21 October 2013 Still more Books
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble They are to report to the admiral for a very special mission Troutbridge is to launch a rocker Priceless
Ssort the books so tired
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary winds get under 400 though perhaps I’ll win tomorrow.
Jock Kane was a whistleblower who battled to bring sex scandals and security breaches at GCHQ to light
6:51PM BST 20 Oct 2013
Jock Kane, who has died aged 92, was a wartime RAF special operations radio operator, then worked for the government signal intelligence centre GCHQ, where, after three decades’ service, he became a whistleblower in a scandal that was alleged to have involved sex and security breaches.
Kane was prevented from publishing two books alleging laxness and corruption at GCHQ. Special Branch officers seized the manuscript of his memoir GCHQ: The Negative Asset in March 1984, and an injunction was issued three years later to stop his second, The Hidden Depths of Treachery.
But he was never prosecuted, and the outcome of a secret trial of two journalists, and the chance discovery of a KGB spy whom GCHQ had for years unknowingly harboured in its midst, gave the ring of truth to his assertions.
Kane wrote the books out of frustration after waging a long campaign to end what he said were fraudulent activities widespread in GCHQ, which he claimed could expose staff to blackmail by hostile agencies. In particular, he detailed laxness at GCHQ’s Little Sai Wan establishment, Hong Kong, where he had worked until 1976. His complaints, first aired in 1973, centred on lost secret documents and a lack of supervision of Chinese cleaners who, he said, were passing on material that had been collected from waste paper baskets.
His concerns became public knowledge after the defence at the 1978 “ABC” trial at the Old Bailey used, in court, information received from Kane. The judge, Mr Justice Mars-Jones, said he considered the charges of revealing government secrets “oppressive”, and the journalists Crispin Aubrey and Duncan Campbell received conditional discharges.
Little Sai Wan as an RAF base. It was transferred to GCHQ in 1964
As a result, television investigators and other journalists fastened on Kane’s allegations and carried inquiries further. A Granada Television World in Action documentary claimed to have discovered a brothel, disguised as a massage service, in a hotel where GCHQ reserved 30 rooms for the use of visiting staff, and which corruptly won its business from the organisation.
Two years later it emerged that, while Kane had been taking his allegations about GCHQ up the chain of command and to MPs and ministers, the man who would be regarded as the KGB’s most important British agent of the 1970s, Geoffrey Prime, had been giving away secrets for more than a decade while employed at the eavesdropping service’s Cheltenham’s headquarters. Prime resigned from GCHQ in 1977, and his spying was revealed only in 1982 after he was arrested in connection with sexual offences against young girls. For the sexual offences Prime was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment; for betraying secrets he received 35 years. He was released from prison in 2009.
John Kane was born at Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, on April 7 1921 and was left an only child when his mother died in childbirth when he was two. His father brought him up with the help of aunts and other relations, and he was educated at St Patrick’s High School, Coatbridge. On joining the RAF in 1939 he trained as a radio operator at Blackpool, and later flew on sorties from Cornwall over the Atlantic with the task of calibrating radar signals.
He served in North Africa and Italy, and in 1944 was sent into occupied Yugoslavia and then into heavy fighting in Greece. At Athens airport the situation appeared so desperate that he was given provisional orders to destroy his radio and encryption equipment. Help arrived just in time and the equipment survived.
While in Greece he met his future wife, Alexandra, a member of the Greek resistance who had spent a year in prison from 1941 for helping to evacuate British and Australian soldiers stranded there after the Nazi invasion . The couple exchanged letters, and married in London in 1949.
Kane was recruited by GCHQ on leaving the RAF at the end of the war, and was posted to Hawklaw near Cupar in Fife. He later served in Istanbul, Aden, Singapore, Hong Kong and Belfast.
His marriage to Alexandra, with whom he had two sons, was dissolved, and she died in 1999. With his second wife, Cynthia, whom he married in 1983, he moved to Barton on Sea, Hampshire, where he worked as a milkman and school bus driver. She survives him with the sons of his first marriage.
Jock Kane, born April 7 1921, died September 27 2013
I received my three-monthly British Gas bill last week, days before the news of a major price rise (Report, 18 October). Strangely, it underestimated my actual gas usage by 75%, which is unusual. The 75% of gas not included in this bill will now be charged on my next at the much higher rate. By strange coincidence it was not possible to submit an actual meter reading using its “24-hour automated telephone line” on the four occasions I tried.
• In setting out the health benefits of male circumcision (Letters, 19 October), perhaps Dr Michael Rivlin is arguing the ends justify the means?
• I’ve always believed it is the job and purpose of actors to make all drama accessible. I’m stunned to read that Julian Fellowes (Report, 15 October), now he has dumbed down his audience with Downton Abbey, declares them incapable of understanding of Shakespeare. One can only wonder how the great unwashed Elizabethan audiences ever followed the plot.
Todmorden, West Yorkshire
• Charles Milne (Letters, 19 October) shouldn’t blame “revisionist fiction” for the loss of a distinguished Old Etonian to Fettes College. Ian Fleming’s James Bond was given the boot after only two halves, though not, as Kingsley Amis pointed out in The James Bond Dossier, “for what Simon Raven once described as the usual thing: quite the contrary”.
