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- Arts + Ents
Drip by drip this pernicious policy of privatisation is being foisted upon us by the Conservatives, with an acquiescent Coalition partner and a neutered opposition.
Each step has been disastrous for the public and a bonanza for the City. We have lost the railways, communications, all the public utilities, the police and prisons, and we have seen major inroads into our health services including, now, blood plasma supplies (“Blood money”, 19 July).
One slight hiccup occurred when they tried to steal our forests, but undaunted they are now attacking our postal service, the rescue services, and our schools. Where is the public debate on the transformation of our society? Once these changes have occurred they will be irreversible.
Pete Parkins, Lancaster
After over 50 years as a proud blood donor the news that part of the system is sold to an American private equity firm, driven exclusively by commercial considerations, has prompted my withdrawal. If they get their claws on the organ donor arrangements I’ll tear up my donor card too.
Denis Ahern, Stanford-le-Hope, Essex
Fears concerning Plamsa Resources (PRUK) following its acquisition by Bain Capital are misplaced.
Far from “gambling with the UK’s blood supply” this deal guarantees a financially secure future for the company. At a time of severe public-spending constraints, private financing in our health services is essential in order to maintain standards of care. The point has been raised that we may see the emergence of another blood-borne illness in the future. In such circumstances PRUK would need sufficient financing to perform extensive research and testing.
In regards to accountability, given the Government is to hold a 20 per cent stake it will be subject to public scrutiny via select committees and wider government oversight. The private-equity industry has made great strides in recent years to improve its levels of transparency and disclosure, and many of the largest private equity-backed companies now have reporting standards on a par with the FTSE350 and in some cases even better.
Private-equity ownership brings many benefits, not least of which is engaged shareholders who work closely with the management team to ensure the company performs.
Tim Hames, Director General, The British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association, London WC2
Palestinian exiles’ hopes dashed again
An Israeli friend sent me a message telling me that things looked hopeful with the Kerry peace talks plan.
Despite 65 years of hopes arising only to be dashed by unscrupulous leaders on both sides, I allowed myself the luxury of feeling hopeful. I felt a twinge of excitement at a solution to our Palestinian diaspora. I imagined myself walking the “corniche” in Haifa in search of a good fish restaurant. I visualised myself visiting my father’s home and breathing the same air that he breathed so long ago.
Then Prime Minister Netanyahu denied that the talks would be based on a return to the 1967 borders with land swaps to accommodate Jewish settlements. This morning (19 July) I read in The Independent that the meeting of Palestinian politicians broke up without agreement, yet another missed opportunity.
Peace is too precious to be put in the hands of irresponsible and self-seeking politicians like Abbas, Kerry and Netanyahu. Let the ordinary Palestinians and Israelis meet face to face, talk and get to know each other. Then we may have peace.
Meanwhile, we Palestinian refugees undergo yet another dashed hope because of our leaders’ incompetence, cruelty and lack of vision. And the majority of Israelis wanting peace are, yet again, marginalised by stupid and short-sighted politicians.
Dr Faysal Mikdadi, Dorchester, Dorset
Two cheers for the EU’s decision to ban the funding of projects in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. But these settlements should never have been tolerated from the outset.
Yet, this could be the beginning of long-overdue steps by the EU to encourage Israel into international lawfulness. The EU’s preferential trade “Association” agreement with Israel is contingent on the latter’s respect for human rights. The indefinite siege of Gaza is an act of collective punishment, strictly forbidden by the laws of war. It should be the next issue on the road to lawfulness.
David McDowall, Richmond, Surrey
The refusal of the EU to fund projects in the exclusive Jewish settlements on the occupied West Bank is a welcome development for those concerned with justice and peace in the region.
However, one wonders how the new EU policy is viewed by the Representative of the Quartet, Tony Blair. The EU is one of the four whom he represents. So far he has avoided even mild criticism of the occupation, and he appears never to have referred to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which outlaws the building of settlements on occupied land.
