River Wissey Lovell Fuller


February 2007

Ron has views on numerous pressing topics.

Prostitution and Drugs

At the time of writing the sensational news of the murder of the five young women in Ipswich is temporarily in the past, one man has been charged and I just hope they have got the right man. It was a terrible crime; five individual near identical murders in such a short space of time; it was possibly a crime unequalled in recent history and, as such, it attracted a lot of attention from the news media. The frustration for the newscasters, however, was that, after the initial revelations, there was nothing to report for best part of a fortnight. The frustration for us viewers was that, as a result, we were subjected to constant repetition of the details of the case, along with repeat after repeat of the photographs of the poor unfortunate girls and, worst of all, interviewers asking inane questions of the people in Ipswich and making stupid statements such as "The people of Ipswich are determined to make this an extra special Christmas" Stewart White BBC TV. I thought it a little unkind also for the media to keep referring to the fact that the victims were prostitutes, even though this was the factor that linked all five. Despite this, however, it did seem that the public at large were no less sympathetic and grieving at this dreadful end to the lives of these five young women.

The case did focus attention on the problems associated with prostitution. Many people are supportive of the legalisation of brothels; early in 2006 the government had considered legalising small brothels with just two or three women. Certainly such a move could provide an opportunity to reduce the risks for the women, making their lives safer from violent attack and it would also enable regular health checks thereby reducing the risk of transmitted infections. Combined with increased enforcement of the law on soliciting, legalised brothels would help to eliminate the sight of girls plying their trade in the streets. Recently the police in Cambridge raided three houses that were run as brothels, arrested the proprietors and closed them down. Everyone concerned, including the police, seemed to think that those houses were well run, that the girls were free to choose when and whether to work, that the places were hygienic and that there were regular health checks. Neighbours were unaware of the business. If brothels had been allowed by law those brothels could have been regularised to the extent that those involved would have paid taxes. Closing those places down will only result in more girls going back on the streets. That police action has been a public disservice.

The government reaction to the current debate, however, judging by comments from Harriet Harman, has been to suggest that a law should be introduced to make it illegal for men to use prostitutes with the hope that this would offer a means to suppress the trade. An attempt to use this approach in Sweden has not proved to be very successful and has been shown to increase the danger to sex workers. On the other hand the use of 'safe houses' and tolerance zones in other countries have proved successful in reducing the violent attacks on prostitutes and reducing the public nuisance of street walkers. Despite this evidence and despite the recommendations from researchers in the field and the views expressed in the Criminal Law Review the government has rejected the concept of safe houses or tolerance zones. Government strategy has been described as intolerant and naive.

Prostitution is, of course, a trade that is as old as the hills and it is foolish to imagine that it can be eliminated. Furthermore there is no good reason why, if adults are willing freely to sell sex and others are prepared to buy, that it should be disallowed, it is just another form of consensual sex. Making it illegal for men to use prostitutes would be another form of prohibition which experience has shown has not worked in other fields. It would simply open the door for criminals and gangsters to take control. What attempts to use the law to target clients would do is to drive prostitution out of sight where the opportunity for the unscrupulous to exploit women would be even greater. We are already plagued by the shameful and appalling exploitation of women as sex slaves. Home office estimates are that there are thousands of women in this country forcibly used in this way and this type of exploitation could only increase if the law drove the trade underground. Another statistic that has emerged during the recent debate on prostitution is the number of prostitutes that are girls who were in the care of social services during their childhood. These children are clearly not being adequately looked after and cared for. It appears that they are, in effect, evicted from care homes at the age of sixteen and left to fend for themselves, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation. It is another national disgrace, that taking a child 'into care' can result in that child finishing up in this situation.

It is, of course, almost as appalling as enforced slavery that young women should be enslaved by their addiction to drugs, as appeared to be the case with the five victims. If these drugs were made available legally through the medical profession it would enable many addicts to return to a more normal position in society and would increase the chances that they might be cured of their addiction. Drug addiction is responsible for a major proportion of the crime in this country as addicts are forced to crime as a means of supporting their habit. Criminal gangs make fortunes from other peoples misery by supplying drugs at inflated prices and it is a trade that, because of prohibition, fosters crime and violence throughout the world. The so called 'war on drugs' has made little or no progress. At one time in this country there was legal control of drugs for addicts through the medical profession but it is alleged that the official attitude towards this situation changed as a result of pressure from the US. It could justifiably be argued that the deaths of those five girls were a consequence of government action. If drugs were to become available under controlled conditions the chances of another tragedy such as that in Ipswich would be much less. It is even possible that if drugs were made available on prescription through the medical profession much of the glamour and attraction of drugs might disappear and it is probable that the market would collapse. It is time we recognised that drug addiction is a form of illness and stopped punishing the sufferers.

