Modern nannies are indispensable - and I'm prepared to pay
Modern nannies are indispensable - and I'm prepared to pay
Sir: Deborah Orr ("Mother's little helper - the tax break", 18 May) is somewhat out of date in the picture she paints of nannies, underestimating the huge contribution they make to childcare for working families.
Nannies are generally young women in their twenties or thirties with a qualification in nursery nursing, childcare or (in the case of my family's nanny) paediatric nursing. Unlike a mother who chooses to stay at home, they are not bogged down with household tasks like ironing, cleaning and shopping, and are able to devote themselves solely to childcare.
They are experienced in organising a programme of activities for pre-schoolers, such as attending music classes, toddler groups and facilities for physical play, and form loving relationships with the children in their care. They also socialise with other nannies who care for children in a similar age range, enabling the child to mix with other children and adults.
In my experience, the benefits of one-to-one care and flexibility, as compared with those offered by a nursery, more than justify the (considerable) expense. Indeed, in circumstances where both parents work in demanding jobs, when a client can demand a meeting at the other end of the country at either end of the working day or an answer to a question posed at 5.29pm "by the morning", nannies are the only practical solution.
Such expertise and contribution to the smooth running of the household naturally comes at a price, and I would be surprised if anyone earning £43,500 or less could afford to pay a full time live-out nanny at the current market rate, which makes the recently announced tax breaks rather meaningless. I will nevertheless continue to employ my superb nanny and continue to find it galling that I am required to pay an employee (and her National Insurance contributions) out of my salary net of tax and NI.
Sir: On behalf of all children born and unborn, I would like to strongly object to your leading article "Parents deserve the widest possible choice in child care" (17 May). Children deserve their parents. Some parents do not deserve their children.
Ottringham, East Riding of Yorkshire
Destruction in Gaza isolates Israel
Sir: The Rafah house demolitions (report, 19 May) and the severing of Rafah from the rest of Gaza reflect what Sharon the general knows best - "hit them and hit them and hit them again". There may indeed be terrorists to thwart but the wholesale destruction of innocent people's homes is not the answer. What Sharon achieves by this is a further isolation of Israel in the international arena.
There is an alternative and the demonstration of more than 150,000 Israelis in Tel Aviv - in which Peace Now was prominent - suggests that a majority of Israelis want to see Israel withdraw from Gaza and desire a negotiated settlement to this bloody conflict. They do not support knocking down people's homes.
And they are appalled that their voice was ignored by a tiny minority within the Likud party apparently determining the fate of the Sharon withdrawal proposal. "Gaza first" may not be ideal, but it could be the start on the path to a negotiated solution.
Chair, Peace Now - UK
Sir: Israeli forces entered the town of Rafah, which straddles the Egyptian/Gaza District border, with the avowed intention of preventing Palestinian terrorists from deploying increasingly sophisticated weapons in their war against Israel. These weapons include not just guns and bullets with which to fight the Israeli army, but rockets that threaten towns in "Israel proper" such as Ashkelon, Ashdod and Sderot, and explosives for further suicide atrocities.
The weapons are being smuggled through tunnels constructed by means of advanced engineering capability, and run from the Egyptian side of the border to concealed terminals under civilian houses in Rafah. The Israeli army has destroyed some 90 tunnels in the past three years but, as with the smuggling of drugs, while there may be occasional successes by the authorities, the aggressors still get through. There is little or no co-operation from the Egyptians in helping to stop this traffic.
Allowing terror from the Gaza area to go unabated must inevitably lead to the kind of reaction now under way. The Palestinian terrorists cannot have it both ways. If they act in civilian areas they must bear the responsibility for the result.
That these actions are being undertaken by soldiers working from house to house amid booby-trapped buildings instead of the safer option of air attack is testimony to the humanitarian heart of the Jewish State.
Sir: The American response to the latest rampage of the Israeli armed forces in Gaza is so inadequate as to be almost as contemptible as the action itself. After tanks and bulldozers had terrorised the inhabitants of Rafah, leaving up to 20 dead and dozens of houses demolished, Condoleezza Rice announced that the administration had told the Israelis "that some of their actions don't create the best atmosphere". The previous day, Colin Powell had said merely that "we don't think that is productive".
What are the options open to the Palestinians, faced as they are with illegal military occupation over 37 years which amounts to annexation of their ever-shrinking share of the former Palestine? They can roll over and accept their fate as a subject people, or they can resist; and is such resistance not entirely justifiable? It is strange that it should be called "terrorism" when it is they who are being terrorised. They can oppose tanks with Kalashnikovs and do so, but that inevitably results in more Palestinian dead than Israelis.
Sir: Donald Macintyre's graphic report (19 May) mentions Amnesty International's report on house demolition in Gaza. It is quite correct to classify house demolition in the Occupied Territories as a "war crime". The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court classes extensive destruction of and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity, as a grave breach of Geneva Convention IV.
Israel has consistently used house demolition as a form of collective punishment, claiming that it is justified on grounds of security. Its defence lies in Regulation 119 of its domestic law, which states that demolition may take place of a house which has been used as a base for firing weapons from. It also makes numerous claims that the Geneva Convention does not apply. However, the application of domestic law does not override international law as stated in the Tadic case in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Furthermore, in the Krstic judgment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Bosnia, destruction of houses was taken as evidence of intent to commit genocide.
