Cider champ
MANY tributes have been made to Paul Keetch and his work as Liberal MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire over 13 years up to 2010, but no mention has been made of his outstanding support for the cider industry which is so important to the county’s economy.
Within a month of entering Parliament, Paul had achieved two objectives which his predecessors had all ignored: He set up the Parliamentary Cider Group to lobby government on behalf of the industry (Beer and whisky had long had such groups) and he persuaded the Commons catering committee to include draught cider in its bars.
As public relations manager at Bulmers and information officer to the National Association of Cider Makers in those days I had the privilege of working closely with Paul who hosted regular cider-tasting receptions in the Palace of Westminster, literally boosting the product’s profile in the ‘Corridors of Power’. 
Following Paul’s intervention, Scrumpy Jack was chosen as the first brand to represent English cider in the MPs’ bar and I was given the honour of pulling the first pints for Paul and his fellow MPs to enjoy – and, never one to miss a publicity trick, he had made sure the TV cameras were present to record the occasion.
What a nice gesture it would be if Bulmers were to lay on a cider reception for those attending his memorial service in Hereford Cathedral on July 7 so they could toast the memory of a true cider champion.

New name
SURELY it’s time we had our own local news programmes on TV and they renamed Midlands Today (BBC) Birmingham Today and Central News (ITV) Birmingham News. 
I want to know what’s happening in Ross, Leominster and all the surrounding villages in Herefordshire. Not Dudley, Wolverhampton and all the other surrounding cities of Birmingham.
Newton Farm

Hard workers
I WOULD like to show my appreciation to my parish council Belmont rural, with the recent resignation of the Madley parish council it highlights what a different and thankless job it is. 
In Belmont, the parish council and ward councillor Tracy Bowes are actively improving the area by doing clean-ups, extra grass-cutting and cutting back overgrowth amongst many other things which cutbacks have left Balfour Beatty unable to do. 
I believe I now live on the best kept estate/ward in Herefordshire so here’s a massive ‘Thank you’ to all your hard work and perhaps the general public should thank their parish councillors instead of moaning and bullying.
Peter Swartz

Weasel words
JESSE Norman should hold his head in shame as one of the many Tory landlords who opposed the Labour Party amendment to the Housing and Planning Act which would have made Landlords make “homes fit for human habitation” because of the “unnecessary regulation and cost.” 
Well, we have witnessed what this culture of de-regulation and cost cutting has done to the working-class men, women and children who perished in the horrendous tower-block fire in London.
Weasel words Mr Norman.
Westridge Rd

Lives matter
PEOPLE who voted for Jesse Norman in the recent election must have been a little disquieted by his recent justification for voting against the amendment to the last Housing Bill (Hereford Times, June 22), which seems to be “the Whips made me do it.” 
He is better than that. 
If he deeply thought about it, he would remember that people’s lives are more important than economics. It is a shame that he could not have simply apologised and promised to think about the implications of his vote next time.
David Phelps

Landlord row
AN amendment to the Housing & Planning Act 2016 would have enforced provision of homes ‘fit for human habitation’. 
Hereford Times, June 22 reports (page 8) that ‘landlord MP’ Jesse Norman has argued that he voted against that amendment because it would have resulted in ‘excessive legislation’. 
His argument reminds me of Margaret Thatcher’s assertions that the State should yield to ‘government by the market’.
I am also reminded of Jesus’ statement that we should “consider the lilies of the field” that neither toil nor spin. One snag with leaving things to ‘government by the market’ and ‘reducing State interference’ though, is that we need to consider whose interests are served most by a deregulated or unregulated market. 
Thatcher said to a very select audience, “Let us glory in our inequality.”
Taxpayers Against Poverty founder Revd Paul Nicolson argues that “the 1979 Thatcher government, ... turned British land into a commodity and hurled it into an international market. They abolished rent controls, deregulated lending, and allowed the free flow of cash in and out of the UK. National and international money flooded into the UK housing market in short supply forcing up prices and rents.”
And so now Herefordshire Council advertises on page 9 of that Hereford Times print issue, “Landlords! We urgently need properties to rent in Herefordshire” while economically vulnerable people have been arguably more condemned for ‘lack of toil’ than supported by Hereford’s ‘landlord MP’.
Blackthorn Close

Labour lost
WITH reference to the triumphalism of the South Herefordshire labour candidate Ms Coda in last week’s Hereford Times .. come on, face it, you lost. 
The lies peddled to the youth that resulted in them voting for the left-leaning Corbyn must be vigorously contested . Here in Hereford we have a wiser more mature voter who resoundingly gave Jesse Norman our backing. 
We can all remember the dark days of Labour governments who, with their cavalier attitude with our money, pushed the country to bankruptcy. 
Who can forget the oh-so-telling note left by the outgoing Treasury minister Liam Byrne saying “there’s no money left”. How true and billions borrowed that will take a generation to pay back. I say to all - don’t believe the Labour lies. 
There is a monumental task ahead and the Conservatives are the ones to get the best deal for Britain as we leave this meretricious monster the EU. 
Aylestone Hill 

