22 August 2013 Out and about
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble again with them picking up a marker buoy instead of a mock space capsule. Stranding Makepeace and a Russian fishing vessel on the sands. Priceless
We are both tired its off to bank, ti and Coop, tidy up the garage a bit,
Scrabble today I win but I get under 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.
LC (“Kim”) Taylor
LC (“Kim”) Taylor, who has died aged 90, became headmaster of Sevenoaks School at the age of only 32 and was considered by many to be the most innovative post-war head in the independent sector.
LC (Kim) Taylor with his wife, Suzanne, and prefects at Sevenoaks School
6:04PM BST 21 Aug 2013
Sevenoaks flourished under Taylor’s energetic leadership. Among the innovations that he introduced or encouraged were community service; an international house for foreign entrants to the sixth form; a technical activities centre; an English A-level that included creative writing; the teaching of jazz and folk music; and classes that mixed sixth-form pupils and parents.
His ideas, described in his book Experiments in Education at Sevenoaks, published in 1965, have taken root so widely that it is not easy to recall how original they were. Beyond the school walls, Taylor was one of the founding committee members of Voluntary Service Overseas.
Len Clive Taylor (always known as Kim) was born on August 4 1922 in Calcutta. His father owned an advertising agency, while his mother had, until her marriage, performed in a troupe of travelling entertainers. Kim was sent to boarding school in England aged six, thereafter seeing his parents only rarely. When he was nine, his father died, and school effectively became Kim’s home.
Aged 10, he followed his elder brother to Sevenoaks , where he excelled academically and in sport; he became school captain as well as captain of boxing and rugby, and was about to sit the Oxford entrance exam when his education was interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.
Sent back to India, he began teaching, aged 17, at St Paul’s School, Darjeeling . He remained there until 1942, when he was commissioned into the Indian Army and shipped to Burma. He survived the siege of Akyab, and its evacuation, and spent the rest of the war gathering intelligence about the Japanese army as its advance turned into isolation and defeat.
After demob, Taylor spent a further year at St Paul’s before working his passage back to England and going up to New College, Oxford. He won a Blue as a heavyweight boxer and took a First in History, then spent a year at the University of Chicago studying Psychology. It was in America that he met his future wife, Suzanne Dufault, whose lively personality and striking looks would contribute to his success as a headmaster.
Taylor began his career in education as head of history at Repton before being invited by his former headmaster to succeed him at Sevenoaks — he was then the youngest head of a public school in England.
After 14 years at Sevenoaks, Taylor left to become director of the Nuffield Foundation’s Resources for Learning project. This work generated Resources for Learning (1971), published by Penguin, a book whose utilitarian title belies an elegantly written survey of education both at home and abroad.
Taylor then went to Paris as Principal Administrator of the Centre for Educational Resources and Innovation at the OECD; he took a particular interest in Portugal, and in 1989 the Portuguese appointed him a Commander of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator.
After five years at the Independent Broadcasting Authority as head of educational programming, he ended his career as Director of the Gulbenkian Foundation in London, an Anglo-Portuguese charity dedicated to social welfare, education and the arts. He also edited a series of books connected with Portugal, including a collection of the poems of Fernando Pessoa.
Taylor maintained his connection with Sevenoaks, becoming a governor in 1983. It was during his governorship that the school replaced A-levels with the International Baccalaureate, an exam which he admired for its breadth, inclusion of community service, high standards and freedom from political interference .
In retirement, Taylor cared devotedly for his wife during a long illness, and after her death he moved to Chichester, where he welcomed visitors to the cathedral as a magisterially-robed doorkeeper, maintained a wide correspondence in his firm, fair script and spent many hours reading (pencil in hand to take notes) in the armchair by the front window of his house.
He is survived by a son and two daughters.
LC (“Kim”) Taylor, born August 4 1922, died July 20 2013
Che Guevara was more than a fantasy pin-up poster for youthful dissent (Why Snowden is a poster hero for our time, G2, 21 August). He was a revolutionary with principles more preferable than those of the princes who are being predominantly paraded in the Guardian at present. Guevara’s concept of localised collective endeavour also predated Cameron’s notion of “big society” by at least 50 years and has actually had some degree of success, unlike its more modern aberration.
• I welcome Simon Jenkins’s highlighting of the pusillanimity of many so-called liberals in the face of “anti-terrorism” abuse (Comment, 21 August). Imagine the furore had someone disclosed that our government had decreed that every motor vehicle in the UK be surreptitiously fitted with monitoring devices transmitting speed, location and precisely what the driver was doing at any moment, to DVLC. Yet motorists kill and injure many thousands annually whereas terrorism’s annual toll in the UK is in the teens.
• I see Theresa May is still trotting out the line that her government’s actions to stop “terrorism” prevents “a loss of lives”. Does anyone still believe this? It hasn’t stopped her government’s pernicious “welfare” policies, which have definitely led to lives being lost.
• Hopefully, it will be just 10 more years before the CIA admits that it was involved in the assassination of JFK (Sixty years on, CIA finally admits role in Iranian coup, 20 August).
Barrow in Furness, Cumbria
• As I understand it, Randhir Singh Bains (Letters, 16 August) is arguing that a decline or absence of religion is necessary for liberal democracy, not that it is sufficient. Therefore, contrary to what Jeanne Warren suggests (Letters, 20 August), China is not a counter-example.
• Three steps from democracy to the dark ages: security, paranoia, police state.
Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear
I thought that it was this government’s policy to try to forge closer links with Bric countries such as Brazil in order to boost trade. Didn’t David Cameron only last September accompany Sir Anthony Bamford of JCB, a large Tory party donor, there to open his $100m factory (Report, 28 September)? Didn’t he say, “Here we are in JCB, a great British brand now expanding in Brazil. That’s going to mean £100m of extra orders from the UK and that’s good for British jobs tying us to the fast-growing economies of the future”? With the detention of David Miranda on spurious grounds, Cameron has a peculiar way of trying to win new friends and influence people and win new lucrative contracts. If I were Sir Anthony Bamford I would be furious at the damage this has done to our prospects out there.
