Oak tree

13 September 2013 Oak tree

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Pertwee and co are helping demolish Commander Murray’s last command. With the help of Heather. Priceless.
Mr S turns up and we bring down the oak tree so sad
We watch Dads army v good.
Scrabble today I win and get over 400. perhaps Mary might win tomorrow.


Dame Juliet Wheldon
Dame Juliet Wheldon, who has died of cancer aged 63, was the first woman to be appointed Treasury Solicitor and head of the Government Legal Service, in charge of the 1,400 lawyers who advise ministers on policy and defend them when they are being sued.

Dame Juliet Wheldon 
6:22PM BST 12 Sep 2013
She held the post from 2000 to 2006, advising on everything from the legal niceties of the marriage of the Prince of Wales to Camilla Parker Bowles to the Iraq War (when it was she, above all, who insisted that military and Civil Service personnel serving in Iraq were entitled to the assurance that what they were doing was lawful).
Formidably intelligent and forthright in manner, Juliet Wheldon was a civil servant in the tradition of Dame Evelyn Sharp, a woman who inspired an almost equal mixture of affection, admiration and trepidation in ministers and civil servants with whom she worked. Eschewing the Permanent Secretary’s limo, Juliet Wheldon was a familiar figure in the streets of Whitehall, processing in stately fashion down the middle of the road on a sit-up-and-beg bike with basket, her voluminous skirts billowing out alongside. Male members of her staff were expected to be handy with the puncture repair kit.
She was, of course, extremely hardworking and, when telephoning members of her staff, would never waste time on preliminaries such as announcing who she was, but launch straight into the matter in hand – a bracing experience for those still digesting their breakfast. One colleague recalled an occasion when she took him out to lunch. Before he had had time to consider the menu, she said: “You like grouse? Good. Waiter, we’ll have two grouse.”
It amused her colleagues that at one time she was a next-door neighbour of Freddie Mercury. Though it was impossible to imagine conversations over the garden fence, Dame Juliet was by no means other-worldly, and possessed finely tuned political antennae.
Juliet Louise Wheldon was born on March 26 1950 and educated at Sherborne School for Girls and at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she took a First in Modern History. Her ambition to be a lawyer developed through her fascination with political and constitutional history. By the time she was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn, however, she had decided that her future lay in the Government Legal Service. She joined the Treasury Solicitor’s Department in 1976.
During her career in the GLS, she worked in the Treasury Advisory Division in the 1980s, helping to elucidate the legal complexities surrounding the collapse of Johnson Matthey Bank. As Deputy Legal Secretary to the Law Officers in the late 1980s, she advised on the Westland affair and, as head of the Treasury Advisory Division, on the timing of the sale of the final tranche of the government’s holding of BP shares.
In 1989 she was appointed Legal Secretary to the Law Officers, dealing with a myriad of issues, ranging from the extradition of suspected terrorists from the Republic of Ireland and the early stages of the peace process, through the Supergun and Arms to Iraq scandals, to “cash for questions”, the legalities of the first Iraq War and the legal challenges to the ratification of Maastricht.
From 1997, when she took Silk, until her appointment as Treasury Solicitor in 2000, Juliet Wheldon occupied the hot seat of legal adviser to the Home Office (an office which also included the duties of legal adviser to the Northern Ireland Office). As well as advising Labour’s Home Secretary Jack Straw on the request to extradite General Pinochet, she dealt with the legal issues that led up to the signing of the Good Friday agreement in 1998.
Juliet Wheldon was amused that her role as Treasury Solicitor was combined with that of HM Procurator General, who, in the days when collusion between parties to a divorce was a ground for refusing a decree, was the officer responsible for looking under the beds in provincial hotels for evidence that should have been declared to the courts. She was also responsible for allocating any “prize money” from enemy ships captured by the Navy in times of war.
After her retirement in 2006, Juliet Wheldon served for two years as legal adviser to the Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, a job that took on enormous importance after the collapse of Northern Rock in 2007.
A private woman who always kept a proper emotional distance from colleagues as well as ministers, Juliet Wheldon was an intrepid traveller in the mould of Gertrude Bell, touring India and the Middle East, often by herself. Her careful arrangements seldom went awry, but when they did she was more than equal to dealing with the situation. Once, stranded in a remote Turkish village, she knocked on the door of the local barber who, recognising an authority much greater than his own, put her up in solitary splendour in the matrimonial bed.
Juliet Wheldon was appointed CB in 1994 and advanced to DCB in 2004.
She was unmarried, and left her body to medical science.
Dame Juliet Wheldon, born March 26 1950, died September 2 2013


A softening of attitudes towards social welfare is a welcome development (Report, 10 September). Far more significant, however, is the public’s growing concern with the huge gap between the rich and the rest. Although 22% believe benefits for the unemployed are too low, 82% now think the income gap is too large. Given that nearly seven in 10 also believe it is the government’s responsibility to reduce income differences between the rich and poor, politicians must recognise this growing discontent and prioritise policies that reduce economic inequality.
Duncan Exley
Director, The Equality Trust
• The increased individualism identified by NatCen Social Research does not necessarily have to lead to a “break with collectivism”. Individuals can choose to oppose inequality, to be close to those most in need, to support locally run projects in deprived areas. In short, individualism can promote greater collectivism.
Bob Holman

