25 June 2013 Hospital

Off around the park listening to the Navy Lark, Troutbrideis helping the CID carch some criminals who are fleeing to France on a launch. But the policemen gets Leslie’s and Murray’s smuggle instead. Priceless.
I take Mary into hospital for a blood transfusion, I hoipe all will be well.
Iwatch The Android invasion its awful
No Scrabble no Mary


Jeffrey Smart
Jeffrey Smart, who has died aged 91, was one of Australia’s foremost post-war artists, specialising in beautifully composed urban landscapes stripped of their human hustle and bustle and endowed instead with a dash of the surreal.

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The Cahill Expressway (1962) Photo: AAP/PA
5:55PM BST 23 Jun 2013
People did occasionally appear in Smart’s work, but he sniffed that the figures were only inserted “for scale” – to give an idea of the monumentality of whatever tower block, motorway flyover, oil barrel or radar dish he was focusing upon. In his Portrait of Clive James (1991), for example, the writer peeps out from a concrete roadbridge, tiny and anonymous, hidden far beyond the butterscotch plane of a corrugated iron fence that dominates the foreground.
“The subject matter is only the hinge that opens the door,” Smart said. “My main concern always is the geometry, the structure of the painting. Most pictures I paint stay broadly painted while I move them about, doing sketches, small studies, overpainting again and again. Only when I have the shapes in the right places do I then ‘paint it realistically’.”
His style was indeed detailed and realist, influenced by Edward Hopper; but bright colours, an overwhelming preoccupation with shape and form, and a sometimes exaggerated perspective, ensured that they were rarely “true to life”. The Guiding Spheres II (1979-80), for example, is ostensibly a depiction of motorway roadworks, yet is dominated by outsize, vibrant orange plastic balls, strung between traffic cones, that appear to hover above the tarmac – all beautifully rendered in a painterly high definition.
His most celebrated work, The Cahill Expressway (1962) shows a blue-suited man under a concrete underpass in Sydney. Again, Smart claimed that he made use of the human figure purely for the purposes of composition, to anchor the swooping roadway and play of light and shadow. Yet as with Alfred Hitchcock’s fleeting insertions of himself into the background of scenes in his films, so Smart’s figures have a playful, intriguing quality that goes well beyond fulfilling a solely geometrical function. Thus the enigmatic lone man in The Cahill Expressway, staring out inscrutably at the viewer, has the sleeve of his suit rolled up, having lost an arm.
Frank Jeffrey Edson Smart was born on July 26 1921 in Adelaide, South Australia. His artistic career was, he claimed, sparked by a trip to Europe on which his father took him when he was only three. “I remember it – all my memories go back to a childhood in Europe,” he reminisced recently, almost 90 years later.
Back in Adelaide the family was affected by the Depression and had to move from a large house into a small flat. Though the bedrooms looked out over parkland, it was the view from the kitchen – a warren of alleyways, rooftops and washing lines – that fascinated Jeffrey. With a friend, he wandered the maze of lanes, imagining the lives that went on beyond the doorways and gates that he passed.
After school Smart’s initial ambition was to be an architect, but family finances would not stretch to sending him to university. Instead he became an art teacher, working at various schools until 1947, when he made a longed-for return to the Europe that he had first visited as a toddler.
He sailed for London and then moved to Paris to study at La Grand Chaumiere. Officially his teacher was supposed to be Fernand Leger, but, as Smart recalled, Leger would only “come in once a week. His mistress [Nadia Khodossevitch] was the one who’d do the teaching. But he was a very impressive man.”
Smart made the slums behind the grand boulevards the subjects of his paintings, little tempted by abstractionism or the influence of Picasso, which was then blanketing the art scene. Indeed, Smart had little reverence for the Spaniard. “He was captain of the ship and he wrecked the ship – over-talented, and his attitude to art was arrogant. He had, I think, a bad influence on painting in the 20th century.”
Smart travelled back to Australia in 1951, moving to Sydney, where he worked as an art critic for The Daily Telegraph, and developed a career on television, even presenting Children’s Hour on ABC-TV.
He returned to Europe, this time permanently, in 1963, when he was 42. By then he had established the style, flatly-painted and intense, with which he would make his name. He settled in Tuscany, eventually buying a villa near Arezzo, from which he ventured out to develop an encyclopedic knowledge of Italy’s great galleries. “It does lift your standards,” he said. “You can’t see them through books and reproductions; you must see the real works.”
Though not widely appreciated beyond Australia, his value rose steadily at home, despite his expatriate existence. In 2011 his Autobahn in the Black Forest II (1979–80), sold for more than one million Australian dollars. His work is due to feature in the exhibition Australia this autumn at the Royal Academy.
He continued to work into his 90s with apparently undiminished talent. His last work, Labyrinth (2012), features a maze under a lowering sky. Typically, at its heart is lone man, walking away from the viewer but casting a glance over his shoulder.
Jeffrey Smart is survived by Ermes De Zan, his partner of more than 30 years.
Jeffrey Smart, born July 26 1921, died June 21 2013


The focus on the poor attainment of low-income pupils in the suburbs is long overdue (Ofsted chief calls for troubleshooters in schools failing poor children, 20 June). But the remedy suggested by Sir Michael Wilshaw will do nothing to assist those children. On the face of it, the suggestion that a school would lose its status of “outstanding” if it was failing its poorest children is an attractive one. However, we believe this will simply lead to an increase in the practice of “easing out” low-income children. The perception of Harrow is that of a wealthy borough with excellent schools and few social problems. The reality is that it’s among the most ethnically and culturally diverse areas in the country, with both settled and new migrant communities. Harrow Law Centre regularly represents children from low-income families who are “eased” out of the borough’s best schools.
Pamela Fitzpatrick
Director, Harrow Law Centre
•  Sir Michael Wilshaw wants to parachute superteachers into schools to help the poorest children. I suggest he looks at how many poor children are “taught” by teachers’ assistants as a cheap option in many schools. Some of the “poor, unseen” children in our secondary schools can go for days without coming into contact with a properly qualified teacher or even an unqualified graduate. Seemingly, in these days of academic rigour, qualified teachers can’t be wasted on the less able. They need to be focused on the targets thrown up by league tables in schools serving children in poor areas.
Rosina Purnell
•  Michael Wilshaw needs to have the courage to speak out against a government that ignores the importance of inequality in the educational performance of children. He cannot go on blaming teachers and schools en masse for failing to raise attainment when it is government policy that is causing the problem.
Richard Stainer
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

So the Care Quality Commission is to employ top-flight professionals as chief inspectors and staff that are professionally qualified as specialist inspectors (CQC ‘would have cleared failing hospitals regardless’, 22 June). It will also have a renewed focus on consumer issues. Given these prospective changes, the commission should look at housing inspection as a template. The housing inspectorate was led by the former director of housing from Bristol city council, had experienced and professionally qualified inspectors, and used tenants of local authorities and housing associations as part of inspection teams evaluating landlord services such as estate management and repairs and maintenance.
What’s more, after 1,400 inspections an independent study concluded that the improvement in social housing services between 2000 and 2010 was in part due to the framework for inspection (H Pawson, UK Housing Review, 2011). Unfortunately, the people responsible for housing inspection and the systems used by staff are no longer around to help the CQC. That’s because housing inspection – conducted under the auspices of the Audit Commission – was abolished by the government in 2010.
Roger Jarman
Former head of housing, Audit Commission
• You refer to Jeremy Hunt’s attack on “the culture of defensiveness and secrecy in the NHS” (Editorial, 20 June). Nearly two years ago, concerns I raised within the NHS when a non-executive director were forwarded to the strategic health authority. I was told they were “completely unfounded”. An internal SHA email ended with the words: “Hopefully this gets put to bed today.” The SHA appointed a lawyer through whom I requested information. I was told one document I sought could not be found; when I asked when it went missing I got the response: “You have been informed that the letter you were seeking cannot be found. That is the end of the matter.”
I wrote to some of those involved for clarification on related matters. After just one letter to the director of communications for NHS Property Services, the lawyer wrote to tell me he had received instructions to “seek an injunction against you to make you desist”. He explained: “You are not an investigator, regulator or statutory body and you have no standing from which to require anyone to co-operate with your lines of enquiry. None of these people are accountable to you.”
If senior NHS managers respond to members of the public in this way, there is an even greater need for effective and independent regulatory bodies.
Mike Sheaff
• The model of oversight, the rationale for the CQC, Ofsted and the rest of the regulatory alphabet soup, is deeply flawed. The transaction costs are staggering, and what is constantly being created and re-created is a parasitic bureaucracy smitten by the same disease of structures and processes so destructive of their host bodies. What we cannot inculcate in clinicians and pedagogues can never be supplied by inspection.
Neil Blackshaw
Little Easton, Essex
• I can only hope that the problems at the Care Quality Commission will help to dislodge the cult of the infinitely transferable super-manager, who flits from one six-figure-salaried job to another in a series of completely unrelated fields. Jill Finney, for example, went from being director of marketing at the British Library to deputy CEO of the CQC to chief commercial officer at Nominet, without apparently needing any knowledge of libraries, the NHS, or anything other than generic “management”. Perhaps if people with relevant experience and a degree of commitment were employed in such roles, the results might be less disastrous for those whose lives they have so much influence over.
Jill Allbrooke
• The health secretary’s pronouncements about what should happen to CQC staff allegedly involved in a cover-up, including the possibility of withholding their pensions, may appear to be “justice being done”. However, it is quite wrong for him to make such pronouncements. There is a danger that dishing out punishment without a due process could lead to a further cover-up. Reactive statements such as those made by the health minister serve to focus attention on to a few individuals, and to deflect attention away from the need for thorough investigation. 
Dr M Turcan

As a councillor I am working with the police and local authorities to eradicate the graffiti that is blighting our new Metrolink extension. How can we hope to achieve that when even the Guardian runs a totally uncritical article lionising these criminals and written by a convicted perpetrator (The double lives of graffiti artists, 22 June)?
Cllr Andrew Simcock
Lab, Didsbury East, Manchester city council
• John Woodcock (Letters, 22 June) stands firmly behind his constituents of Barrow-in-Furness, where the Vanguard submarines are made, and makes a case for keeping our nuclear weapons indefinitely. Though polls have clearly shown that this is a minority view, his letter raises a larger issue: should MPs adopt a “my constituents, right or wrong” policy? In favour is the argument that our representatives are there to give us a voice: this is democracy in action. No harm is done, provided all MPs act in the same way.
Harry Davis
Thames Ditton, Surrey
• ”Osborne says the economy is ‘out of intensive care'” (Report, 24 June). Finished with the operating theatre, now it’s the abattoir.
Martin London
Henllan, Denbighshire
• Your editorial (24 June) suggests that red mullet in British waters is a sign of global warming. If so, it has been going on for a while. They were certainly in the Isles of Scilly on 2 August 1948 – my grandfather never forgave me for interfering with his eating one caught that day by being born in his house at dinnertime.
Sam Llewellyn
Editor, The Marine Quarterly
•  Simple meals for young and eager cooks (Cook, 22 June): “Add some … caramelised onion (you might find a jar of this in your fridge).” This is not the way to prepare young people for the realities of everyday meals.
Ross Roberts
• Spotted last week, another use for a 35mm film canister (Letters, 10 December 2012): cutting bread circles to make roses at the bread museum in Monteleone Rocca Doria, Sardinia, which is more interesting than you might think.
Sam Sexton
Kenilworth, Warwickshire

What is it with the British obsession with imprisoning people? Why was the Boat Race protester Trenton Oldfield given a six-month jail term (Man jailed for Boat Race protest ordered to leave UK, 24 June), of which he served two months in Wormwood Scrubs?
In addition, the calls to imprison miscreant bankers (Report, 19 June) seem disproportionate. They should definitely suffer punishment under the law, but our prisons are grossly overcrowded. I am sure that a convicted banker could work free for any number of charities, applying their financial skills for the good of society instead of personal monetary gain.
Andrew Thacker
Edgbaston, Birmingham
• You don’t need statistics to explode the “done nothing wrong, nothing to fear” lie (Owen Wells, Letters, 24 June); and surveillance systems are indeed already in the wrong hands (Peter Healey, Letters, 24 June), when Trenton Oldfield’s act of conscience (it caused trifling inconvenience to a quite wonderfully insignificant sporting event), having drawn down a grossly disproportionate jail sentence, is now to be used – vindictively, it seems, but also threateningly to us all – as grounds for deportation. People in general live with the experience of feeling not only frustration but also guilt at our inability to act or to shout loud enough to prevent the great wrongs and injustices that confront us day by day. Yes, the complexities go deep, and life must go on; but it is still to our collective shame that so many and such avoidable wrongs go on happening, in our name, and as it were on our generational watch.
Phillip Goodall
•  Trenton Oldfield told the court that his protest was designed to highlight elitism in British society, but he argues that he should not be asked to leave the UK because he has a tier one visa and is a highly skilled migrant. Why does he believe that such elitist considerations should govern immigration decisions? Do lower-skilled or unskilled migrants have less right to be here than him?
Simon Jarrett
•  The influence of the shadowy elite around the universities of Oxford and Cambridge on our political life is brought into strong relief by the deportation of Trenton Oldfield. Without making it look like a Philip Pullman novel, perhaps we are due some investigative reporting as to how deep this influence is?
Dr Alan Lafferty
•  Reading Monday’s Guardian this week, one might identify the real state of British justice today. One man who disrupted an elite sporting event for 25 minutes was jailed for two months and is now to be deported. Yet hundreds of women and children have reported being the victims of the appalling inhuman sexual and physical abuse of female genital mutilation (70 a month seek help after genital mutilation, 24 June), without a single person being taken to court for committing such an offence. It is difficult to know whether the police, social services or the medical profession should be more ashamed of continuing to allow this to happen.
Stephen Kay
Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

If police are locking up mentally ill people (Mentally ill ‘treated as suspected criminals’, 20 June), it is purely because they cannot find beds for them in hospitals. I speak from 35 years’ experience in the probation service and as someone who has a son in the police at present. I find myself in the unusual position, for one with my background, of agreeing with the representative of the Police Federation. The story here was missed: it is not that police are locking people up, it is that there are no hospital beds for mentally ill people out of office hours, or at all if their behaviour is less than angelic. Where else can the police put them? They are a risk to themselves at least and maybe to others. They are processed by custody sergeants in the same manner as criminals to protect them and the officers. The alternative is to leave them on the streets. There are no other places of safety to take them to, and I cannot see that having “street triage” is going to magically create them.
Jonathan Frayne
Umberleigh, Devon

News that Ed Miliband will accept the government’s spending cuts, as a starting point for 2015-16, as well as supporting a cap on welfare spending, confirms fears that we now have three parties of austerity at Westminster (Miliband summons up spirit of 45, 22 June). Instead of trying to outcompete the government in some kind of masochistic virility test to see who can threaten the greatest austerity, an opposition party worthy of the name would be making a far stronger case that austerity isn’t working, and offering a genuine alternative.
At the People’s Assembly meeting in London on Saturday, more than 4,000 people gathered to build a movement to do just that, based on a recognition that the best way to address the deficit is not by cutting public spending, throwing people out of work and slashing welfare, but by investing in jobs, particularly jobs in the labour-intensive green sector, which would address the growing climate crisis, as well as the economic one.
Borrowing, based on record low interest rates, a serious crackdown on tax evasion and avoidance, and green quantitative easing to deliver investment directly into the new jobs and infrastructure that the UK urgently needs to make the transition to a more sustainable economy, would all do far more to address the deficit than the confused Tory-lite policies set out by the Labour frontbench.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion
• So Ed Miliband has decided that he will not reverse any of the coalition’s vicious and divisive spending cuts if he were to win the next election. What would be the point of voting for him, then?
Cherry Weston



As a Muslim woman of mature years myself, I find a lot in Dorene McCormack’s letter of 19 June to commend. I can recognise and indeed honour her desire to see greater equality between men and women and her repudiation of vile or criminal practices like forced marriages and genital mutilations. As for practices such as segregated swimming, I am a bit surprised that she is unaware that there have been for many generations in this country, in places such as Highgate Ponds in north London, a time-honoured practice of segregating swimming facilities.
Dorene McCormack might also be interested to know that forced marriages are not exclusively practised by Muslims but also by Sikhs and Hindus and others. As to genital mutilations, it is a cultural practice in certain parts of Africa and has nothing whatsoever to do with Islam, even if some Muslims choose to practise it.
For Dorene McCormack and others like her who feel offended that Muslim women are not equal to their men in this country I would like to reassure her that our fathers, husbands, brothers and sons, while not kings like Shah Jahan, who can build monuments like the Taj Mahal to witness their love for their women, nevertheless in the main love and honour us. There is a small minority that is thuggish, criminal or downright cowardly who seek to oppress us, and perhaps in this country more of us need to know that we do not have to put up with that. 
Equally there is a need for some non- Muslims to recognise that, when they lay blame at the door of Islam for whatever it is that to them makes their country unrecognisable, they might have to look at themselves a little more honestly for the answer.
Satanay Dorken
London N10
Female genital mutilation is a barbarity performed, often without anaesthetic, upon pubescent girls. It causes traumatic physical and mental scarring which will stay with the unfortunate recipient throughout her life, rendering normal sexual relations painful and childbirth dangerous.
The whole world needs to concentrate upon eradicating this evil, performed at the command of pathetic men upon helpless girls. Parents who allow their daughters to suffer in this way need to be dragged through the streets and horse-whipped.
It was therefore sad to read Ian Quayle’s ill-considered letter (22 June) comparing male circumcision with FGM. Speaking as a circumcised male, can I assure Mr Quayle that, upon the invention of the Tardis, I would go back in time and heartily thank  all concerned in the matter. Although I was not consulted at the time, I am quite happy with the consequences. To compare a quick nick and dab of salve on a baby with the horrors of FGM  performed upon a fully sentient young woman is breathtaking: did Mr Quayle do any biology?
His letter performs two grave errors. First, it defocuses society’s attention from the specific evil of FGM. This needs to be eradicated and he should not confuse the issues. Second, it is quite unkind to insult my willy in a national newspaper.
Dr Ian Poole
Want a better NHS? You’ll have to pay for it
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (24 June) is too pessimistic about the NHS.
It is short of cash because so much has been wasted on needless prescriptions, wasteful prescriptions, hush money, incentives for doctors, etc etc.
Why do people expect everything to be free as a right? It is time they realised the cost of the NHS and paid a consultation fee, and hospital fee. Even £1 a visit would make a difference, or £5 as in Denmark.
Valerie Pitt
London SE3
How is it possible in a civilised country for patients to undergo second- or third-class treatment if they are unlucky enough to visit hospitals over a weekend?
Recent examples in different hospitals in different counties with family and friends confirm that interminable waits, inadequate attention, stressed nurses and very few doctors on duty is the norm on weekends for the NHS these days.
How can this happen? The NHS clearly needs more resources. Surely the Government is aware, but nothing happens.
Tony Hams
Tideswell, Derbyshire
Why is Syria  our business?
Am I missing the point somewhere? I don’t understand our enthusiasm to get involved in the conflict in Syria. Isn’t Syria a Middle Eastern state occupied in a brutal civil war, outside any European jurisdiction, and if we are to get involved then shouldn’t we be doing all we can to support the UN and NGO aid agencies in trying to reduce the horrifying toll on human lives?
It is the neighbouring Middle Eastern Arab states who should be using all their influence to stop this war. If arms and even soldiers are to be committed then let them come from these neighbouring Arab states.
In any case, the civil war is perhaps impossible to sort out because Russia totally depends on Syria to give it warm-water access to the Mediterranean, and so will inevitably support the Assad regime to ensure that this Mediterranean access is guaranteed. There is no point in getting involved in the fighting; Russia will not allow the Assad regime to fall.
In any case why should the UK see itself as the policeman of every failing state? We can’t afford it, it is not our responsibility and the result is that inevitably the lives of our servicemen and women are given for no purpose.
Adrian Starr
Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear
When will our Prime Minister get the message that he is a just a small pawn at the head of a small country, among world giants? It is time he got down to the business of sorting out the woes of the UK, instead of interfering in worldwide affairs and foreign wars.
Terry Duncan
Bridlington, East Yorkshire
If we had kept out in 1914
Dr Bendor Grosvenor (letter, 18 June) makes an interesting point. However, whether or not Britain was under any obligation to honour its alliance with France or its guarantee to Belgium in 1914, the fact is that, since the time of Henry VIII, British policy in Europe had been to prevent any one power becoming predominant.
We had been “singeing the King of Spain’s beard” long before the Armada; we had been a principal player in the War of the Spanish Succession against Louis XIV, even though there was never any direct threat to this country; and we were at war with the French revolutionaries and then Napoleon before the Grand Army arrived at Calais.
If Dr Grosvenor is saying that he would have been quite happy for us to have lived alongside a European mainland under German control for the last 100 years, I do not think many would agree with him, and Francophiles like myself would have found it difficult.
If the present turmoil ends, as it may, with Europe united under German leadership, with the UK excluded, two world wars really will have been in vain!
Peter Giles
Whitchurch, Shropshire
Powers to clear the middle lane
Mary Dejevsky (Notebook, 19 June) is quite right: we don’t need new offences to deal with middle lane hogs, tailgating, or any of the bad practices we see on the roads. Section 3, Road Traffic Act 1988 covers driving “without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road”. That gives the police all the power they need to deal with the careful but thoughtless drivers who seem to make up much of The Independent’s readership.
Anthony Bramley-Harker
Recent correspondence about drivers hogging the middle lane reminds me of the brilliant idea suggested years ago for saving money on the construction of new motorways: omit the nearside lane as no one ever uses it.
Sebastian Macmillan
Further to John Williams’ motorway bugbear (letter, 20 June), when I lived in Germany in the 1970s Mercedes and BMW cars were said to have eingebaute Vorfahrt, or built-in right of way.
Christopher Wright
Co-ops lead  way to success
Hamish McRae’s inflation of the Co-operative Bank’s problems into a general trashing of the mutual sector is lamentable (“The worst form of ownership – apart from the others”, 19 June).
The co-operative economy in the UK is thriving. Almost 6,000 co-operative businesses contribute £36bn annually to the UK economy. For the past five years the co-operative economy, growing by 20 per cent, has massively outperformed the “mainstream”, which is still smaller than when the credit crunch hit. And building societies have proved more durable than their privatised brethren.
Across the world, according to Co-operatives UK, members of co-ops outnumber shareholders three times over. Mondragon, the Basque mutual conglomerate, is weathering the economic crisis much better than the remainder of Spain.
McRae also seems not to be aware that community share schemes are rescuing at-risk shops and pubs across the country. Nor that support for mutual approaches, including co-operative councils, community land trusts and mutual housing organisations, now stretches across the political spectrum.
Mutualism is not a relic of the 19th century but a revitalised model rediscovered by the “mainstream” economy and society. It has a crucial role in rebuilding both in the wake of financial greed and shareholder inability to hold boards to account. 
Kevin Gulliver
Director, Human City Institute, Birmingham
Lynch mob
Driving home from work (not in the middle lane) I heard the news report “phone-in” clip of Nick Clegg being asked his opinion of the Saatchi/Lawson “incident”, and had some sympathy for him struggling to give an honest reply. Then the torrent of denunciation of Clegg and his response by all who followed made me question my naivety for not joining his condemnation. What a relief to read Frank Furedi’s excellent analysis of the “oral lynch mob” in Saturday’s edition.
Mike Bone
Saxtead, Suffolk
Futile snooping
If the United Kingdom’s GCHQ (5,300 staff) and the United States National Security Agency (40,000 staff) are doing their job of clandestine intelligence gathering, why are their governments so often clueless?
Dr John Doherty


In the minds of many, the colossal sums of money involved would be far better spent on improvements to the existing rail network
Sir, Having now “parked his 80mph speed limit plan” for our motorways (report and interview, June 22), the next task of Patrick McLoughlin, the Minister for Transport, is to apply the brakes to HS2, whose Paving Bill comes before Parliament tomorrow, the same day that the Chancellor sets out his Spending Review.
At an estimated cost of £40 billion for Phase One of HS2 alone, the immediate cancellation of this white elephant would, at a stroke, solve most of the Chancellor’s woes.
In his interview with Alice Thomson and Rachel Sylvester, Mr McLoughlin declared that, “on the railways you can do nothing cheaply; it’s all big projects”. Somewhat surprisingly he also maintained that, “High Speed 2 is not primarily about speed but about capacity”.
If HS2’s raison d’être is indeed about capacity, extending the relevant platforms at Euston, Marylebone and Birmingham, and adding extra carriages on to Virgin’s West Coast Main Line trains and those in operation on the Chiltern Line would instantly solve this problem with far less disruption and at a fraction of the cost of constructing HS2.
By 2027, if HS2 were to be up and running, some of those who currently commute from Birmingham to London will have found employment on their doorstep, while others will have come to the conclusion that working from home is not only far less stressful and more productive but a great deal less expensive.
Having digested HS2 Ltd’s Draft Environmental Statement, which sets out in gory detail its plan for the Euston area, I can only congratulate its authors on a scheme worthy of a horde of Viking invaders. With building land in London, especially in Camden, at a premium, their proposal to demolish more than 300 units of social housing, two respectable hotels (resulting in the loss of 700 visitor beds), a secondary school, numerous large and small businesses and restaurants, several offices and warehouses, as well as a public park, is totally unacceptable.
When those in Rio lose their homes they riot. In Istanbul the potential loss of a park caused more than just a little instability. Meanwhile, back in Britain, the frustrated citizens of Camden and the Chilterns merely wave a placard or two, wring their hands, or write a letter to The Times.
Marian Kamlish
London NW1
Sir, Rachel Sylvester (Opinion, June 18) confirms many of our suspicions concerning the wasteful Civil Service. The HS2 proposal has been championed by two successive governments despite it being clear to most neutral observers that the colossal sums of money involved would be far better spent on improvements to the existing rail network and/or on enhancing broadband provision. I wonder which mandarins have been and continue to be afraid to lose face on admitting this reality.
Stewart Hodges
Kenilworth, Warks
Sir, I have an alternative to spending unnecessary sums of money on HS2 and scarring our countryside.
Speed time could still be improved by putting on three to four extra carriages per train, extending every station platform to accommodate them and having alternate trains stop at every other station along its route to save downtime.
This would slash the cost of HS2 while still reducing journey times.
Eric J. Neale
Launceston, Cornwall

The illicit drugs market is controlled by criminals, there is no regulation of strength or quality, and financial incentives to target children
Sir, It is very helpful to have a discussion about the relative benefits and harms caused by substance use and abuse, such as the current debate about cannabis (letters, June 19 & 21), but this misses an important point. The illicit drugs market is controlled by criminals, not governments, there is no regulation of strength or quality, and there is a huge financial incentive to target children. All drugs are more dangerous and accessible when their production and supply is in the hands of criminals.
The experience of the past 40 years reveals that prohibition is not only ineffective at restricting access and use but it is also hugely costly, counter-productive and harmful. The so-called war on drugs has, in fact, been a war on people.
We have to decide whether legitimate authorities are going to be in charge, controlling access and regulating quality, or criminals are left to target successive generations in pursuit of almost unlimited profits.
The public mood is changing and politicians should now have the confidence to discuss this pressing issue openly and equipped with facts not emotion.
Tom Lloyd
International drug policy adviser, Chief Constable, Cambridgeshire Constabulary, 2002-05

All regulators should be given the power to impose robust sanctions. These powers should be known to all customers and stakeholders
Sir, In spite of the overwhelming evidence about intrusive calls (“Complaints soar but watchdog fails to silence cold callers”, June 21) the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) fails to act. As one of the thousands blighted by this problem (I have given the ICO precise details of the callers), I feel frustrated.
This is the latest of a long line of ineffective regulators (Ofgem, Ofwat, CQC, FSA) which either fail to act or claim that they have insufficient powers to do so. All regulators should be given the power to impose robust sanctions. These powers should be known to all customers and stakeholders.
The concerns of those such as ICO that are restricted should be addressed urgently. There should be a regular review of all regulators. Those failing the public should be disbanded.
Norman Mason
Widnes, Cheshire

The BBC Trust required more detailed explanations from the BBC, which led to a halt to the DMI project until a detailed investigation could be completed
Sir, As Rob Wilson knows, I — and indeed the entire BBC Trust and BBC Executive — are being held fully accountable for our performance over the BBC’s failed Digital Media Initiative (DMI) technology project through a PwC review that we have commissioned, a National Audit Office study that will follow and doubtless a subsequent Public Accounts Committee hearing (“Warning over failing £100m IT project missed by BBC trustee”, June 24).
It should be noted, however, that Bill Garrett’s letter dated May 2012 warning of problems with the project was not the only piece of evidence that was being accumulated by the BBC Trust. On the back of that building evidence, the BBC Trust required more detailed explanations from the BBC, which led to a halt to the DMI project until a detailed investigation could be completed, a fact I reported to the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office in November 2012. It is therefore certainly not the case that it took more than a year for the problems of DMI to emerge and be acted upon by the BBC.
Anthony Fry
BBC Trustee

Some quiet residential areas are being blighted by the noise of leaf blowers, which often just shift leaves from one area to another
Sir, How I envy John Matthews (letter, June 24). When we moved into our house 19 years ago, the only noise was the singing of the birds. Now contract groundsmen descend on the area any time from Monday to Saturday. They conclude their work, at each ¼ acre- sized garden with the obligatory “leaf blow”. With approximately 40 properties within earshot of ours and an average “blow time” of 20 minutes per property we endure about 12 hours of bedlam every week. Much of the material is blown out of a property and on to the street, only to make its way to an adjacent property.
I have seen one team blow material across the street into a neighbour’s garden, only for a second team to arrive an hour later and blow it all back whence it came! My local council sympathises, but advises that unless all the noise comes from one property there is nothing it can do.
Oh, and the birds? They are in sad decline on account of the noise and the effect on their habitat and food of these unnecessary machines.
Richard Green
Altrincham, Cheshire

SIR – Christopher Howse describes our summer weather as “bitter beer: nothing to write home about and quietly satisfying” (Comment, June 20). But what is so satisfying about week upon week of damp drizzle, being cooped up inside gazing longingly at the garden lush with weeds?
Foreign travel hasn’t given us a “false view of the season”, but a chance to replenish our dwindling levels of vitamin D and wear our summer clothes for an entire week, as opposed to a handful of days between May and September.
I’m all for looking on the bright side, but “it’s disappointingly cloudy” can only be termed an understatement.
Another of summer’s pleasures is to swap soup for salad, and thermals for shorts or knee‑length skirts, though in fact my forearms, calves and toes have yet to see the light of day this year.
We don’t expect a guaranteed three months’ sunshine, but some warm, sunny spells wouldn’t go amiss.

SIR – Nick Boles, the planning minister, and other MPs seem to think that the countryside is just a sterile green area, devoid of voters (“Build on boring fields, says minister”, report, June 22). These “boring fields” provide food, not just for their constituents, but for the population as a whole. If only a fraction of the current production had to be imported it would drive Britain into the sort of balance of payments deficit that would put us into recession for decades to come.
“Boring fields” also absorb rain, without this sponge effect there would be more flooding, and more government money would be needed for flood prevention. It makes sense to protect the countryside; but those who make the decisions seem to be devoid of common sense.
Of course more housing is needed. But there are more than enough brownfield sites to enable the demand for housing, and commercial development, to be met for years to come.
Christina Miller
Machynlleth, Powys
SIR – The “boring field” behind my house is due to be developed shortly, and, as it is not being used, the grass has grown. Badgers have successfully reared cubs in their sett on the edge of the field and a vixen has also had three cubs.
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In the day and evening, swallows, swifts and house martins swoop over the grass. Countless other birds feed in the field too. In the evening, two or possibly three types of bats also hunt in the fields and under the tree canopy. The nightjar has returned after a few years of absence, and a hobby has also been seen. This all demonstrates an abundance of insect life. I have seen mice and voles and the hedge could well support dormice as the habitat is suitable. Wild flowers are also starting to appear.
I know what I consider boring: a collection of modern houses erected at speed, half of which will probably remain empty because there is so much other development going on at the same time.
Helen Shute
Budleigh Salterton, Devon
SIR – Having been involved in planning processes since becoming a councillor in 1999, I read Mr Boles’s comments with despair. There is a very real misunderstanding at national level about the planning process.
Throughout the country, thousands of houses have been given approval to be built, but this is not happening, as the developers either do not have the confidence, or the finance, to go ahead. The Government believes the answer is to build on greenfield sites (whatever their status).
In practice, people need to feel secure in their jobs and have an assured income if they are to move, but this is not happening. The answer is not to provide masses more land, but to ensure that land with planning permission is actually built on.
As to localism – whatever happened to that? It is time for the Conservative part of the Coalition to remember its roots and tradition to conserve so many of the fine parts of this land.
Hilda Gaddum
Macclesfield, Cheshire
SIR – Although the official line from the Government is that the Green Belt is protected, behind the scenes ministers are saying something different.
Isn’t it about time that the Government told us the truth for once, and admitted that it considers economic growth more important than preserving our precious and irreplaceable Green Belt?
Shelia Bourton
Wimborne Minister, Dorset
SIR – I take it Nick Boles will not complain if developers have their eyes on the “boring” fields surrounding his country cottage in Lincolnshire.
The fields in that county are very flat, just perfect for low-cost housing.
Jennifer Latham
Wedmore, Somerset
SIR – Ministers who spout boring drivel should have their properties knocked down and turned into a nice green field.
Alastair Cannon
Bridport, Dorset
Cover-up scandal
SIR – Your robust leading article (June 22), apt letters and Charles Moore’s typically thought-provoking comment piece on the NHS and the Care Quality Commision (CQC) will, I hope, be read by all MPs.
However, they also raise the question of what on earth Andrew Lansley was doing and to whom was he speaking inside and outside the NHS during his eight years as shadow and actual secretary of state for health from 2004 to 2012?
John Birkett
St Andrews, Fife
SIR – The senior managers alleged to have been responsible for the cover-up of the failings at Morecambe Bay NHS Trust were originally identified as Mr G, Mr F and Mr E. It was subsequently revealed that all three managers were women; Mr G is Jill Finney, Mr F is Anna Jefferson and Mr E is Cynthia Bower.
Why was this gender reassignment considered to be necessary?
Max Gammon
London SE16
SIR – Let me guess: we now need another supervisory body to oversee the CQC overseeing the NHS, just like we have tier upon tier of quangos in the finance and education sectors.
Michael Heaton
Warminster, Wiltshire
Birthday blues
SIR – I was fascinated to read your report (June 21) about a father’s two sons born on his birthday. I was born on August 22; my brother on August 22, 10 years earlier; and our mother died on August 22, years later.
I am never quite sure how to react to my birthday – with happiness or trepidation.
Dr Phil Bramley
SIR – Two of my daughters were born on my birthday just four years apart, on July 30, 1956 and 1960. However, my second daughter messed up – she was born seven days later on August 7, 1958.
Geoffrey Bray
Ashley, Northamptonshire
The royal miaows
SIR – The Queen’s love of horses and dogs is well known, but what about cats?
Have the corgis made Buckingham Palace a cat-free zone?
Gillian Dunstan
Witnesham, Suffolk
Private school practice
SIR – The attack by Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, on private schools (report, June 22) is misplaced. While a small number of private schools have historic wealth through endowments and property, the majority live a hand-to-mouth existence, and are only able to upgrade their facilities through appeals to the generosity of their alumni and parents.
The disparity in exam results arises because both pupils and teachers in the private sector work longer hours, while the parents of these pupils expect to see value for money, and so ensure that their children work hard. The majority of private schools already place their facilities, including some teaching, at the disposal of local state schools when available.
If Sir Michael wishes to raise the standards in state education he should look at things through the other end of the telescope. He should deal with the trade union practices that require state schools to release their charges at 3pm, and at how some parents abdicate all responsibility for the education and discipline of their offspring to the school, thus denying the silent majority an environment conducive to proper learning. It is not surprising those results are poorer.
Jeremy M J Havard
London SW3
Ivy’s valuable role
SIR – Bianca-Sophie Ebeling (Letters, June 20) is concerned about ivy infestations. The truth is that ivy on trees, banks and walls creates an unparalleled protective habitat for many of our wild creatures throughout the year, but especially in winter, as it is an evergreen.
From September until the onset of winter, the prolific flowering of the ivy provides an abundant source of late nectar and pollen for bees and other insects. After this, the berries of the ivy are a vital source of winter food for some birds.
Ivy, being a native species, has co-existed alongside our many indigenous trees since the last ice age, and yet I see no shortage of healthy, mature, native trees. Surely we can learn to coexist with such a valuable, multipurpose plant.
David Lantsbery
SIR – Recently, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said that one of the best plants we could have in our gardens was ivy. These days, with all our garden makeovers, we need places that are left a bit wild for the benefit of our wildlife.
Terence Jenkins
New Malden, Surrey
Table manners include no mobiles at mealtimes
SIR – Alan Hall (Letters, June 21) asks for a solution to the curse of the mobile phone at the dining table. Even before the advent of the mobile phone, I made one firm rule for my household: no phone calls to be received or made during mealtimes.
With the proliferation of mobile phones and one’s own offspring, I came under increasing pressure from family and friends to relax the rule. But it was the one rule I hung on to doggedly and today my children, who now have young families of their own, have finally come to appreciate the therapeutic qualities of a meal taken in the warmth of relatives and friends without annoying unrelated interruptions.
Amazingly, they have also discovered that the heavens don’t collapse if their emails and messages remain unattended for an hour.
Haroun Rashid
London SW3
SIR – It might not be appropriate at the dining table, but the head gamekeeper on an exclusive driven shoot had a very effective solution to the inconsiderate use of mobiles – he threw the offending shooter’s mobile into the air and shot it.
David Lane
SIR – Mr Hall should turn off the Wi‑Fi system in the house during mealtimes, or place a low-power spark generator on the table. Either of which solution will render communication impossible.
Rev Helier Exon
Blandford Forum, Dorset
SIR – The first to check their mobile washes up, the second dries up, with the third putting away.
Steve Cattell
Grantham, Lincolnshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – James M Sheehan, director Blackrock and Galway Clinics, commends the Catholic Church for upholding “for over 2,000 years” the Hippocratic Oath, ie “utmost respect for every human life from fertilisation to natural death”.
This is simply not true. Both the Crusades and the Holy Inquisition, inaugurated for very questionable motives, left behind a legacy of intolerance and anti-Semitism and a death toll, estimated by the most conservative historians, in the hundreds of thousands. In more recent times we have seen proof of church involvement in, and cover-up of, child abuse (hardly the ideal of “utmost respect”) and even today, in the revised Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), we find support for the death penalty. In short, Mr Sheehan’s contention is absurd. – Yours, etc,
Shamrock Avenue,
Douglas, Cork.
Sir, – The article by Dr Michael Reilly (Opinion, June 21st), made chilling reading, as this country is on the cusp of introducing abortion on the grounds of suicide: “Despite training and experience, psychiatrists can’t always detect feigned suicidality . . . While a majority of those at risk of completing suicide will be identified, a large number who will not complete suicide are also so identified (false positives) . . . Even assessment by two psychiatrists does not necessarily provide the protection against unnecessary abortion it appears to provide as all psychiatrists use the same method of identifying suicide risk”.
Perhaps this explains why safeguards, checks and balances could not hold back the tide of abortion in countries where suicide is a determining factor. Do the Irish people really want to go down this road? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I am at a loss to understand the point of the article “AG should have role in vindicating rights of unborn” (Eamonn Barnes, Opinion, June 22nd).
Mr Barnes’s contention is that under the Constitution the foetus should have equal representation with the mother in any discussions relating to termination on the basis of suicidal ideation on the part of the mother. If this suggestion were to be adopted by our legislature it would be interesting to see how the foetus advocate could consult with his/her client.
I was under the impression that the pro-life lobby was standing up for the foetus. I was also under the impression that the underlying motive of the medical profession was to save the life of the mother and the foetus if that is at all possible. So under those circumstances it would be the responsibility of the mother to prove her suicidal ideation was adequate and sufficient reason to allow the medical representatives to permit a termination. Given the conservative nature of the Irish medical profession the woman would not have an easy task.

