EUROPEAN UNION: AN enlargement of the European Union raises the question of the UK contribution to the organisation.

If we take a narrow focus on what we pay in and what we get out, we are net contributors. However, if we take in all the facts, the long-term view presents positive benefits.

Take Portugal, where dictatorial governments held back development. The 1974 revolution was a step forward, but feuding between political parties slowed the progress of the most backward state in western Europe.

However, it was a state that saw all the benefits the EU had brought to other countries. This vision drove the democratic regime and the application to join the EU, granted in 1986.

To benefit, Portugal needed to improve its infrastructure and invest in areas that would enable trade to expand. The whole of the EU, including the UK, is the richer for that investment.

If short-term views were to prevail, we would be significantly worse off.

Given the strong influence of the EU, we can look forward to the investment in the new entries bringing us increased trade and an increased peaceful influence in a world crying out for that influence. - Bill Morehead, Darlington.


PETER Mullen (Echo, Jan 30) equates not believing in God with having no morals. What utter nonsense.

I, like many others, am a Humanist and have no belief in God at all. Humanists believe in living a good life without religion, and like many other non-religious people, we try our best to live good lives and serve our communities every day. Nobody needs an imaginary God, false threats of eternal punishment or the fantasy of rewards in heaven, to do good.

As for Mr Mullen's "moral and social chaos" apparently caused by the collapse of traditional faith, the truth is that in the past, the seedy side of life was hushed up. Wife-beating, racism, gay-bashing, violent bullying of children at schools and in the home, abuse of children by priests, widespread prostitution, the promiscuity he so disapproves of, abortion and so on all took place. It just wasn't in the papers or on the telly, or no one could find out the truth. Victims had to suffer in silence.

Sadly, the traditional faith of the Peter Mullen type is an intolerant enemy of morality and the public good, not a remedy for our problems. - Philip Nathan, Chester-le-Street, Co Durham.


I ENDORSE William Bartle's sentiments (HAS, Jan 30) regarding medals for Bevin Boys who served in the mines during, and shortly after, the Second World War. But I disagree with his statement on the shortage of workers. My uncle worked at Bowburn Colliery, along with his younger brother and my father, and was called up because he was in the Militia, seemingly a forerunner of the Territorial Army, and drafted into the British Expeditionary Force.

As to the Bevin Boys, I don't mind them receiving recognition, but let us get the perspective right.

Mostly, they were used on secondary work such as haulage and tending junctions where conveyor belts met. The hard graft was left to the regular, in our case, Durham miner.

If Bevin Boys are to be honoured, what about those who worked all their lives in the mines and on retirement received next to no thanks, and only a pittance of a pension?

Unfortunately, the majority are now gone, but I, the son of a miner who worked for 50 years in the Durham Coalfield, would love to see some form of appreciation for his efforts. - Derek Adair, Meadowfield, Durham.


IT seems we are now entering the age of the super-casino, the Government blinded by the tax revenues, the creation of a few jobs and not particularly bothered by the huge profits for a handful of companies.

These revenues and profits must surely be at the expense of gambling addicts and those who will beg, borrow and steal to feed their insatiable appetite to bet.

The tax revenues will surely be worthless when hospitals, clinics and local authorities have to spend millions to help or rescue the weak-willed and vulnerable people who fall foul of the Government's misguided approach to what constitutes a decent society.

We are all aware of the misery of alcoholism and the havoc it wreaks on families, but it will be nothing to what will happen to a nation in the grip of a gambling epidemic. Fight to keep the evil away from our region. - Hugh Pender, Darlington.

SO Middlesbrough is going to get a large casino (Echo, Jan 31) which will create jobs. Fine, I have no problem with that.

The problem is, who is going to foot the bill when half of Middlesbrough ends up with a gambling problem and in debt? The bill will end up being paid by the taxpayer. - Stephen Beaton, Darlington.


SHECHITA is the Jewish religious humane method of animal slaughter for food. J Moffatt (HAS, Feb 1) is wrong to claim that it is "barbaric".

Following consultation last year, the British Government determined that shechita fulfils the requirements of animal welfare and humane slaughter as recognised by leading scientific and veterinary authorities.

Shechita accomplishes what other methods of slaughter attempt: the immediate and irreversible abolition of consciousness until death supervenes. The Government reflected the fact with its commitment to respect the right of the Jewish community to continue shechita in the UK.

Many people are misinformed about the realities of shechita. If anyone would like to learn more I would urge them to visit - David Russell, Shechita UK, London.


WHILE budget airlines are currently in the news regarding the so-called "green tax" on fuel (everyone knows it's just another tax on the travelling public), can anyone explain why a "free bus" runs five times a day, including four times on a Sunday, between Durham Tees Valley Airport (DTVA) and Darlington railway station, via the town hall, which I see regularly with absolutely no passengers on board? How green is that?

I read somewhere it was to make travelling to and from DTVA easier.

I would guess this whole ridiculous project would have cost literally thousands of pounds for each passenger who has used this service.

It would have been more cost-effective to give anyone who wanted to go to the airport from Darlington a free taxi ride. - Mike Wilson, Middleton St George, near DTVA.


I FEEL I have to reply to some of Tony Kelly's observations over the past few weeks (HAS, Jan 5 and 31). He seems to be obsessed with dog muck and human effluent.

I, too, come from Crook and have yet to see these mounds of muck.

And names such as Picasso, Damien Hirst, Francis Bacon - intellectual frauds? Come on, don't knock what you don't understand. - B Morton, Crook, Co Durham.


TATA, or does this mean the end for Corus? Why pay top English wages when you produce the same product for half the cost? Also, the export cost would be reduced. These people are very good business people. - JM Gowland, Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham.