Letters: Let’s seize control of our energy again

These letters appear in the Saturday 28th edition of the Independent

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Privatisation of the gas and electricity industries has had a catastrophic effect on the wealth of ordinary people in Britain and the country as a whole. Rather than billions flowing to the Treasury for reinvestment, as was the case when the industries were publicly owned, most such profits now go abroad.

Further, thousands of people are now employed doing jobs that are literally useless to the country and the economy; one such example are those employed to persuade customers to switch from one energy company to another – a huge waste of human resources. Furthermore, true competition is not possible given that the gas and electricity industries are natural monopolies with only one set of infrastructure each. The result is higher than necessary prices.

The gas and electricity industries were effectively given away by the Thatcher government. The simple solution to the energy companies’ appalling reaction to Ed Miliband’s sensible suggestion of an energy price freeze would be to  re-nationalise them.

John Stratton, Haltwhistle, Northumberland


King Canute dealt with the sycophants who said he could control the tides by commanding the incoming sea to retreat when he knew it wouldn’t. Ed Miliband lacks Canute’s wisdom. He seems genuinely to think that the cost of fossil fuels can be controlled by a government, when in fact they are commodities traded worldwide and subject to the forces of supply and demand. As the world’s population is growing and fossil fuels are a finite resource, it is reasonable to suppose that, over the long term, fuel costs will rise until supplies are exhausted. 

Henry Best, Ilminster, Somerset


It would be tragic if our national debate about energy returned us to the 1970s via a showdown between state intervention and big business.

Energy is where Britain can tackle serious economic problems at the same time as tackling social problems, as well as our large and growing democratic deficit. There is a growing community-energy industry in this country where neighbours are collaborating, creating jobs and growing their social capital as well as economic power. There are social investors helping them flourish. Recent research suggests that community energy could grow to 89 times its current size if existing barriers were lowered. There is much to learn from the way other countries are developing their own community energy and renewables at a fast pace, while the UK suffers.

The energy market is a perfect illustration of why economic and social policy can and must be mutually reinforcing in 21st-century Britain.

Ed Mayo director general, Co-operatives UK Peter Hobrook chief executive, Social Enterprise UK  Cliff Prior chief executive, Unltd Lord Victor Adebowale chief executive, Turning Point Steve Wyler chief executive, Locality Andrew Croft chief executive, CAN Celia Richardson director, Social Economy Alliance, London SE1


Patients suffer when profits enter the NHS

Doctors agree with the head of NHS England that key government policies are preventing hospitals from improving. (“Competition is harming patient care, NHS chief warns in parting shot”, 26 September)

Sir David Nicholson suggested the rules governing private-sector style competition in the NHS are harming efforts to improve patient care and hospitals are being held back from changes that make “perfect sense” from the point of view of patients because they do not meet new guidelines requiring competition between healthcare providers.

The BMA urges the Government to put patient care in front of the profit motive and remove the destructive influence of commercial competition in the NHS.

Dr Mark Porter , Chair, BMA Council , London WC1


So Sir David Nicholson now reveals that hospitals are being held back from making changes that made “perfect sense from the point of view of patients” because they did not meet new rules on competition between healthcare providers.

He cannot be surprised. The day after the Health and Social Care Bill was published in January 2011, I warned (as Labour’s shadow health secretary) in a speech to the Kings Fund that “forced market competition will replace collaboration for the patient at the heart of the NHS, creating barriers to cooperation and integration of services”.  This is why we were able to  build such a wide coalition of concern against the Bill inside  and outside Parliament.

Sir David’s revelation is not an unintended consequence of Coalition policy; it is the very purpose and logic of their legislation. So if he is also correct in saying that Jeremy Hunt says “patient safety must always trump any competition concerns”, then Hunt will have to do as Labour says and repeal the Bill’s provisions that expose the NHS to the full force of competition law.

Rt Hon John Healey MP, House of Commons, London SW1


Richard III doesn’t deserve this pomp

Your report on the dispute over the proposed tomb of Richard III at Leicester Cathedral (24 September) raises the question of whether his relics should be looked at with modern or medieval eyes. On either view it beggars belief that the remains of a serial killer and suspected child murderer should be enshrined so ostentatiously and that, at a time when food banks are struggling to meet demand, the Church of England should be prepared to spend many thousands of pounds on a tombstone.

