I go all the way around the park listening to the Men from the Ministry: Our heroes face a terrible fate a defense job Priceless
Mary homesort out books
Scrabbletoday, I got 400, Perhaps Marywill win tomorrow.
Colonel Miloslav Bitton – obituary
Colonel Miloslav Bitton was a Czech fighter pilot who ran escape lines out of his homeland and fought with the Desert Rats
7:56PM BST 27 Apr 2014
Colonel Miloslav Bitton, who has died aged 94, ran escape lines out of Czechoslovakia in the Second World War before serving with the Desert Rats in the Eighth Army and then as an RAF fighter pilot in bombing raids over Germany.
In 1939 Bitton had just begun his second year at the Commercial Academy in Bratislava when the Germans completed their occupation of Czechoslovakia. They were dealing harshly with men in the Army and Air Force, many of whom had gone into hiding. As Bitton spoke Hungarian, he was asked by several bank managers if he would help them organise an escape route, taking small groups by train and on foot to within a quarter of a mile of the Hungarian border.
Sometimes the escapees suffered from exhaustion and frostbitten feet as they made their winter crossing. Bitton’s mother, however, made white capes to hide the men from the border guards.
After security was tightened, escaping Czechs started to be caught and so Bitton had to cross the border with them, help buy them railway tickets and teach them a few words of Hungarian. The penalties for aiding escapees were severe. Slovak nationalists and zealous policemen were the main hazards and Bitton’s clandestine work placed him in increasing danger.
On one occasion, a man burst in on Bitton and one of the bankers. He was a pilot. “Quick,” he cried. “You have got to save me. The police are after me.” He gave the right password and so Bitton exchanged his overcoat for the man’s blue coat and helped him get away.
Bitton was warned that he could be arrested by the police at any moment and so, in February 1940, he crossed the border into Hungary under the cover of a blizzard. He had to bribe a farmer to provide a horse-drawn sledge to take him within walking distance of a railway station. Although his train was searched twice he arrived safely in Budapest. In the city he made his way to a “safe house” only to learn that his contact had been arrested by the secret police and the place was under surveillance.
Bitton set up a new escape route in Budapest. This time onwards to Yugoslavia. He would take between 10 to14 Czechs at a time, pretending that he was in charge of a group of sportsmen. He held their tickets and did all the talking to the conductor on the train to Nagykanizsa, in south-west Hungary. There he handed them over to another guide who arranged for them to be ferried across the River Drava to Yugoslavia.
About 100 Czechs were imprisoned in the Citadel of Budapest and rumours circulated that they would be handed over to the Gestapo. There were plans for a mass breakout in which Bitton’s role was to arrange for lorries and taxis to enable them to get away. The secret police had, however, found one of the safe-houses and roughed up the owner who subsequently betrayed Bitton’s hiding place. He was arrested. On the way to the interrogation centre, he tried to bribe the driver of the police car with his watch, a ploy which failed.
On arrival he was put in an iron cage measuring about 10ft by 12ft – along with 40 or so other detainees. When he was interrogated, he denied any knowledge of Hungarian, claiming that he wanted to get to Yugoslavia and then Paris. He was beaten so severely that he passed out twice.
After being transferred to a civilian jail, in April he was released and expelled to eastern Slovakia. He made his way back to Budapest, however, and used his own escape route to reach the River Drava. He and his companions hid in bushes on the river bank watching the guards’ patrol boat plying up and down, its searchlight sweeping over them. They waited for nightfall and, choosing their moment carefully, piled into their boat and crossed into Yugoslavia by moonlight.
Miloslav Kratochvil was born on October 14 1919 in the village of Alexandrovka, a Czech settlement in Ukraine, about 100 miles north-west of Odessa. His mother and father were farmers; Miloslav was the youngest of their six children.
In 1926 the family moved to Czechoslovakia, where his parents continued to manage farms. Young Miloslav bred rabbits to help make ends meet and his parents kept five dogs to deter burglars. When he was aged 14, his parents could not afford to keep him in school and he took up an apprenticeship in the grocery trade in nearby Bratislava.
After his escape to Yugoslavia in 1940, he acted as a liaison officer between the Czechoslovak military mission and the Yugoslav civil and military authorities. His job was to interrogate escapees and furnish them with travel documents for their onward journey.
In June, supplied with documents from the French Consulate, he travelled to Syria and then to a camp near Acre, Palestine. After a move to a transit camp at Gedera, west of Jerusalem, he and his companions were issued with uniforms and arms by the British.
By December, when they were in Jericho, their small force numbered about 400. There were, he wrote afterwards “hot and dusty winds by day, freezing temperatures at night, scorpions and tarantulas everywhere, insects and malaria – we had to cope with everything.”
In May 1941 they were ready for frontline duty and moved, as the Czechoslovak Infantry Battalion, to the Western Desert. Active service took Bitton to Egypt and then to Libya where he took part in the defence of Tobruk.
In 1942, requests came for more airmen to join the existing Czech squadrons in England and in October he boarded a ship bound for England. On New Year’s Day 1943 he joined the RAF Voluntary Reserve. Basic training in England was followed by advanced flying in Canada.
Miloslav Bitton during the war
He won his wings in March 1944 and in January 1945 was posted to No 310 Squadron. His first assignment was to help provide fighter cover for 150 Lancaster bombers during a raid on Dortmund. He married, in April 1945, Joan Bitton, whom he met at a dance in Manchester (he took her maiden name in 1953).
A few days before the end of the war, his Spitfire lost power over Sussex and crashed. The aircraft turned over, pinning him to the ground, and caught fire. He was pulled out by farmers in the nick of time. By the time he was classified as fit again that September the war was over.
He rejoined his squadron in Prague and continued his flying career in the Czechoslovak Air Force but after the communists took power, he once again decided to escape. His wife and son were able to leave the country legally but Bitton had to dodge the border guards to cross into the American Zone in Germany.
He and his small group crossed at night but when one of them tripped on the railway line they came under heavy automatic fire. One of them was killed; four others were captured but Bitton reached safety. After a frustrating wait for a visa in a displaced persons’ camp, in June 1948 he was back in England.
He and his wife made their home in south Manchester. Faced with starting a new life again, he found employment with a bakery and catering company where he worked for 13 years and rose to become senior manager. In the 1960s he opened a restaurant in Altrincham, Cheshire, which proved a success.
In his spare time he enjoyed gardening and carpentry but his real passion was meeting his Czech comrades and reminiscing about their home country and old times. After the “Velvet Revolution” conditions changed and, in the summer of 1991, for the first time in 43 years he was able to return to Czechoslovakia and visit his family and friends. Together with other former Czech RAF airmen, in May 1995 he was publicly rehabilitated, and received an honorary promotion to colonel.
Bitton’s services in the Czech underground were recognised by the award of the War Cross and the Military Medal for Merit. He published Narrow Escapes (2013) an account of his wartime adventures.
His wife and one son predeceased him and he is survived by their other son.
Miloslav Bitton, born October 14 1919, died February 25 2014
Ernerst Thesiger, left, with Colin Clive in The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). Twenty years earlier, Thesiger had served in the army in the first world war. Photo: Ronald Grant Archive Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive
The remark “Oh, my dear! The noise! And the people!” (Letters, 25 April) is usually attributed to my great-uncle Ernest. Camp he certainly was. He enlisted as a private in September 1914, aged 35. “I thought a kilt would suit me, so I applied at the London Scottish headquarters, but my Scottish accent, assumed for the occasion, was apparently not convincing.” So he fell back on the Queen Victoria Rifles, was wounded on New Year’s Day 1915, and later (when not on the stage) taught needlework to soldiers in hospital.
• I will feel more like responding to a nudge when I hear that Coca-Cola is asking to be nudged, or the tobacco industry, the alcohol industry, the banks and all those organisations curiously missing from Cass Sunstein’s article (We should be nudging people, not shoving, 25 April). Nudge theory has all the superficial attractiveness and intellectual fragility of trickle-down economics. How many lives would have been lost if we were merely nudged into wearing seat belts?
