26 October 2013 Jill

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble They have been sent out to sea on a secret mission. Priceless
Sort the books, tshopping Jill visits Sandy rings
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary wins get just under 400, though perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Major-General Pat Kay
Major-General Pat Kay was a Marine officer who helped to take 65 enemy prisoners in Normandy and later guarded the nation’s secrets

Major-General Pat Kay 
5:58PM BST 22 Oct 2013
Major-General Pat Kay of the Royal Marines, who has died aged 92, was a D-Day veteran and secretary of the D-Notice committee which guarded the nation’s secrets.
On D-Day, June 6 1944, Kay was brigade liaison officer at headquarters 41 Royal Marines Commando. At 8.45am his landing craft grounded 200 yards off Sword beach, which was already littered with the dead and wounded, and burnt-out tanks, and was still under heavy fire . The mission of 41 Commando was to take several strong points near Lion-sur-Mer, on the extreme left flank of the Allied landings.
Kay waded ashore under sniper and machine-gun fire and within five minutes was off the beach. But by 11.40 all the Commando tanks had been put out of action and they were out of mortars . An hour later they withdrew to their starting position, a road parallel to the beach, where they resisted a number of German counterattacks and consolidated their perimeter defences. By the end of the day they had suffered 140 casualties, including many of the officers. Meanwhile, Kay made the hazardous journey through the Normandy countryside to brigade headquarters to seek reinforcements and resupply.
The next morning he had a lucky escape when three German bombers suddenly swooped out of the clouds and dropped three sticks of anti-personnel bombs . When 46 Royal Marines Commando landed as reinforcements on June 7, Kay carried the orders to attack another enemy stronghold at Petit Enfer. The CO, the redoubtable Campbell Hardy, demanded: “Are you armed?” When Kay replied in the affirmative he was told: “You will lead Z troop this evening.”
The attack was successful, and at 6pm the stronghold surrendered. Without suffering further losses the Marines took 65 prisoners and a considerable quantity of enemy weapons and equipment.
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In November 1944 Kay was severely wounded when his Buffalo, a tracked landing vehicle, hit a mine during the bitterly contested landings on the strategically vital island of Walcheren at the mouth of the Scheldt. He was appointed MBE (military).
Patrick Richard Kay was born on August 1 1921 at Blakeney, Norfolk, educated at Eastbourne College and commissioned in the Royal Marines in January 1940. After serving in the battlecruiser Renown, he joined 4 Commando Brigade in early 1944.
Post-war, Kay served in Combined Operations Headquarters and attended the Army staff college at Camberley. In 1954 he joined 40 Commando in Malta and was deployed to Cyprus during the Eoka Emergency; two years later he took part in the Suez landings. Kay was an instructor at the Joint Services Amphibious Warfare Centre at Poole before taking up a testing desk job in the Admiralty .
As a newly promoted lieutenant-colonel he commanded 43 Royal Marines Commando, and during a Nato exercise in northern Norway carried out a bold, outflanking move over the mountains involving a march of two days and a night, which he led at a cracking pace.
After command of the Amphibious Training Unit, Royal Marines, at Poole, he embarked on a long stint as a “Whitehall warrior” during which his expertise at joint operations, his knowledge of the MoD and his year at the Imperial Defence College stood him in good stead . He was appointed CB in 1972.
From 1974 to 1981 Kay was Director of Naval Security, taking over after the sudden death of his predecessor and several high-profile spy cases . Having reviewed and improved the Navy’s internal security, he was the obvious candidate to become, in 1982, associate secretary of the Defence Press and Broadcasting Committee, assisting the full-time D-Notice secretary, who was responsible for making official requests to newspaper editors not to publish or broadcast items on specified subjects for reasons of national security. Kay succeeded to the principal appointment in 1986.
He had to deal with several contentious matters including Northern Ireland; the sinking of the Belgrano; and the public disclosure of the identities of the heads of MI5 and of MI6. He gained widespread respect for his scrupulously independent advice.
Pat Kay married, in 1944, Muriel Smith Austen; she died earlier this year, and he is survived by their three sons and one daughter.
Major-General Pat Kay, born August 1 1921, died September 19 2013


I can’t imagine what possessed you publish Tony Blair’s self-serving piece (Comment, 25 October), albeit about a real success of his premiership, the Northern Ireland peace process. It was indeed a triumph of patience over passion, a long-term engagement with all sides, with two politicians emerging as sometimes unheralded heroes. But they were George Mitchell, who Blair merely mentions in passing, and Mo Mowlam, who he ignores. Blair references his work in the Middle East as needing the same empathic listening skills he employed in Ulster. Leaving aside the fatuity of this claim, I suggest you gather together a hall full of the relatives of victims of US bombing and shootings in Iraq, and former inmates of Abu Ghraib, so that he may expound his views in front of an audience that he may find rather more critical than the then parliamentary Labour party.
Rob Dunster
Rugby, Warwickshire
• I was sorry to see that Mo Mowlam’s contribution to the achievement of the Good Friday agreement was ignored by Tony Blair in his account of the work of the remarkable “individual people” who put so much into bringing it about.
Judith Crosher
Brompton Ralph, Somerset
• It is easy to predict the howls of anti-Blair derision that will greet your account of Blair and the Northern Ireland peace process as retailed in Alastair Campbell’s latest diaries (‘I am good at absorbing others’ pain’, 25 October). These will be on a par with Jonathan Jones’s acclaim for what he calls a “definitive work of art about the Iraq war” (History in the faking, 16 October), which shows Blair grinning as he takes a “selfie” with “hellish flames” from an explosion behind him. Far from being definitive, this looks like a glib and superficial piece of work which can have taken very little thought. The artist could safely depend on playing to an established narrative. However, until commentators and even artists can understand the fact that the Blair of Iraq was also the Blair of Kosovo, Sierra Leone and, above all, Northern Ireland (which involved years of hard graft), they will have understood very little.
Margaret Pelling
Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Oxford
• Reading the way that Blair absorbs the hurt of all in a given conflict, and the fact that Prince Charles has a remit to worry about everybody, I should be able to sleep in a sound and regal fashion henceforward. However, this is not cloud cuckoo land and in these two gentlemen we have exemplary examples of egotistical arrogance mixed with blind greed.
Michael Prior
Longborough, Gloucestershire

