Sunday, 21 April 2019

Your letters...

Parliament must decide

I think that the following is what is happening in Parliament and I think it quite astonishing that the British public don’t seem prepared to accept it.

In a representative parliamentary democracy, the purpose of the Parliament is to pass laws which will facilitate an acceptable way of life for the citizens of the country.

This includes, among others, laws and regulations regarding health, education, civil and border defence, adequate housing and employment and arrangements for the protection of the vulnerable.

It is the sole purpose of Parliament to make life in the country tolerable through legislation.

In a representative parliamentary democracy the assumption is that the Government asks the people periodically how they would like these aspects of their lives to be facilitated through the laws of the land.

In various countries around the world this is done every four or five years. It is completely recognised that the views of the people change and the five-year periodicity is used as it is long enough for certain things to be done and not too long so that when people’s opinions change they don’t have to wait too long to get another chance to express their preferences through the ballot box.

With this in mind, it is not difficult to see that two important mistakes are being made in the United Kingdom at present.

The first mistake is the belief that the sole function of Parliament is to fulfil the will of the people.

This is a misrepresentation of the function of Parliament as its proper function is what has been stated above.

Over the centuries there have frequently been occasions when Parliament has moved in a direction which is contrary to the will of the people and this has simply been accepted as the way a representative parliamentary democracy works.

It is most probable that if the will of the people had been evaluated before the United Kingdom declared war on Germany either in 1914 or 1939 there would not have been an appetite for the struggle which ensued.

It is also likely that Tony Blair’s involvement in the second Gulf War would not have been sanctioned by the will of the people.

Parliament does not believe that a crude walkaway Brexit is good for this country.

The second mistake is that it is being argued that we should not pause and assess whether the will of the people has changed in the last two-and-a-half years.

We do not know whether there is today the same appetite to leave as there was in the middle of 2016 and it would certainly do us no harm to find out.

We know that opinion polls are highly unreliable. We also know that the referendum campaign involved all the worst aspects of demagoguery, ranging from outright lies to distortions.

Furthermore, it appears that the leave campaign was in violation of the electoral commission’s funding rules.

What is really interesting is that in the UK, which prides itself on its adherence to the rule of law and a deeply embedded sense of fair play among the general population, the people in power are not prepared to pause and think again.

Only the result of a flawed referendum counts.

It is very hard to imagine that the Prime Minister does not really understand the purpose of Parliament in a representative parliamentary democracy.

Equally, the belief in accepting a onetime poorly produced photo of the will of the people is justified in causing the tremendous disruption which the Brexit debate has already produced and which the act of Brexit will without doubt magnify. — Yours faithfully,

Professor Dan Remenyi

Kidmore End

Listen to business

Editor, — As a traditional Tory supporter who runs a small business, I am totally dismayed about how the Brexit process is being run (Standard, February 22).

This sense of frustration was compounded last week on receipt of a letter from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, just 44 days before we are due to leave the European Union, outlining the extra costs and red tape that my business will face in dealing with future customs checks relating to a “no deal” Brexit.

While I accept that 52 per cent of people voted to leave, I simply don’t accept that this represented a resounding endorsement for the type of Brexit that many “hard Brexiteers” would like us to follow.

Our membership of the EU has delivered huge benefits to the UK. Since joining, we have received the lion’s share of all EU inward investment and our economy has flourished with frictionless access to the world’s second biggest GDP market with more than 500 million people.

In addition, we have red-tape free access to more than 50 countries that have free trade agreements with the EU, including the recent agreement with Japan.

Over the coming weeks, I would urge our local MPs to heed all the advice from the business community and vote for a Brexity

that not only avoids a hard border in Northern Ireland but also that ensures that we have no hard border between the UK and our biggest trading partner. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Simpson


Repetitive messages

Sir, — Since the general election in 2017, I have had almost 50 emails from your correspondent Adrian Hill (Standard, February 22).

Some of his emails are quite rude. For example, he accuses the Conservative Party of being a “vile party”. He accuses one of our ministers of being an “arrogant prat”. He has had a response from me.

People are not limited in the number of emails and letters they can send me but there is little I can add on the occasion of the 49th email that had not already been said in response to the first email. — Yours faithfully,

John Howell

MP for Henley, House of Commons

Population explosion

Sir, — In 1968, give or take a year, a then young member of one of our mainstream political parties stated: “The best way to solve the housing crisis is to move all old people into nursing homes.”

