Letters: Act of Settlement

The 1701 Act of Settlement is anti-Catholic. Who takes it seriously?
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The Independent Online

Sir: I wonder if Séan Donovan's perception of vestigial anti-Catholicism in Britain (letters, 22 May), in the light of the marriage of Peter Philips and Autumn Kelly, is not just a little harsh. Mr Donovan claims that Ms Kelly has renounced her Catholic faith to allow her fiancé to retain his position as an heir to the throne. The 1701 Act of Settlement does, indeed, require this of her, if Mr Philips has serious ambitions to monarchy; but he is 11th in line. Only a Romanov-style massacre of our royal family would leave him with any chance of becoming king.

The truth is that Ms Kelly's conversion to Anglicanism seems to have more to do with her own religious ambivalence. She is reported to have said that, in her eyes, Catholicism and Anglicanism are the same religion, thus implying that she has made the change of her own free choice because she sees it as a matter of little consequence. I doubt the law would agree with her.

As a Catholic, I cannot pretend that I am completely indifferent to the inherent prejudice of the 1701 Act. It is not simply archaic law with no real consequence. It forced Prince Michael of Kent to renounce his place in line to the throne to marry a Catholic. Its tone is offensive to Catholics. But let us be practical. Beyond frustrating the regal aspirations of a few, I believe it does little harm and does not reflect serious anti-Catholic feeling in this country.

Ironically, it may just be of some benefit. After all, if the heir to the throne can marry absolutely anyone of any religion, or none, except a Catholic, this law rather suggests that, in modern, secular, post-Christian Britain, the faith of Catholics is still something to be taken seriously. Perhaps that is why we make so little fuss about it.

Fr Terence A Carr

PRESTATYN, Denbighshire

Real facts about the Severn Barrage

Sir: Rhodri Morgan undoubtedly knows lots about politics, but not about public electricity supply (letters, 23 May). The Severn Barrage's forecast 22 per cent load factor means every 1,000Mw installed will deliver the same energy per annum as 220Mw of traditional power running continuously. Implicit in that load factor are periods of low or zero output, at the turn of the tide, when the moon decides.

Wind turbines achieve 25 per cent, says BWEA, explicitly spelling out the need for "gas or nuclear generation" when wind speeds are low. (Look at wind turbine makers' website, Nordex. A 2,500Kw machine delivers 1319Kw in a 22mph wind, 121Kw at 11mph, zero below 9mph. Then look at the Met Office, or Ceefax 404, and see how often and widespread those low outputs will be, sometimes for weeks on end, say December 07, February 08.)

Implicit also is 4,800Mw of wind-power capacity needed to produce as much energy per annum as one 1200Mw traditional station. Four times as much copper and magnetic steel. That would be 1,920 turbines, hub height 120m, rotor diameters 90m.

A nuclear station generates regardless of wind and tides. Keep building, and our CO2 emissions per citizen could reduce from the present 11 tonnes to the six tonnes of nuclear-powered France. Solar power is always zero at maximum demand time, about 6pm, October through February, in the dark. Dozens of nations are planning or building nuclear, with 450 plants already operating. They are our competitors for world business.

Bill Hyde

Offham, Kent

Life and times of Arthur Schnitzler

Sir: I read your interesting article on Arthur Schnitzler and the exhibition of his manuscripts which I curated (21 May). It mentions proofs of how influential this relatively neglected author has been on some of the leading cultural figures of our time, from Tom Stoppard to Stanley Kubrick.

But it also risks distorting Schnitzler's image when addressing his relationship to eros. You mention that Hitler saw in Schnitzler's work an example of "Jewish filth", but the examples you quote from Schnitzler's life seem indirectly to justify this judgement. You mention his seemingly abnormal womanising habits, the "sexual frankness of his writings", the "obscenity trial" which followed the staging of his play Reigen, and you tell us even his friends "described him teasingly as a pornographer".

This information risks reproducing anti-Semitic clichés and must be contextualised. Your article should have made it clear that the pornographic aura surrounding Schnitzler was the result of anti-Semitic propaganda. Without confusing his sexual life with his literary production, and adding that counting his exploits was merely a juvenile habit, your article might have pointed out that his writings, even when they dealt with sexual themes, were more a social diagnosis and never became sexually explicit.

Blind anti-Semitic bias was in many of the accusations of obscenity in the Reigen scandal. The play dealt with the transience of love relationships with a strong critical component and, above all, tact, since it systematically omitted all sex scenes. Schnizler's friends called him a pornographer only once; the letter sent to him by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Felix Salten and Richard Beer-Hofmann in August 1896 was a bitter, albeit humorous, reference to the fierce anti-Semitic propaganda of that time and its clichés.

Lorenzo Bellettini

Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University

Role of parents in education

Sir: First, I am surprised that you still refer to "parent-teacher associations" in your leading article of 15 May. Any school with which I have been associated over the past 10 years as either a teacher or a parent, in both the state and independent sectors, has had a "parent-staff association" which includes all employees, not just teachers.

Second, although I agree that the Government's proposed "parents' councils" are gimmicks, to suggest the purpose of the existing associations should be to "oversee schools" is to misunderstand their role. All state schools and many independent ones have parent governors who work with the headteacher in strategic planning and to serve as a link between school and parents. Unfortunately, there are many examples of these either being hijacked by a particular interest group or of having difficulty recruiting volunteers.

The parent-staff association normally acts as a mercifully "politics-free" zone, raising money for projects agreed with the school and providing a social forum where parents and staff can meet. It is vital they are not seen as proxy "inspectors" on behalf of parents if they are to perform this role effectively.

