26 November 2013 Hospital

I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark.
Our heroes are in trouble Troutbridge has been fitted with a new secret weapon will Lesley blow it up? Priceless.
Hospital blood count down back in a fortnight Peter does the roof
Scrabble I win, and only by one point, but get just less than 400 perhaps it will be Mary’s turn tomorrow.


Joyce Rose – obituary
Joyce Rose was the leader of England’s magistrates and was not afraid to tell the government when she thought it was wrong

Joyce Rose Photo: UPPA/PHOTOSHOT
5:21PM GMT 24 Nov 2013
1 Comment
Joyce Rose, who has died aged 84, was one of England’s leading lay magistrates, serving on the Watford bench for 32 years and chairing the Magistrates’ Association from 1990 to 1993.
She was also president, then chairman, of the Liberal Party, though as an observant Jew she had to miss some key conference debates when she chaired the party in 1983 because they clashed with Yom Kippur.
Humane and realistic, Joyce Rose was ready to defend magistrates and their courts against politicians, academics, employers and the media — and to tell ministers they were wrong.
Her involvement was greatest with what became Kenneth Clarke’s Criminal Justice Act of 1991. Joyce Rose supported his proposals for “unit fines”, intended to ensure that better-off defendants paid more, but which in practice sometimes had the opposite effect. She also told him frankly that preventing a bench from taking a defendant’s previous convictions into account would prevent justice being done.
With the Act in force, high fines imposed on poor defendants hit the headlines. When Clarke abandoned unit fines after just seven months, she said magistrates would be “delighted” to be able to use their discretion.
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Clarke also had to make a U-turn over previous convictions. Joyce Rose declared herself vindicated, saying: “At the moment there are no persistent offenders because the Act does not allow you to say that.”
She also held out against efforts by Lord Mackay, Lord Chancellor under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, to exercise greater control over magistrates’ courts that he regarded as amateurish and inefficient. When he criticised them for poor service, she retorted that the strict cash limits Mackay had imposed would prevent their improvement.
Joyce Dora Hester Woolf was born in north London on August 14 1929, and went to King Alfred School, Hampstead, and Queen’s College, Harley Street, before completing her education in America.
She was a housewife of 34 when, in 1963, she was appointed a JP. She served on Watford juvenile panel and Hertfordshire magistrates courts’ and probation committees, and from 1979 chaired the local Family Proceedings Panel.
In 1990 she was appointed chairman of Watford bench, taking charge as the courts were overloaded by cases of non-payment of poll tax.
That November she became chairman of the Magistrates’ Association. An early challenge was discrimination by some employers against staff who were magistrates; blue-collar workers in areas of high unemployment were suffering most. She said the resistance came “not from the captains of industry but from middle managers; perhaps it is a question of jealousy”.
At the 1969 Liberal Assembly, she moved a resolution regretting the “increasingly permissive” climate towards the taking of soft drugs; surprisingly for the times, it was carried. She also called for curbs on the portrayal of sadism and methodical violence on television.
Joyce Rose chaired the Women’s Liberal Federation in 1972 and 1973, and became party president in 1979, in the wake of the Jeremy Thorpe affair and an election the Liberals had survived against the odds. She told that autumn’s Assembly that 4.5 million votes provided a strong foundation for electoral advance.
Installed as party chairman at the end of the 1982 conference, her term embraced the Liberal/SDP Alliance’s failure to break through at the 1983 election, and the party conference that followed. From 1994 she served on the Liberal Democrats’ federal appeals panel.
Joyce Rose was at various times vice-chairman of the UK Committee for Unicef, and a board member of the Women’s National Commission, the Apex Trust and local family and medical charities.
She was appointed CBE in 1981, and a Deputy Lieutenant for Hertfordshire in 1990.
Joyce Woolf married, in 1953, Cyril Rose, with whom she had two sons and a daughter.
Joyce Rose, born August 14 1929, died November 3 2013


Polly Toynbee has sadly fallen into the trap of thinking that the plight of one generation is the fault of another (One thing Cameron can’t rip from the young is the vote, November 22). How can it be that she claims society is skewed towards the old when 4.3 million over-65s feel the UK is becoming a playground for the young? Trying to divide the generations is therefore dangerous, and ignores the real problem of a small number of people – young and old – who are still doing very well out of the economic crisis while the vast majority are struggling to pay the rising costs of living. So, rather than taxing winter fuel allowances, why not reverse the 5% tax cut for those earning more than £150,000? Rather than raising the retirement age, why not get younger people into work? And rather than demonising older people, why not recognise the £40bn contribution they make every year to society through taxes, volunteering and unpaid caring? That would make a refreshing change.
Dot Gibson
General secretary, National Pensioners Convention
• While it is rightly a concern that there are so many young people not in employment (Editorial, 21 November), education or training, we need to remember that they are not the only age group who are struggling to find gainful employment.
There are more than 400,000 unemployed over-50s in the UK, and nearly half have been unemployed for more than 12 months. Despite having decades of experience, knowledge and commitment, the over-50s find it disproportionately difficult to get back into employment. This is a major concern on two levels. First, the pressure and hardship for individuals and for their families: many over-50s will have both children and parents who are financially dependent on them. Second, the impact on the economy, with so many skilled and willing workers unable to make a contribution. We must ensure over-50s are provided with employment opportunities, including self-employment and support in starting their own businesses. This will reduce the number of people claiming jobseeker’s allowance, bring experienced and highly skilled workers back into productive roles, and strengthen the economy. At present, woefully little attention and funding is directed to what is a serious social and economic issue. This must be put right.
Alastair Clegg
CEO, The Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise (Prime)
• I found it extraordinary that your article in the Money section (The price of being single, 23 November) made no mention of older people. A very large percentage of older people, particularly those over 75, live alone. Many of them are women, who often have far poorer pension provision than men. As a relatively recent widow – my husband died 18 months ago – I find my overheads very similar to when two of us were sharing our house, but have a considerably lower income. Older people spend more time, generally, in their homes and are less mobile, so heating is a particular problem. We have all the similar problems to younger single people but, I would argue, with added problems due to our age.
Beryl Walkden
Matlock, Derbyshire

You illustrate the new exhibition of Turner seascapes at the National Maritime Museum with a giant reproduction of the artist’s now badly wrecked, many-times restored Rockets and Blue Lights without issuing any kind of art conservation health warning (Eyewitness, 21 November). A clue to the extent to which this picture is no longer a remotely fair representation of Turner’s work is found in the picture’s full title, Rockets and Blue Lights (Close at Hand) to Warn Steamboats of Shoal Water – for this was once a painting of two steamboats in distress, not of one. The now lost boat was recorded in a large chromolithographic copy of the painting that was commissioned in 1852 by the painting’s then owner, and in a photograph of 1896 that was published in the Artwatch UK Journal of Summer 2005 by courtesy of Christie’s. Viewers who compare your present image (and the painting now masquerading at Greenwich as an original Turner) with the recorded earlier states of the picture will likely marvel at the transformation by 20th-century restorers of the sky, and at the losses of storm-driven smoke from the funnels of the original pair of steamboats, one of which vessels has now disappeared under the waves along with its originally depicted crew members.
Michael Daley
Director, ArtWatch UK