Sir, – Brian Hayes, not for the first time, is simply wrong when he states (Home News, June 24th) that there is so scope for any income tax cuts in the forthcoming budget. On the contrary, our tax system has become so unfair and imbalanced, and the growth of poverty so alarming, now is the perfect time to make adjustments that will cut the level of tax paid by those on low incomes.
We need at least two additional tax bands to increase the take from high-end incomes while lowering the take correspondingly from those at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder. Not only would that bring more fairness, it would increase the spending power of those with less, thereby giving a substantial boost to the local economy – it isn’t rocket science.
Mr Hayes simply needs to understand that good governance transcends ideology and the scales will fall from his eyes. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – What a cruel government we have, that will seemingly dash the hopes of Finn Liebenberg and his family (Irish Lives: “Alicia Liebenberg tells how special education cuts will affect her son Finn”, June 22nd). His mother and father are trying so hard to increase Finn’s limited chances of success in the future and the Government is spending money on “the most stupid things”. Can the government not see the suffering they inflict for such small savings? – Yours, etc,

A chara, – Michael Noonan asserts that Fine Gael never gave a free vote:“We have a whipping system in our party. We don’t give free votes and everybody, when they [sic] decided to become a Fine Gael candidate, signed a pledge to vote with the party” (Home News, June 18th).
He has a short memory. In 1974 the then taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, and the then minister of education, Dick Burke, voted against their own Bill to legalise the availability of contraceptives to married couples. Neither Cosgrave not Burke was expelled from the Fine Gael party for this extraordinary behaviour.
The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill 2013 will be passed by a large majority. Under these circumstances, there is no reason why Fine Gael should not allow a free vote to cater for those deputies with a conscientious objection to the Bill or who feel that they should honour a solemn undertaking given in the last pre-election campaign, however naive this may appear to be to their more worldly-wise colleagues.
There is always the possibility that Enda Kenny will have a damascene conversion, and will emulate his egregious predecessor by voting against his own Bill! – Is mise,

