Corporations that bestride the globe
Andreas Whittam Smith (Voices, 1 May) considers the proposal by Thomas Piketty to reduce global inequality through a global wealth tax extremely unlikely to happen. However, his own proposal to improve education and training is also unlikely to make significant inroads.
For such a vast and complex issue, there can be no one simple fix, and a combination of measures is clearly needed. Strengthening international agencies, such as the Human Rights Council, the UN, the World Bank and, yes, even the IMF, can also help. Progress could also be made by clamping down on tax havens and by governments standing up to multinational corporations with smarter regulation in the public interest.
Geoffrey Payne, London W5
Hamish McRae’s analysis of the potential Pfizer takeover of AstraZeneca (30 April) is illuminating and thought-provoking. As he says, “global business is global”. That is, to my mind, beyond the reach of any government attempting to safeguard the interests of its citizens.
He points out that “countries are now competing more aggressively ... to get companies to build plants and preserve jobs”. Is this a fool’s game?
Rather than spending billions propping up global banks, waiving the tax liabilities of international organisations and creating tax loopholes for the world’s richest corporations to slip through, would it not be better to focus energy and resources supporting small and medium enterprises, which have been the engines of recovery in employment and honest contributors to the exchequer?
Gordon Watt, Reading
Clarkson’s fatal mumble
Does Jeremy Clarkson’s apology – “It did appear that I’d actually used the word . . . I didn’t use the N-word here but. . . it sounds like I did. . . I did everything in my power to not use that word” – suggest he needs diversity training or speech therapy?
Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon
Jeremy Clarkson has voluntarily set himself up as a sort of national fool, and to be offended by Mr Clarkson is akin to being offended by the baa-ing of sheep or the barking of dogs. The only puzzle is why he continues to be paid as though he were worth listening to.
Vaughan Thomas, Usk, Gwent
A note of thanks is gift enough
Please don’t spend anything on gifts for your child’s teachers (Rosie Millard, 29 April). Instead, please encourage your son or daughter to take the time to write a “thank you” note for all the care “above and beyond the call of duty” that they received, for the patience or the tough love they were shown, for the inspiration or encouragement they were given.
These notes are treasured for ever and fortify us against indifference, exhaustion and the utterances of Messrs Gove and Wilshaw.
Fran Tattersall, Manchester
As a teacher for 40 years, now retired, I completely agree that ridiculously expensive gifts are not only unnecessary but tantamount to bribery. However, I was always touched and delighted when students or their parents sent me a card at the end of the year thanking me for doing what Rosie Millard clearly thinks is “just a job”.
I find it sad that apparently Rosie has never been thanked for her work. She should have been. It’s something that employers should do regularly, because it’s important to feel valued and appreciated.
But it’s also important that the thanks are sincerely meant. I once received a card from a headteacher who thanked me for doing a brilliant job, on a particular day-long special activity, because he “had heard how well it had gone”, but he hadn’t bothered to find out for himself by coming along to see. That was not appreciated.
Paula Saunders, St Albans
Nicotine bad, alcohol all right
I wonder why Janet Street-Porter (26 April) adopts such a cavalier attitude towards the ingestion of mind-altering substances compared to her deep antipathy to smoking substance-free tobacco.
Tobacco advertising has been banned for decades, and yet alcohol is still advertised widely, with the latest TV adverts for cherry cider and lemon vodka surely aimed at the juvenile tippler.
According to JSP it’s fine for the nanny state to intervene where tobacco is concerned but not in the case of powdered alcohol, which “could be a chance to decriminalise some drugs such as cannabis”.
Anna Farlow, London NW2
An ‘atheist wolf’ writes
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (28 April) writes a very fine feature and she has set out a list of dreadful things done by mankind in the name of religion. But then she says: “I have faith and pray and avoid the company of noisy, atheist wolves.”
Well I am a dear old lady of 87 and a very convinced and committed atheist, and I live a decent life, doing kindness to other people, and am not a noisy wolf. They are mainly the religious, I find.
Joan Pennycook, Truro, Cornwall
Vote for the revolution
If, as some people think, this country needs a revolution in government, and crowds turned out on the streets in protest, the police would be employed, and people would be told that the ballot box is their proper means of protest. What other option is there than voting Ukip?
Judith Woodford, Bozeat, Northamptonshire
How to get rid of bad care workers
Following this week’s Panorama on the BBC, we are again presented with evidence of appalling treatment of vulnerable individuals in our care homes. Although 15 workers have been suspended and eight sacked as a result, the fact is that care workers are not regulated.
Although most care workers are dedicated individuals working in challenging circumstances, there are no enforceable standards and no mechanism to prevent that small minority of unsuitable and unscrupulous workers moving from one employer to another.
The Government has plans to strengthen training, inspection and certification. Whilst these are a step in the right direction, these measures are not on their own enough. There must be a system of personal accountability in place to address poor care and misconduct. As an independent regulator of 320,000 health, psychological and social work professionals, we have already recommended to government a “negative registration scheme” for adult social care workers.
The proposed scheme includes a statutory code of conduct based on core principles such as respect, honesty, integrity and confidentiality. It would also provide a mechanism for considering serious complaints where any individual found to have breached the code would face sanctions. This would include having his or her name placed on a “negative register” of those considered unfit for employment in the social care workforce, making it a criminal offence to work in the sector.
Our proposal for such a system of personal accountability has been incorporated into the Law Commission’s draft bill currently being considered by the Government. We believe the time to act decisively is now.
Anna van der Gaag, Chair
Marc Seale, Chief Executive
Health and Care Professions Council, London SE11
It is disgusting that the elderly in care homes are, in some cases, treated so badly. Care home workers are paid the minimum wage and because the homes are always short of staff they will employ virtually anyone to keep to the required staff/resident ratio. When will it be realised that if you pay peanuts you get what you deserve?
Margaret Threlfall, Langho, Lancashire
The recent Panorama programme was quite right to highlight the appalling treatment suffered by the vulnerable residents at some care homes. Hopefully it will be the impetus for rapid improvement. However, I should like to point out that there is another side to the coin.
My partner recently passed away after a two-year stay in a local care home. I have nothing but praise for the professional care he received there. Being completely bed-ridden and, latterly, suffering dementia, he was by no means an easy person to look after in many ways.
Although his condition was deteriorating, his death was unexpected and the reaction of many of the carers showed that they had become fond of him and certainly did not consider him as just a room number. They have my respect and grateful thanks for all they did for both my partner and myself.
Louise Thomas, Abingdon, Oxfordshire