Nils Pratley (Bank needs reform, but regulator was also at fault, 20 November) criticises the democratic structure of the Co-operative Group and condemns its main board for consisting entirely of non-executives. He does, however, point out that five of the directors represent independent co-operative societies. These are themselves elected and include the CEOs of three highly successful retail co-operative societies, the Midland, Midcounties and Lincoln. No lack of management expertise there.
Perhaps the real weakness of the Group board is not excessive democracy but a willingness to be carried along with current management enthusiasms for deal-making and self-aggrandisement. This is a fault sadly not restricted to the boards of co-operatives but is all too prevalent in those of plcs. Of these, the point has often been made that they would benefit from the German more democratic two-tier structure, not the shrinkage being recommended for the Co-op.
Bernard Parry
•  The case for reforming the Co-op’s board might be more compelling if there were evidence that the bank’s problems were attributable to being “run by a plastering contractor, a farmer, a telecoms engineer, a computer technician, a nurse…”, as the chair of the Treasury select committee seems to suggest (Report, 20 November). Those of us who remember the near collapse of the banking system, which required the state to throw a lifeline to RBS and Lloyds as they struggled to stay afloat, will be asking ourselves whether the experienced businesspeople who normally serve as non-exec directors made a better fist of things.
Les Bright
Exeter, Devon
• If David Cameron is to hold an inquiry into the appointment of Paul Flowers as chairman of the Co-Op Bank (Analysis, 21 November), perhaps he should also hold one into his own appointment of George Osborne. The chancellor must surely have looked at the Co-op bank’s ability to pay for 632 Lloyds branches, and yet he continually supported the deal.
Alan Ford
Saltdean, East Sussex

In his interesting review of David Crane’s book Empires of the Dead (Where all men are equal, Review, 23 November), Thomas Laqueur briefly mentions Rudyard Kipling. Kipling’s contributions to the War Graves Commission included the choices for headstones: “Their name liveth for evermore” on stones of remembrance, “Their glory shall not be blotted out” for those whose burial places had been destroyed, and “A soldier of the Great War known unto God” on graves for which a name could not be found. He also accompanied George V to the cemeteries and composed a speech for him that contained the powerful line: “There can be no more potent advocates for peace upon earth than this massed multitude of witnesses to the desolation of war.”
John Chambers
• I support William Nicholson in his concern about the Bad Sex award (Take sex seriously, Review, 23 November). I have long felt that this piece of mischief set up by Auberon Waugh has outlived any fun value it might once have had. The uneasy suspicion must be that its instigators are men with the unrelaxed attitude to sexuality that is so common in the lunching classes. Let us by all means have a Good Sex award and drop this snottiness.
Alison Prince
Whiting Bay, Isle of Arran
• Timely to read your leader on Benjamin Britten (22 November). I hope you will also find column space and editorial time to mark another centenarian – the German politician and Social Democrat (emphasis on democrat) Willy Brandt, who was born in Lübeck on 18 December 2013. His memorial museum there is adjacent to that of Günter Grass.
Blaine Stothard
• Pam Wells, with her troubling memories of a naked Warren Mitchell (Letters, 25 November), is clearly suffering from the condition, well known among fringe theatre audiences, of post-dramatic stress disorder (PDSD).
Iain Noble
• Mark Bristow (Letters, 25 November) asks why no typos in the 1963 Guardian reprint. The editor moved from Manchester to London in 1964…
Bill Breakell
Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire

Your article on Japan’s nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima was right to recognise the need for the UK to learn from such a disaster (Japan’s nuclear warning to the UK: be prepared for the worst, 20 November). As regulator for the nuclear industry in the UK we identified some key lessons to take from this devastating incident. They are: the need for a systematic approach to identifying events that could lead to accidents; robust measures to prevent those events progressing this far; and effective periodic review of safety analyses, to make sure they continue to meet high and continuously evolving regulatory standards. Fortunately, the UK acknowledged these requirements over 20 years ago and they were codified by the Office for Nuclear Regulation in its site licence conditions and safety assessment principles. Companies proposing the construction of new nuclear power stations in the UK must show they will meet these requirements and address specific issues identified in the chief nuclear inspector’s reports on the Fukushima accident. More information on these publications and the generic design assessment process for new reactor designs is available on our website (
Andy Hall
First deputy chief inspector, Office for Nuclear Regulation
• Welcome as Tepco president Naomi Hirose’s admission of the seriousness of the Fukushima accident is (Editorial, 21 November), it may be a bit naive to accept that the whole accident was down to a lack of seals on doors. There were reports early on – denied by Tepco, but then so were many things that we now know were true – that at least one of the reactors lost cooling as a result of a pipe fracture caused by the earthquake and not the tsunami. With or without the rubber seals, the lack of nitrogen-purging equipment, which led to the hydrogen explosions, was a major failure in the “in-depth” safety strategy.
A taste of the attitude of “nuclear insiders” at the time comes from a report of a conference in Chicago one month after the accident headed: “Fukushima – a PR problem soon to fade from public attention?” I suppose we must be grateful for the question mark.
Nuclear propagandists, including some quoted in this newspaper, insist there will be practically no health consequences from the accident, but they misrepresent the evidence, insisting that at doses below 100 millisieverts [mSv] risk can be neglected. This, as the study of the survivors of the atomic bombings in Japan has shown, is not the case: risk is proportional to dose from a threshold at zero dose to 2 Sv. This misrepresentation permits a policy of indefinite duration, endorsed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), that allows children to live with an annual external dose up to 20 mSv and which I calculate would increase the lifetime cancer risk of a child by up to 7% over a decade.
Perhaps the question is: is the nuclear industry sufficiently responsible to manage the technology?
Keith Baverstock
Department of environmental sciences, University of Eastern Finland
•  Your editorial was a reminder of the sad events associated with Fukushima Daiichi and the undeniable challenges associated with the cleanup programme. Perspective and context are, however, important. In his recent review (8 November) of Robert Stone’s film Pandora’s Promise, which relays an environmentalist view on the arguments for embracing nuclear power, Damian Carrington observed of the concerns regarding safety: “As it happens, I think these concerns are overblown too. The harm to human health resulting from nuclear power is tiny compared to other energy sources, principally coal. The cancers caused by leaks from nuclear power stations are small in number compared to the deaths resulting from the air pollution caused by fossil fuel burning.”
The safety record of the global nuclear industry is undeniably better than that of just about any other energy-generating technology. The seriousness with which governments and regulators internationally took their responsibility post-Fukushima in ensuring the safety of operating power plants is commendable. It is this culture that drives the design of current and future-generation nuclear power stations that will be deployed in the UK; enhanced safety and greater resistance to external environmental influences have been key.
The one thing the planet cannot afford is climate change. If current projections are anything like right, it is in a different league from any other environmental problem imaginable. Until it is possible to store electricity on a much greater scale than today, variable renewables are not able to provide the reliable electricity we need day in day out, which never falls below about 20,000MW in the UK. So it’s coal, gas or nuclear for this segment of our power demand. Unless carbon capture and storage really takes off – and even then it does not eliminate carbon emissions from fossil fuel use – the choice is simply nuclear power or high greenhouse gas emissions.
Prof Martin Freer Director, Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education and Research, University of Birmingham, Prof Laurence Harwood University of Reading, Prof Bruce Hanson Professor of nuclear process engineering, University of Leeds, Prof Bill Lee Director, Centre for Nuclear Engineering, Imperial College London, Prof James Marrow University of Oxford, Stephen Tindale Associate fellow, Centre for European Reform
•  Naomi Hirose’s advice should surely be listened to before work on the nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point is started. And has sufficient consideration been given to a comparison with the cost and benefits of the oft-discussed Severn Barrage, which would use only the power of nature to generate electricity – for ever – and leave no harmful waste products to be stored for generations afterwards?
John Howes
• The Fukushima tsunami was a unique event. I hope the tsunami that swept over Hinkley Point and the Somerset levels in 1607 was also a unique event.
James Bruges
• Every Friday since August 2012, Kick Nuclear (to which I belong) and Japanese Against Nuclear UK have jointly organised a vigil outside the Japanese embassy in Piccadilly, followed by one outside Tepco’s London offices nearby. These vigils are held in solidarity with protests in Japan in sympathy with the many victims of the Fukushima disaster, and to call for the UK government to abandon its plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations in this country, to avoid the possibility of a similar disaster here.
David Polden

