Letters: Britain must heed the lessons of history and let in Ukrainian refugees

Dark times: civilians huddled in a bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine - AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka
Dark times: civilians huddled in a bomb shelter in Mariupol, Ukraine - AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka

SIR – We are professional historians, many of whom have spent their careers studying the wars and refugee crises of the 20th century.

We call on the Government immediately to relax the rules of entry for Ukrainian refugees fleeing from an unlawful war of aggression. The current delays are unacceptable, and put the Government far behind the generous schemes already operating across Europe.

We are reminded of the poor response of the British government in the 1930s to the plight of the Jews of central Europe, thousands of whom later perished in the Holocaust. Then British officials restricted entry to those who could be funded from private British sources or who would be useful for the British economy.

If today’s Government indeed has “huge compassion”, as the Defence Secretary suggests, it is time to demonstrate it on a large scale. These are not illegal immigrants, spies or terrorists, but frightened and disorientated women, children and the elderly who hope for better from a country whose values and material advantages ought to make it an obvious refuge. We earnestly hope that the Government will learn the lessons from history, and open Britain’s doors to those desperately seeking a place of safety.

Professor Richard Overy
University of Exeter

Professor Patricia Clavin
University of Oxford

Professor Nick Stargardt
University of Oxford

Professor Peter Gatrell
University of Manchester

Sir Antony Beevor

Professor Sir Richard Evans
University of Cambridge

Jessie Childs

Professor Saul David

Professor Lynn Abrams
University of Glasgow

Professor Christopher Andrew
University of Cambridge

Professor Nigel Ashton
LSE

Professor Duncan Bell
University of Cambridge

Professor Maxine Berg
University of Warwick

Professor Paul Betts
University of Oxford

Professor Donald Bloxham
University of Edinburgh

Professor Joanna Bourke
Birkbeck, University of London

Professor Tanja Bueltmann
University of Strathclyde

Professor Kathleen Burk
University College, London

Dr Mathilde von Bulow
St Andrews University)

Professor Jane Caplan
University of Oxford

Professor Steve Casey
LSE

Dr Emile Chabal
University of Edinburgh

Professor Peter Clarke
University of Cambridge

Dr Oli Charbonneau
University of Glasgow

Professor Samuel K Cohn
University of Glasgow

Professor Stefan Collini
University of Cambridge

Professor Martin Conway
University of Oxford

Professor Martin Daunton
University of Cambridge

Professor Anne Deighton
University of Oxford

Professor Norman Davies
St Antony’s College, Oxford

Professor Sir Tom Devine
University of Edinburgh

Professor Costas Douzinas
Birkbeck, University of London

Dr Sarah Dunstan
University of Glasgow

Professor David Edgerton
Kings College London

Professor Marianne Elliott
University of Liverpool

Richard van Emden

Professor Martin Evans
University of Sussex

Professor Sir Richard Evans
University of Cambridge

Professor David Feldman
Birkbeck College, London

Dr Matthew Franks
University of Leeds

Professor Patrick Finney
Aberystwyth University

Professor Sir Roderick Floud

Professor Roy Foster
University of Oxford

Dr Eva Frojmovic
University of Leeds

Professor Karin Friedrich
University of Aberdeen

Professor Robert Frost
University of Aberdeen

Professor Peter Gatrell
University of Manchester

Professor Stephen Gethins
University of St Andrews

Professor Gary Gerstle
University of Cambridge

Professor Julie Gottlieb
University of Sheffield

Dr Jaclyn Granick
Cardiff University

Professor Matthew Grimley
University of Oxford

Professor Abigail Green
University of Oxford

Professor Adrian Gregory
University of Oxford

Professor Emma Griffin
President, Royal Historical Society

Professor James Harris
University of Leeds

Professor Ruth Harris
University of Oxford

Professor Sir Brian Harrison
University of Oxford

Professor Sudhir Hazareesingh
University of Oxford

Roger Hermiston

Dr Fabian Hilfrich
University of Edinburgh

Professor Antony G Hopkins
University of Cambridge

Dr Daniel Hucker
University of Nottingham

Dr Laure Humbert
University of Manchester

Professor Benjamin Jackson
University of Oxford

Professor Julian Jackson
Queen Mary, University of London

Professor Peter Jackson
University of Glasgow

Professor Heather Jones
UCL

Professor Matthew Jones
LSE

Professor David Kaufman
University of Edinburgh

Professor Claire Langhamer
Director, Institute of Historical Research, London

Damien Lewis

Professor Julia Lovell
Birkbeck College, London

Professor Piers Ludlow
LSE

Professor Joe Maiolo
Kings College, London

Dr Martin MacGregor
University of Glasgow

Dr Andrew Mackillop
University of Glasgow

Professor Evan Mawdsley
University of Glasgow

Professor Christopher Miller
University of Glasgow

Professor Margaret Macmillan
University of Oxford

Professor Peter Mandler
University of Oxford

Professor Ian McBride
University of Oxford

Dr Carmen Mangion
Birkbeck College, London

Giles Milton

Professor Rana Mitter
University of Oxford

Professor David Motadel
LSE

Professor Maria Misra
University of Oxford

Professor Philip Murphy
Institute for Historical Research, London

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli
Principal and Vice-Chancellor, University of Glasgow