We are the two protesters pictured on the steps of Camberwell magistrates court in Amelia Gentleman’s piece (400 in protest at clampdown on council tax arrears, 19 October). As part of the Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign, we have been trying to persuade Southwark’s Labour council not to do the government’s dirty work by threatening to evict tenants or remove their benefits through the courts. Southwark has a choice – 14 councils have adopted some kind of no evictions policy over the bedroom tax, others have absorbed the council tax benefit cut. :
The real aim of “welfare reform” is not to tackle the deficit – it won’t do that – but to make life so unbearable on benefits that we will be desperate to take any job, however low the pay, however poor the conditions, just to put food on the table. The growth of food banks shows how the bedroom tax and brutal sanctioning of benefits are literally starving people. That’s why we have managed to gather a coalition of our own in Southwark, including not just claimants but tenants, pensioners, disability campaigners and six local trade union branches representing the organised working class in the borough. We are part of a national benefit justice movement that intends to do for the bedroom tax what we did for the poll tax. We will be demonstrating in Southwark on 25 January 2014 and we invite our councillors to join us. It’s time they swapped sides.
Shaun O’Regan and Tanya Murat
Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign
• The hardships faced by single mother Lisa Whitman, who is “short every week”, are shared by many mothers and children. Instead of getting support for our caring work, single mothers are targeted as “workless”, ie worthless. How else to explain Newham council forcing the eviction of the Focus E15 mothers from their hostel by cutting funding, or that a single mother in the legal challenge to the £500 benefit cap has been left with £1.92 per child per day after rent?
Both Hilary Benn and the debt charity Zacchaeus 2000 condemn the threatening of sick and disabled people with summonses, bailiffs and prison. But for claimants, benefit deductions cut in before bailiffs and prison do. The council hands a printout of names and addresses to a magistrate who makes a global liability order – our individual circumstances and suffering conveniently hidden.
In Camden, 2,569 people were summonsed in three months, bypassing wheelchair-user discounts and discretionary help. A woman behind by £2.59 had to pay the year’s council tax to avoid court fees. Another had her weekly benefit reduced to £63.10, as she already had crisis loan repayments. She goes without food. That is the policy.
When the community urged Camden councillors to join Brighton, Fife and Leeds in opposition to council and bedroom tax, they responded with eviction notices and food banks.
WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities)
Single Mothers’ Self-Defence
• Tens of thousands of social tenants are being forced into rent arrears because they cannot afford to pay this unjust levy. Local authorities acknowledge that, across Wales, there are more than 37,000 households deemed under-occupied, with just under 400 available one-bedroom homes, and some of those struggling to pay are being forced to subsist on £7.50 a week – 14p over the UN poverty threshold of $1.50 per day.
We call upon Welsh social landlords to:
1: Follow the lead of Labour and SNP councils in Scotland and desist from evicting families for bedroom tax arrears.
2: Re-designate properties in line with the Fife rulings on bedroom size and part X of the 1985 Housing Act, following the lead of councils such as Wrexham. Grant tenants with disabilities the dignity of a spare bedroom for respite as ruled by the first-tier tribunal.
3: Extend the housing association moratorium on mandatory eviction for rent arrears. We also call upon housing associations to work, both with one another, the Welsh government and their tenants, to model more imaginative ways of balancing financial risk.
4: For Wales’ national and local elected representatives and social landlords to unite with tenants and supporting organisations to defeat the bedroom tax, taking the campaign back to Westminster.
The Most Revd Dr Barry Morgan
Archbishop of Wales
Steve Clarke Managing director, Welsh Tenants
Jennie Bibbings Shelter Cymru
Adam Johannes & Jamie Insole Cardiff and South Wales Against the Bedroom Tax
Mick Antoniw AM
Bethan Jenkins AM
Linsey Whittle AM
Mark Serwotka General secretary, Public & Commercial Services Union
In the light of the Edward Snowden affair, your editorial (18 October) rightly makes the case for politicians to avoid trying to control or restrict what newspapers say on matters of public interest. You also say that the royal charter on press regulation needs to be viewed in the light of the fallout from Snowden. It is important to point out that there is nothing in the royal charter scheme which introduces any kind of pre-publication control of newspaper content or any direct influence post-publication. It merely enables an inspector to ensure that the press’s own successor to the PCC is effective and independent. The royal charter would ban politicians from any part of the process, unlike the PCC, which is headed and assisted by party-political peers. Parliament has decided that a two-thirds majority would be required to change the criteria by which the independent inspector or independent press regulators were judged every three years. If such a change were made the most that could happen is that a recognised regulator would lose its approval and turn into a regulator like the PCC or the proposed IPSO. This is hardly the great threat to press freedom some papers are suggesting.
Professor Sheila Hollins, Christopher Jefferies, Ed Blum, Jacqui Hames, Jane Winter, John Tulloch
• Spooks store all our private data because they can. The 10MB hard disk in my 1983 PC would today be replaced by one almost a million times bigger. Our ability to store data has outstripped even our internet-age ability to create it. We can’t un-invent snooping technology, but we can invent anti-snooping privacy laws to reassert the primacy of a democratic society over a surveillance state.
In China there are about 22 million vocational students (aged 15-18) and Foxconn is one of the biggest employers of these as “interns” (Aditya Chakrabortty, 15 October). Foxconn internship programmes range from three months to a year, subject to extension as production requires. Aditya Chakrabortty cites independent research findings, which are strongly supported by Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior.
