Accountant

Accounts 10th May 2013

I trot round the park today and listen to the Navy lark. I Oh dear, oh dear
Troutbridge has returned home after a year from a trip to the antarctic, it should have taken three months, She is entamgled with a Newfoundland fishing boat, a Brazilian paddle steamer and an Chinese Junk Priceless.
Rain at last, a fine excuse for not doing anything in the garden. Our accountant Shona arrives and we chat about her new office,
I win at Scrabble today, just and gets just over 400, She might get her revenge tomorrow, I hope.

Obituary:

Bryan Forbes
Bryan Forbes, who has died aged 86, was responsible, as producer, director or scriptwriter, for some of the most arresting British films of the 1960s and 1970s.

Bryan Forbes and his bride actress Nanette Newman leaving Caxton Hall register office in London after their wedding ceremony Photo: PA
2:02PM BST 09 May 2013
His first great success was The Angry Silence (1960), made on a shoestring by Beaver Films, a company which Forbes had set up with Richard Attenborough. It was an honest and compelling account of a worker who refuses to join a political strike, finds himself sent to Coventry by his mates, and loses an eye in a fight; Forbes’s script brought him an Oscar nomination and won a Bafta.
As though to prove his versatility, Forbes next scripted The League of Gentlemen (1961), a comedy originally intended for Cary Grant. Instead Jack Hawkins played the retired colonel who collects together a band of crooked ex-soldiers who — under the name of Cooperative Removals Ltd — steal £1 million from a City bank. Forbes himself had a part in the film as a piano-playing gigolo, and his screenplay was widely praised for catching the right comic tone.
He made his debut as a director in the same year with Whistle Down the Wind. The story, scripted by Keith Waterhouse from the novel by Mary Hayley Bell, concerned some Lancashire children who mistake an escaped murderer (Alan Bates) for Jesus Christ — such being his exclamation when first discovered. It was a venture which could easily have been in bad taste, but Forbes managed to tell the strange tale without mawkishness. Meanwhile, his script of Only Two Can Play (1962), from Kingsley Amis’s novel That Uncertain Feeling, showed that he retained his comic touch.
Though his subsequent films were of uneven quality, Forbes had a consistent talent for creating fat parts for distinguished actresses. Three of them — Leslie Caron in The L-Shaped Room (1962), Kim Stanley in Séance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) and Edith Evans in The Whisperers (1967) — were nominated for Oscars. Forbes always placed great emphasis on his actors. “Everything should be subordinate to the performance”, he said. “That’s why I’m not highly regarded in the more esoteric cinema magazines.”
His first Hollywood film came in 1965, when Columbia invited him to write and direct King Rat (1965), from James Clavell’s novel about his experiences as a prisoner-of-war of the Japanese in Singapore’s Changi jail. Though some critics complained that moral judgment was too blithely weighted in favour of the title character (an American corporal, played by George Segal, who has the whole camp in his grip in the manner of a Chicago gangster), it would prove one of Forbes’s most powerful films. Yet his next effort, The Wrong Box (1966), from a story by Robert Louis Stevenson, proved a costly, star-studded flop undermined by whimsy.
When John Huston walked out of the production of The Madwoman of Chaillot (1969), from Jean Giraudoux’s play, Forbes was brought in as replacement director. An inveterate “stargazer”, he delighted in the opportunity to direct Katharine Hepburn and Yul Brynner, Danny Kaye, Donald Pleasence and Richard Chamberlain, all in the same film. And the cameraman was Claude Renoir. The filming coincided with les événements in Paris. “I suppose that to dine alone in Paris with Katharine Hepburn during a French Revolution, in a private room in the hotel where Oscar Wilde died,” Forbes breathlessly recorded, “must rate three stars in any personal Michelin.” The film, though, was rewarded with rather fewer stars.
His greatest opportunity came in 1969 when, at the age of only 43, he was appointed chief of production and managing director of Associated British Picture Corporation, then recently acquired by EMI. This gave him control of Elstree studios and of the production slate that constituted a large slice of the British film industry.
Seen as “the great white hope” of British cinema, Forbes swept in with ringing words and reassuring deeds calculated to endear him to critics and unions alike. “I want,” he announced, “to encourage the film of ideas which is also entertaining, which is adult, which does not pander to the lowest common denominator and which does not depend on violence or sex for its transient excitement.” At the same time he called for a truce in labour relations and, as an earnest of his good faith, abolished clocking-in and promised an end to redundancies.
He also announced that 15 feature films would be made in the next 18 months at a cost of £10 to £15 million, a programme which he described as “the most ambitious attempt to revitalise the British film industry in 20 years”. In fact, Forbes was condemned to operate on a meagre £4 million “revolving” fund which, as he complained, “never revolved”. It did not help, either, that the first three productions under his aegis — And Soon the Darkness; Hoffman (with Peter Sellers); and The Man Who Haunted Himself (all 1970) — were flops.
Attacking “the pornography of violence”, Forbes pledged himself to foster family entertainments, and gave the go-ahead to two successes: The Railway Children (1970) and Tales of Beatrix Potter (1971). The Go-Between (1970) was also well-received, though The Raging Moon (1970), which he himself scripted and directed, was considered by some to be self-indulgent and a misuse of the time that should have been devoted to managerial functions.
This would not have mattered had he achieved the single blockbuster that in Hollywood regularly bails out underperformers. But he did not. On the Buses (1971) was commercially successful enough, but hardly advanced the reputation of British cinema; while Dulcima (also 1971), from an HE Bates story, appeared to some critics to be more like Cold Comfort Farm than genuine melodrama.
By then financial wrangles were undermining Forbes’s position. His real difficulty was that as both head of production and managing director, he had divided loyalties. Artists always want more money, but management must keep them on a tight rein. No one person, perhaps, could have reconciled these conflicting demands, and in May — a year before his contract was due to expire — it was announced that Forbes had resigned . He would never again be quite such a force in British cinema.
Bryan Forbes had been born John Theobald Clarke in the East End of London on July 22 1926, and until the age of 13 was brought up at Forest Gate. His father was employed for 40 years as a salesman for the London Letter File Company in the Farringdon Road.
He was formally educated at West Ham Secondary School, but actually at the local cinemas. “If the Splendide was my village church,” he wrote, “the Queens at the top of Woodgrange Road was my Westminster Abbey.”
During the Second World War he had the distinction of being twice evacuated — first to Lincolnshire, where he attended Horncastle Grammar School, and then to Cornwall, where he was entrusted to the care of the Rev Canon “What-Ho” Gotto and his wife, who gave him a sense of direction and purpose.
John Clarke made his debut with the school dramatic society and was described, somewhat ambivalently, as “probably the finest 14-year-old Shylock of his generation”. Flushed with this success, he fired off letters to famous actors, and to others who might forward his career. Only Lionel Gamlin, at the BBC, replied, and in 1942 made his protégé (now back in London) question master of Junior Brains Trust. He also renamed him Bryan Forbes.
The fledgling actor next won a scholarship to Rada. “Accent, Forbes,” Sir Kenneth Barnes, the principal, told him. “Get rid of your Cockney accent or you’ll never amount to much.” But as soon as Forbes landed the role of Richard in Eugene O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! at Rugby he left Rada and subsequently played in Envy My Simplicity at Brighton. Thanks to the advocacy of Joan Greenwood, soon afterwards he appeared in Emlyn Williams’s The Corn Is Green at Worthing.
When Terence Rattigan arranged for Forbes to have a part in his long-running success Flare Path, it seemed that the young actor was on his way. Even his call-up in 1943 proved only a temporary interruption. After initial training Forbes was drafted into the Army Theatre Unit, with which he toured the Middle East. He passed his 20th birthday as a sergeant in charge of a production of James Bridie’s It Depends What You Mean in Germany.
He left the Army in early 1948, and in February landed a leading role in The Gathering Storm (a rewritten version of Envy My Simplicity) at the St Martin’s Theatre. Through Dennis Van Thal, casting director at Pinewood, he made his debut in films as a dying soldier in Michael Powell’s The Small Back Room (1949). This was followed by a bigger role in All Over The Town (1949), while on television he appeared in Somerset Maugham’s The Breadwinner.
Meanwhile, in December 1948 Forbes had played Jimmy in Daphne du Maurier’s September Tide, at the Aldwych, with Gertrude Lawrence in the lead. This was followed in 1950 by the lead in The Holly and the Ivy at the Duchess Theatre. On the screen he had a small part in The Wooden Horse (1950). In the same year he published a book of short stories, Truth Lies Sleeping, and also began to review for The Spectator and New Statesman.
In 1951 Forbes married the actress Constance Smith, and when she went to Hollywood he threw up the chance of a role in Rattigan’s The Sound Barrier to join her there. But neither his marriage nor his career prospered in America. He wrote a number of scripts, none of which was performed, and befriended the film director Raoul Walsh, who cast him in a small role in The World In His Arms (1952), and gave him the money to return to Britain.
Back home he landed a part in Appointment in London (1952), a tear-jerker about Bomber Command starring Dirk Bogarde. Then Raoul Walsh, newly arrived in Britain, gave him a part and employed him as an additional scriptwriter on a film entitled Toilers of the Sea. But it was his appearance in a B-picture, Wheel of Fire (1953), that changed Forbes’s life: while filming in Marylebone shunting yards he met Nanette Newman, and they married in 1955.
Slightly built, with a boyish appearance, Forbes lacked the stature and presence for leading film roles but seemed well suited to supporting parts as petty officers and NCOs in a variety of British war pictures such as The Colditz Story (1954), I Was Monty’s Double (1958) and The Guns of Navarone (1961). He also appeared in the adaptation of An Inspector Calls (1954) and in Satellite in the Sky (1956).
Increasingly, however, he was dedicating himself to writing. He had begun by doctoring other people’s flawed scripts, but gravitated to full-scale screenplays of his own. The first of these to be filmed was Cockleshell Heroes in 1955.
During the filming of The Baby and the Battleship (1956), in which Forbes had a small part, he again helped with the screenplay. Rank offered a five-year writing contract and in its first year he wrote five full-length screenplays. Yet none of them saw the light of day, and it seemed to Forbes in 1957 that his film career was going nowhere.
He was thinking of accepting a partnership with a garage owner when he was offered a part in Carol Reed’s The Key (1958). His screenwriting then took off, and within a short space of time he wrote the screenplay for I Was Monty’s Double and co-scripted The Captain’s Table (1958), the highly-entertaining Danger Within (1958), and Man in the Moon (1960).
He then unwisely rejected the opportunity, offered by Cubby Broccoli, to direct the first James Bond film, Dr No. And though Forbes might have done better to have refused to write the script for Of Human Bondage (1964), he was soon swept up by success and Elstree.
His post-Elstree films as a director were a mixed collection. The Stepford Wives (1974), about a commuter village outside New York where husbands have replaced their wives with complacent clones, achieved a certain vogue, and was remade in 2004 with Nicole Kidman.
The Slipper and the Rose (1976) was a version of the Cinderella story. International Velvet (1978), which Forbes produced, wrote and directed, was a next-generation sequel to National Velvet (1935), with showjumping taking the place of steeplechasing. His last two films — Better Late than Never (1983), a risqué comedy with David Niven, and The Naked Face (1984), a Mafia thriller with Roger Moore and Rod Steiger — did not enhance his reputation.
By then he was largely working outside film. From 1958 he had owned a vast 1930s house, described as “a cross between a biscuit factory and an early Odeon cinema”, at Virginia Water in Surrey, and in 1971 he opened a bookshop nearby. (He had always been an obsessive book collector, with a particular interest in books about Napoleon.) There he served behind the counter on Saturdays and poured coffee for customers. He also acquired an art gallery in the West End.
In the 1970s he spent much time writing novels. His first, The Distant Laughter (1972), was followed two years later by Notes for a Life , a highly readable autobiography. Ned’s Girl (1977) was a biography of Dame Edith Evans, about whom Forbes had earlier made a documentary for Yorkshire Television. That Despicable Race (1980) was a history of the British acting tradition from Elizabethan times to the present.
Familiar Strangers (1979), an ingenious fictional exposé of the “Fourth Man”, represented a new departure, and was followed by a series of other novels, the most recent published in 2012 . Forbes was not inclined to modesty about them. “I’m rather good”, he remarked, “and will be recognised as such when I’m dead.” Others, though, felt that his autobiographies — he published a second volume, A Divided Life, in 1992 — were the best of his writings.
Meanwhile, he maintained his interest in the theatre. The Macbeth he directed at the Old Vic in 1980, with Peter O’Toole in the lead, became a celebrated theatrical disaster, to the extent of being a commercial success. By all accounts, rehearsals were a nightmare, and on opening night, with the curtain about to rise, Forbes found his star stark naked in the dressing room, sporting only a Gauloise. After the performance, Forbes took the unusual step of appearing on stage to defend his company and crew and was greeted with the catcall: “It can’t get any worse.” Forbes’s subsequent theatrical ventures (the whodunit Killing Jessica in 1986 and a production of Graham Greene’s The Living Room in 1987) fared only slightly better.
In 1990 Forbes suffered a severe disappointment when his 58th script — for a film about Charlie Chaplin — was rejected in favour of one by William Boyd. The decision was made by Universal, but Forbes was hurt that his long-time ally Richard Attenborough did not stand up for his version.
Forbes was a director of Capital Radio, and quondam member of the BBC general advisory council and of the BBC Schools Council. He was president of the Beatrix Potter Society, the National Youth Theatre and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.
He was appointed CBE in 2004, and in 2007 received a Bafta Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 1975, during the filming of The Slipper and the Rose, Forbes experienced agonising sensations in his right leg; in addition his eyesight was affected and his balance shaky. Doctors diagnosed multiple sclerosis. By adopting a gluten-free diet supplemented by vitamins, and dosing himself daily with oil of evening primrose, he succeeded in keeping the disease at bay. “I hope I don’t have a lingering end,” he said. “I’d prefer to fall face down over a bottle of Chablis.”
By his second marriage to Nanette Newman, Forbes had two daughters; the elder married the actor John Standing (Sir John Leon, 4th Bt).
Bryan Forbes, born July 22 1926, died May 8 2013

Guardian

Interesting that Cody Wilson hasn’t started his research by developing 3D printable parts for prosthetic limbs but for guns (G2, 7 May). Presumably the increased demand for prosthetic limbs will come after the increased availability and use of the 3D guns.
Hugh Clark
Glasgow
• Ernst & Young call for voluntary tax reform for the rich (Tax advisers lobby Cameron to avert new rules for companies, 8 May). I support this on condition that welfare benefit reform is voluntary for poorer people.
Roy Grimwood
Market Drayton, Shropshire
• The triple negative has a rather older genesis than the 1972 example quoted by Simon McIntyre (Letters, 7 May). In popular song, Mamie Smith recorded the first version of Clarence and Spencer Williams’ I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jellyroll in 1922, but the usage far predates this. For example, in the prologue to The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer writes “He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde”, which, loosely translated, goes “No one never said no vileness [about him]”.
Richard Carter
London
• Daniel Maguire (Letters, 9 May) referring to Mrs Windsor’s possible Atos assessment reminded me of a Private Eye cartoon years ago in which a crowned person at the employment exchange was being asked: “Can’t you do anything except reign?”
Joseph Cocker
Leominster, Herefordshire
• Further to Janet Barclay’s letter (9 May) about Catholics being reported as either “lapsed” or “devout”, I recall that, in the reports of the troubles of Northern Ireland, not only were Catholics always referred to as “devout”, the Protestants were invariably “staunch”.
Andrew Grealey
Heywood, Lancashire
• In answer to Ian Joyce (Letters, 9 May), the absence of bees would have no effect on the dandelions in his lawn as most species reproduce asexually. The characteristic dandelion “clocks” are produced without any external agency – bees or any other insect.
Steve Jones
Ferryhill, County Durham

