Western Mail letters: Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Workload pay rise? Set a good example

“Demoralised” Whitehall staff are pushed to the limits by cuts and responsibility for leaving Europe, says the First Division Association, the union for senior civil servants.

Senior civil servants have called for a pay rise to deal with “unsustainable” Brexit workloads. The FDA, which represents senior civil servants and diplomats, said their pay does not “remotely compare with the wider marketplace”.

Iain Duncan Smith said: “Senior civil servants should be embarrassed that their union is asking for a pay rise at a time when the entire public sector is subject to necessary pay restraint. These officials are simply being asked to do their job. They should be relishing the challenge – and the best ones will be.”

Mr Smith is one of the first MPs to accept his MP’s pay rise.

Andrew Nutt

Heolddu Rd, Bargoed

A fraction of Wales not quite the measure

Quarter-pounder Wales ahoy!

We often hear about things being the height of a double-decker bus, but when I first heard news of that massive iceberg poised to break away from the Antarctic ice shelf, and described as one-quarter the size of Wales, my imagination felt ever so slightly grounded.

So I searched online for the actual size of Wales – and established that a quarter is some 5,100sq km. Then I searched for a country that size – and came up with a gloriously precise result.

Given that a chunk of that XXL iceberg will undoubtedly seek its own independence and attempt to break away – it’s in the nature of these things and that smaller chunk will probably be christened The Sturgeon – would it not be perfect to describe this giant iceberg as the size of Trinidad and Tobago?

Huw Beynon,

Llandeilo

Tilikum’s legacy freedom for orcas

Tilikum, the world’s most famous killer whale, is dead.

After more than 24 years of enslavement at SeaWorld, he found the only way out of that miserable tank and is finally at peace.

From the day he was torn away from his ocean home as a baby, his life, which once involved exploring expansive open waters, was reduced to swimming in endless circles in a tiny concrete tank filled with chemically treated water – 0.0001% of the quantity of water that he would have traversed in a single day in his natural habitat.

He was deprived of hope and driven insane by his depleted life, which consisted of performing meaningless tricks in exchange for dead fish. Tilikum may be gone, but there’s still time for Katina, Kasatka, Ulises, and Corky – and all the other orcas at SeaWorld– to be transferred to seaside sanctuaries which can provide them with some semblance of the life that they’ve been robbed of for so long.

If we are to honour Tilikum’s memory, we must ensure that his death is the last one to occur within SeaWorld’s walls. That can be his legacy.

Jennifer White

All Saints St, London

Let’s keep freedom the envy of the world

I feel incensed about Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, rushed into law after the Leveson Inquiry, which states any newspaper that refuses to join a regulator approved under the government’s Royal Charter for the press, and is sued for libel, will be forced to pay the other side’s legal costs even if the newspaper wins.

Who composed this part of the Crime and Courts Act? If this passes into law, small, and maybe larger publications could go to the wall.

Not only that this ruling could open the door to compensation chasers, (even for minor issues) knowing that they will not have to pay anything themselves.

Journalists in foreign countries look with envy on a place where politicians cannot dictate the public agenda, where censors do not hold sway and where reporters are free to investigate wrongdoing without fear.

Let’s keep it that way.

Norman Plaisted

Vivian Road, Newport City

Truth not allowed in Brexit one-state party

No wonder the Welsh Government is sceptical about a right-wing think-tank claim that there is little to fear from “hard” Brexit when every utterance from Mrs May about leaving the single market causes the pound to fall, with consequent price rises in the shops and at the petrol pumps due to the deterioration in our terms of trade.

A cornerstone of our unwritten constitution is an independent civil service, whose job it is to give ministers impartial advice in the best interests of the country, but when our most experienced EU diplomat advises the government that it will take time, and expertise, to secure a trade agreement with the EU he is forced out by Tory Brexiteers who jumped on the Brexit bandwagon in order to achieve high office that is way beyond their ability.

They convinced Leave voters to blame EU immigration for the sorry state of our NHS, for overcrowded schools, for lack of affordable housing, and for wage stagnation. In their successful power grab they deliberately deflected public attention from the fact that the real blame rests with Osborne’s economic policy of austerity devolved to local councils, leaving them unable to pay for social care, to relieve pressure on understaffed hospitals, or housing for families.

If we leave the EU without a trade agreement in place, under World Trade Organisation rules, we will have to pay the same tariffs as any other country outside the EU. The Prime Minister cannot count on a favourable transatlantic trade deal to compensate for lost tax revenues with a multi-billionaire President who does not pay tax in his own country. The EU rejected TTIP because it would make it easier for big businesses to avoid paying tax in Europe, making it more difficult for smaller businesses to stay afloat.

Mrs May is powerless to act in what she knows is the national interest because she owes her premiership to Brexit. The result is that even one of her most experienced civil servants is not permitted to speak truth to power in her Brexit one-party state.

Margaret Phelps

Penarth, Vales of Glamorgan

Fairer society? Look at the ASW scandal

This month Tata Steel will put its latest proposals to its workforce with regard to retaining its steelmaking operation at Port Talbot.

Let’s all hope that the workforce does not have to pay a heavy price for Tata’s commitment and that these proposals are not detrimental to the workers’ jobs or pensions.

All too often these days companies are being allowed to renege on their pension obligations.

One should remember workers’ pensions are deferred wages, it is money that they worked for.

Both Labour and Conservative governments have done very little over the years to halt the demise of our steelmaking industry, as was the case with Allied Steel and Wire (ASW) which went into administration in 2002 with the loss of over a thousand jobs. The workers also lost the bulk of their pensions. Thankfully the ASW workers had an honest politician on their side, Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price.

Theresa May talks about a fairer society for all. Well, Theresa May, how about addressing the ASW pension injustice?

Phil Jones,

1 Primrose Close, Rumney, Cardiff.

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