Simon Jenkins’ tirade against HS2 (Comment, 11 September) fails to address some inescapable facts. The population of England was 53 million at the census in 2011. ONS projections say it will be 60 million by 2030 and 67 million by 2050. Most of this increase will be in the core cities. At the same time, passenger rail usage has been on a consistent upward trend since 1983 and the number of passenger journeys has doubled in the last 20 years. The best way to travel between cities is by rail, and there is insufficient capacity to deal with an entirely predictable increase. A new north-south line is necessary, and it will have to be built.
It is always easy to find reasons not to invest in infrastructure. Such investment is long term and seldom has political dividends. Our history is littered with examples of cancellation and delay of projects which everyone now recognises as integral to our economy. The Channel tunnel cancellation in 1975 and the failure to complete HS1 until 14 years after the tunnel opened (and France had its high-speed trains running from Paris) are but two of the most egregious examples. The courage that is needed is not to take the easy way out, but rather to face down the short-termist approach that has let the country down so often in the past.
Patrick Twist
Greater Birmingham and Solihull Business Transport Group
• Simon Jenkins’ “war” analogy regarding the HS2 project is correct. Building a new railway at the expense of upgrading and improving the existing network falls within the rubric of constantly fighting the last war rather than trying to anticipate future conflicts. The argument that £80bn should be spent in order to move people up and down the country to enhance business points to a neolithic attachment to minerals and wood in an age where bandwidth rather than track gauge should define economic opportunity and success. In 20 years the idea of going anywhere other than by choice will appear quaint and utterly inefficient.
Gavin Greenwood
Allan & Associates, Hong Kong
• Now we know that increasing capacity is the point of HS2, can we please have an independent estimate of the cost of using longer double-decker trains on existing tracks? Surely rebuilding bridges, lengthening platforms and upgrading tracks would come out much cheaper, leaving resources for additional investment where lack of capacity is already evident.
Christopher Sims
• So the transport secretary thinks HS2 is really about increasing capacity on our railways? (Report, 11 September). Sorry, but if increasing capacity of the rail network is your prime objective then the laws of physics mean a high-speed railway is the worst possible answer.
Why? Because the capacity of a railway is determined by the need to keep the trains a safe distance apart, and this distance is determined by the stopping power of the trains. The stopping distance of any vehicle is governed by its kinetic energy, and this quantity increases as the square of the vehicle’s speed. So if you double the speed of trains, you increase the minimum safe distance between them by a factor of four. Even though you’re going twice as fast, it takes twice as long to pass the longer safe distance at the higher speed, so the number of trains that can pass any given point in an hour (ie the capacity of the railway) actually halves.
And no, you can’t get round this by making better brakes unless you want to fit your trains with seatbelts to restrain passengers against white-knuckle-ride levels of deceleration.
The truth of the above is borne out by the fact that the highest-capacity railways are metro systems, where trains rarely exceed 40mph, but busy sections of line can pass 30 trains or more in an hour. By all means spend £50bn on improvements to our creaking rail infrastructure, but keep the speeds and costs per mile down if you really want to ease the misery of sardine-tin commuters.
Richard Ellam
• Missing from the debate on HS2 is why is it so expensive? The Madrid to Seville high-speed train (AVE) cost 900m pesetas per km in 1993. Using an exchange rate of 1 peseta to £0.005 and allowing for 80% inflation you get £4.5m per km. The proposed route for HS2 is 338km. With an initial projected cost of £33.4bn, now revised to £42.6bn, this comes out at a staggering £126m per km, which is 28 times the cost of the Spanish railway. Even the German high-speed railway only cost £27.2m per km. This makes HS2 almost five times as expensive.
I understand there is more tunnelling planned for HS2, but the HS2 cost and risk model report shows this only contributes £2.3bn to the costs. And land costs are certainly higher, but the same report estimates this at £1.835bn. So why are we getting a railway that costs almost five times as much as the German high-speed railway? This is a scandal of enormous proportions, but no one seems to be investigating.
Philip Meldrum
• If HS2 is built, would it be a good idea to incorporate in the construction a system of pipes that could, in times of drought in the south, carry and distribute the excess of water we are told is collecting in the north?
David Hodge
Hawkley, Hampshire
• Up here in Europe’s energy capital, we find it hard to enthuse about billions being spent on a new high-speed train service to Birmingham. You should see what we have to put up with. It takes two and a half hours to travel the 100 miles to Edinburgh and the route connecting us to the booming capital of the Highlands is single-track.
This dire situation is treated with utter indifference at Westminster where the government is content to rake in revenue from Aberdeen while doing nothing to upgrade its wretched transport infrastructure.
Pat Wood

Ian Katz tweets that Rachel Reeves’ appearance on Newsnight is “boring snoring” (Report, 11 September). His Twitter account has 29,000 followers. Bob Roberts, the Labour party’s director of communications, then loudly demands a full public apology. The story makes it into the national press where it is seen by millions. Come back Malcolm Tucker, all is forgiven.
Colin Struthers
Rawtenstall, Lancashire
• Slavoj Žižek (Comment, 4 September) is right that “we need a new international network to organise the protection of whistleblowers and the dissemination of their message” and this is exactly what is happening. The WIN network is harnessing the hard-gained experience of its NGO members who have been working around the world for years to protect whistleblowers, to help support new capacity and inform the international debate on whistleblowing. We hope WIN will contribute significantly to publicising and disseminating the expertise gained from the long battle to protect whistleblowers in the interests of society so that it can continue to act as a democratic accountability mechanism.
Anna Myers
Expert co-ordinator, Whistleblowing International NGOs, London
• The lord chancellor, Chris Grayling, says “We cannot have the situation where … groups of young people … put a bit of money aside on the assumption they’ll get a penalty notice, and go on to commit all sorts of antisocial behaviour” (Report, 11 September). This bizarre assertion is completely at odds with the reality in my experience as a criminal lawyer. The only group of young people ever reported as putting money aside to cover damage that I recall are the Bullingdon Club.
William Paynter
• Forging fingerprints (Would iPhone thieves chop off your fingers? G2, 12 September) is not even new. Back in 1907 fictional detective Dr John Thorndyke was explaining how to do it in R Austin Freeman’s novel The Red Thumb Mark.
Roger Musson
• Prisoners in Australian salt mine earning £9 an hour (Report, 11 September).UK minimum wage: £6.31 per hour.
Arthur Blue
Ardrishaig, Argyll
• Would the standard bog be able to cope with Alastair Campbell’s “32 pints a day” (Shortcuts, G2, 10 September)?
John Lloyd

