people were killed in the fighting, which caused the most serious security crisis in Malaysia in more than a decade and strained the country’s relationship with the Philippines, which also claims the disputed territory.
The sultanate of Sulu is much older than either the Philippine republic or Malaysia, and for more than four centuries ruled over vast tracts of land and ocean — including parts of Borneo — from opulent palaces in what is now the southern Philippines. Sultans are recognised throughout the Islamic world as sovereign rulers of the land they reign over.
Historical documents would seem to support the sultanate of Sulu’s claim to have been granted sovereignty over Sabah as long ago as 1658 by the Sultan of Brunei in return for help repelling foreign invaders.
Even then, in spite of its fairytale name, the sultanate was sufficiently hard-headed to recognise the value of Sabah’s abundant natural resources. Over the next two centuries, however, agreements were signed with British trading companies which ended, in 1878, with Sabah being leased to Baron Von Overbeck for the British North Borneo Company. The exact terms of the agreement are disputed, however, and eventually the British Crown claimed absolute sovereignty. When Malaysia was granted independence in 1963, Sabah voted to became part of its territory. Today, Malaysia still pays annual compensation to the sultan – but only about $1,700.

One of Kiram’s predecessors as Sultan of Sulu (seated, with the cane) in 1878
In a further twist, just before Malaysian independence the Philippine government staked its own claim to Sabah because the then sultan of Sulu, Esmail Kiram, was already a Filipino citizen and had signed an agreement with the Philippine government giving Manila the right to claim the disputed territory. The claim has gravelled Philippine-Malaysian relations, which were once strained to the point that both countries broke off diplomatic ties, since restored.
Sabah is about the size of Ireland and rich in natural resources including oil, timber, fish and marine products, and diamond and gold mines. But once the region joined Malaysia, the Sulu realm effectively vanished, leaving the Kirams dispossessed and with little more to do than nurse a historic grievance.
Jamalul Dalus Strattan Kiram III was born on July 16 1938 in Maimbung, a small town in the province of Sulu in the Philippines. He was the eldest son of Sultan Punjungan Kiram and Sharif Usna Dalus Strattan and was directly descended from the first Sultan of Sulu, Sharif ul-Hashim of Sulu, of the Banu Hashem tribe.
From Sulu High School he moved to Notre Dame in the Sulu capital, Jolo, and then to Manuel L Quezon University in Manila, where he studied Law. But he did not complete his degree course, and later worked for a radio station in Jolo as programme director and later as station manager.
Having joined the Ruma Betchara (Council of the Sultan) during the reign (1962-74) of his uncle, Sultan Esmail Kiram, he ruled as “interim sultan” while his father, who ruled between 1974 and 1981, was absent in Sabah. In 1984 he was proclaimed the 33rd (or possibly the 39th) sultan of Sulu and was crowned in Jolo in 1986.
In 1999, with an 87-man entourage, Kiram paid a royal visit to China which concluded with the signing of an agreement between a Chinese province and the Sulu sultanate on the exchange of agricultural technology. He also forged trade ties with Japan.
The Sulu sultanate was founded in the early 15th century by Sayyid Abu Bakr, who changed his name to Sharifur Hashim and took the title Sultan Sharif, denoting his descent from the Prophet Mohammad. Until the arrival of the Spanish, the region enjoyed relative peace and prosperity, with settled political and trading systems. But the spread of Catholicism impinged upon the sultanate’s independent identity and ambitions to expand its Islamic heritage.
Kiram explained that under the laws of the sultanate, the title of sultan is bestowed upon the first son (daughters being ineligible). While the sultan always outranks officials like the mufti (the senior religious head) and the kaddi (chief spiritual adviser to the sultan), he is not a dictator but governs with a council of advisers, in the way that a president is assisted by the cabinet.
Once enthroned in magnificent royal palaces, the sultanate was latterly reduced to a shabby two-storey house in a Muslim enclave in a poor suburb of Manila. Ailing and half-blind, Kiram struggled to discharge his limited royal duties while receiving dialysis for his failing kidneys.
On the walls of the makeshift palace, visitors found formal notices proclaiming “Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” pinned alongside maps of the region once ruled by the sultanate and a certificate of appreciation from the local Rotary Club. Any ancestral treasure had long since vanished. “I’m the poorest sultan in the world,” Kiram admitted.

