27 January 2014 Drained

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. A Wren offices inspects the wardroom and it just will not do, Pertwee offers to refurbish, at a price!

Drain still unblocked but will have to get it fixed permanently and ring Yorkshire Water Monday no boxes no Thermabloc

Scrabbletoday Marywins but gets under 400, Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.



Sir Nicholas Browne, who has died aged 66, made his mark as a diplomat in the difficult arena of Iran, where he served twice as chargé d’affaires, then as Ambassador (from 1999 to 2002); he was also the author of a highly influential internal report investigating why Britain had failed to anticipate the fall of the Shah in 1979.

When the Shah was toppled by supporters of the 77-year-old Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in January 1979, Western governments were taken by surprise, and the then Foreign Secretary, David Owen, commissioned a Foreign and Commonwealth Office report on British policy towards Iran in the years leading up to the revolution. How, he wanted to know, had Britain failed to predict the event; and might a different policy have saved the regime?

The task was given to the then 33-year-old Nicholas Browne, who had served in the Tehran embassy for four years in the early 1970s and was now on loan to the Cabinet Office. He spent the next year preparing his 90-page report, which was labelled “secret and confidential” and only released 30 years later.

Browne did not pull his punches as he described the “failure” of the British embassy in Tehran: “The conclusion that the embassy drew from their analysis [of the Shah’s position] consistently proved to be too optimistic.” It had “overstated the personal popularity of the Shah… knew too little about the activities of Khomeini’s followers… saw no need to report on the financial activities of leading Iranians… [and] failed to foresee that the pace of events would become so fast”.

He also singled out for criticism Sir Anthony Parsons, Ambassador to Iran from 1974 to 1979, saying that he had been woefully uninformed: he did not know that the Shah was terminally ill with cancer, and had not sufficiently pursued contacts with opposition groups (in particular, supporters of Khomeini). Consequently he had “underestimated the attractions of [Khomeini’s] simple and consistent message that the Shah must be overthrown”. Parsons later accepted that he had been at fault.

It is possible that the embassy had been inhibited by Britain’s reputation for interference in Iranian affairs — a reputation which Browne acknowledged in his report. It dated back to at least 1953, when Iran’s elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh was overthrown in a coup in which many Iranians suspected the American and British intelligence services of having been involved.

In the course of his work Browne trawled through thousands of diplomatic cables, and concluded that British policy in Iran had been anything but sophisticated — according to one diplomat who read the report: “More often than not, the sense you get is that it was the Shah who was running rings round the British, not the other way round.”

More to the point, however, was Browne’s suggestion that British policy in the 1970s had been driven by economic problems which encouraged export sales – particularly arms – to the Iranians. So anxious was London to court the Shah that diplomats showed him the draft of a ministerial answer in the House of Commons on torture in Iran “in case he should object to it”.

It was, Browne said, only four months before the Shah fell and fled into exile that Parsons spoke to him frankly about the political dangers he faced. Browne observed: “By then, most of the damage had been done.”

His report has proved highly influential, and has been studied by a generation of diplomats posted to the Middle East. They are now expected to extend their contacts beyond the elites to include both the wider society and opposition movements, and to be aware of the dangers in allowing potential arms exports to drive policy at the expense of crucial political judgments.

Browne’s experience of Iran had begun with his posting as Third Secretary in Tehran from 1971 to 1974. He would return there in 1989, nearly a decade after submitting his report. His arrival, however, coincided with the furore over Salman’s Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses (1988), which provoked angry protests across the Islamic world. Ayatollah Khomeini was quoted as offering a $1 million reward to anyone who killed Rushdie — the reward to be tripled if the killer was Iranian — and in February 1989 thousands of demonstrators gathered to throw stones at the British Embassy.

Browne was in place for only five weeks before Tehran broke off diplomatic relations, and ties between the two countries were restored only in October the following year, by which time Browne was beginning a four-year posting as Counsellor (Press and Public Affairs) in Washington, and head of British Information Services in New York.

Relations between Britain and Iran improved after the election in 1997 of the reformist President Mohammad Khatami; and when Labour came to power under Tony Blair, his Foreign Secretary Robin Cook embarked on a policy of “constructive engagement” with countries such as Iran and Libya.

Browne was appointed chargé d’affaires in Tehran in 1997, after a spell as head of the Middle East Department in London. By now steeped in the history and culture of Iran, he formed a good relationship with Khatami, who once remarked that Browne spoke Persian “like a nightingale”. Two years later, following the New York agreement between Robin Cook and the Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi which resolved the Salman Rushdie issue, diplomatic relations were upgraded and Browne became Ambassador.

He trod a difficult path with characteristic aplomb, in 2000 having to deal with Iranian accusations that Britain was harbouring an anti-regime terrorist group, while for their part the British raised concerns about Iran’s human rights record and its uncompromising attitude to Israel.

There were also complaints by the Iranians about what they saw as unflattering comments in the British press about Ayatollah Khomeini — comments for which Browne expressed his regret.

But there were also areas of progress: Iran agreed to disavow the fatwa against Salman Rushdie; the foreign minister, Kamal Kharazi, visited Britain; and the two countries signed an agreement on limiting drug trafficking. After 9/11 Browne was instrumental in forging a serious dialogue with Iran over Afghanistan, the high point of Western/Iranian cooperation.

Browne’s exit from Tehran after four years, however, saw a revival of old tensions. His chosen successor, David (now Sir David) Reddaway, was rejected by the Iranians, who claimed that he was a “spy”. The Foreign Office refused to budge, and there was a stand-off of several months before London appointed Sir Richard Dalton, formerly Ambassador in Libya.

By now Browne was suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. He spent a year as Senior Director (Civil) at the Royal College of Defence Studies, and ended his career as Ambassador to Denmark (2003–06).

He was appointed CMG in 1999 and KBE in 2002.

One of four boys, Nicholas Walker Browne was born at West Malling, Kent, on December 17 1947; his father was an Army officer and worked for the Intelligence services.

