I am a hospital doctor by trade but have just finished four years on secondment to the Civil Service ("Mandarins to become 'chief executives'", 12 May).
All I ever saw was bright hardworking people desperate to protect, support and advise ministers and very respectful of the democratic process and mandate, often with detailed knowledge of their field. What are they faced with? Ministers who, even if competent, take a year or so to master their brief and each in turn having their own vanity project to implement "at pace". Their special advisers generally have no relevant experience in the field, compounding the naivety.
It is absolutely right and proper that officials give detailed, impartial advice on the risks and pitfalls of policy decisions. Perhaps, if overconfident, inexperienced politicians took more notice of this advice, we would have avoided many recent fiascos and about-turns, with Michael Gove and Andrew Lansley being the worst offenders.
As for the Civil Service being a cushy sinecure – check how many floors of Whitehall departments have been cleared out since the election due to redundancies.
Professor David Oliver
Former national clinical director for older peoples services, Department of Health
Your article "Campaigners warn against rise of the mega-farms" (12 May) fails to tackle the survivability of smaller family farms. Lashing out against large-scale farms will not solve the problem of how we support, promote and recompense family farmers for the value they deliver to the community and society. It is naive to attack big farms while we only produce around half the chicken, pigmeat and dairy products we consume; doing so just plays into the hands of foreign competitors who want to flood our market with inferior food produced to a lower standard.
And let's get our facts straight: we have very strong regulation in welfare and environment; the intensive Foston development actually moves UK pig welfare in a very positive direction; and the Powys dairy is by no means a precedent – there are already at least 20 dairy farms in Britain with over 1,000 cows, operating quietly and successfully.
So let's drop the doomsday scenario and plough efforts into finding sustainable ways to support our family businesses so that they can continue to contribute to our domestic production.
Sir Roger Moore describes large-scale farms as "concentration camps for animals", which they are ("Campaigners warn against rise of the mega-farms", 12 May). However, all factory farms are concentration camps for animals and that is where the majority of "food animals" are kept. Even if all farm animals were kept in humane conditions, they still face the horrors of the slaughterhouse.
If people choose to eat animals, they should face up to the unnecessary cruelty and suffering animals are forced to endure, as well as learning about the other issues involved.
Without a doubt, any interpreter found to have served the British Army will suffer a fate worse than death if captured by the Taliban upon the allied withdrawal from Afghanistan (Letters, 12 May). I am against unlimited immigration and asylum into the UK. However, Britain has a moral duty to these courageous interpreters.
Years ago, we were looking for F Scott Fitzgerald's grave in Frederick, Maryland, and asked at the police station ("Fitzgerald buried in near anonymity", 12 May). The surly lieutenant had heard of neither Fitzgerald nor his grave. He turned to his large busy office. "Anybody heard of some guy called Fitzgerald?" A black patrolman moved hesitantly towards us. "I think he was some sort of writer, Lieut." Left alone with us, his directions were impeccable. And his knowledge of Scott's life and work second to none.
Rupert Cornwell shouldn't be too downcast by his experience in Rockville cemetery. Fitzgerald is commemorated with style in St Paul, Minnesota, where he spent his early years. He even has a statue in a park there. Visitors have photos taken with their arms around it.
Professor David Head
University of Lincoln, Lincoln
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