30 November 2014 Sandy

I still have arthritis in my left toe I am stricken with gout. But I manage to get to the post box, Sandy comes around.

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


Dame Mary Glen Haig was a fencer who competed at four Olympic Games and defended the movement’s ideals as a member of the IOC

Dame Mary Glen Haig in front of the Olympic flag

Dame Mary Glen Haig in front of the Olympic flag Photo: BRIAN SMITH

5:57PM GMT 26 Nov 2014


Dame Mary Glen Haig, who has died aged 96, fenced for Britain at four Olympic Games and later became a respected sports administrator, serving as one of two British representatives on the International Olympic Committee from 1982 to 1994.

Her father, William James, who had competed in the 1908 Olympics, had taught her how to fence and she went on to become one of the country’s most decorated competitors, winning gold medals for the Women’s Foil at the British Empire Games (later the Commonwealth Games) in Auckland in 1950 and in Vancouver in 1954, followed by a bronze at Cardiff in 1958.

She made her first Olympic appearance at the 1948 “Austerity” games in London, where she did not win a medal, although she made it to the final, finishing in eighth place.

At the time she was working as an administrator at King’s College Hospital, London, and she was still at work the night before her first match. There was no Olympic Village and nobody to carry her fencing gear for her from the hospital to the lodgings the women’s team had taken in a run-down house behind Victoria station (where she had to sleep on a camp bed in a room shared with two other women). “I went looking for some food and there was a lovely smell coming from the house next door and I joined the queue,” she recalled. “I think it must have been the French team. That’s the sort of spirit in which one went off to the games.”

In contrast to the hype that surrounds the modern Olympics, she recalled that her hospital colleagues were “not too bothered” about how well she did: “When you’ve had a war and had ghastly things to contend with . . . On one occasion a nursery had been hit. Can you imagine? I’ll never forget that day, mothers beside themselves, not knowing where to run to, not knowing if their child had been brought in. Things like winning medals, we didn’t worry about things like that in those days.”

Mary Glen Haig in the 1950s (TOPHAM PICTUREPOINT)

Mary Glen Haig continued to compete in the Olympics until 1960, though she never again made the finals, and continued to fence until her late seventies. In 1982 she was one of the first women to be appointed to the IOC, a post she continued to occupy until 1994, also serving on bidding committees set up by Manchester and Birmingham.

In this capacity she supervised the first Women’s Islamic Games, held in 1993, in which 407 athletes took part in eight different sports. She was also greatly admired for her work over a decade on the IOC’s medical commission, which often involved her having to rise at 5.30am to attend meetings on doping. She took an idealistic approach to the bidding process, revealing in a letter to the House of Commons National Heritage Select Committee in 1995 that she and her fellow British IOC representative, Princess Anne, found the whole business of Olympic lobbying to be “exceedingly distasteful, not in line with Olympic philosophy and certainly outwith all the ethics of fair play”. The Princess, she recalled, “openly declared her distaste for the valuable and too readily accepted ‘perks’ seemingly directed at influencing votes – hence perhaps her alleged unpopularity with those reported to be ‘powerful men in sport’.”

Mary Glen Haig at a fencing display in 1950 (TOPHAM PICTUREPOINT)

Mary Glen Haig remained an honorary member of the IOC and made her last major appearance at the conclusion of the 2004 Summer Olympics, held in Athens, reciting the English version of an ode in praise of the city which she had commissioned to be written in ancient Greek by the Oxford classics scholar Armand d’Angour.

Mary Alison James was born in London on July 12 1918 and educated at Dame Alice Owen’s School.

She began taking part in regional and international fencing competitions in 1937 and made her last competitive appearance in 1960. In 1943 she married Andrew Glen Haig.

Fencers Gillian Shhen (left) and Mary Glen Haig model their new Olympic hats in 1956 (TOPHAM PICTUREPOINT)

As well as her work on the IOC, Mary Glen Haig held positions within the British Olympic Association and the International Fencing Federation. During the 1970s she chaired the Central Council of Physical Recreation, and she was president of the British Sports Association for the Disabled from 1981 to 1991.

Alongside her sporting interests she continued to work as a health manager, working as a hospital district administrator from 1974 until 1982.

She was also a long-serving vice-president of the British Schools Exploring Society (now British Exploring). Never a figurehead, she took a deep interest in the activities of the “Young Explorers” (YEs) and over many years never missed committee meetings, where her experience and wise counsel were of great value. Until recent years, she also attended the annual reunions held at the Royal Geographical Society when the YEs presented accounts of their activities and scientific field studies.

Mary Glen Haig was appointed MBE in 1971, CBE in 1977 and DBE in 1993. In 1994 she was awarded the Olympic Order at the Centennial Olympic Congress in Paris. Her passion for sport never left her, and she was a great supporter of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Mary Glen Haig’s husband predeceased her, and she later lived with Joyce Pearce, a medal winner in fencing at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, who died in 2011.

Dame Mary Glen Haig, born July 12 1918, died November 15 2014


Piles of coal in China Imported coal on a quay at Lianyungang, China. Photograph: Imaginechina/Corbis

Next year in Paris the world’s leaders need to find proper solutions to mitigate the impacts of climate change, as Robin McKie explained (“Six vital steps world leaders must agree to take to protect Earth”, In Focus).

But there is no mention that a price should be put on carbon. It is essential that the externalities of carbon are internalised in the price, as we often do not directly pay for the associated health and environmental costs. People who are not responsible for the pollution can suffer from the consequences and this is not fair. The revenue gained from carbon pricing can be used for the Green Climate Fund to lessen the impacts of climate change globally.

The key driver behind climate change is excessive consumption. Consumption creates higher energy demand, requires more resources and has a large impact on global pollution levels. Limiting consumption will not be solved by technology, which McKie mentions as the key factor to stop temperature rise, but requires political will and awareness among consumers. Instead of focusing on pollution from the production sides solely, the world’s leaders must take action to limit the effects of consumption on the environment, just as consumers need to be more aware how much they contribute to climate change through their behaviour. The problems will even be more severe with the increasing demand for energy and resources in the future, especially of the developing nations, so solutions are needed as soon as possible.

Yanniek Huisman

Rijswijk, The Netherlands

Chris Rapley and Duncan Macmillan are absolutely right that, although climate change has been revealed by science, it’s not really about science (“Climate change is not just a matter of science. It’s about the world we want to live in, the future we want to create”, special report). They are also right that, despite all the technology we’ve thrown at the problem, emissions continue to rise. This is because no feasible technology will sufficiently decouple economic activity and environmental impact – the challenge is political rather than scientific. So it’s a shame that, in the face of all the evidence, Rapley sticks with the line that his hope “lies with the engineers”, and that he is encouraging his daughter to be one. When will scientists take the political plunge?

Andrew Dobson 

Spire, Keele University, Staffordshire

Nobody wanted climate change. James Watt’s steam engine started it but, unlike slavery for example, those who brought it about didn’t know that what they were doing was harmful to people.

Now we know. So from now on, we are faced with the decision to take effective action. We must join together and ask our leaders to do this. Generate electricity from renewable sources. Insulate homes to reduce demand for heating. Adopt agricultural practices that sequester more carbon than they produce. It’s all possible and we have to start doing it. Don’t waste time blaming people or feeling guilty, but do talk about it. Make governments start now to reduce and then reverse greenhouse gas emissions. It is their most fundamental duty to us.

Jeanne Warren


Your analysis on climate change concentrated on the usual relatively easy fixes and, like almost all articles on the subject, ignored the problem of rapidly increasing population. There is no crisis without people, and since having children is such a fundamental right, it seems easier to concentrate on renewables than seriously try to address this basic truth. It’s often said reassuringly that population size in developing nations is static or falling. Whether true or not, it also seems likely that the current 7 billion will be 9 billion in a few years, and presumably go on increasing, putting at greater risk food, space, water, shelter. Wouldn’t it be sensible for governments to start thinking about this, rather than wait for nature to fix things?

Mark Dickinson

Funding for services provided by councils has borne the brunt of austerity while demand continues to rise. When the chancellor delivers his autumn statement this Wednesday, “more of the same” cannot be an option.

After a 40% reduction in funding during this parliament, our efficiency savings are coming to an end. Further reductions without radical reform will have a detrimental impact on people’s quality of life and will lead to vital services being scaled back or lost altogether. Services such as libraries, leisure centres and road maintenance continue to buckle under the strain of cuts and the ever-rising cost of caring for our growing elderly population. Failure to address this will not only jeopardise other services, but will pass costs on to the NHS, which will have to pick up the pieces if we cannot protect adult social care or provide the services that keep people healthy.

Last week, the Smith commission set out a better deal for Scotland, granting more control over funding and recognising the importance of devolving power down beyond Holyrood. It’s England’s turn now.

There is compelling evidence that taking decisions closer to the people affected achieves better results and saves money. It is vital that the autumn statement sets out a new settlement for England, which puts powers beyond Westminster, and shares out tax and spending across the UK on a fair basis. The people we represent, who look north of the border with envy at the greater control Scots are to get over their everyday lives, will expect nothing less.

Signed by:

Cllr David Sparks, Chair of the Local Government Association


Ben Bradshaw’s article “Our route to a safer planet begins at sea” (16 November) is a call for the delivery of the full UK network of marine protected areas by 2016. His campaign worries fishermen who face being displaced from their fishing grounds; it should also worry scientists and all those who are genuine about conservation of the marine environment.

A rushed process is a recipe for failure. Ben Bradshaw’s call to arms is an example of the blundering amateur – ex-minister or not – and includes a number of inaccuracies. Closed areas did not play a significant role in rebuilding the North American cod stocks in the 1980s.

Bass stocks have not “collapsed”. Poor recruitment and high fishing pressure (both commercial and recreational) have led to a decline in biomass. It’s important to introduce balanced and proportionate constraints to reverse this trend.

West Country boats are not tied up, as he implies, because of overfishing of skates and rays but because of quotas drastically reduced to meet a short-sighted and arbitrary policy timetable. Measures other than marine conservation zones have been shown to deliver. Scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea confirm that since the year 2000 fishing pressure across all the main species groups in the North Atlantic has been halved and fish stocks are responding – some very dramatically, like North Sea plaice, others more slowly, as we would expect.

The Government’s policy of implementing a network of marine conservation zones, carefully and progressively, is the correct approach. It is in no one’s interest to put marine protected areas in the wrong place. Only if you are content to have a tick-box exercise could you support rushing into this.

Barrie Deas

Chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, York

The article “Limit gambling machine bets to £2, say councils” (23 November) includes statements about betting shops that are untrue.

The article refers to gaming machines as “addictive”, yet no independent empirical research has been produced stating that – indeed, the first major study into this issue is being published in December.

The claims that there are twice as many betting shops in the most deprived areas than the least is nonsense – only 17 per cent of betting shops are located in the most deprived areas of the country. This is the conclusion of an independent report by the Local Data Company.

The Gambling Commission, which is the regulator of all gambling, states that the number of betting shops is in decline – there are fewer betting shops now than there were in 2011; indeed, there are fewer betting shops than six months ago. It is disappointing to see a retail sector that employs more than 40,000 people and has eight million customers misrepresented to such a degree.

Paul Darling

Chairman, Association of British Bookmakers

London SW1

The gender gap begins in primary school with boys benefiting more from the pupil premium than girls (“Funding for poorer pupils helps more boys than girls, study shows”, 23 November).

The impact of this may last a lifetime; girls leaving school with few qualifications are given far fewer opportunities than boys in the same situation. While girls do better than boys at GCSEs overall, the gap in GCSE results is greater between disadvantaged and other girls than it is between their male equivalents.

The fact that girls who get on with their work and don’t play truant lose out to disruptive boys is unfair, but it’s not nearly as unfair as having to pay the price for this for life.

Carole Easton

Chief executive, Young Women’s Trust

London N1

Thank goodness for Katy Guest’s column last Sunday. Ed Miliband needs to remember that he leads the Labour Party; he should stand up to the bigots increasingly represented by Ukip, let David Cameron destroy his party by lurching to the right, and nurture the huge support he could have from liberal-minded people wanting a fair-minded society. That is what the Labour Party is for.

Peter Brookes

Wakefield, West Yorkshire


Humanitarian assistance is vital to help struggling nations, but there is concern about how the funds are distributed Humanitarian assistance is vital to help struggling nations, but there is concern about how the funds are distributed (Louis Leeson/save the children uk/pa)

Aid hand-outs do not always go to the right causes

THE British taxpayer, I’m told by a former minister for Africa, hands out £500,000 a day for the intended benefit of Kenya’s citizens (“Yes, they know it’s Christmas, but we don’t know where UK aid goes”, Camilla Cavendish, November 16).

One recent initiative Britain sponsors is the creation and running of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), whose purpose is to clean up Kenya’s corrupt police. One of the first cases it has spent a year investigating is the death of my son, Alexander, in custody in 2012.

The autopsy carried out by two pathologists concluded he died from blunt force trauma caused by a blow to the head. He had suffered other injuries too. The task of the IPOA was to find out which officers in a small police station carried out the attack.

A fortnight ago the IPOA called in Alexander’s mother to its offices in Nairobi to tell her its findings: the pathologists had got it wrong — our son had not died because of violence but because of an ingestion of drugs. The police were in the clear — in our view a whitewash and a White Mischief smear, paid for by the British taxpayer.
Lord Monson, London SW5


Cavendish argues that direct targeting of basic services such as sanitation and infrastructure avoids handing over cash straight to undemocratic governments. But if, say, one of these states asks a donor country to pick up the existing tab for primary education there is no benefit to impoverished locals if the contribution merely frees up the existing budget so the president-for-life can buy an executive jet or redecorate his mansion.

