Astrid

31 October 2014 Astrid

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A busy day Astrid come to visit something about chairs ...

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast weight down duck for tea and her back pain is still there but decreasing.

Obituary:

Brigadier Robert Long was an officer who kept the IRA at bay in the Lower Falls and was once surprised, while shaving, by an anaconda

Brigadier Robert Long with the Princess of Wales in 1992

Brigadier Robert Long with the Princess of Wales in 1992 Photo: The Telegraph

6:50PM GMT 30 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

Brigadier Robert Long, who has died aged 77, had a distinguished career in the Army and was awarded an MC in Northern Ireland in 1972.

Long commanded a company of 1st Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment in the Lower Falls area of Belfast in 1972. Details of operational awards in the Province are still restricted but what can be stated is that during an exhausting four-month tour, while under considerable pressure and maintaining strict discipline, he never allowed the Provisional IRA to take the initiative.

Robert George Long was born on January 30 1937 in Calcutta, where his father was the adjutant of 7th Rajput Regiment. Always known as Bob, he was brought up near Fareham, Hampshire, and educated at Sherborne before being called up for National Service and commissioned into the Royal Hampshire Regiment.

After National Service in Germany, Long went up to Brasenose College, Oxford, where he read PPE. He then worked for an oil company but found the work uncongenial and, in 1961, he rejoined his regiment with a regular commission. He experienced his first action in Georgetown, British Guiana, clearing rioters from burning streets. His second was the occasion when he was having a shave in the river and did not notice a log-like object passing over his feet. A soldier shouted that it was an anaconda. Long never moved so fast in his life.

He volunteered for secondment to the Malaysian Rangers and served in Borneo during the Confrontation. After a tour with the UN Force in Cyprus he attended, as a student, the first of his three periods of service at the Staff College, Camberley.

Following regimental service with 1 Glosters in Germany and a return to Staff College in an administrative capacity, he moved to Whitehall as military assistant to the quartermaster general.

In l977 Long assumed command of the Royal Hampshires in Northern Ireland. It was a period which included the Queen’s Jubilee visit and considerable activity on the part of the IRA. His unruffled determination to give full support to the RUC was recognised by a Mention in Despatches at the end of a long tour.

After a posting back to the Ministry of Defence, he made a great success of running the adjutant general’s secretariat and was appointed OBE in 1982. He then returned to the Staff College as one of three Colonels General Staff .

Promoted to brigadier in 1985, he took command of 42 Infantry Brigade, based in Chester, and was responsible for two regular battalions and eight TA units covering the North West of England.

In 1986 Long was appointed Colonel of the Royal Hampshire Regiment. It was a time of cutbacks and he did all he could to ensure that the careers of those serving did not suffer. The Royal Hampshires merged with the Queen’s Regiment in 1992 to become the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.

Long was appointed CBE in 1988. He became chief of staff at the Directorate of Infantry before retiring from the Army the following year, when he immediately took over the appointment of secretary of Eastern Wessex TAVRA .

Old motor cars were his great passion and he and his wife used to drive his Morgan to rallies in France and Spain . Settled in Over Wallop, Hampshire, Long was a stalwart supporter of his church.

Bob Long married, in 1966, Allison Firth, who survives him with their son and two daughters.

Brigadier Robert Long, born January 30 1937, died September 19 2014

Guardian:

NHS new chief executive Chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens (centre), talking to staff at at Shotley Bridge Hospital in County Durham. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

Perhaps Simon Stevens should rethink his defence of private finance initiative contracts in the NHS (The NHS is on life support. Can this plan revive it?, 24 October). Last year it required a massive public campaign to prevent the illegal downgrading or closure of A&E and maternity services at Lewisham hospital which was proposed in response to the problems in an adjacent hospital suffering crippling PFI payments. Lewisham hospital is now part of a new NHS trust and is once again threatened by extortionate PFI payments.

Our research shows the trust could save up to £18m a year by challenging the PFI profiteers. In the last financial year, the PFI companies’ accounts list a profit of £7.49m from service contracts and £1.82m for directors’ remuneration and “administrative costs”. The annual interest repayments were approximately £18m. The average interest charges on PFI contracts is 8% per annum, but borrowing through government – the standard before PFIs were forced on public authorities – is half that, reducing the trust’s charges to £9m. These unjustified costs totalling £18m represent a 46% reduction in the trust’s current annual PFI “unitary payment” of £39m.

By 2020-21, the annual costs of the 118 NHS PFIs will be £2.14bn; saving 46% of that would release about £1bn a year. And that is before considering profits on the service subcontracts, that PFIs were never value for money and skewed the very form of the tender. Time to stop PFI contracts draining precious public money from the NHS into the pockets of fatcats.
Helen Mercer
Drop the NHS Debt

• Stevens’s plans have many useful elements: care at home, new relationships to match medical developments, action to discourage unhealthy behaviour all seem wonderful. However, Stevens evaded the questions on the Today programme when asked about the large quantity of new contracts going to private providers. Polly Toynbee says that his document does not refer to competition. He does not need to mention competition in a document. He can just let it take hold while underplaying its significance.

On 23 October I followed up reading the report with sitting in a meeting run by our local commissioning group. The same fantasy opened the meeting. Under pressure, the commissioners had to admit to being clueless about the debts that are rapidly building up. This needs some realism about money that none of the three major parties have shown.
Geoff Barr
Exeter Keep Our NHS Public

• We are told Stevens has “big plans” for the NHS, including “big improvements in mental health services”. One such improvement will be to “introduce standards for getting access to mental health in the same way that has been present for hip replacements and cataracts”. In this connection it is interesting to note that South-West London and St George’s mental health NHS trust has recently made the majority of its senior and experienced therapists working in child and adolescent mental health redundant. At least one NHS trust is not on board with Mr Stevens’s agenda.
David Benton
Department of neuroscience, physiology and pharmacology, UCL

• MPs are right to be cautious about healthcare measures that do not have a strong evidence base (Patients not warned about risks of cancer screening, 29 October), and clear risk benefit ratios. We also support the science and technology committee’s call for more information for patients before screening. However, with over 2 million people living with undiagnosed chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in the UK, and late diagnosis one of the key reasons why UK lung cancer survival lags so far behind Europe and the US, it is vital that the potential benefits of screening and the health check are not dismissed altogether.

