Book group

4 June 2013 Book Group

Off around the park oh dear oh dear The sealord wants to inspect the fleet and the flagship has broken down. Troutbridge is the only one left. But she too has engine trouble so the Sealord is off to inspect the fleetin Nunky’s tug, Priceless.
Another quiet day off out to see Joan and pay June her wages, Mary is out to her book group.
We watch The Pallisers nit bad bit of an info dump at the beginning but handled nicely
I win at scrabble but get under 400 perhaps Mary can have her revenge tomorrow.

Obituary:

Margaret Jackson
Margaret Jackson, who has died aged 96, was entrusted with many of Britain’s wartime secrets in her role as principal secretary to the Director-General of Special Operations Executive (SOE), Brigadier (later Major-General Sir) Colin Gubbins.

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Margaret Jackson 
6:24PM BST 03 Jun 2013
In 1940 Margaret Jackson was working for the Royal Institute of International Affairs when she was interviewed by Gubbins. He was looking for a French-speaking secretary and she joined him in Paris, where he headed the mission to liaise with resistance groups run by the Polish and Czech authorities in exile.
In Paris she was a secretary to No 4 Military Mission before being recruited to Military Intelligence Research (MIR), a small department of the War Office. After the German breakthrough, on June 17, with the French surrender imminent, she escaped from St Malo on a hospital ship and got back to England.
In London, having reported to MIR, she was told that Gubbins had been directed to form the Auxiliary Units, a clandestine civilian force which would operate behind German lines if Britain were invaded. She worked for him first in Whitehall and then at a country house in Wiltshire.
Promising recruits were found in the Home Guard and organised into patrols. They were trained in the use of explosives, including Molotov cocktails. Specially prepared hide-outs were found in woods and farm buildings, and Margaret Jackson personally took a hand in selecting these for members of the units.
In November, Gubbins was seconded to SOE, which had recently been established to wage guerrilla warfare in Nazi-occupied countries and, in Churchill’s words, to “set Europe ablaze”. Priority was given to cutting enemy communications and subverting their morale. After paramilitary training, students completed a parachute course at Ringway (now Manchester airport). Selected agents might then be sent to learn sabotage techniques or to be trained as radio operators. In early 1941 a group of so-called “finishing schools” was set up in the New Forest to provide general training in clandestine operations.
SOE had its headquarters in Baker Street. Having outgrown two gloomy family flats in an apartment building, it moved to a modern office block. In the autumn of 1940 and the winter of 1940-41, everyone was working almost around the clock, and many of the staff slept in their offices. All had cover stories to match the work that they were doing, and the necessity to keep the organisation secret made it very difficult to take on new recruits.
When Gubbins and Margaret Jackson first arrived, there was not a single radio set operating in Occupied Europe. By the summer and autumn of 1941, however, more than 60 agents had been dispatched to north-west Europe, nearly half of them to France.
Gubbins was proving to be the linchpin of the organisation, and in November his responsibilities were widened: French, Belgian, Dutch, German and Austrian sections were added to the Polish and Czech sections for which he was already responsible.
Margaret Jackson’s already heavy workload increased correspondingly. Her role was to coordinate the work of the senior secretaries who had to wrestle with multiple carbon copies and manual typewriters. With large bundles of telegrams being the lifeblood of the organisation, she sifted and annotated them for Gubbins, who would read them and pass them on to section heads. Security was a priority. Posters on the wall warned against careless talk and the danger of informers. Every night papers had to be locked up or shredded, and diaries and blotters removed. In September 1943 Gubbins became executive head of SOE, and Margaret Jackson regarded him as a born leader. For his part, he was not afraid to delegate responsibility to her and to other members of his very competent staff; he would not countenance any form of discrimination against women.
SOE had to survive setbacks, mistakes, betrayals, intrigues and constant efforts to remove its independence. The battle with Whitehall for scarce resources was, at times, almost as fierce as the fight with the Germans. The “Baker Street Irregulars” were, however, buoyed up by an unshakeable conviction that eventually the war would be won.
Margaret Wallace Jackson was born in London to Scottish parents on January 15 1917 and was brought up in Argentina, where her father was in business. She was educated at home by a governess until the age of 13, when she was sent to a Methodist school in England, where the family returned to live after her father’s death in 1934.
When SOE was disbanded in 1946, Margaret Jackson was appointed MBE. She joined the Allied Commission for Austria in Vienna and took notes at the quadripartite meetings. She subsequently joined the Organisation of European Economic Co-operation in Paris and worked as its deputy secretary for about four years.
Margaret Jackson believed that many in Britain underestimated the miracle of Franco-German reconciliation. She was a passionate advocate of European unity and reconstruction, and regarded this period of her life as immensely satisfying.
She returned to England in 1952 and, having joined the Foreign Office, was posted to Melbourne in Australia as an information officer. There she became involved in Moral Re-Armament, a movement that was gaining traction among dockside workers at a time of considerable industrial strife.
When she was told to sever her association with MRA on the ground that she was dabbling in politics, she refused; the matter was dropped, but she subsequently resigned and returned to England. Back in London, she worked in a number of secretarial jobs, including nine years as PA to the secretary of the Malaysian Natural Rubber Producers’ Research Association. For eight years she served as a Conservative councillor for the London borough of Southwark.
She retired to a Methodist home at Croydon. The Imperial War Museum has a recording of an interview that she gave about her time with SOE.
Margaret Jackson was unmarried. One of her three sisters, Patricia, married Sir Patrick Dean, British Ambassador to the UN (1960-64) and to the United States (1965-69); another, Elisabeth, was the wife of Lord Roskill, the Law Lord.
Margaret Jackson, born January 15 1917, died June 2 2013

Guardian:

The unstated story about Apple and taxes (How one Irish woman made $22bn for Apple, 29 May) is the problem of determining where value accrues in a digital transaction. If I import a novel in a country that charges duty, VAT or sales tax, the postal service may intercept it and charge me the taxes. If I buy a digital edition, it arrives via the internet and I pay no taxes. Traditional models of corporate tax, sales taxes, VAT and duties no longer apply. While some may castigate Apple for taking maximum advantage of the failure of tax codes to keep up, they have at least alerted us to the problem, and it’s potentially fixable, if with significant effort. I am disappointed that Apple has played this game to the extent it has, though the company still has a long way to go to be as ethically compromised as other similarly large multinationals.
Philip Machanick
Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa
• One of the greatest benefits the modern state provides international companies, such as Apple and Google, is the protection of their intellectual property rights. These are monopoly rights to exploit a given piece of intellectual property by preventing others from using it in competition. It is against the law for a competitor to sell an exact copy of an iPhone. This is responsible for the huge profits that these companies are able to make, as evidenced by the royalty charges these companies make to their UK subsidiaries. Even a company selling coffee claims it is worth over 5% of its turnover. In Victorian times, companies paid the government for the rights to exploit a monopoly. The present government is now giving tax breaks for the development of intellectual property via its R&D tax credit. Now is the time for the government to start taxing the profits that arise from the exploitation of them. A first step could be to stop allowing companies to treat them as a tax-deductible expense in order to move money abroad to tax havens.
Nick Bion
Reading, Berkshire