• Even if the navy exercise off Gibraltar (Report, 20 August) was planned months ago – which I’m inclined to doubt – wouldn’t any diplomat worthy of the name have suggested a postponement in the light of increasing tensions? But perhaps it’s part of the same gung-ho attitude that authorises the detention of people in transit through Heathrow, the writing off of millions of tax by HMRC, the slashing of social security for the most vulnerable, and the tax breaks for fracking firms.
Fr Julian Dunn
Great Haseley, Oxfordshire
• I can’t help but feel that terrorism is working. Not by acts of violence or atrocities, but simply by the chaos and controversy caused by a combination of paranoia and the provision of an excuse to introduce more repressive border controls. These are both true of our government. Miranda was detained not because he was a terrorist but because he was in possession of “highly sensitive information that would help terrorism”. What on earth is that, and how do you define it? Perhaps the Spanish at Gibraltar are taking a leaf out of Theresa May’s book by strict border controls– they may look like a nice family in a camper van, but terrorists are very clever these days. If they are not terrorists, then they may well be carrying information that will help terrorism. The Guardian, for instance.
In all the coverage of David Miranda’s detention for nine hours at Heathrow, there was no mention of the journalists detained in Bahrain before the banned 14 August independence day marches.
Among them was Mohammad Hassan Sudayf, a blogger who helped foreign journalists. He was arrested on 31 July, tortured and detained for 45 days. His lawyer, Abdul Aziz Moussa, who commented on the torture after seeing him on 8 August, was sentenced to seven days and his licence may be withdrawn.
A photographer, Hussain Hubail, was picked up separately at Manama airport on 31 July, leaving for Dubai. He was tortured and also detained for 45 days.
So while I have sympathy for the Brazilian, I would like to see the Guardian and other international papers support the Bahrainis who have put their lives at risk to get out the news. Attacks on a free press are important, whether they are westerners or Arabs, but the latter tend to get ignored.
Rather against the evidence, which seems pretty overwhelming, that the security services are not stupid, I’m beginning to conclude that the real reason behind the actions against David Miranda and the Guardian is actually a gross attempt at intimidation (Secrets and threats – why hard drives were smashed, 21 August). Even the personnel employed by the security services must have realised that Glenn Greenwald would not have kept only one copy of the Snowden data – much less that he would have let the one copy be taken on a plane. So the aim of the detention and the fatuous destruction of hard drives at the Guardian’s offices was clearly other. I hope that next time these heavy-handed minions of the UK version of the Stasi descend on your offices, you tell them clearly and unequivocally where to go and where to stick their demands.
Dr Richard Carter
• Julian Borger’s article reveals a British legal system with, at best, a confused legal protection of a free press acting in the public interest. This allows the UK state to act in ways that would be ruled unconstitutional under the first amendment of the US constitution, which enshrines freedom of the press. Having drafted a framework on privacy and the press which is widely accepted, Lord Justice Leveson should be asked to draft a legal framework which protects the press acting in the public interest. An alternative would be to have a law commission investigation and proposals for law reform.
• Indefensible incidents of censorship such as this tend only to get worse with time, not better. A true and open democracy cannot survive without a free exchange of ideas, an informed populace and the willingness of concerned citizens to speak out. The British public should demand answers as to how and why this incident occurred and work to ensure that Britain doesn’t go down the slippery slope towards becoming a tyranny.
Dr Michael Pravica
• What to do with the destroyed computers? I suggest donating them to the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, where they already have some historic computers, and to the People’s History Museum, so that the story of our oppressive regime will be there for posterity.
• Maybe it’s time for the BBC to rerun their prescient thriller series 1990, first broadcast in the 70s. Starring the great Edward Woodward and written by the equally great Wilfred Greatorex, it gave us a United Kingdom government which maintains control through censorship and surveillance. The press is neutered.The rule of law no longer protects the weak. And the borders are closed. We’re only a few years behind schedule.
• Theresa May has completely ruined my enjoyment of The Bourne Supremacy. I used to think that targeting Guardian reporters and listening to their phone calls was fiction. Now I find out that the movie is a documentary.
Leyburn, North Yorkshire
It is irrelevant whether David Miranda is a journalist, in the employ of a journalist, or just the friend of a journalist. Journalists do not have special rights when it comes to trafficking in illegal activities (David Miranda’s detention made it public: the threat to journalism is real, 21 August). None of us (with the possible exception of certain Guardian reporters) know the details of what is contained in the documents stolen from the National Security Agency by Edward Snowden. Based on the agitated state of the NSA, and by the reactions of Mr Snowden, these items likely contain information that fits into the category of espionage. Whether that information is dangerous is probably not something that you, or I, or the Guardian, should decide. I don’t know who might be best suited to decide this sort of thing but we should accept that it’s not you, me, or the Guardian.
If we can assume that there was dependable knowledge available that Mr Miranda was carrying information from Mr Snowden, and as Mr Snowden is known to traffic in information that is considered dangerous by at least two of the world’s leading intelligence agencies, shouldn’t we expect that those appointed to protect us might want a closer look at Mr Miranda’s laptop?
WOn the subject of schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000, the “war on terror” has allowed far too many of our liberties to be taken. At first we thought these would be temporary measures until the al-Qaida jihadists were dealt with. Then we were reminded that the world is a continuously dangerous place, and we wouldn’t be getting our airports back any time soon. But, disturbingly, we are losing more and more of the due process of law. It’s slightly hollow to compare Mr Miranda’s treatment with the weird state of affairs in Guantánamo Bay, but they are cut from the same sort of shameful cloth. If Mr Miranda has broken the law, he should be arrested. I’m not familiar with espionage laws, but it seems reasonable that such a charge would allow for the seizure of his files as evidence, whether he is a journalist or not. And that includes his thumb drives, Mr Rusbridger.
