Letters: Child protection measures will make checks easier and safer

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The article about child protection measures (12 August) failed to identify the true purpose and effect of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. It is correct that the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) will collate information from many government sources, so preventing wrongdoers from avoiding detection merely by changing job or location, as in the case of Ian Huntley.

There are positive aspects of the legislation. After a person is registered with the ISA to work with children (or vulnerable adults) that registration is portable to all activities, thus avoiding the duplication for different ones.

There will also be no need for rechecking, as applies with the CRB, since individual records will be continually updated from prime sources and anyone whose status changes may be barred as a result of offences wherever committed. Employers or organisers can check on prospective workers' status online, which will help enormously and will also be available to individuals who wish to check on, say, a minding service for their children.

Information held on individuals will be improved and no person's registration status can be divulged without their consent. Except in instances where by law, or otherwise, an enhanced CRB check is required, the response to an enquiry will be confirmation of registration or acceptance of an application. There will be no disclosure of minor offences that may be embarrassing. There will also be protection against allegations referred to the ISA: individuals will be notified and have right of appeal against any barring youth work.

The Act will clarify activities exempt from registration. There is a specifc section allowing assistance to be given by any adult to children who have suffered harm or are perceived to be at risk.

Chris Mew, Child Protection Working Group, Warwick

BBC jingoistic about Olympic Games

Is anyone else as irritated as I am by the jingoistic approach being taken to the Olympic Games by the BBC? This is a global event in a globalised world. There are many inspirational stories being played out, but we hear only ones that involve UK competitors.

I'm sure it wasn't always like that. Remember the attention we paid to Fanny Blankers-Koen in 1948? Or to Dawn Fraser in 1956 and 1960? Or to Abebe Bikila in 1964? Would it happen now? I fear not. Only British athletes are assumed to be interesting.

The comparatively recent appearance of the quasi- league "medals table" is symptomatic, as is the grating use of the term "Team GB", a concept entirely alien to the Olympic spirit.

If it continues like this I'll be switching off, in every sense.

Gerald Haigh, Bedworth, Warwickshire

Am I missing something, or is "Great Britain" a misnomer for our Olympic team? Since it includes Northern Ireland, surely it should be Team United Kingdom? Or has the constitution been suspended for a fortnight?

John Lilley, Sunbury, Middlesex

Aren't the number of Olympic medals awarded to swimming disproportionate? For athletics to even it up, I think medals should be awarded at 100, 200, 400 and 800 metres: for free-style running, crawling, hopping and running backwards.

John Rathbone, Birmingham

Why no bowls in the Olympics? Too genteel? And why no arm-wrestling? Too proletarian?

Bernard Sharp , Keighley, West Yorkshire

Does Britain's success at the Olympics mean that standards are in decline, and that the Games are becoming easier than in the past?

Pete Dorey, Reader in British Politics, Cardiff University

Time to cut the empty rates cost

Your article "Buildings destroyed after rate relief is abolished" (13 August) revealed some of the severe consequences of the Government's decision this year to slash the relief available on empty business property.

The timing of this change could not have been worse. Businesses up and down the country are grappling with a slowing economy, and demand for business property has tumbled. Many companies are now having to find the cash to pay business rates on properties that are not generating any income.

This is prompting some landlords to demolish properties out of desperation, and there are reports of others being pushed close to the brink of insolvency.

The Government was wise enough to give itself the powers to cut the empty rates bill by 50 per cent in times of an economic downturn. The CBI, and the 35 MPs who have signed a motion urging the Government to implement this power, believe this moment has come.

Dr Neil Bentley , Director of Business Environment, Confederation of British Industry, London WC1

If we taxed owners rather than occupiers of property (as most countries do) and, even better, if we taxed land, not the buildings on them (as some countries do), we would not need "empty rates". We are in the position described in your report because we have failed to complete a modern register of land owners.

Lord Rogers, in his report for this Government 10 years ago, "Towards an Urban Renaissance", called for a Vacant Land Tax. He also recommended further study of how other countries operate their Land Value Tax (LVT). Since then, Labour has funked property tax reform. Empty rates was always doomed, although its aim is worthy: to reduce the waste of precious urban land.

The Green Party supports LVT, as do groups in all three main parties. Liberal Democrats would shift business rates on to site values alone, which would deal with this. But what we really need is to use LVT as the main means of shifting the tax burden off wealth-creation, cutting taxes on earnings and enterprise. That would trigger completion of land registers without need of primary legislation.

Landowners will squeal, of course. But they could not avoid the tax. We need all the enterprise that humanity can summon, to tackle climate change. We simply cannot afford to waste land by allowing empty buildings to remain on it.

Cllr Tony Vickers, Chair, Lib Dems Action on Land-value Taxation & Economic Reform, Newbury, Berkshire

Russia, Georgia and historical facts

It is unfortunate that so distinguished a historian and biographer as Sir Alistair Horne displays a shaky grasp of chronology in his article on the crisis in Georgia (12 August). Sir Alistair writes, "When the Sovet Union collapsed in 1989, Reagan and Thatcher displayed Churchillian magnanimity towards Gorbachev's broken nation". The Soviet Union did not collapse until December 1991.

What collapsed in 1989 was Soviet influence in satellite countries in eastern and central Europe. And by then Reagan was out of the White House, having been succeeded by the father of the present incumbent.

