Hair

Hair 26th April 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge is sent back to France. The are only supposed to be dropping off the Todd Hunter-Browns for a visit. But Lieutenant Queeg decides to ‘blow soot; three months worth and the pretty little French town is covered in it, Priceless.
We have trip to the hairdressers and the bank and supermarket for me busy morning.
Upstairs Downstairs Georgenia goes on a Scavanger hunt and there is a car accident.
I win at Scrabble today and get just over 400, Mary might get her revenge tomorrow, I hope.

Obituary:

Professor Barrie Dobson
Professor Barrie Dobson, who has died aged 81, was a medieval historian with a particular interest in monasticism and the northern Church, in particular the diocese of York; he was also an authority on the legend of Robin Hood.

Professor Barrie Dobson 
5:38PM BST 25 Apr 2013
Dobson spent 25 years — as lecturer, Reader and finally Professor of History — at the University of York, then occupied the Chair of Medieval History at Cambridge from 1988 to 1999.
It was at York that he first became interested in England’s most celebrated outlaw: “ Suddenly it occurred to me that very little academic work had been done on Robin Hood’s myth, that [he] might make a very interesting subject to teach. So, I taught it to second year students quite a bit.”
In 1977 — with his friend John Taylor, a medieval historian at the University of Leeds — he published Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw, a collection of ballads and poems that has since been hailed as a classic of Robin Hood scholarship. Dobson and Taylor sought to illustrate the development of the legend through a selection of ballad texts and other sources, and at the same time explore its origins.
Was there ever a real Robin Hood? In an interview in 1997 Dobson said: “All one can say now with some degree of certainty is by about the middle of the 13th century, you seem to know that the name Robin Hood, or ‘Robehod’, had emerged as a compound surname for robbers, often a surname they adopted themselves.”
Either Robin Hood was the creation of “some storyteller” or “singer of rhymes”; or there had been a real robber so successful that stories had begun to be woven around his exploits. “He would, of course, almost certainly not be called Robin Hood literally,” Dobson said. “That wouldn’t be his real name, because it would have been almost inconceivable that with the name Robehod somebody really called Robin Hood would adopt the same name.” Dobson speculated that the Robin Hood we have come to know had probably been a highwayman operating north of Doncaster between 1300 and 1340 — a time when there were particularly rich pickings in that area.
Explaining the character’s enduring appeal, Dobson cited “the theme of the outlaw… who brings justice back to the society which had become corrupted by the Sheriff of Nottingham, or whoever it might have been”. He added: “Obviously the theme of the forest Arcadia is a sort of perennial one… It is just as the forests, the woodland, disappear, probably in the 15th and 16th centuries, more or less, that this Arcadian legend begins.”
Richard Barrie Dobson was born at Stockton-on-Tees on November 3 1931, but spent his early years in South America, where his father worked for the Great Western Railway of Brazil. He was educated at Barnard Castle School in Teesdale and did National Service in the Army, serving in Malaya during the Emergency. He then went up to Wadham College, Oxford, studying under AF Thompson and Lawrence Stone. After taking a First in Modern History he secured a PhD in 1963 with his thesis on The Priory of Durham in the time of Prior John Wessington.
From 1958 to 1964 Dobson lectured in Medieval History at St Andrews before moving to York; he served as the university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor from 1984 to 1987.
As Professor of Medieval History at Cambridge, Dobson was regarded as an excellent tutor and lecturer. He attempted to ensure that the history of the Church was given due recognition in Part I of the History Tripos; ran a Special Subject on late medieval towns; and presided over the new MPhil in Medieval History which had been introduced by his predecessor, Sir James Holt.
Dobson’s publications included The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 (1971), in which he brought together a wealth of documentation to illustrate both the course of the revolt and its subsequent interpretations; The Jews of Medieval York and the Massacre of March 1190 (1974); Church and Society in the Medieval North of England (1996); and a collection of essays, The Jewish Communities of Medieval England (2010). He was also editor of The Church, Politics and Patronage in the Fifteenth Century (1984).
He was president of the Jewish Historical Society of England (1990–91) and of the Ecclesiastical History Society (1991–92). From 1990 to 1996 he was chairman of York Archaeological Trust, illustrating his concern with urban history and the way in which the city transformed medieval society.
Dobson was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 1972 and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1979. He was also a Fellow of Christ’s College, Cambridge, and was elected to the British Academy in 1988.
As well as being a keen fell-walker, Dobson enjoyed cinema (in 1968 he helped to launch a branch of the National Film Theatre in York) and listening to modern jazz.
He married, in 1959, Narda Leon, with whom he had a son and a daughter.
Professor Barrie Dobson, born November 3 1931, died March 29 2013

Guardian

The announcement of a catch-up campaign to increase MMR vaccination in children and teenagers comes not a moment too soon (Report, 25 April). While attention has rightly been focused on the number of measles cases, it is important to remember that the vaccine also protects against mumps and rubella. The founders of Sense were parents whose children were born deaf-blind as a result of congenital rubella syndrome and we believe that urgent action is needed to prevent outbreaks of rubella, as well as measles. Indeed, last year saw the highest number of rubella cases since 1999. If contracted by a woman who is pregnant, rubella causes babies to be born with combined sight and hearing loss, along with life threatening heart conditions and a long list of other health conditions. It is important that MMR is offered beyond childhood, to teenagers at school, and that every opportunity to discuss immunisation as widely as possible.
Joff McGill
Lead on rubella and immunisation, Sense

As a lifelong Evertonian, I am delighted that Luis Suárez will miss the forthcoming derby match. I acknowledge that this is a compliment to his ability as a footballer. But I cannot help feeling that the reaction to the biting incident is hysterical. Unpleasant as his action was, Branislav Ivanovic will no doubt be fit to turn out for Chelsea’s next match, whereas victims of over-the-ball challenges can have their careers shortened. Is he paying an excessive penalty for being of South American origin?
Brian Ronson
Liverpool
• While it is not in dispute that the behaviour of Luis Suárez is totally unacceptable, the spectacle of the media pack like a gang of hounds after a fox is unedifying. A curious absence is what should have been the most sought-after picture: the bitten shoulder of the victim, as was the case with Holyfield’s ear after a chunk of it had been chewed off by Mike Tyson. A further intemperate  attack by Andy Hunter (22 April) damns Liverpool FC for allegedly protecting Suárez. On the same page was the following report: “Ivanovic was checked for injuries after the game, there were none – and the Met police officer who visited the club’s training ground looked for bite marks or bruises. He too saw nothing.”
We witnessed the appearance of a bite, which actually didn’t happen. Even Suárez himself, by correctly apologising, began to believe the hatred unleashed against him. We should guard against being stampeded into judgment by a crazed media campaign, particularly when Liverpool is involved, egged on by TV pundits who, in the past, have broken players’ legs and put paid to their careers.
Tony Mulhearn
Liverpool
• When he heard that Suárez’s biting was the act of a three-year-old, my three-year-old grandson was very indignant. He said he used to bite people when he was two, but he’s too grown up to do that now.
Peter Russell
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

