Sir: Jeremy Clarke’s interpretation of J.S. Mill (‘Can working men’s clubs survive the smoking ban?’, 18 August) is, I fear, pretty ropey. His first point, that a non-smoker forced to breath in tobacco fumes is in effect under attack and legislation may be needed to defend him, is easily disposed of.
Run of the Mill
Sir: Jeremy Clarke’s interpretation of J.S. Mill (‘Can working men’s clubs survive the smoking ban?’, 18 August) is, I fear, pretty ropey. His first point, that a non-smoker forced to breath in tobacco fumes is in effect under attack and legislation may be needed to defend him, is easily disposed of.Many proposed to the government that if any host could simply convert his premises to a private club, no offence could be given or taken provided large notices warned that smoking on site would take place. Mill would have perforce agreed at once that no assault on non-smokers could be possible since all entry would be voluntary. The government knew this but New Labour, despite its propaganda, is in fact socialism rebadged as political correctness and thus not interested in freedom but only uniform obedience to the majority’s whim — Mill’s bête noire. The second point is as easily rebuffed. Mill declared that ‘freedom cannot require [that person] to be free to be un-free’; and Clarke adds that addiction is a form of servitude. But note that word ‘required’. Free choice, even of an addictive habit, could not have offended Mill’s dicta. As for Britain’s present situation, which is a greater threat to liberty: the smokers in their private clubs (banned by the government) or the roaming packs of young drunks (doubled by the government)? Perhaps Mr Clarke should consult the relatives of those regularly beaten to death by feral inebriates.
Frederick ForsythHertford, Herts
Foot in mouth
Sir: The foot-and-mouth outbreak in Surrey may or may not have been Shambo’s revenge, but it certainly had nothing whatever to do with ‘farmers purchasing illegal meat supplies from the Continent for cattle feed’ as Rod Liddle bizarrely suggested (Liddle Britain, 11 August). Farmers do not use meat, imported or otherwise, as cattle feed. A complete ban on feeding mammalian protein to ruminants was introduced as long ago as 1990.The only compensation paid to farmers in foot-and-mouth outbreaks is for the animals that the government takes and slaughters. So farms that didn’t get the disease in 2001, but which were effectively closed down for months on end by the FMD restrictions, were in precisely the same position as rural tourism businesses: massive loss; no compensation. Finally, the National Audit Office calculated that the net cost of the 2001 outbreak to the taxpayer was around £3 billion (not Rod’s £8 billion). The uncompensated costs to farmers were around £2 billion and to tourism around £5 billion. Everybody loses from foot-and-mouth disease.
Anthony GibsonDirector of Communications, NFU
Sir: Irwin Stelzer’s view of the impact of the EU Reform treaty on UK foreign policy (‘Now we know: Brown is a European, not an Atlanticist’, 11 August) is long on hypothesis but short on reality.Britain will keep its own foreign policy. The Reform treaty is very clear that the EU’s common foreign and security policy (CFSP — established in 1992 by the Maastricht Treaty) will remain an intergovernmental process, distinct from other policy areas and based on decision-making by unanimity. So the UK keeps its veto on foreign policy matters. We will work with and through EU where all 27 member states are in agreement. But, as is the case now under current treaties, where there isn’t agreement, we will pursue our own independent foreign policy. Nor will Britain’s vote on the Security Council be ‘directed by the EU representative’. We will keep our seat. We will vote according to our priorities and interests. The EU cannot and will not take our seat at the UN. It cannot be a member of the UN Security Council. The UN’s Charter does not allow it. Full stop. I look forward to a full debate of the new EU Treaty in the House of Commons, and hope that the debate will be based on the content of the Treaty rather than these sorts of fictions being repeated as though they were facts.
Jim Murphy MPMinister for Europe, London SW1
Sir: Pace Lord Jay (Letters, 18 August), Ialways thought that ‘having it both ways’ was what we diplomats were supposed to be good at. He promises that the new EU Treaty will ‘ensure’ ‘a more coherent EU foreign policy’, while at the same time ‘no proud nation will give up its independent foreign policy’. If this formulation means anything, it must imply that member states remain free to go their own way, if they choose. Why then do we need yet another EU Treaty to cover foreign policy?
Sir John Weston (former Nato and UN ambassador)Richmond, Surrey
Batting for Wodehouse
Sir: Robert Stewart remarks in the course of his review of Baseball Haiku (Books, 18 August) that there ‘is no major cricket novel’. But what about Mike by P.G. Wodehouse? Perhaps it wasn’t a major novel, but it’s the best boys’ school story I ever read and even now, in my late seventies, I find myself looking for it whenever I wander into a second-hand bookstore. And Wodehouse was a pretty good writer of the English language.
Alan MagidDurban, South Africa
Sir: Joan Collins (Diary, 18 August) makes an interesting point about the abnormal height (and hair growth) of ‘Russian’ women aged about 20. I wonder if they are Russian? I met a similar long-haired slender giantess (complete with five-inch stilletos) in Brussels a few years ago and I asked her where she came from. ‘Ukraine’ was the answer. And what happened in Ukraine about 20 years ago? Chernobyl. I understand strawberries nearby grew as big as footballs.