It is disappointing that in your article on council allotments (The plot thickens, 1 June) John Harris chooses to deride Watford borough council’s plans for the town’s most ambitious regeneration project in decades. He chooses instead to focus on the emotional and subjective feelings of the 70 or so allotment holders who will be displaced by the project and have to move to alternative council allotment sites in the town. At the same time, he dismisses the major social benefits the project will bring to the residents of the town and the surrounding area with a sarcastic “all mouth-wateringly close to the M25”.
These benefits are an upgraded state-of-the-art acute hospital, much needed housing, including a substantial element of social housing, and regenerated infrastructure for business developments, leading to more jobs. This is an imaginative and ambitious project whereby the council will, for the long-term benefit of its residents, be releasing the inherent capital value of a large site in its ownership, which at the moment is largely derelict. At a time when everybody, including the Guardian, is urging the government to support economic recovery with more capital spending, particularly on social housing, it seems perverse not to recognise the good faith of Watford council and its Liberal Democrat administration in its efforts.
Those of us who choose to take on the responsibility of local government decision-making know that in the real world there are few no-brainers and that most items for decision involve the careful weighing of the arguments for and against, and finding the right balance. The press, particularly the so-called broadsheets, have a responsibility to resist knee-jerk responses like John Harris’s to the Farm Terrace allotment issue.
Cllr George Derbyshire
Lib Dem, Watford borough council
• I read with interest John Harris’s article on the issues councils face in providing land for growing food. In Waltham Forest we have just launched our community food-growing scheme with the aim of becoming the urban food-growing borough of London.
This scheme will see the creation of over 100 new plots for food-growing this year alone. Large allotment plots will be reduced in size to create more allotments for residents and we’re looking at creative ways to grow indoors, on windowsills or in smaller gardens and flowerbeds. We’re also working to create networks that support “grow your own”, such as garden-share schemes, and through our libraries we will provide better access to food-growing books, advice on what vegetables are in demand and on growing food to sell. We will also explore opportunities for jobs and training, such as the £100,000 we recently secured for apprenticeships with local food producer Organic Lea.
While I recognise the financial issues, I think there is a strong argument to persuade other councils to follow our lead. Food-growing can save residents money and add to the local economy; it can have a considerable impact on the environment; and with local authorities taking on public health responsibilities, it can help people stay fit and healthy, and improve their diet. It also provides people with a greater connection to where they live and, I would argue, contributes to their levels of happiness.
Cllr Clyde Loakes
Lab, cabinet member for environment, Waltham Forest borough council

Energy secretary Ed Davey is right to warn of the massive gamble we’ll be taking with the future of our planet if we fail to tackle climate change (Planned energy bill ‘will destroy green benefits of HS2’, 3 June).
This is why MPs must support amendments to the energy bill today to decarbonise the power sector by 2030. It would give confidence to investors who want to create jobs by developing our huge clean energy potential, wean the nation of its reliance on increasingly expensive fossil fuels and put the UK at the forefront of the battle to tackle climate change.
More than 300 MPs from all parties – and the leadership of the Labour party – have pledged to vote for decarbonisation. But the votes of Liberal Democrats are likely to be critical. With their green credentials hanging in the balance, will Liberal Democrat MPs back a safe, clean energy future – or support George Osborne’s reckless dash for gas?
Andrew Pendleton
Head of campaigns, Friends of the Earth

Denis Campbell falls into a common trap in his laudatory report of the “virtual wards” initiative (‘Virtual wards’ urged as answer to strain on the NHS, 30 May): just because something reduces hospital bed days, overall savings to the NHS cannot be assumed. The Health Foundation reviewed the evidence about such schemes in 2011 and pointed out that, while daily costs tended to be lower for community care, the care tended to be required for longer, making savings difficult to achieve. While I would agree that innovative approaches to service provision may be a good thing, it is vital that the discussion takes account of good-quality existing evidence. Many service innovations sound a good idea and are appreciated by patients – technological telemedicine services and case management for the frail elderly being two good examples – but when properly evaluated show no overall cost savings. I hope the Guardian will be a little more critical in its approach.
Kath Checkland
Hope Valley, Derbyshire
• JD Manson calls for 30% more doctors to be trained and Derek Haselden rightly notes that existing GPs can’t treat patients at the same time that they are busy commissioning services (Letters, 27 May). The chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners acknowledges that there is a manpower crisis in general practice. Recently, around a third of all new GP trainees have had to be recruited from abroad – and many struggle to finish their training. So what is the latest plan for UK medical school admissions? Reduce them by 2%. You really couldn’t make it up.
Richard Wakeford
Cambridge

