Quiet day

26 August 2013 Quiet day

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble again with Heather forcing Leslie to get engaged can he get out of it? Perhaps a lawyer ay help?
We are both tired its off to the sofa no rain bt threatening
Scrabble today I win and I get just under 400. perhaps She might win tomorrow.


Julie Harris
Julie Harris, who has died 87, was an actress remarkable for her versatility, moving with ease between tragedy and comedy, classical and contemporary drama.

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Julie Harris and James Dean in ‘East of Eden’ Photo: REX
5:43PM BST 25 Aug 2013
While she was seen in many roles on both television and the big screen (she made a notable appearance in 1955 alongside James Dean in East of Eden), she was always more interested in her craft than in celebrity; and it was as one of the most respected performers on Broadway that she chiefly made her mark, winning five Tony Awards for best actress in a play and adding a sixth (in 2002) for lifetime achievement — a haul that is currently unbeaten.
Julie Ann Harris was born on December 2 1925 in the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, the daughter of an investment banker who was also a zoologist and an authority on the behaviour of squirrels. Her mother’s ambitions for her daughter were entirely social, and Julie — whose only thought was to become an actress — had to resist heavy pressure to come out as a debutante.
After attending the Grosse Pointe Country Day School she enrolled at Yale University School of Drama and the Actor’s Studio. She was still only 19 when she made her Broadway debut, in a play called It’s a Gift.
What really brought her to the attention of the critics, however, was her role in 1950 as the lonely 12-year-old tomboy Frankie Addams who dreams of accompanying her brother and his bride on their Alaskan honeymoon in The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers’s stage version of her novel. Julie Harris also appeared in the 1952 film version, receiving an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Her first Tony Award came for her Broadway role as the nightclub singer Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera (1951-52), adapted from Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin and later the inspiration for the musical Cabaret (Isherwood said that Julie Harris was “more essentially Sally Bowles than the Sally of my book”).
Julie Harris was notable throughout her career for her portrayals of historical figures (the poet Emily Dickinson, Queen Victoria, Florence Nightingale and Mary Todd Lincoln among them), and her second Tony was awarded for her performance as Joan of Arc in Lillian Hellman’s adaptation of Anouilh’s The Lark, which opened in 1955. Julie Harris believed in meticulous research, and to prepare for the role she consulted the original records of St Joan’s trial for heresy.
Her third Tony came for Forty Carats, a French comedy about a 40-year-old woman who becomes romantically involved with a man half her age.
Julie Harris won her last two Tonys for The Last of Mrs Lincoln (opened 1972), in which she gave a moving performance as Abraham Lincoln’s widow, and The Belle of Amherst (1976), William Luce’s one-woman play about Emily Dickinson. One critic praised Julie Harris’s performance in the latter as “astonishing in its sagacity and passion”.
In between these triumphs, Julie Harris appeared in a multitude of plays, by Tennessee Williams, Shaw, Rattigan, Sheridan and Ibsen, among others. Her last Broadway appearances were in revivals, The Glass Menagerie (1994) and The Gin Game (1997).
Meanwhile, television viewers encountered her as the singer Lilimae Clements in the soap opera Knots Landing, and in staples such as Rawhide, Columbo, Tarzan and The Love Boat.
In films, Julie Harris’s versatility was just as marked as it was on stage. Her roles included the daughter of a rabbit poacher; a young artist who dies in childbirth; a neurotic spinster; and a drug addict. As well as co-starring as Abra in East of Eden (1955), she appeared in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), The Haunting (1963) and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).
Julie Harris was three times married: to Jay Julian, a lawyer; to Manning Gurian, a stage manager; and William Erwin Carroll, a writer. She had a son by her second marriage.
Julie Harris, born December 2 1925, died August 24 2013


In noting that Batman-to-be Ben Affleck has already played a superhero in Daredevil (Report, 24 August), Peter Bradshaw might have pointed out that the 2003 movie managed to deal with the territory covered by half or more of the much-vaunted Dark Knight trilogy in about 100 minutes, with the added virtue of being silly where the profligate Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale films were just stupid.
Bryn Hughes
Wrexham, North Wales  
• Thirty-seven is a great favourite number (Shortcuts, 22 August), because it has the best “times table”: 3 x 37 = 111, so it’s easy to find other multiples of 37, eg 999 is 9 x 111, which is 27 x 37. I’m just waiting for the call from Countdown.
Anne Watts
• John Loader (Letters, 22 August) can resume his enjoyment of The Bourne Supremacy; the (fatal) harassment of a Guardian reporter occurred in the subsequent film/documentary, The Bourne Ultimatum. No hard drives were harmed in the making of either film.
John Warrender
Harrow, Middlesex
• No doubt it was bad news for some that four editors used the paparazzi beach photographs of the Camerons on holiday. (Report, 24 Aug). There was, however some good news for No 10 … “Steve Bell is away”.
Trevor Grant
Abingdon, Oxfordshire
• Cameron, cameras off.
Peter McMullin

It is a shameful that a woman has been illegally detained for five years in a “squalid” cell in HMP Bronzefield (Report, 22 August). The 2007 Causton report on women in prison legitimately argued that the vast majority of women did not need the physical security provided by the masculine model of prison regimes but required “relational security”, a term coined by Wish (Women in Secure Hospitals, of which I was formerly a regional director), based on its years of advocacy work with women both detained in prison and forensic psychiatric hospitals. With the knowledge and training developed by Wish, which has been available to staff working in these services for the past 10 years, there is no excuse for any woman to be abused in this horrendous way. One has to ask what the independent monitoring board – whose role is to ensure that humane treatment of any “prisoner” is upheld and their human rights are not compromised – was doing.
Laila Namdarkhan
Abbots Langley, Herts
• The independent monitoring board at HMP Bronzefield should have known about the situation  and challenged the authorities repeatedly, up to and including the minister of justice. At its best, the IMB is a most effective organisation for ensuring that prisons are operated in a truly humane manner. But an IMB is only truly effective if it is a high-quality team operating in a professional manner, understands its role and possesses the drive and character to carry it out.The work of the IMB as a whole is, unfortunately, weakened by the lack of an effective system to monitor, assess and advise its individual prison IMBs. If poorly organised, staffed and led, they become little more than a fig leaf to cover weaknesses in the prison system.
Ken Ellis (ex-chairman of a prison IMB) Dereham, Norfolk

