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Monday 4 March 2013
Letters: A disaster if UK quits rights court
The United Kingdom is a founding member of the Council of Europe and of the European Court of Human Rights. While we number Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Turkey and others under the same convention, Europe has real leverage over democracy, human rights and the rule of law in those countries. If the United Kingdom, or any other founding member, were to leave the Council of Europe, or withdraw from the jurisdiction of the Court, 60 years of progress in sharing our concept of freedom would be lost ("Twinned with Belarus: Tories betray Britain's human rights reputation", 4 March).
Last year the United Kingdom accounted for just 0.37 per cent of the Court's work. The Government has taken measures in virtually every case to implement the judgments. The only outstanding issue is prisoner voting. This is currently before Parliament and draft legislation will be considered by a joint committee shortly.
In Strasbourg last year David Cameron declared: "So I want no one here to doubt the British commitment to defending human rights, nor the British understanding that the Council of Europe, the Convention and the Court have played a vital role in upholding those rights."
Under British leadership all 47 member states signed up to a programme of court reform and new provisions on "subsidiarity" and "the margin of appreciation". This process is under way and should be complete next year. It would be a sad day for Britain and a disaster for human rights and the rule of law in Europe if Britain were to jump ship now on some whim of Euroscepticism.
Robert Walter MP
(North Dorset, C)
Leader of the United Kingdom Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe
House of Commons
The party for people who fear foreigners
Ukip is not a party to the ideological right of the Tory party (leading article, 4 March). Its economic and social policies, to the extent that they have been revealed, are dirigiste and interventionist.
Ukip is a nationalist party; it is inspired and animated by anti-foreigner feeling. Its leaders, despairing of the modern world, aim to stop Britain being pushed around by "Europe", which they represent as a hostile foreign body hell-bent, like the Nazis before it, on the humiliation and domination of Britain.
This ludicrous world view, and the belief that Britain, like a poor African protectorate, must struggle for its "independence", exploit feelings of insecurity among some sectors of the population and rely on myth-making by the tabloid press.
David Cameron has shown in the past that he understands the nature of the Ukip phenomenon, but he is mistaken if he thinks that adopting more right-wing (in this context, nationalist, anti-foreigner) policies will lance the Ukip boil.
North Tamerton, Cornwall
Friend of the bankers
At moments like this you know the Government has completely lost touch with the British people. At moments like this you know the Chancellor has gone absolutely bonkers.
Right now, George Osborne is in Europe lobbying not for a rebate for hard-pressed British taxpayers or to enhance workers' rights, but in the very week RBS posted record losses while simultaneously paying out £600m in bonuses he's over there lobbying for something that we all obviously care so very deeply about – protecting bankers' bonuses.
He's over there trying to stop a new European law which would cap banker's bonuses to no more than one year's pay. The argument he'll use is that if we cap their bonuses London won't be able to recruit the brightest and best.
I'm certainly going to apply for a job in the City because I can guarantee that I can run a bank into the ground every bit as quick as Fred Goodwin, so long as I get to keep my £16m pension pot.
The cap on bankers' bonuses is utterly misguided, driven by a continental misunderstanding of the financial crisis from 2008, and persistent misdiagnosis of the eurozone's debt and balance of payments crisis. It makes Europe a less attractive place to do business compared to countries that do not have this income policy, hits the UK disproportionately, and has very obvious "unintended" consequences.
The UK should simply refuse to implement it, and if forced to do so, slash corporation tax to 11 per cent to attract any and all other sorts of business from our European partners.
I'm sure there are plenty of clever people in UK who would work for investment banks for a bonus capped at the value of a good basic salary. So let the prima donnas go to Singapore or wherever. It won't be long before the banks' shareholders realise that it continues to make good sense to operate in London if they can pay people less here than abroad.
Chapel Lawn, Shropshire
Where your meat comes from
Suddenly everyone wants to believe that your "local" "independent" butcher is, by definition, a paragon of virtue who knows the provenance of all their meat ("Why you should get to know this man", 1 March).
