Phone and Wood

3 February 2014 Phone and Wood
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. They are back fro leave Leslie on a one wheel monocycle   Priceless.
Phone gone, wood gone upstairs tidied and cleaned for tomorrow
Scrabble today Mary wins, just.  and get under 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.


Maximilian Schell, the actor, who has died aged 83, was – with Maurice Chevalier and Marcello Mastroianni – widely recognised as one of the most successful non-anglophone foreign actors in the history of American cinema.
Comparatively unknown when he won an Oscar for his role as a German lawyer in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), he went on to co-star in many other acclaimed films, including Richard Attenborough’s A Bridge Too Far (1977).
With a screenplay by Abby Mann, Judgment at Nuremberg was set in 1948 at the time of the Nazi war crimes trials. But rather than dealing with the trials of the better-known Nazi leaders, the film turned the spotlight on members of the German judiciary who had served in Hitler’s regime.
Schell had already portrayed Hans Rolfe, the German defence counsel, in the original American television production in 1959, a performance for which he received an Emmy nomination. Repeating the role in Stanley Kramer’s film with electric effect two years later, he brought to the part what the critic for Variety called “a fierce vigour, sincerity and nationalistic pride”.
“Schell dominates the film,” agreed the reviewer for Time magazine, “and easily outdoes his more celebrated co-stars [Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland among them].” Particularly noted was Schell’s intellectual approach to the part, which distinguished him from many of the leading Hollywood figures of the day.
Unlike them, Schell had received a university education in post-war Europe and came from a bookish, cultured background. He cared deeply about world politics and although of Austrian birth had become a naturalised Swiss citizen, proving that “different people with different languages can live together in peace”. Once, in a television rehearsal, he interrupted proceedings to announce that although he was cast as a German, he was actually Swiss.
Maximilian Schell was born in Vienna on December 8 1930 into a Roman Catholic family. His grandfather had been a composer in the 19th-century Austrian court and a friend of Wagner and Liszt; his father Hermann was a poet and playwright, vocations that placed him prominently on Nazi blacklists in 1938 when the family fled to Switzerland to escape the Anschluss.
The Schells exhibited a strong theatrical streak, Maximilian’s mother being an actress and his elder brother, Karl, a film actor. An older sister, Maria, was acclaimed as the most celebrated Teutonic actress since Marlene Dietrich, and Maximilian ignored his father’s advice not to follow the family tradition to appear in his first professional production when he was 11.
To appease his parents, he studied Philosophy and the History of Art at the Universities of Zurich and Munich, but supplemented his spending money by working in professional stage shows, as a professional footballer and even as a sports reporter for a Zurich newspaper. Abandoning his doctoral thesis, he spent four years touring Europe as an actor, served his mandatory term in the Swiss Army, polishing his French, German and Italian, and learning enough English to read and understand Shakespeare.
He was far from fluent when he was invited to play a militaristic Nazi lieutenant in a film version of Irwin Shaw’s war novel The Young Lions (1958). He managed it by speaking phonetically, conversing off screen with the film’s star, Marlon Brando, in French, before finally bringing his English up to scratch. No sooner had he done so than he made his American debut on Broadway in Ira Levin’s Interlock, starring Celeste Holm. Although the play closed after four performances, Schell’s notices were encouraging.
While turning down no fewer than 16 film offers because he was embarrassed to take on badly-written parts in insubstantial scripts, he began to carve out a career in television, and starred in the title role in a three-hour German-language adaptation of Hamlet, filmed in Munich and broadcast throughout Europe. But he still hesitated at the prospect of Hollywood, and until the last minute entertained reservations about repeating the role of Hans Rolfe in Judgment at Nuremberg.
After his triumph at the 1962 Oscars, at which he beat his co-star Spencer Tracy for the Best Actor award, Schell appeared in a string of Hollywood films, among them Five Finger Exercise (1962); Topkapi (1964); Krakatoa — East of Java (1969); and Attenborough’s war adventure A Bridge Too Far, shot largely on location in the Netherlands. But he continued to prefer stage work, complaining that film actors were at the mercy of film editors; he also hankered to write for the theatre.
When, in 1977, Schell directed the first British production of Horváth’s Tales from the Vienna Woods (with a script by Christopher Hampton) at the National, Frank Marcus in The Sunday Telegraph praised the “sheer theatrical magic” of the huge revolving stage. John Barber in The Daily Telegraph agreed that it was a “brilliant” production.
As an actor he went on to win two more Oscar nominations, in 1976 for Best Actor in The Man in the Glass Booth (1975) and in 1978 as Best Supporting Actor for Julia (1977). In 1993 he won the Golden Globe for best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a series as Lenin in Stalin (1992).
In 1974 Schell’s film Der Fußgänger (1973, The Pedestrian), which he wrote, produced, directed, and in which he starred, was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and won the Golden Globe in the same category. For his documentary about Marlene Dietrich, Marlene (1984), Schell interviewed the 84-year-old actress on tape (she declined to face a camera), splicing excerpts of their conversation over clips of her old films. The result was nominated for Best Documentary at the 1985 Oscars.
More recently Schell appeared in several German-language made-for-television films, including Alles Glück dieser Erde (2003, All the Luck in the World) and a mini-series The Return of the Dancing Master (2004) based on Henning Mankell’s novel.
He appeared in dual roles in a Broadway revival of the stage version of Judgment at Nuremberg in 2000, and, in 2006, in Robert Altman’s London production of Arthur Miller’s play Resurrection Blues.
Maximilian Schell married, in 1986, the Russian actress Natalia Andrecheno. The couple divorced in 2005. In August last year he married Iva Mihanovic, a German-Croatian operatic soprano, who survives him along with his daughter, Natassja, also an actor, from his first marriage.
Maximilian Schell, born December 8 1930, died February 1 2014