From Cheltenham College, Nicholas won an open scholarship to University College, Oxford, where he read History and captained the college rugby team — despite being 6ft 2in tall, he proved a deft hooker, able to get the ball back from seemingly impossible positions. He joined the Foreign Office immediately after graduating.

Throughout his career Browne was noted for the succinctness of his dispatches. He was also popular with his colleagues, who relished his keen wit, sense of humour and love of parties.

Among his other postings, he served as First Secretary and Head of Chancery in Salisbury (now Harare) in 1980–81, and, from 1984 to 1989, as First Secretary (Environment) at the British embassy to the EU in Brussels.

Nicholas Browne married, in 1969, Diana Aldwinckle, whom he met when they were fellow undergraduates at Oxford and with whom he had two sons and two daughters; one of his sons, Jeremy Browne, is Lib Dem MP for Taunton Deane and served as a junior minister in the FCO under William Hague.

Sir Nicholas Browne, born December 17 1947, died January 13 2014



Your editorial (Federation bitter, 20 January) rightly describes the findings of the independent review of the Police Federation as “devastating”. However, it underestimates just how radical – and necessary – the recommended reforms are.

You ask if using the service of former Home Office permanent secretary David Normington was “ineptitude or proof that the federation was willing to change”. We knew when we asked Normington to carry out the review that he would deliver an in-depth report and would not be frightened to come up with radical solutions. That is what is needed if we are to deliver root-and-branch change across the organisation, however uncomfortable that may be. We have a responsibility to our members and the public to take up the reform challenge.

We are at a turning point in our history. Instead of operating as 47 separate organisations, we need to act as one. Our structure, which has barely changed since 1919, must be comprehensively reformed. Our operations must be professionalised, with a proper executive team and finance director, and strengthened financial accountability. And we must once more embody the highest standards and greatest of integrity. This is what the public rightly expect of the police.

The decisions we make moving forward are our opportunity to start to build a federation of the future, a federation that we can all be justly proud of, that has clear purpose and direction, is accountable and transparent.

Far from being a “top-down reform”, these proposals will be democratically debated by our membership. But my message as chairman is clear: the status quo is not an option. The federation either reforms, or faces abolition.
Steve Williams
Chairman, Police Federation of England and Wales



Simon Jenkins’ scepticism is very welcome when exposing the follies of big business and government (The truth is that we are all living on Benefits Street, 22 January). However, when scepticism becomes the dominant ethos of government in the form of public choice theory it is less welcome. This theory states that public servants are only in it for themselves and the only way to put this selfishness to good purpose is to harness it to the profit motive through the market. Good service is guaranteed because the service users are now customers and if they don’t get good service, they will go elsewhere and jobs will be lost. Everybody knows that the NHS puts patients last and consultants don’t do operations on Friday afternoons because they want at early start to the weekend.

This unhealthy scepticism has given rise to a crisis of indecision in government, which has in part given rise to the debt crisis. If civil servants can’t be trusted, it’s best to have as few of them as possible or call in for-profit concerns to advise on policy-making. Before even a rail has been laid, HS2 has cost £250m in consultancy fees (Report, 26 November 2013). This philosophy has led to the destruction of the tax revenue services (too many expensive self-serving bureaucrats) to such an extent that the UK is following Greece into a situation whereincreasingly large numbers of individuals and business corporations are ceasing to pay taxes, adding to the public debt crisis.

May I suggest a little more high-mindedness in public service might be needed to resolve our current problems.
Derrick Joad

•  It’s a bit rich for Iain Duncan Smith to blame Labour for high income inequality when the rise in inequality from its lowest-ever level in 1976 was kickstarted by the Conservative’s tax cuts for the rich under Margaret Thatcher, and is being sharply exacerbated by current government policies (Benefits Street reveals ‘ghetto reality’, says Duncan Smith, 23 January). Between 1979 and 2009 the UK Gini index of inequality has risen from 26 to 40, climbing towards that of the US, on 44 (Sweden’s is 25).

To me, Benefits Street shows disadvantaged people struggling in adverse circumstances. Our situation in life is indeed partly a product of genes, upbringing, and personal choice and effort, but is largely shaped by influences not of our making, such as parental, social and economic circumstances. This is why social mobility lessens as inequality increases. Cutting Sure Start, youth centres and libraries doesn’t help, does it?

Politicians should look at the bigger picture and take decisions that will ensure the best long-term outcomes for our country, not try to fool us and score cheap political points.
Michael Miller

• Jack Monroe is right about MPs and lords receiving substantial benefits (It’s time to focus on the real Benefits Street, 22 January). Last week I addressed a meeting in the House of Lords attended by a number of MPs and Lords. I spoke about a project in Easterhouse, Glasgow and they were interested, sympathetic and supportive. But none took up my call to live in a deprived area. This is the only way to understand the real benefits residents. For instance, parents who deny themselves food to ensure that their children do not go hungry, who rarely buy clothes for themselves so that their children can be dressed well for school, who never go on holiday so that their youngsters can pay the cost of going to the camp run by our project. In short, the opposite of what is portrayed on TV.
Bob Holman

• Like Deborah Orr (Benefits Street has caused controversy, but let’s hope it has a worthwhile legacy, 25 January), I watched Benefits Street as a result of the media controversy and I have come to similar but more critical conclusions.

I wish that Orr had been more analytical: to give an example, she comments on one of the men on the street finding but not keeping a job. This cried out for questioning. Who set up him up for a “job” in which he would inevitably fail? (Charitable fund-raising in that area with his lack of skills defies belief!) The result is that he will be even more demoralised, and those who already believe that he is part of a benefit-dependent culture will have their beliefs reinforced.
Dr DJ Rowe
Newcastle upon Tyne

• I have sympathy with almost all of the points Simon Jenkins makes. But what would the British economy and British society look like if the so-called “benefits” he identifies were not in place? Cue for a follow-up article?
Professor Roy Lowe


Discussing Miranda Carter’s article (Racist, but important, Review, 25 January) with friends who are both proudly British and acknowledge their Indian, Pakistani and African origins, we were all struck by the same thought. The ignorance of Britain’s colonial past and related literature lies to a great extent with the poor teaching of history and geography in our schools.

