Saturday's Letters: Catalogue of official lies shows why free information matters

I CAN well understand Bernard Ingham's tirade against the WikiLeaks business. After all, he worked for a Government that did not win any prizes for its openness (Yorkshire Post, December 15).

The point needs to be made, and was admirably illustrated by campaigning journalist John Pilger, that governments tend to be less than straightforward when it comes to informing their citizens about the reasons for various actions that they propose to take or have already taken.

Has Sir Bernard forgotten the lies told by the war-mongers concerning Iraq and its "weapons of mass destruction"?

Has he forgotten about the Israeli promises to stop building on Palestinian land that was conveniently dropped and the downright lies that were uttered by their spokesperson when the Palestinian relief ship was highjacked?

Has he forgotten Obama's promise to close Guantanamo Bay?

What about the promises broken by our own gang of ne'er-do-wells, ranging from New Labour to the present crop of "Parliamentarians", some of whom are still complaining about the "ferocity" of the new expenses system?

He states that "government through a goldfish bowl isn't an extension of our democracy" and I am sure that those New Labour and Conservative politicians who are either having to pay back money illegally gained in the MP expenses scandal or who are currently facing the courts, would no doubt agree with him.

We can either listen and believe everything that we are told by the conventional, controlled media or we can question what is actually going on.

The Freedom of Information Act brought in by the previous Government, and which Tony Blair in his autobiography described as "three harmless words.... I quake at the imbecility of it...the full enormity of the blunder...we strayed beyond what it was sensible to disclose", has proven to be a bonus; but not for politicians, who have regretted the fact that people and journalists could ask awkward questions and, by law, have to be provided with answers.

I have no problem with WikiLeaks, nor with the Freedom of Information Act. What I do have a problem with are those who purport to lead us who are not willing to tell the truth of what they propose, but hide behind fallacious arguments such as "national security" or "British interests".

Speaking to the Lords in 1770 as the case against John Wilkes who had been banned from Parliament continued, William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham, placed himself firmly on the side of the people and the principles of liberty on which the Constitution had been based since Magna Carta.

"I am not pleading the cause of an individual, but of every freeholder of England.... unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know, my Lords, that where law ends, there tyranny begins," he stated.

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

Questioning the standard of education

Barrie Frost, Watson's Lane, Reighton, Filey.

EACH year record numbers of A-level passes from schools are announced; each year more and more people qualify for university education. So, why have Britain's education standards plummeted rapidly from this claimed high level to now being below that of countries previously regarded as lesser achievers. Both facts cannot be correct, can they?

How can this have happened? Is it because students and the education establishment have, over a long period, conned everyone else into believing they are better than they actually are? They have claimed outstanding qualifications but it seems the quantity of the very many dubious passes is their major objective, with the quality of subjects of lesser value and importance.

At the same time as claiming record achievements, too often industry is exasperated and finds it difficult to recruit capable and suitable graduates, with many degree qualifications being seen as worthless to employers and the choice of course the graduate has made may actually deter any chance of employment as it is regarded as an obscure, irrelevant and even a negative asset.

The belief that a university graduate is a very worthwhile addition to industry will continue to decline and even gain momentum if the self-appointed cream of our youth believe thuggery and Mickey Mouse degrees will reverse this situation and lead to a passport to success.

Doesn't the present state of Britain's position raise alarm bells? Do we accept industrial defeat too easily? Imagine the euphoria if say, Jaguar Cars had bought out BMW; if British Steel supplied the world; if Britain owned European energy companies; if Britain built and exported wind turbines; if Britain's car, motorcycle, ship and rail industries were still world leaders. If we are as brilliant as we claim, why are these just memories?

Let's stop deluding ourselves. The idea that university education of any kind, in any subject, for the masses will restore our greatness is a non-starter.

University education should be for the truly gifted, irrespective of background, with the very worthwhile subjects made more attractive to study.

Why don't we have varying levels of tuition fees, the latter being determined by the course itself? Courses which are seen as very desirable and which benefit the whole of society would be entirely free of tuition fees but other courses would have to be paid for, with correspondingly punitive fees for students choosing the rash of useless courses, for why should the taxpayer be forced to fund such so-called higher education which only benefits a very small minority.

University education in its current form has been downgraded from its previous status and cannot return to its former glory and respect unless we drastically prune out the undesirable elements which have resulted in this downgrading.

From: John Watson, Hutton Hill, Leyburn.

READING this week's letters, it seems that most people are fed up with the antics of our young students. I feel sorry for the law-abiding element who have watched memorials being daubed with graffiti and the Cenotaph being abused.

I have always thought that there are too many of our young folks going to university, some taking degrees in absurd subjects that are not worth the parchment.