Lenny Henry is right to argue that the inequalities faced by ethnic minority talent must become a thing of the past (The door to nowhere, 25 January). However, his list of highly successful actors, directors, and writers includes only one Asian, and his description of “Team GB in its full multi-ethnic, multicultural butt-kicking glory” is sadly not correct.
Little commented upon at the time, Team GB was, in fact, comprised almost in its entirety of whites, blacks, or those of a black and white parentage. Similarly, in Danny Boyle’s marvellous Olympic opening ceremony, Asians were conspicuous by their absence, no more than extras in the various sets.
There are profound reasons for the lacuna of Asians in the world of entertainment and sport – the fact that the Premier League is devoid of Asian footballers is perhaps the most striking example. A survey by the Commission for Racial Equality in 2000 found that black Caribbeans had much greater exposure in the British media (particularly in television) than Asians.
Though such a survey has not been repeated, there is no reason to think that the situation has changed. This has little to do with racism or discrimination but instead much to do with the separatism engendered in our supposedly “multifaith, multicultural society” – indeed it seems almost quaint to refer to a segment of society as “Asians”, given the preference for a “faith identity”. To truly comply with Lenny Henry’s laudable wish, a starting point is for such separatist identities to be reined in.
Dr Rumy Hasan
University of Sussex; author of Multiculturalism: Some Inconvenient Truths

On Christmas Eve, 1964, it fell to me to go and register the death of my grandmother, aged 92, in Croydon (Letters, 1 February). I arrived late in the afternoon to find the registrar’s office party in full swing. A young man in sober suit but wearing a purple paper hat showed me into a side room. With appropriate sombre face, he took down the details – asking whether my grandmother’s forename, Elizabeth, was spelt with an S or a Z. As the typewriter pinged out the final line of the death certificate, a chorus of Ding Dong Merrily on High came from the adjacent office. She would have been thrilled!
Margaret Westwood
Guildford, Surrey
• While it is most gratifying to have one of my British Travellers in Finland books mentioned in the Guardian (Letters, 31 January), I should point out that these cricketers were seamen and marines of the British fleet in the Baltic during the Crimean war. As I observe, “the rocky terrain of the islands must have presented challenging batting conditions”.
Tony Lurcock
• Further to Cécile Nobrega’s obituary (Other lives, 28 January), Ann Davidson’s statue Woman and Child predates Aleix Barbat’s sculpture as the first statue of a black woman in Britain. Unveiled – by Suganya Chetty, a member of the ANC living in exile here – on 22 July 1986 in Edinburgh’s Festival Square, it honours all those killed or imprisoned for their stand against apartheid.
Iain Black
• ”I enrage flag wavers as party leader (5,6)” (Cryptic Crossword No 26,171, 31 January). Wonderful! Thank you, Paul.
Nick Drury
This is nothing new and not specifically a London problem (Empty homes scandal of UK’s billionaires row, 1 February). There are empty buildings in every city left as crumbling eyesores until residents just want something to happen, even to be rid of them, and countless other listed buildings are neglected then demolished without consent. All this for the sacrosanct rights of owners to do nothing with what they own. Many empty buildings are council-owned. What about the rights of other people not to have empty derelict buildings in their towns and villages? What about owners’ responsibility to communities? What about the rights of people to have somewhere to live?
Cathryn Iliffe
• I grew up in adjacent East Finchley during the 1980s, and it was clear then that The Bishops Avenue had become a dump – a sort of ancient monument to foreign investors hankering after aristocratic airs long since faded into anachronism, corrupted both by their absence and appalling taste. For those paying their taxes to the local exchequer, the road’s prime use was as a car park for concerts and firework displays on Hampstead Heath. Sadly its role has little changed.
Josh Berle
Pinner, London
• Empty homes are found thoughout central London, not just “Billionaires Row”. The southern bank of the Thames is becoming a cliff of unoccupied, high-rise apartments from Southwark Bridge west to Wandsworth Bridge, built as investments for non-British residents.
Robert Holden

Jonathan Freedland is wrong to refer interchangeably to the NHS and doctors, not least because of the general loss of public trust in institutions he describes. The headline on his article (We trust no one with our data – not even our doctors, 1 February) is ironically inaccurate. Hitherto the public could trust their GPs to look after the personal information they hold about them.
The leaflet that Freedland says explains to the public the new project doesn’t even refer to it by name. Nor is NHS England mentioned, despite it being the organisation responsible for the programme and the leaflet. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), the body actually harvesting patient information from GPs, isn’t even identified.
With the NHS logo at the start and finish, the leaflet explains what “we” will do with patient health records – without saying anywhere who “we” are. The woeful lack of clarity does not engender confidence and trust. It’s not enough to hide behind the NHS logo.
Dr Alex May
•  Better collective population health data for research purposes is commendable. The sale of identifiable individual confidential information is not. Some people may want to support the first and opt out of the second being used for purposes for which they have not given explicit consent. Whatever the assurances in the NHS leaflet, in the details available online (, the government makes no secret of its intentions to sell whatever data the commercial market wants to buy. The table of HSCIC data linkage and extract service charges 2013/14 includes prices for selling identifiable personal data, specifically a “one-off extract tailored to the customer’s requirements of specified data fields containing patient identifiable data, sensitive data items or both”. This has nothing to do with sharing medical information about ourselves so that we can be treated wherever we are in the NHS, which will continue. Human fallibility being well evidenced and in spite of political assurances about data security (trustworthy after Snowden?), many of us will want to opt out of allowing our personal information to be offered for sale in this way.
John Veit-Wilson
Newcastle upon Tyne
• The day after your front-page lead (Patient records to be sold from NHS database, 20 January) I received the NHS leaflet on the subject. This simultaneously declares that “Information that we publish will never identify a particular person” and, on the next page, “If you do not want information that identifies you to be shared outside your GP practice, ask the practice to make a note of this.” Why do I not find this reassuring?
Edwina Rowling
Ditchling Sussex
•  Following the Guardian’s coverage, I checked the NHS leaflet for details on opting out. As there was no reference to deadlines on it, I rang the patient information line and was told that I had four weeks from the time I received the leaflet. Records would be included in the system on a postcode basis from spring. I wonder what possible reasons there may have been for omitting this?
Christine Saunders
Hampton, London
• While data extracted under the clinical practice research datalink (CPRD) might well be completely anonymised, the data extracted and uploaded to the HSCIC by the care.‌data project is most certainly not (Sharing NHS medical records will be vital for improving healthcare, 24 January, It is identifiable data, is kept by the HSCIC as such, and can therefore be disseminated to organisations, both research and non-research, in anonymised, pseudonymised and clearly identifiable formats. Patients have no say in which aspects of their uploaded data, when, to whom or for what reason their data will be given to organisations.
Dr John Parkinson talks about needing “every GP to allow their practice to join the system”. CPRD is voluntary. The care.‌data project is compulsory – practices cannot refuse to upload patients’ sensitive data, because the Health and Social Care Act compels them to.
Choice, either for the surgery or for their patients, plays no part in – the decision has been made for them. All patients have is the right to object and to reverse that decision – to take back control of their medical records.
Dr Neil Bhatia
GP in Hampshire and author of the website