Early research indicates that screening for lung cancer could be extremely effective in diagnosing patients earlier. Introducing questions on breathlessness and lung function assessments like spirometry into the health check could also help tackle the burden of COPD and lung disease. Some of the reporting around the committee’s recommendations risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to screening. For people with lung disease, which kills 120,000 people a year in the UK but is not yet routinely screened for, this could prove a fatal mistake.
Dr Penny Woods
Chief executive, British Lung Foundation

• In 1983 the NHS spent 5% of its income on management while the US spent nearly 27%. After 30 years of “reforms” and “improvements”, the NHS now spends around 15% on management and the US over 30%. This is insane. Reduce spending on management to 10%. Make it a legal duty not to exceed that and the financial problems disappear.
Philip Clayton
London

• So, Lord Steel and Lady Williams were “very troubled” by the proposals to curb judicial review rights (Report, 28 October). It’s a pity neither of them felt even slightly troubled by the NHS reforms. I hope it’s not a question of the fees charged by the legal profession?
Helen Hughes
Ludlow, Shropshire

Doctors with backpacks loaded with medication in Havana, Cuba Doctors in Havana in 2005 await the US response after the Cuban government offered to send medics to ease the humanitarian disaster after Hurricane Katrina. Photograph: Jorge Rey/AP

Your feature (How sick are the world’s healthcare systems?, g2, 30 October) demonstrated that any form of healthcare, irrespective of where in the world it is, that involves the for-profit private sectors is de facto not only more expensive but less efficient and subject to corrupt practices by drug companies, other suppliers and practitioners. You could have included Cuba in your survey as a contrast. It has a wholly public-funded and regulated healthcare system that, despite over 50 years of a US-imposed boycott, manages to treat its citizens in an equitable and efficient way, as well as despatch its medical staff to many other countries of the world where there are health problems, including to Sierra Leone to help with the Ebola crisis. Britain also once had an exemplary national healthcare system before New Labour and the Tories began privatising it piecemeal and tearing the guts out of it. Perhaps lessons to be learned?
John Green
London

• I note in reference to the Chinese health system: “Physicians are so underpaid that they often must supplement their salaries with kickbacks from drug companies and patient bribes.” I spoke in Beijing this year about the reform of doctors’ pay systems and heard that doctors in China often supplemented their earnings as described in the article – but there was no “must” about it. Such supplements are corrupt whether in the UK, China or anywhere else. Doctors in China are officially paid (not “underpaid”) roughly one and a half times the average earnings in Chinese society – not as generous a differential as in Europe, but doctors still earn from official sources noticeably more than the average worker. Although I did hear of a determination to increase that differential.
Bill McMillan
Assistant director, medical pay and workforce, NHS Employers

A wind farm in Cornwall ‘The ‘assault on localism’ has been coming from wind-farm developers seeking to overturn local planning refusals by councils,’ writes Kris Hopkins. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian

Polly Toynbee’s suggestion that the government is “overriding local planning” on onshore wind farms is misleading (Opinion, 28 October). Her attack on ministerial decisions failed to mention that these were on recovered planning appeals: cases where the elected local council had refused or not approved the original application. The “assault on localism” she infers has been coming from the wind-farm developers seeking to overturn that local refusal by the council.

All planning appeals are considered with due process and a fair hearing in light of planning policy and the local circumstances. However, there has been real public concern that inappropriately sited onshore wind turbines have been a blot on the landscape, harming the local environment and damaging heritage for miles around. Hence, in July 2013, the coalition government, with collective agreement from both Conservative and Liberal Democrat ministers, openly changed national planning guidance to ensure that proper weight should be given to the protection of England’s valuable landscape and heritage, and we have sought to ensure planning appeals decisions properly reflect that guidance. For that, we make no apology and Ministers are happy to be held to account to parliament and the public.

Promoting renewable energy and protecting the global environment is a worthy cause, but we shouldn’t needlessly trash the local environment in the process.
Kris Hopkins MP
Communities minister, Department for Communities and Local Government

• In the current talk of power shortages and lack of generating capacity, domestic solar photovoltaic, which could be readily implemented and is now cost-effective, has been overlooked. Prices are now close to the projected viable level of £1 per watt. A 4Kw solar PV domestic system can be bought for under £5,000 installed and can produce 4,000kWh a year with a 20-year guaranteed life. This gives a capital cost of £1,138 per kW, with an amortised annual cost of 5.7p per kWh, with no maintenance or distribution costs. Domestic Solar PV is therefore a competitive green renewable energy, which could be installed economically and run at zero cost. If 10% of existing houses (2.8m) converted at 4kW, it would give 11.1TWh, with 11GW capacity, 12% of current UK capacity, equivalent to 3% of UK production, at an installed cost of some £12bn.

The annual value at the current domestic price of £0.15 a unit is £600pa. FIT tariff subsidies give a five-year pay-off., but realistic export prices or greater in-house utilisation would still make domestic solar PV viable and attract individual investment. I write as a pensioner user with installed PV, which even at the old prices gives an 8% return guaranteed for 25 years, better than annuities or savings – and I am looking at how to fit in more capacity.
John Read
Clitheroe, Lancashire

A Young Syrian-Kurdish woman hides a par A training session organised by the YPJ to prepare Syrian Kurdish women to defend their villages if they come under attack. Photograph: Benjamin Hiller/AFP/Getty Photograph: Benjamin Hiller/AFP/Getty Images

The real boots on the ground defending Kobani are the young women fighters of the YPJ (Kurdish Women’s Protection Units). But you only mention the peshmerga and the Free Syrian Army (Crowds line Turkish road to cheer Kobani bound troops, 30 October) About 35% of the Syrian Kurdish YPG (the People’s Protection Units of Rojava) are women. They number many thousands and the co-commander is a woman. Women snipers have killed hundreds of Isis fighters with the most minimal weaponry (ancient Russian kalashnkovs) – but they are running out of bullets. Many of these young girls are already martyrs; many have been captured and tortured, abducted into sexual slavery, killed and beheaded. It was the YPG and the YPJ rather than the peshmerga which, with the PKK, rescued the Yezidis from Mount Sinjar. It is due to the bravery and skills of these women that Kobani has not fallen. Rojava is the one place in the Middle East where there is real gender equality and the YPJ demonstrates this empowerment of women. They desperately need the heavy arms to defeat Isis. A rally is being held in Trafalgar Square on Saturday to demand support for these brave Syrian Kurds.
Margaret Owen
Patron of Peace in Kurdistan

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by Paul Cummins A sea of red ceramic poppies fill the moat of the Tower of London to commemorate the fallen of the first world war. ‘Its visual impact is immense,’ writes Melanie Henwood. Photograph: Paul Brown/Rex

Jonathan Jones’s blog on the Tower of London poppies installation (28 October) claims they are “fake, trite and inward-looking – a Ukip-style memorial”. He has somehow – deliberately it seems – missed the point and has chosen to see the poppies not for the symbol of loss and devastation that they are, but as a representation of “a nationalistic tragedy”, and argues that it is this “inward-looking mood that lets Ukip thrive”. This is cheap, puerile, offensive and utterly misguided.

He was, apparently, perturbed by the popularity of the moat and the masses viewing it. On my visit a week ago I had no impression as he did of “gentle jostling and sense of fun” on the part of the crowd, but rather of people overwhelmed, awed and moved by the scale of loss laid out in the moat. Had he been there for the evening Last Post ceremony, and the daily roll call for the lost and missing, he too might have had a different experience. This is not a jingoistic celebration of the war in any sense.