Government policy on badger culling recognises the perturbation effect, whereby culling has been associated with increased bovine TB in cattle directly outside the cull zone. However, the exact mechanism by which this results is not known, nor do we know whether it gets progressively worse if culling is extended beyond six weeks.
Professor Macdonald (Stop badger cull immediately, says Natural England science expert, 21 October) is probably right to conclude that the perturbation effect has already been triggered in Gloucestershire. The key to controlling the spread is therefore to achieve a higher reduction in badger numbers, so that there are fewer infected badgers remaining. The perturbation effect is unlikely to stop immediately after culling comes to an end, and any prolongation of the effect by extending culling is likely to be outweighed if the badger population is reduced further. On that basis, it is right to extend the cull to maximise the chance that there is a reduction of transmission of bovine TB from badgers to cattle.
Nigel Gibbens
Chief Veterinary Officer
• Bovine TB was virtually eliminated in the UK by the late 1960s without any badgers being killed, and the disease stayed at that very low level for 20 years. The NFU (but not all farmers) has called for this ineffective and cruel mass slaughter because it needs an excuse for why the incidence of bovine TB has risen since then. The NFU would rather blame badgers than admit that increasingly intensive farming practices make animals more susceptible to disease.
Richard Mountford
Development manager, Animal Aid

I applaud Uruguay’s wise decision on marijuana (Report, 23 October), but you are incorrect to say it will be the first country to make the drug both legal and state-controlled. I’m sure there are others who remember the delightful government shops in Kathmandu 40 years ago, where you were warned against buying from unauthorised sources. The general practice in Nepal at that time was to smoke the drug in pipes, but such was the reputation the English had for assembling joints that in several establishments the management would offer free samples in exchange for having a few rolled. Made you proud to be British.
Barry Walker
• Mark Carney’s pledge to help good banks that get into trouble (Report, 25 October) is too late for the Co-op Bank, now falling into the hands of US vulture funds, when a little such help from the Bank of England could have maintained its independent mutual status.
Fred Pickering
Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire
• Stacy Marking does not have to worry about finding an ethical bank (Letters, 25 October). She could try Triodos Bank, or she could use a local credit union.
Peter Budge
• Contrary to Keith Flett’s assertion that Henry Hyndman,”founder of British Marxism”, went to Eton (Letters, 23 October), the standard works of reference say he was taught at home. Perhaps this is as well for Eton’s newly shaky sense of self-confidence, because it was not being picked for the Varsity cricket match while at Cambridge that, according to historian Barbara Tuchman, decisively turned Hyndman against the British class system.If he had gone to Eton, the school might have got the blame for the Marxist conversion, as it did in the case of Psmith, who, according to his creator PG Wodehouse, could not get over not playing in the Eton-Harrow match.
DBC Reed
• I don’t know if university staff are neglecting their teaching duties or not (Letters, 25 October), but they are certainly not neglecting their term-time duty of writing long letters to the Guardian in work time.
Jonathan Harris
Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire
• When John Major is the hero of a Steve Bell cartoon (24 October), we must be in a not inconsiderable amount of trouble.
Malcolm Ace
Burley, Hampshire

Bravo Manchester University economics students for criticising “university courses for doing little to explain why economists failed to warn about the global financial crisis” (Economics students rebel at orthodox free-market syllabus, 25 October). However, there could be no explanation of why economists had failed to warn about the crisis, precisely because a significant number of high-profile non-neoclassical economists had warned about the crisis.
Illustration by Gary Kempston
Further, of the 12 or so economists – recent Nobel prize winner, Robert Shiller among them – identified in Dutch academic Dirk Bezemer’s paper No One Saw This Coming, three were awarded the inaugural Revere Award for Economics. Steve Keen, Nouriel Roubini and Dean Baker were voted to be the three economists whose recommendations, if world powers had acted on them, could have avoided the global financial collapse. Keen, in his 2011 book Debunking Economics, writes: “Why, despite the destructive impact of [neoliberal] economic policies, does economics continue to be the toolkit which politicians and bureaucrats apply to almost all social and economic issues? The answer lies in the way economics is taught in the world’s universities.” Vive the post-crash economics society.
David Murray
Wallington, Surrey
• The students are right to complain about the limited scope of the economics curriculum. This seems to be true of all economics departments as well as politicians, Treasury officials et al. All seem to be unaware of any alternatives to free-market economic analysis. A recent article in the Guardian about new measures the Bank of England governor proposed to control the housing market, said these new measures were an unknown as to their possible effects on the financial markets. To any student of economics in the 1960s, these measures were very familiar. Then they were known as directives and were highly effective in preventing an inflationary property boom. The so-called revolutionary policy of quantitative easing is not so new. The open-market operations, as they were then known, of the late 40s exceeded in scale that carried out by today’s government. It was so extensive that it resulted in a credit strike, when the banks refused to buy government bonds.
Derrick Joad
• Your story comes hard on the heels of the Mail’s unpleasant attack on Ralph Miliband’s marxism. A focus on narrow mathematical modelling, which reduces everything to statistics and graphs, and which is used as propaganda to talk up stock markets and distract from the real economy of jobs and wages, is not going to encourage critical thinking about how the world works. Marxism, by contrast, is about people and the social relationships between them; about the owners of wealth and how they use it to exploit others; and how this generates both class struggle and economic crises.
Those interested can find out more at the 21st Century Marxism festival which takes place in and around the Marx Library, Clerkenwell Green, London on 2-3 November.
Chris Guiton
Crowborough, East Sussex
• Of course universities should invest in the future (Letters, 25 October). The problem is they don’t. Climate change, population growth, mass extinctions and other global problems mean that we are heading towards disaster. If we are to make progress towards as good a better world as possible – or at least avoid the worst of disasters – we need to learn how to do it. That in turn requires that our institutions of learning are rationally designed and devoted to the task.
We need universities to be devoted to helping us solve our problems of living – above all, our global problems – in more effective, intelligent and humane ways. But universities at present are devoted to the pursuit of “knowledge” and technological know-how, not to helping humanity learn how to resolve conflicts and problems of living in more co-operatively rational ways. The key crisis of our times is the failure of our universities to help us learn how to make progress towards a better world.
Nicholas Maxwell
University College London