Many of us in the East Anglian Fens are feeling great sympathy for the plight of the residents of The Somerset Levels.  The Environment Agency (EA) party line that dredging “is not a panacea” is also frequently chanted here.
Fortunately, following the devastating floods of 1947, a very well thought-out flood protection scheme was implemented, and it has protected the area  until now. However, our system has also been compromised in recent years by a lack of EA maintenance activity.
Low-lying land in England and Wales is usually managed locally by one of many Internal Drainage Boards (IDBs). The boards dig and maintain arterial ditch systems and, if required, provide pumping stations to convey water to the rivers. The EA is responsible for the rivers and outfalls to the sea. All the land within an IDB area is subject to a drainage rate of which about 50 per cent is passed  on to the EA. Individual property occupiers also pay a contribution to the system via their council tax. The EA is also in receipt of payments from farmers for the right to abstract water for irrigation and from boat owners and fishermen for permits to enjoy themselves. To paraphrase the late, great Pete Seeger, where has all the money gone?
River management has suffered from a lack of continuity of personnel. For example, over the past 50 years, the Great Ouse has been managed by the Great Ouse River Board, the pre-privatisation Anglian Water, the National Rivers Authority and now the EA. Each organisational change has been accompanied by a loss of some very experienced drainage engineers, frustrated by the resulting chaos.
We are now in the hands of an organisation with so many hats it does not know which one to wear first.
Les Walton, Soham, Cambridgeshire

I am unsympathetic to the fate of those dwelling in the Somerset Levels.
It rained a lot more than normal. The flood plain is flat and in some places below sea level. The water doesn’t drain away easily. It has always been like this since the beginning of habitation and we will never be able to deal with the extreme recurrence of precipitation. It has been suggested that this flood has a recurrence interval of 1:100 years. It’s more like 1:1,000 and records have not been kept for a thousand years anyway.
People don’t live where it is too hot, too cold, too dry or too wet. Why live on a flood plain known to flood every now and again?
Chris Harding, Parkstone, Dorset

Italy’s broken  justice system
Italy has the dubious distinction of being the Western European country with the highest number of negative judgments made against it by the European Court of Human Rights – and by a considerable margin. It has just staged its latest show trial, one worthy of North Korea or Iran.
Judge Nencini delivered guilty verdicts on Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito when no credible evidence against them exists and the real murderer was convicted five years ago and will be out on parole later this year.
When are the Italian people going to rise up and do something about their country’s broken justice system?
Nigel Scott, Member of Advisory Board, Injustice Anywhere Organisation, London N22

Italian justice reminds me of European referendum results: keep staging them until you get one you like.
Steven Calrow, Liverpool

The rich are taking over the state
Discussions concerning tax and wealth disparity concentrate on the “fairness” or otherwise of the top rate of income tax. Fairness is subjective and it will never be possible to reach agreement on this.
There is another and much more important issue involved, and that is the political influence which huge accumulations of wealth can buy.
This can most obviously be seen in this country in the composition of the government front bench, and in the US in the influence of the Bush, Kennedy, Koch and other families.
In both countries we are rapidly moving away from the ideal of a one-man-one-vote democracy towards government by an unassailable permanent rich elite so powerful that it can dictate government policy.
The only way to remove the stranglehold of this elite is to remove a lot of their money by taxation. The democratic health of the country requires it.
Dudley Dean, Maresfield, East Sussex

I cannot understand what all the fuss is about the 50p tax rate. Does it really make that much difference to someone who earns £160,000, for example? They would receive £5,000 of their “extra” salary, as opposed to £5,500 – hardly something to cry about.
And if, as you say, the tax rates for everyone will have to increase after the election, something “neither side is yet willing to admit” (editorial, 27 January), perhaps Ed Balls should be applauded for being at least partially frank.
Norman Evans, East Horsley, Surrey

Pace Charles Foster (letter, 28 January), you don’t free the poor by fostering a mentality that anyone who struggles to find paid employment is free to sleep under a bridge and beg, while anyone who benefits handsomely from the way we have arranged our national affairs owes nothing to others.
Stephie Coane, Windsor

Lord Digby Jones comments on Labour’s proposed 50p tax rate: “If it creates wealth let’s kick it . . . really go for the energy companies.” I would like Lord Jones, whom I had always considered to be a left-leaning business leader, to explain why we should consider the mostly foreign-owned energy companies as wealth-creating. It’s not how most of us see them.
Keith Frayn, Oxford

Leaving ‘Europe’  isn’t that simple
May I add a footnote to Tim Brook’s excellent letter on Britain’s prospects after it left the EU (30 January)?
To qualify for membership of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) the UK would have to subscribe to the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement which provides for “the inclusion of EU legislation covering the four freedoms – the free movement of goods, services, persons and capital – throughout the 30 EEA States. In addition, the Agreement covers co-operation in other important areas such as research and development, education, social policy, the environment, consumer protection, tourism and culture, collectively known as ‘flanking and horizontal’ policies. The Agreement guarantees equal rights and obligations within the Internal Market for citizens and economic operators in the EEA.”
As well as surrendering sovereignty in relation to the key items listed by Mr Brook, the UK would also have to agree to free movement of persons – in other words immigration from the EU countries would continue unabated.
Given that those wishing to take the UK out of the EU usually use loss of sovereignty and immigration as their key vote-winning arguments, then joining EFTA would appear to be a non-starter.
John E Orton, Bristol