As a volunteer in a food bank (Report, 24 April) I can confirm our worries about how the independence of the charity-organised banks can be maintained if jobcentres and local authorities abdicate their responsbility to assisting those on benefits who’ve already been subject to cuts under the new Welfare Act. Not only have social-fund loans been abolished but we now have the DWP deliberately attempting to hide the benefit loans they can make when there is delay in payments. The food banks cannot cope with this new onslaught created by the callous nature of the implementation of this act.
Terry Thomas
London
• Sandra Jones writes (23 April) that “6.6% of students at these universities in the decade to 2006 were black Caribbean or African”. Why “only”? By 2011 the black Caribbean and African minority was 3.3%, probably much less in the decade to 2006. Ms James seems to be suggesting that they were under-represented. This does not seem to be the case.
MW Wheeler
London
• I shed no tears for Jim McCormick, unscrupulous peddler of dowsing devices for bomb detection (Letters, 25 April). But I would rather have seen him convicted for corruption than fraud – what about caveat emptor and the now shaky legal status of purveyors of homeopathic medicines, palm readers, faith healers, not to mention the elephant in the room, the established churches?
Andy Smith
Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey
• You report (25 April) Len McCluskey claimed Ed Miliband would be “cast into the dustbin of history” if he is seduced by the Blairites. Sounds like fair comment.
David Melvin
Ashton under Lyne, Greater Manchester
• So, Daimler profits fell despite “bumper sales” to the Far East (Survey raises German recession fears, 25 April)? Who makes the rest of the car?
Martin Jeeves
Cardiff
• I was alarmed to hear that the college principal is going to pull the plug on the live shark in a tank (Report, 25 April). Sounds like very bad news for the shark.
David Gerrard
Hove, East Sussex

Your recent article on government plans to reduce criminal legal aid for prison law cases (Society, 24 April) is confused about the type of cases where prisoners would no longer be able to obtain a publicly funded lawyer. Our consultation paper proposes stopping legal aid where issues can be dealt with by the existing complaints system – like a prisoner appealing against the category of prison in which they are held, or a decision to move them to a different section within a prison, or taking legal action over issues like visits or correspondence. The prison discipline procedures and probation complaints system are also available for issues to be resolved efficiently and effectively. We believe our proposal will save taxpayers about £4m and reduce by about 11,000 the number of legally aided cases brought by prisoners each year.
All prisoners have access to the internal prisoner complaints system with a clear set of procedures to ensure cases are dealt with appropriately. Where the internal complaints system has been exhausted, a prisoner can refer an issue to the independent prisons and probation ombudsman or the relevant independent monitoring board. Cases where prisoners are subject to serious disciplinary procedures or where their actual detention is being reviewed – such as at a parole hearing – will still receive legal aid. Your article confuses these new proposals with other measures, brought into effect in 2010, which put in place restrictions on funding for treatment cases that now require prior approval by the Legal Aid Agency. It is right that legal aid should be preserved for those most in need and where a lawyer’s services are genuinely necessary. There is clearly more to do to get a grip on public spending in this area.
Tom McNally
Justice minister
• The Ministry of Justice intends to remove client choice in criminal cases to minimise the risk of standards becoming too high. The plan is to introduce measures that ensure the level of service provided by criminal lawyers does not exceed “acceptable” levels. In its consultation document, Transforming Legal Aid: Delivering a more credible and efficient system, the ministry proposes removing a citizen’s access to the solicitor of their choice.
The legal profession believes that client choice is the best way of ensuring standards remain high, because a lawyer’s livelihood depends upon their reputation. Yet tucked away in the impact assessment, the MoJ reveals its hand in true Gerald Ratner style. It says “client choice may in certain circumstances give an incentive to provide a legal aid service of the level of quality that is above the acceptable level… as firms compete on quality rather than price” and goes on to say that removing client choice is likely to “reduce the extent [to which] firms offer services above the acceptable level”. I had to re-read this section several times before it became clearto me that the MoJ want defence lawyers to perform at acceptable levels but no higher.
So don’t home-visit a disabled person, don’t track down alibi witnesses who could prove your client’s innocence, and certainly don’t wade through unused material for that silver bullet that will secure your innocent client’s acquittal. In its proposals the MoJ is displaying a callous disregard for the rights of its citizens, as client choice and quality of legal service have been sacrificed on the altar of price competition.
Matthew Claughton
Managing partner, Olliers solicitors, Manchester
• Chris Grayling claims there were only 54 “successful” immigration judicial reviews in 2011 (Report, 23 April). In 2011 our small practice lodged 41 immigration judicial review applications. Of these, 38 (over 92%) were either won in court or (more often) settled out of court in our favour.
Margaret Finch and Sean Mcloughlin
Directors, TRP solicitors, Birmingham