• Re your article (Fall in murder and violent crime, but increase in rape, survey finds, 25 April): what is rape, if not a violent crime?
• William Cobbett called London the Great Wen, a wen being a lump of fat on the head. What’s left, then (Letters, 26 April).
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
The contribution of neuroscience to our understanding of human development is in its early stages (Written on the brain, Zoe Williams, 26 April). Its current contribution is heavily linked to existing frameworks developed and articulated over the last 75 years. The first is that family life and parenting from day one are crucial and the qualities associated with that are well understood. It has driven the UK’s childcare policy to stop caring for children in institutions – something that still happens in many other countries. The second is that we are social beings and the relationships we make are key to sustaining us in addressing life’s challenges. Family life is at the centre of these. Thirdly, human beings are extraordinarily adaptable and our survival has depended on that – it is unhelpful for any theory to appear to trap individuals in their early experiences alone.
The article raises questions about the contribution that neuroscience makes to children who become the responsibility of the state due to abuse and neglect. The challenge of using what we know through research and evidence to ensure this highly vulnerable group are afforded the same opportunities for their development as any other children couldn’t be more pressing. Neuroscience can make – and is making – its contribution, but society now has generations of expertise and experience in what counts. We all must ensure that this continues to drive and is resourced in current policy and practice.
Director of policy, research and development, British Association for Adoption and Fostering
• Zoe Williams raises interesting points in her attempt to cast doubts on current neuroscience which seems to show that the neural connections in brains of infants are enhanced if the babies are nurtured by a parent figure who is attuned to their needs, and conversely, in the absence of such nurturing care, babies will lack empathy, will develop more slowly and may be more likely to become part of the criminal population.
My own view, from more than 50 years working with children and families, is that neuroscience is now giving credibility to observation and research over the years, from the experiment with baby monkeys which showed that they thrived better when in contact with a “nurturing” soft mother than with a harsh mother, through John Bowlby’s observations of babies in nurseries to day-to-day examples of the animated responses of babies who are in securely attached and attuned environments. From these observations, it seems that all very young mammals thrive if they can attach in their early years, to a nurturing and attuned adult.
Neuroscience seems to be confirming that this is so, and that this is necessary for the babies to reach their full potential. The damage caused by neglect in the early years is not irrevocable – therapeutic reparenting can enable the adult to learn to overcome their emotional and social difficulties. And, yes, helping the parents of neglected children should always be the first port of call.
• Most reputable neuroscientists would agree that research linking early experiences to specific brain developments is still itself in its infancy, and cannot be used as diagnostic of individual cases. It is an unfortunate consequence of family proceedings taking place in closed courts that journalists cannot attend them to know what actually goes on there. However, after three decades’ involvement in child protection law, my accumulated experience tells me that early lack of good-enough parenting can and does leave a lasting mark on a child’s later development, whether or not this is currently evidenceable by neuroscientific research.
Furthermore there undoubtedly is, sadly, a clear statistical link between poor parenting and poverty, probably for two reasons. One is that being a good parent is easier when you have more resources to back you up: there is considerable objective evidence that seriously harmful physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect of children is more prevalent in families for whom life is harder. (Interestingly and in contrast, sexual abuse rates are remarkably constant across all social classes.) Secondly, and maybe more importantly, there are a small number of adults in this country who are not very good at anything – not at parenting, not at adult friendships or relationships, not at holding down a job nor paying their rent reliably. Inevitably, wherever these people started on the socioeconomic spectrum they then drift to the bottom, and become the stereotyped single parents struggling to cope in poor circumstances. Again, in my professional experience, I have not met many whose lack of interpersonal skills of all types cannot be attributed to a lack of adequate parenting when they themselves were very young.
So placing children for adoption instead, as early as is feasible, may be harsh, but it’s currently the best way we have of interrupting this cycle of inter-generational deprivation.
Steve Bloomfield’s article (Broadcast views, 25 April) is hardly a balanced view of the Russia Today channel. I have not noticed any “conspiracy theories”, still less the “antisemitism” ascribed to presenters, actually being aired.
RT is certainly not without fault but it is different: and it is this difference that is so important but, above all, so refreshing. If you are tired of the suffocating trivia, celebrity worship and deference to the super rich that takes up so much of mainstream news – and you wish to see a new and diverse range of reporters, presenting radically different views to those that are usually broadcast – then tune into RT.
The “impartiality” advised by Ofcom may distort the facts of contemporary conflict and much else; aggressors treated the same as victims, superstition given the same emphasis as science etc.
RT performs a valuable service by frequently broadcasting a trenchant critique of contemporary capitalism. The truly shocking facts of corporate greed and theft, together with the lacerating satire offered by Max Keiser in the Keiser Report, should be essential viewing these days.
This of course presents an amusing contradiction, considering the gangster capitalism that thrives in Russia today.
• Steve Bloomfield deftly elides Rory Suchet’s apparent suggestion that an argument exists, into Suchet’s own “views”, and thence into RT’s. A neat job in innuendo-based propaganda – which kind of illustrates just the sort of thing RT tends to go on about.
In 1988, Alan Bennett, Craig Raine, Christopher Hope, Timothy Mo, Sue Townsend and I were treated to lunch at the Georgian State restaurant in Moscow by the Great Britain-USSR society. The food was eatable and there was plenty of wine and beer. The waiters were friendly. Since we had no commitments that evening, some of us decided to return to this haven of civilisation.
Those same waiters who had been courteous a few hours earlier were now surly and off-handed. The most inviting lunchtime dishes were no longer available and our requests for wine and beer were greeted with disdain.
We were on the point of leaving when the main door of the restaurant was swept open by the poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the laureate whose lyrics had touched the hearts of a succession of tyrants, with his wife, elegantly encased in an outfit designed and made for her by a Paris couturier. He noticed that Sue was smoking, glared at her and boomed the one word, “Cigarette”. Sue smiled at him. “You could say please.” The stupefied poet managed to say “Please”.
“That’s better,” said Sue. “It’s quite easy to be polite, isn’t it?” She then had a brainwave. “If you can persuade the waiters to bring us some bottles of wine and beer, I will give you the entire packet.” After some shouting in the kitchen, the drinks duly appeared.
Such were Sue’s moral values. She believed in good manners and kindness, and she loved a good joke.
You are to be applauded for highlighting the failure of the United States to keep the Middle East peace process on the road (“Yet another betrayal of the Palestinians”, 26 April).
In practice, there has been no realistic peace process since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. The Israeli government complains that it has had no partner for peace, yet Mahmoud Abbas has always been a willing partner. The recent agreements between Fatah and Hamas are merely being used by Israel as an excuse to stall the process still further.
Israel has never been willing to accept the idea of an independent Palestinian state as an equal partner. The most it was prepared to concede was a client state cut into non-contiguous zones by vast swathes of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
It is also unrealistic to expect any Palestinian negotiator to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. This is to deny full rights of citizenship to that significant minority of Israel’s population, mainly Palestinian Arabs, who are either Muslim or Christian.
In a recent speech, Peter Hain said that many significant players, such as John Kerry and William Hague, believe that time is rapidly running out for a two-state solution, and that we need to consider various models of a common-state solution as the only realistic way forward.
Speaking at a meeting in Liverpool recently, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, Professor Manuel Hassassian, looked back to medieval Andalucia as a golden age when Jews, Muslims and Christians lived together in harmony in a vibrant and intellectually productive culture, and suggested that this could be a model for a future state.
Although, as he pointed out, this is not the policy of the PLO or the Palestinian Authority, it is a solution that should be seriously considered.
I have visited both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and found, underneath the conflict, a vast fund of goodwill on both sides, which could be exploited to achieve it.
The West should stop pursuing the chimera of a two-state solution as if it were the only show in town, and seriously consider the option of a common state.
David W Forster, Liverpool
Benjamin Netanyahu announces a halt to the peace process in response to unity between Hamas and Fatah. How will we notice the difference?
There are no serious peace talks and never were; the Israelis continue to take more Palestinian land; Abbas isn’t strong enough to agree a deal that involves major concessions to Israel, which any final settlement is bound to include.
