That our storage capacity of natural gas is only about one and a half days at peak demand is shocking (report, 23 March). It is one of the lowest storage figures in Europe, and the reason we are now paying a greatly increased price in order to get over this cold spell. It may yet well lead to rationing. This all suggests that the Government is not only totally out of touch with reality, but wilfully negligent.
Spending on our infrastructure where the benefits are so indisputable is the best way of investing for the future, though this fact seems to have eluded our fuel minister.
Why do we rely on foreigners and greedy gas companies when there is still centuries’ worth of gas on our doorsteps nationwide? Very cheaply, coke gas could be re-created from the wealth of surface mines, and retorts set up relatively inexpensively. In the old days, only a handful of men were needed to stoke the retorts and ensure the gas was sent to a storage facility.
I am sure modern technology could get rid of the smell, something which was always welcome to indicate a leak. It would also create hundreds of jobs in the now-depressed coal-mining areas of England, Scotland and Wales.
Bridlington, East Yorkshire
If there is a real danger of an energy shortage then it is about time that we did something about the millions of tons of coal hidden underground. Some pits were closed a generation ago for political reasons, while others would be now economic to mine because of the rise in wholesale energy prices.
Whatever, this is a natural resource that belongs to the nation, and isn’t dependent on the whims of overseas suppliers. Thus if we are serious about future energy provision, then coal must be an option for serious discussion.
Perhaps the threat of gas rationing will convince the rural Nimbys that we need to generate our power with wind turbines, and plenty of them. They will need to go where it is windiest. And yes, those may be scenic areas. Energy independence trumps pretty views.
Women in prison: reform is long overdue
Nigel Morris sets out new plans to reform women’s justice (“Government to act on women prisoners”, 22 March). The Justice Minister’s welcome announcement could prove a catalyst for co-ordinated cross-government action to reduce women’s prison numbers. So many of the solutions to women’s offending do not lie behind bars.
Currently over 10,000 women are sent to prison each year, most to serve short sentences for non-violent crimes. Many women in prison have themselves been the victims of serious crime, including domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape. For far too long, our prisons have been full of women who have mental-health needs, suffer from drug and alcohol addictions, and struggle with debt. High levels of self-harm reflect their distress at separation from their children.
To underpin sound policy, the Government would be wise to place community provision for women in the justice system on a statutory footing. History shows that, in the absence of specific legislation, commitments to address women’s different needs are often not realised, and momentum can be lost as ministers and officials come and go. Today, as the Crime and Courts Bill enters its final Parliamentary stages, the Ministry of Justice should seize the opportunity to give the full force of the law to its good intentions to reform women’s justice.
Baroness Howe of Idlecote
Lady Jay of Ewelme
Chairman, The Pilgrim Trust
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone
Juliet Lyon CBE
The Rt Hon Lord Woolf
The Rt Hon Lord Hurd
The Prison Reform Trust
The Rt Hon Lord Beecham
Jan Hemlin, Chair of UK Programme Action Committee, Soroptimists International
Private sector vs public good
Could James Paton (Letters, 15 March) provide the evidence that things that are run for profit are much better than what the state provides? Could he name one privatisation that has led to a better service for the public, or better value for money for the public? (BT, directory inquiries, water, gas, electricity, rail, buses... I could go on).
Drighlington, West Yorkshire
There is nothing inherently inefficient or ineffective about state-run services, providing the tax funding is progressive enough to ensure that the rich truly contribute according to their abilities.
The introduction of the profit motive means that any privately run service immediately has to first make that profit. Therefore as night follows day patient treatment and care would be relegated to second or third in the priorities ledger.
The NHS is not a business. It was not created to generate profits for those lucky enough to hold shares. The NHS is there to provide medical services equally and fairly to all, freely at time of need. In that enterprise we are all shareholders in the common good.
Haywards Heath, West Sussex
Michael Gove, on Question Time, on 21 March reminded us that “it’s the private sector that is the wealth-creating part of the economy”. I’m ashamed, as a retired teacher, that while the private sector makes handbags, flower-pot stands and cradles for TV remotes, the public sector wastes taxpayers’ money on fripperies such as health, education, justice and security.
Bexley, Greater London
Everywhere I look I am being urged to believe that money is more important than public service, whether it is caring for the poor and elderly, paying one’s dues or having medical treatment. Of course it matters who owns the hospitals – it matters because we already see that compassion has been seriously undermined by the wrong people being in control, and how does introducing a profit motive do anything other than make it worse? Who is accountable if the service is owned (and milked) by a faceless business enterprise on the far side of the world?
The case for graceful decline
Might it not be more true to say that the UK has taken a fall than it is to say that we are failing to re-establish “growth”? What of the idea that growth may not be forthcoming, that it will not happen? Nations fall, and can continue to fall. I wonder whether the UK will grow or whether we have become, simply, diminished. If we have: stop worrying – just spend less, use less, share more and count your blessings.
Navy should insist on British ships
Yes, indeed the UK needs to keep its shipbuilding alive (Letters, 16 March). Why then has the Defence Secretary negotiated a deal with South Korea to build Naval tankers? I, like many others, felt despair on hearing, yet again, that the Government had decided to take its business overseas. It beggars belief that the excuses, “value for money” and “of benefit to the British taxpayer”, have been used yet again. Why did you, the Naval officers/dignitaries who signed the letter published in The Independent, do nothing to persuade the Government to give the order to a British company? Why did you not liaise with shipbuilding companies? Together, you could have presented a convincing case to the Defence Secretary and government; a strong enough case to persuade that the ships be “British made”.
Midhurst, West Sussex
Fined by a quango
Andrew Lovatt (letters, 21 March) asserts that it is the role of police to enforce the law, not quangos. Sadly much enforcement is already in the hands of quangos and indeed individuals who can issue “Civil Enforcement” notices – traffic wardens, for example, have been relabelled “Civil Enforcement Officers”. The regulators have the power to interpret the law, detect infringements and punish by way of fines. Headteachers and refuse collectors can issue fixed penalty “tickets”.
A true Budget for beer drinkers
Following the 1959 Budget a primary-school child was reported to have written the following:
“Spring comes but once a year
Spring is here! Spring is here!
And when it comes it brings good cheer
‘Cos it’s tuppence off a pint of beer!”
The aim then was to address the declining sale of beer. We now face a similar situation with pubs closing owing to unfair competition from supermarkets; a significant reduction, on pub draft beer only, would be a great help.
However, tuppence was about an eighth of the price of a pint in 1959. To produce a similar effect now the reduction would need to be about 40p rather than Osborne’s pitiful 1p.
Instead of having the one universal tax on beer (Letters, 22 March), a more selective tax might be more appropriate. One possibility would be to reduce (or abolish, one says wistfully) the tax on hand-pulled draught beer sold in pubs from barrels, but not on top-pressure barrels. Besides the benefit of encouraging more pub-going, it will help the balance of payments because most draught beer is produced in the UK.
Don’t judge this dog by his looks
A new Channel 4 comedy is accused of racial stereotyping (report, 23 March). Yet on the following page, an investigation of BNP funding is guilty of the same charge. As a pedigree Staffordshire Bull Terrier, I have never worn a Union Jack neckerchief nor attended a BNP rally and would urge The Independent to take a broader view of the breed rather than perpetuating the myth that we are racist, violent, child-munching dogs.
For your information, I enjoy watching Masterchef, listening to 6Music and walking in the Peak District.
Mid-Devonian missing apostrophes have now left the county (Letters, 21 March). Only this year I saw a blackboard outside a pub advertising “Bolton Wanderer’s vs Leed’s United”.