Internships at Foxconn are irrelevant to the students’ studies and skills training. Under the high-speed production demands of Apple, Sony, Samsung, Nintendo, HP and other clients, Foxconn assigns teenage student interns to process iPhone casings, stick labels on boxes, and assemble game consoles. Interns are exposed to safety and health hazards on the line, without any insurance protection. Sacom found that Foxconn interns were forced to do excessive overtime and to alternate day and night shifts, against the regulations. In this global labour regime, provincial and lower-level government directly intervene to facilitate export-led growth, at the sacrifice of students’ educational and human rights.
Good internship is an integral part of the vocational curriculum and is vital to linking theory with practice. In February 2012, Apple CEO Tim Cook failed to reply to students’ and scholars’ open letter on student labour exploitation. Today, we call on Apple, Sony and other tech giants to stop abusing Chinese student interns in their supplier factories, notably Foxconn. Together with conscientious consumers around the globe, we demand fair labour and decent work for all, including student interns in China, the UK, the US and other countries.
Liang Pui Kwan
Project officer, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior
Sir, Let China build nuclear power stations in the UK and using its technology if we deem it to be safe (report and leading article, Oct 18). However, once operating, these plants should be managed and operated by British scientists and engineers. Their brief should include a total understanding of the system, enabling continuing operation, irrespective of any changes in the political climate. A nuclear power station should not be a Trojan Horse.
Sir, In the West we are working hard to reduce carbon emissions while China is still building coal-fired power stations to cope with the demand from the West for cheap goods. Surely we have designers, engineers and manpower to build our own power stations? If we scrap HS2 we would have enough money to build three nuclear power stations and wouldn’t need to go begging to the Chinese. We should not be dealing with China while it has such a poor human rights record.
Sir , Does our Government not realise that in asking the French, and now the Chinese, to build our nuclear power stations it is seeking a “loan”, not attracting “investment”. Investment is expenditure made in the anticipation that it will generate a return of capital with additional profit. The government is guaranteeing a minimum return which means that this investment is effectively a loan, without risk, on which we shall agree to repay both the capital and interest.
Furthermore we shall incur the full burden of the repayments as electricity generated cannot be exported to offset the cost to us. Thus this “investment” will increase the national debt for the next 40 years. The very debt that the Government’s austerity measures are supposed to be eradicating.
Sir, In the South China Morning Post on October 7 , it was revealed that the world’s first AP1000 third-generation nuclear power plant being built in Sanmen, Zhejiang province, the type China General Nuclear Power Group would wish to build in Britain, has fallen behind schedule, and questions are now being raised over its safety standards. This is very advanced technology, but it has not been commercialised in a nuclear reactor anywhere, and it needs to be proven over time. I wonder whether the Chancellor or Energy Secretary were told of the safety difficulties during his visit to China?
Dr David Lowry
Environmental policy and research consultant,
Sir, Nuclear energy production cannot be compared with car plants. If a car production line is faulty, the entire fleet can be recalled. Public safety is of utmost significance in relation to nuclear power plants. Nuclear power plants should be constructed and run by the State.
Sir, George Osborne’s invitation to China reminds me of King Hezekiah of Judah who, in Isaiah chapter 39, showed envoys from Babylon his palace and storehouses. A few years later, Babylon’s armies invaded and conquered the land.
Horsham, W Sussex
This is not rocket science, but the help mechanisms are not really there to encourage people to take a logical financial decision
Sir, While the Prince of Wales (reports, Oct 17, 18 & letters, Oct 19) correctly identifies the pensions problem, the answer requires some lateral thinking. Indeed the real problem is the pensions concept itself.
People need income in retirement, but in order to get that most retirees are giving huge sums of money to large pension providers who then provide them with small incomes. The solution is for people to create income in retirement by using different means where they retain full control of their
capital. This can be done, for example, through building a retirement fund in an ISA account, or indeed by using the drawdown mechanism.
Unfortunately there is not enough simple help available to assist savers through these alternatives and the pensions industry is too keen to retain the status quo, where savers spend several decades putting money aside in order to give it away later for a very poor income deal.
This is not rocket science, but the help mechanisms are not really
there to encourage people to take a logical financial decision. The pensions industry does not want to see those mechanisms put in place because it would damage their own interests.
Sir, The Prince of Wales was right to speak up in regard to the poor management of pension funds. Your deputy money editor David Budworth, in his column on June 15, 2013 quoted Alan Higham, a respected financial planner, as follows: “He meticulously explains how insurers can pocket up to £63,000 in profit and overheads when they turn your £100,000 pension fund into an annuity. Hence annuities are astonishingly bad value”.
Pension fund managers should be grateful that the Prince stopped when he did.
Anthony D..B. Wright
Sir, I have two pensions. One from the State to which I made compulsory contributions for more than 45
years and one private one to
which I contributed voluntarily for as long as I was permitted — about
I invested the latter in various Investment Trusts run in the City.
My “City” pension has performed about four times as well as my State one and yet to add insult to injury they have the nerve to call the latter a “benefit” .
If the City is unfit to look after our pensions how much more unfit is the State?
If people do not switch suppliers occasionally, there is no incentive for goods and services providers to react to the forces of competition
Sir, If Mr Lyons (letter, Oct 19) needs several hours at a computer to compare and switch energy suppliers, I suggest that he needs to address this issue with his broadband supplier.