Why are fewer boys going to university?
Your editorial of 31 January (“Don’t panic: if young men are choosing not to go to university, so be it”) demonstrates the bias inherent in some aspects of the gender debate as it relates to males.
It is not seen as a problem that fewer men go to university, and the assumption here, once again, is that it is related to choice rather than structural factors. If the roles were reversed, rest assured that the media would introduce evidence of structural patriarchy as a key determinant.
The decline in men in all aspects of education, from professional to support roles, is evidence of appalling gender discrimination.
Jon Kingsbury, Totton, Hampshire

It doesn’t surprise me that female school-leavers are a third more likely to go to university. As a school teacher, I have seen over many years that girls work harder than boys and consequently achieve better results.
The big issue here is why don’t boys work harder? Is it because the curriculum is far too focused on academic knowledge rather than technical knowledge, which turns boys off learning.
Kartar Uppal, West Bromwich, West Midlands

You inform us that girls are heading off to university in droves while boys increasingly pass it by. Yet on the BBC’s University Challenge, the weighting is the other way round.
I wonder why this would be. Is there some inherent reason for males to be more strongly represented? Or does the BBC have a prejudice? Mastermind, also, exhibits this preference – at best one token woman – and both programmes are hosted by men.
Perhaps some great seat of learning could establish a field of research on the subject.
The Rev Peter Sharp, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire


Sir, Your excellent article (Jan 31) on female genital mutilation (FGM) highlights the poor response of statutory agencies to this form of child abuse. The UK child protection system relies on referrals about children at risk of harm being made to social services. With FGM no such referrals will be made as it is a hidden crime. This requires a proactive response involving charities, the London Mayor’s office, the Met Police, the Royal College of Midwives and local authorities.
There is an issue with the wording of the current legislation. It is vital that statutory agencies respond to the courageous lead given by Nimco Ali and other victims in addressing this horrendous form of child abuse.
Andy Elvin
Children and Families Across Borders, London SW9
Sir, Dr Abe and “Miriam” (Jan 25) are doing excellent work in highlighting the prevalence of FGM in the UK and its lifelong consequences. Given the number of FGM survivors, and that Dr Abe’s youngest FGM patient is only 9, I suspect that many were mutilated when already resident in the UK. The law prohibits FGM on UK nationals or permanent residents, whether carried out here or in the parents’ country of origin. That being the case, the police must be notified. A high-profile prosecution will send out a strong message to practising communities.
Vera Lustig
Walton-on-Thames, Surrey
Sir, At The Manor Gardens Centre we have worked extensively to prevent FGM in North London and we still regularly meet teaching, health and social care professionals who know very little about FGM and lack the confidence and knowledge to raise concerns if they think a girl is at risk. Our training helps them to understand the consequences of FGM, why it must be seen as a child protection issue and their key role in keeping girls safe.
As Nimco Ali states, schools are a safe haven for many children and are absolutely key to ending FGM in the UK. Protecting all girls from FGM will not be possible unless all teachers are given the knowledge and skills to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all the girls in their care.
Eva Del Rio
Eleanor Tomlinson
Manor Gardens Centre, London N7
Sir, I am delighted your are campaigning against female genital mutilation. It is interesting to remember that FGM used to be called “female circumcision” and part of the move to have it treated as a serious issue was to change this cosy description which sounded simply like the counterpart of the male version.
Perhaps you could also use your influence to institute a change in the related phrase “honour killings” (“Police failing to stamp out ‘honour’ crimes”, Jan 31). The associations of the word honour are those of nobility, pride and self-respect, not appropriate for the victimisation and abuse of vulnerable and powerless people. Associations with backwardness and ignorance would be preferable. The word “murder” would also be more exact. How about “primitive community-sanctioned murder”? Far too clumsy — no doubt Times readers can come up with something better. The steady repetition of this might eventually contribute to a change in thinking.
Penny Rutherford
Ruislip, Middx

In a recent trial a driver who killed a rider who was wearing a helmet and high-visibility clothing was acquitted
Sir, The Advertising Standards Authority has just ruled that adverts featuring cyclists must show the rider wearing a helmet, and no further than 0.5m from the kerb (report, Scottish edition, Jan 30). Not only does this endanger cyclists, but it is also at odds with official advice from such as the Highway Code, Cyclecraft and British Cycling’s excellent Effective Traffic Riding. It may lead to grave misconceptions on what is expected of riders. It could even lead to injury or worse as riders copy unsafe practice, or put too much faith into what is still an unproven helmet.
In a recent trial a driver who killed a rider who was wearing a helmet and high-visibility clothing was acquitted, I cannot be the only one who is asking what is really being done to make cycling both safer and an choice that anyone can adopt. If this is not dealt with immediately by government, a perfect storm threatens to destroy what progress has been made. Solutions lie in better training for the police and CPS in dealing with cycling-related trials; juries to have some form of cycling experience; and far, far more investment in creating safe routes for cycling.
D. J. Cook

The 350 HP Sunbeam Record Breaker was not fitted with a Manitou aircraft engine but with a purpose-designed engine
Sir, Your report on the National Motor Museum’s ceremonial firing-up of the 350 HP Sunbeam Record Breaker (Jan 30) was not entirely accurate. The car was not fitted with a Manitou aircraft engine but with a purpose-designed engine. This was emphatically pointed out to me in the 1970s by a Mr James who had joined the Sunbeam company in 1912 and worked on the development of the original Land Speed Record (LSR) car.
A fundamental difference lies in the valve layout: the LSR engine has three per cylinder whereas a Manitou had four. The car engine owes much of its parentage to the dangerously unsuccessful Sunbeam Arab crudely cribbed from the Hispano-Suiza aero-engine. Sunbeam had provided aero-engines in the Great War, mainly to the Admiralty, and had specialist experience and unsold parts at the close of hostilities — it would have drawn on both resources for the car.
Ian Walker
(Editor, Sunbeam, Talbot, Darracq Register Newsletter)
Datchworth, Herts


Perhaps letter writers to The Times have changed their opinion of what constitutes a suitable seasonal marker from the natural world
Sir, Reading your letters page (Jan 31), am I to understand that the first snake-bite has replaced the first cuckoo?
Margaret Murgatroyd