Michael Gove treats children as machines that can be made to do more “work” to keep up with east Asia (Letters, 20 April). Nothing in his argument for longer school days and shorter holidays is about the good of children. This is not his concern. To support his plans he gives two arguments: one that they would improve the children’s “performance”; the second that they would help working parents and be family friendly. Both are arguments about the economy’s needs and not about children’s welfare.
Most children are tired after school, in need of fresh air, food, time to play and sometimes time to debrief with an adult. Time outside school is vital for children to digest what has been learnt in school and to do a different kind of learning. This supports the internal life of children, where meaning can be forged and come to be relied on, where thinking can develop and where the moral sense can grow. We should be supporting children to flourish not exploiting them. I believe that his perverse project will not even help him in his objective.
His second argument sacrifices children to economic interests. With high unemployment, parents could mostly be working shorter hours. If long hours are necessary, we should at least recognise that this is not in the interest of children, who mostly thrive with their families. And if we do not realise that, we are falling for propaganda. The gap between private and state schools would become greater, with state schools more like workhouses. Generous holidays are essential for children, and if Gove cannot remember, or worse still, never had, these essential experiences and cannot see his duty to protect them, we are in unsafe hands.
Margaret Cohen
Child psychotherapist, London
• With no knowledge of early education or child development, Elizabeth Truss parades her personal views as only ones that matter (Nurseries give toddlers no sense of purpose, says minister, 22 April). I agree with Truss – better-qualified staff do make a difference. Where our opinions diverge is her vision of the behaviour for two-, three- and four-year-olds. I cannot think of anything worse than a room full of toddlers with impeccable manners. Working in early years means getting messy, being physical and, more important than that, rolling with mood swings.
Talk about children taking turns and saying hello to the teacher when they enter the room is nonsense. Promoting positive behaviour is such an integral part of nursery life that it’s laughable to hear this being highlighted as a problem. What she calls chaos, we call a rich and varied curriculum; her “lack of purpose”, we believe to be the most vital element to learning – play; and what she calls “unstructured play” is anybody’s guess.
Working in a nursery is a real team effort; leadership is hugely important in making sure there is a culture of openness, support and reflection. One of the failings, I believe, is that this passion, commitment and dedication is not always obvious to parents. If that was the only thing to come of this review then that might be something.
Julie Lightley
The Village Nursery, Manchester
• Research indicates that nurturing young children’s positive behaviour is closely linked with responsive parenting and sensitive and predictable attachment behaviour with the child’s prime and secondary carers. In recognising the uniqueness of each child, and the need for key persons in supporting children and their families in early years provision, the sector works within the early years foundation stage framework. Ofsted findings indicate steady improvements across all areas of learning and development. So why this type of attack at this moment?
Comparing English nursery provision with France does not take into account fundamental cultural differences, both in parenting styles and the type of provision. Most French nurseries are state-controlled. Over 80% of the English pre-schools and daycare centres operate within the private and voluntary sector. It is the choice of a parent where and when they send their children to nursery. As such the nursery works in close partnership with parents in supporting the child’s learning and development.
As Montessorians we are committed to respectful relationships in our settings. The respect which we have for the child, the family and each other is a fundamental component of the child’s nursery experience. Children attending Montessori schools benefit from an atmosphere which promotes calm, polite behaviour modelled by the adults.
This is also an important aspect of our Montessori teacher training. If we wish to promote courtesy in young children’s behaviour we need to start with the adults. What a pity the minister did not consider this respectful approach before attacking the very people on whom she relies to deliver her vision for the future of childcare.
Barbara Isaacs
Director of national strategies, Montessori

Independent

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After the extravagance of the state funeral, the arrival of the tax cut for millionaires, the £300-a-day fee for turning up at the House of Lords, along with subsidised food and travel thrown in (and the heating perhaps?) along come the Liberal Democrats supporting an attack on the winter-fuel allowance for pensioners.
Set this alongside one of the most extended winters of recent 1years, and the arrival of some inflated energy bills. It would be most welcome if the Labour Party had something to say about this – they are missing an open goal here.
John Humphreys, Milton Keynes
Free bus passes, free prescriptions and winter fuel payments kick in at the age of 60, presumably because this was once the discriminatory female age of retirement. But at 60, most people are still working – or at least, should expect to be working. It is perverse for any government faced with rising life expectancy to encourage anyone to think that they should stop at 60 and ride the buses.
It is hypocritical to call something a “winter fuel payment” when it is paid out not when winter fuel bills arrive but completely unconditionally a couple of weeks before Christmas. It is actually bad for older people’s health to give them free prescriptions – there is ample evidence that GPs overprescribe to this age group, dazed and confused from too many free pills.
The political parties will stand up to benefits scroungers but not to the over-sixties, the worst of the lot when it comes to special pleading. Of course, the root problem is the failure to have put an adequate state pension in place to support those who have actually retired and an adequate insurance scheme to fund care for the elderly frail.
But that is the consequence of the weakness of politicians who have refused for decades to tell the truth about what a pension or good quality care costs. Much easier for them to hand out small bribes to those who will vote rather than care for those who are beyond voting.
Trevor Pateman, Brighton
Andrew Grice (25 April) says “so far older people have been relatively unscathed by the Coalition cuts”. But anyone living off the interest on their savings – and that is a lot of older people – has seen their income fall by 90 per cent. Unscathed?
Conrad Cork, Leicester
Schools can’t replace parents, Mr Gove
I am the headteacher of a primary school and I am also married to a headteacher and Mr Gove’s latest nonsense regarding the need for longer school days and shorter holidays has provoked me into writing.
Mr Gove underestimates the family and its role in educating a child. For too long policy has placed the onus on schools to provide the child with every attribute necessary to access adult life. This has in turn disempowered parents. There has been a noticeable increase in the number of children coming to school without being toilet trained, with poor speech and language skills and incapable of any independent tasks; the expectation is that schools will take responsibility for these issues. This is not the answer.
Providing longer school hours and shorter holidays will reduce the amount of time spent with family and further diminish the role of parents within society. Children need time to play, explore and learn about human relationships beyond school. Populating the global society with creative, intelligent and highly motivated and flexible individuals is surely Mr Gove’s ambition, but such people do not evolve from a childhood spent entirely in the classroom.
I have spent some time in schools in China, which is one of the education systems that Mr Gove would have us replicate. Talk to educationalists in China and they will tell you they want to learn from the UK about creativity, and recognise that their power within global society and commerce is affected by this current deficit within their curriculum. There is a great deal of work being undertaken between China and the UK in order that we learn from each other – but that does not mean that either system should forgo its successes.
D Eveleigh, Glastonbury, Somerset
Mr Gove is to be congratulated on getting a massive 25 per cent or more increase in the budget for teacher salaries in these straitened economic times. Twenty-five per cent is just the increase in teaching hours that follows from lengthening the school day by three-quarters of an hour and, say, adding a week and a half to each term.
And putting massive increased demand in the labour market will (classical economics) push up average salaries, particularly when – after adding in preparation, marking and meetings – teachers already work more hours over a year than professionals in industry.
Or does he think that teachers will do this for free and at no cost to the quality of teaching?
Sean Barker, Bristol
It is astonishing that the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has not been answering Freedom of Information requests put to him in a timely fashion. Surely, the factual information that he is being asked to divulge should have been simple for him to memorise and then regurgitate within the allocated time. Still, when the information finally does come out, at least we will be able to be confident that he hasn’t been in any way creative with it.
Julian Self, Milton Keynes
Too poor to bury their dead 
Much has been made of the cost of Baroness Thatcher’s funeral. It was an appropriate mark of respect and successive governments were right to set aside the money to fund it. However I find it difficult to understand how the same successive governments can fail to find similar resources to enable the poorest in our society to bid even a modest farewell to their loved ones.
Funeral poverty is a major challenge facing an increasing number of people. The average cost of a funeral is in excess of £3,000 and rising. Yet the Government’s Social Fund Funeral Payment, which is designed to help the poorest meet the costs of a funeral, has been capped at £700 plus disbursements since 2004.
Over 35,000 people received this assistance in 2012 – but 31,000 were rejected. Even those who are successful end up with an average shortfall of around £1,300.
If £10m – the same amount as was set aside for Baroness Thatcher’s funeral – were put into the Fund today, an extra 14,285 people would receive the £700 funeral payment, or the payment could be increased to £985, the first cost-of-living rise in the payment for almost 10 years.
This would help people at a time of intense distress and ease the burden on local authorities, who have to meet the basic costs if no one else will, and on funeral directors who are often forced to meet any shortfall.
lan Slater, Chief Executive Officer, National Association of Funeral Directors, Solihull, West Midlands
Funny isn’t it: the arts must make an economic case for state funding, but state funerals don’t have to.
Gordon Whitehead, Scarborough
Suarez’s bite wasn’t so bad
I was very pleased to see Ian Herbert (24 April) bringing some rationality to the Suarez affair. I think he is the only reporter to do so. I totally agree that there is no parallel between Tyson’s bite and the Suarez bite. I have also asked the question before about just how independent the FA’s regulatory commission is, especially when the FA has stated that the standard punishment of three matches is insufficient in this circumstance, before the commission  has even met.
Jack Cockin, Gauldry, Fife
Malcom Howard (letters, 25 April) claims that Luis Suarez would be on a flight home if he played for Manchester United as “only Sir Alex Ferguson realises football is a team game”. In doing so he ignores Eric Cantona’s assault on a spectator, Roy Keane’s attempt to injure an opposing player, and Rio Ferdinand’s avoidance of a mandatory drug test. In all these cases the players involved were accommodated by the Old Trafford manager despite their transgressions.  Could it just be that he considered their loss would be too great for his team to bear?
John Holmes, London W4
Golf clubs stuck in previous century
How on earth can Peter Dawson, chief executive of the R&A, defend the indefensible (“R&A defends men-only clubs”, 24 April)? While many golf clubs are losing members of both sexes in the current recession, his attitude, clearly stuck from early in the last century, is unhelpful.
Surely, Muirfield hosting this year’s Open and the other two “men only” clubs on the Open rota could and should have been instructed to allow women members before the honour of hosting the Open was bestowed on them? It’s not “bullying” as he says; it’s normal behaviour in the 21st century.
Dr Michael Reynolds, Buxton, Derbyshire
Flaws in Osborne’s ‘household’ plan
Economically, the points that Mr Osborne and the supporters of his policy missed were: unemployed people can spend very little, thus failing to contribute to demand in the economy.
People still in employment but afraid of losing their jobs will stop spending with an eye on an imminent rainy day, thus also failing to contribute to demand. If we must use “household” terms, we are trying to pay off debts quickly while and by reducing our ability to do so.
Cole Davis, Elets, Russia
Quacks and fakes
I note that James McCormick has been convicted and fined for selling bomb detectors which don’t work and lack any basis in science (23 April). I suppose it is naive of me to expect those who peddle homeopathic and like quack remedies to be similarly treated?
Tom Saul, Hereford
Lost counties
The annotated map of the lost counties of Britain (24 April) notes the demise of the  herring industry in the 19th century in Rutland. It should also have pointed out the uniqueness of that industry in that it caught only the red herring.
Anthony Clenent, Bury St Edmunds,  Suffolk 
Rude questions?
Jeremy Paxman considered it quite OK to ask two women on Newsnight, on 24 April, why they had had cosmetic surgery; yet I’m sure he would never dare ask David Beckham why he covered himself  in tattoos.    
Brian Christley, Abergele, Conwy