Both you (Editorial, 21 August) and Martin Kettle (Comment, 22 August) urge or imply encouragement for Labour to declare, before the 2015 election, its willingness to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats if there’s another hung parliament and Labour is the biggest party. But neither of you tackles the two chief drawbacks of a 2010-type coalition: voters can’t know what they’re voting for (or against) because coalition policy emerges from inter-party horse-trading only after the polls have closed; and coalition implies that whichever main party wins, the Lib Dems will always be in government.
The solution, failing an overall majority, is surely a Labour minority government with a “confidence and supply” arrangement with the Lib Dems, announced before the election. Labour could then implement its pre-election manifesto promises subject to its ability to get parliamentary approval for them, measure by measure.
Other parties responsible for blocking measures for which Labour had a manifesto mandate would have to accept the consequences at any fresh election. This would not preclude a published pre-election agreement with the Lib Dems on the main elements of a reform programme that both parties would promise to support in the next parliament, whether or not Labour had an overall majority. Otherwise the electorate has to vote blindfolded for a pig in a poke.
Brian Barder
•  Martin Kettle says: “The current coalition has worked well. That is not to say that it has been uncontroversial. From the point of view of process, however, it has been a success.” How are we to square that analysis with the outrageous reneging on perhaps the most important element in the coalition agreement: “We will stop the top-down reorganisations of the NHS that have got in the way of patient care.” Despite this careful commitment the Conservatives and their pliant Lib-Dem allies have, in office, embarked on the biggest re-organisation of the health service yet seen.If Labour does enter any sort of coalition it is to be hoped that, in the interests of democratic accountability, they and their partners will actually honour whatever agreement is struck.
Dr David Mervin
Emeritus reader in politics, University of Warwick
•  Were Labour to declare itself, now, open “to a Lib-Lab coalition”, it would not only be a tacit admission that Miliband’s critics are right in saying he has no ideas, it would also be an abandonment of all ideals held dear by the left-leaning, centre-left-leaning, and even centre-leaning people of Britain. For Miliband to announce he is prepared to work with the co-authors of the attack on the welfare state and state education, the privatisation of the NHS, Royal Mail, Lloyds and RBS, the posturing tax avoidance policies, the cruel treatment of the disabled, unemployed and poor, not to mention the tax reductions for the rich, would be electorally disastrous. Any co-operation with a deputy PM who took two years of his own government before noticing that more fairness should be “hardwired into government policies”, should be seen for what it is, a desertion of any pretence to represent the ordinary people of this country, and result in the selection of a new leader, one with Labour principles.
Bernie Evans
•  Here we go again with these Guardian Lib/Labours! Some of us still believe in a left/right political spectrum, with the dividing point being whether one accepts the need for democratic and collective control over market forces.
There are and always will be Lib Dems who give greater prominence to the virtues of the market, with the inevitable inequality that flows, than those of us who still define ourselves as democratic socialists. No doubt Mr Kettle will still describe my stance as part of “Labour’s autocratic way of doing things” but my hope is that Labour will continue to follow a strategy of moving towards greater social and economic equality, and if that upsets those that hath rather than hath not, so be it.
Councillor Andrew Beere, Labour
Cherwell district council, Oxfordshire
•  On the evidence of the Miranda affair, if Labour wanted to do something extreme, like renationalise the railways, the Lib Dems would just “pointedly refuse to endorse” this, and press for a review. The senior party would then refuse to countenance such a review, and carry on regardless.
Jem Whiteley

We condemn the horrific violence and killing perpetrated by Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf). The massacre of hundreds of Egyptians by the army is clearly part of an attempt to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood as an effective political force, but it is also designed to entrench the power of an unelected military regime with roots that go back decades. The state of emergency has already been used against striking petroleum workers and their leaders detained.
It is a threat to all who stand for democracy in Egypt and challenges the democratic principles that united the movement that ousted President Mubarak back in 2011.
What is also shocking about Scaf’s violence, in addition to the devastating loss of life, is the UK’s continuing support for this repressive military regime.
Throughout the Mubarak era the government licensed the sale of arms to Egypt. Shortly after Mubarak fell, David Cameron travelled to Egyptwith representatives from BAE Systems, QinetiQ, Rolls-Royce and others to shore up new military contracts. Today, arms licences are intact that authorise the sale of military helicopters, communications technology, rifles and pistols.
Britain’s practical and economic support for the repression in Egypt should be seen within the context of the wider policy goals of Nato and the west. The United States’ supply of military aid, to the tune of $1.3bn, makes a mockery of President Obama’s and Prime Minister Cameron’s alleged support for the democratic aspirations of the people of the Middle East.
What inspired the world as it witnessed the Arab revolutions is the people’s struggle for self-determination and freedom. In pursuit of that aim we insist that Britain ends arms sales to the Egyptian military, that Scaf ends the state of emergency, that all banned TV stations be re-instated, that all political prisoners are freed and that the right of peaceful protest and assembly be upheld.
Tony Benn, Lindsey German Convenor, Stop the War Coalition, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Salma Yaqoob, Katy Clark MP, Owen Jones, Daud Abdullah Director, Middle East Monitor, Kate Hudson General secretary, CND, John Rees editorial board, Counterfire, Andrew Murray Deputy president, Stop the War, Ismail Patel Friends of Al Aqsa, Ian Chamberlain, Paul Mackney former general secretary, NATFHE/UCU, Professor Des Freedman
•  In May 2013, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, commander-in-chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and also Egypt’s minister of defence and first deputy prime minister, said: “Nobody solves their problem with an army, and armies should be kept out of political problems. Try to find a method of understanding among yourselves [civilians] as, if the army takes to the street, Egypt will have very dangerous problems that may delay its progress for the next 40 years.” Spot on, General.
Sasha Simic