We caught the TGV in France from Perpignan to Lille on 16 October, and the train should have got us there in plenty of time to catch our Eurostar connection back to the UK. It didn’t. However, once they realised what had happened the staff at the station swung into customer service action with all the charm and grace characteristic of the French. Within 15 minutes we had been assured of seats on the Eurostar the following morning and a room was booked for us at the Suite Novotel at no extra cost. We couldn’t have had better service. We cannot imagine any of the British rail companies being so obliging! JE and SE, Brighton
Impressive by any company’s standards! Thank you SNCF (French National Railways). British train operating companies please take note …
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Mary Dejevsky (22 November) is quite right to link the failures at the Co-operative Bank to the culture of cronyism in British institutions. However another wider question is why more has not been done to oversee how businesses are run. The recent events yet again point to the catastrophic success of pressure groups seeking deregulation.
For many years the Financial Services Authority (FSA) was held up as a model of good practice. Other regulators were instructed by ministers and officials to follow the FSA’s “light touch” model. The original banking crisis showed what a failure this policy was, and yet five years on, as you have reported, many financial bodies still have directors who are highly paid, but not qualified for the job. Other regulators are being cut back drastically.
Of course these failures of oversight do not only apply to the financial sector. Customers of the power companies are suffering the effect of a weak regulator. Perhaps it is now time for politicians to ignore the cries of the deregulation movement and realise that good regulation is important, not only for the wellbeing of employees and customers but to protect investors such as the bondholders of the Co-operative Bank.
N Long, Bristol
Is it right to criticise the Co-op Bank for the appointment of Paul Flowers? Yes of course it is. He was a poor choice for many reasons; but was he a poor choice because he did not have a banking background?
A good chairman must be honourable, intelligent, independent and brave. They should be aloof from the detailed targets of the company, being principally interested in its rectitude. There is a long history of excellent chairmen drawn from, for example, senior military officers, university dons and retired police officers.
Clive Georgeson, Dronfield, Derbyshire
Amid all the holier-than-thou comment about Paul Flowers, can we hear it again for the breathtaking incompetence of many senior bank executives from HBOS, Royal Bank of Scotland and others? They may have been better coached and so made a better fist of appearing before parliamentary committees, but the results of their “leadership” were disastrous. 
At the same time, do we see any effort on the part of politicians and the financial authorities to root out ubiquitous drug and alcohol abuse in the City? It is so much easier to salve the conscience by scoring cheap points from the misery of one individual. 
Glynne Williams, London E17
The recent travails of the Co-operative Bank have revealed at least two interesting facts. First, that neither the Prime Minister nor television newsreaders know the correct form of address for an ordained clergyman. It is Mr Flowers or The Reverend Paul Flowers, never Reverend Flowers.
Second, that the current, post-crash, arrangements for bank regulation are just as useless as those they replaced.
Edwin Smith, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
An ethical bank is not one that sacks a thousand staff whilst refurbishing our small-town Co-op/Britannia branch: new counter with glass protection, carpet, chairs, and uniforms for the staff, with those silly stick-out scarves for females. That’s bog-standard corporate stuff.
Profit before people. Dreadful.
Dennis Croughton, Wellington, Somerset
Monty Python fans ripped off by touts
This morning (Monday) I sat in a virtual queue to buy tickets for next year’s Monty Python event. Within half an hour of the tickets going on sale, they had sold out. At the very same time hundreds of tickets were already being offered on secondary resale sites at huge mark-ups, £25 tickets for over £100, the £95 ones for £300-£400.
It would seem that ticket touts and scalpers are still winning the game, and making huge profits at the expense of legitimate fans. This is not an isolated event. Every major concert has similar problems.
It is time the Government took a stand to protect ordinary fans from predatory ticket touts. Ban resale sites from allowing such huge mark-ups. Limiting the mark-up to perhaps 10 per cent would still allow legitimate ticket agencies to make a profit, while protecting those of us who want to go to that once-in-a-lifetime event without being ripped off.
Jo Selwood, Oxford
How chancellor can create more jobs
Away from the promising growth figures, there are a number of tax changes the Government should make at the Autumn Statement with the younger generations in mind (David Blanchflower, 25 November). I suspect there will be a further rise in personal allowances, with an announcement claiming that the aim will be to bring the allowance up to the minimum wage. The next election will be fought on the cost of living. By lifting the working poor out of tax the Tories are supporting the lower-paid bracket yet at the same time will also seem appealing to middle-class families.
We all know this is the correct thing to do economically and socially. It is wrong that a single person on the minimum wage who gets no benefits is paying tax on what most people think is a pittance. All parties want to reduce unemployment and making work more attractive than being on benefits must encourage more people into work.
However, in order to boost employment figures I would go a step further: I would remove National Insurance (NI) from anyone on the minimum wage and I would also work to have no employers’ NI contributions too. For the retail and hospitality industries, who between them employ 20 per cent of the UK workforce, most of which at the lower end, this would create many more jobs as wage costs would be reduced. This would be paid for by abandoning the many “back to work advisory programmes” which have cost billions and have done little to dent the unemployment queues.
Peter Burgess, Managing Director,  Retail Human Resources plc, London W9
A calm debate about fracking
You ask Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party, her response to CPRE’s “coming out in favour of fracking” (The Big Questions, 22 November). 
CPRE has not come out in favour of fracking. Our carefully framed policy guidance note states that we will not oppose fracking provided certain conditions are met, but that does not mean we support it. Our conditions include avoiding damage to the countryside, ensuring that water is used sustainably, and contributing to meeting the country’s climate change commitments, for instance by substituting for the use of unabated coal. 
CPRE’s position on fracking has been developed through calm discussion by a group of members from our branches, covering all shades of opinion. Nationally, we need more information and a more intelligent debate, where a range of voices are heard. At present, both objective information and calm discussion are in short supply. 
Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive, Campaign to Protect Rural England, London SE1
What Mahler’s adagio means
While he’s wrong to say that the “famous adagio” of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony “merely introduces” the finale, Michael Gold (letter, 25 November) is surely right to stress its place in an unfolding, dynamic whole as key to appreciating it. Far from being wondrously apposite as Andreas Whittam Smith suggests (22 November), the Death in Venice connection is seriously misleading.
Mahler titled the movement “adagietto”, not “adagio”; and while his tempo-indication “sehr langsam” (“Very slow”) suggests that “adagietto” here means “little adagio” rather than the usual “slightly faster than adagio”, there’s strong evidence that the music began life as a vocally influenced love-song to Mahler’s wife, speaking perhaps partly of feeling-laden withdrawal, but absolutely not of lugubrious life-renunciation. Those conductors do best who keep a pulse going: Barbirolli’s famous recording comes in in under 10 minutes.
Michael Ayton, Durham
Church of humanism?
I loved Chris Beney’s suggestion (Letter, 25 November) that the CofE move with the times and ditch its indigestible supernatural beliefs, while maintaining its ethical and moral thrust.
The problem is that its members could no longer call themselves Christians, as they would no longer be followers of Jesus, and would need a new name to describe themselves. How about Humanists?
Ian Quayle, Fownhope, Herefordshire
Forgotten Oscar for a black woman
I was surprised to see that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (25 November) is the latest to perpetuate the myth that “Halle Berry is still the only black woman ever to get an Oscar”. 
Has she never seen Gone with the Wind? Hattie McDaniel deservedly won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role as Mammy back in 1939.
Elizabeth Edwards, Moulton, Lincolnshire


