16 October 2013 Sandy

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble Heather is annoyed with Leslie but Lt Murray’s laught at the cinema drives her mad
Sandy comes still sorting out Joan’s affairs
We watch Hancock its awful
Scrabble today I won I think we seem to have swapped round


Peter Huxley-Blythe
Peter Huxley-Blythe, who has died aged 87, became involved in far-Right politics after wartime service in the Royal Navy and wrote a series of books about the repatriation to the Soviet Union of the Cossacks who had fought with the armies of the Third Reich; in later life he promoted hypnotherapy and founded a research institute focusing on the needs of children with learning difficulties.

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Peter Huxley-Blythe in later life 
6:58PM BST 15 Oct 2013
Peter Huxley-Blythe was born at Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire, on November 16 1925. His father was a self-styled “consultant hypnotist” and stage hypnotist who once stood for Parliament as Labour candidate for Gloucester under the slogan “Look into my Eyes and Vote for Me”. Peter’s parents’ marriage broke down when he was young and he was brought up by his mother in London, where he spent a brief period as a probationary chorister at the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court, before becoming a full chorister at St Mary of the Angels Song School, then near King’s Cross.
Plans for his education to be continued at Marlborough and later the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War, when he was enrolled as a boy sailor on the training vessel Arethusa. He later served — in Renown, Highflyer, Virago and finally Rapid — in the Battle of the Atlantic, the North African campaign and in the Far East.
A vehement anti-communist who admired strong leadership, after the war Huxley-Blythe became involved in various extreme-Right groups. He became an associate of the American political thinker Francis Parker Yockey, founder of the European Liberation Front (ELF, a small neo-fascist group that split from Mosley’s British Union Movement in 1948), and of Guy Chesham and Baroness von Pflugl who helped to finance the publication of Yockey’s Imperium (1948), in which he argued for the creation of a fascist united Europe to defend Western culture.
The ELF’s “12-point plan” demanded “the immediate expulsion of all Jews and other parasitic aliens from the Soil of Europe” and the “cleansing of the Soul of Europe from the ethical syphilis of Hollywood”. Huxley-Blythe became the editor of Frontfighter, the ELF’s journal, and later on, in the 1950s, published the newsletter of a British-German group Natinform (Nationalist Information Bureau), a far-Right group founded with Anthony Francis Xavier (“AFX”) Baron.
In addition, with Roger Pearson, he helped to organise the Northern League, a neo-Nazi organisation dedicated to saving the “Nordic race” from the “annihilation of our kind” and to fighting for survival “against forces which would mongrelise our race and civilisation” (leading members included the former Nazi eugenicist Hans Günther).
In 1955 Huxley-Blythe published a monograph about the Cossack and Russian volunteer units which served in the German Army during the war and their subsequent handover to Stalin by the British, a story expanded in The East Comes West (1964, reprinted in 1968 as a paperback). Many of those repatriated were executed immediately; most perished in Soviet labour camps.
Huxley-Blythe was the first writer to challenge the official version that a commitment to repatriate all ex-combatants to their countries of origin had been part of the Yalta agreement, arguing that it was General Eisenhower, with the support of the British, who had for various reasons chosen to interpret the agreement in that way, knowing that those repatriated faced almost certain death.
Huxley-Blythe interviewed surviving Cossack officers who had returned to Germany following an amnesty in the 1950s and, although his account was highly partisan, it became an important academic reference work and inspired other writers to examine the issue. In 1958 he wrote to the British Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, arguing that the extradition of the Cossacks had been an illegal act, and demanding they receive compensation for their 10 years in Soviet labour camps. The request was refused.
He would return to the theme in Under the St Andrew’s Cross: Russian & Cossack Volunteers in World War II, 1941-1945 (2003), with a foreword by Count Nikolai Tolstoy. He also wrote The Man Who Was Uncle: The Biography Of A Master Spy (1975), the story of Nicholas Dulger-Sheikin, the son of a Russian don Cossack who worked as a double-agent for Greece and Germany.
During his time in the Navy, Huxley-Blythe discovered that he had inherited some of his father’s skills as a hypnotist. Convinced that the technique could be developed as a clinical tool, in the late 1960s he founded the Blythe College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy (now the National College of Hypnosis and Psychotherapy), wrote two books, Hypnotism – its power and practice (1971) and Self Hypnotism — its potential and practice (1976), and was invited to train doctors and dentists in the use of hypnosis in Sweden and Britain. His interest in the relationship between mind and body led him to take a PhD in Psychosomatic Medicine at an American university and to the publication of other books, including Stress Disease: The growing plague (1973) and Drugless Medicine (1974).
An invitation to deliver a lecture on reading difficulties (a subject of which he admitted he “knew nothing”) started a trail of discovery which led to the setting up of the Institute of Neuro-Physiological Psychology (INPP) in Chester in 1975, which he established as a private research centre concerned with the role of the central nervous system in learning difficulties and behavioural problems in childhood.
According to the institute its method of assessment and intervention, now known as the INPP Method, involves reconnecting body and mind by “taking back” the body to an early stage in life and retraining it, and has transformed the lives of thousands of children .
Huxley-Blythe continued to work as a consultant to INPP until a year before his death. His other works include An Organic Basis for Secondary Neuroses and Educational Difficulties (1979, with DJ McGlown).
Peter Huxley-Blythe is survived by his wife, Sally, by a stepdaughter and two stepsons, and by a son and daughter from an earlier marriage.
Peter Huxley-Blythe, born November 16 1925, died August 18 2013


There is an aspect to the shortage of nurses in the NHS and the need to recruit overseas (Third of trusts fill nurse shortfalls from abroad, 14 October) which does not seem to have been considered. Large and increasing numbers of healthcare professionals (mainly nurses) are now being employed by private companies, particularly Atos, to test people’s eligibility for various social security benefits. This inevitably diverts them from real clinical work.
Rory O’Kelly
Beckenham, Kent
• An international edition of the New York Times was being sold in Paris in the 1960s (The Sun also sets: Herald Tribune prints its last, 15 October). I was one of the young men selling it. My first day was the day after poor Marilyn Monroe killed herself. Not surprisingly, I sold my 60 copies in no time. We used to swap copies with the girls selling the Herald Tribune so as to read the consistently funny Snoopy strip cartoon.
Philip Pendered
Tonbridge, Kent
• A daily Guardian reader, I can’t help feeling the editorial stance is at odds with the quick crossword (11 October) that uses “Good-looker (informal)” as a clue for “Stunner”, a word I associate with the Sun. Both words are outdated ways to objectify women. Is my own surmise that the compiler is very elderly and male both ageist and sexist, as well as correct?
Alison White
• Poor old Mark Kermode. Perhaps when he and Will Self, reviewer of his book Hatchet Job (A Gutenberg mind, Review, 12 October), are reduced to deciding how many stars to give the latest frying pan on the Amazon website, he’ll look back wistfully at a time when he was able to use the word “inchoate” in a review.
Nick Sewell
Newport, Isle of Wight
• My mother’s favourite pudding was pineapple pavarotti, and her favourite film Sparkipus (Letters, 15 October).
Shirley Bunn
• A friend refers to the legal paperwork we undertake in case we “lose our marbles” as the endearing power of eternity.
Chris Thompson

Today UK and other European Union representatives will discuss whether to limit the amount of first-generation biofuels used in transport fuels. On a day that is also World Food Day, the importance of these negotiations, which will significantly impact the trajectory of global food prices, could not be overstated. Many of these old-fashioned biofuels are derived from food crops, such as wheat and oilseed rape, which are essential food sources for a rapidly expanding global population. If the EU doesn’t take this opportunity to change its policy, it risks creating demand for biofuels that could take up twice the land mass of Belgium.
Not only do first-generation biofuels not deliver the carbon emissions savings that they are subsidised to provide, but the demand for land to be used for biofuels puts great strain on the environment, wildlife and local communities (‘Silent genocide’ fear over Guarani suicides, 11 October). Taking land out of food production – which is increasingly happening in Africa – pushes up global food prices, while bringing new land into production leads to drained wetlands, ploughed-up grasslands and razed forests. This can result in huge emissions of greenhouse gases. The Lithuanian presidency of the EU is not pushing for a tight enough cap on damaging biofuels, nor pushing for measures to capture their full climate impacts, and we urge the UK government to show leadership in the negotiations and encourage other member states to support a 5% cap that will stop further increases in the use of food for fuel.
Zac Goldsmith MP (Con), Caroline Lucas MP (Green), Jeremy Lefroy MP (Con), Tim Farron MP (LD), Julian Huppert MP (LD), Adrian Sanders MP (LD), Fiona O’Donnell MP (Lab), Mark Durkan MP (SDLP)

