Letters: The new vetting database

Now we must prove that we are not paedophiles
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The Independent Online

Another quango has been set up in our name – the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA), whose role is, apparently, "to help prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults" ("Vetting database will cost the NHS and public bodies £170m", 11 September).

That means parents who offer to take children to and from rugby, football, cricket or swimming practice will have to register with this quango to be vetted to prove they are not paedophiles.

There are two points of objection here. When did the balance shift to citizens proving to the state they are not criminals, and why as a mother can I not organise with my son's rugby club to provide a lift to children? Under these new rules I am not allowed to take a group of children to a sport or social event more than once a month.

One of the effects of this diktat will be that children will see adults as potential abusers and every child is at potential risk. The Soham murderer was on a register but not identified. The majority of child abusers in this country are family members or friends and not on a register; how will this new quango identify these people?

I would like parents, clubs, societies and all of those involved in volunteering their time to make our children's lives more interesting, productive and healthy to get in touch so that we can object to this ludicrous and frightening quango.

Janice Small

Brighouse, west Yorkshire

Janice4batley@aol.com

As an author of comedy fiction I am sometimes asked to give library talks to members including children. I refuse to pay £64 to the Government to prove that I am not some kind of pervert, so I can no longer give these talks. Nor can my publishers offer work experience to teenagers who want to learn about the world of publishing.

Meanwhile, any dodgy character that slips through the vetting process will have unfettered access to children. New Labour and the Home Office will insist that they are safe because they have a certificate to prove it. Even by New Labour and Home Office standards the Vetting and Barring Scheme is a dumb move.

Barry Tighe

London E11

NHS staff who lay down on the job

So a group of hardworking doctors and nurses, engaged in what would appear to be harmless horseplay that had no ill effect on patient care ("NHS workers suspended for lying down on the job", 10 September), are summarily suspended first and questions asked later.

No consideration is given to the effect that this sanction will have on these young people's careers. As a side issue, I wonder how much the suspension is costing with regard to cover for the suspended staff.

It is ironic that a similar fate befell a whistle-blowing consultant, as you reported the previous day.

I am a GP in my sixties, winding down my career towards full-time retirement. I hate to say this after over 30 years in the service of the NHS, but I am glad, when I see such stories, that I am at the end of my career and not the beginning. "In my day" the staff involved might have been talked to firmly by their superiors, and if no harm had befallen patients that would have been that.

Shame on the NHS managers involved who clearly have no idea about the pressure that these young people are working under. I would have expected more from Dr Troughton, the medical director of the trust, in way of support of these doctors.

Dr Peter Glover

Rayleigh Essex

I am heartened to learn that humour has not completely flat-lined in the NHS. Suspension seems disproportionate for what appears to be harmless fun at no one's expense. Instead, this demonstration of staff cohesion and team spirit should be harnessed, albeit redirected. Chill out, Mr Chief Executive, and give your hard-pressed staff a break.

Sue Burthem

Bolton, Greater Manchester

Case for a ban on drink advertising

The British Society of Gastroenterology would argue that there should be a ban on advertising alcohol in the media ("BMA calls time on adverts for alcohol", 9 September), especially targeting people under the age of 18, as well as introducing minimum pricing plans – it's been proven to work in places like France.

Our members witness the growing burden of alcohol misuse on patients and their families on our wards daily, with over 40,000 people dying annually through drink-related causes. There are constantly reports published about increased numbers of drinkers, increased hospital admissions, rise of alcohol-related diseases as well as the cost to the NHS. The Government needs to sit up and take notice before it's too late.

Professor Chris Hawkey

President, British Society of Gastroenterology, London NW

While driving to Scotland last week I heard a radio ad by a supermarket chain for their extraordinarily cheap price for a case of a certain beer, a case usually being 12 cans. The advert finished by announcing: "No more than six cases per person. Please drink sensibly."

Richard West

London E14

People who pay a high price for gold

With gold prices rocketing up beyond $1,000 an ounce, we should stop to remember the human and environmental costs involved in getting this precious metal out of the ground (The Big Question,10 September).

Gold mining is a hugely destructive process which uses toxic chemicals such as cyanide and produces a phenomenal amount of waste – 18 tonnes for every gold ring produced. Through Cafod's work with local people affected by mining we have seen whole communities displaced to make way for a mine in the Philippines; pollution of local water supplies in Honduras; and in the Democratic Republic of Congo we have seen how the illegal trade in minerals has served to drive the country further into poverty and conflict.

Over 70 per cent of newly mined gold comes from developing countries. Their vast mineral resources should have paved the way to development and prosperity, but in reality very little wealth finds its way back to local people most affected by mining.

Cafod has been calling for the gold industry to clean up its act and raise standards on environmental and social responsibility within the global mining sector so that communities in developing countries can benefit from the gold under their feet.