Sultan Jamalul Kiram III’s family coat of arms
In 1993 Kiram had threatened to wage a jihad (holy war) to secure Sabah if Malaysia did not recognise his sovereignty over the disputed state and pay him $10 billion (£6.5 billion).
Following the incursion in February, some of the sultan’s followers were charged with rebellion in Malaysia and Kiram himself faced calls for his extradition. Even President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines weighed in against Kiram, saying the insurgency had caused death and suffering among his own people.
But while the invasion failed, it did succeed in drawing attention to the historical claim by the Philippines to parts of Borneo, a claim it maintains it has not given up.
Jamalul Kiram III is survived by his two wives and eight of their children. His successor is expected to be his younger brother, Esmail Kiram II, who supported the Sabah incursion. Historically, successions to the sultanate have been marred by violence among factions within the family and in later years by multiple claimants to the title of sultan, one of whom, Rodinood Kulaspi Kiram II, asserted in October 2004 that he had been crowned the previous weekend.
Jamalul Kiram III, born July 16 1938, died October 20 2013


Instead of just worrying about the effects of unqualified teachers on schools and the reputation of academies and free schools, (“Clegg turns on Gove over his ‘ideological’ school reforms”, News), why doesn’t Ofsted intervene to address the source of these problems by conducting an inspection visit at the Department for Education?
I would suggest six areas to score them on, namely: leadership effectiveness, feedback links with teaching professionals, staff qualifications, individual and collective teaching experience, education research and development processes, and strategic outcomes to date. Should the department be found to be “inadequate” then perhaps performance-related pay could be introduced?
Mick Beeby
It is a relief to see the Liberal Democrats waking up at last to the need for professional knowledge and experience in those who teach our children. What is rarely mentioned is the scandalous situation pertaining to children with special educational needs. If your child is deaf or blind you can rest assured that his or her teacher has been trained in how to support their learning in the most appropriate way. If your child has autism or severe/profound disabilities, forget it.
Since mandatory SEN training was abolished, pupils with the most complex learning difficulties imaginable are increasingly in the care of teachers who, whatever their praiseworthy commitment, have no experience and no training. The generation of teachers who did have adequate (and mandatory) training has now reached retirement age. How can a prime minister, with direct personal experience of the need for specialist input to allow our most challenged learners to succeed and develop in our schools, allow this situation to continue?
Nicola Grove (retired speech and language therapist)
How shortsighted of Nick Clegg to round on Michael Gove. Obviously having completely unqualified teachers is a great cost-saving scheme which pushes up the numbers in work. I look forward to having our local surgery open 24/7 once a similar scheme for recruiting unqualified doctors gets underway, and think how much could be saved by cutting out training for frontline troops. It seems shameful to waste money on training soldiers who might be killed anyway. Mr Clegg will never raise his party’s poll ratings into double figures if he carries on with this sort of ungrateful carping. He should be ashamed of himself, but not perhaps as ashamed as he should be of the fact that it has taken him this long to realise the damage that is being done, and comment upon it publicly.
Dick Harris
Nick Clegg is right to criticise Michael Gove’s ideologically driven free schools programme. The cost to the taxpayer and to the children’s education at Al-Madinah, suggests that there is no such thing as a free school.
Stan Labovitch
The Liberal Democrats seem at last to be waking up to their folly in not securing a schools portfolio directly after the 2010 election. That could have tempered Gove’s ideological experiment, which three years on is undermining national standards in teaching and the curriculum as well as dismantling England’s local democratic education base. The Liberal Democratic party has remained silent while allowing free schools to spring up without local oversight and many secondary schools and some primaries to opt out of local democratic accountability and into the hands of academy chains. The party has a lot of ground to make up, not just with its local activists, but with those many teachers nationwide who are committed to inclusive and democratic state education.
Professor Colin Richards
Spark Bridge

