SIR – The BBC licence fee is to be reintroduced for over-75s and we seriously wonder about value for money.
We don’t enjoy Scandi noir, or quiz games, have seen enough competitive dancing, skating and cookery, and regret the loss of experts on nature programmes in favour of campaigners and on history programmes in favour of yoof. We prefer Lord Reith’s recipe for both informing viewers and offering them the best – whether in science, drama or the arts.
The BBC’s determination to cater for the tastes of those who don’t watch it is infuriating.
Iwerne Minster, Dorset
SIR – Perhaps, rather than bringing back the licence fee for over-75s, the BBC should look at how many of its broadcasters are paid more than £100,000 and consider whether this is money well spent.
Little Neston, Cheshire
SIR – At the age of 92 I am due to lose my free television licence.
I believe it will cost me some £3 per week. That is a price that I am happy to pay to avoid the mindless advertising that is inflicted on us on the other channels. Long live the BBC.
Farnham Common, Buckinghamshire
SIR – BBC radio services are widely considered the finest in the world. I would be prepared to resume payment of my licence fee for these alone.
SIR – Maybe the BBC could compromise and allow those currently over 75 to keep their free licences. It seems wrong to take away something that has already been given.
SIR – It is unfair to heap all the acrimony over the licence fee on the BBC. What has happened was that one government introduced a range of freebies for pensioners without considering whether they were sustainable.
A later government revoked or reduced some of these and offloaded the consequences on to others without making alternative provision. The concessionary fares scheme is another example.
SIR – The BBC appears less keen to refund licences that have been paid for but are no longer required.
Having recently moved with 10 months still on my licence to somewhere that already has its own licence, I applied for a refund. While I have settled all accounts with the council and utilities, including cases where they owed me a refund, the BBC remains silent. Maybe I am meant to feel honoured that I continue to pay Gary Lineker’s exorbitant salary.
Shaking up Whitehall
SIR – As one of the comparatively few who made the transition from a civil service job to a party political one, perhaps I might comment on the negative reaction to changes at the top in Whitehall.
An independent, unbiased civil service has its merits, of course, but it has always been a frustration for politicians going into ministerial jobs to find a determination not to change the policy or administration status quo. Weak ministers are sucked in to this and fail to deliver changes despite their manifesto pledges. Meanwhile, strong and determined ministers expend energy fighting the internal system.
It is surely, therefore, understandable that, in order to drive the agenda, the Prime Minister and Cabinet need at least a sprinkling of people in appointments who can push through the work to deliver the political promises. This is especially true now, when we have a civil service that sees its commitment to the EU being undermined by a Government that wishes to bring about the policy and practical change necessary to deliver Brexit.
Director of Communications, Conservative Party (1995)
Turning the tide
SIR – George Herrick (Letters, July 5) claims that tidal power will never be economically viable.
The same was said of wind and solar energy 20 years ago, but they now produce around 25 percent of our electricity at a cost below that of nuclear and most fossil fuels.
SIR – Stephen Cottrell, the new Archbishop of York, suggests that Britain has lost its connection to Christianity (report, July 5).
It appears to me that, with its alarming tendency to capitulate to the spirit of the times and to embrace rejectionist and revisionist approaches to Biblical orthodoxy, it is the Church that has lost contact with Christianity.
SIR – I was once a cyclist and am now a grumpy old man.
Why do cyclists wear dark clothing that doesn’t show up in dim light? Driving last weekend, I passed several wearing clothes that were the same colour as the road.
Luckily the sun was shining.
Dr Tony Saunders
Step on it
SIR – My father had very high arches and never tied his shoe laces (Letters, July 5).
This didn’t cause a problem until he was filming a documentary with the Royal Navy and left a Portsmouth hotel to follow the admiral’s car to the docks. He had, unknowingly, trapped his right-foot lace in the car door, giving him enough leeway to pull off but not enough to reach the brake, and subsequently rear-ended the Rolls-Royce at the hotel gates.