If drugs and brothels were legalised in a controlled and regulated way the criminals would be left out in the cold and the flow of huge sums of money to criminal organisations would be cut dramatically. Large sums of money would flow into the exchequer and the prison population would drop significantly with resultant savings. Unfortunately government policy appears to be dictated by the desire of politicians to return to Victorian morals and family values. Sadly, however, the idea that the Victorians had a high standard of morals is a myth. Prostitution was rife in those times as was the exploitation and abuse of the poor. The British government was exploiting the countries of the empire and was actively supporting the supply of opium to China and elsewhere, even to the extent of going to war to protect that trade. Victorian families were male dominated, wives were legally regarded as the property of their husbands, domestic violence was accepted as a fact of life and unmarried women were often the mistress of somebody else's husband on whom they depended for their financial support. Marriages were more or less permanent because the wives had no way out and the men, on the other hand, could behave as they wished, albeit discreetly. Let us not go back to Victorian double standards, there is more than enough hypocrisy around today.


Each year I am appalled by the scale of the bonuses awarded to City workers and the scale of pay awards to company executives. Once again this year has broken all records with millions going to bonuses and a similar amount being paid to company directors. Leader of the pack was the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, just his total remuneration alone for the year was no less than £29million. It is true, of course, that the 'City' does generate a great deal towards the national GDP, roughly 17% it is claimed, this is obtained by charging fees for the handling of financial transactions and for managing investments. They do handle very large amounts, last year it was said that they handled £3.5trillion. Just charging 1% in fees would generate £35billion and it is claimed that bringing this large sum into the economy justifies those enormous bonuses. Whilst it can be argued that the fees charged are justified, there does seem to be something a little unethical in, what is in effect, creaming off this money from wealth that somewhere was generated by the hard work of others and distributing so much of it to those fortunate enough to be working in that field.

Directors and executives of large companies in other businesses are also receiving very high financial rewards. Their salaries have increased at a far greater rate than the profits of their companies. We are told that these salaries are justified because of the difficulty in recruiting and holding people of suitable ability but there is very little evidence to support this. There can be little doubt that there are other equally able people waiting in the wings. It is also claimed that the rewards have to be high to compensate for the risks but, in reality, the CEO of a company is far less likely to lose his job than one of his workers and often has a contract that ensures a large severance pay. Only one chief executive from the FTSE 100 companies lost his job last year and he received a £5million lump sum.

Executive salaries tend to be fixed by non-executive directors of other companies but these people are themselves often executives of other companies. A nice cosy little club. Executive salaries have doubled since 2000 whilst employees incomes have increased by less than 5% p.a. The truth is that rewards for executives are completely unrelated to the success or otherwise of their enterprises. Their rewards are not determined by market forces as is claimed, it is more like a cartel.

We are, so we are told, the fifth richest nation in the world measured by GDP. I suppose that it is true but it does seem that a large proportion of those riches are going to a small proportion of the population. Under this government the gap between the rich and the poor in our society has increased considerably and we have the spectacle of people receiving millions/year on the one hand whilst, at the same time, we have two million children classified as living in poverty. A situation reminiscent of that which exists in some developing countries. Whilst there must be some truth in the arguments about the trickle down effect distributing prosperity, it is clear that it is not a very effective method. The government is reluctant to increase the taxes on these very high incomes for fear of killing the goose that lays the golden egg. The net result is that, despite being a very rich nation, the treasury cannot afford to provide adequate public services in the form of health, education and police. Neither, it seems can it afford to properly equip our armed forces. In order to try and meet the financial demands of these services the government is taxing heavily the ordinary folk. Currently they are looking at revising the method of calculating council tax, with the possibility of returning to individual valuations of property. There has been talk of charging 1% of that value, as may soon be the situation in Northern Ireland.

Those who are well off in society may argue that the complaints about very high rewards are the politics of envy. That is unjust and sounds a little contemptuous. Surely it is unacceptable when a sector of the community is receiving rich rewards that are evidently disproportionate and unjustified. It is bound to generate some anger. If it is not practical to increase taxation of the very rich then perhaps some alternative means of producing a fairer society can be found. Maybe there should be a 'High Incomes Commission' which would consider whether or not these high rewards are justified. As things are it is not much consolation to the large numbers of poor in our country to be told that we are the fifth richest nation in the world.

The Disappearing 't's

There is no doubt that spoken English has become more slovenly in this country in recent times. Vowels are pronounced more broadly and uglier and consonants are less clearly defined, by far the best example of this is the 't':

It is not easy to write a word such as butter in a way that illustrates the way in which it is often spoken but I am sure you will understand my point. It is almost as though the 't's are removed completely so that it sounds more like bu-er. Many more people, it seems, are speaking in a manner that is closer to that of the cockney Londoners of yore. Dropping the 't' occurs most noticeably and at its ugliest when the 't' is followed by a vowel sound, for example, if somebody should say 'lot of' without sounding the 't'. It is not new of course, my mother would jokingly correct us as children by saying "Don't say bu-er, say butter, it sounds be-er." Although it is not new what is new is the extent to which it arises with well educated people and the frequency with which you can hear it on the radio and TV, even on the BBC, something that would never have occurred twenty years ago. What finally made me realise that this lazier form of speech is becoming more acceptable was when I heard none other than Zara Philips say 'lo-of' rather than 'lot of'. I find it sad, it seems to be most noticeable in England and in Australia and less so with educated Scots, Welsh, Irish and Americans. Despite the harsh accent of some Americans, on the whole they seem to pronounce English better than many English people.

Ron Watts

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