Recent stories of parliamentarians apparently agreeing to be paid by journalists posing as lobbyists raise difficult questions about our political system (Ministers race to change rules as lobbying scandals hit home, 3 June).
They follow a depressingly familiar pattern of people at the end of their political careers appearing to tout themselves as – to use the words of the former cabinet minister Stephen Byers – “cabs for hire”. But in framing their response, the government needs to remember that the only “lobbyists” involved in these scandals are fake ones. Genuine lobbyists would not and do not pay politicians – they are not allowed to under our code of conduct.
So when the deputy prime minister now decides that he needs urgently to introduce a register of lobbyists, he should remember that the stories of the past few days involve his current parliamentary colleagues, and not the colleagues he used to have when he worked as a lobbyist himself. If the government is serious about reform, it should not hide behind the smokescreen of blaming the public affairs industry. It should look also at the rules that govern parliamentarians. We do not oppose a statutory register of lobbyists, provided the government is equally serious about reforming the institutions that we seek to influence.
Francis Ingham
Public Relations Consultants Association
• Why should any parliamentarian expect to be paid to ask questions or chair interest groups? It should be a part of their core role covered by their salaries and allowances. I neither get nor expect a penny for the privilege of chairing the all-party group on diabetes in the Welsh assembly, and nor would any of my colleagues.
The greed disease that started in the City some 40 years ago exploded with Mrs Thatcher’s deregulation in 1986, and it still means that already well-remunerated captains of industry expect to get bonuses even for mediocre performance on the job. The City, the boardroom and the London-based parliamentary process still need fumigating and inoculating against these corrupt practices if we are to convince the public that we are serious about reconstructing our economy and delivering the jobs and homes people desperately need.
Jenny Rathbone AM
Lab, Cardiff Central
• The Guardian should not be supporting the idea of constituents having the right to recall – ie dismiss – their MP between elections, however many of them might vote to do so (Editorial, 1 June). Fear of deselection already makes too many MPs slaves of their constituents, especially their local parties. They tend to spend too much time as untrained and unqualified social workers, doing work that should be done by local councillors and social workers, at the expense of their real jobs at Westminster – holding the government to account and ensuring that the laws they pass are fit for purpose.
Not only must MPs try to avoid deselection by their local parties: their careers depend on the approval of the party whips, with their threats and bribes to compel them to vote according to their parties’ instructions, not their own best judgment and conscience.
We already see a House of Commons largely comprising automatons, lobby fodder with only rare signs of an independent spirit. Adding the power of recall at the whim of constituents would inevitably aggravate this dismal situation. We should remember Burke’s dictum that your MP owes you “not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” The time to get rid of an unsatisfactory MP is when he or she stands for re-election, not at random times between elections whenever he incurs momentary unpopularity by some act of brave defiance.
Brian Barder
London
• Nick Clegg is optimistic the laws on lobbying can be changed before 2015, which is just a couple of years away. Yet strangely, earlier this year, his coalition colleagues at the Department for Work and Pensions managed to rush through retrospective legislation to deny jobseekers compensation in the wake of the court ruling on unpaid work linked to benefits. That was deemed necessary to “protect the national economy”. So, why not the same urgency of action to protect the national democracy?
Colin Montgomery
Edinburgh

The Sutton Trust argues that pupils living in more affluent areas do better than those in less affluent areas because they attend “top schools” (Leading state schools are now ‘more socially exclusive’, 3 June). By the same token, do relatively affluent people enjoy better health and longer lives because they are treated by “top GPs”? And no doubt the lower crime rates in the leafier suburbs are because they are watched over by “top police officers”?
David Hoult
Stockport
• Martin Allen (Letters, 31 May) quotes the Commons Treasury committee on the exorbitant cost of PFI projects without corresponding benefits. This results from the fundamental dishonesty of the system, which forced bodies bidding for PFI funding to “prove” that private finance would be cheaper than public, whether it was or not. In a scheme for three primary schools in York, the PFI cost was £11.1m,against an initial public sector comparator of £10.3m. To make a PFI case, an “estimated risk” figure of £1.4m was added to the public sector figure, and the bid succeeded. The details of actual risk (if any) transferred to the private provider remain confidential.
John Heawood
York
• Maybe both physicists and philosophers (Letters, June 1) are Otto Neurath’s “sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh from the bottom”. With ocean levels rising, this may soon be a case of all of us being at sea.
Bruce Ross-Smith
Oxford
• Perhaps with the increasing (individual) size of the population, and the reluctance of theatres to use more appropriate – ie larger – seats to pack more people in, we are just desperate to extrude ourselves from the the seats for an ovation (Letters, 3 June).
Jude Glendinning
Lancaster, Lancashire
• I’ve didn’t want to add to the journalistic cliches (Letters, 3 June) but resistance, as ever, is futile.
Mike Crabtree
London
• Ironies. Always delicious.
Mark Redhead
Oxford

Independent:

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In his moving article (3 May) Lord Alli refers to his struggle to persuade the bishops in the House of Lords not to present a united front against gay marriage.
Many of those who oppose the concept claim to be traditionalists, but even in the early days of the Church of England there were those who took an opposite view. Among them was the first King of Great Britain, James I (VI of Scotland), who has a good claim to be co-founder with Elizabeth I of the established church.
In 1624, writing to his favourite, George Villiers, whom he had recently created Duke of Buckingham, James told him how much he hoped “that we may make at this Christmas a new marriage, ever to be kept hereafter. For God so love me as I desire only to live in this world for your sake, and that I had rather live banished in any part of the earth with you than live a sorrowful widow’s life without you. And so God bless you, my sweet child and wife, and grant that ye may ever be a comfort to your dear dad and husband.”
James never attempted to conceal the depth of his love for Villiers. He informed his privy council that he loved Buckingham more than any other man and that they should not regard this as a defect, since “Jesus Christ had done the same as he was doing, and that there was nothing reprehensible about it, for Christ had his John and he had his George”.
James was a biblical scholar of distinction and a devout Anglican. He commissioned the translation of the scriptures which in England is referred to as the Authorised Version and in America as the King James Bible. As supreme governor of the Church of England James clearly saw no incompatibility between belief and gay marriage.
Roger Lockyer, London NW1
 
Should the House of Lords vote against giving a second reading to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, any resulting “constitutional crisis,” as warned by Lord Alli, will be solely the responsibility of the Government for pushing ahead with a proposal for which there is no electoral mandate and which was the subject of a flawed consultation process that sought views only on how, not whether, such a fundamental change in the understanding of marriage should be enacted.
Most of the bishops have made clear their opposition to any redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. To be true to their conscience, all those who are members of the House of Lords should attend and vote against the Bill, regardless of the claimed constitutional consequences.
David Lamming, Boxford, Suffolk
 
Politicians and lobbyists – real and fake
Recent stories of parliamentarians apparently agreeing to be paid by journalists posing as lobbyists raise difficult questions about our political system.
They follow a depressingly familiar pattern of people at the end of their political careers appearing to tout themselves as “cabs for hire”. But in framing its response, the Government needs to remember that the only “lobbyists” involved in these scandals are fake ones. Genuine lobbyists do not pay politicians – they are not allowed to under our code of conduct.
So when the Deputy Prime Minister now decides that he needs urgently to introduce a register of lobbyists, he should remember that the stories of the past few days involve his current parliamentary colleagues, and not the colleagues he used to have when he worked as a lobbyist himself. If the Government is serious about “reform”, it should not hide behind the smokescreen of blaming the public affairs industry. It should look also at the rules that govern parliamentarians and all-party parliamentary groups.
We do not oppose a statutory register of lobbyists, provided the Government is equally serious about reforming the institutions that we seek to influence.
Francis Ingham, Director-General, The Public Relations Consultants Association, London SW1
    
