9 February 2014 Sharland
I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again. An old Flame of Captain Povey’s reappears Priceless.
Sharland comes to visit a bit more work done upstairs, phones and 1 monitor picked up.
Scrabble today Mary wins, just. and get under 400, Perhaps I will win tomorrow.
Andrew Stuart, who has died aged 85, oversaw the fraught transfer to independence of the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) during the so-called “Coconut War” with France; he also had long experience as an African colonial and post-colonial administrator, and was later Britain’s Ambassador to Finland.
The Coconut War erupted when Stuart was forced to quell a rebellion by bow-and-arrow-wielding cargo-cult devotees on the eve of Vanuatu’s independence in July 1980. At his request 200 Royal Marines of 42 Commando were sent to the South Pacific island nation by Margaret Thatcher from their base in Plymouth.
Stuart then ensured that the Marines stayed for three weeks after July 30, independence day, paving the way for a successful peacekeeping operation by troops invited in from Papua New Guinea by Vanuatu’s first independent Prime Minister, Walter Lini.
Stuart and his colleagues believed that, had they not acted as they did, Vanuatu might have remained a colony – in the hands of the French. The French and British had been partners since 1906 in the 74-year-old “condominium”, or dual system of government, that prevailed in the 80 volcanic islands scattered across 500 miles of sea.
As the British Marines set off, French paratroopers were travelling to the same destination from a far closer base, France’s New Caledonia possession only 300 miles to the east. The cargo cult rebellion, led by the bearded, semi-literate Jimmy Stevens on the New Hebrides’ Santo island, caused tension between the two European rivals right up to the moment when the last colonial flag was lowered.
Stevens, a Melanesian “Big Man” and leader of the francophone “Nagriamel” cult, was objecting to the election in 1979 of Father Lini, an Anglican priest, and his English-speaking Vanuaaku Pati party to lead Vanuatu’s first independent government.
In protest, Stevens and his near-naked henchmen occupied Luganville, an old American Second World War base with an airstrip, 20 miles south of Stevens’s settlement of Vanafo, where, with promises of jeeps and refrigerators in return for wives, he had established his “Republic of Vemarana”.
Stuart became convinced that his Gallic counterpart, Inspecteur-General Jean-Jacques Robert, and others egged on by ministers in Paris, were supporting Stevens’s rebellion with the aim of holding on to the colony for France
Stuart stood 6ft 7in tall (loftier still in his red and white, cockatoo-plumed Governor’s sola topi) and loomed above the dapper Insp-Gen Robert (even in his képi). For two years after their arrival in 1978, the two men had struggled from their separate residencies to remain on good terms despite the differing demands of their masters in London and Paris.
But as independence approached, Stuart repeatedly found that Robert was taking action in day-to-day affairs without informing him. Further violence, and the shooting dead of a French-speaker on Tanna island (where a different cargo cult revered the Duke of Edinburgh), convinced the French that the British had been planning a coup de maître based on the prestige of the British Royal family, to wield continuing influence in the region. A lengthy French memorandum detailing this purported British scheme was found left behind after independence.
As July 30 neared, the French asserted that their newly-arrived paratroopers had so calmed the situation that no British military force was required. But Stuart insisted to London that the Marines, by then in Hawaii, should continue to the New Hebrides’ capital Port Vila. Stuart unilaterally changed the airstrip regulations to allow the Marines’ extra-heavy VC10 to land.
But the arrival of the Marines at the scene of Stevens’s rebellion was preceded by a secret visit to Stevens by Insp-Gen Robert. The two men had agreed that the British forces — who were expecting to be opposed on landing — would instead be greeted at the airfield by dancing girls with garlands of bougainvillea.
The Marines then came under French command, and were restricted to guarding the only remaining colonial flagpole, while the rebels whooped unchecked. A few Marines nevertheless managed quietly to slip away under cover of darkness to destroy Stevens’s separate Vemarana flagpole and flag by slicing through the metal shaft.
Stuart wrought his final act of diplomacy, and triumph over his French rival, by removing his glasses when faced with a letter from Father Lini (also sent to Robert) which ordered the expulsion of both French and British forces. Stuart was thus able, while apparently still ignorant of the letter’s contents, later to offer the transitional services of the Marines to the new state, which Lini accepted.
Andrew Christopher Stuart was born at Ludlow, Shropshire, on November 30 1928, the son of the Rt Rev Cyril Edgar Stuart, Anglican Bishop of Uganda, and his wife Mary Summerhayes. He was educated at Bryanston School in Dorset before reading Law at Clare College, Cambridge. After National Service in the Royal Navy he joined the Colonial Administrative Service in Uganda in 1953, staying on for a further three years after independence in 1962.
He was awarded the Colonial Police Medal in 1961 for obtaining the arrest of a spear-wielding, self-styled “prophet”, Kigaanira, by climbing up a hazardous rock while distracting the troublemaker with the polite reciprocal greetings of the local language, Luganda.
After being called to the Bar by Middle Temple in 1965, Stuart joined the Diplomatic Service, and was posted as First Secretary and Head of Chancery in Helsinki, Finland, until 1968. He joined the Asian Department, and by 1972 was head of the Hong Kong and Indian Ocean Department, before serving as counsellor in Jakarta, Indonesia, until 1978.
He was appointed CMG in 1979.
After leaving the New Hebrides, Stuart served as Ambassador to Finland until 1983 . He retired from the Diplomatic Service that year and until 1990 was Principal of the United World College of the Atlantic in Wales. His book Of Cargoes, Colonies and Kings was published in 2001.
In 2004 Stuart was one of the 52 distinguished diplomats who signed a letter composed by the then ambassador to Libya, Oliver Miles, deploring the Middle Eastern policymaking of the Prime Minister, Tony Blair.
