Disarming by default
Sir: Underpinning Rod Liddle’s amusing article on use of nuclear weapons last week is the reassurance provided by our deterrent (‘Will Putin go nuclear?’, 7 May). It is not difficult to imagine Putin’s behaviour if Russia alone possessed nuclear weapons.
Our nation has embarked on refreshing the deterrent; and replacement of the four ballistic missile submarines, modifications to missiles and production of a new warhead are at the very limit of our nation’s industrial capability. Despite the US being extremely helpful, the performance of the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) does not inspire confidence.
It is crucial that there is sufficient funding, particularly at AWE, over the next ten years. Without such commitment we will unilaterally disarm by default, and our nation and the world will be less safe.
Admiral Lord West of Spithead
House of Lords, London SW1A
Defra in the detail
Sir: It was interesting to read about Defra’s hostility to Brexit (‘“Whitehall was horrified by Brexit”’, 7 May). To be fair, Defra is getting some things right: it is making an effort to keep farmers informed about new policies, to involve them in making them, and to help farmers’ cashflow. But it is making a real devil out of the detail – and the detail is where the biggest reforms are needed. It hems its grants around with such detailed specifications that some items are simply not fit for purpose, while others require maintenance and future replacement costs. Further, Defra outsources some of its grant-making to quangos without proving those quangos are competent. Farming is a commodity business, so farmers can increase profits only by reducing input costs. Whatever the shortcomings of EU subsidies (and deficiency payments before 1973), those systems created a simple revenue floor against which farmers could reduce their costs. Defra’s plan to use environmental measures to create a new revenue floor is the right thing to do, but only if it steps away from detail that does nothing except increase farmers’ costs.
Sir: Toby Young (‘Police farce’, 7 May) appears to want to abolish the College of Policing because we’ve irritated him and are publicly funded. The College sets standards in policing, oversees training and holds the evidence base on best practice. Assuming we agree that the police shouldn’t set legal standards themselves, the question is whether it would be better for ministers and civil servants to try to run all these things directly than a properly accountable professional body.
A better approach would be to ensure that the College has the right focus on what is so clearly needed in policing – driving up standards, improving leadership and ensuring that officers have the right skills to cut crime and keep people safe – while increasing revenue, especially from overseas markets. These are precisely the priorities which the College, under new leadership, has set.
Chair, College of Policing, Coventry
Northern Irish mess
Sir: Thanks to Denis Staunton for the very balanced view on the NI stalemate (‘North and South’, 7 May). Sinn Fein will continue towards its goals of being in power north and south and getting the referendum it wants. They deserve it all as everyone else on this island has created one unholy mess. The DUP seem to be playing for the other side due to their consistent cock-ups. The partnership government in Dublin have damaged everything they touch: hospitals, health service, housing, the list goes on. As a lifelong Unionist, I voted Alliance this past week and saw a great surge in our vote and outcome. My son voted Sinn Fein because ‘They are the only ones with a message’. Clever repositioning has made their female leaders seem distant from their old IRA links. So let’s be proper democrats now. Let’s form an executive. Let’s have that referendum. Then the logic of being back in the EU can be realised.
David Davis’s speech
Sir: In her profile of Ben Wallace, Melissa Kite’s memory seems to have failed her with regard to David Davis’s leadership campaign (‘Captain Fantastic’, 7 May). He did not, as she asserts, forget to write his party conference speech until ‘the last minute’. In fact the drafting started six weeks before the conference and was more or less completed a fortnight before. The problem wasn’t the speed, it was the content, as he was determined to concentrate on his shadow home affairs brief, rather than cover the gamut of policy as David Cameron did. Melissa also seems to forget that she was Davis’s chief cheerleader in the press at the time and was planning to write his biography.
Former chief of staff to David Davis
Tunbridge Wells, Kent
Sir: In his article ‘West is Best’ (30 April) Douglas Murray misses one significant area where western values have been fractured.
At my state grammar school 40 years ago we sang a hymn, with prayers and a Bible reading, in a Christian assembly every morning, as required by the 1944 Education Act. In most state schools this daily point of shared values and cultural reference points has been lost. Under the guise of cultural diversity and equality, secularism has destroyed something that is underappreciated but of great value.
I now teach in an independent school, where the whole community still gathers three mornings a week for Chapel. This time is invaluable for staff and students to pause and reflect, while values and cultural heritage are passed to a new generation. Sadly this is another area where many independent schools offer an advantage.