IoS letters, emails & online postings (21 March 2010)

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The three major political parties have identified a sector of the population that could make or break victory in the coming election: Britain's eight million mothers of young and school-age children ("The mother of all elections", 14 March). Yvette Cooper, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, talks about creating a "major cultural shift" in the way businesses approach part-time and flexible working opportunities. She says that part-time work should not mean an end to career progression in a company, although she clearly hasn't found part-time hours adequate to sustain her own career ambitions. "Suggesting" to companies isn't going to bring about a major cultural shift any more than I'm going to solve the nation's obesity problem by suggesting to every person eating a Big Mac that they try a salad instead. I am a qualified accountant and stay-at-home mum for 10 years. Women who stay at home with their children have brains, ambition and, often, as much education as the politicians trying to win our votes.

Courtney O'Grady

Pitcaple, Aberdeenshire

A growing number of fathers are taking the primary carer role, yet are less likely to exercise their right to request flexible working and more likely to have their request turned down by their employer. Public services and politicians must work harder to help dads strike the right balance between work and family life. The debate must catch up with how families now live their lives.

Anne Longfield OBE

Chief Executive, 4Children

London E14

In your report commemorating the 100th International Women's Day you failed to recognise the organisation that has revolutionised the lives of millions of women (14 March). Over the past century, the Girl Guiding movement has looked to provide a safe, female-only space for girls aged five to 18, without discrimination over race, background or religion. To omit Olave Baden-Powell from your list of influential women is unforgivable.

Eleanor Parker

1st Usworth Rangers

Washington, Tyne and Wear

Your article last Sunday, "Solicitor General to examine News of the World hacking", is not correct. The Committee's report, published last month, did not as you assert, criticise me. Additionally, you outline the details of a letter sent to me by the Committee's Chair which raised concerns about matters not provided in evidence to the Committee but fail to publish any details of my response which clearly set out the reasons behind this.

As I made clear in this letter I remain very concerned at any suggestion that I acted improperly. At the time of giving evidence to the Committee in September 2009 I responded as fully as possible to all questions asked and shared as much information as I could to assist the Committee in its work.

Subsequent to my appearance further information was requested by both the Committee and third parties. Some of this information was not available at the time I provided my evidence. Where it was appropriate to release additional information it was supplied to the Committee at the earliest opportunity. If these issues had been raised by the Committee at the time of my evidence session, and if the information had been available, then it would have been quite rightly shared at that time.

John Yates

Assistant Commissioner, Specialist Operations, Metropolitan Police

London SW1H

Until post-release data is available, we cannot assess the reoffending rate of men with personality disorder in high secure hospitals and prisons ("£550m 'squandered on scheme to help dangerous prisoners'", 14 March). However, there is already a highly significant reduction in acts of aggression. Prior to coming to the Fens Unit, these men were responsible for numerous assaults against prison staff and other prisoners and also extensive damage to cells and other prison property. The cost of repairs and, most importantly, the human cost as a result of the injuries caused by these men far exceeds the cost of treating them on this unit, saving public money and human suffering.

Jacqui Saradjian Clinical Director

HMP Whitemoor and others

March, Cambridgeshire

There is an important part of Africa's history which very probably had a vital bearing on the art of Ife ("Sculpture compelling and masterly, but not Africa's answer to Donatello", 14 March). In the first millennium or earlier, Indonesian mariners were regular visitors to African shores. There is much circumstantial evidence that they rounded the Cape, settled on the west coast, and moved up the great rivers. Such evidence can be found in the distribution of plantains, yams, maize and a number of other non-African plants; in elephantiasis (a disease depicted in Ife sculpture), which had oriental origins; in musical instruments – for example the xylophone; in glass-making; and in connections between beliefs such as Nigeria's Ifa divination and very similar belief systems in the western Pacific. These South-east Asian connections should not be ignored.

Robert Dick-Read


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