Stuart married first, in 1959, Patricia Kelly, whom he had met in Uganda and with whom he had two sons and a daughter. She died in 2008, and he met his second wife, Susan Lines (née Houghton-Brown), while giving lectures on a cruise ship. They married in 2010, and visited his old haunts in Vanuatu and in Uganda, where in 2012 they attended the 50th anniversary celebrations of independence.
Andrew Stuart is survived by his wife, and by the three children of his first marriage.
Andrew Stuart, born November 30 1928, died January 27 2014
You carried two articles about the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence in last week’s Observer: the first by Daniel Boffey (“‘They say that Scotland and England have different values. But that’s not true'”, News) and the second by Will Hutton (“Stay united and Scotland could be key to a better, fairer Britain”, Comment), both of which focus on difference or the lack of it and the uses to which it might be profitably put.
In Boffey’s article, Alistair Carmichael asserts that the Yes campaign has turned nasty. He does this by association and by inference but with no hard facts.
He really ought to have reflected that Better Together, the No campaign, has been negative from the off with its self-titled Project Fear, designed less to promote the union than to scaremonger the imagined downsides of independence.
But perhaps more pertinently his interview contained not a single word on why he believes we would be better together other than some unprovable – either way – statements of shared values. It’s not about whether the values are shared or not, it’s how grown-ups make grown-up decisions for themselves based on those values.
Hutton, disappointingly, has joined the ranks of a number of English centre-left commentators who of late have asserted the need for Scotland to remain in the union to redress some of the union’s perceived failings.
Hutton implies that there is a different value system at work in Scotland that, with Scotland retained within the union, will support a frustrated English centre-left project. It can hardly be the function of Scotland to save England from the English.
Are we to understand, then, that the union’s shared values offer nothing to Scotland but more of the same, or that Scotland must remain in the union so that its different values will enable it to become the union’s (England’s) conscience, pace Hutton?
Ye’re haein a laff.
Will Hutton makes several cogent points as to why a growing number of “we in Scotland” feel the need for independence. He then makes one very bad point and draws a false conclusion.
First, the bad point. He argues that underpinning the drive towards independence is some kind of atavistic anti-Englishness. That’s an argument best consigned to the dustbin of 70s history, along with the other one about the SNP being “tartan Tories”. I know this because I made the same charges myself as a Labour party member at that time.
More importantly, however, having identified some of the drivers of the independence debate, he then fails to follow the logic and in effect tells us to hang on for something better. We were told that at the time of the Thatcher/Major governments, so we hung on and we got Blair, who in essence continued on the same track. To quote the Who: “Won’t get fooled again”.
Donald John MacInnes
The Scottish secretary argues that England and Scotland share the same values.
That may largely be true but something overriding that is the different directions in which the two societies are heading. England becomes increasingly Eurosceptic, has little desire to check growing inequality, is anti-immigrant, suspicious of welfare and big government, panders to a divided education system and tends to favour age over youth.
Scotland, under a popular SNP government, pursues different policies. Most significant is the consensus growing round ways to tackle inequality at its root, by taking back for the community what the community has created and has not been earned by an individual, namely the increase in land value.
Here lies the ratchet that benefits the rich and impoverishes the rest of us. Voting “no” would leave Scotland in the hands of prejudices it does not like.
This winter’s extreme floods prove how vital it is that the government gets a strategic grip on flood planning. The places hit hardest, including the southwest’s main rail link and the Somerset Levels, have been known to be vulnerable for decades and in need of sustainable long-term plans to reduce flood risk. The contrast with the east coast, where, despite some damage, careful planning prevented a repeat in December of 1953’s horrific coastal flooding, is telling. The government’s climate change committee spelled out that we need to start planning seriously for higher seas and heavier rainfall.
It is frustrating to see politicians criticising the Environment Agency, which has the vital role of working alongside local communities to find solutions to these huge challenges. Ultimately, it is governments that have set the policies that have hamstrung flood planning in some vulnerable areas: allowing homes to be built and failing to make both homes and farmland more resilient to floods. Cuts to the Environment Agency merely risk reducing it from a flood-management body to an emergency response service and making future floods even more damaging.
Chief executive, Angling Trust
Conservation director, RSPB
Chief executive, Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust
Stephen Trotter, Director for England, The Wildlife Trusts
Bring back rent controls
Even if we discourage foreign oligarchs from buying up properties, it will be little consolation to working Londoners to know that in future they will be squeezed out of living space by good old, native, tax-avoiding, mega-rich Brits. In the end, the only workable solutions are: firm control of rents (as in pre-Thatcher days); money made available to restore existing empty social housing stock; a geographically based system of land value tax (Vince Cable’s mansion tax is too unwieldy); forcing councils to use existing empty dwelling management orders. And all this before we concrete over another square foot of our green and pleasant land. The options are continuing boom and bust, economic and employment dysfunction and eventual social breakdown.
Legal aid cuts lead to injustice
The shameful decision to deny public funding to the father of a 15-year-old boy who died in a prison cell is not an isolated case (“Legal aid: indefensible cuts”, Editorial). Inquest is seeing the impact of legal aid cuts in a pattern of decisions where traumatised bereaved families, involved in a complex process about which they have no choice, are increasingly denied funding, given very limited funding or required to make large contributions so that their questions can be asked. The protracted and intrusive process frequently leaves funding decisions to the last minute causing further unnecessary distress.
Contrast this with the public funding provided to teams of lawyers representing the interests of the prison service, healthcare providers and other local or national government agencies, often present together at the one inquest.
Any justice system needs to ensure equal access to justice for all. Where someone dies in the care of or at the hands of the state this is fundamental. The inquest is usually the only public forum in which custodial deaths are subjected to any public scrutiny.
Deborah Coles and Helen Shaw
Co-directors, Inquest, London N4
Religion’s role in causing war
Tony Blair’s article (“Religious difference, not ideology, will fuel this century’s epic battles”, Comment) prompted widespread debate on the issue of religion and conflict. Philip G Cerny (Big Issue) concedes that religion is a factor, but he is incorrect to imply that it is always secondary. And even if that were the case, a secondary factor can still be an important one.
