When will we really back manufacturing?
The BAE redundancies will change nothing. Despite the words of the UK government, they still have not woken up to the idea that manufacturing should be the linchpin of the economy, not the poor relation of the banking and the business service sector.
For more than 30 years manufacturing has been written off as a mainstay of the economy. We've blamed foreign competition, trade unionism and poor management for the decline in our manufacturing fortunes, but the truth is we haven't as a nation stepped up to the plate. If the same care had been taken to protect and nurture manufacturing as has been put into promoting the UK as a major global financial centre we would have a strong and vibrant manufacturing base keeping people employed, paying valuable taxes and selling the products we are so good at inventing and developing for other nations.
To put manufacturing back into centre stage will take billions in investment and a long-term structural shift, but it has to be the future. It's for the Government to stop talking and to take action.
Chris Coopey, Worthing, West Sussex
A bad trade to be in
According to Unicef, 25,000 children die each day due to poverty. They "die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death."
Perhaps this puts the cuts made by BAE into perspective. It is sad when someone becomes unemployed, but is BAE a good organisation to work with in the first place? The top five countries profiting from the arms trade are the USA, UK, France, Russia, and China. The arms trade should be properly regulated, but it has never been and there are widespread corruption and bribes throughout the entire global weapons market.
David Timothy Holdsworth, Croy, Inverness
A better use for our skills
The loss of BAE Systems jobs could provide the impetus necessary for change.
At the moment the UK is wasting money buying arms that do not help the security of the UK and supporting damaging arms exports. The employees' valuable skills could be much better used, especially as there is a shortage of engineers.
As the President of General Dynamics UK told the Commons Defence Committee in September 2010: "The skills that might be divested of a reducing defence industry do not just sit there waiting to come back. They will be mopped up by other industries that need such skills."
One such sector is renewable energy technologies. Unlike the stagnant arms market, the renewables market is expanding rapidly, with climate change seen by many as the biggest threat the UK faces. But there needs to be government investment for UK industry to claim a substantial share of the market.
Ann Feltham, Parliamentary Co-ordinator, Campaign Against Arms Trade, London N4
Low aspirations hamper state-school pupils
Your article "Exam board to penalise private school pupils" (27 September) left me completely exasperated.
Children who succeed at state schools do so in an environment of low aspiration and high distraction. It is hard, and they are good. The universities know this.
Penalising private school pupils will just devalue the achievements of those at state schools, and lead parents to conclude that the best education plan for their children is to place them at a poor-performing state school and then pay for extra tuition (without declaring it).
Instead of insulting the intelligence of the university selection boards, wouldn't it be better to fix the real problem – the low aspiration of state school teachers and parents and, consequently, the children?
Who gives you grief if you mention Oxbridge at a state-school parents' evening: the other parents, the teachers or your own child? The answer, for those who haven't tried it, is that they all do. Get those who have succeeded to go back to their schools and inspire everyone – it's a lot cheaper, makes more sense and just might work.
John Lugg, Bedford
Middle-class parents abandon difficult schools by moving house, manipulating the state admission process, finding religion or going private. If difficult schools attract university "bonus points" to reward the children of families who support their local, difficult school, then over time schools may start to get a similar cross-section of families and all state schools begin to compete on a level playing field. Middle-class families will see no point in paying huge sums for private education to buy a place at a good university.
While there are difficulties in implementation, can bonus points be worse than the current system where the only option for bright kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to your editorial (27 September), is to win a scholarship at a good independent school.
Looks as if The Independent is against this "formulaic social engineering" but happy to allow independent schools to be perceived as better than a state education. Now who has given up on fixing Britain's least successful schools?
Steve Tainton, Bristol
AQA's plans to rank students against the schools they attend is discriminatory in the extreme. The schools which I represent are beacons of social mobility and allow boys and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds to make the most of their abilities.
They should not be discriminated against by the bureaucratic Stasi of AQA. This will only hasten the move towards further schools doing alternative qualifications such as the IB.
Perhaps the independent schools should consider revisiting their history and setting up their own Examination Board.
Stephen Smith, Forum of Independent Day Schools, Colmworth, Bedfordshire
Miliband's stand for social justice
What can Britain claim to stand for today? The British used to pride themselves on being identified with honesty and fair play, so why should Ed Miliband have to defend himself against charges of being anti-business and growth when, very laudably, he advocates social justice and concern for the environment?