Fracking for shale gas has  the potential to help this country in so many ways that it is hard to comprehend why people are protesting against its extraction and not celebrating a golden opportunity for energy users
In the Sixties, we brought natural gas ashore, converted millions of gas appliances, caused a great deal of inconvenience to people and gave consumers just one old penny a therm reduction on their bills. They were delighted.
So what has gone wrong? The Government did not give any serious thought to how the PR for shale gas should be handled until it was too late and the undercurrent of fear had developed. There should have been adverts on the TV reminding viewers what our engineers have achieved by bringing natural gas safely to our homes, how the countryside was dug up and then reinstated. They should have reminded the public how reliant we are on imported gas, and that shale would give us security of supply for the first time in a decade. With so many struggling to pay their energy bills, the Government should have brought home the fact that in time bills will fall.
This must not be a party political issue, and at the conferences in September all parties should explain the value to the country of fracking, and reassure their audiences that our engineers will bring it safely to the surface and into our homes and factories as they did with natural gas. There must then follow a prolonged period of TV adverts.
In the meantime, I have spoken to the head of the Office of Unconventional Gas and Oil asking him to consider a conference to educate the protesters, journalists, MPs and other interested parties.
If nothing is done and the protest gathers pace, there is a serious danger that one of the most important natural assets we have will not be exploited.
Ray Cope, (Former director, Gas Consumer Council), Langford, Bedfordshire
There seems to be a lot of unnecessary antagonism over gas vs renewables.
The problem with renewable energy is that we cannot control the supply. As we intend to build a lot of renewable generators, we are going to need a lot of gas-powered generators to balance them.
Unfortunately, as the North Sea’s gas runs out, we are having to rely on very tenuous gas supplies from abroad. I believe our reserves amount only to something like 14 days’ use. If, therefore, it turns out that we are sitting on top of an adequate gas supply, it would be foolish not to exploit it. And if this means fracking, then we had better make sure that the companies which we hope will do the fracking are assisted in doing their exploration and are then properly supervised.
If we want to use renewables to the maximum (and most of us do), then we have to back this up with gas generation. Those who think that fracking is all about bringing the price of gas down are missing the point entirely. It may do, but it probably won’t. Either way, we need the gas.
Bill Smith, Nottingham
Anti-fracking activists should be applauded for reminding everyone of the high risk to the environment and our drinking water from the chemicals used in this process.
Rather than referring to them as stupid and totalitarian, Sir Bernard Ingham should thank them for caring about this planet, for which we have responsibility to see that it is safe for our children. There are safer ways to generate power.
J Longstaff, Woodford Green, Essex
Scandal of  expats’ lost  voting rights
It is encouraging to read (report, 23 August) that the Electoral Commission wishes to encourage expat voting. However, Denis MacShane (Letters. 24 August) rightly identifies the far more important issue of expat disenfranchisement, which is a blatant injustice and a disregard of what should be a right of citizenship.
The somewhat arbitrary removal of the right to vote after 15 years as an overseas elector originates from the time when living abroad really did sever, or at least weaken, a person’s links with the UK. Now people are much more mobile, and there is nothing unusual about expats who live in another country, while maintaining active social and cultural links with the UK.
In my own case, having lived in Poland for 15 years, I have lost, or am about to lose, my right to vote in the UK. At the same time, I cannot vote in general elections in Poland because I am not a Polish citizen. Polish citizens have the right to vote for life wherever they live in the world, and arrangements are made so that they can do so.
I have taught British life and culture. I have a UK pension, UK bank accounts. I visit the UK regularly for sport, recreation, and family. I spend in the UK, and I have represented the UK in veterans’ athletics. I live in Poland because I am an economic migrant – I couldn’t find a suitable job in the UK and I couldn’t afford to live there.
There must be thousands with similar stories, and disenfranchisement is a scandal that needs revoking urgently.
Lyn Atterbury, Pila, Poland
The three million or so British citizens living abroad who are eligible to vote in the UK are much more affected by the laws and taxes of their country of residence than of the UK. It would seem much more logical if, by international agreement, everyone voted in the country where they live rather than that from which they emigrated up to 15 years earlier.
Alan Pavelin, Chislehurst, Kent
No racism at  St James’ Park
Your recent profile of Mike Ashley (“The best boss in the world?”, 20 July) included a claim that Mr Ashley had heard anti-Semitic chants directed at him from the terraces at St James’ Park. As a fan of Newcastle United, I find this claim deeply offensive and I know other fans agree. The allegation was made without reference to any specific incidents, and I am unaware of any incident having been recorded by the police or other authority.
As a regular attendee of games at Newcastle (I and my 10-year-old son are season-ticket holders), I know I speak for many when I say I have not once heard an anti-Semitic chant in our ground, whether directed at Mike Ashley or not. I don’t believe our fans are racist – indeed, we are known to have just about the most inclusive and welcoming fanbase in the country.
Chris Lane, Liverpool
Editor’s Note: The Independent regrets any offence caused by the inclusion of a quote given to us – and published – in good faith.
Ways out of the care system
Your leading article “Happy Families” (21 August) suggests that adoption is “far preferable to care”. While this is undoubtedly true, it is also true that being within your own family is far preferable to care.
The 1989 Children Act developed the care system, quite rightly, as a way to help families care, not just remove their children. In one of the studies that underpinned the Act, we described a model of care, which we saw in the best cases, as being “assisted parenting”, with the assistance leading to children returning to their own family.
In other research, there is clear evidence that extended families – grandparents, for example – can often provide excellent loving care for children, with the care system acting as one route to enable that.
Put simply, adoption is not the only, nor necessarily always the best, exit from care, and if it comes to be seen as such, it will do a major disservice to many children and their families.
Peter Marsh, Professor of Child and Family Welfare (Emeritus), University of Sheffield
Styles for the  mature man?
I am an enthusiastic explorer of “designer discount outlets” and charity shops, so Richard Skellington’s letter (23 August) about the costly fashion items featured in your newspaper rang a loud bell with me.
However, there is another issue here. Your occasional male fashion pages display flimsy young men who have not yet been moulded and blurred by age. They can carry off the current taste for toothpick trousers and miniature jackets.
For those of us over 45, our sturdier physiques render such modes absurd. Yet some of us would still like to be helped to look beyond the wasteland of leisure wear and elasticated waists. Whether such vanity, at such age, is fitting, I will leave for others to judge.
It would be pleasant to see the occasional piece which featured clothes that the older man could wear with a sense of self-respect – and even pride. I’m sure John Walsh could help.
Philip Timms, London W4,
Peaceful airship
The picture caption accompanying the article “How many cows does it take to build an airship?” states that the Graf Zeppelin was a military airship (24 August). Such was not the case. It was a civilian airship; one could suppose to be the Boeing 747 of its day.
Christopher McDermott
Crewe, Cheshire
Faceless in court
I wonder if the 21-year-old woman who refuses to remove her burqa before entering a plea in court (report, 24 August) would also refuse to take off the veil at passport control to reveal her face. 
Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands
Mysterious search
Could Kelvin Newman (letter, 24 August) please tell the uninitiated the nature of “search marketing”? Is it searching for markets or marketing the results of searches? Is the clue in the name of his company, SiteVisability, presumably a combination of archaeology with aerial photography?
Anthony North, Leeds
Royal birds
While being sympathetic to the demise of a swan (“Police investigate ‘barbecued’ swan”, 22 August), I’m told that they are indeed delicious when barbecued. However, since the swans belong to the Crown, this one was also poached.
Doug Scorgie, London SW1


