Defence review has cost Britain dear

From: Malcolm Bisby, Kildale, Whitby.

One of the consequences resulting from the hurried, careless and short-sighted Strategic Defence Review is that our military options in the case of Libya are now very limited and much more expensive to undertake for each aircraft involved in the situation.

This is because of the incredibly stupid decision to prematurely retire HMS Ark Royal, a perfectly seaworthy aircraft carrier with years of service left, along with its complement of Harrier aircraft.

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This action was taken despite acknowledging that a replacement carrier, complete with a new generation of vertical and short take-off capability jet aircraft, would not be in service until 2021.

Thus, where previously HMS Ark Royal, along with its Harrier jets, could have been deployed just off the Libyan coast to provide the UK’s share of the air cover in response to the UN Security Council’s decision, we now have the crazy situation where UK Tornado GR4 ground attack jets have to fly from UK bases and back each time we mount our share of air sorties – a return flight of 3,000 miles.

The cost is enormous; HMS Ark Royal and its Harriers could have done this task more efficiently, conveniently and at a much lower cost. Worse still, this situation of a more limited option has the potential to put our servicemen at much greater risk in any future conflict situation.

The gutless behaviour exhibited by our service chiefs, on each of these occasions, in not resisting such cuts by offering their immediate mass resignations (which almost certainly would have frightened the politicians into a change of heart) is staggering.

Our politicians and government bodies such as the MoD never seem to learn the lessons of history and ultimately it is our service personnel who reap the consequences, often in the shape of death or injury.

Sticking to the original script

From: David F Chambers, Sladeburn Drive, Northallerton.

I CAN well sympathise with Dr Stephen Tuck (Yorkshire Post, March 24) as my son suffered badly from asthma in his early years.

However, to walk out of a theatre the size of Harrogate’s prior to the performance of Noel Coward’s Private Lives on learning it included the smoking of the occasional languid cigarette, makes me just wonder whether Dr Tuck’s action was, in fact, a gesture rather than a medical necessity. If the latter, please forgive me.

Presumably actors are allowed (required?) to smoke on stage if the script calls for it and I’m afraid I have no problem with this.

Patrons surely come to enjoy a convincing portrayal of the social ambience, manners and customs of the period. And for those who recoil at the very sight of a wisp of tobacco smoke, I suppose outdoor staging or an alternative tobacco-free version might be considered. These days it wouldn’t surprise me.

Gravy train is off again

From: David McKenna, Hall Gardens, Rawcliffe, Goole.

Yes, it has happened again. Working on the age-old principle that if one keeps quiet long enough the hassle will go away, our Members of Parliament have come up trumps.

After the sink plunger, duck house, Sky subscription, house cleaning, multiple property fracas of the previous Parliamentary rogues, our new bunch of entrepreneurs has managed to evoke sufficient sympathy from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority that they have started the gravy train running again.

Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of IPSA, said that the new system had come in some £30m under budget and had “put an end to the expenses scandal that shocked us so much in 2009.”

Presumably he then thought that the surplus should be dished out to those already earning in excess of £64,000. Well done, Sir Ian. As the general public experience the declining value of the “pound in your pocket” it might be worthwhile having a look at the new allowances and see how they match up to the norms in society.

More MPs will benefit from the second homes allowance of up to £19,000 per annum.

MPs with children up to the age of 16 (or 18 if they are in full-time education) will be able to claim an extra £2,425 per child for accommodation and also for up to 30 journeys by spouses or partners accompanying the child which they make between London and their constituency.

MPs’ staffing budget will increase from a maximum of £109,548 to £115,000.

MPs will be able to use “payment cards” with a £4,000 monthly limit to pay for stationery, hotels and constituency office costs – they are already used to cover travel, utility bills and council tax.

I wonder how many of us could have claimed such favourable expenses in, or getting to, our workplace?

Trading up and out

From: Douglas Hartley, Irving Terrace, Clayton, Bradford.

Don Burslam asks: “Can 27 countries all be wrong?” (Yorkshire Post, March 18). Ian Milne, economist and director of Global Britain points out that the United Nations membership is 192. Of these members, 86 per cent have chosen to function as sovereign states, whether liberal democracies such as the US, Japan, India and Brazil, or autocracies such as China and Russia.

The remaining 27 countries – fewer than one in seven – are progressively ceding sovereignty to the European Union.

The UK is a founder member of the World Trade Organisation based in Geneva; but it surrendered its seat and its vote to the EU in 1973.

On withdrawal from the EU, the UK would be free to strike up trade agreements with fast-growing countries and export markets across the world.