Given Tristram Hunt’s support for the continuing fragmentation of state-funded education and its lack of local democratic accountability (Report, 14 October), I am reluctantly resigning from the Labour party for the second time – the first was over Blair’s education policy. Gove’s free school programme has been an incredibly expensive mess. The Labour government opened the door to his privatisation programme and, rather than admit to its mistake, Tristram Hunt is now claiming to support the expansion of free schools, despite the lack of success of the programme so far. It is time to celebrate the great achievements of community schools; to stop experimenting with different forms of governance in education; and to bring all state-funded schools back under the local authority umbrella.
Jane Eades
Wandsworth Save Our Schools
• That did it for me. As a chair of school governors, and after a whole adult life of voting Labour, I have decided I can stand it no longer. So, it seems, Labour will now encourage free schools – under a fake new name – and will be “tougher than the Tories” on welfare (Report, 13 October). If they can’t even provide an alternative to the toxic madness of Michael Gove and Iain Duncan Smith, then there really is no point in electing Labour just to get Tory policies with different spin. My application to join the Green party has just gone off – they may never ever get to form the government but they have excellent and honest policies. Miliband seems to be turning into Blair, as Blair turned into Thatcher.
Name and address supplied
• In advice to Tristram Hunt, Peter Wilby (Education, 15 October) is right to focus on the need for balanced intakes, while Polly Toynbee (Comment, 15 October) reports on Tory support for the 11-plus. Balanced intakes are impossible when schools select. Labour needs to grasp the nettle and promise to phase out selection at 11. Surely evidence from Finland is enough?
Margaret Tulloch
Comprehensive Future

The threat facing the Dwyfor estuary at Llanystumdwy (Jim Perrin, Country diary, 12 October) is just one example of the assault on British foreshores by the wildfowl lobby. Last year alone wildfowling clubs gained shooting rights over 30,000 acres of UK foreshore, according to the BASC (British Association for Shooting and Conservation), and a staggering 650km of foreshore are now leased to wildfowling clubs. SSSI and NNR designation appear to be no protection.
Local people often have no idea that land they regard as public has in fact been leased to wildfowl clubs. This is because such land belongs to the crown estate, which is not subject to the usual planning laws for change of use: the public is not consulted when land is leased for shooting rights. Indeed the whole process, as we have found in Llanystumdwy, seems to be secretive in the extreme. We only discovered there was an application for shooting rights by chance and the BASC, which is supporting the application and responsible for the (very limited) consultation, refused to issue local people with a copy of the proposal.
Curiously, as well as supporting the applicant, Traeth Bach Wildfowlers, and drawing up the application, the BASC acts as the secretariat for the JTG (Joint Group for Wildfowling and Conservation on Tidal Land), which advises the crown estate on the granting of shooting rights. In effect, the association acts as both applicant and jury.
It is high time the law was changed and the crown estate required to consult openly. Citizens have a right to know what is planned for the public land in their area and to have their views taken into account. The BASC website makes it clear that BASC does not intend to stop here: it wishes to assist as many clubs as possible to acquire shooting rights on the UK foreshore. With declining numbers of waders nationwide, do we really want every estuary to become a hunting ground?
Helen Lewis
Pwllheli, Gwynedd
• Most duck travel widely to survive. Huge areas are put aside to conserve these beautiful and rare creatures, and those we see in winter may have been on a reserve elsewhere in the world over summer. Their existence is an international issue and I cannot see how anyone in Wales has the right to shoot them.
John Linfoot
• Your writer’s belief that “shooting and conservation” are oxymoronic is incorrect. Preserving habitat and encouraging quarry species are essential for successful shooting and explain why shooting actively manages 2m acres, spends £250m a year and provides 2.7m work days, the equivalent of 12,000 jobs, on conservation. Our involvement in the application to lease crown estate land on the Afon Dwyfor estuary is purely as an administrator on behalf of the Joint Tidal Group for Wildfowling and Conservation on Tidal Land. This is not “last-minute”. Discussions have been going on since early 2013. Unlike most land on which wildfowling takes place, this section of the estuary has no conservation designation. Should a lease be granted, the area will be shot in accordance with a management plan for each species, the site will be wardened and wildfowlers will provide work parties to improve habitat.
Paul Williamson
British Association for Shooting and Conservation

Tanya Gold articulates well the existence of contemporary antisemitism (A ban on male circumcision would be antisemitic. How could it not be?, 12 October). But I think she’s wrong in describing the Council of Europe as antisemitic for including ritual male circumcision in its examples of violations of children’s rights.
I write as a male Jew circumcised at birth in 1958 as part of ritual. I would rather not have been. Yes, male circumcision isn’t as extreme a practice as female genital mutilation. However, I know from personal experience that it results in such problems as desensitised sexual feeling, frequent soreness and occasional bleeding. I believe that this irreversible action is at heart an assault on a child, incapable of giving meaningful consent. I attach no blame to my parents’ generation, who would have made the decision in the aftermath of the Holocaust, and who would have experienced a society more overtly hostile to them. But I find it depressing that contemporary Jews wish to continue the practice.
And she is quite wrong to say all Jews agree on circumcision. Many secular Jews take pride in where we come from, but also have the confidence to explore an identity appropriate to the world we inhabit. For me, that’s an identity that says yes to traditional Jewish elements such as emotional openness, warmth and respect for older people; and no to, for example, physical mutilation, homophobia and misogyny.
The Council used language that was reasonable and balanced, and I would support a legal prohibition to ritual circumcision. If such a move is expressed in language or images that are antisemitic, then we fight them on those grounds. But that’s not the case here.
Mike Morten
Worthing, West Sussex
• Whether one is for or against religious circumcision, the issue for those with at least one foot in the modern world is less that of creeping (or otherwise) antisemitism than that of creeping respect for individual human rights. Consent to perform circumcision on an eight-day-old boy derives not from an individual too young to give it, but from the religious doctrine of a community that embraces the act as its covenant with God. But should that be sufficient any more? When does an individual human boy acquire the human right not to have a part of his body removed (for no medical purpose) without his explicit consent? And while we’re asking tricky questions, when did Israel’s president become the spokesman on this issue for the “Jewish communities across Europe”, as Tanya Gold seems happy to let him be?
More difficult to answer than crudely casting those who might wish to do away with religious circumcision as antisemites, but infinitely more interesting.
Simon Block
New Barnet, Hertfordshire
• Tanya Gold, normally so sane, is strangely tolerant of some forms of human rights abuses. To be appalled by ritual male circumcision, or FGM, is not an expression of racism or antisemitism. Circumcision and FGM can differ in degrees of harm inflicted, but qualitatively both represent a socially sanctioned attack on the physical integrity of children. If a group demanded that infants must have a finger removed to comply with its belief structure, every civilised society would rightly outlaw the practice. Why is removal of part of the external genitalia any different? Any community that demands that a child must have part of their body removed, or mutilated, before they can be accepted into the group, must be required to abandon this practice to conform to contemporary standards of human rights. Social cohesion is of crucial importance to us all. But until we can be relied upon to pursue this without cutting our children, we need legislators wise enough to protect them, and brave enough to face the seemingly inevitable accusations of racism.
Dr Helen Burnett
• Tanya Gold tries to play a trump card by saying the recent Council of Europe ruling is “antisemitic”, in breaching her faith community’s right to worship. In fact her argument is already lost. Article 9 of the Human Rights Act 1998 gives each individual the right to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion”. Individual is the key word – it means children have a right equal to an adult’s right. Children are not the property of any community or their parents. Thankfully parents do not have rights in our society; they have duties and responsibilities. One of those duties is to respect their children’s human rights.
Richard Duncker
• It seems amazing that any god should deem it essential that part of a baby’s body be chopped off in order that (males only) have an everlasting covenant. What century are we living in? Cultural mores are always evolving (we used to condone slavery, the ducking stool for perceived witches, bear-baiting, all sorts of wonderful stuff) but now understand that some things are not worthy of us. While I agree that that female circumcision is hugely more damaging to the individual, and to societies, I am disappointed that any form of mutilation of children is deemed acceptable. While recognising that nothing is likely to change in the near future, lobbies being what they are, I hope we can look forward to a time when individuals can choose their own form of body image to correspond to their own lifestyle/religion/culture, rather than having it irrevocably forced upon them.
Vee Singleton
Framlingham, Suffolk