Aid should be used to ensure additional development via provision of matching funds. Power brokers in some developing countries may claim that imposing such conditions is a form of neo-colonial interference. Yet Band Aid celebrities and donor countries surely have a right to know how the money is spent.
Brendan Cardiff, Wezembeek, Belgium


Your Christmas appeal (“Save Syria’s children”) is well worth supporting. However, the news that Save the Children has given an award to Tony Blair after his warmongering in the Middle East means it will not get another penny from me.
Gordon Bateman, Reading, Berkshire


If Britain cares about the Syrian refugees, it should consider opening talks with President Bashar al-Assad. He is still the legitimate leader and is supported by the multiethnic Syrians; good Sunnis, Shi’ites, Christians, Armenians, Druze, Alawites and Ismailis. He also has the boots on the ground to defeat Isis and others. An amnesty and a ceasefire should be worked for.
S Skaff, North Ferriby, East Yorkshire

Oligarchs not buying up top school places

THE views of the head of King’s College School in Wimbledon expressed in the article “Private schools now preserve of oligarchs, admits head” ( News, last week) do not reflect the situation at most independent schools. Having led a small and successful prep for two decades, I know many independents have become more inclusive, not least because of the introduction of means-tested bursaries.

Fees charged by boarding schools, and establishments in London and the southeast of England, distort the figures.
Mr John Tranmer, Headmaster, Froebelian School, Leeds


In the grubby world of agents who place the students of overseas parents, placing fees are now almost standard. These can be up to 25% of the annual school charges, with even second-year and third-year fees increasingly common. No doubt bursars factor the existence of these backhanders into their calculations, hence the costs spiral.
Kevin Davis, Shillingstone, Dorset


Just 4.8% of pupils at Independent Schools Council (ISC) schools are international students with parents living overseas, and their numbers fell last year. The idea that our schools are dominated by the children of oligarchs is not one that any head of an independent school would recognise.

Overseas pupils bring perspectives from which all children learn. Fees average £12,000 a year for day schools, and one in three pupils receive some help paying them — £660m in financial assistance was provided last year.
Barnaby Lenon, ISC, Richard Harman, Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, Alice Phillips, Girls’ Schools Association, David Hanson, Chief Executive, Independent Association of Prep Schools, Andrew Hampton, Chairman, Independent Schools Association, Mike Windsor, Chairman, The Society of Heads, Mark Taylor, Chairman,Independent Schools’ Bursars Association, Colin Bell, General Secretary, Council of British International Schools,Richard Green, Chairman, Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools, Robin Fletcher, National Director, Boarding Schools’ Association

Net migration puts everyone in same boat

IT IS hardly surprising the “net migration” policy has collapsed (“PM: I’ll ban benefits for EU migrants”, News, last week). It makes no distinction between the arrival of an engineer from outside the EU and a traveller from the Balkans. Its sole purpose was to conceal the impotence of the government under EU law.

There are the skilled craft workers who force wages even lower and enable employers to avoid training our young people. There are the unskilled who do menial labour — work our own unskilled see as less attractive than living on benefits. There are those who arrive for the welfare. And most crucially, there are those without whom the NHS would collapse.There is no chance of a rational policy while we remain in the EU.
David Brancher, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire


A simple solution to the so-called benefit tourism is to make all welfare contributory, as many other EU countries do. British citizens should be subject to this rule too. Let’s set the entry point to, say, five years. We could require child benefit and family credits to be subject to residency. I was astonished to learn that we gave British citizenship to nearly 200,000 people in 2012.
Joan Freeland, Colyton, Devon


I recently purchased property in Spain and take issue with the figures in the report from Open Europe. It may well be the case that “a single Spanish immigrant moving to the UK to work on minimum wage sees their weekly income rise from £214.07 to £290.28, a gain of £76.21 a week”.

But it ignores the fact that moving from Madrid to London would cost far more — an increase in the price of groceries of 50% and rent up 200%. A monthly ticket for Madrid’s public transport costs €54 (£43), whereas in London it costs £120.60 (almost 200% more). Any “single Spanish immigrant” moving here in the hope of an easier life would be off his or her head.
Peter Millar, London SE1


LIKE Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (“She might as well go out half naked”, News Review, last week), I dislike seeing women wearing the niqab. Unlike her, I do not think it is my right to complain about this. It strikes me that liberals (such as myself) love multiculturalism as long as it entails no more than exotic foods and colourful street carnivals. But as soon as a culture has beliefs or behaviours that clash with ours, we quickly drop the liberalism because we know that our value system is without question the better. Wearing the niqab may represent very different things for different people but it is hardly going to frighten the horses, is it?
Jim White, Glasgow


I lived and worked in the Muslim world for more than 20 years. My wife and I were made welcome but she conformed with the expectation that she covered her hair. Some women now wearing the veil in Britain may have been forced to do so by family pressure. Others who do so by choice are abusing our tolerance and making a statement that they have no wish to integrate.
Malcolm Stathers, Haslemere, Surrey

Wind Farms


Following on from your two excellent articles on the wind turbines can we now look forward to a third article highlighting the horrendous costs involved providing the subsidy and where the majority of the money is going.

Using National Grid figures and graphs a rough figure for the present subsidy is £3bn a year and the bulk of this goes to European companies (Germany, France, Spain, Norway and Sweden). The problem is that this figure is based on the wind power being at 10% and the Scottish government is looking at 100% which could mean a figure of £20-30bn a year which is unsustainable in the present conditions.

