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Letters: Energy bills, a matter of decency

These letters appear in the Monday 28th October edition of the Independent

If the Coalition Government wishes to indulge the energy suppliers by allowing over-inflation rises in the cost of our fuel supplies, then they must find a way to help those who cannot afford to heat or eat. It might be a good start to put the Cabinet in a room without heating when the temperature outside was freezing.

The alternative is a British Spring. We cannot go on taking these rising costs of living  while others rake in the cash. This is not to do with politics but  has a great deal to do with human decency. Perhaps the concept of the workhouse has never left us.

Dorothy Brown, London NW11

As Fukushima continues to turn into an ever more serious catastrophe, and as the Germans confirm that they are turning their back on nuclear, Britain decides it will be expanding nuclear power generation, with the Chinese as the driving force.

It is not clear to what extent the Chinese or the French will design and build the new units, but the whole thing reminded me of a conversation that I had in Frankfurt. It was the time of the Textile Fair and I had fallen into conversation with a Pakastani businessman. I asked him whether he bought European or Chinese/Asian machinery for his factory, and he replied that he only ever bought from the Germans, despite their equipment being four times the price. He said it was simply too expensive for him to have plant standing idle while he waited for repairs to unreliable Chinese equipment.

So, regarding reliability, it’s one thing to have to wait while a knitting machine is repaired but its quite another thing to have half the UK irradiated because of a hiccup at Hinkley Point.

Alan Mitcham, Cologne, Germany

One of the virtues of public ownership of utilities was that the minister responsible could be questioned in Parliament. Ministers hate being embarrassed and can therefore be goaded into action.

The only thing that embarrasses the people who run our privatised utilities is if they can’t increase their prices and profits at several times the rate of inflation every year. Isn’t it time the people responsible be made answerable to the people who pay the bills, not just to their shareholders?

John Naylor, Ascot

Nimbys must make a choice: a substantial increase in electricity costs, power cuts or accepting a nuclear power station, a gas/coal power station, a wind farm or a fracking site to be built adjacent to you.

Alternatively, a 15 to 20 per cent cull of the population.

Clive A Marshall-Purves, Cenesson-sur-Orb, France


Coping with elders can  be dreadful

I agree with Linda Dickens and Alan Pearson (letters 22 October). We are being made to feel guilty by those who clearly have no idea that it may be quite impossible for a family to provide the care needed for an infirm and senile relative. I have experience of how the “powers-that-be” do everything they can to shift that burden, and how the consequences may be dreadful.

My elderly mother-in-law lived in her own home with my unmarried brother-in-law, in his late sixties and not in the best of health. She had dementia. She was a very strong-willed, determined lady who behaved irrationally. We live 100 miles away but, like Linda Dickens, we did all we could.

My brother-in-law coped with soaking bed-linen every morning, refusals to get dressed, or eat what he had cooked, wandering off and dramas too numerous to mention. We coped with phone calls at all hours, usually telling us that her cat or her son were missing (they were always elsewhere in the house), or that she wasn’t at home (she’d lived there for over 60 years), or that she was frightened.

A fall took her to hospital; to recover from the (successful) hip operation she went into a care home, where she settled well. However, she had no assets beside her house, also her son’s home, and those “powers-that-be” soon decided that she should go home. Against our advice, my brother-in-law took on the burden again, with some help with intimate care. After a short time, she contracted pneumonia and went into hospital again.

There she spent three agonising months, being pumped with antibiotics for one infection after another, before she died. The NHS “powers-that-be” insisted that this had to be done; two years on, it still horrifies me that, articulate as we are, we were unable to prevent this. My brother-in-law is still affected by his long ordeal.

This experience has led me to make an Advance Decision, with the help of my GP (who wishes more people would do so), I have detailed what kind of treatment I want in the future. I have no intention of suffering pointless pain and indignities myself, or of inflicting suffering on my family.

Christina Jones, Retford, Nottinghamshire


I am so glad Jeremy Hunt understands how Asian families value their elders. Hopefully he will now make it slightly easier for us to get permanent stay visas for our frail and lonely parents.