Jones finds the moat too dignified and graceful as a memorial, and rages against its “fake nobility”. He mistakenly believes the horror and terror of war can only be properly commemorated by something equally shocking and vile. The moat should, he opines, be filled with barbed wire and bones. Does that apply to every other war memorial, from Whitehall to town hall and every village’s stone cross recording those who did not return? Are their poppy wreaths laid out on 11 November equally “prettified and toothless” memorials? The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red installation is a symbol of the massive losses of the first world war, and its visual impact is immense. It is thought-provoking and challenging and there is no inference at all of it elevating British deaths as the only ones of significance. To claim otherwise is deliberately provocative, irresponsible and crass.
Melanie Henwood
Hartwell, Northamptonshire

RNLI Successive governments considered such services so inessential that they fail to provide them, leaving such support to charities viz St John Ambulance, various mountain rescue groups and the RNLI,’ writes Neil Denby

Your correspondent (Letters, 29 October) suggests that the first aid and rescue facilities provided for the likes of football supporters and mountain goers provides the same “pull” factors as search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean. It is worth noting that (successive) governments consider such services so inessential that they signally fail to provide them, leaving such support to charities viz St John Ambulance, various mountain rescue groups, the RNLI and the likes of the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. Perhaps the coalition is hoping a charity will step in to replace the navy?
Dr Neil Denby
Denby Dale, West Yorkshire

• It was not only prominent academics kept under surveillance (Letters, 27 October), it was the ordinary person too. When I worked in the planning department at the London borough of Haringey in the 70s, I was approached to provide details of organisations opposed to the Archway Road proposals in north London.
Richard Bull
Woodbridge, Suffolk

• Should we not be concerned about the outcome for Henry (Notes and queries, 30 October)? That’s what has been worrying me all along. Perhaps the writer has an ultimate outcome planned of Rob being a thoroughly good egg (a nervous breakdown might do it) so that no concern for Henry has been necessary.
Margaret Davis
London

• Tesco managers go on holiday to reconnect (Report, 27 October). Have they considered asking a few NHS managers for their advice about running a large organisation?
Barry Coomber
Pinner, Middlesex

• Lack of interest in DIY may not necessarily be linked to whether you rent or own your own home (Letters, 28 October). Both my sons are buying their homes. Neither of them appears to be interested in DIY. This may be related to their teenage experience of witnessing their father’s attempts at hanging wallpaper.
Peter McKinney
Brentwood, Essex

Independent:

I read Yvette Cooper’s column (Another Voice, 30 October) and in the same edition a letter by Michael Forster explaining why he is drawn from a Liberal position to the extreme opposite, Ukip. Yvette Cooper is right that Nigel Farage manipulates the fears expressed by Micheal Forster on topics such as immigration and the future of the NHS. But her party is no more popular than the Conservatives, and is seen by voters as having as little relevance to real life as the present government.

If this perception is allowed to continue, I fear we are sleepwalking into a government next year where a party such as Ukip has some control over its policies. Voters have certain preconceptions about each party. These may be crude stereotypes, formulated by a biased media and encouraged by Ukip, but they exist and must be challenged. The Conservatives are seen the party of the rich; Labour has an unelectable leader; and the Lib Dems are just not trusted. The parties must acknowledge these opinions and act to alter them.

Michael Forster uses the example of immigration to demonstrate the way that politicians are seen as remote. Why are they not shouting the benefits of immigration, at the same time acknowledging the problems it causes to some communities and demonstrating a desire and ability to do something about it.

I disagree with Michael Forster that voting Ukip would lead to a government that listens. I think it would lead our country in a direction the majority of people do not want to go.

Brian Dalton
Sheffield

I wonder if it is a coincidence that Michael Forster – who suggests that Ukip speaks for a growing number of voters, including himself – lives in East Horsley, Surrey?

East Horsley is a village with one of the highest percentages of detached houses in the UK and one of the lowest percentages of people in “routine occupations” (source: 2011 Census). I would be interested to know how many residents of East Horsley (and the many similar villages in South-east England) have met even one of the immigrants that Mr Forster seems to fear.

Another example, perhaps, of Ukip exploiting the irrational fears of many UK voters?

Alistair Wood
Llanymynech, Powys

 

Whenever I read that Ukip have gained points in the opinion polls I wonder if the Ukip supporters know what the party’s policies are, other than leaving Europe and curbing immigration? Do they know Ukip policy on reducing the deficit or the NHS or education or foreign policy?

Heaven forbid if Ukip are ever in a position of forming a government. An anti-Europe, anti-immigration platform alone is not going to deliver a prosperous government.

Mustafa Haqqani
Lymm, Cheshire

 

While Ukip does have some legitimate concerns regarding immigration and benefits, I am extremely concerned that for political expediency it has got into bed with the far-right extremist Polish KNP party.

The KNP’s leader recently claimed that Adolf Hitler was “probably not aware that Jews were being exterminated”. I understand that one of the reasons Ukip has become involved with this party is that it will enable them to receive around a million pounds a year in funding.

How can any British party who wants to be taken seriously be associated in any way with such an extremist organisation? I, like many, would not vote for Ukip while they hold to this unholy alliance.

Paul Corrick
Manchester

 

We should not confuse the relative importance of Russell Brand and Nigel Farage (Grace Dent, 28 October). One is a hilarious comedian whose political posturing makes us laugh, the other is a politician who is deadly serious and has shaken British politics to its foundations.

Stan Labovitch
Windsor

 

A movement we can learn from

“But so far,” says Alasdair Fotheringham from Madrid (report, 30 October), “Mr Rajoy himself, though, remains relatively politically unscathed [by corruption]”. This is, arguably, only a part of the truth and perhaps not the most important.

The other part is that all Spanish politicians are in trouble: and not just from the Guardia Civil or the Policia Nacional. They have found themselves painted with the label “the Caste”, a label coined by a new political movement called Podemos, about which we should know more than we do. The Spanish people are, the evidence suggests, rejecting the Caste and turning to Podemos as the alternative.

Podemos is a left-wing reaction against that cosy political arrangement in which the established parties, including many who themselves claim to be left-wing, appear differentiated only by the colours of their leaders’ neckwear. Sound familiar?

Compare what’s happening in Spain with the lurch to the right in popular politics in Britain, France, the Netherlands and other north European countries and it is not hard to see that we have much to learn from Spanish politics, where no established politicians remain unscathed. We need our own Podemos.

Peter Bradley
Cardiff

We could live with 9bn vegetarians

The world population is indeed growing inexorably (report, 28 October). Would the planet be able to sustain a population of 9 billion by 2050? Yes it could, as the planet is sustaining more than 65 billion animals raised for meat consumption every year. There are at any time three times more chickens on the planet than human beings. A move away from a predominantly meat-based diet to a plant-based vegetarian and vegan diet is imperative if we are to avoid mass starvation.

Nitin Mehta
Croydon

Poppies should not be company policy

I concur with P J Davison (letter, 30 October). Like Christmas and Easter, Remembrance Day is fast losing its impact because of over-exposure by the media. Of course TV presenters should wear poppies for the few days leading to Remembrance Day, but now it seems that everyone wears one for weeks before the event and they are stuck on to anything they are wearing.

The usual place is on the lapel of a jacket. Now, in overheated studios, they are worn on shirts. What is worse, they are probably provided free by the TV producers to give the impression the programme is “nice”. Remembrance should come from the heart, not from company policy.

Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset

Why only one side at the drugs debate?

I type this while watching the drugs debate live on the parliamentary channel. The standard of speeches seems to me very high: possibly because – so far – all the speakers seem to be in favour of decriminalisation.