As a black Briton, I know my parents were born in a colony. I was raised on stories of how my relatives volunteered to fight in the second world war, choosing to fight for their colonial oppressor who, they believed, offered them more freedom than German domination. It was this fight for freedom that directly led to a turbocharging of the decolonisation movement across Asia and Africa.

I know my Asante ancestors were involved in the slave trade that began with the Arabs and included the Portuguese, Dutch, Danish and British. A trade that financed the Georgian beauty of Bristol, Liverpool and Glasgow. A trade ended in the Atlantic by Britain.

To understand who we are as 21st-century Britons of all colours and why the Commonwealth matters, a thorough understanding of the broad sweep of our history – from colonialism to the Commonwealth – would be a good start.

The wider ignorance discussed in Miranda Carter’s article reflects mainstream education’s failure to teach the truths told to black and brown children by aged relatives. And, yes, that would involve reading imperial literature and placing it in its proper context.
John Armah

• A pity that Miranda Carter’s piece on empire adventure stories did not find space to mention Joseph Conrad as partial corrective.
Andrew Hornung
Church Enstone, Oxfordshire


Your sports supplement on 24 January showed welcome signs that you take women’s sport seriously (Sean Ingle; Tennis; Women’s Ashes; Alpine skiing). However, you did not even publish the result of the previous day’s women’s World Indoor Bowls championship. An 18-year-old from Suffolk wins a world title and is totally ignored! Do you not think some readers might be interested in keeping up with the wider world of sport, rather than endless articles about what football’s Premier League managers have said about their rivals’ clubs? Send somebody to Stowmarket high school to interview world champion Katherine Rednall and give her the credit she is due.
Tim Vick
Woodbridge, Suffolk

• Not only does your review of Blurred Lines (24 January) not name a single actor in the all-woman cast, no one in the photo is named either. Given that the play is about gender equality and the review mentions how rare it is to see an all-female cast in our male-dominated theatre, for goodness sake give the women some credit!
Trudie Goodwin

• Surely the reason tenants might be reluctant to occupy the Shard (Report, 25 January) in these post-World Trade Centre years might be explained in cliches such as “sitting duck” and “accident waiting to happen”.
Ian Anderson


• Ahhh … Shardenfreude …
Sue Lamble





The tone of your editorial (24 January) about Michael Gove’s education reforms brought me to tears. I’m retiring (a few months early) in July and can’t wait to get out. I shall miss the students and the daily immersion in my subject – English – but I shan’t miss the constant barrage of criticism which has brought morale to an all-time low.

Your criticism that we have accepted or promoted mediocrity cannot go unchallenged. Results have not “risen” because of Gove’s reforms, but because teachers in many schools are driven, by leaders fearful of Ofsted, to aiding pupils beyond what would once have been acceptable.

School leaders can’t afford to let their figures drop, so students are coached, pushed and tutored to a ridiculous extent, with teachers working far harder than the students to achieve results.

One consequence has been many young people who are unable and unwilling to work for themselves, because they’ve never learned the skills or the need – they can’t be allowed to achieve what their own efforts would see them achieve. And yes, I do know of schools where teachers cheat too – again, with coercion or complicity from leaders.

The school at which I work became an academy simply because of money. And the majority of schools which converted did so  for the same reason: budgets would be cut if they stayed with the local education authority.

And where did much of this money go? To lawyers who set up the new contracts, and on rebranding and marketing. In addition, staggering sums (tens of thousands of pounds) were spent entering students as many times as possible for exams, to get grades up.

But you can’t blame the teachers for this – it has been driven by league tables and by school leaders desperate to push up grades. It has never been driven by a desire to do better for children.

Your editorial lauds the EBacc – but at what cost has this been achieved? Other subjects have been marginalised because they don’t “count”.

Many newly qualified teachers are swallowed up by schools that are driving to become “outstanding” and are driven mercilessly to achieve this aim. Then they leave, burned out and demoralised.

I love my students and I love my subject. My results are good. Many of my students choose to study the subject at A-level because, I’m told, I’ve inspired them to do so.

I’m a good teacher. And I’m going because I’ve had enough of the exhaustion and the morale bashing.

On the day after my students finished a 2,000-word essay comparing the whole of Romeo and Juliet with 16 (quality) poems thematically linked with it, Gove was on TV telling the country that children would “no longer” be able to leave school without being able to write at length and without studying a whole Shakespeare play.

I’m sad and bitter and feeling very fortunate  that I’ll be going this summer. Please, don’t lament teachers’ low morale in an editorial that contributes to it.

Lorna Gale

Knowle, Solihull, West Midlands

It seems you have given Michael Gove an A grade for his EBacc exam scheme, when he has made some elementary mistakes in  his history.

The baccalaureat was brought in by the French under Napoleon as a school-leaving exam to fit young people for higher education, life and work in a democratic society. It has always included philosophy, maths and science and now extends to take in technology and vocational subjects such as business studies and agriculture.

It is most unlikely that the French government or other European or international Bacc users  will accept Gove’s version  as equivalent to their  own or as a key to their higher education.

So your leader writer should revise their eulogy thus: “Well done, Michael, you have shown promise. But you should now aim higher for the next two years and rename your EBacc as a PreBacc – and also include philosophy and the performing arts.”

George Low

Hampton Hill, London


Headline statistics reveal very little of the true picture in our schools.

The desire to bring up compassionate young adults who are capable of thinking and who have a sense of perspective has been sacrificed. In its place are a testing game, near-constant change for minimal benefit, rampant careerism, and damaging levels of insecurity and pressure. This has been true for years, but is more so than ever under Michael Gove.

State education remains primarily a political football, rather than a vehicle for public good. Experienced teachers are increasingly seen as an irrelevance and children are being brought up to see passing exams as the sole purpose of school.

These long-term cultural failures will prove far more significant than Gove’s claimed success.