• It is unfortunate that parliament is in recess just as the storm around the Snowden documents rages (The press must not yield to this state intimidation, Simon Jenkins, 21 August). There is no redress for the citizen to use the democratic process and bring the executive to account or challenge all the political parties to make a statement. There may have been a debate about GCHQ specifically and the NSA in general but hardly a mention of the largest intelligence-gathering US base at NSA Menwith Hill, which also has GCHQ personnel present. Rest assured, Simon Jenkins, that when parliament starts off again we will be asking questions and “bloody well” publishing the debate.
Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases
• It is the height of naivety to believe that police will not routinely abuse any powers granted to them for special purposes. After all, photographing a police minibus parked in a disabled parking spot while the officers ate sandwiches has brought a threat of prosecution under the Terrorism Act unless the photos were deleted; and the demand that demonstrators remove head coverings, regardless of suspicion of involvement in any of the actions supposedly required to justify such a demand, is now routine.
Associate lecturer, Open University
• By accepting Mr Snowden’s documents, the Guardian is condoning the actions of any of its employees who may choose to leak the company’s secrets to interested parties. If you were remotely interested in transparency, you would reveal the exact nature of your dealings with Mr Miranda, who is neither a journalist nor on your payroll. Your editor has equated his detention with state persecution of journalists, but he has chosen to continue publishing highly sensitive stolen information regardless of the consequences. Unlike the police, he has no duty to protect national security.
Dr Christina Julios
• It’s deplorable but not hugely surprising that schedule 7 to the Terrorism Act 2000 gives power to the police and others to question those who are detained. What is truly remarkable is that, as your correspondent paraphrased it, “it is an arrestable offence to refuse to answer any question” (Letters, 20 August).
This may appear to be the result of the schedule, under which (para 5) a detained person must “give the officer any information in his possession which the officer requests” and (para 18) the person commits an offence if he “wilfully fails to comply with a duty” imposed under this schedule. But the power to question (by para 2) is conferred for the purpose of determining whether the individual appears to be a person who “is or has been concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism” (schedule 40(1)(b)).
Certainly, someone against whom these powers are used is in a vulnerable position, and abuse of authority is all too likely. But unless and until the higher courts interpret these extraordinary provisions, it must not be assumed that every refusal to answer questions will be a criminal offence. For one thing, to refuse may not be to act “wilfully”. For another, questions that are plainly outside the stated purpose of questioning need not be answered. Moreover, the Human Rights Act, s 3, requires the courts where this is possible to interpret the schedule in a manner that is compatible with the individual’s convention rights.
• The home secretary, Theresa May, has told the BBC that she “was briefed in advance that there was a possibility of a port stop of the sort that took place” and that “decisions as to whether or not to stop somebody or to arrest somebody are not for me as home secretary, they are for the police”. And we now know that Downing Street was also informed in advance, presumably at the same time as Washington. The thing is, who told the Metropolitan police that David Miranda was flying into Heathrow, en route from Berlin to Brazil, and why did they think he had “highly sensitive stolen information that could help terrorists”? If, as Downing Street says, it does not direct police investigations and neither does the home secretary, who did?
The authorities are cracking down on all release of information which could conceivably be of help to terrorists, however distantly. I take it they will soon be banning all street maps, railway and bus timetables and other such irresponsible publications, and perhaps imprisoning the publishers.
Visitors to the old Soviet Union reported that there were no street maps of Moscow or other cities, and if anyone wanted directions they were required to go to a public information booth, where they were given information strictly on a need-to-know basis. What that inefficient and discredited dictatorship could do, we can surely do better.
Roger Schafir, London N21
However questionable the detention of David Miranda at Heathrow Airport under the Terrorism Act may be, I was wondering when someone would make an asinine comparison to Jean Charles de Menezes; so thank you, Matthew Norman (21 August), for not disappointing.
Let us just try to remember the atmosphere of fear and near-panic that had hold of London at the time: 15 days before, four bombs had exploded on three Underground trains and a bus; the previous day, four would-be bus bombers had only been thwarted because the way in which they stored their explosives caused them to become ineffective.
The Met made mistakes, of course, but, especially given that the exact circumstances have never been properly established, to start talking about “staggering incompetence” completely ignores the context in which Mr Menezes met his shocking end. Even at the time, there seemed to be a total unwillingness on the part of the liberal left to recognise that the acts of terror on 7/7 had cost 55 lives, and wrecked many others; and that we had come so close to a repeat performance. Mr Menezes’ death came about through the unhinging effect that these two events had on 2005’s normality, and the fact that the police and security forces were having to come to terms with it so quickly.
Using public transport in London as I do, it was remarkable to see how casual people became about any thought of security while travelling within six months of the bombings: if you want to talk about “staggering incompetence” in terms of terrorism, that would be a good place to start.
Simon Jackson, Barnet, Hertfordshire
So the Metropolitan Police is protecting us from The Guardian. The Daily Mail will be ecstatic.
Peter Webb, West Byfleet, Surrey
Mentally ill sent to remand jail for lack of beds
In response to your lead article “Patients sectioned unnecessarily just to get a hospital bed” (14th August), further evidence of inappropriate, albeit pragmatic, recourse to the law comes from my own experience of providing psychiatric liaison to a central London magistrates’ court.
Mentally ill defendants would on occasion have to be denied bail and remanded into custody in prison for their own safety and wellbeing because of the failure of the responsible health authority to provide a psychiatric bed within a suitable time.
There were also frequent delays of days or weeks while health authorities argued over who should be responsible for providing care for those of no fixed abode and those travelling through London; this too would sometimes lead to mentally disordered defendants spending inappropriately long in remand prisons.
Complaints to the relevant health authority resulted in acknowledgement of the lack of sufficient psychiatric beds, particularly psychiatric intensive care beds.
The solution would appear to be in the hands of the Department of Health, who could easily operate a national bed management system for psychiatry, which would identify the few vacant beds, where there are wards not operating at 100 per cent capacity.
Perhaps such a national service would identify unmet needs which could then be provided for through commissioning of sufficient services.
Dr John Dent, Consultant Psychiatrist, Southall, Middlesex
Apartheid on the West Bank
You reviewed Nigel Kennedy’s performance in the Proms (9 August). I have just seen that the BBC proposes to cut Kennedy’s reference to apartheid in Israel when the video is broadcast.