“Experience suggests Obama cannot count on Russian help to fix Syria,” says Simon Tisdall (Syria crisis has forced timid Obama into a corner, 8 May). Obviously he believes that America has been doing its best to end the Syrian catastrophe through peaceful means, obstructed by Russia. That version of events is widely but not universally accepted. America and Russia have again committed themselves to the Geneva agreement reached in June 2012, and talked up hopes for a high-level conference to take place within weeks. What matters now is that both countries throw their phenomenal soft power and diplomatic clout into making sure this conference goes ahead and doing their best to make it a success. John Kerry, US secretary of state, is quite right in this context when he says “committed partners can accomplish great things together”. Our government must do its best to help in this endeavour.
Brendan O’Brien
London
• Your assertion that the US “has hesitated to arm” the Syrian rebels (Report, 9 May) is contradicted by a March 2013 story in the New York Times that noted “with help from the CIA, Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syrian opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against Bashar al-Assad”. The same report quoted an arms expert from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute as saying “a conservative estimate of the payload of these flights would be 3,500 tons of military equipment”. If this is the US “hesitating”, God helps us if they get actively involved.
Ian Sinclair
London

Although I am a lifelong Southampton fan, I would like to pay tribute to the outstanding contribution of Sir Alex Ferguson to football management (Simply the best? 9 May). While there has never been any doubt regarding his first loyalties and passion he has always displayed wider personal qualities of fairness and praise to whichever team and player are so deserving. His longevity has been crucial to the success of Manchester United and has allowed him to stand out among his peers in a game that always seems to rush to sackings when short-term success is not forthcoming.
He himself could easily have suffered such a fate in his early years but for a far-sighted and patient employer. He will be greatly missed as a personality in a game which is sadly lacking in such people. I wish him a fulfilling retirement and suggest that his wisdom will similarly add spice to another institution in desperate need of a fillip – the House of Lords.
David Whitney
Hathersage, Derbyshire
• I was relieved and proud when my 14-year-old son told me he was shunning the family team, Stoke City, to support Arsenal. I feared it was going to be Man United. Ferguson represents success but he also represents, and has encouraged, an era where misbehaviour, bad sportsmanship and losing – and winning – badly has become acceptable. I hope David Moyes can redress this because he has behaved exactly the opposite at Everton. It’s important because managers are role models, just like players.
Steve Palmer
London
• When someone retires it is usual to look back on their working life. Sir Alex Ferguson will be remembered for his footballing triumphs of course, but many in the labour movement will feel his defining moment was being one of the leaders of the 1961 Clyde shipyards apprentices strike.
Keith Flett
London
• I have no interest whatsoever in this bloke who tells an overpaid bunch of oiks how to kick a ball about. What if somebody really significant in the creative arts retired? Say Seamus Heaney declared he was retiring from poetry – would we get a supplement about that?
Paul Noel Wilson
Barnoldswick, Lancashire
• In his retirement statement, Sir Alex Ferguson refers to having helped “to build a football club, rather than just a football team”. He seems to have forgotten that in 1998 the words “football” and “club” were both dropped from the badge. Rather, he oversaw the change of a fans’ club into a corporate entity.
Dr Quentin L Burrell
Ballabeg, Isle of Man
• What is most amazing about Ferguson’s reign as manager of Manchester United is that, if it wasn’t for some poor refereeing decisions, his team would probably have been undefeated for 26 years.
Andy Smith
London
• I had just resumed reading the paper after the passing of Margaret Thatcher, and now find I have to stop again. Can someone let me know when the Fergie-mania has passed?
Roger Harrison
Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire

The attorney general, Dominic Grieve, is only the latest in a long line of government ministers who are no longer able to distinguish between reality and perception (Minister wrong to conceal prince’s letters, court told, 9 May). You report “Grieve said there was a risk that the letters would reveal that the heir to the throne had disagreed with government policy and would undermine his political neutrality.” Surely, if Charles has been attempting to influence ministers on political issues he has, arguably, abandoned his position of political neutrality. Whether we, the public, get to hear about, is an entirely separate question.
Of course I don’t really believe that Grieve doesn’t understand the distinction. He is, regrettably, getting himself into intellectual contortions trying to defend the government’s position. Perhaps the time has come for the office of attorney general to be removed from the patronage of the prime minister of the day?
Tom Beaton
Isleworth, Middlesex

The last Labour government had in train plans to introduce national registration, which this government aborted (New curbs on EU migrants in Queen’s speech, 8 May). There are many practical advantages to the law-abiding person having an ID card, and we are prejudiced by being denied this. When we want to identify ourselves we are obliged to produce utility bills and other such documents to establish our identity – a troublesome business. If I want to renew my British Library card I have to produce a recent document with my address. When I renew my credentials as a police interpreter I need to go to a police station and waste half an hour of their time checking evidence of my identity. In Britain, because bad debts cannot be attached to an individual with an identity card, the debt is apparently attached to the address at which the debtor lived when the debt was incurred. Not clever.
One suspects that many people expressing views on this subject have never experienced living under a system of universal identification. It operates effectively in European countries. It worked in Britain during the second world war. It is a sensible means of storing information with which we can easily prove our identity. An incidental gain is that it furnishes the only effective means of identifying illegal immigrants.
Russell Jones
Penryn, Cornwall
• So landlords are to be responsible for ensuring their tenants are not illegal immigrants: no Irish; no blacks; no dogs. Nobody who looks like they might be an immigrant. Back to the bad old days.
Trudie Goodwin
London
• Gordon Brown’s election hit the skids when he said a woman who complained about immigrants was a bigot. Tories imply that the shortage of housing and jobs is the result of immigration, Ukip says close the borders. When did it become OK to be a bigot, but wrong to call someone out for it?
Joanne Columbine
Bury

Our criminal justice system is admired throughout the world – how many things can we now say that about? Chris Grayling’s proposal to give legal aid contracts to the lowest bidder, regardless of quality, and to introduce further swingeing cuts to rates will bring an end to this (Haulage firm bids for new legal aid contracts, 9 May). A robust legal aid system is essential if we believe in the notion that someone is innocent until proven guilty. Without a credible legal aid system, those that cannot afford representation risk being convicted not because they are guilty but because the prosecution has better lawyers than they do.
Grayling seeks to justify this on cost grounds alone. However what are the costs of the inevitable rise in litigants in person, the rise in miscarriages of justice, making thousands of criminal lawyers and support staff unemployed, or indeed the costs of administering these consultations and tendering processes? If costs are such a concern, what was the justification for the Legal Services Commission’s rebranding to become the Legal Aid Agency, less than 10 years after rebranding from the Legal Aid Board? These “reforms” will be introduced by statutory instrument with no parliamentary debate and will not be scrutinised by any democratic process.
The state will arrest and charge a man, prosecute him to the full extent of the law utilising all its resources and give him a lawyer from the company that agreed to provide one at the lowest cost. If this was happening in a far-flung nation we would mock it as regressive and undemocratic. That this is happening in Britain is shameful.
Nick James
Argent Chambers
• When my son, Alfie Meadows, was injured by a police baton strike in the student protests of 2010, I did not at first realise we needed a lawyer. His brother rang 999 to report what he saw as a crime and the IPCC investigation began. With my son still recovering, I chose a law firm that specialised in actions against the police. Three months later my son was charged with violent disorder. He was acquitted unanimously in his third trial. In each trial, the prosecution offered more witnesses, drawing on seemingly unlimited resources. But, long after the meagre funding provided by legal aid ran out, support from our committed, specialist lawyers continued.
Under the new proposals, roughly 1,600 law firms will be replaced by 400 large non-specialist firms. Bids are expected from firms such as Serco and G4S. Defendants will have no choice of lawyer but will be allocated either alphabetically by surname, according to a rota based on date of birth, or by a strict rota round the firms. Once assigned, except in exceptional cases, no change of solicitor will be possible. All bids must come in at least 17.5% below current levels. Chris Grayling claims that “The hard-working public pay for legal aid, and we must deliver a system which commands their confidence and uses their money wisely”. It’s “skivers” versus “strivers” again. But justice must be there for all if it is to be justice. It is the most vulnerable and the least powerful that need it most.
Susan Matthews
Secretary, Defend the Right to Protest
• The real effect of these changes will be the creation of a two-tier legal system. Under the proposals, the organisation with the lowest bid wins the work. There will inevitably be huge pressure to get a case over with as quickly as possible. The legal aid client will quickly understand that the lawyer given to them by the state has every commercial incentive to spend as little time or effort on their case as possible.
It has taken decades to build a system where there is equal access to the criminal law. That is about to disappear. The rich will continue to pay for the best quality lawyer available. Everyone else, including children, those with disabilities and those unable to understand what is going on will be given a lawyer where there will be no expectation of him or her fighting for what is just.
John A Killah, Solicitor
Frome, Somerset
• Last week, I thought how apt Eddie Stobart would be as providers of transport for any future Ukip administration; today, I see Stobart Barristers are leading contenders for legal aid contracts. You couldn’t make it up.
John Bailey
St Albans, Hertfordshire