Chris Sloggett

Teacher, London N6

Congratulations to the vice chancellor

I am pleased to see that  the vice chancellor of Sheffield University has secured himself a good salary increase (“£105,000 pay rise for leading university boss”, 25 January) to bring his pay up to  nearly treble that paid to the Prime Minister.

I’m sure students at the university are pleased their tuition fees are being put to such good use and will not in any way resent paying back their £27,000 debts, plus interest, over the next 30 years, or the Coalition’s help in his achieving such a package. An excellent result for all concerned.

Paul Ives

Sanderstead, Croydon

Extended families could be our future

Hamish McRae (22 January) writes that inequality is changing. In developing countries, the employed are getting less poor. In developed countries, the employed are getting more poor. He also raises the probability that technology will eliminate more middle-management jobs, particularly in the West. He wonders if there can be a natural conclusion to these developments.

In Britain, a sensible solution could be that we give up the expectation of every generation owning an individual property. We probably need to revert to living in supportive, three-generation family groups, where each individual has a role in maintaining the family unit. Unfunded pension costs, child care, care of the elderly and irregular employment can better be managed in extended family groups.

Martin London

Henllan, Denbighshire

Hunger for food, not democracy

The best help that the EU can give to Ukraine is to say that it is not welcome, since few of the rebels believe  in democracy.

Rioting and armed revolt are attempts by force to gain food and the luxuries that other people have. I suggest that anti-government feelings in Libya, Egypt and Syria are more due to dear food caused by the great growths in population than to a wish for democracy.

D Williamson

Seaton, Cumbria

church must speak out against barbarism As a matter of urgency, the Most Reverend Justin Welby and other Christian leaders in the UK must speak out against the worsening holocaust  against gay people in Nigeria. Silence is the voice of complicity, and complicity with such barbarism will discredit  the church forever.

Dr Daniel Emlyn-Jones


Worst combination of greed and red tape

We are living in worryingly ingenious times. Example: I have just paid £50 to a large profit-making corporation, subcontracted by the local council, for them to issue me with a certificate, in order for them to collect my non-clinical refuse.

They know that my clinical waste is disposed of by another (non-commercial) agency. Because I am a GP, I am posed certain questions to certify my good citizenship and thus guarantee public safety: I must answer that I will not put such things as used dressings, sharp surgical instruments, excised body parts, unwanted organs, bodily fluids or dead babies in the general waste.

They will not collect my waste without their (my) certificate, which I can only purchase from them. They do not check the accuracy of my answers. This is a brilliant conflation of venal, opportunistic, corporate capitalism and leaden, vacuous, officious bureaucracy: it exemplifies much that is most specious, profligate and foolish in our commercially injected welfare services.

Whatever happened to medical office effluent before such corporate safeguards were there to protect us, and certificates issued to “prove” it?

Dr David Zigmond

London N8

Hail, King Alex of Scotland

Alex Salmond’s outrage that anyone should dare ask him to provide details of how he personally spends taxpayers’ money indicates his new self-image. In his own mind, perhaps he has become, with the thistle and the deep-fried Mars bar, a Scottish icon, and, like his “auld ally” Louis XIV, truly believes: “L’Ecosse, c’est moi.”

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews, Fife






The House at second reading must instruct the Select Committee to hear petitions which seek to challenge the principle of the Bill

Sir, The Supreme Court judges who ruled this week that the hybrid Bill process for approving HS2 is an adequate way of assessing and debating Europe’s biggest infrastructure project are supreme optimists.

The public inquiry into building a fifth terminal at Heathrow lasted four and a half years. This drew criticism, but the eventual decision was accepted by all sides because the process was seen to be fair. There were hundreds of issues considered by a truly independent, non-political panel and all were thoroughly examined. Not a stone was left unturned.

The HS2 project is far larger than Terminal 5. Its proposed construction raises thousands of minor and major issues, ranging from diverting paths for children going to school to potentially distrupting part of London’s water supply; from fast trains killing birds and other wildlife to the demolition of listed buildings.

There is no way a group of MPs on a Select Committee can hope to properly examine all the issues. The pressure on time will ensure that many contentious aspects will be simply ignored.

With all three chief political parties currently supporting HS2, let’s not pretend that the Hybrid Bill process is going to be independent or thorough. It will get the job done, but it will leave thousands dissatisfied and frustrated.

Peter Brown

High Wycombe, Bucks

Sir, The Government has repeatedly said that HS2 is needed in the national interest. The only defensible way to put that claim to the test is for the House at second reading to instruct the Select Committee to hear petitions which seek to challenge the principle of the Bill, notwithstanding its hybrid character. See Lord Reed’s speech in the recent Supreme Court High Speed 2 Action Alliance case [2014]UKSC3 at paragraph 58.

The unconvincing procedural distinctions between a private and hybrid Bill cannot justify the immunity from challenge to its principle which a hybrid Bill traditionally enjoys. In particular, the fact that the Bill will have been considered at second reading does not remotely replicate the kind of scrutiny to which a private Bill is subjected in committee.

Select committees are expected to, and in my experience invariably do, act judicially. In effect, a full-blown court case takes place. If the HS2 Bill’s principle is not examined in detail, the business case for the Bill, its environmental consequences and the existence of possibly better alternatives will all (scandalously) be, to the extent that consideration of these matters may threaten its principle, outside the committee’s remit. Given the importance and huge cost of the project it may be anticipated that if the Bill is railroaded into law in such circumstances, opponents will be legitimately aggrieved and even supporters anxious that justice had not been done. If on the other hand the Government’s case for the Bill prevails before the Select Committee, despite permitted challenges to the its principle, no one will have any legitimate ground of complaint when it passes into law.

George Laurence, QC

London WC2


‘We still lack a universally agreed framework avoiding the undesirable endemic shortcomings now tainting abortion’

Sir, Peter Franklin’s views are useful (Opinion, Jan 20), but his reference to the Abortion Act is insufficient. From its operations over some 50 years we can learn much about possible legislation for assisted suicide (AS), if not that of the infirm — which will surely follow, thereby avoiding Lord Falconer’s narrow legalistic proposals, which inadequately address the medical subtleties.