Times

Cyclists should be treated with the respect by other road users, but roads need to be maintained to create a safe cycling environment
Sir, I agree that cyclists need to be given the full courtesies of the road. However, I find it extraordinary that training comes so low on the list of things needed to be done (“Transforming the streets: Parliament’s key proposals”, Apr 24). Drivers and motorcyclists have to be trained, and must pass a test to use the roads. Until they have passed the Driving Standards Agency test, they are restricted in their activities.
A primary requirement for those using the carriageways ought to be training to an agreed standard. Should not supporters of proposed legislation (of whom I am one) be supporters of training as the first item on the agenda? Using a car on the roads is not an absolute entitlement, it is a privilege granted under licence.
Dr Paul P. J. Sheppy
Abingdon, Oxon
Sir, By far the most dangerous things encountered on my daily 15-minute cycle journey to work are not other vehicles but craters, bumps and cracks left by the shoddy filling-in and superficial resurfacing of holes left by utility works. Poor road surfaces seriously endanger cyclists, upending them or forcing them to swerve into the path of traffic. A co-ordinated policy to force local authorities and utility companies to address this issue would significantly improve cycle road safety.
Stuart Hornett
London WC2
Sir, I am one of those cyclists Sheila Taylor refers to (letter, Apr 25) who sometimes cycles on the road rather than a cycle track. My main reason is the bad design of such tracks. Many are punctuated by side roads and driveways where I must give way. This slows me down unacceptably. Also, cycle tracks are often narrow, poorly surfaced, littered with broken glass, interrupted by trees and street furniture, and shared with pedestrians. As the main purpose of my cycling is to get fast from A to B in an urban setting, the road is often the best option.
Andrew Bethune
St Ives, Cambs
Sir, To answer Sheila Taylor, most cycle paths are poorly designed and turn cyclists into second-class road users. I use a typical narrow path near Gatwick which is shared with pedestrians. In 700m I have to stop at five junctions or risk being hit by the cars going into those junctions; cars coming out block the cycle path when they stop at the white line. Slowing and accelerating again in a car requires no physical effort but is very tiring on a bike. Also pedestrians may be scared by a large man passing them on a narrow path at 15mph. Shared cycle paths do not work, and that is why I do not use them.
Adrian Pope
Harpford, Devon
Sir, I grew up in the Netherlands so the benefits of cycling are clear to me. However, in your manifesto I am missing the provision of staffed but relatively inexpensive ways to keep your bicycle safe. Our family had two bikes stolen and one trashed within a year, as there were no suitable provisions for bike “parking” in the town in which we live. We purchased various locks costing up to £35, but these proved no deterrent.
Cora Hackwith
Maidenhead, Berks

