Letters to the editor

See previous letters to the editor. If you would like to contact Yorkshire Bylines, email editor@yorkshirebylines.co.uk

Even Australians are concerned about Australian meat

20 June

Dear editor,

One key part of the government’s proposed trade deal with Australia is meat imports. British farmers dislike the deal. They are convinced that we must keep our present food standards to protect both the British public and animal welfare. Unfortunately many Australian meat producers use hormones to boost the size of their animals.

The Australian Science website “New Medical Life Sciences” revealed that hormones banned decades earlier in Europe, after being linked to health risks including breast cancer, kidney disease and birth defects, are still being used in Australia to fatten beef. This was revealed by an Australian federal farm chemical survey.

Only 10 percent of Australian meat producers provide hormone-free beef and are accredited to supply meat to the EU. One of the largest supermarkets in Australia decided to no longer to sell such Australian hormone meat. On the Cole’s supermarket website they state proudly:

“At Coles, our farmers believe that good quality beef doesn’t need added hormones and that’s why all our Cole’s Brand fresh beef is 100% Aussie with no added hormones.”

If even Australian retailers and consumers have serious doubts about Australian meat, why is the government concluding  a trade deal which gives Britain so few benefits and threatens our food standards? Our wellbeing and health is at stake with this reckless trade deal.

Yours faithfully,

Andrew Milroy

Backlash to the Labour amendments to the finance bill

3 June 2021

Dear editor,

Recently I attended a meeting, organised by the Thirsk and Malton Constituency Labour Party, with our MP Kevin Hollinrake. I was pleased to hear Mr Hollinrake raise the need for a fairer tax system to rebuild our economy after the pandemic.

So, I was disappointed, but not surprised, that on 24 May Mr Hollinrake voted against an important Labour Party amendment to the finance bill for a global minimum corporation tax; something proposed by President Biden and supported by all G7 countries except the UK. The bill would have ensured that global corporations like Amazon paid the tax that they owe in the country that they operate.

If the bill had been passed taxes on profits made in the UK would have directly benefitted people in the UK including Mr Hollinrake’s constituents. It could have been used to give the NHS a proper pay rise; it could have been used to build infrastructure; it could have been used to strengthen our education system and give young people the best start in life; it could have been used to provide support to the elderly and to the most vulnerable in our society.

Because Mr Hollinrake and others voted against the amendment none of this will happen. Kevin Hollinrake also said that “the government has no money only, only tax payers’ money”, and that “all this spending will have to be paid back”. So does he expect the people of this country to be taxed more instead of large corporations?

Yours faithfully,

Professor Graham Scott


Corruption kills

26 May 2021

Dear editor,

“It is not the salary … that makes a man rich, but the opportunities of getting money whilst he is in place”, was the view in government three hundred years ago. Regrettably this attitude seems to have returned.

In the seventeenth and eighteenth century it was corruption by naval suppliers providing rotten timbers for ships, adulterating food supplies and defective gunpowder which caused sickness and loss of life at sea. Such corruption was eventually rooted out, and systems put in place to ensure the government got good value for money when spending tax payers money.

It was a long and difficult lesson to learn – that corruption kills!

Unfortunately this present government has repeatedly ignored the fact that rules are put in place for very good reasons. Giving million pound contracts for PPE to cronies with no experience of medical equipment procurement, and indeed prioritising those with no knowledge or experience over British companies who specialise in this area, resulted in hundreds of NHS staff dying unnecessarily in the pandemic.

No wonder Dominic Cummings wrote of needing to remove vaccination from the “smoking ruin” of the Ministry of Health. Entrusted to GPs, the vaccination roll out has gone smoothly. But the dithering and mixed messages still goes on with failure to secure our borders against incoming passengers from red list countries. Was the slow action on India for political reasons?

If we do not learn from history, then we are likely to repeat the mistakes.

Yours faithfully,

Andy Milroy

There is a growing wish to destroy the mediaeval state of England

4 May 2021

Dear editor,

May 6th will be a paradoxical day for UKIP marking it as the most and least successful political organisation in Britain. It has transformed politics achieved withdrawal from the EU and turned Labour and the Tories into satellites. Yet the real effect of Farage’s politics has been to damage the UK and trigger a process of disintegration.

The effect in Scotland is undeniable and Brexit has tightened the hold of the SNP. The effect of the slogan Take Back Control impacts even in Scotland, with the council in the Shetland Islands voting last year to have an independence referendum to break away from Holyrood. Brexit remains the major influence in weakening existing ties however.