Sir, Alistair Darling’s concerns about HS2 (Aug 23) address only part of the problem. There are world-class industries in the North of England, but they are increasingly remote from the rest of the UK. Sunderland produces more cars per year than the whole of Italy, but it is very badly served by infrastructure links.
Apart from deficiencies in the road system — the M6 is one of Europe’s most congested motorways — capacity on the East and West Coast mainlines is seriously strained. Not so long ago passengers at King’s Cross were held in pens to avoid overcrowding on northbound trains.
Whether we need HS2 is not the question. Do we need to be able to make more manufactured goods, move them to markets, and sell them? Yes. If so, we need more rail and road links to the rest of the UK.
Mike Clegg
Lytham St Anne’s, Lancs
Sir, Mr Darling makes a strong case for cancelling HS2. As he says, over the years we have under-invested in the railways. His concern with HS2 taking funds which could be spent on the existing railway is mirrored in France, which, after years neglecting its conventional railways, has dramatically reduced its TGV programme to spend € 2.4bn a year on small projects to remove bottlenecks.
It seems that France has taken notice of the Eddington Report, which recommended upgrading the existing infrastructure rather than investing in brand new schemes.
We have seen recently the need to upgrade the railways for commuters and for local services in the rest of the country. Regional expenditure would provide growth now, not in 15 years time. At least Labour seems to be listening.
John Gladwin
Prestwood, Bucks
Sir, As leader of the campaign against Scottish independence, Mr Darling urges Scots to see the benefits of staying part of the UK. This should include having fast rail links to the rest of the UK. Yet, according to Mr Darling, money would be better spent on resolving capacity problems in the South East, and “rail links to Boris Island”. Is there a contradiction in his views? The government deserves support for the visionary HS2 project to upgrade rail links between the UK’s eight largest cities to the level enjoyed by our competitors in Europe.
Dr John Mccormick Scottish Association for Public Transport Sir, You report that ministers expect the West Coast main line to be filled to capacity within the next decade. That is extremely unlikely. The forecasts for rail travel generally are implausibly high. They treat recent short-term growth, accounted for by massive improvements on the supply side, as representing the long-term trend in demand. They neglect the likely impact of improvements in telecommunications on the demand for long-distance rail travel. There is more spare capacity on the West Coast line than on any other main line out of London except HS1.
Stephen Plowden
London NW1

Unless a public debate is held immediately, the notion of free and secure online communications will be relegated to the annals of history
Sir, Your report that Downing Street knew about the plan to detain David Miranda at Heathrow (Aug 21) confirmed what many of us working in the online and human rights worlds already know.
Online privacy is being eroded at a breakneck speed, and unless a public debate is held immediately, the notion of free and secure online communications will be relegated to the annals of history.
But why should we care? The argument that benign surveillance saves lives, and those not breaking the law have nothing to fear from state monitoring is a dangerous fallacy.
The right to privacy has been a foundation of British liberty since Magna Carta. It has also underpinned much of the social and economic innovation delivered by the web in recent decades.
Along with a free press, people’s ability to exercise their right to information and freedom of expression online is now critical to the future of our democracy.
Of course, terrorists and criminals also use the internet and this must be combated. But like offline crime, cyber-crime and cyber-terrorism should be fought in a proportionate way, and law enforcement agencies must be subject to proper checks.
Labour’s call for a parliamentary inquiry is only a step in the right direction. Nothing short of a fundamental review of surveillance laws, with full transparency and extensive public input, will suffice. Otherwise, we will soon look back and rue the benefits — in health, science, education and society — that a free and open internet, predicated upon private secure communications, could have delivered.
Dr Agnès Callamard
Article 19
Dr Gus Hosein
Privacy International
Anne Jellema
World Wide Web Foundation
Jim Killock
Open Rights Group

A recent case at the Supreme Court was an appalling waste of court time at all levels by the regional and national levels of the CPS
Sir, I am shocked at how the Supreme Court is asked to spend its time by the Crown Prosecution Service (Law Report, Aug 20). Since 2009 the CPS has repeatedly prosecuted a motorist of, in summary, causing the death of another person by driving a car when he was uninsured and did not have a driving licence. The defendant’s only connection with the dead person was to be hit by that person’s car while it was being driven all over the road. The CPS disagreed with the judge in Newcastle, then three Appeals Court judges and finally took its case to the Supreme Court. This concluded that all lower courts has acted correctly, and the CPS’s case was rejected.
This is an appalling waste of court time at all levels by the regional and national levels of the CPS and a terrible burden since 2009 on the defendant and his family. I shudder to think of the time and costs involved by everyone.
Charles Urquhart
Bladon, Oxon