The problem for the governments both in London and Scotland, who are now in a very deep hole, is that the above horrendous figure does not include the very large biomass scheme at Drax, the new gas fired power stations or nuclear.

It is now very clear that not only the wind turbines but the whole green energy system is not viable at the rate the government is trying to achieve and we should take note of China’s decision to reduce the dirty power stations over a longer period.

It should also be noted that we are relying on the French and the Dutch to keep our lights on.

William McNeil, Edinburgh



May I correct the percentage of Scottish voters who voted “yes” in the referendum quoted in Gillian Bowditch’s otherwise admirable article, (“Wooing Nicola” , Focus, last week). The figures of 44.7% for independence and 55.3% against are percentages of the 84.6% (3,619,914) who actually did vote and do not take account of the other 15.4% who did not. Of all those eligible to vote in the referendum (4,278,858), 37.8% voted for independence, while 62.2% did not vote for independence.

Hair-splitting? Perhaps. But it certainly shows that the vote for independence was not as decisive as it is made out to be.

Monique Sanders, Giffordtown, Fife



As Camilla Cavendish says, the key is not how much we eat or exercise but what we eat (“I choke on the words but our bulging world needs laws to curb Big Food”, Comment, last week). This has been well documented in countless scientific studies. It’s an uphill struggle, however, to convince people when an organisation such as the NHS endorses sugar-filled drinks. I visited hospitals in Sheffield and Leicester recently and all wards have Coke-dispensing machines stationed at their entrances. The most influential doctor in any hospital appears to be Dr Pepper. Surely a hospital should be saying, “When you enter these doors, we will show you the way. What you do after that is up to you.”
Mark Littlewood, Leicester


Should the English thank the Scots for showing us how to take on a challenge? They won a referendum that has been repeatedly denied the English people. Whatever else is said about Alex Salmond, he fired the great majority of his nation to go out and vote and in doing so almost succeeded in dismantling the UK.
George Mitchell, Tunbridge Wells, Kent


Your editorial “Discretion is the better part of monarchy” (last week) criticises Prince Charles for wanting to speak out on matters close to his heart, but the master of Wellington College, Anthony Seldon, praises him for the Step Up to Serve campaign (“The young yearn to help. We’d be mad not to let them”, Comment, last week). It would be really sad if such well-intentioned efforts were to be muzzled once he becomes king. Surely such action can’t possibly be regarded as political, especially when it was enthusiastically supported by all three party leaders at its launch last year. I do not think the Queen has ever initiated a campaign, brilliant as she has been at avoiding controversy. Please allow our future king to be proactive in some matters.
Margaret Ross-Bell, London SW12


What is forgotten amid the arguments about who is to blame for the fighting in eastern Ukraine is the fact that most Ukrainians loathe the Russians for the treatment suffered by them over the past century (“West scrambles diplomats as Russia drops billions into Balkans”, World News, last week). In the 1930s Stalinists murdered 7m Ukrainians during the so-called dekulakisation process by starvation, with the sequestration of grain. Some Ukrainians welcomed the Nazis as being less evil than the Russians, though that did not last long due to the Nazis’ doctrine of untermenschen. But Russia’s deed has not been forgotten.
JP Warren, By email

Corrections and clarifications

AA Gill (Table Talk, Magazine, last week) stated that the Declaration of Independence was read by James Pearse. The document was the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and it was read by Padraig Pearse. The starter at the Farmgate Cafe in Cork is with drisheen, not dasheen. There was no referendum on water in Ireland. The Seamus Heaney poem referred to is not For Wednesday but Postscript. We apologise for the errors.

On November 16 we published a prominent photo of Margaret Evison with the story surrounding the circumstances of her soldier son Mark’s death in Afghanistan five years ago. She did not wish to be associated with the story and we apologise for any distress caused.

The top 200 state secondary schools table in last week’s Parent Power section in News Review omitted Cranbrook School, Kent, which should have ranked 100th with 68.6% A*-B grades at A-level and 65% A*/A grades at GCSE. Torquay Girls’ Grammar School showed incorrect GCSE results. The proportion of A*/A grades at GCSE should have read 69.2%. This would have ranked the school 67th overall. We apologise for the errors. The schools’ corrected entries in our Parent Power rankings can be found online at

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, should be addressed to or Complaints, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) will examine formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines. Please go to our complaints section for full details of how to lodge a complaint.