Of course the Lib Dems will not – if they are to survive – stand at the next election on the necessary compromises and trade-offs of the previous five years of coalition (Lib Dems signal U-turn over secret courts, 11 September). The Tories will be promoting rightwing Tory policies far beyond anything the coalition has done. Labour will no doubt have cobbled up their own policies by then. It would bepure folly for the Lib Dems alone to fight on coalition policies of the past as a manifesto for the future. The Lib Dem conferences this year and next will be thrashing out policies based on capital letter Liberal principles. The Lib Dem record in coalition will be important but our election policies must be those for the next five years. And, yes, in some cases this must include changing some of the more unhappy compromises of the current coalition.
Tony Greaves
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords
• It’s all very well for the Lib Dems to talk about “looking closely” at changing secret court procedures as part of their manifesto process, but there are more immediate questions. Will they continue to support the drastic reduction in legal aid for which they’ve voted, the threat to judicial review, and the privatisation of the probation service which is proceeding apace even before the Commons has considered the offender rehabilitation bill?
Jeremy Beecham
Opposition justice spokesman, House of Lords
• Martin Kettle’s hunch that the Lib Dems won’t suffer a significant drop in support at the next general election is misplaced (Comment, 12 September). Longstanding supporters have lost trust in the party that trebled university fees, lost the AV vote, cut thousands of public-sector jobs and created misery from welfare changes – in particular the bedroom tax. Unless the party realises Eastleigh was an anomaly and makes significant changes now, it will lose many seats. Lost trust and lost support will take years to rebuild.
Robert Outram
Penkridge, Staffordshire

Lord Rees is right that geoengineering would be a political nightmare (‘Hack the planet to halt climate change’, 12 September). The governments of the world would find it difficult to agree the trigger point at which geoengineering should be deployed and the principles that should govern the deployment of different geoengineering techniques. However, perhaps the greatest political risk is that the theoretical possibility of geoengineering invites hubris on an unprecedented scale, namely the idea that humans can intervene to calibrate the temperature of the planet with any degree of precision. In fact the scientific uncertainties are vast.
Of the two main types of geoengineering technique – carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere and solar radiation management – it is the former that is preferable as in theory it could reduce atmospheric C02 levels beneath today’s dangerously high levels. However, it is extremely unlikely that carbon dioxide removal techniques can work fast enough to avoid future, and potentially catastrophic, climate change. Attention is thus increasingly focusing on solar radiation management by increasing the planet’s albedo, including reflecting sunlight from mirrors in space orbits. Other proposed techniques include injecting sulphates into the stratosphere, spraying water into clouds to make them more reflective, and painting roofs white.
The problem with solar radiation management is that it would not reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide. The oceans would continue to absorb it from the atmosphere, thus increasing ocean acidity and increasing risks to marine life. The only certainty is that a solar radiation-managed high-carbon dioxide planet would be a very different place to a low-carbon dioxide planet where solar radiation management was not considered necessary. This suggests the political priority has to be immediate, massive and sustained long-term investment in low-carbon energy technologies, coupled with a recognition that almost all political leaders are reluctant to make: that our consumption of energy will have to fall if the risks of long-term climate change are to be reduced.
David Humphreys
The Open University
• A great proportion of the Earth’s land mass is covered with largely non-habitable desert, mainly because of uninterrupted daytime exposure to sun rays. There is now well-proven technology (i) to directly convert light into electricity through solar panels and (ii) to use such electricity to electrolyse water to produce hydrogen. Both sources of power produce no carbon emissions; the first is already making a minor contribution to power supplies and the second produces only water when hydrogen is burned in fuel cells, with the possibility of transport of hydrogen to other locations for energy production.
The arguments that energy generation in a desert environment would require large-scale power transmission systems, or that hydrogen cannot readily be transported in bulk, do not hold water when the available expertise in movement of electricity by power lines and cable, and the global movement of liquid gas is considered. Since desert regions are mostly in economically impoverished regions, the financial spin-off to countries hosting such power production could be enormous. Surely, the use of developed technologies would be preferable to the suggested use of space mirrors, ocean fertilisation, and artificial trees to collect and then bury carbon dioxide underground.
Alan Haines


