8 September 2013 Quiet day
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Pertwee, Leslie and Murray have taken Sir Willowby Todd Hunter-Brown off to some remotes colony. But they have declared independence from Britain and they are not happy to see their new Governor.
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today I win and get under 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.
Lieutenant-Commander Peter Marshall
Lieutenant-Commander Peter Marshall, who has died aged 82, was a Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy pilot and saved a valuable new aircraft from destruction.
Lieutenant-Commander Peter Marshall
6:56PM BST 05 Sep 2013
On December 3 1969 Marshall was flying a Phantom jet from the Royal Naval Air Station, Yeovilton, with his observer, Flight Lieutenant Jack Haines, RAF. They were engaged in mock dog fights over the sea north of Land’s End when, at 18,000ft, their aircraft suffered a heavy blow and began to vibrate severely, with the windscreen covered in thick dark hydraulic fluid and both engines flaming out.
Marshall’s immediate instinct was to prepare for ejection; overcoming this, however, he decided to remain with the aircraft . As it turned out, the radar cover on the nose of the aircraft had become detached, and it and parts of the radar had been ingested by the starboard engine.
Marshall found that, although he was experiencing severe buffeting, the jet was still controllable. The starboard engine and intakes were badly damaged by debris that had also punctured the wing’s leading edge flaps and ripped the fuselage skin. Even so, assisted by another aircraft, which joined him in the air, Marshall decided to attempt a return to Yeovilton, 130 miles away. It proved an extremely hazardous final approach: forward vision, due to the hydraulic fluid on his windscreen, was practically nil, while pronounced yaw and buffeting threatened to throw the aircraft out of control.
None the less, Marshall managed to land safely, thus saving weeks of speculative investigation and the consequent disruption to the Phantom flying programme, as well as its introduction into front-line service. He was awarded the Boyd Trophy 1969 for exceptional skill and personal courage, and received an AFC.
Peter Charles Marshall was born on January 18 1931 in Birmingham. A builder’s son, he was educated at Bishop Vesey’s grammar school, Sutton Coldfield, and had started to read Mining Engineering at Leeds when, in 1954, he decided to join the Royal Navy, learning to fly at the US Navy flying school at Pensacola, Florida.
In 1958 he qualified as an air warfare instructor. He flew more than a score of aircraft from single-engine trainers to jets and helicopters, and served in the aircraft carriers Centaur, Ark Royal, Eagle, and the Australian Melbourne. He also commanded 767 Naval Air Squadron at Yeovilton in 1969-70 before, in 1972, transferring to the Royal Australian Navy, with which he served for the next 18 years. He commanded 724 Naval Air Squadron at Nowra, New South Wales, from 1975 to 1977. His personal call sign was “Pegasus”.
After retiring from the RAN in 1990 he spent 10 years rebuilding a 42ft steel-hulled ketch on which he explored the coast of eastern Australia with his family.
Peter Marshall married Carolyn Barker in 1955. She survives him with their 10 children.
Lt-Cdr Peter Marshall, born January 18 1931, died August 3 2013
Lord Ashdown’s Comment piece on the vote by MPs against the government motion in support of military action against Syria unfortunately equated a reluctance to fire cruise missiles at Damascus with “isolationism” (“After the Syria vote, Britain must not sleepwalk into isolationism”). The problem over Assad is not a lack of will in this country to hold him to account, but arises from the inadequacy of the global arrangements for dealing with such situations.
Internationalists in Britain should be proposing that we use our influence to reform the United Nations, such that the obduracy of one or more of the so-called major nations is not allowed to veto action by the remainder of the international community.
Likewise, a reluctance to sanction military action is not evidence of pacifism. There will be (and have been) occasions when calibrated and internationally sanctioned military action is necessary to deal with atrocities committed by governments on their people. What is required is a better means of legitimising such action and of determining when it is likely to be effective, something that most certainly has not been demonstrated in the case of Syria.
Dr Alastair Walker
Great unknowns of our time
The fanciful solutions suggested in your answer to the question “How do we solve the population problem?” miss the essence of the dilemma (“Science’s great unknowns”, New Review, ). The underlying problem is not so much how to feed and house any particular level of population, but that it keeps on growing. We have to run as fast as we can just to stand still, in the sense that all our efforts to feed the world only result in slowing the growth in the number of those living on the edge of starvation.
The only way to solve the problem is to encourage people to have two children or fewer, which is more or less what the charity Population Matters advocates. It is an achievable aim, for there is plenty of evidence that when women receive education and employment opportunities, together with access to family planning, they choose to have small families. What is in many ways the world’s greatest problem is also one of its greatest opportunities
I enjoyed your 20 unsolved questions but one shouldn’t have been there. I refer to number 5: “What is consciousness?” This is not a scientific question because a scientific question has to be capable of being answered. Consciousness is the only thing there is – our whole life, indeed the whole universe, appears within consciousness. We can’t stand outside it, so how can we hope to say what it is?
