'Treasured' British values under threat - but what are they?
'Treasured' British values under threat - but what are they?
Sir: One remark from David Davis's speech at the Tory party conference last week has been puzzling me. When he insists that Britain's "treasured" values are threatened by "uncontrolled immigration", I find myself wondering exactly which values, and how.
I considered democracy, what with Britain being the home of the mother of parliaments, but I cannot see the threat to this posed by immigration, unless Mr Davis expects the massed ranks of immigrants to storm the House of Commons. An office poll of "British values threatened by immigration" has produced no better suggestions than "bland cooking", which I can't imagine is particularly treasured, and "rudeness", which is neither treasured nor threatened, so far as I can tell. Can anyone clear this up for me, as I'd hate to think that one of our leading politicians would resort to xenophobic paranoia just to win a few votes?
Ralph Musgrave (letter, 11 October) seems utterly convinced of the link between "worldwide migration and consequent cultural destruction", especially in relation to Wales. I can't help wondering, however, whether the media and its American influence is a more powerful influence than immigration.
I hope that Mr Musgrave doesn't feel that I'm accusing him of "xenophobia, racism, bigotry, and other snide accusations which the politically correct use for want of intelligent argument". While I've never thought of myself as a "high priest of political correctness", I've felt for a while that political correctness has become a snide accusation which the xenophobic, racist and bigoted use for want of intelligent argument.
Sir: Messrs Standing and Martin (letters, 30 September) could do with a crash course in applied economics during which they would analyse population theory.
The optimum population in a country is defined with relation to the standard of living and not to the numbers of inhabitants. If the standard of living rises as the population increases then the country was in an under-populated situation. If the standard of living falls when the population increases then the country was in an over-populated situation. A sparsely occupied area such as a desert might be over-populated, whereas a densely populated area like London might be under-populated if a further increase in population brought about a rise in standard of living.
There are many parts of the world where a decrease in the population would result in a better standard of living for the remainder, and often strenuous efforts are made to bring about a reduction of population. Britain is under-populated, simply because our relatively large number of immigrants are doing the kind of work the natives find unattractive at pay rates that are likewise, thus helping to raise the standard of living for all.
I hope I live to see the day when the population of Britain reaches 100 million, and the more immigrants that can integrate with our society the better.
J A RUSSELL
Contractors in Iraq need better security
Sir: Missing from the debate surrounding Ken Bigley's kidnap and murder has been any mention of corporate responsibility. Though I am not currently involved in any Iraqi operations, I do have, as a security consultant, numerous colleagues working there. All are widely experienced in this sort of work and all agree that the level of security provided for expat contract workers varies alarmingly.
Several of the major companies employ reputable, quasi-military companies to oversee security on the ground. These companies also put their contract workers through a rigorous preparation, usually in the form of a course that highlights personal security and security awareness. Others seem to have few scruples when it comes to deploying contract workers into dangerous areas with not much more than one or two locally recruited "security guards".
The rewards for operating in Iraq are high and are likely to attract more and more expat companies and contract workers as the years go by and this will only lead to more kidnappings if something isn't done, at the corporate level, about the provision of a standard of security that is more than adequate. Physical security (secure compounds and sites, experienced and well-armed guards, properly conducted convoy movements etc) needs to meet an agreed standard, and contract workers need to be properly trained in order to be able to make their own decisions about the levels of threat they face and how to react. As the adage goes: there is no such thing as danger, there is only bad planning.
Terrorist acts are rarely random or opportunistic but are usually aimed at targets identified as vulnerable and/or ill-prepared. Much could and should be done about the vulnerability and preparation of expat workers. Prevention/deterrence of hostage-taking will always be a better option than post-incident negotiation.
Sir: Robert Readman (letter, 9 October) says that "had [Saddam] complied with UN resolutions there would have been no war and he would still be in power".
First, since the UN resolutions essentially concerned Kuwait, and more particularly the weapons of mass destruction, surely Saddam had complied with the resolutions requiring him to disarm. Second, I am not aware of a doctrine which says that non-compliance with UN resolutions which do not specifically authorise military force legitimises invasion by foreign powers not under UN authority.
I think Mr Readman is being somewhat disingenuous when he says that Blair and Bush "may" have manipulated intelligence to justify the war. There can be few who still harbour the smallest doubt about it.
Sir: In view of the recent findings by the Iraq survey group, which declared that Iraq had no WMD prior to the US-led invasion, shouldn't senior heads now roll in the Labour Party in the very same fashion that heads were made to roll at the BBC when information was deemed by the Labour party to have been misleading?
Now that we know that Labour's infamous September dossier was full of careless holes and conscious omissions, shouldn't Andrew Gilligan and Greg Dyke be reinstated at the BBC, for it is now clear that the dossier was, as Andrew Gilligan first implied, "sexed up".
Sir: Tony Blair can draw deserved comfort from the Australian election result. Australians were offered the path of appeasement and rejected it. Howard was rewarded by the electorate for staying the course and so may Blair be next year.
