Morecambe Bay, care homes and others

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Global exploitation to blame for Morecambe Bay drownings

Global exploitation to blame for Morecambe Bay drownings

Sir: The Independent likes to quote those who believe that we need immigration, legal or illegal, because immigrants will do the jobs that ordinary British people are not prepared to do. Nineteen Chinese immigrants have died doing those jobs, which perhaps the indigenous people of Britain are no longer prepared to do for such a small reward. Tell me why they should! Would you?

Can you please stop being so obsessed with the idea that if ordinary people are reluctant to accept the continuous movement of people into this country they must be racists? Can you please spend more time attacking people who believe that others in this world are created solely to be shunted from country to country to be used as a method of making the greatest profit possible? Both people and jobs are now being transported around the globe purely to ensure that the unscrupulous can make as much as they possibly can.

Why are we now so afraid of the word "exploitation"? Capitalist society cannot perpetuate itself without a permanent pool of cheap labour, wherever it is. May their poor souls rest in peace.

Norton Sub Hamdon, Somerset

Sir: The tragic deaths in Morecambe Bay raise some serious issues. I was born and bred in the area and often went fishing and cockling there. Even for locals who know the area well the bay is extremely dangerous. There are quicksands, ever-changing deep gulleys with dangerous undertows, a tide that comes in at frightening speed, and that surrounds you before you realise it.

For generations cockling was a cottage industry. Now it has turned into a major business some health and safety standards need to be introduced. Consideration also needs to be given as to how many cockles can be taken so as to preserve the stocks for future generations. There needs to be an immediate halt to cockling in the bay until these issues are resolved.


When old people go into a home

Sir: Most of us don't lightly "pop our relatives into a care home" to pass the buck to someone else (Janet Street-Porter, 6 February). It is a heartbreaking and reluctant decision, made after years of giving our all to keep our increasingly frail dependants in their own homes at the cost of our own physical and mental health, that the need for 24-hour professional care has arrived.

Many people then take the opportunity to spend quality time with their relatives and become part of the community of the care home. In my personal experience a good care home not only looks after the needs of the residents but has nothing to hide and welcomes input from the previous carers and includes them in the programme of care.

Please, Janet, don't make glib comments about this matter but carry on the campaign for improved standards and give credit to the care homes who are making progress and who may be caring for us in the future.

Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

Sir I take issue with Janet Street-Porter's assumption that we will all end up in the institutionalised limbo to which many of the current generation of the elderly are condemned.

I spent most of my life in the media and then, having decided "to give something back" I took a social work degree in my fifties and ended up working with the elderly. In the metropolitan team in which I worked for four years we moved heaven and earth to keep the elderly where they wanted to be - in their own homes. I cannot count the number of times my clients begged me not to "send them into a home", and I was always able to keep my promise - despite considerable pressure from their next of kin.

That I should have had to spend much of my time battling against the wishes of sons and daughters to have their parents "put away" was quite devastating.

Never once, in those four years, did an Asian family ever come to us for "help".

Sunbury on Thames, Middlesex

Toppling Saddam

Sir: In your columns huge space continues to be devoted to arguments about weapons of mass destruction.

The Iraqi regime had defied the UN for 12 years. Action was necessary to prevent the continued demeaning of the United Nations and to restore its authority. This is the position Bush and Blair took. A great mass or ordinary people supported them.

However it was necessary to overcome the inertia of the greater mass. It was not enough to argue that Saddam Hussein was dangerous. This was accepted. The public had to be spurred into action, reminded again and again, as forcibly as possible, that Iraq had used chemical weapons in the past and might use them again in future, at home or abroad.

The conviction that action had to be taken was right. And it was right for those who reached this conclusion to do their utmost to persuade others to back them.

The current dispute about the presentation of the case is a battle for political advantage. It is not about what needed to be done in the interests of national and international security. We should be grateful to Blair and Bush for their determination. Can we now move the political wrestling on to a different area?

Hoxne, Suffolk

Sir: We're almost there now: Hoon and Cook knew that 45 minutes referred to battlefield weapons not ballistic missiles. We can't prove Blair knew too, so no one can call him a liar in a newspaper (look what happened to Gilligan). But either he is liar or made a monumental error of judgement in not seeking clarification as to what 45 minutes meant.

Once he did find out, and we don't know exactly when, he made no attempt to reverse the huge misunderstanding he'd (inadvertently?) created. Another massive misjudgement that I would have said warranted resignation. There's no legal lie, Mr Blair will be keen to point out, but I'd still spank my children if they tried that one on me.

One doesn't vote for Michael Howard lightly, but I'm thinking about it.

Thames Ditton, Surrey

Sir: Just before the war, after Blair's announcement on 45 minutes, I heard an official on Radio Four, when asked about precautions which could be taken by the public, say that to stock up on bottled water and canned food would be sensible. This surely was an assumption that it was long-range WMD and not battlefield WMD which were being referred to.

Did anyone else hear this and rush off to the shops as I did? I've still got the bottles of water to prove this. Any offers?


Sir: As the factual basis for the decision to invade Iraq is now beginning to unravel, one dependent issue appears to be in need of reconsideration, namely the legal case for war.