Around the world, the numbers of those identifying as religious continues to increase. A third of countries in 2012 experienced high levels of religious hostility, according to the Pew Research Centre. In all, 44 civil wars between 1940 and 2010 were classed as religious according to research by leading professors and fellows in the publication God’s Century: Resurgent Religion and Global Politics. In 2014, a number of countries, including Nigeria, Syria, Burma and Thailand, are experiencing elements of religious tension.
If we accept that religion is even a factor worth considering in this context then we must seek a better understanding of the role it is playing. As a foundation, we seek to fill this void.
Chief executive, Tony Blair Faith Foundation, London W2
Sugar – like it or lump it
The problem with added sugar is that it is the last of the trio of junk food components that make poor quality food taste seductive (“Food crusaders’ new challenge: cut sugar to save NHS £50bn a year”, News). Now that some reductions in fat and salt have been achieved, food manufacturers will do anything in their power to resist controls on sugar content. If they fail, then junk food will be revealed for what it is – tasteless and barely edible.
The article “Ignore Brand and vote, teens urged” (2 February) fails to “engage with” Brand’s insights (and with the frustration of those who care but feel impotent).
The electoral reform movement puts forward conflicting messages:
1. They inform us that the vast majority of us would be wasting our time voting (because current voting processes will ignore most our votes).
2. They urge us all to register and vote.
Teens are not fools. They will not buy this muddled pair of messages. Brand is right in his analysis, however, he failed to provide a constructive alternative. The electoral reform movement should promote the following strategy:
1. Urge citizens to register (to show you care, and want to engage).
2. Urge citizens to vote (to show you care, and so on).
3. Urge citizens to spoil their votes (to show your disgust and that you want to engage).
4. Campaign for legislation to force official results of elections to include “voted but spoiled”, “registered but did not vote”, and “eligible but did not register” in addition to the votes cast.
5. Until the state enforces honest reporting of results, the electoral reform movement should join forces to calculate/estimate and republish honest versions of each result, so that all those registering, voting, and spoiling will know that their actions will be recorded and reported (they may well be shown together to have “won” many elections).
6. The Independent newspapers should lead this campaign, should recruit ambassadors, and should publish the honest versions of the election results (as above) as part of that campaign.
Very refreshing to read such an intelligent, honest essay on the general refusal to tackle climate change (Paul Vallely, 2 February). The ruling class would never willingly tolerate re-ordering a financial system that entailed ceasing to make money the arbiter of all things. An alternative, sane economic system would weigh economic outcomes in terms of the well-being of the earth and all living beings. Destructive fantasies of limitless growth measured in GDP or any other numerical yardstick that waves a triumphant flag in the middle of a wasted world would be anathema.
Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
When Dr Beeching so ruthlessly closed many of the branch lines of the wonderful rail network that had taken years to construct, many thought he was acting in too much haste without any thought to the future.
The concerns shown at the time have now been illustrated perfectly with the problem currently facing railway travellers in the South-west.
If Dr Beeching had not closed so many other lines in Devon there would be alternative routes from London to Plymouth and Cornwall, avoiding the line running by the sea and through Dawlish.
It is plain wrong to tell customers “not to bother growing plants in peat-free compost” (“For peat’s sake…”, 2 February).
Green composts can provide the same level of nutrients while controlling liverwort in container-grown shrubs and without the need to add chemical wetting agents. Crucially, they help divert green waste from landfill, preventing methane emissions which damage the climate. But it is vital that customers know how to distinguish quality.
We run the compost and home composting certification schemes. Customers can have confidence in green compost products bearing these logos. The results would be very different if Which? repeated the exercise using only certified compost products.
Technical director, Organics Recycling Group, Renewable Energy Association, London SW1
DJ Taylor is being somewhat churlish about the songs of Pete Seeger (2 February). I agree that some of his lyrics now sound a bit cringeworthy and dated, but he was a child of his time. And just as Haydn inspired the magic of Mozart, so Seeger helped unlock the greatness of Bob Dylan, who took protest songs and music in general to hitherto unimaginable heights.
Have your say
Letters to the Editor, The Independent on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Online: independent.co.uk/dayinapage/2014/February/9
THE situation with care workers’ wages is as dire as — or perhaps worse than — Camilla Cavendish suggests (“Tomorrow we shall all suffer for paying care workers so little”, Comment, last week). I have been working as a carer on a zero-hours contract and end up with about the minimum wage. After an interesting and well-paid career this is the most rewarding work I have done.
I fear the article will make little difference as it is not a sexy subject and those who have to rely on the service have by then lost their voices.
Name and address withheld
On the receiving end
I worked in various care homes for eight years and was kicked, spat on and had my hair pulled by patients. I never once saw abuse by my colleagues. We sat with the dying, washed them and held their hands, but when there were just three of us and 28 patients, time was very limited.
We were paid a pittance and had little respite during 12-hour shifts. Cavendish’s excellent article reveals the demanding job of caring; it is time carers were paid properly and nurtured.
Ellie Targett, Leominster, Herefordshire
Some years ago I did agency care work at local (a 50-mile radius from where I live) residential and nursing homes. I was paid 22p a mile to get to the workplace. Every year I was able, via my tax return, to claim the difference between that sum and the 40p the taxman allowed. An agency care worker who tried to claim recently was told by the Revenue that she was not a professional and couldn’t claim expenses for getting to and from a shift.
Jane Alexander, Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria
Loneliness is a big problem facing those who live at home and need substantial care. Ours is one of 122 voluntary groups in Hampshire, with 3,600 volunteers who visit people weekly.
Loneliness often leads to mental health problems and seems to speed up dementia. When carers are so poorly paid and under serious time pressures, they can hardly be expected to spend time chatting.
