Garden and Joan

Garden and 8th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Pertwee is accused of stealing the lead from the Admiralty roof again. But he has 14 relatives willing to give him an alibi. Meanwhile Taffy is plotting his downfall in order to get promotion. Priceless.
A warm day so tired see Joan take stuff to the tip. A man collapses at the post office. Sell 4 books
Mary wins at Scrabble today, just and gets just under 400, I might get my revenge tomorrow, I hope.

Obituary:

Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles
Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles, who has died aged 98, was a naval officer highly-decorated in the war and went on to become a colourful Conservative MP for Winchester.

Sea Lord Admiral Sir Michael Pollock Hands Over The White Ensign To Rear Admiral Morgan Giles (right) Photo: ASSOCIATED NEWS/REX
6:09PM BST 05 May 2013
He was mentioned in despatches four times and, in September 1941, awarded the George Medal for “gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty” during bomb and mine disposal work while serving at HMS Nile, the naval base at Ras el-Tin Point, Alexandria. At the end of a war during which he was recruited by Fitzroy MacLean to run arms to Tito’s partisans in Yugoslavia, Morgan-Giles was awarded a DSO for “courage, outstanding leadership and devotion to duty” – notably during an attack on the Croatian island of Lussino.
From 1964, on the benches at Westminster, such feats saw him greeted by affectionate Labour cries of “Send a gunboat”; the genial Morgan-Giles duly steamed into action with all guns blazing on behalf of his beloved Service. He condemned the decision to withdraw East of Suez “as a sop to the Left wing”; roundly advocated a British presence beside the Americans in Vietnam; and supported the construction of a fifth Polaris nuclear submarine.
Such views won him acclaim on the Tory back benches, but after the Conservative election victory in 1970 Edward Heath failed to offer him a junior post. Apart from cosmetic changes, Morgan-Giles found that Lord Carrington’s defence policy differed little from that of Labour, particularly after it had endorsed the scrapping of the aircraft carrier Eagle.
He was no less forthright when Labour resumed power four years later. While in hospital after a riding accident, he wrote to James Callaghan, the prime minister, of “the cold, silent, teeth-clenched fury” among servicemen about a pay review board which “did not seem to know, in blunt nautical language, whether it’s on its arse or elbow. A previous ‘Former Naval Person’ [Churchill] used to ask for and achieve ‘action this day’. Is there any reason why you cannot do the same?”
In lighter tone, he complained that Wrens only received threepence extra a day after four years’ good service: “That is not much to give a girl for saying ‘Yes, Sir’ all day and then ‘No, Sir’ all night.” Yet he opposed Wrens serving on warships because “woman’s eternal role is to create life and nurture it; a fighting man must be prepared to kill. Women do wonderful things to men but combat duty to defend us should not be one of them. Vive la difference.” As for homosexual law reform, this was “a queers’ charter”, he declared bluntly, and further evidence of Britain’s degeneration and loss of influence.
Morgan Charles Morgan-Giles was born plain Morgan Giles on June 19 1914, elder son of FC Giles, a racing yacht architect. Young Morgan’s earliest clear memory was of a small boat his father had built him while on sick leave from the Navy after the First World War. He was educated at Clifton, where he demonstrated his ability to work the system when he wanted to crew for his father in a sailing race but was told that he must attend a cricket match between Clifton and Tonbridge. After dutifully passing through the turnstile at Lord’s, the boy took the train down to Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, where father and son won the Prince of Wales Cup.
Joining the Navy at 18 under the public schools’ cadetship scheme, Morgan first sailed in the training cruiser Frobisher to the West Indies and the Baltic. He was then appointed to the Australian destroyer Voyager before serving in Cumberland, Suffolk and Cornwall on the China station before returning home to join the torpedo school at HMS Vernon.
After the declaration of war in 1939 Morgan-Giles was in the cruiser Arethusa when she covered the evacuation of Norway, and then took part in the attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir .
He was next involved in an eccentric plan to launch fireships against German transports massing at Calais and Boulogne – which was abandoned – before being sent to coordinate mine disposal work in the Suez Canal. During six months at besieged Tobruk, he laid mines and landed guardsmen for special patrols. It was during this period in North Africa that he was awarded the GM.
After an encounter in Cairo with MacLean, who was liaising with Tito’s partisans, Morgan-Giles was posted to run arms supplies from Bari, on the Italian coast, to the Dalmatian island of Vis, 120 miles away. There he had responsibility not only for the incoming supplies but also for the co-ordination of commandos and motor gunboats which attacked the enemy at night – as well as liaising with Tito’s naval commander. The partisan leader made such an impression that Morgan-Giles named one of his horses “Broz”.
As the war in Europe ended Morgan-Giles was posted to the Far East. On leave in Australia, he married Pamela Bushell, a nurse whose later inheritance of £500,000 was to give him a security and freedom of action rare for naval officers. This also enabled her to join him with their six children on many postings when most other naval families would have stayed at home. “Yes. Morgan does have a wife in every port,” she would say. “And I am that wife.”
In 1947 he was sent on a joint Services staff course, then had two years in Trieste as naval liaison officer at the British Army headquarters in the disputed territory.
From 1950 to 1951 Morgan-Giles found himself commanding Chieftain in the First Destroyer Flotilla during the Persian oil crisis; he was next appointed captain of naval intelligence, Far East, and then of the Dartmouth training squadron. His final and proudest seagoing command was the cruiser Belfast, flagship of the Far East Fleet, though there was a slight cloud when two Chinese were found to have brought a large cache of drugs on board.
On being promoted rear-admiral and appointed president of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, Morgan-Giles realised that further promotion was doubtful. He had already bought a house and a farm in Hampshire, and was musing that being an MP must be “a jolly good occupation for someone who has retired and has nothing else to do,” when Peter Smithers, the MP for Winchester, announced that he was stepping down.
The Admiralty warned that Morgan-Giles could not seek adoption as a serving officer and that, if he left only to be rejected, he could not expect to return to the Service. Nevertheless, in what he described as “a moment of madness”, Morgan-Giles handed in his resignation to the Ministry of Defence, having performed his official duties as Admiral President of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich that morning. He then spent an agonising evening in Winchester awaiting the outcome of the selection process.
In the by-election campaign that followed, he had the advantage of being a local man in a safe seat . After election, the new member drew a high place in the ballot for private members’ bills. Although he first considered a bill amending the law on abortion, which David Steel was to introduce a couple of years later, he eventually decided on one to permit postal voting; it was blocked by Labour members.
Within six months there was a general election and, duly returned, Morgan-Giles was regularly on his feet harrying Harold Wilson’s defence secretary Denis Healey. Since he supported Ian Smith, the rebel leader in Rhodesia, and backed Enoch Powell after his “rivers of blood” speech, there was no place for him on a Heath front bench. However he played an important part in “Operation Sea Horse”, which created a trust to save and run Belfast until she was steered into the reassuring embrace of the Imperial War Museum.
He was also notably diligent in constituency matters, pursuing problems with the same zeal as he showed over naval issues. He campaigned for government financing of structural maintenance of the nation’s cathedrals, but met with considerable opposition for his support of the M3 motorway.
After retiring from the Commons in 1979, he continued to be as outspoken as ever in pithy letters to The Daily Telegraph. He told Heath to “pipe down – or jump overboard” during the Thatcher years, and expostulated that it was no wonder the prisons were so full when a man received a month in jail for pinching a nurse’s bottom, adding “Our nurses are so pretty.”
Morgan Morgan-Giles was appointed MBE in 1942, OBE in 1943 and knighted in 1975. After the death of his first wife died in 1966 he married Marigold Lowe, who died in 1995.
Rear-Admiral Sir Morgan Morgan-Giles, born June 19 1914, died May 4 2013