Anticipating the usual autumn rises, two weeks ago I switched to a dual-fuel deal fixed from next month until March 2017. Even Mr Miliband cannot match this as a promise. The entire compare-and-switch process took me less than 30 minutes.
If people do not switch suppliers occasionally, there is no incentive for goods and services providers to react to the forces of competition. I understand that other price management methods are available, but history indicates that these appear to be inferior.
Sir, The dilemma I face is that the cheapest energy supplier at the start of the week might not be the cheapest come Friday. Is this why energy price rise announcements are staggered?
Edgware, Greater London
Support for people with a mental illness should from a range of skilled professionals working together — including psychiatrists, doctors and social workers
Sir, Dr Barber’s assertion (letter, Oct 18) about the “virtual disappearance of psychiatry as a medical discipline” appears deliberately provocative. Psychiatrists still play a major role in mental health care, but, rightly, no longer as omnipotent voices.
As the Mental Health Foundation has pointed out in its recent report on integrating mental health care, support for people with a mental illness needs to come from a range of skilled professionals working together — including psychiatrists, GPs, doctors, nurses, social workers and housing officers. The report calls for urgent changes to early training and continuing professional development around collaborative working to establish this.
Simon Lawton Smith
After the Second World War the third class that was removed and replaced with a new second class, which has given only third class travel
Sir, Before the Second World War there were three classes of tickets and carriages (report, Oct 19), as originally stipulated by the Prime Minister William Gladstone, in order to give ordinary people a chance of using this new mode of travel. He also said that it should be nationalised and not left in private hands.
When war began the second class classification was annulled leaving the first and third classes and all transport came under government control. It was the third class that was removed and replaced with a new second class, which has given only third class travel.
SIR – Today is World Osteoporosis Day. New research conducted by the National Osteoporosis Society demonstrates that a fifth of people over the age of 50 break three or more bones before they are diagnosed with osteoporosis and given effective treatment.
Currently only around a third of NHS services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland provide evidence-based fracture liaison services to ensure appropriate assessment and treatment after a fracture.
With 89,000 hip fractures a year accounting for 2 million bed days and £2.3 billion in health and social care costs, increasing to £6 billion a year by 2036, this is a growing problem for the NHS.
The pain, disability and economic cost of fragility fractures will go unchecked unless we have a fracture liaison service linked to every hospital. These simple, cost-effective services must be prioritised by commissioners to address the care gap.
Until the NHS is able to provide equitable assessment for everyone with a fracture, the National Osteoporosis Society’s “Stop At One” campaign, launched this week, urges the over-50s to take action themselves and see their GP for a bone assessment if they have previously broken a bone or have a history of osteoporosis in their family.
Immigration from Eastern Europe in 2014 will sink the Tories’ electoral prospects
20 Oct 2013
How the Battle of Trafalgar was won by a splinter’s breadth
20 Oct 2013
Chief Executive, National Osteoporosis Society Professor
Professor Judith E Adams
Consultant Radiologist, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Professor David H Barlow
Emeritus Professor previously Executive Dean of Medicine, The University of Glasgow
Professor Juliet Compston
Professor of Bone Medicine and Honorary Consultant Physician
Dr Alun Cooper
Clinical lead for Crawley Primary Care based Fracture Liaison Service
Professor Cyrus Cooper
Vice Dean, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton and Professor of Musculoskeletal Science, University of Oxford
Dr Louise Dolan
Consultant Rheumatologist, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Lewisham & Greenwich Trust
Professor Richard Eastell
Professor of Bone Metabolism, Head of the Academic Unit of Bone Metabolism, Director of the Mellanby Centre for Bone Research
Professor Ignac Fogelman
Honorary Consultant Physician, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
Professor Roger Francis,
Emeritus Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University
Dr Neil Gittoes
Consultant Endocrinologist, Queen Elizabeth Medical Centre, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust & Chair of the Bone & Mineral Specialist Interest Group of the Society for Endocrinology
Chief Executive, British Society for Rheumatology
Dr Kassim Javaid
Norman Collisson Lecturer in Metabolic Bone Disease, University of Oxford & Honorary Consultant Rheumatologist, Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre
Dr Richard Keen
Director of the Metabolic Bone Disease Unit, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital
Professor David Marsh
Emeritus Professor of Orthopaedics, UCL & President of the Fragility Fracture Network
Professor Finbarr C Martin
Chair of the Falls and Fragility Fractures National Audit Programme
Professor Terence O’Neill
Professor of Rheumatology & Clinical Epidemiology, University of Manchester & Chair of National Osteoporosis Society’s Clinical and Scientific Committee
Dr Nicola Peel
Clinical Lead, Metabolic Bone Service, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
College of Occupational Therapists
Professor David M Reid
Head of School of Medicine & Dentistry, University of Aberdeen
Professor Graham Russell
Emeritus Professor of Musculoskeletal Pharmacology, University of Oxford
Professor Opinder Sahota
Professor in Orthogeriatric Medicine & Consultant Physician, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust
Professor Peter L Selby
Consultant Physician, Honorary Clinical Professor of Metabolic Bone Disease
Dr Liam O’Toole
Chief Executive, Arthritis Research UK
SIR – Matthew d’Ancona feels that the next election hinges on who best persuades voters that he will “share the proceeds” of growth. One wishes that it were so simple. The next election really hinges on the effects of Bulgarian and Romanian immigration in 2014.