Sir, – In your supplement (June 19th) to mark the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s visit, Colm Tóibín writes “During the euphoria . . . it might have been possible to mention anyone’s name in a speech and win applause”. Well, not quite.
In his address to the joint session of the Oireachtas, Kennedy referred to “the little five feet high nations”. He attributed this comment to “one of the great orators of the English language”. In fact, the comment was made by David Lloyd George. However JFK’s speech-writers had the good sense to realise that Lloyd George’s name might not be favourably received by his audience, many of whom would have bitter personal memories of him. – Yours, etc,

Irish Independent:

* In America, a small shoal of crafty, pinstriped financial piranhas deliberately and knowingly decided to throw all the rules governing sensible financial lending overboard.
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Their intention was to become obscenely rich, regardless of the damage and hardship they would inevitably cause.
The feeding frenzy soon attracted other, equally-ravenous predators whose unwitting prey included countless hard-working but financially unsophisticated young couples.
Banking for Beginners, Lesson One: Every Boom is Inevitably Followed by a Bust. Professional money manipulators already knew this, and what the inevitable end of lunatic over-lending must be. However, besotted with productivity-related bonuses and regardless of scruples, they forged ahead.
Countless thousands of the wide-eyed unaware who still believed that bankers were people of probity and honesty were ushered into the trap.
So, surely the question arises: if a financially unsophisticated mortgage-holder ends up in serious negative equity as a direct result of a professional lender bamboozling them into taking on a ludicrously large loan, how should responsibility be apportioned?
If their house has to be sold for considerably less than the amount owed to the bank, should the basically innocent victim, already suffering terribly, still be saddled with making up the entire difference?
Insult to injury springs to mind.
Some will say it serves the young people right for borrowing too much.
However, financially aware and still-wealthy banks and bankers are being bailed out with billions of euro of taxpayers’ money, even though it was their incompetence and profit-chasing which largely created the mess.
But the little people at the bottom – those who are in the deepest trouble – are to get very little real help.
George MacDonald
Gorey, Co Wexford
* In the past two years we have been visited by the queen of England, the president of the United States and, latterly, the family of that same president. Now we are in the throes of celebrating the 50th anniversary of JFK’s visit to these shores.
Given the political, media, academic and public reaction to these visits, it is surely evident that we lack what many other societies have – a permanent focus of unqualified adoration that allows us to forget our woes. Such a lack could be addressed by the creation of an Irish monarchy, with all the attendant pomp and ceremony so beloved of our nearest neighbour.
Such a move would require some constitutional amendments and would certainly dilute our status as a republic, but look at the benefits – a new breed of red-top press, a proud and ever-growing list of titled citizenry and, above all, a more content and docile populace.
Imagine – King Michael D!
Larry Dunne
Bray, Co Wicklow
* With the midges paying unwelcome attention to Mrs Obama and her daughters in Glendalough, will plans for a return visit now be scratched?
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont, Dublin
* President Higgins “rails against” materialism in Ireland for its detrimental effects on community spirit.
And yet, Aras an Uachtarain remains as ostentatiously massive and well-stocked as ever, and the president on his throne maintains his almost €250,000 salary.
Instead of paying lip service to anti-materialism, Michael, follow the lead of the Uruguayan president and donate the salary that you don’t need to those in our country in the direst of straits. Then you can lecture us on the ills of spending.
Killian Foley-Walsh
* Peter O’Rourke (Letters to the Editor, June 21) claims that I have got it wrong, and emotively states that insurance premiums are rising because there are more “five-star” clinics and hospitals where patients are treated quickly and expensively.
I feel he has got the cart before the horse, and has not fully understood the theme of my letter.
The cost of a single room in a private hospital is between €900 and €950 a night, compared with more than €1,100 in a public hospital. Fully staffed emergency departments are to be found in three of the seven large private hospitals in Dublin, not including the fact that the emergency department in St Vincent’s feeds into St Vincent’s Private Hospital, too.
His claim that private hospitals are not interested in this type of care due to lack of profit rings hollow. It also insults the staff.
I did not “blame” public hospitals for the rise in insurance premiums heretofore, and made the point that the idea that you can bill the insurance company of a patient who is admitted to a public hospital as a public patient simply because they have insurance is patently unjust.
I pay nearly €3,000 in insurance for my family, and I reserve the right to use that premium or refuse to and attend my local public hospital as a public patient.
The insurance companies have been unequivocal in their claim that any premium rise next year will be down to the minister’s plans.
“Five-star” private hospitals exist because of the state of the public health system. They are the effect, not the cause. They do a good job.
Turlough O’Donnell
Ardilea, Dublin
* Mohill, another of the severely distressed unions of the Great Famine, compares with Kilrush in the eponymous honouring of our ancestors’ persecutors whose names belong in the dustbin of history.
The name of Crofton, a landlord and yeoman who was hangman at the Battle of Ballinamuck in 1798, was honoured on new housing at Rynn in the wake of the bicentenary commemoration of that massacre. Among his execution exploits was the hanging of General Blake, who had pleaded to be shot as a soldier. Clements, the surname of Lord Leitrim, is also glorified on new housing at Rynn.
Amid this culture of revisionism, plans are under way to erect something of public honour in Mohill to Titanic victim Matthew Sadlier, who belonged to a family of land stewards of the notorious Lord Leitrim, and whose family home was built of the best stones of knocked cottages in a post-Famine series of evictions.
Sadly, there is no plaque of any kind in Carrick-on-Shannon for the 119 rebels who were brought from Ballinamuck after the battle and hanged there – patriots who fought and died for the freedom we so casually take for granted today.
Mary Reynolds
* I asked our daughter, Shannon, who is seven, what parents are for. She replied: “To take care of children.” Then I asked her what children are supposed to do for their parents, and she replied: “To have fun.”
There was a four-year-old child whose neighbour had recently lost his wife. On seeing the man crying, the little boy crossed over to his yard, climbed on to his lap and just sat there for a long time with him. When his mother asked what he had said to the man, the little boy replied: “Nothing, I just helped him to cry.”
Barry Clifford
Oughterard, Co Galway


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