The latest lobbying scandals again show that a free press is vital in order to expose corruption in Westminster, as you say (leading article, 3 June).
But it’s a shame that the public doesn’t know which, if any, politician targets are found to give a rebuff to undercover journalists trying to set up deals. Newspapers only publish the identities of those who take the bait – the “positive” results.
Interpretation of “negative” results is not straightforward: a rebuff may only reflect the incompetence of those making the approach, not the upstanding behaviour of the target. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge the publication bias here: the public only learn about “positive” results; yet there must be “negative” results, too.
Dr Alex May, Manchester
 
The revelations about peers and lobbying are worrying, but this was entrapment by the media.  It is comparable to the practice of American divorce lawyers who employ women to pursue possibly errant husbands to see if they can be “persuaded” to commit adultery. We all like to think that we will resist such temptation, until it happens to us.
What I would like to know is what the real lobbying companies are up to, not the fake ones.
Nigel Scott, London N22
 
Presumably contracts entered into in bad faith by false entities are illegal and unenforceable, so Mr Mercer and the peers involved are fully entitled to keep the money without providing any services whatsoever. They should be reinstated forthwith.
Frank Donald, Edinburgh
 
Constitutional crisis? Bring it on!
If unelected peers do block same-sex marriage and cause a constitutional crisis maybe it would not be a bad thing. Look at the state our parliamentary system is now in: unelected peers, and MPs, still getting caught selling influence; ministers rebuked for misusing statistics; politicians sucking up to newspapers, unions, big business and rich individuals. Can anyone deny that politics in this country is seriously broken?
 Maybe it is time for a constitutional crisis so we can begin to talk seriously about reform of parliament. Here’s a quick list of suggestions to get us started.
An end to the House of Lords being used as a dumping ground by the establishment. A proportionally elected upper chamber of review. State funding of political parties and a ban on all other forms of funding. MPs to be given a substantial pay rise but with an end to expenses and earnings from any other source. A ban on high-ranking civil servants working in the private sector in areas related to their public service work for five years after leaving their post.
Of course for any of this to happen, the people would have to take on the most powerful vested interest in this country – our elected politicians.
Adam Salt, Cheadle, Staffordshire
 
The present proposals for reform of the House of Lords (leading article, 3 June) are proposals to hand it over completely to the party machines. They envisage proportional representation or something approaching it, with “elected” members taken from party lists in numbers proportional to their party’s performance in the poll.
It would be better to stick with an appointments system, but going from the present situation of agreement between the Government and Opposition to an independent appointments committee which would appoint new members of the Upper House for a fixed, but relatively long, tenure.
Roger Schafir, London N21
 
It’s not Israel blocking talks
Michael W Cook (letter, 30 May) ignores the fact  that the Palestinian leadership has not only rejected the Israeli peace offers of 2000 and 2008, but has refused to come to the negotiating table for the past four years.
Prime Minister Netanyahu accepted the principle of the two-state solution, unprecedented for a Likud party leader, and froze all building in the West Bank for 10 months, and still the  Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, refused to resume negotiations.
Netanyahu has repeatedly offered to resume the direct talks at any time but to no avail. Abbas continues to impose preconditions, asking Israel to accept positions which should be decided only at the negotiating table. 
Dr Jacob Amir, Jerusalem
 
English valued only overseas
I have lived and worked in several countries where English is not the mother tongue, but is taught, revered and practised. It would be a pity if the “guardians” of our linguistic heritage told the rest of the world that it no longer matters if it can’t spell correctly, wrongly punctuates and doesn’t pronounce English in the way it is rigorously taught overseas.
If Simon Horobin and others continue to dumb-down our language, future visitors may be unable to understand the semi-literate natives who greet them on arrival here.
Robert Bridges, Belmont, Blackburn
 
Sent home with a drain
As a surgeon in a NHS hospital, I would like to reassure Jennifer Phipps (letter, 1 June) that it is not uncommon to be discharged from hospital with a drain left in. Whilst within the medical literature there is debate about the value of such drains, they purportedly reduce the incidence of wound complications.
It would seem to be more of a national outrage to utilise public funds to keep an otherwise well patient in hospital, ensuring disrupted sleep, and an increased exposure to multi-resistant bacterial infections. The issue here is patient and public education.
Declan Dunne, Liverpool
 
Wrong, but not surprising
Sue Thomas (letter, 3 June) is right: rape is rape, there is no excuse on the part of men. Perhaps what perplexes some of us is the surprise on the part of women.
If a car were to be left with the doors open and the key in the ignition in some dubious area of one of our inner cities it would almost certainly be stolen, and that would be wrong. Theft is theft, no excuse – but surprise?
Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Gwent
 
Bad feeling
There was once an obscure English word for Schadenfreude (Philip Hensher, 1 June). “Epicaricacy” is basically Greek for “joy around the bad”. It never caught on, and my guess at the reason for this is that it simply wasn’t a respectable emotion. For centuries, people had to listen to 1 Cor. 13 v6 quite a lot.  If you go to church weddings, you’ll still hear it quite often.
Ruth Grimsley, Sheffield

Times:

‘If the Government is serious about reform, it should not hide behind the smokescreen of blaming the public affairs industry’
Sir, Stories of the dealings of parliamentarians and journalists posing as lobbyists raise difficult questions about our political system (“Peers face expulsion in move to end sleaze”, June 3). They follow a depressingly familiar pattern.
But in framing its response, the Government needs to remember that the only “lobbyists” involved in these scandals are fake ones. Genuine lobbyists would not and do not pay politicians — they are not allowed to under our code of conduct.
If the Government is serious about reform, it should not hide behind the smokescreen of blaming the public affairs industry. It should look also at the rules that govern parliamentarians and all-party parliamentary groups. We do not oppose a statutory register of lobbyists, provided the Government is equally serious about reforming the institutions we seek to influence.
Francis Ingham
Chief executive, Public Relations Consultants Association
Sir, I was the inaugural secretary of the Association of Professional Political Consultants, the body representing and regulating dedicated commercial lobbying consultants. We compiled, at the request of the Select Committee on Members’ Interests, a register listing staff and clients of each member firm. It was sent twice yearly to the committee and the Cabinet Office, but after no more than three editions the recipients asked us whether the register was really necessary because it was being filed away unread and was just taking up space.
Those who now advocate a register as a cure for the perceived iniquities of lobbying should have regard to recent history.
Charles Miller
Sandwich, Kent
Sir, The cash for lobbying scandal in both the Commons and the Lords is a triumph for a free press and underscores the post-Leveson perils associated with giving politicians any role in press regulation.
Having candidly described — in Opposition — the parliamentary lobbying system as “the next scandal waiting to happen”, David Cameron’s failure to press ahead with reforms once in office simply reinforces the cynicism towards politicians and the political system among an increasingly disillusioned electorate.
Political lobbying isn’t in itself intrinsically wrong in a parliamentary democracy, but an unreformed and opaque system most certainly is.
Paul Connew
Former editor, Sunday Mirror, St Albans, Herts
Sir, I could not agree less with the proposal in your leader “Payment in Parliament” (June 3) that MPs and working peers should be paid more. Is burglary caused by underpaid burglars? What we need is honest men and women in Parliament, and the more financial motivation is thought to matter, the less likely we are to find them.
Christopher Gadsden
Penryn, Cornwall
Sir, I would be intrigued to know how many of the 763 sitting members of the House of Lords were targeted by the “fake” lobbying firm but honourably turned down the opportunity to lobby on behalf of South Korean solar power or Fiji’s re-entry to the Commonwealth.
I believe it might add a reassuring dimension to the issue if we showed hidden recordings of ennobled members showing both judgment and probity in the face of financial inducements from the Pacific region.
James Callander
London W12