David Cockshoot, Fareham, Hampshire
I own a community care company and over 20 years have witnessed many changes and countless attempts to identify the needs of the elderly to keep them safely in their own homes, but little to establish the needs of the workforce. About 70% of all revenue is spent on the wages of carers and the margins available in the industry are slim.
With the price pressure from local authorities it is always the carers who will suffer, simply because the provider has little or no room to manipulate its profit margin. We now have a situation where recruitment is extremely difficult. The message seems to be that being a carer is not only low-paid and with unsocial hours, but also considered of low value by many because of the bad publicity the industry has attracted.
Morris Schwartz, Reading, Berkshire
The timing of Cavendish’s article was apposite: in the following days we heard more about the pitiful and inadequate payments councils are willing to make to independent care agencies. We face a sad and dangerous reality: the nation is ageing and the government is trying to prepare for this with the Care Bill but the problem is already upon us.
The elderly social care system is at risk of collapse unless the government enables councils to pay care providers at a level above the cost of care. While my agency and other ones strive to invest in our staff, most are forced to do as Cavendish describes and lean on the goodwill, patience and sense of personal responsibility of individual carers. That situation is wholly unsustainable.
Paul Dunn-Sims, By email
Off the scale
In a civilised society it is how we care for the weak, disabled and sick that defines us. It is interesting to compare the pay scales for care workers with those of health service managers.
Andrew Montgomery, London SE21
We must slam the diplomatic doors on disrespectful Karzai
MEN and women of the international forces have died and been disfigured in the war in Afghanistan. The despicable comments made by President Hamid Karzai (“Afghan leader ‘scorns’ UK dead”, News, last week, and “Karzai tells US to sling its hook”, World News, January 26) should remind us of the depths to which men of his ilk will sink in their efforts to curry favour with the Taliban.
Is it not time for the niceties of diplomacy to be replaced by table-thumping hard talk? Karzai should be told that when the day of reckoning comes he will not be offered a haven where he can spend his ill-gotten gains.
Gordon Caulfield (former Royal Marine), Coventry
History repeating itself
It is sad, though inevitable, that Karzai scorns what the British Army has done to help his country. I served as a soldier in a similarly futile exercise at the Suez Canal. We slunk out in defeat to the jeers and catcalls of the triumphant Arabs. The casualties were relatively light and the real cost was ignominy.
Had I served in Afghanistan and lost a leg or more, I would not feel philosophical but furious, even betrayed. This conflict — which even a glance at history shows was impossible to win — came about because Tony Blair’s overriding mission was to be invited by George W Bush for a weekend at Camp David.
Jeremy Scott, London SW3
Salmond off track with his promises
DOMINIC LAWSON is wrong to imply that Alex Salmond has promised absolutely everything possible to Scottish voters to entice them to say yes to independence in September’s referendum (“Perhaps it’s time to start minting some bawbees, Mr Salmond”, Comment, last week). Even this silver-tongued politician has not promised to make the new Edinburgh trams run on time.
Peter Bryson, Ilkley, West Yorkshire
Lawson was quite correct to ask that Salmond produce a plan B for a Scottish currency. The only quibble I have with the article — as many Scots would — is that the appeal to Salmond in the last sentence should not have read, “Come on, big fella, put your money where your mouth is”, but rather, “Come on, fella, put your money where your big mouth is.”
Phil Johnson, Bishopton, Renfrewshire
Salmond’s published statement on how independence would succeed was nothing more than a wish list. So many of his intended “actions” — retaining sterling, keeping the Queen as head of state — are not available to him to decide in the first place.
Geoff Taylor, Pouzols-Minervois France
Prostate benefits of chemotherapy
AS AN oncologist for 40 years I am enthusiastic about the potential benefit of adding enzalutamide to our arsenal of treatments for prostate cancer, which employed in optimal sequences can add years of life for many men. However, in those 40 years I’ve also seen vast improvements in oncology and the chemotherapy drugs available, as well as the near-elimination of nausea or vomiting as a major toxicity. It is striking therefore to find that general perceptions have changed so little and disturbing to find representatives of key prostate charities emphasising the “agony” of, and being “half-killed” by, chemotherapy. This is a disservice to patients, many of whom will still need and benefit from chemotherapy.
Professor Richard Kaplan, MRC Clinical Trials Unit, University College London Hospitals
Splashing out for UK flood defences
THE government is to be congratulated on its decision to allocate a further £130m to repair and restore our country’s flood defences. As independent board members of the Environment Agency we will ensure that the organisation continues to invest these resources in line with government policy.
We have great sympathy for all the victims of flooding and the devastation brought to their lives. We are also concerned that the blame for problems outside the agency’s control is being directed at our chairman, managers and staff.
Robert Light, Peter Ainsworth, Karen Burrows, Emma Howard Boyd, Richard Leafe, John Varley, Jeremy Walker, Independent Board Members, Environment Agency.To see the full letter, go to thesundaytimes.co.uk/letters
I enjoyed the article on Bob Crow and his Brazilian holiday (“Basking Crow plots Tube pain from Brazil”, News, last week). While I was shocked to learn that he lives in social housing, despite earning a six-figure wage, perhaps the most enlightening fact was that he sunbathed for three hours without reapplying lotion. Dan Katte, London SW18
Given the choice, would the British public vote for the government to spend billions on a new rail system to clip 32 minutes off the travelling time between London and Birmingham or for a national flood defence infrastructure (“Opening the floodgates”, Focus, last week)?
Charlie Dobson, Bristol
On the menu
India Knight (Comment, last week) could not be more wrong about hospital food. How many people provide in their own homes a choice of four starters, five main meals and three desserts each day for lunch and dinner, plus tea, coffee or Horlicks several times a day? That is the fare at Blackpool Victoria Hospital. The food is nutritious, varied and well cooked, despite the need to provide several hundred meals a day for more than 12 ethnic groups. There is no requirement for Jamie Oliver, thank you.