John Bishop, comedian, 48; Magnus Carlsen, chess champion, 24; Des’ree, singer, 46; Alan Hutton, footballer, 30; Billy Idol, singer, 59; Josh Lewsey, rugby player, 38; Gary Lineker, TV presenter, 54; David Mamet, playwright, 67; David Nicholls, novelist, 48; Sir Ridley Scott, film director, 77; Ben Stiller, actor, 49

1872 Scotland and England draw 0-0 in Glasgow in first international football match; 1934 Flying Scotsman officially becomes first steam locomotive to reach 100mph; 1968 Trade Descriptions Act comes into force; 1996 Stone of Scone is returned to Scotland 700 years after it was taken to England by King Edward I


The public’s requirements on immigration; living with HIV; the arrival of Black Friday in Britain; Thomas Hardy’s birthplace under threat; silly signs; a taste for reindeer meat

David Cameron has delivered a bold speech that reconfigures UK policy towards the EU.

David Cameron has warned that the “future” of Britain in the European Union is at stake Photo: Getty

7:00AM GMT 29 Nov 2014


SIR – On immigration the public’s requirements are simple: that no preference be given to EU citizens over those from the rest of the world, and that the Government should limit the overall numbers appropriately, with proficiency in English being a key qualification for entry.

The sort of short-term fudges beloved of politicians and civil servants are a betrayal. Economic purists argue that a single market requires free movement of people, but they also argued that it would require a common currency. Our position on the sovereignty of immigration policy should mirror our position on currency.

Robert Smart
Eastbourne, East Sussex

SIR – There is no point at all in David Cameron – or anyone else – making promises on tougher rules for EU migrants’ comings and goings when we all know that our borders are so leaky and under-policed that we can’t even stop jihadists on bail from leaving.

Some reassurance from Theresa May that we will soon have a much tighter grip on this would be welcome, or these impressive pronouncements on control of numbers are meaningless.

Ginny Martin
Bishops Waltham, Hampshire

SIR – I see absolutely no reason to believe that David Cameron and his party of jelly-spined jobsworths are qualified or able to negotiate with the EU.

Christopher L Cruden
Lugano, Ticino, Switzerland

SIR – I live in Spain. To be able to do this, I have to comply with the laws of Spain.

I must first register in person at the oficina de extranjeros in my province of residence or at a designated police station. I must have sufficient resources, so as not to become a burden on Spain’s social assistance system during my period of residence. I must present proof of these resources, whether from regular income or from ownership of assets.

Lastly, I must supply proof of private or public healthcare insurance.

If Spain can insist on this for a citizen of the European Union, why can’t Britain?

Keith Donovan
Mazarrón, Murcia, Spain

SIR – Too little, too late, and nothing but a cap on numbers will do.

Stephen Lord
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire

SIR – We keep being told to accept EU immigration because there are 2 million Brits living in other EU countries. I wonder how many of those have retired abroad to spend their money or are working for the EU in Brussels?

Kevin Platt
Walsall, Staffordshire

Living with HIV

SIR – The perception that a woman living with HIV is “selfish” for deciding to have children shows how entrenched HIV-related stigma remains in Britain.

Negative attitudes about the reality of life with HIV cling on in the face of medical facts: in Britain the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission is less than 0.5 per cent.

Sarah Radcliffe
Policy and Campaigns Manager, National Aids Trust
London EC1

Hamilton as tax exile

SIR – Oliver Brown’s anger at Lewis Hamilton’s tax status should be directed at Labour’s 50 per cent higher rate tax (now 45 per cent but still counterproductive).

Margaret Thatcher proved that reasonable marginal tax rates produce more tax and more GDP. High earners already pay a vastly disproportionate amount of tax and will vote with their feet, because they can.

Andrew Tooby
Ombersley, Worcestershire

Sharia in Britain

SIR – I was pleased to see your report about the Law Society withdrawing its Practice Note on sharia-compliant wills.

As a member of the Law Society, I hope that this will reopen discussions about this and preceding governments’ dangerous flirting with misguided multiculturalism. While most of our politicians have been complaining loudly about the impact of EU law on Britain, they are afraid to challenge or even discuss the shameful fact that sharia, or Islamic law, has a foothold in certain pockets of our country where those most disadvantaged by sharia have no choice but to submit to it.

Should we have a referendum on action to reform this situation instead of, or as well as, the EU referendum?

A A Brook

No, thanks

Shoppers at the Asda store in Wembley wait fo the door to open (PA)

SIR – Why has “Black Friday” become an event for British shoppers?

In America, Black Friday naturally follows Thanksgiving (always the fourth Thursday in November), and has a similar status for American shoppers as Boxing Day has for us.

But now, in Britain, the event of Black Friday appears to compel retailers to discount products at exactly the time when shoppers are most willing to pay full price. This weekend, people will be out shopping for Christmas. Retailers should seize this opportunity to maximise their already stressed profitability.

David Allan
Richmond, Surrey

Private school fees

SIR – Those who send their children to private school receive no rebate for the place at state school for which, through taxation, they are entitled and have paid but do not benefit from (Letters, November 26). The same could be said for private health care – there’s no refund for not using the NHS.