Will this bring about a ‘profound change in the basic unit of society’, or will things continue pretty much as they already are?
Sir, The six Lords in their letter supporting the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill (June 3) state that “it would be wrong to hinder a measure whose time has come”.
This is mere historical determinism and is a specious argument which proves nothing. Both Communism and National Socialism and indeed many other “isms” have used the so-called “inevitable progress of history” to justify their ideas, only eventually to be shown to be wrong.
Same-sex “marriage” will bring about a profound change in the basic unit of society, which is the family; this change has fundamental implications in the short term and the long term for the welfare of us all and particularly for our children.
The present attempt to bulldoze this measure through Parliament without proper consideration of the consequences is foolhardy and dangerous.
John Owen
Sittingbourne, Kent
Sir, It has become a cliché to say that the acceptance of equal marriage “redefines marriage” (letter, June 3). It does not.
When the Church of England ordained women priests we did not “redefine” the priesthood or alter the sacrament of ordination. We admitted a different gender into it — and in doing so greatly enhanced the Church’s ministry and credibility. Yes, the priesthood looks different, in one sense — but only superficially. Its essence and meaning are unchanged.
In exactly the same way, allowing gay people to marry does not redefine marriage or alter the sacrament of matrimony, and it will certainly not usher in polygamy and incest, as some have bizarrely suggested. Marriage will continue to rest on exactly the same vows of lifelong fidelity and commitment between two people; and by reflecting Christ’s faithful love for us, same-sex marriage will be no less sacramental than heterosexual marriage — a channel of God’s grace and blessing to the couple, the Church and society in general.
The Very Rev Dr Jeffrey John
Dean of St Albans

There are times when arranging conferences abroad makes more sense, both financially and in terms of attracting interested parties
Sir, I sympathise with Malcolm Walker of Iceland (“Now they’re taxing fun, insists Iceland boss ordered to pay £2.5m Disney bill”, May 31).
In the past Mace, the voluntary group of retailers, of which I was company secretary, arranged overseas conferences for the shop-owners which were well attended. We tried arranging UK conferences — two days in Birmingham for example — but attendances were poor. Overseas we were able to put over the contents of films and group discussions of matters vital to their success as shop-owners.
Yes, there were local visits and entertainments. But the Inland Revenue (as it then was) appreciated the business purpose, and gave clearance for our costs and for the retailers’ conference fees.
D. M. Milstone
Northwood, Greater London

There may be a case for planes to adopt some of the safety features that have been considered standard on cars for years
Sir, Most cars have warning lights on the dashboard to indicate if a door is not safely shut — a simple and effective safety feature. Why are Airbus A319s not fitted with a similar device to indicate whether the latches holding in place the engine covers have been secured (report, June 1)?
David Slinger
Highnam, Glos

While we may nowadays have become unused to the term ‘authoress’, at least one of our most famous writers described herself thus
Sir, At least one far from inferior writer had no objection to the term “authoress” (Oliver Kamm, The Pedant, June 1).
Writing to the Rev James Stanier Clarke, the Prince Regent’s librarian at Carlton House, in December 1815, Jane Austen described herself as “with all possible Vanity, the most unlearned, & uninformed Female who ever dared to be an Authoress”.
Emma had just been published.
Christine Penney
Birmingham

Telegraph:
SIR – Simon Thurley (report, May 30) is right to question the £34.9 million recently spent on saving a Raphael for the nation while many of our historic houses and castles are “crumbling”.
Two thirds of Britain’s built heritage is cared for by private owners, and much of that is represented by the Historic Houses Association whose members spend £140 million a year just on maintenance – far less than the £390  million backlog of repairs that are urgently needed.
These buildings are open for the public to visit and for a raft of other events such as weddings, concerts and festivals. They are the reason most often quoted by tourists for choosing to visit our country and they act as magnets for economic activity in some of the harder-to-reach parts of the nation. But the cost of keeping them open is rising and Dr Thurley is correct to ask whether a limited heritage budget could be spent more effectively.
Richard Compton
President, Historic Houses Association
London SW1