However, a unified Hamas-Fatah government might just be able to sell such a solution to the Palestinian people.
Netanyahu loves to say of the Palestinians that “they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”. Now the opportunity of a lifetime is staring him in the face: a Palestinian government with enough authority to deliver a solution. The question is: is he strong enough to seize it or is he going to do the usual politician thing and settle for the comfortable option of doing nothing while blaming others?
John Sears, Brentford, London
The front page of The Independent is where I expect to receive news, not opinions. Robert Fisk’s report of the cessation of the talks between Israel and the Palestinians was a biased summary.
One gets the impression from his article that if only Mr Fisk were in charge of running US foreign policy, then he could have made peace within a few days. For some reason, he is being ignored by policy-makers.
Please try to save the front page for objective news reporting.
Dr Stephen Malnick, Rehovot, Israel
Welcome step towards low-carbon energy
We at the Institution of Engineering and Technology welcome the announcement by the Department of Energy and Climate Change of private-sector investment in eight major new renewable energy projects and hope that it will be the first of many.
If the policy is to supply 15 per cent of total energy from renewables by 2020, this is a welcome step in that direction. At present, renewables supply about 4 per cent of total UK energy use, and around another 2 per cent is already approved or under construction.
These latest contracts will add a further 1 per cent. Bearing in mind that to complete the final design, build and commissioning of a sizeable project takes three or four years, the renewable capacity that will be in service by 2020 will have to be given the go-ahead within the next two years or so – we need an announcement like this every couple of months for the next two years.
A diverse range of low-carbon energy projects needs to be accompanied by energy demand reduction and development of the underpinning electricity network infrastructure to create a fully functioning low-carbon energy system for the 2020s.
Professor Roger Kemp, Institution of Engineering and Technology, London WC2
Myopic and political intransigence are driving a scheme (“‘Breathtaking spending spree’ used to boost Green Deal”, 26 April) that is fundamentally flawed in every aspect.
If any of our politicians spent time reading the professional architectural and construction-industry press, they would have long ago abandoned such a deal. It doesn’t and never has stacked up, even if loans were at 0 per cent interest rates. I pity the 2,100 homes that have already been duped into the scheme.
We urgently need significantly to improve the energy efficiency of our homes, but not with this Green Deal.
Peter Gibson, Great Rollright, Oxfordshire
New Turkish visas are user-friendly
The article by Simon Calder “Turkish delights get tangled in red tape” (5 April) admirably portrayed the joy of the holiday season in Turkey, albeit with some misleading information regarding Turkey’s visa procedures.
The new system is neither expensive nor complicated. Most importantly, the e-visa system does not require the applicants to go through tiresome and time-consuming face-to-face visa interviews. The concerns that some holidaymakers would not be allowed on board their planes to Turkey because they did not know about changing visa procedures are misplaced. The visa-on-arrival practice will continue until we are certain that everybody is “on board”.
The three-minutes average time for obtaining an e-visa is not merely a claim but a fact of statistics generated from more than 1.3 million e-visa applications. Moreover, e-visa fee is cheaper than visa-on-arrival.
The article correctly pointed out that for “nationality” travellers from Britain must select “United Kingdom” rather than “British”. To correct this, the term “nationality” has been replaced with “country/region”. Family and group e-visa applications have already been introduced.
Since its launch in April 2013, more than a million people have obtained their visas through the e-visa system. Almost a quarter of the applicants are from the United Kingdom. We invite our British friends to try the e-visa system out for themselves and visit Turkey.
Unal Cevikoz , Ambassador, Turkish Embassy, London SW1
The subtext is: these actors lack training
Howard Jacobson (26 April) will have noticed that subtitles on foreign-language TV series actually make one pay attention to the dialogue. That may be one reason we find the plots more absorbing.
But the muttering and lack of clarity (realism?) which is so infuriating on much TV drama stems from a school of acting that relies on microphone technology to get round actors’ lack of stage training and experience. Stage acting requires good voice projection. TV does as well, but our TV-addicted producers and directors haven’t worked that out yet.
Martin Hughes, Winchester
Howard Jacobson’s suggestion that the BBC should attach subtitles to all its programmes and do away with sound altogether could perhaps be extended further by also doing away with the pictures.
The display of words alone could start a whole new trend, but a name for this innovation is obviously needed. Er, perhaps “books”?
Malcolm Marsters, New Malden, London
British version of Christianity
Is Britain a Christian country? Only if Christian is a synonym for a capitalist, military, industrial complex with lots of pomp.
Lee Dalton, Weymouth, Dorset
How to put the heat on a cold caller
A friend has a method with cold callers (letters, 26 April) which I’ve not had the chutzpah to try out myself.
He lets them talk on and on and then says, breathing heavily: “I say, your voice is so sexy. What have you got on?”
Peter Forster, London N4
The prime minister’s pledge to halt public aid for wind farms is a good start, but it does not go far enough
Sir, The prime minister’s pledge to halt public aid for wind farms (Apr 24) will be welcomed in mid Wales, where very tall and expensive turbines blight the landscape.
Many windfarms are planned and built against the wishes of local government by absentee landlords (including the Crown Estate) and developers, who ignore the damage they cause. They get huge subsidies for which we all pay in our energy bills while their huge profits result in little (if any) tax to the Treasury; some are controlled from tax havens. The turbines are made abroad, and such projects produce very little local employment. The community fund is rightly perceived by residents as bribery.
Of course the UK needs renewable energy; most people support offshore wind, tidal, solar and hydro power, but politicians in London need to understand the very strong local views against onshore wind farms in their backyard. Mr Cameron now “gets it”, but will he go further and, as in Scandanavia, compensate those whose homes will be blighted for years to come?
Si r David Lewis
Sir, In his criticism of Conservative plans to stop subsidising wind energy, Peter Franklin (Thunderer, Apr 25) omits to mention that Britain’s economic recovery, and its ability to lift households out of fuel poverty, are reliant on generating electricity from the cheapest and most abundant fuels available.
The Department of Energy & Climate Change’s figures show that between December 2013 and February 2014 coal shouldered 41 per cent of UK electricity supply, ahead of gas and atomic generation. Coal is cheap, abundant and readily available from many domestic and global suppliers. Britain must exploit this and extend the lives of its coal-fired power stations so that they can run past 2020. This will allow the UK to avoid an energy crisis and provide a bridge to coal with carbon capture and storage in the next decade.
Centre for Policy Studies
Sir, Having called time on wind farm subsidies, the government could also attend to the nuisance of solar roof panels. These receive a subsidy seven times the level for turbines while contributing one third of 1 per cent of the UK’s energy needs.
The burden on the consumer could be cut by bringing the subsidy for both kinds of energy to the same level, as measured by the benefit in reducing CO2 emissions. According to government figures, solar panels are now paid for at £560 per tonne of CO2. If this were a just payment, the average UK citizen with the nine-tonne per year emission footprint ought to be paying £5,040 for the privilege.
Dr E L Rutherford
Sir, The Energy Secretary wants more wind turbines (Apr 23), but first we should develop a viable means of largescale energy storage. Without it, every megawatt of wind and solar generating capacity has to be matched by an equal amount of conventional generating capacity, for when there is no wind or sun. Such duplication is an enormous waste of effort and a needless cost to every taxpayer.
Intense research and development into energy storage now will ensure that the right amount of wind and solar generation can be built and fully utilised in future.
Darlington, Co Durham
Sir, We oppose the Medical Innovation Bill (aka the Saatchi Bill) which seeks to promote medical innovation by dispensing with current clinical negligence law in relation to decisions to provide treatment. The Bill is well-intentioned but flawed.
As the Medical Defence Union has said, there is no need for this Bill. Clinical negligence law does not impede responsible innovation; it requires only that treatment should be supported by a responsible body of medical opinion, even if the majority of doctors would not support it.
The proposed legislation is not well targeted. The Bill does not define “medical innovation”. It would remove liability for negligent treatment even if it were outdated or spurious. The Bill says nothing about the regulation or funding of innovative treatment.
