I am one of the six million carers who have spent most of their lives caring for sick, elderly and disabled relatives, unpaid and at home. I applaud Dominic Lawson for his article on the carers' break money (9 March).
The NHS has spent most of the cash we were promised in offsetting its deficits and in promoting itself rather than giving us a break from caring. Although government says that it is up to the local NHS to decide how to prioritise its budgets, we carers are out of sight when judged against other demands on its services.
It is counter-productive not to support carers. We provide alternative care to the tune of £85bn per year, and we are also patients who fall ill when we become run-down by caring, often damaging our backs by moving and handling the person we care for, and breaking down with stress-related illnesses – becoming yet another drain on NHS budgets.
Has anyone calculated the cost of caring for us as patients while providing alternative care in our absence? I bet it is more than the paltry £50m promised us last year.
In my area the NHS is about to embark on research on how our health is affected by caring, and – you guessed it – they are using the carers' break money to pay for it! There are already reams of evidence about the impact of caring on carers' health – why do we need more? The reason the NHS was given the carers' break money was to get them to think about carers, as it's been almost impossible to get their attention.
But we will not let this go away, as this is one broken promise too far. We will continue to embarrass the NHS and Government until they fulfil their promise.
New law needed on danger dogs
Irresponsible owners using dangerous dogs to terrorise their communities is without doubt an escalating problem.
Local authorities can use powers available to them to create dog-control orders to ensure dogs are kept on leads or banned from certain areas as well as offer dog behaviour classes to encourage responsible dog ownership. But tackling dangerous dogs is primarily a police issue, and they desperately need the powers to be able to do this properly.
The current legislation is nearly 20 years old and is only applicable to a limited number of breeds, making it difficult to enforce. This needs to be widened to be effective, and extended to include private homes and premises, addressing the problem of where the animals are kept, targeting the law at this mindless minority who seek to use their pets to intimidate, and who have no right to own a dog in the first place.
Councillor Daniel Astaire
Cabinet member for community safety,
Westminster City Council
In your leader "Bring back the dog licence" (10 March) you advocate that "Dogs which are found unregistered [without a microchip] should then be put down with only the shortest of appeal mechanisms."
This draconian policy is unnecessary. At present many stray dogs without microchips are taken in by animal-rescue services across the country, micro-chipped, and re-homed.
Since it is the owners that are at fault, policy should be framed to deal with their behaviour. To put down the dogs is equivalent to putting down abused children.
Insurance for dogs? There is not a snowball's chance in hell that I will insure my dog against attacking a human being. Charlie is a chihauhua . He stands eight and a half inches at the shoulder and is in more danger of being hurt by a child than of hurting a child.
Do we really think that people who have dangerous dogs will insure them? Do we really think that people can afford £500 to insure a pet against something that will never happen?
What do they intend to do if a dog is not insured – take it by force and destroy it? What kind of publicity will this give the Government?
J H Moffatt
Trevor Pateman (letters, 10 March) suggests that we should ban dogs in residential areas because "they are an anti-social nuisance. They produce noise . . . and occasionally kill children". Presumably he would also ban cars, motorbikes, trains and planes. . . or maybe accept that "banning" is rarely an answer, and that trying to minimise nuisance and risk is a much more tolerant, and effective, approach.
The argument put forward by Trevor Pateman for the banning of dogs could equally be applied to humans: they are noisy and messy and, while they probably don't do as much biting as dogs, certainly do more killing. How about it?
Ban dogs from urban areas? As a dog-lover, I'd rather ban Trevor Pateman and all who think like him. There have always been adequate powers to deal with dangerous dogs, even before the hysterical Act of 1991. Compulsory insurance would be another vicious attack on the poor, effectively sentencing thousands of innocent animals to death. There are no bad dogs – only bad owners.
No 'Soviet' digital media in Kent
Tim Luckhurst (1 March) is wrong to describe Kent TV as Soviet-like. Kent TV was a community channel that provided information and features – not news – about the whole of Kent for the people of Kent. Residents loaded some of the material themselves and the channel worked with 130 organisations to help them promote their aims.
The channel never sought to compete with local media outlets, or to replace their important scrutiny role. In fact, a conscious decision was taken not to pursue advertising revenue, in response to their concerns.
Kent TV had some real successes during the pilot. It achieved 2.7 million views, which exceeded the original target, and the soap opera Hollywould, which tackled serious public-health issues for young people, reached 97,000 views.
We decided not to continue with Kent TV because we are in difficult economic times and have to prioritise spending. However, we have learned a great deal from the project and will continue to develop digital media to connect with the people of Kent. What a shame Professor Luckhurst can't also embrace the future.