Two highly regarded butchers are local to me. One has a board outside saying "Two roasted chickens for £6.99". In the second butcher's shop, where they even have flyers claiming they know the provenance of their meat, I overheard the butcher talking on the phone : "So you want four boxes of chicken at no more than £1.99 each. I'll see what I can get when I go to the market."
How anyone could believe these birds, for this price, were other than bred, fattened, slaughtered from some intensive broiler chicken sheds (here or abroad) and that any butcher selling them would have a clue to the "welfare" of these birds or what farm they came from is fanciful.
I welcome the recent debate about buying British meat. It's a myth that all supermarkets are "scouring the globe for the cheapest meat they can buy". Our customers tell us that they want value for money regardless of their income. That doesn't mean the cheapest meat possible but good ingredients for a good price.
They also want us to offer them food that is produced in Britain where we can. Sainsbury's has been investing in British farming for many years and has genuine partnerships with our 2,500 farmers and growers. For example all of our fresh and frozen chicken has been sourced from British farms for over six years, and we're committed to doubling the amount of British food we sell by 2020.
Director of Sainsbury's Brand, Sainsbury's Supermarkets, London EC1
Our ticket to the top table
Baroness Miller asserts (letter, 28 February) that nuclear weapons do not give us our seat at the "top table". What does she imagine does? Our mighty conventional forces... our thriving economy... the affection and respect we enjoy across the world?
Our history for the past 300 years has left us at best disliked but grudgingly respected, but more often viewed with an odd mixture of envy and hatred. The best diplomatic armour against that is the permanent seat on the UN Security Council and its veto – and the nukes are our subscription for that.
If you doubt what I say, imagine how quickly Argentina would put up a binding UN resolution to dispossess us of the Falkland Islands if we lost the veto, how many countries would vote for it, and how likely it would be that either the USA or France would support us.
R S Foster
David Boggis (letter, 1 March) tells how Ernie Bevin, on being lambasted by the US, insisted that Britain get its own nuclear weapon. Mr Boggis then asks: "How far do we really still trust our transatlantic cousins?"
A very great deal, apparently: it is the great American defence firm Lockheed Martin that now manages our Atomic Weapons Establishment, which makes and services our nuclear weapons for us, under a 25-year contract. Bevin must be turning in his grave.
Church thwarts human instinct
I sympathise with Cardinal O'Brien's predicament. Against what is clearly a genuine and deep faith held by him, the doctrines of his religion prevented him firstly from having any instinctive physical contact with a human; and secondly from having that contact with the gender of his choice.
How much more evidence will the Roman Catholic Church need to rethink its stances on both celibacy and homosexuality? The former is founded on not much more than guesswork that Christ was celibate, the latter on the almost barbaric text of Leviticus and a few loose ends in the New Testament.
Cardinal O'Brien is not a sinful or wicked man, simply human like the rest of us. The Church has tried sweeping the problem away and it is not working. Can the next Pope please bring some compassion and common sense into the Church's attitude to sex and sexuality?
Scottish Catholicism has undoubtedly been badly damaged by the behaviour of Cardinal Keith O'Brien. However, those of us who are anti-God are well aware of the capacity of the Catholic Church historically to survive, and learn from setbacks.
We must use this (God given?) opportunity to push for the abolition of Scotland's taxpayer-funded sectarian, segregated, education system which legally discriminates against non-Catholics. The 2014 independence referendum is the ideal opportunity to decide if Scotland is to emerge as a progressive nation or continue as constitutionally sectarian.
Convener, Atheist Scotland
Your report (4 March) of the misuse on T-shirts of the slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On" suggests that it was used "to stiffen resolve" during the Second World War. It wasn't. It was hardly used at all and was never on public display as many other slogans were, such as "Keep Mum" and "Careless Talk Costs Lives".
Helpful cab driver
While it is refreshing to see praise for the cab driver who returned Neil Warnock's belongings (2 March), such events are quite commonplace, though rarely reported. Being able to read The Independent has never been a hindrance in my professional life as a London taxi driver. I've even been known to listen to Radio 4 on a few occasions.
Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire
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