Letters June 16 2016
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Referendum debate - in or out of EU?
SIR - The decision we make on June 23 will affect the lives of every man, woman and child in St Albans and indeed the rest of the country as well, not for the next year, 10 years or 20 years but forever. We must, therefore, make sure we make the right decision. But how do we do that with so much conflicting “information” being given to us by politicians? We should look beyond the words they say and look at their actions and the implications of what they actually do. For example let us take two politicians, Jeremy Corbyn and David Cameron, and see what they have been saying and then doing. Jeremy Corbyn says we should stay in the EU because it will be better for working people and protect us from big business. Though, of course he knows that by staying in we must accept that rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) overrule any laws made in the UK Parliament. He continually criticises the UK government for not taxing big business at a high enough level. At the same time he must know that the ECJ recently overruled House of Commons legislation on tax which has resulted in £8 billion of tax being repaid to big business, with another £8 billion estimated to be repaid by the end of 2020. How would that £16 billion have helped our NHS, schools, housing and infrastructure, Mr Corbyn? David Cameron says he knows that the EU is not perfect, but we need to stay inside it to change it. At the same time he knows that our voting strength within the EU is weak. We only have four per cent of the votes in the EU Commission, 9.7 per cent in the EU Parliament and 12 per cent in the EU Council. In addition only the EU Commission can propose EU laws and regulations. The decision we have to make on June 23 is really quite simple: do we want to be governed by politicians we know, can elect and throw out of office when they bring in bad laws and regulations, or do we want to be governed by unelected people we don;t know and can never remove from office no matter what they do? To put it another way, do we want to be governed by an elected democracy or by an unelected bureaucracy?
KEN SHUTTLEWORTH Reynards, Bricket Wood
SIR - I’m sure many of your readers will be breathing a sigh of relief when this dreadful Referendum campaign reaches its crescendo.By now we know the arguments of both campaigns too well, but trust few of their claims. For lifelong Labour voters such as I, it seems as if we’ve interrupted the posh people across the street’s domestic argument, only for the couple to follow us home and continue the row on our sofa. When it has not been focused on who should lead the Tory Party, immigration has driven the referendum debate, animated by sometimes downright misleading claims. I recently wrote a chapter in a book about Labour’s General Election defeat arguing that Labour’s distaste in listening to working people’s views on immigration contributed to our defeat in 2015. So I don’t dismiss people’s concerns about this issue, but I do challenge the premise that if we left the EU these concerns would be solved. It is just a fantasy to imagine that leaving the EU would stop immigration, the political equivalent of locking yourself in your bedroom because you don’t like the neighbours. The likelihood is it would simply replace one group of migrants with another as we try to fill skills shortages. Migration Watch (not a group I often quote), the immigration control think tank, say a points based system - advocated by Boris and Gove - would be “ineffectual” because Australia’s net immigration rate is three times higher than the UK’s. 2016 is a tough place sometimes, the world is smaller than ever before, life can be economically unfair, dangerous, and the pace of change can be frightening but there can be no going back to 1973. If we accept the modern world, we can try to shape it. If we seek to deny it and bury our heads in the sand, then that world will continue to change, we will just lose influence in shaping it. So Remain must mean reform. But Labour supporters must be clear, leaving the European Union would be bad for working people. Paid holidays, maternity leave, and anti-discrimination rights for disabled workers are all EU achievements. That’s without the inevitable run on sterling, likely short term recession, possible effect on pensions likely to follow a Brexit and the loss of the ability to use the EU to crack down on cross border issues like tax avoidance by multi-nationals. Perhaps more than any of that, the history of the Labour movement tells us that working people achieve change through solidarity and co-operation, never by isolationism and division. Thursday’s decision is not an easy one, and while slamming the door and locking ourselves in our bedroom might make us feel better for a short while, it will not change the world, it will just damage our influence and ultimately the interests of working people.
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High Street, London Colney
SIR - Decision day is fast approaching and I implore my fellow Albanians to vote “Leave” for the sake of of our country. Over the past few days we are getting an increasing number of threats from European leaders and a even a few industrialists and bankers who see their comfortable existences being a little upset should Britain leave. And it is easy to see why because in that event there will be a vast loss of income to the European Exchequer the making good of which will fall on the remaining 27 members or, more likely. on the richer half dozen of those since the poorer countries are only in the union for the subsidies they can claim from the wealthier. The debate has been dominated by the economy and immigration but in my opinion too little discussion has been held on the much more important topic of governance where our own laws and supreme court judgments can be overturned by European judges thus overriding decisions made by our own courts and our own parliament. Hardly a democratic state of affairs and one which we must not tolerate so be like me - a Little Briton - and vote “Leave” on June 23. God save our Queen.