I have spent some time both recently in Israel and in the Occupied Territories and in South Africa prior to the end of apartheid. The treatment of Palestinians in Israel immediately reminded me of the latter. The fact that some Jewish people – far from all – might find the reference “offensive” is no reason to indulge them by an act of political censorship by the BBC.
The UN definition of Apartheid agrees with my experience, and I am appalled by the BBC’s action.
George Roussopoulos, Hindhead, Surrey
F R Dickens (letter, 15 August) thinks he is being original in sarcastically suggesting that the Israelis living in the West Bank should be offered Palestinian citizenship within a future Palestinian state and that they can then remain on their “hilltops”.
Indeed, this has been seriously suggested by Israeli politicians and would please most settlers, whose desire is not nationalistic, but who simply wish to continue to live in their historical homeland, which had a continuous Jewish presence for over 3,500 years.
It is President Abbas who has stated on many occasions that not a single Jew or Israeli will be allowed to live in his future state. So while it is acceptable for two million Arabs to live in Israel, the future state of Palestine will have to be judenrein.
Alan Halibard, Bet Shemesh, Israel
Surely Stephen Glasse, in his letter (16 August) on the Israel/Palestine peace process, means the Israelis will “return” land, not “give” it, and the Palestinians will “regain” their land, not “receive” it.
I would refer him to the map of the Occupied Territories on the West Bank and Occupied East Jerusalem, both settled illegally in defiance of United Nations Resolution 446.
Pamela Job, Wivenhoe, Essex
Nigel Morris reports that the Department for Communities and Local Government (DLG) is considering forcing architects to design bigger rooms for houses. Nothing could be further from the truth; architects have always been trying to get house-builders to build decently sized houses.
The fact is most modern housing has never had an architect near its design, being as it is, based upon standard house prototypes with names like “Balmoral”, “Windsor”, “Blenheim”’, etc. The allusion to a castle is particularly inappropriate.
Add to that the insane prejudice against terraced housing in the private sector, so that detached houses are built with a sliver of unusable and unmaintainable space between the units, and you get housing which is not only tiny internally but has poor site utilisation and inherently poor environmental performance to boot.
Now if the DLG really wants to improve housing standards it could insist that the mass housing market builders employ independent architects, preferably local to the development site, to ensure both good interior design and also sensible site layouts that promote low energy consumption and low maintenance costs for the eventual occupiers.
Of course we could bring back the old Parker Morris space standards, but I don’t foresee this government doing anything so sensible.
Dan Kantorowich BA BArch RIBA, Brigstock, Northamptonshire
Social media in the cinema
Following Dennis Leachman’s letter (19 August) concerning the use of social media in cinemas, I think that the problem arises because of the restlessness of this generation.
The phenomenon of four people round a cafe-bar table all madly thumbing away on their mobile phones has been remarked upon. I am old enough to remember when we concentrated on one activity at a time, giving it our undivided attention. I would suggest that such focused experience is deeper and richer than the scattered “byte-sized” pieces of trying to do several things at once.
In those days, if one was bored by a film there were three options: get a bit of kip in a warm, dark place; engage in some steamy necking on the back row; walk out. None of these involved much disturbance to anyone else (serious filmgoers avoided the back rows). I recommend them all.
Susan I Harr, Hull
Real men back feminism
I’m loath to enter Godfrey Bloom’s childish world of stereotypes (“Ukip MEP disparages women drivers, feminists … and mild-mannered men”, 21 August) but just to make a point I played in three consecutive rugby league Universities Athletic Union finals, am still involved widely in many sports, and also support the goals of feminism.
I admit I leave the toilet seat up, but my wife (probably known to Mr Bloom as “the little woman”) also refuses to conform to stereotype and never mentions it. Neither of us have knowingly had sand kicked in our faces.
Michael O’Hare, Northwood, Middlesex
Look closely at your front page photo of Boris Johnson kissing a baby crocodile in Australia (21 August) and you will see that the crocodile has a band around its jaws, presumably to stop it biting its admirer. Shouldn’t the band have been around Boris’s pursed lips? That might keep him quiet for a bit.
Paul Burall, Norwich
Politicians have never been so poorly thought of. Political parties have never had such low memberships. Italy has shown the way with Beppo Grillo harnessing social media and gaining 25 per cent of the national vote. Stand up, Mark Steel; your time has come.
Michael Brooke, Oxford
Thousands of cases of Type 2 diabetes a year could be prevented, as well as having a positive impact for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke
Sir, Every single element of the NHS Health Check programme is based on evidence of clinical and cost effectiveness from trials. The details are in the publications setting out the evidence for the programme when it was introduced. What has not been tested is their combination into a single programme. But none of the trials assessed by Lasse Krogsbøll and colleagues (“NHS checks on over-40s condemned as ‘useless’ ”, Aug 20, & letter) tested this either. In fact some of the studies they included are so old that they pre-date the preventive measures now available.
There are clearly good reasons to measure the overall effect of combining the separate elements known to be effective into an integrated approach, and the NHS Health Check programme is tackling this through evaluation.
It is perverse to say that it should be abandoned now. It would be a great shame to miss out on the benefits of a potentially significant contribution to the biggest single public health challenge facing us.
Dr Bill Kirkup
Retired Associate Chief Medical Officer, Department of Health
Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
Sir, Far from being useless, there is good evidence that, if properly implemented, NHS health checks could prevent thousands of cases of Type 2 diabetes a year, as well as having a positive impact for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke.
Although the £300 million it costs to run NHS Health Check might sound a lot of money, diabetes and other chronic conditions are expensive to treat. This means that once you factor in the savings in healthcare costs, the NHS Health Check is actually expected to save the NHS about £132 million a year.
One way it will save money is by identifying some of the estimated 850,000 people with undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes. This month, for example, we were contacted by a woman who had never considered that she might be at high risk of the condition but was diagnosed after a health check. If she had not taken part in the programme she might not have been diagnosed for years, as some people can have it for a decade before being diagnosed, and so would not have had access to the healthcare that could reduce her risk of complications. As a direct result of the NHS Health Check, she is today able to have access to that care.