Polly Toynbee, in her article (Comment, 15 October), quotes Professor Steve Jones attacking me for misdefining “heritability”. Unfortunately, Professor Jones relied on inaccurate media reports rather than reading what I actually wrote in my essay. Some of your recent letter writers (15 October) have made the same mistake. In my essay I use the standard scientific definition of heritability and warn of the precise misunderstanding that Professor Jones accuses me of making (page 196). Further, Polly Toynbee writes “Wealth is considerably more heritable than genes”. This statement most unfortunately mangles the scientific definition of heritability – it is gobbledegook. In my essay, I wrote that most media commentary on social mobility is at best confused because of widespread misunderstanding of genetics. Sadly, Polly Toynbee’s article is an example of this problem, but she is always honest, so I’m sure she will correct her mistake.
Dominic Cummings

The latest IPCC report summarises the work of many scientists who have focused their research on the issue of climate change (Scientists say only 30 years to calamity unless we act, 4 October). Yet they have not been very successful in convincing us that climate change is a major issue. Recent elections in Australia, Norway and even Germany have shown that voters did not have a major concern for the earth warming up. In my country, people still buy more gas-guzzling pick-up trucks than cars. Why is that?
The main reason may be that people have been warned of too many dangers during the last half-century. In addition to the climate warming danger, we have the increase in violence danger, the terrorist threat, the antibiotic overdose danger, the genetically modified food danger and so on. All these dangers have apparently major potential catastrophic consequences. People know that most of these have to be taken with a grain of salt. We would all be suffering from anxiety disorders if we were to respond to all these potential dangers.
The climate issue is obviously serious. Scientists face strong criticism from some businessmen and conservative politicians. In addition, people are more concerned by the economic situation.
More importantly, one has the impression that some of the scientists concerned – or at least their loudest supporters – want to use this potential danger to change our consumerist way of life. This will not work in developing countries and is proving a challenge in western countries. At best such an approach may only slow the rise in demand for energy.
Instead, the focus should be to encourage more research to make nonpolluting energies price-competitive and to develop inexpensive ways to considerably reduce the impact of polluting energies. When this goal will be achieved, the problem will solve itself.
Francois P Jeanjean
Ottawa, Canada
• The UN has declared that it is 95% convinced that evidence shows that climate change is caused by human action, and furthermore suggests that calamity will be upon us within 30 years unless we act now.
Climate change denial is hardly easy to advocate any more (unless you are a lobbyist for a fossil fuel extraction company). The deniers’ argument is only bolstered by the insistence of environmental scientists that human actions are the sole cause of climate change. It would be far more sensible to warn that human action has accelerated changes that occur naturally over millennia.
It is unrealistic to suggest that if we all act now and carbon emissions are miraculously ended tomorrow that climate change issues would somehow disappear. The aim of carbon emission reduction should be to buy ourselves significant time to develop new technologies to facilitate adaption to a climate that is changing and will continue to change.
The argument between the “It’s all our fault” people and the “It’s nothing to do with us” people needs to become less confrontational so that a sensible way forward can be constructed, and that requires acceptance that the climate crisis that is upon us is not as black and white as the current arguments seem to suggest.
Gary Laidlaw
Norwich, UK
• There is a way to address the pending global tragedy, but we have to stop looking to our politicians to take the initiative, as they serve different masters at the moment. The secret lies in utilising the resources we already have and putting our ultimate demands for action directly to our so-called representatives.
First, let’s suppose we categorised all of the world problems into about 26 categories. We then prioritise the issues in each category, utilising the help of NGOs and activist groups worldwide.
Let’s suppose that we simultaneously develop an all-encompassing worldwide social network dedicated to saving this precious planet and addressing the welfare of people everywhere.
On the social network, we all work together globally to fine tune our demands. These are then put to the public in the form of a petition each second week. The petition, once complete, is forwarded to each and every government body in each and every country.
The problems we have are global problems and must be addressed by all of us worldwide immediately. To delay is to miss the only opportunity we will ever have to make a difference as time, above all things, is our unforgiving enemy.
Matthew R Foster
Cambridge, Ontario, Canada
• The trouble is that we are up against our social limits in coming up with a timely response to the dire predictions in the recent IPCC report. The dilemma remains: how to meet the challenge in time by benign, democratic means without resorting to authoritarian, dictatorial approaches.
If we continue in the delayed reaction the report complains of, we run a high risk of suddenly panicking when apocalyptic disaster is almost upon us and abruptly switching to a desperate, knee-jerk approach aimed at reversing the trend only to find that it is too late anyway.
Terry Hewton
Adelaide, South Australia
Terrorism has a cause
Jason Burke, in his article How much should we fear jihadist terrorism (4 October), misses the point. So-called terrorism does not appear from nowhere. People in the Middle East have tried in vain for decades to have their grievances addressed: for example, the most important issue of illegal occupation and annexation of their lands – with “illegal” referring to the taking of land without the owners’ consent.
It is no wonder that some of these people thus made powerless have eventually found that they had no choice but to use the last resort open to them: armed struggle. The solution, of course, is to acknowledge and deal with their legitimate concerns instead of just assassinating them.
Who is the terrorist here?
Karola Mostafanejad
Geraldton, Western Australia
The irony of skin colour
VV Brown, in her article on black models (27 September), might have also considered the human paradox that, all over the world, women view pale skin as more attractive than dark skin, and sadly spend a lot of money on trying to achieve this. On the other side, women with a fair skin sit out in the sun to get a tan, thus putting themselves at risk of skin cancer, or pay money to get fake tans or sit in expensive booths that give them an artificial tan, at great risk to their health.
It seems that wherever you are, the grass is greener on the other side. Is it just a human trait for so many of us to wish we look different from what we are?
Peter D Jones
Lenah Valley, Tasmania, Australia
Unitarian tolerance
When I read Esther Addley’s article about atheist congregations (27 September), I wondered whether these people had ever heard of Unitarianism. When we lived in England, my late husband and I found no place to go on a Sunday. But in Canada, a tip-off led us to the Unitarians. You can believe in whatever your idea of God is, or not.
Somehow, we are all nice people, we have progressive opinions, we get along, and the sense of fellowship is overwhelming. We have no final answers, just enquiring minds, tolerance, kindness and a sense of being part of the wonderful web of life on this planet.
Jenny Carter
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
University place is wasted
Anders Breivik may have a legal right to education, but he has already attended the 16 mandatory years of schooling in Norway (Why Breivik is welcome at our university, September 20). This means that he should already have learned about things such as democracy and free will. Though he may have a poor understanding of the matter, there are plenty of other people who could take Breivik’s spot in the political science course that could make better use of that education later on in life, rather than wasting the knowledge in a prison cell.
Sofia Holmquist
Oberwil, Switzerland
Food waste’s other problem
Your recent article on food wastage (An ugly truth? 27 September) failed to mention the implications for greenhouse gases. Any crop represents carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere. Indeed, photosynthesis is the only process that can remove this greenhouse gas in anything like the quantities required (the effect is clearly visible in the seasonal variation of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere).
Allowing this stuff to rot simply returns the carbon to the atmosphere, making a large and generally unacknowledged contribution to our carbon footprint. What is needed are technologies to recover the carbon in a useful form, and the obvious candidate for waste food is anaerobic digestion, which generates a gas that is about one-half methane.
Graham Andrews
Spokane, Washington, US
• My interpretation of Angela Merkel’s comment “What we have done, everyone else can do” differs from that of Timothy Garton Ash (4 October). It strikes me that Merkel is telling the other European countries that Germany’s success is due to the fact that it lives within its means. Which is why the German people seem increasingly reluctant to continue handing over their hard-earned euros to countries like Greece, Spain and Italy.
Frankly, it is wishful thinking to believe that these countries will be willing to give up a long-held culture in exchange for a high degree of self-control and discipline.
Shmaiel Nona
Burradoo, NSW, Australia
• What the Republicans are doing in the US senate is deliberate destructive behaviour for the sake of scoring party points, regardless of the consequences to ordinary citizens (11 October). Their stance is aimed at closing down the government by making it impossible to function in the way expected of it, regardless of the damage done to ordinary people. I hope it rebounds on these soulless, self-seeking, merciless barbarians.
Keith Short
Fortaleza-Ce, Brazil
• So we elect a government to represent the people (4 October). The government pays civil servants in the UK to work out how to change public opinion so they can spend our money invading other people’s countries. Is this how democracy works?
Mike Kearney
La Mouche, France


