30 March 2014 Sharland

I go all the way around the park listening to the Navy Lark. Our heroes are in trouble, again.They have an party for the admiral. Priceless

Cold slightly better Mary very under the weather visit her Sharland too

No Scrabbletoday Perhaps Iwill win tomorrow.


Lord Kimball – obituary

Lord Kimball was a Conservative MP who made it his mission to champion country life and fly the flag for foxhunting

Lord Kimball inspecting one of his fishing flies

Lord Kimball inspecting one of his fishing flies Photo: GUGLIELMO GALVIN

6:19PM GMT 28 Mar 2014

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Lord Kimball, who has died aged 85, was Conservative MP for Gainsborough from 1956 to 1983 and the last of the Commons’ great country gentlemen. Ruddy of cheek, he was described by a friend as “straight out of an 18th-century hunting field… Looks as if he has port for breakfast, a very good guy who pours proper drinks.”

Marcus Kimball headed a formidable unofficial whipping operation that blocked Bills to outlaw hunting and hare coursing for several decades. Even when facing a mountainous Labour majority after 1997, Kimball, who was deputy president of the Countryside Alliance, managed to head off a ban on hunting for almost two Parliaments.

Though a diligent parliamentarian and loyal Conservative, partisan issues were of less concern to Kimball than the rural way of life. A benevolent patrician, he regarded his constituents as he did the tenants of his estates near Market Harborough and at Altnaharra in Sutherland.

Marcus Kimball in 1970

He felt there should be a sense of proportion over constituency matters, advising aspiring Tory MPs: “If you go after a seat, don’t spoil them by promising to hold surgeries; I never did. And don’t promise to live in the constituency until you’ve found out whether there is a good hunt. You can only get to know a constituency well if you ride over it .”

By the age of six Kimball had been blooded with the Cottesmore; he became joint Master of the Fitzwilliam from 1950 to 1952, and of the Cottesmore from 1956 to 1958. He hunted on 1,182 days during his 27 years as an MP, eventually quitting the field at 68.

His real foes were less on the Opposition benches than in the League Against Cruel Sports and among elements of the RSPCA (of which he was a controversial member). Opponents of hunting attacked his knighthood in 1981 as “deeply offensive”, and booed him for fighting their campaign to replace foxhunting with drag hunting. “Drag hunting,” he told them, “is no substitute for foxhunting. It merely leaves foxes to be indiscriminately butchered, and presupposes that hunting is more cruel than trapping or shooting. People are against it not because it is cruel but because others enjoy it.”

In 1965 he told the RSPCA that it was “becoming the tool of a town versus country campaign based on ignorance”; attempts were twice made to expel him over his support for coursing.

As president of the British Field Sports Society (BFSS) from 1966 to 1982, Kimball offered the RSPCA a deal: if it agreed to talks and to withdraw references to shooting and fishing from its annual report, he could promise the support of BFSS members who belonged to both societies.

At the BFSS, he sought to work with animal welfare groups to promote conservation. He pressed for limits to otter hunting, and in 1971 recommended that coursed hares be given an extra 20 yards’ start. Yet he criticised peers for deciding that curlew and redshank should be protected, saying: “It is a very dangerous precedent to say that because a bird is charming and pretty and makes a nice noise, you should not shoot it.”

Created a life peer in 1985, Kimball deployed his parliamentary skills to continue to frustrate anti-hunting legislation. Prior to the 1997 election he predicted — correctly — that if Labour were elected, a Bill to ban hunting would be promoted at once; he voiced surprise that the rest of the hunting fraternity could not see it coming.

When in 2000 the former Treasury mandarin Lord Burns conducted his inquiry into hunting for a government that privately wished the issue would go away, Kimball told him he could live with “no-go areas” and limits on the number of days hunted. To keep foxhunting alive, he was even prepared to concede the loss of coursing and deer hunting; the Countryside Alliance insisted that he was acting in a personal capacity.

Kimball hoped that the Burns Report would lead to the “survival of well-regulated and reliable hunts” and “a reduction in the impact of some hunts who go too often to their good country”. He added: “There are some very weak hunts hanging on who are not good for the sport.”

Lord Kimball with his daughter Sophie in a plaster cast on her wedding day in 1982

When curbs on shotguns were proposed in 1977, he said it would be better to act against crossbows, a “lethal poacher’s weapon”. But he was a keen advocate of responsible gun ownership, and for five years from 1989 he served on the Firearms Consultative Committee, reviewing the workings of the Firearms Acts; after the Dunblane massacre in 1996 he noted that some guns used by Thomas Hamilton would not have been available to him had the government implemented the panel’s recommendations in full.

Kimball also campaigned for protection for sites of special scientific interest, promoting a Bill in 1964. But in 1991 he claimed £3 million in compensation for not exploiting 35,000 acres of SSSIs on his Sutherland estate. When he did not receive it, he put Altnaharra up for sale.

Kimball was quick to see the threat to rural social life from the introduction of the breathalyser. He urged that magistrates should be given discretion over disqualification for drivers just over the limit whom they considered fit to drive; but his attempt in 1967 to amend the law failed after Labour ministers called for it to receive “the contempt it deserves”.

On social issues he was generally conservative. When separate taxation of married women was proposed in 1978, Kimball said there was “no great demand”, adding: “In my experience, most women faced with a tax demand shove it across to their husband.”

Kimball suffered heavy losses at Lloyds when Syndicate 553 collapsed in 1988, and again when a second syndicate hit the rocks two years later. He accepted his lot with characteristic aplomb: “Insurance underwriting is only sophisticated bookmaking. If the book goes wrong, then you lose. You always pay your bookmaker. Underwriting is the same. You pay up and shut up.”