The Guardian editorial (22 October) referred to low voting percentages by Palestinians in the recent municipal elections in Jerusalem, and equated the phenomenon with voting trends of Arab-Israeli citizens in national elections, in order to depict a general trend of low participation by both groups. In reality, voting among Arab-Israelis in this week’s municipal elections stood at nearly 90%, reflecting this group’s ongoing, active and flourishing participation in Israeli democracy. Moreover, the “fascinating thought experiment” presented by the Guardian – suggesting a one-state solution which would effectively erase the Jewish character of the state of Israel – does nothing to support the Israelis and Palestinians who are engaged in a peace process aimed at achieving a two-state solution.
Yiftah Curiel
Spokesperson, Embassy of Israel


Jane Merrick (“Let children learn about all the ‘one true Gods’”, 24 October) implies that we can all be classified into three groups; religious, atheist or agnostic. There is surely another way.
We all recognise that there are powerful forces, both physical and spiritual, that we have no understanding of but are sensible to be in awe of.
God is a good name to use, well understood throughout history. If we recognise “God” but not the power of religions to own “it”, what is our classification?
Jan Barker
East Dean, Hampshire
I wish the designers of a new programme in religious education good luck. It is almost impossible to find a definition of religion that encompasses the centuries-old rituals of a Benedictine abbey and the raucous processions that accompany statues believed to have miraculous powers.
We are dealing with a phenomenon, deeply rooted in all cultures, that takes myriad forms.
Nor is Christianity coherent. While we can applaud the Christian faith of William Wilberforce in his fight against slavery, he was opposed by many who believed, with textual backing, that the Bible enjoined slavery.
And how many teachers can give a coherent definition of the Trinity? It comes as a relief to know that five-year-olds are starting off with the easier questions such as “Where does the universe come from?” There are wonderful myths from across the world for them to play with before the scientists come along to tell them it is a little more complicated than that.
Charles Freeman.
Brandeston, Suffolk
Beside religious education, a place should be found for the ethical teaching of the ancient Greeks who (with the Roman Stoics) gave us much of what we consider today to be Christian morality.
Consider Socrates’ answer, in Plato’s Republic, to the question “Why should I do good and not bad?”  The answer is not easy. Socrates looks at the elements in the human mind and concludes that human wellbeing, full development and happiness are better assured by doing right and not wrong.
Some may consider that answer inadequate (I do not), but at least it provides a starting point for an important debate.
Christopher Walker
London W14
Ban anonymity  to stop the cyber-bullies
Campaigners are right that to boycott websites is not enough to tackle the growing problem of cyber-bullying (“Cyber-bullying now just a part of life, most children believe”, 21 October) but “better education” is no straightforward solution either.
Online abuse is a spiteful form of cowardice and the most effective and simple way to tackle it would be to remove all anonymity on social networking and blog sites. Tormentors hide behind pseudonyms and don’t think twice about sending threatening and demeaning messages, but they will if they must face the consequences. If many of their posts were said face to face, they could be arrested for stalking, harassment or aggression.
People join social networks to keep in contact with friends and make new ones. When so many of someone’s peers are on a forum, it’s natural to want to take part, and many young people subjected to cyber-bullying will stay on the web just wanting to fit in.
If it reaches a tragic point where someone can’t handle the emotional and mental anguish any more, that is not the victim’s fault or the family’s. It’s the fault of the bullies, and yet these people are being protected.
Emilie Lamplough
Trowbridge, Wiltshire
Why we banked on the Co-op
Sean O’Grady’s analysis of the meaning behind the Co-op Bank debacle (“Mutual – the magic word that doesn’t mean so much”, 23 October) misses the reason it has been such a cause of concern to many people.
He is right that the accountability of the Co-operative Group is shamefully complicated; reminiscent of the old-style trade unions in its clear intent to keep out all those not committed to “the right way of thinking”.
But the bank (and the few remaining mutuals, perhaps) was until recently a staid, unexciting bank not rushing into madcap get-rich-quick schemes – that was why so many of us kept our money there.
That senior executives should suddenly decide to play “me too” without properly counting the cost demonstrates why so many people feel something has been lost as the bank starts its inexorable progress towards being just like all the rest.
Clive Tiney
Haxby, York
Sean O’Grady’s article has the effect of tarring the whole of the mutual sector with the difficulties faced by one institution by suggesting that building societies’ approach to customers was “not markedly different from the supposedly wicked main high street clearers” and that mutuality was “a demonstrable irrelevance so far as building societies were concerned”. 
But independent research consistently shows customer views about the service they receive from their building society to be much more favourable than their views about the service they receive from their plc bank. 
For example, 62 per cent of consumers, in a survey that the Building Societies Association commissioned from YouGov in September, said that they trust their mutual provider to act in their best interests. The equivalent figure for banks is 42 per cent.
And 66 per cent of consumers said their mutual provider gives them value for money, compared with 45 per cent saying the same of their bank.  
The biggest financial scandal of the past decade has been the mis-selling of payment protection insurance – PPI.  The latest data released by the independent Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) shows that financial firms generally have a much higher “customer complaint uphold rate” at the Ombudsman than the building societies.
Typically, the FOS agreed with customers on 75 per cent of adjudicated PPI claims for all firms; the figure for building societies was well under 20 per cent.
Building societies exist to serve their customers – their owners. Banks exist to pay dividends to shareholders by making profits out of consumers. This major difference between the two types of organisations is fully reflected in the customer experience.
Adrian Coles
Director-General, Building Societies Association, London WC2
Think again, Archbishop
Archbishop Justin Welby used to be an oilman. As such, he must know the writing is on the wall for fossil fuels, and that as oil and gas become harder to find and complicated to extract, energy prices will inevitably go up, never mind any profiteering.
This has been understood for some time. It is one of the reasons governments across the world are shifting away from fossil fuels, the other reason being carbon emissions.
The interest in fracking is the proof that fossil fuels are getting harder to find. Instead of exploiting easy oil wells and gas fields far from public gaze, energy companies are bringing their operations closer and closer to people’s homes, bringing more risk and expense with each operation.
The Archbishop should focus his attack on energy efficiency and energy waste.
The UK is wasting billions of pounds a year heating the skies above our power stations, instead of creating district heating networks as they have across much of Europe.
And we waste a fortune  on winter fuel payments to pensioners, instead of spending the money transforming the  insulation of their homes so  that their fuel bills are permanently lowered.
Christian Vassie
Wheldrake, York
The other side of one-sidedness
I can only agree when Yiftah Curiel, spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy, writes about one-sidedness in the Israel/Palestine conflict (letter, 24 October). The Israelis maintain their dominance by using the latest aircraft, tanks and weaponry – as against the primitive use of tractors by the Palestinians who have suffered decades of occupation.
Eddie Dougall
Walsham-le-Willows, Suffolk
Ordinary William  – the big picture
I’m shocked if Grace Dent (“It’s extraordinary how ordinary these royals seem”, 24 October) believes a royal christening without the pomp means it’s a new era of British monarchy.
William’s career has been a masterclass in appearing ordinary – who could forget those fascinating pictures of him making tea between stints as a rescue pilot? Or cleaning a toilet on his gap year?
We are charmed by the careful snapshot and forget the bigger picture. He has led a life of privilege inaccessible to the majority of young people today.
Ian McKenzie
Congratulations on your near-perfect coverage of the royal christening: 19 words in the bottom corner of page 27 was exactly what it needed. (It would have been perfect but for Grace Dent’s column.)
Paul Harper
London E15
When is murder not murder?
Your report “Marines ‘murdered man live on camera’” (24 October) left me bemused.
The report stated that the killing of a wounded Taliban “fighter” followed a strafing attack by an Apache helicopter.
So, if the man had been killed by helicopter rounds, that would be acceptable? Yet, if he was shot after being injured – that is murder? And is the killing of non-combatants by drone attacks not murder?
David Toresen
Bletchley, Buckinghamshire
Fuel price folly
The Government proposes to help Britain’s “squeezed middle” by posting fuel prices along motorways. Motorists should have been aware for decades that fuel is cheaper in towns. Most cars carry enough fuel for several hundred miles, so only the unprepared need to stop for fuel on a motorway. The cost of erecting these unnecessary signs will have to be borne by the prudent motorists, resulting in a another “squeeze”.
Peter Erridge
East Grinstead
£500m question
It appears there are two ways to save £500m of hardworking taxpayers’ money: plugging a tax loophole for big business or stamping out health tourism by foreign people. Easy to see what this Government’s priority will be.
David Wallis