How does he now reconcile the views of the EU with those of the US (whom he also represents), which has never criticised the West Bank settlements, nor apparently would ever do so, viewing them rather in much the same way as the Israeli government does?
Christopher Walker, London W14
Social enterprise can flourish
Arguing for a “new form of democratic, social ownership” is nothing new for the UK’s burgeoning social-enterprise sector (“Privatisation for Tories is still a matter of blind dogma”, 15 July). Across the country social enterprises are springing up quickly. Co-operatives, community interest companies, and trading charities are working to ensure that taxpayers’ money is reinvested in public services.
Winning contracts as a social enterprise is not without its challenges – many are squeezed out when contending with mega-corps like G4S. The Public Services (Social Value) Act – a new law which requires commissioners to consider the social value created by each provider – must be fully embraced by local and national government if more social enterprises are to deliver services. The Act provides a solid opportunity in the social ownership debate, but the public needs to be made aware of it to ensure they can get the best deals for their communities – so that wealth stays there and isn’t funnelled out to company shareholders.
Peter Holbrook, Social Enterprise UK, London SE1
Few British speak Brussels
While very much agreeing with the points made by Dr Corner (letter, 16 July) about the UK’s longstanding semi-detached attitude towards the EU and the lack of UK nationals working in EU institutions, language is an issue.
It is well known that otherwise well-qualified UK nationals do not qualify for EU posts because they fail the basic requirement to have a working knowledge of a EU language other than their own. As English is already one of the three working languages of the Commission with French or German, one of those other two would normally be seen as most useful. All this should not, of course, exclude any of the 23 official EU languages!
This is sad testimony to the woeful British attitude to foreign language learning, as exemplified by the decision to remove a language as a compulsory GCSE subject in 2004.
John Whitton, Exeter
Chaps worship at shrine of golf
The Supreme Court’s deliberations as to whether or not Scientology is a religion may provide Peter Dawson and his all-male cohort at the Royal & Ancient with a way of fending off the criticism that has come their way in recent days.
Dawson et al should argue that their passionate belief in golf and all that it represents, a belief system which they share and indeed practise together every Saturday morning (so Dawson tells us), is a form of religious worship.
If this argument were accepted and golf were accorded the status of a religion, all the discriminatory practices and other odd rituals performed in the name of golf (described by Chris Blackhurst on 18 July) would suddenly be OK.
Marc Patel, London SE21
Gay marriage: the next challenge
We now have same-sex marriage in England and Wales, after the legislation received Royal Assent last week, and I want to express some thanks.
Thanks to the campaigners who fought tirelessly for this important social change. Thanks to the people of this country who have shown such heart-warming acceptance of their gay and lesbian friends and family. But also thanks to the press.
The Independent has resolutely stood behind the campaign, giving lots of excellent coverage, and stiffening the resolve of ministers when the going got tough. The lives of many people in England and Wales will be better as a result, and that is a welcome achievement. Now let’s turn to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Michael Contaldo, Manchester
American dream falters in Detroit
In his landmark Great Society speech of 1964, President Lyndon B Johnson said: “Our society will never be great until our cities are great. Today the frontier of imagination and innovation is inside those cities and not beyond their borders.”
If he was right, Detroit’s decision to file for bankruptcy suggests that the US is further than ever from achieving the Great Society vision. It is certainly no longer a model for other countries to follow.
Professor David Head, Navenby, Lincolnshire
Those who support the Coalition’s market economy strategy and capitalism American- style might like to ponder on the fate of Detroit. How many of our cities could go bankrupt and become wastelands?
R E Hooper, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
Cash at the food bank?
On a recent visit to our link community of Gunjur in The Gambia I discovered that Oxfam America and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation had changed their policy of giving food to the poorest people and instead were giving cash; they felt it was patronising to suggest to people that “what you need is food”, whereas if they were given money, they were given choice. They could spend it on food, but might need shoes or education for their children.
I wonder what the food bank movement feels about this?
Nick Maurice, Marlborough, Wiltshire
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