Although they arts certainly have an economic impact is what they do to our imaginations rather than to our pockets that counts
Sir, It is dispiriting to hear the Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, retreading ancient arguments when she claims “when times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture’s economic impact” (report, Apr 24).
After John Myerscough’s report, The Economic Importance of the Arts, was published in 1988, the Arts Council of Great Britain held a seminar to which many of the country’s leading economists were invited. The report argued that the arts were of great value to the British economy and that government should take this into account when determining the level of public subsidy. The implication was that the greater the subsidy, the greater the economic benefit.
We at the Arts Council hoped that this line of thought would win support from the Treasury. Interestingly, a Treasury person at the meeting said the Arts Council should stop bothering him and his colleagues with these kinds of argument. The Council’s grant-in-aid was given because the arts were a good in themselves. The state financed them because of their intrinsic value. As I recollect, the economists did their traditional best throughout the seminar to disagree with one another, but this intervention was received with nodding heads.
It is of course true that the arts operate in an economic context and so must have an economic impact of some kind, but it has become clear over the years that this is limited. For example, while the publicly funded arts sector can indeed create jobs, it is an expensive means of doing so.
Oscar Wilde said that “all art is quite useless”. That goes too far in the opposite direction. While we can agree that theatres contribute to a town’s night life and museums earn money with their restaurants, this is not really why we value them. It is what the arts do to our imaginations rather than to our pockets that counts.
Anthony Everitt
Secretary-General, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1990-94
Wivenhoe, Essex

We need nuclear weapons to guarantee that no state will use nuclear bombs against us and to retain our UN Security Council seat
Sir, General Sir Hugh Beach opposed the British nuclear deterrent in the 1980s, when the Soviet threat was severe, and he continues to oppose it now (letter, Apr 23). Supporters of Trident are no less persistent.
Sir Hugh asserts that North Korea’s nuclear threats have no implications for the UK; that the US guarantee is all that we need; that, without such a guarantee, a British Prime Minister would not fire a missile “notwithstanding [his] technical ability” to do so; and that an unnamed US official wants us to invest our defence resources elsewhere. This last point is trivial and the others unpersuasive.
At present, North Korea’s nuclear bombast poses little, if any, direct threat to the UK. Yet, it clearly illustrates how suddenly rogue states can provoke crises. Non-nuclear countries must either capitulate to such blackmail or rely on the United States promising to retaliate on their behalf. This carries risks of miscalculation. A US guarantee may be genuine but disbelieved — an aggressor discovering his mistake only when it is too late for all involved. By contrast, any threat to use a nuclear weapon against the UK entails the certainty of a devastating response.
The US could do nothing to impede such a UK response. The independence of our continuous at-sea deterrent is not just “technical”, as Sir Hugh says. It is absolute. His analogy with US behaviour after Suez does not apply to the dire scenario of a threat to destroy British cities.
In 1986 no one expected that, within 15 years, Communism in Russia would collapse, the Warsaw Pact would be dissolved, its principal members would join Nato, and our main opponents would be religious terrorists. This can change just as quickly again. Renewing four Trident submarines will cost less than the proposed budget for the next high-speed train. They will be deployed, not just 15 years ahead, but until well after 2050. Trident is our ultimate insurance against threats which cannot be predicted from enemies yet to be identified. We would be reckless indeed to abandon it.
Admiral Lord West Of Spithead
Dr Julian Lewis, MP
Sir, The logic of the UK’s nuclear missiles? The answer is the same as for the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council: the ultimate guarantee that no state will use nuclear bombs against them, and a permanent seat on the Security Council itself.
All of the cases that General Sir Hugh Beach cites against using a nuclear missile, including the current imbroglio on the Korean peninsula, apply to the US. Indeed, the US President of the day (Truman) sacked the UN commander-in-chief General MacArthur for threatening the Chinese with the much lower yield atom bomb during the Korean war.
By far the biggest cost of a Trident replacement is the submarines. Here there is room for new thinking. High-explosive warheads could be carried on some of the missiles for deployment against an enemy where nuclear bombs would be unthinkable. The force projection obtained would be as great as that obtained from the new carrier(s), and complementary to them.
Emeritus Professor Stephen Bush
Thurston, Suffolk

Contrary to the assertions of a previous correspondent, the first bungalow estates in the UK were built in Gloucestershire, not Kent
Sir, I am sorry to disappoint Westgate-on-Sea and Birchington (letter, Apr 24) but earlier estates of bungalows were built by the Chartist Movement at Snigs End and Staunton in Gloucestershire, in the 1840s. Designed for the working class, they now change hands at up to £425,000.
Miss A. C. Balchin
Otley, W Yorks

It was never intended that young women should not have their symptoms, particularly abnormal bleeding, investigated by examination
Sir, The sad story of the death of a 24-year-old woman from cervical cancer (Apr 25) highlights the difference between screening and investigation. The rise in the age of first screen, in England at least, from 20 to 25 was justified on at least two grounds: cervical cancer under the age of 25 is very rare (only 2.4 per cent of all cases) and there is a significant risk in over-treating relatively large numbers of young women. However, it was never intended that young women should not have their symptoms, particularly abnormal bleeding, investigated by appropriate examination. A smear might, or might not, be part of those investigations.
Jonathan Hooker
Retired gynaecologist, Chichester

Telegraph
Comments
SIR – Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, is to be congratulated on his pledge to restore those ancient counties that were arrogantly abolished by the Conservative prime minister, Edward Heath (report, April 23).
It is to be hoped that the proposal will extend to the restoration of all historic county boundaries. The Royal County of Berkshire was particularly savagely truncated, losing the whole of the Vale of the White Horse – together with a substantial section of the Berkshire Downs. Prior to this act of cultural vandalism, the Thames had constituted the county boundary since Saxon times.
Nikolai Tolstoy
Patron, CountyWatch
Southmoor, Berkshire
SIR – I hope Eric Pickles will include Berkshire in his reorganisation, by returning to it, if only in name, the Vale of the White Horse, which was ceded to Oxfordshire in 1974.
Berkshire was the northernmost county of the old kingdom of Wessex. King Alfred was born at or near Wantage, and legend has it that he defeated the Danes nearby at the Battle of Ashdown. To cede the vale to its Mercian neighbour beyond the Thames was an act of the grossest historical ignorance and insensitivity. To those of us who have known the vale all our lives, it still hurts to hear such places as Faringdon, Wantage, Abingdon, Uffington and, above all, the Horse itself, spoken of as now belonging to Oxfordshire.
Related Articles
Prejudice feeds opposition to a state boarding school in the country
25 Apr 2013
William Packer
London SW9
SIR – The Local Government Act 1972 did not abolish or change the boundaries of any counties; rather it abolished or changed the boundaries of administrative county councils, which were a late
19th-century innovation. It is no longer necessary to specify a county in an address, provided that the correct postcode is used. However, those of us who share addresses with seaside towns in Cornwall usually find it useful to make the distinction.
Martin Collier
St Ives, Huntingdonshire
SIR – As a Lancastrian, I hope that we members of the Friends of Real Lancashire will soon be able to drop the word “real”; while my West Midlands friends will realise I was correct in telling them that I live in Staffordshire.
John Rushton
Aldridge, Staffordshir
SIR – Bureaucrats at Royal Mail should stop placing towns in other counties. In Dorset, Halstock is placed in Somerset and parts of Lyme Regis in Devon.
This confuses even the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which has to adhere to county boundaries in order to control farm stock movement.
Richard Fry
Halstock, Dorset
SIR – Given Eric Pickles’s planning policies, he might as well rename all the counties Concreteshire.
Peter Britton
Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire

SIR – As a former student at a public school in one of Dorset’s small towns, I once received the response, “Oh, poor you!” upon telling a fellow pupil that I lived in Stockwell, south London. This same attitude is running through the protestations against Durand Academy’s plans to build a state-run boarding school in West Sussex (Comment, April 23).
Durand Academy has proven its ability to set up and manage serious enterprises, as demonstrated by its fitness centre, London Horizons. With the spirit of entrepreneurship venerated in every other sphere of the economy, why all the hullabaloo here?
Nick Newsom
London SW8
SIR – After 42 years’ teaching, and involvement in pastoral care, I find plans for a state-run boarding school attractive, but many aspects may not have been properly thought through.
What about staffing levels? I hope teachers will not be expected to take care of pupils outside school hours, and extra pastoral staff will need accommodation and parking spaces. How will 600 pupils learn to respect the countryside at once?
Related Articles
Let’s restore our ancient county boundaries, too
25 Apr 2013
And with the promised facilities for pupils to enjoy, when will there be time for them to integrate with the community?
Eunice Lemon
Guildford, Surrey
SIR – The Durand Trust wishes to bus children from London to this rural site using a large number of coaches on Mondays, and back home on Fridays.
The roads that these buses will be using are rural lanes that are unsuitable for a
60-seat coach. These lanes are in poor condition after the long winter and the coaches will tear up the roads, even if they have been resurfaced.
The idea behind this scheme is to be admired but the logistics are not.
Jennifer Hill
Kingsley Green, West Sussex
SIR – As an involved member of the Rother Valley community, and someone delighted that we are now part of the South Downs National Park, I support proposals to introduce this school to the area.
Given that part of the national park’s remit is educational, it is in keeping with this aim that the school will give people from a different environment a chance to learn from the rural setting.
Chris Boxley
Heyshott, West Sussex
SIR – Christ’s Hospital, in West Sussex, has been running this experiment for over 100 years, having relocated from the City in 1902. One third of the pupils come from inner London boroughs.
Residents should see the great benefits that flow to these pupils from being schooled in similar circumstances, and look at what Christ’s Hospital achieves for both its pupils and the local community.
Peter Farnfield
Dorking, Surrey
Sharing the pound
SIR – The pronouncement by George Osborne, the Chancellor, that there is no guarantee that the rest of the United Kingdom and an independent Scotland would be able to come to an agreement on currency union (report, April 23) is nonsensical, as it is clearly in the best interests of both nations to do so.
The sharing of the pound is the common-sense position, and one supported by the Fiscal Commission Working Group, which includes two Nobel laureates. A sterling zone is in the overwhelming economic interests of the rest of the UK every bit as much as it is in the interests of Scotland. An independent Scotland using the pound would mean sterling’s balance of payments would be supported by Scotland’s huge assets, including North Sea oil and gas – which alone swelled the UK’s balance of payments by £40 billion in 2011-12.
If, as Mr Osborne claims, the UK is the successor state on Scottish independence, and Scotland is not allowed to enter a sterling currency area, what remains of the UK would then be obliged to hold on to all of the current British debt.
Alex Orr
Edinburgh
SIR – Why can’t Scotland become a “Crown dependency” like the Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, and the Isle of Man?
These islands are fully protected by British Armed Forces but they enjoy total independence on their budgets and their laws, and they retain the use of sterling as their currency. They also have no restrictions on imports and exports to and from Britain.
Michael Rose
Sidmouth, Devon
SIR – If Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party, thinks all that will change after independence is the colour of the flags, then how will Scotland pay for the removal of the saltire of St Andrew?
The cost will be enormous when you consider not just the flags in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, but the emblem of the Union flag throughout industry and commerce around the world.
Michael Scott
Welbury, North Yorkshire
Forgotten doggy bags
SIR – I, too, am annoyed by the sight of abandoned poo bags (Letters, April 22), but what can happen is that dog walkers put them down intending to collect them on the way back, then forget.
I know because I have done this myself, so now I keep the bag with me, sometimes absent-mindedly twirling it at speed round my fingers, causing concern to passers-by.
Sally Mander
Evesham, Worcestershire
Toasting the rack
SIR – Oh, how I agree with John Fingleton (Letters, April 23) regarding the disappearance of the trusty toast rack.
In desperation, I’ve taken to buying my children toast racks, which, when I visit, have to be dusted down before being produced, with a flourish, to impress me.
Charlotte Garnett
Haslemere, Surrey
SIR – Toast racks don’t just provide crisp toast, but can be an inspiration for architecture. In 1960, Leonard Cecil Howitt designed and built Hollings House in Fallowfield, Manchester, to house students. Now a Grade II listed building, it is known as Toast Rack House owing to its distinctive shape. One can only think Howitt was inspired while eating breakfast.
Andrew Holgate
Woodley, Cheshire
Hospital hotels
SIR – What a brilliant idea “hospital hotels” are (report, April 23). Didn’t we have something similar in the past? Only then they were called convalescent homes. Then some bright spark in either government or the NHS had the money-saving idea of closing them down. I wonder how much it has cost to come up with this “new” idea?
Patricia Armstrong
Bingley, West Yorkshire
Saving the high street
SIR – Parking is not free in out-of-town shopping malls (Letters, April 24). It is costed in to the rent that landlords charge shops, and they in turn cost it in to the prices they charge customers.
High-street shops and landlords need to provide a similar service if they are to survive. Our local town-centre Sainsbury’s provides two hours’ parking if you spend more than £10.
High streets are also at a disadvantage over opening hours. If high streets are to compete, they need to be open when people come home from work.
Les Sharp
Hersham, Surrey
SIR – A levy on all online sales to help restore the high street, as proposed by Jim Martin (Letters, April 24), would simply allow both government and councils to extract more money from private industry (the online businesses). Of one thing you may be sure, any levy would not reach the businesses most in need, but would increase the salaries and perks of the councillors who are making a pig’s ear of the existing system.
Far better to admit that the problems are caused by high business rates and the lack of an enlightened parking policy.
David Broughton
Woodborough, Wiltshire
Whine waiter
SIR – Hurrah for Rupert Christiansen and his rant against overpriced wine (Features, April 22). Restaurants typically charge their customers between three and five times the cost of a wine, and then they often have the nerve to put on a service charge as well.
My response is to ask for the wine and the food to be put on separate bills. I then deduct the service charge from the wine bill, explaining politely that it is already comfortably taken care of by the massive overpricing.
Nigel Johnson-Hill
South Harting, West Sussex