Marcus Richard Kimball was born on October 18 1928, the son of Major Laurence Kimball, Conservative MP for Loughborough , and educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge; he was Master of the Beagles at Eton and of the Drag at Cambridge. After National Service as a subaltern with the Royal Horse Guards, he farmed near Oakham, and chaired the East Midlands Young Conservatives .

In 1955 Kimball was elected to Rutland county council and fought Derby South in the general election. In February the next year he narrowly held Gainsborough in the by-election caused by the elevation of Capt Harry Crookshank to the peerage. At Westminster, he voted to retain the death penalty; sided with dissidents who feared the Suez adventure would do lasting harm to relations with America; and proved himself one of the best shots in the parliamentary team.

Lord Kimball (centre) at the Peterborough Festival of Hunting in 2010

With Labour in power, he led the resistance to backbench Bills to abolish coursing. When Eric Heffer promoted one in 1967, Kimball told him the screaming of hares when killed was a “chorus of nature”. Harold Wilson gave his backing, and Kimball accused him of “surrender to emotional and ill-informed criticism against a legitimate and traditional country sport”. The Bill passed its Second Reading, but when too few Labour MPs turned up for it to progress further, Kimball declared it “a good day’s sport”.

He left the Commons in 1983. In the Lords he presciently attacked Kenneth Clarke’s Dangerous Dogs Bill as “not properly thought out”, but reserved his strongest criticism for Lord Young’s attempt in 1989 to reorganise England’s breweries and pubs. As the grandson of a brewer, Kimball found it “quite unacceptable” that a Tory government should propose the dissolution of the Brewers’ Society by regulation and interference.

Kimball was at various times president of the National Light Horse Breeding Society and of the Olympia International Show Jumping Championship ; and chairman of the Cambridge University Veterinary School Trust, the British Greyhound Racing Fund and the Museum of Hunting.

He was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Leicestershire in 1984.

Marcus Kimball married, in 1956, June Fenwick, with whom he had two daughters.

Lord Kimball, born October 18 1928, died March 26 2014


Contrary to Joanna Blythman’s call for a rethink on national dietary guidelines about saturated fats, a major guidance change at this point would be premature (“Why almost everything you’ve been told about unhealthy foods is wrong“, In Focus).

The study she highlights was indeed funded by the British Heart Foundation and its finding – that there was no association between the types of fat we eat and our risk of heart disease – was surprising.

But this study alone is not enough to give the green light to eating as much saturated fat as you like. There is a wealth of evidence showing that eating too much saturated fat raises our cholesterol levels, which we know increases our risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

This new research doesn’t change that, even though it clearly shows there is more for us to find out about how the fat we eat affects our risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the meantime, we will continue to advise people not to focus on any single nutrient in their diet but their diet as a whole. We recommend a Mediterranean-style diet, which has been associated with reduced risk of coronary heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.  This represents a whole diet approach with fats mainly from unsaturated sources as well as more fruit and vegetables, fish and fewer sugary and fatty treats.

Our advice is carefully considered and regularly reviewed; it is based on the evidence of robust research, funded by us and others.

These new findings in isolation aren’t enough to change that. But there’s genuine uncertainty in the field and we’d welcome further studies to improve our understanding and help us continue to give the public the best advice possible, based on robust research.

Professor Jeremy Pearson

British Heart Foundation

London NW1

So stuff that is grown naturally, and might be found in the diet of our ancestors, is good for us. Bizarre concoctions such as margarine are bad for us. Sugar, which we cannot find in such abundance in our natural diet, is bad for us.

I guess the adage that you shouldn’t eat anything that your grandmother would not recognise as food should be amended to something that your great grandmother would not recognise as food, with the codicil that we now know that greens are good for us.


Online contribution

The recent focus on sugars rather than calories as a cause of obesity and overweight doesn’t help people to understand that balance is key – not only in the diet but also in balancing calories taken in with calories expended during physical activity. The simple healthy lifestyle message is becoming lost.

Food and Drink Federation members remain focused on working through the Responsibility Deal to play their part in tackling obesity. The calorie reduction pledge, which 11 FDF members have already signed, is directly supporting consumers to reduce their calorie intake, in some case by also reducing sugar.

Reformulating recipes is just one strand of industry action on health; companies are also creating new, healthier options and investing in consumer education. Calls for new structures are a distraction from the good work that is already underway, but, more worryingly, they are confusing public health messaging.

Individuals have access to clear and consistent nutrition information, which includes total sugar content, and which, in the vast majority of products, is also provided on the front of packets.

The labelling of added sugars, as suggested by the chief medical officer in her annual report, is not permissible under European legislation. In addition to the nutrition label, the different sources of sugars used in products will be listed in the ingredients list.

Terry Jones

Food and Drink Federation

London WC2

Will Hutton argues against the new pensions freedoms that have been given to savers on the basis that we all benefit from “risk-pooling” when we buy an annuity (“Osborne’s pensions ‘freedom’ will be a long-term social disaster“, Comment). But he seems to ignore the fact that compulsory annuities are, in effect, a tax on the poor.

Under the current system, most people hand over their pension to an insurance company that promises in return to pay an income for life. The people who do best are the ones who live the longest.

But there is a strong correlation between deprivation and life expectancy. Put crudely, on average, rich people live a long time and poor people die young. So the great winners in the annuity pool are those who have already done well out of life, paid for by those who are at the bottom of the pile. Under the new system, individuals will be free to take the whole of their pension pot as cash. Individuals with a low life expectancy will be able to guarantee that they (or their heirs) get the full benefit from their pension pot, supported by the new, free face-to-face “guidance guarantee” that we are putting in place.

Furthermore, people at the top with large pension pots already have considerable flexibility when it comes to annuities. Those with relatively small pots could find that they couldn’t cash them in but that their pension provider offered them only a lousy rate, with no realistic options for shopping around.