SIR – There is no way in a million years that anyone would be allowed to erect wind turbines off Italy’s Amalfi coast, a spectacular seascape that every person should experience at least once.
Yet we have allowed a handful of political philistines to destroy other unique areas of natural beauty, so that no one in future will be allowed to experience them. One example of such vandalism is the seascape off the North Wales coast, east of Llandudno, which is now just a forest of wind turbines.
Brian Christley
Abergele, Denbighshire
SIR – Edward Davey, the climate change minister, informs us that onshore wind is “currently one of the cheapest large-scale renewable technologies”. This, of course, does not say much for the others.
Related Articles
Losing the National Rivers Authority was a false economy
02 Feb 2014
He neglects to point out, though, that his policies, based on his own department’s figures, will be costing consumers £7.6 billion a year by 2020.
Paul Homewood
Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire
SIR – The fact that any wind turbine installation can be deemed “economic” (Letters, January 26) is simply because of the various subsidies paid to generators (all ultimately from consumers’ and taxpayers’ pockets). Remove these and the industry would disappear, allowing politicians to concentrate on how best to deliver a secure and affordable energy supply to both domestic and industrial consumers.
Because of their intermittency, neither wind nor solar energy can be economically competitive until cheap, efficient energy storage is available on a large scale. Don’t hold your breath.
Martin Livermore

SIR – Your leading article eloquently crushes the plans of Ed Balls to raise the highest rate of income tax to 50p in the pound.
But remember that, thanks to Gordon Brown, the actual rate paid is currently 45p income tax plus 2p National Insurance surcharge. So Mr Balls’s plan would mean an increase to paying 52p out of every 100p earned at the highest rate.
Tony Narula
London W2
SIR – You argue that a rise in the rate of tax would send a message that Britain penalises success.
I define a successful society as one in which everybody can have access to good health care and a high standard of free education, and can afford essentials such as housing, food, clothing and heating.
Related Articles
Losing the National Rivers Authority was a false economy
02 Feb 2014
Wind turbines won’t blight Italy’s Amalfi coast
02 Feb 2014
I support the re-introduction of the 50p tax rate on those who earn more than £150,000 (more than five times the current average wage) and I believe that the majority of the population will do the same.
Lewis Sleeman
Leeds, West Yorkshire
SIR – I think it’s a wonderful step forward for the Labour Party that they are, after so many years, at last considering the use of an accountant in the management of their whelk stall.
Peter Griffith
Malvern, Worcestershire
EU referendum
SIR – Our only hope of getting a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union is to elect a majority Conservative government next year.
Labour has given proof that, like the Liberal Democrats, they are rigidly opposed to giving us that referendum.
Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex
SIR – Perhaps those of your readers who are calling for a referendum on our continued membership of the European Union might care to reflect on the fact that not only are all of the three main political parties in this country in favour of Britain remaining a member, but that no other member of the EU, for all its recent trials and tribulations, has shown any sign of wishing to leave.
From Germany and Holland in the prosperous north, to Italy, Greece and Cyprus in the more troubled south, all have judged that it is in their best interests not only to remain in the EU but also to keep the euro as their currency in spite of the short-term hardships that brings.
Are we seriously suggesting that all the people of the great nations of Europe are wrong and Ukip is right?
David Langfield
Pyrford, Surrey
To war in Iraq
SIR – Reading Andrew Gilligan’s piece on Iraq once again highlighted that one of the real tragedies of that entire episode was how totally unqualified – and, indeed, unelected – individuals such as Alastair Campbell were involved in the decision-making process of taking Britain to war; even more sad is that Mr Campbell’s opinions are still sought after.
Bharat Jashanmal
Fairford, Gloucestershire
SIR – “America will embark on a golden anniversary spree of Beatlemania,” Philip Sherwell writes.
Fundamental to such celebrations is the fact that the four Merseysiders who landed at the newly renamed JFK airport did so when the sky was anything but golden, just 77 days after Kennedy’s assassination.
The release of the Beatles’ joyous record I Want To Hold Your Hand certainly lifted American spirits. Yet it was their setting foot on American soil in February 1964 that acted like a ray of sunlight on a nation clouded in darkness.
Lee P Ruddin
Birkenhead, Wirral
Space to pray in
SIR – Trevor Reid doesn’t want his church to have “flexible” space.
Leaving aside the death-knell such views sound for Christian communities interested in a viable future, it reveals a poor sense of history. Pews became commonplace only with the longer sermons and static liturgies of the post-Reformation era; they are a somewhat modern development.
Before then, naves were flexible spaces where all manner of community activity took place.
In filling them with immovable woodwork, the Victorians and their immediate forebears were securing income from pew rents, but showed scant regard for history. I pray that Mr Reid and his supporters will be cured of their attachment to these horrid, newfangled constructions.
Rev Canon Wealands Bell
Lichfield, Staffordshire
Classic ailment
SIR – I recently spent a short spell in hospital, where the television in the room could only provide BBC radio stations. This did nothing to speed my recovery; all I wanted to hear was pleasant, melodic music. This was not possible on Radios 1, 2 and 3.
Yvonne Warren
Leatherhead, Surrey
Danger in paradise
SIR – I worked in St Lucia in the Eighties and was told on arrival that the country had the second highest murder rate in the world, South Africa being number one.
We never went out after dark unless in groups and by private-hire minibus.
Colin Heaton
Brindle, Lancashire
Good manners
SIR – Your reader said that being offered a seat made her realise that she must appear older than she feels.
Being a reasonably capable man of over 60, I am occasionally in the situation of being offered a seat by a younger person.
I have no need of this generosity, but it presents a dilemma: do I politely refuse the offer, possibly discouraging the potential donor from such generosity in future, or should I accept the seat in the spirit with which it was offered?
When taking the latter choice, what do I do when another passenger arrives who obviously needs a seat and nobody offers theirs? Do I give up the seat that was generously donated to me, even though the original donor is still present? (Answer: yes).
It is worth mentioning that the majority of young people who offer their seat to me (or other persons) are women, not men.
John Snook
Sheffield, South Yorkshire
SIR – On a river cruise to Moscow, some of the women in our party discovered I was 84 and looked after me for the rest of the holiday. On a tour of the Moscow Metro, we entered a train where there was only one vacant seat. The kind ladies thought I should take the seat, but I insisted one of them should have it, whereupon three Russian women stood up and offered their seats.
They could see I was getting on but, on this occasion, I believe my sex appeal that may have had some bearing.
Colin Blythe
SIR – Some years ago, walking in the Lakes with a group of young people, I arrived at the top of Fairfield, halfway round the Horseshoe, to be greeted by an elderly A W Wainright-like character in tweed plus-fours, who was clearly a serious walker.
“Do you know the golden rule?” he asked. “No,” I replied.
“You don’t know the golden rule, sonny?”
I completed the walk wondering what I, or any of my charges, had done wrong.
As I descended into Ambleside, I noticed a pub in front of me in the Kirkstone Road. It was called The Golden Rule.
Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