No precedent
YOUR comment ( page 52 June 22nd ) was spot on concerning the silly decision of Herefordshire Planning Councillors to refuse consent for the conversion of a shed to a family bungalow in Sutton St Nicholas on the basis of being unsustainable residential development.
Sustainable development is defined (in planning law) as `balancing the protection of the natural environment with the fulfilment of human needs so that these needs can be met not only in the present but in the indefinite future` and to this end planning officers and councillors must apply a balance of judgement.
By applying balance of judgement, a precedent is not set and a `free for all` does not follow, in this case Councillor Powers was plainly wrong that consent would be a breach of policy that would open the floodgates to rural development. The National Planning Policy Framework is clear that planning law/guidance should not be inflexible.
If the `shed` had been a former agricultural building of no more than 450m2 then it could have been converted into up to three residences under the special Q planning regulations to which sustainability does not apply whether rural or not.
In fact, the same councillors are depending upon Q regulations to contribute significantly to rural housing provision as required in the Herefordshire Local Development Plan. Double standards seem to apply.
Councillor Roger Page,
Chairman, Planning Committee,

Written in a personal capacity.
Well done
I’M delighted that Elizabeth Banks has been awarded the CBE. 
Hergest Croft Gardens, which the Banks family manage, was my haven of peace 10 years ago, when my mother was terminally ill with breast cancer.
Every week, I used to travel to Liverpool to spend three days with my mother in her care home. 
When I arrived home, I’d be exhausted and drained. 
Lovely Hergest with its changing vista of trees, shrubs and flowers was a wondrous antidote to the sorrow of seeing my mother’s health deteriorate. 
I used to  buy many plants to bring home; my Acer is still flourishing in my garden.
My mother loved being outdoors, and on a rather different note, we buried her in Humber Woodland of Remembrance, and on her grave we planted a bush native to the county.
Congratulations and thanks to Mrs Banks, and thanks to Diane Thomas of Humber Woodland of Remembrance.
Merryhill Crescent

Taken aback
AS an avid reader of the Hereford Times, I was somewhat intrigued and taken aback concerning the content of some letters from last week pertaining to the General Election. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion on politics, however, it should be noted that both Tory candidates in Herefordshire trawled more votes than all the other parties put together. 
Why all the whining? 
In one letter, Simon Burnett seems to think that all the world’s problems are solely attributed to a Tory government. I disagree. 
The NHS seems to be haemorrhaging finances all the time with overpaid bureaucrats more concerned about shuffling paperwork, bonuses, pensions etc; rather than reducing waiting time in A&E and reducing the long list for hospital appointments and operations. 
The UK terrorist attacks are not as the result of insufficient policing numbers but rather the reckless policy of a Labour government being over generous in allowing everyman and his dog unlimited free access into this country in the earlier decade and classing it as diversity.
Diana Toynbee, in her letter, appears to be of the view she received a raw deal in the election when in reality, she and her Green Party policies were rejected by the electorate. That’s democracy. Indeed, the Greens only grossed 3,991votes in North and South Herefordshire and 7,500 in Northern Ireland. She still has a long way to go. 
Meanwhile the DUP contested 18 seats in Northern Ireland, winning 10 of those with 36% of the votes which entitles them to have 10 MPs in Westminster. 
That is how the Westminster system works. Why shouldn’t Theresa May be propped up by a legitimate party that has core conservative values at heart? 
Lastly, Michael and Mary Ernest seem to think that the DUP are a bunch of bigots. 
I find this comment nothing short of racist directed against a pro-union party and its supporters. 
Since the election, the demonisation of the DUP has been appalling in terms of persistent hysterical propaganda, clear for all to see. 
The vitriol expressed by sections of the media, politicians, and young Labour supporters who are either ignorant, grossly reckless, or both, as to what the DUP stand for should be utterly ashamed. 
Further, Protestant and nationalist, pro-Union people of Northern Ireland had to fight for over 30 years to remain British while the IRA shot, killed and tried to bomb them out of existence. 
When that failed, the IRA reverted to the ballot box under the auspicious of Sinn Fein which is still inextricably linked today to the IRA Army Council. 
Merryhill Crescent 

A better way
YOUR letter page (June 22) shows the local concern at the way political decisions are reached. 
I believe that there has to be a better way than ‘power’ versus ‘opposition’ - such as the constructive all party work of select committees. 
My experience with organisations concerned with the democratic process suggest the key factor lies in the chairman having an open mind, the ability to judge whether the information is tested and sufficient and the staff to investigate the gaps.
Our only influence on national politics is to ensure our MPs and those committees get accurate grassroots information. 
I believe that Herefordshire has sufficient people with the ability for reasoned analysis of local problems. 
This could lead to the possibility of better use of strained resources and with the hope of some effective, value-for-money ways forward. 
Do we have the leadership that can bring informed and committed people together to face agreed urgent problems? 
For a start, I would hope perhaps Healthwatch could provide that open forum to analyse the current state of our local health and social care issues. 
I am not interested in attaching blame or excuses. I would like to have agreed and supported targets. Clarity and purpose beat power and opposition.