In principle, risk pooling is a good thing. But a system that redistributes from poor to rich does not seem to me to be a part of the fairer society that both Will Hutton and I want to see.

Steve Webb MP

Minister of State for Pensions

Free internet access for all

Michelle Obama suggests that internet access is one of the universal rights (“Internet access a right, says US first lady“, News). If it is to be a universal right then access should be universal, which means that the internet should be treated as a free core service by public libraries. This is something that the independent report on the public library service recently commissioned by the culture minister should be recommending.

Andrew Hudson


Charter won’t end free press

Catherine Bennett is mistaken when she asserts that the royal charter on press self-regulation is “state control” and means “the end of the free press”, that it was cooked up late at night over pizza and that papers that don’t sign up will face punitive damages (“The week when Jagger found the true cost of fame“, Comment).

The charter is the fruit of a year-long, judge-led public inquiry of exemplary fairness, followed by months of effort by politicians to accommodate the wishes of editors who still refuse to face up to the harm caused by their papers’ unethical and illegal conduct.

Every party in parliament endorsed the final document, which closely follows the Leveson recommendations. So did victims of press abuse. So does the public, as polls show, and so do the many eminent people with impeccable free-speech credentials who signed a declaration supporting the charter last week.

Bennett did not mention the substantial advantages of the charter system for the press. It provides the means of winning back public trust; it delivers unprecedented safeguards against political interference; it liberates editors for the first time from the “chilling” effect of litigation by wealthy people and institutions. For the public, in stark contrast with the past, the charter promises fair treatment and access to justice. No wonder so many people support it.

Brian Cathcart

Director, Hacked Off

The beingness of being

Andrew Anthony says to Mary Midgley, possibly taking on the role of devil’s advocate, that gravity or electromagnetic waves “exist –unlike poetry or music – regardless of the human landscape” (“Late stand for a thinker with soul“, New Review). But has anybody ever encountered gravity or electromagnetic waves, or, indeed, any other thing for that matter, independently of human consciousness? Consciousness is the be all and end all, the ground of being. Science may therefore be seen as one part of this consciousness making a model of another part, which is probably why it’s so successful. As Mary Midgley rightly points out, everything has to “go through oneself”.

Ian Cunliffe


West Sussex

Ditch the dye, darlings

Eva Wiseman questions our sanity in injecting poison into our faces to appear younger (Magazine,). One day, we may also look back, incredulous, at it being considered “normal” to colour hair and not wear the wisdom of grey locks with pride.

Sue Jones


The Crimean referendum may have been ‘illegal’ in terms of international law  but the result  was obviously quite genuine

Gavin Turner

Gunton, Norfolk

Heat pumps are not quite as “game changing” as Ed Davey is reported to believe (“Renewable energy from rivers and lakes could replace gas in homes”, 23 March). Typically 1 kilowatt (kW) of electricity is required to produce 3 to 4kW of useable heat from a heat pump. However, electricity can cost three or four times the price of gas per kilowatt-hour (kWh), so the running costs are not necessarily “relatively low”. This is broadly the case whether the electricity to run the heat pump is generated from renewable sources or fossil fuels, as in the case of electricity generated from renewables, there is a lost opportunity cost.

In addition, if the electricity to run the heat pump is generated in a fossil-fuel (eg gas-fired) power station, which may only produce 1kWh of electricity for every 2 to 2.5kWh of natural gas consumed, the overall energy gain is not as large as one might at first suppose.

Heat pumps certainly have their place in a coherent UK energy strategy, but they are not as revolutionary as you suggest in your article.

Dr John Coppendale

Stapleford, Cambridge

The installation of a district heating scheme supplied by heat pumps is very welcome. However, it should be noted that district heating, along with heat pumps, has rarely been found economic in the UK. In countries where district heating is widely used there is a cultural and regulatory environment that supports and encourages their use, and we don’t have this yet. We are seeing one small step, and should not confuse this with a giant leap.

David Wallis

Cirencester, Gloucestershire

Well  knock me down! The Energy Secretary has just discovered heat pumps. It only takes a crisis in the Ukraine for HMG to re-invent the wheel. I am 80 and clearly remember that in the 1950s the Festival Hall was heated by the Thames and a heat-pump system. That was a time when Croydon Council ran all its vehicles on methane gas recycled by its sewage works.

C Moorey

via email

Tony Brenton is a lone voice of reason (“Crimea is lost, but there is a deal waiting to be done” 23 March). The Crimean referendum may have been “illegal” in terms of international law, but the result was obviously quite genuine. If we cannot see that Russia has gone through a much more sudden and traumatic loss of empire than we did, we are very blind to 20th-century history.

By all means plan gradually to make western Europe free of its dependence on Russian oil and gas, which will ultimately make the Russian economy even more of a basket case and help to bring them to compromise with us; but, meanwhile, we should stop posturing and threatening, and try to get round the table with Putin anyway. The alternative of escalating conflict is far too serious for any of us to contemplate.

Gavin Turner

Gunton, Norfolk

The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary is right to say that “the problem with the Budget was that there was nothing for people who can’t afford to save” (23 March). Which doesn’t surprise me as the Chancellor was trying to play to the gallery of core Tory voters whom the party are afraid might turn to Ukip at the next general election.

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

D  J Taylor almost but not quite nails the impact of Old Etonians in British society when he notes that, politics aside, David Cameron seems a more assured performer than Ed Miliband (23 March). The products of Eton are to be found on the left as well as the right, and some are very astute. That however is not what Eton has taught them. That is rather a sense of self-belief and self-confidence that was not imparted, for example, at my north London comprehensive school. So we find with the current Prime Minister that he is a mostly plausible public performer, but anyone looking to him for deep thinking about the problems facing our society is likely to be disappointed.