Many of us have no intention of  claiming any benefits for our relatives once they arrive here. The cost of their care would be much less than making several trips a year to visit them. And the British economy would benefit if we did not have to take so much time off work.

Saraswati Narayan, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire


Caro’s debt to the ‘geometry of fear’

As in life so in death. Like much lifetime art criticism on his work the plethora of recent obituaries on the internationally significant British sculptor Anthony Caro largely fail to adequately locate him within Britain’s burgeoning expressionistic sculpture “school” of the 1950s.

We are told tutelage under Moore led seamlessly at the turn of the 1960s to the sudden Americanisation that saw him adopt and develop the abstract welded steel manner of David Smith and Richard Serra.

 Influenced also by Picasso and Gonzalez, Caro was, at his best, a great and innovative sculptor who invested prosaic industrial materials and means with an airy poetry, lyricism and an unprecedented openness to space, architecture and the environment. But British contemporaries Lynn Chadwick, Reg Butler, Brian Wall, Bryan Kneale and Robert Adams beat him to welding and construction. And older artists like Armitage, Butler and Chadwick had, at the 1952 Venice Biennale, first put postwar British sculpture on the international map a decade before Caro’s breakthrough.

The lack of any critical comparison between Caro’s new kind of streamlined abstraction and the earlier surreality of the groundbreaking Venice Biennale “geometry of fear” group leads to what at times seems an unthinking Caro cult. The result is surely an over simplistic and ideologically bloated reputation.

Peter Davies, Bath


There is no doubt that Anthony Caro was a very important sculptor. From the example of David Smith he was able to use construction to open up a new world, freeing sculpture from stuffy academicism.

Isn’t it, therefore, rather a pity that we shall never see his like again? Thanks to the stuffy new academicism of the conceptual and anti-art it is now impossible for talents such as his – or Moore’s – either to be nurtured or to flourish.

Progress indeed! Any comments Mr Serota? 

Martin Murray, London SW2


This is just how companies are

There seems to be a misconception about the behaviour of large companies.

In a capitalist society their sole purpose is to provide products and maximise profits. That’s how it works. Companies are not people, they are aggressive and finely tuned profit machines and it is naive to expect them to have humanitarian feelings, environmental concerns or qualms about minimising their tax liabilities.

Moderation of their behaviour is the responsibility of government, and all excesses that they manifest are due to the failure of the Government to legislate effectively to contain them.

This is made worse when the Conservatives are in power because Tories don’t like constraining companies, for reasons of both ideology and vested interest.

John Hade, Totnes, Devon


Snooping on  the world

Should Germany now give refuge to Edward Snowden (a true American patriot) who revealed the weird extent of US phone-tapping?

Collin Rossini, Dovercourt, Essex


Does GCHQ answer all the cold calls from India or have the cryptographic geniuses discovered how to block them?

Dr John Doherty, Stratford-upon-Avon


Pity the country whose leaders the US does not consider important enough to be bugged.

Peter Forster, London N4


The case of the  3D printer ‘gun’

On the matter of the alleged 3D-printed gun found in Manchester, I note that Elementary, the US Sherlock Holmes reboot, has restarted on British television. The first episode involved a 3D-printed gun as murder weapon.

Perhaps some over-enthusiastic policeman in Manchester had seen the show and jumped to the wrong conclusion.

Paul Dormer, Guildford, Surrey


Foreign masters

Unite overplayed a weak hand but the real lesson of Grangemouth is that if we sell off our public services to foreign investors then we must accept our colonial role. We must accept that the continuance of these services is at risk to the whims and profitability of our foreign masters.

Clive Georgeson, Dronfield, Derbyshire


Wrong message

Surely it is as tasteless for a woman in a highly paid professional job to reveal too much cleavage as it would be for a man to wear a cod-piece (“The Clifford Chance guide to women speaking in public”, 26 October). Both distract from the message they are paid to convey.

Betty Davies



Eye of a needle

Your newspaper continues to be filled by correspondents and columnists who see the solution to the present austerity in increased taxation of the hated “rich”. Fortunately the tricky question of who the rich are for these purposes is easily answered: they are anyone who earns more than I do.

Richard Harvey, Frating, Essex