It is incorrect to imply as Animal Aid do in their letter (“Use humans, not animals, for research into treatments”) that medications for Parkinson’s were developed solely through human trials. All three of the drugs named involved research using animals in their development.
Levodopa was developed following Nobel prize-winning work in rabbits to understand dopamine, the chemical that is gradually lost in the brain in Parkinson’s, and became available as a drug in the 1960s. It remains the most effective treatment for Parkinson’s to this day and has transformed the lives of millions of people.
We all strive to minimise the need to use animals for research and are committed to improving welfare but animal science plays a vital role in developing life-saving treatments. We would not have discovered antibiotics, chemotherapy or medical procedures including the use of deep brain stimulation for the treatment of Parkinson’s, without the use of animals.
Professor Sir John Tooke
President, Academy of Medical Sciences
Dr Mark Downs
Chief executive, Society of Biology
Dr Kieran Breen
Director of research and development,
Parkinson’s UK
Sharmila Nebhrajani
Chief executive, Association of Medical Research Charities
Give men proper parental leave
Cherie Booth rightly observes that cultural assumptions about men and women’s roles remain outdated (“‘All women should have the chance to have a family and a career'”, News). Yet her prescription for improving the position of mothers ignores the pivotal role of fathers. One way in which society can “do more to enable mothers to play a full role at home and in the workplace” is to encourage and enable fathers to play a full role at home. The example of the Nordic countries shows that a key first step would be a period of parental leave for fathers on a “use it or lose it” basis. The coalition government proposed this but then got cold feet. I will be moving an amendment to the children and families bill to give fathers an independent right to parental leave.
Baroness (Ruth) Lister of Burtersett
House of Lords
London SW1
More TV awards for women
I’m sure Vanessa Thorpe’s article (“Comedy needs more female writers, says Veep’s Iannucci”, News) resonated with many people; it’s extremely encouraging that comedy writing is slowly becoming a more popular career choice for women.
The example of Drifters – the new comedy show from the producers of The Inbetweeners – is a great one. Written by Jessica Knappett, it’s up there with the best of them that we’ve had the pleasure to post-produce.
While Knappett felt no “sex imbalance in the writers’ room”, this may not be the case for many. It would be good to see more awards and events to celebrate the growing success of female writers, producers and directors.
Shelley Fox
Managing director, Suite TV
London W1
We let other states run the UK
From my first job in 1950 until my final retirement in 2012 my work was for British industry. I share Will Hutton’s shame at George Osborne’s courting of the Chinese (Comment). This country built the world’s first nuclear power station but now we have to get organisations from other countries to finance and manage the design and construction of a new power station.
One little appreciated consequence of the shutdown and sell-off of British companies is the closure of their R&D. Thus we no longer have the know-how to design a nuclear power station. Apart from the serious commercial implications of all this the extreme irony is that a government determined to sell off every state-owned enterprise is happy for nationalised companies to provide our energy and run our railways (German railways operate a significant number of trains here).
John Buekett
Kings Langley
Be proud of our courts
Nick Cohen states that “foreigners now make up almost two thirds of the litigants in the commercial court” as if it were a criticism of our current culture. But he is quite wrong on two counts (“Why Frieze art fair reflects London all too well”, Comment). First of all, I believe that a similar proportion has obtained since at least the second world war. Secondly, it is a matter of pride rather than shame. A very large numberof maritime and commodity contracts contain clauses which require disputes to be resolved according to English law and procedure. Parties having no connection with England are happy to leave the resolution of their disputes in particular to the commercial court, because of the richness of English law, the wide range of experienced lawyers and the integrity of the judiciary.  
The availability of the commercial court to foreigners gives rise to a huge source of revenue for the United Kingdom. I suspect that Nick Cohen had in mind the lamentable dispute between Messrs Berezovsky and Abramovitch; but it should not be overlooked that the Treasury would have benefited very substantially from tax on the fees received by the lawyers in that case  
Anthony Hallgarten QC
London NW1