Would we, as a country, really choose profits every time over ethics and morality? Very well done, Ed Miliband, for taking a courageous stand.
Eileen Noakes, Totnes, Devon
Labour won power in 1997 because people were fed up with the Tories. The Coalition won power in 2010 because people were fed up with Labour. It is emotion, not argument, that drives the electorate to tipping point, and it may be that nothing Mr Miliband says or does will be able to change things any time soon.
Gary Kitchen, Southport, Lancashire
The latest hypocritical cop-out from the Labour Party about everything seems to be, "We got it wrong!"
I've lived through every minute, every day, every week, every month, every long year, of every Labour government since 1945. Will somebody please remind me, when did Labour ever get it right?
Alan Carcas, Liversedge, West Yorkshire
Why all this rush to say "sorry"? I'm still waiting for the Tories to apologise for messing up the railways.
Margaret Hayday, Benfleet, Essex
Saudi vandals exploit Mecca
I would like to thank Jerome Taylor for raising a very important issue which is close to the heart of many Muslims across the globe but also to free -thinking and concerned human beings irrespective of faith ("Mecca for the rich: Islam's holiest site 'turning into Vegas' ", 24 September). The Kingdom of Hijaz has been turned into a personal playground of the Saudi royal family in the name of Islam.
While working in Saudi Arabia just before the illegal Iraq war of 2003, I had two opportunities to visit Mecca and Medina with my family. I had an acute sense of disappointment because of the lack of spiritual and religious atmosphere that Muslims are supposed to feel while visiting these two most holy places in Islam.
I managed to acquire some old photos of Mecca from 1920 and 1940 and was horrified to see how the Saud family has turned Mecca and Medina into the concrete blocks of a high-rise "SimCity'' with no place for parks or gardens , no green areas and complete erosion of the original historical and sacred religious sites.
I wonder what they are going to do next, make a revolving floor for the pilgrims so they won't even have to walk around the Kaba?
Prophet Mohamed, peace be upon Him, only performed one Haj and two Umras in his lifetime, and yet the Saudi authorities with their role as "custodian of two holy mosques'' have encouraged uncontrolled and unnecessary chaos of masses of visiting pilgrims and betrayed millions of Muslims around the world. It is time for the Muslims around the world to stop this vandalism of the religious and historical sites of Mecca and Medina.
S A Hasan, Burton on Trent, Staffordshire
Your photos of Mecca are very interesting, and the article also. But we in the West value old buildings because they are old. We create and research stories about the aged buildings to make them more interesting. And we try to make them viable even when they are just empty rather useless shells.
The Wahhabis, you say, believe that historical shrines encourage the sin of idolatry. And then you take the view that this is obviously wrong, and you call the Wahhabis "hardline". However, they seem to be doing rather well as a religion. We in the West might learn to respect beliefs of others.
Tony Beaumont, Lewes
Can someone explain to me why every time a prominent politician is interviewed there is always an announcement of the football team they support? Ed Balls, we are told, supports Norwich, David Cameron Aston Villa, and Miliband (E) apparently is a fan of Leeds.
What difference does it make? What effect will a politician being a Wigan fan have on the levels of future growth or green energy?
Please can we get away from this nonsense. It's embarrassing. Some of us hate football and are uncomfortable with middle-aged men prancing around in badly fitted club shirts with the name of a washing machine branded across the front.
Mike Allaway, Eastbourne, east Sussex
Risky decision to axe rescue tugs
With the imminent demise of the Coastguard emergency towing vessels at four key locations around the coastline of the United Kingdom, we can no longer claim to be a maritime nation.
The Government has failed to demonstrate that adequate alternatives exist, and despite the best efforts of maritime professionals, extremely concerned local authorities and environmentalists, appears unwilling to entertain any idea of extending the current arrangements, while a more modern "fit for purpose" solution is achieved.
It is worthy of note that our north-west European maritime neighbours, are, without exception, modernising and upgrading their rescue and intervention vessels, while we are getting rid of ours.