Irish Times
A chara, – As a doctor working in the area of mental health in Ireland, I was appalled and angered by Ann Marie Hourihane’s article (Opinion, April 23rd).
Doctors and nurses working at the frontline of Ireland’s health system are the first to recognise the glaringly obvious inadequacies in our country’s hospitals. We have to face those inadequacies day in, day out, and make the best of things. Instead of commending staff for their dedication in caring for patients in a difficult “fractured” hospital system, she launched an attack on both the nursing and medical professions.
To imply that nursing staff would punish a patient for complaining, that medical staff routinely withhold information from patients, that consultants spend their time hiding away from relatives is incorrect. Yes, sometimes nurses may not have as much time as they would like to speak with patients and relatives, but this is because they are generally under-staffed and under pressure. Yes, I agree it can be difficult to meet consultants at times, but this is because they have a huge number of patients to look after and are likely to be dealing with long ward rounds, over-booked clinics and full theatre lists.
In particular, her attack on psychiatric services “medieval fiefdoms . . . run by doctors” was outrageous.
I love my work as a psychiatric doctor and every day I, and all my colleagues, strive to engage with our vulnerable patients and their families with the compassion, care and respect that we would hope for if it were ourselves or our own relatives that were unwell.
It is extremely demoralising and frustrating as a hard-working doctor to read such an unfair and inaccurate piece of journalism. People in this country wonder why doctors are leaving Ireland; vilifying media coverage, as evidenced in this sensationalist article printed by your respected broadsheet newspaper is one reason. – Is mise,
MARY BUTLER,
Dromcollogher,
Co Limerick.
Sir, – Ann Marie Hourihane (Opinion, April 22nd) writes of the difficulty getting information about a patient relative in an Irish hospital. As doctors, our main concern and duty is to our patients, and privacy and confidentiality are paramount. We are required ethically, and under Medical Council guidelines to get express permission from patients to speak to their relatives.
Many patients request that we do not divulge certain information, and we respect that. Some patients are not in a position to give consent and it is the doctor’s duty to determine if breaking confidentiality by talking to relatives is in the best interest of the patient. Ms Hourihane’s approach of hanging around a ward to meet a consultant is quite foolish and I would strongly advise her, or any other relative, to make an appointment to meet with their relative and their doctors to discuss any concerns they may have. Appointments such as these are made on a daily basis in wards across this country.

Sir, – Breda O’Brien (Opinion, April 20th), writes of a child needing both “a mother and a father” as part of a stable environment in which to rear children. It has, however, long been upheld that more important than gender is the need for a “secure base” (Bowlby 1988). According to John Bowlby, a renowned British psychologist, infants form attachments to any consistent care-giver who is sensitive and responsive in social interactions with them. Although the biological mother has often traditionally been the principal attachment figure, the role can be taken by anyone who consistently behaves in a “mothering” or care-giving way over a period of time. In attachment theory, this means a set of behaviours that involves engaging in lively social interaction with the infant and responding readily to signals and approaches. Fathers or any other individuals, are equally likely to become principal attachment figures if they provide most of the child care and related social interaction.
What this suggests is that as long as a child’s attachment needs are met by one, two or more people, regardless of gender, they are enabled to grow into healthy secure adults. The attachment model suggests that the core outcomes of secure attachment are: a capacity to tolerate frustration and uncertainty; a sense of self as worthy of affection and respect; a capacity to relate to others with sensitivity and respect and a sense of personal agency. These outcomes are not gender specific. If a child living in a same-sex partnership needs an opposite sex role model this is very often found in friends, siblings, relatives or other key figures of the opposite sex. Going by Ms O’Brien’s article, the many single parents, separated/divorced parents and widowed parents already living in this country and who have children are doomed to failure. – Yours, etc,
JANE BAIRD,
Beaumont Woods,
Beaumont,
Dublin 9.
A chara, – Denis Looby (April 23rd) believes that Fintan O’Toole is a thoughtful man who has run out of patience (Opinion, April 16th). Thoughtful? Indeed: Mr O’Toole has thoughtfully adopted the tactic of labelling those he disagrees with as bigots. He is not the first to go with this strategy, which is intended to end the debate on the basis that no one need discuss anything with bigots.
As the debate isn’t over, the strategy clearly isn’t working. A more thoughtful tactic might be to drop the name-calling and patiently engage in actual dialogue. – Is mise,
Revd Fr PATRICK G
BURKE,
The Rectory,
Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Prof Shaun R McCann (April 23rd), writing in response to the Savita Halappanavar case, incorrectly states that the only indication to use antipyretics such as paracetamol is in children under two years, as a means of preventing fits (febrile seizures). This is an unfortunate perpetuation of one of many myths surrounding fever and febrile illness in children (another, for example, is that the higher a fever is, the more likely the child has a serious illness).
There is no evidence that use of any antipyretic will prevent or reduce the risk of febrile seizures in children. Equally, there is nothing incorrect with prescribing antipyretics to patients with fever, as nearly any adult or parent will tell you that, in the main, bringing down a fever makes you/your child feel better, and that’s a very acceptable outcome.
Where Prof McCann and I fundamentally agree is that the first, and overriding, focus of any clinician assessing a patient with fever is to identify the cause of said fever. Giving patients antipyretics thereafter is perfectly acceptable. It is in another myth that problems often arise, namely that the patient whose fever responds to a drug such as paracetamol is therefore less sick than the patient whose fever remains. – Yours, etc,
Prof RONAN O’SULLIVAN,
Consultant in Paediatric
Emergency Medicine,
Cork University Hospital;
Director, Paediatric
Emergency Research Unit,
National Children’s
Research Centre, Dublin 12.
Sir, – Barry Walsh(April 23rd) states that a pregnancy with a foetus who has a fatal foetal abnormality has exactly the same effect on the mother as a normal foetus. This may be true from a physical point of view, but I would suggest it can have a totally different effect on the mother from a psychological and mental point of view.
To know possibly for six to seven months of a pregnancy that you are bearing a non-viable baby with a fatal foetal abnormality must be devastating; compounded by well-meaning friends not in the know asking questions such as, “Is it a boy or girl . . . when is it due?”. I would respectfully suggest that only those who have experience of this situation at close quarters can adequately comprehend, and comment on, such a situation. – Yours, etc,
Dr DOUGLAS BOWIE,
Pine Valley, Dublin 16.