However, this is because none of its opponents have turned up; indeed, there are only about 20 members in the chamber. How on earth can we trust this Government when its supporters can’t be bothered – or daren’t – engage in public discussion on one of the most important issues of the day? Is this because of dishonesty, cowardice or just laziness? In whichever case, what are we paying them for?

Max Gauna
Sheffield

Who’s at fault for being fat?

Sara Neill (letter, 27 October) is obviously correct in her opinion that obese people are probably not responsible for their size.

That’s why you never see anyone overweight walking the streets stuffing themselves with fat-laden pasties, fish and chips, kebabs, cake and buns and all the other junk that’s available in just about every other high street shop.

And of course they aren’t responsible for starting their overweight offspring down the same path by stuffing them with sweets and crisps.

There are of course some people who have a medical condition but the biggest culprits are fast food, unhealthy diet and sheer greed.

Trevor Beaumont
Huddersfield

Boris v Nigel would bring history to life

I was interested to read Juliet Barker’s comparison of the current state of British life to the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381 (report, 27 October), and wonder if the logical conclusion would be Boris Johnson stabbing Nigel Farage in Mile End.

David Carpenter
Melbourne, Derbyshire

Being consistent about not paying

Do we all now have permission to refuse to pay tax, bills and mortgage demands when they peak? Many of the very same Conservative politicians who are saying “Can’t pay, won’t pay” to the EU will also be business owners and landlords. When wearing one of those hats my guess is they are quick off the mark threatening legal recourse in the face of obstreperous late-payers.

Quentin Deakin
Tywyn, Gwynedd

Rambler deserves justice in the raw

I hope when the naked rambler Stephen Gough is in court, he is tried by his peers and faces a nude jury.

Ian McKenzie
Lincoln

Times:

Sir, The threat of power cuts this winter (report, Oct 29) has brought claims of underinvestment in power generating plant. That is a convenient word to obscure the inability of various governments to face up to decisions which may be unpalatable to anti-nuclear lobbyists, pro-renewable campaigners and to those politicians who can not get a perspective on risks.

In the 1990s, a lengthy inquiry into the building of a new nuclear generating station at Hinkley Point was conducted, but the idea was eventually scrapped. More recently permission has been given for a new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point. But this is too late — by about ten years — to eliminate the risks of power cuts this winter. We need more enlightened government decision making than this.

Olaf Chedzoy
Bridgwater, Somerset

Sir, If the UK is likely to be subjected to power cuts at times of peak demand, fingers will be pointed in all directions. Let us be in no doubt that it is the fault of politicians (of all persuasions) whose primary responsibility is the security of its citizens, but who have ducked difficult decisions, pandered to vote-winning policies and neglected to maintain critical skills such as nuclear power production. Now they will inevitably resort to blaming others when the lights dim. Power, much like defence, is a strategic issue whose timelines stretch far beyond the next election. The country needs a strategic approach to the security of our energy supplies. As the next general election approaches, ask your MP what their policy is — then check where you’ve put the candles.

Ric Cheadle
Yelverton, Devon

Sir, It is inevitable that there will be calls for additional electricity generation capacity to be made available. It would surely be more logical to focus on what can be done immediately to reduce the demand for electricity. One of the ways this could be done would be to convert all street lights to LED lighting. People are making savings in their domestic electricity consumption by doing this; why not government too?

Cash-strapped councils do not have the capital available to convert their street lights and are left to cover the excessive running costs of using old- style lights at a time when the government demands cost reductions.

Surely the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department for Transport and the Department of Energy & Climate Change should work together to provide the necessary finance for making this change, with the objective of reducing electricity demand speedily and providing a quick saving to councils. The cost of implementing this suggestion is likely to be less than building a new power station.

Tim Bentley
Canterbury

Sir, I read of plans to deal with the shortage of generating capacity by supplying electricity at much reduced voltages. In the 1960s, while I was serving at the submarine base at Faslane, an east/west hurricane struck central Scotland and there was no domestic power supply for several days. With the best of intentions the Scottish Electricity Board restored supplies at a much- reduced voltage. This resulted in widespread burnout of series-wound electric motors which drive domestic equipment such as freezers.

When I learnt some basic electrics as part of my training as a naval marine engineer some 70 years ago I was taught that series-wound motors were known as willing horses and that the lower the voltage the harder they tried, until they burnt out. This is one reason why electricity suppliers are bound by statute to maintain voltages at a minimum level. I hope that if “brown outs” happen customers will be given sufficient warning to allow them to switch off vulnerable equipment.

Vice Admiral Sir John Lea (ret’d)
Hayling Island, Hants

Sir, We write to express our concern that the government’s Housing Standards Review could reduce the number of new homes that meet the needs of disabled and older people. Accessibly designed homes can support independence, help to prevent falls, reduce length of hospital stays and delay costly moves to residential care. A night in hospital costs the NHS about £273 while a week’s residential care averages £550. The government estimates that a three-bedroom home built to its proposed specification (based on the Lifetime Homes Standard) costs just £521 more to build than its less accessible equivalent, less than one week’s bill for residential care.

There is a wide consensus on the urgent need to ready ourselves for the health, housing and social care needs of our ageing population and there are already an estimated 11.6 million disabled people in Britain. Mainstream developments must deliver accessible, adaptable homes if we are to rise to this challenge.

The government should seize this opportunity to establish a higher minimum design requirement. Failing to do so will seriously jeopardise the supply of the kind of homes we need at the moment we need them most.

Paul Gamble, Habinteg, Caroline Abrahams, Age UK, Kate Henderson, TCPA, Liz Sayce, Disability Rights UK, Gavin Dunn, BREEAM, Clare Pelham, Leonard Cheshire Disability

Sir, So Camilla Parker Bowles’s son was threatened with a comprehensive school if he failed to study (report, Oct 28). My mother threatened me and my siblings, proud Lancastrians, with elocution lessons. By ’eck, it worked.

Barbara Elliott

Headmistress, Channing School

London N6

Sir, Lindsey Bareham’s porky pie (Dinner tonight, Oct 30) should have been called “a hogger’s pie”. As a shepherd looks after sheep, a hogger looks after pigs. At one time this was listed in the Highway Code and, in the early 1950s, my mother failed her driving test because she didn’t know what a person who led pigs was called.

Pat Rylatt

Lytham St Annes, Lancs

Sir, When visiting a clients’ farm recently, I managed to lock my “smart” keys in the back of my car (report, Oct 27). As the spare set were more than 100 miles away at home, I took the advice of the farm manager and rang my wife and asked her to press the unlock button of the spare set and hold it close to her mobile. At the farm manager’s instruction, I pointed my mobile to the unobtainable set in clear view on the rear parcel shelf of the car and, hey presto, the car locks unfastened.

It cost me a bottle of whisky in grateful thanks to the farm manager who was not only knowledgeable in matters relating to farming but also in the mysteries of wireless technology.

T Matthew Horton

Bromsgrove, Worcs

Sir, The argument that charities have to pay large salaries in order to attract the right quality of staff (report, Oct 28 & letters, Oct 30) is undermined by one example; Médecins sans Frontières (UK) (MSF). No one could question the effectiveness and efficiency of this charity. It is invariably first on the ground in any crisis and is able to call on a large group of qualified volunteers. Despite this, MSF’s constitution prohibits it paying any employee more than three times the lowest-paid employee, which currently means that no one earns over £80,000.