In the modern British university, it is not that funding is sought in order to carry out research, but that research projects are formulated in order to get funding
Sir, The Minister for the Universities, David Willetts, has finally grasped the most obvious fact about their evolution over the past three decades:  the ever-increasing emphasis on research at the expense of teaching (report, Oct 21 ). What he has not grasped, however, is that this extremely damaging change, which has serious social and economic implications, has been entirely driven by government policies. These include the removal of tenure, so that individuals are faced with toeing whatever the current line is or losing their jobs. Equally fundamental is the massive shift, two decades ago, from direct funding to funding granted for specific research projects. The effect is that the overheads which come with research grants are fundamental to the finances of departments and whole universities.
In consequence, in the modern British university, it is not that funding is sought in order to carry out research, but that research projects are formulated in order to get funding. I am not joking when I say that a physics lecturer called Einstein, who just thought about the Universe, would risk being sacked because he brought in no grants.
One university was recently reported as intending to close its music department because its research income was insufficient. Others give a whole term’s leave for putting together an application for a research grant. So much for the education, or the wider culture, of students.
Worse still, the Research Assessment Exercise, or now “Research Excellence Framework” (REF) works on very short cycles. The result is to render serious, long-term research, whose results are by definition uncertain, impossible. If you can confidently predict your results in five years’ time (and, as now required, also predict the “impact”), then it is not research.
Worse still, the lecturer whose fulfilment comes from teaching, or from seeing to student welfare, or the running of the department or the exams, now risks, at best, being publicly humiliated as “non-research-active” or “non-REF-referable”, and at worst being dismissed.
The present system is profoundly damaging, not only to teaching but to research itself.
Professor Sir Fergus Millar

Independent scrutiny should not be confined to a relatively small number of “serious” complaints handled directly by the Independent Police Complaints Commission
Sir, The Home Affairs Select Committee has shone some light on the actions and decisions of the police over “Plebgate” (report, Oct 24). Across the country Police and Crime Commissioners are helping the public to navigate through the bureaucratic world of police complaints.
This system urgently needs reform. Independent scrutiny should not be confined to a relatively small number of “serious” complaints handled directly by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. To this end, a cross-party group of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) is working with the Government to develop greater local scrutiny and independence. In addition , the new code of ethics for the police will underpin change in police leadership and culture. Greater openness and transparency are essential. However, we must always be mindful that we have one of the best police services in the world and that the vast majority of police officers uphold the highest levels of integrity.
Julia Mulligan (PCC for North Yorkshire); Katy Bourne (Sussex);
Sue Mountstevens (Avon and Somerset); Christopher Salmon (Dyfed Powys); Matthew Ellis (Staffordshire)

Some of our writers may possibly be too young to remember such momentous events as the assassination of JFK
Sir, You say that JFK was shot on a Saturday in 1963 (report, Oct 25). Sorry to be picky, but it was a Friday. I suspect your reporter is way too young to “remember where you were when John Kennedy was shot”.
Margaret Skeldon
Saltash, Cornwall

What liberties are incompatible with incarceration? And why would we want to deny prisoners the right to vote?
Sir, You argue that prisoners should not be given the vote (leading article, Oct 17; see also letter, Oct 23, and report, Oct 25). By presenting the vote as something that may be “given”, you elicit a negative response. Offenders have the vote but it is taken away on entering prison, so the question is: why do we take away the vote? That leads one to ask what liberties are incompatible with incarceration. We allow family and friends to maintain contact via letters and visits (although that has not always been the case) and prisoners may marry, so why not vote? Now that postal voting is available on request to all electors there is no incompatibility with imprisonment.
John Staples
(Former prison governor)