The admiral was surprised but charming about the incident, although he did request a little more caution on his ship. Father still never did his shoe laces up.
SIR – Why do the British have such an aversion to wearing face masks?
Photos from Europe, as well as the Asian countries that have been most successful in reducing Covid-19 infections, all show people in masks.
Their purpose is to reduce the risk of passing on infections. All NHS staff wear them: other people’s wellbeing matters to them. In Japan, people wear them when they have a cold.
Nobody likes wearing a mask, but we need to be heedful of others, even if – as the photos of excessive drinking (with little social distancing) in pubs show – we are not worried about getting Covid-19 ourselves.
Bosham, West Sussex
SIR – I cannot allow David Green to perpetuate the myth that GPs advanced their own interests under the 2004 contract.
Working nights and weekends on top of working a full week was never a sustainable option, given that even then there was a shortage of doctors. It is hard to concentrate during the day after being called out of bed two or three times a night, with the volume of out-of-hours contacts ever increasing.
The “pay rise” was devised by Alan Milburn, fuelled by his belief that doctors played golf all the time. His new contract stated that doctors would be paid for work undertaken, the consequential increase in income demonstrating how much the profession had performed for no pay.
This was accompanied by targets that were prioritised over care, supplemented by cost-cutting on a large scale, as the NHS was controlled by highly paid and largely useless quangocrats enforcing government policy (which, in turn, had been informed by the expensive ramblings of the Big Four accounting firms).
Mr Green should not attack medical professionals when the levers of change reside elsewhere. He is, however, correct the that NHS is not the envy of the world – nor will it be as long as it remains a political football.
Dr Dermot Ryan FRCGP
SIR – Sophia Money-Coutts (Sunday, July 5) asks how to cheat the bathroom scales. Easy. Rest your hand on the towel rail while weighing yourself. Good for a couple of pounds.
Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire
Precious marine life trapped in plastic nets
SIR – Your report highlights that puffins and other seabirds could be wiped out as a result of getting caught in fishing hooks and nets left in the sea.
The investigation launched by the RSPB has come not a moment too soon. One should not forget that cetaceans, from the largest sperm whales to the tiny harbour porpoise, can also become entangled and die slow deaths.
One sure way to reduce the death toll among seabirds like kittiwakes and puffins, as well as cetaceans, would be to start making fishing nets and lines out of natural fibres, as they were the past.
We need to do away with plastic, which poses a threat for generations, the amount in the sea growing by the day.
Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire
The failed precursor to the new universities
SIR – As one who, in happier academic days, taught law in leading English and Australian universities, I endorse Simon Heffer’s attack on ill-considered expansionary higher education policies.
Dr Heffer aims his bitterest barbs at the 1992 decision of John Major’s government to transform polytechnics into newly minted universities. Instead of their former focus on practical training, they would henceforth ape the university’s academic broad brush. This was a lamentable decision that has led, all too often, to students paying high fees for degrees of questionable value.
I am ashamed to admit that the 1992 “revolution” may have been inspired by my own nation, Australia, which, in 1987, made instant universities of its technology colleges – with similar results. Indeed the then Labor government minister, John Dawkins, later repented the policy.
Auchenflower, Queensland, Australia
SIR – Simon Heffer argues correctly for the return of vocational education, and laments the loss of the polytechnics, as do I. As an alumnus thereof I can vouch that a poly education in the late Seventies and early Eighties was not second class. A large part of our business studies course came from Harvard Business School and other institutions at the bleeding edge of management education.
Most “education” involves writing essays about whatever one is studying, rather than doing it. The opposite is true of apprenticeships and in-job training. In our case, we spent a year gaining industrial experience, which made all the difference.
Academia does not suit all characters or intellects. It was said to me that the highest accolade for a university student was to be invited to stay on as a postgrad. The highest accolade for a polytechnic student was to go out and change the world.
Andrew J Lewis