Litigation extends now into every area of NHS medical practice, from negligence, criminal assault, benefit entitlements and child protection
Sir, Litigation involving the NHS is a targeted, calculated, multibillion- pound industry (letter, Nov 20). It is funded almost exclusively by the taxpayer, and genuinely deserving causes are often the smallest beneficiaries.
Regarding clinical negligence claims, John De Bono (letter, Nov 21) does not highlight the critical point that a poor outcome does not necessarily equate to bad practice. Neither does he point out that there are many perverse incentives that drive the development of a claim and its possible settlement. Not least of which is the fact that NHS trusts and the NHS Litigation Authority will almost always opt to settle a claim, however outrageous, rather than risk the immense costs of defending and possibly losing.
Litigation of some sort extends now into every conceivable area of NHS medical practice, encompassing scenarios as diverse as negligence, criminal assault, benefit entitlements and child protection. In many specialities the likelihood of it colours every single patient interaction.
Michael Carter
(Consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon), Bristol
Sir, Your leading article (“Patient Care”, Nov 20) indicates that the Secretary of State for Health has deemed that doctors and nurses could be struck off for not owning up to mistakes and there will be a duty to report near-misses.
The public and health professions will welcome measures to improve safety and quality in the NHS. However, such measures should be evidence-based and, as Hippocrates counselled, do no harm. In this respect the apparent absence of a definition as to what constitutes a mistake or a near-miss — and the lines to be drawn between an error of judgment and negligence — constitute a cause for concern.
Individual doctors daily make hundreds of decisions to assess risks and benefits, in the case of emergencies often rapidly and under duress. It is generally agreed that in the surgical specialties, the ability to make a correct decision, even one as basic as “does this patient need an operation now?”, often outweighs the technical skills of the surgeon.
Before his recommendations are enacted, the Secretary of State should commission an in-depth study on how to differentiate between well-intentioned (but mistaken) judgments and clinical negligence.
Professor Sir Miles Irving, FRCS
Woodstock, Oxon
Sir, James Badenoch, QC (letter, Nov 15) misses the point. Of course we can all agree that everything possible should be done to reduce negligence. Mishaps occur, however, in hospital as throughout life; some are due to negligence, some are not. The point is that compensation should be based on need, not on whether a skilful lawyer can establish that there has been negligence.
There is a further point, that while it is reasonable to expect the taxpayer to pay compensation based on need, negligence is another matter. It is not the taxpayer who has been negligent.
Henry Haslam
Taunton, Somerset
Sir, John De Bono says that most cases proceed only if the treatment provided fell below the standard of any reasonable doctor and, if so, if that made a difference to the patient’s outcome. I would sincerely hope that any proven negligence would result in action irrespective of the outcome for the patient. Surely the fact that the patient didn’t ultimately suffer does not mean that the negligence did not take place.
Frank Jarvis
Washington, Tyne and Wear

Heathrow is half the size of Paris Charles De Gaulle, with no room to grow because of adjacent motorways and residential populations
Sir, Robert Lea (“Flying circus”, Business, Nov 25) invites Sir Howard Davies to fly over Heathrow to see how huge the site is and to experience the extraordinary amount of capital invested there. He would then conclude that moving all that to an estuary location, as called for by Boris Johnson, would be absurd.
What Sir Howard would actually see would be a very small site by the standards of our competitors (it is half the size of Paris Charles De Gaulle, for example), with no room to grow because of adjacent motorways and residential populations. The infrastructure at Heathrow has a regulatory value of about £14 billion, a lot or a little, depending what industry you compare it with, but not “extraordinary”, and it would be largely depreciated by the time the airport moved to a new site in about 2029.
Heathrow is a life-expired asset. As with other growing businesses, there comes a time when it is right to up sticks and move to new premises if the opportunities of growth are to be captured.
Daniel Moylan
Chief adviser on aviation to the Mayor of London

It is not only children who must be protected when giving evidence in a criminal trial – there are other groups of vulnerable people, too
Sir, I was heartened to read the report by Frances Gibb (“Remove all child witnesses from courts, says judge”, Law, Nov 22) in which the former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, spoke of the need to remove child witnesses entirely from the court process.
As a former police detective who has seen many child victims of abuse traumatised by the thought of having to provide evidence in court, I feel that his comments should be explored and the present system reviewed.
Child witnesses are not the only ones, however. Other victims who are mentally impaired and who have a mental age less than their age in years should also be respected and treated as vulnerable witnesses.
I can recall one such case where the victim, although an adult in legal terms, only had the capabilities of a person half his age. He was a victim of prolonged sexual abuse by someone who had “groomed” him. The perpetrator denied the alleged offences, which would have meant the victim giving his evidence as an adult in court. As this was the case, the Crown Prosecution Service felt that due to the victim’s mental ability he would be unable to withstand vigorous cross-examination, and that this could cause him further anxiety.
Therefore all the charges were dropped and no further action was taken.
Ken Wright
Benfleet, Essex

An awful lot of passengers already spend their whole journey standing.  What about getting rid of First Class instead?
Sir, Introducing third-class “standing only” carriages to alleviate overcrowding on our trains would not work (report, Nov 25). During peak time, passengers already have no option other than to stand. A more pragmatic response would be to do away with first-class travel altogether and introduce a standard fare structure throughout.
Frank Greaney
Formby, Liverpool

HS2 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create thousands of jobs and win up to £10 billion of supply chain contracts
Sir, The HS2 (London to West Midlands) hybrid Bill is a crucial step in ensuring this country’s international competitiveness for a half century or more. HS2 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create as many as 400,000 jobs, win up to £10 billion of supply chain contracts, and be involved in the construction of one of the world’s most technologically advanced railways.
As engineering, technology and project management experts who have helped to deliver major infrastructure projects in the UK and around the world, ranging from creating entirely new high-speed networks to maintaining and improving the UK’s existing rail network, we aim to use our experience and expertise to ensure that the extension of the British high-speed rail network leaves a legacy for growth, jobs and skills that will be the envy of the world.
We urge British industry to join us in welcoming the Bill and the new dawn it offers Britain.
Jim Steer, Greengauge21; Douglas Mccormick, Atkins; Lawrie Quinn, Railway Engineers Forum; Amjad Bangash, Bechtel; Darren Reed, Parsons Brinckerhoff; Jeremy Candfield, Railway Industry Association; Steve Scrimshaw, Siemens