Italian divers have now recovered more bodies from the boat carrying African migrants off Lampedusa. The divers “unpacked a wall of people,” with corpses “so entwined, one with the other, they are difficult to pull out”.
Tens of thousands of migrants attempt the perilous crossing from North Africa to Sicily and other Italian islands each year, and accidents are common. What is the cause of this burgeoning human catastrophe?
According to the World Bank, since 1960, the population of Somalia has grown three-fold from 3 million to 9 million,  Ethiopia’s population has grown four-fold from 20 million to 80 million and in Kenya a massive five-fold increase has occurred, from 8 million to 40 million.
Such increases in population in the very poorest parts of the world drive famine and strife, which lead to desperate mass migration.
However, major charities have persistently refused to acknowledge the need to accompany their food-aid programmes with family planning initiatives. In taking this politically self-interested position these charities have actually fuelled the scale of the tragedies unfolding in the poorest parts of the world, including Africa.
Alan Stedall, Birmingham
Peter Popham (11 October) asks what is in Europe’s power to do to change the political and economic situation in places like Eritrea and Somalia and prevent another Lampedusa? And the answer is absolutely nothing, because the only thing that would stabilise those situations would be European “boots on the ground” for a very long time – and we no longer have either the boots or the will for that. The rest is just so much useless talk.
R S Foster, Sheffield
Child protection lost in the void
In your report (11 October) about yet another debacle in Haringey children’s services you refer to lack of communication between the various departments.    
In December 2008, following  the Baby P tragedy, a council meeting of the “Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership Board” was held at the Wood Green Civic Centre, and a small group of us activists for child protection in our chaotic borough attended as observers.
As we sat to one side, 28 representatives of the over-multiplied Haringey children’s agencies crowded around a huge rectangular structure formed out of 12 long trestle tables arranged in four rows of three. This structure was so wide that notes could not be passed from one side to the other but had to be frisbeed across or passed around in flurries of scattered documents.
It was so long that when the speakers at one end of the table were waffling about improving communication, those at the other end were shouting that they could not hear what was being said. It would have been side-splittingly funny, had the consequences of such anarchy not been so heartbreaking.
It was a long time ago but I found my notes on the meeting with very little difficulty. I just typed “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party” into my computer search panel.
L Rivlin, London N10
Poor-quality teaching
On BBC radio news I heard a striking Manchester teacher declare: “We [teachers] deliver a quality product to our children.”
I worked as a teacher for 40 years and have recently retired from 10 years as governor of the local comprehensive, and know that the Manchester teacher’s comment was so partially true as to be rubbish. At my former comprehensive the best departments achieved over 60 per cent A-C grades for their GCSE pupils, delivering a quality product, but the worst languished at 30 per cent, letting down their pupils dreadfully.
At every school where I taught the same discrepancies existed. In the last, the best departments achieved 80 per cent A and A*, the worst about 50 per cent. Of course there will be a variety of results and the very best departments will always shine out, but in all schools that I have had experience of the discrepancies are too wide.
Two surgeons at Cornish hospitals have been suspended because the success rate of their operations was below par. It is much easier to measure teachers’ success rates than doctors’ and I suggest that the process of naming and suspending heads of poorly performing departments start forthwith.
Charles Noon, Cadeleigh, Devon
Not sexism, just sex
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown conflates sexism and sexuality (“Women are complicit in misogyny”, 14 October). Sexism, misogyny and misandry are unacceptable, but sexuality is hard-wired, though it may be modified by cultural, political, legal, and philosophical factors. 
As soon as you set yourself up as a judge of how consenting adults may express their sexuality you are on the road to repression. Whatever Yasmin might think of Fifty Shades of Grey, the phenomenon it has created has proved that many women refuse to be infantilised by censorship, and will decide for themselves what they want to read. Would she like to return us to the days of the Lady Chatterley case, when Mervyn Griffith-Jones famously said: “Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?” 
I must stop now, I need to book tickets for the British Museum shunga exhibition. Joan Bakewell spoke very highly of it on Radio 4.
Nigel Scott, London N22
Will GM rice save lives, or money?
Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary,  chooses his comments carefully in his support for genetically modified crops (interview, 14 October). He must know that the chief argument is not over whether they are safe to eat but whether they are safe to grow. 
He stresses the potential value of golden rice, without drawing attention to the fact that this is apparently the only example of a GM crop which is designed for the benefit of the consumer. The bulk of GM developments are for the benefit of the producers, under the guise of agricultural “efficiency”. 
There is a huge body of evidence to show that the safest, most efficient and sustainable approach to feeding the world is to encourage local independent farmers with disinterested scientific support to develop their own seed varieties. 
Sarah Thursfield, Llanymynech, Powys
I looked in vain in John Sauven’s article on GM rice (Voices, 15 October) for any evidence of risks to health, food security or wildlife. Mr Sauven makes light of the risks of vitamin A deficiency, which affects children’s immune systems and kills around two million every year in developing countries. It is also a major cause of blindness and diarrhoea. Boosting levels of vitamin A in rice appears to provide an obvious way of helping to combat this problem.
Two studies, both published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dismissed the claim that the amount of vitamin A in golden rice was too small to be of benefit. The second was published last year. It found that a bowl of cooked golden rice, between 100g and 150g, could provide 60 per cent of the recommended intake of vitamin A for young people.
Of course GM is not the only solution, and of course varied and adequate diets are needed. But this has not happened in many parts of the world. So why rule out another avenue for nutrition?
David Simmonds, Epping, Essex
The World Health Organisation  had a plan to end vitamin A deficiency by 2000, well before the advent of genetically modified “golden rice”. The programme of fortification and dietary diversification failed to reach its goal solely because of a lack of political will to supply the resources.
Owen Paterson’s belated hand-wringing over the fate of poor children with vitamin A deficiency conceals the complicity of governments in their fate. This failure is outrageous indeed, but it has a political cause and is not due to a lack of GM food.
The diets of poor children are also likely to be deficient in other micronutrients such as iron, and to be low in protein. Must they wait and suffer until rice has been genetically engineered to improve these traits before they can have an adequate diet? That does sound wicked to me.
Dr Sue Mayer, Litton, Derbyshire
Cashing in on Royal Mail
Courtesy of the government sell-off, Royal Mail shares are now being sold on the open market with investors making more than £300 profit each. Would Messrs Cameron, Osborne, Duncan Smith et al care to remind us how strongly they object to the “something for nothing” culture?
Peter Cave, London W1
Assuming the Queen continues to adorn UK postage stamps, will she be paid for display of her image? Or will she be treated as an advertiser? In either case we, the taxpayers, should be informed.
Lory R Rice, Milton Keynes
With Royal Mail privatisation, whose inspiring iconic visage might one day appear on our postage stamps: that of George Osborne? Rupert Murdoch? Mickey Mouse?
R A Soar, London N1
University market
Professor Hamilton (report, 9 October) is right that there is no “market” in the sense of different prices for different qualities of education. A market based on cost would simply exclude almost everybody – including the average Conservative voter’s family – from being able to afford his prices. A flooded market should force prices down, but of course Oxford isn’t part of a market with other, newer universities. It is in a market with Cambridge, which means he could charge what he liked and still fill the place with the undeserving rich.
Clive Tiney, York
Fair crowd
Ian Herbert (15 October) notes that the Wales football team had a crowd of only 11,250 for their match against Macedonia last Friday. But let’s put that in perspective. If you allow for the relative populations of the two countries, Wales’s crowd was bigger than was England’s for their match at Wembley the same night.
Keith O’Neill, Shrewsbury
All in it together
Alex Taylor’s letter (15 October) was right in every respect. However, it was aimed at too narrow a target. If, as he rightly says, the middle classes are suffering, and their offspring destined to suffer even more, what hope is there for those who are at the bottom of our class system?
Bill Fletcher, Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Sir, The Government should ensure that the creation of career colleges, alongside university technical colleges, studio schools and direct enrolment of 14-year-olds in further education colleges (report, Oct 15), results in every 14-year-old in England having the opportunity to study vocational qualifications alongside their core GCSEs, regardless of where they live.
However, we should not underestimate the challenge in persuading young people to leave a school they joined only three years earlier. This will take ministers, councils and those of us in education to work together in explaining the benefits of rigorous vocational education, taught in high-quality facilities by specialist teachers. Only then will we have the step change that Lord Baker of Dorking and others wish to see.
Martin Doel
Chief Executive, Association of Colleges

