The Spectator

Letters: heaven is a heat pump


Court creep

Sir: As a former foreign secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind gives eloquent voice to the conventional wisdom that the UK should remain within the ECHR not for our own sake but for the good of others (Letters, 7 October). On this view, membership of the ECHR has always been about foreign policy, not our own constitutional order.

This is a reasonable point, save that it does not grapple with the vast difference between the ECHR that the UK joined in 1950 and the law that has been invented by the Strasbourg Court in the meantime. The Court now openly admits that it remakes the Convention, not least by creating out of whole cloth extensive restrictions on states in relation to asylum and migration.

The British statesmen who (reluctantly) agreed to sign the ECHR would be appalled by the way in which the Court has abused its jurisdiction. In leaving the Convention, the UK would not be abandoning Europe to fascism, but would be restoring parliamentary democracy and the rule of law here. We would be in good company with Australia and New Zealand, not Belarus or Russia.

Richard Ekins KC (Hon)

Head of Policy Exchange’s Judicial Power Project and Professor of Law and Constitutional Government, University of Oxford.

Teaching accuracy

Sir: Last week’s leading article ‘Resist reform’ (7 October) rightly highlighted the problems of literacy and numeracy among 16- to 24-year-olds. As an employer I have witnessed the decline of standards over the past 40 years. I am not convinced, however, that insisting literacy and numeracy are compulsory for an extra two years in the sixth form alone will in itself solve the problem. Rather, the importance of accuracy needs to be embedded in the whole school curriculum in each and every year group. For too long now we seem to have adopted the attitude that near enough is good enough and that to correct the misuse of the English language or incorrect spelling will stifle the creativity of students. Not to do so, however, is failing pupils to adequately prepare for life after school.

Charles Robinson

Morpeth, Northumberland

Don’t worry too much

Sir: In his sideswipe at Jesus for his advice to ‘take no thought for the morrow’ Matthew Parris is unfair (‘Folk wisdom gets so much wrong’, 7 October). He is relying on a translation published in 1611, when ‘thought’ could quite properly render a Greek word that means ‘anxiety’ or ‘agitation’. It can’t nowadays, and for the last 150 years English translators have been using less misleading language. Far from encouraging a devil-may-care attitude to life, Jesus was constantly urging his hearers to read the signs of the times with as clear a head and heart as they could manage, and shape their behaviour accordingly. He offered plenty of practical (if challenging) suggestions on how to do this. Not a bad piece of advice, perhaps, to a hysterical and overheated generation like our own?

Gordon Kendal

Alyth, Perthshire

Heat pump heaven

Sir: I fear Ysenda Maxtone Graham is being overly negative where heat pumps are concerned (‘Hell is a heat pump’, 4 October). When I arrived at my rural property in Newbury, Berkshire in 2003 the annual LPG bill was £6,500 per year. I immediately installed a solar hot water system which halved my bill and delivered free hot water between May and October. Reducing it further remained elusive until I installed an air source heat pump some eight years ago. After seven years, the £11,000 installation cost had been repaid through the renewable heat incentive (RHI), and my LPG bill reduced to £500-£800 per year almost from day one of the installation.

However, it is important to understand that heat pumps lose effectiveness at low temperatures (less than 1˚C) so it is important to have a backup boiler for really cold days. Anybody who tells you otherwise, including the government, really doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Although the latest heat pumps can achieve water temperatures of up to 55/60˚C, the older ones only managed 40 or 50. I recently upgraded mine for £5,000 to increase efficiency and add remote web management. Effective insulation, fan radiators, and a system that switches in backups, such as an immersion heater, are required to optimise temperatures in the depths of winter. Heat pumps are not a great retrofit, are better if designed into a new property, and if you aren’t on oil or LPG then the financial value of having one is questionable. In summary, make sure you do your research into the suitability of a heat pump in your property (caveat emptor) or it could all end up going to hell. But given the £15,000+ in LPG my heat pump has saved me so far, I remain in heaven.

Dr Anthony Harris

Snelsmore Common, Berkshire

A night at the opera?

Sir: I was amused to read the useful sentences from the copy of Hindustani Simplified that belonged to Michael Palin’s father (Diary, 7 October). When I visited Somalia shortly after Somalia and Ethiopia switched sides in the Cold War, I bought an English-Italian-Somali phrasebook produced in the Soviet era. Among its useful sentences were ‘How many workers do you have on your collective farm?’ and ‘Hand me the opera glasses, please’.

Anthony Daniels

Bridgnorth, Shropshire

Sprightly at 80

Sir: It may cheer Michael Palin, who noted that ‘no one speaks of a “young 80”’, to know that we use this exact phrase to describe my father-in-law. An actor since the age of 12, he will soon be attending the screening of his first film, Ill Met by Moonlight, and has been practically jumping with excitement.

Lauren Mappledoram

London N10

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