SIR – The same old corrupt practices go round and round in Westminster in a never-ending cycle. Most of the perpetrators will slip through the net as usual and continue their dirty deeds.
Three cheers for a free press and long may it stay free. Any attempts to muzzle this independent watchdog by those responsible for corruption must be resisted by the electorate at all costs.
Mick Ferrie
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
SIR – MPs such as Patrick Mercer need to remember, and to be held to account for the fact, that they are employed to represent their constituents and no one else. They should not stray into the territory of personal gain. Clearly some are wholly unqualified for this demanding role.
V G Grey
Chadbury, Worcestershire
Related Articles
Saving our built heritage makes economic sense
03 Jun 2013
SIR – As a retired accountant I try to make myself useful by aiding worthwhile institutions – the parish council, whose accounts I audit, and the Church, of which I am parochial treasurer.
It is discouraging that some of those in senior positions in politics and the Church behave in a corrupt and arrogant manner, the former lining their pockets with taxpayers’ money and the latter denigrating traditional Christian institutions by supporting same-sex marriage.
Andrew D Hodgkinson
Market Lavington, Wiltshire
SIR – It is not quite correct to say an MP cannot be expelled from Parliament unless he is serving a long prison sentence (report, June 1).
In 1948, the Labour MP Gary Allighan was thrown out of the House even though he had done nothing criminal.
Allighan, a journalist, had written a magazine article claiming that some fellow MPs were accepting cash from journalists for confidential leaks. An inquiry found that one MP was regularly writing well-paid articles using parliamentary information for a newspaper under an alias. That turned out to be Allighan.
In a long and furious debate, he was criticised from all sides for this hypocrisy. The Leader of the House of Commons, Herbert Morrison, proposed a six-month suspension but it was successfully argued this would deprive his constituents of representation for too long, while, on the other hand, if he were expelled there would be a by-election in which he would be entitled to stand.
He did not, and emigrated to South Africa.
Rodney Bennett
Richmond, Surrey
SIR – The present Government would like to appoint former Army officers directly into the senior ranks of the police service.
I take it that Patrick Mercer would be its idea of the perfect candidate.
Andrew Vaughan
Ventnor, Isle of Wight
Tax avoidance
SIR – The most effective means of encouraging foreign multinationals to pay their fair share of UK taxes is through public, rather than legal censure.
There is little evidence to support Matthew Sinclair’s assertion (Comment, May 28) that levels of complication equate to levels of avoidance. Complication merely incentivises multinationals to seek the advice of the “big four” tax partners on how to navigate around those complications. Simplicity penalises the many for the avoidance of the few and would make the UK a less attractive location for overseas investment.
By the same token, sales taxes have proved ineffective globally, merely relocating corporate centres of activity and diminishing incentives to enter to the markets which impose them.
Only consumer-spending (or clicking) decisions will provoke long-term changes in the attitudes of the executives who are responsible for profits and dividends. Any changes in rules are always avoidable and a stop-gap measure.
Gareth Pryce
Hayling Island, Hampshire
SIR – One way to reduce the opaque cross-border pricing and multi-jurisdictional tricks that large international corporations play to avoid taxes is to embody within law a general-purpose “catch all” clause.
Within an Act of Parliament, such a clause might state that one purpose of the Act is to ensure that any company or organisation supplying goods or services to the UK pays the same amount of company or sales taxes on its UK sales as if they were a company or organisation registered for tax in the UK. The UK courts could then determine whether there had been an infringement of the Act and require restitution.
Jonathan Sayeed
London SW1
Arming Syrians
SIR – The controversy over arming Syrian rebels (Letters, May 30) reminds me of a comment made by Douglas Hurd during the collapse of Yugoslavia: “You do not put out a fire by pouring petrol on it.”
Those words preceded the heavily armed Serbian army’s slaughter of thousands of poorly armed Croatian independence fighters, and the slaughter did not stop after victory. Mass graves of non-combatants have since been found.
If the United Nations had any influence, the situation in Syria would be its responsibility. But the behaviour of the Dutch UN troops in Croatia is indicative of its interest. It is highly unlikely that it will take any action. Do we stand by, fearful of Russia, and allow Assad to continue his slaughter? The answer should be obvious.
Ron Mole
Alcester, Warwickshire
Tunnel vision
SIR – Paul Scorser writes about ascending the Zugspitze in Germany (Letters, May 30). When at the summit, one can walk along a tunnel until you come to an iron door. Open the door and you find yourself in Austria. I wonder how many countries share such an unusual entrance?
Adrian Holloway
Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire
SIR – Sixty years ago I was in Darjeeling with my father, and we went to Tenzing Norgay’s home to meet him, and view the equipment he used on the Everest expedition. I asked him about the Yeti, and he was quite sure there was something large out there as one of the sherpas had seen a huge footprint.
Gloria Parker
Reigate, Surrey
Over-complicated laws
SIR – As Sue Cameron implies (Comment, May 23), we have too much legislation and too much of it is impenetrable. A recent House of Lords report said that between 1970 and 2009 there were 1,827 Acts passed and 54,349 Statutory Instruments adopted. These amount to 401,539 pages of print. It is ludicrous to assert that anyone can keep up with this torrent.
Before the invention of printing, “ignorance of the law” was a good defence in common law. It was unreasonable to be convicted of an administrative offence like eating meat, not fish, on Fridays – if you weren’t there for the proclamation of the law you wouldn’t know about it, except by word of mouth. Henry VII and Henry VIII were concerned to get rid of this defence and saw the invention of printing as the way forward.
I yearn for a government that will promise to pass virtually no new legislation for 10 years and apply itself to repealing hundreds of Acts and binning thousands of Statutory Instruments and a judiciary that will recognise the common-law defence of “ignorance” once again when reasonable. This would be unpopular with lawyers and administrators, but it is the only way I can see to get them to simplify legislation.
Tim Guinness
London SW1
Thatcher endowment
SIR – Oxford University should certainly honour Margaret Thatcher (report, May 30) but founding yet another college is not the best way to do it. The Cambridge model of fewer, bigger colleges is more sensible than Oxford’s plethora of smaller institutions.
Instead, a fund should be created to endow and name existing posts at the former women’s colleges: Thatcher Fellows in Chemistry, Law, Politics, and Economics would help to reduce the endowment gap between the former women’s and former men’s colleges. They would also keep
her memory green in the particular part of the university of which she was so distinguished a product.
Nicholas Shrimpton
Oxford
Political gamble
SIR – A horse named Libertarian, trained by Burke, was surely a natural choice for the Derby. What a shame he could only manage to come second to the appropriately named Ruler of the World – but at least I made a small profit.
Michael Brotherton
Chippenham, Wiltshire
Remembering Coronation Day, 60 years later
SIR – I spent Coronation Day in the Royal Ballroom in Tottenham rehearsing for the evening’s television programme which was “Dance – from Elizabeth I to Elizabeth II”.
We, the Bruce Smith formation team, were, together with three other teams, representing the 1950s.
The programme was live and overran by a mile. We were not on until the early hours of the morning so very few people stayed up to watch us.
My father said that, at one stage, my partner and I filled the screen.
Joy Riley
Radley, Oxfordshire
SIR – Four of us, all students from the Royal Academy of Music, took up our stand on the edge of the pavement in The Mall at 5pm. Taking it in turns to guard our patch, we remained there all night with cushions, blankets and food. There were thousands of people all around and the police made everyone stand up at 1.30am, just to make sure we could, I guess. It rained on and off during the night but we had a grandstand view of the procession, which started at 8.30am. We stayed until its return at 3.45pm. A never-to-be-forgotten day.
Sheila Tracy
Kingswood, Surrey
SIR – I was six years old at the time, having a wonderful holiday at Butlins Pwchelli and looking forward to watching the Coronation in the Butlins theatre.
On the morning of the big day I woke up itching to find I had chicken pox, so we had to come home after only one week.
I spent the whole day on a train from Pwchelli to Cardiff itching like crazy so I missed the Coronation.
Leslie Watson
Derwen-fawr, Carmarthenshire