I will not dwell on my response. Yes, in 1968 when the UK population was 55 million, we had a housing crisis.

Fast forward to 2018. The UK population has soared to 66 million. That is 11 million more people in 50 years and we have the well-publicised and debated housing crisis.

Fast forward to 2041. The Office for National Statistics ( predicts (November 2018) that the UK population will be 73 million. That is seven million more people in just 23 years and it does not stop there.

As the UK is already massively overpopulated, the last thing we need is more people.

If we do not prevent this “population explosion” — as one national newspaper correctly described it — there will be an inevitable housing crisis. We all know what that means. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Chandler

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Homes not ‘affordable’

Sir, — Paula Isaac’s letter regarding “affordable” housing which is not affordable (Standard, February 22), was very timely.

What is needed in Henley is housing which would, as Paula said, “remain rental in perpetuity”.

This would probably be council housing or housing association housing. Some councils are already doing this.

In the Fifties and Sixties, many hundreds of council houses were built in Henley at a time when they were desperately needed.

As a Henley Volunteer Driver, I drive to all parts of Henley and can see where these houses were built, for example, the extensive Gainsborough estate, Mount View, Luker Avenue and several other areas.

Many residents of Henley have probably never seen any of these because, unless you live there, you do not see them from main roads.

Unfortunately, many council houses were sold by Margaret Thatcher’s government (and are still being sold) without any thought for the consequences of the loss of rental property.

This policy was in line with the continuing desire of the Conservatives for people to be able to buy their own homes.

This ignored, and still ignores, the reality that the proportion of rented homes in the UK is inexorably increasing and rents in the private sector are becoming unaffordable to many. There have been many successful attempts by developers to avoid “affordable” housing.

An example was the sale of land on which the new McCarthy & Stone retirement development in Reading Road was built where planning permission had been granted for ordinary flats with 40 per cent of them affordable.

For the conversion of offices to flats there is no 40 per cent affordable requirement (a fairly recent government change of the rules).

There is a great financial temptation for owners of small, occupied office blocks to sell for housing in spite of the collateral damage of the loss of some offices, particularly in small towns like Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Michael Hollas

Queen Close, Henley

No need for new hotel

Yes, it would be nice to have more hotel accommodation in Henley.

But why don’t they purchase the Imperial Hotel, which has 20 rooms, and the old people’s home in Newtown Road which has 80 rooms? There’s your 100-room hotel.

We don’t need any more old people’s accommodation. They can’t sell them because they are too dear.

They could put a new road in by the railway line and have two-way access from Mill Lane and Station Road.

Henley Town Council should purchase the land for more car parking and if there’s plenty of space they could put in a two-tier car park. — Yours faithfully,

Ian Clark

Cromwell Road, Henley

How to fix car park

Sir, — Once again, Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak is asking for either of the two car parks in central Henley to have a second tier to add capacity.

Back in June last year he said the same but also indicated there had been no robust research or survey before making this proposal and it seems nothing has changed.

As someone who looks out on the King’s Road car park daily from my home office, here are my own “research” findings:

•Capacity exceeds demand for the majority of the week.

• Queues are caused by dawdling and slow parking and rarely by a lack of spaces, even at busy times.

• There are many ways to improve flow in the car park without an unsightly, unnecessary and expensive second tier.

The flow could be improved by having:

• Diagonal spaces for all rows, not just the row nearest Waitrose. The spaces are currently perpendicular and tight to maximise volume but that slows down the time it takes to park and therefore blocks flow.

• One entrance, two exits. The current layout offers too many options and thereby frustrates drivers. The delivery vehicles need to use the library end of King’s Road due to their size and it makes sense that all cars do the same. The town hall end of King’s Road becomes exit only. The exit to Bell Street remains but without the very silly way it’s set up now with cars coming nose-to-nose.

• Parking payment that encourages quick shopping trips but also allows for extended stays beyond the current three hours: first hour free, every hour after £3 or more with no maximum limit or something progressive. Consider top-up options for those paying by phone/app.

• At rare peak times (Christmas, basically) consider having parking attendants in high-vis jackets flagging up unoccupied spaces throughout the car park (with signs sponsored by local retailers?). — Yours faithfully,

Fraser Peett

King’s Road, Henley

Scientific solutions

Editor, — If the members of Henley in Transition are serious about Henley becoming “carbon zero”, may I suggest that they set an example by leaving the town?