If it goes badly, which is almost certain, the Tories will lose, no matter what else they do. The hard-earned benefits of economic recovery will count for nothing. By allowing this, they are sleep-walking to destruction.
SIR – Britain’s welfare crisis did not arise overnight. It has been long maturing and benefit fraud by Eastern Europeans is merely symptomatic of a fundamental weakness.
The NHS can’t ignore broken bones
20 Oct 2013
How the Battle of Trafalgar was won by a splinter’s breadth
20 Oct 2013
Professor Milton Friedman’s dictum that you can have immigration or you can have welfare, but not together, merely states the obvious, yet for half a century we have been allowing or even encouraging immigrants whose skills do not merit the national average wage.
An immigrant earning £12,000 a year with an economically inactive spouse and large family, however assiduous, will inevitably receive more in benefits than he can possibly contribute.
SIR – The 600,000 “non-active” EU migrants in the UK are not a static group of benefit tourists but consist largely of school and college students, pensioners and spouses of migrant workers. Fewer than 60,000 are actually on Jobseeker’s Allowance.
There are 1.7 million EU residents in the UK who are economically active and paying taxes. EU migrants have rescued large areas of agriculture from neglect, contributed vastly to health and social services in this country as well as the fields of recreation, house construction and finance.
They have a lower unemployment rate and better work ethic than the indigenous population.
Chairman, SPK (Polish Veterans Organisation)
SIR – Your report that non-active EU migrants in the UK are claiming welfare and using the NHS, shows the absolute folly of having a universal welfare system with open borders within the European Union.
The welfare state should be only accessible to those who have contributed to the system, which is what William Beveridge originally had in mind. However, EU commissioners obsessed with creating a federal Europe want to use such an open system for their own ends.
Margaret Thatcher talked about rolling back the state at home, but Brussels is reimposing it from the top. If this is the root of the problem, leaving the EU’s social democratic project is of paramount importance to our national interest.
James A Paton
SIR – In the last week, the European Union has reduced safety margins on commercial pilot shifts and abolished the Instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) rating for private pilots which for decades made our skies safer than most other countries. At the end of October, it will force private midwives out of their jobs by regulating even that valued profession.
I have just been told by a manufacturer that his security door sets, which could legally be sold last year, cannot now be sold as they have yet to achieve an EC marking and will not therefore meet building regulations.
As politicians whistle in the wind the EU continues frogmarching over us. Please, can someone get us out?
SIR – “Cut EU red tape, Cameron told”: this will be welcomed by all industrialists trying to develop their business in these difficult times. The man in the street knows little of the onerous health and safety laws emanating from Brussels.
David Cameron must take back powers from the EU to control our borders, so that migrants can be admitted in numbers that are beneficial to our economy.
I wish him luck.
Darley Abbey, Derbyshire
Coalition must show stronger leadership
SIR – The vapid inertia of the Coalition is making it unlikely that we will elect a government capable of making independent and sensible decisions for the good of the British people.
Ukip is a lobby for a limited agenda which is being allowed to flourish by weak-kneed, career-minded time-servers who are more focused on their own professional futures than the good of our country. We need more backbone from our leaders.
SIR – Gerry Abrahams says he voted for Ukip in the local elections, will vote for Ukip in the European elections but will vote Conservative in the general election just to keep Ed Miliband out. If everyone who wanted to vote for Ukip in 2015 had the courage of their convictions, wouldn’t that make things interesting?
Kings Bromley, Staffordshire
SIR – To vote twice for a party that wants to leave the EU, and then against it in favour of a party that wants to stay in, in the hope of excluding another party that also wants to stay in, is strange logic indeed.
SIR – To demonise Ed Miliband as a bogeyman is to concede the political initiative. Where is the appeal in the deeply uninspiring “Vote for us to keep them out”? It is a far cry from the courageous and far-reaching reforms of the Thatcher governments, when the Tory message was positive and clear, rewarded by three general election victories.
SIR – I am surprised by Labour’s continued high rating in the polls.
Messrs Blair and Brown wrecked Britain financially and culturally. The Tories are far from perfect but they are slowly reviving our economy.
SIR – I am not as sure as Andrew Martin that renationalising the railways is necessarily patriotic or efficient. You cannot really nationalise anything until the Government itself is safely nationalised and outside the European Union.
There is every reason to exclude foreign companies from ownership of key British infrastructural enterprises and to refuse the EU-imposed idiocy of HS2.
So, bring back the LMS, GWR, LNER and the rest.
The present system of franchises and Byzantine pricing practices is long overdue for change but not by Whitehall while it remains a subsidiary of Brussels.
Need for nuclear
SIR – In light of the recent hike in energy prices it is essential that we become able to provide our own fuel resources to stabilise future energy price increases. Would it not make far more sense for the Government to scrap the huge (and arguably frivolous) investment in HS2 and use these funds to build new nuclear power stations?
SIR – With reference to your report that “Fee-paying schools ‘bar pupils to aid results’”, surely the more alarming issue is that since September it has also been lawful for maintained schools likewise to require existing pupils to leave if they fail to meet academic requirements for the sixth form.