Professor Holger Nehring
University of Stirling

Professor Lucy Noakes
University of Exeter

Professor Phillips O’Brien
University of Glasgow

Simon Parkin

Professor Senia Paseta
University of Oxford

Dr Effie G H Pedaliu
LSE

Professor Sir Paul Preston
LSE

Professor Pierre Purseigle
University of Warwick

Dr Damien van Puyvelde
University of Glasgow

Dr Mike Rapport
University of Glasgow

Dr Tim Rees
University of Exeter

Dr Steven Reid
University of Glasgow

Professor Jessica Reinisch
Birkbeck College, London

Professor Eugene Rogan
University of Oxford

Professor Angela Romano
University of Glasgow

Dr Michael Rowe
Kings College London

Professor Guy Rowlands
University of St Andrews

Dr James Ryan
University of Cardiff

Professor Simon Schaffer
University of Cambridge

Professor Robert Service
University of Oxford

Professor Gary Sheffield
University of Buckingham

Professor Alex Shepard
University of Glasgow

Professor Brendan Simms
University of Cambridge

Professor Stephen Smith
University of Oxford

Professor David Stevenson
University of Glasgow

Professor Ray Stokes
University of Glasgow

Professor Dan Stone
Royal Holloway, London

Professor Matthew Strickland
University of Edinburgh

Dr Natalia Telepneva
University of Strathclyde

Professor Pat Thane
Birkbeck College, London

Professor David Thackeray
University of Exeter

Professor Martin Thomas
University of Exeter

Professor Charles Townshend
Keele University

Professor Richard Toye
University of Exeter

Professor Frank Trentmann
Birkbeck College, London

Professor Hans van de Ven
University of Oxford

Guy Walters

Professor Arne Westad
University of East Anglia and Yale

Professor Neville Wylie
University of Stirling

Dr Benjamin Thomas White
University of Glasgow

Professor Vladislav Zubok
LSE

SIR – I’m sure others have been watching with despair as our Home Offices botches – in view of the world – the handling of Ukrainian refugees attempting to find sanctuary in Britain.

Hard on the heels of the Foreign Office debacle in Afghanistan, and serial failures by Public Health England, it follows a grimly predictable pattern. The lesson: our sprawling bureaucracies badly need an upgrade.

Of course no malice is intended, but incompetence carries its own burden.

Alisdair Low
Richmond, Surrey

SIR – My father, like Malcolm Bailey’s (Letters, March 9), was killed during the Second World War – in January 1942, while serving in the RAF.

However, unlike Mr Bailey, I do not feel shame at the current situation. I am angry that our great country, which rescued a third of a million troops from Dunkirk and, with our allies, carried out the Normandy landings four years later, cannot now give speedy shelter to the Ukrainian refugees at our door.

William Martindale
Carnforth, Lancashire

SIR – It was impressive to see MPs all standing up to clap for President Zelensky. Sadly, this will have done about as much good for Ukrainians as our clapping did for the NHS.

Paul Vlcek
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

The case for fracking

SIR – At the last moment there are signs that the energy crisis might persuade the Prime Minister to reverse his decision to close down our nascent shale gas industry.

The cementing-in of Cuadrilla’s wells at Preston New Road is an act of economic vandalism, and represents the greatest act of self-harm inflicted by politicians and civil servants on the security of this country since Denis Healey’s inexplicable destruction of the TSR2 fighter project.

Britain will continue to be dependent on gas for the foreseeable future. As we move to greater electrification, we will require additional gas-fired base-load as well as standby capacity for interruptions in renewables output. The regulatory regime imposed on the gas industry could have been designed to ensure failure, and needs to be completely rethought.

The Prime Minister must insist that development of shale gas is given absolute priority. Such a move would contribute massively to our energy security and our economy, not least in “levelling up” the North West.

Patrick de Pelet
Templecombe, Somerset

SIR – The news that Rolls-Royce is raising significant sums to develop Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) is encouraging.

If we must include nuclear power as part of our energy arsenal, SMRs appear to be the way forward. They will be cheaper to build than traditional nuclear power stations, with less environmental impact, and will also be faster to erect.

Furthermore, the jobs created as a result of SMRs will be more equitably spread across the country, helping to support the levelling-up agenda.