Keith Flett

London N17


Cash injection needed to boost NHS treatments

DOCTORS often take the attitude that any illness has a simple explanation as a first principle (“Revealed: how NHS betrays cancer patients” and “How did they miss our son’s tumour?”, News, last week). So patients go through a process of elimination before full diagnostic action is taken. This wastes time but saves money in the short term. Britain has some painful decisions to make but we cannot take proper care of people without paying for good treatment.
Hazel Richards, Manchester

Under pressure
While I fully support the Sunday Times cancer campaign, I was disappointed you did not mention that the UK has fewer doctors per head and spends less on health than comparable countries. The pressure on primary care is immense: consultations are up from 300m to 340m in three years, with no increase in full-time-equivalent GP numbers. Only 8% of the NHS budget is spent on primary care, compared with 10% five years ago. A colleague recently said of the NHS: “Quality. Cheap. Access. Pick two out of three.” How true.
Stewart McMenemin, Glasgow

Nothing but praise
Thank you for publishing Dr Tom Goodfellow’s explanation of why people are kept waiting past the six-week deadline for scans (“Scan delays fail to reveal true picture”, Letters, last week). Suffering from advanced prostate cancer myself, I have signed up for your campaign and have nothing but praise for the NHS. I will not survive but I have, through marvellous treatment developments, enjoyed an extension.
Rodney Hooker, Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire

Pancreatic cancer watch
Although not mentioned in your reports, pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of the 21 most common cancers: five-year survival is less than 4% across the UK, a figure virtually unchanged for 40 years.

We are particularly supportive of the first two aims of your campaign: earlier diagnosis and faster access to treatment. At the moment 50% of pancreatic cancer diagnoses are made through emergency admissions. We also know 40% of pancreatic cancer patients visit their GP three times or more before being referred — a higher figure than for many other cancer patients.
Alex Ford, Chief Executive, Pancreatic Cancer UK

Camilla ready
Camilla Cavendish (“Dr Skype is waiting to save your life”, News, last week) is correct when she says that the NHS is “a world away” from being joined-up. So far only one hospital in north Staffordshire has committed to video technology; the rest of us have to go through a process invented in Victorian times.
Tony Kane, Cheadle, Greater Manchester

Support care law reforms
In 2011 the government assigned the Law Commission the task of undertaking a fundamental review of the laws governing the regulation of healthcare professionals in the UK. Ministers recognised that we were hamstrung by laws that were outdated, complex, highly prescriptive and difficult to change. Too often we knew what was wrong, but legal structures designed for a different era made it impossible for us to put things right quickly and efficiently.

The Law Commission was given the task of creating a single, streamlined legal structure covering all nine regulators that would enable us to provide better protection for patients, to be more responsive, to reduce the burden of regulation and to drive down costs. We remain committed to these aims.

The recommendations of Robert Francis QC after events at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust highlighted
the importance of regulation focused on promoting safe, compassionate care rather than intervening only after patients have suffered harm.

That is why we are calling on the government and all political parties to support the publication and urgent parliamentary consideration of the bill proposed by the Law Commission, which is due to be published on April 2, 2014. This will be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring about long-awaited reform.
Mark Addison, Chairman, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Professor Sir Peter Rubin, Chairman, General Medical Council

Sending out a message in fight against slavery

THERE is a simple answer to the question Cosmo Landesman poses about 12 Years a Slave’s failure to stir us to fight modern- day slavery (“Not a single leg iron smashed by 12 Years a Slave”, Comment, last week). The film, while having hugely important lessons for today, is, as Landesman says, anchored in history.

If we are going to hold out hope for the 29.8m people in slavery in the world today, then we need a contemporary message that engages individuals, governments, civil society organisations and companies to fight contemporary slavery in all its forms, and particularly in company supply chains. While slavery operates in many forms across this country, most of it is “offshored” in the supply chains of imported products.

The one person who has worldwide appeal is the Pope. His recently announced Global Freedom Network initiative, through which the Catholic Church will work with the Church of England, Islamic leaders and the Walk Free Foundation, aims to deliver co-ordinated worldwide action to ensure that ours is the last generation that has to fight the trade in human lives.
Frank Field MP, Chairman, Joint Select Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill, House of Commons

Charity case
Landesman comments that the film has not generated the expected upsurge in support for anti-slavery organisations. No one has asked me to donate to such a charity, although there are people asking for money for other good causes every week.
David Harris, London SW13

Long shot hits the target

HAVING just read Camilla Long’s review of Jonathan Glazer’s ghastly Under the Skin (“Much ado about nothing”, Culture, March 16), we write to thank her profusely for being the only critic who has not been taken in by “the emperor’s new lingerie” (brilliantly pithy of Long) starring Scarlett Johansson. Despite Joss Ackland’s criticism of Long’s past reviews (“Film reviewer flunks her screen test”, Letters, last week), we agreed with every word she wrote and are perplexed that other, usually perceptive critics have been so bamboozled. That some have compared this very poor movie to the work of geniuses such as Stanley Kubrick and Nicolas Roeg is worrying. It would be interesting to know what Michel Faber thinks about this adaptation of his book.
Michael Walker and Genevieve Allenbury, London W4

PC brigade wrong on sharia wills

YOUR article on sharia-compliant wills (“Law body’s guide to sharia ‘backs discrimination’”, News, last week) included a hysterical overreaction by the Lawyers’ Secular Society to Law Society guidance on their drafting.

English law permits people to draft wills according to their own desires. If they want to give less to daughters than sons, they are allowed to do so. If they want to bequeath money to only persons of a specific religion, whether Muslim, Mormon or Methodist, they are entitled to do so, in the same way as they have the right to cut a child out of the will for any reason they wish.