This doctor believes that the middle classes spend more feeding their animals than hospitals do feeding their patients
Sir, It is not the responsibility of doctors to set the standards for patients’ food (report, Nov 25). Doctors have been gradually disenfranchised, de-professionalised in terms of conditions, responsibility and pay, and have no powers to intervene. I’ve been practising for a decade and in general I’ve looked at patient food in disgust, would never eat it, and have long suggested that some decent fillet, perhaps a glass of claret and in general something approaching regular nutritious meals would improve outcomes, reduce hospital-acquired infections and reduce in-patient stays to a minimum.
The middle classes spend more feeding their animals than hospitals their patients. No doubt now the issue has been raised hospital trusts will appoint a responsible manager, meetings will be held where “everyone has a voice” and nothing much will happen.
Dr Alexander Barber
Camberley, Surrey


SIR — Game is a conservation and rural economic success story. Game is also delicious to eat and in huge – and growing – demand both in Europe and in export markets across the world. The supply chain, from game shoot to plate, is highly organised and well regulated.
To imply that game is routinely buried after a day’s shooting paints a picture of my world that I, a lifelong gamekeeper and chairman of the National Gamekeepers’ Organisation, do not recognise. That is an old canard put about each winter by groups that oppose shooting.
Lindsay Waddell
Darlington, County Durham

SIR – The bank of the future existed 25 years ago, not in America but the North East of England.
In the late Eighties, the old TSB reconfigured the branches in and around Newcastle using varying degrees of technology, including staffless branches exactly as described in the article. A section of the local community found these branches to be warm and dry areas where they could seek shelter, leaving the branches in a dirty and untidy state, despite security staff and cleaners being on call.
This made customers, already wary of using technology to undertake their banking, reluctant to use such branches and the experiment was ended.
While customers’ acceptance of technology in banking is far greater than it was 25 years ago, is it not likely, given the current economic environment, that the use of these branches for non-banking purposes will also be greater?
Keith B Gunn
Shirley, West Midlands
Related Articles
Britain’s Pakistani community does not have a monopoly on corruption
25 Nov 2013
You’ve got game: a rural economic success story
25 Nov 2013
NHS paperwork
SIR – Over the past decade, my patients who have fallen ill while travelling in Continental Europe have consistently reported receiving excellent medical care there, including continuity of care from the same doctors and nurses throughout their stay, clean hospitals, and staff who explain things in good English. All patients return with comprehensive typed discharge letters, mostly written in English, and with digital files of any investigative imaging.
My patients discharged from British hospitals usually report medical care which is good but delivered by numerous staff members who change daily without handing over to their colleagues, and who are too harassed to explain much. As a GP, I get letters that are sometimes illegibly hand-written or incomplete, and frequently delivered up to a month after the event by a hospital post van.
Despite several billion pounds of investment in NHS information technology over the past decade to provide an email service meeting the highest security standards, email communication is still considered by some hospital managers to be unsafe; locally it is not used.
Dr Stephen Bamber
Fritton, Norfolk
Wagon rustlers
SIR – It is not only from stately homes that antiques are being stolen. I had, until last April, a traditional showman’s wagon (often referred to as a gipsy caravan), which lived in a field at the bottom of the garden. It was over 100 years old and in perfect condition.
But in April it was removed during the night, disappearing without trace. It was taken across three fields and through two wire fences, with two gates lifted off their hinges.
This was a highly organised crime – at least four people must have been involved in its removal.
Wanda Rix
Headley, Hampshire
To whom it may, etc
SIR – Ignorance concerning the correct way of addressing a person with any form of title, such as Reverend, is deplorable. I recently received a letter from the DVLA, which began: “Dear [Any Title Not In This List] Sworder”.
I now regret admitting to being a retired Army officer.
John Sworder
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Helping the high street
SIR – Peter Stanford should consider the importance of Business Improvement Districts in generating investment in the high street.
I am chairman of the Dartmouth BID, which will vote this week on whether the businesses of Dartmouth will invest more than £1 million in the town over five years, including a substantial sum from Sainsbury’s. The main aim is to get businesses to work together towards an agreed goal, so we must invest the money in delivering a business plan that we have developed in consultation with our business community over the past year.
BIDs have achieved real success in many places round the world. New York, for instance, is run by 57 separate BIDs.
Paul Reach
Dartmouth, Devon
Summer time
SIR – Christine Morgan-Owen, of Farnham, Surrey, suggests that British Summer Time should be extended year-round.
A casual look at a map shows Farnham to be pretty close to the bottom of the United Kingdom and, therefore, the least affected by dark mornings. I wonder what time Mrs Morgan-Owen leaves home in the morning to travel to work. If it is around 6am, as it is for many, she will know that this is the most risky time of the day for car travel, particularly on wet or icy mornings, even in Farnham. To extend that risk by a further hour is foolhardy.
Christopher Esdaile
Pulborough, West Sussex
SIR – Why do we have to change the clocks to change the times at which we go to work? Flexible timetables would be much simpler for disparate zones such as Cape Wrath and Margate. Let us leave the clocks alone and choose better times to work.
Alexander Hopkinson-Woolley
Bembridge, Isle of Wight
Save my seat
SIR – My business and personal circumstances dictate that I regularly dine or drink alone. On several occasions lately, I have needed to visit the lavatory mid-meal or mid-drink. When eating, I have returned to my table to find my meal removed. When just drinking, I’ve found my seat taken upon returning. There must be a simple solution to stop this happening.
David White
Glossop, Derbyshire
Modernising country parishes to save the Church
SIR – I am secretary of the parochial church council (PCC) in our village. We, and the eight other churches in our benefice, have no priest. We have an acting rural dean, who has the responsibility for an entire deanery. Most services are taken by retired priests or associate priests or lay readers, all of whom are unpaid. For this, every parish has to send several thousand pounds a year to the diocese of Lincoln.
When I was first involved with the PCC, this “parish share” was said to pay for the priest of the benefice. Now, of course, we have no paid clergyman. Any bills, repairs, or maintenance, we have to fund with no help from the diocese. Moreover, villagers have no cleric they can turn to in times of crisis.
I used to think parish churches should combine. Perhaps some will. But, in the long term, this will not be enough to stop the demise of the Church of England.
Yes, evangelical churches are flourishing; they meet in locations that are warm, have running water, sinks and lavatories. The services are accessible to visitors, as the language is contemporary and the hymns are lively.
People have changed and parish churches must change, too. The changes have to come from the top.
Bernadette Chalklin
Hougham, Lincolnshire
SIR – A N Wilson is mistaken if he believes the only growth in the Anglican church is its evangelical wing. I attend St Barnabas, a very high Anglican church in Oxford, and our congregation has doubled in recent years. This is thanks in part to the use that the church is put to. At any weekend, there can be found a meeting of the wine club or a farmers’ market, all taking place within the body of the church.
We draw the people in, and they stay. We also use the Book of Common Prayer. There is much to be said for combining the old ways with a modern approach that suits people’s more secular tastes.
Paul Hornby