Dr Barry Clayton, Thornton-Cleveleys, Lancashire
Hole in the art
Thank goodness Waldemar Januszczak does not subscribe to the curatorial nonsense promoting the Martin Creed exhibition at the Hayward (“Kicking against the pricks”, Culture, last week). As visual art Creed’s works are not interesting to look at. As conceptual art they are not interesting to think about. His works are not witty, as David Shrigley’s are, or shocking, as those of the Chapman brothers are, or original like Grayson Perry’s art. It is surely time for the light to be turned off permanently on these icons of vacuity.
Alan Fowler (Art Historian), Winchester, Hampshire
Unhappily ever after
At 76 I have still not fully recovered from the shock in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women books of Jo March refusing “Laurie” Laurence, who then married her spoilt sister Amy, while Jo chose her awful bearded professor (“JK admits Hermione should have wed Harry”, News, last week). How dare these authors trample on our dreams. JK Rowling apologising does not help.
Pauline Jordan, Southwell, Nottinghamshire
So David Beckham gets up early, wakes his children and makes their breakfast (“A Life in the Day”, Magazine, last week). He then takes them to school and does the weekly shop. He makes lunch, collects the children and plays games with them after school before cooking dinner. What does Victoria do? Kay Bagon, Radlett, Hertfordshire
Corrections and clarifications
The recipe for Marco Pierre White’s passion fruit soufflé (The Classic, Magazine, last week) stated that the chef had “made headlines for drugs”, suggesting that he uses or has used illicit drugs. This was inserted in error. We accept that Marco Pierre White has not used and does not use drugs and deplores their use. We apologise for suggesting otherwise.
In “Perhaps it’s time to start minting some bawbees, Mr Salmond” (Comment, last week) we stated that Alex Salmond had worked as a Bank of Scotland economist. It was, in fact, the Royal Bank of Scotland. We apologise for the error.
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to email@example.com or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)
JM Coetzee, author, 74; Mia Farrow, actress, 69; Tom Hiddleston, actor, 33; Carole King, singer, 72; Sandy Lyle, golfer, 56; Barry Mann, songwriter, 75; Joe Pesci, actor, 71; Gordon Strachan, footballer, 57; Dame Janet Suzman, actress, 75; Alice Walker, novelist, 70
1916 conscription begins in First World War; 1950 Senator Joe McCarthy claims 205 staff in US State Department are Communists; 1964 Beatles appear on America’s Ed Sullivan Show, attracting record 73m viewers; 1979 Trevor Francis is British football’s first £1m signing
SIR – You report that camels were not domesticated in ancient Israel until centuries after they appear in the Bible, based on the discovery of bones of domesticated camels dated from the 11th to the 9th century BC. This need not “cast doubt on the Bible”.
Rare references in Babylonian texts and representations from other parts of the Near East show that camels were known in the Age of the Patriarchs, about 2000-1500 BC. Such discoveries are rare because the camel was not at home in urban societies, but useful for long journeys across the steppe and desert.
There is no good reason to suppose the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob cannot reflect events long before the deaths of those camels, whose bones were left south of the Dead Sea in about 900 BC.
Emeritus Rankin Professor of Hebrew and Ancient Semitic Languages
The University of Liverpool
SIR – The “director of communications” at the Church Commissioners would have you believe that the Bishop of Bath and Wells regularly had to fight his way through falcons from medieval hunting displays, only to find himself backstage at outdoor theatre performances before stumbling, exhausted, into his accommodation.
The reality is that, when I was Town Clerk of Wells, I worked constructively with the incumbent bishop, the Church Commissioners and the Palace Trust to enable the palace to function as the home and working place of the bishop and as a viable operation at the heart of the city.
The bishop himself was active and enthusiastic in encouraging changes to enable the building to continue in the role it has occupied for 800 years. He often initiated the local engagement that made those changes a success.
That engagement has been lacking in a process that has led to the current dissatisfaction at the Commissioners’ decision that the bishop should vacate the palace.
Blowing up pumping stations took preference over saving villages
08 Feb 2014
SIR – If I were the Bishop of Bath and Wells, I doubt that I would like to be evacuated to Croscombe, four miles away. It is a pretty village, but in Wells, it all happens “within the walls” of this unique city.
The bishop can surely find rest and relaxation at the palace, even if at certain times it is open to visitors. A more serenely beautiful environment would be hard to find. Behind moated walls stands the noble palace, with a chapel. It is surrounded by greenery and pretty rills, and the gate house doors are locked at night.
It is recorded that Bishop Bekyinton (1443-1465) would carry a lute with him to a bastion by the moat walls to practise music, and find peace. There is much to be said for living in situ in such a place.
Of course, with the bishop gone, there might be money to be recouped from letting out the palace as honeymoon suites, etc.
Capita Army recruiting
SIR – Capita and the Army work in partnership in recruitment and selection for the Regular Army and Army Reserve. This includes managing the recruitment process, governance and recruitment events.
Hundreds of these events, which the Army has always run, take place every month and are manned by personnel from the Army Recruiting Group, both military and civilian, and members of local units who can speak with experience to candidates about life in the Army.
The partnership recognises the need to offer a range of ways to obtain more information, or apply for a job in the Regular Army or Army Reserve.
A flexible online application form compatible with all devices, live Facebook WebTV chats, engagement with employers and an Army fitness app to get potential recruits fit enough to join, are just a few examples.
Managing Director, Army Recruiting Group
Bridal dress to dye for
SIR – Christopher Howse says: “Wedding dresses are worn only once.” My wife wore hers on several occasions thereafter, having dyed it black.
St Brelade, Jersey
African call for help
SIR – Your report, “Murdered before the eyes of the world”, is a horrifying reminder of why the Central African Republic needs a United Nations peacekeeping force to protect civilians and help restore peace to the country.