It was with a mounting sense of injustice and anger that I read your report on the ejection of two arms traders from the world’s largest arms fair, for promoting equipment that could be used in torture, contrary to UK law (12 September).
To our shame as a nation, this is not the first time that exhibitors have behaved in this way at an event being hosted in London and supported by our government.
Concurrently, I have been following the story of five peaceful protesters at the same arms fair who were arrested and will appear at Thames magistrates’ court later this month charged with aggravated trespass.
As a British citizen I am being told that it is our moral duty to intervene to prevent chemical weapons being used against innocent civilians in a rogue nation. How dare we as a nation moralise when we are supporting and promoting companies that deal in death and destruction?
Naomi Goff, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex
How come it took Caroline Lucas MP telling Parliament that there were two arms companies marketing banned equipment at the DSEI arms fair in the London docklands before the organisers even noticed?
Do they not take even the most cursory look at their own exhibition? It seems to me that they may have known what was being marketed, and didn’t mind a bit until the whistle was blown.
Bill Linton, London N13
A new world role for America?
After much threatening talk, President Obama has accepted the Russian plan on Syria. We can but hope that this is a historic turning point in international relations.
America’s self-proclaimed leadership had never been acknowledged universally and if Washington is to retain the influence that its economic, social and political power warrants, then it must, from now on, act as first among equals.
The West’s unity as a power bloc has been disintegrating over the past two decades, put at risk by a series of illegitimate and misconceived wars. Without his deputies the sheriff cannot muster a posse. Now let’s give the UN a chance. 
Alex Mitchell, Sheffield
In his opening address at Nuremberg in November 1945 Justice Robert H Jackson, for the United States, said: “While this law is first applied against German aggressors, if it is to serve any useful purpose it must condemn aggression by any other nations, including those which sit here now in judgment.” His definition of aggression included “provision of support to armed bands formed in the territory of another state”.
Do you notice the queue forming on the courthouse steps?
Keith Horne, Ross on Wye, Herefordshire
I was glad to read in Andreas Whittam Smith’s article on Syria (11 September) that the days of imperialism are over. On that basis, could we please have our country back?
Dewi Jones, Holywell, Wales
No thanks to Osborne
Chancellor George Osborne is no more responsible for the recovery in the British economy than he is for the changing of the seasons. After six years of turmoil the world economy was long overdue an upturn, irrespective of his policies.
What the Chancellor is responsible for, however, is making the recession a much more painful and prolonged experience for all bar the most wealthy residents of our country. His blind and bone-headed adherence to the economic policies of the Iron Lady has squeezed the pips of the middle class and low-paid alike and  short-changed them on the  public services they have paid  for over the years.
His proclamation of economic recovery and slackening-off of taxation 18 months before the next election smacks of an attempt to induce a sense of wellbeing in voters in time for the election. One wonders how long the Chancellor intends to prolong this warm feeling beyond May 2015, or indeed whether British voters will fall for this attempt to secure their votes in the closing months of this parliament.
The real heroes of the economic recovery are former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, his Chancellor Alistair Darling and former Bank of England boss Mervyn King, who in the dark days of 2007/8 squared up to an alarming and unprecedented collapse of the World economy by setting in motion the innovative and boldly interventionist (positively anti-Thatcherite) policies such as quantitative easing, car scrappage, homeowner support and 15 per cent VAT, which preserved and sustained the core of our banking system, retail sector, manufacturing and construction industries so that they can now fuel the recovery we are now experiencing.
Mark Campbell-Roddis, Dunblane Perthshire
Votes for a coalition
Ian Craine (letter, 12 September) repeats the literal interpretation that Sarah Teather was “voted in to carry out the policies of her party, not to get into bed with the Tories”. 
Anyone who voted in the last election must have been aware that the chances of the Lib Dems gaining a majority in Parliament and forming a Lib Dem government to carry out exclusively Lib Dem policy were precisely nil. It was always the case that their best chance of passing any of their policies was to form a coalition with one of the other parties, and the electors of Brent Central will have known this.
It seems to me that there’s no point in throwing your toys out of the pram because the Coalition doesn’t do everything you want – that’s the nature of being the minority partner in such an arrangement. The Lib Dems are lucky to be in a position where they have genuine influence. Perhaps the next election will give their supporters what they appear to crave – the right to shout loud and idealistic suggestions from the sidelines without the responsibility of having to implement any of them.
Mark Redhead, Oxford
Grande vitesse beats high speed
France is currently constructing 302km of new high-speed rail from Bordeaux to Tours at a cost of £6.6bn, at £21.9m/km, of which only half is funded from the public purse. It was started in 2012 and will be in service in just five years, in 2017. 
Our lumbering HS2 will cost £50bn for a total of 427km, at £117m/km, eventually to be fully completed in 2032. The difference in cost is not explained by the amount of tunnelling, cuttings and bridges compared to that of the Bordeaux to Tours line.
The finished HS2 route will serve a tiny percentage of the UK population and probably better off ones at that, while every UK tax payer will contribute on average some £1,700 to the scheme. Could we perhaps learn something from the French?
Andrew Lovatt, Chelmsford, Essex
Teachers on zero hours
Ed Miliband mentioned in his speech to the TUC that some zero-hours contracts can provide a useful service, and cited supply teaching.
For many teachers close to retirement or with family commitments supply teaching used to be a job of choice. That is no longer the case. Supply teaching is almost completely dominated by low-cost private agencies. Schools might be charged anything up to £200 per day – that’s for making a few phone calls and maintaining a list of teachers. As for the teachers, they might receive anything from £30 to £90 per day below the national rate set by the Teachers’ Pay and Conditions agreement. Private supply agencies make no contribution whatsoever to teachers’ pensions.
Supply teachers are exploited in this way because most of the council-run supply agencies that did pay the rate have been replaced by low-wage, low-cost, no-training providers, run by CEOs on seven-figure salaries.
Zero-hours pay and conditions are a blight that affects many other professions, such as university and further education lecturers. Let’s hope a Labour government will outlaw this practice. Everyone loses out from this type of privatisation – teachers, parents and children.
Richard Knights, Liverpool
A sterile, bland vision of Europe
When I read in your report of 12 September that Jose-Manuel Barroso had said that Eurosceptics want “to drag Continent back to the trenches”, I couldn’t help but feel a wave of irritation. Why do these Eurocrats engage in such weird binary rhetoric? And why is the only “good Europe” for them a “Brussels-centric” Europe? I just can’t grasp that.
I’d much rather have a Europe where we can enjoy our differences rather than one were multinational corporations and their puppets in Brussels have steered us into a sterile Bland New World, where big-brands dominate the market and banks and corporate executives rake in the cash, while everyone else is forced to fight for the crumbs.
Alan Mitcham, Cologne, Germany
Shylock: ‘the Jew’ as hero
You report that Howard Jacobson is to rewrite Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.  Arnold Wesker wrote a  play, The Merchant, “to explain how Shylock committed himself to such a [blood-spilling] bond in the first place”.
In 1960 at Stratford-upon-Avon I played Tubal to Peter O’Toole’s towering Shylock, whose performance proved that “the Jew” can emerge as a true hero.
Clive Swift, London NW8
The Merchant of Venice addresses the power of one religious group over another, and Shylock’s speeches express the view of the powerless Jew.
His demand for a pound of flesh from Antonio showed the audience of Christians what it would mean to experience such oppression. Shakespeare uses Shylock’s obstinacy to turn the wheel back to what would have been normal to an Elizabethan audience, having pushed the point as far as he dared.
Vanessa Martin, London W4
Wine train
Your photograph of “a train passes through a Napa Valley vineyard” (11 September) is not “a train” but “the train”.  It is California’s version of the Orient Express: the Napa Valley Wine Train. Since car-driving and wine-tasting do not mix well, the train offered us a much safer and tastier way to enjoy the Napa Valley wine at this harvest time, with wonderful food and the vines passing our window. This wine definitely “travels well”.
Jed Falby, Budleigh Salterton, Devon


‘Linking up Britain’s major cities with each other — not with London — must surely be part of any credible national transport plan’
Sir, Daniel Finkelstein (Sept 11) makes a convincing point about high-speed rail facilitating brain-to-brain synergy by shortening journey times for experts wanting to meet face-to-face. He skips over the fact, however, that it will be 2030 before that facility becomes available to the northern cities where he says it is needed most. Phase 1 of the HS2 project is to build a link between London and Birmingham only.
Why not focus first on speeding up communications in the North? Not just between the likes of Nottingham, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds and York that are part of the proposed network, but a full range of the other northern cities that currently suffer from the paucity of trans-Pennine links and the preponderance of radial routes to London.
Antony Gribbon
West Farndon, Northants