Sharing the wealth
Your article on the “two-tier job market” highlighted a figure that deserves much more attention (News). You write that the wage share has fallen from 65% in 1973 to 53% today. Given that Britain’s annual GDP stands at roughly £1.5tn, an increase of the wage share to 63% would imply £150bn more in wages. If two-thirds of this money were shared equally between all 30 million employees of this country, each one would see their monthly income increase by almost £300. The other third could be used for public spending, £50bn a year going a long way to secure additional investment in the NHS, in education etc.
Don’t forget engineering
If George Osborne wants to ensure Britain is a leader in technology he needs to focus on tangible, not just so-called digital technology (“Technology: let’s make this country the best”, Comment). Rather than set our sights on creating the next Facebook, we must open young engineers’ minds to the breadth of opportunities a career in engineering can offer. Britain has inspiring examples: Jaguar Land Rover keeps people motoring, ARM holdings power 35% of smartphones around the world with their chips.
Digital code isn’t just in the cloud, it powers home appliances and on a larger scale our national infrastructure. Dyson employs scores of software engineers who hone tangible technologies that solve problems. Digital technology and lines of code allowed us to develop an eye-wateringly fast motor that drives high-performing machines. We risk blinkering the young if we do not celebrate the hardware as well as the software. We must continue to encourage young people to develop their ideas and celebrate engineering.
Too much fun is bad for pupils
There is no doubt that language teaching in Britain is in crisis, but to suggest that exchange trips will solve the problem is ridiculous. If fewer pupils are studying languages at A-level, the problem must lie with GCSE courses. For years, we have been obsessed with making courses fun, which has had a detrimental effect on their content. Language learning can and should be challenging and interesting. Today, pupils are starting A-level courses with high GCSE grades and minimal knowledge of basic grammar.
I found Peter Hyman’s article on the importance of reinventing education and moving away from the prevalent exam-factory model inspiring (“How I went from Tony Blair’s adviser to free school head”, New Review). As an English teacher, I agreed wholeheartedly that “eloquent and purposeful, exploratory talk” is vital because a “wide vocabulary” and “fluency” are “top of every employer list”, not to mention being an essential skill for life.
It is so sad, then, that last week Ofqual, at the behest of the monumentally wrongheaded Michael Gove, announced that speaking and listening skills, for 25 years or more a key strand of the English curriculum, will no longer be included in the GCSE. Pupils’ grades will now be determined solely by their reading and writing abilities in a world where we speak far more than we engage with texts. Shame on you, Gove.
Head of English faculty
Bredon School, Gloucestershire
What a dangerous man Peter Hyman is. Were he to succeed in his self-appointed task of raising expectations in his young charges of escaping from the station in life that providence has provided for them, the very structures of our society, ordained by a higher power, would be undermined and chaos and anarchy would reign in their stead. I sincerely hope that Michael Gove will strike down this odious programme.
As a retired secondary headteacher with extensive experience in the inner-urban context, I was looking for something new and groundbreaking in this article. I wish the best of luck to Peter Hyman, whose passion, resilience and determination are clear. However, he is not offering anything new, other than that he is given to believe that such a small school can be economically and socially viable.
“All-through” schools have been working for many years in parts of the country and within an LEA umbrella. Larger schools have been developing outstanding systems and methods on the basis of a “small-school” approach. This work has been innovative, led by inspiring heads and LEAs, based on evidential need; it has not been experimental.
In 1990, when I took up my first headship in Rochdale, we were undertaking these same approaches with success and with organisation and pedagogy predicated on equality of opportunity. On a national level, we in inner-urban schools changed the educational landscape with the tremendous leadership, help and finance received from the Excellence in Cities project, developed with care under Estelle Morris. The gains made in the inner-urban context set the foundations for the recently published evidence regarding the value-added out-performance of inner-urban secondaries that we see today.
Free schools, for all the genuine passion and commitment of leaders such as Peter Hyman, are nevertheless taking us back to the rather chaotic situation of the economically and socially non-viable, taking resources away from other local schools.
School 21 demonstrates what has been missing for the 50 years I have been in education. It integrates the many elements, often too sophisticated for policy-makers and administrators, which comprise a proper preparation for life. It recognises the flexibility of organisation and the centrality of longer-term values that children need. It undoes several of the endemic myths that have vitiated provision for decades, not least the misplaced, jaundiced view of accountability ever more rampant in our classrooms and homes. Sad that it needed a one-off piece of individual enterprise. Can you now work to ensure these essential educational and social truths are more widely articulated within mainstream provision?
Managing director, In Education,
All modern wars take a terrible toll on civilians who are no part of the war. (“The finger on the trigger pauses”, 1 September). The war in Syria is, however, a civil war, fought by Syrians, and some mercenary helpers, against an apparently tyrannical regime.
Nobody else, Britain, the USA the EU, or any other nation has any part in it, so none should be taking action against Assad and his minions, even if or when it is proved he has used chemical weapons against his opponents.
However, if it is proven he has used chemical weapons he should be charged by the UN with committing a war crime against humanity, and if and when the opportunity arises he and his cronies should be tried in an international court.