Given that no WMDs have been found and that George Tenet is now denying that there was any imminent threat, just precisely what legal justification was there for this war? It cannot have been simply Saddam's failure to comply with UN resolutions, as there would have been no need to go through the WMD charade. Is it not time now for the Government to publish the Attorney General's advice to the Government on the legality of the war?

I find the possibility that politicians of my generation have committed my country to an illegal act of aggression difficult to stomach.

London SE24

Sir: Julius Caesar, a reasonably successful militarist politician and no mean judge of men, answered the Blair-WMD question two thousand years ago. In his Gallic Wars (Bk 3 Ch 18) he points out: " fere libenter homines id quod volunt credunt." (As a rule people believe what they wish for).

Broadstairs, Kent

Dental X-rays

Sir: Jeremy Laurance's piece on X-rays ("Hundreds of cancer cases blamed on dentist X-rays", 30 January) should be put into the context of the Lancet article to which he refers.

The authors of the paper found that, in the UK, the risk of developing cancer could be increased by 0.6 per cent following exposure to radiography generally. This is considerably lower than the figures for the likes of Scandinavia and Japan. The study itself looked only at skull X-rays and computed tomography (CT) scans of the head, rather than dental x-rays explicitly, making it extremely difficult to draw conclusions about the effect of dental radiography.

The level of radiation associated with a dental X-ray is very small, approximately equivalent to the amount of radiation one would be exposed to on a return flight to Spain. The British Dental Association works closely with the Department of Health to provide guidelines to those administering X-rays to ensure that patients receive diagnosis with minimum risk.

Professor LIZ KAY
Scientific Adviser, British Dental Association
London W1

Jury service

Sir: I have just completed three weeks of jury service at Hull Crown Court and was impressed with the common sense of my fellow jury members. They varied from a 20-year old to pensioners like myself, with a fairly even male/ female mix. Professions such as engineers, civil servants, nurses, teachers, as well as the unemployed, were all represented .

After the video presentation in one of the court rooms, we were extensively briefed as to how the cases would proceed, who was who, where they would be sitting in relation to the jury, the behaviour expected of us whilst on duty and the necessity of taking notes. If we had any queries on anything that was said, or points of law, we were to attract the usher's attention and hand to him or her a note. This was then shown to the judge. The judge then answered our queries or directed the counsel to consult the witness.

At the beginning of each case, the judge always explained to the jurors what their duty was and stressed the taking of notes using the paper and pencils provided.

No doubt every juror will have a different story to tell. It is unjust of Matthew Lewin (Opinion, 4 February) to judge the system on his own limited experience.


Sir: I attended the Old Bailey for eight weeks on two separate cases, and I was very impressed with the cross-sectional characteristics of both juries.

Some of my fellows were uneducated, but some were over-educated; some were old, others young, some cynical and some malleable. If one juror missed or misunderstood a point, others would advise. Some had professional experience of the legal system, some had a proper understanding of the underclass on trial. Every one of us had an angle and made a contribution.

The sneering implication from your correspondents (letters, 5 February) that those who are unfamiliar with note-taking, or even those of us who can't complete a crossword, should be considered as being unable to tell right from wrong is nonsense.

Preston, Lancashire

Blair and Churchill

Sir: The incredibly arrogant, not to say wilfully naive, Margaret Beckett has dismissed criticism of the 45-minute claim , saying that Winston Churchill did not require to go around asking about the nature of weapons being used in the Second World War. Would someone care to inform her that the possession of certain weapons had nothing whatsoever to do with the reason behind that war's commencement, namely that Germany had invaded Poland and ignored an ultimatum to withdraw? If only the Blair government could say the same!

Kentchurch, Herefordshire

Sir: Apparently a government supporter has implied a comparison between Tony Blair and Winston Churchill. But omitted to mention whether Dunkirk or Gallipoli was intended.

Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

Diet or exercise  

Sir: I can't argue with the learned professor regarding the safety of the Atkins diet (letter, 7 February) but his answer of exercise is a non-starter with many disabled or partially disabled people like me. For us, drastically reducing carbohydrate intake and then only eating small amounts of those with a low glycemic index is the only answer.

Portnahaven, Isle of Islay

Judged wanting

Sir: J F R Gale (letter, 7 February) states that respect for the judiciary is fundamental to our civilisation. He goes on to say that we are all judged by our mistakes. When speaking of mistakes and the judiciary the Birmingham Six and many other miscarriages of justice come to mind.

Selby, North Yorkshire

Waters subside

Sir: Congratulations on showing almost all the properties affected by York's floods in a single picture ("Forecasters warn of more rain", 3 February). Yes, the King's Arms was flooded. As usual, it will have been back in business within hours of the water subsiding. Meanwhile, the city centre, the Minster, the Railway Museum and the shops are all unaffected. Please tell the tourists that there are no Waters of Mass Destruction in York.



Sir: I couldn't believe the insensitivity displayed by Andrew Gumbel in his article about Mel Gibson's film, The Passion (5 February). For him to refer to a passage in the Bible as "discredited" is an outrage and a direct attack on Christian beliefs. Would he dare to refer to a passage in the Koran or the Talmud as "discredited"?

London NW6