Guardian

Nasa’s chief administrator, Charles Bolden, talks of “man’s destiny … to go forward to another planet” in your report about a possible mission to Mars (Would-be astronauts boldly go for the chance of 1,000-day mission, 7 may). Surely, in 2013, it is no longer appropriate to use the word “man” to represent both men and women?
The first female astronaut left the atmosphere in June 1963 and since then there have been 57 women in space. Dr Nancy Roman was Nasa’s first female chief astronomer in 1960 and her work culminated in the Hubble space telescope. Dr Sally Ride was the first US woman to orbit Earth in June 1983 and devoted much of her life to encouraging girls to pursue careers in science and astronomy. Dr Kathryn Sullivan was the first woman to successfully conduct a spacewalk in 1984. Col Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot the space shuttle in 1995 and in 1999 became the first woman commander of space shuttle mission.
Dr France A Cordova was Nasa chief scientist 1993-96. Shana Dale was deputy administrator of Nasa in 2005-08, followed by Lori Garver in 2009. Dr Shannon Lucid made her first space flight in 1985, later serving as Nasa’s chief scientist 2002-03. And most recently, Dr Peggy Whitson has accumulated 377 days in space, the most for any US astronaut. She was also the first female commander of the international space station and has conducted more space walks than any other female astronaut. From 2009-12, Whitson was chief of the Astronaut Corps at Nasa. To imply that Nasa astronauts are exclusively male is offensive and lazy.
Kate Andrews-Day
Erskineville, New South Wales, Australia
Recent articles on kid’s parties suggest that parents are trapped, helpless and resentful, as the cost of celebrating their children’s birthdays threatens to ruin them. My husband is a professional magician and children’s entertainer working in York and the surrounding area – not an “entertainer”, Tim Lott (Family, 27 April), any more than you are a “writer”. His charges, like those of most of his competitors, are far less than the outrageous prices apparently shelled out in the south-east. Also, the parents who hire him seem to be more interested in ensuring the children have fun than engaging in frantic and desperate competition with other mums and dads. Village or community halls are the usual venues. Nobody’s interested in on-trend theming of dress or decor. The catering is invariably homemade food. And party bags are modest reminders of a nice time. People must be a bit more level-headed up here. Perhaps you should look at what’s going on outside London.
Jane Chapman
York

Why is it necessary for those writing about the future UK energy situation like Michael Hanlon (Energy, not bribery, 2 May) to refer to “the lights going out”? The outcome is likely to be far less dramatic. It’s quite correct that a great deal of old coal and nuclear capacity will be retired over the next few years. For the rest of this decade, that will be replaced by as much renewables as can be built (mostly wind) and gas. Most of the gas-fired power generation which is needed has already been built; around 4GW is currently not in operation because it is unprofitable and most of the rest is running at far lower load factors than in previous years. If “the lights threaten to go out”, existing gas-fired generation will run at higher load factors and more can quickly be built.
Contrary to Mr Hanlon’s assertion, this is unlikely to leave consumers “at the mercy of Russia and Kazakhstan” (neither of which supply the UK with any significant volumes of gas); but there will be increased dependence on Norway, Netherlands, Qatar and perhaps the US. Towards the end of the decade, the UK may produce some shale gas if drilling and fracking prove to be environmentally acceptable; the volumes will not be great and are unlikely to be “cheap” in comparison to imports. Post 2020, other carbon (with carbon capture and storage) and non-carbon generation options may become available, including increased production of shale gas. Outcomes will depend on costs, and costs will be affected by environmental acceptability and carbon pricing.
The future of the UK power sector over the next decade has already been determined: wind and gas may not be the best possible option, but it is far from the worst, in relation to costs and carbon emissions. Apologies for the lack of apocalyptic or visionary sentiments about our future energy situation, but these are simply obscuring rather than illuminating the debate.
Professor Jonathan Stern
Chairman and senior research fellow, natural gas research programme, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies

Even though the government’s plans to sell Royal Mail are flawed (Royal Mail sale is a sign of Conservative desperation, says Labour, 6 May), privatisation is decades overdue. While previous UK governments bottled out of reforming the state mail monopoly, others like Sweden, New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands have liberalised theirs. So they have been able to access new capital for modernisation, work with strategic partners and develop fresh concepts.
Meanwhile, the UK’s over-regulated state delivery service stood still while its market was lost to email and ecards. It’s good that 10% of the shares will go to Royal Mail workers. Mail businesses are highly dependent on their staff and need them to be incentivised and committed. But privatisation should have been an opportunity to end the delivery monopoly. Monopolies, public or private, have a poor customer service record. 
The government should also revisit the universal service obligation, under which letters from and to remote places must cost the same as those sent round the corner in cities. While private carriers would probably preserve this flat-rate pricing – which is far easier for them and their customers – we should not close off the possibility of innovative pricing/delivery options.
Genuine open competition and the new ideas it brings would probably revolutionise the whole delivery sector in short order.
Eamonn Butler
Director, Adam Smith Institute
• The proposed privatisation of Royal Mail is yet another indicator of the shift of wealth to the rich. The public, by shouldering substantial increases in letters and parcel prices, have contributed to the softening up of Royal Mail for privatisation, yet it is the City that will earn hefty fees from the flotation.
There may be an initial public offering but, to make this politically successful, the shares would have to be attractively priced and that would only be a trigger for small investors who can afford to buy shares to make a quick profit. As for about 10% of shares going to Royal Mail workers, in these straitened times, many may prefer to make a quick windfall by selling. Thatcher envisaged a wider share-owing public, but statistics suggest otherwise. In 1981 28% of shares were held by private individuals and yet, in spite of many privatisations, only 10% by 2011. Public companies do not like small shareholdings as it only adds to their costs, hence the promotion of free share-selling services.
Alistair Gregory
Burton in Lonsdale, Lancashire
• What may, to Michael Fallon, seem “practical, logical and commercial” in the proposal to privatise Royal Mail to others will appear dogmatic, divisive and, on the evidence of gas and electricity privatisation, doomed to lead to higher prices and worse services. There would also be a real risk of Royal Mail ultimately falling into foreign hands. It is to be hoped that this proposal will be resisted, starting with the refusal of Royal Mail employees to accept so-called shares offered to them. Unfortunately we cannot look to the Labour party to come to the rescue of a much-valued public service since it was complicit some years ago in a similar privatisation plan.
Robin Wendt
Chester

The consequences of income and wealth inequality are felt in far more damaging ways than a simple envy of wealth (Comment, 7 May). In more unequal societies, even the richest suffer from lower life expectancy, higher rates of infant mortality, and higher rates of depression compared with those in more equal societies of comparable development. We know that excessive inequality is socially corrosive, but policymakers must look at how huge disparities in income and wealth are affecting everyone in society, from the very poorest to the wealthiest.
Duncan Exley
Director, Equality Trust
• Our glorious HMRC is to guide the governments of Ethiopia and Tanzania in how to collect taxes (Report, 7 May). The rich elite of these two impoverished countries are already laughing, all the way to their off-shore banks.
Milan Svanderlik
London
• As an ex-resident of Anfield, I think David Conn’s analysis of the damage done to the area by Liverpool FC is correct (Report, 7 May). However, it is worth reminding ourselves that, unlike Manchester City and West Ham United, Liverpool are not about to be handed a brand new stadium, built largely at public expense.
Dave Rainbird
Wallasey
• On reading the many letters responding to the bad grammar award (Letters, 6 May), I was reminded of the Pedants Revolt, led by one Whom Tyler.
David Grigg
Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear
• When I first worked in newspapers (1950), there was a stand-by heading for all occasions: Teenage-Surgeon-Priest in Sex-Change Mercy Dash to Palace. It covered the lot in those days (Letters, 7 May).
Barry Hewlett-Davies
Brighton
• I always thought “ne’er cast a clout ’til may is out” referred to hawthorn blossom, not the month (In Praise of…, 7 May).
Chris Bowden
Northwich, Cheshire
• The one person best-placed to answer Dr Richard Turner’s query about the price of beer (Letters, 7 May) is Nigel Farage – he rarely seems to be out of a pub.
Peter Munro
Congleton, Cheshire