DJ Taylor seems to feel that the 19th century was full of people with high morals whereas in the 21st century mammon is firmly in charge (20 October). In between he has a pop at trade unions who he seems to feel are only concerned with wages, suggesting an unfamiliarity with the work of the TUC bordering on total ignorance.
No doubt there are many in positions of authority today whose moral compass is either broken or never existed. On the other hand Victorian society quite happily – at the top – put up with the Workhouse. Perhaps we might reflect that a society whose dominant values are taken from market economics is always likely to struggle with high moral principles.
Keith Flett
London N17
I agree with Nick Clegg, that free schools and academies should only employ qualified teachers (“Clegg draws a line in the sand against Tories on schooling”, 20 October). But I also hope that in the Lib Dem election manifesto there is a pledge to require independent schools to employ only qualified teachers, and that all schools spend a certain percentage of their budget supporting professional development.
Kartar Uppal
West Bromwich, West Midlands
Your report about our licensing exam for general practice (“Trainee doctors held back by racism, warns expert”, 13 October) ignored the fact that the recent independent and official review of our exam commissioned by the General Medical Council made no finding of discrimination.
There are indeed differences in the pass rates between doctors from white ethnic backgrounds and those from minority ethnic backgrounds. The College has been very open about the differential pass rates for many years, and has commissioned and supported research to try and identify what the cause, or causes, may be.
As an organisation committed to equality and diversity, we take multiple steps to ensure our exam is fair, including making sure that all of our examiners and role players receive equality and diversity training. We have also ensured that there is a diversity of ethnicity and gender in our examiners and role players.
The College welcomed the recent GMC review and collaborated with those carrying out the work by sharing data and inviting them to observe our exam processes. It is our job to ensure that, through a fair process, all of the doctors who qualify as GPs meet the requisite standards for ensuring safe patient care. That is what the public expects of us, and that is what we deliver.
Dr Clare Gerada
Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners
London NW1
Privatisation of defence procurement (“MoD staff not properly consulted over semi-privatisation plan”, 20 Octobber) will do little to prevent the calamitous cost overruns that have become synonymous with big UK defence projects. It has been shown time and again that the private sector is unable and unwilling to stomach the financial risk associated with defence procurement. If the government wants to sort out its poor track record on defence procurement, a better place to start would be to improve speed and quality of decision-making within the Ministry of Defence, which means fewer jobs for the boys, fewer “special advisers”, an end to military officers running projects and more widespread use of truly independent consultants and industry experts.
Dr Mark Campbell-Roddis
Dunblane, Perthshire
Birmingham is NOT Britain’s second city (“What’s in a name?” 20 October). That’s Glasgow. Birmingham is England’s second city. No wonder the Scots want independence.
Ian K Watson
Carlisle, Cumbria
It’s ironic that female descendants of peers want modern ideas of equality applied to the inheritance of aristocratic titles (“The hares take on the heirs in Parliament”, 20 October). These titles are the product of medieval patronage and official favouritism. Fairness was never the intention. If they don’t like the system, these would-be heirs should campaign for social equality and justice, not for the perks of a privileged few.
Ian McKenzie