Many relatives disagree with a will, but that is the decision of the person making the will. The job of a lawyer is to draft a will that reflects the client’s wishes. It is not their job to draft a will that “shows respect for diversity”: the Equality Act does not extend to the dead — yet.
Neil Addison, Barrister, New Bailey Chambers, Corn Exchange, Liverpool

Wrong call

I have just read the article “Jihadists urged to attack Queen at sports events” (News, last week). Then just a few pages later there was the story “School’s ‘£70,000 for prayer hailers’”, which alleges that Park View School in Birmingham has installed loudhailers in the playground to call pupils to Islamic prayer. The grovelling to the politically correct is truly at epidemic proportions.
Brian Watson, Purley, London


Forced disclosure
It is telling and frightening that the Department of Health issued a ban on burning aborted and miscarried babies (“Thousands of foetuses burnt as ward waste”, News, last week) as clinical waste — and in some cases in furnaces used to generate energy for powering hospitals — only after a media investigation was about to reveal this evil practice to the public.
John Reid, Sunningdale, Berkshire

Need for speed
In his correspondence “Hitting the buffers” (Letters, last week) Gordon Vinell suggested that the UK is not large enough to justify having a high-speed railway line. Countries smaller than ours and with a greater density of population, such as Belgium and Holland, have established high-speed train services. In Taiwan such a line links the capital, Taipei, with the second city, Kaohsiung, a distance of 214 miles — about the same as London to Preston. The line carries more than 100,000 passengers a day. Here the main routes will soon reach full capacity, and rebuilding existing lines while they are fully operational is not feasible. Also there are regeneration benefits that a new railway line will bring to the regions.
John Chapman, Hythe, Kent

Opening doors
With reference to the reported state school antipathy to Oxford and Cambridge (“Anti-Oxbridge teachers hold state pupils back”, Letters, last week), there is nothing new under the sun. In the 1950s a headmaster at a north of England grammar school told a pupil, “If Leeds was good enough for me, it’s good enough for you.” That situation was dealt with by letters to various Cambridge colleges, one of which accepted the pupil.

My own route to Cambridge was orthodox, but with only two women’s colleges it was a steep hill to climb. The pupil and I met and married, but our youngest child faced her own hurdles before becoming the first woman to go to sea in a Royal Navy vessel. Her route involved saying “Why not?” several times. Things can, and do, change. Some doors need a firm hand to push them open.
Ann Franklin, Rugby, Warwickshire

Marriage counselling
Tanya Gold (“Cor blimey, Mary Poppins, you make William and Kate look radical”, last week) suggested that Norland nannies were “married to the job”, and that “there is always something suspect about an unmarried woman, something needing to be explained”. Being one of these unclaimed treasures myself, I am shocked Gold thought that this remark was worthy of a good journalist.
Angela Fowlis, St Andrews, Fife

Wish they were here
I was interested in the snapshot of Nottingham given in the Best Places to Live in Britain supplement (last week). You referred to “the big, open Old Market Square, lined with cafes and restaurants . . .” There is not a single cafe or restaurant in the square, nor has there been in many years. There are two large pubs and a coffee chain outlet in a corner. There is certainly nowhere that could even remotely be classed as suitable to go for an evening meal.
Cliff Billington, Nottingham

Bang out of order
Regarding how the universe was born (“The biggest bang”, News Review, last week), will this knowledge stop wars, house the homeless, feed the hungry or teach the illiterate to read? Thought not.
Terry Slater, Harlow, Essex

Corrections and clarifications

Newport Girls’ High School was listed as being located in Newport, Gwent, in our Best Places to Live in Britain supplement (last week). It is actually in Newport, Shropshire. We apologise for the error.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission ( or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)


Warren Beatty, actor, 77; Eric Clapton, guitarist, 69; Robbie Coltrane, actor, 66; Celine Dion, singer, 46; Astrud Gilberto, singer, 74; MC Hammer, rapper, 52; Norah Jones, singer, 35; Eddie Jordan, former F1 team boss, 66; Ingvar Kamprad, founder of Ikea, 88; Lord (Mervyn) King, former governor of the Bank of England, 66


1842 ether used as an anaesthetic for the first time, by US surgeon Crawford Long; 1856 Treaty of Paris is signed, ending the Crimean War; 1979 Tory MP Airey Neave is killed by an INLA car bomb; 1981 President Ronald Reagan is shot by John Hinckley Jr; 2002 death of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother at the age of 101


Time: Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Prisoners Exercising’, 1890, after an engraving by Gustave Doré Photo: Bridgeman Art Library

6:58AM GMT 29 Mar 2014

Comments81 Comments

SIR – As the mother of a prisoner who has a long sentence, I am aware that most people feel that a person is in prison for punishment and shouldn’t be allowed books or other “luxuries”. What most do not understand is that the lack of freedom is, in itself, a huge punishment.

Since Chris Grayling has been Justice Secretary, my son’s prison does not allow books, has closed the art and music rooms, and allows prisoners outside for half an hour only at meal times so they must choose either to eat or to go outside.

At weekends, the outside time is only at breakfast which, in the winter, is when it is dark. Education courses are only allowed for prisoners who will shortly be released and not for long-term inmates. My son is bored and says that he would be happier breaking up stones with a pickaxe every day – at least then he would get some exercise and fresh air.

What are we trying to achieve with those in custody?

Gay Crampton
Kingsbridge, Devon

SIR – I would like to know on what basis the Prime Minister claims that voters “were happy to wait for a say on Britain’s place in the EU until after the general election”.

Over the last few years, opinion polls have consistently shown that the majority of the electorate wants a referendum now, in order to settle the question once and for all. A growing number are in favour of leaving the EU.

David Cameron’s statement underlines how out-of-touch our politicians are when it comes to the views of the public.

David Samuel-Camps
Eastleigh, Hampshire

SIR – For many years I have represented small food businesses in Britain in consultations about new food regulations with the European Commission and European Parliament.