No other country has adopted the magistrate system as it has proved more costly and less efficient than a professional service
Sir, Robert Howe, JP, compares the cost of paid judiciary against the lay magistracy which provides free service at the point of delivery in our lower courts (letter, Oct 23). He fails to take account of the cost of the magistrates on the bench. A bench of three professional magistrates may well exceed the cost of paying a judge for the day.
I resigned from the bench of a very busy metropolitan court when I realised that I only ever sat less than a quarter of the time on my day on the bench. This is the common experience of magistrates. Pound for pound lay magistracy is an expensive system of delivering justice. The added inefficiency makes it unacceptable. No surprise then that no other country in the world has seen fit to adopt the system.
Dr Surinder Singh Bakhshi


SIR – The article by Callum Roberts on the sorry state of our oceans brought to mind the experiences of the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl.
He crossed the Pacific on the Kon-Tiki raft in 1947 and celebrated the wealth of marine wildlife he encountered in his bestseller, The Kon-Tiki Expedition (1950).
By the time he crossed the Atlantic in the Ra expeditions in 1969 he was shocked by the debris in the ocean. He concluded The Ra Expeditions (1970) by wondering: “Would man at the eleventh hour learn to dispose of his modern garbage, would he abandon his war against nature? If not, it will be of little use to struggle for peace among nations, and still less to wage war, on board our little space-craft.”
Katherine Martinez
Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire
SIR – Lt Gen Sir Paul Newton is phlegmatic and not prone to hyperbole. I have known him for many years and at one time was his commanding officer. I therefore sincerely hope his letter on the disbanding of the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers will be taken seriously by those who can influence such important matters.
His last paragraph said: “There is just time for the MoD and Downing Street to think again.” In 1970 the Conservatives won the general election. My battalion (1st Battalion, the Royal Hampshire Regiment) was within days of being disbanded and amalgamated. New uniforms and even new Colours had been produced.
Within only three days of the election the new government informed us that this disbandment did not have to take place. As indeed it did not.
So, with the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers not due to disband until August 2014, shortness of time should not be an excuse to avoid reviewing the flawed process which led to the decision to disband it.
Lt Col Hastings Neville (retd)
Codford, Wiltshire
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SIR – Gen Sir Nick Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff, is wrong to link Fusilier anger at the cutting of their 2nd Battalion with opposition to defence reductions and modernising the Army.
The Fusilier anger results from the underhand manipulation of selection criteria and political interference that have resulted in illogically cutting one of the strongest and most operationally experienced battalions while preserving those less useful and sustainable.
The smaller regimental structure of the infantry of the future should be based on military criteria, particularly operational flexibility and recruiting sustainability. Long-term sustainability will be the key.
The Fusiliers recruit from a population pool of 15 million in their four historic home areas of London, Warwickshire, Lancashire and Northumberland. To reduce the regiment to a single battalion, while preserving four Scottish battalions competing for recruits from a Scottish population of 5.2 million, is an indefensible military judgment.
The Fusiliers strongly support the need for a modern, flexible Army for the 21st century. There is no place for pandering to political considerations such as the Scottish referendum.
Brigadier Roy Wilde (retd)
Barford St Martin, Wiltshire
SIR – In the coming year we commemorate the Great War. In that war, 52 battalions of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers fought. It is extraordinary that a well recruited, up-to-strength battalion will be disbanded while other regiments have difficulty in recruiting.
What sort of recognition is this?
Major AKC Hill (retd)
Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire
Trusting the police
SIR – The appearance of six police officers before the home affairs committee was a depressing spectacle. It was difficult to decide which lot was the more unimpressive, the one comprising the officers who, in plain sight of the public, set out to destroy Andrew Mitchell, or the one comprised of senior officers who could see nothing wrong with this.
Heaven preserve us from having to rely on such people when we are in trouble.
Robert Ramage
West Wickham, Kent
SIR – I live in West Mercia. Please help me.
Stuart Rose
Nesscliffe, Shropshire
Sharp interview skills
SIR – I had the doubtful pleasure of being interviewed by the renowned Dr C L G Pratt for entry to Christ’s, Cambridge, in 1959.
I entered his study and was left standing for what seemed a lifetime, when he stopped reading letters and threw me the paperknife he was using.
“Describe that,” he said. I bumbled on, saying it could be a long-handled spoon or a finely-wrought dagger, when he retorted: “It’s a 17th-century meat-skewer. Can’t you see the scratches at right angles to the blade, made by a carving knife?”
He took me in, “against his better judgment” he told me later. How does one assess potential?
Patrick Briggs
Backward society
SIR – As current chairman of the 1570 Society (founded 1975), I was amused to read of the recent launch in London of the 1535 Society. I do hope that this is not the start of a Dutch auction.
Patrick Bright
Ely, Cambridgeshire
Perfectly ripe?
SIR – The poor quality of fruit sold by supermarkets adds to food wastage. Fruit looks deceptively good but is invariably unripe, hard, tasteless and sour. We are advised to complete the ripening at home, but so often this results in the fruit rotting from within. Melons and nectarines are good examples.
Even seasonal fruit marketed as “perfectly ripe” or “tree-ripened” is seldom ripe, yet sold at a premium.
Complaining to customer services has no beneficial effect. We are told that growers are closely supervised, but the problem relates to the time of picking, storage and lack of retail supervision.
Dr Brian M Gompels
Cobham, Surrey
Corking remedy
SIR – My mother thought sleeping with several corks under her pillow would prevent night cramps. It worked for her and it also works for me.
Peta Robbin
Salisbury, Wiltshire
Club’s wherefores
SIR – My wife was suspicious of my attendance at luncheons of the Romeo Club in south-west London, until she learnt it was an acronym for “Really Old Men Eating Out”.
Philip Wright
London SW11
Saving Grangemouth
SIR – How long before Len McCluskey, the General Secretary of Unite, and his cohorts, in secure and highly paid jobs, try to claim credit for saving Grangemouth by their skilful negotiations? That is, if the Unite union backtracks completely.
In any decent organisation, if the man in charge made such a mess of negotiations, he would be removed from his job. But will Mr McCluskey go? I think not.
It really is time that various union general secretaries were exposed as having an agenda that does not put their members’ interests first.
Douglas Hamilton
Porthmadog, Caernarfonshire
Easy dryer
SIR – Why would anyone want to produce a quiet hairdryer? As a form of escapism, I sometimes sit in a comfortable chair, switch on a noisy hairdryer to its maximum level of warmth, and allow the breeze to ruffle my hair.
I imagine myself driving an open-top car through the South of France. The noise of the motor is, of course, essential.
Am I alone in this or should I get out more?
T M Trelawny Gower
Lowestoft, Suffolk
A chance for British industry to regain nuclear construction capability
SIR – I agree with Ernie Richardson and Paul Strzelecki that we should not be just a flat-pack assembly shop for imported components of nuclear power stations.
I have been involved directly in the civil construction of six of our nuclear stations, as well as the planning of others, and I would say that the proportion of the capital cost of a nuclear plant that is attributable to civil engineering is likely to be around 35 per cent, rather than 60. The vast bulk of it will be carried out by British companies.
Regrettably, however, due to the neglect of our energy infrastructure by successive governments, we no longer manufacture such key items as large steam turbines.
Having to go cap in one hand and the other hand deep in the pocket to the French in order to get the nuclear programme restarted, regrettable as it is, coupled with still significant scope for much ancillary equipment to be procured in the United Kingdom, may lead to the resurgence of British manufactured components for future stations and ultimately for export. We can but hope.
Derek Limbert
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire
SIR – Britain may have commissioned the first reactor in the world to supply electricity to a national grid, but it never led the world in the design and production of commercially viable reactors. Military needs dictated the adoption of the gas-cooled Magnox fuel-clad reactors, because they were best suited to plutonium production.
Unfortunately their size and construction make them expensive to decommission. They were never a commercial proposition.
The Americans were smarter. Commercial suppliers such as Westinghouse, GE and Babcock were left to produce pressurised water reactors and boiling water reactors, which were sold all round the world. Licences for manufacture were granted to companies including EDF in France, which based its own successful programme on the Westinghouse PWR.
We, in the meantime, were forced to adopt the advanced gas reactor by the British authorities. This proved to have many of the disadvantages of its Magnox predecessor. Finally, during the Thatcher era, we adopted the pressurised water reactor for Sizewell B, only to see the Central Electricity Generating Board privatised and a “dash for gas”, with no further nuclear build.
Much later the UK Atomic Energy Authority acquired the nuclear arm of Westinghouse, but Gordon Brown resold the company to Toshiba for peanuts. Had we kept Westinghouse, we would now be involved in building those reactors that George Osborne toured last week in China, not to mention having a capability to build up our own programme.
The message is simple: when governments interfere with business, logic and common sense fly out of the window.
Bruce Tait
Hythe, Kent