Abortion practice has taught us that social trends change over time; that medical and pharmaceutical advances threaten legal provision and that there is serious disquiet about its abuse and easy manipulability. True, any law is what we get, but are Falconer’s provisions adequate, given the wilful behaviour that inevitably attempts to bypass what is legislated?

Legalising assisted deaths requires formal surveillance, overseen by legally informed persons with direct access to DPP and police, avoiding posthumous interrogation; employing expert clinicians to review cases — thereby possibly changing subjects’ minds, especially where depression exists; and permitting statistical analysis. All this should be completed up front, excluding the vagaries of Falconer’s two doctors and definitions of “terminal within six months”. If current AS law is changed, there will be no deterrence, whistle-blowing or reassurance for likely victims.

We still lack a universally agreed framework avoiding the undesirable endemic shortcomings now tainting abortion. Mere legal change, still lacking majority acceptance and stringent oversight, is unacceptable. I am not necessarily against AS, but let us not sleep-walk ourselves into something that fails to accommodate our desires, aims, and instincts.

Michael N. Marsh, FRCP

Wolfson College, Oxford


It seems there have been many blind law professors — this reader writes to nominate his tutor at Balliol

Sir, May I put in a word for Sir Theodore Tylor, my blind law tutor at Balliol from 1946 to 1948, who was a close friend of Professor Rupert Cross (letters, Jan 24 and 25). A single man, Theo said that Rupert was lucky to be married, because his wife could read the latest law reports to him in bed.

Adrian Hamilton, QC

London W14


Recent suggestions for paid-for education would result in the Victorian stigma of the ‘charity child’ returning to our schools

Sir, Anthony Seldon (letter, Jan 24) is proposing social engineering on a massive scale, which would leave countless parents dissatisfied while leaving the very well off free to use the independent sector. Worse, the drafting of the less advantaged into “successful” schools would more or less restore the “charity child” stigma so often the theme of Victorian fiction.

Richard Merwood




On Holocaust Day we should all take time to reflect on the slaughter of a people whose only ‘crime’ was the fact of their birth

Sir, Jenni Frazer’s article (Faith, Jan 25) about the Torah scrolls saved from destruction is moving. My synagogue, Radlett & Bushey Reform in Hertfordshire, has one. A colleague and I took it a while back to the town from which it came — Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic.

The town council decided to mount an exhibition to honour the memory of the Jews of the town taken away by the Nazis, and our scroll formed a centrepiece. At a short public service of remembrance, passers-by stopped to ask questions and some, reading our list of families taken away to all but certain death, recognised grimfacedly names of some who had been neighbours. The town was eager to acknowledge the loss of its Jewish citizens. Today, Holocaust Memorial Day, is an apposite time for us all to do the same by remembering the slaughter of a people whose “crime” was to be born into the wrong religion or tribe.

Barry Hyman

Bushey Heath, Herts




SIR – Further to the complaints about the dumbing down of Radio 3, an even more disastrous process has taken place in the case of Radio 2.

Once a haven of light music, popular classics, operetta, military and brass bands, and often featuring works by composers such as Eric Coates, Ernest Tomlinson, Ronald Binge and the peerless Robert Farnon, it has been dismantled by recent controllers and replaced by a much brassier product, with phone-ins and chat, where brash presenters are more important that their programmes.

Once much-loved, it is now a no-go area for the more mature listener.

Tony Phillips
Creigiau, Glamorgan

SIR – As well as Bach’s Toccata in D minor and Widor’s Toccata (Letters, January 19), Classic FM plays two other organ pieces: the third movement of Saint-Saëns Symphony No. 3 and the second movement from Handel’s 13th Organ Concerto. I wish John Suchet and his colleagues would play more of the vast repertoire of the “King of Instruments”.

Perhaps if all lovers of organ music were to make their views known to the bosses at Classic FM, we might manage to hear a greater variety.

Guy Slatter
Liskeard, Cornwall

SIR – It seems to me that several times a week, when I happen to be within earshot of Classic FM, Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” is being played.

I emailed Classic FM some time ago for an explanation but did not receive a reply. With such a huge choice of music available, why does it happen? Yes, it’s a nice piece of music, but so what?

Peter McPherson
Merriott, Somerset


SIR – The news that the Serious Fraud Office has been given additional funding by the Treasury to pursue its investigation into bribery allegations against Rolls-Royce raises a number of interesting points about how companies and governments should cooperate to combat corruption.

The dearth of corporate prosecutions since the UK Bribery Act came into force in 2011 and the SFO’s request to the Treasury suggest that the SFO is insufficiently resourced to deal with the complexity of international corruption.

Considering the huge amounts that are presumably lost to the Treasury through fraud, or that could be recovered through successful prosecutions, it would make sense to review the level of funding for this important government department.

At the same time, the SFO needs to do its bit to stimulate an environment which brings it cases, rather than having to go out and discover them. One way to do this is to encourage companies to self-report voluntarily. It may sound counterintuitive, but a co-operative relationship between the public prosecutor and the business world could encourage companies to come forward when they suspect wrongdoing by their employees or distributors.

Such a relationship could include policies such as leniency in recognition of “adequate procedures” or reduced penalties in exchange for cooperation with the authorities.

Brook Horowitz
Co-ordinator of the B20 Task Force on Transparency and Anti-corruption, 2013
London W1

Moving Archers

SIR – I was deeply moved by Peggy Woolley’s poignant farewell to her husband, Jack, in The Archers.

Peggy’s quiet dignity and courage in coping with Jack’s Alzheimer’s contrasted with the antics of some of the show’s younger, dysfunctional characters.

Peter Myers
Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire

Inflexible pews

SIR – The worshippers at All Saints Church, Evesham, (report, January 19) are not alone in resisting the modernisers who want to replace the pews with comfortable seating. At All Saints Church, Marazion, we are faced with a similar problem.

Quite apart from the cost, we are a Grade II-listed Victorian Church. We do not want a “flexible multifunction space”!