The Bill does not adequately protect patients, in particular vulnerable ones whose conditions might lead them to seek obscure or untried treatments. While, as now, the patient’s consent would be needed, the Bill does not require treatments to be approved by governing bodies, ethics committees or any other doctors, only that the decision-maker has considered certain matters and has acted in an open and accountable manner.
Proponents of the Bill have claimed that it will “change medical history” and lead to a cure for cancer. Those claims are misleading and prey on the hopes of those with cancer. This Bill should not become law, and the government should look at other ways of promoting medical innovation.
Nigel Poole QC, Kings Chambers, Manchester
Suzanne White, Partner on behalf of Leigh Day Solicitors
Professor Michael Baum, Emeritus Professor of Surgery, UCL
Peter Walsh, CEO Action against Medical Accidents
Matthew Stockwell, President, Association of Personal Injury Lawyers
Stephen Webber, Chairman of the Society of Clinical Injury Lawyers
Catherine Collins, Chair of England Board, The British Dietetic Association
Keith Isaacson, Chairman, HealthWatch
Alan Henness, Director, The Nightingale Collaboration
Laura Thomason, Good Thinking Society
Margaret McCartney, GP, author and broadcaster
Professor John McLachlan, Professor of Medical Education, Durham University
Professor Richard Ashcroft, Professor of Bioethics, QMUH
Professor David Curtis, Honorary Professor of Psychiatry
Kate Rohde, Partner, Kingsley Napley LLP
Edwina Rawson, Partner, Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP
Dr Simon Taylor QC
Amanda Yip QC
William Waldron QC
Sir, Although the Prime Minister and Chancellor rightly promote the value of Britain’s exports (Apr 17), it is worrying that this value is being undermined by our companies and industries losing hundreds of millions each year from intellectual property (IP) infringement. The UK’s creative sector, including the design industry and branded goods, contributes more than £250 billion a year to the economy but is being harmed by illegal copying, counterfeiting and the weakening of IP rights.
Individual creators, small start-ups and multinationals can only prosper with a stable and effective legal framework, and the government can do much more to protect intellectual property. In its IP manifesto, published today, the Alliance for Intellectual Property spells out what actions the government should take to give our businesses and creators the conditions they need to innovate and stay competitive in global markets.
Richard Mollet, Publishers Association
Andrew McCarthy, British Brands Group
Jo Dipple, UK Music
Richard Scudamore, the Premier League
Dids MacDonald, Anti-Copying in Design
Lavinia Carey, British Video Association
Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive, BPI
Jo Twist, Chief Executive, UK Interactive Entertainment
Nick Fowler, Managing Director, Academic and Government Institutions, Elsevier
Chris Marcich, President & Managing Director EMEA, Motion Picture Association
Chrissie Florczyk, Director General, Anti-Counterfeiting Group
Martin Inkster, Managing Director, UK and Ireland, Philip Morris International
David Thew, David Thew & Company Ltd
Thomas Parrott, Managing Director, Beachbody UK
Owen Atkinson, Chief Executive, Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society
Maureen Duffy, Honorary President, Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society
Phil Clapp, Chief Executive, Cinema Exhibitors Association
Kieron Sharp, Director General, Federation Against Copyright Theft
Helen Nicholson, Chief Executive, Educational Recording Agency
Kevin Fitzgerald, Chief Executive, Copyright Licensing Agency
Audrey McCulloch, Chief Executive, Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
Gilane Tawadros, Chief Executive, Design and Artists Collecting Society
Mark Batey, Chief Executive, Film Distributors’ Association
Sir, The “offices of rector and chancellor” may have been clarified by the Rev Graeme Muckart (letter, Apr 24), but only partially. I attended Edinburgh University, where the rector chaired the university court, not the senate, and I understand the same arrangement applies at Glasgow. A youthful Gordon Brown was a student rector in the 1970s and took exception to the university holding shares in South African companies while he chaired the court.
The senate, or Senatus Academicus, is, not surprisingly, concerned with academic matters where the principal (vice-chancellor) presides, though most undergraduates, even postgraduates, are probably unaware of the distinction.
David McA McKirdy
Mansfield Woodhouse, Notts
Sir, The phrase “back to square one” (On this Day, Apr 23) originated from the board games of the 1920 and 1930s, not the football field grid in the Radio Times. These games were played on a board rather like a chess board. The squares were numbered, starting usually from the bottom left corner, across and up the board to the top right finish.
Many squares contained instructions which you had to act on when you landed there: for example, “Miss your next turn”. One, usually near the finish, was “Go back to square one” — ie, start again.
The football commentators’ grid was, of course, simply to help you to visualise which area of the field the play was in. The grid number was spoken by a different voice.
Threshfield, N Yorks
SIR – In your report about the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund (April 13), Norman Lamb, the health minister, describes wanting to discuss four personal health concerns in a single appointment with his GP.
A full-time NHS GP typically has 2,000 patients. To meet their needs, most GPs offer appointments at 10-minute intervals. It would be unsafe to attempt to address three or four different health issues in a single appointment.
The share of the NHS budget spent on general practice has fallen from over 12 per cent four years ago to 8 per cent, while workload has soared. Many GPs routinely work 10-12 hours a day, every hour of which requires constant, focused attention.
There is a widespread recruitment and retention crisis and the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund will do nothing to remedy this. Sadly, it is our patients who suffer.
While Mr Lamb may wish to try an email consultation, he should first consider whether this is the best way to deal with what is likely to be a complex matter.
He should also consider whether he would like to be dealt with by a doctor who may already have been working for 12 hours that day.
Dr John Cosgrove
Midlands Medical Partnership, Birmingham
Dr Prit Buttar
The Abingdon Surgery, Abingdon
Dr Chidozie Adiele
Bridgegate Surgery, Retford
Dr Deboshree Basu-Choudhuri
Nuffield House Surgery, Harlow
Dr Dana Beale
Meadowell Centre, Watford
Dr Natasha Beardmore
Moorcroft Medical Centre, Hanley, Stoke on Trent
Dr Catherine Black
The Laurels Medical Practice, Tottenham
Dr Rachel Blackman
Hartley Corner Surgery, Blackwater
Dr Andrew Blease
The Cedars Surgery, Walmer, Deal
Dr Claire Bonner
Poplar Grove Practice, Meadow Way, Aylesbury
Dr James Booth
Melbourne House Surgery, Chelmsford
Dr Russell Brown
Manor Park Surgery, High Street, Polegate
Dr Martin Brunet
Binscombe Medical Centre, Godalming
Dr Catherine Cargill
Blackwater Medical Centre, Princes Road, Maldon
Dr Ajali Chandra
Dr Vivian Chen
Hornchurch Healthcare, Hornchurch
Dr Naylea Choudry
Darwen Health Centre, West Darwen
Dr Alessandra Dale
Stanley Corner Medical Centre, Wembley
Dr Isobel Davies
Abbey Surgery, Tavistock
Dr Stephanie deGiorgio
The Cedars Surgery, Walmer, Deal
Dr Claire de Mortimer-Griffin
Dr Simran Dehal
Kingfisher Practice, Hounslow
Dr Helen Drew
Barton House Group Practice, Hackney
Dr Paul Evans
Tyne and Wear
Dr Mark Folman
The Fountain Medical Centre, Newark
Dr David Fox
Highglades Medical Centre, St Leonard’s on sea
Dr Hussain Gandhi
Wellspring Surgery, St Anns, Nottingham
Dr Kamini Gautam
Dr Sandeep Geeranavar
Langton Medical Group, Lichfield
Dr Siobhan Gill
Brooklane Surgery, Southampton
Dr Karen Goodfellow
Lister GP Walk-In Centre, Southwark
Dr Pauline Grant
St Clements Practice, Winchester
Dr Sally Harrison
Emmersons Green, Bristol
Dr Maria Henson
Dr Bob Hodges
Barnwood Medical Practice, Gloucester
Dr Sukhdip Jhaj
Silsden Group Practice, Silsden
Dr Rajiv Kalia
The Spires Practice, Lichfield
Dr Sameer Khurjekar
Chichele Road Surgery, London
Dr Bastiaan Kole
Dr Alison Lawton
