Hardship inflicted by the Thatcher years

I was surprised that there was not a flood of letters replying to Tim Brown's letter (Voice of the North, June 18).

I was surprised that there was not a flood of letters replying to Tim Brown's letter (Voice of the North, June 18). He was objecting to the Leader in this paper which referred to "close on two decades of Tory-inflicted misery."

He made one or two legitimate points, but I think it is he and people like him who "need reminding" of the deep social damage that Thatcher wrought.

During her first government, between 1979 and 1983, Mrs Thatcher cut the benefits of the unemployed, pensioners, strikers, pregnant women, the victims of industrial accidents and the disabled - the first real cuts in social security benefits since the 1930s.

Housing subsidies were cut so councils were forced to raise rents in council housing. Between 1979 and 1995, council house rents went up by 100%, but benefits for those struggling to pay their rents were cut four times in 1995 and "exceptional hardship" payments were cut. Meanwhile, the Government had stopped the construction of all council housing.

Rate support grant to local authorities was cut so there was less money for books and teachers in schools, as well as for libraries, buses, repairs to houses, special schools and outdoor centres.

Northumberland Council's income fell every year from 1992 to 1998 so our schools had suffered an 11% cut in budget.

During, the 1980s 50,000 teachers nationally were removed from the payroll so that out of the 25 most developed countries in the world only four (Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Ireland) had larger classes in schools than Britain. Meanwhile, teachers' salaries fell from 137% of the average non-manual salary in 1974 to 99% in 1992.

In 1993 the executive director of the UN Children's Fund warned that Britain's children were the poorest in Europe.

Mrs Thatcher's cuts in the welfare state amounted to about £12bn. Some of that money was used to fund huge increases in military spending and some to pay off public debts. But most of it was used to fund tax cuts.

The richest people in the country, about 550,000 of them gained each an average of £33,000 a year in tax cuts.

Cutting taxes has been a key Conservative aim. It will be interesting to see when the smooth Mr Cameron starts to declare what his actual policies are, whether it still is and what the effects might be, but perhaps that would not be spelt out in detail.

COUN TOM FLAWS, Labour, Hexham Central with Acomb Division, Northumberland County Council, County Hall, Morpeth, Northumberland NE61 2EF

Phone masts are safe - and are in demand

YOUR report headlined "Plea for freeze on mast plans" (The Journal, June 25) suggests a ban on new mobile phone masts because of concerns about alleged health effects connected to them.

In fact, your readers can be reassured by the consistent findings from no less than 30 independent scientific reviews worldwide in the past six years that have not found adverse health effects caused by mobile phone masts operating within the international health and safety guidelines used in the United Kingdom.

The World Health Organisation published a fact sheet in May 2006 on mobile phone masts with the conclusion that "considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects".

The latest in this series of expert reports was published in March by the Irish government. Its conclusions were: "From all the evidence accumulated so far, no adverse short or long term health effects have been shown to occur from exposure to the signals produced by mobile phones and base station transmitters."

While there is such a reassuring picture about mobile technology, it would be inappropriate to restrict mobile phone mast development.

There are over 65 million mobile phone users in the UK and without a network of masts where people want to use their phones, they simply will not work.

MICHAEL DOLAN, Executive Director, Mobile Operators Association, Russell Square House, 10-12 Russell Square, London WC18 5EE

Time to end the perks

NOW that Mr Blair is no longer Prime Minister or an MP, can we now dispense with the horrendously expensive security cover on his house in Trimdon that has cost the taxpayer a fortune?

His last visit of four hours cost the country an arm and a leg; for the number of hours he has spent there in the last 10 years it must work out at about £1m per hour.

Then we come to the armoured cars and Range Rover, plus of course the Jag that transported Cherie. Will they all go back into the parliamentary car pool?

If Mr Blair is going to be the Middle East envoy for the US, Russia, European Union and United Nations quartet, let them pay for his security and holiday flights. The family have had enough perks out of this country.

ROBIN THOMPSON, Amble, Northumberland

Why the UN has not been given a chance

THE United Nations is 62 years old, but should have been pensioned off years ago. Those present at the birth were naive in the extreme for thinking that, in signing the charter, they would come within light years of saving "succeeding generations from the scourge of war".

Socialists knew that as an agency for bringing peace and prosperity to all, the UN's earlier incarnation, the League of Nations, was doomed to failure because, to quote the Socialist Standard in 1919, it was "a mere phantasm, a spineless, parchment entity which can have no power or influence in the real world: the world of strife for economic interests".