Dr Michael Barrie
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey

SIR – Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, seems to be uninterested in the reality of the independent schools’ interaction with the state sector. Only privately educated Labour MPs fail to see the hypocrisy of their behaviour.

Don Bailey
Helsby, Cheshire

SIR – In his haste to lambast independent education, the shadow education secretary conveniently misses the downsides of state education. After four years in the state sector, my son was struggling. Despite frequent consultation, his teachers could offer no explanation. When he applied to the local independent school, the head identified his mild dyslexia within an hour. Now, with proper support and teachers who are accountable, my son is thriving in the independent sector.

Adrian Walton
Moddershall, Staffordshire

How to get a head

SIR – My photographer husband was asked to turn up at Faber & Faber one day in the early Seventies to do the cover shot for a new book and was told to bring a human skull with him. Sourcing this was my job.

As I was walking away from the props place with the skull in a basket, a gust of wind blew the covering cloth aside just as I passed a man who gave a yell and took off at high speed.

P D James awaited us in Queen Square and deftly arranged the ghoulish black wig topped by a beautifully tied nurse’s cap on the grinning skull. It was a very jolly session, she couldn’t have been more delightful – and that’s how the Shroud for a Nightingale book cover (pictured above) came into being.

Celia Moreton-Prichard
London SE13

Britain’s Indian comrades in war deserve better

SIR – General Lord Dannatt is right to call for us to remember the contribution the Empire made in the First World War. The Chattri at Patcham (Letters, November 24) is magnificent, but it cannot tell the whole story. That should be told at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas in Staffordshire.

There are presently four relevant memorials at Alrewas; three of them specific to regiments. Two are dedicated to the 10th Baluch Regiment and the 17th Dogras, both raised by former British officers of those regiments. The third, erected recently by the Brigade of Gurkhas, honours not only the pre-Indian Independence Gurkha regiments but also their successors in the British Army.

The fourth memorial stands nearby. It is dedicated to the Royal Indian Navy and the Indian Army, the greatest volunteer army the world has known. This last memorial comprises a high and forbidding hedge that surrounds a small rectangular space containing an uninformative notice board.

Can we not do something that truly reflects our respect and gratitude to our former Indian comrades?

Lt-Col William Prince (retd)
Brightlingsea, Essex

SIR – The majority of Muslim burials were at two locations close to the Shah Jahan Mosque, Woking: a purpose-built burial ground on Horsell Common, established on land procured by the War Office in early 1915 specifically for the purpose, and, in the earliest months of the war, within the Muslim section of the Brookwood Necropolis Cemetery.

Sadly, following acts of vandalism in the Sixties, the remains were removed from Horsell and reinterred at a special plot within the military cemetery at Brookwood.

Nigel Searle
Woking, Surrey

The National Trust must save Hardy’s Dorset

Exposed to the madding crowd: the quiet of Hardy’s birthplace in Dorset is under threat (Alamy)

SIR –The National Trust must bear some responsibility for the proposed planning application for 70 new homes close to the site of Thomas Hardy’s birthplace (report, November 27).

In September, the trust opened a grotesque and unnecessary visitor centre at nearby Thorncombe Woods which has further commercialised the area. While it remains possible to follow Hardy’s trails through the surrounding woods and up on to the ancient land immortalised as Egdon Heath, the tranquillity of the area has faced numerous threats in recent years, including traffic noise from the Puddletown bypass and commercial ventures close to the trust’s visitor car park at Higher Bockhampton.

The National Trust must vociferously oppose this planning application at Lower Bockhampton, which threatens to triple the local population.

Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey

Run out of town

SIR – My favourite sign (Letters, November 27) is from St Lucia and runs as follows: “Notice: The village square is closed for rehabilitation any unauthorised persons found in the square shall be persecuted.”

Kevin Henley
Jubail, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia

Fast food

SIR – Lidl’s magazine says its new line in reindeer meat “resembles antelope in flavour and texture”. That’s helpful.

Tim Barnsley
London SW16

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

I firmly condemn thugs hijacking peaceful protests with their vindictive behaviour, as that is giving the Government an even bigger stick to beat us with.

However, having said that, I do feel the controversy surrounding the public’s rejection of the mere existence of Irish Water has this Government running around like ducks in thunder. Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly’s new changes in making payments for the service is nothing short of ridiculous. It is inconceivable for them to think that people will buy into this latest attempt to quell public anger about the entire setup surrounding Irish Water. Pray tell, what’s going to be achieved in having people pay €100 above the recommended costs, so that the Department of Social Protection would reimburse them the overpaid amount?

Who came up with this solution? Did any of the highly-paid advisers calculate the extra costs involved in this implausible and thoughtless proposal? As a nation we have been known in the past to pay gold nuggets to political monkeys. This is a continuation of those infamous and disastrous methods of doing business all over again. Has nothing been learned at the very top in this country? But, then again, it’s always easy to wilfully and recklessly spend somebody else’s money. This economy has been decimated by the selfishness of financial parasites and their cronies for far too long.