Northern Ireland also voted Remain and polls show expectation of the province uniting with EU member Eire increasing. But the most stunning effect is on England. The Hartlepool by election sees candidates for secessionist movements, though unlikely to win big votes.

This highlights a growing fashion to wish to destroy the mediaeval state of England. While a foolish desire to boost English nationalism is abroad, there is also a growing movement to revive Anglo Saxon states like Mercia – covering the Midlands – and Celtic formations like Cornwall and Wales. Starmer’s proposal for a federal state is flawed, but devolution is inevitable. However, the dangers of a wider disintegration are real.

Two factors are likely to be the legacy of Farage’s work. Firstly, there is a desire to destroy existing, working structures evolved over decades. This is also seen in the plot for a European Super League. There is a clear belief that there are no downsides to destroying working structures whether the EU or the UK. Secondly, there is no will to defend the UK, probably as a function of the disastrous failure to defend the EU.

The EU cannot be regained in the near future. But why is there no defence of the UK?

Yours faithfully,

Trevor Fisher


£3k for MP’s rent in London, but no local housing allowance for those most in need

4 May 2021

Dear editor,

It was recently reported that my MP, Mr Kevin Hollinrake, claimed £2,925 per month between April and November last year to rent a property in London. This was to enable him to undertake his parliamentary business.

As Mr Hollinrake himself has pointed out, he accepted a substantial reduction in his earnings to become an MP and represent his constituents. He is perfectly entitled to claim expenses and perhaps rents of close to £3,000 per month are the norm in the parts of London MPs choose to stay in, albeit IPSA put rental caps at under £24K per annum.

At the same time however, Mr Hollinrake’s government has seen fit to freeze the local housing allowance upon which many of the poorest in our society depend. From April tenants in privately rented accommodation, including those on universal credit, will have their allowance frozen even though their rents have increased.

In effect the government has quietly imposed a real-terms cut and in some parts of the country tenants will lose more than £1,000 a year. Citizens Advice are already concerned that half a million private tenants will lose their homes when the current ban on evictions comes to an end in May. This new cut to crucial support will only make matters worse.

For government to do this at any time is disappointing; to do it in the midst of a pandemic when so many are suffering additional financial hardship it seems unnecessarily cruel.

Yours faithfully,

R Henley


Police, fire and crime commissioner: tackling violence against women and girls

29 April 2021

Dear editor,

I have been disappointed to see that, in the upcoming elections on 6 May, there is only one woman candidate standing in North Yorkshire. We have now had two women prime ministers and currently have 219 women MPs, so, I had hoped to see more representation in our local candidates.

I have been following Alison Hume’s campaign for Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner with interest. Alison has made several pledges, addressing issues critical for North Yorkshire, including drug dealing and wildlife crime. She is also the only candidate who has pledged to tackle violence against women and girls.

In North Yorkshire, the charge rate for domestic abuse-related crime last year was just 4 percent, compared to 9 percent across the whole of England and Wales. This disparity is shocking, and needs to be fixed. Following the events of the past few months, I know many women are on high alert and are feeling unsafe on the streets, particularly at night. We need a Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner who not only takes these issues of harassment and violence seriously, but who also has a clear action plan to tackle these issues head on.

Yours faithfully,

Rosalyn Cousins 


Pandemic and climate change: the far-right rejection of scientific evidence

20 April 2021

Dear editor,

With the welcome easing of the Covid-19 crisis, rebuilding is now the priority. Alas the most dangerous development is gaining little attention. The growth of conspiracy theories claiming there is no pandemic, it is a scamdemic and vaccines are designed to control and kill, have gone unchecked.

The campaign of an extremist blend of anarchist libertarians and the far right has not stopped the vaccination process, but is not deterred. On 17 April, the BBC reported the government attempt to restart public events were being targeted for intimidation. This was spearheaded by claims that attempts to collect information were part of an attempt to set up “medical apartheid”. At least one of the nine events being used to collect the information was cancelled when the event pulled out because of the bullying.

This is not an isolated phenomenon. It has links with climate change denial and extreme religions. In the US, evangelical religions are less likely to have the vaccine than any other religious groups – and strongly back Donald Trump, who has not gone away. On Covid-19 and climate change there is a clear  denial of reality, rejecting scientific evidence. This has to be combated or any effective response to what is happening cannot succeed.