This would seem to run counter to the policy of raising the participation age, which took effect at the same time. It also potentially discriminates against pupils with learning disabilities.
Independent Parental Special Education Advice
Saffron Walden, Essex
SIR – Some time ago, after becoming incensed at yet another example of Left-wing bias in the BBC, I wrote to its complaints department to ask how many respective protests about Right-wing and Left-wing bias they had received in the previous year.
They refused, saying this information was protected by the Data Protection Act.
Brian J Singleton
SIR – I have a choice over which newspaper to buy each day. As I am required by law to purchase a television licence, why can’t I choose which television provider my money goes to?
Royal Mail sell-off
SIR – The Government’s decision to sell off Royal Mail for a fraction of its real worth is on a par with the ridiculous decision by Gordon Brown in 1999 to sell off half of the nation’s gold reserves when the price of gold was at an all-time low.
SIR – I was interested to read that champagne glasses are designed with dimples to produce extra fizz. But I thought the idea was to limit the amount of fizz, by pouring the champagne at an angle, with the bottle balanced in one hand and the thumb in the dimple in the bottom.
SIR – I noticed with curiosity that a coin from my purse clung to the magnetic tip of a steel measuring tape. Why are 10 pence pieces magnetic and 50 pence pieces not so?
Laytham, East Yorkshire
Sir, – In his Budget contribution Fianna Fáil finance spoksperson Michael McGrath referred to a Department of Social Protection letter to a constituent. He said that it listed jobs opportunities in Canada and offered to help draft a CV in the format used by Canadian employers. I suggest that it could have done more.
It could have offered to pay Canadian and other foreign job applicants €2,500, say – half of the minimum dole for a year – each to depart on condition that they wouldn´t sign on again for at least five years. That would help to have a number of useful effects.
It would immediately help to lower social protection expenditure, including on training courses for jobs (not enough of which exist in Ireland or which don´t pay enough for desired lifestyles). With about 75 per cent of current school-leavers set to depart to enhance their lifestyles, and hundreds of thousands of older people without jobs or in jobs that don´t pay well enough, the take-up would lower social protection expenditure massively in the years ahead.
That lowering overall Budget expenditure would help us stop adding to our public debt and help the HSE pay enough to get and retain workers whose departure to enhance lifestyles threatens to undermine further our creaking health service. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The Budget indicated that national debt/GDP will remain north of an unsustainable 100 per cent for the foreseeable future. As a consequence, about half of all income tax will be used, possibly for rest of this decade, to meet interest charges on this debt notwithstanding an imminent exit from the bailout.
Against this background, there was no indication in the Budget that any new sacrifices are being made by one of the best paid and pensioned cabinets in the world or by their overpaid advisers, senior public servants and wealthy supporters.
Where are the moderate salaries, reasonable pensions and equitable taxation that might be reasonably expected as part of an austerity programme which, after several years, continues to be inflicted by the few on the majority? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – “This is no country for old men (women)” and “An aged man is but a paltry thing”. Two lines from WB Yeats are apt for Ireland today.
Our senior citizens are such easy targets for this Government with medical card probity being enforced, their telephone rental allowance been scrapped, even the bereavement grant abolished.
It is not such a long time ago that a Fine Gael government attacked our children with the attempted introduction of shoe tax. The current Government seems to be proving their track record in enforcing hardship on its citizens. Pity it hasn’t got the scruples to tackle the real culprits that have our country in the state it is!
Hang your head in shame Fine Gael. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Ernest Blythe would be proud of the recent Budget and William Martin Murphy would have endorsed it as an appropriate commemoration of the 1913 Lockout. – Yours, etc,
ADRIAN J ENGLISH,
Sir, – I’m writing as one who attempted to talk to a bank official live on the telephone. First I was told to go online to www etc. Next I was told to press 1, 2, 3 or 4, each for a different consultation. When I pressed 5 which was for “other queries”, I went round in a circle, told to go online www etc., next told to press 1, 2, 3 or 4 for the exact same reasons. This time when I passed 5, I heard music. This eventually ended, and a live voice spoke to me.
I’m in my 84th year and despite having pen and paper in hand, if was hard for me to grasp which button to press for what, as recorded instructions were given at a speed I could barely cope with. I’m not alone in my resentment of technology gone mad. – Yours, etc,
A chara, – The Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan is legislating to abolish all town councils and amalgamating city and county councils. He should be doing the exact opposite.
He should create more local authorities and give them more powers. Ireland is a small but very centralised state. Citizens should have more power, not less. This Government is hell-bent on eradicating as many democractic bodies as possible. In one fall of a parliamentary guillotine, the elected representatives of Údarás na Gaeltachta were done away with. Seanad Éireann was saved from a similar fate by the electorate. Now the Minister wants to butcher local government.
This newspaper reported in May this year that the Council of Europe is of the opinion that local government in Ireland is weak. The Minister wants to make it worse. The abolition of Seanad Éireann would have been of no great loss to most citizens, but the same cannot be said for local councils.
If the Minister wanted to do something progressive, he should abolish all titles of “Lord Mayor” and replace them with “Mayor” or better still, just call them by the Irish title “Méara”. Elected representatives in a republic should not have noble titles. – Is mise,
SEANÁN Ó COISTÍN,
Rue William Turner,
Sir, – The Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Michael Jackson, has referred at his Synod to the presence of sectarianism in his dioceses (Home News, October 16th). He states he grew up in Fermanagh in the midst of sectarianism and division; sectarianism there, he states, was “exercised by those with clinical brilliance who sought to eat up such people in a power game of politics and dominance”.