SIR – Your front page on Saturday was headlined: “Minister: Corruption is rife in the Pakistani community”. Just below was a report on comparison site rip-offs, and another on the Co-op scandal. Elsewhere in your pages last week, we read about (yet more) MPs’ expenses fiddling, the phone hacking scandal and sundry irregularities in local government departments.
Does Dominic Grieve think Pakistanis are unique in their corruption?
John Mash
Cobham, Surrey
SIR – While Dominic Grieve is right to highlight corruption among ethnic minorities, not least in the Pakistani community, he and previous governments need also to take some responsibility.
Related Articles
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25 Nov 2013
You’ve got game: a rural economic success story
25 Nov 2013
This stems from an unofficial policy that Britain is a multicultural and multi-faith society, the outcome of which is that, in many towns and cities, ethnic and religious minorities have congregated in segregated neighbourhoods. It is not at all surprising that nefarious beliefs and practices from regions of origin, including corruption and nepotism, are perpetuated.
Mr Grieve paints too rosy a picture of integration. David Cameron admitted in March 2011 that “state multiculturalism” had failed, yet the policies of the Coalition Government have not tackled the problems that have given rise to such failure. On the contrary, in some instances it has made matters worse.
Whereas many EU countries have sensibly set up ministries for integration, the present Government took a backward step by appointing a Minister for Faith and Communities.
If Mr Grieve is serious about tackling problems among ethnic minorities, including corruption, he and his Government need to follow the Continental example.
Rumy Hasan
Brighton, East Sussex
SIR – Those who have lived abroad have known for years what the Attorney General has just realised: some immigrants come from countries where corruption is a way of life. We must enforce an immigration policy in which immigrants learn English and understand that our freedoms are secured by the rule of our laws.
Cdr Alan York RN (retd)
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
SIR – Corruption in minority communities is not confined to British-Pakistani culture. What Dominic Grieve described could have been lifted from Aravind Adiga’s Mann Booker Prize-winning novel, The White Tiger, about corruption in India. He describes vote theft, favours and large quantities of cash changing hands for local government contracts. It is unacceptable. Penalties must be broadcast and imposed more vociferously, under threat of withdrawal of the right to remain.
Sue Doughty
Twyford, Berkshire

Irish Times:
Sir, – The statement by two eminent haematologists (Letters, November 23rd) is very welcome in view of the recent upsurge in misinformation regarding a perceived link between leukaemia and low energy electromagnetic fields.
More than 30 years of international research has failed to produce any definite evidence of a connection between power lines and cancer. The absence of any detrimental effect is consistent with the fact that there is no physical basis for such a link. This conclusion is based on well-established scientific principles associated with quantum physics, which show that the energy associated with typical power lines in Ireland is many millions of times less than that required to break the weakest molecular bond.
The sight of pylons in our beautiful countryside and the cost of putting them underground are a completely different matter. – Yours, etc,
Professor Emeritus,
Shanganagh Vale,
Dublin 18.
Sir, – I totally agree with Professors McCann and Smith (November 24th) that it is indeed a spurious health claim that low-energy electromagnetic fields from electricity pylons have been proven to cause childhood leukaemia. However, in 2002 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified low-energy electromagnetic fields as a possible or 2B carcinogen.
This classification was based on a review of epidemiological literature on electromagnetic fields and health by Prof Anders Ahlbom (Karolinska Institute, Sweden).  Ahlbom et al (2001) concluded: “Among all the outcomes evaluated in epidemiological studies on EMF, childhood leukaemia in relation to post natal exposures above 0.4 micro tesla is the one for which there is the most evidence of an association. The relative risk has been estimated at 2.0 (double the risk) in a large pooled analysis. This is unlikely to be due to chance, but may be, in part, due to bias”.
The entire area was reviewed in by the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR), where they concluded: “The previous conclusion that ELF magnetic fields are a possible carcinogen, chiefly based on childhood leukaemia results, is still valid.”
In my opinion, while it is unproven that low-energy electromagnetic fields actually cause cancer, it cannot be denied that it is right and proper they should form part of an informed debate with regard to the pylon controversy. – Yours, etc,
Co Monaghan.
Sir, – Profs McCann and Smith (November 23rd) state that evidence is lacking for a causal relationship between low energy electromagnetic fields and leukaemia, and advise that “spurious health claims” should not confuse a “constructive debate” in the current controversy about health hazards and human exposure to electricity pylons.
Every honest scientist will acknowledge that absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence, and factors not yet identified may account for the large body of observational evidence suggesting a link between exposure to EMF and risks to optimal health.
Researchers at Shanghai University have recently discovered that children with a faulty variant of a protective gene were 4.3 times more likely to develop leukaemia if they lived within 330 feet of a power line. Their observation of an indirect effect on human DNA through EMF exposure cannot be discounted as “spurious”. The EPA , while mindful of the conflicting evidence, acknowledges there is reason for concern, and advises “prudent avoidance” of unnecessary exposure to EMF.
In their Bioinitiative Report, leading researchers in the field of EMF exposure warned, “The existing standards of public safety are completely inadequate  to protect health”. This is not a “spurious health claim. It is a serious warning for EirGrid to take note of. – Yours, etc,
Medical Director,
The Leinster Clinic,
Co Kildare.
Sir, – There is a marked difference between President Obama’s version of the interim deal signed in Geneva and that of the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, (“US and Iran held secret meetings before nuclear deal”, Front page, November 25th).
Contrary to what Obama said, Rouhani said “all sanctions will be lifted” as part of the deal. He also said the outcome means world powers have “recognised” Iran’s nuclear rights.
While British foreign secretary, William Hague, has given a cautious welcome to the deal Israel still remains, understandably, sceptical of Tehran’s new found goodwill towards the West – and why wouldn’t it?
Much of what happens in that large country is well hidden and literally underground. Iranian officials, however well-disposed to change, will always be answerable to the supreme leader.
The Iranian president has already convinced the Iranian people that Iran has won a major victory over Western aggression. This could turn out to be the longest six months of Obama’s presidency. – Yours, etc,
The Demesne,