Peter Rivière

Charlbury, Oxon

Telegraph:

Could Stonehenge be a caveman’s idea of a practical joke? Photo: © Steve Vidler / Alamy

6:55AM GMT 30 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – You speculate that Stonehenge may be an ancient practical joke.

The late Spike Milligan once stated that, in order to confuse archaeologists of the future, he wanted to be laid to rest in a washing machine.

George Brown
Manchester

All that glisters

SIR – The news that Cadbury is to stop producing chocolate coins reminds me of an April Fools trick I once played on my wife.

Prior to her morning shop I placed five foil-wrapped “£1” chocolate coins in her purse. On her return the expected outrage never materialised, and I soon discovered that the chocolate currency had been successfully used to pay for her goods in a Boots store.

Feeling the trick had gone too far I confessed, and my wife dispatched me to explain my deception and offer recompense, rather sheepishly, to the bemused shop manager.

A J Gayne
Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Feline alarm clock

SIR – I wish someone could tell me how to let my cat Oswald know that the clocks have gone back an hour.

The wake-up paw arrives promptly at 6.30 every morning to demand that I sort out his breakfast requirements.

Mick Philp
Lincoln

Pick up a tune

SIR – Apropos your correspondent whistling a Chopin waltz which was recognised by Polish workmen (Letters, October 29), I have been humming the opening bar of the famous quartet from Beethoven’s Fidelio for most of my life, in the hope that one day someone would chime in with the following bar.

So far, no luck.

Elizabeth Muir-Lewis
Eastbourne, East Sussex

Fuel for thought

SIR – A friend of mine buys The Daily Telegraph every Saturday: not just for the excellent news coverage and other content, but because “there’s enough paper to start the fire with in the morning for a week”.

Waste not, want not.

Malcolm Parkin
Kinnesswood, Kinross-shire

The president’s approval rating is averaging around 40 percent in this quarter Photo: GETTY IMAGES

6:57AM GMT 30 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Tim Stanley’s article makes President Obama look worse than he is.

The presidency is not a popularity contest. There may be much of importance that the president enacts which the general population doesn’t like, but which is nonetheless good for the country. Reform of the health care system, for example, has exceeded expectations. More of the uninsured are now covered than even the most ardent proponents predicted, and at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

It is not the president who controls the US economy, but the business cycle, and tax and spending policies are set by Congress and state governments. Most economists agree that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 was one of Obama’s biggest achievements and has had a largely positive effect, promoting growth and insulating America from an even deeper and longer recession.

While I would like to see the widening disparity of income in America reversed, there is little chance that government policy can influence it, particularly with the Republican dominance in the House of Representatives and a possible Senate majority in the offing, too.

Obama’s leadership has appeared weak – notwithstanding his decisive elimination of Osama bin Laden and clear messages to Gaddafi, Mubarak and Assad – but this is largely a failure of PR, not of policy.

You certainly cannot measure presidential success by time spent playing golf, as Mr Stanley implies. Woodrow Wilson played 1,200 rounds compared with Obama’s 124.

Simon Foster
Cincinnati, Ohio

This week the wreck of the U-576 was found off the coast of North Carolina

Scuba Diver on the wreck of the U 352, a German submarine sunk by the US Coast Guard during World War II

Davy Jones’s locker: the wreck of the German U-352, sunk by the US Coast Guard in 1942  Photo: Alamy

6:57AM GMT 30 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – David Millward reports on the discovery of the U-576 wreck (“The ghost of U–576 shows how Nazis took the war to America”).

About 52 wrecks are predicted to be within 40 miles of North Carolina. Between January 12 and July 31 1942, 670 merchant ships were sunk, many off the east coast of America between New York and Savannah. During the same period, 50 U-boats were sunk, several in the same area.

In 1944 or 1945, King George VI asked the Anti-U-boat Division of the Admiralty for information on the course of the U-boat war. My great-uncle, Edgar Perman, an Admiralty cartographer, produced a detailed book of world charts indicating the positions of sunken merchant ships and U-boats. These show the movement of the struggle from the south-western approaches to Britain, intensifying off the north-west coast of Scotland, to the mid-Atlantic and on to America’s Eastern Seaboard.

The original book is held by the Royal Collection in Windsor Castle.

D L Denny
Windsor, Berkshire

Drug trials and the ethics of paying to be a guinea pig

Should rich people should be asked to fund research into life-threatening illnesses?

A pill bottle with a pile of spilled red pills against a white background

Kate Law, of Cancer Research UK, said: “In the United Kingdom, the principles in participating in clinical trials include open and equal access for those who choose to participate” Photo: Alamy

6:58AM GMT 30 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Alexander Masters suggests that where funds are not available for clinical trials of treatments for life-threatening illnesses, rich people should be asked to fund the research – and therefore the treatment of several other people – in return for a place on the trial for themselves or someone they designate.

There are, of course, a number of ethical, legal and practical considerations to be addressed. Kate Law, of Cancer Research UK, condemns the proposal: “In the United Kingdom, the principles in participating in clinical trials include open and equal access for those who choose to participate – and they are free to patients.”

These ethics are political ideology, which may be fine when applied to government-financed clinical trials, but should not be used to block other methods of funding which could save lives.

William Ellam
Crawley, West Sussex

Politics and principles

SIR – Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary, stated that she voted against the introduction of same-sex marriage because her constituents opposed the legislation. She has now, in her role as minister for women and equalities, reversed her position.

Whatever one thinks of the actual issue, this change of stance indicates the weakness of today’s political classes: there is no leadership, just an ability to see which way a particular debate is going and run to the front of the crowd.

It reminds one of the “leadership” of Neil Kinnock, which was rejected in 1987 by the electorate in favour of the conviction-based approach of Margaret Thatcher.

Sadly, today’s front benches do not seem to present voters with individuals as robust as Mrs Thatcher: or, on the other side of the house, the equally principled Tony Benn.

Andrew C Pierce
Barnstaple, Devon

David Henson, one of the competitors in the Invictus Games, who lost his legs in Afghanistan in 2011 Photo: REX

6:59AM GMT 30 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Over the past few days, the final withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan has prompted all of us to turn our thoughts to the 453 service personnel who died during the conflict. The thoughts of the nursing profession are also with the thousands who have been wounded.

Nurses in Afghanistan and Britain have treated and helped to rehabilitate many service personnel who have endured multiple amputations, facial disfigurement, blindness, brain injuries, psychological trauma and other complex injuries.

Thanks to the care received in the first period following an injury, wounded soldiers in their early twenties may live well into later life.

Political leaders have spoken of never forgetting those who lost their lives. We now need the commitment of all politicians and parties to maintain support for the injured, many of whose conditions will require yet more care as they age.

This task is too important and too enduring to be left exclusively to charity.

Dr Peter Carter
Chief Executive, Royal College of Nursing
London W1

Mark of respect

SIR – Is there a correct date on which to start wearing a poppy?

It seems to get earlier every year.