Today sees the launch of a new partnership between the University of Oxford and Shell. As Oxford alumni, staff and students, we are united in our opposition to this new partnership and the growing trend of oil companies funding, and thus influencing, the research agenda of our universities. Shell is a particularly inappropriate choice of funder for an Earth sciences laboratory. Shell’s core business activities and political lobbying are pushing us towards a future with a global temperature increase well in excess of 2C. Oxford’s own climate scientists are warning us that we need to leave the majority of known fossil fuels in the ground, and yet this new partnership will undertake research that will help Shell to find and extract even more hydrocarbons.
Shell’s research money is also buying legitimacy for its unconscionable activities globally. These include human rights abuses in the Niger delta, reckless drilling plans in the Arctic, fracking in South Africa, and carbon-intensive tar sands extraction that undermines indigenous rights in Canada. Worryingly, the government is endorsing this partnership, with energy and climate change secretary Ed Davey attending the launch.
The government appears to be comfortable that its cuts to research funding are pushing our best universities into partnerships with the world’s worst companies. We urge Oxford University to lead by example and dissociate itself from Shell before its own reputation is tarnished and its students’ futures are jeopardised by runaway climate change.
Jeremy Leggett
Alum, Solar Century chairman, campaigner
Jonathon Porritt
Alum, founding director of Forum for the Future
Edward Mortimer
CMG, Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, author, journalist, former director of communications in the executive office of the United Nations secretary-general
Hilary Wainwright
Alum, Transnational Institute fellow and Red Pepper co-editor
George Monbiot
Alum, journalist
Doug Parr
Alum, Greenpeace chief scientist
Paul Kingsnorth
Alum, writer
James Turner
Alum, Greenpeace head of communications, Arctic campaign, Greenpeace International
Howard Reed
Alum, Founder of Landman Economics
Oliver Tickell
Alum, author and commentator
Salla Sariloa
Alum, senior researcher in Global Health Ethics, University of Oxford Department of Public Health
Jo Tyabji
Alum, Editor of open security at http://www.opendemocracy.net
Oscar Reyes
Alum, associate fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies
Rachel Stancliffe
Alum, director of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare
Tom Henfrey
Alum, Energy researcher, Durham University
Anne Marie O’Reilly
Alum, Campaign Against the Arms Trade campaigner
Sam Thompson
Lecturer in English, St Anne’s
Sam Geall
Lecturer, School of Geography and the Environment
Louise Hazan
Alum, campaigns manager, People & Planet
Kevin Smith
Alum, oil campaigner, Platform
Danny Chivers
Alum, climate change researcher and author of the No Nonsense Guide to Climate Change
Will McCallum
Alum, former staff member (access officer, Wadham College) and SU president (2008/09)
Stephen Reid
Alum, network organiser, New Economics Foundation (nef)
Emily Coats
Alum, Co-director, UK Tar Sands Network
Ruthi Brandt
Alum, Campaigner, UK Tar Sands Network
Chris Garrard
Doctoral candidate
Helle Abelvik-Lawson
Alum, human rights project officer, Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Study, University of London
Bradley L Garrett
Researcher, School of Geography and Environment
Antione Thalmnann
Undergraduate student
Lucie Kimchin
Alum
Tom Shooter
Alum
Dr Hugo Reinert
Alum
Danielle Paffard
Alum
Linda Stewart
Alum
Jim Price
Alum
Dr Uri Gordon
Alum
Rosalind Gray
Alum
Harriet Young
Alum
Tina Valentine
Alum
Jon Leighton
Alum
Colin Guildford
Alum
Dr Frances Mortimer
Alum
Evelien de Hoop
Alum
Anna Appleby
Undergraduate student
Chiara Vitali
Alum
Rebecca Quinn
Alum
Dan Whiteley
Alum
Sophie Sturup
Alum
Hannah Schling
Alum
Dan Jeffries
Graduate research student
Alice Lacey
Alum
Marloes Nicholls
Alum
Adam Elliot-Cooper
Alum
Rowan Livingstone
Alum
Leoni Löwenherz
Alum
Amber Murrey-Ndewa
Alum
Madeleine Perham
Undergraduate student
Abigail Motley
Undergraduate student
Eleanor Cross
Alum
Bethan Tichborne
Alum
Tim Davies
Alum
Anna Wolmouth
Alum
George Roberts
Alum
Nadira Wallace
Alum
Mathura Umachandran
Alum
Ben Pritchett
Alum
Sophie Lewis
Alum
Sara Jansson
Alum
Finn Jackson
Alum
Ellen Gibson
Undergraduate student
James Davies
Undergraduate student
Rowan Borchers
Undergraduate student
Guy Cochrane
Undergraduate student

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Ukip did so well in the recent local elections largely because all the parliamentary parties have promised us a referendum on the EU, but they have all broken their promises, putting their loyalty to the EU above their loyalty to the British people.
Throughout 2004 and 2005 Tony Blair promised us a referendum on the EU Constitution. On  13 May 2005, he said, “Even if the French voted No, we would have a referendum. This is a government promise”. Just three weeks later, the French voted no – and Blair broke that promise.
In 2007 David Cameron gave us his “cast-iron guarantee” of a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty – but we had no referendum. Cameron now promises us a referendum – after the next election, when he may well be out of office.
Will Podmore, London E12
 
With all the negative feeling over the UK’s membership of Europe, it has been refreshing to hear from your correspondents in favour. We learn from Ukip of the daily cost, but they never balance this with the benefits, political as well as economic, of being part of something bigger than ourselves. The truth is that we cannot go back to a rose-tinted past. The only way  is forward.
The West Riding mill town of my youth had as its motto “Industry Enriches”. I remember how the town manufactured wire, brake linings, motorcycles and boiled sweets. There is now precious little of this left. The scenario we would return to, outside Europe, would be a shadow of the glories of yesterday.
The youngest in our society might well live into another century, a world quite unrecognisable to most of us. Europe needs the UK to risk a joined-up future where we consider not only what we get out of union but also what we can give. West Germany did this a couple of decades ago when a barrier broke down. Likewise Europe, as a global influence for good, needs to incorporate its poorer nations and prevent the rise of right-wing factions.
While our mainstream political parties feel they must tweak their policies in response to Ukip’s advance, let us hear more those manifestos which want to create a world fit for today’s newborn to live in.
Rev Peter Sharp, Chapel-en-le-Frith,  Derbyshire
 