Your editorial (Kenya – evil and the empire, 6 May) draws a comparison with the South African truth and reconciliation process, suggesting that payment to the victims of British violence in Kenya in the 1950s “coupled to a frank confession might help draw a line”.
Another means by which the British government could address its historical responsibilities and encourage a frank debate about the imperial past would be to pay for the digitisation of the thousands of files secretly removed from Kenya and dozens of other former colonies on independence. Their existence was revealed only in 2011, and their contents helped to undermine the government’s claim that it could not be held liable for past abuses in Kenya. They are now gradually being released at the National Archives in Kew.
Despite the UK government’s claims to the contrary, there is a plausible case for arguing that they are actually the property of the countries in which they were generated. While their physical repatriation would be unlikely to serve anyone’s interests, the UK should bear the costs of making them freely available in digitised form. The history of decolonisation is still dominated by the work of generously resourced western historians. This important act of reparation would allow scholars from Britain’s former colonies access to key documentation on their countries’ struggles for independence. It would also provide a stark memorial to those who have suffered at the hands of British forces.
Professor Philip Murphy
Director, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, London
• How will future students of Mr Gove’s history curriculum of “our fair island-story”, to quote Tennyson, make sense of the government’s decision to negotiate compensation for Kenyans tortured in British prison camps in the 1950s? All government denials have finally withered away, thanks to unearthed British documentation and the tenacity of some individuals and organisations, insisting that gross injustice be acknowledged, however long after the event.
No doubt there will be an outcry about the cost. But that is the price of maintaining the idea of “justice”.
I, a product of Britain’s imperial past, get the point. Will Mr Gove? I invite him to read my novel Burn My Heart, set in 1950s Kenya, and to tell me whether this is not also part of Our Island Story.
Beverley Naidoo
Bournemouth
• Where are the soldiers and their fellows who served in Kenya now? The water boarding and torture was not carried out by (but presumably on the orders of) the British government. Many British soldiers must have been responsible for the acts of torture and degrading treatment finally unearthed. If so, and assuming they are still with us, why are they not being charged?
Bernard Tucker
Old Alresford, Hampshire
• Given the huge compensation to be paid (rightly, of course) to thousands of Kenyans, and the prospect of this leading to many more such claims, where will the funds to meet these claims come from? The British taxpayer ought, of course, to pay a large share, since we will all have benefited from the spoils of the empire, both now and in the past. I would also suggest, however, the creation of an empire tax, which targets those whose inherited and/or current wealth arose directly from trade with or ownership in these countries and in whose name such uprisings as the Mau Mau insurgencies were so vigorously suppressed. Pie in the sky, of course, but wouldn’t it be a suitable foil to the continuing distribution of awards in the name of said empire?
Pauline Rowley
Wigan
• I have been increasingly horrified and shocked to learn of the atrocities committed in my name by the UK government during the Mau Mau insurgency in Kenya. As a naive young Mzungu (stranger, ie, European) arriving in Uganda in 1955, I now realise what half-truths and outright lies we, the non-indigenous population, were fed by the local English press and radio. Being a protectorate and not a colony, Uganda was not involved in the insurrection, but we were deeply interested in the events occurring just a few miles away over the Kenyan border, the media accounts of which we (or at least I) swallowed wholesale. Adequate compensation for what was done is impossible, but at least the belated recognition of the crimes and the lengthy and the desperate attempts at a cover-up made by successive UK governments, and attempts to compensate the few survivors, may make some amends.
John Baker
Cambridge

