Letters: In Brief

Sir: The debate on the Labour Party's use of telephone balloting is now in the public domain. If this system should be accepted as legitimate it will be used elsewhere. Those of us who remember the events that led to the Winchester by-election will appreciate the importance of an audit trail which allows the courts to check the voting process for possible fraud, abuse or impersonation. It would be helpful if the Labour Party could explain how their process of telephone voting will create such an audit trail without threatening secrecy of the ballot.

Earl RUSSELL

House of Lords

Sir: Your article "Where ignorance is blitz" (17 August) questions the need for, and ability of, Customs to examine the contents of computer files.

Officers may examine laptop computers because experience has shown that these are used to smuggle appalling paedophile images. We would be failing the public if we were to ignore the scope for smuggling obscene material by this means.

Officers routinely encounter all manner of people and goods and cannot be expected to be experts in every field. Technical staff are available to assist when necessary.

TONY SAWYER

Director, Operations (Prevention)

Board of Customs and Excise

London SE1

Sir: I recently attended a wedding at which the date was written in Roman numerals as MIIM for 1998. May I commend to the BBC in particular this way of writing the date both for its simplicity and as a way of concentrating government, management and computer minds on the proximity of the millennium. Next year will be MIM and the big one MM.

JOHN PRESTON

South Croydon, Surrey

Sir: I have just returned from holiday in Spain and could not believe the price of cigarettes. A packet of 20 costs 210 pesetas (88p) against somepounds 3.30 in the UK. How can Gordon Brown justify such a rip-off, or do cigarette smokers not qualify for social justice?

GARRY FIELDING

Stoney Stanton, Leicestershire

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