Trevor Reid
Marazion, Cornwall

EU negotiation should be for Britain to exit

SIR – Alec Ellis is right that a large Ukip vote in May could lead to sensible negotiation. However, this could never halt the EU juggernaut.

For the euro to survive, the eurozone nations have no option but to federate; that is the purpose for which the currency was invented. Then, as George Osborne, the Chancellor, admits, a eurozone bloc vote under qualified majority voting would pose a huge threat to Britain, and in particular to the City of London.

However, no amount of “sensible negotiation” would solve the problems inherent in two-tier membership, so its sole aim should be to agree mutually acceptable terms for a British exit: free trade as a member of Efta, but without the political control.

Roger Smith
Meppershall, Bedfordshire

SIR – If the Government took the action described in the letter from 95 Conservative MPs,it could mean that a referendum on remaining in the EU would no longer be necessary.

Legislation needs to be passed to restrict the application of EU laws to Britain until each law has been approved by Parliament.

Soon Commissioner Viviane Reding will be claiming that picking and choosing which legislation becomes British law is, in her words, “non-negotiable”. Then let Brussels try to expel Britain from the EU. It may succeed, saving us from having to run a referendum.

N J Mustoe
Thurleigh, Bedfordshire

SIR – As Foreign Secretary, William Hague must demand that Britons have votes of equal value to other EU member nations in the forthcoming European elections.

Why should the British electorate be allocated 73 members, when the 15 smallest countries, with a combined population of two million less than Britain, are allocated 173 members?

John Riddington
Broadstone, Dorset

Renewable targets

SIR – It is good news that the legally binding renewable energy targets are to be ditched by the European Commission. The 10 years it has taken to come to this momentous decision highlights the dreadful inefficiency of the EU structure.

It was obvious from the start that subsidies would cost billions, funds that would inevitably be diverted from being spent on efficient companies’ products.

B J Colby
Portishead, Somerset

SIR – Extremely high wind speeds are not necessarily needed for a wind turbine to be economic.

Sites with slower wind speeds can still produce significant power, and can be economically advantageous in other ways – they tend to be cheaper and easier to develop. In addition, turbines can be produced which are best designed for low wind conditions to maximise power.

There is a huge amount of wind power potential in England.In all cases, developers only get paid for the power they produce, and the downward trajectory of onshore wind subsidy levels shows they are careful to choose economically efficient sites.

Jennifer Webber
Director of External Affairs, RenewableUK
London SW1

Lib Dem principles

SIR – The saga of the Right Honourable Lord Rennard, against whom allegations of sexual harassment are deemed “broadly credible” without meeting the standard of proof beyond reasonable doubt, bestows little credit on the Liberal Democrats’ apparatus.

Perhaps just as discreditable is his vaunted success in improving the Lib Dems’ election results through by tailoring their message differently to different constituencies, heedless of self-contradiction and regardless of principle. This is consistent with their leader’s cynical willingness to work with either of the main parties as long as his party can continue to wield the balance of power.

Dugald Barr
London W8

House price illusion

SIR – You report that “house price rises in the South East are dragging up values across the country, acting as an engine of wealth”. But this is only an illusion of wealth.

How could a return to rampant property inflation, where in order to buy a house people must borrow money which doesn’t exist, and which they can ill afford to repay, possibly help us out of the mess that we are in?

Mike Bussell
East Chinnock, Somerset

Fenced-off Lakes

SIR – I was disconcerted to read of Ed Vaizey declaring that the Lake District should join Stonehenge as a World Heritage Site.

Does this mean it will be fenced off, with a visitor site five miles away, with pictures of the site instead of the real thing?

John Sutherland
Uxbridge, Middlesex


SIR – I was interested to read the letters on the demise of good manners.

I taught both of my daughters to say please and thank you. But when my eldest worked in a council nursery she was told not to encourage the children to say please and thank you because it was very “middle-class”. Now she works in a private school where children and staff are expected to use these words.

I worked as a hospital secretary for 20 years and always held doors open for people, male or female, young or old, as they did for me, especially when we were carrying equipment, patients’ notes, or just a cup of coffee. Class, gender or age didn’t come into it.

Mary Hogg
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

SIR – I worked as a supervisor for the North Wales probation service at a youth hostel with two young offenders. At the end of each day I would thank the hostel warden for his hospitality and the refreshments he had provided. The offenders heard me repeat the same message each day.

On the final day of the programme I heard the two men thank the warden. That was the best reward I could have had. It is never too late to learn good manners.

John Chamberlain
Bangor, Caernarfonshire

SIR – So many things in our society seem to have been discarded – dressing smartly (why do so many people look so scruffy these days?) letter writing, speaking clearly, table manners and, above all, a sense of morality.

Monica Smith
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

SIR – At school in the Sixties, if you were seen eating in the street in school uniform even after the end of the school day, this was reported and you were spoken to the next day.

The same applied if you were not wearing school uniform correctly: top button done up and tie in place as well as the hideous beret positioned appropriately. It wasn’t worth breaking the rules.

Ginny Hudson
Swanmore, Hampshire

SIR – We went on a Rhine cruise in 2012 and the crew were mostly Bulgarian. They were charming, efficient, spoke better English and had better manners than many English people.

Roger Fairclough
South Nutfield, Surrey

SIR – My own particular bugbear concerns the many people who no longer cover their mouths when yawning. A gaping chasm is not an attractive feature by any standards.

David Stevens
Christchurch, Dorset

SIR – I am always surprised by the number of people who cough and sneeze on buses and trains, and spread their germs in other public places.

The coughers and sneezers also attend church, where they infect all and sundry, especially when shaking hands with others as a “sign of peace”.

Ron Kirby
Dorchester, Dorset

SIR – I take my dog for a walk every day on the local heath and say “Good morning” to all the people I meet.

They all reply, but the conventional response is gradually being superseded by the greeting “Hi”. All is not lost, but it’s not the same.