Just as I was thinking of supporting Labour again after their splendid vote on Syria, I learn that some of their Blairites want another vote. Will the New Labour warmongers never learn? They want to trample on parliamentary democracy in order to drag Britain into yet another war. If Labour votes for war, it can kiss my vote goodbye.
Woodford Green, Greater London
Jane Merrick quotes David Cameron’s words in the visitors’ book at the Kigali Memorial Centre that commemorates the Rwandan genocide (1 September). But there remains a deep stain on my government’s record regarding genocide recognition: Labour’s Geoff Hoon, in April 2007, admitted that “over a million ethnic Armenian citizens in the Ottoman Empire were killed – many massacred, some victims of civil strife, starvation and disease…”. As the centenary of the start of the Ottoman destruction of Armenians approaches, it is time that the UK and Turkish governments apologised for what Geoffrey Robertson QC summed up as genocide. It is time for truth to trump political expediency.
I write as an ex-chair of an Independent Monitoring Board at an immigration removal centre about your article “Britain still detaining hundreds of refugee children” (1 September). It is likely that a number of these children were travelling as part of a family group of asylum seekers who had been refused entry or the right to remain.
Bad as detention might be, it is preferable that these children were not parted from their parents and sent to children’s homes. Other youngsters would have been without valid documentation. They may never have had a birth certificate, making it impossible to verify their age.
My members would agree that detention can “seriously harm” the mental and physical health of children, but in a climate where asylum seekers and illegal immigrants are dealt with together, and public opinion is, at best, ambivalent, it is hard to find alternatives.
Margaret Johnson MBE
James Paton should visit more state comprehensive secondary schools before he condemns a “one-size-fits-all” approach (Letters, 1 September). Jobs for which many pupils used to apply at the age of 15 to 18 now demand a degree, and we develop universal general and social education for much longer than the primary-school years. What possible harm is there in comprehensives where diverse pupils come together for general and social studies, lunch, games, computers, films, discussion, drama, private study, flirting and hobbies before going their separate ways, in the same building, for other activities, just as they will in the real world? The shame and loss of the UK is that we have an educational system based upon antiquated, damaging ideas of social apartheid.
Janet Street-Porter is right that most men dress like overgrown babies in leisurewear, (Editor at Large, 1 September). At 55, I am frankly appalled at some of the sights in our local high street and supermarkets, and in restaurants and theatres. Living close to Twickenham rugby ground, I always know when France or Italy are playing. Their fans dress well for not only leisure, but also for sport. The average Englishman is sartorially immature.
Britain’s stance on Syria will win world’s respect
YOUR editorial “Cameron lost in the fog of war” (and “Don’t count on us”, Focus, last week) claims that Britain’s failure to support America has led to its diminished international standing. What standing? The nation is perceived as America’s lapdog.
Britain showed a moral leadership by a no vote that has shamed Barack Obama into taking the democratic route himself and may have the same effect on the other belligerent, France. It is this kind of example that earns worldwide respect.
Parliament was right: we have no authority to spill Syrian blood without the accord of the UN. No matter how frustrated we feel about the appalling chemical attacks, it is Syria’s internal affair and any punishment must be directed by the UN, not America. If the UN proves powerless to act, America would be on safer ground to strike unilaterally, even if lacking a democratic mandate.
Patrick Campbell, Alicante, Spain
It is a great pity that the MPs who defeated the proposal for limited military strikes on Syria had not listened to those who treated victims of the nerve gas attacks. Is it not likely that Syrians will enlist more help from al-Qaeda to rescue them from Bashar al-Assad’s killing machine if the West does not step in?
Henry Page, East Sussex
If the security council cannot reach an agreement on the Syrian situation, surely it would be better for a majority of the 193 member states in the general assembly (where there is no veto) to decide on the best action to take when it meets on September 17.
Michael Irwin, (UN Director 1974- 89)
Put to the vote
The media’s plethora of jingoistic opinions on the damaged special relationship, David Cameron politically looking like a beached whale and Britain losing its place as a world leader cannot disguise the fact two democratic leaders have paused to consult representatives before plunging their countries into war. As your editorial quotes Lord West of Spithead: “Once you start these things there is the law of unintended consequences.”
Derek Carter, Weybridge, Surrey
Looking the other way
While I don’t think we should provide automatic support for America, the option of military action should be kept on the table to prevent the further suffering of innocents. For those who have turned their back on the people of Syria, I simply ask what they would do if they saw two men attacking a woman on the other side of the street.
David McRae, Leeds
Cause and effect
Obama’s strategy to degrade Assad’s capabilities is surely a risky one. Military action might force him into even more desperate measures with a wider use of chemical weapons, as he would have nothing more to lose. Western intervention in Iraq has left its own legacy with dozens of civilians still being killed on a daily basis. Could Syria be heading in the same direction?
Bob MacDougall, Kippen, Stirlingshire
A rock and a hard place
It will be claimed the prime minister showed errors of judgment in recalling parliament too soon in advance of reports from the UN inspectors but surely it was a case of “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. Had he not recalled MPs, “Cameron holidays while Syrian children die” would have been the least offensive headline. He deserves more support.