Irish Times:

   
Sir, – Most people applaud when the business case for change coincides with human rights. It’s good to do the right thing and even better when both individuals and the taxpayer benefits. Or at least one would have thought so until reading the distressing news that a mother was left with no option after cumulative cutbacks – including cutbacks to transport — to place her disabled daughter in residential care.
The cost of such care is generally a multiple of the cost of supporting people to lead independent lives and be integrated in their communities. No one, it seems, is doing the sums. The result is that one arm (or multiple arms) of the State takes away and higher costs ensue. This is utterly irrational – a symptom of a system that lacks both critical intelligence as well as moral sensibility.
Few could have failed to notice the irony that Ireland is poised to ratify the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. One of its core rights is the right to live independently and be included in the life of the community.
Among other things, this requires a conscious shifting of resources away from institutions and toward supports to enable people live meaningful and productive lives in the community.
Many of us have advocated strongly and publicly against corruption that seemingly allows institutions to flourish in Eastern Europe (and sometimes, to add insult to injury, with EU taxpayers’ money). No one is suggesting that corruption lies behind this recent awful news. But we certainly cannot assume the high ground to criticise others when we are complacent about our own seemingly dysfunctional system that produces the same result.
Many advocates have been arguing about the need to enshrine the right to community living in Irish law. I believe the time is right to do so. It is especially in times of austerity that we should spending our money smartly and efficiently. Pouring money into institutions serves no one’s interests – least of all the taxpayer’s. Law on its own is never enough. The reflex in the administrative system tends toward dysfunction.
This Government came into power on a promise of reforming how things were done in the public sector. The need for this change was brought sharply into focus with the above news. This can be done. The lethargy of the past should not keep us from transforming the future.
In British Columbia, for example, policy makers have to spend a “professional empathy” period living with the people whose lives will be affected by their policy choices. How many of our senior civil servants have done that? In Belgium, the social security system is moving toward a posture of “co-ownership” of policy with the people affected. Far from amounting to an intrusion on the policy prerogatives of those in power, this ensures the wise use of power. Spending money in institutions is simply crazy from a taxpayer’s point of view.
I hope and trust every right-thinking person in the country was disgusted at the above news and that this is a wake-up call to the Government. We need to get serious about how taxpayers’ money is spent and to honour the rights of those who elected them into office. – Yours, etc,
Prof GERARD QUINN,
Centre for Disability Law &

Sir, – Joe Murray (May 28th) states that JFK’s famous “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” might reflect the ethos of the new Haddington Road “agreement” for the Public Service in this country. I remain to be convinced.
Apart from the veracity of Samuel Johnson’s adage about patriotism, it’s worth bearing in mind that “the troika’s position reflects the view that the achievement of the €300 million target would send an important signal to bond investors as the Government plots its return to the private debt markets later this year” (Home News, May 23rd).
I don’t see much about the greater public good there. More a case of, as has been the motivating factor all along, the fulfilment of industrial levels of private greed. – Yours, etc,
JD MANGAN,
Stillorgan Road,

A chara, – Arthur Beesley (Business, May 23rd) wrote that Ireland’s rate of corporation tax was reduced from 38 per cent to 12.5 per cent in 2003. This is incorrect.
Prior to 2003, the rate of corporation tax on profits from manufacturing and international (ie export) services – which covers most activity of foreign firms operating in Ireland – was just 10 per cent. The 38 per cent rate applied to all other corporate activity, and related to non-manufacturing activity within the Irish economy (mainly conducted by Irish businesses).
Following a finding by the EU that this distinction was discriminatory, a standard corporation tax rate of 12.5 per cent, applicable to all corporate activity in Ireland, was introduced in 2003. Thus, what was, in effect, the tax rate applying to foreign companies was increased in order to compensate the government for the tax lost through the reduction of the tax rate on domestic non-manufacturing activity.
As it happens, the “headline” rate of 12.5 per cent is of little relevance as far as the foreign corporate sector is concerned, as the average rate of tax paid by this sector is nowhere near this level. – Is mise,
Dr PROINNSIAS

Sir, – As the country faces a crisis in animal food supply, I would like to draw attention to an ancient type of food used in the past to feed livestock. The humble furze bush or whin was collected and ground down to shreds. This was done by use of a hand-wound machine known as a mangle grinder. There was, to my knowledge, also a similar machine with a finer mechanism. The theory was that the product was very suitable for horses.
It grows and prospers on any type of soil, bog or ditch and will weather any climate that comes our way.
Think of our cutaway bogs lying dormant and being eyed by speculators. This much-maligned bush could carpet the areas which are, at present, non-productive and, being an early bloomer, would be a saviour for our bee population, helping it to return to strength.
Sometimes they are blind who do not wish to see. – Yours, etc,
DERMOT CARBER

A chara, – Arthur Beesley (Business, May 23rd) wrote that Ireland’s rate of corporation tax was reduced from 38 per cent to 12.5 per cent in 2003. This is incorrect.
Prior to 2003, the rate of corporation tax on profits from manufacturing and international (ie export) services – which covers most activity of foreign firms operating in Ireland – was just 10 per cent. The 38 per cent rate applied to all other corporate activity, and related to non-manufacturing activity within the Irish economy (mainly conducted by Irish businesses).
Following a finding by the EU that this distinction was discriminatory, a standard corporation tax rate of 12.5 per cent, applicable to all corporate activity in Ireland, was introduced in 2003. Thus, what was, in effect, the tax rate applying to foreign companies was increased in order to compensate the government for the tax lost through the reduction of the tax rate on domestic non-manufacturing activity.
As it happens, the “headline” rate of 12.5 per cent is of little relevance as far as the foreign corporate sector is concerned, as the average rate of tax paid by this sector is nowhere near this level. – Is mise,
Dr PROINNSIAS