Sir, Your report (Oct 14) makes much of schools’ growing tendency to enter students for “soft” subjects. There is another side to the coin, which is the policy of dropping subjects where it is difficult to obtain high grades.
Over the past eight years we have seen the number of pupils taking design & technology GCSE fall by more than 200,000 (Joint Council for Qualifications), with now only 38 per cent of maintained schools and 5 per cent of academies even offering the subject at that level (Ofsted).
Many head teachers have told us that a major reason for dropping this very demanding subject from their curriculum is that the difficulties pupils experience in getting the high grades brings down their school’s overall league table performance. This Government’s new proposals to omit the subject from the list of nine core subjects will make a bad situation worse — and this when as a nation we are struggling to find enough designers and engineers to compete internationally.
Politicians’ ill-informed and poorly considered obsession with exam grades and league tables is having unintended consequences of disastrous proportions.
David Baker
Director, Design Education CIC

Sir, Schools do not “game” the system (report, Oct 14). Schools do not cheat the league tables. Do schools focus their efforts on the pupils on the borderline between a C and a D? Yes. Is this wrong? Resources are limited.
Do you put your most experienced teachers with a C/D borderline class or do you put them with a B-grade class aiming for an A?
I would choose the former every time. A C grade allows pupils to go to college and study the course they want. A D grade means resitting or choosing their second choice course. Schools and teachers make difficult decisions all the time, but always with the best interests of the pupils in mind.
Brett Prevost
Swindon, Wilts

Sir, Dominic Cummings (report, Oct 15), Michael Gove’s special adviser, seems to suggest that education is programmable and that there is a “one size fits all” method which can be applied to educate young people effectively.
Education is about so much more than the delivery of information in a standardised manner. This proposal would not result in anything other than mediocrity and disengagement.
Gwen Byrom
Headmistress, Loughborough High School, Leics

Changes to the tax system could burst the property bubble in no time, but they might not be politically popular
Sir, John McTernan is right to condemn successive governments for colluding in rising property prices (Opinion, Oct 14). However, his prescription — trash the Green Belt and build over farmland — is not only deeply philistine: it is half-baked.
Inadequate supply is not the only reason for high house prices. Changes to the tax system could burst the property bubble in no time, but they might not be politically popular.
We need more homes, but there is enough suitable brownfield land in existing towns and cities to build at least 1.5 million new homes, including 400,000 in London, and the stock of brownfield land is constantly rising. We will need to build on some greenfield sites, but let’s give priority to development that will aid urban regeneration.
John McTernan clearly doesn’t worry about food security and he doesn’t appear to much like the English countryside, but it is an important part of our national identity. We do not need to sacrifice it to solve the housing crisis.
Peter Waine
Chairman, Campaign to Protect Rural England
London SE1

Since August 26, new standards of conduct have been in place so that customers must get fair treatment from their supplier
Sir, Your leading article (Oct 11) said Ofgem was not doing enough to make the energy market clearer for customers. Let me assure you that we are. We have now introduced the most radical set of reforms to the energy retail market since competition began. This will give customers a market that is simpler, clearer and fairer.
Since August 26, our new standards of conduct have been in place so that customers must get fair treatment from their supplier and clear information written in jargon-free language. The standards are backed by our powers to levy fines.
We agree that there are too many tariffs which is why we are forcing suppliers to offer only four tariffs for gas and four for electricity by the end of December. All tariffs will also have to be structured in the same way, with a single unit rate and a standing charge. By the end of March next year, reforms will be in place to make bills simpler, including a requirement that suppliers tell customers about their cheapest deals and how much they could save by switching to them. These steps will make it easier for people to find the best deal for them.
Andrew Wright
Chief Executive, Ofgem

Whatever one believes about global warming, Britain’s contribution is only two thirds of China’s annual increase
Sir, In the midst of the climate debate no one seems openly to state the obvious. In 2011, the latest available statistic shows that Britain’s CO2 emission is just 6 per cent of China’s. It is also reported that China is increasing that emission by some 9 per cent per annum and that it plans an increase of some 450 new coal-fired power stations burning 1.2 billion extra tons of coal annually. Whatever one believes about global warming, Britain’s contribution is only two thirds of China’s annual increase. Damaging our ability to compete, raising the cost of energy and risking energy crises by closing our coal-fired power stations is not going to make any measurable difference.
Bruce Mein
Parbrook, Somerset

Sir, Your Opinion piece (Oct 15) fails the fairness test when it comes to the economics of offshore wind. While no one can deny that offshore wind is relatively expensive, to imply, through selective use of data, that it is the one “allowed to charge the highest price for its electricity” is mischievous. Our analysis shows that the price charged for offshore wind (£135/Mwh) over 15 years is very similar to the price that new nuclear will reportedly receive (£93/Mwh) over 35 to 40 years. Indeed this parity of pricing seems fair given that we need both new nuclear and offshore wind, along with carbon capture and storage, delivering at scale to meet our energy security and carbon reduction objectives.
The costs of offshore wind will come down further after 2020 through the innovation of key aspects of the technology and through learning from the next seven years of construction. Rather than dismissing outright a technology which will help close our energy gap out to 2020, we should be arguing the case for increased research efforts.
Phil de Villiers
Head of Offshore Wind,
The Carbon Trust

Despite what the head teacher of Kingswood Prep says, perhaps his new ruling on pupil’s birthday celebration doesn’t espouse Christian values
Sir, The head teacher of Kingswood Prep has banned his pupils from being selective in their party invitations (report, Oct 15) because its Christian ethos is inclusive. Jesus invited only 12 of his closest friends to his last party. The Upper Room might have had the same space limitations as the average pupil’s home.
Graham Cory
Daventry, Northants

SIR – Monty Don’s idea that tending a garden should be compulsory is another example of society being told what is good for it. I find the idea of gardening about as riveting as watching paint dry. Surely that is not conducive to good health and wellbeing?
Christopher D Wiggins
Dursley, Gloucestershire
SIR – I adore my garden, and have done since my youngest son went to university.
The trouble is that when you have young children and are working hard to support the family there is little time for gardening. We always managed a row of beans or two, and some tubs of geraniums, but often the beans grew too fat to eat and the tubs dried out. Now that we have time, we enjoy our garden, and love all that it offers.