In every case, I have been listened to, and changes have been made to proposals in response to rational argument. In every case, too, I have been the only person from Britain at these meetings.

We have had some notable achievements when impractical proposals have either been dropped or successfully modified.

Sadly, I cannot afford to continue as no one contributes to my expenses.

It is wrong to think that the Commission and the Parliament ignore our views. If we do not express them rationally at the right time, we get what we deserve.

Bob Salmon
Food Solutions
Greetham, Rutland

SIR – In the vote for independence in Scotland, 51 per cent will carry the day.

In the event of a referendum on Europe, will a similar percentage count? Or will we be told that we need a higher percentage to trigger a decision to leave the EU?

Peter Thompson
Sutton, Surrey

Unequal partners

SIR – Alice Arnold writes: “From today same-sex couples will be able to get married, not civilly partnered, but married. We will

have exactly the same rights as everybody else.”

That is misleading. Same-sex couples may choose between marriage and civil partnership, but heterosexual couples are excluded from the provisions of the Civil Partnership Act.

Tim Clarke
Calbourne, Isle of Wight

Four pairs bad

SIR – Researchers at Toronto University need not be concerned that children “attribute human behaviours and emotions to animals”; they have always had a realistic view and we should not patronise them.

As an occasional assistant librarian, I used to ask children if they had enjoyed the book they were returning. One day, I was solemnly informed by a little girl that it was a “silly book”. She went on to explain that “spiders don’t wear shoes”.

Edward Cartner
Plymstock, Devon

SIR – Do concerns about giving animals human attributes extend to George Orwell’s Animal Farm?

Bruce Cochrane
Bridge of Allan, Stirlingshire

SIR – I was brought up on Winnie the Pooh and Rupert Bear. It hasn’t done me any harm. I have discussed this with my dog, and he agrees with me.

Chrissy Catchpole
Forest Row, East Sussex

Plumb apprenticeships

SIR – The continuing fall in unemployment is welcome news: the latest figures show 63,000 fewer jobless people in the last quarter. But too many young people are still out of work and risk becoming trapped on benefits. We need to get young people off the dole and set up for life.

One way to do this would be to divert Job Seeker’s Allowance (JSA) cash – about £3,000 per year, per person – to small businesses to pay for apprenticeships. If a suitable apprenticeship were offered to a young JSA claimant, but he or she turned down or quit the position, he or she would lose the unemployment benefits.

It makes no sense to have young people going nowhere on benefits when they could be learning a trade that would give them purpose and a career for life.

If we could get half of Britain’s 314,430 young JSA claimants off benefits and into apprenticeships, it would free up millions of pounds to fund these opportunities.

Andrew Boff
Member, London Assembly (Con)
Charlie Mullins
CEO, Pimlico Plumbers
London SE1

Breaking Saudi ties

SIR – Saudi Arabia’s Sunni regime is destabilising the Middle East by playing the sectarian card against “apostate” Shias. It would have the West go to war with Iran. It promotes the export of Wahhabism, which has spawned jihadists behind al-Qaeda.

It’s time the West distanced itself from the Saudi ruling family. The arms lobbies will complain about export losses, but they should be ignored. The so-called Saudi oil weapon is bluff: the regime needs oil revenues to placate its subjects.

Yugo Kovach
Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

Time on your hands

SIR – It is possible to own too much. A person with one watch knows what time it is. A person with two is never quite sure.

Sue Owen
Colwyn Bay, Clwyd

This little piggy

SIR – My mantra for socks and sandals is “knees and toes”. Either both or neither visible at any time.

Peter Humphreys
Bebington, Wirral

Museum workers solve First World War mystery

SIR – Petersfield has a small museum, which has put on a special display of artefacts from the First World War. My husband lost two uncles during the war and has loaned the museum some interesting items relating to these two brave men for display.

One uncle was a pilot in 204 Squadron of the RAF and died on October 27 1918. After the war, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) confirmed on three occasions in writing that neither had a known grave.

However, two young museum workers organising the exhibition did some research and found that, in fact, the original information held by the CWGC was incorrect, and that Lt Philip Frederick Cormack did, indeed, have a grave, in a French cemetery in Belgium.

An English researcher visited the cemetery in 2009, found a grave with the name Cormack on a cross, and realised that the name was English and he should not have been there. The French confirmed that they had no record of a Cormack being killed. It seems that, shortly after being shot down in 1918, he was found by the Belgians, who mistook him for a Frenchman, and he was buried in the Machelen cemetery 25 miles from Ghent.

The mistake was rectified 95 years later, when the CWGC replaced the French cross with a British headstone last December.

Patricia Cormack
Petersfield, Hampshire

SIR – Those in charge of the nation’s health want us all to be obliged to ingest fluoride with our drinking water, ostensibly to protect our teeth.

What if we have no teeth? My mouth is full of dentures. Why, simply because parents can’t be bothered to stop their children eating too many sweets, should I be made to swallow unnecessary chemicals ?

If folk wish to use fluoride to protect their teeth, they can use fluoridated toothpaste. In fact it is difficult to find a toothpaste that isn’t fluoridated.

To use drinking water to introduce medication is a dangerous precedent – what next, slimming drugs to counteract obesity and contraceptives to keep down the population?

John H D Gibson
Malvern, Worcestershire

SIR – Philip Johnston (Comment, March 26) correctly identifies water fluoridation as a controversial issue, but it is one that politicians must grasp. Dentists still treat far too many children suffering from severe tooth decay which, it should be remembered, remains an entirely preventable condition. In Britain it is probably the earliest and clearest indicator of health inequalities. Water fluoridation probably represents the single most cost-effective way to reduce tooth decay in large parts of the population.