Colin Jarrett
Ipswich, Suffolk

SIR – When a new colleague joined our company in 1952, his employer observed that he did not wear a hat, and posed the question, “And what do you take off when you meet a lady of your acquaintance in the street?”

Simon Edsor
London SW1

SIR – Good manners are all very well but recently it came as a shock when I was offered a seat on the tube for the first time and realised I must look much older than I thought.

My husband’s moment of truth came at a dinner party when the host’s son addressed him as “Sir” – it quite spoilt his evening!

Gillian S S Lambert
Tadworth, Surrey



Irish Times:


Sir, – The Junior Cycle Student Award is being introduced from next year (Education, January 21st), but does it really address the education system’s problems? In our schools we prepare students for exams when we should be preparing them for life. We are taught only what is necessary to achieve a good grade and nothing else.

I am a fifth year student and many of my teachers are passionate about their subjects, however the rigid structure of the Leaving Cert prevents them from transferring their enthusiasm to their pupils. Learning should be an enjoyable, enriching experience, not the daily drain that students endure today.

The education system in Finland is a prime example of what Ireland could do to change. Children do not begin education until the age of seven and there are no standardised tests until the age of 16. Teachers are picked from the top 10 per cent of graduates and it is a requirement that they possess a master’s degree in education. The implementation of the system has had proven results, with Finnish children coming at the top or very close to the top in the core subjects in international rankings.

I realise fully how fortunate we are in this country to even have the chance to attend school. However, I find it troubling that young, intelligent people in my year are frustrated and impatient for the next two years of their lives to be completed so they can escape their daily hell.

The JCSA may help change this for the junior cycle in the future, but it makes no difference to the outdated senior cycle. We should not be content with a flawed system. We are given a great opportunity to be in second-level education so why don’t we perfect the experience? – Yours, etc,


Orlagh Wood,


Sir, – With the reopening of the embassy to the Holy See, John F Jordan (January 23rd) asks whether harsh decisions in relation to health and welfare will also be reversed.

In order to provide excellent health, social protection, education and other services we are working to fix what was our broken economy. This can’t be done at the click of a finger. The Irish people have borne considerable hardship, as alluded to by Mr Jordan. In implementing difficult measures the Coalition has tried to distribute the burden evenly. And I believe when our economy does fully recover, which it will, that the dividends have to be distributed fairly also.

On that front, we are delivering on our promises to the public. We said we would focus on job creation – 58,000 jobs were created last year; we committed to the restoration of our economic sovereignty – we exited the bailout in December; and said that we would grow our economy and reduce our deficit. Our economy is growing again slowly but steadily and our deficit, while still too high, is far more manageable than the horrendous deficit we inherited.

Continued progress in these core economic areas will provide the bedrock on which our public services will be based. That is why we are so focused on getting these basics right. We are working to reform and run more efficiently our health service, the social welfare system and other public services that Mr Jordan refers to.

In time, as our economy improves and more jobs are created, we will be able to increase investment in these services in a sustainable manner. While it is a scandal that we were ever in this situation to begin with, I firmly believe our strategy for recovery is working and that we are making very encouraging progress towards economic recovery. – Yours, etc,


Chairman of Fine Gael

Parliamentary Party,

Leinster House,


Sir, – In response to Bill Reidy’s call for more performance-management for teachers (Change One Thing, Education, January 21st), it is important to emphasise that teachers are already subject to multiple levels of accountability. Second-level schools are subject to four different methods of inspection and teachers are also subject to the Teaching Council’s code of professional conduct.

Mr Reidy quotes OECD research from 2008 on teacher appraisals in his opening paragraph. A more recent finding from the same body’s Government At A Glance report last year shows that out of 34 countries surveyed, Ireland enjoys the highest level of public satisfaction with the education system and schools with a ranking of 82 per cent compared to the OECD average of 66 per cent.

December’s Pisa comparisons also endorse the high levels of quality in the Irish education system despite deep and damaging cuts in teacher numbers and attacks on programmes that help the most vulnerable students.

These international findings are echoed by the recent Chief Inspector’s Report which shows that 87 per cent of parents are happy with the teaching standards in second-level schools. In addition, Irish teachers engage in both formal and countless informal meetings with parents. Furthermore, there is a time honoured tradition of collegial accountability in the profession which also ensures that teachers work to the very highest standards. – Yours, etc,




Teachers’ Union of Ireland,


Sir, – I wish to thank you for your “Stories of the Rising” supplement (January 17th). It was wonderful to get an insight into the ordinary participants and their contribution to the independence struggle.

I was particularly impressed by the image of the captured prisoners in Stafford Prison. Looking at their faces and reading about them reminded me of one of the only references to the regular volunteers.

It was during a radio interview about the volunteers some time ago on RTÉ, when Roddy Doyle referred to the “smelly cyclists who cycled into town all the way from Kimmage with a gun under their great coat in the month of April, can you imagine the smell off them”.

Well I’m glad the archives of the Bureau of Military History gives us the opportunity to learn more about the “smelly cyclists”. – Yours, etc,



Rathfarnham, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Stephen Collins (Heritage, January 17th) writes that famous revolutionary and statesman Frank Aiken was in receipt of the top rate military service pension of £350 a year on top of his ministerial and TD’s salary. But it is important to note, as the recent releases show, that Aiken originally applied for his pension in 1936 only to withdraw his application in 1942. Although his service record in the evolutionary period warranted the top rate of pension, he did not reapply until 1955 – after Fianna Fáil had lost power to the second Inter-party government. – Yours, etc,


Liverpool Hope University,


Frank Aiken: Nationalist

and Internationalist (IAP,


Hope park,




Sir, – According to Mary Mitchell-O’Connor “It has . . . been proven that more time spent by young children on physical activity has a positive impact on weight” (Opinion, January 20th). One can only hope this startling revelation was not gleaned from another expensive consultant’s report – although, in a country where Anglo Irish Bank’s auditors are now working for Nama (Fintan O’Toole, Opinion, January 21st), anything seems possible! – Yours, etc,


Claude Road,



Sir, – A simple corporate governance test for any board: chairman to board, “Would we be happy to see this decision on the front page of The Irish Times?”. – Yours, etc,


Belgrave Road,

Dublin 6.