SIR – If Alistair Phillips–Davies, the chief executive of the SSE energy company, was really concerned about the cost of living for British households he would not call for green taxes to be axed. His view is too short-term.
If the Government maintains its commitment to energy efficiency and low-carbon reform of the electricity market, by 2020 household bills will be on average 11 per cent (£166) lower than if no changes were made. Any review of Britain’s green strategy would add further pressures to the cost of living. Britain’s wavering stance on climate change is scaring off businesses from investing in the country – harming economic growth and job prospects.
Businesses are signing up in increasing numbers to tackle climate change. What they, and British households, need is a cast-iron pledge to maintain green levies and support the climate change agenda.
Trewin Restorick
CEO, Global Action Plan
London EC3
SIR – I am exasperated by the hypocrisy of the British public when it comes to the cost and source of energy. Complaints about impending domestic energy price increases are inconsistent with the outcry about fracking a few short weeks ago. It seems we want to have our cake and eat it, and not even pay for it in the first place.
Related Articles
Gardening as a cruel and unusual punishment
15 Oct 2013
Malcolm Donald
Hawick, Roxburghshire
SIR – Not too many years ago the Electricity Board would read our meters and send us a bill for the power consumed. You paid for what you got; if you didn’t, you were cut off.
Now, our new power suppliers charge us in advance for assumed power consumption. As we are in effect acting as their bankers, perhaps we should charge them interest? We should say we will seek return of our credit accounts if they continue to increase charges, or not pay for the product until it has been used.
Richard Deal
Newbury, Berkshire
SIR – Michael Heaton misses the point. We can choose whether to spend on television subscriptions, beer and bottled water, but cannot manage without gas, electricity and vehicle fuel.
Edward Huxley
Thorpe, Surrey
SIR – In the Fifties, I grew up in a house with no central heating, double glazing or insulation. When it got cold we put on extra clothes, as the Scandinavians do today. We have become spoilt with modern living and should start looking backwards for solutions – oil and gas won’t last forever.
John Armstrong
Peacehaven, East Sussex
SIR – The trouble with putting on a jumper to keep warm is that one ends up with an overheated body and miserably cold extremities. This may be cheap but is certainly not very comfortable.
Pam Maybury
Bath, Somerset
Building houses
SIR – The Government’s ongoing efforts to get Britain building are far more important than the ministerial title on my red box.
The last Labour government had nine different housing ministers inside and outside the Cabinet, yet house-building fell to its lowest peacetime rate since the Twenties. In contrast, on my first day as housing minister, I was in Northampton with the Prime Minister where we heard for ourselves how the Help to Buy scheme is both helping people take a step onto the housing ladder, and causing leading developers to increase house-building.
Our housing ambitions remain as strong as ever and our record so far gives us a good start, with house-building growing at its fastest rate for a decade, supply at its highest since 2008 and the numbers of first-time buyers at a five-year high.
Kris Hopkins MP (Con)
London SW1
Doctors’ working hours
SIR – Your report about the EU limit on doctors’ working hours outlines the problem the Working Time Directive has induced. A consultant coming to do a ward round may have with him a junior doctor who has little knowledge of the patients to be seen, meaning care of those patients is severely compromised.
This was foreseen by the Royal College of Physicians. Prior to the implementation of the EU directive, Professor Roy Pounder pointed out that America was faced with the same problem – trainee doctors said they were not getting adequate training by not following through with patients. In America, by mutual consent between the trainee doctors and senior staff, a compromise was thus agreed for longer hours to accomplish better training and patient care.
Surely it is not impossible for such a scheme to be implemented in Britain.
Graeme D Kerr FRCP
Haslemere, Surrey
Soaring sheet music
SIR – I was interested to read your report (October 12) about top violin virtuosi being unable to afford a decent Stradivarius owing to collectors buying up the best instruments. I, a semi-professional pianist, can also no longer afford to buy some second-hand sheet music when wanting to play songs that have gone out of print.
Copies that were £1 a decade ago are more than £10 now – especially if there is a pretty picture on the outside of the copy – and languish in folders owned by collectors who can’t tell an arpeggio from an adagio.
Tony Hill
Lancing, West Sussex
Fox-hunting proposal
SIR – Is the proposal to relax the fox-hunting ban David Cameron’s atonement for gay marriage?
A N Craven
Top-heavy sunflowers
SIR – We were in a restaurant in France when a vase of sunflowers toppled to the floor, taking a magnum of champagne with it. The resulting explosion brought the fury of the owner down on a hapless waiter – until a second vase plunged to the floor 10 minutes later.
Crammed into their vases, the sunflowers had taken up water until they had reached toppling point.
Geraldine Durrant
East Grinstead, West Sussex
Not-for-profit schools
SIR – John Roberts suggests removing the charitable status of independent schools “so that they are purely profit-making businesses”.
First, such a change would scarcely result in their becoming remunerative enterprises. Secondly, it is not the purpose of independent schools to make a profit; any surplus generated by fees is reinvested for pupils’ benefit, and there are no shareholders receiving a dividend.
Is it not about time that this and other such apparently wilful misinterpretations should be abandoned so that the educational debate can move on more usefully? For example, a newly defined category of “not-for-profit” might be considered. It would suit many concerns, including independent schools, hitherto defined as “charitable”.
Martin Bruce
Christ Church Cathedral School
Choosing plane seats
SIR – Wing Commander Colin Cummings claims that the rear of an aircraft is the safest place to sit. As an aviation writer and analyst, I must add that this is an oft-quoted generalisation and only applies in certain circumstances.
The worst injuries in the recent Korean Boeing 777 crash at San Francisco were to passengers seated in the rear cabin, while the least injured were seated in the centre cabin over the wing. Similarly, a crash test of a Boeing 727 showed that those at the front and rear of the cabin were less likely to survive than those seated in the wing area – the strongest part of the aircraft.
Engine location, fuel tank and fuel-line routing all affect cabin survivability, as does the type of accident. Just as with car crashes, few accidents are the same.
Lance Cole
Malestroit, Morbihan, France
Stamp duty
SIR – There is currently no VAT on 1st and 2nd class stamps. Owing to competition, will that change, now that Royal Mail is a private company?
Eddie Kruszelnicki
London SE10
SIR – Will we be able to get Advanced Saver rates if we book in a letter 12 weeks in advance of posting?
L J Still
Ilfracombe, Devon
How Britain’s best built Crystal Palace
SIR – As a proud former employee of Chance Bros glassworks in Smethwick, I am intrigued by the possible reconstruction of Crystal Palace.
The revolutionary structural design conceived by Sir Joseph Paxton for a glasshouse at Chatsworth was developed by Fox & Henderson of Smethwick for the 1851 Exhibition building, using cylinder-blown glass made by Chance’s. The unique cast-iron jointing units and glazing bars were produced in the Cochrane foundries near Dudley. More than 300,000 glass panes were supplied. The Hyde Park structure was manufactured and erected in only eight months; in addition, the design allowed relatively easy dismantling and resiting at Sydenham.
The achievement was a triumph of ingenuity, technology and planning – everything the British were good at. We are not good at respecting our heritage, so if someone wishes to imitate us we should accept it as a compliment. But they cannot reproduce Crystal Palace exactly – we are no longer able to do that ourselves.
D Alan Taylor
Kingswinford, Staffordshire
SIR – The 84-year-old lady who walked from Penzance to Mansion House, referred to by Gerald Smith (Letters, October 9), was Mary Callinack. Henry W Goodban composed a polka as a tribute to her feat.
The title page of the music has a brief summary of the occasion. Mary reached the Exhibition on April 14, and “this old Cornish pedestrian fisherwoman exclaimed: ‘God Bless you, moi lover’”.
Queen Victoria was amused.
Paul Hutchinson
Calne, Wiltshire
SIR – I hope that the recreators of the Crystal Palace will bear in mind that the original was a teetotal establishment.
John Carter
Shortlands, Kent

Irish Times:

A chara, – The attitude of this Government to those struggling in our society is summed up in one item from Budget 2014: the abolition of the €850 bereavement grant. Can a government be more out of touch with those struggling by even considering such a mean, nasty cut? Shame on Fine Gael. Shame on Labour. When will people wake up? – Is mise,
Whitehall Road,
Churchtown, Dublin 14.
Sir, – In November 2011 the current Government announced that the 56,000 people registered as having a long-term illness would be granted free GP care. This was to be the first step on the road to universal healthcare and we’re still waiting for that one. – Yours, etc,
Temple Square,
Dartry, Dublin 6.
Sir, – The Government is effectively ageist. While technically legal, the reduction of the level of unemployment benefits for those under the age of 25 is discriminatory. How are the young any less deserving of social welfare than anyone else?
Furthermore, this reduction is seen as pushing the youth towards training, internships or any employment, no matter how badly paid. If these really were enticing, young people would have to be reduced below the poverty line before taking these options.
Since the Government took office, not only is youth unemployment decreasing, but so too is youth employment. Young people are leaving the country, at a rate or around 40,000 a year, around half of whom return. Clearly, few wish to pay for the mistakes of the previous generation. – Yours, etc,
Lecturer in Sociology,
Waterford Institute of
Sir, – The €150,000,000 that the Government hopes to raise from the new levy on banks is yet another tax on us, as it will be the customers of the banks who will ultimately pay it. – Yours, etc,
Glenageary Woods,
Glenageary, Co Dublin.
Sir, – On taking office, Dr James Reilly promised free GP care for those with long-term illness. This has not yet happened – it requires legislation. So the promise of free GP care for under-fives is just that – another promise! – Yours, etc,
Westbrook Court,
Midleton, Co Cork.
Sir, – There has been much unfounded criticism of the proposed scheme to provide free GP care to all children under the age of five. This has included an objection to “paying for GP care for those who can afford to pay themselves”. Making a benefit universal has some obvious effects. The service is easier to access for all, poorer parents are no longer deterred by very substantial fees from using GPs, and it is more obviously equitable.
A further point in favour of it is that making a benefit universal ensures all sectors of society use it, and prevents the development of a two-tier service, such as has arisen in the hospital sector. It helps ensure wide political support for the benefit, and gives the powerful and influential voting classes a motive to ensure the service stays up to scratch. One good Irish example of this effect is the primary school sector. – Yours, etc,
Prof of Health Systems,
School of Nursing & Human
Dublin City University,
Dublin 9.
Sir, – While the introduction of free GP care for the under-fives is welcome, the Government could have made a considerable step towards better health for all citizens by introducing an annual universal free health-check for all. It would have huge health benefits in the early discovery of preventable illnesses while saving the exchequer considerable money.
Health expenditure continues to consume 27 per cent of overall public expenditure – the Government has missed an opportunity in the Budget to improve the health and well-being of the nation which would de facto reduce health expenditure in the long run. – Yours, etc,
Assistant Professor,
School of Nursing &
The University of Dublin,
Trinity College,
D’Olier Street,
Dublin 2.
Sir, – In general, lower paid public and civil servants pay a higher rate of PRSI than their higher paid counterparts. There are no benefits associated with paying the higher rate of PRSI.
There would be huge savings if the Minister for Finance decided that all public and civil servants, and all such retirees, paid the same, higher rate of this tax. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The IMO has stated that the introduction of free GP care for children under five is a gimmick. I doubt that many hard-pressed parents of young children will agree. Sixty euro may not be significant for the average IMO member, but it is for those on the average wage. Perhaps there are some in the IMO who do not welcome the extra oversight, by the State, over the income of doctors, which this change will allow. – Yours, etc,
Grange Court,
Dublin 16.
Sir, – The hypocrisy of this Government has been exposed in the latest move to raise the prescription charge to €2.50 per item for medical card patients.
Before taking office James Reilly castigated Mary Harney for introducing a 50c charge for each item on medical card prescriptions, pointing out that this would deter the most vulnerable patients from taking prescribed medications. This would in turn cause worse outcomes and increased medical costs .
He promised to scrap this unfair tax when taking office, but instead raised it to €1.50 and now proposes to raise it by a whopping 400 per cent to €2.50.
The Minister has publicly acknowledged this tax will prevent access to medications by the most needy in our society . I have seen at first hand in my own practice the effect of this tax, where many patients simply choose not to take essential medications .
In a cynical acceptance that this tax reduces the amount of medicine consumed, and with total disregard for the consequences, the Minister has chosen to increase this tax even further. This will prevent even more patients taking their medications, with consequent short- term savings, but will have a huge cost in terms of health and increased complexity of care down the line.
Once again the Government has made a mockery of their supposed commitment to primary care treatments, by actively cutting services and discouraging patients from accessing necessary medicines. – Yours, etc,
Siopa an Cheimiceora,
Gaoth Dobhair,
An Bun Beag.
Dún na nGall.
Sir, – Will the Testament of Michael be superseded by the Testament of Mary? – Yours, etc,
Co Wexford.
Sir, – John Grenham’s article (Irish Roots column, October 14th) highlights the lack of respect our Government has for itself and its citizens. The new General Register Office in Werburgh Street, Dublin, is indeed a disgrace and I too am ashamed of it.
It would make much more sense to have these records housed with our National Archives. Our National Archives should be, as in other countries, a building of some prestige, centrally situated and one of which we can be proud.
Currently our National Archive building can hardly be said to be such, hidden away at the end of Bishop Street, a side street off Wexford Street, Dublin. – Yours, etc,
Bushfield Avenue,
Dublin 4.

Sir, – As an animal lover I am comforted by the fact that according to the laws of quantum physics the now famous cat could, like Schrödinger’s cat, be both alive and dead at the same time. This should provide satisfaction for those on both sides of the argument. – Yours, etc,
Ring, Co Waterford.

Sir, – A group of tobacco industry supporters, (Letters, October 14th) is concerned about the introduction of standardised or “plain” packaging in Ireland and present reasons for blocking this health initiative. They refer to there being no established benefit and the usual highlighting of the smuggling issue.
The only reason the tobacco industry does not wish to have standardised packaging introduced is that it will impact on its massive profits, both in Ireland and elsewhere – this, of course, is never stated. It has been shown that young people in particular find the combination of graphic images and plain packaging less attractive than branded packs and it is also well established that by using a multiplicity of anti-tobacco measures, we make the greatest impact on smoking prevalence.
The ongoing presentation of reasons from industry sources for blocking Minister for Health James Reilly’s plain packaging measure runs along similar lines to the arguments presented in Australia last year. These flawed and profit-driven arguments were thankfully ignored by the pro-health Australian government.
The authors of the letter write about the failure of tobacco control measures that have been introduced in Ireland. There is no basis in fact for any such conclusion. In the past decade overall smoking prevalence in Ireland has fallen from almost 30 per cent to 21.7 per cent (December 2012, Office of Tobacco Control) and thankfully fewer young people are starting to smoke. Ireland led the way with the workplace smoking ban and can also be the European leader on the plain packs initative.
The stark fact remains that 5,200 people die in this country each year from the effects of smoking and it is imperative that Mr Reilly and the Government pursue every possible anti-smoking measure to reduce this dreadful statistic. Tobacco is a unique product and demands special measures; one in two people who continue to smoke will die prematurely from smoking-related disease.
All of us in the health sector and anyone who cares for the health of our people should continue to support Mr Reilly in his efforts to introduce standardised packaging of tobacco. – Yours, etc,
Chairperson, ASH Ireland &
Consultant Respiratory
Ringsend Road,

Sir, – A report summarised by Carl O’Brien (Home News, October 11th) claims 55 per cent of Irish people aged between 19 and 24 have experienced a mental disorder. This suggests a disease epidemic on a scale rarely encountered even in the most virulent of communicable diseases.
What conclusions may we draw from a situation where the abnormal has become the norm? Is this intuitively credible or should we not question the validly of the methodology, case finding and classification? Furthermore this claim raises a number of associated issues including stigma, proposed interventions and their costs. – Yours, etc,
Consultant Psychiatrist,
Saint Agnan,
Sir, – I am writing to criticise Harry Browne’s letter (October 14th) criticising the response of the Press Ombudsman and Press Council to Mr Browne’s criticisms of my critical review in this newspaper (Weekend Review, June 15th) of Mr Browne’s recent critical book which criticises Bono (try and keep up, people: this is important).
In his letter, Mr Browne claims that several of my interpretations of his book and its subtext are factually untrue. Yet I note that in the course of his own letter, he says I paint him as “a Politically Correct Catholic-nationalist sectarian”. This is factually untrue: you will find no such words or phrases in my review (the concept itself is oxymoronic: how can sectarianism be Politically Correct?). What gives Mr Browne the right to read and interpret my writing in ways that I might not like? Even worse, he goes on to suggest that in my article I “defend Bono”.
Sir, I cannot allow these calumnies – nay, outrages to stand. I must therefore demand that you immediately recall and pulp all printed copies of Monday’s newspaper, remove the offending letter from your website and take steps to track down and terminate all links to it on other sites and in the social media. I will also be expecting a front-page apology and retraction, and that a suitable donation be made to my favourite charity, if I can think of one.
In the meantime, to show I am serious, I shall be proceeding with formal complaints through the Press Ombudsman, Press Council, Mr Shatter’s new appeals court, the Council of State, the UN security council and Article 15 of the Shadow Proclamation. – Yours, etc,
Botanic Road,
Dublin 9.
Sir, – Am I right in thinking that a process that involves a former Irish Times journalist, Harry Browne, asking another former Irish Times journalist, John Horgan, to adjudicate on a review by another former Irish Times journalist, Ed O’Loughlin, about a book review in The Irish Times which at least is about someone who is not an editorial contributor to The Irish Times, Bono, has resulted in Prof Horgan suggesting that Mr Browne write a letter to . . .The Irish Times! If they are the facts, comment is superfluous. – Yours, etc,
Ceannt Fort,
Mount Brown,
Dublin 8.