So, before we rush to celebrate the high price of gold on the market, we should also pause to reflect on the real cost of this metal for people in the developing world.

Sarah Barnett

Extractives Policy Researcher

Catholic Fund for Overseas Development

London SW9

You declare: "The only thing you can't do with gold is eat it." Yes you can, actually. Anyone with a passing knowledge of the cuisine of southern India will confirm the occasional use of fine gold leaf to put the finishing touch to dishes. Calorific value unknown.

Ian Murray

Upper Clatford, Hampshire

The ethnic card in South Africa

Ivan Fallon ("ANC's ugly attempt to fan flames of anti-white prejudice", 26 August) misrepresents the South African Communist Party when he asserts that the party accused the Zuma government of "ugly white chauvinistic attitudes".

The full quote from a central committee statement reads: "We are pleased to note the robust defence of the core non-racial principles of our movement by senior ANC leaders and their forthright rejection of any opportunistic attempt to play an ethnic card.

"While ugly white chauvinistic attitudes persist in many places, sometimes brazenly and sometimes subliminally, and should be fought at all times, a counter, narrow Africanist chauvinism simply reproduces and feeds its counterpart. Such trends must be nipped in the bud as they have been throughout the history of the ANC."

John Haylett

Cardiff

Caught in the Afghan crossfire

You have published a number of letters concerning the tragedy surrounding the mission to rescue Stephen Farrell and his interpreter Sultan Munadi from the Taliban. There is talk of the worth of human life and the sacrifices made by both the rescuers and the kidnapped in the prosecution of this mission.

As an observer safe in front of my computer in the heart of Norfolk, I feel compelled to point out that all those involved, whether they are soldiers, journalists or interpreters, are there of their own volition. They are all intelligent men and all fully aware that choosing professions that involve working in battle zones will involve mortal danger.

I have no wish to denigrate the efforts made by British forces who had to risk their necks to get these two guys out of the hands of the murderous Taliban, but if you volunteer to join a profession that either uses or feeds off the use of lethal weapons, you should expect to get caught in the crossfire once in a while.

We should all spare more than a thought for the innocent and unnamed civilians killed in this raid who only warranted a casual reference in the press reports.

Steve Mackinder

Denver, Norfolk

Prejudices in the countryside

Oh dear, here we go again: the old town-versus-country discourse. (Terence Blacker, 8 September).

In the last two weeks, our local treasure, the Blackmore Vale Magazine has had its letters pages filled with the plight of a London couple who moved to a local small town and after two weeks found that the proximity of six cockerels in their neighbour's orchard was unbearable, and the poor man could not do his work because of their propensity to crow all day. His application to the local council on the lines of a noise abatement order was his undoing and heralded a deluge of "Go home if you don't like it" comments.

If human beings cannot solve these problems and get together in a friendly manner over such basic differences, no wonder we are so easily drawn into catastrophic wars. As incomers to north Dorset we have lived happily and co-operatively with both "other incomers" and "natives" in our village. It saddens me to hear that this prejudice and lack of understanding goes on and on, to the detriment of people's lives and happiness.

S Browning

Sturminster Newton, Dorset

The right wine

Is Matthew Norman (10 September) also going off his chump, as he fears the Prime Minister is? Chianti is a very fine Italian wine, not Spanish. But as the distinctive wicker-clad bottle it is served in is called a "fiasco" then perhaps it is an entirely appropriate beverage for the current Labour government.

Peter Yates

Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Healthy competition

James Murdoch complains that the BBC provides unfair competition to other news media. The NHS provides unfair competition for Bupa, the police unfairly compete with the private security industry, state schools are unfairly competing with fee-paying schools, and the Army is subsidised competition for Blackwater and ArmorGroup. Live with it.

Christopher Clayton

Waverton, Cheshire

Strange times

My thanks to Paul Roper (letters, 8 September): I had never realised how easy it would be to improve our existence here in England. Apparently by simply switching to Central European Time, we gain "an extra hour of daylight". My only concern is that if night-time hours do not reduce by one, we will actually only be in synch with the Continent every 24 days.

Brian Moore

Exeter

Remarkable bird

Sarah the cheetah is fast (news, 11 September), peregrine falcons are faster, but how much faster? If the falcon really could dive 100 metres in 0.009 seconds, it would be travelling at about 25,000mph (or 40,000kph) and therefore comfortably exceed Earth escape velocity, although it would be pointing the wrong way for a successful space flight.

Alun Lewis

Staines, Middlesex

Going backward

Further to Brian Mitchell's letter about "going forward" (10 September), I think our spatial metaphor for time is the wrong way round. The future surely overtakes us unseen from behind and becomes the past, which we apprehend in front of us. Perhaps a scholarly reader with sight far into the past can tell us when we started to get it all backward?

Gavin Wraith

Lewes, east Sussex

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