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Friday 5 December 2008
Letters: Child protection failings
Our fight to rescue grandchildren from their mother
In recent weeks, the news has been full of disturbing stories regarding abused and neglected children, and the inadequacies of the systems that are supposed to protect them. However, little thought has been given to the wider families of these children. In many cases those families may well be unaware of what's going on. But what of the families who are aware of the problems, who have done all they can themselves, and who have tried their damnedest to make social services and other agencies listen?
My family and I are in this position. After years of trying to improve things for the children concerned ourselves, after repeatedly seeking help from concerned people, and after well over a year of desperately trying to make social services see sense and remove the children to safety, we are still ploughing through red tape and court hearings.
The parent of these children (with whom they are still living) is sociopathic. She has manipulated all those she has come into contact with. Her children are little more than a meal ticket to her, and we greatly fear what has befallen them behind closed doors. Certainly they are being neglected, as they have nearly always been, but we fear that they are also still being abused. In all this time, none of the children have been interviewed without the presence of their parent. Their wishes have not been considered, and their obvious needs have not been met.
I'm the mother of a sociopath, grandmother to these tormented children. I have done my very best to speak out for them, and to support their father in his fight to bring the children into a safe environment. I am not inexperienced; I'm a teacher. Will someone please listen to the families who are going through this hell?
Name and address supplied
Now that blame is being apportioned in the Baby P case, and the people concerned are resigning or "being moved", wouldn't it be the most wonderful and just thing if Nevres Kemal, the whistleblower who was right all along, should not only be appointed the new manager but receive a full public apology for the shabby way she was treated in 2004?
New Labour's war against freedom
The Home Secretary, in her tacit approval of the police action against Damian Green, her pursuit of the extension of detention without charge and her unhealthy enthusiasm for an Orwellian ID database, is increasingly displaying the same Stalinist tendencies exhibited so enthusiastically by her most recent three predecessors.
Whoever authorised the police raid and arrest, whether government minister, civil servant or senior police officer, is clearly unfit to hold a position of power in a democracy, and should be sacked. The complete lack of outrage, or even disquiet, among senior Labour politicians speaks volumes about their contempt for free speech and civil liberties.
I hope that all opposition parties will now do their utmost to oppose New Labour in its war against freedom. Remember that almost every piece of "anti-terror" legislation since 1997 has been misused by the authorities for purposes that have nothing to do with protecting the population at large. Remember the treatment of Brian Haw? Walter Wolfgang?
Do we really need all these inquiries and all this hot air to determine what happened? Surely it's pretty obvious.
The police obtained warrants to search Mr Green's homes and constituency office. They knew that if they were to apply for a warrant to search Mr Green's office in the Commons the judge to whom they applied would be bound to enquire of the Speaker or the Serjeant at Arms whether there would be any objection, and the cat would have been out of the bag.
So they adopted the only practical alternative, turning up on the doorstep and asking the Serjeant at Arms for consent. I have no doubt that no one was more surprised than the police that they were given consent.
Archie Bland ("The mole truth", 3 December) may do well to remember that there was no question of "the Government's moral standing" about the sinking of the Belgrano. Yes the ship was outside the "total exclusion zone" but the fact remains she was an enemy ship on the high seas in time of war and dealt with accordingly. This action was consistent with both the rules of engagement and the laws of war. The "moral" duty of Her Majesty's Government was to ensure that any threat to the Royal Navy was sent to the depths of the ocean.
The Official Secrets Act can fall prey to abuse by our political masters. However it is the law of land and the information it protects might have been classified for any number of reasons about which any potential "whistle-blower" is completely ignorant. The irony Mr Bland fails to spot is that the worst Christopher Galley could expect is a criminal charge under the Official Secrets Act, while a whistle-blowing civil servant of the Argentine junta would have met a far more interesting fate.
David J Horsley
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Meat makes global warming worse
Martin Haworth of the NFU, unsurprisingly, opposes vegetarianism as a measure to fight climate change (letter, 2 December), just as he has called for biofuel expansion. He omits to mention that rising demand for animal protein worldwide is a major cause of tropical deforestation, since its land footprint is far greater than the equivalent vegetarian protein. Food commodity prices have correlated closely with Amazon deforestation rates. Tropical deforestation is itself a major source of carbon emissions and must be curbed even to avert 3 degrees of warming.
So long as the UK remains a net importer of food (including feed), there is no escape with most home-grown meat, or for that matter home-grown agrofuels. We cannot expect the developing world to forego further affluence to sustain our excesses. If we are serious about conserving rainforests, we must curb our own consumption: by eating less meat and dairy overall, and quitting the agrofuel folly.