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PHILLIP WEBSTER Townsend Drive, St Albans
SIR - Politicians in the “stay in” camp are frequently asked for examples of red tape from Brussels, believing it is tabloid myth. Here is an example: I went to donate blood and was told by the supervisor that I was too old, indeed my records had been expunged. “But you test the blood and I feel healthy and perhaps even look well so what is the problem?” I asked. “It doesn’t matter, you are too old.” “I am not just off the street,” I told him, “I am a silver badge holder and have my book of past donations, look!” “Sorry you are too old.” “Who says so? “ I query. “The EU!” came the reply. Enough said? That many EU countries don’t have such well established and free systems was irrelevant, it had been decided. The UK blood donation system had to obey. “What about an emergency?” I asked. “That’s different you could then,” came the reply. “But surely blood is donated in advance of emergencies to reduce the problems?” Does one need to go on?
LESLIE FREITAG Cravells Road, Harpenden
SIR – In all the trivial and not-so-trivial arguments for and against our EU membership the one thing that the pro-EU lobby never dares to mention is the dreaded ‘S’ word – the Sovereignty of our nation, surely the single most fundamental issue. The extent to which we have lost this in all areas of national life has been demonstrated by Mr Cameron’s failure to achieve any meaningful and permanent change in the terms of our EU membership, stating afterwards that he had freely changed his position on some issues, which may be true but only after Queen Angela had told him what the German government would allow him to ask for. In the light of this it is more than faintly ridiculous to believe that by remaining in the EU we will ever be able to reform its nature and structure when we have not been able to do so under the threat of our withdrawing. Quite obviously, remaining in the EU will sink our hard fought-for national sovereignty without trace, permanently. ‘Little Britain’ will have come to pass. Our laws and society will be shaped by the opinions and interests of 30 or so other countries some of whom are not even fully democratic, and none of whom has anything approaching our 800-year history of developing democratic rule, and by whom the UK has repeatedly been defeated in EU votes, as pointed out by Peter Lilley MP. The UK was at the forefront of two very painful and costly wars in the 20th century to defend and maintain our national sovereignty. Are we now to sink it into a financially corrupt undemocratic political machine ruled by unelected and non-removable bureaucrats? Would not the millions who suffered and died for our freedom consider that an insulting betrayal of their sacrifice? Despite some statistical inaccuracies on both sides of the argument, it is impossible to not be appalled by the amount of dubious scare-mongering emanating from government sources. We have been ‘threatened’ with almost everything other than a Martian invasion if we dare to free ourselves from the EU. And the extent to which the government is withholding information to stifle the full truth can be seen by a careful reading of Anne Main MP’s May Newsletter, which reveals the extent to which the government is treating even Parliament with contempt by providing inaccurate answers, or none at all, to MP’s questions. Even the Speaker of the House described the government’s performance as ‘unsatisfactory’, as recorded in Hansard. Just as we were misled into the EU in the 1970s are we now being misled into remaining in it? Small wonder that our local MPs, who are both thoughtful and pro-business, support Brexit, and the Hertsmere MP is ‘deeply sceptical’ about the EU. So far as our trading ability outside the EU is concerned, our nation built up the largest empire in human history, now our Commonwealth, largely on the basis of trade without help from any European block. Are we to blithely assume that we are now impotent, especially as more than half our international trade is already outside of Europe, and is a growing proportion? And are we to believe that European companies will damage themselves by not trading with us under WTO rules? Also, are we really to believe that vital areas of research – science, technology, agriculture, etc. – that now receive EU grants will not be just as well, or better, supported by a UK government? The overall financial reality is that the UK pours billions into the leaky EU in order to receive less than half of it back with instructions on how to spend it. Do we need this expensive system? Are we a nation of children? We could well use the lost £11 billion for our NHS, education, police, military... Perhaps after all the arguments are stated, the best way to decide the issue, in the light of all we know about the financially leaky and undemocratically dictatorial EU machine, is to ask whether we would choose to sink our national sovereignty into it if we were not already involved. And if we would not, then we know which way to vote on June 23.