Madeleine Bunting mounts a sensible rebuttal of Rolf Dobelli’s notion that “no news is good news” (26 April). I think, though, that Dobelli’s argument goes deeper: that the surfeit of news, and the increasing immediacy and ubiquity of news sources are overwhelming our capacity to comprehend our world.
Understanding is sacrificed to a passive uncritical consumption. This constant focus on ephemera and events outside our ambit is denying us freedom and informed agency in our own lives. This trending “news”-speak, to misquote George Orwell, is as authoritarian as newspeak ever was.
Tony D’Ambra
Peakhurst, NSW, Australia
• In defending the news business, Madeleine Bunting is dangerously smug about what defines “authoritarianism”, “cavalier” and “spoilt” and seems certain that she is part of the solution that holds back the threats to democracy. All was good and well in your 26 April back-page essay until suddenly it becomes an advertorial for buying newspapers.
I always grimace when the lords of journalism claim their sanctimony to deliver their “supply of news” to a public that supposedly has the “right to know”. You and your subjective journal have no right to supply me the news any more than you have the right to tell me to skim or slow-think.
The real point is desire for continued learning and freedom to learn, not flogging your rag.
Thomas Wimber
Rome, Italy
• Concerning Rolf Dobelli’s comments on ignoring all news media: in his defence I think it is appropriate to quote Ludwig Wittgenstein: “Do not become dependent upon the external world because then you will have no fear of what happens to it.”
John G Woods
Helsingborg, Sweden
Focus on the science
Carol Binnie’s letter regarding GM crops (Reply, 26 April) exemplifies the attitude that had turned me off all the major green organisations (Greenpeace and the UK Green party, for example). There is a mixing of arguments – she asks where the scientific evidence is, and immediately deviates to matters of corporate monopoly. The argument for or against GM crops – or, indeed, nuclear power – should be about the science of their effectiveness, or lack thereof. Not the actions of multinational corporations and desperate government policy. The issues should be kept separate – I am pro-GM if it is properly regulated and not subject to an effective monopoly. I am anti-corporate bullying, regardless of what sector the company is in. The issues with Monsanto are important to address, but are a symptom of corporate greed, not genetically modified crops.
How much better could plant technology be if the debate of the last 20 years had been about corporate responsibility as opposed to pro/anti-GM crops? How much further along the research path towards thorium as a (potentially much better) uranium replacement could we be if the nuclear debate was “what’s the best method?” as opposed to pro/anti-all nuclear power?
Please, can we separate the issues? There’s enough problems to deal with, without alienating potential allies with woolly logic.
Rohan Chadwick
Bristol, UK
• Carol Binnie is right that science has nothing to do with Mark Lynas’s switch of allegiance over GM crops. His actions indicate to me that he is simply a brat kid screaming for attention. When he was no longer getting noticed for his protests he tried to regain the limelight by retracting. Sadly, by giving him such uncritical prominence, the Guardian fell for it hook, line and sinker.
David Trubridge
Havelock North, New Zealand
Choice is not so simple
I read Will Hutton’s piece on the collapse of the European carbon trading scheme and, while I agree with the points he makes, the standard “binary choice” between free-market capitalism and “environmental socialism” that he mentions is an oversimplification that is made far too often (Burnt-out planet or financial doom? Painful choices, 26 April).
The subject is multifaceted but, for the sake of simplicity, let’s add just one extra path to the two cited by Hutton: let’s call this path “environmental capitalism” or, maybe better, “localised commerce”. This would be positioned between “total freedom” and “strict control”, with the main emphasis being on taxing and regulating “the source of the damage” rather than regulating the whole economy.
Prime examples of such a policy would be high taxes on fuel, on shop-size, on packaging, on exploitative imports and on agricultural chemicals; limits to advertising; and a compulsory return and re-use of jars and bottles (to mention just a few). Here, if we agree that emissions, overconsumption and waste are primary “damaging factors”, these restrictions would disadvantage “corporate capitalists” but, if handled correctly, would favour local commerce, which is far less automated, less transport-intensive and more “people-centred”.
Indeed, my suspicion is that “environmental socialism” would simply try to give us the same “consumerist comforts” that we already have but strive to do it in a greener way. This is not the game-changer that the planet needs and a far better way would be to dramatically “throttle back” the damaging factors and let human ingenuity take up the challenge: for example, high fuel costs might price corporate trucking fleets off of the roads, but fuel costs only marginally affect a baker whose customers live around the corner and whose delivery boy uses a bicycle.
Yes, local commerce and local enterprise, guided by an imposed “prevention of damage” policy (through taxation and regulation), could be the key to breaking the stupidly dogmatic and hopelessly entrenched debate between capitalism and socialism.
Alan Mitcham
Cologne, Germany
• Will Hutton writes as persuasively as ever in his article on climate change and the economy. He is less persuasive, however, when he claims that “Galileo had to take on the Catholic Church to prove the world was round”. I am no apologist for their treatment of Galileo, but I am pretty sure the Catholic hierarchy knew perfectly well that the Earth was round. What they disputed was that the Earth went round the Sun.
Rory Allen
London
Memory and the internet
Henry Porter asks, “memory is being partly outsourced to the internet – what’s the problem with that?” (We’re smart enough to know we’re stupid, 19 April).
The answer is plenty.
Ten-year-old children use their parents as memory banks but as they grow we expect them to remember important things for themselves. It’s a crucial part of growing into adulthood.
Increasingly, I have to tell my tertiary research students that there are many things they have at their fingertips. I don’t have time, in the middle of a conversation, for them to search their memory bank for what a protein is made of or for them to go off and look up the answer and come back each time they run into similar roadblocks. They need to know these things so that we can have effective (and rapid!) discussions about the things that matter.
In order for them to progress as scientists, they need to depend heavily on this now dying skill. That the increase in this problem is coincident with the rise of the internet is no coincidence.
Michael Morris
Sydney, Australia
Briefly
• Kory Stamper’s comments in support of the English language as the world’s greatest thief go astray in originating Algonquian in western Canada rather than in its home in north-eastern North America (26 April). Eskimo came into English through the French, not Spanish, Esquimau(x) – its source a matter of debate, and is now replaced in Canada by Inuit for the people and Inuktitut for the language.
Elizabeth Quance
Almonte, Ontario, Canada
• What a beautifully expressed, exquisitely observed piece of writing by Mark Cocker on the otter in Thetford, Norfolk (19 April): “I noticed the stream had left long linear current lines through its fur so that the whole creature had a graphic quality as if the Thet had actually drawn it.”
I had to read that sentence over and over as it was so perfect, and the whole uplifting column, more than once sensing something eternal in that scene.
Cherry Treagust
Portsmouth, UK
• I hate your weasel words, “after 11 years, it is hard to see the rationale for keeping Guantánamo open” (26 April). Hard? It always was impossible to defend this or any other US torture centre where prisoners get no semblance of a trial and are known to be innocent. As for America having ever had “moral authority over the rest of the world” to risk losing: this, the country that since the 60s has been, as Martin Luther King said, the “principal purveyor of state-violence in the world”.
David Kunzle
Los Angeles, California, US
• Is it not a little premature for the US administration to consider spending $1bn on adding controllable tail fins to B61 bombs so that they may be delivered by stealth F-35 fighter-bombers (26 April) when the F-35 has yet to prove itself?
Philip Stigger
Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
• Reductio ad ligamenta – Barney Ronay brings us the pyrrhic agony of antagonists, the titanic clash of Achilles’ heels: “No 1’s [Djokovic’s] iffy wrist proving stronger than Nadal’s dicky knee” (26 April). One winces at the reboant volleys of ouch, ouch; ouch, ouch.
R M Fransson
Denver, Colorado, US

Independent

Margareta Pagano (7 May) says the elephant in the room when discussing the lack of women in the boardroom is the cost of childcare. She is wrong. The elephant in the room is the idea that caring for children is a responsibility shared only between mothers and women who are childcarers.
Boardrooms won’t change until the ownership of the responsibility of caring for children is shared with men. The countries were it is easiest to be a mother are the countries where the responsibility with men is shared the most, and they are the best places to be a father too.
Duncan Fisher
Crickhowell, Powys
 
Am I the only person who feels queasy about supporting Samantha Mangwana’s demand for government action to tackle the gender pay gap within the City (letter, 7 May)?
As someone who earns a fraction of what City workers (male or female) can expect to earn I very much oppose gender inequality in all walks of life. But when it comes to the cesspit of greed that is the City I find it difficult to support a cause that will perpetuate the cycle of social inequality we currently find ourselves in.
It is the equivalent of promoting war to secure the jobs of workers at a missile factory. 
Cían Carlin
London N4
 
I wholeheartedly agree with Samantha Mangwana that the appalling gender pay gap in the City should be brought to a swift end. It is disgraceful that men working in the City should be paid a six, or even seven, figure sum more than the women.
Wider disclosure of pay levels is vital, since if the rest of society were made fully aware of the outrageous pay levels in the City, the massive bonuses paid to the men would soon end. Not only would the gender pay gap become history, but the rest of us would be spared the burden of subsidising the bloated financial services sector.
Nigel Wilkins
London SW7
Samantha Mangwana’s letter on pay for women in the City is yet further evidence that men are overpaid in the financial services sector. If women are willing to work for less, then what is the justification for paying men more? 
Are male dominated boards abusing shareholders by over-paying their male employees (and themselves)? Would more women on the boards stop that abuse or increase it by leading to women being overpaid as well?
Jon Hawksley
London EC1
 
Care homes starved  of money
It is good that shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has given high profile to the plight of care homes (“Care homes on the brink as bailiffs move in”, 29 April). But, sadly, this comes as no surprise to those of us representing the beleaguered care profession.
We have been warning for some time that social care is underfunded and that money paid to providers by commissioners such as local authorities is inadequate to offer the care that is needed. The economic downturn and its big impact on money available to local authorities has worsened this still further, with those councils paying less and less and expecting the same or improved care.
Care providers, by going out of business or suffering hardship, are paying the price.
We have warned about this worsening situation for some time and have suggestions to help, but we have been unable to get successive governments to act. Can Mr Burnham make the Government listen?
Mike Padgham
Chair, Independent Care Group (York and North Yorkshire),  Scarborough
For the past two decades it has been government policy for councils to keep older people out of residential care and to find better ways of supporting people in their own homes. Governments always say that this is what older people want.
As a result of this there has been a steady decline year on year in the numbers of people funded by councils in residential care, despite the increases of people with care needs in the population. It should not be of any surprise to either Norman Lamb nor Andy Burnham that care home providers are now  facing financial challenges.
One might argue this is an outdated way of providing care. New approaches such as extra-care housing may eventually replace residential care. This is already happening in Coventry, where I live.
Professor John Bolton
Institute of Public Care,
Oxford Brookes University
 