Irish Times:

Sir, – Micheál Mac Gréil (October 25th) hit the nail on the head when it comes to the appalling treatment of the Roma community in Ireland.
It was also encouraging to read your Editorial of the same date (“Roma treatment an outrage”). But you missed a key point. The Irish/national media has also failed the community, by running wildly with a story of a blond haired child and blue- eyed boy found in a Roma family. Your actions generate reactions in the population and in this case, the broad Irish media had a role to play by stoking negative sentiment. The media as a whole has a duty to report responsibly. – Yours, etc,
PhD, Royal College of
Surgeons in Ireland,
St Stephen’s Green,
Dublin 2.
Sir, – Spare a thought for the frontline workers of the system so thoroughly vilified in your pages (October 25th). Gardaí and social workers are obliged by law to act for the child when concerns – however misguided – are raised for his/her welfare. The decisions made by these young public servants affect the lives of thousands of children every year. In most cases, the reasons are very clear, in some, the decisions have to be made on the balance of probabilities and sometimes, as in this case, at very short notice.
The gardaí in this case made a call based on their training and experience. It happened to be the wrong call and lessons will be learned from that. Instead of his condescending lecture on genetics, perhaps Prof Thomas Cotter (October 25th) could tell us what proportion of Roma children are blond-haired and blue-eyed. This information could be usefully incorporated into training so that mistakes like this do not occur again.
In the meantime, it is important to express our support for these frontline workers. Even in the good times, provision for enforcing child protection legislation was inadequate. Five years of cutbacks have made the situation far worse. God forbid that a garda or social worker faced with the next difficult decision will be deterred by today’s hysteria. – Yours, etc,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – We would like to condemn, in the strongest possible manner, the recent taking of two Roma children from their homes. The institutions of the State and the media have behaved appallingly. The Minister for Justice defends the actions by saying that the authorities acted in “good faith”. What does this mean? It is now good faith to abduct children from their families if the colour of their hair and eyes does not match that of their parents? If this is not racial profiling can anyone point to a situation where a member of the majority Irish population have been treated in a similar way? We certainly cannot remember one situation where families were treated in this way because of the colour of their hair or eyes.
We totally condemn the trafficking of children around the world. But that does not give the institutions of the State permission to target one part of our community.
The Irish were vilified for long enough for being lazy, dirty and of lesser intelligence. Have we learnt nothing from our history? Surely the Irish of all people should condemn these actions as being unacceptable, unjust and undignified.
We have been working hard on a voluntary basis with the Roma community in Cork and other parts of the country. We have a vibrant and active membership who have being engaged in language training, cleaning dirty rivers in Cork on a voluntary basis, attending training, engaging with our children’s education. The recent ignorant media coverage both at home and abroad has undermined our work and the goodwill being generated by these steps towards increased social inclusion. – Yours, etc,
(Committee members),
Roma Support Group
C/o Community Centre,
Great William O’Brien
Street, Blackpool,
Sir – What evidence has Fr Micheál MacGréil that the children were removed “without evidence” (October 25th).
I suggest we all take a deep breath, step back and wait until the evidence emerges from the inquiries. Only then can we make an informed and balanced judgment. – Yours, etc,
Gainsborough Park,
Co Dublin.
Sir, – Will the authorities make it compulsory for all blonds to get their roots done? – Yours, etc,
Newcourt Road,
Co Wicklow.