Parkview Medical Centre, Long Eaton, Nottingham
Dr Ruth Marchant
Manorbrook Medical Centre, Kidbrooke
Dr Adrian Midgley
ISCA Medical Practice, Exeter
Dr Kim Morgan
Dr Aditya Narkar
Dr Ayo Onasanya
Oak Tree Medical Centre, Ilford
Dr Kamal Patel
Langley Medical Practice, Surbiton
Dr Arup Paul
Globe Town Surgery, London
Dr Veronica Priestley
Grove Medical Centre, Egham
Dr Neetha Purushotham
Gillian House Surgery, Palmers Green, London
Dr Nadiya Rizvi
Dr Leah Robinson
Bilsthorpe Surgery, Bilsthorpe
Dr Stewart Rutherford
Morrab Surgery, Penzance
Dr Vishal Sagar
Hampton Medical Centre, Hampton
Dr Lynette Saunders
Newbury Street Medical Practice, Wantage
Dr Christopher Schoeb
Ingleton Avenue Surgery, Welling
Dr Shameer Shah
Stanhope Surgery, Waltham Cross
Dr Shama Shaid
Dr Michelle Sinclair
Richmond Surgery, Fleet
Dr Satish Singh
Staithe Surgery, Stalham
Dr Julie Stanton
Yorkshire Medical Chambers
Dr Siobhan Stapleton
Mansell Road Practice, Greenford
Dr Dax Tennant
Downlands Medical Centre, Polegate
Dr Ida Tuck
Churchill Medical Centre, Kingston upon Thames
Dr Nicola Waldman
Merton Medical Practice, London
Dr Deborah Webb
The Old School Surgery, Stoney Stanton
Dr Ross Wentworth
The Poplars Medical Centre, Swinton, Manchester
Dr George Winder
Oakwood Lane Medical Practice, Leeds
Dr Dilanee Wirasinghe
Cassidy Medical Practice, Fulham
Dr Sally Wood
Station Drive Surgery, Ludlow
Dr Alan Woodall
Machynlleth Medical Practice
Dr Justin Woolley
Kew Medical Practice
Dr Sarah Worboys
James Wigg Practice, Kentish Town
Dr Saher Zakai
Boney Hay Surgery, Staffordshire, Burntwood
SIR – For over 60 years, each generation of Britons has enjoyed increasing wealth and rising income. Yet we have failed to save – in fact, each generation has saved less and borrowed and spent more. Those of us retiring now and in the next few years will be the last to enjoy financial security during our lifetimes unless action is taken.
Only a third of British families save regularly and a further third have no money left at the end of the month to save at all. The situation is most acute for those aged 35 or younger, as they are hit by rising housing costs, higher debts and less generous pensions than their parents. They may live longer and be healthier, but is their old age to be dogged by financial hardship?
Today sees the publication of a review that we, as 22 leading companies from across the financial services sector, have commissioned to highlight the savings crisis facing Britain.
We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change people’s attitudes to saving and develop long-term policies to avert this crisis. We want to work with political parties, regulators and consumer groups to develop an effective savings and investment policy.
The Chancellor in the recent Budget gave people greater control over their savings at retirement and the Government has established auto-enrolment, a laudable initiative which came about with cross-party support. It has introduced millions of people to long-term saving but more has to be done.
27 Apr 2014
We recognise that the financial services industry has to do better – being more transparent in the way we communicate, eradicating unnecessary complexity and listening to our customers so we can help them enjoy financial security.
We urgently need to address the savings imbalance if we are to deliver sustainable long-term growth, stability and prosperity.
Managing Director, BlackRock
Chief Executive, Zurich Life UK
Head of Investments and Protection, Nationwide
Director of Investing and Protection, Natwest
Head of Business Development and Strategy, Fidelity
CEO, Henderson Global Investors
CEO, Threadneedle Investments
UK & Ireland Life & Pensions CEO, Aviva
CEO, Legal & General
Strategy Director, AXA Wealth
CEO, Old Mutual Wealth
EMEA CEO, Northern Trust
Chairman, Simply Biz
Managing Director, Charles Stanley Direct
Head of Financial Services, Pinsent Masons
Managing Director & Head of UK Retail, JP Morgan Asset Management
Chairman of EMEA, Bank of New York Mellon
Savings Director, Lloyds Banking Group
SIR – The Office of the Public Guardian (OPG) fee for registering lasting power of attorney (LPA) is £110. There are two types of LPA, one covering property and financial affairs and another for health and welfare. To register both types costs £220. People who are on means-tested benefits or a low income may qualify for a reduction or may not have to pay fees at all.
It is likely that the £700 fee quoted included consultation with a legal adviser. Some people prefer to take advice if their estate or family affairs are particularly complex, however this is not mandatory. The forms, guidance and online application have been designed to make people more confident of making an LPA themselves.
If someone loses mental capacity and there is no LPA in place, a deputy has to be appointed through the Court of Protection. This can be a time-consuming process and the fees are far higher than registering the LPA with OPG. For this reason, we encourage people to plan ahead and choose the person or people best placed to make decisions on their behalf should they not be able to do so.
EU costs vs. benefits
SIR – Where is the cost/benefit analysis that allows the President of the CBI to claim that “For the UK in particular, the benefits of our membership for citizens and businesses have significantly outweighed the costs”?
Successive governments have steadfastly refused to carry out such an elementary exercise and the only authoritative study remains that by the respected economist Prof Tim Congdon, who concludes that the EU is costing the UK the equivalent of over 10 per cent of GDP per annum (£165 billion in 2013).
If Sir Mike Rake wants to win this argument he will have to do better than worn-out platitudes.
Driving me crazy
SIR – Having travelled by car around various parts of Britain recently I wondered whether some local authorities know that the Second World War is over?
Signposts taken down during the war to confuse the Germans can now be restored. It is easy to go round in circles trying to get anywhere in this country.
Voices of discontent
SIR – The recent problems involving the quality of sound on the BBC’s Jamaica Inn reminds me of seeing James Mason in Measure for Measure at the Stratford Festival, Ontario in 1954. The Festival started in 1953 and the plays were performed in a huge canvas tent.
The mellifluous tones of Mason’s voice disappeared as he struggled to project enough. He admitted in an interview that “Having made movies for so many years with a microphone just inches from my head, I have lost the ability to project to the back of the theatre.”
When the festival launched with Alec Guinness as Richard III, the flaps of the tent were said to shudder with the power of his voice when he said, “Now is the winter of our discontent”.
Perhaps one reason for the inaudability of our modern television actors is their lack of experience in live theatre.
SIR – There was an important omission from the list of pioneering achievements in Brighton.
Along the sea front runs the world’s oldest operating electric railway, the forerunner of electrified lines across the globe, opened in 1883 thanks to the inventive genius of Magnus Volk.
As bad as it gets
SIR – What annoys me is people saying “Can I get?” when ordering something in a shop, pub or restaurant.
I’d love to be able to answer “No, but I’ll bring one for you!”
SIR – Every generation has its own expressions, many of which break the rules of grammar and usage.
Conversational English has never rigidly followed the rules and never will. As long as we understand what is being said, what is the problem?
Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire
Les’s jeux sont faits
SIR – My memory of Skindles Hotel is of when it had a casino. As we approached it one evening to go there for a meal, the big sign on the roof was all lit up except for the “D”.
“SKIN LES” it proclaimed. I didn’t go anywhere near it.
SIR – In a recent advertisement in your newspaper, I noted the English National Ballet is to be performing Romeo & Juliet but was bemused to note that all of the principal dancers are foreign: Carlos Acosta (Cuba), Tamara Rojo (Spain), Vadim Muntagirov (Russia), Daria Klimentová (Czech), Friedemann Vogel (Romania) and Alina Cojocaru (Romania).
The ENB’s website shows that only 13 of the 70 dancers are English, which suggests that the company prefers buying in foreign talent to nurturing home-grown dancers.