Sir, The statement by the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin that HS2 will make Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds “stronger” confirms the tunnel vision of this hopelessly London-centric proposal.
Yes, HS2 offers those key northern cities marginally quicker links to the capital, but that is all. HS2 will for decades leave these cities as isolated as ever from each other.
For at least the next two decades, nothing looks likely to reduce the wearisome hour it takes to plod the 40 miles between Leeds and Manchester, or between Manchester and Liverpool, in laughably outdated trains on sub-standard tracks.
Linking up Britain’s major cities with each other — not with London — must surely be part of any credible national transport plan.
Peter Marcus
Sir, Regarding Daniel Finkelstein’s Opinion article on the similar advantages of constructing a central atrium for Pixar, as desired by Steve Jobs to “maximise the number of random encounters” and boost creativity via “spontaneous meetings” and “ random discussions”, and the building of HS2, I feel that he has rather missed the point of his own argument.
There is very little that is random and spontaneous about boarding a train and travelling to a meeting, even if done at a higher speed than currently exists. Unless he is suggesting (which I don’t think he is) that HS2 trains will be so stuffed with talented people that the inevitable random and spontaneous meetings occur in or around these trains. If that is the case then his argument for the Pixar principle of proximity holds true. However, it is an extremely dubious and deeply flawed logic for spending billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
The point is that all travel to or for business is planned to a degree, and requires transport to allow it to happen. Random encounters are just that, random, and if simple proximity to any group of people was such an excellent breeding ground for innovation we would have surely seen more great ideas evolve from our packed existing train and Tube network.
Tim Wansbrough
Tring, Herts

Sir, Danny Finkelstein is right to cast doubt on some of the arguments that have been levelled against HS2, but there are two others now fashionable that should be called in question. The first is that, far from boosting the economy of northern England, it would drain it towards the south. On this logic it was a mistake to build the M1 or any other north-south transport links. The other is that we shouldn’t bother with technology that will soon be overtaken by more advanced systems. On this basis no innovations should be adopted because all will be overtaken sooner or later. In the age of Dr Beeching it seemed to many inevitable that road transport would steadily render the railways obsolete, whereas railway use has instead risen in recent years.
I am open-minded about the desirability of HS2, but we need an assessment of the benefit or otherwise of the high-speed lines in France, Japan and other countries, as well as the sort of close economic analysis produced by KPMG (report, Sept 11) — favourable in their case, but perhaps adverse from others.
Edmund Gray
Iffley, Oxford
Sir, An alternative to Nick Green’s suggestion, to build HS2 alongside the current line (letter, Sept 11), would be to build it alongside the M4 and M40 which already blight the countryside. This would have the advantage of connecting it with Heathrow. I can’t help agreeing with Paul Watkinson (letter, Sept 11) that HS2 is yesterday’s solution to tomorrow’s problem.
Eddy Holt
Crowsley, Oxon
Sir, Why not use double-decker trains as in France? It would double capacity at a cost of altering tunnels and bridges which, however hideously expensive, has to be a lot cheaper than the proposal that the consultants have sold to the Chancellor.
Martin Stuart
Kingston upon Thames

It was the warriors and the prospect of retaliation, not the parsons with their taboos, which kept gas off the battlefield in the Second World War
Sir, According to Ben Macintyre (Sept 6), “Churchill was dissuaded from unleashing gas on Nazi Germany” in July 1944 because using it was “a unique taboo”. This is incorrect. As I stated in the recent debate on Syria and chemical weapons, the 1925 Geneva gas protocol had virtually no effect on the decision by both sides to refrain from starting chemical warfare. That was entirely due to mutual deterrence. The Nazis gassed the Jews because their victims could not hit back. They did not use gas in battle for fear of retaliation.
Churchill’s July 6, 1944 minute recognised this: “The only reason they have not used it against us is that they fear the retaliation. What is to their detriment is to our advantage.” He therefore demanded that the matter be “studied in cold blood by sensible people”, given the expectation of “great V2 rockets with far-reaching effects” falling on London later that year. All moral considerations were excluded from the resultant report, COS(44)661(0), produced on July 26. It concluded, entirely on military grounds, that the initiation of chemical warfare would be counter-productive.
It was those military arguments by the chiefs of staff which forced Churchill reluctantly to desist. As he minuted on July 29: “I am not at all convinced by this negative report. But clearly I cannot make head against the parsons and the warriors at the same time. The matter should be kept under review and brought up again when things get worse.” As set out in Changing Direction, my study of British military planning during the 1940s, it was the warriors and the prospect of retaliation, not the parsons with their protocols and taboos, which kept gas off the battlefield in the Second World War.
Dr Julian Lewis, MP
House of Commons

‘The public like advert-free broadcasting. That sentiment is being hijacked as an endorsement for the BBC itself’
Sir, I entirely agree with your leading article “Less With Less” (Sept 11) which identifies the BBC’s problem as being that “It has too much money”. You advocate reductions in the licence fee. However, there is no public clamour to either bring the licence fee to an end or reduce it.
The public like advert-free broadcasting. That sentiment is being hijacked as an endorsement for the BBC itself. The question never put to the public is “Would you like to see the licence fee shared with other broadcasters to give them the opportunity to develop channels or programmes not dependent on advertising breaks?”.
The one thing that would force the BBC to clean up its act would be the knowledge that the Corporation had to compete with other broadcasters for its slice of the licence fee.
Austin Hawkins
Torquay, Devon

Many atheistic regimes, such as those of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot, included endemic butchery, coercion and mass murder
Sir, Could Richard Dawkins (“Atheists are winning war with faith, says Dawkins”, Sept 12) nominate one atheistic regime where butchery, coercion and mass murder were not endemic? Were Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot revered for their love of truth and morality? Dawkins claims that religion has no moral value. Einstein, who enjoyed some reputation in the field of science, opined: “The highest principles for our aspirations and judgments are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition.”
Brendan Forde
Penwortham, Lancs

Bring back the system whereby GPs can refer their patients directly to the appropriate ward, rather than via the emergency department
Sir, Jeremy Hunt is looking for a way to reduce the pressure on A&E this winter (report, Sept 11). One very easy way would be to return to the system where referrals by GPs are directly to a ward, rather than all admissions having to go through A&E, as at present. These patients have already been seen by a medical professional and could be seen on ­
the relevant ward rather than adding to the delays and indeed suffering delay themselves.
There would be patients who need the services of the emergency room to stabilise them but this could be arranged when the GP contacts the hospital.
This system worked well when I was a junior doctor and when I was a young GP. It would enable A&E staff to look after the patients requiring their services rather than acting as a transit lounge.
Peter Mcevedy
Earsdon, North Tyneside