Sir, – Revenue has just written to householders in connection with payment of the Local Property Tax liability for 2014 which falls due on March 21st, 2014.
In the letter you are advised that you have until November 27th, 2013 to select and commit to your payment option.
However, if one opts to pay by credit/debit card online you are advised, on the Revenue website, that by complying with the request to inform them of your payment option before November 27th, payment is deducted immediately due to “the nature of banking and credit card systems”.
This results in a credit/forward payment of about four months.
I don’t know of any bill that I pay by credit/debit card that requires this type of forward payment.
I’m sure the people at Revenue, like me and hundreds of thousands of others pay their motor car tax online. It can be made on, before or even sometime after the due date, but I don’t know anyone paying four months in advance.
Is this not the same “nature of banking and credit card systems” which is designed to accelerate payments worldwide and while the process can sometimes take a few days I fail to understand why it needs four months.
Apart from the motor tax liabilty there are countless other bills one pays by credit/debit card on or about the due date. Why should this payment be any different? – Yours, etc,
Ennis Road,

Sir, – I believe Archbishop Michael Jackson was unfortunate in his use of the word “sectarian” as, in my travels, I have met true sectarianism of the “I’m saved and all those . . . are damned” variety; obdurate and totally myopic to the “love one another” message of Jesus.
Nevertheless, I have encountered in my eight years in Ireland a natural reserve that could, taken out of context, be considered as mildly sectarian but is perhaps a manifestation of shyness that is natural in a minority group towards newcomers. As a “blow in” to the Church of Ireland I felt, at first, somewhat outside the community in which I worship. However, with a little perseverance I soon found a warm and welcoming communal spirit. This experience was not new as my wife was a curate in a church in Cheltenham where the same natural reserve was apparent. As a result of a few experiences like mine the church there formed a specific welcoming committee to break the ice for new people and this worked extremely well.
In Nenagh, we don’t have the size of congregation to form such a committee but like many churches, we decided to offer refreshments after services with the hope of fostering a communal spirit which, of course, is just as important as the worship itself.
Finally, like many of your correspondents I had never heard the soubriquet “Polyester Protestant” before and I’m still not sure what it actually means; in fact in all my 67 years as an Anglican, I have not once heard the word “polyester” used outside of a clothing shop. – Yours, etc,
Nenagh, Co Tipperary.
Sir, – The Anglican Primate of Ireland seeks to tell a subtle truth about difference in his diocese/s. He gets shot down in flames by a brace of predecessors and other emeriti.  Now I know why, when the Catholic Primate of Ireland wants to voice some subtle truths about his archdiocese or indeed about his colleagues, he prefers to take off to the safety of an Italian conference or a US TV channel. When his colleagues wish to tell their subtle truth, they fall back on Heaney’s “Whatever you say say nothing”. Polyfilla rather than polyester: apply subtly and paper over the cracks. – Yours, etc,
Wightman Road,
Sir, – Polyester Protestants? I thought we were just “woolly Anglicans”. – Yours, etc,
Purser Gardens,
Dublin 6.

Sir, – Senator David Norris raises “technical” difficulties in terms of permitting graduates other than those of the NUI and Trinity College to vote for the election of six senators (October 23rd). This sounds suspiciously like early back-tracking on the rhetoric of those who purported to want to save the Seanad not as a bastion of privilege but as a mechanism of urgent reform.
Senator Norris and the other five senators who have been elected by the privileged NUI and Trinity constituencies must ensure that any such difficulties are overcome before the next Seanad is chosen. It would be intolerable for their institutions to continue an entirely discriminatory privilege after recent protestations by himself and his five colleagues.
For more than 30 years, the reform of university representation in the Seanad has been possible by way of legislation. How many sustained efforts did Trinity and NUI senators make to introduce such legislation or protest loudly their embarrassment at their own privilege?
Senator Norris wants Dublin City University joined electorally with Trinity to retain what he calls “the distinctive character of the two existing constituencies”. As a graduate of both those “constituencies” who has two Seanad votes (while this university’s graduates have none), I have no idea what “distinctive character” he has in mind but think that his idea sounds undemocratic by, as he admits, “exacerbating the existing disproportionality of numbers”. – Yours, etc,
Professor of
Dublin City University,

Sir, – My annual rail ticket has been increased from €845 in 2007 to €1,340 in 2013 (with effect from November 1st). That is nearly an increase of 60 per cent.
The only thing that has reduced in that period is the carriage space on trains and my take-home pay (down 20 per cent).
Literally and economically this is putting the squeeze on passengers. – Yours, etc,
Lower Dargle Road,

Sir, – I wish Joan Burton and Eamon Gilmore would stop repeating themselves by telling us they have retained the “core pension”.
It doesn’t matter to us which way they reduce the money in our pockets. What matters is that it is steadily being reduced. We have much more to pay out of that “core pension”.
Last year, we had to pay more for telephone and electricity; the recent Budget will mean that we will have to pay more for medicines on prescription, health insurance (due to the reduction of the tax allowance) and telephone bills. This Government continues to reduce the income for medical card eligibility, thereby removing thousands of medical cards from pensioners.
We are expected to pay more and more bills from the same pension. There are many ways to skin a cat and we are not being fooled. – Yours, etc,
St Conlon’s Road,

Sir, – I was surprised to read in an article on the Roma children’s removal from their families, the statement from Ruadhán Mac Cormaic: “to all intents and purposes, pending the coming into effect of a law that relaxes the in camera rule, the family and child care courts are a closed domain of Irish life” (Home News, October 24th). This statement came 24 hours after The Irish Times had devoted most of a page to reporting that the third volume of case reports from the child care courts had just been published on the website of the Child Care Law Reporting Project, including details from several of the cases, bringing to 90 the total number of cases published.
The project was established under legislation designed to bring transparency to the workings of the child care courts, subject to protecting the anonymity of the children and families involved, a protection also contained in the recent changes to the in camera rule. The project’s reporters attend child care cases and publish reports on them on a dedicated website, http://www.childlawproject.ie, available to the public. – Yours etc.
Child Care Law Reporting

Sir, – Deirdre Conroy (Opinion, October 23rd) writes that “as an architectural historian I find fake a farce and replicated Georgian unacceptable”. She then goes on to cite the reconstruction of Hume Street to illustrate her point. Surely she should have considered the successful reconstructions which are dotted about the city. Notably that of Bachelors Walk to its original facade. There are many other examples. This surely is an opportunity for the ESB to right a wrong. Rebuild it as it was. – Yours, etc,
Strand Road, Sandymount,