Allan Palmer, Billingshurst, West Sussex
The devil you know
Camilla Cavendish’s fine article spells out our concerns (“When sabre-rattling, the golden rule is to have some sabres first”, Comment, last week). I detest Assad and his Iranian backers but I fear his enemies — an Islamist regime — even more.
As for Kosovo, I would hardly rank the West’s intervention in favour of the thugs and killers of the Kosovo Liberation Army as part of “a proud tradition of humanitarian action”. Kosovo is ethnically cleansed of all Serbs and will sooner or later be incorporated into Albania.
Dr Chris Jorgensen, London SW13
Cavendish’s article is the best piece I have read on the Syrian situation and the position this country finds itself in. Tony Blair wrote a column in the same newspaper but not once did he — or any other informed commentator, come to that — mention our military inability to carry out what they claim to be essential action.
Bob Perry, Chard, Somerset
Cavendish hits the nail on the head: “If we want to retain influence in the new world disorder, we must also spend more on defence”.
Margaret Graham, Words for the Wounded
Having read Blair’s sanctimonious diatribe on attacking Syria, I think Assad would be justified in quoting Rudyard Kipling: “For Allah created the English mad — the maddest of all mankind.”
Bernard Heaven, Cilgerran, Pembrokeshire
HS2 part of big picture for a successful Britain
WHILE I do not think HS2 is a higher priority than solving London’s desperate need for extra runway capacity, there is no doubt it is essential (“Before we board HS2, tell us the true cost”, Editorial, and “Labour puts £50bn cap on HS2 scheme”, News, August 25). If we had to build the Eurotunnel today it might cost in excess of £100bn and would probably be objected to.
The City of London’s Big Bang was also widely opposed, but it made the capital a major financial centre. The M25 took more than 10 years to complete, yet can you imagine life in the southeast without it? We’ve already fallen behind other G8 countries with high-speed rail and air links.
Nigel Cooper, Milton Keynes
On the line
A new track needs to be built. The west coast main line suffers from pinch points and severe capacity restraints as it has a mix of fast long-distance locomotives competing for space with stopping trains and freight. Further tinkering with the existing line is a waste of time and money.
Giving long-distance trains their own track will allow more short-distance ones to serve more stations more frequently — everybody wins. Of all the countries that have high-speed lines, not one has built them as a vanity project — it has always been out of necessity.
Ian Copplestone, Portsmouth
One of the arguments for HS2 is the lack of capacity on the present rail system. Belgium and Holland have double- decker railway carriages and we could convert the existing track to have a bigger loading gauge to enable us to do the same. This would probably mean you would not be able to run 200mph trains but it would be less expensive than building a whole new line and there would be less opposition.
Brian Chadwick, Doddington, Cambridgeshire
The Japanese pioneered high- speed trains half a century ago that have one-minute stops at main stations (and 30 seconds at minor ones). On a recent train journey from London to Newcastle our fastest stop was 1½ minutes, the longest 4½ minutes. Perhaps we should first seek to make better use of the resources we already have.
Steve Milner, Whitley Bay, Tyne and Wear
Labour’s suggestion that HS2 should be limited to £50bn is amusing. It makes as much sense as asking for a ticket for £50-worth of a train journey. Design and construction contracts do not work like that: contingencies emerge and have to be honoured or the outcome would be an unfinished railway. Politicians should recognise when they are out of their depth.
David Brancher, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire
Private tutors fear state meddling
I WAS alarmed to read about some unnamed “concerned education ministers” supporting from behind the scenes the formation of the Tutors’ Association (“Does your child’s tutor pass or fail?”, Focus, last week). I am one of the five founders of this association and have not been aware of any governmental involvement in our private initiative. I would feel cheated to have unwittingly bankrolled something that ministers want to establish yet are not willing to pay for, or to support openly.
The efficacy of private tutoring chiefly derives from a free and unhindered operation of supply and demand and the lack of any regulation. Many tutors do not go into teaching precisely because they cannot stand the overregulation that encourages mediocrity and blocks excellence in schools. Industry regulation is not the purpose of our association and I hope that no minister is planning to introduce it by stealth under our cover.
Alexander Nikitich, Founder, Carfax Education Group, and Co-founder, the Tutors’ Association
Drugs not what the doctor ordered
I CARE for those suffering the ill effects of prescription medication, and thus welcome Jack Grimston’s article “Rise in women poisoned by prescription drugs” (News, August 25). The majority of those I look after, however, have exceeded recommended doses in order to harm themselves.
What percentage of the 69,869 women in 2011-12 who were admitted to hospital with drug poisoning is represented by this population? The public would have been better served by focusing on the abuse of medications by patients rather than the sensational notion that they were being poisoned by the medical profession through over-prescription.
Sadly it was the latter conclusion that was reinforced by the misguided comments of Jim Dobbin, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on tranquilliser addiction.
Dr Samuel Dawson, Belfast
Dominic Lawson’s excellent article “Scam your way to millions: it’s as easy as vitamins A, B and C” (Comment, August 25) quoted the late law professor Jim Gower that “regulation should not be at a level set to achieve the impossible task of protecting fools from their own folly”. Surely this axiom should be levelled at those claiming compensation from banks for mis-sold insurance. Customers should have had the nous not to take up insurance they did not need. Why penalise banks for their folly?
