Letters: We tried to cede Falkland sovereignty


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Dominic Lawson (Comment, 3 April) is correct in stating that the Falklands War was defensible and justifiable because of the invasion by a particularly "nasty" junta general who was demanding his third whisky by 10am. The last thing you would want is to transfer responsibility for this population to an Argentine government, then or now.

But ever since 1960 the British Government had been in negotiations, unsuccessfully, with the Argentine government to settle the future of the islands.

That meant "ceding sovereignty". Our budgetary constraints in 1980 meant economies in the level of protection offered to the islands.

Since 1980, the Tory government had been considering a nationality law which came into force in 1983. The initial drafts of the law saw the Falklanders as pertaining to a British Dependent Territory, denying them entry to the UK.

The Argentine attack in April 1982 came just in time for the nationality law to be amended so that Falklanders could be given the right to be recognised as British citizens. Well-timed, Galtieri.

In the 1950s through to the 1970s, Falkland islanders depended on Argentina for health and education services. In some ways it was their second home.

But was it sensible "patriotism" to stand up for Thatcher in her very risky attempt at war instead of a well-designed diplomatic solution? Most British citizens had little if any idea about the Falkland Islands and the British government was certainly keen to reduce expenditure in their cause. And success in the war was very dependent on US and Chilean assistance.

Robert Laver

London SE21

Dominic Lawson's admission that he was "stirred beyond an ability to put those feelings into words" when the Falklands fleet returned home reminds us how treacherous the invocation of patriotism can be, particularly when it involves the shedding of blood.

British deaths were, of course, about twice the number he cites, on account of the high number of suicides among Falkland veterans and, likewise on the other side, for every Argentinian death on the battlefield. That brings the total deaths to about 1,800, the same figure as the Falklands population. Was that really worth it?

It was all done in the name of self-determination for the islanders, verifiable claptrap like Cameron's "righting a profound wrong".

If any of our prime ministers seriously believed in this principle he (or she) would have restored the Chagos islanders who had been forcibly evicted from their ancestral islands by the Wilson government 10 years earlier.

It could have been done without a shot being fired, but required the moral courage to tell the US to vacate this British territory. Had that happened, I for one would have felt genuine patriotism for a country determined to right where possible the wrongs for which it was itself responsible.

David McDowall

Richmond, Surrey

AS/A levels did not give me any real help with my life

You published two articles, by Christina Patterson and Richard Garner (4 April), about how A levels did not prepare prospective university students or prospective employees, and also mentioned how AS levels might be scrapped.

I have to say that my AS/A levels at Simon Balle School of Hertford, which I left in 2009 (and which, in my opinion, failed me), did not give me any real help regarding my Access to Higher Education course (from 2009-10) at North Hertfordshire College, Stevenage nor my joint honours university course at the University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield.

All the physics AS level, which my school should never have asked me to take because I failed it twice, was a waste of my time, and the rest of my subjects, particularly general studies, gave me no real help with my life. By contrast, North Hertfordshire College's course did give me the necessary academic and social preparation for my degree course, as well as giving me that vital second chance (I am now a second-year student at UH). Much of the help I got to prepare for student life beforehand came from teaching assistants within my school while I was in its sixth form. I am on the autistic spectrum and was entitled to an individual education programme and help with life skills.

I believe that AS levels nearly ruined my academic and social life; they should never have been introduced. Still, I am surprised students need the help at university described in your articles; that means they need serious revision.

The A-level examinations should be more suited to candidates on the autistic spectrum, because the ones I sat in 2008-09 were not, as I discovered too late.

Alan Borgars

Ware, Hertfordshire

What's unfair with VAT on hot food?

Denise Dodd complains of the unfairness of VAT being charged on hot takeaway food in fish and chip shops but not bakeries and suggests all hot takeaway food should attract no VAT (letter, 4 April).

Under EU law, after VAT has been levied on a product it can never be entirely removed. In the recession of the early Nineties, the Major government had to produce more revenue. VAT was levied on domestic fuel, which Labour promised to reverse. The most the Blair government could do was cut it to 5 per cent.

Any tax system will inevitably result in some winning and some losing. With almost every tax, one can make a plausible case explaining why it is unfair. It is fatuous to think we could ever devise a tax (or benefits) system which is "fair". Ms Dodd offers no compelling argument why such purchases should be exempt from VAT, which most things attract. If VAT on takeaway products were removed she would complain of the unfairness of VAT being levied on sit-down meals in fish and chip shops. If this was removed, what of the unfairness to pubs serving similar meals?