Last week I visited London to ask your parliamentarians and churchmen to support my plea for help, a request I made with my Muslim counterparts, showing that, in the midst of appalling brutality, people of all faiths are working bravely for peace throughout our country.
When I speak to ordinary people, I don’t hear voices of hatred, only voices of fear, desperately asking for the world’s help.
Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga
President of Caritas, CAR
Bangui, Central African Republic
SIR – Are we going to let in refugees from the Central African Republic?
Keeping the Union
SIR – Yesterday the Prime Minister made a speech that set out clearly the reasons for Britain staying united. As a Scotsman living and working in England, I don’t get a vote — I could wake up after the referendum to find that my country had been taken away from me forever.
Hearing David Cameron speak so clearly gave me hope that the rest of the country may care enough about the outcome of the referendum to speak up for the Union. Not all Scots want this referendum and, if the outcome is for separation, it will not just be the Union that is split; the Scottish people will be split as well.
Prince of ties
SIR – The Prince of Wales was wearing a University of Wales tie, with stripes diagonal to the left. The RAF tie has stripes to the right.
SIR – The Prince’s tie was the regimental tie of the Queen’s Dragoon Guards, as he is our Colonel-in-Chief. Our previous Colonel-in-Chief was the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the Queen’s Bays (2nd Dragoon Guards) when she was Duchess of York. It was her first regiment.
N K de Courcy-Ireland
MPs should vote to ban smoking in family cars
SIR – As representatives of 12 public health organisations, we urge MPs to vote in favour of the Children and Families Bill amendment, which will allow the Government to introduce a ban on smoking in cars carrying children.
Every week, more than 430,000 children aged 11-15 are known to be exposed to second-hand smoke in family cars; were official data on children aged under 11 available, this total would likely be far greater.
A ban would help protect children from illnesses that can result from such exposure, including colds, ear infections, chronic chest infections, restricted lung growth, asthma attacks, cot death and meningitis.
With similar laws already successfully introduced in countries such as Canada, Australia and South Africa, there is no reason to suggest that a ban will prove unenforceable in Britain. Suggestions that legislation will inevitably lead to more drastic state interventions on other issues insult Parliament’s capacity to assess each case on its own merits.
The only debate is therefore whether an adult’s right to smoke in a car carrying children outweighs children’s right to breathe clean, unpolluted air that won’t make them ill.
The vast majority of people support this legislation. We urge MPs to make the health of children their priority when they come to vote on Monday, and ensure this crucial measure is passed into law.
Chief Executive, Action on Smoking and Health
Chair, Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists
Chief Executive, Asthma UK
Programme Director for Policy, British Heart Foundation
Professor Sir Michael Marmot
President, British Lung Foundation
Professor Sheila the Baroness Hollins
Chair of the Board of Science, British Medical Association
Dr Bernard Higgins
Chair, British Thoracic Society
Dr Stephen Gaduzo
Chair, Primary Care Respiratory Society
Dr Maureen Baker
Chair, Royal College of General Practitioners
Dr Hilary Cass
President, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Sir Richard Thompson
President, Royal College of Physicians
Professor John R Ashton
President, UK Faculty of Public Health
SIR – After starvation in the Second World War, self sufficiency at nearly any price became the priority. Soon food mountains allowed politicians to cut expenditure on agricultural research and flood defence.
At Easter 1998, 142 constituencies in England and Wales were flooded. The Environment Agency, of which I was the first chairman, pressed the government, supported by the National Audit Office, to increase expenditure by £100 million a year, which it failed to do.
I retired in December 1999, and John Prescott appointed Barbara Young from the RSPB as chief executive. It came as no surprise when, to the relief of the Treasury, she set common sense on its head, called for pumping stations to be blown up and cut maintenance by putting environment first and food and villages second.
However, the long-term blame lies not with Lady Young but with 30 years of governments believing that there are no votes to be lost in flooding the countryside. Lord Smith seems to agree. I doubt January 2014 will change that – it will now all be the fault of climate change.
Lord De Ramsey
Banished Bishop of Wells
08 Feb 2014
SIR – The suggestion that the Environment Agency looks after birds before humans is nonsense. Our objective is to protect people, property and land from the damaging effects of flooding.
Responsibility for protecting the Dawlish rail line sits with Network Rail. We recently met them to discuss the Exeter flood-risk management scheme and its interaction with the rail line to Exeter. There was no suggestion by us that their work to protect the area where the line was damaged could be delayed by a study of local bird life.
On Thursday, the Government announced funding for 42 flood schemes, to protect 43,000 homes across the country. Its long-term flood defence programme, costing £344 million, will ensure 165,000 homes are better protected by 2015.
Prolonged heavy rain, gale-force winds, tidal surges and large waves have affected almost every part of England. Over the period, 1.3 million houses have been protected from the effects of flooding by the Environment Agency’s hard work.
Director of Operations, Environment Agency
SIR – As a parish clerk, I was expected to conduct a risk assessment on any project we carried out. The Environment Agency seems not to have heard of such an exercise. It would have led to decisions of significant help to the Somerset Levels.
Much Hoole, Lancashire
SIR – Was the real reason for drafting in 40 Commando to Somerset to prevent Lord Smith from being lynched by the residents?
Great Whelnetham, Suffolk
Madam – I am sick hearing about homophobia, and the ignorance, fear and smear that travels with it.
Also in this section
Vatican must now put children’s welfare first
Ireland’s calling out for a new rugby anthem
Letters: Why are we paying debts already written off?
Not every older, single, unattached person is gay. I am male, 60 years of age, single and currently unattached. This does not make me gay.
I am very much a heterosexual although I have never been married.
I have had many girlfriends. And no doubt, before I die I may have many more.
I don’t settle easily and tend to have some lone genes in me. However that does not make me, or anyone like me, male or female, gay.
