Letters: Unintended consequences of banning hands-free phones from the road

Ambulance crews
Ambulance crews are among those who could be affected by a ban on using a hands-free phone while driving Credit: Peter Byrne /PA

SIR – Will the emergency services be included in the proposed ban on using hands-free telephones when driving (report, August 13)?

Police, fire and ambulance crews as well as other essential services would be severely affected by such a ban. Once again, our representatives show limited understanding of how things work.

Dave Lathan
Carterton, Oxfordshire


SIR – I am a consultant anaesthetist and work for the NHS. When I and any other colleagues of mine are on call, we are physically present or constantly available for advice on the phone. That includes the time on the road while driving to and from the hospital. Sometimes we might have to turn back to respond to an emergency.

If we were unable to pick up the phone and talk while driving home, 
I dread to think of the consequences.

Dr Dipankar Bose
Consultant Anaesthetist, Warwick Hospital


SIR – It has long been obvious to me that making hands-free telephone calls while driving is a dangerous distraction.

Those who say that it is no different from talking to a passenger are wrong. When someone is present in the car with you and you suddenly stop the conversation because you encounter difficult traffic conditions, your companion understands why. I know people who take work calls dealing with complicated technical issues while driving. They cannot possibly be giving adequate attention to traffic while taking these calls.

Lynette Johnson
Udny, Aberdeenshire


SIR – I now have a cast-iron excuse when driving not to take calls from my wife giving me “lists”.

Can we ban all talking in cars?

Tim Pope
Weybridge, Surrey


SIR – A greater danger is surely posed to road users by the multi-function screen found in most new cars, which requires eyes to be taken off the road to change the various settings.

At one time most operations could be carried out by touch, without the need to look down.

Ray Winstanley
Sheffield, South Yorkshire


SIR – MPs should also take into account the use of hand-held microphones by coach drivers.

I often see drivers holding a microphone while navigating through Shanklin Old Village, trying to steer with one hand, and sometimes changing gear while holding the steering wheel with their knees.

Andrew Hartwell
Shanklin, Isle of Wight


SIR – Perhaps sat nav, radios and talking and singing in cars ought to be banned, too. However, in the soporific silence of electric cars, how would drivers then stay awake?

Richard A E Grove
Isle of Whithorn, Wigtownshire


Directors’ duty of care

Whose responsibility should it be to make the online world safer for children? Credit: Yui Mok /PA

SIR – The Government’s plans to make online services safer for children through the introduction of a new regulator (report, August 12) will be ineffective without a robust mechanism to hold companies to account and change the culture.

As we have seen, 10 years of self-regulation by the industry has done nothing to prevent the growth of harm to children through online abuse, sexual grooming and sharing of child sexual abuse imagery.

As experienced senior managers in the financial services sector we have seen the benefit of placing personal responsibility on directors. Alongside a regulator with strong powers of disclosure and imposition of corporate penalties, the Senior Managers’ Regime has reduced harm to consumers and encouraged senior staff to take responsibility for their companies’ products and services.

This is exactly the change we need to see in the social media sector, where children’s safety is often an afterthought, and directors may appear to have little or no understanding of the impact of their services on vulnerable users.

We urge the Government to introduce a robust Senior Managers’ Regime for social network operators to make sure that the directors of these companies finally face up to their duty of care towards their young users.

Mark Wood
Chairman, NSPCC and Digitalis Media and PensionBee
Jonathan Bloomer
Chairman, Morgan Stanley
Andy Briggs
Former CEO, UK insurance, Aviva
Romi Savova
CEO, PensionBee
Richard Ward
Executive Chairman, Ardonagh Specialty
John Worth
Chief Financial Officer, Hastings Direct


Cromwell or Catiline?

SIR – Will Boris Johnson be a Cromwell and dissolve Parliament? Will he say: “Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!”?

Or will he be a Catiline, champion of the people, traitor to his class, brought down by Cicero and the establishment, his accomplices condemned without trial?

What exciting times we live in.

Barry M Carrick-White
Looe, Cornwall


SIR – We have had about a dozen referendums in this country – mostly local or regional – but only three truly national ones. The first was in 1975 on the issue of staying in the Common Market – approved by a large margin. The second: did we wish to swap our voting system from first past the post to the alternative vote? Declined by a large margin. In each case the disappointed minority accepted the decision with regret but without demur. Until now.