Sir, – We young female trainee doctors were appalled at the manner in which Dr Rhona Mahony was vilified in the press over the past week. Complex contract issues of employment were used as an excuse to pursue an anti-female doctor agenda. There is gender bias and discrimination in Ireland. Is Ireland still deeply uncomfortable with women filling senior management positions? Although the debate involved hundreds of individuals in senior management across the Ireland, only Dr Mahony was personally targeted. Both she and her young family were singled out for “special attention” although she has done nothing wrong. The reason is simply that she is a successful young woman.
Dr Mahony is a role model for all female doctors. She leads by example. She cares passionately for the welfare of mothers and their babies, making ambitions for delivering a first-class service real. She is in the hospital before we arrive in the morning and long after we have gone home. She knows us all by name and is mindful and appreciative of what we do. Our doctors’ staff room has no hierarchy. This positive and supportive ethos is fostered from the top down. At a time of a national shortage in non-consultant doctors, positions in our hospital remain highly sought after. She is a major reason why we still work in the Irish health service when our medical school classmates are now working abroad.
The inclusion of her family in the debate should not have happened. The media should not have camped out outside her home. (We acknowledge this did not involve The Irish Times). We feel the exposure of young children to the glare of adverse publicity is always wrong and has the potential to cause them harm. If we aspire to be successful, we wonder how we would protect our families from what Dr Mahony has had to contend with. This past week has brought home to us that in Ireland successful females continue to be treated in a more harsh and personal manner than their male counterparts. Perhaps we should admit that Ireland is not yet happy to see women succeed? The media should exercise more caution before they drive a priceless resource in medical management and clinical expertise off these shores. – Yours, etc,
Dr EMER RYAN Registrar; Dr NUALA QUINN, Specialist Registrar; Dr MADELEINE MURPHY, Registrar, Dr AISLING STAFFORD, Senior House Officer Dr SARAH MULLIGAN, Senior House Officer; Dr SILVIA SIMON, Senior House Officer; Dr TRISHA PALMAR, Registrar; Dr AEDIN RYAN, Senior House Officer & Dr VICKY O DWYER, Registar,
National Maternity Hospital,
Holles Street, Dublin 2.

Sir, – On Sunday, after the last kick of the game I felt like a man shouting in a vacuum behind a great glass wall. My heedless screams were of the pride and admiration I felt for those players wearing the Ireland jersey.
I thanked them for giving me so much by showing the best team in the world that limbs had to be broken before there was a backward step. And what’s more, that it would not simply be fire and brimstone but that through skill and endeavour of the highest order they would turn the All Blacks again and again. What hurt me particularly was that nothing that I could say could make those Ireland players feel better, that my adulation could not console them because of the numbers on a score board. So please, hear me now. Lift up those proud Irish heads and take the applause. You played like warrior gods, you were glorious in that moment when you showed the world that we are Ireland and we can play rugby with anybody. – Yours, etc,
Station Road,
Kings Heath,
A chara, – One missed penalty kick by one player does not determine whether we win, lose or draw a rugby match. Our Irish team produced a performance that was beyond heroic on Sunday and their perfect first half display was the best I have ever seen from any Irish team in any sport.
However, the facts are that our team did not score in the second half against New Zealand and our team, not one individual, box kicked, gave away a crucial penalty, missed important tackles, rushed the All Black’s conversion kicker and conceded over half the playing pitch all in the final seconds of this titanic struggle and these collective moments contributed to our courageous team not earning their most famous victory.
Ireland’s day will eventually arrive against the mighty All Blacks and even then Ireland will continue to win as a team, draw as a team and lose as a team, always. – Is mise,
Maxwell Road,
Rathgar, Dublin 6.
Sir, – After the foolishness of Ireland’s Call and the haka, and all that new stage business in the scrum, the All Blacks in the dying seconds gave us a masterclass in the scoring of a try: rugby is back. Amhrán na bhFiann might still be a step too far: but please, please, while Richard Haass is still in town, could someone ask the Ulster Protestants would they consider The Fields of Athenry as an all-Irish national anthem? – Yours, etc,
Strawberry Beds,
Dublin 20.
Sir, – Sunday’s display at the Aviva reaffirms my belief that we are as good at rugby as anyone in the world – except in the two key areas of decision- making and self-belief.
On 30 minutes, we were besieging the All Blacks on their try line for a fourth try. They were on the rack and looking more anxious than I have ever seen them. We were awarded a scrum and then a subsequent penalty for an infringement they made in the tight.
Every time we put together a maul we made at least 15 metres yet at this crucial time when we had an opportunity to really hammer the last nail in, we elected for the “safe” three-point option. This fear-based decision gave them too much respect as our forwards had been bullying them all afternoon up to that point. The possibility of us taking the kick at goal was exactly what the Kiwis had in mind when making their infringement. This was the moment their throats were under our boots but instead we thought that we had done well to have a 19-7 lead on 30 minutes. We didn’t score again.
Again we have sold ourselves short in a fashion I fear will further fuel our inferiority complex. – Yours, etc,
Termonfeckin, Co Louth.
Sir, – Given the tight fitting jerseys now been worn by our rugby players, it is difficult to “stick the ball up your jumper” à la Munster. May I suggest next time we play the All Blacks we return to the old loose jerseys and hold on to the ball. – Yours, etc,
Glenupper, Glencar, Sligo.
Sir, – My first experience of rugby was some 68 years ago when my dear father took me to Lansdowne Road to watch a Leinster Cup match. I do remember spending my time running up and down the terrace oblivious to events on the field. Out of that introduction began a life-long love of the game as a player, an observer, a sponsor and a lover of the greatest team sporting game of all. On Sunday I watched the best performance by an Irish team against probably the best rugby team the world has ever seen. We lost in the most cruel of circumstances. Should we be despondent? Absolutely not. On Sunday Ireland showed it can compete at the highest level. We can hold our heads high with the best there is and we are within an inch of brilliance.
Our performance surpassed any match I have seen in all my years watching rugby. Would that my wonderful father could have shared the experience with me. – Yours, etc,
Westminster Lawns,
Dublin 18.
Sir, – Shane Hegarty’s eerily accurate prediction regarding the Ireland v New Zealand rugby match – a last-minute victory to the All Blacks due to some previously unheard of technicality – deserves mention. A transfer to the sports section may be in order. – Yours, etc,
Templeroan Avenue,
Knocklyon, Dublin 16.
Sir, – I have often wondered what it means to me to be Irish.
After watching Ireland play New Zealand on Sunday, I now know. – Yours, etc,
Belgrave Square,
Monkstown, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Since 2007 thousands of our fellow countrymen have lost their livelihoods, homes, pensions and in a number of cases when hope was lost they took their lives.
We the ordinary citizens of this country have been to hell and back in these few short years and now a section of the employment force which has been sheltered from the worst ravages of the economic downturn has decided that the ordinary majority have not suffered enough and in the depths of winter should be thrown into darkness and cold so that they can make some misguided point about apparent loss of pension rights which has not as yet been determined.
The people against whom they are making this protest will no doubt be protected against these power cuts by moving to their foreign houses or switching on their generators. The rest of us lucky enough to still have a home will find it a cold and dark place during the Yuletide festivities. Why? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – I have had the misfortune to experience the new driving licence application process. In Dublin, one must attend one of three centres in order to apply. There is only one Northside office, which is in Omni Centre in Santry. I queued for three and a half hours recently before I was attended to.
Surely the Road Safety Authority could have opened a few other centres as they should have known the likely numbers attending? – Yours, etc,

Sir, – In the past five years the disability allowance has gradually been reduced to €188 per week. This saving has gone to the State. It would appear that this saving has been passed on to able-bodied members of the State who are already in receipt of adequate salaries.
The disabled are “ resigned” to this sickening manifestation of inequality. Roll on 2016. – Yours, etc,
Monalea Park,

Sir, – Every night for the past few nights I have been curling up in bed with Fintan O’Toole! Since the publication on November 20th of his “25 years of Irish life” supplement, I find that reading one of his thought-provoking columns each night feeds my soul.
I then drift off to sleep enriched and satisfied. Thank you Fintan O’Toole and The Irish Times. – Yours, etc,
Off Whitehall Road,
Churchtown 14.