Does a 7-year-old who believes in the tooth fairy and Father Christmas really need the words ‘boyfriend fit’ embroidered on her jeans?
Sir, Am I over reacting here? I am a father of girls aged 6 and 9. It saddened me to see, in the “Girl’s 7-11” section of a well-known chain of clothes shops, denim jeans with the words “boyfriend fit” sewn in pink lettering into the waistband.
This seems inappropriate to me. Our children need protecting, and does a 7-year-old who believes in the tooth fairy and Father Christmas really need that on her jeans?
Christian O’Connell
Dorking, Surrey

We need to ensure that pupils born in August achieve their academic potential despite being almost a year younger than their peers
Sir, When debating the issue of early exams sat at age 15, what we mean is exams taken in Year 10, but what about those pupils who sit their exams in Year 11 still aged 15?
We need to think how to ensure that pupils born in August achieve their academic potential despite being almost a year younger than their peers, and that includes those in Year 10 who sit early exams aged 14.
Dr R. Howard


SIR – Prince Charles is indeed vital (“Charles is the vital grit in the oyster”, Opinion, August 18).
As the next heir to the throne it is up to him to continue our monarchy, which is presumably why he is subjected to so much personal attack by republicans.
The notion that he ought to have nothing to do with politics is only a convention, and not enshrined in any constitutional law. As a Privy Councillor he has a right and a duty to keep in touch with the Government.
In the 18th century, Princes of Wales would sometimes support politicians opposed to the royal government. George V and George VI felt insufficiently prepared for kingship, having only experienced naval service.
Prince Charles is the most responsible, conscientious and best informed Prince of Wales in our history.

SIR – The recession and marvellous summer weather have resulted in record numbers of holidaymakers travelling to the West Country. What a shame then that so many families have had to endure long queues of traffic, reminiscent of a time before overseas package holidays became the norm.
The South West sorely needs an improved transport infrastructure to boost its economy. David Cameron, a regular visitor to Cornwall, should forget HS2 and instead focus on this poorly served region of the country to establish his Government’s legacy.
A J Clark
Cury, Cornwall
SIR – What is the point of saving 10-15 minutes on a journey from London to Manchester when the roads that we have to use to reach the railway stations are inadequate for the volume of traffic they carry and are not maintained to an adequate standard?
Related Articles
A responsible Prince, fit to be King
25 Aug 2013
Surely we should be investing in our roads first? Where I live, the A27 is a disgrace.
R A Lindeck
Lancing, West Sussex
SIR – The Institute of Economic Affairs is quite right to issue its warning about the true cost of HS2. How often have we seen the costs of projects escalating out of control?
Stuart Chillingworth
Woodford Green, Essex
SIR – The HS2 project, costing a projected £80 billion, has to be scrapped if common sense is to prevail.
Assuming that inflation stays at around 3 per cent over the next 20 years (which is very unlikely) HS2 would still cost £145 billion by 2033. This is stupid when our first priority as a nation should be our energy security – the fundamental building block of any economy.
David Hill
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
SIR – Robert Barry (Letters, August 11) may consider that our island, at 800 miles long, is too small for a high-speed railway, but is he aware that an even smaller island nation, Taiwan, has had a high-speed railway since 2007?
Now that there are 450 trains running up and down the island per week, many internal flights have been discontinued and traffic on the roads reduced.
It may not have made big profits, but it has definitely been a success for the people and the environment.
G E Storrow
Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire
SIR – I suggest that the planned reductions from around 85 to 45 minutes (London-Birmingham) and from just over two hours to slightly over one (London-Manchester/Leeds will constitute savings of more than a “few minutes”.
HS2 is essential because it will eventually bring Glasgow and Edinburgh within three hours of London, meaning less airline pollution. It is also necessary because rail use is growing exponentially; both West and East coast main lines are running at nearly full capacity.
Keith Farr
Cholsey, Oxfordshire
SIR – You report that HS2 was in part a political manoeuvre to buy northern Labour votes (report, August 18). If this is the case, a fraction of this money would buy more votes by addressing the horrendous traffic problems at Stonehenge on the single-carriage section of the A303.
David Pink
Taunton, Somerset
SIR – The Government can extricate itself from the economic and environmental catastrophe of HS2 without loss of face by providing an alternative route: the abandoned Great Central railway line.
Kenneth W Grimes
Rustington, West Sussex
SIR – I can see one fatal flaw in Kevin Heneghan’s airborne alternative to HS2 (Letters, August 18). Much as I detest the idea of Mr Cameron’s vanity project, I would greatly prefer the odd train whistling past in the near distance to a ceaseless procession of thunderously noisy Chinooks overhead.
Jim Doar
Winterborne Clenston, Dorset
Remembering the First World War
SIR – The words carved on the Cenotaph, “The Glorious Dead”, do not celebrate or gloat about our victory over Germany (report, August 18).
They recognise in the most modest way possible the brave sacrifice the soldiers of the British Empire made to preserve the freedom of the peoples of Britain and Europe. This modesty will be reflected in the centenary commemorations next year, when we will remember all those who died with typical British reserve and respect.
We do not need to be told by the Germans how to conduct our services.
James Adam Paton
Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex
SIR – The British public, I fear, are being prepared for a triumphalist feast, which sections of the media will be only too eager to fuel, and it is this which makes the German embassy’s appeal for a “less declamatory tone” surely right.
The Great War was a disaster for which millions paid the ultimate price. Let us join with all the other belligerent nations