Martin Haworth suggests that if people ate less meat the uplands would be abandoned, leading to environmental problems. Surely the uplands would revert to forest, as they were before they were devastated by felling and grazing. Carbon would be absorbed by the trees, remaining soil would be consolidated by tree roots, and some flooding problems would be alleviated.
The language of confrontation
Kathy Jones (letter, 4 December) doesn't like Israeli towns in Palestine to be called "settlements". I agree. "Settlements" evokes an image of brave pioneering homesteaders in an otherwise uninhabited wilderness. How does she feel about "colonies"?
Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire
In reply to Kathy Jones, I would point out that it is not just "leftish sympathisers from Kentish Town", but people of all political persuasions who are concerned about Israel's blockade of Gaza. In recent weeks the Red Cross, Oxfam, Christian Aid and Tony Blair have expressed these concerns. In the words of Christian Aid, "Food and medicine must never be used as weapons."
Kathy Jones condemns a previous correspondent for defining the 750,000 Gazans who are under the age of 18 as "children" when referring to the deliberate act of blocking food to Gaza. At what age does she propose it's acceptable to starve a person? Over 21s only?
Ian Blair and the pensions debate
Your argument about public sector pensions (leading article, 28 November) is spoiled by using Sir Ian Blair as an example. He is a typical public sector employee only in the same way that David Beckham is a typical footballer. The former Commissioner is, in fact, a member of that small group of wealthy men, which includes MPs and many public sector senior managers, who have indeed prospered via the public payroll on the back of New Labour.
The average retiring employee in education, the health service or the police most definitely does not earn a lottery-win salary. Many are paid quite badly and their pensions are correspondingly meagre
By all means let us have a debate on public sector pensions. I, as a public sector retiree, would welcome it. But let's start by getting the facts straight. When Sir Ian was picking up his fortune, many ordinary police constables, nurses, teachers etc would also have been retiring. Instead of quoting Sir Ian as representative of a fat-cat culture, why not write the facts about the sort of pension deal those thousands of ordinary workers will be getting?
And why not drop all those loaded phrases such as "gold-plated" and "bloated"? They may apply to the Sir Ians of this world, not to most of us.
David Cameron's foam-flecked rhetoric about "pension apartheid" should not have been supported in your Editorial section.
What public-sector workers get out of their pension schemes depends precisely on what they put in. Public-sector pensions are massively contributory, a matter conveniently ignored by David Cameron. In general, in order to obtain a pension approaching half the contributor's final annual salary he/she would have had to work continuously for a very large number of years in the state sector – for example, until quite recently, 38 years in the case of teachers. This does not seem to me to be an "absurdly comfy" arrangement.
Perhaps Mr Cameron should reflect on the gross mismanagement of pension schemes in the private sector by employers in the late 1990s, when all too many of them declared a "contributions holiday" when the going was good on the stock market. When the market crashed their employees lost heavily. Does Mr Cameron seriously recommend such irresponsibility as a preferred alternative to the current pension arrangements in the state sector?
Now that ministers have received the headline they wanted, perhaps they would announce how they plan to stop "mortgage holidays" turning into little more than an opportunity to live mortgage-free for two years prior to a repossession? And in two years the house underlying a £400,000 mortgage could have lost a further £100,000 or more in value. Is the taxpayer going to compensate the banks for this additional loss as well as the interest never paid?
"Is this the world's oldest living creature?" you ask of Jonathan, the 175-year-old tortoise (4 December). In a word, no. Since 1981, six stone or ivory harpoons have been found embedded in the blubber of bowhead whales hunted by the Inupiat off Alaska. The modern Inupiat did not recognise the weapons, having used mostly metal harpoons since the 1870s. Further scientific dating by the Scripps Institution of Ocean-ography in California established that one harpoon was 235 years old – making the whale itself older.
NHS under threat
The announcement in Queen's Speech of an NHS constitution is at best half-baked and at worst a smokescreen to increase the commercialisation of the NHS. NHS patients deserve a clearer idea of both their rights and responsibilities. However, I have a serious concern that the constitution in its current form simply says that private companies should "take account" of the principles within the NHS, but that is not sufficient in itself to preserve the values and ethos of the NHS.
Dr Kailash Chand
No hiding place
The problem with "those who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear", as a justification for increased public scrutiny (letter, 2 December) is that "nothing to hide" is a notoriously subjective term, especially in the area of personal faith or political affiliations. These can prove perfectly innocent one day, and at odds with the law, state ambitions or even some anonymous functionary's personal prejudices the next. To make such information freely available to pretty much anyone who may have some kind of official jurisdiction over our lives is irresponsible.
The Rev Matt Butler
Would you credit it?
Should we worry about credits on television (letter, 4 December)? Judging by the few cinemagoers who wait to see a film's end credits, it would appear the general public are just not interested.
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