Major John Cann
Devizes, Wiltshire

Logic dictates that the original agreement on contributions to the eurozone must be revisited

Cracking EU flag - concept representing euro default / debt / break up of the European Union / Europe crisis concept

Britain and other countries should not be adversely affected by their separation from the eurozone and their own growth under different policies Photo: Alamy

7:00AM GMT 30 Oct 2014

CommentsComments

SIR – Further to your leading article and Philip Johnston’s comment piece on the topic of EU contributions, there is a legal argument to be put forward by Britain.

The basis for contributions was set before the creation of the eurozone, which then introduced serious and specific rules for its members. This has led to policies and actions which have restricted growth among eurozone members. One could argue that this has distorted contributions to the European Union as a whole under the original calculation rules.

Britain and other countries should not be adversely affected by their separation from the eurozone and their own growth under different policies. Legal doctrines and logic dictate that the original agreement regarding contributions must be revisited.

Edward Album
London NW11

SIR – You report that David Cameron “won’t pay £1.7 billion bill”, but he only refused to pay by December 1.

When Mr Cameron said he would stand against bailing out eurozone countries, we subsequently pumped millions of pounds into the IMF, which bailed out Ireland.

We were also told that Mr Cameron had ordered that the EU budget be capped, but how can we ever be sure if budget demands are met when their accounts haven’t been signed off by the European Court of Auditors for the past 18 years?

It is time to get out of the EU.

John Alford
Farnborough, Hampshire

SIR – I wonder if HMRC will be understanding if I choose to follow the Prime Minister’s example and refuse to pay my next VAT bill.

Though I won’t include calculations for prostitution or drug dealing in my return.

Michael Powell
Tealby, Lincolnshire

SIR – The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has threatened us with a fine if we refuse to pay the £1.75 billion bill.

If we refuse to pay the fine, too, what will he do – send in the bailiffs?

Robert Readman
Bournemouth, Dorset

SIR – In an interview on the BBC Today programme yesterday morning, Nicola Sturgeon, the deputy First Minister of Scotland, suggested that in the event of a majority of the population of the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union, any of the four constituent countries should have the right of veto.

During the recent Scottish independence referendum, I do not remember the SNP offering the right of veto to other parts of the UK, should the Scots have voted for independence, even though we would have been significantly affected by a break-up of the Union. We were not even given the chance to express our views.

Dr P D Hills
Frodsham, Cheshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – To develop the headline on Kathy Sheridan’s opinion piece (“Ebola: how faith, hope and science play their part”, October 29th) regarding the treatment of Ebola – faith, hope, and science play their part, but the greatest of these is science. If Texan nurse Nina Pham had been asked to choose as treatment either prayer or having the antibody treatment that she received, which might she have chosen? Our actions are in line with the Dawkins view, however much some protest. We choose to have our children vaccinated rather than relying on faith and hope, for example.

Is it fair to say that we trust the science but we include prayer on the basis that it can’t do any harm and it might help, and then we give it lots of credit when we recover? Perhaps that’s what annoys Prof Dawkins. Instead of further futile pro- and anti-Dawkins articles, I suggest that you devote some space to a deep analysis by leading psychologists and/or philosophers, and not excluding scientists, of the origins of the religious impulse in humans.

It would be good to read opinions on whether this impulse, which seeks for a benign power that looks after us, is a leftover from infancy when simple survival depends on having such a benign power to hand, or if it is based on the development of rational thought in later life, or a bit of both, or maybe neither. – Yours, etc,

MARTIN HENRY,

Drumcondra, Dublin 9.

A chara, – I must congratulate Kathy Sheridan on leaping to the defence of the downtrodden theists in the US. If only more Americans and their political leaders took up Ms Sheridan’s battle cry and professed their faith or mentioned God when they spoke publicly, then perhaps the theists in that country could free themselves from the oppression of the atheist mainstream. – Is mise,

BARRA Mac NIOCAILL,

Kilcock,

Co Kildare.

Sir, – It is possible to acknowledge and admire the courage and generosity of Nina Pham who risked her life to help Ebola victims and at the same time marvel at her ability to thank God for her recovery without her seeming to be taking into account the divine involvement in the creation of the problem in the first place. Kathy Sheridan trivialises the faith/reason dichotomy with her notion of “coolness” as being behind the increase in open atheism so apparent today.

Prof Dawkins seems to strike some as arrogant but I, for one, have never known him ask for anything but evidence. He has stated that he will be convinced by scientific evidence whether that evidence confirms or contradicts previously held opinion. This is not an attitude I would have thought comparable to Redemptorist preachers. – Yours, etc,

DERMOT McCABE,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – As a member of the European Union, our Government has already agreed that by 2050 we will reduce our emissions by at least 80 per cent from 1990 levels. Agriculture accounts for some 30 per cent of our total emissions and transport accounts for another 20 per cent.

In one sector the Government seems determined that no real reductions will take place; in the other, the only plan it has is to hope that clean electricity will replace oil in the running of our trains and cars.

In such circumstances it is clear that the building of a zero-carbon electricity power system is the essential first step in meeting our existing commitments. The European energy roadmap for 2050 makes such an assumption explicit. The 2030 agreement signed in Brussels last week once again confirmed that this is the road we are set on. There is a consensus on this. It has been agreed for almost a decade. The only problem is that it is signed off at European Council meetings and never discussed anywhere else. The political parties in the Dáil don’t think decades ahead. They seem to believe you can sign up for action on climate change, without actually having to do anything about it.

Like Colm McCarthy (October 29th) I would support a global carbon tax to promote the necessary technological solutions in a non-prescriptive way. But the chances of international agreement on such a measure are next to nil and the absence of such a perfect economic instrument should not see us holding off on the strategic decisions we need to make today.

The best analysis shows that delaying making the necessary investments will only make the transition more expensive in the end. There are no easy options available. Nuclear would cost twice the price. The technology to burn fossil fuels and bury the resulting carbon is not yet available. Running Moneypoint on a wood-fired boiler makes no sense. It is only the combination of energy efficiency, community-owned renewable power supplies and international electricity interconnection that provides for me a credible path ahead.

I think the transition would lead to a more stable and equitable economy and society. Doing nothing is not an option. – Yours, etc,

EAMON RYAN,

The Green party,

Suffolk Street, Dublin 2.

A chara, – Christie Colhoun (October 29th) laments that “the wonderful view of Mount Errigal, Dunlewey and the Poison Glen in Co Donegal being ruined by a massive wind turbine had me choking on my breakfast cereal”. Equally, it could be claimed that the view is enhanced by the presence of the turbine in the same way that O’Connell Street is enhanced by the presence of the Spire or the Champs de Mars by the Eiffel Tower. Might the banks of the Nile look more splendorous if there were no pyramids defacing the landscape?

It could equally be argued that the invention of the internal combustion engine has brought untold misery, death and serious pollution of the air that we breathe, but not many of us will easily forego the perceived advantages of personal motorised transport. – Is mise,

GREG SCANLON,

Shannon, Co Clare.

Sir, – It would take an awful lot more wind farms to make any significant impact on our energy-related carbon emissions as wind currently provides only 2.6 per cent of our primary energy requirements. Maybe wind is not the answer.