in recognising our joint guilt in allowing our citizens to die for a cause whose origins historians are debating even today.
Nicholas Nelson
Chalfont St Peter, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Kaiser Wilhelm has wrongly been labelled as the chief instigator of the First World War. But by 1914 he was effectively a constitutional monarch and he did all he could to avert the catastrophe. The German military were the ones itching for a fight.
The Austro-Hungarian foreign minister, Count Berchtold, was the other villain of the piece. He hoodwinked not only the Serbs but his own government and Emperor Franz Joseph.
John James
Milford on Sea, Hampshire
Roll reversal
SIR – My husband and I lived in Aden for several years. Things became difficult and I came home, leaving him in our company flat.
Before leaving I wrote notes such as: “Don’t just sit there”, “Missing you already” and “Who loves you baby?” and inserted them into the loo roll.
Two days later the company moved him out and someone else in. (Letters, August 18)
Pip Griffiths
Hartford, Huntingdonshire
Just how Green are the anti-frackers?
SIR – Had last weekend’s anti-fracking protestors at Balcombe researched the impact on the environment caused by the ways in which they heat and light their homes? Did they walk from their houses to the drilling site or did they travel in a vehicle powered by a non-renewable fossil fuel?
It may be that all the protesters are using only essential materials in order to stay alive, and that any non-renewable fuel used to achieve this, like burning wood, is carefully replaced by replanting the trees it came from. In which case, they have my unconditional admiration and best wishes for their future protest careers.
Angus McPherson
Findon, West Sussex
SIR – I wonder how many of the fracking protestors last weekend are receiving government handouts? Or are they financially self sufficient?
I do agree, however, that a certain stance should be made to ascertain that all drilling and processes surrounding fracking are not detrimental to nature in the long term or that nearby residents do not have their lives permanently ruined by over-zealous companies.
John Payne
Bridgnorth, Shropshire
SIR – Before fracking is permitted, industry and government should provide completely convincing evidence that it will not pollute the aquifers, rivers and chalk streams – it should not be up to those who wish to preserve these valuable and irreplaceable assets to demonstrate affirmatively that fracking will cause damage.
That the Government is rushing to allow fracking across Britain when the majority of European countries, which are less ecologically vulnerable, have banned it, is a function purely of greed and a long-shot bet that industry backing will help Britain’s incumbent politicians get re-elected.
Alan Davis
Sandhurst, Berkshire
Opposition wanted
SIR – Janet Daley (Opinion, August 18) is absolutely right. Labour does need to pull itself together to make a credible Opposition party. It is only by its doing so that the Tories will become a credible party of Government.
David Cameron has been able to get away with some ridiculous ideas that threaten Tory chances at the next election. Same-sex marriage should never have got off the ground. HS2, “originally a Labour idea”, should have been seen as the white elephant it is and scrapped.
The Lib Dems, now a small fringe party, have been allowed to determine Government policy to a nonsensical extent, while spending on overseas development should have been held in check by public opinion.
John Myatt
Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire
Radio cacophony
SIR – I was absolutely amazed at the comments of Bob Shennan, Controller of Radio 2. “Great, timeless, melodic music is the bedrock of Radio 2’s success, and will continue to be.” (Letters, August 18)
Has he ever listened to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show? Three hours of cacophonous “entertainment” – and I am not just talking about the music.
Phil Incledon
Mark, Somerset
SIR – Bob Shennan congratulates himself on his increased listening figures, but figures are not everything.
Under his control, Radio 2 has become a rowdy, in-your-face presentation, mainly of anything but melodic music.
Keith James
Tasburgh, Norfolk
Foreign aid waste
SIR – Having spent my life working for British and international aid programmes, I feel betrayed by the reckless way that the Department for International Development is giving away our aid to corrupt governments, and unaccountable international institutions.
All in order that our political leaders can strut around on the international stage claiming the moral high ground.
Gordon Bridger
Guildford, Surrey
A sensitive age
SIR – Ever since Prince Harry was criticised for his affectionate use of the term “Paki” about a close Army colleague, I haven’t been able to understand how it can be interpreted as an insult. (“I’m proud to be a “Paki”, how can that be racism?”, report, August 18)
We happily refer to ourselves as “Brits”, as do other nations, and in earlier times we were known as “Limeys” by the “Aussies”. So what is insulting about shortening “Pakistani” to “Paki”? What a super-sensitive age we live in.
Isobel Whatrup
Wigmore, Kent
Do-it-yourself dad
SIR – We are being exhorted to “Make do and mend” but I would advise anyone who intends to repair household appliances themselves to buy only those which have no trace of electronics or computers in them – if that is still possible.
My tumble drier was bought in 1956 and has worked continuously since for four generations in a number of family homes. That is only because, as an averagely practical DIYer, I have been able to render its mechanical and electrical components simple first aid over the years.
Any electronics would have doomed it many years ago.
David Whitaker
Alton, Hampshire
Sign of the times
SIR – Christopher Booker writes of his nephew’s visit to the National Trust’s Bodiam Castle, and of the alarmist notice that “within 50 years this area will be underwater due to climate change” (Opinion, August 18).
I, too, saw this notice in 2010, and it did not appear to be new even then. Why has it not been updated to read “within 47 years”? Either the Trust believes its own propaganda, in which case the notice should be altered annually, or it does not, in which case it should be removed.
J R G Edwards
Birchington, Kent