I am nine years younger than the archbishop; I grew up six miles from his childhood home; I belonged (and belong) to the same church as he does; and I went to the same school he attended, Portora Royal. His remarks strike me as being exaggerated, vague, unfocused and unspecific. The leading clergy of the Church of Ireland in Fermanagh (Anglicanism being the largest denomination in the county after Catholicism) were hardly notable for their sectarianism; the main Ulster Unionist leaders in the county in the 1970s and 1980s were scarcely anti-Catholic bigots; the ethos of his school at that time was hardly intolerant.
Who are or were the people to whom Dr Jackson refers who sought to eat up others in their sectarian games? Is he able or unable to name them? Sectarianism was scarcely absent in Fermanagh 40 or 30 years ago, but it was neither so pervasive nor so virulent as Dr Jackson suggests.
What is no less odd is that Dr Jackson has failed to mention the most obvious and undeniable manifestation of sectarianism in Fermanagh in the 20 years after the outbreak of the Troubles: the campaign waged by the Provisional IRA against border Protestants, a campaign which culminated in the Remembrance Sunday bomb in November 1987. Why was Dr Jackson so silent on this subject? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Don Mullins (September 30th) states that an “obscene amount of money was paid to a few farmers to conserve a few birds”. Mr Mullins was referring to a report that 377 farmers have received €11 million over a five-year period as part of the hen harrier farm scheme.
The monies referred to above are part of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds. One of the EU conditions attached to these farm payments is that biodiversity is maintained. In the case of the hen harrier, these payments were made to farmers whose lands were designated under an EU Directive as Special Protection Areas. The lands are generally marginal and without these special payments the natural habitat and hence its biodiversity would be replaced by the monoculture of Sitka spruce.
The reason the EU insists such funds be allocated to biodiversity is because it is an essential component in the provision of the oxygen, water and the food that we require for our very existence. Birds such as the hen harrier are at the top of the food chain and are therefore a good indicator of the state of the biodiversity of the landscape. When indicator species such as the hen harrier start disappearing, as is currently the case, it is an early warning sign that problems more fundamental than those concerned with health and education services are on the horizon. The EU recognises this. Likewise the UN General Assembly also recognised the critical importance of biodiversity and has declared 2011-2020 the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity.
Sir, – Kevin Conneff (October 11th) is quite correct. While the newly-designed passport’s depiction of Irish music includes such recent additions to traditional practice as the bodhrán, accordion and banjo, the uilleann pipes, with its far longer association with Irish music, is left out.
I would have to say “unaccountably left out”, given the internationally recognised identification of the instrument with Ireland. For the instrument has been associated with Ireland for centuries, and is the most sophisticated of the scores of different types of bagpipe found throughout Europe. It affords the player an unequalled musical palette (including a two-octave range, unmatched by other bagpipes) for the performance of the native music, and incorporates its own built-in apparatus for providing harmonic and rhythmic accompaniment. It has been aptly described as “the Irish organ”.
Any other country would be proud of such a musical phenomenon, but a great many Irish people seem to be unaware of its existence. I can only suppose that the commissioner of the artwork concerned, and probably the artist who executed it, fall into that category. Na Píobairí Uilleann, the Association of Uilleann Pipers, was founded in 1968 when the general ignorance regarding the instrument was even more profound than it is today, and when it seemed to players that the pipes were destined to follow the old Irish harp into oblivion. Things have greatly improved in the 45 years since then, but in some quarters we obviously still have some way to go.
We are happy to provide players, lecturers or information on the subject of what is a national instrument. Inquiries should be directed to the address below, or to firstname.lastname@example.org
– Yours, etc,
Sir, – Michael Nash’s letter (October 12th) tries to create awareness of the vulnerability and neglect of mental health service users. Medications used can cause extra illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, etc. leading to early deaths. Yet this is what is allowed happen and is looked on as acceptable treatment. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – In response to Joan Burton’s plan to deploy gardaí to catch benefit fraudsters (Home News, October 17th), may I strongly suggest she and the Government also go after all the multinational companies in Ireland which pay little or no tax whatsoever. The monies owed by these companies store billions in cash reserves, dwarf all that is collectively owed by a few petty benefit fraudsters. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – The letter from Gearóid Ó Loinsigh (October 18th) excited me, in that the new Garda welfare checkpoints at the entrance to housing estates could be put to many practical uses.
As well as checking whether people are in employment, the checkpoints could be used to confiscate cigarettes on health grounds from the hapless passing motorists.
People returning into their housing estates from the supermarket could have all unhealthy food items removed from their shopping bags. The checkpoints could be supplied with weighing scales with a large display so that fat and obese motorists could be asked to exit their vehicles and be publicly weighed and shamed.
I am so full of great ideas that I think that The Irish Times should open up a competition to find the best use to which these new checkpoints could be put? – Yours, etc,
Madam – Your news item ‘Priest orders TD not to help with communion’ (Sunday Independent, October 13, 2013) deserves comment.
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Within the Catholic Church there is a ban on clergy becoming involved in party political activities, because such activity is likely to be divisive within the community. A major role of clergy is to proclaim the Word of God and explain its implications for “the common good” by, for example, expounding church teaching on social matters.
Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist are in a somewhat similar situation and should not be a source of disunity as they administer Communion.
Derek Keating TD has made much of the fact that he has been asked to stand down as a eucharistic minister. In my opinion he should have been able to work out for himself that an active politician should not be a eucharistic minister.
For my own part, when I was selected as a parliamentary candidate for Islington North in the UK I immediately resigned from ministry as a eucharistic minister and did not return to this special ministry until I had moved out of the public body.
Being a eucharistic minister is a privilege and no one should feel it is their entitlement. If anyone feels that their behaviour might cause conflict at the altar, then surely the right thing to do is to stand down and take a less visible role within their parish. I left my former political party when it became almost totally pro-abortion.
Interestingly, Derek Keating remains happy to be in a political party that “excommunicated” long-standing TDs and senators who could not accept Fine Gael’s abandonment of its long-standing anti-abortion policy.
His present outrage is misdirected and smacks of double standards.
Beaufort, Co Kerry
Madam – As a teenager nearing the legal age for employment, I will soon be applying for jobs in my area. However, many of my friends have already reached this age and are often passed over for older, more qualified applicants. While I do feel sympathy for my friends, I understand where business owners are coming from.
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If you were given the choice between hiring a 16- or 17-year-old with very little work experience and knowledge in the given sector and somebody in their 20s or 30s with a college degree, and previous work experience, who would you choose? Most professionals would hire the more experienced individual for the simple reason that they have an idea what to do and may not need as much training as a teenager. Despite the logic of this scenario, many teenagers are still unhappy when employers decline their applications. Is it just the feelings of inadequacy that lead to this, or can teenagers not understand the business decisions made by human resources departments?
I am not saying that all employers should overlook teenagers for employment. There are some cases where hiring a teenager could be better than hiring somebody older. Many teenagers are eager and willing to learn and will work just as hard as anybody else. I am just wondering why some people have trouble comprehending why they are unlucky with employment when somebody more qualified gets the job instead.
Adam Burke (15),
MILEY MAY SOON CHANGE HER TUNE
Madam – Three beautiful, lively, smart young women are making world headlines: Malala Yousafzai, Joanne O’Riordan and Miley Cyrus. Joanne and Malala are to be admired for their wonderful ability, fearless behaviour and help to mankind, but poor Miley will get exploited and used, I fear. The music business is only interested in making money. She may ‘see the light’ and change her antics. God loves her too.
Cootehill, Co Cavan
Madam – While it is indeed disturbing to hear so many adults have literacy difficulties which will severely limit their life chances, there is another set of problems now developing as a result of poor education policy.
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Secondary school children are being absolutely crippled by the huge weight of the school bags they have to carry.
In the first few years they do 13 subjects, all of which require a book. Many of these contain the syllabus for all three years of the junior cycle. In essence they usually have to work on six or seven subjects a night, which means the load to be carried is massive, weighing up to 28lb.
The Department of Education carried out a report on this issue in 1998, and its findings stress that no child should carry more than 10 per cent of their body weight. It also suggested smaller single-year books, and more double classes, but all of this is being totally ignored.
Surely the Department of Education has a duty of care to these vulnerable children. If they were adults in a workplace, they wouldn’t be allowed lift such weights without manual-handling training.
But Hiqa and the HSA do not want to get involved. So there is only one consolation for these thousands of children – the bigger and stronger they become, the less the bag will weigh, as there are only seven subjects for the Leaving Cert.
Swinford, Co Mayo
Madam – Derek Keating TD bemoans being asked to step aside in relation to his duty as eucharistic minister by his local priests due to his support for the abortion bill, and is allegedly saddened (Sunday Independent, October 13, 2013).
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Yet it is acceptable that seven Fine Gael members have been expelled from the party for their refusal to abide by the party whip (in other words, the Gospel of Fine Gael). Irony?
Sallins, Co Kildare
Madam – Before Priory Hall becomes a distant memory we should all remember the many articles written in your paper by Maeve Sheehan and we should never forget the sad loss of Fiachra Daly.
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Minister for the Enviroment Phil Hogan stated last week that the Priory Hall debacle was the result of “one of the worst excesses of the Celtic Tiger era”. That is a pretty accurate statement.
The minister also says he will introduce new building regulations; there is no need for him to do so. Along with the Building Regulations 1997-2013, the Construction Products Regulation 305/2011/EU (CPR) was adopted on March 9, 2011, and came into force on July 1 this year.
The regulation refers to all types of concrete, membranes, doors, windows, fire and smoke control and over 400 harmonised product standards, and provides for unannounced on-site inspections.
Applications for extensions of time on planning permissions granted for developments are now being approved by county managers of local authorities. This will result in apartment blocks being completed in 2020 from plans drawn up 10 years ago, or before CPR existed.
There are no conditions attached to the ‘manager’s orders’ of local authorities when granting time extensions that invoke the new CPR.
Instead of dreaming up new regulations, the minister should enforce the ones that exist – and he should do so with the same speed with which he introduced water charges and sewage inspections, or is he afraid of what he will find if he looks under the bonnet?
Am I on my own in asking the same question Captain Lewis asked as he watched Hiroshima from the Enola Gay: what have we become?
Firhouse, Dublin 24