Bob Leonard, London SW19
You report Lord Ashcroft’s view that survey findings underline the gap between the “elite and public opinion on immigration” (“Public thinks immigration hurts UK”, News, last week). It is Joe Public who has to face the problems of uncontrolled immigration first-hand. We need a cost-benefit analysis of more immigration.
Bob Ellis, Manchester
Immigration has been badly managed but the British forget they have been the biggest immigrants in the world — New Zealand, Australia, America, Africa and India are among the many countries where they dominated the indigenous people. Vinnie Jones has scored an own goal by emigrating to California while complaining about immigration here.
Rowell Wilkinson, London E10
Core of the problem
Jonathan Leake (“Robots to clean up tomb of Sellafield”, News, August 18) claimed that the Windscale Pile One chimney and reactor fire was caused by operating the reactor above its design limit in order to yield tritium for weapons production. However, this flies in the face of the Penney inquiry, which concluded that the fire was the result of an abortive graphite core energy release operation.
Dr Colin Murray, Wigton, Cumbria
View to a cull
The trial cull overseen by Lord Krebs concluded that culling badgers will make no significant impact on the incidence of bovine TB in cattle (“That bang is an explosion of common sense as badger takes the hit”, Comment, last week). The government is giving in to the gut feelings of the farmers and their powerful lobby. If this cull is successful in killing 70% of badgers, it may improve the situation by 16% — the other 84% being caused by bad farming practices.
Charles Turner, Combwich, Somerset
I met James Hunt (no relation) some years ago at Gatwick (“Fast and louche”, Magazine, August 25). I was part of a group of pilgrims and he was among a party travelling to a race meeting in Pau in France. He was charming and courteous and appeared to be genuinely interested in our pilgrimage to Lourdes — and he kindly offered to buy us all a drink.
Denis Hunt, Leamington Spa
Over the years, I have written to my MP Dominic Grieve on several occasions about the scandal of companies using interns to save on the cost of paying employees (“Intern died on brink of top job”, News, August 25). I cited the examples of my own children’s postgraduate experiences of working long hours and doing jobs that should have been paid positions. There has been no attempt by government to address this situation.
Ann Dunn, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
Corrections and clarifications
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Jeanette Altwegg, figure skater, 83; David Arquette, actor, 42; Linda Bennett, fashion designer, 51; Sid Caesar, actor, 91; Anne Diamond, broadcaster, 59; Michael Frayn, playwright and novelist, 80; Martin Freeman, actor, 42; Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, composer and master of the Queen’s music, 79; Pink, singer, 34; Chris Powell, footballer, 44
1504 Michelangelo’s David is unveiled in Florence; 1664 Dutch colony of New Amsterdam is surrendered to British and renamed New York; 1888 first matches played in Football League; 1914 Private Thomas Highgate is first British soldier to be executed for desertion in First World War; 1944 first V-2 rocket to target England kills three people in London; 1966 Severn Bridge is opened
SIR — How odd that while British television audiences are avid fans of gritty Danish crime dramas such as the The Killing, the Danes themselves cannot get enough of the gentler (despite all the death and mayhem) Midsomer Murders.
Does this tell us anything about our respective nations, and if so, what?
SIR – Vladimir Putin’s aide Dmitry Peskov is reported to have said that Britain was “just a small island” and “no one pays any attention to them”. Was David Cameron, the Prime Minister, more annoyed that he said what he did, or that he is right?
More to the point, what is he going to do about it?
SIR – Ministers are outraged at Britain being “ignored” at the world’s top table. Little wonder, following years of our superb Armed Forces being systematically emasculated by successive governments.
British love dark drama; Danes love Midsomer
07 Sep 2013
SIR – David Cameron’s remark that “the Opposition chose the easy and political path, not the right and difficult path” on Syria is cheap and deeply offensive.
He went on to compound this attempt to dominate the higher moral ground by stating that his aim was the “protection of the innocent”. That is the aim of all of us.
SIR – Considering the petulant behaviour of some world leaders, Mr Cameron should be proud of the response of MPs to the proposal of military action in Syria.
The parliamentary rejection of military intervention was a major factor (although unintended) in making other nations think about diplomatic remedies.
Findon, West Sussex
SIR – The events of the past few days may have strained Anglo-American relations at the inter-governmental level, but they must not be allowed to undermine 200 years of growing friendship and goodwill between the peoples of the two countries.
Sulgrave Manor, the Tudor house in Northamptonshire that is the ancestral home of the family of President George Washington, was purchased by public subscription in 1914 to celebrate the centenary of the 1814 Treaty of Ghent and 100 years of peace between the two countries.
At the opening ceremony, Sulgrave Manor was dedicated as “a centre from which sentiments of friendship and goodwill between the British and American peoples will forever radiate”. Next year will mark the centenary of the purchase and the bicentenary of the Treaty of Ghent.