If we were freed from the EU, we would also be free to have a lower rate of VAT, which could then mean no or fewer rather than additional exemptions, greater simplicity and less anomalies.

Rupert Fast Esher, Surrey

No protection from this failed system

David Cameron is right to say that the Government's first priority is to protect the public. When it comes to his plans for online surveillance, I do want plans that protect members of the public like myself, not only from terrorists but also from snooping journalists, unscrupulous employers and disgruntled acquaintances.

What we have discovered, courtesy of all the stories and investigations into phone-hacking and related misdeeds, is that the present set of regulations have been widely and regularly abused. What is more, the regulator (the Intercep-tion Commissioner) has failed to detect these problems and his reports instead paint a picture of a system where is all is well.

So yes please, Prime Minister, do protect me. Could you start by protecting me against a faulty system and a failed regulator?

Mark Pack

London N19

If there were to be a public interest defence to unlawful email hacking, logically there would also be such a defence to interference with postal mail and to burglary. I dislike State intrusion, but I prefer the State to have a monopoly of it.

Bernard O'Sullivan

London SW8

There is no need for anybody to be alarmed about official snooping, even if these ludicrous proposals become law.

Many senior politicians are driven by vanity and narcissism. If in every email or Google search, they insert a reference to features such as George Osborne's disproportionately large rear, or David Cameron's lack of physical co-ordination, they will create much mirth within UK intelligence and the civil service. This mirth will be leaked to the press and the snooping measures will be quietly watered down or dropped.

Ian Aunger


New York shows us how to do it

I refer to your item "Safer, healthier, cleaner: restaurants warned to set new Olympic standard" (3 April). So, how will we, the eating public, know whether or not establishments have reached the so-called "Olympic standard"?

In New York City, the Department of Health goes further, much further. A simple "A", "B" or "C" rating system must be prominently displayed in the windows of all restaurants.

It is an instant guide to potential diners so that they can be sure that establishments conform with that city's extremely stringent health requirements, with regular and frequent inspections. If a restaurant or takeaway does not reach the "A" standard, it is given time to rectify any issues and given a temporary downgrading.

What is more, the ratings are accessible on an interactive map of the city, so you check before you go there. It is heartening to see so few "B"s or "C"s. I wonder if our Food Standards Agency has similar plans?

Michael S Fishberg

Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire

In brief...

Odd hiccup in Tesco pricing of its whisky

Before the Budget, I purchased a one-litre bottle of own-brand Scotch whisky at Tesco. The label stated that a 25ml measure contains one unit of alchohol. So a one-litre bottle would contain 40 units. The bottle cost £16.10, making a fraction over 40p per unit. Today I bought a litre of similar Scotch at £17. Did Tesco use the Budget as an excuse for raising the price to 42.5p a unit, or are they just bad at sums?

John Evans

Bishopsteignton, Devon

'Tiswas' forever

Tiswas a BBC programme (Trending, 3 April)? Never. The BBC were sanctimonious and holier than thou while we flanned the famous and gunged the grand on ITV. When Tiswas ended (30 years ago) they changed their tune overnight.

Glyn Edwards

Former Producer, Tiswas, Worthing, East Sussex

Wordsmith Tom

Sometimes someone finds the perfect phrase to sum someone up, vide Ann Widdecombe's "There is something of the night about him", referring to Michael Howard. Tom Sutcliffe's "the world-leading supplier of decorative conversation pieces to the world's hedgefunders" about Damien Hirst (TV review, 3 April) is in the same exquisite mould; brilliant.

Dr Dick Penfold

Fetcham, Surrey

Snobbery or envy

Robert Brown (letters, 6 April) is outraged that London's Tube drivers will get a £6,000 bonus just for doing their job during the Olympics. Does Mr Brown get outraged when bankers and CEOs get million-pound bonuses just for doing their job, or is his anger ultimately a form of anti-working class snobbery, or even the politics of envy?

Pete Dorey

Bath, Somerset

Taunting Tories

The upside-down Union Flag may be an urban myth (letters, 5April), but I was told the way to break up a Tory party meeting was to stand at the back, whisper that the flag on the stage was upside down, and wait for the fight to break out.

Roger Moorhouse

Todmorden, West Yorkshire