SIR – Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park has insisted that a ban on fracking must stay, although 30 of Boris Johnson’s backbenchers have urged him to rethink the policy after the energy company Cuadrilla was ordered to seal up two of England’s only viable shale gas wells despite the current energy crisis.
When asked about Nordstream, Mr Johnson said: “We need to find alternative sources of energy.” So, in order to comply with his own requirement, it seems that he should order Cuadrilla to resume operating.
SIR – In the early days of the German occupation of Guernsey, it was suggested in the local newspaper that the dwindling stock of coal, then used to generate electricity, might be eked out if only shirt fronts were ironed. Faced with the current energy crisis, is this an idea worth reconsidering?
St Martin, Guernsey
Spending on the NHS
SIR – It is unsurprising that the Government has no strategic plan for the spending of the £12 billion generated by the proposed rise in National Insurance contributions and earmarked for reduction of NHS waiting times (Comment, February 11). The Chancellor and NHS officials will be aware of Gammon’s Law, which states: “In a bureaucratic system, an increase in expenditure will be matched by fall in production.”
Dr Max Gammon reasoned: “Such systems will act rather like ‘black holes’ in the economic universe simultaneously, sucking in resources, and shrinking in terms of emitted production.”
In accordance with Gammon’s Law, despite annual increases in expenditure in excess of inflation, the number of NHS beds per thousand of the population has fallen from eight (in 1980) to fewer than two. In comparison France has six and Germany has eight.
Dr Nicholas Beecroft
SIR – Your reports into, first, the Post Office’s harassment of thousands of innocent sub-postmasters in the “Horizon” software scandal and, secondly, the water companies’ handling of sewage treatment have much in common.
Both are large quango-like bureaucracies. They do not operate in true commercial markets where failure results in bankruptcy. Customers lack a chance of redress or, in the case of water, the easy ability to change suppliers. Regulatory bodies such as Ofwat and the Environment Agency fail to ensure improvements or adherence to regulations.
The senior management can, however, be publicly identified. A realisation that they could no longer hide would lead to radical improvements.
David T Price
A crisis in policing
SIR – Upon leaving school in 1978, I was introduced to the Metropolitan Police via the Cadet Corps. I was attested as a constable in 1980 and embarked on a 15-week residential training course.
I then served a probationary period of two years, during which I attended continuation training for two days every month before sitting a final examination. During the first two years of service I was closely supervised and monitored. I had to prove my ability and competencies before being allowed to sit the competitive sergeants’ examination. Upon passing, I was again closely scrutinised.
The current promotion system has not been fit for purpose for decades. This is partly due to weak senior leadership but also to government interference and budget cuts. The crisis in policing can be fixed by a more methodical selection process, rigorous training and intrusive, robust supervision by leaders selected by a reformed promotion system.
The Queen’s head
SIR – On the day of the Queen’s accession (Letters, February 12) the headmaster entered our classroom and said: “Boys, all stand. The King is dead. God save the Queen”, before leaving immediately.
I am ashamed to say that my first thought was that I would be getting some new postage stamps for my collection.
Slavery in Benin
SIR – The Dean and Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, and perhaps even the artist Victor Ehikhamenor, seem to be unaware of the reason for the British military intervention in Benin in 1897.
In fact, Benin was a slave state and the king, his court, and much of Benin’s middle class refused to change their ways in spite of pressure from Britain. The intervention resulted in the confiscation of profits from slavery and the destruction of slave-market cages. It sent a signal to other “holdout” East African states to end their involvement in the slave trade. Looting was unfortunate but perhaps inevitable according to the mores of the time.
Admiral Sir Harry Holdsworth Rawson, who oversaw the Benin Expedition, was one of many Royal Naval commanders who led interventions against slavers. Between 1807 and 1900, more than 1,500 British naval personnel lost their lives in anti-slavery actions. Perhaps Mr Ehikhamenor would like to commemorate their sacrifice with a new artwork that St Paul’s could display near the Admiral’s plaque.
SIR – It was my husband, a lay reader, who asked the General Synod to ban the use of green flower-arranging foam (Letters, February 12). The request has come from the bottom, not the top.
It is untrue that it is impossible to do large flower arrangements without it, or that it is more costly. We use anything from jam jars and vases to old tin baths filled with chicken wire, from which huge arrangements emerge. Additionally, flowers last more longer in unadulterated water.
There is plenty of help available if people are interested. A start would be to look at the work of Shane Connolly, who is royal warrant holder to both the Queen and the Prince of Wales, and a pioneer in environmental floristry.
Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire
SIR – Earlier this month I tried to buy a copy of the new Highway Code. I learned that it will not be available until April 11, despite the fact that its provisions came into force on January 29.
How did this administrative shambles come about, and who will take responsibility for it?
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
The irresistible rise of sequoias in Britain