Kathy Moyse

Cobham, Surrey

Road to confusion for adolescents

Sir: The discussion of IVF for single or lesbian women has been shallow (letters, 23 May). Attention has been focused on their ability or not to be good mums. That is a triviality. The question should be about the likely effects in one or two generations. Will the identity of the sperm provider be made known to the woman and that information passed to son or daughter? If so, the father must have some rights over what he has fertilised. If not, the child will have an incomplete sense of identity.

When that child is an adult he or she will live in a world where artificial production of babies is taken for granted. The choice for that man or woman then moves to whether to go "the old-fashioned way" to parenthood or to follow the way in which they themselves were created.

Add the growing equation of homosexuality and heterosexuality as equally valid lifestyle choices and one can only predict an increasingly chaotic population and a totally confused cohort of adolescents.

David Perry

South Cave, Yorkshire

Planting seeds to care for Nature

Sir: I welcome Dr Hill's comments that you can't save wildlife if you lose scientific knowledge (letters, 22 May). It's sad but true that young people's opportunities to gain an idea of the magic of wildlife are threatened. Without first-hand experience they won't get the inspiration they need to care for their world.

I've lost count of the times I've seen a child's face light up when a butterfly flits past, or screw up in disgust as they find a worm in the soil. Nurturing their natural curiosity will lead to a desire to learn more and it's that initial link with nature that creates keepers of our future environment.

The RSPB, The Field Studies Council and a host of other members of the Real World Learning partnership are doing all they can to ensure all children have the opportunity to enjoy the natural world. While most probably won't become expert scientists, they will have a seed of interest planted that could start a life-long love affair.

Andy Simpson

Head of RSPB youth and education, Sandy, Bedfordshire

Labour puts business before the people

Sir: In the Crewe post-mortem breastbeating of Labour spokesmen, I have not heard one of them show they truly understand how people feel about their party. They no longer look like a party of the people, so you may just as well vote for those who honestly call themselves Tory.

The priorities of this Government are to look after business. There is always money to shore up irresponsible banks and building societies, but not to pay police or give our Armed Forces decent equipment. There is money to wage an unnecessary war in Iraq (boosting the profits of the armaments industry), but not to fund care for the elderly.

Want to simplify the tax system? Do it at the expense of the poorest in the land, who have no voice in this administration, but on no account antagonise those who might use tax havens. Worry about addiction? Fiddle with drug categories, while raking in substantial tax revenues from alcohol.

The list seems endless, but the underlying motive is always the same: keep the CBI happy. Now where should real Socialists turn? Back to the Crewe election result.

Doraine Potts

Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Safety warnings not downplayed

Sir: We strongly refute that warnings regarding the safety of the HIV treatment abacavir were "downplayed" (report, 12 May).

In August 2005, GSK was contacted by the WHO Uppsala Monitoring Centre in Sweden regarding a signal of abacavir and myocardial infarction. Within a week, GSK conducted a review of the data supplied and that of our own internal safety database, alongside data from the US Food and Drug Administration's AERS database.

This analysis led to the conclusion that the signal communicated to GSK was not validated by these other internal and external safety databases. But in the interests of patients' safety, GSK conducted a comprehensive evaluation using data from multiple sources, including the WHO collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring. This was done, not withstanding ongoing six-monthly reviews to assess this signal.

This evaluation found no convincing evidence of a causal relationship between abacavir treatment and myocardial ischaemia. The description in the summary of product characteristics of "mild myocardial degeneration" in mice and rats given the drug for two years refers to a small increase in incidence of a heart finding common in untreated, ageing animals. This is pathologically distinct from myocardial ischaemia or infarction.

Alastair Benbow

European Medical Director, GlaxoSmithKline, Brentford, Middlesex

Winged wonders

Sir: Thank you for the wonderful picture of northern gannets off Bass Rock (22 May). It brought to mind Brian Harris's clever multiple-exposure of Concorde and other planes landing at Heathrow, about 20 years ago.

Chris Moorhouse


First TV chef

Sir: I'm not certain who was the world's first TV chef, although it wasn't Clemens Wilmendrod in 1953 ("The Grafting Gourmet", 23 May). The BBC transmitted its first cookery programme in 1937, and it did not feature that self-invented fraud Fanny Cradock, but a talented chef, Marcel Xavier Boulestin (1878-1943), whose Covent Garden restaurant was launched in 1927.

Paul Levy

Witney, Oxfordshire

Tolkien's names

Sir: Tolkien's Amroth is also in the real world, and can be found in Pembrokeshire, having survived a period of temporary immersion in Dyfed (letters, 23 May). The word preceding it in the fictitious place-name is an abundant real-world toponymic element indicating "meadow", usually encountered in the plural "Dolau". Most of the onomastics in Tolkien are explicable by forms encountered in the toponymy or linguistic history of Britain or by his scholarly readings; the Rohan Hours, for example, is a manuscript familiar to medievalists.

David Hook


Nasty headline

Sir: The article in Extra (21 May) on strange village names included Ugley, in Essex. Just over the border in Hertfordshire is the village of Nasty. It is rumoured that years ago, the local newspaper was able to print the headline, "Nasty man marries Ugley woman". We should also remember Idle, near Bradford, famous for its Idle Working Men's Club.

Bernard Ward


All true, possibly

Sir: I don't think either Cooper Brown or Catherine Town-send are real, and I also have serious doubts about Tracey Emin and that "Green Goddess" shopaholic columnist Julia Stephenson; none of them seem remotely plausible. I sometimes wonder about Janet Street-Porter and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, and I rather hope that Bruce Anderson and Dominic Lawson aren't real either, though I suspect they may be. How are we to tell?

Marilyn Mason

Kingston upon Thames