Bloody Sunday has left an indelible imprint
LAST week’s editorial “Time to draw a line under Bloody Sunday” was disappointing. The intended prosecutions should continue. Despite the passing of time, the murders, lies and cover-ups still cause deep divisions, and the former soldiers should go through the courts so that the truth can come out. I feel no sympathy that some are in their sixties and seventies; for decades they have enjoyed a better deal than those they murdered.
A late punishment is better than none at all. The soldiers lost control and it is simply not acceptable to absolve them of blame by saying they were “badly deployed and badly controlled”. To be an effective soldier requires control. The dead and their relatives deserve more.
John Reilly, London
Leading from the front
There is a well-known maxim: “There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers” (“Bloody Sunday troops face murder arrests”, “End to impunity for the men of 1 Para”, News, and “The guns have gone, old soldiers are dead, but the law grinds on”, Comment, last week). Soldiers do what they are ordered to do.
The uncharacteristic but appalling lack of leadership demonstrated by officers on Bloody Sunday in Londonderry is the real source of the massacre of 14 innocent, unarmed civilians. Let the soldiers be and address the culpability of the officers. 
Tom Wall, London SE1
Human cost
It is worth remembering that more British soldiers were killed in Northern Ireland than in the current Afghanistan conflict. Parachute Regiment combat troops should never be deployed against civilians.
Colin Campbell, Inverness
Troubling expense
While republican thugs and killers freely roam the streets and hold public office, and £200m has already been spent on “inquiries”, we now face another “lengthy and complex investigation”. This seems another cynical and politically inspired stunt. It is of no benefit to the public who have to foot the bills for the legal gravy train. We’ve had enough inquiries into the Troubles.
Ernie Boyd, Belfast
Nations apart
Bloody Sunday was a disaster that put an end to peaceful demonstrations in Northern Ireland and sent thousands into violent and criminal activities. A conflict that could have been solved by decent people on both sides dragged on for 20 more years. The then Irish taoiseach Jack Lynch is supposed to have said to the British prime minister, Edward Heath: “When will you people ever understand the Irish?” To judge from your editorial, I would say never.
Ena Keye, Terenure, Dublin 6
Crime and punishment
Your editorial provoked disbelief, despair and anger. These soldiers were in a position of responsibility, and were highly trained in the use of deadly weapons and identifying threat. They clearly faced unarmed civilians but chose to use deadly force and then to conceal the truth for 40 years, even to the point of blaming their victims.
For them not to be publicly held to account for their actions — and if necessary prosecuted — flies in the face of all that is just, humane and decent in a civilised world. Had Bloody Sunday happened in any other part of the UK, I imagine the backlash would have been catastrophic for the government.
Raymond Michael Cranley, Baldoyle, Dublin 13
Line of fire
Let us drop the myth that the army was not fired on during Bloody Sunday. It’s easy to forgive our soldiers for losing control in the middle of a gun battle once in decades.
Patrick Walker, by email
Word of advice
Now might be the time to draw a line under Bloody Sunday. One way the world will know there was a cover-up is to ensure the word “widgery” gets its due place in the dictionary. As you say, Lord Widgery’s inquiry “erroneously concluded that the soldiers had been fired on first”.
Finbarr Slattery Killarney, Co Kerry
Double standards
Nationalists have recently laid, with great ceremony, a plaque commemorating Thomas Begley, who was killed when a bomb he was planting to blow up an Ulster Defence Association meeting exploded prematurely.
The nationalists want convictions after the Saville inquiry while not accepting any responsibility for their own actions. Justice is a two-way street. In our dash for peace and reconciliation we’ve never insisted Sinn Fein and the IRA go through the same process. We even let countless infringements by the Provisionals go unpunished. 
Christian Garswood, by email
No excuse
British troops fired into crowds of unarmed people who were running away or trying to shelter from the onslaught. Many were shot in the back or the head — several of them while attending to the dying or wounded. Shooting people in the back cannot be offset against other murders or wrongs. 
Hugh McKenna, Bournemouth

Applaud Osborne for reaching out to China
CAMILLA CAVENDISH is a decade too late (“That’s our children’s future you’re selling to China, Mr Osborne”, Comment, last week). In 13 years of a Labour government nothing was done to bridge the gap between coal and the next- generation nuclear power, or any other means of securing our future energy supplies.
Added to this was a dumbing-down in education, with “Mickey Mouse” courses replacing core subjects such as mathematics, physics, chemistry and computer technology. Meanwhile, France and Germany were powering ahead in engineering and nuclear sciences, and years before us had been tapping the markets in India and China.
George Osborne should be congratulated for confronting the problem, and taking the initiative to provide important employment and training for the next generation of nuclear physicists and engineers — always supposing that Michael Gove’s reforms succeed.
Sheila Jones, Evesham, Worcestershire
World power
Cavendish is spot-on. I was embarrassed to watch Osborne go to China, begging bowl in hand, and to learn that its totalitarian regime is to invest in this country’s critical infrastructure. It must be obvious to even the most simple-minded of our political class that the Chinese, with their new-found wealth giving them access to global commercial markets, are on a mission to take over the world. You only need to look at their activities in Africa for proof of this.
If we can no longer afford to build our own nuclear power stations, and the Chinese are to be our new best friends, then surely we no longer need Trident missiles, or GCHQ.
Kevin Hunt, Corsham, Wiltshire
Learning curve
When I was at university in the 1960s we always thought that optimists learnt Russian and pessimists learnt Chinese. How wrong we were.
Eric Richards, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear

Police out of order on Mitchell
AS A retired police officer, I say we can trust the force (“Can we trust the police?”, Focus, last week). However, I cannot believe that three Police Federation officers still deny, despite a tape recording, that Andrew Mitchell gave them an explanation of the row in Downing Street. They should be suspended, at least while further investigations are carried out. Mitchell has my sympathy.
David Lovell, Golberdon, Cornwall

Called to account
Your article highlighted the amount of compensation paid out by the Metropolitan police to settle complaints, a sum not dissimilar to that paid by the NHS, another public body seemingly in denial and considering itself above the law. The irony is that most of the people in power retain their jobs in spite of the fact that they failed to address the problems in the first place. 
Derrick Scholey, Sheffield

Work ethic 
Many Christians will be embarrassed by your article “Christian sues over Sabbath working” (News, last week). The caring professions and the emergency services require seven-day cover and most Christians working in these areas will surely see it as their prime responsibility to be a conscientious employee and a supportive colleague. This will include taking their turn for Sunday and other “unsociable” shifts. If they demand a right to be exempt from Sunday work, their colleagues, who might wish to share their Sundays with their families, will have to shoulder a greater burden. Can a Christian accept that with a clear conscience?
The Rev Dr John Harrod, Bodmin, Cornwall
Case for the defence
Azerbaijan is not a tyranny, or its president a tyrant (“SAS hired out to woo tyrant of Azerbaijan”, News, last week). There is long-standing defence co-operation between our countries and it should not come as a surprise that UK special forces train Azerbaijani counterparts. This is essential for further strengthening the Azerbaijani army, not for silencing domestic opposition, as you implied in the article.
Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Ambassador of Azerbaijan, London W8
Bridal train
You state that “Charles and Diana spent their wedding night at Northmore in Suffolk” (“Propping up princes for 50 years”, News Review, last week). I watched a train, said to have the newlyweds on board, bound for Broadlands, the Mountbatten estate near Romsey in Hampshire, which was put at their disposal for the start of a honeymoon.
Peter Robson, Basingstoke, Hampshire
Tolstoy story
Tarquin Hall writes that Mahatma Gandhi adopted the notion of celibacy from Leo Tolstoy (“The making of him”, Books, October 13). As a young man Tolstoy was dissolute, visited brothels and had affairs with serfs. Later his wife Sofia bore him 13 children. Hardly a celibate life. 
Sam Banik, London N10

An Oxbridge too far
Kate Spicer reports that the new Cambridge Brew House sits between three colleges: Christ Church, Sidney Sussex and Jesus (“Cheers! Coming soon to a boozer near you”, Magazine, last week). In that case the pub must be in Bedford, which is indeed central to all three, given that Christ Church is in Oxford.
Ann Keith, Grantchester, Cambridgeshire
False economy
In your article “Second-home owners bring huge benefits, says minister” (News, last week) Kris Hopkins, the new housing minister, dismisses suggestions that wealthy city- dwellers are fuelling the shortage of affordable housing in the countryside and says that they bring a catalogue of benefits, including generating jobs and boosting the wider economy. How? The only employment they might generate is for cleaners and gardeners and there is already a dire shortage of them in this neck of the woods. I suppose these workers — along with the cost of housing — will now become beyond our means. It would be sensible for Hopkins to give some thought to the fact that most Conservative constituencies are rural and to stop coming out with such nonsense.
Clive Cowen, Ramsden, Oxfordshire

John Cleese, comedian, 74; Francis Fukuyama, philosopher, 61; Glenn Hoddle, footballer, 56; Simon Le Bon, singer, 55; Joseph Medicine Crow, Native American historian, 100; Maria Mutola, athlete, 41; Kelly Osbourne, reality TV star, 29; Vanessa-Mae, violinist, 35