Sir, – The article on the annual general meeting of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (Home News, October 14th) reported on comments made by Dr Fergal McGoldrick and Prof John Broe which criticised the modern role of nursing and specifically quoted Dr Fergal McGoldrick as saying “nurses were too posh to wash”.
It is impossible for this organisation to ignore these grossly offensive, ill-informed and insulting comments about the pivotal, and essential, role that all nurses (and midwives) play in striving to maintain a healthcare system which is safe for patients.
It is quite obvious that these two consultants know very little about the world- class four-year undergraduate programme, which now leads to a degree in nursing/midwifery and the registered nurse/midwife qualification. In these programmes, which were recently reviewed and found to be of the highest calibre, there is the appropriate mix between clinical and academic learning. This ensures the graduating nurse/midwife has the clinical competence and skills, combined with the academic knowledge, to allow her/him function effectively in all areas of our overstretched health system.
The excellence of our undergraduate nursing/midwifery programmes is confirmed by the fact that our graduates are sought after, and highly regarded, in all other countries including the UK, Australia, Canada, the US. This confirms these respected health systems greatly value the performance and role of today’s Irish nurse/midwife.
It is therefore very disappointing to read such comments coming from these two consultant colleagues who really should know better. Indeed such gratuitous remarks only serve to confirm the perception, in some sections of society, that a small minority of consultants are so far removed, from the reality of the busy ward, that they simply do not know what is going on. – Yours, etc,
General Secretary,
Irish Nurses & Midwives
The Whitworth Building,
North Brunswick Street,
Dublin 7.

Sir, – The proposal for a new postal code system seems unnecessarily complicated (Home News, October 8th). DO4 or Doh!4? – Yours, etc,
Wellington Street,
Eganville, Ontario, Canada .

Irish Independent:

* A refreshing contrast to seeing our politicians in action is witnessing the unfolding of the leadership of Pope Francis. He has been a challenging surprise. With a tough mind and a tender heart, he exhibits in his own life the principles and practices he seeks to nurture in the lives of the people he serves.
Also in this section
It’s life – but not as we know it
Battered coping class
Blinkered anti-Catholicism
On that memorable evening in St Peter’s Square when the new pope presented himself to the people, there was a rush of romantic freedom in the air, releasing an infectious sense of possibility and hope for a better tomorrow, embodied in the simple greeting, “Buona sera.”
With Pope Francis we are experiencing a more attentive approach to the realities of today’s world. He, himself, referred to the task of ‘rebuilding the church’. The enthusiasm for new beginnings generated by the Vatican Council had been strangled by a destructive conservatism.
The Church has been scandalously badly run by a dysfunctional, inward-looking curia that had become increasingly corrupted by cronyism and infighting. It operated through command and control, as a cabinet rather than as an advisory body. Sadly, the ill-formed will of men became identified with the will of God, steadily losing credibility, particularly amongst the young, but also amongst the clergy.
The Catholic Church can only benefit from penetrating and disturbing questions, which, while sometimes unsettling to our most cherished beliefs, can also lead us to reaffirm them with new insight, depth and conviction.
Too often and too easily we engage in an introspective, intellectually lazy withdrawal from the real world, from the tension between faith and doubt that we all share, as we generate an inner self-authenticating glow that can parade as ‘spirituality’.
We cannot escape our responsibility to exercise our voice in the world. Pope Francis is determined to release the pent-up intelligence of the people. Our politicians should take notice.
Philip O’Neill
* As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself, and less critical of myself. I’ve become my own friend. I have seen too many dear friends leave this world, too soon, before they understood the great freedom that comes with ageing. Whose business is it if I choose to read or play on the computer until 4am, or sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, and if I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will.
I will walk the beach in a swimsuit that is stretched over a bulging body and I will dive into the waves with abandon if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from the jet set. They too will get old. I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And I eventually remember the important things.
Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break, when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when somebody’s beloved pet gets hit by a car? But broken hearts are what give us strength, understanding and compassion. A heart never broken is pristine and sterile, and will never know the joy of being imperfect.
I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turning grey and to have my youthful laughs forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed and so many have died before their hair could turn silver. I will not waste time lamenting what could have been, or worrying about what will be. And I shall eat dessert every single day (if I feel like it). I am I! I am free!
Anthony Woods
Ennis, Co Clare
* In the days before the Budget, it would be wise of the Government to take another look at the thesis published by Abbe Sieyes of France in the late 18th Century, in which he asks, “What is the third estate?”
Quote: “Public functions may be classified (under) four recognised heads: the sword, the robe, the church and the administration . . . the third estate attends to nineteen-twentieths of them, with this distinction: it is laden with all that which is really painful, with all the burdens which the privileged classes refuse to carry. Meanwhile, they have dared to impose a prohibition upon the third estate. They have said to it: ‘Whatever may be your services, whatever may be your abilities, you shall go thus far; you may not pass beyond!’
Given that the Government acts as if it believes that it is the first estate, and the power of the second estate, ie the church, has been broken, this leaves only the third estate, us, to fund all the rest.
We all are aware of what the third estate did in France in 1789.
Una O’Brien
Address with editor
* To reassure the nation that the ‘Love/Hate’ cat, Cleo, was in good health and unharmed, RTE arranged an appearance for the high-profile feline on ‘The Late Late Show’, where host Ryan Tubridy went to extraordinary lengths to put all our minds at rest.
So we know Cleo wasn’t really plugged by gangland thugs.
Coincidentally, other small animals have been performing at coursing venues around the country for the past fortnight.
Timid hares have been forced to run from hyped-up greyhounds to be terrorised, mauled, or pinned to the ground in front of cheering fans.
These animals were not given anything of a medicinal nature to minimise or alleviate their plight. To address any perception that hares might actually not be all that fond of coursing, I challenge the Irish Coursing Club, the governing body for this so-called ‘sport’, to allow all the performing hares of the present coursing season to appear on ‘The Late Late Show’, if RTE is agreeable.
If the ICC has nothing to hide, it should show us the happy, unharmed hares live (and alive) in the RTE studio.
John Fitzgerald
Campaign for the Abolition of Cruel Sports
Callan, Co Kilkenny
* I am responding to Mr Murray’s recent article about efforts in Israel to settle Bedouins into more stable communities where health and educational facilities/social services are available on an economic and efficient basis. This is not a new issue, nor one limited to Israel. Indeed Ireland and other European countries are facing the same issues. We can decorate it any way we wish but, as in America, Canada, and Australia, cultures and lives were disrupted as settled societies sought to cope with their nomadic populations.
As does the Government of Ireland, Israel is seeking to provide centralised services to all of its peoples, including those who in the past were nomadic. This is not a human rights issue but a planning issue.
If a travelling community decides to live in unauthorised areas, no local authority in Ireland will provide them with water or other social services – they will evict them, no matter how often they persist in breaching the rules. The same is true in Israel. End of story.
The social problems created by the lifestyle and living practices of some of the Bedouin population are issues outside this discussion, but certainly do complicate matters.
Irish people will understand very well how these things create a challenge when the nomadic communities are in proximity to settled areas and are a source of criminality. Suffice it to say that 70pc of the community has been successfully resettled.
For the balance, the provision of permanent housing has not prevented illegal squatting.
Max Roytenberg
Usher’s Quay, Dublin
Irish Independent

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