Aussie troops will stay in Iraq as long as they're needed to back up our UK and US allies. We're proud of it. The battle for Iraq's future can be won. We're glad to be helping.
Sir: Deborah Orr's article "A miserable way to market a happy pill" (5 October) raises issues on the independence of regulators and the accountability of the pharmaceutical industry.
We agree that the regulators must have independence. The safety of all medications must be paramount. However, we strongly disagree that there is a lack of accountability in the industry. It is, quite rightly, steeped in regulation and GSK takes its responsibilities under all aspects of these regulations, including the UK Medicines Act, very seriously.
Nevertheless, the complexity of developing new medicines should not be underestimated. Most new medicines take on average 10 years to develop and require substantial financial investment and thorough investigation of clinical data. It is paramount that pharmaceutical companies and regulatory agencies work together.
The responsible use of clinical trial data is at the heart of this relationship. GSK strongly believes in the need for greater transparency of clinical trial data. Indeed, the company was the first pharmaceutical company to develop a clinical trial register, a website that contains information derived from GSK-sponsored clinical trials, whether those results are positive, negative or inconclusive.
GSK's commitment to working with regulators is also clearly demonstrated through our desire to increase access to medicines in all areas of the world. We recently concluded our third voluntary licence agreement in South Africa for production of HIV medicines.
It is right that the current system of regulation should be scrutinised. However, it is wrong to criticise it without acknowledging the fundamental relationship required between regulator and scientist. After all, both have the same goal: to produce safe and efficacious medicines for patients.
JENNIE V YOUNGER
Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications & Community Partnerships, GlaxoSmithKline
Sir: In your article reporting the recent increase in CO 2 levels, the statement is made that neither 2002 or 2003 were El Niño years, and that therefore the latest measurements could suggest an undesirable feedback within the earth system.
In fact, a significant El Niño developed in the summer of 2002 with a substantial warming of the central equatorial Pacific Ocean that persisted through into 2003. It caused major changes to the climate during the summer of 2002 - India experienced one of its worst droughts on record, for example - and into 2003. It is very likely, therefore, that the higher than normal rates of increase in CO 2 levels for 2002 and 2003 could be attributed to El Niño.
However, my comments do not detract from the seriousness of the inexorable rise in CO 2 levels, which your article is right to highlight, and for the need for more research on the potential for unforeseen and undesirable feedbacks within the earth system.
Professor JULIA SLINGO
Director, NERC Centres for Atmospheric Science
University of Reading
Sir: Arsenal supporter Steven Powell's letter (8 October) regarding the need for the active involvement of supporters in the ownership of football clubs is disingenuous. Unlike Arsenal, most clubs' supporters have formed mutual clubs in recent times explicitly to prevent the predatory actions of cynical money-men taking over a club.
Throughout the 1990s, clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Leeds United studiously ignored the financial needs and woes of smaller clubs, especially in TV broadcast negotiations, in order to maximise profits for their shareholders. Few of these teams' fans protested, as their clubs were simultaneously becoming richer and more successful.
Only now, when the fans of clubs such as Arsenal and Manchester United realise that the market that rewarded them may now also result in their being taken over by even bigger fish, do they cry foul.
Seeds of doubt
Sir: Chris Hirst (7 October) tells us that lettuce seeds were exported from England to the new colony in North America as early as 1494. However, the first English settlement in North America, at Jamestown, did not take place until 1607.
He also tells us that, in the 1950s, our atmosphere was less polluted than it is today. Anyone alive in the 1950s who remembers the dreadful "pea-souper" fogs of our industrial cities with the attendant deaths will know he is wrong about that too.
Finally, in the 1950s, from the produce of my own garden, I could conjure up a salad with crisp cos lettuce, spring onions, cucumber, tomatoes, carrots and baby beetroot, much as I do today! Moreover, tinned salmon was not de rigeur then, anymore than it is in 2004.
St Andrews, Fife
Internet phone scam
Sir: Eric Leach (letter, 9 October) is correct in saying that BT is knowingly participating in fraudulent transactions, but their connivance knows no bounds. In my case I was determined to pursue the virus scam service provider but, to date, BT has refused to give me any details of the service provider, saying that they do not possess such information. If this is the case how does the provider access his/her ill-gotten gains?
Lending a hand
Sir: In opining that the pig "manipulated" by Rebecca Loos "doesn't have much preference between the hand of Ms Loos and that of a horny son of toil" (9 October), Deborah Orr appears to throw a revealing light on the sexual proclivities of rural males. The term she was after is "horny-handed".
Sir: Which planet do the members of our government live on? In my world I am a highly qualified specialist in engineering, working on a project that has two more years to run. Recently, a mere nine months after my usual annual salary review date, I have received a generous merit award. In the same week I have also received the news that my services will no longer be required after my next birthday. You see, I shall then be 65. We should be encouraged to work to 70? Chance would be a fine thing!
Thought for the day
Sir: The death of Professor Jacques Derrida confirms the analysis he made. This text event was unintended by its author and its meaning can only be deciphered by its readers.
Sir: Will Jacques Derrida be buried, cremated or deconstructed?