Amazingly, the ENB is funded by the National Lottery and Arts Council England, who seem to be able to find money to act as an international ballet employment agency at a time when this country is suffering huge cuts in welfare funding, high unemployment and has a massive annual debt.
SIR – As a previous governor (1993-99) and senior teacher at Park View School, I fully endorse the reporting by Andrew Gilligan into the alleged Islamist plot in the six Birmingham state schools.
So far, reports on the loss of good staff at Park View School have been restricted to the five head teachers that have gone in the last five years or so. In fact, due to the behaviour of the governors, it goes back much further than that.
A good head teacher was forced to resign in 1999 only six months after successfully bringing the school out of special measures. Prior to this, teaching staff voted a motion of “no confidence in the governing body”, which was transmitted to Birmingham local education authority (LEA).
An acting head teacher was brought in by the LEA because of its awareness of the difficulties with the governors at Park View. He described the governors as “doing their own thing and I wash my hands of them” .
The senior management team was disbanded and a new leadership group installed by governors who did not appear to follow the correct procedures for making the appointments. They appointed an assistant head teacher who had been a head of department for less than a year.
27 Apr 2014
One senior teacher resigned immediately after 23 years of service and I was dismissed in 2003 when I tried to raise the problems with prospective colleagues visiting for interview. An officer of Birmingham LEA informed the deputy head that I “had a case, but we don’t want to replace one set of problems in Park View with another”.
Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire
SIR – The problems we have with school governance these days is the fault of successive education ministers over many years.
The solution is simple – a state education that is managed by a national (UK-wide) education board of experienced academics with regional boards and inspectorates to ensure that every school in the country is of equally high standard. Incompetent teaching staff and head teachers should be removed, free schools discontinued, and a school curriculum imposed that does not contain any reference to religious education.
Peter J Fitch
SIR – It is worth remembering that this Islamic “plot” was exposed by whistleblowers, not by school inspectors. It must be time for a rethink of the system for inspecting schools. Ofsted might trumpet now that it has exposed the fact that only one of 17 schools inspected under the “Trojan horse” project had a clean bill of health, but where was it while the plot was being implemented?
Once this fiasco is resolved, steps must be take to ensure that nothing like it can ever happen again.
Mawnan Smith, Cornwall
SIR – Islamicising education involves denigrating other faiths, particularly Christianity. I object to my Christian faith being disrespected in this way. If Islam were to suffer the same treatment, imagine the uproar.
I’m sure that most Muslims do not countenance the misguided behaviour of the militant few, and nor does the British public in general. Instead of remaining silent, we need to be more vocal. As Edmund Burke said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.”
Newcastle Emlyn, Carmarthenshire
SIR – How many schools in the United Kingdom – in cities such as Leicester, Manchester, London, Leeds and Bradford – may be suffering under the same oppressive control, with girls and boys being segregated and girls forced to the back of the class?
SIR – Perhaps the Government and local authorities will now take seriously the incursion of Islamist extremists into British society.
J B Harvey
Charlmead, West Sussex
As an alliance of organisations concerned with improving energy efficiency through the refurbishment of Britain’s homes, we are writing to express our grave concern regarding proposed changes to energy efficiency legislation and to ask that you reconsider the dramatically reduced target for solid wall insulation (SWI).
The eight million British households currently living in energy-leaking solid wall homes, including half of our most hard-pressed “fuel poor” families, have been badly served by successive Governments. Through their energy bills they have paid £2.7bn into “energy efficiency obligations” over the last decade and have received very little in return.
The proposals set out in your Government’s “Future of the Energy Company Obligation (ECO)” consultation, which closed earlier this month, will perpetuate this unfair situation for the foreseeable future.
A more than 75pc reduction in the ambition for SWI under ECO will cripple the growing SWI industry, result in 20,000 job losses, and leave those living in solid wall properties suffering from the highest fuel bills.
At the rate proposed in your consultation, it will take 300 years to get these homes to a decent state of energy efficiency. In the meantime, the lack of SWI means that these eight million properties are emitting 6m tonnes of unnecessary carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year.
A report published by the Institute for Public Policy Research demonstrates the substantial benefits of SWI to the UK. With the right support framework, for every £1 invested in the installation of SWI, the Exchequer will recover 50pc to 100pc or more in the same year, proving that Government investment in SWI makes economic sense.
The report also demonstrates that the positive impacts through employment, health and social benefits for residents present a compelling case for continued and strengthened investment in SWI rather than cutbacks.
The SWI industry fully understands the economic and political pressures that necessitated a cut in “green levies”.
However, the response of the recognised trade association for SWI, the Insulated Render and Cladding Association (Inca), to your consultation presents very strong evidence that actual savings to the ‘big six’ go far beyond the £35 you have persuaded them to give back to customers, representing a £1bn-2bn windfall to energy suppliers over the next three years.
We therefore urge you to reconsider this dramatically reduced target for SWI. The windfall saving that energy companies have enjoyed means that a doubling of the SWI minimum in ECO to 200,000 installations over the next three years can be achieved without incremental cost to consumers.
Combined with effective targeting of the new Green Deal incentives at solid walled properties, this would go a long way to restore the balance, and demonstrate that this Government cares about the eight million families left stranded in cold, leaky properties by successive Governments in the past.
Insulated Render and Cladding Association (INCA)
The recognised trade association for the external wall insulation (EWI) industry
Centre of Refurbishment Excellence (CoRE)
The not for profit, national centre of excellence for green building retrofit
National Energy Foundation
The independent charity dedicated to improving the use of energy in buildings
The leading training and advisory consultancy operating in the field of sustainable housing
Sir , – Based on the assumption that “Christians believe that the Bible is literally the word of their god”, Hugo Pierce quotes from the Old Testament various endorsements of capital punishment for various crimes (Letters, April 25th). Some Christians do indeed still follow this tradition and continue to believe that God wills that human life be taken – “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”.
However, for Christians who believe that God does indeed reveal Himself/ Herself and the ways for the proper respect of human life in society this revelation is a progressive one, where God gradually reveals in history a better way of living.
Jesus of Nazareth, eventhough he came from the Jewish tradition of the Torah quoted by Hugo Pierce, revealed through his life, words and actions that this ancient practice of a life for a life was not the will of God.
Even though eminent Christians still refuse to acknowledge this revolutionary teaching of Jesus that the reign of God has no place for violence, capital or otherwise, against the human person regardless of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation – or indeed of any crime committed by any human person – that doesn’t mean that they represent all Christians. Yours, etc,
The Moorings ,
A chara, – Hugh Pierce (Letters, April 25th) does not have an accurate understanding of Christians and the Bible when he writes: “Christians believe that the Bible is literally the word of their god.” The Bible for Christians bears testimony to the developing understanding that people have had over many centuries about their relationship with God.
Consider the specific example of how we respond to evil done to us. In the case of Cain in Genesis 1:15, sevenfold vengeance is seen as the deterrent. In Genesis 1:24, seventy-sevenfold vengeance is what Lamech threatens. The vicious cycle of vengeance was quickly spiralling out of control. So we have a principle to limit this in Exodus 21:24: “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.”
This principle is still applied in places today. For Christians it is long since superseded by the sayings of Jesus in Matthew 5:38-48: the radical teaching of “Love your enemies.”
In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter has a problem with such teaching, and asks: “How often must I forgive one who wrongs me? As often as seven times?” “Seven” here is not a numerical value, but shorthand for “always”. Jesus responds in dramatic fashion, echoing Lamech in Genesis and totally reversing the standard for his disciples: “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Christians have often failed disastrously in living up to this, but it is still the gold standard, in relation to the death penalty and so much else. This is where we stand. Is mise,
Sir, – It now seems a proponent of the death penalty in Ireland can expect about as warm a response as a minister of education at an ASTI conference. I remain unmoved, but lest your readers think that I am a bloodthirsty barbarian, I shall make no further appeals to Antonin Scalia to support my argument.