C D C Armstrong, Belfast

How the Lebanese and Palestinians must wonder just what has to happen to them for the international community to react with such horror as it has done over the Russian invasion of Georgia. I don't seem to remember George Bush or our great poodle Tony Blair urging an immediate ceasefire when Israel invaded Lebanon. How I long for a government that speaks up impartially on all injustice and aggression.

Don Newton , Okehampton, Devon

Instead of playing the Russian national anthem when they win a medal, maybe they should play "While we were marching through Georgia". It'll show their lighter side, "Yes, we're still a superpower (and don't forget it) but we have a sense of humour".

Jon Wyvill, Scarborough

In the afternoon, President George Bush said the US would be sending "humanitarian" aid to Georgia. That evening, Newsnight reported the arrival of the first planes. I'm sure the people of New Orleans are envious, and wonder why they waited so long after Hurricane Katrina. But then, they live in Louisiana.

Dara Gallagher, Temple Bar, Dublin

Equality Act opens a can of worms

I would be grateful if an apparent discrepancy in the application of the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 could be explained to me. In an article on 13 August, headed "Professor keeps her job in victory for active elderly", it is said that Manchester University ruled that Professor Rowbotham would have her contract terminated when she reached 65, as had already happened to Professor Eagleton. He is going to take his case to an employmen tribunal on the grounds of age discrimination.

I am registered as a medical practitioner with the General Medical Council, and when I attained the age of 65 was exempted from the Annual Retention Fee on the grounds of age.

I have now been told that age exemption will be withdrawn because of the provisions of the Employment Equality Act. How can Manchester University use an employee's age to end their contract? Can the over-65s still enjoy concessions that are age-related, such as free travel etc ?

The implications of this Act do not appear to be understood by employers such as Manchester University, and the whole affair will be a can of worms keeping the legal profession busy for a long time.

Margaret Elmes, Dinas Powys, Glamorgan

Perhaps the Prince is right again

Prince Charles has an uncanny habit of putting his finger on the pulse (letters, 15 August). In the 1980s, his outspoken words on architecture arguably served to save London from hasty and shallow experimentation. With his new remarks on GM, could he again be on to something?

For instance, is it simply a huge coincidence that since the introduction of GM crops in the United States there's been a near catastrophic and totally unprecedented decline in bee populations? Of course, there was the glaringly "unforeseen" consequence of butterfly death in early GM trials. So if that was not part of the "GM design", could it mean such "profit-motive science" doesn't actually know, or is concerned about, all the consequences of its experiments?

Could Charles be on to something? This withering hubris that hare-to-tortoise second-tier science can match the genius of nature in the blink of an eye might indeed unravel a few essential strands from the web of life.

Scare story? I understand initial trials proved bees resilient. But possible alterations to the surface of the bee's intestines enables parasite attacks to have a far more devastating effect subsequently. If so, exactly how long might it take science to "engineer" a replacement bee?

Steve Crawford, Lincoln


Have a nice day, y'all

Americanisms are creeping into your reports. In addition to the by now standard misuse of "billion" to indicate a thousand million, Katie Price has been referred to as a "glamor" model, illustrations of two Beatles' LPs available only in the US have been used in two features on the music industry, and now there are constant references to "field hockey" in sports reports. Are American English and the US culture overriding us?

T Honeybone, Doncaster, Yorkshire

Not guilty

I can try to allay the fears of David Nicholson (letters, 14 August) that The Independent used an ingratiating expression when it reported that carp had died of an infectious disease at "one of Britain's most prestigious royal gardens". Presumably, a virus crept into the report (13 August) which should have said that the incident was at a "Royal Horticultural Society garden". Mr Nicholson will be pleased to learn that, although the RHS has "Royal" in its title, courtesy of Prince Albert, membership is open to anyone.

Ken Cockshull, Royal Horticultural Society, Hampton Lucy, Warwick

Not lamented

Your obituary of the late Lord Bruce-Lockhart (16 August) fails to mention his attempt to instigate a local version of the hated anti-gay Section 28 in Kent schools while he was leader of the county council. Had this pernicious piece of homophobic legislation, supported by many of those now paying tribute to him, succeeded, it would have undoubtedly been exported further around the UK, so making the situation for gay students even worse than it was, and, indeed, still is.

Ray Duff, Folkestone, Kent

Stepping up fear

It's not just on railways that we are warned about stairs (letters, 18 August). At Gate 22 in Edinburgh airport a notice says, "Passengers are requested, when descending the staircase, to utilise the hand-rails provided for the purpose. Thank you for your co-operation". On arrival at Bristol, a loudspeaker repeats continuously, "Caution. Mind the stairs". What's going on? Do "They" want us to worry about exploding staircases? Are we are not already scared enough about al-Qa'ida when on the plane?

W B McBride, Bristol

Cool Canute

Canute did not expect the rising tide to obey his command to withdraw (leading article, 18 August). He was demonstrating to his sycophantic followers the limitations of his power. Something else for the Prime Minister to ponder?

Anthony Clement, Edwardstone, Suffolk


On "helpful instructions" on products (letters, 18 August), the most interesting I've seen was on the side of a rigid plastic toothpaste dispenser, "Remove lid and push up bottom".

Roger Hewell, Bath