Is it not time that the High Contracting Parties of the Geneva Convention, UK included, complied with Security Council Resolution 681, of 1990, which calls on the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, to ensure respect by Israel, the occupying power for its obligations under the Geneva Convention?
JACKIE ALSAID LLM (International Law)
Sir: I write to express my outrage at the brutal and barbaric policies of the Israeli government with regard to Palestine and the Palestinians, and at this precise moment at the house demolitions and killings in the Rafah refugee camp. Violence, breeding only more violence, is not and can never be the answer.
I urge the British government and the European Parliament to initiate economic sanctions against this inhuman Israeli government and to stop absolutely all sales of arms or their components to Israel. I similarly urge the British Prime Minister to use his influence with the US President to initiate US sanctions and an arms ban, and to persuade the US to stop funding the Israeli government and instead donate their aid to governments who would spend it on the eradication of poverty rather than murder and the brutalising of an indigenous population.
Torture in Iraq
Sir: If the use of torture is as effective as Keith Gilmour claims in loosening tongues (letter, 17 May), then never mind the Army in Iraq, this is a power that must be given to the police. That way we will rapidly achieve 100 per cent clear-up rates, and crime figures will plummet.
But let's not leave it there. Disputed insurance claims, petty vandalism and all manner of public order offences could be drastically reduced with the use of a little robust questioning. We just have to amend our outmoded legal system so it understands that any confession is a good confession. Of course, some innocent people will confess to crimes they haven't committed, but I expect an intelligent man like Mr Gilmour has probably thought of that and considers it a price worth paying.
Sir: I wonder if there is a link between the behaviour of Americans towards alleged "terrorists" and the fact that Americans imprison about 1 per cent of their own population.
Sir: Timothy Greenhill (letter, 18 May) deludes himself if he thinks "that our small isle punches above its weight through its military and intelligence links with the USA".
When we act in agreement with the USA that is not punching our weight, that is just giving support to the USA in punching their weight. Our links with the USA are unlikely to be of any use if we ever wanted to do something with which the USA disagreed.
He may be correct when he prophesies that the Lib-Dem vote will rocket up. If it does it will be a measure of the disgust many people feel at the boot-licking posture of Tony Blair and his failure to stand by what is right in the Middle East. If it were not for the fear of opening the way to Michael Howard I am sure the Lib-Dem vote would go much higher.
Sir: As an ex-UK citizen who had to "get on his bike" after Mrs Thatcher's reforms destroyed its industry, I thought anyone would make a better leader.
But after years of New Labour spin, and the outright lies about Iraqi WMD, I think even the Iron Lady was preferable to Mr Blair. At least she never pretended to be anything other than she preached.
I was a young national serviceman in the Fifties, sent to Malaya to fight terrorism. We managed to defeat these so-called terrorists without recourse to cruise missiles, or torture. The UK's well deserved reputation for fair play and justice is being destroyed by a party of yes-men that would make Sir Humphrey blush.
Perth, Western Australia
Sir: So Tony Blair is going to stand shoulder to shoulder with his friend George Bush. Does this mean that when Mr Bush is thrown out in the autumn we can depend on Tony Blair following him?
Sir: Your leader "India's voters show their teeth at the ballot box" (14 May) is correct to pick out inequality and poverty as key factors in the election result. It is unclear, however, to what extent blanket economic liberalisation will help India's poor.
Following policies prescribed by the aid donors such as the World Bank and the UK's Department for International Development, the Indian government has seen disastrous consequences in terms of access to public services.
In Andhra Pradesh, for example, privatisation programmes, supported by the UK government, have seen electricity bills rise by up to 50 per cent, under advice from highly paid UK-based consultants. The result has been a deep-seated resentment and frustration.
Government and donors alike need to think carefully about their blind faith in policies that are not only unpopular but repeatedly ineffective.
War on Want
Sir: Peter Popham, in "A bridge too far", (18 May) writes: "Those who know their Iliad will remember that during his wanderings, Odysseus was obliged to sail through a narrow channel..." Will you please provide him with a copy of Homer's Odyssey so that he may check his sources!
Lambourn, West Berkshire
Sir: As a schoolboy in the 1970s, I was regularly taunted with shouts of "Oi! Planet of the Apes", followed by a variety of hideous monkey impressions. Parents who think it's interesting or clever to give their children ridiculous names ("Whatever happened to baby Moon Unit Zappa?" 17 May) should spare a thought for the child. It is he or she who has to suffer the consequences.
Sir: The faster the speed the more likely the injuries are to be fatal or serious in the event of a collision. And the faster the speed the more likely it is that a collision will occur in the first place. Very simple, but very true. Speed, whether within a given limit or above it, kills and maims, though some, such as Roger Slater (letters, 19 May) would have us believe otherwise.
Take no notice
Sir: On the eatern outskirts of Oxford a road sign announces "Away Coaches and Fans". It sounds like a quote from Act V. Her next line should be "I'll to a penitential nunnery."