Sir, – Journeying through south Co Leitrim, of late, I came face to face with the cruel realities of attempting to start up a new industry/enterprise.
In the past 12 years, the mainly rural Dromod-Rooskey area alone has lost well over 1,000 jobs. There is great need to create alternative employments. You would think Government policies would be promoting and assisting every effort to create jobs here.
I have found there are no enlightened promotional policies in place which would ease the lot of anyone brave enough to start a small new enterprise. Why? The first instance is the cost of getting electricity reconnected to a small unit in a small village. If the chosen building has been vacant for more than two years, you will be charged about €1,400 for a reconnection that takes eight minutes to accomplish. I contacted the ESB and asked it to explain. Its only defence was that charges such as these have been agreed between the ESB and the Commissioner for Energy Regulation. I could get no more rational explanation. It was a case of “pay up or do without”.
 I also heard of an instance where the local authority attempted to extract very high rates from a person who hadn’t even swept the cobwebs off the walls before attempting to equip the place. Add in planning permission, household charges, water charges, waste disposal costs and relatively slow broadband and you can appreciate what Sisyphus must have felt as he rolled the big stone towards the mountain’s summit, only to have it roll back down again.
In order to kick-start a recovery in this area, a whole new set of enlightened policies must be applied throughout the BMW Region. New enterprises must get grants, incentives and tax breaks, with an end to the bureaucratic bungling described above.
I think the prohibitive costs applied to start-ups will soon drive out all the present inhabitants of lovely Leitrim. Maybe the real reason is to allow the horrors of fracking to begin. – Yours, etc,
Dromod, Co Leitrim.  

Irish Independent:

* When you acquit yourself with honour, dignity, and courage in the face of overwhelming force, it is difficult to entertain the concept of defeat.
Also in this section
Away in a haka went a match we could’ve won
Legal reform bill is badly flawed
Gay contribution to Temple Bar
The performance of Ireland against the All Blacks was, in my opinion, the best by an Irish team in the last 50 years.
And it is ours to savour. I have left Lansdowne Road after Irish victories that were less noble than this defeat.
The soothsayers examining the entrails in their attempt to get a glimpse of a divine plan that brought us so near, and yet so far, are none the wiser.
All of that suggests an epic encounter was present. There was heroism in the tackle, fierce intensity in collisions, and passion in purpose.
Those lucky enough to be in the stadium, or even to view it from afar, were left with a sense of awe.
There was a purity and honesty that is seldom seen in the gilded arena of professional sport, with all the appendages of sponsorship and signed contracts. This match had something of a Homeric clash of the Titans about it.
The stakes were not reflected on the scoreboard. The investment by each player was not just physical; they plunged the depths of their very beings for the strength to prevail.
If Ireland were spellbindingly magnificent, the All Blacks were quite sublime. Even having been blown away, they refused to lie down. Nor should we beat ourselves up; daggers to the heart are generally seen too late.
And yet we had seen the fatal flash of steel before this season. South Africa had beaten them flat on the anvil, only to see them regain their shape and come back to cut them dead. Now they are the first team in the monied era to go a full year as invincible.
But Ireland came closer than anyone else in denting this record. We did not close the deal; perhaps emotions got in the way. A flicker of doubt was enough for the All Blacks to pounce upon and quench the flame.
But don’t be downhearted; for a short while we saw greatness. Have no truck with what might have beens; relish what we have, and what is yet to come. Take heart — the green flame has been lit and there is as yet a season to catch fire before us.
* Our politics seem to be geared to expose human frailties. Many ardent reformists with a genuine desire to do good capitulate to the more pragmatic demands of political life at the early stages of their careers.
Aspiring politicians must attempt to survive cutthroat competition to be selected, elected and promoted up the ranks. Some quickly realise that politics is not for the tender-minded. The macho bear pit of parliamentary debate brings home to them the harsh realities of political life. It becomes a matter of ‘adapt or die’.
The booze-filled social lives of some politicians, and the ever-growing distance from the people who elected them, create an unaccountable subculture. The worship of money, praise and favour is part of the unwritten job description.
Politicians are tempted to succumb to the need to kowtow to those who sustain their self-image, particularly to the media who dispense approval or disapproval.
The short-term motives behind most decision-making, and the irrational impulse to disagree for disagreement’s sake, lead to disillusion and the shattering of the dreams of those with integrity.
Politics has always been a breeding ground for vanity, duplicity, greed and hypocrisy. It rewards those who are driven more by ambition than by principle, in some cases leading to a complete loss of shame, remorse or critical self-awareness. Charles Haughey was the archpriest of this unholy culture, with many willing acolytes following in his wake.
Politics tends to harbour the seductive belief that good ends can only be brought about by resorting to dubious means. The end is assumed to justify the means. The difficulty here is that the politician is corrupted by the dubious means, but not healed again by the achievement of what was seen as a good end.
Perhaps we demand from our politicians more than we can reasonably expect. The minimum requirement, however, is that we have grounds for believing them. Once they cease to be believed, politicians’ capacity to serve their country withers.
* The recent controversy around the salaries of hospital CEOs and management has given me the inspiration to tell my employers to give me what I’m worth. If they don’t have the money, let them set up a tuck shop; let them charge fellow employees for the boiling water for their tea; let them sell if not eat cake if needs be. But, they will say, salaries in Ireland for the public sector compare favourably with the rest of Europe. However, I will counter that my indefinable uniqueness can only be truly recognised by increased monetary reward.
* If Charles Stewart Parnell had lived in 1913, we would not have had the Lockout, as Parnell would not have allowed Dublin to be run down by disease and poverty. Furthermore, it is my opinion that the modus operandi adopted by Westminster was to deliberately allow Belfast to emerge as the industrial capital of Ireland. His untimely death allowed Westminster to bring to our shores the Trade Disputes Act 1906. Section 3 gives the right to peacefully communicate in a trade dispute between employers and employees.
This act favours the employers by allowing them make an application to the High Court to get an ex parte injunction to stop the unions and workers airing their grievance. At this stage of proceedings, in the majority of cases, the unions will disown their members or member.
But who wants to picket indefinitely or be brought before the court to purge their contempt of the law? Even having a justifiable case, you cannot afford to take on your employer at law.
Murphy said of Larkin: “An unscrupulous man who claims the right . . . to use you as tools to make him the labour dictator of Dublin.”
Larkin said of Murphy: “It is not a strike, it is a lockout of the men who have been tyrannically threatened by a most unscrupulous scoundrel.”
In a report of the housing committee into the housing conditions of the working classes in the City of Dublin (1914), Walter Carpenter describes a house on Canning Street as follows: “The rain pours through the roof, the ceiling is falling, the floor is all holes, and the walls are all decayed. The whole thing is in an absolutely dilapidated condition . . . and the people are compelled to live there.”
Contrast this with Murphy’s palace at Dartry Hall, where the rates were lower, the air cleaner, poverty invisible, and where he could indulge his other passion for horticulture.
Maybe things will change in 2014.
* In view of the recent spate of savage burglaries, I checked the Dept of Corrections website in Florida for mandatory sentencing in aggravated home invasion cases, where someone is injured. It makes for interesting reading.
“Mandatory prison sentence for home invasion where someone is injured or killed — 25 years to life.”
Justice Minister Alan Shatter, please take note, and let us get real in this country.
Irish Independent


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