Lucia Daniels
London SW2

SIR – In July 2012, I wrote an article in Petroleum Review magazine about Italy’s ambition to become a major gas supply hub for Europe. A number of the projects described came to fruition, most notably the Trans Adriatic Pipeline and OLT Toscana LNG import terminal. Since 2018, it has become possible to export gas from these schemes to Germany and France through the Transit Gas system.

However, a pipeline project called Galsi fell by the wayside. This would have transported eight billion cubic metres of natural gas per year from Algeria, through Sardinia to the Tuscan coast. It was being managed by the Italian firm SNAM.

I believe that the project should be reviewed, given that the EU is looking for urgent diversification of gas supplies in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine.

Jeff Crook
South Croydon, Surrey

SIR – I filled my wife’s car yesterday morning, and two hours later filled my own ready for a long journey at the weekend. In that short time the price per litre went up by two pence. The garage did not have a new fuel delivery.

Surely that is pure profiteering.

Brian Green
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

Sky writing

SIR – I sympathise with Nick Rose (Letters, March 8), who finds that he works most productively on trains.

The most concentrated, continuous work I ever got done was on a nine-hour flight to America (before the internet was available on planes).

Strapped in, unable to go anywhere, and brought food and drink, there was nothing else for it but to finish writing my book.

Philip Womack
London NW1

Bercow’s bullying

SIR – In 2021, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards upheld complaints of bullying by the former Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.

On Tuesday the Independent Expert Panel, chaired by a retired Appeal Court judge, rejected Mr Bercow’s appeal against that decision. However, the panel went further and described him as “repeatedly dishonest”. They accused him of “an abuse of power” and stated that, “had he still been a Member of Parliament, we would have determined that he should be expelled by resolution of the House”, adding: “he should never be permitted a pass to the Parliamentary estate”.

This is an astonishing indictment of someone who repeatedly abused one of the most powerful positions in the land. Surely Mr Bercow’s portrait and all traces of him should be removed from the Palace of Westminster, and all precedents and procedural innovations introduced by him struck from the record.

Robin Morello
Brackley, Northamptonshire

Life without landlines

SIR – When we were filling in our passenger locator forms in order to return to England earlier this week, the website refused to accept our landline number and would only allow us to move on when we had entered our mobile numbers. We have little or no mobile signal in our village, so good luck to them if they want to contact us.

Are we being conditioned to use only mobiles in readiness for the phasing out of landlines (Letters, March 9)?

Valerie Keeling
Salisbury, Wiltshire

Blocked from obtaining power of attorney

SIR – My heart goes out to Dr John Davies (Letters, March 4), who is waiting for his lasting power of attorney.

Unfortunately the first anniversary of our application has long gone. The Office of the Public Guardian keeps returning our forms, saying that we haven’t paid – despite the forms telling us that card payment will be taken by phone.

Calls to the “helpline” last an hour each time, and the most recent advice – to send an explanatory letter with a cheque – proved useless, as the forms were returned yet again.

Richard A Voizey
Lymington, Hampshire

How to keep hostas beyond the reach of slugs

SIR – Chris and Bill Neil (Letters, March 8) are struggling to keep their hostas safe from slugs and snails.

I put my hostas in pots, then in round steel trays (with drain holes), and hang them from a low tree or shrub. Slugs appear to suffer from vertigo.

Nick Trevor
London SW4

SIR – I have been cutting my husband’s hair for years and put the clippings in the hostas. I have never had a slug on them. I do keep them in pots, though.

Sally Cornwell
Ascot, Berkshire

SIR – One solution, I read, was to boil up plenty of garlic, then spray the hostas with the garlicky water.

Perhaps I didn’t use enough garlic, or didn’t boil it long enough, but it had no noticeable effect.

Alex Prescott
Penrith, Cumbria

SIR – When the jar of homemade jam I had been given started to ferment, I tipped the contents into a large empty ice-cream container and put it on the lawn so that it could be enjoyed by bees.

It rained overnight and in the morning I discovered that rather a lot of slugs had succumbed. They were not just drunk from the fermenting contents, but dead drunk.

I left it in place and it attracted more and more slugs. I emptied it on the compost heap and asked my friend for more jam. I did not explain why.

Dr Rhoda Pippen
Cardiff

SIR – At last year’s Chelsea Flower Show I noticed a few tell-tale blue pellets beneath the leaves of some prize hostas on the display of one of the professional growers. He told me that there is no practical deterrent apart from the dreaded metaldehyde, and without its sparing and surreptitious use most professional nurserymen would go out of business.

The only exception that I am aware of is the late Queen Mother’s wonderful walled garden at the Castle of Mey, which I visited last June. The huge mounds of hostas did not show even the smallest sign of slug damage. Apparently slugs like the salt-laden air blowing in from the Pentland Firth much less than they like metaldehyde, and the gardens are virtually mollusc-free. Unfortunately this piece of information is unlikely to be of much use to the Neils in Shropshire.

Wynne Weston-Davies
Calne, Wiltshire

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