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Monday 16 June 2008
Letters: Care of the elderly
If treatment of children is a disgrace, what about care for the elderly?
Sir: Deborah Orr ("Britain's treatment of its children is a disgrace", Comment, 11 June), like the Children's Commissioner, lives in a different world to mine.
I am in my 70s, living alone in a Housing Association flatlet, with 10 neighbours in similar accommodation, in a small area designated by the police as an Asbo hotspot. Eggs are thrown at our windows, dog excrement is pushed through letter-boxes and verbal abuse is thrown at any of us who dare to object; all this from young people wearing uniforms of a school rejoicing in the highest of praises from Ofsted.
I was a Prison Welfare Officer and can testify that elderly prisoners were treated by other prisoners with greater respect than that shown to me and my neighbours by these young Ofsted success stories who disturb our peace and our peace of mind.
Britain's treatment of its elderly is a disgrace and we demand a rights-based approach to the welfare of old people. If we are abused for being old, little wonder teenagers are demonised for being young.
Sir: In Deborah Orr's excellent article, she names several ways in which this Government ignores the 1991 UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, but does not mention Article 9, which states that "a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will except when ... such separation is necessary for the best interests of the child".
Separation from the familiar creates anxiety in babies. Small children's trust and emotional independence grows gradually. Emotionally unattached older children behave in an anti-social manner but if the Government directed its daycare funding and respect towards families, instead of expensive daycare centres, many later behavioural problems could be avoided.
The Lisbon Treaty lacks public consent
Sir: The Treaty of Lisbon is foundering because it lacks public consent. Even if it were ratified, lack of public consent would prevent it working effectively. Its authors hope that if European institutions are strengthened, public consent will follow. This approach has failed.
Public consent can come only from a common sense of public community and identity. But these do not exist. There is not a single European nationality, society, economy, culture, language, media, or army. There are no European political parties or voluntary organisations. There is not a single European government, and the Treaty of Lisbon would not have created one. The European Parliament has not made itself a credible political body.
All these aspects of political authority, and the sense of community and identity which empower them, still lie with the member states. The European strategy has been to centralise administrative functions in European institutions, and hope that public community and identity will follow. The outcome has been, not an ever-increasing union, but an ever-increasing distrust, and in some quarters, contempt, as the public of member states have seen political functions transferred apparently out of their control.
It is legitimate to hope that a European national identity will be created. But the route to do so, if it exists, can only be the removal of obstacles to the free movement of goods, services, people, finance, and ideas, the free formation of voluntary, social, and political organisations, and the setting of common standards. This was the original European agenda, and it should be stuck to. Time will then show whether a European policy can also be created.
ANTHONY C PICK
Sir: The Irish have had the courage to disobey the EU and their politicians by voting against the Lisbon Treaty which transfers most remaining law-making and control to the EU. According to EU law, this should kill the Treaty because unanimity is required; but Gordon Brown has been reported as saying he will go ahead and sign its ratification.
This would be the culmination of his and Tony Blair's treacherous conspiracy with the other arrogant and dishonourable EU leaders to impose on Europe the Constitution rejected by the French and Dutch voters in referendums.
By changing one or two words and calling it a Treaty, they said it was not the same as the rejected Constitution (although the main provisions were retained) and did not need referendums. This negated the French and Dutch "No" votes, and enabled Blair and Brown to renege on Labour's promise to give us a referendum on the Constitution by claiming the Lisbon Treaty was not the same. This ignored the Commons Select Committee report which said it virtually was.
Mr Brown also said we had obtained "opt-outs" which make the Treaty acceptable; but most of them were in the Constitution and in any case are of limited duration. So has Mr Brown agreed to a treaty he thinks is bad but OK for us because of these "opt-outs"?
These unscrupulous EU politicians will keep going until they have created a vast EU state with rigid control of every aspect of our lives by people we have not voted into office and cannot remove; unless we can bring pressure to bear on our politicians to reverse the situation.
JOHN G GREER-SPENCER
Sir: We shall shortly discover the true extent to which the EU respects the law, as claimed on its website: "The European Union is based on the rule of law. This means that everything that it does is derived from treaties, which are agreed on voluntarily and democratically by all Member States."
Under Article 48 of the present Treaty on European Union, the Irish people acted legally when they chose to reject the treaty amendments proposed in the Lisbon Treaty.
Any attempt by the EU to circumvent that "No" to implement those amendments would clearly be illegal. Any victimisation of the Irish people for exercising their legal right of veto would also be illegal under EU law.
The alternative to the rule of law is arbitrary rule, and if the EU is tempted down that road, many of its supporters across Europe will start to question whether their own country should remain part of it.
Dr D R Cooper
Sir: The European Union will still function after the Irish "No" vote. The result is a disappointment but not a disaster. But the loss of the Lisbon Treaty means national parliaments will not get the power to reject EU proposals before they come to the European Parliament, that children's rights will not be incorporated for the first time into the treaties (at present, animals have more rights than people), and that we will lose the citizens' right of initiative.
This is deeply disappointing for those who believe in a progressive Europe. Although the EU will still function, it will only have the tools of yesterday to fight the battles of tomorrow.
Catherine Stihler MEP
(Labour, Scotland), Brussels
A volunteer to help fight David Davis
Sir: David Davis has resigned to campaign on an issue on which two-thirds of the electorate disagree with him. It is also an issue David Cameron does not want to debate outside Parliament because his position on it is unpopular.