It is unsurprising that Lord Lawson has come out in support of Ukip on Europe, as he also shares with most of them a totally delusional position on the most vital international issue of all time: climate change.
Lord Lawson has done more than almost anyone in Britain to misinform the public on climate change, even setting up a charity devoted to subtle climate denial (the Global Warming Policy Foundation). His is a dangerously deceptive voice, and he has therefore lost the right to be taken seriously by sensible people.
Dr Richard Milne, Edinburgh
 
Nigel Lawson may be, in your eyes, a political heavyweight, but I don’t think so. He’s merely very right-wing and obsessive about defending the business and rich people of this country. As a working-class pensioner who appreciates the protection the EU gives to ordinary people, when I read of Lawson’s desire to leave Europe it reinforces my belief that we must stay in at any cost.
Eddie Johnson, Long Melford, Suffolk
 
Bad grammar spells trouble
Dame Jacqueline Wilson criticises the language skills of British schoolchildren when compared with those of her fans overseas (6 May). Let this be a loud wake-up call. “Sweetly funny” Dame Jacqueline may sometimes find it, but those who do not make it as “famos ritters” will grow up needing to find jobs in an increasingly global marketplace.
Today’s British children will tomorrow be dealing with people in other countries who have learnt English as a second language and who notice bad grammar as well as spelling.
A well-known British company recently asked me to explain why they had not been awarded a particular global contract. I advised them to go back and re-read their proposal (preferably out loud) and come back to me if they still needed an answer. I did not hear from them again.
Penny Dorritt, Walmer, Kent
 
Admiral Horthy maligned
My parents were the victims of anti-Semitism in Hungary before and during the Second World War, and both narrowly escaped with their lives. I am therefore not exactly an enthusiast for the late Admiral Horthy. But to say, as your report did on 6 May, that he was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews is simply wrong.
Some Jews were almost certainly deported before 1944 but the mass deportation started in late 1944 after Horthy had been replaced by local Nazis. It is one of the bitter paradoxes of the war that Jews were more likely to survive in Fascist or pro-German countries like Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria and Finland, even Spain, than in those where the Germans simply invaded and occupied, notably Poland and the western Soviet Union.
Dr M Schachter, London NW6
 
How the morning after pill works
Dr Matthews (8 May) is wrong in stating that oral emergency contraception is an abortifacient.
This question went to judicial review in 2002 before Mr Justice Munby. He was clear that it is not possible to procure a miscarriage until you have a carriage. Carriage occurs when the blastocyst has become implanted in the endometrium. Oral emergency contraception is used after unprotected sex and before implantation. Mr Justice Munby concluded that oral emergency contraception is not an abortifacient. Two products are licensed in the UK, Levonelle and EllaOne; both are available from multiple sources.
Dr Sam Rowlands, Bournemouth
 
I was very disappointed to read Mary Dejevsky’s remarks regarding general practitioners (“GPs – blame yourselves for 111”, 8 May). Please remember that the vast majority of us went into medicine to improve the quality of patients’ lives and not to juggle budgets, politics and clinical commissioning.
Of course healthcare is required 24/7 and it would be wonderful if patients could see their own GP out of hours as well as in the daytime but I’m sure your writer would be the first to complain if she could not see any of her usual GPs because they were off “post-nights” or her doctor fell asleep mid-consultation because he or she had covered the previous day and night and was exhausted.
Many doctors do willingly participate in the provision of out of hours care in their local area. Should Mary Dejevsky have any suggestions about how GPs can “bring themselves to offer a decent service 24/7” which enables GPs to work safely within their physical limitations and manage to enjoy their own lives, I am sure we all, patients and doctors alike, would be delighted to hear about it.
Dr Rachel Mamman, Wirral, Merseyside
 
Mary Dejevsky is wrong to link the problems facing NHS111 with the GP contract or out of hours care. NHS111 is a stand-alone triage service designed to answer non-emergency calls. In theory, it has the potential to relieve pressure on the NHS by dealing with health queries that do not require a visit to a hospital or GP surgery. It was never designed to take more serious calls and is not tied to the GP contract.
Unfortunately, the implementation of NHS111 has been so chaotic that patients have faced unacceptable delays in getting through to an operator. In some instances, the advice they have been given has been questionable. The BMA remains concerned that delays or deficiencies in the health advice being relayed to the public undermines patient safety, while the continued inability of the system to cope with call demand is putting other NHS services under pressure.
It is clear that we need immediate action to tackle the problems overwhelming NHS111. We should not be using the current crisis to blame healthcare professionals who repeatedly warned that the system was flawed before it was even launched.
Dr Laurence Buckman, British Medical Association , London WC1
 
Don’t forget about Black Rod
Roy Evans (letter, 9 May) has missed the wonderful act of defiance at the heart of the ritual of the State Opening of Parliament. It is the slamming of the door of the Commons in the face of Black Rod, the Sovereign’s representative. We have here a marvellous act of anti-deference, an inexhaustible precedent of challenge, which can inspire all radicals and shakers of the status quo for ever.
Christopher Walker, London W14
 
Discrimination in bankers’ pay
If Samantha Mangwana’s letter drawing attention to pay discrimination in the City had concerned, say, black City workers, and not female ones, would Nick Wray have written his facetious letter  (9 May) – and, more to the point, would you have published it?
Rebecca Wheeler, Warminster, Wiltshire
 
Religion mocked
The notion that Bowie’s latest video confirms that “pop culture will continue to mock Christianity”  is a strangely truncated judgement (report, 9 May). While it may well continue to mock, it will, like all  the arts, also continue to engage with, mine, re-use, affirm and enhance Christian and other religious themes. That is how religion and culture work.
Clive Marsh, University of Leicester
 
Aquatic apes
It’s a shame that your article on the aquatic ape hypothesis (9 May) does not mention Elaine Morgan, the woman who has done most to attract popular attention to it. She has had to battle decades of academic derision in championing the theories of Sir Alister Hardy, the eminent marine biologist who believed in the idea but was not bold enough to publish a book on the subject. Let us hope that the support of Sir David Attenborough will bring more focus to a controversial topic that deserves to be taken more seriously.
Simon Prentis, Cheltenham
 
Bank holidays
Isn’t it about time that, Christmas Day apart, we did away with Bank Holidays? Inevitably they mean overcrowded roads and less frequent – and reliable – public-transport services. I’m sure that those in work would rather be given the opportunity to have extra leave instead, at the time of their choosing.
Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby

Times

May 10 2013

‘The Eurosceptic position appears to advocate a return to a colonial-style government but with reduced representation from the regions’
Sir, Michael Portillo eloquently states a case for the UK to leave the EU, but from a southeast England perspective only (Opinion, May 9). Despite the noise being made by a number of Eurosceptics, amplified out of all proportion to their numbers by the right-wing media, there are still many in the regions who support EU membership. Given the weight of English votes, however, it is possible that, in the wake of an “Out” vote, Wales, Scotland and, indeed regions such as the South West, could be forced to leave the EU against their will, reigniting the fire of independence which has been almost extinguished by devolution.
Aggravating the situation, many Eurosceptics oppose both devolution and Scottish/Welsh independence while also planning to reduce the number of MPs from those parts. In effect, the Eurosceptic position appears to advocate a return to a colonial-style, London-based government but with reduced representation from the regions.
The combination of no influence in Europe, no say at home and reduced representation in London would be highly toxic. Eurosceptics should note that a victorious campaign to leave the EU could lead rapidly to the disintegration of the UK.
Dr Nick Winstone-Cooper
Laleston, South Wales
Sir, Lord Lawson of Blaby’s assertion (Opinion, May 7) that the EU functions only as a “political end” rather than having real economic value may have been the initial case in the 1970s, but it’s very much the other way round now. Many UK businesses — indeed many of the ones that are keeping the UK’s head above water — rely on the established trade networks that the EU offers. It’s all very well endorsing “great export opportunities” in Asia, but, as Europe remains a key economic ally and a vital trade partner, it would be folly to jeopardise that in any way. Our long-term economic health depends on building trade and export bridges, not burning them.
Matthew Marriott
Hellmann Worldwide Logistics UK, Lichfield, Staffs
Sir, Where in all the commitments to “leave the EU” are the detailed and costed descriptions of the various alternatives? Do they propose joining the former European Free Trade Association members of the European Economic Area like Norway or Iceland with their reduced costs and impositions, or something similar to Switzerland with a looser but still paying relationship, or an entirely external or indeed Commonwealth position where trade deals have to be negotiated separately? Or are these options part of David Cameron’s planned negotiation, and how could a referendum allow for them?
Mary Baker
London SW7
Sir, Possibly the two most successful nations of the modern era (one large and relatively new, the other small and very old) are the federation of the United States of America and the federation of the cantons of Switzerland. There is nothing inherently bad about the federal system. In fact it constitutes a very effective way for people with different national characteristics and backgrounds to retain their identity, while working together for their mutual good — something that UKIP and certain elements in the Tory Party seem to know and care little about.
Stephen Porter
London NW6

