Sir: Andrew Watts says that for ‘lawyers in politics, the elimination of risk becomes the highest aim of government. It is not, and should not be’ (Legal challenge, 25 November). Well, up to a point. The last two British prime ministers who were lawyers were Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, both barristers. Mrs Thatcher’s despatch of the task force to the south Atlantic in 1982 was fraught with risk, as were other defining steps of her time in office. Blair’s premiership will largely be remembered for the invasion of Iraq, a move that could not be described as one from which all risk had been eliminated.
Mr Watts also says that lawyers know only ‘one big thing’ (namely ‘the law’) and suggests that they should be replaced as legislators by journalists. But, as he acknowledges, lawyers know much more than simply ‘law’: divorce lawyers see countless divorces; personal injury lawyers know a lot about how accidents happen; and commercial lawyers spend their lives learning about one business after another.
Lawyers see a great deal of the world and engage with their clients’ affairs at a far more serious and responsible level than that of a journalist churning out copy. This, and their experience of the courts, makes them better suited than most people to be framers of legislation.
Sir: Martin Vander Weyer talks about the scarcity of bricks, but the real problem is British ‘brick-built vs timber-frame’ snobbery (Any Other Business, 25 November). Bricks are expensive and require skilled artisans, whereas timber-framed houses need skills little higher that those required for an Ikea flat pack. There is a Dutch company that claims it can build a three-bed house for $50,000, and when Chile was recently stricken by an earthquake, a Quebecois charity sent skilled timber-framers to help build energy- efficient houses out of wood.
So here is the solution: allow timber-frame builds on green- and brown-belt land, employing Canadian builders to train British tradesmen to put up Dutch designed houses made from Swedish pine (recognising that, in the fullness of time as the population wanes, they can be easily torn down and the land returned to its pristine state). If we are going to do Brexit, what better example of an open economy?
Bishop Bell delay
Sir: Charles Moore is right to suggest that the Church of England is ‘circling the wagons’ in response to the Carlile review into the case of Bishop Bell (The Spectator’s Notes, 25 November). As a member of a General Synod, I have been trying to penetrate the culture of omertà at Lambeth Palace on such issues. I have asked how many pages are in the review and how many people need to see it because they have a right to respond to criticism. I also sought an assurance that nobody criticised in the review will have a directing hand in any revision process.
No answers have been offered, on the basis that the National Safeguarding Team is ‘too busy’. ‘Too busy’ even to have sent the report to Chichester diocese a month after it was delivered. Given that folk there might be anxious about what might be said about them, that seems particularly unkind.
Unfortunately, many victims of the Church tell me that prioritising the institution’s needs over those of individuals is just normal practice.
Sir: In his piece about the timing of the publication of the Bishop George Bell review, Charles Moore writes that ‘the Archbishop of Canterbury courageously decided to review the decision to which he had been party’. The review was in fact to see what lessons can be learnt for the handling of future serious safeguarding situations, and was commissioned by the Church of England’s National Safeguarding Team on the recommendation of the Bishop of Chichester. We received Lord Carlile’s draft in October and are now responding with feedback, as in all independent reports. No one is delaying it.
Bishop of Bath and Wells
Sir: Rod Liddle’s piece ‘Divorce is a disaster, November 25) is half-right. He rightly emphasises the appalling and lifelong effects of family breakdown on children, largely based on research by us at Marriage Foundation. Where he goes wrong is in believing that the current faux-fault-based divorce acts in any way as a deterrent or that the proposed reforms would make it easier to secure one.
The present law is a dishonest charade. Parties who want a quick divorce can get one in two to three months, as research by the Nuffield Foundation has shown.
Those of us who support the reforms proposed in a letter to the Times (including so-called no-fault divorce) want a system which above all else promotes a resurgence in the attractiveness of marriage as the norm for parents, especially in sectors of society which have largely turned their back on it. Only a system that requires couples to make a serious commitment before entering a potentially lifelong parental partnership and to slow down and take stock before they separate will begin to confront these problems.
Sir Paul Coleridge
Marriage Foundation, Cambridge
Notting to fear
Sir: As a fashion-conscious resident of Notting Hill I read Tanya Gold’s review of Farmacy with horror (Food, November 25). A ‘pit near the Westway with … people who are angry that they cannot afford to live in Mayfair’. Moi? Then I saw the postcode: W2 5SH. It’s not Westbourne Park Road; it’s Westbourne Grove. Which is Bayswater. So that’s all right then.