Why isn't it possible to make entrance qualifications harder than what they are at the moment? It is ridiculous to see A-level pass rates exceeding 90 per cent. I think every exam or test should have a degree of competitiveness or there is no point.

From: ME Wright, Grove Road, Harrogate.

Seeking to justify the Lib Dems' duplicity over tuition fees (Yorkshire Post, December 14), Paddy Ashdown asks for "a better alternative" claiming that "it's going to be tough on us all".

I don't think so, Paddy, and it certainly won't involve anything worse than forgoing the odd skiing holiday for bankers and their bonus-driven chums in the heady world of finance.

It seems that higher education is to succumb to market forces, becoming the absolute servant of vainglory and, along with flash cars and fur coats, something with which to out-Jones the Joneses.

Before we rush headlong back to the early 20th century, could we be told how much money is lost to the exchequer by way of tax-dodging?

Blood donor reassurance

From: Dr Susan Barnes, Associate Medical Director, NHS Blood and Transplant, Bridle Path, Leeds.

IN response to David Cragg's letter "Aspirin's blood donor headache" (Yorkshire Post, December 15) I would like to clarify that blood donors are able to donate after taking aspirin and preparations containing aspirin, as long as they are well.

The chemical composition of aspirin impairs the ability of platelets, a component of blood that helps to prevent bleeding, to function properly.

Therefore, it's important that we know if you've taken aspirin, so that the platelets from the blood donation are not used.

For these reasons, platelet-only donors must refrain from donating for five days if they have taken any products containing aspirin. We recommend always consulting your GP before stopping or starting any medication.

That's rubbish

From: James Rothschild, Birchwood Mount, Leeds.

STREETS filling with rubbish after no collection for one month – and still no sign of a collection. Thank you, Leeds City Council.

Fight against obesity begins with walk to school

From: Colin Ella, Westgate Road, Belton, Doncaster.

WE keep hearing quite unhealthy statistics about obesity levels in large numbers of our very young children. Sadly, our unstable times mean that the vast majority of our youngsters have to be transported daily to their schools by family car, school bus or whatever.

The matter of so many walking to their schools at one time no doubt in itself was an important factor in keeping figures neat and trim.

I recall schooldays in the 1930s when, from the age of five to 14, I walked to and from my various schools twice a day (there were no school dinners at the infant and primary schools and I did not take them at the Secondary Modern School I attended).

My mother took me down to the village on my first day of school but never again. She was as loving and caring a mother as anyone could wish for but it was then considered pretty soppy for kids to need parental escort to school.

As a five-year-old, I recall walking by snowdrifts reaching above my head, yet the workmen of those times had made roofless tunnels through them. I never missed a single day's schooling apart from when I had the measles. In addition to this, of course, we walked all over the place: shopping, on many and varied errands, visiting relatives and so on. It was quite rare to see a really overweight lad or lass in those days. Then we spent hours and hours at play rambling great distances down local lanes or playing all kinds of games in or around out localities.

Wherever possible today children ought to be encouraged to walk and take exercise where the chance is there. This is what is needed if we want healthier future generations.

Winter lights not a luxury

From: Barbara Harrison, Parkside Avenue, Queensbury, Bradford.

REGARDING the letter from John G Davies (Yorkshire Post, December 15), lighting used for security is, unfortunately, not a luxury but a necessity to deter burglars.

Lighting up gateways and drives and indeed any area within the garden that would otherwise afford darkness to a potential burglar requires as many exterior lights as possible to keep the house safer from break-ins during the dark months, even if this is an additional cost to the householder.

This might look excessive but it is certainly not a selfish use of electricity – how nice it would be not to feel the need for additional security but this is the world we have to live in. Regarding the the other point, I agree leaving equipment on stand-by is unnecessary.

Merge to save

From: Ian R Bolton, Knightsbridge Walk, Bradford.

ALL the public bodies have to save money, but are they going about it the wrong way and looking within themselves and not at the bigger picture.

Does each police force require back office staff? Can these be amalgamated to provide for the whole of Yokshire?

Do we require seperate police forces in Yorkshire? If we had a Yorkshire force, we would only require one Chief Constable.

I would think similar changes could be made to the fire and ambulance services.

Taxpayer cost

From: Phil Hanson, Beechmount Close, Baildon, Shipley.

REGARDLESS of the political motives of Julian Assange and those out to have him, my concern about this Australian is "how much is he costing the British taxpayer?"

In a world of smoke and mirrors, Wikileaks has nothing on Mandelson, Brown and Blair, so why should we be paying for the pleasure of this farce being played out here? He should simply be released and booted out.