Best deal for Kodak pensions
John Ralfe’s ill-advised attack on the integrity of the Pensions Regulator and the recent settlement negotiated between the Kodak Pension Plan (KPP) and Eastman Kodak (report 6 May) really does demonstrate the point that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. As far as I am aware, Mr Ralfe made no attempt to check his facts with the KPP. If he had checked with us, he should have managed to get closer to the truth.
Throughout the negotiations the trustees followed rigorous advice from world-class legal, financial, actuarial and investment teams. The advice received was the subject of enormous scrutiny and probing by both the trustees and the UK regulatory agencies.
All parties agreed that within the legal framework that oversees and protects UK pension schemes, the most sensible way forward in the circumstances was the settlement we have achieved. It is the best available option for our members and provides value to all stakeholders. I deeply appreciate the robust questioning by the Pensions Regulator and the Pension Protection Fund of the advice the trustees received; it helped to give us confidence about the decisions that we needed to make.
As trustees, our main responsibility is to our members, many of whom are already pensioners or are close to retirement. It is important that they receive clear messages that enable them to understand the choice they will have to make over the next few months. Otherwise they stand to lose substantial benefits. 
Steven Ross
Chairman,the Kodak Pension Plan, Reading
 
Israeli raids show up Arab divisions
Israel’s air raids on Syrian forces illustrate the underlying tragedy of the Arab World’s divisions and tribal loyalties. Israel’s behaviour in Syria is a repeat of what it did in Lebanon in the late Seventies, culminating in the invasion of June 1982.
We Arabs have consistently supplied Israel with its opportunities to expand its territories. It still does not have clear borders as other countries do, because it has not quite completed its expansion plans. Israel will invade Syria pretending that it is policing a murderous civil war, get rid of Assad and his evil regime, move on to Lebanon to neutralise Hizbollah and then be “obliged” to launch a strike against Iran.
Syrian lands occupied by Israel will join the Syrian Golan Heights to house Jewish settlements and US Jews will emigrate in droves to fulfil US envoy Jeane Kirkpatrick’s comment about Israelis being pioneers like the American Founding Fathers.
And the main Arab states will rub their hands in glee as Israel smashes Shi’ites, thus maintaining Arab Sunni hegemony. Until, that is, Israel’s powerful hegemony prevails as it ultimately will do.
What a catastrophic and sad state of affairs.
Dr Faysal Mikdadi
Dorchester
 
Now Ukip has  to deliver
Professor David Head makes an interesting point (letter, 6 May) about Ukip’s success in Lincolnshire. An initial glance at the new electoral map here in Kent also shows the Ukip support to be concentrated in peripheral regeneration areas, the bizarre exception being Tunbridge Wells East. However, although Folkestone embraced Ukip, interestingly Dover returned to Labour. 
It will be interesting to see how this new group performs on the County Council, the main functions of which are social care and education: Ukip does not appear to have strong or indeed any policies on either of these. Will they make it up on the hoof, or simply create more opportunities to spread their anti-EU, anti-immigration messages? 
Mike Thompson
Maidstone, Kent
 
Keynes did care for the future
Niall Ferguson shares with historians like Richard Overy and Paul Johnson the rare ability to combine intensive research and an agreeable style with original interpretation, and it is not stupid to suppose that people with grandchildren have relatively more interest in the future than others (“Ferguson has history of homophobic abuse of Keynes”, 6 May).
But for Keynes it was not only his economics, which went much further than immediate “reflationary” response to depression, that demonstrated long-term social concern, but also his opinions (right or wrong) on demographic and eugenic planning.    
JASON ROBERTSON
Sheringham, Norfolk
 
Much as I admire Peter Tatchell’s intelligence, his quoted statement that Ferguson’s remarks “are what we might expect from a pub bigot, not from a Harvard professor” was in effect very prejudiced. Why shouldn’t a Harvard professor be a pub bigot?
Martin Sandaver
Hay-on-Wye, Herefordshire
 
Mirren’s call  for silence
Dame Helen Mirren stopped the drums outside the Gielgud Theatre. If only she would perform at Shakespeare’s Globe and silence the helicopters.
Peter Forster
London N4
 
After her recent “performance”, will Helen Mirren next play the Duke of Edinburgh?
Philip Goldenberg
Woking, Surrey
 
Abortion pill
Semantics is confusing us over the issue of the “morning-after” pill (“Christian-run NHS surgery criticised for refusing to prescribe morning-after pill”, 6 May). When a medical doctor does not want to prescribe such a pill the reason is because it is not a late contraceptive, but an early abortion pill.
Dr J Matthews
Wareham, Dorset
 
Authority
So Nigel Lawson wants us to leave the EU does he? Is this the same Nigel Lawson whose 1988 budget caused a housing boom and stoked inflation, provoking a substantial rise in interest rates, a recession and the scourge of negative equity, and who now spends his time speaking against the science of climate change?
Ian Richards

Times

To leave the EU now would mean turning our back on the global economy and jeopardising crucial trade and investment’
Sir, Lord Lawson of Blaby’s article (Opinion, May 7) advocating withdrawal from the European Union will be one of many reflections we shall hear about the pros and cons of remaining within the European Union. It might be wise to recall the EU’s origin. It began as an agreement between France and Germany about the sources of coal and steel in order to ensure that never again would they go to war with one another. Soon other countries joined them and the union gradually developed.
The EU has all the shortcomings of any human organisation. There will always be arguments about political and economic matters. In the union these issues can be dealt with peacefully, however fierce the arguments. One outcome is almost 70 years without war in Western Europe. It is inconceivable at present that any of its members would go to war with another member. That is a priceless achievement, but cannot be taken for granted.
The Rev Bernard O’Connor
Birmingham
Sir, Nigel Lawson rightly claims that on the economic front the EU is becoming increasingly irrelevant. When Britain joined the EEC in 1975, it was a trading bloc that accounted for 40 per cent of global economic output. Today it accounts for 25 per cent. Within a decade, this figure is likely to be less than 15 per cent.
The UK trade to the EU is also not quite 49 per cent, for according to the Government’s own admission this figure included UK exports in transit, via Rotterdam and Antwerp, to Latin America, Africa and South-East Asia. Actual UK trade to the EU must, therefore, be somewhat less than 49 per cent. There may be many reasons why Britain should stay in the EU; fear of economic backlash or marginalisation cannot be one of them.
Randhir Singh Bains
Gants Hill, Essex
Sir, As an island on the edge of Europe we aren’t as immediately aware of EU trade as our continental cousins. I recently visited Aschaffenburg, a town about 30 miles east of Frankfurt. It is adjacent to the E41 motorway, an artery that links northwest Europe with those countries in the southeast and therefore facilitates trade all over the Continent. The consequence is that not only did the factory I was visiting buy raw material from the Balkans but the supermarket also sold a well-known brand of British crisps and every confectionery counter I visited carried a well-known lozenge made in Fleetwood. The EU used to be referred to as the Common Market, and we would do well to remember when suggesting leaving the EU that international trade is its primary purpose and benefit to us.
Gareth Tarr
Chertsey, Surrey
Sir, It is absurd for Nigel Lawson to suggest that we must somehow choose between trade with Europe and with the rest of the world. We are on the cusp of a game-changing trade deal between the EU and the US, worth billions of pounds to the British economy, and major trade agreements with India and Japan are also in the pipeline. To leave the EU now would mean turning our back on the global economy and jeopardising crucial trade and investment.
Moreover, the single market remains vital to jobs and growth in the UK. We continue to export more to the Netherlands than to China, Brazil, Russia and India combined, while 87 per cent of small business exporters rely on trade with the EU.
Just as we are finally beginning to emerge from a historic recession, it would be madness to gamble with our economic future by pulling out of the world’s largest trading bloc. David Cameron should listen to the voice of British business, which overwhelmingly supports EU membership, not the voice of a Tory dinosaur who is unwilling to face up to the modern world.
Fiona Hall
Leader of the UK Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament

Walking more is sometimes the only practical way to maintain a healthy lifestyle, yet roads are not designed with pedestrians in mind
Sir, The week of May 6 is Global Road Safety Week, devoted this year to pedestrian safety. This is part of the UN and World Health Organisation’s Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-20.
Globally, some 275,000 pedestrians are killed on the roads every year. By 2015, motor traffic is forecast to become the biggest single cause of death and serious injury to children under 14. Road schemes, often funded by international institutions of which the UK is a member, are constructed with little consideration for pedestrian safety.
Although the UK has a relatively good road safety record when measured by deaths per 100,000 population, we should not be complacent: 453 pedestrians were killed in 2011 in Great Britain, 24 per cent of all road deaths, and a rise of 12 per cent on 2010; Only a quarter of English primary school children are allowed to walk back from school alone; compared with three quarters in Germany.
One in four British adults is obese, a figure predicted to double by 2050. For many people, walking more is the only practical way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Yet many of our towns and cities are still dominated by traffic. The UK is falling behind in creating environments which encourage walking, reduce casualties and benefit the health of people, local economies and the environment.
We call upon central and local government to create safe and attractive environments for walking, to tackle excessive and inappropriate speeds and drink and drug driving, to implement vehicle standards that give pedestrians greater protection and to promote greater respect between pedestrians and drivers.
Viscount Simon; Barry Sheerman, MP; Professor Richard Parish, Royal Society for Public Health; Stephen Glaister, RAC Foundation; Ed Daniels, Shell UK; Lord Fowler; Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town; Lord Bradshaw; Lord Robertson of Port Ellen; Louise Ellman, MP; Jim Fitzpatrick, MP; Maria Eagle, MP; Iain Stewart, MP; Sir Peter Bottomley, MP; John Leech, MP; Sir Peter North, QC, Jesus College, Oxford; Nick Starling, Director of General Insurance, Association of British Insurers; Michael Woodford, Chairman, Safer Roads Foundation; Mike Clancy, President, College of Emergency Medicine; Sir Ian Gilmore, Chairman, Alcohol Health Alliance; Paul Lincoln, Chief Executive, National Heart Forum; Edmund King, President Automobile Association; Simon Best, Chief Executive, Institute of Advanced Motorists; Malcolm Shepherd, Chief Executive, Sustrans; Tony Armstrong, Chief Executive, Living Streets

The thought of fresh vegetables was an enticing one for those stationed in Cyprus in the 1950s, but the delivery left something to be desired
Sir, The Navy is not alone with its focus on the vitamin benefits of onions (“Trafalgar memo that proves Nelson knew his onions”, May 3; letter, May 6). During the Eoka campaign in Cyprus in the 1950s my battalion was operating in the Troodos Mountains for some weeks, living off tinned “compo”. The MO identified a plague of boils among the men and Brigade HQ authorised an issue of fresh rations as a countermeasure. We licked our lips at the thought of fresh eggs perhaps, oranges, green vegetables — anything to improve the “mutton Scotch style” which seemed to be the only compo on issue. The quartermaster was not very popular when all he delivered was a sack of onions per company.
Brian Lees
Colonel ret’d, ex 1st Bn The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
London SW6

We ought to be concerned that such huge changes to the criminal justice system are not being afforded parliamentary time
Sir, The nine law professors concerned by the Government’s plan to reform legal aid (letter, May 7) neglect to mention that the Ministry of Justice intends to introduce its changes by statutory instrument. As recently as a fortnight ago, the request by Karl Turner, MP, for a Commons debate was rebuffed. We ought to be concerned that such seismic change to criminal justice is not afforded parliamentary time.
Jon Mack
London EC4

Rather than asking why the litter on our roads and in the countryside is not cleared up, we should be asking why it is there at all
Sir, Jane Watts (letter, May 4) asks the wrong question. We should be wondering why it is that people are throwing such huge amounts of rubbish from cars in this country. Things really have reached epidemic proportions. In Cornwall, for example, the beautiful spring displays of primrose in the hedgerows now have to fight for attention with drinks cans, bottles, fast-food containers and litter of all sorts that festoon the lanes.
More than that, an increasing number of people walking their dogs will scoop up their dog’s waste into plastic bags and leave those bags just wherever they happen to be.
It’s nothing to do with local councils or the Highways Agency not having the money for road and street clearing. Something has happened in the national psyche that is causing this thoughtlessness, selfishness and disrespect.
Malcolm Mort
Liskeard, Cornwall

Telegraph

SIR – While the cultural sector is being urged by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to increase its economic impact in return for public investment, its ability to do is being thwarted by a tax regime that is discriminatory and intensely bureaucratic.
International tax conventions adopted by the British Government arbitrarily treat artists and musicians as well as sportsmen and footballers differently from other categories of taxpayer. However, this is compounded by the Government choosing to exempt foreign sports personalities from withholding tax, to encourage major sports events to take place in Britain, while leaving in place an aggressive tax regime for visiting musicians and artists.
In many cases Britain’s cultural organisations are forced to undertake arduous and time-consuming paperwork only to demonstrate that no tax is due at all. We would support any move that enabled British orchestras and concert halls to continue to attract the world’s finest musicians and to compete in the global marketplace, so enabling them to survive during these difficult times.
Our major cultural events and festivals are no less relevant than the Champions League Final or the London Athletics Grand Prix. If we are seeking to establish a legacy from the 2012 Olympic Games, we should be doing all we can to sustain the legacy of the Cultural Olympiad as well.
Michael Eakin
Chief Executive, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Chair, Association of British Orchestras
John Gilhooly
Director, Wigmore Hall and Chairman, Royal Philharmonic Society
Andrew Jowett
Chief Executive, Town Hall and Symphony Hall Birmingham and Chair, British Association of Concert Halls
Kathryn Enticott
Senior Vice President , Managing Director, IMG Artists
John Summers
Chief Executive, Hallé Orchestra
Ian Maclay
Managing Director, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Richard Mantle
General Director, Opera North
Stephen Lumsden
Managing Director, Intermusica
Jonathan Reekie
Chief Executive, Aldeburgh Music
Stephen Maddock
Chief Executive, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Michael Garvey
Chief Executive, Academy of Ancient Music
Louise Mitchell
Chief Executive, Bristol Music Trust
Professor Anthony Bowne
Principal, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance
Meurig Bowen
Director, Cheltenham Music Festival
Robin Osterley
Chief Executive, Making Music
Tim Walker
AM Artistic Director and Chief Executive, London Philharmonic Orchestra
Marie-Sophie Willis
Chief Executive, The Sixteen
David Butcher
Chief Executive, Britten Sinfonia
Richard Heason
Director, St. John’s Smith Square
Professor David Saint
Acting Principal, Birmingham Conservatoire
Leslie East
Chief Executive, ABRSM
Marios Papadopoulos
Artistic Director, Oxford Philomusica
Simon Funnell
Managing Director, London Mozart Players
Neil Bennison
Music Programme Manager, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall
Matthew Swann
Chief Executive, City of London Sinfonia
Paul James
Director General, European Union Baroque Orchestra
Jonathan Tunnell
Orchestra Manager, Glyndebourne Tour
Gijs Elsen
Chief Executive, English Concert
David Curtis
Artistic Director, Orchestra of the Swan
Jacqueline McKay
Chief Executive, Horsecross Arts – Perth Concert Hall
Peryn Clement-Evans
Artistic Director and Executive Officer, Ensemble Cymru
Jay Allen
Orchestra Director, Scottish Opera
Tony Ayres
Artistic Director, Orchestra da Camera
SIR – Maria Miller, the Culture Secretary, has suggested that the arts should be funded according to their ability to deliver an economic return (report, April 25).
Artists contribute to the life of a culture and, by implication, to its education. How often does one appeal to the arts for lucidity in times of trouble? How often do we turn to poetry and music at the points in our lives that really matter, such as at funerals or weddings?
A cultured society, as opposed to one geared towards purely economic ends, will understand itself and other cultures better. If our cultural heritage continues to be subject to the short-sighted opinions of career politicians, we run the risk of being reduced to trading purely on the intellectual and artistic capital of our past.
Adrian Brockless
London W8