Even by the standards of his age the Duke of Gloucester’s blood-stained path to the throne was beyond the norm, and the murder of King Edward V, who along with his brother Richard, Duke of York, was under the protection of his uncle in the royal apartments in the Tower, was an act of unspeakable barbarity. 

The contemporary view was beyond doubt that Richard had ordered their deaths. Despite the best efforts of modern revisionists to muddy the waters, Richard had the motive, means and opportunity and the subsequent confession of Sir James Tyrell puts him squarely in the frame.

If anyone deserves a proper monument it is surely King Edward V, the rightful King of England on his father’s untimely death, now airbrushed out of history as a “prince in the Tower”.

John E Orton, Bristol


Ainslie helped the wrong side

Ben Ainslie is far from being a “British hero” (27 September). I refer of course, to the defeat of David by Goliath in the America’s Cup. The plucky Kiwis were within two minutes of a glorious triumph, when the pettyfogging jobsworths on the race committee abandoned the race, as to continue would exceed the 40-minute time limit. The furious gnashing of teeth could be heard from Auckland to San Francisco! This gave the perfidious Yanks a respite, during which they had time to tweak their boat, and appoint Ben Ainslie, knight of the realm, British Olympic god, and adopted Cornishman, as race tactician. Seduced by the mighty dollar this traitor to Queen and Commonwealth proceeded to trounce his Antipodean cousins, and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat! Come on Your Maj, strip Ainslie of his knighthood, and incarcerate the ingrate in the deepest, dankest dungeon in the Tower!

Richard Guscott, Liskeard, Cornwall


PO: rural routes not at risk... yet

I am concerned about the outcome of the privatisation of the Post Office. When water, electricity and gas services were sold off the government did not retain a controlling share. As a result a large percentage of these businesses is now foreign-owned with profits and dividends from these essential, basic services going abroad.

We are told that the privatised Post Office will legally have to maintain existing services, including deliveries to rural areas. One wonders how long it will be before a future government, under pressure from new owners, agrees to rewriting the agreement?

K T Green, Chichester


Has CPS got its priorities right?

The Crown Prosecution Service responds with alacrity to the protest by Caroline Lucas against fracking, by deciding almost immediately to prosecute her. At the beginning of July an inquest jury brought in a verdict of “unlawful killing by unlawful act” in the case of the Angolan asylum seeker Jimmy Mubenga, following restraint by G4S guards during deportation. The CPS is still deliberating whether or not to prosecute the guards, having previously decided that there was no case to answer.  It is surely time that the CPS  reconsiders its priorities.

Diana Neslen, Ilford, Essex


Sympathy for the City is misplaced

Does a day’s sailing on a luxury yacht turn journalists supine and sympathetic? (Chris Blackhurst, 27 September.) Michael Spencer may not have been personally involved in the Libor-fixing scandal, but he heads an organisation that uses the arcane workings of abstract capitalism to generate excessive wealth. City traders are yet to be caught fixing a high-interest investment in society.

Ian McKenzie , Lincoln


World Cup crimes against humanity

The International Trade Union Confederation claims that appalling working conditions in Qatar will cause the death of over 4,000 South Asian workers before a ball is kicked in the 2022 World Cup (report, 27 September).

Despite warnings made two years ago no substantive steps have been taken to improve workers’ conditions. How long can the United Nations, Fifa, the FA and ordinary football fans ignore this crime against humanity?

Anthony Hentschel, Nailsworth, Gloucestershire


Fly killer

As the plethora of smudges over the ceilings and walls of my childhood home used to bear witness, there is no more efficient way to splat flies right between the eyes than to roll the wide end of a necktie around the forefinger of the firing hand, hold the narrow end between trigger-finger and thumb under tension, aim and fire.

Only squeamishness at the thought of holding the soiled and contaminated KO end prevents me from reviving this old skill.

Ben Marshall, London N11