Research by the Nuffield Trust shows that immigrants are far less likely to use hospital services than the general population
Sir, The Immigration Bill in the Queen’s Speech (report, May 9) follows public debate in which it has often been said that migration is a substantial burden on the NHS, and that “health tourism” is a significant driver of immigration.
But research by the Nuffield Trust in 2011 shows that immigrants are far less likely to use hospital services than the general population. Our researchers tracked the rate of hospital admissions of 1.5 millionadults registering with an NHS general practice for the first time compared with established users, showing that new arrivals were only around 57 per cent as likely to use in-patient hospital services as the general population. This finding took into account adjustments for age and sex, and was seen before and after the eastward expansion of the EU in 2004.
It seems clear that arrivals from other countries place a particularly small burden on hospital care, the most costly part of the NHS.
Dr Jennifer Dixon
Nuffield Trust

Among the ‘lucky’ baby-boom generation there were thousands of women who were pressured to relinquish their babies for adoption
Sir, Following your article about baby-boomers, (“Don’t hate us, we’re just lucky”, May 7), can I remind you of the thousands of women who, with the advent of sexual liberation and before ready availability of the Pill, became unmarried mothers and were then pressured to relinquish their babies for adoption by childless couples (before the days of IVF).
We were certainly not lucky, and many of us have lived with a legacy of grief, ill health and childlessness, which has never been fully recognised or addressed.
Helen Jeffreys
Movement for an Adoption Apology

The new provision disregards entirely the common law principle that the highest possible standards need to be maintained
Sir, After the tragedy at Genoa involving a ship under pilotage (report, May 9) your readers should be aware that on April 25 the UK Government reduced the standards of protection previously created for the benefit of the public by the introduction of Section 2 of the Marine Navigation Act 1913.
Contrary to the express advice of the House of Commons Transport Committee, contrary to common law and contrary to the advice of the professional maritime bodies, Section 2 reduces public protection by making pilotage qualification (by way of exemption from the compulsory pilotage scheme) available to the most junior deck officers where, previously, exemption was restricted to bona fide Masters and First Mates.
The new provision disregards entirely the common law principle that the highest possible standards need to be maintained in compulsory pilotage areas, as upheld and approved by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham, after the Sea Empress disaster at Milford Haven in 1996.
The people placed at the most immediate danger through this recent governmental act are the thousands who use the cross-Channel ferry services — such services operate almost exclusively by way of pilotage exemption certificate.
Barrie Youde
Solicitor; Licensed Pilot 1966-88
Birkenhead, Wirral

Times may have changed in terms of what a punter may pay to see a band, but the end result for the musicians has stayed the same
Sir, In 1967 I went to see, at Chesterfield ABC, the Walker Brothers, Engelbert Humperdinck, Jimi Hendrix and Cat Stevens; all for a top price of 65p (“Satisfaction? Not at those prices”, May 6; letter, May 8).
I recall being criticised, by an older couple, for getting excited by Jimi Hendrix. Rock and roll!
David Wright
Derby
Sir, In 1951 I played my first gig at the local jazz club; I was paid nine shillings (45p). This bought six pints of beer. At my most recent similar engagement I received £20.
Times don’t change very much — we played the same tunes.
John Dickenson
Wolverhampton

Telegraph

SIR – Your article “Why is it so hard to paint a portrait fit for a Queen?” (Features, May 3) describes how the 133rd official portrait of the Queen has been criticised by both professional critics and the public.
This is a painting my wife Joan, an amateur artist, copied from Eddie Mulholland’s photograph of the Queen on a visit to a new building at the Royal London Hospital, which The Daily Telegraph printed on its front page on March 4. I think it is rather good.
Roy Turner
St Columb Major, Cornwall