Chairman, The Sulgrave Manor Trust
SIR – The Pope has called for today to be a world day of prayer for peace. You do not have to be a Roman Catholic to believe in the power of prayer. Anyone who lived through the Second World War will remember the National Days of Prayer to which the King called his people.
Parents, schools and sex
SIR – The campaign by the Telegraph’s Wonder Women channel to “bring sex education into the 21st century”, by redrawing the official guidelines on teaching sex education (Letters, September 4), makes scant reference to parents.
Any moves to redraw these guidelines must involve organisations which recognise parents as the primary educators of their children on sexual matters.
Children and teenagers accessing online pornography is a problem that urgently needs to be addressed. Parents have a vital role in teaching their children about how to avoid pornography. The Government should be supporting parents in this task.
Current government guidelines on sex education contain more than 90 references to the importance of involving parents in teaching children about sexual issues. Any new guidelines should place the same emphasis on parents.
SPUC Safe at School
Family Education Trust
Director, Christian Institute
Lord Carey of Clifton
Philip Davies MP (Con)
Mary Glindon MP (Lab)
Jim Shannon MP (DUP)
Rev Andrew Symes
Executive Secretary, Anglican Mainstream
Dr Chris Richards
Professor David Paton
Nottingham University Business School
Dr Trevor Stammers
Research Fellow, Centre for Policy Studies
Campaign to Protect Children
Dr Lisa Nolland
Chair, Mothers at Home Matter
Edmund P Adamus
Director for Marriage & Family Life, Diocese of Westminster
Imam Sulaiman Gani
Tower Hamlets’ Parents Action Group – SRE
Challenge Team UK
Grounds for abortion
SIR – From both conservative and liberal ends of the social spectrum, there are good reasons to challenge the working of the abortion law (report, September 6).
If in practice – as currently seems to be the case – there is abortion on demand, then it is curious that abortion as a means of offspring sex selection merits special repugnance. After all, many would-be parents often express preferences for a daughter over a son or a son over a daughter. If they knew a method of conceiving for one sex rather than the other, they would use it.
SIR – The Daily Telegraph has performed a valuable public service by investigating clinics prepared to offer “sex-selection” abortions to women carrying girl foetuses. “Foetuses” are what they are to surgeons who perform these abortions. To countless women distressed by miscarriages, however, they are always “babies”.
St Helens, Lancashire
Brand new bags
SIR – If shops are forced to charge for plastic bags (Letters, September 6), the question is: will it be cheaper to pay the plastic bag charge or to buy a roll of plastic bags to line my small kitchen bin?
Lydeard St Lawrence, Somerset
Airport’s dim prospect
SIR – The dense fog that resulted in a
120-car pile-up on the Sheppey bridge raises serious questions over the proposal of a Boris Island Thames estuary airport.
Teachers’ strike? Fine
SIR – Schools “fine” parents £60 for pupil absence in term time.
Children’s rights to an education work both ways. So parents may wish to “fine” teachers’ unions for teacher absence due to strikes. Test case anyone?
Building nuclear plants
SIR – So much common sense has been written and spoken on the necessity for new nuclear stations, and so much time and money wasted on every possible alternative, that Britain is now in danger of moving from being beholden to foreign oil and gas suppliers to being beholden to a foreign supplier of “atomic” energy, which we first produced half a century ago.
My husband, Sir William McAlpine, set up Supporters of Nuclear Energy (SONE) 20 years ago with Sir Bernard Ingham. Sir John Armitt’s suggestions for speeding up the construction of new nuclear power plants (“Olympic model ‘can end nuclear plant delay’ ”, report, September 6) merely mirror those put forward by SONE.
Nine years ago, in the hope of expediting things, I wanted to apply for planning permission for a new nuclear plant on the footprint of Bradwell (the first commercial atomic power station in the world, designed by my father, built by my husband and now decommissioned).
At a lunch I asked Vincent de Rivas, the head of EDF, if he would help me by making the application. His response: “Why would I? We build our stations and we sell you the power.”
Now the only reason they have changed their minds is the ridiculous amount of money that our Government has offered them.
Why can we not build our own power stations? What is the Nuclear Industry Association for?
Madison: a venue
SIR – Christopher Booker (Letters, September 4) refers to the Madison as “a dance craze briefly fashionable but quickly forgotten”.
Let me reassure him that it is alive and well in France – it has featured at every dance for the past 15 years that I have been to in the village of Argeliers in the Aude, southern France, with no shortage of eager participants.
Farnham Royal, Buckinghamshire
SIR – I was interested to read Rob Hutton’s article on clichés (Comment, September 6).
One that always amuses me is that our ships are constantly “exercising” or “patrolling” in an area, whereas the foreign ships are “lurking”.
The changing habits of migrating swallows
SIR – Susan Appleby (Letters, September 3) reports the early departure of her Malvern swallows on their journey south and wonders what it portends for winter.
Here in West Sussex we have recorded activity annually and the trend seems to be for earlier arrivals and later departures over the past four years. This year the singleton advance guard inspected the stable yard on April 13 to be joined the next day by 11 others, with more over the following couple of weeks.