Irish Independent

• It has been estimated that the Corrib gas field off the coast of Co Mayo is worth €13bn, Barryroe oil field off the coast of Co Cork is worth €85bn and the oil field off the coast of Dalkey, Co Dublin, is worth about €60bn (current price of crude oil = about $110/barrel).
Also in this section
It’s party time, folks – Joan says so
Martin is all politics and no governance
Will Letters to Editor survive?
Under current legislation, Ireland receives little or no financial gain from the sale of its natural resources. We have the lowest taxation terms of any developed country. The current tax rate imposed on oil and gas companies stands at 25pc of profits.
What many people don’t know is that this tax has a 100pc write-off against exploration and development costs extending back to 25 years before the oil or gas field goes into production.
This means that oil and gas companies pay very little tax to the Irish Exchequer.
On top of that, oil and gas companies are not required to supply Ireland with any of the oil and gas they find.
Nor are they required to refine their produce in Ireland. They are not even required to employ a single Irish person.
The Irish fishing industry has also been sold out by past and present Irish governments who agree to unfair EU fishing quotas. The total available catch off Ireland last year was estimated at €1bn.
Of this value, Ireland was only entitled to catch €0.19bn – the rest going to other EU countries.
The present Irish Government is also considering selling off Ireland’s forest harvesting rights for 80 years. This sell-off would raise about three weeks of loan interest on the national debt while at the same time destroying tourism.
Have we not already given away too much?
B Kavanagh
Co Cork
US drone strikes
• The Boston bomb attack on innocent people was horrific and it makes one feel saddened and aggrieved for the ordinary people who attended the Boston Marathon.
President Barack Obama gave a very appealing talk to the people of Boston and indeed many felt his sincerity. However, how can he condone the use of “drones” to attack targets in Pakistan with innocent people being killed and maimed?
Most Americans – and indeed most people throughout the world – are unaware of the realities of how the Obama administration conducts this war. The remote control murder of innocent husbands, wives and children has angered Pakistanis and others all over the planet.
A recent study has estimated that in the eight years to 2012, drones, piloted by radio operators in America, killed up to 3,365 people in north-west Pakistan. In this group, there were at least 176 innocent children.
In other words, Mr Obama’s administration simply decided that these civilian casualties were terrorists after he had killed them!
I also read in the ‘Catholic Herald’ that, in February, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism documented that after the US kills people with drones in Pakistan, it then targets those who show up at the scene to rescue the survivors and retrieve the bodies as well as those who gather to mourn the dead at funerals.
It certainly makes me very angry. It is never permissible to perpetrate atrocities, and especially not in the name of peace.
Ms Terry Healy
Kill, Co Kildare
Striker on the menu
• Breaking transfer news: Liverpool striker snapped up by Borussia Munchen Centreback.
Mark Lawler
Kilmainham, Dublin 8
Helping out farmers
• I notice, like many others, that our farmers are having a very difficult time at the moment with regard to the lack of fodder. It has crossed my mind that we may be able to help them out.
I am suggesting that if a sufficient number of people retained the grass cuttings after mowing their lawns and left the cuttings in bin bags at designated points for the farmers to pick up and use as fodder, then this may ease part of the feedstock problem they are having.
We all pulled together at the time of the foot and mouth disease, perhaps a communal effort is needed once again.
Larry McGriskin
Derryowen, Barna Road, Galway
Good times are gone
• In response to JJ Oliver’s letter from America, yes Ireland’s social life is dead (unless you are rich). Well spotted.
The smoking ban killed pubs; over-priced, boring restaurants killed eating out. The solutions have been iterated by everyone not in a position to make decisions. Disband the Seanad; remove all quangoes; publish all politicians’ expenses; and heavily punish white-collar crime.
My perception is that the rich can use their wealth to protect themselves and to hell with the rest of us. Welcome to Ireland, JJ.
Nigel Fennell
Churchtown, Dublin 14
Madness times six
• I never thought I would find myself writing a letter to your paper with regard to the very serious ongoing abortion debate, as I find myself completely out of my comfort zone.
But who in God’s name made the decision that it might take six specialists to examine any pregnant woman with suicidal tendencies?
This to me seems to be very abusive and stressful for any woman who finds herself in this situation and should not be tolerated.
Surely in the 21st Century we can find a more humane way to deal with this situation and not be resorting to some kind of torturous procedure from the dark ages?
Brian McDevitt
Glenties, Co Donegal
Taxing the land
• The property tax is unfair and discriminatory, largely because it fails to include one major asset: land.
Land is a very important asset, and the owners of land are not even being asked for a contribution.
Land is a productive asset.
Every other productive asset in the country is subject to taxation in the form of rates. Prior to 1977, land was subject to rates, but not since then.
It is estimated that there are about 12,000,000 acres of usable land in the State.
If one imputes the average price of agricultural land across the entire country of €10,500 per acre (Knight Frank survey, 2012), there is a potential wealth there of €126bn.
At the current rate of the new property tax, of 0.18pc, this source of wealth could generate additional revenues of €226m per annum.
We’re often told, “we have to get the money from somewhere, the country is broke!” and “he who has most should pay most”, so where is the political will to collect this revenue stream?
Una Nic Fhionnlaoich
Ranelagh, Dublin 8
Taxpayers let down
• I have just heard a Fine Gael frontbencher admit that there is nothing to be done about the €843,000 income of Bank of Ireland CEO Richie Boucher.
This is depressing. The individual has been elected to Dail Eireann by taxpayers who have been forced to sink more than €4bn into Bank of Ireland.
As a representative of taxpayers, as their agent or proxy, he has a moral responsibility that goes beyond hand-wringing.
RD Hemmings
Rathmines, Dublin

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