Irish Times:

Sir, – Despite all claims of encouraging enterprise, the tax system works against budding entrepreneurs, especially those on modest incomes.
On an income of €10,000, an employee will pay no income tax, PRSI or USC. The self-employed will pay a total of €850.
On an income of €15,000, an employee pays €399 in USC, but that’s it. The entrepreneur pays a total of €2,349, an effective tax rate of 16 per cent.
Finally, on an income of €18,000, the entrepreneur pays €3,249, which is €2,370 more than an employee pays.
The tax system is more helpful as the enterprise grows, but works against small start-ups, a key ingredient in any recovery.
Minister for Enterprise, Richard Bruton, take note! – Yours, etc,
Windgate Road,

Sir, – Dan O’Brien proffers his characteristically economistic vision of human relations to intervene in the debate surrounding legislation to criminalise the purchase of sex (Business Opinion, August 23rd). He bolsters his arguments with reference to a recent critique of the proposed legislation by Eilís Ward which questioned the evidence base for the planned changes. Critiques such as Ward’s remind us of the necessity of appropriately nuanced public debate; they may point to the need for more and better research. They may even – I don’t know – lead us to conclude that the legislation as currently set out provides an inadequate basis upon which to advance the rights and dignity of those working in prostitution.
But it is quite a leap from this to serve up, as O’Brien does, the tired liberal cliche about “two consenting adults” while remaining wilfully blind to the socio-economic conditions under which such consent is often offered. – Yours, etc,
Centaur Street,
Sir, – I couldn’t disagree more with Dan O’Brien’s arguments on prostitution (Business Opinion, August 23rd). He does seem to understand that prostitution is a world built on sexual violence and criminality. However, treating that form of sexual abuse like any other business is a fundamental thinking error. His reliance on Dr Eilís Ward’s article is also flawed. She did not dismantle the argument for criminalising the users of prostitution. All she did was debate statistical data-gathering methodologies, which is far from the same thing.
The most effective way to make an impact on prostitution is to reduce the demand for it. Without customers there is no trade, as anyone in business knows. If users have to think twice about the legal implications of using prostitution that will certainly affect their behaviour. This works in the same way that someone who wants to light up a cigarette in a pub has to consider if it’s worth risking a fine for the momentary pleasure of a nicotine hit. The smoking ban has been a spectacularly successful health policy. Criminalising the users of the sex industry could be just as important in improving the health of the women and girls who are victims of this form of sexual exploitation.
Prostitution is not like any other business and cannot be treated in that way. It needs to discouraged, not facilitated or sanitised and certainly not exploited for potential tax revenue, as O’Brien suggests. – Yours, etc,
Child Welfare Consultant,
Inchicore Road,
Kilmainham, Dublin 8.
Sir, – Olivia Kelly (Home News, August 19th) writes about Dublin City Council’s Fruit and Vegetable Market on Mary’s Lane. What is needed to sustain any market is footfall. Narrow Mary Street Little acts as a disincentive to bring shoppers further along the Henry Street retail axis.
With a slight realignment of Mary Street Little, one could extend the visual axis running from Connolly Station’s clock tower, down Talbot Street and Henry Street, to the Chimney in the Old Jameson Distillery in Smithfield. AIB’s Capel Street branch and a couple of warehouses currently bring this visual axis to a premature end. Relocating them would revitalise that area and extend the short Henry Street shopping axis. Look at it on the map. The fruit and veg mart is a Covent Garden in waiting. It just needs street geometry. – Yours, etc,
Rue de Lausanne,

Sir,   – Further to your Editorial “Dealing with Drink” (August 2nd) and subsequent letter from Dr Michael Loftus (August 12th), maybe we should be more inclusive of “older people” when it comes to the consumption of alcohol.
Gone are the days when a woman of a certain age might enjoy an occasional glass of sherry – today it is more likely to be a full blown bottle of wine, in some cases more than three times a week!
Drunkeness in the older person maybe less obvious or threatening but we must ask ourselves is it the increase in alcohol consumption that is to blame for the super spare tyres that are appearing around the waistlines of the young and old alike? Mr Loftus writes about the drink industry’s targeting of the “young and impressionable” and the harm it is doing to society, but maybe we should include the “old and impressionable” to his theory? – Yours, etc,
Raglan Road, Dublin 4.

Sir, – Being worried about the recent poll of students which reports that only 37.5 per cent say they believe in God, I decided to contact God, since He is the focus of the survey, and it is only fair that He be given an opportunity to respond.
As I work for Him I have a hot-line to His office.  I said “Dear God what do You think of this great number of young people who do not believe in You?”  He said “Ah wisha [God always speaks in the local dialect] I feel sorry for them. They are so caught up in their mobiles, iPads and TV soaps that they are like spoilt children who have forgotten me, the one who has given them this beautiful world and all the good things of life. But tell them I love them and will always love them”.
I said “Go raibh míle maith agat a Dhia”.– Yours, etc,

Sir, – It is right that the Government be asked to intervene to ensure that two women in Peru receive proper bedding and food in prison (Declan Roche, August 22nd).
However, our concern should not be limited to these two people. Throughout Latin America prison conditions are abysmal and the requirement to pay for food and bedding is common. Overcrowding is chronic, which has led to fires such as the one that took place in Honduras killing numerous prisoners. However, the European governments loudly proclaim the democratic credentials of these same governments and co-operate with them on all “justice” matters.
The problem is not what is happening to these two women, but what is happening to the millions in prison throughout Latin America, many of whom are, like the two women, on remand. But don’t hold your breath, the Government is not particularly renowned for standing up to such countries or even defending its citizens when they are at risk, a situation I have bitter personal experience of, though in my case it was not related to alleged criminal activity but to my human rights work. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – The “disproportionate risk of fatal injury for motorcyclists” (Brendan Chapman, August 19th) lies mostly with the motorcyclist. A simple way to reduce the risk would be for those motorcyclists who currently don’t obey speed limits and maintain lane discipline to change their behaviour.
The use of bus lanes would only reduce the amount of weaving in and out of traffic undertaken by these risk-taking motorcyclists. A behavioural change is probably the simplest way to increase a motorcyclist’s longevity. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I wish to express my indignation at Colm Kelly’s letter (August 14th). He chided Ashling Daly Bouktila (August 10th) for not asking the Courts Service about the solemn affirmation. I believe the jurors should be informed by the Courts Service about the alternative to taking the oath. Ashling Daly Bouktila raised a good question and lots of people will agree with her concerns. – Yours, etc,
The Green,
Beaumount Woods,

Sir, – Michael McDowell’s “Single House Parliament? No Thanks!” campaign reminds me of his “Single Party Government? No Thanks!” campaign.
Who knows what economic damage might have been done had the Mr McDowell and the PDs not been around? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Scott Coombs (Opinion, August 19th) makes a number of interesting points about fracking. We also need to consider whether we should be exploiting any new fossil fuel sources at all.
The present proven exploitable fossil fuel resources are so great that we can only use about a third of them if the temperature rise as a result of climate change is to be kept below 2 degrees. This is the temperature rise that the international community has agreed is necessary to stop catastrophic climate change.
Fracking would only make sense if the the gas is used to replace coal as an interim measure. This would result in a reduction of CO2 emissions as gas emits less CO2 than coal. However, in the US fracking has not resulted in a reduction of coal mining but an increase in exports of coal to other countries.
The fact we are seriously considering fracking and seeking other new fossil fuels world- wide shows we still are not serious about dealing with climate change – and time is running out. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – While walking on Killiney beach on August 13th I was attacked by a black dog and bitten on the leg and suffered a skin puncture. It was very frightening! I would like to point out that because attacks are not reported (Liz Neligan, August 13th) does not mean they’re not happening. It was a very sudden and frightening attack – the owner of the dog was with the dog, but it was unleashed.
I dread to think what might have happened if I had a young child with me! – Yours, etc,
Killiney Avenue,