Sir, – If the meticulous efficiency, technical mastery and engineering genius of the Germans cannot protect Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls, is it not time to re-evaluate our stereotypes? – Yours, etc,
Sir, – I did not have textual relations with that woman. – Yours, etc,
St Agnes Park,

Irish Independent:

* There is no other sport that gives me such pleasure as horse racing and I wish to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to the numerous people in the profession who give us such great entertainment on a regular basis.
Also in this section
A worrying abuse of the State’s powers
Wanton cultural vandalism
The Untouchables – a true story of Irish politics
They are a special breed of people who take “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” in their stride, so that the show goes on.
From dawn to dusk, hail, rain, snow, frost, storms, the stable men and women, jockeys and trainers are out there in the line of fire ensuring that the animals in their charge get the very best training, feeding and care.
The work never seems to end: cleaning out stables, fresh bedding, saddling up, exercising on the gallops, washing down and grooming. The amount of work involved in running a racing establishment today is mind-boggling, yet you never hear these people complaining.
They have a work ethic that a lot of our mollycoddled institutions could copy with consequent gain to our Exchequer.
The horse industry has served this country well over the years, creating vast employment and enjoyment. Our horses, jockeys, trainers, owners and stable staff have brought untold honours to our shores.
The two leading jockeys in Great Britain are Irish. Tony McCoy, 18 consecutive national hunt champion titles, almost 4,000 winners, a feat never before accomplished or ever likely to be.
We have Richard Hughes, a son of renowned jockey and trainer Dessie, going for his third flat national championship in a row, notwithstanding the fact that being a tall, well-built man for a jockey, and fighting a daily gruelling battle with avoirdupois, he still aspires to be the top of his profession.
Racing today is not the sport of kings, as it was commonly called in the past, it is the sport of the ordinary man and woman.
One does not have to engage in big expenditure, only bring what you can afford. Form small supporters’ racing clubs in your community, hire a mini bus and take it from there. You will be surprised at what awaits you, and the great new friends you can encounter on your journey.
Happy punting.
Thomas A Bourke
Newcastle, Galway City
* I note that the Tanaiste and Brendan Howlin have complete confidence in James Reilly – whom they describe as doing an excellent job. If the Labour Parliamentary Party has complete confidence in Eamon Gilmore and Brendan Howlin, that is their prerogative. Not mine.
Before he became Taoiseach, Enda Kenny promised us that he would be accountable to us. In particular, he promised that he would monitor the performance of each and every minister – and make them accountable. Give them report cards.
We do not actually know what happened in the Department of Health and Children. A reasonable person looking at the information publicly available would have the perception that Dr Reilly had not completed his homework and does not know what his estimates and cuts will be.
This failure to have ready his department’s essential components for the Budget statement is somewhat unprecedented. If replicated in other departments, organised governance would become impossible.
It would appear that Dr Reilly will be helped now with his homework by the Taoiseach (former primary teacher) and the Minister for Surgical Arithmetic, Brother Howlin.
Managing the clean-up of ‘Angola’ was never going to be easy – for anybody. The situation we now have may not have been, in whole or in part, Dr Reilly’s fault – but it is certainly his political responsibility. That for which he is paid.
And it was Enda Kenny’s political responsibility that he got the job – or rather ‘task’ (sic). For which responsibility he too is paid.
Dr Reilly should take leave until this matter is sorted. The Cabinet should insist on this and help in whatever way its members can. Labour must insist on this – and make it a ‘red line’. The medical card ‘issue’ is at the centre of this. The manner in which it is being mishandled is unacceptable. For Labour, this too must be a ‘red line’.
Maurice O’Connell
Tralee, Co Kerry
* Even if the gardai do discover the Taoiseach’s phone has been bugged by the Americans, what exactly will we do about it?
One less shamrock in the bowl to Obama come St Patrick’s Day, perhaps? Or a strongly worded speech denouncing the elitism and narcissism in Washington, encroaching on a sovereign republic such as ours, with an embassy closure, maybe?
But let’s be real. If Enda’s hotline has been bugged, we’ll probably secretly thank them for making that much of us.
Killian Foley-Walsh
Kilkenny City
* The comments attributed to Kevin Bakhurst (RTE) in your paper recently regarding Sky are wrong. On a number of occasions since his appointment, Mr Bakhurst has suggested that Sky ‘are the ones taking all the money out of the market and investing very little here’.
This is clearly at odds with the facts. Jeremy Darroch, Sky’s Group CEO, announced earlier this year our intention to invest €1.25bn over five years in Ireland. Over the last 18 months, Sky has established its Irish HQ in Dublin, employing over 850 people.
Sky has invested several million euro in programming in Ireland including three series of ‘Moone Boy; ‘MoonFleet’, a forthcoming series filmed in and around Dublin; and ‘Penny Dreadful’, a major drama series filming here.
As a news broadcaster, RTE will appreciate the importance of telling the whole story and we hope that this will be reflected in future comments.
Mark Deering
Director of Corporate Affairs
Sky Ireland
* The debacle surrounding the valuation of a house in Clondra, Co Longford, may be best settled by seeking the valuation that was put on the house by its owner for the Local Property Tax.
Dermot Ryan
Attymon, Athenry, Co Galway
* As a northerner living in Dublin, I am unlike many, who, in the South, are distant from the harsh realities of what is going on in the North.
I had hoped that, since the Good Friday Agreement, we would be a lot further on in getting rid of the naked sectarianism that I hear and see on my visits to the North.
Young people are especially angry due to bad job prospects and lack of serious funding in education, and some seek ways to vent their anger.
What are interested parties going to do about it? In a vacuum, extremists always raise their nasty head.
Paul Doran
Dublin 22
* It must be the height of hypocrisy to listen to Gerry Adams calling on the Taoiseach to resign. If anyone should consider resigning, it would be Mr Adams, considering his behaviour regarding his brother’s actions.
As for Micheal Martin making similar calls, he must think people have short memories. He was part of the previous government who presided over the situation that brought the country to the verge of disaster.
Finally, those in power should see the errors of their ways. In particular, they should immediately set about restoring the telephone allowance to pensioners who depend on a phone line for the emergency alarm system.
Tony Fagan
Enniscorthy, Co Wexford
Irish Independent


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