SIR – Surely, after the lamentable performance of the top people at the BBC in front of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), it is time to remove the great and the good from the governance of the BBC and make the broadcaster democratic?
Why shouldn’t licence-fee payers have a vote on who runs the BBC?
P J Sanders
SIR – Whenever I listen to successful captains of industry and commerce being interviewed, I am struck by their clear and direct responses, even to hostile interrogation.
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By contrast, when the BBC bosses were questioned by the PAC, I thought they gave a masterclass in confusion and poor management. They appeared completely unable to answer any questions directly.
And the BBC claims it must pay such eye-watering salaries to attract the best.
Tony Manning
Barton on Sea, Hampshire
SIR – It is over 30 years since I went to a party where a neighbour of the hosts was telling all and sundry how she had received a substantial payment from the BBC on the pretext of redundancy, only to return immediately to the same job as an independent contractor.
The impression given at the time was that this was an accepted practice within the organisation. Clearly little has changed in the intervening years.
Grant Goodlad
Thornby, Northamptonshire
SIR – The television licence should be abolished, the BBC’s light entertainment services sold off to the private sector and the non-profitable parts, such as Radio 3 and news, operated by an organisation about 25 per cent of the size of the present BBC. This should be funded by a mixture of government grants, lottery funds and possibly a subscription service.
David Boyd
SIR – Picking on specific examples of unacceptable BBC culture and behaviour is too facile. What is the BBC for? Is it generous welfare for a self-perpetuating cadre of managers? An extended apprenticeship for arts graduates? Workfare? Before we decide if the licence fee is well spent we need to question the fundamental mission.
Surely it is to provide respected, unbiased, worldwide news coverage, world-class documentaries and extraordinary arts series? Competing with other channels is of secondary importance and competitive viewing figures are irrelevant. Let’s prune the BBC back to its core and make the trivial rest earn their own keep.
Neil Blake
Ewelme, Oxfordshire
SIR – How sad it is that the expression “BBC Trust” has morphed into an oxymoron.
Huw Beynon
Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire
Left-leaning Lottery
SIR – It is disappointing, but unsurprising, that the National Lottery should have taken the stance it has on the commemoration of the First World War (“Tribute to war dead is snubbed by lottery”, report, September 11).
Just like the Arts Council, the BBC and a host of other public bodies involved in the area of education, media and culture, the National Lottery has been colonised by Left-leaning individuals, whose raison d’etre is to promote and facilitate a politically correct and generally non-national social agenda.
But David Cameron must not become too animated about the Lottery’s snub to the poppy: the failure of successive Tory governments to tackle the Left’s great march through our cultural institutions is to blame for this latest insult to our country.
Stuart Millson
East Malling, Kent
Bank account switches
SIR – The “Seven Day Switching” service for bank accounts (supplement, September 10) is welcome, but must be seen as a step in the right direction rather than the ultimate destination. The only way to ensure meaningful consumer choice in banking is to introduce instant switching, so that customers can switch banks as easily as they do mobile phone providers.
Full bank account number portability (ANP) would also significantly reduce the barriers to new banks entering the market to challenge the complacency of the current oligopoly and provide a quick, easy and effective resolution if a bank fails.
“Seven Day Switching” is hugely bureaucratic, and won’t encourage new banks to enter the market. That’s why the high street banks prefer it. Fortunately, the Government’s Banking Reform Bill is working towards ANP, and I back it fully.
Andrea Leadsom MP (Con)
Treasury Select Committee Member
London SW1
Fantastic plastic
SIR – The Australian Mint invented and patented plastic bank notes with the hologram around 1989 and Australia has been using them for more than 20 years (report, September 11). Why the Bank of England would want public debate on them is beyond me. They are far better than paper notes: harder to forge, longer lasting, and they also work better in supermarket cash payment slots.
David Roberts
Dickson, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Homes should be sold to pay for care costs
SIR – The conclusion drawn by Steve Proud (Letters, August 9) with regard to the perverse penalties applied to prudent home owners in old age falls at the first hurdle. He predicates the perversity on the fact that the state supports non-home owners in old-age care, while penalising the prudent property owner.
There are vast swathes of this country where an annual wage is £16,000 or less. How do you raise a family and buy a house on such an income?
Low-wage earners should not have to subsidise the middle classes’ future stay in a care home, so that their children can inherit a house.
Christopher Devine
Salisbury, Wiltshire
SIR – The current care-funding criteria take all of a person’s occupational and old age pension; why should home owners be treated differently? This country is short of houses and such sales recirculate homes rather than leaving them empty.
I have been in the private care home sector for 25 years. In my experience, many people are happy to use the value of their house to fund good quality, higher-cost care rather than leave it to children or distant descendants, who are often the cause of houses not being sold and older people being deprived of the best care.
Ian Matthews
Mold, Flintshire
SIR – I grew up in a semi-detached house which my parents bought, with the aid of a mortgage, when they married.
After 25 years of mortgage payments and prudent living, I remember my dad showing me the deeds of our house, proudly declaring that the house was “ours” and assuring me that one day it would belong to my sister and myself.
Sadly he died at the age of 74, but he had provided for my mother, who lived until her late nineties, to be looked after in a care home funded largely by the proceeds of the house. Others in the same care home who had not been so prudent all their working lives were funded by the state.
John Dudley
Chorleywood, Hertfordshire
Traffic jam exits
SIR – Why do none of our motorways follow the example of those on the Continent, by having a gap every few hundred yards with a barrier across it? The barrier can be lifted in the event of an accident or traffic jam, enabling motorists to take the next exit. Last Friday’s hold-up on the M25 (report, September 7) for some seven hours was quite unnecessary.
John Ewington
Bletchingley, Surrey
Cheesy apology
SIR – I thought that if a shop sold out-of-date food, it was fined thousands of pounds? Tesco has got off lightly with a £5 gift card and some more cheesestrings (report, September 9).
Jan Chapman
Preston, Lancashire
To thee or to not to thee
SIR – There is no need to look to France to explain the use of “thee” and “you” in Shakespeare (Letters, September 9).
In a BBC play, not so long ago, an elderly lady firmly rebuked an over-familiar young man with the words: “Don’t thou thee me!”. The play was located in the North.
Daniel C Davies
White bread wedding
SIR – In Europe, years ago, girls wishing to please a suitor would knead the dough for the family bread (Letters, September 11).
This would cleanse the skin by removing engrained dirt. The result was beautiful hands: a requirement for matrimony.
Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset

SIR – You published (report, September 3) a magnificent picture of the sunset over the Isle of Skye after a self-catering cottage on the island was named the best place to see a sunset. Much has been written about foreign sunsets, but we have wonderful ones here in Britain.
The seventh most photographed sunset in the world is said to be at Worms Head, Rhossili on the Gower Peninsula. Sadly, the proposed wind farm between there, Lundy and North Devon could ruin this spectacle, which will be spoiled by a mass of navigation lights.
Liz Eales
Swansea, Glamorgan

Irish Times:
Sir, – Stephens Collins reports on a new role for the public in framing legislation (Home News, September 12th). In the article he notes that An Taoiseach Enda Kenny says it is a radical new departure in Irish democracy. Alas it only highlights that Mr Kenny has, after a short few years in power, forgotten that he and his colleagues in the Dáil are in fact “the public” and have been elected by the citizens of this State to govern and legislate. Are election promises not proposals on how the country will be governed if certain parties are elected to govern?
Throwing it back on the unelected seems like a cop-out to me and begs the question why we then need so many elected representatives? Mr Kenny should remember he is just one of us – “the public” and should chant a mantra from Lincoln’s quote, “‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people”. – Yours, etc,
Leeson Park Avenue,
Sir, – You suggest unilateral western action against Syria without UN Security Council assent would be illegal and that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is the appropriate forum to judge such a war crime.
Use of chemical weapons against civilians is a war crime, and what good does it do to permit a tyrant to gas his people until such a tyrant gets to the ICC, if ever. It is also overdue to consider whether it is appropriate to allow the UN Security Council – based on post second World War global power structures – to block actions based on a sole veto within it. Should Russia be allowed to hold a global veto over Syria using poison gas or genocide in the Balkans? Or allowing China to be such an arbiter of human rights? What should be important is stopping atrocities and eradicating WMD. If Obama forced the hand to get Syrian poison gas under control then that is what truly matters and should be supported. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Sr Eileen Linehan (September 12th) laments the “silencing” of Fr Tony Flannery. So do many others. The Irish Times (Opinion, September 10th) included a passage adapted from the last chapter of Fr Flannery’s new book, which was this week being launched in the Royal Hibernian Academy, doubtless to much fanfare. The article features several harsh criticisms of church authorities.
Am I missing something here? When was silence ever so vocal? And does Fr Flannery’s martyrdom not seem rather like being pelted with roses? Meanwhile, all over the country, Catholic priests who remain faithful to the teachings handed down to them are labouring on with no newspaper headlines, no media plaudits, and no book launches. – Yours, etc,
Woodford Drive,

Sir, – Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan (Opinion, September 10th) cites the experience of Britain in 1945 to claim that calls for the writing down of debt are naive and even counterproductive, generating as they do “a self-destructive policy of ignoring available opportunities to defer and spread out debt repayments”.
The obvious lesson for Ireland that Mr Honohan draws is to pay the debt in full but perhaps over a longer time period (as with the promissory note arrangement agreed earlier this year). Yet, only eight years after 1945, the 1953 London Debt Accord cancelled much of Germany’s pre- and post-war debts. The accord was signed by countries that had been at war only a few years previously, including the highly indebted new German Federal Republic (the successor to Hitler’s regime) and Germany’s creditors, led by Britain, France and the US, but also including countries such as Greece that had recently experienced German military occupation.
Far from being a utopian aspiration, the write-down of debt has historically proven to be both feasible and effective, as many other examples would attest. The fact that Britain did not get a write-down of its own debt in 1945 does not prove otherwise. – Yours, etc,
Arklow Street, Dublin 7.

Sir, – As a former prostate cancer patient I take grave exception to Dr JJ Kelliher’s assertions on the so-called “disadvantages” of screening for this condition (September 11th). Six years ago, at the age of 48, I had my PSA checked as a precaution – I had not been experiencing any symptoms whatsoever. Following a high reading I had a biopsy after which the early stages of prostate cancer were diagnosed. Following nine weeks of radiation I was given the all-clear and thankfully have been cancer-free ever since.
Had I not had my PSA checked I would today either be a hospice resident or deceased, so perhaps it is understandable that I disagree with Dr Kelliher when he suggests that “patients” do not benefit from routine PSA screening. As a gender we are already neglectful of our health and these unfortunate comments could discourage men from having this vital test. – Yours, etc,
Loreto Grange,

Sir, – The National Cancer Control Programme/HSE this week confirmed to GPs the intention to have us involved in the follow-up care of women who have had breast cancer.
They state this is best medical practice and is to be part of a strategy to prevent women unnecessarily attending the specialised breast cancer clinics.
What they have failed to inform the women who hold medical cards is that this preventative care is not covered by the medical card scheme and that they maybe charged for this service by their GP.
It strikes me that this “best practice” is but a cost-saving measure. These women deserve to be told the truth by the HSE/National Cancer Control Programme rather than the usual HSE PR spin. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – Ann Joyce (September 10th) states, “Staff who work at the council have free parking – and never have to look for space”.
This is incorrect. As one of many council employees who have to pay for weekly parking, it is frustrating to hear people make false claims about the so-called benefits council staff receive. Yes, there are council employees who have free parking. But I am certainly not one of them, nor are most of my immediate colleagues. – Yours, etc,
Monkstown Valley,

Sir, – Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said DNA data would be held on purpose-built software supplied by the FBI to agencies around the world (Home News, September 12th). This software is currently used in 40 countries, including 18 EU states. Although an innocent Irish/EU citizen’s DNA will not land the person in prison, the cynic in me believes their DNA could easily land them in PRISM. – Yours, etc,
The Park,