Kent County Council Cabinet Member for corporate support Services and Performance Management,
Duped by a clever traitor
I am less disturbed than Peter Giles (letters, 10 March) by G Hoskin's assault on Charlotte Philby's vacillation about the morality of Kim Philby's actions. I am more concerned that such a large chunk of The Independent Magazine should be devoted to a posthumous rehabilitation of an out-and-out traitor.
Philby spent 30 years artfully deceiving his friends, colleagues and family and then abandoned them all, costing his country loss of important secrets and the lives of countless agents.
"Stood up and fought", in Charlotte's words, he plainly did not: quite the opposite. "Never belonged", in his words, were either a lie or a self-deception: look at how he lived and what he liked, according to his grand-daughter. Her admiration for her notorious grandfather is understandable, but she has been no less duped than the rest of us were.
Peter Giles's understanding of history is a little odd. How could Philby have become a spy for Stalin when "the USSR was our ally against Hitler" and "long before" Stalin's persecutions were known about? Enough was certainly known in the 1930s.
When Mr Giles invites people to reflect on what would have happened "if the Soviet Union had collapsed" during the Second World War, is he really suggesting that Philby in any way prevented this happening? Anyway, Philby remained a Soviet spy until he fled to Russia in 1963.
There surely comes a moment, even for Mr Giles, when Philby's alleged belief that his "cause was just" can no longer be accepted as a convincing account of his motives or any kind of excuse for him.
How Jack Bauer legitimised torture
Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller has a point (" 24, a diplomatic row and a spy chief's lecture on torture", 11 March). Whether senior members of the Bush administration watched 24 or not, we know that Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of State for Homeland Security was a fan.
If James Bond was a hero of the Cold War, then Jack Bauer was the pin-up for the neo-cons of the post-9/11 era. Bauer's brutal methods were seen to work and the real enemy was not the terrorists, but the liberal critics who did not appreciate the dangers facing America.
Bauer's hyper-masculinity, used to defend those, including his daughter, who appeared to be in peril, was lionised. What 24 did, therefore, was to help viewers understand the need for assertive action in the face of the threat of the "ticking bomb".
So torture, as we have seen both on screen and off screen, no longer seems outrageous.
Professor of Geopolitics
Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey
Jermyn Street's cat in the hat
I have just read Michael Bywater's sad story about the fate of Bates, the Jermyn St hatters (10 March). Barely a month ago I was in the shop, accompanied by a German journalist who couldn't believe such gems still existed in cosmopolitan London.
I regaled him with the tale of Binks, the stray cat that wandered in one day and set up home in a Fedora hat. When Binks died, he was stuffed and put on display and became a permanent fixture. I hope that with the move to new premises, Binks retains his rightful place among the hats and caps.
Addressing the junk-mail problem
Yes, Pauline Jameson (letters, 11 March); it's time to make a stand against the deluge of junk mail. It may be keeping the Royal Mail alive, but I, like most, loathe it and agree that unsolicited advertising mail should be returned to sender via the post boxes. This will give the Royal Mail the extra work it craves and a measure of redress for us victims.
Dr Tim Lawson
Concerning the threat of more junk mail, does any reader know if one of those old "No hawkers, no circulars" signs would protect us from it?
MPs' pay rise
Senior public-services managers are, we learn, to have their pay frozen. Our MPs are to receive a 1.5 per cent pay increase. That just about says it all about politics and politicians.
No love lost
An advertisement in The Independent urges: "Love your naked skin". How and when did such trite misuse of one of the most significant words in our language gain such a following? "Love your high street", "Love your bod", "Love your farmers' market", even "Love your flawz . . .". The result of such linguistic incontinence is the opposite of that intended; a slow-burning, visceral resentment. What next? "Love your tax inspector"? Even "Love your MP"?
James Snowden (Letters, 8 March) is, of course, correct in stating that the emphasis in Czech is on the first syllable, but the choice of Martina Navratilova to illustrate this is not the best one. This is because, presumably as a consequence of having rather bad-temperedly abandoned Czechoslovakia for the USA, she always insisted angrily in interviews on adopting the wrong (anglicised) pronunciation for her surname. Very strange.
Dr Richard Carter
Education in prison
It has been found that nearly half of all prisoners serving short sentences are not involved in work or courses (report, 10 March). At the category C prison where I work as an assistant to the literacy tutors, the prisoners are not allowed access to the internet, which surely must hinder their rehabilitation. Certainly it would not be appropriate to allow unrestricted access, but could not a system be devised that enables selected sites, such as Wikipedia, to be available to prisoners for educational purposes?
So Dudley Moore "started to confide in a dairy" ("Less should have been more for Dudley", 10 March). He was obviously searching for the milk of human kindness.