At the risk of being heretical, could there be a better option evident in France where 80 per cent of electricity is nuclear, where per capita carbon emissions are about half those of Ireland (and Germany for that matter) and where domestic electricity is more than a third cheaper than in Ireland? – Yours, etc,

EAMONN O’REILLY,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Regarding prostitution laws, Fionola Meredith (“Why new law banning the purchase of sex is patronising and problematic”, Opinion & Analysis, October 29th) writes that “the real concern of abolitionist campaigners” is to “seek the satisfaction of a symbolic victory: the ability to declare our shores closed to prostitution, in exactly the same way that anti-abortion activists like to proclaim Ireland free of abortion”. She omits homosexuality. Back in the mid-1980s when homosexual acts were still criminal offences in this State, European courts heard cases about the validity of this law. The State argued that although the law was indeed on the statute books, it was never actually enforced. The point of the law was that the State aspired to be free of homosexual acts. I remember this because Dick Walsh discussed it in the very same place in this newspaper as Ms Meredith’s article 30 years later. So they’re bringing back “aspirational laws”. – Yours, etc,

FRANK DESMOND,

Cork.

Sir, – There is no justification for fare increases at a time when our public transport network is offering a very poor service to its customers.

We have a railway service which is at best infrequent, overcrowded and filthy; the state of some of the carriages leaves a lot to be desired; and as for the toilets, these are rarely clean, and in most cases are out of order.

The commuter services outside of the Dart corridor and the Cork suburban service do not meet the needs of the traveller, and do not offer services in a lot of cases after 6.30pm.

The Bus Éireann network is, on the other hand, more reliable, but is expensive, and does not really offer a cost-effective alternative to using the car.

There is a strong case for privatisation on a number of routes, and the competition might serve to improve timetables and service, and ultimately give the customer a better choice of options. – Yours, etc,

ROBIN D HEATHER,

Wicklow Town.

A chara, – The comprehension gap between official Ireland and majority of the population is truly staggering.

Government Ministers repeatedly state that people are not, for example, getting the message on water charges and that Irish Water needs to clean up its PR act.

The people do, manifestly, get the message and are sickened by it. The majority are struggling to live out their lives following six years of unrelenting cutbacks and freezes in incomes and services.

The comprehension gap is further illuminated by the decision, far away from the budget drama, to increase public transport fares by, as Conor Pope noted, 10 times the rate of inflation (“Bus and rail passengers hit in the pocket”, October 29th).

This is on top of a 48 per increase in Dublin Bus fares since 2011. These phenomenal increases in the context of one of the lowest publicly funded transport services in Europe do not apparently even register with Government or the senior public servants in quangos who make these decisions.

The users of public transport are in the main not Government or senior public servants but the working population and their children. Given all of this and so much more, the fact that the Government is apparently shocked at the response to water charges truly reveals a tale of two countries.

Citizens know from past experience with other services and by the reality of water charges in England that the only way these levies will go is upwards and the much-vaunted easements announced in the budget will go the same way as waste charge waivers, into the dustbin of history. – Is mise,

JOHN SULLIVAN,

Rathmines,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Recent correspondents, intent on having philosophy taught in our schools, should take note of the practice in Germany. There second-level students who have no wish to be instructed in religion are obliged to study philosophy in its stead in school. It is worth considering in an Irish context, for it would neatly give proper effect to a scarcely mentioned provision, embedded in Article 44.2.4 of our Constitution. This entitles any child attending any school in receipt of public money not to attend religious instruction at that school, and in a way which does not affect the child prejudicially. In other words, having him withdraw to the hall, corridor, etc, or making a pariah of him, consciously or unconsciously. Leaving a pupil twiddling his thumbs while religious instruction goes on all around him does not meet this constitutional imperative. – Yours, etc,

JOHN COLGAN,

Leixlip,

Co Kildare.

Sir, – Can John Dillon (October 29th) substantiate the truth of his claim that the Catholic Church is opposed to the teaching of philosophy in schools or is it his mere opinion? – Yours, etc,

JOY POWELL,

Tallaght,

Dublin 24.

Sir, – I have recently found the reading of one particular philosopher a new enlightenment to me. I am not talking about his political thoughts, but his philosophical views. His name is Karl Marx. Why is Ireland the only country in Europe that does not do critical thinking in its schools? – Yours, etc,

PAUL DORAN,

Clondalkin,

Dublin 22.

Sir, – I would like to commend the efforts of the Platonic Centre in Trinity College Dublin as outlined by director emeritus John Dillon and all those working to enrich the education of our young people by the expansion of philosophy within the school curriculum. It should be pointed out, however, that it would be an expansion rather than an addition.

The works of the Greek philosopher Plato can already be studied as part of Classical Studies for both the Junior and Leaving Certificate.

Philosophy represents just one element of a subject that seeks to broaden the minds and develop the critical thinking skills of its students. – Yours, etc,

IAN MAGUIRE,

Chairman,

Classical Association

of Ireland – Teachers,

Mount Merrion,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Gerry Adams (October 30th) certainly could give embattled bishops valuable lessons in chutzpah. Faced with Fintan O’Toole’s unanswerable requisitory, how does Mr Adams respond? “I see from his column that Fintan O’Toole is now an expert on me. This on top of his other accomplishments.” This sounds exactly like the one-liners of Archbishop John C McQuaid. For instance, Archbishop McQuaid said of journalists covering Vatican II: “I am dismayed by the facile ignorance of the journalists who are writing about the documents that have cost us years of work, and by the more facile dictation in regard to what we bishops must now do”.

Of course it suits Mr Adams very well to come across as a shifty and arrogant media-bashing bishop, since this confirms his establishment status, and throws the memory of IRA crimes still further into the shade. – Yours, etc,

JOSEPH S O’LEARY,

Sophia University,

Chiyoda-ku,

Tokyo.

A chara, – I note that US multinationals plan to “advise” the the Minister for Enterprise and Innovation on “what should be in the proposed ‘knowledge box’ scheme” (“Multinationals to advise on tax scheme”, October 29th). As my employer pays me in part for the hours worked, but mainly for the intellectual property I bring to bear during those hours, I welcome this approach.

I would be more than happy to advise the Minister on what proportion of my salary should be taxed as income, at normal rates, and what proportion should be taxed as my “income from intellectual property”, at a reduced rate, say 6.5 per cent.

Kindly inform the Minister I am ready to open negotiations at his earliest convenience. – Is mise,

NORMAN RIDES,

Dundrum, Dublin 16.

Sir, – I hope that the organisers of the anti-water charge marches tomorrow will keep an eye out for any rogue elements in their crowd. They should be easy to spot as they will be the ones carrying bottles of Ballygowan, Evian, River Rock, etc. – Yours, etc,

CONOR MURPHY,

Timoleague,

Co Cork.

Sir, – The controversy over Irish Water demanding PPS numbers would seem very strange to people living in Spain, where everyone pays for water and an individual’s personal ID number is used as the unique identifier for both each account and the person paying the bill. This causes not the slightest problem, as people are very accustomed to using their ID numbers (or passport numbers) for all manner of transactions and certainly anything to do with the State or utility companies.

