REGIONAL GOVERNMENT: IT is interesting, not to say ominous, that the site of a proposed regional government is being discussed without there being a convincing case put for its institution, or indeed a vote for it as yet.

All the arguments for a change in the present system of local government that I have heard so far have been high on rhetoric and low on specifics. On the facts presented so far I do not know what specific powers the proposed authority will have and what the costs of its operation will be compared with the present system.

And perhaps the most important question of all is: what specific benefits will this have for the council tax payer? I place the emphasis on specifics.

Woolly rhetoric about running our own region does not cut it with me. Value for money is what gets my attention.

I suspect the final result will be a larger talking shop with larger desks and larger salaries for the politicians and bureaucrats whilst schools and libraries close, police disappear from the streets, holes remain in the roads and the rates continue to increase at multiples of the rate of inflation year on year, and I bet I am not far wrong.

The fact that the present Government is pushing the proposal makes me feel there is something fishy about it anyway. - Chris Greenwell, Aycliffe Village.


I AM writing to express concern that children should be able to surf the Internet safely.

Young people are spending more time on the Internet. This is fun, and can be a powerful tool for learning and exchanging information. Sadly it is also open to exploitation by dangerous people.

I am pleased to learn Carol Vorderman is backing the NSPCC's campaign for greater child protection on the Internet. The NSPCC is calling for the Government to ensure all computers sold into the domestic market in the UK have child protection pre-installed and set to a high level of security to filter what information children receive.

Any parent or carer wants to know that his or her child is safe from harm when surfing the net. It is essential they know the simple measures they can take to safeguard their children.

I hope that your readers will support the campaign to give our children a safety net by logging onto and reading the safe surfing tips, and sending an e-postcard to Government. This could result in a major step forward in protecting our children from the dangers of the net. - Steven Gray, Dawdon.


NEVER mind about the Hutton Inquiry. If Tony Blair really believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed within 45 minutes, then going to war was the act of a madman knowing full well that Saddam would use those weapons.

Had Mr Blair's statement been true then the world would now be in a state of complete disaster. No doubt he would be in his nuclear proof bunker. - Jim Weston, Darlington.


TO answer Bob Jarratt's concerns (HAS Sept 25), it is necessary to distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees.

Legal immigration is easily controlled, and emigration must also be taken into account.

Refugees are genuinely fleeing persecution. We have a moral and legal duty to offer them sanctuary. Britain ranks tenth in Europe in terms of the numbers accepted, taking less than one percent of the world's refugees.

Asylum seekers are awaiting decisions on their applications for refugee status. They are not allowed to work, and receive minimal state benefits.

Some refugees, having fled their homes without possessions or papers, have no option but to enter the country illegally. Other illegal immigrants come here for work rather than sanctuary. Mr. Blunkett says he has no idea how many there are, which has led some people's imaginations to run riot. There is no justification for intemperate language about being "swamped" by "floods". Policing our borders and cracking down on criminal people smugglers and document forgers helps, but cannot be 100 per cent effective.

Ultimately, we need a little compassion. What could drive someone to cling to the underside of a train to be exploited by an unscrupulous gangmaster, working long hours for a pittance, only to try again when deported? Ending poverty offers the only long-term solution. - Pete Winstanley, Durham.