It is also worthy of note that the Government, having listened to reason, revisited the review of the Coastguard, and now propose a modern structure more in keeping with what most marine professionals would advise. Why they have failed to listen to the same voice of reason with regard to the risk that removal of the emergency towing vessels will introduce is beyond my understanding.
My fear is that we shall shortly be commissioning a lengthy and extensive report to explain the reasons why the next major nautical disaster was not averted, and that only after several hundred pages have been delivered, and 24 months elapsed, will a decision be made to reinstate the emergency towing vessel service.
Roddy Jardine, Master Mariner, Castlebay, Isle of Barra
The trouble with Italian men
I was dismayed to read the article on human trafficking and prostitution in Italy ("A deadly alliance", 27 September). If this is the third biggest criminal practice in Italy, there must be a strong demand from Italian men to sustain this "industry".
What with the ritual humiliation of women in TV game shows in Italy, young men living with their mothers until their mid-thirties and a prime minister able to shrug off serial allegations of impropriety with young girls at "Bunga Bunga" parties, what is it with Italian women who presumably constitute roughly half the population? How can they tolerate this stuff from their men?
Peter Thomas de Cruz, London W4
Holes in a foreign wall
I agree with Mary Dejevsky's comment about fees for foreign ATMs (Notebook, 27 September). Being old enough to remember the £25 cash limit to carry abroad and the trials of traveller's cheques, I think that putting your card into a foreign wall and getting currency is wonderful.
It took an afternoon and a morning for a colleague and me to change traveller's cheques in Luanda, Angola in 1995. The easier, though illegal, alternative was to hand a US$100 note out of the car window to a woman on a street corner and be handed a bundle of local currency. This gave a better exchange rate and was much quicker.
No, I am quite prepared to pay a relatively small amount for the convenience of the foreign hole in the wall. Likewise, being able to buy anything from New Zealand to New Mexico using a credit card and the internet for a small service charge. Let those who complain go back the old system of traveller's cheques and postal and money orders.
I have no idea how the system works, but I am glad it does. One banking service that is excellent!
Tim Colman, Keyworth, Nottinghamshire
War criminals can breathe easy
J R D Kidd (letter, 26 September) highlights our Government's intention that Israel should not face war crimes charges at the Hague.
Not many days ago the Police Reform Bill was enacted, changing the law on private arrest warrants, ensuring that Israeli war criminals need never fear coming to the UK. That this "flies in the face of justice, democracy, human rights and the rule of law" is never going to bother Messrs Cameron and Clegg.
Elizabeth Morley, Aberystwyth
Machine-gunned by U-boats?
It is evident that after Mr Fisk's latest piece of Irish whimsy, U-boat myths are proliferating out of control in The Independent. In the piece on the planned salvage of silver from the SS Gairsoppa (26 September), it was stated : "Some of the 85-strong crew are thought to have made it to lifeboats as they came under machine-gun fire from the submarine. "
Gairsoppa was hit by one G-7a torpedo from U-101, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Ernst Mengersen, who left the burning vessel to sink in heavy seas. Some populist books have alleged a machine-gun attack but it would seem the "source" was not the sole survivor, Richard Ayres MBE, given the award for his heroic but fruitless efforts to help his shipmates to survive. He appears never to have described such an event.
The only Second World War U-boat crew actually found guilty of such machine-gunning of survivors was that of U-852 which sank the SS Peleus on 13 March 1944. Kapitänleutnant Heinz-Wilhelm Eck and two other officers were shot by Allied firing squad and other crew members imprisoned.
Sean Waddingham, Golden Green, Kent
Club drug clinics
The first NHS clinic dedicated to helping people overcome their addiction to "club drugs" did not open on Monday (report, 27 September); it was launched in 2009 by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust. Regardless, many GPs are unaware that there are services out there to help people addicted to party drugs, so publicity on the existence both clinics is welcome.
Dr James Bell, Party Drugs Clinic, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, London SE5
All cut up over bullfighting
One must sympathise with the tender sensibilities of James Lawton (27 September) over the demise of legal bullfighting in Catalonia. Aficionados of this noble sport (who could not be enthralled by this historic duel of beast versus bull?) will just have to go elsewhere – and quickly – before this outbreak of compassion spreads any further. It is running unchecked among the British hunting fraternity since hunting was banned.
M F Pearson, Bromsgrove, WorcestershireReuse content