There were the inevitable twittering squabbles between competing pairs and suitors, and with a number of new nests, the total occupied was 16. Four produced two broods each, with the last fledging about 12 days ago. More than 80 chicks hatched and flew with very few casualties.
On Tuesday night, the clear evening sky was alive as they stocked up and practised for their journey, interrupted only by a hunting hobby that had to give way to mass retaliation.
Even though the birds enjoyed their summer, they have told us nothing about the coming winter.
Tony de Launay
West Chiltington, West Sussex
SIR – On Monday the sky was empty of swallows and the nests in the eves silent. Early to leave, I thought. They usually fly off in the third week of September.
However on Tuesday the air was full of these beautiful birds, twirling and chattering and making dashes to their nests. Where had they been? Maybe they have rest days.
SIR – Susan Appleby laments the loss of her swallows after their brief visit. We are still enjoying their activity in our skies since they arrived in mid April.
SIR – The residents of Malvern will still have the joy of swallows and house martins on their way south. Playing golf this week we were mesmerised by their swooping above the fairways – feeding up before heading south from Fife. The place to see them gather is Clumber Park, although the hobby has also cottoned on to this venue as a place for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Sir, – The Minister for Education states there is no evidence to support the contention that Ireland has an excellent education system and that it has a long way to go to become world class (Home News, September 6th).
Ironically the World Economic Forum (WEF) published its Global Competitiveness Report for 2013-2014 on September 4th, and this highly respected international report appears to contradict the minister’s view. One of the main pillars of that report is the World Economic Forum’s ranking of the education systems in each of the 148 countries whose competitiveness it assessed this year. The report uses the adjective “excellent” to describe Ireland’s primary education system in its summary and credits both our “excellent” health and primary education systems for contributing significantly to Ireland’s competitiveness. The report ranks the “quality” of primary education in Ireland as 8th best in the world out of 148 countries.
It also praises our “strong” higher education and training system which it ranks 18th in the world and again credits this as a key factor in maintaining our overall competitiveness. In fact our overall competitiveness, at 28th in the world, lags well behind our “excellent” and “strong” education system’s performance.
Significant competitive disadvantages identified by the WEF report are our macroeconomic environment, ranked 134th of the 148 world economies studied, the budget deficit, ranked 137th, national debt 142nd, financial market development 85th, soundness of banks, 146th; ease of access to loans 127th; wastefulness of government spending 55th; government procurement of advanced technologies, 70th; and quality of auditing and reporting in Ireland, 58th. By contrast the only area of our education system that it identified as being a “competitive disadvantage” was our schools’ poor access to the internet which it ranked 43rd out of 148.
In Ireland’s case, any ranking below 28th on any factor is seen by the report as being a competitive disadvantage. The World Economic Forum clearly sees the quality of our education system as a significant global competitive advantage even if Mr Quinn does not. Given that this is the opinion of The World (my emphasis) Economic Forum in its global competitiveness report; I think the question now is; “With which other planet’s education systems is the Minister comparing the Irish education system?”, because it certainly isn’t Earth’s!
Rather than disparaging the system for which he is currently responsible, the minister should be highlighting its high global competitive standing, taking the credit for that as a Labour Minister and defending it from attack in the forthcoming budget. In this way he can ensure that our “excellent” primary and “strong” higher education and training systems can retain or improve those highly impressive world rankings. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The failures of our political system were a major contributor to the Irish banking crisis, necessitating the €64 billion bailout. That is €13,457 for every man, woman and child in the country. The Government is now at pains to emphasis the €20 million in savings, or €4.21 per annum for every man woman and child, through closing the Seanad. I believe the people can bear the additional cost until we get proper political reform.
We have a political system with too few politicians focused on national issues; we have a system of local politics, our TDs are in effect social workers, forced through multi seat constituencies to ignore national issues of developing the economy and making laws and regulations. Even ministers and taoisigh have to commit much of their time to local issues for fear of losing the next election. We want our taoisigh, ministers and TDs to focus on national issues.
The Government should make a real effort to correct the system that failed us. We do not believe the Seanad is a flawless institution, but neither are we foolish enough to think it caused the financial crisis nor that abolishing it will fix the system that failed us. If in the end real reform entails the abolition of the Seanad then so be it, but start where the real problems lie: Dáil Éireann and our electoral system. Let us not shirk this chance to reform and instead create some positive legacy for our children to go with the €64 billion of bailout debt we are bequeathing them.
I would urge your readers to force the Government into real reform by voting No in the referendum. – Yours, etc,
* The treatment of our august banking institutions by the Oireachtas committee does the banks and the important role they play in Irish society a great disservice.
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The banks lent money with an almost coercive generosity to people seeking to buy houses, who are now covetously looking to keep them despite not having the ability to repay the largesse received from the banks.
Luckily, our pillar banks exhibited granite-like strength in the face of accusations of “fudging the numbers”, one CEO suggesting instead that he wanted to “colour the numbers”, which shows an artistry not always associated with institutions.