More broadly, the NHS Health Check can help us to tackle the obesity crisis. No one thinks that on its own it will make us thinner as a nation but, by giving GPs the opportunity to raise what can be a difficult subject, it can be an important part of the solution.
There are now seven million people at high risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and 3.8 million people with diabetes, of whom 20 per cent haven’t been diagnosed, not to mention the impact that obesity will have in terms of heart disease and cancer.
As a country, the idea that we should just sit on our hands and watch this public health disaster unfold is just unthinkable.
Sir, The full value of health checks depends on robust collection and analysis of the data for the local population as a whole. For example, it is possible to distinguish between divergent levels of cardiovascular risk for different parts of a population and to spot an emerging trend at an early stage. This should be invaluable to those developing health strategies.
Others may determine the impact of health checks on the health of individuals but it would be remiss to overlook this important part of the programme’s potential benefits in assessing its future.
ToHealth Ltd, London SE1
France has recently introduced bold measures on competitiveness, including € 20 billion in tax breaks to reduce labour costs
Sir, Your editorial (“French Reverie”, Aug 19) claims that submissions prepared by the French Government for its seminar on the future of France are “shot through with naive optimism where realism was needed”.
You also assert that France is “the world’s ninth largest” economy. This is incorrect: it is the fifth, ranked between Germany and the UK.
Contrary to your pessimistic view that recent growth figures “will only encourage this President to delay still further the structural reforms that France needs”, you will find that France has recently introduced bold measures on competitiveness, including € 20 billion in tax breaks to reduce labour costs, and an unprecedented agreement on labour flexibility. Further major measures are on the agenda for the next few months, including pension reform.
Meanwhile, growth and confidence are returning, as evidenced by recent GDP figures, and there is an increase in domestic consumption, foreign exports and business confidence. All this, without being “naive”, should give grounds for optimism.
Chargé d’affaires a.i.
French Embassy, London SW1
Charities should publish a simple ratio of donations received compared with money distributed, to enable the public to decide whether to give
Sir, How I agree with Libby Purves (Opinion, Aug 19) about charities. As a long-standing supporter of the Red Cross I have become increasingly dismayed by what I see as the sheer waste of money by this organisation.
Leaving aside the inordinately high salary of its CEO, the amount of unwarranted and unwanted mail in the form of free gifts sent out by it in order to elicit guilt-giving is ridiculous. I have requested that it does not send me these “gifts” and have been assured that it is ceasing this practice, but it continues unabated.
I am also heartily sick of being bothered by nuisance calls from charities that I occasionally support, asking me to make a monthly payment by way of direct debit. And I am sick of distressing adverts during prime-time television.
I realise that all charities are competing for funds at a time of financial hardship but to alienate current subscribers seems counter-productive. I for one have sought out smaller charities with less aggressive marketing to support and I suspect that I am not the only one.
Christine A. West
Sir, Libby Purves expresses justified concern about the shift in the concept of charity by what at one time were voluntary organisations. Some action is needed. For instance, the prescribed format for a charity’s annual accounts does not give a clear and ready indication of its operating effectiveness, and a potential donor would find this data useful.
A universal requirement to include a simple audited ratio of donations received to money actually distributed would enable comparisons to be made between charities, especially those operating in the same field.
It would then be the responsibility of the trustees to justify any unreasonable variation from the most effective behaviour.
Greatest public support is for a centenary that focuses on preserving peace and commemorates the sacrifice of those who lost their lives
Sir, That the centenary of the First World War should be marked in a tone of commemoration, not celebration, will be an almost universally shared view (“Not a Lovely War”, Aug 19). But there is nothing in the plans set out by the Prime Minister to substantiate any anxiety from the German Government about getting that wrong.
Although diplomats may debate the tone, the public primarily sees the centenary as an opportunity to learn about our shared history.
Research and polling for British Future found a broad public consensus on what the key themes of the centenary should be. Greatest support, at more than 80 per cent, is for a centenary that focuses on the importance of preserving peace, which commemorates the sacrifice of those who lost their lives; and which increases knowledge of the Commonwealth contribution, so that we understand the shared history of our multi-ethnic society.
By contrast, arguments that the centenary’s focus should be on victory rather than the pity of war — or, conversely, that we should worry that the rush to commemorate the centenary may prove jingoistic — had a much narrower, minority appeal.
Director, British Future
There should be some consistency across the board in the legal profession and among those considered to be eligible for jury service
Sir, At the age of 70, after 17 years’ service and at the peak of my competence, I have recently been forced to retire as a magistrate.
However, now I am amazed to find that although I am deemed to be too old to deliberate on thefts and drink-driving, I am not considered to be too old to deliberate on rape and murder on a jury (“Age limit for jurors will rise to 75”, Aug 20).
Tony Stanley, JP (Supplemental List)
Newton Solney, Derbyshire
SIR – I commend the group of friends who decided to undertake a “non-charity” walk (report, August 17). I have always found it odd to be asked to contribute to charity when a group of adults are undertaking something they were planning to do anyway. Even more dubious are the “experiences” organised by the big charities that offer something you would normally pay for in exchange for tapping friends and relatives for money.
I don’t mind sponsoring children, who are learning something about helping others, and am always happy to attend a ceilidh organised by an enterprising teenager in support of a gap-year activity, but all of us will have had a sponsorship form waved under our noses in aid of a trip that a group of friends or colleagues have been looking forward to for months.
SIR – Here in the Vale of York 38 years ago we had the Selby coalfield imposed on us. Five 65-acre industrial sites spread across a previously unspoilt rural area. It was approved by the Secretary of State after a public inquiry.
The inspector said it was in the national interest to develop the coalfield even though the environmental impact would be considerable. Of course the people of Surrey and Sussex don’t want the local disruption that fracking will cause. But if there is cheap energy there then it must be in the national interest to produce it.
The objectors’ energies would be better spent on ensuring that the work is carried out carefully. We learnt many lessons here in York. One was that no matter how strong the conditions laid down by the Secretary of State at the time, 30 years later we are still having to live with all the sites. This, despite mining ceasing more than 10 years ago.