So we must stop this destruction of living standards now, by standing together against this attempted underhanded operation. It’s become a necessity to defend the only remaining emblems of our living standards. Let’s not forget that politicians have already claimed €24.4 million in expenses in three years.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, isn’t it time for you and this Government to take a reality check as to whom you are working on behalf of? We’ll shortly be commemorating the sacrifice of our patriots who died for the overwhelming desire of freedom for the people of this country. Let’s be mindful that liberty and democracy are meant to stand side-by-side for the good of all people – and not just for the privileged class in society.

Mattie Greville, Killucan, Co Westmeath


Gender quotas are unfair

I agree 100pc with the views expressed by Desmond Fitzgerald on the article by Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.

There is no evidence to suggest that artificially-created (through quotas) gender-balanced leadership results in better national governance in countries. This is not surprising, given that quotas are – by their nature – contrary to true equality of opportunity, which is not the same thing as equality of outcome. Also, it’s both ironic and instructive that Minister Fitzgerald is a senior member of a Government that last year got rid of a highly-talented woman who was one of its brightest stars of either sex (and one who, I understand, is opposed to gender quotas) because she showed genuine independence of mind and devotion to principle.

It seems that such qualities will not be welcome in the kind of female public representatives and office-holders that the Minister appears to have in mind when she calls for more women in public life and gender-balanced leadership.

Thankfully, though, when the next general election comes the Government and the various political parties cannot oblige electors to vote for their quota-filling candidates.

Hugh Gibney, Athboy, Co Meath


Hitting the right note

To offer some empathy and solidarity to FAI Chief Executive John Delaney, I would like to offer my apologies to anybody over the years who may have heard me singing Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’. I in no way advocate the senseless shooting of men in Reno just to watch them die.

I would also like to promise that from now on I will no longer sing ‘Maxwell’s Silver Hammer’ by The Beatles or ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ by Bob Marley. To my wife: I have destroyed my Tom Jones’ records as I now appreciate the dangerous influence that the singing along to ‘Delilah’ might one day have on our relationship.

Darren Williams, Sandyford, Dublin 18


Helter skelter marriage laws

Charles Manson is allowed to get married in jail… yet there are so many men who cannot get a divorce in the real world. Strange indeed.

Robert Sullivan, Bantry, Co Cork


Our Lady of Guadalupe

The image of the Virgin Mary on a piece of 483-year-old cactus fabric in a Catholic church in Mexico City constantly baffles artists and scientists alike. Known worldwide as Our Lady of Guadalupe, its history goes back to 1531, when Mary appeared to a 50-year-old Indian named Juan Diego. The visions occurred five times, four to Juan and once to his sick uncle.

I would like to explain briefly just of the very many interesting aspects of this image. In 1979, the newest digital techniques were applied for the first time in investigating the image. After filtering and processing the digitised images of the eyes, an entire scene of about 10 people were present in both eyes. The scene appears to be Juan Diego, a bishop and other people present at the time of the apparition. Mary seems to have taken a picture of the scene with her eyes, which remained preserved forever in the moment she appeared on Juan Diego’s cloak.

The images in Mary’s eyes appeared in three different places. This three-fold reflection is caused by the curvature of the eyes’ corner. Two of the reflections were right-side up and one was upside down. This occurs only in living eyes. Also the photograph images in both eyes are not identical, but their refraction and proportions match perfectly, just as happens now in our eyes, in which there are two distinct but perfectly-matching ‘takes’ of the same scene.

The image of Mary looks like a painting, but who is painting it? The time is now ripe for a new transparent and independent scientific investigation into this image.

Declan Condren, Navan Road, Dublin


Facts about the bank guarantee

Many of the letters to your paper talk about a bank bailout that was forced upon us by the EU. This mistaken view suits many in Ireland, particularly Fianna Fail.

It was the Fianna Fail-led government in 2008 that issued the blanket bank guarantee which effectively put in place legislation that ensured most bondholder would get all their monies back. The letters from the ECB in 2010 refers to a tiny number of unsecured bond holders that would be protected during the bailout.

However, the vast majority of the bank bondholders got their money back because of the bank guarantee of 2008, which was nothing to do with the EU.

Eunan McNeill, Letterkenny, Co Donegal


Marriage made in political hell

Many recent pub conversations have included the remark that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael will have to join forces in order to retain some illusion of a popular government.

I am not sure how the idea of two highly-unpopular and incompetent parties joining forces might create some extra popularity, but such is the thinking in many democracies.

The idea appears to be gaining momentum, which would at least help to explain why there has been no opposition for the last 60 years and why we are heading downhill so fast. Sadly, it will not help our predicament.

Richard Barton, Tinahely, Co Wicklow

Irish Independent


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