Letters: Migrant workers play a vital role

These letters appear in the 29 October issue of The Independent

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Coming from a former minister for Business, Innovation and Skills, Michael Fallon’s comments at the weekend were as surprising as they were misguided.

There are those who would agree there are areas in the UK that have been negatively impacted by immigration. However from a business perspective, migrant workers are playing a vital role in holding our economy together.

The simple fact is there isn’t enough skilled labour in the UK at the moment, and people haven’t grasped what this means for industry. Logistics is a prime example, where we are facing the worst driver shortage in living memory. We’re approaching Christmas, the busiest period of the year, and if we didn’t have skilled foreign drivers to plug the gap, we’d be facing the very real possibility of logistics businesses grinding to a halt.

As a large UK haulier, it is the responsibility of companies like ours to find a long-term solution to this challenge, and we hope the nationwide apprenticeship scheme we’ve just launched will go some way to doing that. But it’s going to take time, and until then we need European workers to keep Britain moving – Michael Fallon would do well to remember that.

Andrew Downton, Managing director, CM Downton



As the Prime Minister, surely it is David Cameron’s duty to officially tell his ignorant “little Englanders” that free movement in Europe is good for the country. It benefits our ambitious young and our employers who have jobs our citizens do not like doing. And also explain to them how the monies to and from the countries are adjusted to help those in most need. If this is too difficult for their understanding perhaps he could organise classes run by primary school teachers.

Rosemary Morton



So Michael Fallon comes out with a statement that parts of the UK risk being swamped by the lack of control of immigration, then suddenly, because of a few eyebrows being raised and no doubt a word in his ear, he back-peddles. The people who objected to what he said were obviously from the higher ranks of society whose areas will not be overrun. The problem is not only immigrants but illegal immigrants. 

We have not a clue how many there actually are in the country, but so far the Prime Minister has no answer to any of the problems created by Europe.

Why does he keep promising “after the next election”? He is in charge now.

Dave Croucher



Binbury and Thurnham got there first!

I was most interested to read the article about sound mirrors (report, 28 October). Research undertaken prior to publishing my book Bearsted and Thurnham in Two World Wars 1914-1918, 1939-1945 (2014) revealed the following information:

An experimental form of a sound mirror was indeed constructed in 1915 but not at Detling Aerodrome in Kent. Trials actually took place on farmland at Binbury, in the parish of Thurnham. The site of the aerodrome is also located in Thurnham, but records in the National Archives show officials believed Detling was the nearest village. There are also early references to “Maidstone aerodrome” in the records.

For the trials, Professor Mather of the City and Guilds Engineering College in South Kensington, arranged for a sound mirror, approximately 16 feet in diameter, to be constructed at Binbury.

A section of the vertical chalk cliff face was hollowed out to an almost spherical shape but tilted upwards, and a sound collector was mounted on a pivot at the focal point. Despite the close proximity of the aerodrome, the aircraft used in the tests were flown in from other locations.

The subsequent report said that a concrete reflector would probably be better than chalk as the reflecting surface would be harder. Later experiments carried out at different locations included Dover and Wiltshire and involved sound mirrors lined with concrete. The performance of these concrete mirrors was sufficiently successful in detecting aircraft that they assisted defensive measures during air raids in 1917 and 1918.

All of these experiments were forerunners of the technology which would ultimately lead to the development and successful deployment of radar in the Second World War.

I quite agree with Keith Parfitt’s sentiments that the Dover sound mirrors will be a real point of interest for visitors when fully excavated and exposed, but Binbury in Thurnham got there first!

Kathryn Kersey



I would like to correct your statement that “little is known about the origins of the mirrors”. The Hythe (Kent) Civic Society published a book in 1999, titled Echoes From the Sky, written by a local author, Richard N Scarth, which is the history of the mirrors. The society has recently reprinted it with some additional material.

Alan Joyce , Treasurer, Hythe Civic Society



Women and early motherhood

It is suggested that freezing women’s eggs gives women more choice about a suitable time to have children. I would like to suggest that encouraging women to have children younger would also give them more choice.

Young women have, in recent years, been discouraged from marrying or having children in their late teens and early twenties, and encouraged to work towards a career and/or a “girls just want to have fun” lifestyle.

It is well known that these are the most fertile years. If women were encouraged to have children younger they could still pursue their education and a career later in their twenties, but with the maturity and experience of parenthood. Several couples I know have successfully embraced this life choice. This idea would of course need the support of affordable housing and childcare.

Nikki Bennett

West Kirby


Feminists don’t want to damn males

If Yasmin Alibhai-Brown thinks “the feminist instinct is to damn males, not to understand them” (column, 27 October) then she doesn’t understand feminism.

Actually we want to damn the system of organisation of our society, which we call “Patriarchy”. Feminists have demonstrated how it damages men when they are boys. Of course Muslims live under the patriarchal system too, in fact patriarchy and monotheism are brothers.

Please, anyone who believes feminists hate men, read an actual feminist text. Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex is an excellent starter. Sadly it’s all still relevant today, despite the “great strides” Yasmin mentions.

Henrietta Cubitt



Red tape and the right to vote

Changes in the system of compiling the electoral register have certainly  caused problems (report, 28 October).

My wife and I have lived at our present address for 28 years, been on the electoral register throughout and voted at every election. As always, I completed and returned the application form for our inclusion on the new register within a day of its arrival.

Last week, my wife received a letter from the county council, stating that her application could not be processed as details could not be matched against official records.

To rectify the situation, she was instructed to provide one of a series of alternative documents. At 81, she no longer holds a driving licence or passport and all utility bills are in my name so she cannot meet any of the requirements as they stand. A certificate of police bail is one acceptable means of identification but she has not, so far, qualified for one of these.

Of course, if failure to supply required proof to the local authority on time  is an offence that entitles the culprit to such bail, the problem should solve itself.

There must be many other elderly people worried by this ill-thought out process. 

David Bridgeman-Sutton

Dinham, Shropshire


Undercover police are not guilty of rape

In answer to John Crocker’s letter (27 October) regarding whether a police officer pretending to share the views and activities of a woman is sufficient fraud to negate her consent to sex, I can inform him that such trickery would be insufficient to negate consent. Under UK law fraud can only negate consent if the man is pretending to be another man the woman knows – for example he pretends to be the woman’s husband or his identical twin brother.

Simply pretending to have the same interests as a woman is not sufficient to negate consent; nor is making false claims about your income, social status, or how passionate a lover you are.

Thomas Wiggins



Why £60 will become the cost of sanity

Will it cost £60 now to be declared “mens sana”? Always take at least £60 when you go to your GP. Then if there’s an auction you’ll be able to outbid the Secretary of State’s offer of £55 to diagnose a case of dementia.

John Mann