Readers lettersEnd This Industry Whinge

Article excerpt

Sir, - Why are British manufacturers complaining about the value of the pound which, incidentally, has fallen by 15 pfennigs recently?

Exporters were lucky enough to get a huge bonus from the devaluation of the pound when it was ignominiously forced out of the European exchange rate mechanism and as a result gained an unfair competitive advantage over companies with more responsible Gov ernments.

Any competent businessman would have known the pound could not stay at below 2.50 Deutschmarks for ever. So why didn't they take the opportunity to make productivity improvements while they were still enjoying good profits.

The answer is because too many British business managers are greedy, short-termists. They don't plan for the long-term and then complain to the Government when the fault lies with their own quick-buck short-sightedness.

Gordon Brown is quite right to refuse to bail them out again. Once, not so long ago, the pound was worth five Deutschmarks. It's now worth only three-fifths of that or less and our industrialists still can't compete.

Now the unions are not a factor in their thinking, they have no excuses. The fault for the failures of British industry lies with industry itself and no-one else. It's time we told the whingers to knuckle down and do their jobs properly instead of always begging to be bailed out the easy way.




Side-stepping the

smoking issue

Sir, - The audacity displayed by Paul Hooper's side-stepping of the issues defies belief (Post, July 27).

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) study on environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) and lung cancer did not achieve statistically significant results, which means that it failed to demonstrate that ETS causes lung cancer in non-smokers.

Unable to refute the fact, Mr Hooper shifts from scientific analysis to "common sense" regarding the "4,000 chemicals and gasses" that constitute tobacco smoke, conveniently forgetting to mention that everything consists of "chemicals" and that everythin g in ETS is already present in the air.

Mr Hooper then claims that a "large number of studies have shown that there is a small risk of lung cancer in non-smokers from passive smoking", when in fact the majority of study results, like those of the WHO's, were not statistically significant.

But it is true that those that did achieve a statistically significant positive result all indicated at most a weak association between ETS and lung cancer, such that the association could not be regarded as meaningful.

To account for those "small" risk results he points to the sample sizes in the studies. And where once he used the WHO's study as proof of the danger of ETS, he now states that the sample size in this study is too small for anyone to be certain.

But, he claims, the method of meta-analysis solves this problem by combining the studies to increase the sample size and thus obtain results in which confidence can be high.

On July 17 this year a "reputable" American body was severely criticised by a federal court judge for the methods used in its meta-analysis assessment of the risk of ETS.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its report in 1993 and, on the basis of an increase in risk of between 19 per cent and 30 per cent, classified ETS as a "Group A Known Human Carcinogen". But the judge ruled that the EPA had wrongly dec lared second-hand tobacco smoke a dangerous carcinogen, had "publicly committed to a conclusion before research had begun" and had "adjusted established procedure and scientific norms to validate the agency's public conclusion".

And in Australia at the beginning of 1997 a federal court judge ruled that the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) had acted improperly in preparing a meta-analysis report on ETS. Prior to these improper actions, according to a member of t he NHMRC working group on ETS, the preliminary results could have led only to the conclusion: "passive smoking cleared - no lung cancer! …