SIR – I have lived and worked on the Somerset Levels for more than 30 years and started my own business here in 1987. We have been caused major inconvenience, with some loss of business from the flooding, but nothing compared to the suffering and loss of homes and business of other people.
No one here is saying that if the river dredging and maintenance had been kept up as it used to be there would not be flooding. There would be, and we know and expect this. What is certain is that the impact and level of flooding would not be so serious. Muchelney and Moorland would most certainly not have flooded and the A361, a major road, would not be closed for months.
Everything nowadays, including vital utility services, is driven by budgets and profits. The goal of providing basic necessary services has gone out of the window.
The flooding problems we are suffering in Somerset stem from the cuts to the river maintenance budget back in 1996, when the National Rivers Authority was amalgamated into the Environment Agency, along with several other bodies, for supposed streamlining and efficiency.
A new budget and money must now be made available immediately to reinstate river dredging and maintenance programmes on a continuing basis. If this happens then, yes, we will still have flooding, but never on the scale of recent years.
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The cost of regular dredging, had they done it, would have been a fraction of the money spent dealing with the very serious flooding. The Government, particularly Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, and the Environment Agency, and its chairman, Chris Smith, should hold up their hands and accept this. It is inexcusable that they don’t.
John Davison
Burrowbridge, Somerset
SIR – Surely it would be prudent for the major insurance companies to provide the Environment Agency with the £3 million required for dredging the rivers to prevent them paying in excess of £50 million in claims.
Melvyn Parrott
Pavenham, Bedfordshire
SIR – Christopher Booker rightly deplores the Environment Agency’s failure to dredge rivers, thus causing the flooding. The silt dredged from rivers is deposited on the banks and classed as “waste matter”, for which there are rules which prevent locals farmers from spreading it on their fields.
He failed to point out that these rules come from Brussels, bypassing our Parliament and forcing compliance by the agency. The same rules stop waste cardboard being collected and turned into useful briquettes to fuel power stations, or old road surfacing, removed when roads are to be resurfaced, being given a new life to repair tracks leading to farm buildings.
The sooner we have our laws made at Westminster, instead of being imposed by unelected foreigners in Brussels, the better.
Don Anderson
London SW19
SIR – I live in Wraysbury, which has been in the news of late because of flooding caused by the river Thames, thanks to the lack of dredging. In the days of the Thames Conservancy, the river was dredged regularly. While there were the occasional floods, they were rare events and, in fact, the previous serious flood under its remit was more than 60 years ago, in 1947. Operational responsibility was taken over by National Rivers Authority from 1989 until 1996, when the Environment Agency was created.
This agency should have accepted responsibility for land drainage and flood risk management, but it has failed to do so. In fact, it now claims two contradictory things: that the river is self-scouring; and that dredging would disturb the natural habitat.
What happened in Wraysbury and the Somerset Levels is now happening in Kent and the Environment Agency has proved itself, again, to be incompetent.
Freddie Pilditch
Wraysbury, Berkshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – I recently took part in Operation Transformation’s National Blood Pressure Day. I was concerned at the number of people who came to get their blood pressure done who are not taking their tablets regularly because of cost.
At the same time, I have just received a letter from Minister for Health James Reilly in reply to concerns I raised with him about the impact that the fives-and-under GP visit card might have on my workload and therefore the time I could give to some of my other patients, including those with complex physical or psychological problems.
His words were: “It is not possible to be definitive about the average increase in workload resulting from the introduction of this measure, however the increase in the total number of GP visits arising is expected to be low as parents already bring their children to their GP, as necessary, regardless of whether they have to pay”.
We know that controlling blood pressure prevents heart disease and stroke, yet the Government, despite promises, has rolled back on giving free healthcare to people with long-term illnesses. It has chosen instead to drive ahead with free healthcare to a group who in Mr Reilly’s own words “already visit the GP when they have to”.
I believe in removing barriers to healthcare, but this should first be prioritised for those for whom there is proven benefit. It has to be planned and resourced and there must be capacity before usage is increased. None of this has been done.
I came from practising in the UK. We are heading towards a system whereby patients will wait for a five- to eight-minute appointment with a stressed GP who refers more patients to hospital because he/she doesn’t have time to take a proper history and examine the patient, let alone address the person’s concerns or advise on health promotion. Is this really what the people in Ireland want? – Yours, etc,
Loughboy Medical Centre,

Sir, – Anne Lucey highlighted the abysmal statistics regarding women candidates in the forthcoming local elections (Home News, January 24th).
Currently just 25 per cent of all local election candidates are women. While this figure is low, it does at least represent an increase on the last local elections. In 2009, only 17 per cent of the candidates were women. Interestingly, on that occasion, 17 per cent of council seats were won by women, clearly indicating that there was no electoral bias against women – when women get on the ballot paper they will get elected. However, the problem is that not enough women are appearing on the election ballot papers. While there are many factors inhibiting women’s participation in politics, a key stumbling block is how candidates are selected. At selection conventions, party delegates will tend to favour the “tried and tested” incumbent candidates rather than the “new” candidate. Incumbents are typically men meaning it is more difficult for “new” women candidates to get selected.
The 5050 Group is campaigning for more equal representation in Irish politics, part of which is challenging political parties to effectively implement the gender quota legislation.
It is not too late for some political parties to take directive action and get more women selected. Otherwise, it will cost them in the long run. At the next general election parties will lose half their State funding if they don’t comply with the gender quota legislation which will compel them to have at least 30 per cent women candidates. For many women and men, becoming a councillor is the first “stepping-stone” to a seat in the Dáil. It makes sense for all parties to pull out all the stops now and get more women on the ticket for May’s local elections.
We need more women in politics: parties can make this happen with two vital ingredients – political will and leadership. – Yours, etc,
National Chair,
5050 Group,
Sea View Park,