SIR – Caroline Lucas MP redefines our language in a worrying and pernicious way (“Green MP one of 25 protesters arrested”, report, August 20). Apparently it is “democratic” if her extreme Left-wing minority viewpoint prevails but there is an “enormous democratic deficit” if the majority opinion holds sway. Her idea of what constitutes “peaceful, non-violent direct action” also bears scrutiny.
I won’t sponsor you if you wanted to do it anyway
21 Aug 2013
SIR – The arrest of Caroline Lucas marks her out as the rising star of British politics simply because of her own magnificently understated response. No one is going to believe for a moment that her arrest was anything other than politically motivated.
Until her intervention the rest of Britain dismissed the protesters as a small group of the Nimby brigade. Now everyone’s sympathies are with them.
Nigel F Boddy
Darlington, Co Durham
SIR – A friend of mine asked me to go to Balcombe with her to support the anti-fracking demonstration. I’m not sure what Left-wing extremists look like, but I will be sure to keep my eyes peeled for them in future. The protest march I witnessed was peaceful, the people present thoughtful, well informed and concerned about the possibility of long-term and irreversible damage to the environment. These included residents of Balcombe village.
There was no waste paper or rubbish on the road as we walked back to catch the train, which was surprising as there must have been about 2,000 men, women and children dancing with placards down that road all afternoon.
Lewes, East Sussex
SIR – Why didn’t Cuadrilla start drilling in the winter? Nobody would want to be glued together in the middle of a blizzard.
Burying King Richard
SIR – Leicester is the obvious place for Richard III to finally be laid to rest (report, August 17). He was born at Fotheringhay Castle only miles from the Leicestershire border. He died at the Battle of Bosworth, a few miles from the centre of Leicester. He lay for several hundred years at Greyfriars in the centre of Leicester, only a stone’s throw from Leicester Cathedral, where a memorial stone commemorating him already sits.
The discovery of the king’s remains in Leicester captured the world’s imagination.
The campaign for York is opportunistic, insensitive and in poor taste.
SIR – As Greg Schofield (Letters, August 20) writes, the wishes of Richard III regarding his burial are unknown. Might we assume, however, that since the original burial of his trussed and naked body in a shallow grave, without ceremony, following his defeat and brutal killing at Bosworth, he might have wished his final resting place to be as far away from those tragic events as possible?
S D Harris
SIR – I was pleased to read about the increased demand for scientifically based degrees to match the requirements of the job market (report, August 13). I am, however, less impressed by the subsequent correspondence from academics lauding the value of arts degrees.
There are only so many journalists, English teachers, poets, writers and diplomats required by a struggling economy. An engineering degree provides very considerable academic rigour and is certainly not an easy option. The emerging graduates will have some years ahead of them prior to attaining chartered status during which their education and experience will be enormously broadened. Further, they are likely to gain considerable satisfaction from their work.
Engineers can become fine managers and leaders but arts graduates cannot become engineers. It is upon science and technology that our future prosperity depends. Let us rejoice that we are now seeing more hope in that direction.
Magic of Minack
SIR – I too enjoyed reading about the Minack Theatre (Letters, August 20). Throughout my childhood in the Sixties and Seventies my family holidayed in the area. No holiday was complete without a trip to the Minack. An electrical storm during King Lear was memorable, as was a moment during a production of The Admirable Crichton. The line “Oh no, here comes the Spanish Armada!” was uttered with the actor pointing to the horizon across an empty seascape – at which moment a tiny fishing boat with an outboard motor chugged out from behind the Logan Rock.
The audience and all the players were rendered so helpless with mirth that the rest of the production had a very jaunty air.
SIR – As the Lib Dems will not be able to fill a telephone box after the next election, whom does David Cameron hope to form a coalition with – Ukip or us Conservatives (report, August 19)?
Trial for jurors
SIR – One of the few consolations of my rapidly approaching 70th birthday was the knowledge that I would not have to undergo, for the fourth time, the largely pointless, but wholly tedious experience of jury service (report, August 20).
Should it come upon me again, I shall just have to pretend to a vagueness which can be attributed to advancing years.
SIR – I agree with your leading article (August 20) that it is daft not to raise the retirement age for judges. It is just as daft to force lay magistrates to retire at 70.
As one myself, I’d say that Justices of the Peace (some 25,000 unqualified, unpaid volunteers who generally sit not more than a day a week) get better at the job the longer they do it. Most are very sad that their knowledge and enthusiasm must go to waste prematurely.
SIR – I am a retired police officer but do not see myself as a defender of current police practices. However, your letters on police cautioning (August 19) may not address the real problem. I refer to
Home Office guidelines that circumvent Parliament and have directed police for years on practice and procedure.
In wanting to decrease the prison population, the Home Office may well have directed the overuse of police cautioning to divert offenders from the courts. This also would have facilitated the closure of rural magistrates courts. Now, with an election approaching and the Government wanting to look tough on crime, it has ordered the police to stop doing what it, the Government, ordered them to do in the first place. It also returns a role to the magistrates courts , which the Government reduced as a consequence of over-cautioning.
SIR – I noted with interest that in Kelly Hoppen’s immaculate house she said that “I’ve got a secret, messy drawer beside the bed – I even get a weird thrill when I open it” (Features, August 19).
I know what she means, but with me it’s the drawer that’s tidy.
There are good reasons to hog the middle lane
SIR – There is a very good reason for sitting in the middle lane at 70mph. If you go into the slow lane, no blighter will ever let you out. Many’s the time I have been stuck behind lorries as car after car goes past, too close together for me to move over.
In most European countries, motorists seem to be far more generous in the “give and take” of lane changing.
So, how about a fine for motorists who won’t let you out?
SIR – One valid reason for hogging the middle lane is the sometimes appalling state of the inside lane, badly rutted by the EU-sanctioned weight (often up to 44 tons) of the lorries using it.
A substantial number of these are foreign lorries which pay nothing towards road maintenance and repair.