SIR – Frustrated voters who supported Ukip last Thursday are playing with fire. They should look across the Channel at France, where a year ago the temporary unpopularity of Nicolas Sarkozy resulted in the election of a socialist candidate who has proved himself to be incapable of the job. Although François Hollande’s popularity is at a record low, the French will have to endure a further four years’ suffering before any relief is possible.
They have only themselves to blame. Britain is now in equal danger of allowing a Labour leader, who gained office only through trade union support, and who is showing all the signs of political incompetence, to become prime minister only as a result of the perceived faults of the present administration.
David Cameron has made mistakes, and a real Tory leader and government is now needed, but distractions like Nigel Farage are not the answer.
John Sorrell
Paris, France
SIR – Nigel Farage says we should leave the EU and be like Norway or Switzerland.
This may sound good, but Norway and Switzerland are part of the Schengen Agreement and have much less control over their borders than we do.
Norway has vast oil and gas resources and contributes more per capita to the EU than Britain. Switzerland has accepted about 90 per cent of EU legislation via
bilateral agreements but has no seat at the EU negotiating table.
Please give us the full story, Mr Farage, and not just facts that suit political views.
George Harper
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
SIR – As Ukip’s popularity rises and more attention is drawn to its anti-EU propaganda, I feel a political history lesson is needed. It is frustrating to see supposedly intelligent leaders, including the chairman of Conservative Grassroots, associating the European Court of Human Rights – set up in 1959 by members of the Council of Europe and largely pursued by Sir Winston Churchill – with the European Union. The two are totally unrelated.
The reason Abu Qatada and others have not been deported is due to the British Human Rights Act, which confers on British judges the power to decide on cases that fall within its 14 articles here at home, using the Strasbourg court only as a last resort for appeal. I feel this is a fair system, as did Churchill.
Pedro Diogo
Aberystwyth, Cardiganshire
SIR – The Common Market and the EU are not one and the same. I was in favour of the Common Market, but never the EU.
J B Cronin
Chelmsford, Essex
SIR – Do I vote Ukip to make the Conservatives get their act together or vote Conservative to keep Labour out?
Geoffrey Grimwood
Eglwysbach, Denbighshire
Immigrant tenants
SIR – I first became a private landlord in Brighton in May 1964. During this time a multitude of planning laws and council regulations have been imposed upon us. I never thought, however, that we might become legally responsible for checking the immigration status of prospective tenants (report, May 8).
With fines of thousands of pounds being considered, I do hope that we shall be awarded a suitable wage to police the immigration system in place of the UK Border Agency.
Charles Holcombe
Brighton, East Sussex
SIR – Will the same substantial fines be levied on the Border Agency for letting immigrants in?
Phil Williams
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire
SIR – The problem is not border control, but the reasons behind migration to Britain – housing, schooling, welfare and free access to the National Health Service.
Leslie Watson
Swansea, Glamorgan
SIR – This sounds like the early Thirties in Germany.
Colin Richards
Ipswich, Suffolk
Deleting Facebook
SIR – Paul Brazier (Letters, May 8) should try the eight steps to be found under “how to delete your Facebook account”.
Each step tries to scare you into staying; resist them. Most important: do not be tempted to log in again for two weeks from any location or device, as the account will be reactivated. Advice on what to do during those two weeks includes sleeping in and visiting four actual friends.
Malcolm Watson
Welford, Berkshire
SIR – I experienced the same problem in deleting my Facebook account.
In the end I resorted to posting a note on my Facebook page asking for help. It was the only time I found digital social networking to be of any use.
Alex Smith
Orford, Suffolk
Runaway motorboats
SIR – Why is it that when a motorboat driver takes his hands off the controls the throttle stays open (report, May 8)?
In every other motorised piece of moving equipment I can think of – cars, motorbikes, lawnmowers and even trains, drivers must keep pressing a button to keep the power on. If the driver is not present the throttle is sprung back to the slowest setting, removing any potential “runaway train” danger.
Is there a gap in the market for a safer control mechanism than relying on the motor boat driver to wear his kill cord?
Angus McChesney
Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Backfiring cigars
SIR – David Bennett (Letters, May 7) should not be so sure that giving children cigars to smoke will cure them of smoking.
After dinner with the late Desmond Donnelly in his Pembroke constituency home I was astonished to see him hand cigars to both of his two young children.
He explained that he had begun this with the intention that disgust with cigars would cure them of tobacco. However, they took to them, and he felt obliged to enable the children to continue with the habit.
Sir Gerald Kaufman MP (Lab)
London SW1
Religious broadcasting
SIR – The Archbishop of Canterbury’s call for television programmes to embrace all religions is very welcome (report, May 7). The report, however, may have given an unfair impression of what is already being done.
Aaqil Ahmed, head of religious broadcasting at the BBC, in a lecture last week to the World Congress of Faiths, emphasised the vital role of religious programmes in encouraging understanding of different faith communities.
He rejected claims that the BBC had cut back on religious broadcasting. Instead of early morning or late evening programmes for the faithful, many programmes are now shown during prime time because they deal honestly with controversial and important subjects – for example, the ground-breaking series The Life of Muhammad.
Rev Dr Marcus Braybrooke
President of the World Congress of Faiths
Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Vengeance in China
SIR – Your recent commentary (May 7) described Britain’s historical involvement in China as “exploitative, violent and shameful” and mentioned the looting of the Old Summer Palace as an example of such behaviour.
There is little doubt that this conduct was reprehensible; however it is misleading not to give the context of these actions. During the Second Opium War in 1860 the British sent envoys with an escort of British and Indian soldiers to negotiate with the Chinese. This party was subsequently arrested and tortured, with a number eventually killed.
The British High Commissioner to China, Lord Elgin, ordered the British and their French allies to loot the Summer Palace as a calculated act of vengeance, rather than one of wanton vandalism.
James Attew
Swindon, Wiltshire
Never say dye
SIR – Readers of “Cure for grey hair” (report, May 7), might like to know that I’ve been eating a teaspoon of organic blackstrap molasses three times a day for the past 10 years, and, so far, my hair colour has been retained (I’m 59 years old).
It’s extremely nutritious, with iron and other minerals, and is very cheap to buy in health food shops.
Sarah Gall
Rochdale, Lancashire
Cyclists should behave more like horse riders
SIR – The excellent way drivers behave around horses and their riders never ceases to amaze me. Is their reduced speed and wide berth anything to do with the fact that horse riders almost always give drivers an enthusiastic wave of gratitude? I hardly ever get the same reaction from a cyclist.
Perhaps if cyclists were to adopt the same tactic, they too would enjoy safe passage.
Tom Kean
Blount, Oxfordshire
SIR – What about the poor pedestrian? Where I live, I have to put up with cars parked half-on and half-off pavements, paper boys whizzing about on their bikes on the pavement and dog mess that selfish owners fail to clear up.
Ian Carter
Lytham St Anne’s, Lancashire
SIR – Lew Lawton (Letters, May 8) may be a cycling instructor, but his suggestion that cyclists should have the same right as slow-moving farm vehicles to hold up traffic is missing the point. The Highway Code instructs road users “never obstruct drivers who wish to pass”. Tractors and other slow-moving vehicles have an obligation to “pull in where it is safe and let traffic pass” if they are holding up a long queue. The only ambiguity is in the subjectivity of “a long queue”.
I understand the French highway code defines this as more than five vehicles – perhaps we should do the same.
Robin Morello
Horton, Buckinghamshire
SIR – As a cyclist, I am amazed at how considerate motorists are. I appreciate their patience when they overtake me; in return, I try to do my bit by signalling, not dawdling, having lights on if it’s gloomy and riding on the road, not the pavement.
As a walker, I was astounded when an enormous tractor stopped and reversed back up the lane to allow me to pass. Contrast this with a driver who harangued me for not immediately giving way to him as he forced his way on to the M3 outside London. Perhaps us country folk are just nicer people than those who live in the city.
Alan Hobby
Bridport, Dorset

Irish Times

Sir, – Despite the wholly unacceptable circumstances in which Josef Pavelka died on the streets of Ennis, it is only right that Judge Patrick Durcan should speak up in court and highlight for us the disturbing nature in which this unfortunate man lost his life (Home News, May 9th). There is no doubt that Mr Pavelka was shown compassion and care by many of the officials that he encountered in his wretched existence. Particular praise must be paid to Insp Tom Kennedy, the man’s solicitor, and the parish priest of Ennis.
This story should remind each and every one of us of our social responsibilities to the less well off, the homeless and in particular those people in our society who are forced out onto the streets to sleep rough. Rough sleepers are more likely to die premature deaths, they are more likely to resort to self-harm and are more likely to end up taking their own lives. The churches in particular must do more on a structured and planned basis for the homeless.
The powerful words of Judge Durcan should be repeated loud and clear for all of us to hear and contemplate how we deal with the Josef Pavelkas of this world. – Yours, etc,
EDMUND J
McCULLOUGH,
Drumaness,
Ballynahinch, Co Down.

Sir, – Congratulations to Prof Luke O’Neill and his Opsona colleagues for their wonderful new technology improving transplant organ survival (Business + Innovation, May 6th). The authors correctly deduce that this will dramatically increase the number of potential organs suitable for kidney transplant.
However, there are currently more than 600 people on the waiting list for living, related-donor kidney transplants at Beaumont hospital. This is a result of a lack of prioritisation, unavailable theatre space and an infestation of aspergillus fungus on key wards.
The doctors and surgeons involved have raised this at national level, only to be told by our Minister for Health to sort this out themselves. Therefore, all that Opsona’s new therapies will achieve is a further lengthening of the queue. This intolerable situation is an affront to all those brave and generous organ donors and vulnerable dialysis patients. – Yours, etc,
Dr PAUL MacMULLAN,
Medical Registrar,
Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9.

Sir, – I have to respectfully disagree with Professor Paul Bew’s comments to the Burren Law School that the Belfast Agreement was elitist (Home News, May 6th). It is difficult to see what justifies such an assertion.
It is almost impossible to imagine more inclusive negotiations. Ten parties and two governments were directly represented while representatives of civil society (business, trades unions and community groups) made frequent presentations to negotiators, mostly supportive of the process. Before being finally ratified the agreement was endorsed, North and South, in referendums by overwhelming majorities. The subsequent St Andrews Agreement did not alter the essential elements of the original.
The Belfast Agreement was no surprise imposition. Its basic framework and general contents had received considerable public debate long before negotiations commenced. The Opsahl Commission (1992-3), which had held extensive hearings across the North, broadly anticipated the agreement’s main outcomes. Furthermore, the large media presence throughout the negotiations ensured the public was well informed as to progress or otherwise in the process.
The claim of elitism is extremely dangerous since it suggests that the Belfast Agreement was shaped and imposed by a small group of politicians and that the people were kept in the dark. It also gives weight to spurious arguments that the agreement has bestowed no benefits on some communities. Patently the agreement’s prime purpose was to provide for constitutional certainty, and political stability through partnership, within a framework that respects the identities, and the human and civil rights of all.
Economic and social issues are now the responsibility of those charged with implementing the agreement. If they fall short it is not necessarily the fault of the agreement. – Yours, etc,
SEÁN FARREN,
(SDLP Negotiating Team 1996-98),
Mill Square, Portstewart.