Let me resort to a more celestial power. The catechism of the Catholic Church, (paragraph 2266), after acknowledging the state’s “right and duty to inflict penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime”, declares “the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty …”
So far so good, except that the catechism then presents some important qualifiers and ends by quoting John Paul II’s disapproving counsels on capital punishment. However, the clear absence of a bright-line teaching on this issue is telling in a document not otherwise known for fudge (compare this language with the infamous and absolutely clear text on homosexual acts, paragraph 2357).
As a historian of the church, I venture that this ambiguity is unavoidable given 1) the clear support for the death penalty in Scripture, both Old and New Testaments; 2) the church’s millennial record of support for the idea that the state was God’s earthly “sword”, and its lengthy application of this principle in the Papal States and elsewhere; and 3) the continuing fair-minded disagreement among theologians on this question.
Despite what other letterwriters would have us believe, the incompatibility of Christianity and the death penalty has nowhere been conclusively established.
I am satisfied that I am not mad. Yours, etc,
DR SEAN ALEXANDER
Sir, – Tom Cooper (Letters, April 26th) is worried that if Ireland joined the Commonwealth it would lead to the “re-Britishing” of the country. Such concerns are not borne out by the experience of the 50-odd member-states of the Commonwealth, a majority of them republics, who maintain their distinct national identifies alongside membership of an organisation that hasn’t been called “British” since 1949.
The Commonwealth is an association of free, democratic and sovereign states. Indeed, in the 1920s and 1930s the Irish Free State played a crucial role in the transformation of the Commonwealth from a form of the British empire into an independent organisation. By agreement of the member states the queen is head of the Commonwealth, but only as the symbol of a free association of independent countries.
Members of the Commonwealth share a common heritage and history, including an Irish diaspora of some 20 million people. The values of the Commonwealth are the same as those of the Irish state – democracy, peace, human rights, sustainable development and the rule of law.
Of course, the Commonwealth is not some ideal organisation: it has problems of its own, not least the failure of some states to live up to the obligations of membership. But its aspirations are as admirable as its practical activities. As a member Ireland could make a significant contribution to the further realisation of the Commonwealth’s values and ideas.
A decision to join would be commensurate with those developments in British-Irish relations that seem to cause Mr Cooper so much anxiety: the reciprocal state visits of Queen Elizabeth and President Higgins and the invitation to members of the British royal family to attend the 100th anniversary commemoration of 1916.
Ireland’s membership of the Commonwealth would also build more bridges to the unionist community in Northern Ireland, where it would be seen as a significant gesture of reconciliation.
To paraphrase Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only thing to fear about the prospect of Ireland joining the Commonwealth is fear itself. Yours, etc,
School of History,
University College Cork
Sir, – The call by a Conservative MP, Michael Fabricant, for Ireland to join the Commonwealth following the successful state visit to the UK of President Michael D Higgins is most welcome. Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes deserves the support of all Irish people who cherish the values of reconciliation, conflict resolution and peaceful cooperation.
The Commonwealth includes many republics as members. Ireland would not once again become a white Commonwealth dominion but remain a republic. In contrast to EU membership, membership of the Commonwealth would not affect Irish sovereignty, which constitutionally is a matter for the Irish people alone. A referendum would not be required.
Ireland is of course very “British” already, probably more so than most Commonwealth states other than the UK itself. This is due to to geography, economics, shared history over hundreds of years, movement of population in both directions, close family ties, the English language, and media penetration.
Have India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, and South Africa been “re-Britished”? Are Canada, New Zealand and Australia more “British” than they were in 1949? Commonwealth membership is a distinct issue from Anglo-Irish co-operation, but Ireland has closer political links and a more healthy relationship with the UK than ever before in her history due to Anglo-Irish rapprochement and the unprecedented co-operation necessitated by Republican terrorism over the last few decades.
Ireland’s presence in the Commonwealth would reassure many other nations with not dissimilar histories in what is a free association of states, many with substantial populations of Irish origin, all devoted to conflict resolution, peace, reconciliation, mutual co-operation and mutual support. Yours, etc,
JEREMIAH P WALSH,
Sir, – Elements of the political class seem to believe the Commonwealth is some sort of effective international forum; it is not . Last year, despite herculean efforts by William Hague, it could not even agree on the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Commonwealth membership made sense when we had dominion status and were able to secure the “freedom to achieve freedom” under the Statute of Westminster 1931 . It is an absurd conservative relic in the 21st century. Yours, etc,
BRIAN DINEEN LLM,
Sir, – “I regard Ireland’s sovereignty as sacrosanct,” says Tom Cooper (Letters, April 26th).Tell that to the troika! Yours, etc,
Sir – Kitty Holland (“Homeless crisis in need of urgent action”, April 26th) highlights the new homelessness of families with children.
Solutions include the most obvious, making more homes available by renovating vacant properties and building more houses. While voluntary housing agencies also suggest increased rent allowances and the introduction of rent controls, these may have unintended consequences in terms of additional rent increases or reduced supply of rental accommodation.
But there also needs to be creative thinking in terms of resolving this latest crisis. Many local authorities have a significant stock of three- and two-bedroom units, but one-bedroom units are like gold dust. The result is that families who separate, as in the case of Sabrina McMahon, can leave one partner alone in a family home and another homeless with children.
I am part of a national housing strategy group and am aware that councils are considering the concept of “room rate liveable rooms”, where larger houses are divided up into bedsit type units and single people can have tenancies within a divided house.
While this may be below the expectations of many, it is nevertheless a practical way to make the best use in the interim of existing council accommodation, and is already a model that is in place in other jurisdictions. Yours, etc,
First published: Mon, Apr 28, 2014, 01:45
Sir, – Alan Ahearne (“More homes in right places needed”, April 26th) is one of those people of whom it can be truly said he kept his head while all around were losing theirs.
His succinct remarks on media-driven comment during the boom/bust of recent years should be burned into the minds of all aspiring journalists, editors, economists and commentators: “ … some of the drop in house prices nationwide of more than 50 per cent from peak to trough may have been in response to the excessive pessimism about the country’s economic future that became a feature of the national debate during the height of the crisis. For a while it seemed that commentators were tripping over themselves to produce the gloomiest predictions. Indeed, economic commentary has generally been pro-cyclical over the past decade, exacerbating both the boom and the bust.”
His warnings about what might go wrong and what should now be done are equally succinct and wise: “The biggest concern is that today’s heady gains in house prices in some places become embedded in expectations of future prices.”
Therefore, “ramp up supply in the right places” (ie cities) and use the financial policy tools available to “ensure that prices in, say 2020, will not be too far above today’s levels”.
As simple as it is brilliant. Let’s hope he is listened to this time! Yours, etc,
St Peter’s Terrace,
Sir, – President Higgins and Olivia O’Leary, among others, informed one and all that the word ceiliuradh has a many-layered depth of meaning, encompassing memory of what is best in our traditions of artistic endeavour and capacity to enjoy ourselves, etc. Dinneen’s dictionary conveys something different. In order, he refers to an act of bidding farewell, to chirping and birdsong, to solemnisation and the celebration of Mass. Treating of the verbal noun and verb, he introduces the rather contradictory notions of greeting and bidding farewell, and of reneging at cards.
Much of this seems to have little to do with the glorious rumpus in the Albert Hall. It does appear that in the sense of “celebration” the word ceiliuradh signifies solemnisation, eg of the Eucharist, rather than of nine minutes of The Auld Thriangle . Perhaps the Gaelic scholars among your readers would care to comment. Just as the word leithreas, meaning a convenient abbreviation in writing, has mistakenly been taken to signify a “convenience” in the sense of a (public) lavatory, might it not be that in the modern era we are running away with ourselves in attributing to reneging at cards the sense of rí rá agus ruaile buaile that the word ceiliuradh possibly never had? Yours, etc,
Sir, – I agree with your questioning of Mr Quinn’s proposals for assessment in the new Junior Certificate (“Turbulence on teachers front”, April 25th). His proposals are the educational version of the deregulation of the financial services industry. Look where that led us. Will Ministers and their advisers ever learn? Not if they refuse to listen to reasonable arguments as he does. Yours, etc,
Sir, – It has been surprising to read letters published that appear to advocate indiscipline in our schools in response to the scenes at this week’s ASTI conference. A question of collective guilt or collective punishment? I’m pretty sure they would not accept this for their own children. Yours, etc,
Sir, – Breda O’Brien gives us an unusual perspective on sainthood (Opinion & Analysis. April 26th). John Paul ll “was a man of prayer”, who “achieved greatness not through personal ambition or ability but through being able to let go and be guided by a power greater than himself”, she says.