Irish Independent:
Madam – I agree fully with Eoghan Harris (Sunday Independent, August 18, 2013) in that we need to adopt the German-style apprenticeship system rather than our over-reliance on third-level colleges. There can be little doubt that apprenticeships in practical applications are one of the reasons (but not the only reason) that the German economy is thriving. The statistic of Ireland’s 29 recognised trades compared to Germany’s 342 is stark. Even allowing for the difference in populations of both countries, it is clear that we are falling behind.
Also in this section
Child more than a digit
Tackle teen alcohol abuse
An opportunity for real reform
I believe the problem in Ireland begins in secondary education, where you are indoctrinated that you must attend college upon getting your Leaving Cert results. Rarely are apprenticeships mentioned. To change now would take a seismic shift in our way of thinking. Ruairi Quinn, our Minister for Education has shown that he is open to new ideas, so perhaps he will take a look at how best to adapt and proceed with post-secondary school education. I will finish by congratulating Joseph Kelly for his gold medal win at Leipzig last July.
John Bellew,
Dunleer, Co Louth
Madam – Heartfelt congratulations to joseph kelly for winning his gold medal in aircraft maintenance at the world skills fair in leipzig and also to Eoghan Harris for publicising both the win and the deplorable snub of the win by the Irish media. This omission should not imply that the Irish training system is inherently superior, because it’s not. Instead this arose, as Harris writes in this excellent piece, from snobbery and narrow-mindedness.
Christian Morris
Howth, Dublin 13
Madam –  Eoghan Harris is to be commended for highlighting the lack of coverage in the Irish media of the fantastic achievements of Irish apprentices in this year’s world skills competition in his column (Sunday Independent, august 18, 2013). The Irish team consisted of 12 apprentices who performed really well in a fiercely competitive environment against the most skilled apprentices in the world.
As ambassadors for young Irish people, they do indeed deserve huge praise for both their commitment to their skill and their achievements in this competition. I would like to highlight, however, the fact that, in recent years, the Ireland Skills Apprentice Competition has received some coverage in the Irish media including segments in the Six-One News and on Nationwide on RTE. On a point of clarification – under the Irish apprentice system, apprentices must complete 44 weeks of training and 22 of these weeks are delivered by FAS. The remaining 22 are completed in two 11-week phases and are delivered in one of the Institutes of Technology.
The academics who deliver these later phases are not only qualified lecturers, but are also time-served tradesmen with a minimum of five years’ industry experience, many of whom are former winners of the National Skills Competition. In addition to meeting their lecturing duties, these academics organise the Ireland Skills Competition on a voluntary basis.
Many also provide essential individual tuition to those selected to represent Ireland in the World Skills Competition. I would strongly reject Mr Harris’s proposal that “we need to break the influence of academics on the skills training system”.
I put it to Mr Harris that academics such as those highlighted above could contribute enormously to the advancement of apprenticeship in Ireland, given the opportunity.
Robert Morris,
Lecturer, DIT,
Ireland Skills Organising Committee
Eoghan Harris writes: I am happy to accept Mr Morris’s correction. I should have made it clear that my strictures on “academics” did not apply to lecturers in colleges of technology who come from a skilled trades background.
Madam – In your front-page piece on Sunday, August 18, you use the latinism “qui bono”, referring to the “who benefits” principle. With respect, the correct latin term is “cui bono”. Check it out.
Noel Tangney,
Madam – I refer to Gene Kerrigan’s article ‘the disastrous reality of self-delusion’ which was published on August 18, 2013, in which Mr Kerrigan appears to have believed what he read on a Twitter feed. He soon found himself commenting on something that was far removed from what was actually said.
I would like to clarify that our organisation noted its support for the event commemorating the Bloody Sunday incident during the Lockout but we questioned why it was felt necessary to close down O’Connell Street for 10-and-a-half hours to facilitate a two-hour event.
The city hosts many events that are more efficiently delivered. If there had been adequate consultation in the planning of this event, the proposal’s unintended disruption to the 400,000 people that we would expect to visit the city on the day could have been significantly reduced. We further added that we were willing to work with the event organisers to meet the needs of all the city’s stakeholders.
Richard Guiney,
Dublin City Business Improvement District
Madam  – Ken Maginnis, a man of forthright opinions and passion, is, to my mind, a role model for how  I want to be when I’m 75, a number that is threatening to creep up on me.
A little road rage and subsequent conviction ought not be the sole realm of scrappy youngsters who are not mentally equipped to give as good as they get when the red mist descends.
People of the older generation know there is little point in holding everything in when a good rant will make us feel better.
There may be too little time left for us to have the nonsense of ‘living to regret’ in our ageing, but still alert, minds.
Ken shows he is alive and kicking, just as anyone half his age is, and not afraid to stand up for himself, right or wrong. He is human, with red blood in his veins, demanding satisfaction.
The pugnacious Mr Maginnis showed courage and spirit when he was in politics and carries this with him, whether it’s in his love of Irish rugby or his allegiance to Britain.
He deserves respect, and not just because he is older than all of his detractors.
Robert Sullivan,
Bantry, Co Cork
Our banks still holding all aces
Louise McBride’s reported last week in the Sunday Independent that ex-KBC Bank CEO Tom Foley was paid professional fees of €71,000 to advise the Department of Finance on mortgage arrears is surely the ultimate abandonment of distressed mortgage holders by the Government.
Detailed examination of recent legislation enacted by the Government shows there has been a consistent trend of protecting the banks at the expense of the mortgage holder.
The most obvious example is the new personal insolvency legislation which has given the banks an inbuilt veto.
Substantial changes recently to the Central Bank’s Code of Conduct on Mortgage Arrears favour the financial institutions.
Other evidence of capitulation to the banks includes the Government’s decision to rush through legislation allowing the banks to repossess homes.
It appears nobody in Government has learned from the damage done to our country by previous conflicts of interest in the banking sector.
Chris Andrews,
Pearse Street, Dublin 2
Sunday Independent


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