Sir, – Mike Riordan (May 9th) should recall the words of George Bernard Shaw:
“A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul”. – Yours, etc,
JOHN KING,
Morogoro, Tanzania.

A chara, – April 24th and May 2nd have passed without a whisper from the State or the various stripes of republicans, or the self-appointed committee of relatives of the leaders of the insurrection, in 1916. This despite being the anniversaries respectively of the outbreak of the insurrection and the execution of the first batch of its leaders. The commemoration has been concentrated on Easter Sunday, a moveable feast of the Christian denominations. This takeover of the secular by the religious would have raised still further the ire of Fr Frank Shaw, SJ, (incidentally my tutor for Old Irish) who was persuaded that the use of Christ-like imagery in his nationalist writing was a blasphemy by Patrick Pearse (incidentally my grand-uncle).
I feel neither pride nor shame in the genealogical accident which makes me the closest living relative of Patrick Pearse. I am not a member of that committee and remain convinced that the relatives of its leaders are the least useful guides to modes of commemorating the Rising, being unlikely to bring objectivity to any discussion. There are many opinions on the merits or failings of the “rebels”, but we can be sure of one thing – they did not envisage the establishment of a hereditary elite. – Is mise,
ALF MAC LOCHLAINN,
Lower Salthill,

Sir, – I write this in memory of my father and indeed his comrades who served in the Army of this country during the Emergency.
It seems Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s Bill (Home News, May 8th) will give an amnesty and immunity to those who deserted the Army during our fledgling State’s direst need, allegedly to fight for the Allies.
The British, with American help and Northern unionist connivance, were prepared to invade our new State. Were these deserters prepared to engage in this invasion with an army who less than 17 years earlier had been kicked out of Ireland? Were they prepared to maim and kill a people who had courageously fought this same British army for hundreds of years and its small army (with its outdated weapons), of which my father was a proud member? Has any politician or journalist asked questions about this Bill? – Yours, etc,
PATRICK TALBOT,
Blackhorse Avenue, Dublin 7.

Irish Independent

Cardinal Sean Brady seems to have acquired a knack for doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons. His interventions in the abortion debate have helped neither church nor State. Whatever view one holds on the intended legislation, creating moral panic does not inspire people to the deeper levels of reflection that our country needs.
Also in this section
President Higgins was simply doing his job
Abortion debate
Persons of note
I find the hidden threat of excommunication particularly odious. Here we have the most subtle exercise of power.
The tendency to reduce the church to a one-issue institution looks more like a secular branding exercise than an affirmation of faith. The richness of Christ’s revelation of what it is to be truly human gets lost in a sea of self-righteousness.
Ireland, with all its faults, is driven by the overall goodness of its people. It has been mercilessly abused by politicians, bankers and developers but has never lost its soul. Its people can be trusted to do what they see fit and not be driven by fear but by compassion for all who become involved in making judgments about the life of the living and the unborn.
Questions surrounding the issue of abortion require a moral conversion that demands a more thoughtful, spiritual and persistent consideration of our obligations to one another – born or unborn – particularly to the poor who often have difficulty providing for children already born.
The fact that the bishops got it so badly wrong in the case of the sexual abuse scandal suggests they would be well advised to tread carefully in their concerted amplification of outrage.
Philip O’Neill
Edith Road, Oxford
Long day’s red sunset
• So, Sir Alex is to retire after more than a quarter century of glory at Old Trafford. He actually has much in common with an Irish summer, “reigning” for the last 26 years.
Sean Kelly
Newtown Hill, Tramore
Cult of political jargon
• Many systems of national co-existence have been tried. Democracy, communism, fascism, federalism and a plethora of combinations have all been tested and found wanting. How can this be?
I think perhaps the crux of the problem lies in the centralisation of power. Regardless of what system is employed, eventually someone gets to the position where they have no boss. This is fully aided and abetted by the strange human condition of idolatry.
When one thinks of the political posters and all the “good news” coming out of politicians’ soundbites, regardless of economic conditions, one could be forgiven for viewing our political parties as cults. Is this why austerity is being so slavishly adhered to by the government parties? Are the voters of this nation in the same position as those silent victims who once were at the hands of a violent and secretive Catholic Church?
I ask this question because of the recent furore surrounding the comments of Michael D Higgins. Has anybody considered the fact that as First Citizen, Mr Higgins, above all others, is entitled to free speech? Furthermore the role of President carries the duty of upholding our Constitution. To gag our President is to gag every citizen in the nation.
Surely if our President, a man of vast experience, says something that may be awry to political decisions then our Government must listen.
For the Government to ignore the soundings of our President is to self-confer an air of infallible judgement on their deliberations. Even the Pope has the courtesy to accept the observations of his peers.
Dermot Ryan
Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway
System is crumbling
• David McWilliams wrote a very sombre account of China’s future economic expectations. It was a very true and salutary warning of how widespread the effects of a China collapse might be and how difficult economic survival could become.
Mr McWilliams makes reference to the “mainstream” of economists not having “twigged” what has happened and is happening in China. I suggest the mainstream of economists – including Mr McWilliams – have not twigged a much more fundamental change at the very core of economic activity which makes growth, as economists know it, impossible in the future.
A little biological knowledge would be useful in economic analysis. Growth is a vital and beneficial process but can only continue as long as it is necessary and possible. Since the dawn of history, growth has been necessary because we could never produce sufficient numbers of anything to meet the needs of the human race. But not any more!
Through technology, growth has reached a stage of overproduction capability in practically every field of activity. Goods and services are available in greater quantities than we can consume. We tried to stimulate growth in Ireland through incentives to build; the process proved utterly cancerous as it is now proving to be in China. In the 21st Century, growth on the scale economies need is impossible. We simply have no option except to modify our economic philosophy to adapt to minimal growth.
There is another aspect of economics the economists have not twigged. Work is being eliminated on a colossal scale and the process is speeding up. Unless the mainstream acknowledges these realities and begins to devise methods of surviving without growth and job creation, China will be the least of our problems.
Padraic Neary
Tubbercurry, Co Sligo
Awaiting an apology
• In the 1980s I did my inadequate best to defend a soldier facing a court martial for desertion. The soldier (now deceased) was convicted and dismissed “with ignominy”. This precluded him from any state employment. I will supply the particulars to the minister on request.
This man surely deserves a pardon too, at least he did not desert in wartime and enlist in an army that might very easily have invaded his country.
Captain Padraig Lenihan (retired)
Dangan Upper, Galway
Stand up to barbarity
• As a campaigner against blood sports, I am delighted to hear that Sonora has become the first Mexican state to ban bull fighting. This is a cowardly practice that involves the torture of an animal for the benefit of people who enjoy watching its slow and agonised death.
Our own Government should take note of this development and also of the fact that the ban was imposed amid frenzied claims that it was “a grand tradition”, that local economies depend on it and that the bulls were well looked after prior to the fights.
If these claims sound familiar it is because the same hollow excuses have been offered in defence of hare coursing in Ireland. Apologists say it should be left alone as it is a part of our culture, that people in certain counties would have nothing much else to do without it, that it brings money into some rural areas.
It’s about time the politicians here found the same courage the Sonoran legislators have shown. The arguments in favour of hare coursing are pure bull, while every humane instinct cries out for its abolition.
John Fitzgerald
Callan, Co Kilkenny
Irish Independent

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