Sir, –  When I was in primary and secondary school in Ireland, religious education was part of the national curriculum and it still is.
From an American perspective, because of the separation here of church and state, this appears very strange. Standard practice in the US is for the church and  parents to assume this educational responsibility, typically through Sunday school after church, or daily, after school.  Surely a similar arrangement could work in Ireland? Or more to the point,  why would anybody want the State to teach religion to their children? – Yours, etc,
Siwanoy Lane,
New Canaan,
Connecticut, US.
Sir, – Michael Harding’s columns (Tuesdays, Life) are like pathways to the soul. Invariably he writes about what is meaningful, important and of real value; such a change from the wearying tide of commerce, politics, graft and greed that mostly fills your pages.  He is truly unique, and has that gift of appearing to be a close personal friend to those whom he has never even met.  Thank you for taking the time to let us share his thoughts. –   Yours, etc,
(At sea),
C/o BP Maritime Services,
St George’s Street,

Sir, – Tommy Graham’s suggestion (January 25th) that the Vatican should be fielding a football team sounds plausible, but it is out of place. To quote the prophet Bill Shankly: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
Whereas religion is merely about life and death. – Yours, etc,

Sir, – The three characteristics of classical professionalism are professional knowledge base, altruistic service and professional autonomy. Therefore, any initiative that promotes teachers’ professional autonomy has the potential to promote the profession. The Junior Cycle reforms as outlined in the 2012 document A Framework for Junior Cycle offer significantly increased professional autonomy to teachers with respect to the assessment of their students at Junior Cycle level. While acknowledging the considerable demands placed on teachers in these times of austerity with increased workloads and requests to do more and more with an awful lot less, it is important to embrace such opportunities for enhanced professional autonomy.
The teaching unions, the TUI and the ASTI are going to ballot members to seek a mandate for a series of actions in relation to the Junior Cycle proposals. A TUI newsletter dated January 24th states: “The union remains gravely concerned by the dilution of standards inherent in the proposals, particularly in the shift away from external moderation and national certification”.
With such substantial reforms as this, it is essential the TUI, the ASTI and their members demand greater resources and fight for teachers’ continuing professional development needs. However, it is also important they do not call for anything that could, in time, lead to the deprofessionalisation of teaching in Ireland as has come to pass in other international jurisdictions where externally moderated standardised tests have significantly weakened the teaching profession. – Yours, etc,
Department of Education & Professional Studies,
University of Limerick,

Sir, – Now that an opportunity has arisen to abolish the tolls on the East Link Bridge (Home News, January 31st), I trust the Dublin City Councillors will act in the best interest of the citizens, as did their predecessors,who abolished the tolls on the Ha’penny Bridge in 1919. – Yours, etc,
Lorcan Drive, Dublin 9.

Sir, – A passage in Roy Foster’s review of Dermot Meleady’s biography of John Redmond (Books, January 25th) caught my attention: “There is an argument, indeed, that his [Redmond’s] Woodenbridge speech, where he committed the movement to fighting for the Allies, was part of a deliberate ploy to drive out the extremists. Here and elsewhere, he was a formidable political operator.”
Redmond’s sending tens of thousands of his followers off to war (and in many cases to injury and death) is here effectively endorsed. Adopting the – surely rather extreme – tactic of sending one’s followers off to war as a way of isolating extremists: does Roy Foster endorse this as a general principle in politics or will any argument serve when it comes to enhancing the reputation of John Redmond? – Yours, etc,
Martin’s Row,
ChapSir, – The increase in the licence fee proposed by Waterways Ireland, from €126 up to a possible €3,600 in one year (outlined in the new Draft Canals Act, 1986 [Amendment] Bye-Laws, 2014) cannot be justified. This level of increase would not be accepted by any other group of people in Ireland. Even though to boaters this increase is large, the amount of money that will be received by Waterways Ireland from these licences is very small compared to its yearly budget.
This action will drive boats off the canals; and locally businesses in areas that rely on boaters and visitors will see their income fall and jobs will be at risk. Bars and hotels on the canals benefit not just what from the boaters spend but also from visitors to their premises because of the presence of the boats. Waterways Ireland should be doing more with Fáilte Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to promote the recreational use of the canals and their potential business opportunities. I am in favour of paying a reasonable licence fee, but this should be for a service – which is not currently provided or proposed.
I object to this consultation process being organised by the same company that intends to charge us these outrageous new fees. So I ask for an independent group, such as the one set up to decide on the current pylon dispute. This would need to include all stakeholders.
I have been a canal boat owner for six years and a boater for more than 30 years. The canals and rivers of Ireland can only prosper if all users are properly consulted and respected. – Yours, etc,
Blanchardstown, Dublin 15.

elizod, Dublin 20.
Sir, – The increase in the licence fee proposed by Waterways Ireland, from €126 up to a possible €3,600 in one year (outlined in the new Draft Canals Act, 1986 [Amendment] Bye-Laws, 2014) cannot be justified. This level of increase would not be accepted by any other group of people in Ireland. Even though to boaters this increase is large, the amount of money that will be received by Waterways Ireland from these licences is very small compared to its yearly budget.
This action will drive boats off the canals; and locally businesses in areas that rely on boaters and visitors will see their income fall and jobs will be at risk. Bars and hotels on the canals benefit not just what from the boaters spend but also from visitors to their premises because of the presence of the boats. Waterways Ireland should be doing more with Fáilte Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to promote the recreational use of the canals and their potential business opportunities. I am in favour of paying a reasonable licence fee, but this should be for a service – which is not currently provided or proposed.
I object to this consultation process being organised by the same company that intends to charge us these outrageous new fees. So I ask for an independent group, such as the one set up to decide on the current pylon dispute. This would need to include all stakeholders.
I have been a canal boat owner for six years and a boater for more than 30 years. The canals and rivers of Ireland can only prosper if all users are properly consulted and respected. – Yours, etc,
Blanchardstown, Dublin 15

