Conservative Party - THE resignation of John Bercow from the Tory Shadow Cabinet is a shame.

His principled stand to reduce the numbers of children in institutional care by opening up adoption to unmarried couples was welcome. The Tory official policy, backed up by a three-line whip, seems to put party dogma before the interests of children in need of a loving home.

The Tory Party has a growing mountain to climb to convince people it is changing from the harsh, doctrinaire ideology rejected so convincingly at the last two General Elections.

The Labour Party, in contrast, has left voting on the issue up to the good judgement and conscience of individual MPs. This seems a more mature and sensible approach to dealing with the rights and interests of children. - Stuart Hill, Darlington.


I FIND it is rather sad you failed to express any sympathy for the Queen in your comment (Echo, Nov 2) in that she placed herself in a no-win situation by granting an interview to Paul Burrell.

Had a disclosure of the interview been made earlier, resulting in the case not coming to court, she would have been accused by some of interfering in the course of justice. - JW Davison, Ferryhill.


HAVING highlighted for over two years the disgraceful treatment of cross-Channel shoppers by Customs and Excise, we welcome the news that the guideline on the number of cigarettes that can be brought into Britain has been increased.

This is a step in the right direction but the new policy still favours those who live in the south and can afford to travel to the continent several times a year. It discriminates against those who live further afield, especially the old and the low-paid, who can't afford repeated journeys.

Most important, the Government would like us to believe it has increased the limit. A guideline is not a limit. Smokers are entitled to bring back as much as they like as long as it is for their own use.

Until Customs prove otherwise, we remain deeply sceptical that the new policy will alleviate the distress and humiliation suffered by many cross-Channel shoppers who are merely trying to experience the European single market at first hand.

The truth is, the problems of smuggling and the harassment of law-abiding shoppers will only cease when the Chancellor reduces tobacco taxation to a level closer to our continental neighbours. - Simon Clark, Director, Forest, London.


GRAHAM Keal (Echo, Oct 26) must be joking, praising the dross the BBC serves up in the name of comedy. The Royle Family is terrible, the League of Gentlemen a laugh-free zone and The Office is woeful.

The reason UK Gold is so successful is that it is the sole oasis of comedy pleasure. New shows cannot stand up to the likes of Dads Army, Hi Di Hi and George and Mildred. The writing and characters are outstanding and stand up to repeated viewing and time itself.

In 20 years time people won't remember the name David Brent, but will still be laughing at the hilarious antics of Captain Mainwaring, Sergeant Wilson, George Roper and, my personal favourite, Ted Bovis. - Joe Wellthorpe, North Ormesby.


HOW I agree with Gordon Brown that a culture of worklessness grew during the 1980s and early 90s. I can remember distinctly so-called working people campaigning to have their factories, steelworks and coalmines closed down so that they could join this culture.

They also conspired to bring about serious recessions in the early 80s and early 90s so that they could make sure they could not work and were able to live with their families in poverty on soulless estates. - P Haworth, Witton-le-Wear.


FOR one moment I thought I was reading a normal tabloid newspaper. I could not believe that you had given precedence (Echo, Oct 24) to the Ulrika Jonsson date rape story over the news that Estelle Morris had resigned.

Surely in this particular circumstance, the resignation of the Secretary of State for Education should have been given due prominence.

The issue of the date rape is important, but I suspect the main message that readers will take from the article will be more publicity for Ulrika. - Derek Parker, Bishop Auckland.


Spennymoor Liberal Democrats are to send a 1,000 signature jobs petition to Charles Kennedy. The petition calls for Sedgefield Borough, which has the highest unemployment in Durham, to be granted "Enterprise Zone" status.

Black & Decker was reported as employing 2,300 workers at Spennymoor during the year 2000. Black & Decker will have shed 1,850 jobs during a three-year period.

If the 1,100 recent job losses at Rothmans and Electrolux Refrigeration plants and the local supply jobs are added, these jobs are damaging to the local economy and further hitting our local shops. At present Spennymoor has lost 36 per cent of its workforce since 1993. I estimate that with the 950 Black & Decker job losses, this will increase to a loss of 2,680 Spennymoor manufacturing jobs lost between 1993-2003 or 40 per cent.

The Sedgefield Borough area should be granted "Enterprise Zone Status". The Government should encourage the Civil Service, call centres and manufacturers to redirect work to Spennymoor.

The Barnett Formula should be revised to take into account northern jobs lost in shipping, steel, mining and manufacturing in recent years. There is an urgent need for Government to act on the large number of local jobs lost to Eastern European and Far East countries. I am concerned about the lack of job opportunities for the younger generation. - Ben Ord, Chair, Spennymoor Liberal Democrats