It seems to me that the main complaint that one can have with Irish Water’s proposal is the risk that if the company is sold in the future, the PPS numbers could be used for some nefarious reason.

The simple solutions to that problem are to offer customers a choice between PPS or passport number as their identifier and to have a set of rock-solid data protection guarantees with severe punishments – particularly colossal fines – for any company that would breach those guarantees. – Yours, etc,

KIERAN McGRATH,

Valencia,

Spain.

Sir, – I concur with Kevin Nolan (October 29th) about marathons taking over the city on bank holidays.

On Monday last I went out for my morning cycle only to be impeded by barricades and diversions put in place to facilitate the marathon mayhem.

Please let me enjoy my city. – Yours, etc,

DEREK HENRY CARR,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Kevin Nolan has a problem with Dublin marathons. Surely he must be among a very small minority. The two Dublin marathons are major events in our country. If he were to take part (albeit even as a spectator) he might get a feel for the atmosphere and understand the sense of goodwill generated by those taking part.

The sums raised for various charities through these events are amazing.

As a participant in the June bank holiday mini-marathon for the past 10 years, I can honestly say it is one of the highlights of the year.

Perhaps Mr Nolan could take his own advice and take to the Phoenix Park or the Dublin mountains on the two marathon Mondays! – Yours, etc,

LAURA O’MARA,

Stillorgan,

Co Dublin.

A chara, – What Ireland needs is another bank holiday where Kevin Nolan can enjoy the city and marathon runners can stay in bed. – Is mise,

LOMAN Ó LOINGSIGH,

Dublin 24.

Irish Independent:

With the publication of Professor Geoff Raisman’s spectacular achievement in repairing the damaged spinal cord of a Polish knife attack victim, (Darek Fidyka) as reported by the Irish Independent (October 22), we are witnessing a paradigm shift of biblical proportions in the field of spinal cord repair – for the first time, stem cell therapy has exceeded expectations. Humanity is on the verge of great advances in the understanding and repair of neurological disasters.

This week marks a significant milestone in our journey from the first bone marrow (stem cell) transplant to treat Leukaemia in 1956 (earning the Nobel Prize for Dr Donnall Thomas and JE Murray in 1990) to Professor Raisman’s publication in 1969 on the ‘Plasticity of Nerve Cells’.

In just 10 years, the possibility of neural regeneration has revolutionised our understanding of neural physiology and repair.

It all began when the canary (long used to warn coal miners of dangerous gasses in the mines) was found to grow 500,000 new neural cells in the process of learning a new song each spring (it’s amazing what is done for love!).

A few years later, an inspired researcher did MRI brain studies on London taxi drivers learning maps of London (known as ‘The Knowledge’). A repeat MRI nine months later showed the hippocampus had grown in size by 14pc.

Another study found that when rats learned to navigate a new maze, after only five trials they developed more than 20,000 new brain cells. The control group of rats that just ran around a ring for the same time showed no increase in brain cells.

So the brain can and does grow when stimulated.

Professor Raisman’s research was the subject of an excellent cover story in the ‘Sunday Times’ supplement circa 2007.

I am personally pleased that I used his research findings and hypotheses in my presentations to the European Anti-ageing Conference on ‘The Potential of Stem Cell Therapy’ in Athens, in 2007, and in Paris the following year. In summary, the stem cell promise has been vindicated. For a full account of Professor Raisman’s discovery, go to my website http://www.dunphymedicalcarrigaline.com

Dr John B Dunphy

Carrigaline, Co Cork

Time to pay up for our water

I am disappointed but not surprised at the strength of the anti-water charges protests. It is like how a neighbour might protest after you ended a 30-year tradition of giving him Christmas presents. He is not thankful for the 30 years when you gave him a gift.

Since the abolition of domestic rates in 1977, a majority of Irish people have received free water and sewage services paid for out of general taxation – apart from a brief period in the 1990s, when some local authorities attempted to impose water charges. Instead of being thankful for the 37 years of free water, many now consider it an entitlement.

I understand both professionally and personally that safe water is both costly and valuable. I have a private well that is one of the 20pc of wells in the country contaminated with faecal coliforms.

In 2009, after a wet autumn, my water was contaminated with E Coli O157. My daughter lost renal function for over three weeks and nearly died. Today, she still has some medical problems as a result. I immediately spent €1,500 installing a treatment system for my water.

Money is needed to improve the water services. In addition to this, many private water and sewage systems need to be improved. However, it is difficult politically for the Government to force the minority with private systems to pay to improve their water and sewage when a majority are getting both for free.

There is no doubt that the Government has meddled and made a ‘horlicks’ out of the situation – establishing Irish Water, abolishing the standing charge. It should have just added €200 to the property tax for people as an interim measure until meters were installed and Irish Water properly established. I doubt if protesters would be as quick to burn letters from the Revenue as they are letters from Irish Water.

Hopefully, the Government will stay the course and not back down.

Ulick Stafford

Enniscorthy, Co Wexford

Tide has turned on Kenny

Ironically this Government – and Enda Kenny in particular – is beginning to resemble not so much a party in disarray but as a king in distress. That king is King Canute. Sat on his coastline with his hand up trying to command the sea. But the angry tide has turned against Fine Gael and the futility of concessions being bandied about will not be enough to hold the waves back.

From the moment this Government guillotined the water bill in the Dail the process has been dogged by criticism and angry response. Worse still, having thought they got away with the mugging of that process, the establishment of Irish Water has picked up on that legacy and has displayed utter contempt for its customer base.

This is evidenced by the ludicrous measure just introduced, whereby all those on the household package will each receive €100 towards their bill. That is 650,000 people costing €65m! And yet the people are not standing for it. They want to know why – and it has never been explained properly to them – they are paying for water twice. They want to know why a proper procedure of tendering never went out for setting up Irish Water. They want to know why millions were squandered on “advisers”. They want to know why personal household allowances are so low. They want to know why, in several cases around the country, they are being asked to pay for a product that is not fit for purpose. They want to know why, if they cannot pay, their rights to water will be “cut to a trickle”. They want to know why company benefits are so generous. They want to know why PPS numbers are required.

And they want to know why this Government has failed to enshrine into law the idea that this company will not be flogged off into the private sector and make a certain fat cat fatter. This is our utility. This is our land. This is our water.

George Wakefield

Co Cork

O’Donnell in RSA driving seat

Should former PD Liz O’Donnell be appointed chairman of the Road Safety Authority? After all, was she not one of the drivers in charge of the ‘Celtic Tiger Express’ when it careered out of control some time ago and crashed headlong into our economy.

Sean Kelly

Tramore, Co Waterford

More pain for commuters

I read with interest your article on bus and rail fare rises (Irish Independent, October 29). It opens with the NTA saying an increase was needed due to falling passenger numbers.

However, it then closes by saying passenger numbers have increased by 4pc so far this year.

This is a complete contradiction and just shows the waffle these semi-state companies expect us to swallow. I think we can simply conclude the fare rise is another money grab.

I do, however, welcome the lower fare on a second trip.

This initiative is long overdue as reduced/free second trip fares is the norm in cities all over the world.

Brendan Guckian

Co Leitrim

Irish Independent

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