1914 birth of Dylan Thomas; 1958 Iskander Mirza, president of Pakistan, deposed in a coup; 1962 Major Rudolf Anderson of the US air force becomes the only person killed by enemy fire in the Cuban missile crisis when his U-2 is shot down; 1986 Big Bang: deregulation of the London stock exchange

Corrections and clarifications
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SIR – As I looked through this week’s issue of the Radio Times I added up the hours that were dedicated to cookery programmes.
They accounted for the grand total of 28 hours. I am interested in food as much as anyone, but surely this is too much.
Could that be why we have so many obese people in this country?
John Roberts
Taunton, Somerset
SIR – The proof of the pudding is in the size of the audience.
Bob Harvey
Oxted, Surrey

SIR – Lieutenant General Sir Paul Newton is rightly fighting for the retention of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, and there is a good case for it.
But you also reported that General Sir Nick Houghton, the Chief of the Defence Staff, was again criticising those who complained of the demise of the Territorial Army as taking a “Victorian” view of military power.
Whoever advised the MoD to scrap the brand “Territorial Army” in favour of “Army Reserves” has taken no account of history. The TA has served the nation well since it was formed in 1908. Its role has always been to support the regular force, not to replace it. Moves in the past to integrate the two have failed.
As the Army Commander’s adviser in the early Eighties I was sent to brief the secretary of state and the minister for the Army on why their ideas on integration wouldn’t work. It was then proposed instead to raise the establishment of the TA and Home Service Force to 94,500. When the Berlin Wall came down, we had more than 85,000, with plans to reach the target.
As a result of the end of the Cold War, the then secretary of state and the Chief of the General Staff said that there was no role for the TA. They were immediately told that there were at least four: support to the regular Army; duties in aid of the civil power; defence of the realm; and the unexpected.
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Stuffed with a diet of cookery programmes
26 Oct 2013
All have come to pass since. Well over 20,000 Territorials have served in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan, many with distinction. The Army Medical Services in particular would have found it hard to cope without help from the TA.
The present plan to drop the brand, disband numerous units and unnecessarily move others will not raise the Army reserve strength by 2020 (or later) to anywhere near the 30,000 projected.
And whoever thought of privatising recruiting? Current plans will not attract recruits or the support of many employers.
The plans for both the regular Army and its reserves should be halted before further damage takes place.
Edward Wilkinson
Brigadier TA, 1982-85
Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire
SIR – I write as an ex-Fusilier among 500 who proudly marched to Parliament last week. If the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers and other regular units are cast aside before recruitment of reservists to replace them is achieved, then the Army’s necessary fighting strength as decided in 2010 will not be reached.
Recruiting (now privatised so that there are no longer local recruiting offices) is failing miserably. Ending up with a reserve Army of 30,000 is a pipe dream.
The right thing to do is at least suspend regular unit disbandment plans immediately, pending the final outcome of the recruitment fiasco.
Richard Adams
Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire
The next King
SIR – It would appear that the Prince of Wales is in no rush to take on the role of monarch.
The solution is simple. He could step aside and allow the Duke of Cambridge to become heir apparent to the throne.
Prince Charles could then continue with his many interests for the rest of his life knowing that our monarchy will be in very capable and popular hands.
If he took this route, we should admire his generosity and common sense.
Michael Clemson
Horsmonden, Kent
SIR – I remember one of those present in 1894 when the four monarchs, Victoria and the future Edward VII, George V and Edward VIII were recorded on film. My great-grandfather, Robert Box of the firm W & D Downey’s, took that photograph. He died in 1936 aged 96.
John Cheetham
Frome, Somerset
Mrs Merkel’s phone
SIR – Angela Merkel grew up in one of the worst examples of a Communist police state. With the demise of the old East Germany, she could have been forgiven for thinking she had left all that behind.
Now, as Chancellor of a united Germany, she finds herself spied on by intelligence services working for the leaders of the free world, who she thought were her allies.
William Cook
Blandford Forum, Dorset
SIR – Mrs Merkel should accept General de Gaulle’s maxim: “States do not have friends, only interests.”