Yet Labour, my party, fails to take the argument to the country. As someone who supports what the Government has pushed through, I am mystified that they are contemplating not fighting this important by-election
I, for one, would be happy to contribute to the election costs, and knock on doors for a Labour candidate with the courage to expose David Davis as the unpleasant right-winger he is, and challenge the libertarians who believe working-class rights started with Magna Carta.
Vice-chair, Wimbledon Labour Party, London SW19
Sir: The notion that David Davis is a libertarian will provoke hollow laughter from gays and lesbians. He has opposed every freedom extended to gay and lesbian people, from the freedom to register one's partnership to the freedom to serve one's country. He has one of the worst voting records in the Commons on such matters.
Like most Tories, Davis is selective about whose liberties are worthy of support. He supports greater rights for suspected terrorists but not extending basic freedoms to peaceful and law-abiding gay and lesbian people.
Ben Bradshaw MP
House of Commons, London SW1
Sir: David Davis and a lot of Tories talk about "civil liberties", the rights of criminals and rights of those suspected of plotting mass murder. The Government has a duty to protect the lives of British citizens and defend us against increasingly sophisticated Islamic terrorism.
Gordon Brown has shown commendable courage and a forthright determination to do what is right for our safety and security. The Tories are out of synch with the British people.
Hospice care for all who need it
Sir: The chairs of the Association of Palliative Medicine (letters, 28 May) rightly acknowledge that only a minority of terminally ill patients can be cared for in conventional hospices. The challenge now is to provide a hospice standard of care to all patients who need it, whether they are being cared for at home or in hospital. Local experience over the past 21 years has shown how this can be achieved.
The charity hospice at Home West Cumbria was founded in 1987 with the aim of offering full hospice care to patients in their homes. The charity works in close co-operation with the NHS, but provides extra resources to improve the standard of care and to relieve the strain on the carer.
The resources include specialist nurses working with each patient on a one-to-one basis, a specialist in palliative medicine who is available to advise the GP, day hospices, drop-in centres, bereavement counselling etc. In West Cumbria between 1998 and 2006, 40 to 45 per cent of patients dying from cancer died in their own homes, and a further 10 to 15 per cent died in GP-managed community hospitals.
When in-patient care is needed, each NHS hospital should have its "Hospice in the Hospital", a palliative care unit (PCU) with specialist-care doctors and nurses. The hospice care should not be confined to the PCU, but made available on general wards where it frequently needed. It is unrealistic to expect the NHS to fund these additional facilities in full. There is no reason why local and national hospice charities should not work in partnership with the NHS to this end.
DR BRIAN HERD
VICE-PRESIDENT, HOSPICE AT HOME WEST CUMBRIA, Cockermouth
Best, and worst, of 'The Apprentice'
Sir: Having only recently started watching The Apprentice (letters, 11 June), two things stand out. First, it is compelling, well-made television. Second, it embodies many of the worst and most out-dated values of the corporate sector.
At a time of global crisis, when more and more individuals and organisations worldwide are stepping beyond egocentricity into a deeper responsibility for the whole, we are shown a desperately small-minded, dog-eat-dog world, in which uninspiring individuals scrabble almost pathetically to work for an oafish individual whose description of himself as having "intuitive vision" was a true laugh-out-loud moment.
Where are the programmes that show people of real vision, and inspiration, and the countless selfless heroes of everyday life with whom our future, if there is one, lies?
Sir: Why is The Independent publishing a book praising the world's religions (front page, 14 June)? It is not the business of any newspaper to promote beliefs and faiths. Professor John Bowker, writer of the introduction to The Encyclopedia of the World Religions, has stepped well over the line between promoting, and reporting of, religious belief.
Tinkers Bridge, Milton Keynes
Old dog, old trick
Sir: For more than 10 years, I insured our dog with a well-known company. A few weeks ago, we required a vet for the first time. When I sent in my claim for the fee of £140.77p, I received a cheque for £28.62p. I had not read the small print that states when a dog is 10 years old I have to pay an excess of £112.15p. So after an association that has been very profitable to the insurer and costly to myself, we have parted company. Be warned: always read the small print.
Sir: As someone who worked in most of English-speaking Africa for more than 20 years, I agree with Dr Julian Caldecott (letters, 14 June) that "nothing less than environmental collapse across a whole continent" is taking place in Africa. What has brought this about is not development but total lack of it. In 2001, the World Bank admitted its policies in Africa had failed and promised that the 21st century would be "Africa's century". But most of the planned development projects are still being sacrificed at the altar of the environment.
M Riaz Hasan
Sir: Your feature on Folkestone's Triennial (14 June) pays tribute to artists such as Tracey Emin, whose works on public display bring distinction to our town. Unfortunately, not all contributions are as felicitous. An arts company invited residents to submit photos of local scenes, a selection of which are exhibited on lamp-posts. One depicts a group of laughing young people waving Union Flags; the person in the centre wears a T-shirt displaying a Nazi swastika. I am disgusted.
The right track
Sir: The drawing of Richard Trevithick's passenger railway at Euston Square, London may or may not be a forgery (report, 12 June), but it certainly does not show the first passenger railway; this ran from Mumbles along the bay to Swansea town, and was operating in 1807.
Tribute to courage
Sir: What a delight to read your different articles about these courageous people who have learnt and succeeded in coping with their adversities ("Triumph through adversity", 14 June). It made my day. Thanks for publishing it.
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