The men who spent 18 years in prison for the murder of newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater, but were later cleared of, have been told that they will have to pay back 25% of their compensation money to cover the cost of their "board and lodging" while in prison. Surely to God if they spent years in prison having been innocent of the crime, the least we, as a society, can do is leave them in peace and keep their compensation. It is judgements like this that bring our whole legal system into disrepute.




Was I alone in watching the Trident debate and thinking to myself that if Margaret Beckett had been on the backbenches she would have been speaking out against a British independent nuclear deterrent? Power is a great diluter of conviction, is it not?


I am a firm believer in an independent British Nuclear deterrent and would have voted for a Trident replacement. However, what has been missing is any kind of debate about Britain’s future as military power with a world role.  Surely it would have been better to encourage a wide ranging debate about this rather than polarise opinion into pro and anti Trident factions. Personally, I think that Britain should indeed play a world role, but if we are going to do so we need to provide our armed forces with the materials they need to carry out their work. This government is lamentably failing to do so.


With regard to Trident, while it is an effective nuclear deterrent it is anything but independent. Much of the technology is provided by the United States and it is inconceivable that it could ever be used without their say so. Perhaps we should be looking at France for a lead – not something I usually say! – and emulate their nuclear policy. Their nuclear force de frappe is entirely based on their own technology and is reliant on no one else.




I was delighted to hear Education Secretary Alan Johnson announce this week that primary school pupils will be learning a foreign language from the age of seven.  I studied linguistics at UEA in the early 1980s and one of the things that has stuck in my brain is that children pick up languages much better at a young age. However, it would be a mistake for them all to learn French, which is essentially an increasingly redundant language in world affairs.  Chinese, Arabic or Spanish would be far better bets, but I pity the poor teachers! While the announcement is welcome it sits uneasily alongside another decision by the Education Department to withdraw the policy which had made a foreign language compulsory up to the age of sixteen. The number of 16 year olds taking a language GCSE is on a worrying downward decline. As a consequence several universities are closing their foreign language departments. It’s a scandal that UEA closed the language school which gave me my degree in German in 1985.



I am sure I join the overwhelming majority of EDP readers in welcoming David Prior back to his job at the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital. No one can imagine what he and his family have gone through over the last few months. Having resigned from his job he must have thought he would never be allowed to go back. It’s nice to see that justice truly has prevailed and a good man will be back at the helm of Norfolk’s most important health facility.




The visit of Home Office Minister Tony McNulty to Norfolk on Thursday has left a nasty taste in many people’s mouths, particularly Police Authority Chief Stephen Betts, and the people of Sheringham. Betts is understandably angry at the cuts to Norfolk Police budgets. He is expected to recruit 280 more Police Community Service Officers and yet his budget has been cut by £1 million. This is so typical of this government’s approach. They set targets, expect them to be met locally but they don’t provide the resources needed. As Betts said, “for him to come to Norfolk and praise neighbourhood policing teams after taking a decision to withdraw funding is nothing short of arrogance.” I am not quite sure why Stephen Betts should be surprised.


McNulty is damaged goods. He’s the Minister who was reshuffled sideways having made several high profile gaffes as Immigration Minister. He’s now doing for the Police what he did for the Immigration Service.