Sir, – While the decision to have a Rome-based ambassador to the Holy See has generated much coverage, there has been much less coverage of other significant diplomatic changes. Eddie Finnegan (January 24th) refers to the upgrading of the Irish Aid office to embassy status in Sierra Leone, west Africa. This significant diplomatic development in the west African region is very warmly welcomed by the Sierra Leone Irish Partnership (SLIP).
In addition to heightening Ireland’s participation in the international involvement in the region it also underpins and consolidates the over 200-year-old relationship between Sierra Leone and Ireland.
Sometimes important decisions which generate little media coverage can have very significant positive effect for many people – this is one such decision!– Yours, etc, ,
Hon Sec of SLIP,
C/o Kiltale, Dunsany,

Sir, – Clearly, it’s a no-brainer. – Yours, etc,
Clogher Road,
Crumlin, Dublin 12.
Sir, – “12pm” – there is no such thing. – Yours, etc,
Killiney Road,
Killiney, Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:
* I am an old-age pensioner living in a remote part of Co Monaghan – living in fear. In 2009 I returned home from evening Mass when three masked robbers broke in my front and back doors and cornered me in my living room. They were all armed with iron bars and shouting “where is the money”.
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One of them stood over me wielding a large iron bar while the other two ransacked my home, breaking my bed, mirrors and other furniture. The ordeal lasted for for about two hours. Only by the grace of God, a neighbour arrived and frightened the robbers off.
I am 77 and since then I have been terrified almost to live here once it gets dark. Before I go to bed I have to barricade my room door and window for safety in order to get some sleep.
The reason I have now been driven to write to you is that I will have to give up my telephone as I cannot afford it any more.
Eircom has given me credit up until April, after that I am sure will no longer have contact with the outside world.
Mobile service in this area is non-existent.
I am sure there are thousands of old people living alone in the same position – living in fear, knowing they could lose their lives at the hands of criminals. Therefore, I would ask that the telephone allowances be reinstated to every person living alone in the country.
It is only victims who have lived through such an ordeal that know the true effect it can have.
It is only a matter of time before some old person gets killed in their own home.
We are the people who built this nation.
* Think of how wonderful would be the country of Ireland if only we had politicians with the commitment, courage, determination and unflinching resolve of a Louise O’Keeffe.
In my humble opinion, this lady is an inspiration to all of us.
* What David Quinn – ‘Can we have a respectful debate on same-sex marriage? I don’t think so’, Irish Independent, January 31 – and every other religious apologist evidently can’t comprehend about the gay marriage debate is that gays are prohibited from actions that a member of the majority can undertake for ideological or religious reasons. This completely precludes respectfulness.
It is, in itself, an act of disrespect to exclude certain people from marrying just because you don’t agree with it.
This implicit hermeneutical justification of disrespect towards gay marriage is what incites the reciprocated disfavour (albeit that death threats and such are never to be tolerated, from either side). But what religious people the world over will have to one day realise, is that their scripture should not dictate how other people – folks who put no credence in scripture (or who favour other scripture) – live their lives.
My question to the opponents of gay marriage is why should certain beliefs matter to those who don’t share them and why, just because I don’t believe what you believe, should I be discriminated against?
I’ve yet to hear a cogent answer from them that isn’t laden with biblical ideology.
* I was as sorry to hear of the break-in at the Co Cork mansion of ‘Lord of the Dance’ superstar Michael Flatley as I would be at the news of any theft by vile criminals who prey upon householders. Nobody deserves to have his or her home violated by the dregs of society who have no respect for the rights or possessions of law-abiding citizens.
But I also have sympathy for the unfortunate rhino who at some point was brutally killed for a part of its body that happens to be almost as valuable as gold on the black market.
Sadly, the rhino is endangered worldwide thanks to unscrupulous poachers who gun down these mighty creatures. Brave wildlife rangers have been killed in Africa while defending the precious few rhinos that remain outside nature parks and reserves.
The poachers gun down the animals, hack away the horns and then flee the scene, leaving the mutilated carcasses behind.
So while I hope the thieves who raided Mr Flatley’s home are caught and brought to justice, I equally hope that the publicity accorded to the high-profile crime will have focused attention on the plight of the magnificent rhinos and the work of conservationist groups worldwide to save the dwindling number of them that still survive in this troubled, greedy world, enhancing it with their exotic presence.
Mr Flatley was wronged by the theft of the horn – but its previous owner suffered the greatest wrong of all.
* In their preliminary submission to the Department of Justice’s public consultation, the most senior judges in the land called for changes to the judicial appointments process, most notably that the appointment of judges should no longer depend on their political allegiance.
It would seem then that even though the elevation of lawyers to the bench has in some cases been political, the only interested party left out of the loop has been the public, whom both politicians and the judiciary ostensibly serve.
If appointment by politicians is to end, would it not serve the purposes of both transparency and accountability to bring the political views of judges into the open by requiring them to be elected, as is the norm in many parts of the United States?
At least then we would be able to explain many perplexing sentencing decisions on the basis of whether judges declared themselves liberal or conservative in this regard before their election, and have the means of expressing our dissent if we feel they are not serving the best interests of society.
* Kevin Fielding (Letters, January 31) blames the supporters for not being vociferous enough during international rugby matches in the Aviva Stadium. Clearly, he must have been absent during the Ireland vs New Zealand game last November, when the supporters gave everything they had.
It must be pointed out that Irish fans will be the most energetic supporters in the world if their team on the pitch actually gives them something to shout about.
Over the last few seasons, the previous Ireland rugby set-up gave the supporters very little to shout about and get behind, but we are now entering a different place with a fresh and ambitious mentality within our national team set-up.
* It was the British government, not Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, who discovered that Luton was in London.
A 1978 government white paper proclaimed Luton as an integral part of the London airport system, leading to the renaming of Luton International Airport as London Luton Airport.
Mr O’Leary has a lot to answer for but it is unlikely that he was running Britain at 17 years of age.
Irish Independent


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