For Henley to have zero carbon there must be no living things, no bacteria, no plants, no animals and certainly no humans. These are all carbon-based or organic beings.

Similarly, there must be no dead matter such as wood. That means no floors, no roof joists and no furniture in buildings.

Gas for central heating and electricity generated from fossil fuels should also go, along with the wood-burning stoves. And many so-called plastics are polymers based on carbon. They must go too.

Perhaps the article by two members of Henley in Transition (Standard, February 8) would have been better if written scientifically.

Confusion between air pollution and climate change was partly to blame. It was correct not to refer to global warming as our atmosphere provides a measure of this that makes the Earth’s temperature habitable.

What is needed is a reduction in greenhouse gases, principally methane and carbon dioxide, that are responsible for an alarming rise in the global warming effect.

Finally, may I question how electric cars and trains reduce climate change?

At present the majority of our electricity is generated from fossil fuels. If nuclear, solar (wind and panels) and gravitation were used as energy sources for electricity that would be different. Indeed a turbine in the river at Marsh Mills would be a great idea.

Also, how does a gas-fuelled bus help reduce carbon dioxide unless it is burning hydrogen? — Yours faithfully,

Tony Taylor

Knappe Close, Henley

Wireless charging

The February 16 edition of New Scientist magazine contains an article on “magnetic resonance charging”, which is an alternative method to direct cable connections for charging electric vehicles.

The article refers to it as “wireless charging” and the author Michael LePage writes: “Electric buses that charge wirelessly as they drive have been running in South Korea since 2010.”

It sounds as though it won’t entirely displace charging via electric cables but I do recommend that anyone active in this area on Henley Town Council’s behalf invests a few minutes to introduce themselves to this alternative technology given that it might become widespread. — Yours faithfully,

Jim Munro

Blandy Road, Henley

Pointless road signs

Sir, — The number of pointless road signs seems to be on the increase.

One was recently erected on the south side of Sonning Common proudly proclaiming a “New road layout”.

Regular users of the route will be perfectly well aware of the widening of the road in order to accommodate access to the new houses as they will have seen it under construction on their travels to and from Caversham.

Drivers new to the area will have never known the previous road layout so the sign is of no use to them either.

It strikes me that the money could have been better spent on something more useful. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Fairweather

Rotherfield Greys

The point of cameras...

Sir (if I may dare to use such an offensive mode of address), — Presumably on safety grounds, Deon Melck advocates lower speed limits on various Henley roads with the installation of speed cameras along them that “would pay for themselves in no time” (Standard, February 22).

Surely the intended safety outcome of any speed camera is to deter speeding and thus produce little or no revenue? — Yours faithfully,

Ken Stevens

Red House Drive, Sonning Common

Missing benefit?

Sir, — I read with interest that Ian Fleming’s descendants have, quite rightly, been awarded more than £1million by the High Court because the land which he generously donated for a school is no longer being used as such. The school has moved to another site.

Could I please point out that the inhabitants of Henley similarly donated their funds to create the War Memorial Hospital? Since the site has now been converted into private homes, I imagine that the provisions of the Reverter of Sites Act 1987 likewise apply.

It is very clear that the funds were specifically and only given for the creation of a hospital on the site.

This is not an uncommon situation. One of the main London hospitals was prevented from relocating by such a provision and the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading was prevented from moving by the fact that its site would have reverted to the Palmer family had it done so.

I have long retired from legal practice but am sure there must be some eager beaver in the local legal world who would be prepared to take up the cudgels to trace and claw the monies back for the benefit of the local inhabitants.

The War Memorial Place site must be worth several millions by now! — Yours faithfully,

Derek I Hammond

St Andrew’s Road, Henley

Tragedy I’ll never forget

Sir, — I was sorry to read of the passing away of Mary Burge (Standard, February 22).

Mary was such a lively and respected person and she will be sadly missed.

Her obituary recounted the crash of a United States Air Force Flying Fortress Bomber at Shiplake/Wargrave in November 1943.

I was a 10-year-old schoolboy at the time and also witnessed the crash.

On that fateful morning I was with my father Dick Hobbs at his Shiplake boathouse at the end of Basmore Avenue.

It was a foggy morning and an explosion in the sky was followed by a ball of fire, which disappeared behind the trees on the Wargrave side of the river.