But it does tend to make us targets of evil, ignorant people, or people we fall foul of.
Symbolic image of O’Gara
Madam – Barry Egan’s account of the career of Ronan O’Gara (Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014) was heartwarming, reassuring and at times touching, even tender, embodying all of the ingredients for happiness and fulfilment: glittering success in his sport; a beautiful wife and lovely family; excellent prospects for the future; the observed of all observers, the glass of fashion and the mould of form, to paraphrase Shakespeare.
At one point Mr Egan asserts: “He is obviously an intelligent, even wise, man.” By any reckoning it would seem appropriate for his country to be proud of what he symbolises, and yet paradoxically, it ought to be a tad more circumspect with regard to whether he symbolises his country.
I have in mind of course the image of this paragon with both hands deeply embedded in his trouser pockets in the presence of an elderly woman head of state carrying out her official duties as a guest of his government. A state which, incidentally, over the years has played host to the exiled hordes of his fellow countrymen and women, fleeing poverty and oppression, to an extent that over six million of the population of the UK now claim Irish ancestry. In Mr Egan’s words: “He’s given us memories we will take to our grave.” I see no need to dispute that.
Recently, in one of his classically insightful and instructive articles, Eoghan Harris wrote: “Before 1916, many Irish people were content with the symbols of the British empire such as the Union flag and the monarchy” (Sunday Independent, December 1, 2013). Mr Harris is right. Even Michael Collins, in an extant school essay, wrote of the British empire in glowing terms. There were more Irishmen than English in the British army at Waterloo. The Catholic Church was an enthusiastic advocate for the Empire because of the opportunities it offered to spread the faith. I have read that as recently as the late Twenties, Irish people referred to the British navy as “our navy”.
Hobbs’s analysis one-dimensional
Madam – Opinion columnists often pontificate on the lack of direct expertise of our politicians in the policy areas for which they have oversight. Therefore, it was with interest that we read Eddie Hobbs’s polemic (‘Rigging of market will hike food prices’, Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014) criticising the fact that some members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine are farmers and primary food producers.
Perhaps Mr Hobbs will be shocked to hear that there are business people on the Jobs Committee, and teachers on the Education Committee.
His one-dimensional analysis of our report on the grocery goods sector, including a fanciful implication that we want to hark back to the protectionism of the Thirties, fails to reflect a nuanced and balanced committee report, based on public meetings with a wide range of stakeholders.
Mr Hobbs contends that we want to influence the price of the average shopping basket by use of ‘non-market forces, by lobbyists exercising power, and not by competition’. Far from it. Our rationale was to increase transparency and accountability in the supply chain.
Our committee’s report is pro-market and pro-competition, and the committee agreed that a clear, simplified and robust Code of Conduct would level the playing pitch for each sector in the supply chain.
As for the cheap jibe about a “committee stuffed with FG farmers”, the report was agreed on by TDs and senators from all parties and none, from diverse professional backgrounds. It was informed by public hearings with representatives of primary producers, processors and retailers, including the large multiples, as well as the Competition Authority and the National Consumer Agency.
These flowed into a series of commonsense, practical and actionable recommendations which, if implemented, will bolster the Irish food sector, maintain a vibrant retail sector and protect the consumer.
Deputies Andrew Doyle (Chairman), Pat Deering (Vice-Chairman), Tom Barry, Martin Ferris, Martin Heydon, Michael McNamara, Éamon Ó Cuív, Willie Penrose and Thomas Pringle; and Senators Michael Comiskey, Paschal Mooney, Mary Ann O’Brien, Brian Ó Domhnaill, Susan O’Keeffe; JOC on Agriculture, Food and the Marine,
Leinster House, Dublin 2
Madam – Richard Curran in his in-depth article about the chaotic situation in our health care system (Business, Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014) has highlighted what is of great concern to older people. Many are struggling to maintain their current private health insurance so that they are covered at a critical and vulnerable time in their lives. What has made a bad situation worse is the Government’s policy, which has been to start charging insurers the full price for private beds in public hospitals.
What I find surprising is that nobody has raised the unfair situation where those who have private medical cover get no credit for their PRSI contributions which entitle them to public hospital cover. The value of this entitlement should be offset against their private hospital total cost, which would reduce the bill from the private hospital insurer.
What is often overlooked is that those who choose to go private free up a bed in a public hospital for those who cannot afford private hospital cover. I shudder to think of the time lag for patients waiting for a bed in a public hospital if private medicine did not exist.
Brendan M Redmond,
Terenure, Dublin 6w
Lyric brings joy to thousands
Madam – I cannot believe how undignified some of your letter writers are. The person who resorted to calling Lyric FM presenters by ‘nicknames,’ which he thought were amusing, only served to diminish himself. Lyric FM brings pleasure to many thousands of people, and I hope the listeners and presenters will ignore the snobbery and continue to listen to and present lovely music enjoyed by so many.
Failing to grasp retailer power
Madam – Re ‘Rigging of market will hike food prices’ by Eddie Hobbs (Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014):
As farmers, we make no apology for looking for equity in the food supply chain.
As things stand, our share of the consumer spend on many fresh food items is anything but fair. Eddie Hobbs doesn’t appear to have any understanding of the unrestrained power and uncompetitive practices of the retail multiples.
Before Christmas they sold potatoes and vegetables at a giveaway price of 6 cent/kg. Consumers need to know that retailers only do this to get them in the door, then get them to buy other items and undermine the livelihoods of hundreds of vegetable growers and small, family-run fruit and veg shops around the country.
The IFA will continue its campaign for legislation for a code of practice, and we expect to see retailer legislation announced this year.
Payout stifles free speech
Madam – Free speech and a free and responsible press in this country is not just in jeopardy but is diminishing with the passage of time.
Is there is anybody out there who will argue that RTE’s payment of €85,000 to the six people named will not have a chilling effect on a free press and free speech? If there is, they are truly living in cuckoo land.