None the less, the British Dental Association remains clear that, however effective water fluoridation may be, it is no substitute for an integrated oral health strategy that includes improved oral hygiene and reduced sugar consumption.

The review of water fluoridation by Public Health England may help extend water fluoridation to those communities that would benefit most from it. If that potential is not realised, too many young children will continue to have teeth extracted in hospital. That’s a tragedy that can be avoided by grasping the political nettle. So the BDA supports the introduction of water fluoridation as one part of an integrated oral health strategy.

Graham Stokes
British Dental Association
London W1

SIR – In Lancet Neurology this month, the paediatrician Philip J Landrigan and Professor Philippe Grandjean of Harvard School of Public Health write that, after looking at 27 studies, they now classify fluoride as a “developmental neurotoxin”, which can harm children’s brains.

The biggest falls in tooth decay are in Sweden, Holland, Finland and Denmark, which don’t fluoridate their water.

Ann Wills
Ruislip, Middlesex

SIR – Since 97 per cent of mains water is used for other purposes than drinking, dosing the community with fluoride in this way is the least effective action imaginable.

Tony Jones
London SW7

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – In last week’s Sunday Independent Allison Pearson in an article entitled “You can’t help but think, ‘what a waste'” speculates on why L’Wren Scott, Mick Jagger‘s girlfriend, took her own life. As she states, “suicide is always a chilling mystery, a desolating act, and often an accusation”.

Also in this section

Think the unthinkable

Separating religion and education

In the interests of justice, Shatter must resign

Suicide is always a tragedy and can leave surviving friends/relatives with many questions. This is especially true when the person who does this act is young and from an outside perspective appears to have so much to live for.

It is not so much a desire to end their lives but a desire to end whatever pain the person is enduring that is paramount in the person’s mind. Human emotions are powerful entities. They have the ability to give us profound periods of ecstasy such as the love we may feel for someone, but equally they can bring us to the edge and beyond in despair. Each of us is different and reacts to various situations in a variety of ways. This has to do with personality as well as previous traumas experienced. Unless the feelings associated with what life throws at us are expressed at the time, they build up and manifest in different ways. If you don’t speak them out you will act them out.

Young people need to be educated on the importance of expressing their feelings and having them validated. It is never too early to start this. In this way they gain confidence in themselves and their abilities to deal with life’s stresses in adulthood are much greater and have a more solid foundation.

It is not so much the hand of cards you are dealt with in life, but what you do with them that is more important. Greater openness and acceptance in the fact that we are emotional beings will lead to a greater chance of people having the confidence to express their feelings and not act them out in destructive ways such as suicide.

Hopefully we won’t have the need to speculate after the event what emotional triggers brought the person to commit the ultimate act of self destruction. The person will be attuned to their own emotional well-being and have the confidence to seek help and hopefully resolve whatever turmoil they are in.

Thomas Roddy,



Madam – It was with deep regret that I learned of the resignation of my former colleague, Martin Callinan, a decent and brave man who sacrificed his career to satisfy the howling mob, yet rightly did not fully accede to all their demands.

Martin was always a decent and honourable man who believed in doing right. When the mob have finished with Alan Shatter, where will they turn their eyes next – the CRC, the HSE, the church, the legal profession? And are we now to forget about the kind of discretion that might have been exercised by a humane garda in the past? Maybe some of those who are loudest in the mob today, might some day have need of that discretion.

John Barry,

Malahide, Co Dublin


Madam – Garda chief Martin Callinan resigns. It is time that the entire Irish media and many politicians in Dail Eireann, who for the most part do not have a creative solution to the problems facing this nation, apologise to Mr Callinan and the Irish public for creating an environment that not only brought discredit on Mr Callinan, and by extension 13,000 members of the Garda Siochana, but also caused the resignation of an outstanding leader.

No citizen should be pressured into resigning nor should consideration be given to firing such an individual for the use of a single word. Surely the Irish citizen is sufficiently educated to live with and accept or reject a single word used by a man in a position of power and influence and accept or reject his explanation without concluding that the punishment for such an expression of opinion is resignation or firing? This whole affair indicates we have a very immature republic/ democracy.

Vincent J Lavery,

Irish Free Speech Movement,

Dalkey, Co Dublin


Madam – Maurice O’Connell’s letter (Sunday Independent, March 23, 2014) made interesting and novel reading. Ireland needs and deserves a ‘new politics’ for the very obvious reason that the old ones have been a catastrophic failure, at least for the majority of the ‘plain’ people. It is perfectly understandable that he “‘can see no coherent and potentially politically effective group in Leinster House’, likely to effect the necessary change”.

After all, why should they surrender their hard-won privileges? Patriotism, like everything else, has its limits. In any case it would mean admitting to a colossal lie perpetrated on the people for almost a century, and they in turn would have to admit to being duped to such an extent. There’s the rub, as Shakespeare put it.

Your noble endeavours deserve every success on ‘the long, hard road to such a new politics’.

William Barrett,

Surrey, UK


Madam – A Leavy (Sunday Independent, March 23, 2014), appears to be under the illusion that only a ‘token’ percentage of women are allowed stand for election to Dail Eireann; as if they need permission to raise their numbers.

He struggles with the notion that there must be some sinister reason why many more women do not put themselves forward for election. Quite simply, if they aren’t in, they can’t win. The daft idea of there being a 50 per cent quota of female TDs elected, is a farcical scenario to attempt.

What is the answer if strictly half of those going forward are women but only 10-20 per cent win?

Should a hefty portion of the successful male candidates be forced to give up their seats?

Why not scrap elections for women altogether and just proceed with a selection of Dail female TDs who are acceptable in political circles and stick them into Leinster House seats, while the men can fight it out among themselves in the current fashion? This would be much easier than “forcing” us to vote for women, especially if they are not our choice of candidate.