Sir, – Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn (Elaine Edwards, Home News, September 6th) states he will respect whatever decision teachers make in their ballots on the Haddington Road proposals in the coming week. Given that the Minister is part of a Government which has already imposed pay cuts and increment freezes on teachers from July 1st, 2013 under emergency legislation, his statement means very little. I believe this legislation is a form of bullying. The best way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. – Yours, etc,
Woodstock Park,
Knocklyon, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Congratulations to your economics team for your superb supplement (“The Lehman effect”, September 12th). It should be distributed to every politician, civil servant , financial services sector employee, and anyone remotely involved in what Dan O’Brien, Economics Editor, accurately describes as “The defining event of our century thus far”. It should also be compulsory reading for all third-level first year economic students, in the hope that they will learn from the mistakes of their elders.
Those who are culpable for the collateral damage of their actions know full well who they are and should hang their heads in shame. – Yours, etc,
Highfield Road,
Dublin 6.
Sir, – I was riveted by your special supplement, (“The Lehman effect”, September 12th), especially the quotation from former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, October 2009: “It was the collapse of Lehman Brothers that did the real damage. . . They had testicles everywhere”. Obviously the balls were not in Bertie’s court in 2008. – Yours, etc,
Shandon Crescent,

Irish Independent:

Those of you who are unemployed, on low income, frightened, still paying or have cleared the mortgage, have a beat-up car, are low or middle working-class, non-professional and believe we are all still equal should read on.
Also in this section
Decision to keep school is correct
It’s time to praise, not criticise, our first ministers
Random act of kindness gives hope for future
If you thought that Jim Stafford, a Personal Insolvency Practitioner (PIP), was talking from an elitist point of view when he said professionals were cases that should be accorded a special place in society when it comes to insolvency and may need bigger houses than PAYE workers, this was no self-delusion. Apart from being on the chartered accountants’ ‘ethics’ committee, he wrote the syllabus for the diploma for the insolvency course. He said all of this on RTE radio to Mary Wilson. Afterwards, he tried to distance himself from those comments.
“It was not my intention to offend,” he said. The usual apology followed. The ‘professional’ government agency involved said: “The professional standing of a borrower is not expected to be a factor in this assessment.” Of course it is, and it will be. Harry Slowey, a former director of the long-departed Bank of Scotland and now a PIP adviser said this: “The ability to generate work is all about perception, profile and confidence. If a partner in a top law firm is suddenly driving around in a Fiat Bambino, that will affect their work – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Anyone who still believes there is equal law for professionals and non-professionals should note that Stafford, finding his voice when he should have stayed quiet, said: “Personal insolvency laws do not work for people with low or no incomes.”
He added that his firm turns away four out of five people hoping to settle their debts under the state system because “these people can’t afford to deal with the banks”. He also reserved a comment for those out of work who certainly could not afford to consult him: “People on welfare have only one option – borrow €15,000 from family and friends and try to do a deal with a lender.”
Apart from the fact that most people can’t afford Stafford or Slowey, how can professional people afford them? After all, they’re supposed to be insolvent. One thing Slowey did say that summed up the Celtic Tiger debacle was: “The ability to generate work is about perception, profile and confidence.” It was never about real work in the end, only about that perception, profile and confidence – and being a professional.
Barry Clifford
Oughterard, Co Galway
* I was astonished to hear Personal Insolvency Practitioner Jim Stafford’s radio interview in which he bizarrely reasoned that a segmental approach be taken with regard to the “higher professional classes” – doctors, lawyers and accountants – who were experiencing mortgage difficulties and would have entitlement to maintain their palatial residences precisely because of their professional status, irrespective of the level of their arrears.
He further reasoned that it was important that they maintain the said “trophy homes” as they had their professional status to protect and need to be “looked up to” by the PAYE types. No doubt Mr Stafford was endeavouring to align himself with better-off clients for sound commercial reasons (his fees).
Mr Stafford exhibited a naivete that does little to enhance the reputation of PIPs. Bankers Richie Boucher and Co will shred his proposals at the front desk.
John Murray
Mullingar, Co Westmeath
* Katherine Donnelly’s article (Irish Independent, September 6) on private school funding reports two estimated costs to the Exchequer if all 55 fee-paying schools were to join the free education sector that are remarkably dissimilar.
The private schools claim it would cost the State an additional €133m a year if they were all to relinquish their private status. The Department of Education claims the extra cost would be only €23.55m.
If there is going to be a significant change to the national education system, it is important that the evidence supporting it should be reliable and convincing.
The OECD publication, ‘Education At A Glance 2013′, attributes a US dollar cost of $11,380 per student in secondary education in Ireland. Using the OECD Purchasing Power Parity Index for 2010 converts that to €9,700. This figure would have dropped as the recession progressed.
There are about 25,000 students in private schools that are state-funded to the tune of about €100m a year, or about €4,000 per student. Surely if these 25,000 students were to en masse descend on the free education sector, it would cost the State at least €5,000 extra per student, or at least €125m in total?
Is the Department of Education figure another case of carefully brewed, policy-based information ladled out of the cauldron of public statistics?
Has anybody considered the fallout of going down the UK system, where private schools do not receive any state funding?
The better public schools attract higher house prices to their catchment areas, possibly causing ghettoisation elsewhere.
In the UK, private schools make up a much smaller proportion of the secondary education system compared with Ireland but serve a much more wealthy population, and their graduates are even more disproportionately represented in leadership positions in society.
William Behan
Walkinstown, Dublin
* We have a Down’s Syndrome son. Recently, one of his brothers in a text described him as “God’s smiling mirror”. We were deeply moved. It struck us that, perhaps, other parents in a similar position might find those three simple words both pertinent and comforting.
Oonagh and Ed Quinn
Goatstown, Dublin
* I was surprised to read about the €255,000 test-tube burger and the expectation that people will be growing steak in their kitchens in 10 years’ time. I haven’t eaten meat for many years and am hale and hearty approaching my 89th birthday. My reason for not eating meat is that it is a purely animal action which involves wholesale slaughter, and I could not accept that.
There was no personal sacrifice involved, because all I had to do in adopting a humane approach was replace the protein contained in animal flesh with similar protein from other sources such as eggs, fish and soya beans. The slaughter of innocent creatures is unnecessary as the protein required by humans is easily and cheaply available.
Eamon Rowe
Killiney, Dublin
* Despite his political manoeuvring, one suspects that Barack Obama is intent on bombing Syria. It is amazing that the West does not learn from the results of its military intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya.
The proposal that the West should intervene in the fratricidal conflict in Syria without recourse to the United Nations is almost beyond belief.
J Anthony Gaughan
Blackrock, Dublin
* The hand-washing issue prompts one to proclaim: “Come back Pontius Pilate, all is forgiven.”
Tom Gilsenan
Beaumont, Dublin


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