Vincent J Lavery,
Irish Free Speech Movement,
Dalkey, Co Dublin
MEDIA NEEDS TO AVOID LEFT BIAS
Madam – Willie Kealy wrote about the RTE payout to defamed persons. (Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014). The issue is not free speech because the defamed were accused of homophobia. Literally phobia is fear but has come to imply hatred and dismissal. He said that “pro-lifers” offered most of the abuse by using “baby-killers” for those who favoured the ill-named “Protection of Life during Pregnancy”.
Even the language used in the Dail by some pro-abortionists toward and about pro-lifers was decidedly vicious as were the small crowds in the streets, including using Savita Halappanavar as an excuse for abortion after her story was known. “Baby-killers” is not the inflammatory language I would use but what else explains a law that was passed against expert obstetrical and psychiatric advice offered to Mr Buttimer’s committee – abortion up to the last day of delivery for a mother who is suicidal?
The media just needs to avoid the usual Left biases on sexual social justice issues and not use homophobia as a word to avoid or distort the debate.
David Quinn asks for “proper civilised debate” and all of you in the media are morally bound to offer it evenly and fairly. Social media at present have no real legal or moral safeguards, except PC censorship of middle-of-the-road viewpoints.
A Proinnsias O Beachain,
GAY COHORT LIKE A DISCIPLINED ARMY
Madam – The homosexual community, both male and female, are very militant in Ireland. They are always ready for a fight nowadays, and I honestly believe they would make a very disciplined army. Far from love and flowers being put down the rifles of opposing soldiers anywhere there are trouble spots in the world, they could kick plenty of ass if given the opportunity.
Are you listening, Ban Ki-moon?
Bantry, Co Cork
MORAL COMPASS SET TO CHANGE
Madam – It’s not that I’m indifferent to the ‘gay marriage’ debate (Willie Kealy, Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014), but that I’m reeling at the prospects for Irish society down the line. Nor is it, in my opinion, an equality issue, since two women or two men do not add up to one man and one woman, which is what defines marriage. Since there will be no particular moral compass to guide behaviour other than ‘what I want’, it will only be a matter of time before there is clamour for other combinations.
AOSDANA SUBSIDY IS JUST €17,000
Madam –Jody Corcoran is a journalist I admire greatly. But in his piece (Sunday Independent, January 26, 2014). about the President’s wife visiting Margaretta D’Arcy he makes an error, which we all do occasionally. The sum (Cnuas) which some members of Aosdana receive to enable them to go on with their work is not €25k pa but €17k. Recipients have to prove their need and outline their use of it so it is best looked on as a subsidy.
Ranelagh, Dublin 6
UPDATE ON STEM CELL RESEARCH
Madam – I write to comment on the article by Emer O’Kelly on human embryonic stem cell (hESC) research in Ireland, (Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014).
The human body is composed of trillions of cells organised into the various types of differentiated tissues, eg muscle, liver etc. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the potential to transform themselves into differentiated tissue cells.
Ms O’Kelly thinks that only two types of stem cell have potential in human medicine – hESC and human adult stem cells (hASC). She agrees that hASC have a limited potential to cure disease but lauds the great and widespread potential of hESC in this regard.
Amazingly, Ms Kelly never mentions a third type of stem cell, the type that has captured most of the momentum in stem cell research since its discovery in 2006. I refer to human induced pluripotential stem cells (hIPSC).
These hIPSC are stem cells that are produced by genetically reprogramming ordinary body cells, eg skin cells, into stem cells. hIPSC are similar in most respects to hESC.
No necessary ethical problems attend research using hASC or hIPSC. Research using hESC does raise an ethical problem, however, because these stem cells must be harvested from human embryos and the act of harvesting kills the embryo. Many people have huge ethical objections to the deliberate destruction of human embryos.
These hESC and hIPSC are much more flexible than hASC and have much more theoretical potential in medicine. Prior to the discovery of hIPSC in 2006, the medically more promising road ahead with hESC research was massively cratered with ethical problems. However the ethically uncomplicated hIPSC are just as medically promising as hESC. The discovery of hIPSC has transformed the whole stem cell research landscape.
Ireland is quite active in hASC research and there is no legal problem here. Neither is there any legal prohibition against hIPSC research in Ireland. hIPSC research is just as medically promising as hESC research and, as far as I know, hIPSC work is in progress here. So, what’s the problem?
Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry,
University College Cork
GRID 25 REVIEW LIMITED BY TERMS
Madam – I refer to the letter from Eamon Ryan (Sunday Independent, February 2, 2014), in which he advised Colm McCarthy to include climate change in his deliberations on the Grid 25 review. Once the review group under Judge McGuinness is legally established, the next step is for Government to provide it with terms of reference. The group’s task is limited to producing a written report covering all matters contained in these terms of reference. Surely Mr Ryan, as a former minister, should know that his concerns are addressed to the wrong quarter. His advice should be addressed to Mr Rabbitte.
His comments on China and the US ignore the fact that China has opened two coal-fired power stations per week for the past four years and the recent climbdown by the EU on renewable targets was done in the context of large energy users relocating to the US as the cost of renewables makes the EU uncompetitive.
While my association holds the members of the review group in high esteem, we have serious reservations about using its findings as a prerequisite for planning consent.
UN and EU law gives the public the right to participate effectively in assessment of plans such as Grid 25.
European Platform Against Wind Farms,
USHERING IN GENDER BALANCE
Madam – A Quote of the Week on February 2 by Carrie Cracknell said that “women are still disproportionately disempowered in public life”. Despite being a majority in the electorate, the low proportion of our public representatives that are women is evidence of that.
If the admittedly controversial efforts to increase the number of women candidates are successful, however, the next election will give the total electorate, and not just women, an opportunity to remedy that situation.
Sutton, Dublin 13