Robert Sullivan,

Bantry, Co Cork


Madam – Further to Sheila O’Flanagan’s and A Leavy’s letters (Sunday Independent, March 23, 2014), Ms O’Flanagan may appear to make a persuasive case for all-female quotas but things are not as simple and one-sided as she and A Leavy imply.

Ms O’Flanagan asks: “How many male politicians have achieved office because they are part of a political dynasty rather than because they have done anything noteworthy?”

It’s a valid question but the same could be asked in relation to some female politicians.

She also asks: “How many businessmen found themselves moving up the ladder because of the school they went to?”

Again, it’s a valid question but it’s not just women who are adversely affected: throughout history, men of superior ability have been, and, we can be sure, continue to be, passed over in favour of lesser men for appointment to office because they have not belonged to the right cliques or been in favour with relevant powers-that-be.

Hugh Gibney,

Athboy, Co Meath


Madam – In response to Jim Cusack’s article (Sunday Independent, March 23, 2014) on the recent burial service of a known criminal; as a practising Catholic it galls me to witness the Catholic Church allowing this practice to continue when the person or persons are known criminals. The celebrant who officiated at the service stated that “gangs had lost any sense of mercy”. Should a protector of known extortionists, money launderers and drug dealers be afforded a Christian burial? What mercy have these criminals shown to the young vulnerable people who have had their lives destroyed? Pope Francis referenced the Mafia – he warned them “that they will go to hell” for their criminal activities.

Haven’t we our own Mafia here? The words of scripture come to mind, “All who draw the sword will die by the sword” – Matthew 26. I rest my case.

Journalists have risked their lives in an effort to expose and shame these criminals – why not the churches?

Name and address with Editor


Madam – Eoghan Harris asks: “Can any classic field game such as hurling or rugby be completely safe?”

The answer is no. The HSE informs us that every taxpayer in Ireland is paying €3,313 every year because of alcohol abuse.

How much are sports injuries costing us?

Mattie Lennon,

Blessington, Co Wicklow


Madam – I refer to the news (Sunday Independent, March 23, 2014), that Margaretta D’Arcy had been released from prison. At the risk of being unkind to an elderly, unwell lady, I must protest at her promise to continue her protest at Shannon Airport. Does she not take into account what a great friend to Ireland the US has been – both commercially and in helping to attain a peace in the North? Has America no right to defend itself against terrorism? At best her behaviour is laughable and at worst it takes up valuable garda time. My advice to “The Margaretta” is “go home m’dear, put up your feet and relax”.

Dan O’Connell,

Cork city


Madam – John McClung (Letters, March 23, 2014) tells us he is sick of Northern Ireland being referred to as ‘the North’. In return could he ask the people there to respect Ireland by calling it Ireland. Not ‘the South’, ‘the Republic’ or ‘the Republic of Ireland’. Ireland is the official name. The Republic of Ireland is its descriptive name. Perhaps he would like to contact the media there and ask them to exercise their right to ‘edit where necessary’ also?

John Brady,

Phibsborough, Dublin 7


Madam – As well as wholly agreeing with Mary Farrell’s point that “We can’t trust shambolic HSE to run disability sector” (Sunday Independent, March 16, 2014), I think it is sadly conspicuous that the State has no means to audit the effectiveness or value of the mixed-performing disability service contractors to which the HSE has “passed the buck” (in all senses, of course).

In the brain injury sector – with adult services being non-existent in Co Meath, she says, (as in many elsewheres too) – the level of HSE contracting-out, buck-passing, is far greater in Ireland than in any other European country, I believe.

However, we share a similar prevalence of brain injuries: two per cent of all our populations, that’s one in 50 among us, have a daily-living disability from brain injuries, resulting from head injuries, strokes and also tumours, aneurysms and other causes.

That’s practically 100,000 people in Ireland. A multiple of that number are closely concerned, with families and friends.

Being so important, individually and in public health numbers, anybody with their wits about them among our health “leaders” would prioritise this challenge, not just pass the buck for even more of eternity.

By the way, those who have had brain injuries would be very much better re-enabled to take part and contribute to all our lives (maybe rather well) if there were adequate rehab and disability care systems.

That would be a boost for everybody.

There are also fantastic savings available from smaller ongoing health care costs (by saving people from worse health), let alone lightening (emotional and financial) burdens on carers.

Roll on better, independent, insightful analysis and advocacy in this area.

Paul Barrett,

Nenagh, Co Tipperary


Madam – No murder in the history of the Troubles can evoke more emotion than the murder of Jean McConville in 1972. That her body was also given special treatment and ‘disappeared’ in order that her family suffer more is even more sickening.

That 10 children were left without a mother didn’t seem to matter. Their father had already died, and so they became orphans.

Her surviving 10 children got no dispensation from the IRA, only the occasional threat to keep quiet – even though Gerry Adams, the republican leader in Belfast at that time, came from a family of 10 surviving children himself.

There was no empathy in their hearts, no honesty in their deliberations, no thought of what might happen to her children.

They lied about her keeping an army radio, passing on information and even coming to the aid of a dying soldier – as if she should be afraid to do this.

They tell us how Bloody Sunday, also in 1972, showed us what the British are really like. The murder of Jean McConville reveals a lot about egomaniacal cowards consumed with a perceived power over those who had no guns. Such are the origins of evil.

John O‘Connell,



Madam – I read today in the (Sunday Independent, March 16, 2014) that Jim Culloty’s home had been ‘burglarised’ when he was at Cheltenham.

No it wasn’t, it was burgled. Since when did your newspaper become American?

I have also read articles by Irish reporters saying that they have ‘gotten’ something.

Is this the influence of some of your staff having spent their ‘gap year’ in America?

Carole Molloy,

Foxrock, Dublin 18

Sunday Independent


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