Charles Efford
London E14
SIR – The notion that world leaders are the sort of people we should intuitively trust is ridiculous. A boss once advised me that if ever I had something to tell someone which I really, truly didn’t want others to overhear, I should never use a telephone.
Thus far I have managed my stroll through time without having to put off any telephone call. True, a few conversations would make me blush, but no more than that. However, I have never forgotten that advice from a rather clever boss.
Why, then, are national leaders so stupid?
Huw Beynon
Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire
Inventive packaging
SIR – When Sir James Dyson has finished designing all manner of silent fans, maybe he could turn his talents to packaging – and start by inventing a yoghurt pot foil cover that, when removed, does not squirt its contents all over the opener.
John Fingleton
London W1
Squirrelling spuds
SIR – A great waste of food can occur with potatoes. Having run out, I urgently bought a
2.5-kilo bag from Asda last weekend. Their date for display was until October 21. Any unsold bags will have been dumped.
But yesterday I bought a 56lb sack of potatoes from my local farmer, which will last me all winter without any waste.
Alan J Burton
Shotley, Suffolk
SIR – I am offended by the thousands of pumpkins on sale for Hallowe’en. Their sole purpose is to be hacked about and left to rot after this mindless celebration.
John Alcock
Cheadle, Staffordshire
Autism and education
SIR – Next week, members of the House of Lords will discuss a crucial amendment to the Children and Families Bill. If adopted, it will mean local authorities will make decisions about whether to support disabled young people in education based on their individual needs and aspirations, and not on their age.
Young people with disabilities such as autism can and do thrive and succeed in further education. Yet currently, fewer than one in four access further education and fewer still go on to live independently.
The Children and Families Bill is the Government’s chance to reverse these trends. With the right education and support, disabled young people can become more economically active, and there is a long-term benefit to the state, to their own health and wellbeing, and to their families.
Jolanta Lasota
Chief executive, Ambitious about Autism
Liz Sayce
Chief executive, Disability Rights UK
Di Roberts
Chairman, Association of Colleges
Alison Boulton
Chief executive, Association of National Specialist Colleges: Natspec
Grangemouth scuttle
SIR – It is useful to be reminded that Grangemouth is part of a complex world-wide industry, where the circumstances have changed radically over the past half-century. Tired old jibes about heartless capitalist fat cats, or trade union chiefs recommending that their members should cut off their noses to save their face, are not helpful.
But did anyone actually explain the complexity of the subject to the workforce? Why was Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, scuttling down at the last minute to deal with a subject that should have been at the forefront of his agenda long since?
Brian Stewart
Crieff, Perthshire
Society countdown
SIR – The 1570 and 1535 Societies can remain but mere fledglings against the 1525 Society of Sedbergh School. The society calls for legacies from old boys and girls, helping Sedbergh power its way through the 488th year since its foundation.
Dutch auction over?
Bill Sykes
Malmesbury, Wiltshire
Wearing a sweater at home harms no one
SIR – Anyone over the age of 60 should be used to cold homes. In our childhood, only the very rich had central heating.
The advice to put on a woolly jumper is very sound – when I go into other people’s houses, I have to remove my jumper as it is too hot.
It is common sense only to heat the rooms that are in regular use. As a child, my bedroom was always cold and I am none the worse for this.
Miles Garnett
Northallerton, North Yorkshire
SIR – The advice to the elderly by Public Health England to heat only their living rooms during the winter daytime is not terribly helpful.
All of us have to be careful in limiting heating to certain rooms during the bleak mid-winter because bathrooms and kitchens – which have water supplies running to and from them – could get frozen and then bring absolute chaos to an affected household.
Ron Kirby
SIR – When I was feeling the cold in my snow-hole in Norway, a little vigorous exercise, a Mars bar and a mug of tea always brought on a glow that lasted for a few hours. It still works 40 years later.
Brian Farmer
Chelmsford, Essex
SIR – Perhaps MPs would like to join those this winter who are only able to afford to heat one room during the day and their bedrooms for an hour at night.
Deirdre Lay
Guildford, Surrey
SIR – The simple solution to reducing domestic energy costs is for the Government to remove the 5 per cent VAT on all bills. Or is this also forbidden by EU regulations?
Jack Hobson

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