My father and one or two other witnesses and myself jumped on a punt and paddled across the river.

We found the wreckage but it was obvious nothing could be done.

A few days later the nose and cockpit of the aircraftwere recovered from the river by Bolney Islands and the pilot was still in this section of the plane.

We were told later that one crew member survived and he had landed by parachute at Wargrave Manor and suffered a broken ankle. One man only from the dozen or so crew members carried by these aircraft.

We also found out the Flying Fortress had originally collided with another of its squadron in the fog as they flew to Germany for a daylights raid and the other aircraft survived.

The bombs that were jettisoned before the explosion in the sky landed in the meadows opposite Henley Sailing Club.

Some exploded but some did not and had to be cleared at a later date.

Mary had met with relatives of the crew visiting the site of the crash and I am sure you have other readers who have witnessed these visits.

It was a morning I shall never forget despite being 76 years ago.

It was a morning of sacrifice by young men who gave their lives for freedom. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Hobbs


Simply down to gender

Sir, — With reference to the “Sir” debate, as the male editor of the Henley Standard, you are fully entitled to this courtesy address.

When the Henley Standard has a female editor then I will be quite happy to use whatever courtesy address she chooses to use.

Please do not change your format just to please the petty ramblings of one individual, namely Miss/Ms/Mrs/
Madam Liz Hatch. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs Barbara Gealy


The either or option

To whom it may concern,

Is anything now allowable by way of a salutation? I can’t help recalling an article in the Manchester Guardian by Michael Frayn about 60 years ago in which he began a letter “Dear Sir or Madman”. — Yours faithfully,

J F Bailey

St Andrew’s Road, Henley

Misuse of my evidence

On Wednesday last week, in an article reporting that the Henley Standard had dropped the traditional “Sir” from its letters page, it was reported in the Times that I had conducted a study in 2010 “which said that writing ‘Sir’ before Madam at the beginning of communications was sexist”.

The studies in question were multiple (six studies, not one), and concerned the ordering of romantic partner’s names, not the phrase “Sir or Madam”.

The studies jointly showed an influence of personal closeness and gender stereotypes on name order.

Your readers may be surprised to know that neither the words “madam” nor “sir” appear at any point in the research article reporting those studies from 2011.

As you must also know, research studies, properly speaking, do not “speak”. Rather, people speak and write about them.

The Times’ article likely created the impression that I believe that I have scientific evidence that the phrase “Sir or Madam” is sexist.

Perhaps the newspaper could clarify what it thinks I mean by this claim as I am not certain that I have the scientific evidence in hand to back up the belief that it attached to me. — Yours faithfully,

Professor Peter Hegarty

University of Surrey

Inflated self- importance

Sir, — I fully support your decision to allow your correspondents to continue using “Sir” along with any other acceptable form of address on your letters page.

No one has the right to impose their views on how a person should frame addressing other people in writing.

While it is always a pleasure to read alternative views, a hectoring letter enforcing political correctness simply demonstrates inflated self-importance. — Yours faithfully,

Steve Ludlow

Station Road, Henley

The right response

Sir, — Congratulations on being big enough to respond to readers’ cries. Many (lesser) editors wouldn’t, especially with all that street cred garnered from Today, the Times, the i, etc.

However, please do give your happy band of letter-writers plenty of notice if at any stage you decide to trans... — Yours faithfully,

Dick Fletcher


Enough of ‘Sir’ debate

Sir, — Well, well, well, Ms Hatch has certainly started something.

The good lady has certainly succeeded in making her name known throughout the land.

It is reassuring to think that at a time of economic woes and Brexit problems, to say nothing of the usual parking, housing development and other local matters, the Standard has room for 11 letters on the “Sir” debate.

There is clearly national interest in the topic as it has resulted in a story in the Times and a column by Christopher Howse in the Telegraph.

Please, Mr Editor, spare your loyal readers further letters on this topic or I will have to take the drastic step of, in the words of another esteemed publication, cancelling my subscription. — Yours faithfully,

William A Fitzhugh


Interesting, surprising...

Sir, — I was recently back in Henley and picked up a copy of the Henley Standard.

Two items caught my attention. Please do uphold standards by using the more formal greeting of “Sir” for your letters page and who knew that bull semen could be turned into art (the Country Matters page)? — Yours faithfully,

The Hon Ines Wilson

Haslemere, Surrey

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