SIR – I freely confess to being a middle-lane hogger on busy motorways. The alternatives are crawling behind slow-moving commercial traffic or indulging in constant lane-swapping. However well-signalled and properly executed (vide Michael Wickham, Letters, August 19), it is potentially dangerous, and tiring.
Why do we not confine commercial traffic to the inside lane, allow cars and small vans to use the middle lane and keep the outer lane for overtaking and maniacs?
SIR – It is not clear over what distance, for how long and at what speed hogging will be deemed to have taken place before an offence is committed. If stopped by the police, such an explanation could reasonably be expected before any penalty is given.
Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire
Sir, – Dan O’Brien (Home News, August 16th) states “two-thirds of the incomes of over-64s came from social transfers” (in the period 2004 to 2011).
I reached 64 in 2001 and the only “social transfer” which I knowingly received was my Old Age Pension. This is funded by contributions from one’s wages throughout one’s working life and can hardly be called a “social transfer”, which term seems to imply that it comes from someone else! Moreover, in that period it increased by 33 per cent, not 41 per cent as implied by Mr O’Brien.
As for it forming two-thirds of the income of over-64s, perhaps their incomes would have been larger and less State-dependent if they had not, with well-intentioned prudence, made investments in AIB, Bank of Ireland, etc, which were destroyed (dare I say it?) by a younger generation than ours. – Yours, etc,
Avoca, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – Daniel Costello (August 21st) alleges your Editorial “A lucky generation” (August 19th) contained “some glaring errors”. The first example he cites is “All pensioners over 65 do not get bus passes: they have to wait until they are 66”. Even if this was an error, it would clearly have made no difference whatsoever to the point being made. However, there was in fact no error, as “over 65” means at least 66!
Mr Costello goes on to comment on the hardship faced by people who are forced to survive on the State pension alone. This completely misses the point of the Editorial, which criticised the payment of benefits “to all over 65, regardless of their means”. The introduction of a means test would have no adverse impact on pensioners with low incomes. It might actually help them, as it would free up money for more deserving causes.
Your Editorial was absolutely right – there is no justification for paying benefits based on age alone. I have yet to see anyone put forward a credible argument to the contrary. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I’m a mother of an 18-year-old disabled son who has spina bifida and hydrocephalus and who needs full-time care. Aaron finished second-level education in June and was due to start an adult education programme in Stewarts Hospital in Palmerstown, Dublin, but due to Government cuts regretfully this is not happening for Aaron, or for 10 other young adults (Home News, August 1st).
Aaron has spent 15 years in Stewarts school, which he loved for many reasons, but now we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s not just his school day he will miss out on, but physiotherapy, speech and language therapy, stimulation and most of all the company of his friends with similar needs.
It’s hard to imagine the Government is depriving these young adults of what they deserve. We, his parents, are devastated. How Aaron’s health and needs will be affected doesn’t bear thinking about. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – There is a strongly rooted misconception that taxpayers are unfairly subsidising students in fee-charging schools. A label of “special treatment” has been applied when referring to Julie Carr’s recent article (Opinion, August 16th).
All Irish children have the right to State support, according to our Constitution. Most secondary schools, public and fee-charging, in Ireland receive money for teachers’ salaries. Non-fee-charging schools additionally receive monies for buildings, maintenance, sports facilities, and other resources. By contrast fee-charging schools pay for similar facilities with tuition fees. All taxpayers contribute to the education budget. Virtually all schools have come to rely on supplementary voluntary contributions. There is, therefore, no difference in principle, only in the degree of reliance upon topping up of education.
Thus Irish education may be viewed as a viable example of public/private enterprise that works well. Government strategies to undermine fee-paying education need to be reconsidered. On what level is this special treatment? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Asode Gorm (August 20th) must not realise that democracy is a fundamentally flawed concept. Many leaders across the world have been disappointing and have even flouted the democratic process after their election. This does not legitimise their overthrow by the military who are completely unaccountable to the people and completely self interested.
Does Mr Gorm believe George Bush should have been overthrown by a putsch, having lost the popular vote to Al Gore: or perhaps Barack Obama should be overthrown as he flouted the democratic process by the surveillance of his own citizens?
Respecting democracy means respecting the terrible decisions as well as the great ones. Was Mr Morsi a great democrat? I don’t believe so, but the solution was to vote him out in the next election or peacefully protest. A military coup is always a military coup and can never be legitimised. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Congratulations to Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly who managed to obtain the signatures of 20 Senators to force the special sitting of the Seanad to discuss the directive on organ donation. It had all the hallmarks of a publicity stunt but ended up being quite useful, proving as it did that the Seanad is an unnecessary, expensive and failed talking shop. – Yours, etc,
Bray, Co Wicklow.
Sir, – The statement in the article referring to the Phoenix Park tunnel (Home News, August 20th) that apart from a brief period in the early 1900s the line has never been used for passenger traffic is incorrect. From October 1950 to September 1953 a direct service connecting Cork and Belfast via Dublin used the tunnel running in to and out of Connolly (Amiens Street) directly to/from Cork, thus connecting the line to Belfast. The service was operated by the locomotives Maeve and Macha. These, with the third locomotive of this 800 class, the Tailte, were the most powerful locomotives in use in Ireland at the time. Journey time for Belfast to Cork was six and a half hours.
To say that if the line were reopened passengers could go all the way from Cork to Belfast on one train is not just stating a possibility: they did so in the 1950s, they could do so again. Stations were opened on this line in 1910, however, now the only station on the line is Drumcondra; there used to be a station also at Glasnevin (Cross Guns) as well as a “station” in Cabra for livestock.
As there is now open land at Cabra where the livestock yards used to be, a station could be opened there and possibly that at Cross Guns be reopened. The livestock yards might have been used as a station to transfer container traffic from trucks to flatbed wagons for the docks, but that is another story. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Upon seeing the reaction to the photos from the recent Slane concert, I felt a mixture of horror, anger and deep sadness (Home News & Opinion, August 21st).