Fifty years ago, we observed that "after each world war the working class has looked to its leaders for a scheme to prevent the next one" and that no politician "could hope to win votes without some solution to offer".

Just over 10 years ago we asked: "Is it irony, or just plain coincidence, that the world's top five arms suppliers (USA, Britain, France, China and Russia) just happen to be the five permanent members of the UN Security Council? Indeed, does this fact not make a mockery of any pretensions they have of providing the world with security?

"Just how secure the world really is can be judged by the fact that there have been over 300 conflicts since the establishment of the UN Security Council after World War Two and that 30 still rage and that more are threatened."

Not until we win the war to end all wars, the class war, will we have the possibility to employ the UN's framework, in a world without nations, to, as the charter puts it, "plan together so that everyone would have a fair (self-defined) share of the good things of life".

STEVE COLBORN, Deneside, Seaham, County Durham

How you can help to Change Lives Now

I AM appealing to your readers to join me in supporting Help the Aged in their new campaign, Change Lives Now, which not only campaigns for better and more targeted aid to older people in developing countries, but also highlights the important and vital role older people have in society.

Globally, an estimated 15 million children have been orphaned by the Aids epidemic, and almost half of those children are entirely dependent on a grandparent for their care. As the grandparents have little or no income, these orphaned children can miss a proper education or receive health care, which is what they need to escape poverty.

Help the Aged are working in 31 developing countries and aims to change the lives of vulnerable older people, their dependents and even whole communities.

Through the new animated website, www.changelivesnow.org.uk, visitors to the site can understand how grandparents in developing countries are helping to ensure a whole generation are cared for, and what they can do to help them now.

By joining the online petition to the United Kingdom Government calling for better and more targeted aid to older people, we can help achieve a valid and lasting change for the 100 million older people who survive on less than one dollar per day.

I am therefore asking your readers to please visit www.changelivesnow.org.uk, and sign the petition today. The click of a mouse has never seemed more powerful.

LIZ SMITH, Help the Aged Supporter, 201-221 Pentonville Road, London N1 9UZ

Help find my family

CAN anyone please help me? I'm trying to locate my real family. I was born in 1978. My name is Sarah Kelly, but my real name is Kelly Hays.

My mother was Margaret Ann Hays. Sadly, she died in 1984 at Tarrington Court in Wallsend, North Tyneside. I'm looking for my mum's sisters: Denise Hays and Darlene Hays, and brothers John Hays, Stephen Hays and Clifford Hays.

My dad, Philip Thomas, named me Mandy Thomas. I have two brothers: Simeon Hays and Duncan Furtland.

SARAH KELLY, Alnwick, Northumberland

Editor's Note: If you can help Sarah, please contact The Journal on 0191 201 6107.

A huge fan in Africa

I'M a boy aged 18 who loves The Journal and the Newcastle United programmes because they are so informative and entertaining, but I can only get it occasionally because of my poor financial circumstances.

I'm looking for penpals who can keep me updated on what will be happening at St James's park and who can also send me their magazines when they have finished reading them.

TAPIWA GUTU, Std 153 Mutyambizi Street, Chikangwe, Karoi, Zimbabwe (email: tendaigutu@yahoo.com)

Queen has to stop the drain of our powers

DOES Gordon Brown need to be reminded that he has been appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain to serve the interests of the citizens of Great Britain and not a supra-national abomination created to destroy our constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy?

I would urge the Queen to withhold Royal Assent to any resultant Act of Parliament that transfers any further powers of sovereignty to the European Union as a result of the draft treaty signed on June 23 by the outgoing Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Mr Brown needs to be held to account, as do all his predecessors (of both political persuasions) of the last 34 years , that they are collectively guilty of treason in that they have given away powers of governance of this realm that are not theirs to give away.

Magna Carta of 1215 and the Bill of Rights of 1689 form the basis of our constitution and define our right to be governed according to out laws and customs, and form an essential part of the coronation oath.

By failing to prevent the transference of further (ongoing since 1972) powers of the British people to govern themselves, the monarch will be breaking her solemn oath and the crown will be aiding and abetting the betrayal of the nation. This is an inescapable conclusion.

DAVE PASCOE, Press Secretary, Hartlepool Branch, UK Independence Party, 64 Dunbar Road, Hartlepool, Teesside


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