IAN M LARIVIÈRE Park Street, St Albans
SIR - So although Mr Stone has no crystal ball (whatever use that might be) he is nontheless “certain that the EU will eventually descend into utter chaos”. Well, well. How we all wish we had his obviously superior intellect and assured foresight to be so certain of the future. How frustrated he must feel by having to resort to writing to local newspapers from his comfortable armchair instead of running the country. Europe has fallen into more disastrous chaos several times over the past century without an EU to blame. Of course, no system is perfect, and many have flaws so easy to expose. But there surely is more benefit to having open borders, markets and dialogues than closed drawbridges over which nationalists and narrow-minded idiots can hurl abuse, and more, at each other.
IAN BOYD Nunnert Stables, St Albans
SIR - Shakespeare was obviously thinking of the EU Referendum in Romeo and Juliet when he wrote, “A plague o’ both your houses!”. Have we ever endured so many lies and distortions? Fear seems to be the dominant feeling, when we should consider the opposite - sensible cooperation for the good of all of us. Other European nations are not ogres, even if they eat different food and speak different languages. (Come to think of it, many of them speak excellent English.) Can I appeal to your readers to stop being frightened of Johnny Foreigner and realise that the world has moved on? There is no British Empire. No nation can walk alone any more. Working alongside other nations is imperative and Whitehall is no better than Brussels. Vote for the positive benefits of staying in for all of us, and teach them to play cricket.
JOHN W PETERS
Mayor of St Albans District, 2001/2 Battlefield Road, St Albans
Paying the price for airport expansion
SIR - While respecting Mr Cross’s point (May 26) that Luton Airport can be convenient for those living in the area and who, because of the benefit to them, put up with the resulting noise, there are many residents who don’t fly who have seen the number of overflights quadruple over the last 20 years - with a threat of more to come. With the recent prolonged spell of easterly winds, common in early summer, those living in areas like Harpenden have had Luton (and higher up, Heathrow) planes going overhead for various periods ‘morning, noon and night’. Not surprisingly those who don’t avail themselves of air travel get fed up with it (which is the reason LADACAN, on a countywide scale, was originally set up). Personally, I now avoid the hassle of lengthy early-morning check-ins by using the train to the near-Continent - half-hour check-in at St Pancras with for example Munich, Geneva, Marseille and even Nice easily reachable within the day (and some scenery to see too!).
JOHN DAVIS Fairmead Avenue, Harpenden Pray, why Prae not Pré, one wonders?
SIR - I have noticed with pleasure the imminent reopening of the Pré Hotel on June 23 as an upmarket pub renamed Prae Wood Arms. It looks like they have done a wonderful job on renovating it. I am surprised however that the name Prae Wood Arms is to be used – Prae instead of Pré. Prae Wood is in the Gorhambury Estate over one-and-a-half miles away. Why has the word Pré, which has been in use for decades, been changed to Prae by the new owners? Is it intentional?
STEVE GLEDHILL Cravells Road, Harpenden
State of the lake
SIR – I recently went round Verulamium Lake for a walk with my dog and I was absolutely disgusted. The lake itself is absolutely filthy, there is more silt than water and it stinks. I have been taking my dogs round the lake for years and I have never seen it looking as bad or smelling as bad as it is now. It’s disgusting. I rang the council and left a message and the council never returned my call. I will not be going round the lake again in the near future until they clean it up if they ever do.
MARION FOSTER Arundel Grove, St Albans
SIR – In 2005, St Michael’s RC School in High Elms Lane, Garston, celebrated its 50th anniversary and as a result of this, over 500 past pupils from all over the world attended and had a very memorable evening. This year the school is celebrating 60 years and has organised its own celebrations. The only information received from the school is that there is a past pupils concert on June 25 with tickets at £6. Are there any past pupils who are able to organise a past pupils evening in September this year to celebrate the 60th anniversary?
JIM HARPER Retiring president of the past pupils committee Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Unhelpful about Memorial Hospital
SIR - For some five years the Herts Community NHS Trust has worked hard to find a solution to the difficult Harpenden Memorial Hospital issue. Throughout that time they have consulted, courteously and fully, with the Red House Forum, the ginger group promoted by The Harpenden Society, to campaign for its refurbishment, and they have tested local opinion at a series of public meetings and other presentations. Now there is optimism that a Health and Wellbeing hub might emerge that would not only be of inestimable value to Harpenden and its surrounds but also a model for communities elsewhere facing the much-changed challenges of modern health conditions. The skein of elements involved, financial, legal, administrative, diplomatic and so on, is complex and delicate, requiring of careful and precise negotiation. Thus the most charitable verdict on Pat Kent’s cry of woe (June 2 edition) is that, misapprehending as to facts and Luddite in sentiment, it is unhelpful.
ERIC MIDWINTER Co-organiser, the Red House Forum Bloomfield Road, Harpenden