SIR – You report (May 6) that both the Defence and Foreign Secretaries oppose legislation to permit a referendum on our EU membership. They say such a law has no chance of success in the current parliament.
Surely, this is the very reason a Bill should be introduced. It would show that the Prime Minister was listening and it would expose the other parties to serious criticism when they opposed the matter. Importantly for the Tories, it would serve to draw the sting of Ukip and put a brake on its current popularity.
Colin Cummings
Yelvertoft, Northamptonshire
SIR – William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, is wrong to caution against putting a referendum Bill to the vote in Parliament. Having lost the vote in the face of opposition from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, David Cameron could then go into the general election in 2015 rightly claiming that the Conservatives were the only main party to promise a vote on membership of the EU.
I forecast that the Conservatives would be re-elected with a solid working majority.
Related Articles
Visiting artists need tax breaks like sportsmen
07 May 2013
Peter Haines
New Milton, Hampshire
SIR – The Bill proposed by John Baron MP would force all MPs to stand up and be counted. The public would see which MPs were genuine in saying they wanted a referendum and which were not.
Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex
SIR – As William Hague says, the Bill will never pass, as both the Lib Dems and Labour will vote against it.
We Ukip supporters are therefore left with the increasingly likely scenario that Nigel Farage, having won a material number of seats at the next election, will agree to form a coalition with whichever party guarantees a referendum.
C G Stapleton
Holywell, Cambridgeshire
SIR – Even if Mr Cameron manages to convince me that he will hold a referendum on Europe, I will then want to know exactly what the questions will be and exactly how they will be framed.
If I feel that any ambiguity or question of semantics would allow him to wriggle out of the result I shall vote Ukip again.
J R McCarthy
Southampton
SIR – The Bill is voted on, the Lib Dems do not support it; the Government is defeated. David Cameron is forced to table a motion of no confidence. If the Lib Dems side with Labour, the Government loses and falls.
This would absolve Mr Cameron of the agreement not to hold an election until 2015. He could say he is forced into a general election because of lack of Lib Dem support. The election which follows would in effect be a referendum on renegotiating our position in the EU.
Clive Drake
Woking, Surrey
Best friends
SIR – Ben Thomas, headmaster of Thomas’s School, is quite right to highlight the difficulties that can arise when young children rely too heavily on “best” friends (report, May 2).
Having a best friend is not a problem in principle, but it can lead to the exclusion of others and inhibit the desire to spread one’s friendship group further.
I encourage all pupils in my school to adopt a healthy, more-the-merrier approach to friendships. They seem to bump along very happily on the whole.
John Brett
Headmaster, Old Buckenham Hall School Brettenham, Suffolk
SIR – As a shy young girl in primary school and an only child, I found making friends difficult. At the age of eight I met a kind and equally shy girl. From our friendship we both blossomed. We grew in confidence which helped us progress in our school work as well as our social life.
I have supported my best friend as she has me. I love her as a sister. I wonder what life would have held for me if our head teacher had followed the same views as Ben Thomas?
Marilyn Wathes
Witney, Oxfordshire
SIR – I met my best male friend in the Army in 1955 . We worked together for 20 years and still meet very regularly. I was his best man and he was mine.
The only disagreement has occurred recently – he is now a Ukip supporter whereas I have remained a loyal Tory.
Michael Clemson
Horsmonden, Kent
Taxing cyclists
SIR – Cycling is one of the few parts of our lives where the Government has not stuck its nose in. If cyclists want more protection, may I suggest they be required to pass a test, acquire insurance and pay tax on their mode of transport?
Ian Eyre
Llanyblodwel, Shropshire
SIR – John Morris (Letters, May 6) asserts that he will recognise cyclists as part of traffic when they pay the same amount of road tax and insurance as he does.
He fails to recognise that there is no road tax; Vehicle Excise Duty, which is only levied against motorised vehicles, has been treated as general taxation since 1937.
David Pearson
Maidstone, Kent
SIR – In my experience most cyclists own, tax and insure a vehicle.
They use their bicycles for exercise, to get to work quickly or to move about in a less polluting way. Get out of your car and try it.
Andrew Birkby
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
SIR – I only learnt to ride a bicycle properly after I began driving a car and realised how vulnerable cyclists are.
John Ley-Morgan
Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
Horatio’s rations
SIR – Lord Nelson’s success as a fighting admiral has overshadowed his tireless efforts to ensure the welfare of his men (report, May 3). His seamen were not just better trained than their enemies, they were better fed, healthier and fitter.
Victualling was so important to Nelson that he continued sending squadrons to get fresh food from North African ports while blockading Cadiz and eventually fought Trafalgar without Lord Louis’s squadron of five ships of the line.
Commander Alan York, RN (retd)
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Plain pack legislation
SIR – As “plain pack” legislation has been abandoned in the Queen’s Speech (Letters, May 6) there is a simple way for parents to deter their children from smoking.
Those who start the habit should be made to smoke a strong cigar as they would a cigarette. The likely outcome is that they will be violently sick and will, therefore, not want to smoke again.
David Bennett
Hove, East Sussex
SIR – Here in Australia our government has successfully introduced legislation enforcing plain packaging with grim pictures of the medical results of smoking depicted prominently across the packets. British health professionals (Letters, May 6) support a similar outcome.
I remember the time when one would be offered a cigarette not from a cheap, mass-produced cardboard packet but a slim silver cigarette case. I am surprised they do not seem to be making a comeback.
Chris Watson
Carlton River, Tasmania, Australia
Pedalling mischief
SIR – Organists can have a mischievous streak and are known to rile the clergy in many ways (report, May 3). A few years ago I heard of a London organist who was playing at a poorly attended church at the harvest festival service. The congregation, such as there was, donated the usual cans of soup and fruit, typical of the occasion.
For the final voluntary, the organist improvised on Yes! We have no bananas and was promptly sacked.
Neil Collier
Linslade, Bedfordshire
SIR – At the local parish church where I grew up, if the organist thought that the sermon had been going on too long he used to switch on the air pump.
John G Prescott
Coulsdon, Surrey
SIR – I remember one former organist, after a particularly boring sermon, pulling out all the stops and playing the Hallelujah Chorus. I’m a little more subtle and will end with You Shall Out With Joy.
Nicholas Richards
St Day, Cornwall
SIR – I recall with great fondness a triumphant organ improvisation that integrated Rhapsody in Blue with Mission Impossible. The choir was delighted. The director of music was not.
Max Kenworthy
Haywards Heath, East Sussex

