River Wissey Lovell Fuller


February 2010

Ron looks at a renge of issues which have crossed his mind over the past few months

Technology is the Future

That was the headline that I saw to a newspaper article, unfortunately I never had the chance to read it but I did think it was saying nothing new. Technology has always been the future, from the day someone invented the wheel.

Technology is the reason that we have the standard of living that we have today. Windmills, water wheels, steam engines, electricity, internal combustion engines, radio, jet engines, computers. Throughout the last few centuries Britain has been in the lead or up with the leaders in science and technology. The primary reason for the position Britain had in the world was the lead in technology that we had in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Technology formed the base on which our industry was built. To some extent our prowess was despite rather than because of the efforts of the people in power. The aristocracy always felt that industry was rather beneath them, this attitude has persisted within our anachronistic class structure. The upper classes do not encourage their sons and daughters to study engineering and technology, pure science or mathematics might be acceptable, but law, English literature, politics, philosophy, history are much more likely to be preferred. Nevertheless we did do well, Britain is credited with more inventions than any other nation, but very often we were not the nation to exploit those inventions, especially in more recent times. Our city investors always look for quick profits (to our cost as we now know), long term investments rarely appealed. In the middle of the last century we produced the world's first computer, the world's first workable jet engine and we built the world's first nuclear power station. We also had the second largest motor industry in the world. Sadly, since then it has all been down hill. There were many derisory comments, about our industry, a popular phrase was to talk about 'propping up lame ducks'. (The Americans propped up their lame ducks with government contracts.) The final blow came from Margaret Thatcher who decided that our future was not in technology and manufacture but in financial services. In my view it was a disastrous decision that subsequent Labour governments have done little or nothing to reverse and we now have a very unbalanced economy.

Now it is doubtful if the situation can be recovered, the financial services sector has saddled us with an appalling debt and our technology is lagging rather than leading. Science and engineering courses in the universities are no longer popular. We no longer design and build our own nuclear power stations, we are not designing and manufacturing the windmills that we are spending billions on (Why not?), it is long since that we built our own computers, our once large aircraft industry is no longer building its own civil aircraft, those great names from radio and TV manufacture like Pye, Ferguson et al are all gone. The story gets worse when we look at the motor industry, all those great names have gone, we no longer design and build British cars, except for racing cars. We no longer provide the technology for mass manufacture, we are just providing the labour force to make Japanese and American designs. It used to be a popular view in some quarters to blame a truculent workforce for the failure of our manufacturing industries, but it is strange that the Japanese have managed to have good relationships with their workforce in this country. Peter Mandelson says that he wants Britain to be in the lead in introducing electric cars but, once again, he is not suggesting that we should design electric cars, he is merely hoping that the Americans and the Japanese will let us build them. That is not leading.

It is a very sad tale, I hold Margaret Thatcher responsible, aided and abetted by all our other incompetent politicians along with an apathetic public. I can't see how we reverse the situation, but unless we do we are condemned to becoming a second (or even third) class nation.

Capital Punishment

When I was young murders were rare events. Murderers were famous (or infamous) for a while everybody knew their names, some people still remember them. These days it seems there is a murder nearly every week. Is this because capital punishment was abolished? Perhaps it is because the sentences given for murder are not a sufficient deterrent, many murderers seem to be free within seven years, sometimes to go on and murder again.

I joined the campaign for the abolition of capital punishment in as much as I signed petitions and wrote letters, I regarded capital punishment as barbaric and, even worse, I feared that there were times when an innocent person had been executed. I was pleased when it was eventually abolished, unfortunately not in time to save Ruth Ellis. Now, whilst I think it was the right decision, I must admit that I am concerned that it might have resulted in many more murders. Certainly, if capital punishment were to be reinstated, I would continue to be concerned that an innocent person might be executed. I would rather favour much more severe prison sentences. There have been instances in recent times when it has seemed to me that there should be much more opportunity for flexibility in sentencing, some murders border on justifiable homicide whilst others are heinous crimes deserving of the absolute maximum penalty even, dare I say, the death penalty. One such example in recent times when I would have been prepared to countenance the death penalty was that of a young man who, following a row with his girl friend, took some petrol, threw it over her and set it alight burning her to death. It was a wicked evil premeditated act where there was no doubt as to who was guilty. In the event he was sentenced to 21 years, severe by today's standards perhaps, but nowhere near adequate.

It is most unlikely that we would ever see capital punishment reinstated, it is not permitted by European rules, but it does seem as though we do need much stronger deterrents if we are going to reduce the readiness of people to resort to extreme violence.


Pharmacists these days are highly qualified, I understand that they have to follow a four year course to Masters. Like doctors they dispense medicines and advice, and, like doctors, they have a responsibility to provide the best medical advice and pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, as the law stands at the moment they can be excused from providing treatment or advice if that is against their moral conscience and/or religious beliefs. It is allowable, therefore, for a pharmacist to refuse to sell condoms, contraceptive pills and, more seriously, perhaps, the morning after pill, more serious because they have to be taken within a short space of time after conception to be effective. It is hardly appropriate for a woman to be publicly denied these pharmaceuticals and such action is against the duty of the pharmacist to provide the best medical advice, it is not their position to give moral lectures or to impose their beliefs.

This situation has now been recognized and the Council for Healthcare and Regulatory Excellence, a quango that oversees the health professions, is asking whether the practice of allowing conscience as reason for refusal should be allowed to continue. Let us hope that the result of their considerations will lead to a situation where the only acceptable reason for refusing a legitimate request from the public is a medical one.

Snow Clearing

Once upon a time I believe it was common practice for councils to engage farmers with their tractors to help with snow clearing tasks. I heard it reported on the radio that this was no longer possible because the farmer's use red diesel! How ridiculous. If it is true surely an exception to the rule could be agreed at times when there are heavy snow falls.

Ron Watts

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