Clearly what is on display is not the best of behaviour and that cannot be disputed. However, the breathtaking misogyny on display has turned my stomach. Where to begin? The lack of blame apportioned to the men? The gleeful malice of those who put these photos online for a world audience?
What sickens me the most is the willingness of commentators of all ages and sexes to judge and condemn a girl, who is essentially still a child. It is nothing new, but I had really hoped that my country had moved past the mindset of the Magdalene Laundries.
Irish society needs to ask itself why the supposed sexual propriety of women is somehow deemed more important than compassion, forgiveness and understanding.
How have people who call themselves Christians moved so far away from the central tenets of Christianity and indeed humanity? – Yours, etc,
* If you asked legal, police or medical practitioners whether they would report a sexual assault to themselves, the answer from many is very often in the negative.
Also in this section
Mystery and intrigue in the royal family
Nurture the spirit as well as the mind
Why? The trauma of the trial is often as great as the assault itself. Every detail of the victim’s life is picked over, from the cute dress they bought which didn’t seem too short at the time to the number of drinks they had.
Conversely, the suspected offender’s past is wiped clean or cannot be referred to.
But rape – and eventually murder-rape – is not normally a one-off, never-to-be-repeated crime. It is often part of a pattern that increases in severity and frequency with each incident.
We have a lot of sympathy for the family of Jill Meagher, the young Irishwoman who was murdered in Melbourne, and Manuela Riedo, the young Swiss student murdered in Galway. In both cases, the perpetrators had a history of violence.
So how do we capture this history if, as in the Jill Meagher case, previous assaults may not stand up in court and another victim intrinsically knew she would not get a fair hearing.
Why not have a lesser form of reporting?
For example, a non-prosecuting report that can be used in future trials if the victim is willing to testify and can identify possible perpetrators to police.
But what about false reports, you ask?
Well, the gardai, as in most cases, can investigate and establish credibility or otherwise.
For all sexual crimes against adults and children, there is often a clear pattern. We need to be able to bring this to the attention of people.
It is the least we can do so that in future there are no more attacks on innocents like the Jill Meaghers and Manuela Riedos of this world.
Wolli Creek, New South Wales, Australia
HISTORY OF NAVVIES
* I wonder if any of your readers can help me? I am a social historian and am currently writing a book on the history of the Woodhead railway tunnel in England. The tunnel was more than three miles long, and the longest in the world. It was constructed mainly by Irish labourers, or “navvies”.
Many of them died while building the tunnel. There are no accurate figures, but hundreds were lost either by cholera or unsafe work practices. The navvies brought their women with them. They were known as “tally women” and likewise had a high fatality rate. Tragically, babies and children also lost their lives in the awful conditions of the navvy camps.
The first tunnel was built between 1839 and 1845 in the most harsh and remotest part of the Pennine moors. The second tunnel was built between 1847 and 1852. A third was completed in 1954.
Most of the navvies are buried in unmarked graves close to the moorland churches, but only a few of them are mentioned in the church registers. The navvies travelled from all over Ireland to work in England, to escape a depressing economic climate. Remember, this was when migration from your beautiful country began.
I do know that some navvies came from Cork, Limerick and Dublin as a result of recruitment drives by the railway companies. In particular, I am seeking evidence or accounts of your readers’ ancestors who were involved in the tunnels.
There were no proper records kept either by the railway companies or the ferry operators, and the poor literacy of the day has hindered my research.
It is inconceivable today how people can just disappear without any proper records. Any help from your readers would be most appreciated. I can be contacted via email at email@example.com.
Barnsley, South Yorkshire
* Let me see if I understand this. The Seanad was recalled from its summer break to debate some important issue relating to donor organs.
I thought it must have been whether or not people had a basic right to retain control of their own bodies rather than the State having first dibs. But no, it was about whether or not a quango was set up to monitor the implementation of an EU directive instead of it being left to existing structures. Good old senators, looking out for the hard-pressed quango classes.
Then a senator who backed the recall could not be there himself because he’s abroad.
However, tempting as it is to vote to keep the Seanad and give Enda Kenny a public kicking, this nonsense of recalling ought to be reason enough to be rid of it once and for all.
Without the Seanad as a distraction, the attention of voters and the media, who struggle to focus on two things at the best of times, can be directed to the failings of the Dail, which will hurt Mr Kenny far more than voting to retain the Seanad.
Canary Wharf, London
DISMAY AT HEADLINE
* It was with dismay and disappointment that I spotted the headline in the ‘Health and Living’ supplement (Irish Independent, August 19), “I lost my baby weight in three weeks”.
New mothers have enough to cope with. For a health magazine to feed into this insidious debate is wrong.
Address with editor
FACING THE MUSIC
* If only the zero-tolerance shown to 80,000 music fans could be extended to our criminal classes.
RAINWATER IS SOLUTION
* I am a New Zealander living in Ireland. I watch with mild amusement and some dismay the hubbub over the upcoming water charges. I have a solution – at least for country dwellers and those near villages and county towns. Install your own water tanks.
I have approached professionals in the field and asked if they have ever considered rain water for a full water service. “Oh, no,” is the reply. “Why not?” I ask. “Never thought of it.”
Many generations of New Zealanders and Australians (myself included) and no doubt other populations in the world have been brought up on rain water with no adverse side-effects. The situation in Ireland appears to me to be a no-brainer.
Milltown, Co Monaghan
* Why all the fuss about the £300m development of the proposed Peace and Conflict Resolution Centre on the site of the former Maze Prison? What is this craze about The Maze that has so many people in a daze? It seems that petty political point-scoring takes precedence over the economic considerations of hundreds of new jobs and of inward investment.
Neil C Oliver
Newtownards, Co Down
* Amid all the twaddle from the over-hyped summer school season, the attempts to force parallels between John F Kennedy and Charles Stewart Parnell were particularly silly.
The only real parallels between the two men were that both died at a young age and were adulterers.
As regards being ‘Lost Leaders’, Parnell was a spent force politically when he died; if Kennedy had lived, he probably would have won re-election in 1964, but it is unlikely he would have been able to deliver the programme of civil rights and other progressive legislation put through by his successor, Lyndon Johnson.