Yours faithfully,

Trevor Fisher

Fracking and the police, crime and sentencing bill 2021

8 April 2021

Dear editor,

I am shocked that Mr Hollinrake voted for changes in the law which would have made this peaceful protest against fracking in Ryedale impossible.

People from all walks of life turned out in thousands in Malton in 2015 to demonstrate  their opposition to fracking. The effectiveness of this demonstration laid the foundation for the sustained campaign of opposition to fracking in Ryedale which hampered the development of fracking at the Kirby Misperton site and ultimately led to the withdrawal of the developer.

No fracking is now taking place in Ryedale and although the licences still exist Ryedale is safe from fracking for the time being. Demonstrations like this took part around the country and it is primarily because of them that there is currently no fracking anywhere in the UK. 

2015 Demonstration against fracking in Malton. Shutterstock copyright image from internet. https://netpol.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/shutterstock_479867980-940×752.jpg

Under Priti Patel’s proposed new law, to go on a demonstration like this would risk a £2,500 fine and/or up to ten years in prison because in being effective it was also both noisy and inconvenient.  This threat would have deterred most people and fracking would probably now be ongoing.

The police, crime and sentencing bill is a rag bag of measures. It includes welcome increased protection to emergency service workers and to some at risk groups although it fails to address the issue of violence against women and girls. However, bundling erosion of freedom to protest with uncontroversial protections of individuals is devious and dishonest.

Will Mr Hollinrake change his mind and vote to protect the freedom of his constituents to protest effectively against future threats such as fracking when the bill comes back to the House of Commons?

Yours faithfully,

Mick Johnston

Ebberston, Ryedale

Hotchpotch of local government reorganisation

5 April 2021

Dear editor,

The coronavirus crisis has been and continues to be traumatic for individuals, families, communities and countries across the world. It is hard to think of little else when coronavirus so dominates our lives. Yet the government has chosen this time to force far-reaching changes in vital local services for which there is no popular demand.

Thirsk & Malton Labour Party are opposed to the piecemeal, haphazard reorganisation of local government. The pattern of local government across England is now a complete mess. Unitary councils range in size from Rutland with 38,000 people, to Birmingham with over a million. Cambridgeshire with a population around 650,000 has an elected mayor, a combined authority, a county council, a unitary council and five district councils. Northamptonshire, with about 100,000 more people, is to be governed by just two unitary councils. The various combined authorities have varying powers and responsibilities. Citizens should not have to use search engines and exhaustive research to find out who is responsible for what.

What is the government’s view on this nation-wide hotchpotch? No one knows – it promised to publish its views in a white paper that has been delayed time and time again. 

Funding has a major impact quality and performance of local government. For every £1 of national financial support for local services in 2015, there was just 23 pence in 2020.  

We are not opposed to change – a system designed half a century ago and tinkered with by successive governments needs to be reviewed. But review and reform should be comprehensive, properly considered, involve citizens, and command public support. 

Yours faithfully,

J. Wells


Derek Draper – time for solidarity

19 March 2021

Readers will be saddened by the news that Derek Draper, a founder of New Labour, is desperately ill with Covid-19. The TV documentary on his experience of long covid scheduled for 23 March should be essential viewing. A very clear message should go to the family – you have our full support.

Draper has a long history of political involvement, and was an important element of the New Labour Right. In 1996 he formed Progress with Liam Byrne, but then left politics and retrained as a psychotherapist. He married TV presenter Kate Greenaway in 2005 and they have two children. In March last year, he was rushed to hospital with a severe bout of Covid-19 and placed in a medically induced coma.

Draper has suffered kidney failure, liver and pancreatic damage, and on more than one occasion his heart

stopped. He has lost eight stone in weight and is believed to be Britain’s longest surviving covid patient in intensive care.

In March 2020 his lungs were solid with infection and his infection rates were the highest doctors had seen in someone who has survived. He has made progress since then, but when he came out of the coma he was unable to speak more than the occasional word. He is still seriously ill and his wife cannot see him due to restrictions.

The only issue now is that he makes as full a recovery as possible and that his family and his medical team know he is supported. In the longer term, long covid sufferer must not be allowed to slide out of public view.

Finding Derek, narrated by Kate Greenaway, will be broadcast by ITV on Tuesday 23 March at 9pm.

Yours faithfully,

Trevor Fisher

Can you help us reach more readers?