Granted, without the taxpayers the main banks might no longer exist; but existence is something we all daily take for granted, forgetting to praise our putative benefactor. And while the paltry number of homeowners receiving any significant long-term restructuring deals seems to undermine their assertion that they are really engaging with mortgage holders, they are perhaps merely showing commendable financial prudence.
The assertion that both parties were responsible for loans that were imprudent and in many cases ostensibly could not have complied with the usual lending ratios, etc, ignores the fact that an institution that shares pain of its own volition would show a lack of a necessary self-preservation instinct, which is clearly not something they can be accused of.
The core of the problem, as stated by bankers again this week, is rampant strategic defaulting by homeowners rapaciously hoarding money for items such as bills and children’s education rather than paying their mortgage.
They have produced no actual evidence of this; but given their record to date, do we have any reason not to trust them?
Tralee, Co Kerry
STANDING ROOM ONLY
* Last week, my wife and a group from a Dublin Women’s Club went to Cork for a four-day break and what with the great weather and the hotel accommodation and excellent meals provided, plus entertainment in the evenings, they had a marvellous time.
Each morning they had a coach trip to beauty spots in the Cork area and also to Cork city itself, where they enjoyed shopping but not dropping as they noticed how much seating there was available for tired shoppers and tourists – something there is not enough of in our capital city.
You don’t have to be elderly to appreciate a five- to 10-minute break from dragging your shopping bags around town. I’ve also noticed that in most towns and cities I’ve visited abroad, there is lots of seating.
I am a Dub and love the city, but would also like more seating facilities, especially on O’Connell Street. The space in the middle of the street is not utilised enough and to use the excuse that drunks and druggies would abuse seating there is poor reason not to at least try it.
We lost Anna Livia a few years back and it was never replaced, so come on and give us more seating to rest our weary legs.
Pembroke Road, Dublin 4
* In commemorating the Lockout, mention should be made of the fact that innovation is the only way of increasing real wages as distinct from money wages. William Martin Murphy was an innovator and his electrified trams were the envy of the world.
Prosperity is correlated with fertile brains and poverty with futile plans. With better technology, wages per person can rise and wages per product fall. This is the only way real wages can increase as consumers get lower prices and workers get higher wages. If workers’ productivity increases, it is fair for wages to increase. James Larkin and James Connolly were not likely to lead us into the smart economy.
If Larkin and Connolly’s policies led to increased wages and lower productivity, then paper wages would rise but real wages would fall. A firm producing the best products by the best methods can afford to pay high wages as its products are good value.
Ignorance is the big oppressor and where macho leaders substitute fantasy for scientific management, the economy will not keep pace in the hi-tech race and both wages and employment will suffer.
I’LL STICK WITH MY PAPER
* It seems many young people tend not to buy a daily newspaper and rely on their iPhones, etc, for all their news. Us, “pre-modern-techno” types, need our ‘Indo’ with its news, information and humour to complete our daily dose of reality, whether it be wars, sport, warm-weather reports, water rates/shortages or wasp infestations. The many witty observations of your letter writers complete the picture.
On a recent visit to a young niece, I asked if I could have a newspaper. I was promptly told to “climb into the 21st Century” and was handed her laptop, as it had everything. That wasp never knew what hit it!
Tramore, Co Waterford
* I was on my journey from the leafy suburbs of Clontarf into the centre of Dublin to witness the re-enactment of Bloody Sunday, O’Connell Street, 1913, when an old man got on the bus. He showed his bus pass to the driver. He was very dishevelled, hair uncombed, several days’ growth of beard, his clothes needing a clean and a vacant look in his eyes. It was a beautiful sunny day but it seemed the sunshine was gone from his life.
There was an uneasy shifting of bottoms on seats to see who he would sit beside. I was privileged he chose me. He proceeded to tell me about his life. He was a man who had worked hard all his life to raise a family, now scattered to the four corners of the Earth.
As we travelled along past the closed-up shops and got nearer to town, we saw groups of junkies with their skeleton-like frames and the greyness of death already on their faces. No job, no hope.
The only difference from the 1913 Lockout was that the greyness in those days was from hunger.
Thank you for my free bus pass.
Name and address with editor
MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
* A week has nearly gone since the greatest game of Gaelic football that was played in Croke Park for a very long time, according to the pundits.
With the dust cleared, common sense and truth sit on opposite sides of the fireplace where the first autumn fire glows, giving the aroma that allows only the truth to be told.
Jack Dublin says, “ah yes it really was a fantastic game”, to which Paudie Kerry replies, “it was indeed a super game” – and like any great film or play, it takes everyone to play their part to make it so memorable.
Thank you, Dublin; and thank you, Kerry for giving us all something to talk about over the winter months – something other than the banks, the recession and how many millions some soccer player cost that wouldn’t kick snow off a rope!
NOT CAVING INTO CHARGE
* There is an abundance of souterrains scattered across Ireland, commonly referred to as ‘caves’. These were reputedly used for food storage and as places of refuge in times of peril.
I wonder if these first millennium structures can find use again when Minister Pat Rabbitte’s deputies come knocking on the door to collect the new broadcasting charge?
Dunleer, Co Louth