Sir, – I share Kevin Myers’s concern about the commonly accepted estimate of 49,000 Irish casualties in the first World War (January 20th).

The real problem with this statistic is that includes only military deaths and excludes civilian deaths.

It is perhaps no coincidence that civilian deaths of past and current wars are not included in these kinds of “memorial rolls”. We do not have “a tomb of the unknown baby”. There are no parades, no monuments, no online projects to commemorate the innocent victims of wars.

Who profits? Perhaps the only “memorial roll” truly worthy of the war dead is the one that we write in our hearts that simply says: “No more war . . . Neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for all the kingdoms of the world” . – Yours, etc,


(A Quaker),


Sir, – Una Mullally (Opinion, January 20th) states without any equivocation: “Teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality are homophobic”.

In my dictionary the definition of “homophobic” is a “hatred or fear of homosexuals”. Is this the level of opinion and analysis now being offered on this topic? Has Ms Mullally read any literature giving the Catholic point of view? I would recommend the 2003 publication by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith entitled, “Unions between homosexual persons”. Some of the headings are as follows:

Position on the problems of homosexual unions.

Arguments from reason against legal recognition of homosexual unions:

From the order of right reason; from the biological and anthropological order; from the social order, from the legal order.

The new American bible in its introduction to St Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth points out that the city was a melting pot full of devotees of various pagan cults and marked by a measure of moral depravity not unusual in a great seaport. Therefore the following admonition should come as no surprise: “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practising homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6.9).

Later in the same letter, St Paul offers “a still more excellent way” or following the Christian gospel: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoings but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. (1 Cor 13.4-7).

It is Catholic teaching that men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Teachings of the Catholic Church are homophobic, according to Una Mullally? Properly understood and put into practice I hope not. – Yours, etc,


Auburn Road,

Dún Laoghaire,


Sir, – Una Mullally (Opinion, January 20th) states without any equivocation: “Teachings of the Catholic Church on homosexuality are homophobic”.

In my dictionary the definition of “homophobic” is a “hatred or fear of homosexuals”. Is this the level of opinion and analysis now being offered on this topic? Has Ms Mullally read any literature giving the Catholic point of view? I would recommend the 2003 publication by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the faith entitled, “Unions between homosexual persons”. Some of the headings are as follows:

Position on the problems of homosexual unions.

Arguments from reason against legal recognition of homosexual unions:

From the order of right reason; from the biological and anthropological order; from the social order, from the legal order.

The new American bible in its introduction to St Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth points out that the city was a melting pot full of devotees of various pagan cults and marked by a measure of moral depravity not unusual in a great seaport. Therefore the following admonition should come as no surprise: “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practising homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6.9).

Later in the same letter, St Paul offers “a still more excellent way” or following the Christian gospel: “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoings but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”. (1 Cor 13.4-7).

It is Catholic teaching that men and women with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.”

Teachings of the Catholic Church are homophobic, according to Una Mullally? Properly understood and put into practice I hope not. – Yours, etc,


Auburn Road,


Sir, – I am working on a photo book about the women of the Irish revolution, in an attempt to acknowledge many of the lesser-known female participants who were involved in the 1913-23 events. 

I hope to include women from throughout the country who had a direct role to play, whether fighting, carrying out intelligence work, first-aid, or transporting arms; and also mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, or fiancées of men who were active, as these women suffered just as much if they had been fighting themselves. Theirs is a story that needs to be told.

I would be most grateful if readers who have such stories and photographs of female relatives would contact me.  Full credit for use of the photographs would be acknowledged and copyright of the photographs would rest with the owner. I do not need original photographs: scans of images (email to editorial@mercierpress.ie) would be great. – Yours, etc,


C/o Mercier Press,

Unit 3b, Oak House,

Bessboro Road,



Sir, – William Reville (Science, January 16th) criticises materialism as excluding, without evidence, the possibility of the supernatural. The problem with this is that “the supernatural” taken as a phenomenon is a nonsense. If the supernatural has effects on the material world, then it matters and is subject to material observation and investigation. If it has no effect on the material world and is not subject to material observation and investigation, then it is not a phenomenon, but an idea, a figment of the imagination.

Figments of the imagination are nonetheless important. They have social, emotional, aesthetic and intellectual benefits, which Prof Reville clearly enjoys (and more power to him). If we are to properly understand the role of religion it is as shared mental imagery, that affects how we feel about the world and how we behave, and not as a description of reality. – Yours, etc,


Dept of Sociology,

University of Limerick,

Castletroy, Co Limerick.

Sir, – One isn’t commonly in like mind with Prof William Reville in terms of what makes us tick, in particular in a moral setting; however, an exception to the rule is his recent observation along the lines that philosophy is failing us as vis-a-vis a meaningful interface with science (Science, January 16th).

Might he, therefore, use his not insignificant position, in the order of things, to espouse the introduction of philosophy into the schools’ curriculum at the earliest opportunity? Among the merits of this enlightened position for our young citizens, is, first, an awareness that they are not born in sin, they are inherently good; second, that an inquiring and questioning mind, especially in formative years, will stand them in good stead. – Yours, etc,


Chemin des deux Chapelles,

Magagnosc de Grasse,




Sir, – I for one will be very pleased if I never again see “I for one . . .” on your Letters page. – Yours, etc,


Whitethorn Road,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – We can do without hearing or reading “in terms of” (regarding), “impact” (effect), “impact on” (affect), “untruth” (lie), “lengthy” (long), and most annoying of all “coalition” instead of “government”, unless its composition is relevant. – Yours, etc,


Foxborough Downs,

Lucan, Co Dublin.

Sir, – When greeted with the phrase “Pleased to meet you”, my grandfather, a clergyman and a scholar, used to respond by saying “Glad to have you know me.” – Yours, etc,


Avondale Square,

Dunboyne, Co Meath.




Irish Independent:




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