Irish Times

   
Sir, – Derek McDowell (Opinion, May 2nd) was right to point out that the Dáil doesn’t work very effectively, but he identifies the wrong culprit in the whip system. He’s hardly alone; many commentators in these pages have done so. They seem to think the whip system enslaves TDs into voting in certain ways against their conscience. Of course if this were the case the whip system would be undemocratic and rightly the target of all this opprobrium.
In fact the whip system is a voluntary arrangement between TDs and their parties. And on most issues TDs are happy to follow the party whip and would have voted that way even had no whip been imposed. The arrangement is a result of a rational decision made by TDs as to what will get them re-elected, climbing the party and satisfy their own conscience. Different TDs need to judge the importance of each of these two goals when they come into conflict.
We can see that TDs often defy the whip when they calculate their interests are better served sticking up for their local areas. In this Government some have also done it on national issues or “matters of conscience”.
So if TDs want to vote with their “conscience” they can and do. Perhaps the problem is that they know that voters don’t always reward them for it.
There are ways political science could suggest would reduce the power of the party leadership to increase the “cost” of defying the whip. But we should be aware that these might have other negative consequences. And we should also note that the Irish electoral system seems perfectly designed to be whip-unfriendly, yet the whip is still widely adhered to. There are other problems with the way the Dáil works that can be solved without addressing this red herring. – Yours, etc,
Dr EOIN O’MALLEY,
School of Law and
Government,
Dublin City University,
Dublin 9.

   
Sir, – When Alfred Cope, a former British assistant undersecretary in Dublin Castle, was approached in the 1940s to give a statement to the Bureau of Military History he refused, saying “Ireland has too many histories: she deserves a rest”. David Adams (Opinion April 25th) would seem to agree.
He is right, of course, in his point that mythologised history has no place as a subject in our schools, but in making it he peddles a few myths himself.
As secretary of the Dublin 1798 Commemoration Committee, I was a regular visitor to commemorative events in Wexford (even “tramping up” Vinegar Hill on occasion) and the burning to death of 100-200 loyalists (Catholic and Protestant) by insurgents in a barn in Scullabogue was not ignored. In fact it has featured in school books in the South, along with Cruickshank’s lurid depiction, since the early 1970s.
His description of (unnamed) historians as “propagandists, purveyors of mythology, highly selective storytellers”, etc, is at odds with the rude health and diversity of historical scholarship over the past generation and not just at academic level but in popular radio programmes such as RTÉ’s History Show , Newstalk’s Talking History and History Ireland magazine, this year celebrating its 20th birthday. To mark the occasion we are hosting a special Hedge School (and David Adams is welcome to join us): Has Ireland too many histories: writing history in the roller coaster generation? , with Prof Joe Lee, Prof Diarmaid Ferriter, Dr Éamon Phoenix and Mary Cullen at 7pm on May 16th in the Royal College of Physicians, Kildare Street. – Yours, etc,
Between 1939 and 1969 the Irish working in Britain sent home remittances totalling £3.5 billion to help bolster a stuttering young nation. – Yours, etc,
TOMMY GRAHAM,
Editor, History Ireland ,
Palmerston Place, Dublin 7.

Sir, – It is very satisfying to see that the Heritage and Habitat page(Weekend Review, Saturdays) has carried regular articles on nature conservation in recent weeks. Paddy Woodworth’s analytical writing and obvious experience of the subject is the perfect complement to Michael Viney’s timeless and lyrical descriptions of the natural environment. Nature conservation has long been the poor relation of heritage in Ireland. With climate change, habitat loss and species extinction accelerating each year, it is long overdue that The Irish Times gave regular coverage to these issues and to the efforts of many organisations and ordinary citizens to counter their serious effects. The topics covered by Woodworth – bog conservation by a local community in Abbeyleix, the enhancement of nature in the Tolka Valley by Dublin City Council and the launch by Coillte of a wilderness area in Co Mayo – are all positive contributions to bring the reality of a green island into line with the image that our Government agencies like to portray abroad. – Yours, etc,
RICHARD NAIRN,
Glanmore,
Ashford, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – At a time when simple messages can get lost; letting the midwives lead the way (Cecily Begley and Declan Devane, April 30th) is one which is eminently sensible on every front. Having been a healthy low risk mother-to-be, three of my children were born under the care of the highly competent midwife-led unit at Holles Street Maternity Hospital, with the last one born at home. Less intervention? Yes. Greater satisfaction? Yes . Cheaper for the State? Yes. What’s not to love? – Yours, etc,
ELEANOR BLEAHENE,
Mountainview Road,
Ranelagh,
Dublin 6.

Sir, – Few will argue with John Kennedy’s nailing of the Fianna Fáilers’ “calculated spin” at their ardfheis blathering (April 30th). That, after all, is the purpose of these partisan preening sessions the globalised world over.
But when he extrapolates to laud our current crop of incumbent musical chairmen, by seeking that credit “. . . should be given where credit is due”, some might be forgiven for thinking it’s a pity debit was not given where debit was due, instead of being dumped on those least responsible for the speculative squanderlust. – Yours, etc,
DAMIEN FLINTER,
Castleview Estate,
Headford, Co Galway.

Sir, – Can anyone give me a good reason why the two-day G8 Roadshow, planned for Fermanagh next June, could not become a video conference at a tiny fraction of the obscene cost that has been estimated for the event?
What would the many poverty-stricken and unemployed people of this island say to even a tiny share of the £30 million bill for security for example? – Yours, etc,
DES MacHALE,
Avonlea Court,
Blackrock, Cork .

Sir, – If the Government is so concerned about the lack pensions for the average person (I say “average person” as the bankers and politicians seem to look after themselves pretty well), the obvious solution would be to convert the Universal Social Charge into a contributory pension fund. – Yours, etc,
BRIAN PALFREY,
Mount Pleasant Square,
Ranelagh, Dublin 6.

Irish Independent

President Higgins has probably overstepped the mark in commenting on the establishment handling of this dreadful economic crisis. His comments are desperately needed, however, to challenge the fiasco of understanding and remedial action to what is quickly becoming a major threat to the stability and cohesion of the whole European ideal.
• President Higgins has probably overstepped the mark in commenting on the establishment handling of this dreadful economic crisis. His comments are desperately needed, however, to challenge the fiasco of understanding and remedial action to what is quickly becoming a major threat to the stability and cohesion of the whole European ideal.
The latest reduction of interest rates to a historical low indicates the desperation of the establishment to stem the failure of all policies to extricate us from this unprecedented mess.
There is an utterly absurd consensus that this crisis is entirely financial. It is no such thing. It is the fallout from a misguided and counterproductive attempt to manage an utterly changed economic situation precipitated by the astonishing advance of technological capability. Two great pillars of economic activity have been transformed.
The ability to produce everything the world requires in abundance renders growth almost impossible. The ability to increase production to such levels while reducing the requirement for human labour makes mass unemployment inevitable.
Unless there is realisation of the new economic reality, there will be no redress.
Mr Higgins will have performed a most valuable service, not only to Ireland but to the world in general if his remarks broaden the debate to include the technological implications on economics in the 21st Century.
Padraic Neary
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
Irish Independent

I note with envy the decision of the Bank of England to place the iconic and pride-inducing image of Winston Churchill on their new high-circulation £5 banknotes from 2016. These new notes compare very favourably with the extremely bland and functional “new” €5 notes launched recently by the ECB.
It is such a shame that we in Ireland cannot place the face of one of Ireland’s great statesmen, such as Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins or W T Cosgrave, on the high-circulation banknotes that we use. Nor even the face of one of our great visionaries such as Padraig Pearse.
If it were possible for us to do this, I believe it would help to lift our national self-esteem and confidence.

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