This time the clearly defeated minority has mounted a ruthless campaign to reverse what was in effect a general election. As this directly affronts and would negate the terms of Her Majesty’s Coronation Oath, does it not flirt with treason?

If so, should not the leaders of this campaign sustain rescindment of their titles, which were all conferred by the Queen? This should apply to Privy Counsellors in particular, as all swore a personal oath of loyalty to the lady. It is constitutionally feasible and – to quote another Johnson – would surely concentrate the minds wonderfully.

Frederick Forsyth
Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire


Life on the moors

The grouse shooting season began on August 12 Credit: RUSSELL CHEYNE /REUTERS 

SIR – Red grouse thrive throughout the year on windswept heather moorland, joined in summer by wading birds able to nest successfully if under the watchful eye of grouse keepers.

Ignorance (“London Labourites know nothing about grouse”, Comment, August 13) must never be allowed to upset this delicate balance.

Bruce Giddy
Harleston, Norfolk


SIR – As a Scottish beekeeper, I wonder if there is no one in the Labour Party (which opposes grouse moors) who likes heather honey?

Ian Fraser
Carronshore, Stirlingshire

Beefing it up

SIR – You report (August 13) that beef is off the menu at Goldsmiths university to help fight climate change. On Monday the BBC described the enthusiasm in Romania for the reintroduction of herds of bison into its countryside.

Can we now expect violent protests on both sides of the argument?

Peter Hills
Shipton-under-Wychwood, Oxfordshire


SIR – Goldsmiths’ website says its students come from “114 different countries”. Will their numbers be culled if they refuse to travel to London by sustainable, carbon-neutral, overland routes?

J A Campbell
Dublin, Ireland


Looking back to Odin for ethical inspiration

Odin with his two ravens, Huginn and Muninn, in an 18th-century Icelandic painting Credit: 

SIR – I take issue with your report (August 10) on the Odinist religion.

For a start, it is not a “Norse religion”. Odinism is simply the name given to the pre-Christian polytheism shared by all Germanic-speaking peoples, including the Anglo-Saxons.

You say that “Odinism was revived by the Nazi party”. In the Twenties and Thirties there was a vigorous movement in Germany and Austria, headed by respected academics like Professor Otto Sigfrid Reuter and Professor Ludwig Fahrenkrog. When the Nazis came to power, Odinist organisations were closed down, their meetings were prohibited and their property was confiscated. Two leading Odinists, Siegfried Kummer and Friedrich Marby, were incarcerated in concentration camps for their faith.

Hitler, who made concordats with the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches, said: “Nothing could be more foolish than to re-establish the religion of Wotan.” Himmler was interested in the occult – but occultism is not Odinism.

You also report that the racist mass-murderers Anders Breivik and Brenton Tarrant were Odinists. There is no evidence that either was a member of, or in any way linked to, Odinist organisations. While Tarrant made a throwaway remark about being prepared “to go to Valhalla”, this is hardly proof that he worshipped the old gods. As for Breivik, he claimed to be a member of a secret society of “Knights Templar”. Whether or not this is true, the Knights Templar were a medieval, military order of Roman Catholic monks, dedicated to protecting Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land, and not Odinists.

To equate the pre-Christian religion of northern Europe with the politics of Thirties Germany is to conflate different periods of history. Embracing the former does not mean subscribing to the latter. At a time when some of Britain’s great cathedrals are being turned into funfairs, it is perfectly reasonable to examine the beliefs of a religion with an older pedigree, and to look to those monuments of medieval literature, the Eddas, for spiritual and ethical inspiration.

Ralph Harrison
Director, Odinist Fellowship
Newark, Nottinghamshire


Sur le pong

SIR – My Anglo-French great-uncle liked Pont-l’Évêque, a traditional French cheese strikingly similar to Stinking Bishop. He would call it “Pong-l’Évêque” because of its aroma, or translate that Franglais name to “Stinking Bishop” (Letters, August 13).

That was before 1972, coincidentally the year that Pont-l’Évêque gained its AOC classification and Stinking Bishop came into existence. So I have always believed that the name “Stinking Bishop” is an homage to a fromage.

Guy Lachlan
Caxton, Cambridgeshire


SIR – I am reminded of Bishop’s Tipple ale. This was created in 1973 to celebrate the appointment of George Reindorp as Bishop of Salisbury. He described it as “a temptress with its pale golden hue and soft after-palate”. His opinion of the cheese is unrecorded.

Peter Saunders
Salisbury, Wiltshire