IoS letters, emails & online postings (29 August 2010)

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Neither I nor the BBC "betrayed" David Kelly ("Shame made David Kelly kill himself", 22 August). Neither I nor the BBC ever revealed him as my source – either in public or in an email to an MP – until after his death. It was the Ministry of Defence press office that gave journalists a number of clues to his identity, confirming him as the source to any who guessed correctly. One newspaper put about 20 names to the press office before it confirmed David's. Once his name was in the public domain, the Government successfully pushed a reluctant Foreign Affairs Committee to reopen its inquiry and interview David.

Although, as I have always said, I was quite wrong to email a member of the committee saying that I thought David had spoken to Newsnight's Susan Watts, that email made no difference: questions prepared by the clerks for members of the committee show that they always intended to ask him about his contacts with Watts.

Watts told the Hutton inquiry that David's "less than frank" answers to the committee about his contacts with her "relieved me of my obligation to protect his identity as a confidential source". But she cannot be blamed for his death, since she states that she did not see the transcript of David's testimony until after he died.

No one involved in this sorry business, least of all me, behaved perfectly. But the people in the best position to know who David blamed for his predicament are those with whom he spent the last few days of his life – his widow and daughters. Mrs Kelly did say that her husband felt "betrayed" – by the MoD. In several hours of testimony to Hutton, his family made it quite clear who he and they blamed for his plight, and it wasn't me or the BBC.

Andrew Gilligan

via email

As a forensic psychiatry registrar, I am frequently saddened when I visit prisons in the UK and London at the serious lack of mental health provision ("Ana Attia's story", 15 August). Since Ms Attia's experience, the Prison Service has introduced enhanced monitoring for inmates at risk of self-harm or suicide, and HMP Holloway now has specialist forensic psychiatric services.

Nevertheless, proportionately more people with mental health problems die in prison than outside. Yet there are too few mental health wings, and in London in particular, it can take a long time to transfer an inmate from prison to a secure NHS mental health unit for treatment. This often results in use of the private sector, at higher cost.

It is my sincere hope that the coalition will not renege on plans to bring mental health provision for offenders in line with that of the general population.

Dr Bradley Hillier

Maudsley Hospital

London SE5

When Fabio Capello's appointment as England football coach was first announced, I wrote to the FA and offered to guarantee limited but functional fluency within the one month specified by Mr Capello ("Repeat after me, Mr Capello..." 22 August). I had no reply. If he had set aside that month, that tiny month, to live 24 hours a day with his personal English teacher with no Italian and total immersion in English, he would have acquired functional fluency. With that teacher at his side for another two months, he might even have achieved Sven-Goran Eriksson's fluency.

Stephen Keeler

Hampton, Middlesex

Your leading article "Our young deserve better" (15 August) implies that geography is among those "unsuitable" or "easier" subjects cited by David Willetts, the minister for universities and science. Geography has never been more important, and our young people need a greater understanding of it if we are to meet the social, economic and environmental challenges that face our society. And geographers are highly employable.

Dr Rita Gardner

Director, Royal Geographical Society with Institute of British Geographers

London SW7

In 2006, the Labour government repaid a loan taken out with the United States just after the Second World War. If it was all right to spread those repayments over 60 years, it is madness for George Osborne to insist on clearing the current debts in four years, society bearing the brunt of this. This is a power trip by the privileged few who are protected by their wealthy backgrounds, which will leave them sitting pretty regardless.

G E Purser Clapton-on-the-Hill, Gloucestershire

Paul Vallely notes that there is no evidence that having lesbian or gay parents does any harm to children ("Talking over the heads of children", 22 August). But he defends agencies who feel that placing children with gay adopters constitutes "doing violence to those children". The welfare of children includes a life in a tolerant society that values individuals for their own skills, not as members of a particular group. It does not sit in a separate area, unconnected to the broader picture of human rights. A tolerant society has to know when to stand up against intolerance and it is to the benefit of us all when this happens.

Mark Holton

Lewes, East Sussex

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