But what is “a man of prayer”? , and what does it mean to “let go” and be “guided by a power greater than himself”? Benedict XVl is also considered to be a man of prayer, yet both of these men allowed appalling sexual abuse to continue under their prayerful watch. It would seem that prayer is not always enough to make a man do the right thing. Certainly with these two men it wasn’t. Prayer often renders a man pious only.
Could it be that Ms O’Brien, and the Vatican, have mistaken piety for saintliness?
9 Whitechurch Rd,
Sir, – Ian O’Riordan (April 26th) claimed that “there is simply no counter argument” to making “PE a core examinable subject in the Leaving Certificate”. I disagree, partly because I am one of those who at school was picked last, if at all, for teams . The prospect of having to pass a PE exam would have filled me with dread.
Mr O’Riordan began with a quote from Mark Twain. Here is another: “Golf is a good walk spoiled.“ Exercise is undeniably beneficial, but is sport the best way to obtain it? Many sports, such as rugby, involve the risk of serious injury to participants. Others have been tainted by doping scandals. Soccer may entertain vast numbers. but did that justify spending vast sums on the World Cup in South Africa, where millions don’t have clean drinking water?
Roger Bannister’s achievements were indeed amazing. But please spare a thought for those of us whose memories of sport at school were of being forced to stand on the sidelines of a muddy pitch in the rain. Yours, etc,
St James’s Walk,
With reference to Diarmaid Ferriter’s recent article (Irish Independent, April 17), a republic is ‘res publica’ – the thing of the people. The people are sacred and the state only a thing.
Also in this section
A republic is an open society where you are free to be different and its measure is the degree of diversity retained. The 1916 leaders were nationalist quasi-republicans. Irish nationalism was a mutation of race and religion leading to compulsory conformity.
A republic can be judged by the human rights enjoyed. After 1922, the human rights of women suffered. They were denied access to contraceptives and divorce. Their right to work in the civil service and to serve on juries was restricted. The old-age pension was reduced for women. The Land Commission was active in compulsorily acquiring the land of single women.
Thomas Jefferson rejoiced over the economic success of Jews in the US, demonstrating the quality of liberty delivered by the American constitution.
We got independence in 1922 but people who were outside the norm lost their liberty.
Padraig Pearse wrote in ‘The Murder Machine’ of “…the ideal of those who shaped the Gaelic polity nearly two thousand years ago. It is not that the old Irish had a good education system: they had the best and noblest that has ever been known among men”.
Pearse wanted to bring us back from a creative scientific society in a time machine to a tribal Gaelic world where, in the words of Thomas Hobbes, life was short, brutal and bloody.
Kate Casey, Barrington Street, Limerick
HELPING OUR YOUNG TEACHERS
One thing that stood out to me during the teachers’ much-publicised internal disagreements was the fact that the teachers who were not happy with the treatment of Ruairi Quinn during his visit seemed to be of a more mature age group, and quite happy with their lot, coming to pension age, and that they definitely don’t want the boat rocked.
Perhaps they should take a leaf out of the dissenters’ book and try to do something positive for the young teachers who have to deal with the changes being forced upon them.
While they are at it, they might give a thought to the future teachers who will bear the brunt of the financial cutbacks. It is as simple as that; try and think of others.
Matt Dunne, Swords, Co Dublin
AN UNFAIR TAX ON ILLNESS
The Irish Medical Organisation deserves to be congratulated for its stance regarding the prescription charge. Delegates drew attention at their conference to the appalling situation where people on social welfare or small incomes cannot afford to pay for all medications and are opting to take only some of their medication.
Each item on their prescription costs €2.50 and even with the monthly upper limit set at €25, it is just too much for many people. Our Government seems to be unaware of or blind to the plight of people who are medical card holders and simply find this charge too much. It is a tax on illness, which is, I believe, discriminatory and downright unfair.
Surely it is wrong to target people who are struggling with life-changing or life-threatening diseases or simply trying to recover from an illness using prescribed medication.
Declan Moriarty, Clancy Road, Finglas, D11
BLIND SPOT IN GOD DENIAL
The blind spot in Rod Saidleir’s denial (Letters, April 24) of the existence of a merciful God because of horrific injuries that nature inflicts on people is that no human being, even if calamitously indisposed in any way, can be denied the opportunity to become a member of our creator’s family. There is only one ultimate deprivation and that is not to gain paradise.
Religious belief, understood as being at the core of a fully meaningful life on earth, has been consistently witnessed to in every part of our world at all times and in all cultures and civilisations.
In our own times, Communism and Nazism, both rooted in anti-religion conceptions, wreaked misery in Europe and further afield.
But Viktor Frankl, founder of Logotherepy, found hope and meaning even while incarcerated in Auschwitz where his mother died and as his wife died in Bergen-Belsen.
In responding to this degradation as a task to be fulfilled, he survived. Thus, meaning can always be found in the search for self-realisation in any human circumstance.
In our own historical experience of suffering, religion gave ultimate meaning to our people in praying the Mass at secret locations.
They risked their lives and homes by hiding the hunted priests and endowed us with much that is finest in our essential Irishness.
Colm O Torna, Garran Ghleann Sceiche, Ard Aidhin, Baile Atha Cliath 5
CHARGE OF THE LABOUR BRIGADE
Liz O’Donnell’s article (Irish Independent, April 25) on the ‘courage’ of the Labour Party in implementing austerity at the expense of its own popularity reminds me of the ‘courage’ of the Light Brigade, the British cavalry formation during the Crimean War who, impervious to the outcome, charged a line of Russian heavy artillery and were duly slaughtered.
The Labour Party has systematically destroyed its own power base, the public service, low earners, the poor.
It has broken almost every election promise and wedded itself so closely to the senior party in Government that some have taken to calling the Labour Party ‘Fine Gael lite.’
Perhaps in the upcoming EU and local election, we shall see history repeated and witness the charge of the lite brigade.
John Hanamy, Ranelagh, Dublin 6
QUESTIONS ON THE UNKNOWABLE
Philip O’Neill stated (Letters, April 22) that religious questions are not amenable to scientific investigation or verification, then asked ‘does that make them meaningless?’ To which he answers, of course not. I’m afraid he, as the physicist Wolfgang Pauli once said, is not even wrong.
Plainly, the assertion that religious questions are not amenable to scientific investigation or verification is incorrect. Did God create the universe? This, I presume, would qualify as a religious question. If so, then it is as open to investigation and verification as any other question about the origin of the universe.
Further, if Mr O’Neill thinks that questions, the answers of which are unverifiable, aren’t meaningless, then what constitutes meaning? We could all attest to be able to sprout wings and fly, but if it’s not verifiable then it is most certainly a meaningless claim.
Later in his letter, he says: “God has its provenance in intelligent reflection and imagination.” Again, a mere assertion. There are myriad gods, with myriad origins; it’s certainly nice that his originated from intelligent reflection and imagination, but it again is meaningless.
Mr O’Neill goes on to state: “It (concept of God) arises from the capacity not just to go where the evidence leads us but to be open to possibilities that are at the edge of what is knowable.” But what could be more meaningless that this? By definition, if it is at the edge of what’s knowable, then it is devoid of any supernatural claim, it is being investigated and potentially verified; if it is not, then how can we expect to know something that is, by Mr O’Neill’s own say so, unknowable?
A much safer bet than to expect to be able to experience and know what is “at the edge of knowable”, is to follow the evidence and take our knowledge from the conclusions, rather than to set up a potential unknowable and try to shape the evidence or experience toward it.
Brian Murphy, British Columbia, Canada