Sir, – Graduating this week from Graduate Entry to Medicine (GEM) at University College Cork leads me to question the fate of the programme. The previous government created these courses to enable graduates in any discipline to enter medical school with the cost divided equally between the State and the student. Tailored credit packages were created to cover students’ fees and expenses. The overarching aim was to retain graduates and enrich the pool of prospective doctors. I am one of the produce.
Several reports, including the 2006 Medical Education In Ireland: A New Direction concluded that the GEM programmes would improve access for mature individuals and those less advantaged to the ultimate benefit of patients and the wider community.
The recent downturn in the economy has seen the State contribution decline significantly and the availability of credit vanish. What was envisaged as a strategy to modernise Irish medical education has reverted to one affording access only to those with means.
The Government and the university sector must remain conscious of their societal responsibility to provide access to medicine to a wide variety of applicants.
I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time; Ireland, 2009. Ireland 2013 would not be as kind. – Yours, etc,
Dr FRED A ENGLISH,

Irish Independent:

* The South Tipperary Coroner recently highlighted the undeniable link between a sharp increase in suicide in Ireland and the financial pressures many people are under due to debts they owe to financial institutions.
Also in this section
Media furthers homegrown myth
‘Cowardly’ label unfair
Adios, Matthew
* The South Tipperary Coroner recently highlighted the undeniable link between a sharp increase in suicide in Ireland and the financial pressures many people are under due to debts they owe to financial institutions.
The coroner was critical of the harassment meted out to people who find themselves in this unfortunate situation.
During the economic downturn, there has been considerable evidence that many Irish people have become suicidal because they have found themselves in severe debt either to a financial institution or perhaps to the State itself. Sadly, many have gone on to take their own lives because they were unable to cope with the pressure.
The coroner and others have pleaded with the State and with financial institutions to bring in measures to ease the burden on those in severe debt. However, I have never heard anybody put forward the argument that if someone is suicidal because of a financial debt, then that debt should somehow be eliminated in order to save the person’s life.
The legislation now being presented by the Government proposes that when there is a risk to a pregnant woman’s life because she is suicidal, action should be taken to remove that which led to her becoming suicidal.
The action to be taken will result not in the elimination of a sum of money but rather another innocent human life. Will this legislation create a legal precedent allowing a case to be made for removing whatever leads someone to be suicidal?
Martin Delaney, PP
Rathdowney, Co Laois
CHILDCARE SILVER LINING
* I read with interest the article by David Coleman on June 1 in relation to the cost of childcare. As a married man with no children, I agree with his conclusion that the tax system is anti-family.
However, he failed to point out a positive unintended consequence. In a time of high unemployment, a lot of families would elect to have one parent stay at home to mind their children. Which would free up a lot of employment opportunities for those on the dole to fill. So not only would a lot of children be given better care at home but it would also have a big impact on the long-term unemployment numbers.
I imagine it costs more to have people on the dole than it does to end tax individualisation. A big win for families, society and the economy.
Caimin Murphy
Address with editor
FORGOTTEN GENERATION
* As a young graduate I was shocked by an article in ‘Weekend Review’ called “the Jilted Generation”. I felt it should more aptly have been called “the Forgotten Generation”. It did not touch on the issues affecting my friends here in Ireland who can’t afford to travel abroad for work.
This group merely goes unnoticed, experiencing social isolation and a lack of attachment to any sense of community. We are extremely vulnerable individuals with feelings of despair and lack of choice due to the Government glossing over the problem with schemes like Job Bridge.
Whether you are a qualified graduate or an early school leaver, there are few options for those who cannot afford to emigrate and this must change. In fact, whether “jilted” or “forgotten”, the scars for my generation will be irreparable.
W Flanagan Tobin
Dublin 3
MARTIN STILL DITHERING
* Micheal Martin’s decision to allow a free vote on the abortion issue proves a number of things.
He is still the same ditherer who ran the Department of Health by seeking yet another report on every single issue. His Fianna Fail genes render him incapable of making any decision that would be unpopular anywhere in the country.
The abortion issue is simply not important enough to risk splitting the party, unlike, for instance, the “National Question” so beloved of Fianna Fail.
Anthony O’Leary
Portmarnock, Co Dublin
COUNCIL MADNESS
* In reference to the council boundary changes and the number of councillors allocated on a ratio of one councillor per almost 5,000 people – permit me to say I am confused and disgusted with these figures.
The numbers are bloated beyond explanation. The numbers read as follows: 949 councillors will be elected in 137 electoral areas for 31 local authorities. Space does not permit me to point out how the nation could be run effectively by having 26 electoral areas for three local authorities with a maximum of 60 councillors.
Study the state of California, with 34 million people; it has the equivalent of one local authority, 54 electoral areas, with an equivalent ratio of one “councillor” to almost 500,000 people. California is run efficiently with these numbers.
Vincent J Lavery
Dalkey, Co Dublin
NO SKY AT THE AIRPORT
* While travelling through Dublin Airport recently, I noticed that all the TVs on display were tuned to Sky News. As the Dublin Airport Authority is a state-run public body and thus funded by the Irish taxpayer, I believe they should be seen to be supporting a fellow state body, ie RTE, which broadcasts its own dedicated news channel.
As we all know, first impressions are very important, and as the airport contributes greatly to first impressions of this country, it is disappointing that they are immediately subjected to a foreign news channel, or more appropriately, a Rupert Murdoch-owned news channel.
Patrick Slavin
Lucan, Co Dublin
TEACHING STANDARDS
* While teachers around the country ponder their next move in the pay and conditions dispute, spare a thought for the thousands of young people who will leave school this summer with nothing to show for it.
I wonder are there statistics on poor results from schools? Results that require a cohort of students to repeat year after year. Schools that rarely achieve big numbers for third-level entry. If so, are questions ever asked of those schools or teachers?
I myself went back to school as an adult and saw first hand teachers who could teach and motivate and teachers who could not.
Harry Mulhern
Millbrook Road, Dublin
CLIMATE CHANGE WORRY
* I was pleased to see the article in the Irish Independent recently explaining the unprecedented cold weather in plain language.
Frequently, media outlets are in denial about the reality of the climate change that is already seriously impacting on our economy, both in terms of the very poor yields for farmers as well as the increased damage to householders caused by floods.
We need to wake up to the fact that climate change is happening and that we face increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather in the future.
John Sharry
Clontarf, Dublin
CRYING OVER SPILLED MILK
* I agree with Jack Downey when he says that he “wants to assure the Government that the amount of property tax he would like to pay is €0” (Letters, May 28).
While I empathise with him, I’m afraid he is years too late. The time for all of us to have made our feelings known was during the Celtic Tiger period when a small number of powerful citizens made decisions that bankrupted the country.
A Leavy
Sutton, Dublin 13
Irish Independent

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